June 21, 2019

Crisis: Chomsky on Propaganda, The Democrats, A Possible Economic Crash, Nader on 5 Threats

“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 21, 2019

This is a Nederlog of Friday, June 21, 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 21, 2019:
1. Chomsky: The Real Election Meddling Isn't Coming From Russia
2. There Are No Democratic Adults in the Room
3. The One Issue That Could Determine Trump's Re-Election Bid
4. Nader: The 5 existential threats our young leaders need to tackle
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. Chomsky: The Real Election Meddling Isn't Coming From Russia

This article is by Alan McLeod on Truthdig and originally on FAIR. It starts as follows:

Alan MacLeod interviewed Noam Chomsky via Skype on March 13, 2018, for MacLeod’s new book Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent. They discussed the origins of the classic work of media criticism (co-authored with Edward Herman) Manufacturing Consent, the role of that book’s “propaganda model” today, Google and Facebook, Donald Trump and Russia, fake news and Syria. This is a lightly edited transcript.

Yes indeed - and I checked whether I had reviewed this in 2018. I did not, and since tjis is an interesting articl, I´ll review it today.

Here is the beginning of the text:

Alan MacLeod: I would first like to ask you about how Manufacturing Consent came about. How did you know Edward Herman? What was the division of labour with the book? What parts did you write and what parts did he write?

Noam Chomsky: Ed wrote the basic framework, the institutional analysis, the corporate structure, the relations to government programs and the fundamental institutional structure of the media—that was basically him. He also did parts on some of the specific studies, like on the coverage comparison of a hundred religious martyrs in Latin America with one Polish priest. He did the comparison of the elections, which was partly drawn from a book that he had already done on demonstration elections. I did all the parts on Vietnam and on the Freedom House attack on the media. Of course, we interacted on all the chapters, but the main division of labor was that.

This is somewhat interesting, I think. In fact, I did not read ¨Manufacturing Consent¨, which was published in 1988, but I do have a fair idea about its contents, and indeed may have read parts of it in the last 30 years.

Next, after skipping rather a lot, here is Chomsky:

But it does not matter, because this is a world of alternative facts. The media commentary is mostly propaganda and ideology. There were a few other critiques rather like that…but in the mainstream, it was basically ignored.

Yes, I basically agree. Also, this means that very many facts you read in the media, especially the mainstream/corporate media that most do read, have been somewhat twisted and propagandized.

Here is some more:

AM: It’s now been almost 30 years since its publication, and the media landscape has, in many ways, changed greatly since 1988. I think perhaps the largest difference is the arrival of the internet and social media. One 2016 study showed that half of all British people get their news online now, with online news having overtaken television in its reach, and having far superseded it among those under 45 years old. Twenty-five percent of the UK receives its news primarily through social media like Facebook or Twitter. In the United States, two-thirds of the adult population get news through social media, and that figure is growing at nearly 10 percent a year. Even the majority of over-50s use social media for news. Could you speak about the internet and social media, its usage and the evolving media landscape with regard to the propaganda model?

NC: I don’t think the internet and social media changes the propaganda model at all. The propaganda model was about the major media institutions and they remain, with all the social media and everything else, the primary source of news, information and commentary. The news that appears in social media is drawn from them. So, if you look at the news on Facebook, it comes straight from the major media. They don’t do their own investigations.

Yes, I agree with Chomsky and like to add that I detest the social media and have consistently kept away from them: I don´t use nor visit Facebook (except for two times around 10 years ago, when someone used it to lie about me); I don´t use Twitter etc.

Also, I note that 25% of the British that get their news through the social media, while 66% of the Americans get their news there, are awful numbers - which incidentally strongly supports my views that the large majority is stupid or ignorant.

Anyway. Here is more on the a-social media:

On social media, that has declined. People tend to go to things that just get their news through the social media reinforce their own opinions, so you end up with bubbles. And it is all across the spectrum. The people on what is called the left see the left media, the people on the right see the right media. And the level of material is, of course, much more shallow.

The mainstream media, as we wrote in Manufacturing Consent, are a very significant source of news and information, and provide very valuable material. The first thing I do every day is read the New York Times, as it is the most comprehensive journal. You have to critically analyze what you read and understand the framework, what is left out and so forth, but that is not quantum physics; it is not hard to do. But it is a source of news.

On social media, you do not find that. There are exceptions; there are internet journals that are very good—for example, The Intercept—but most of it [internet and social media] is pretty shallow, and has led to a decline in understanding of the world in many ways.

Yes, I agree and indeed still read The Guardian, which these days has become - very firmly, also - a mainstream/corporate medium - for the same reason. I also look at The New York Times daily, but its internet representation has gotten worse lately.

Here is more:

AM: Are companies like GoogleFacebook and Amazon too big to exist privately and in their current form?

NC: Any kind of near-monopoly as these companies are is extremely dangerous. They have enormous power and outreach. I do not think that any organization at all should have that kind of power. Their ability to collect information and to devise means of controlling what you see and do is very dangerous. Even at the level of you looking up on a search engine, Google deciding what you are going to see first, second and so on is quite dangerous.

Yes, I completely agree. Here is Chomsky on the Russian interference in the American elections:

[NC:] Let’s take the Russia business. Let’s say all the claims are true. Suppose Russia tried to interfere in the American elections. That ought to make people laugh hysterically. There is huge interference in American elections. It comes from the corporate sector. They practically buy the elections. In fact, there is extensive work in mainstream academic political science that demonstrates very convincingly that you can predict the electability, hence largely the votes, of people in Congress on major issues just by looking at their campaign funding. That is one factor, let alone lobbying and everything else. That is massive interference in elections.

About 70 per cent of the population of the US is not even represented, meaning that their own representatives pay no attention to their views, and follow the views of the major funders. This is manipulation on an enormous level! Whatever the Russians might have done is not even a toothpick on a mountain compared to that, quite apart from the fact that the US not only intervenes in elections (including in Russia), but overthrows governments. The whole thing is a bad joke, and a sign of the collapse of the Democratic Party as a serious institution.

Yes, I again completely agree. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

As far as the election itself was concerned, the most striking feature was the Sanders campaign. The Sanders campaign was the first time in over a century of American political history that a candidate was able to get to where he did. Sanders probably would have been nominated if it had not been for the machinations of the Obama/Clinton party managers. But he did this with no name recognition, no funding from wealth or corporate power, and no media support or recognition—that is astonishing! That has never happened in American political history. In the United States, elections are basically bought, as I mentioned previously. This was a really striking phenomenon, but was barely mentioned in the media.

Yes, I agree and this is a strongly recommended article in which there is a lot more than I quoted.

2. There Are No Democratic Adults in the Room

This article is by Paul Street on Truthdig. This is from near its beginning:

As the distinguished liberal political scientists Benjamin Page (Northwestern) and Martin Gilens (Princeton) showed in their expertly researched book “Democracy in America? (2017):

The best evidence indicates that the wishes of ordinary Americans actually have had little or no impact on the making of federal government policy. Wealthy individuals and organized interest groups – especially business corporations – have had much more political clout. When they are taken into account, it becomes apparent that the general public has been virtually powerless. … Majorities of Americans favor … programs to help provide jobs, increase wages, help the unemployed, provide universal medical insurance, ensure decent retirement pensions, and pay for such programs with progressive taxes. Most Americans also want to cut ‘corporate welfare.’ Yet the wealthy, business groups, and structural gridlock have mostly blocked such new policies.”

Yes, I think that quotation is correct (and I am rather certain I quoted it before, but then I reviewed more than 10,000 article in Nederlog over the last 10+ years).

Anyway, here is more:

What got Trump elected that horrible year was neither interference from Russia (or any other foreign power) nor an electoral uprising of white nationalists (just over 1 in 4 adult Americans voted for Trump) but rather the neoliberal nothingness of the Democratic Party, aptly described as the “The Inauthentic Opposition” by the late political scientist Sheldon Wolin in his 2008 book, “Democracy, Inc: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism.”

“Should Democrats somehow, be elected,” Wolin predicted, they would do nothing “to alter significantly the direction of society” or “substantially revers[e] the drift rightwards. … The timidity of a Democratic Party mesmerized by centrist precepts points to the crucial fact that for the poor, minorities, the working class and anti-corporatists there is no opposition party working on their behalf.” Instead, the corporatist Democrats would work to “marginalize any possible threat to the corporate allies of the Republicans.”

Yes, I think that is also correct. Here is more:

The progressive-populist Bernie Sanders, running in accord with majority progressive opinion, would have defeated Trump. But the Clinton machine and its allies in corporate media and the Democratic National Committee rigged the primary campaign against Sanders, the party’s best hope.

Two and a half years later, the Democrats and their backers in the corporate media are repeating the same mistakes all over again. They are already making the next quadrennial extravaganza all about the (undisputed) awfulness of Trump while working to block Sanders and other left-leaning Democratic forces who would dare challenge the establishment consensus with bold progressive policies.
I think this is also quite true. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

Only Sanders and perhaps Elizabeth Warren (although to a significantly lesser degree) offer anything resembling a challenge to entrenched power. And that is why they can expect consistent criticism for being “too radical,” “pie-in-the-sky” and “socialist” from a putatively “liberal” establishment that prefers losing to a neofascist right than even a moderately social democratic left.

Well... I´ve said before that my own favorite team for the presidential elections is Sanders + Warren, and I also quite agree with the last quote, including the phrase (bolding added) ¨a moderately social democratic left¨, for that is - and see yesterday on a fundamental confusion - what Sanders + Warren are, in fact. And this is a strongly recommended article.

3. The One Issue That Could Determine Trump's Re-Election Bid

This article is by Thom Hartmann on Truthdig and originally on the Independent Media Institute. It starts as follows:

If he times it right, Donald Trump might set back the Democratic Party for a generation or more; if he misses, he’ll go down in history along with Herbert Hoover as the guy who brought the nation an economic disaster.

Back in 2007 and early 2008, many of us were convinced that an economic crash was coming, and that George W. Bush and his Treasury secretary, Henry Paulson, and Fed chairman, Alan Greenspan, knew it.

And we also thought that they were doing everything they could to hold it off so it would happen after the 2008 election, so if a Democrat was elected they could say the crash was because people were “worried about the incoming Democrats,” and if McCain won it would be his problem, not Bush’s.

It appears that Trump may be doing the same thing, only, as with so many of his High Crimes (a phrase that includes “serious misuse or abuse of office”), he’s being much more public about it. On June 15, he tweeted, “if anyone but me takes over… there will be a Market Crash the likes of which has not been seen before!”

Yes, I agree. Here is some more:

Bush knew the business cycle that had cranked up during the late 90s was coming to an end, and he, Greenspan, and Paulson did everything they could to hold it off.

Between 2001 and 2003, he pushed through Congress and signed fully three major tax cuts for wealthy people and businesses, including massive cuts to dividend and capital gains income. This poured hundreds of billions in borrowed money into the economy, wiping out the $236 billion budget surplus Bill Clinton had left him and throwing us into a $458 billion annual deficit in 2008.

To further goose the economy, Bush and Cheney illegally got us into two wars, raising defense spending from the $290 billion ceiling it had hit during the 1990s to over $595 billion in 2008, pouring literally trillions into the defense industry.

I think this is also correct, though I was not aware of Bush and Cheney´s economic manipulations beween 2001 and 2003.

Here is some more:

Reaganomics—the neoliberal economic system we’ve been living under continuously since 1981—has wiped out the purchasing power of the bottom 99 percent. In the same time that the rich have gotten $21 trillion richer, the bottom 50 percent of Americans have lost—vanished, gone forever, lost—over $900 billion.

Cheap credit is the only thing that’s keeping most Americans buying anything beyond groceries and medicine, and both of those are exploding in price because of climate change, monopoly, and fraud. It’s not a question of if, but when the working people of America will stop going deeper and deeper in debt simply to maintain their current lifestyles.

Yes indeed, I agree again, except that I am less certain than Hartmann is that there will be a when, when ¨the working people of America will¨ stop. Besides, if some of them reach such a point, it does not seem unlikely to me that they will be kept out of the news: See above.

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

A 2021 return to New Deal Keynesian economics, which rescued America after the Republican Great Depression and built the strongest middle class in history between 1933 and 1980, could return working-class Americans to opportunity, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

In either case, winter is coming, and we all need to be prepared, both politically and economically.

Yes, I agree and this is a strongly recommended article.

4. Nader: The 5 existential threats our young leaders need to tackle

This article is by Ralph Nader on AlterNet and originally on Common Dreams. This is from near its beginning:

No more than one percent of Americans – sometimes far less – made the many advances in peace and justice take hold, backed by a growing public opinion.

In the 15,000 or 20,000 days these young people have, it will be their responsibility to stop the following omnicidal threats to humanity and the natural world:

  1. Climate crisis or climate disruption, which is already wreaking havoc.
  2. A runaway nuclear arms race between countries, which threatens to cause untold destruction. (..)
  3. Global pandemics caused by mutations of viruses and bacteria are a lethal threat. (..)
  4. Endemic poverty and grave inequalities afflict billions of human beings. Roughly one in four children in the world suffers from chronic malnutrition, if not semi-starvation.(..)
  5. The emerging corporate fascistic states are dispossessing the citizenry of their rights, remedies, and facilities to organize and express their voices. The U.S. is now a maturing corporate state. Wall Street owns more of Washington and turns our government against its own people while feeding privileges, immunities and gigantic freebies and tax escapes to demanding global companies. (..)
Yes, I completely agree with the above, and draw your attention to two points:

First, I agree with Nader´s estimate that maximally 1 to 2% of all adults is capable of seeing the facts (some of the facts) more or less as they are (which requires both intelligence and information) and also capable of possibly, with the help of others, of doing something about it.

Incidentally, I have been thinking the same since 1970 (for no, I am not impressed by the intelligence and information of average ordinary people).

And second, the list of 5 points Nader gives is far longer in his article than in my review of it.

Here is some more:

I continued my remarks about how corporations have been given by the Federal Courts the same rights as human beings. Even though, neither the words “corporation” or “company” ever appear in our Constitution. Add this corporate “personhood” to the expanding privileges and immunities of corporate power, in these times of corporate crime waves, and equal justice under law between U.S. citizens and Exxon/Mobil or Pfizer or Wells Fargo is a cruel mockery.

Yes, I completely agree. (The only real persons there are, are individual human beings.)

Here is some more:

Interns are spending the summer with Congress – the smallest yet most powerful branch of government in the Constitution – where some 1,500 corporations have undermined the peoples’ delegated power. These corporations rent or own a majority of the Senators and Representatives and tell them how to vote on many serious matters.

Yes, I think this is quite true. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

Led by one percent of active citizens in their communities the people – left and right – can achieve a living wage economy, full health insurance, law and order for corporations, a fair tax system, and organizing rights for workers, consumers, and small taxpayers. We can develop solar energy capabilities quicker. Our public budgets can be redirected to critical domestic public works infrastructure and away from costly Empire building abroad.

Well... I certainly hope so, and this is a strongly recommended article.


[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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