June 11, 2019

Crisis: Cult of Trump, Google and the Press, On ¨Socialism¨, George Conway on Trump

“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous, than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”
  -- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.



1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from June 11, 2019

This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, June 11, 2019.

I realize that I did not commemorate the fact that I am writing Crisis files for six years now, since I started to do so after June 10, 2013, which taught me about Snowden.

I am registering it now, and may write about it the coming days, but I am also somewhat worse at present than I was for a long time.

There will be more about computers and Ubuntu in Nederlog soon, but I am happy to announce that Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, that I installed in 2017, works again as it did before on May 24, and after 24 hours of misery.

And on May 23 I also got a working computer with 18.04 LTS (which is worse than 16.04 LTS because its Firefox also is a menuless horror that I refuse to use, but happily SeaMonkey is not, for it still has it menus and can be installed on 18.04), so I am at present - and after two weeks of struggling - in the possession of two more or less, though not yet quite decently working computers.

So today there is a more or less common Nederlog, where "common" is the style I developed in 2013.

1. Summary

This is a crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was until 2013:

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch, but since 2010 in English) and about the enormous dangers of surveillance (by secret services and by many rich commercial entities) since June 10, 2013, and I will continue with it.

On the moment and since more than three years (!!!!) I have problems with the company that is supposed to take care that my site is visible [1] and with my health, but I am still writing a Nederlog every day and I shall continue.

2. Crisis Files

These are four crisis files that are mostly well worth reading:

A. Selections from June 11, 2019:
1. The Cult of Trump
2. Google Is Making Billions at the Media's Expense
3. Most American Women Prefer Socialism to Capitalism: Poll
4. George Conway assails Trump in blistering Twitter thread
The items 1 - 4 are today's selections from the 35 sites that I look at every morning. The indented text under each link is quoted from the link that starts the item. Unindented text is by me:

1. The Cult of Trump

This article is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig. It starts as follows:
Editor’s note: The 45th president’s approval ratings remain steady despite numerous scandals and missteps. Below is an Oct. 29, 2018, column in which Hedges analyzes Donald Trump’s seemingly indefatigable appeal. On Tuesday, Truthdig will publish a new column by Hedges, one that will present the text of a speech he will give that same day in London in support of Julian Assange.
I say. I repeat the review I wrote on October 30, 2018:

Cult leaders arise from decayed communities and societies in which people have been shorn of political, social and economic power. The disempowered, infantilized by a world they cannot control, gravitate to cult leaders who appear omnipotent and promise a return to a mythical golden age. The cult leaders vow to crush the forces, embodied in demonized groups and individuals, that are blamed for their misery. The more outrageous the cult leaders become, the more they flout law and social conventions, the more they gain in popularity. Cult leaders are immune to the norms of established society. This is their appeal. Cult leaders demand a God-like power. Those who follow them grant them this power in the hope that the cult leaders will save them.

Donald Trump has transformed the decayed carcass of the Republican Party into a cult. All cults are personality cults. They are extensions of the cult leaders. The cult reflects the leader’s prejudices, worldview, personal style and ideas. Trump did not create the yearning for a cult leader. Huge segments of the population, betrayed by the established elites, were conditioned for a cult leader. They were desperately looking for someone to rescue them and solve their problems.
Well... yes and no.

First, what is a cult? According to Wikipedia (quoted from the beginning, without note numbers):
The term cult usually refers to a social group defined by its religious, spiritual, or philosophical beliefs, or its common interest in a particular personality, object or goal. The term itself is controversial and it has divergent definitions in both popular culture and academia and it also has been an ongoing source of contention among scholars across several fields of study. In the sociological classifications of religious movements, a cult is a social group with socially deviant or novel beliefs and practices, although this is often unclear.
Besides, there is the fact (it seems) that at least in the English speaking world, the term ¨cult¨ normally has negative implications, mostly because those who say so believe that what they call a cult or cults are in various ways too extremist.

Second, in some ways I agree with Hedges that Trump is - effectively, at least - making himself into a cult leader, and that there is something like a cult of Trump.

But third, I do not think that saying a group is a cult or that a group´s leader functions like the leader of a cult helps a lot to explain the group or the leader, and especially not if the common fundament of many, though not all, human social groups, which are that its ordinary members have little influence on the leadership of their group because ordinary members are by and large not informed while many are marked by ignorance or stupidity about their own group, their own leader and the real ways of the real world, are wholly undiscussed - as is the case in this article.

Here is more on Trump:
Trump’s refusal to acknowledge and address the impending crisis of ecocide and the massive mismanagement of the economy by kleptocrats, his bellicosity, his threats against Iran and China and the withdrawal from nuclear arms treaties, along with his demonization of all who oppose him, ensure our cultural and, if left unchecked, physical extinction.
Yes, I more or less agree with that quotation.

Here is more on cults and their leaders:
They demand obsequious fawning and total obedience. They prize loyalty above competence. They wield absolute control. They do not tolerate criticism. They are deeply insecure, a trait they attempt to cover up with bombastic grandiosity. They are amoral and emotionally and physically abusive. They see those around them as objects to be manipulated for their own empowerment, enjoyment and often sadistic entertainment. All those outside the cult are branded as forces of evil, prompting an epic battle whose natural expression is violence.
Again yes and no:

Yes, I more or less agree these characteristics do seem to apply to Donald Trump, but again I think the concept of a
cult is less helpful than the concept of totalitarianism, which has similar consequences.

Then again, I must remark that the Wikipedia seems to be recast now by some anonymous right wingers with a lot of money, who have deleted the previous more or less good definition of totalitarianism, which is that this is an
ideology or religion that is pretended to have final answers to many important human questions and problems and that is pretended to be thereby justified to persecute persons who do not agree with the ideology or the religion, and has replaced this by the ideological bullshit that seems to originate with Brzezinski, according to whom totalitarianism has nothing to do with ideas, religion, or absolutism but is (I quote, with bolding added) ¨a political concept that defines a mode of government, which prohibits opposition parties, restricts individual opposition to the state and its claims, and exercises an extremely high degree of control over public and private life.¨

The second definition of totalitarianism - it is about a mode of government much rather than a mode of feeling, valueing, and reasoning of persons - at best is an implication of the first definition which is what Orwell and most intellectuals understood by it.

Here is more on Orwell (who used the term ¨cult¨ rarely or never in his political writings):

George Orwell understood that cult leaders manipulate followers primarily through language, not force. This linguistic manipulation is a gradual process. It is rooted in continual mental chaos and verbal confusion. Lies, conspiracy theories, outlandish ideas and contradictory statements that defy reality and fact soon paralyze the opposition. (..) The cult leader does not take his or her statements seriously and often denies ever making them, even when they are documented. Lies and truth do not matter. The language of the cult leader is designed exclusively to appeal to the emotional needs of those in the cult.
Well... perhaps, but why are so many moved by ¨continual mental chaos and verbal confusion. Lies, conspiracy theories, outlandish ideas and contradictory statements that defy reality and fact¨ ?! Why do they not (rationally) conclude that they live in mental chaos and verbal confusion, and try to get some rational clarity?! Because most are stupid and ignorant.

This from the ending of this article:
Our only hope is to organize the overthrow of the corporate state that vomited up Trump. Our democratic institutions, including the legislative bodies, the courts and the media, are hostage to corporate power. They are no longer democratic. (..) We give people an alternative to a Democratic Party that refuses to confront the corporate forces of oppression and cannot be rehabilitated. We make possible the restoration of an open society. If we fail to embrace this militancy, which alone has the ability to destroy cult leaders, we will continue the march toward tyranny.
Perhaps, but this is far from hopeful. Then again, I agree I am pessimistic as well, and this is a recommended article, mostly because it is by Hedges, and not because I agree with it.

2. Google Is Making Billions at the Media's Expense

This article is by Jacob Sugarman on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

Last year, amid a wave of layoffs and turmoil in the media that has shown no sign of breaking, Google earned $4.7 billion in revenue from news publishers through search and Google News—a figure that is likely conservative due to the multinational’s diverse business model. The findings were part of a study by the trade organization News Media Alliance, previously the Newspaper Association of America, and first reported in The New York Times.

“The actual value of news content to Google is more difficult to quantify because of the various ways the company uses news content to drive traffic, develop its products and entrench its dominant position,” the study reads. “In addition to using news content for product development, such as training its artificial intelligence services, Google is tailoring its products—ramping up its use of news—to keep users in the Google ecosystem.”

For a news industry that earned a total $5.1 billion in advertising in 2018, the dangers are manifest.

Yes, I think the above is all correct, and indeed in my opinion Google should not exist as it does.

Here is some more:

David Chavern, the News Media Alliance’s president and chief executive, offered a similar assessment: “[Google] makes money off this arrangement and there needs to be a better outcome for news publishers.”

Chavern hopes this latest study will impel Congress to pass the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act, a bill sponsored by House Antitrust Subcommittee Chairman David Cicilline, D-R.I., and House Judiciary ranking member Doug Collins, R-Ga. According to the alliance, the legislation would “grant news publishers an antitrust safe harbor allowing them to come together to collectively negotiate with the tech platforms for more equitable terms.”

Well... I think the last bit I just quoted sounds extremely weak, but then again that is the probable position of authentic American providers of news (which Google is not).

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

Google’s hefty profits at the news industry’s expense will likely renew calls in progressive circles to smash Big Tech. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., has called for Facebook to be broken up, while Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., introduced a proposal in March that would dismantle several Silicon Valley monopolies, including Google. “We must help America’s content creators — from local newspapers and national magazines to comedians and musicians — keep more of the value their content generates, rather than seeing it scooped up by companies like Google and Facebook,” she wrote at the time.

As the News Media Alliance makes clear, the future of the Fourth Estate may depend on it.

I agree with Sanders and Warren, and I also observe that the last quoted paragraph sounds rather ominous: If the - real - press is dead or mostly dead, so is democracy. This is a recommended article.

3. Most American Women Prefer Socialism to Capitalism: Poll

This article is by Natasha Hakimi Zapata on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

Signs that socialism is gaining popularity in the United States are popping up everywhere. Publications such as The Economist, The Guardian and The New York Times have all been saying for some time that American millennials are more interested in socialism than capitalism these days, with one 2017 Guardian piece even framing it as a youthful love affair with a not-so-young idea. Then there was Bernie Sanders’ unexpected popularity among young voters during the 2016 primaries, with polls showing that the self-proclaimed Democratic socialist “won more votes from the under-30 crowd than Trump and Clinton combined.” Add to this the rise of figures like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, and polls showing that Democrats are increasingly embracing socialism, and it’s clear the term no longer holds the misguided Cold War stigma it did for decades.

Well... yes but mostly no, for who can define ¨socialism¨ and ¨capitalism¨ clearly? Almost no one, I am pretty sure, after ten years of reading about the crisis. (You can find my answers here: Crisis: On Socialism where you also will find that reasonable definitions are far from easy.)

Also, I like to add that if Zapata had not written about ¨socialism¨ but ¨the left¨ or ¨leftist ideas¨ I think she would have been far more correct.

Here is some more:

Now a new Harris poll conducted for the show “Axios on HBO” reveals 40% of Americans would take socialism over capitalism. Perhaps more significantly, the poll finds a whopping 55% of women between the ages of 18 and 54 would prefer to live under socialism.

No, I am sorry: I do not believe so at all. What I possibly do believe (but don´t know at all) is the above with ¨socialism¨ replaced by ¨the left¨ or ¨leftist ideas¨.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

As Axios also points out, however, there’s some disagreement over what American socialism would look like. But when it comes to some of the key policies being put forward by progressives like Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez—such as single-payer health care, a living wage and tuition-free higher education—most Americans polled seem to agree:

  1. Universal health care: 76%
  2. Tuition-free education: 72%
  3. Living wage: 68%
  4. State-controlled economy: 66%
  5. State control and regulation of private property: 61%
  6. High taxes for the rich: 60%
  7. State-controlled media and communication: 57%
  8. Strong environmental regulations: 56%
  9. High public spending: 55%
  10. Government “democratizes’’ private businesses—that is, gives workers control over them—to the greatest extent possible: 52%
  11. System dependent on dictatorship: 49%
  12. Workers own and control their places of employment: 48%
  13. Democratically-elected government: 46%

Given these numbers, and the fact that even Fox News viewers seem to support policies like Medicare for all, as evidenced by Sanders’ recent town hall on that cable news channel, at the same time Democratic 2020 hopefuls move further left on many of these very issues, it could be only a matter of time before American women get their wish to live in a socialist country.

Well... to say at this point that ¨there’s some disagreement over what American socialism would look like¨ is true, though I would have written something considerably stronger, to the effect that few Americans seem to have decent ideas about socialism.

Also, as to the above list: I think (with a few exceptions) the above is better read as being about social democracy.  And I don´t recommend this article, because it is much too vague.

4. George Conway assails Trump in blistering Twitter thread

This article is by Alex Henderson on AlterNet. I abbreviated the title. It starts as follows:

Anyone who follows George Conway on Twitter knows that the Republican attorney is among President Donald Trump’s most vehement critics on the right. While his wife, GOP activist and Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, is among the president’s staunchest defenders, GC has a totally different point of view — and in a blistering Twitter thread posted over the weekend, GC questioned Trump’s mental health and urged others to do the same.

Yes indeed. And I think - as a psychologist, also - that Conway is quite right: See Crisis: Is Donald Trump Mentally Ill, that gives the answer many psychiatrists and psychologists agree to.

Also, I dislike it very much that AH abbreviates GC. Here is some more:

In his thread, the attorney also posted, “Do yourself and the country a favor. Resign and seek the psychological treatment you so obviously need.” And GC went on to point readers in the direction of some anti-Trump books, including Bandy Lee’s “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 37 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President” and Dr. Justin A. Frank’s “Trump on the Couch: Inside the Mind of the President” — both of which examine Trump’s mental state.

Well... I think Conway is mostly right, but I also think that once you are quite rich you can be rather mad without any criticism.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

In other tweets over the weekend, GC spoke out against Trump’s “myriad psychiatric problems” as well “the media’s and the nation’s utter failure to confront the fact that we have a psychologically unwell and unfit president.”

What’s astonishing is the media’s and the nation’s utter failure to confront the fact that we have a psychologically unwell and unfit president.
-- George Conway

Yes, I think he is correct, but no, I will not recommend this article because I very strongly dislike personal abbreviations as made by AH in A.


[1] I have now been saying since the end of 2015 that is systematically ruining my site by NOT updating it within a few seconds, as it did between 1996 and 2015, but by updating it between two to seven days later, that is, if I am lucky.

They have claimed that my site was wrongly named in html: A lie. They have claimed that my operating system was out of date: A lie.

And they just don't care for my site, my interests, my values or my ideas. They have behaved now for 3 years as if they are the eagerly willing instruments of the US's secret services, which I will from now on suppose they are (for truth is dead in Holland).

The only two reasons I remain with xs4all is that my site has been there since 1996, and I have no reasons whatsoever to suppose that any other Dutch provider is any better (!!).
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