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Fareed Zakaria’s false narrative and mass surveillances

6 Nov
A screenshot from Juice Rap News's rap about Australia's mass surveillance law, the G20, etc...

A screenshot from Juice Rap News’s recent rap about Australia’s new mass surveillance law, the G20, and much more.

Recently, Fareed Zakaria, a managing editor of Foreign Affairs recently wrote an opinion piece for the Washington Post which pushed a false narrative. This article aims to criticize Zakaria’s column since mass surveillance seems to be the talk of many activists, concerned citizens, and pissed-off Americans these days.*

One of Zakaria’s main points is that whistleblower Edward Snowden should face trial in the US. He says this again and again, couched in supposedly pro-Snowden rhetoric:

“He [Snowden] comes off [as]…intelligent and well-intentioned. I say this as someone who believes that Snowden broke the law and should be accountable but also that he performed a public service that lacks proper democratic oversight and judicial checks. There is a way to reconcile these positions: a trial…The Obama administration should make clear that Snowden would get an open, civilian trial in the United States…It would be the trial of the century, shining a spotlight on something that has been hidden deep in the shadows for too long. And that is what Snowden says he wanted from the start.”

Beyond this ridiculous, absurd, and flowery language is Zakaria’s claim that what Snowden revealed had “limited consequences,” with very little that was “morally scandalous” and his strange argument that US hacking on Chinese computer systems is ok (what?). Oh yeah, and add in Zakaria’s construction of a straw man, guessing what Snowden would argue if he was part of the trial. He even found some anonymous legal scholars who said that “Snowden could get a fair trail” and David Pozen of Columbia University to claim that since Snowden’s case is “so highly publicized already…that the basic fact of the disclosures is old news, as is much of content, some of which is not declassified.”

There is one main problem with Zakaria’s piece: there is NO talk of calling government officials, mainly in the NSA, to trial. They are the ones who should be sitting in a prison, not Snowden. As Snowden himself said in a recent interview with The Nation (which I will analyze in depth in a later article):

“…Richard Nixon got kicked out of Washington for tapping one hotel suite. Today we’re tapping [phone lines and reading emails of] every American citizen in the country, and no one has been put on trial for it or even investigated. We don’t even have an inquiry into it.”

The tapping of phones, reading emails and storing information of Americans, and people all across the world is no doubt violating some law or another beyond the 4th Amendment of the Constitution, which is obviously being violated. You might ask: what has the NSA, and government at large, done that would result in government officials going to jail? Well, let me tell you of the NSA’s misdeeds, some pertinent examples of mass surveillance, and more [1]:

  1. The DOJ was wiretapping the cloakroom of the House of Representatives
  2. The NSA tried to wiretap an unknown member of Congress
  3. The NSA is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon due to a a routine renewal of surveillance by the FISA court
  4. The NSA had set up a program called PRISM to collect data from tech giants including Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, Skype, YouTube, and Apple, all of whom, are all participating in top secret spying program
  5. The NSA has developed a powerful tool for recording and analyzing where its intelligence comes from called Boundless Informant
  6. Such wide NSA surveillance might, as David Seaman noted, allow for the government to blackmail, shame, or discredit any activist or journalist who threatens status quo which follows Thomas Drake’s claim that we are all “persons of interest” for the government
  7. The NSA repeatedly from 1999 to 2007 kept trying to access the data of private companies with only Qwest refusing access
  8. The NSA is monitoring credit card transaction as part of its supposed effort to target possible terrorists
  9. The NSA is building the country’s biggest spy center to store our information
  10. In March 2013 alone, the NSA collected 97 billion pieces of data from worldwide networks!
  11. The NSA is getting an “electronic copy” of detail records of all Verizon phone calls within the US and between the US and abroad.
  12. The NSA wants to collect, know, process, and sniff “all” (or as much info. as they can get) in part by partnering with intelligence agencies in other countries; the idea of “collecting it all” seems to be a big goal of the NSA
  13. The NSA has processed, as of December 2012, more than a trillion pieces of metadata
  14. The NSA has “strategic partnerships” with companies such as: At&T, Verizon, Motorola, Qwest, Intel, Microsoft, Cisco, HP, EDS, Oracle, and Qualcomm
  15. The PRISM program and the “collection of communications on fiber cables and infrastructure” are completely interlinked.
  16. The FBI and CIA can select info. from PRISM if they wish at any time
  17. The NSA shares data with Canada’s equivalent (of the NSA) called the Communications Security Establishment (CSE)
  18. The US has signal intelligence partners such as coalitions like NATO and countries such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom
  19. Signal Intelligence is exchanged with Israel, which includes private data of Americans, is driven mainly by their interests
  20. Parts of the NSA focus on “trade activities” of countries such as Mexico, Belgium, France, Italy, Germany, Japan, Spain, Brazil, and Mexico, because of their “importance to U.S. economic, trade, and defense concerns,” with reports from these divisions informing diplomats at specific summits who were informing President Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
  21. Spying on leaders such as Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff (and key advisors) and Mexico’s Peno Nieto
  22. The NSA spied on UN Security Council members (such as Brazil, France, Japan, and Mexico), with the US’s UN members saying that thanks to this spying their real position on sanctioning Iran
  23. The NSA places implants into devices such as servers and routers in order to spy on their internet use and computer use, without detection
  24. The NSA is having a challenge at storing, ingesting and processing all the data they receive
  25. The NSA can spy on anyone’s email they want, they just need to name a certain query and a specific justification
  26. The NSA can access a broad range of data on Facebook thanks to the FBI
  27. A claim in a leaked NSA document that there is “nothing to worry about” if you “accidentally” target a person living in the US
  28. The “NSA now has the capability to store all content from all communications, both phone and computer” and in the view of NSA whistleblower Russ Tice
  29. In January of 2014, the US army in January of this year, deployed two surveillance blimps “called aerostats, for three years of testing over Maryland” which “will have a surveillance range of over 300 miles.”
  30. NSA and FBI are spying “on Muslim leaders, particularly Muslim leaders who were lawyers, civil rights leaders, and academics.” Also see here.
  31. Plans by the NSA and US government at-large to use spying to benefit US corporations
  32. The NSA’s secret “Google-like” search engine, IREACH, where they share “more than 850 billion records about phone calls, emails, cellphone locations, and internet chats” with more than a dozen U.S. govt. agencies
  33. The NSA is partnering with Saudi Arabia’s brutal state police, is a partner with the Israeli intelligence service on every act of military aggression and gives Turkey info. about the PKK even as Turkey is a key target of US spying
  34. The possibility that the NSA or any govt. agency could hack into your computer if you watch a funny cat video
  35. The terrorist screening database of 680,000 people, with almost half not even classified as terrorists, and the CIA, DIA, NSA and FBI being the top people who nominate people to the list.
  36. A program where “huge volumes of private emails, phone calls, and internet chats are being intercepted by the National Security Agency with the secret cooperation of more foreign governments than previously known.”
  37. Germany serving as the NSA’s biggest listening post in Europe
  38. The NSA “secretly intercepting, recording, and archiving the audio of virtually every cell phone conversation on the island nation of the Bahamas.”
  39. The NSA and GCHQ having a list of 122 leaders, including Angela Merkel, who are being spied on
  40. The NSA tracking “down the private email and Facebook accounts of system administrators (or sys admins, as they are often called), before hacking their computers to gain access to the networks they control”
  41. Governments and government agencies regularly tapping into private license-plate tracking databases even if casts many as suspects
  42. The NSA infects millions of computers with malware, even making fake facebook pages and servers at certain times. Also see here.
  43. The CIA searched US senate computers. Also see here.
  44. The NSA has an advice columnist who complains about being spied on…what?
  45. For years, the “DOJ had utilized warrantless electronic surveillance to identify suspects…[and] no criminal defendant had received such notice.”
  46. The GCHQ and NSA “targeted WikiLeaks and other activist groups with tactics ranging from covert surveillance to prosecution.”
  47. The NSA “is using complex analysis of electronic surveillance, rather than human intelligence, as the primary method to locate targets for lethal drone strikes,” which interestingly is centered on a focus on the metadata in one’s phone or cell-phone tracking
  48. NSA can use US data without a warrant, according to a revealed FISA court order
  49. The NSA collected email records in bulk for two years of Obama’s presidency and continues to do so up until the present
  50. The NSA, along with other intelligence services like the CIA and FBI, are “spying on the European Union mission in New York and its embassy in Washington,” along with “38 embassies and missions” which are considered targets, which include “traditional ideological adversaries…snsitive Middle Eastern countries…EU missions and the French, Italian and Greek embassies, as well as a number of other American allies, including Japan, Mexico, South Korea, India and Turkey.”
  51.  Microsoft and the NSA are collaborating over user data, allowing user’s data to be intercepted and stored by the NSA
  52. The NSA paid the GCHQ to continue spying
  53. The NSA somehow has “secret backdoor permission to search databases for individual Americans’ communications”
  54. The NSA “paid millions of dollars to cover the costs of major internet companies involved in the Prism surveillance program” such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Yahoo! This falls in line with what the NSA general counsel said: that big tech companies like Yahoo and Google provided ‘full assistance’ in legally mandated collection of data
  55. The NSA and GCHQ worked to “unlock encryption used to protect emails, banking and medical records” while the NSA itself has tried to crack the encryption of Tor, but that they haven’t been fully successful.
  56. The NSA shares raw intelligence data including personal info. of Americans with Israel
  57. The NSA spied on the Indian embassy and the UN. This falls in line with US diplomats spying on the top officials of the United Nations as revealed by Wikileaks cables.
  58. The US monitored Angela Merkel and numerous other phones of world leaders, and not surprisingly they won’t let Merkel see HER OWN NSA file
  59. Snowden claims that the NSA caused the Syrian internet blackout in 2012 accidently in an attempt to infiltrate it
  60. The NSA recruits people at hacker conventions but has recently, and justifiably, taken a lot of flack
  61. When the NSA “intercepted the online accounts of legally targeted foreigners over a four-year period it also collected the conversations of nine times as many ordinary internet users” many of whom are US citizens
  62. The NSA “searched through its data troves of emails and other communications data for 198 “identifiers” of Americans’ information in 2013 alone.”
  63. Vodafone “revealed the existence of secret wires that allow government agencies to listen to all conversations on its networks, saying they are widely used in some of the 29 countries in which it operates in Europe and beyond,” likely some of those agencies are the NSA, CIA and FBI.
  64. Top NSA officials “wrestled for weeks with how to respond to an unprecedented surge in open records requests from members of the public in the wake of the first mass surveillance revelations” from documents provided by Snowden
  65. Ironically, US secretary of State John Kerry claimed that the US “obtained intercepted phone calls that prove Moscow is deliberately trying to destabilise eastern Ukraine”
  66. Snowden claims that the NSA spied on Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch
  67. The NSA “created ‘back doors’ into…Huawei[‘s] networks.” This is what Fareed Zakaria supports for some strange reason
  68. The GCHQ collected Yahoo! webcam images and then fed them to the NSA
  69. The NSA spied on rival states during the 2009 climate summit according to Snowden
  70. The NSA and GCHQ have been “been developing capabilities to take advantage of “leaky” smartphone apps, such as the wildly popular Angry Birds game, that transmit users’ private information across the internet.”
  71. The increase in mass surveillance could be because of a “need” to brunt climate activism
  72. The NSA has a tool to hack into iPhones by using a backdoor
  73. U.S. tax dollars are being used to monitor “Americans who voice dissent against the extraordinary influence that some of the world’s most powerful corporations have on our elected officials”
  74. The FBI has used drones to monitor citizens on US soil. This isn’t a surprise as tar sands drones seem to be coming soon
  75. Rice Tice has said that the the US engaged in “illegal use of space-based satellites and systems to spy on U.S. citizens”
  76. Not only is the FBI engaging in intimidation to some degree, but it is also clear that “state, local, and federal law enforcement agencies are systematically monitoring First Amendment activities…in the name of safety and security in a post-9/11 age.”
  77. According to a New York Times article, all U.S. mail is being scanned and put into a database which is called Mail Isolation Control and Tracking. Funny enough, Gizmodo contemplated it three years earlier, asking if people could imagine if the Postal Service scanned and emailed all your letters
  78. The FBI conducts its own signals intelligence as part of the Data Intercept Technology Unit (DITU) which feeds data to the NSA, possibly doing even more surveillance than even the NSA
  79. There’s the Magic Lantern program developed by FBI to log keystrokes and there’s the  Computer and Internet Protocol Address Verifier, another FBI surveillance program
  80. Finally there’s DCSNet which is the FBI’s “sophisticated, point-and-click surveillance system that performs instant wiretaps on almost any communications device”

These crimes by the NSA especially, are now anomaly, since, as Kirk Wiebe said


I could simply say that NSA officials should go on trial and be put in jail. Snowden has alluded to this. I could even say that the NSA should be abolished, just like the CIA, as I have previously advocated for. However, the mass surveillance apparatus is more expansive than just the NSA, or just the CIA. After all, corporate and government surveillance are intertwined, which is in part because after 9/11 the US intelligence community “found itself in control of a huge amount of money, contracting with domestic and foreign companies to build and proliferate tools needed to spy on the world” which led to what some call a “surveillance-industrial complex.”[2] Hence, there is more to worry about than what some claim to be a “surveillance state” since it is MUCH more complex and intricate than that. It is important to also recognize a valid point by Zaid Jilani:

“Government can be an incredibly positive force when it is transparent, accountable and empowering. When it is not those things, not only should we oppose it, but we should be proud that there are people on the Right who are willing to join with us in that cause—they’re helping us actually increase faith in the positive aspects of the public sector by addressing its abuses. Not only can we advocate for rolling back the national security state and implementing positive government programs like Medicare for All and a national living wage, but if we are to win over the American public, it may very well be necessary to do both.”

And please, do NOT claim as this article says that because of mass surveillance, “Equality has finally come to the shores of America in the form of surveillance. We are all in the same boat now and when the lights go out, we are all black.” That is not only insensitive to blacks, but it is bypassing the reality of racial domination and oppression in the United States. There is no doubt that the US is a surveillance society (I’ll agree with the ACLU on this one). But, that term in and of itself is too mild. It is best to call the US what cryptohippie calls an electronic police state, which they define as follows [4]:

“An electronic police state is quiet, even unseen. All of its legal actions are supported by abundant evidence. It looks pristine. An electronic police state is characterized by…State use of electronic technologies to record, organize, search and distribute forensic evidence against its citizens…In an Electronic Police State, every surveillance camera recording, every email you send, every Internet site you surf, every post you make, every check you write, every credit card swipe, every cell phone ping…are all criminal evidence , and they are held in searchable databases, for a long, long time. Whoever holds this evidence can make you look very, very bad whenever they care enough to do so. You can be prosecuted whenever they feel like it – the evidence is already in their database.”

It is more likely that this type of state exists in the US than a police state as traditionally defined, despite what others have to say about it. [5]

It is important to remember that the Snowden revelations are NOT the first time that people have been concerned about the mass surveillance apparatus. As Eli Pariser predicted in his 2007 book, The Filter Bubble, “by 2014, they [the NSA] anticipate dealing with so much data they’ve invented new units of measurement just to describe it.” [6] Pariser wasn’t the only one. Maureen Webb wrote about global surveillance, mainly by the US in the wake of 9/11. In a book released the same year, 2007, Webb wrote that the NSA’s electric bill was $21 million a year (likely much higher now), shreds 40,000 documents a day, and that governments were using individual private information they collected to “assess and preemptively eliminate the [supposed] risk that any of us might pose to the state” which she says requires that “everyone be evaluated as a potential suspect.” [7]  She also wrote about RFID chips used in DHS (Dept. of ‘Homeland Security”) visas which could be accessed by the US government and private companies. [8] In the book, Webb also warned that there will be the creation of a “global identity system predicated on the avoidance of risk” meaning that if one isn’t registered or has no “personal profile” then they will amount to, essentially, a “non-person,” making them a “risk to the state.” [9] Interestingly, in part of the book, Webb writes about the connection between corporations and the state on surveillance, calling it the ‘corporate-security complex’ [10]:

“…the new symbiotic relationship that is developing between an immense security/intelligence establishment and an ambitious information technology industry [can be called the]…corporate-security complex [which] is an aggressive drive of the project for globalized, mass registration and surveillance.”

Later Webb expands on this writing that billions of dollars, euros and other currencies flow into this complex and makes a bold and dark statement about a surveillance society, which almost echoes some wary-of-government themes, writing that [11]:

“In a surveillance society…[the] government need not represent the people; the ruling class [or elite] is above the law; the people and individuals are answerable to the state; their rights and protections are subordinated to the state’s interest; and the executive branch of government usurps the constitutional power of the other branches of government.”

Webb also writes in her book that global surveillance is not efficient, that it does not help catch terrorists, that it doesn’t address the causes of terrorism, that racial profiling is endemic to mass surveillance, and that global insecurity is exacerbated by such surveillance. [12] Still, Webb’s alternative to this is reformist and does not involve dismantling the “immense security/intelligence establishment” she is concerned about.

Dana Priest and William Arkin have a similar reformist aim, only to expose information in the name of transparency, but they have a few interesting things to say about the establishment that Webb is clearly concerned about, such as [13]:

  • the government spending $10 billion a year to keep “secrets secret”
  • the creation of a “national security bureaucracy” which has run amok
  • Obama continuing the expansion of this establishment or bureaucracy, which they call ‘Top Secret America,’ despite supposed signs to the contrary
  • a “culture of spending” to stop supposed terrorist attacks, which resulted in a huge bureaucracy, which has major problems
  • the NSA ingesting 1.7 billion pieces of intercepted communications every day, including telephone calls, radio signals, cell phone conversations, emails, texts and more.

Arkin and Priest also write about the connection between corporations, and the US government on surveillance, noting that the NSA hires private firms to come up with much of its “technology and innovations,” and a federal-state-corporate partnership that “has produced a vast domestic intelligence apparatus that collects, stores, and analyzes information about tens of thousands of U.S. citizens and residents.” [14]

Finally, there is a older book by Mark Monmonier, written in 2002, which is also reformist in nature, is also about surveillance. There is one good thing that Monmonier does: define specific terms. He writes that surveillance is, in his view, about “monitoring to control human behavior” while data surveillance is, in quoting computer scientist Roger Clarke who coined the term, as  “the systematic use of personal data systems in the investigation of [people’s] actions or communications.”[15] However, Monmonier also echoes Snowden and others who are part of the corporate front, a supposed social justice campaign, called Reset the Net. At one point he writes that “data warehouses,” private companies like Axicom, which collect “detailed information on individual households” and rent that information to “retailers, insurers, and…detective agencies” is really Big Brother, not the government, while at another point he criticizes those who say that “Big Brother is almost everywhere,” and in the last sentence of the book, he declares: “for some of us, Big Business is a worse threat than Big Brother.” [16] Not only does this contradict his statement earlier in the book that “Big Brother is doing most of the watching…but corporations, local governments, and other Little Brothers are quickly getting involved” but it is completely absurd.[17] Why can’t someone be concerned about corporate surveillance, state surveillance and big business all at the same time?

While I know that this article did not come up with a way to dismantle and counter the corporate-state surveillance apparatus, that is not what this article was about. Still, I feel obliged to give some suggestions for what is a way forward. First, and foremost, I’d say making the connections between corporate and state forces on surveillance and the terror complex is clear. Then, there can be debate about what is the approach to counter and dismantle this nexis. I must be clear: working with the corporate sector in order to counter this surveillance is wholly counterproductive and it makes you a simple pawn of big business, whether you like that or not. I don’t think anyone wants that. Secondly, I think that reforming the NSA in any way, shape or form is a waste of energy. Instead, those who care about state surveillance should push for the NSA, CIA and FBI to be abolished for starters, with those who committed crimes, perhaps top NSA officials, going on trial. I would say that Snowden should go on trial, but based on the treatment Chelsea Manning got, I do not think that Snowden will get a fair trail in the US. I just don’t see it as possible.

Beyond my proposed ideas is the fact that Maureen Webb is right when she writes that “democratic societies are gradually becoming surveillance societies–or worse…authoritarian police states.” [18] I’ll end with this: what happens now, in regards of the massive America surveillance apparatus, is up to us.


*While other countries and populations, including many countries in Latin America and Europe, are also concerned and angry about this surveillance, I write this from my perspective as a person who lives in the United States.

[1]The sources for this information come from a widely circulated article for Global Research which I have since criticized on this blog for faulty framing there is an accurate description of the mass surveillance by the US government, documents used in Glenn Greenwald’s new book shown in a 108 page PDF, and numerous other sources (here, here, here, here, here, here, herehere, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here).

[2] See here and here. Also see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, herehere, here, here, and here for other articles on the subject

[3] See here, here, here for commentaries using the term “surveillance state.”

[4] Wendy McElroy of the libertarian Independent Institute uses this term as well, writing that:

“The modern surveillance state is referred to as an electronic police state because it uses technology to monitor people in order to detect and punish dissent. The authorities exert social control through spying, harsh law enforcement, and by regulating “privileges” such as the ability to travel. But all of this starts with surveillance…State surveillance has become more secretive and increasingly exempt from both oversight and accountability [since the end of the Cold War] Fusion centers now reach into private databases such as Accurate, Choice Point, Lexis-Nexus, Locate Plus, insurance claims, and credit reports. They access millions of government files like DMV records…The foregoing is a description of electronic totalitarianism. If its creation is invisible to many people, then it manifests yet another characteristic of a police state: People do not believe their freedom is gone until there is a knock on the door—one that comes in the middle of the night.”

[5] An example of someone who uses the term police state is Michael Rattner.

[6] Pariser, Eli. 2007. The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding from You. New York: Penguin Press, 11.

[7] Webb, Maureen. 2007. Illusions of Security: Global Surveillance and Democracy in the Post-9/11 World. San Francisco: City Lights, 48, 71-72.

[8] Ibid, 84-85. I know conspiracy theorists will be giddy about me mentioning the word RFID chips, as many think it is part of some government conspiracy, but they can just wipe the grins right off their faces.

[9] Ibid, 101.

[10] Ibid, 194-5.

[11] Ibid, 196, 201.

[12] Ibid, 235, 239-240, 243.

[13] Priest, Dana & Arkin, William M. 2011. Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State. New York: Little Brown & Company, 24, 51, 77, 156, 277

[14] Ibid, 133, 182.

[15] Monmonier, Mark. 2002. Spying With Maps: Surveillance Technologies and the Future of Privacy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2, 152.

[16] Ibid, 151, 170, 172.

[17] Ibid, 2.

[18] Webb, 209.

Reset the Net, Snowden, and more

28 Oct
Person playing as Snowden in the YouTube video, 'NSA Blurred Lines'

Person playing as Snowden in the YouTube video, ‘NSA Blurred Lines’

Over a month ago, I challenged and critiqued of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden’s call for surveillance reform. I wrote that while I am glad he had revealed, “the extent of the massive surveillance state run by elements of the U.S. government, there is definitely an area for critique and criticism,” that whistleblowers “hold very reformist thoughts” and that “the system…could afford getting ride of “bulk data collection” by the NSA, since the surveillance apparatus at-large would NOT be dismantled. Still, those who benefit from such collection don’t want it to go away.” This post is meant as an extension of that critique to Reset the Net and mass surveillance in general.

Reset the Net is an anti-surveillance “campaign” created after the revelations of government surveillance. Snowden made it seem that the campaign would be opposing all types of surveillance, government and corporate, saying that we need to take our privacy “back”[1]:

“Today, we can begin the work of effectively shutting down the collection of our online communications, even if the US Congress fails to do the same…[encryption is] the first effective step that everyone can take to end mass surveillance…don’t ask for your privacy. Take it back.”

In the same article, Tiffiniy Cheng, spokesperson for Fight for the Future, which coordinated Reset the Net basically undermined the idea that all types of surveillance, corporate and by the state, would be opposed:

“Now, they’ve got a rebellion on their hands as tech companies and internet users work together to directly intervene in mass surveillance and block the NSA and its kind from the web.”

I’m not sure how something is a “rebellion” if corporations and internet users are working together. That sounds more like a way for the companies to reassure customers and their users that they care about privacy. As Microsoft’s General Counsel Brad Smith said,

“It’s of course important for companies to do the things under our own control, and what we have under our own control is our own technology practices. I don’t know that anyone believes that will be sufficient to allay everyone’s concerns. There is a need for reform of government practices, but those will take longer.”

This makes me concerned about this campaign. There is another problem: the campaign’s main goal is to push for “mass adoption of encryption is a tool to fight mass surveillance” even though, as Bill Blunden notes, “strong encryption doesn’t translate into cyber security…if the minions of the Deep State want your data they’ll get it” and he argues that “to seek refuge in strong encryption is to escape into denial. Bolstering security and protecting our civil liberties will require the public to mobilize and generate the political impetus to take on the Deep State.” Despite this, the EFF, the Tor Project, ACLU of Massachusetts (and likely the whole organization) Yves Smith of Naked Capitalism, Natasha Leonard of Vice and New Inquiry, Glenn Greenwald (I would believe so) [2] and many others who care about government surveillance support this campaign.

Using their website, I found who supports Reset the Net:

who supports reset the net

According to their list of supporters, which compromises of fifty-six non-profit, public and private organizations, thirteen are for-profit companies (approx. 23%), twenty are non profits (including the three orgs. that back Democrats) (approx. 36 %), three are political parties, and four are mostly alternative media. The rest, sixteen organizations, are considered other, as I could not figure how I should categorize them. Think what you want about these supporters, but this doesn’t look too good to me.

I’m not the only one that critiques this campaign. Ashlin Lee and Peta Cook of the University of Tasmania wrote that Reset the Net falls short:

“A year on from Edward Snowden’s revelations around state sponsored mass surveillance programs, some of the major players in the online and technological world (including Google, Mozilla, Twitter and Reddit) have launched the Reset the Net campaign. The program aims to increase people’s awareness and uptake of privacy and security tools so they can better resist surveillance, particularly that conducted by the National Security Agency (NSA). While the campaign is laudable in its efforts to raise the issue of surveillance, there are some glaring oversights present…Encryption makes any collected data more difficult (but not impossible) for authorities to interpret and act upon…While these are positive achievements, they merely address some of the more visible consequences and implications of surveillance, and fail to address what are perhaps the most worrying aspects of contemporary surveillance...The Reset the Net project acts to reinforce the idea that surveillance is primarily conducted by state authorities, with the NSA as the primary antagonist for this story…But the reality is that the NSA is only one actor in the surveillance dramaGoogle is just one of many private companies conducting surveillance today, with supermarkets, insurance companies and many Fortune 1000 companies all monitoring customers on a daily basis. This leads to the next issue with Reset the Net, and most counter-surveillance activities today: they don’t address the incredible amounts of data already circulating in surveillance databases. Surveillance today is not just about seeing into the lives of the present – it’s about cataloguing and using the past (and present) to understand the future…The focus on internet surveillance ignores that surveillance is not just on the internet, but everywhere…From smartphones to drones, there are many possibilities for invasive surveillance today…Internet surveillance is only one aspect of contemporary surveillance. The Reset the Net project paradoxically represents a small positive step in resisting and counteracting warrantless and illegal surveillance, while ignoring the bigger picture.”

Yasha Levine had a similar critique on PandoDaily, which often shills for the tech industry (but didn’t in this article), writing that Reset the Net avoids Google’s snooping:

“The virtual direct action campaign [Reset the Net] was organized by Fight for the Future, a group that organized the online anti-SOPA initiative back in 2012…See, despite all its highfalutin’ rhetoric, Reset the Net is deeply flawed. The reason: the campaign is not against online surveillance, just government surveillance. It has nothing to say or critique about the massive for-profit dragnet operations run by telecoms and Silicon Valley megacorps that target every woman, man and child in the United States and beyond. Reset the Net doesn’t mention private sector surveillance at all, acting instead as if it simply does not exist…how can these companies — which themselves stay in business by spying on us on line — help to defeat surveillance? By offering encryption apps — even if the encryption is only between our computers and smartphones, and their football field-sized server farms.To Reset the Net, Silicon Valley is our friend…Silicon Valley runs on surveillance…Google runs the largest private surveillance operation in the history of mankind…And if that wasn’t enough surveillance for you, then there’s the uncomfortable ties between Google and the US military-surveillance complex…Over the years, Google’s worked to enhance the surveillance capabilities of the biggest intel agencies in the world…Reset the Net is outraged by our government’s capability to wantonly vacuum up our personal info, and yet it unconditionally trusts powerful Surveillance Valley megacorps when they do the same thing on an even greater scale as a normal part of doing business.”

An article along the same lines was by Bill Blunden, who argued that Reset the Net doesn’t care about corporate spying:

“…Another subtle manipulation that’s being employed is to frame the narrative so that focus is placed entirely on government surveillance. This is the same caveat that haunts surveillance reform efforts like “Reset the Net”…In contrast to the inflated fanfare about disrupting terrorist plots…the global surveillance apparatus is essentially being driven by powerful corporate interests….This is the elephant standing in the corner that no one…wants to talk about. Roughly 70 percent of the intelligence budget…goes to the private sector…most of what we think of as government surveillance actually transpires in the private sector…The NSA is a mere appendage of a much larger private sector data aggregation panopticon that rakes in $200 billion every year…Google has extensive long-standing connections with the defense industry…Google has exerted a lot of effort into creating the impression of revolt. But Google hasn’t switched sides….More susceptible members of the audience who believe this storyline will continue to use Google services. This will reinforce the bottom line and subsequently reassure investors. Google will do what it’s always done: follow its fiduciary responsibility to generate profits. The public be damned!”

In the second part of PBS’s Frontline documentary, United States of Secrets, brought up this topic as well, talking about how corporations were integral to the surveillance apparatus:

TIM WU, Author, The Master Switch: There was shock and disbelief and horror. A lot of people I know, Silicon Valley-type people, just felt, “It can’t be right. It’s not possible. Google, Facebook, these guys are collaborating. It’s not just what they would do.”

NARRATOR: The big Internet companies had different priorities. At the same time the government was expanding its intelligence gathering, the companies were trying to find out as much as possible about their users, amassing huge data troves. The NSA was watching.

CHRIS HOOFNAGLE, UC Berkeley Law School: These companies are in a very difficult spot because the types of activities they engage in is very similar to surveillance. It is surveillance, just for advertising, rather than for law enforcement. The private sector is where the whole game is.

CHRIS HOOFNAGLE: My friends at the FBI say that they love Facebook. They love it. It is a fantastic tool to see who one communicates and associates with, what they’re interested in, et cetera.

NARRATOR: Today, all the big Internet companies use advanced tracking technology, and the NSA has carefully studied their methods. For them, commercial tracking is an opportunity.

JULIA ANGWIN: The NSA sees all this data that’s flowing to these advertisers, and they’re thinking, “Look at all this data about people’s behavior that’s just flying out there to hundreds of different parties, and oftentimes not encrypted.” And so they can just snatch it.

ASHKAN SOLTANI: Because Google’s using a tracking cookie, the NSA can sit back and see all that stuff go by. They can monitor all of that activity, all those cookies, and use it in order to track your browsing history or inject malware into your computer. And if they sent you malware, it would take over your computer and essentially let them access all your data, all your keystrokes, all your passwords, et cetera.

BARTON GELLMAN: So where we are now is in a place where we’re living behind one-way mirrors. Corporate America and law enforcement and national security state know so much about us, and we know so little about them. We know so little about what they’re doing, how they’re doing it. And we can’t actually hold our government accountable because we truly don’t know what it’s doing.

The same topic came up in a Q & A session about Silicon Valley, the NSA and more which was one of the online components of the documentary:

Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai: “That definitely plays a role in all this. We rely so much on these tech companies — Google, Facebook and company — that we basically create a few one stop shops for the NSA to go get our data.”

Martin Smith: “The fundamental problem is that in exchange for free services, our personal data is mined for advertising purposes. The government therefore gets easy access.”

Ashkan Soltani: “…the incentives aren’t really there for companies to invest in security. Most companies compete on new features and extra storage, not on the security of their cloud services. As a result, the NSA (and foreign governments too) can take advantage of weaknesses in companies’ services in order to collect data on billions of users…as long as cloud providers insist on having access to the raw (cleartext) data, then that data is available to the government under a law known as the ‘3rd party doctrine’.”

There is one final webpage on the documentary’s site that I feel is worth sharing. It is about National Security Letters or NSLs that the US government uses to compel certain private companies and individuals to give them information, and prohibits those companies and individuals from speaking about these these letters. There seems to be one exception to this:

“Ten years later, Nick Merrill still can’t discuss the details of the data request that came hand delivered to him from the FBI. If he could, Merrill says, people would be shocked by the implications for their online privacy…The request came by way of a National Security Letter, or NSL. The letters are not well known, but since 9/11 they’ve helped to dramatically expand the government’s ability to collect information about Americans directly from phone companies and Internet providers. Any FBI office can issue an NSL, without a court’s review and with a gag order…Merrill was not even sure he could discuss the letter with his attorney, but unconvinced the order was legal, he chose to challenge it on constitutional grounds. The decision set Merrill apart.”

For those Reset the Net supporters who know the underlying truth that corporations are integral to surveillance system, and still support the campaign are being foolish. There is no doubt that the interests of those against government surveillance will overlap with the companies that want to act like they care about privacy (they don’t).  I understand why ordinary people are participating in this campaign as many are pissed off and for good reason, but I will not be signing any petitions, or participating in any actions by Reset the Net or others following their example. Some seem to think that working with the companies is a good idea and I disagree. Even though these companies have a good amount of clout, that doesn’t mean that people should be working with them. This effort, Reset the Net, is no rebellion, rather it is an anti-NSA surveillance effort serving as a front for corporations that participate (and profit from) government mass surveillance. As Eli Pariser wrote, powerful cloud giants, like Google and Amazon, have “a vested interest in keeping the government entities happy.” [3] This effort is in a sense a way of keeping the government entities happy, as it distracts from the corporate-state nexis on surveillance, but in another sense it is also about defending their bottom line, their profit margins, protecting their consumer base.

One must ask if Reset the Net is even a social movement. Noel Sturgeon, a feminist scholar and political scientist, defines a social movements as

“contestants in hegemonic power relations, through which change is produced by numerous kinds of “action” including…the deployment of symbolic resources, shifts in identity reconstruction, and the production of popular and scholarly knowledge–as well as direct action, civil disobedience, strikes, boycotts, demonstrations, lobbying, and offer more traditionally recognized forms of political action.” [4]

There is no way that Reset the Net fits these characteristics of a social movement. It does not deploy symbolic resources, it does not shift construction of identity and it does not product popular and scholarly knowledge.What are social movements are efforts such as fighting the Keystone XL pipeline (on the ground), AIDS activism in the 1980s and 1990s, and the fights for feminism, gay liberation and black liberation, among many others.

While this article does not hint at what should be done or an explanation of the corporate-state nexis on surveillance, there will be a further article on this topic in the future, along with another article looking into groups like the EFF and Fight the Future. That is all.


[1] In a post on the Reset the Net tumblr blog, he showed that this was not the case, with the full quote which was partially used in The Guardian article:

“Today, we can begin the work of effectively shutting down the collection of our online communications, even if the US Congress fails to do the same. That’s why I’m asking you to join me on June 5th for Reset the Net, when people and companies all over the world will come together to implement the technological solutions that can put an end to the mass surveillance programs of any government. …We have the technology, and adopting encryption is the first effective step that everyone can take to end mass surveillance. That’s why I am excited for Reset the Net — it will mark the moment when we turn political expression into practical action, and protect ourselves on a large scale.”

[2] According to an article in Firedoglake by Kevin Gosztola summarizing Glenn Greenwald’s speech to the Socialism 2013 Conference, he “…expanded the discussion into how private companies are working in concert with the federal government. He characterized this coopeation as “a full-scale merger between the federal government and industry” where the two are “equally important parts” of the surveillance state,” however from this account it seems he focused a lot on government surveillance and very little on corporate surveillance which is tied into government surveillance. What was his solution? Subverting the “radical transparency” of the surveillance state, groups like Anonymous, organizations like WikiLeaks, wanting “holes to be blown in the wall of secrecy” and endorsing “the use of technology that protects the identity of users.” The last endorsement sounds a lot like Reset the Net.

[3] Pariser, Eli. The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding from You. 146. The Penguin Press: New York, 2007. One of the best examples of keeping these entities them happy is Google and the CIA both investing in a company called Recorded Future, “which focuses on using data collection to predict future real world events.”

[4] The quote used here was reprinted in Karen J. Warren’s Ecofeminist Philosophy: A Western Perspective on What It Is and Why It Matters, but originally comes from Strugeon’s book, Ecofeminist Natures: Race, Gender, Feminist Theory, and Political Action.

Challenging and critiquing Snowden

27 Sep
How Juice Rap News perceives Snowden (

How Juice Rap News perceives Snowden

I recently read a post criticizing, mainly, the reformist ideas of NSA whistleblower, Edward Snowden, by the always provocative wordpress blog, The Rancid Honeytrap. You might say off the bat, well that’s some guy sitting in his basement typing away on some computer and he doesn’t need to be listened to. I disagree. The post brought up a number of valid critiques of Snowden’s belief in surveillance reform. While I am glad that Snowden has showed, thanks to journalists who have written about the top secret or secret documents that he obtained, the extent of the massive surveillance state run by elements of the U.S. government, there is definitely an area for critique and criticism This article/post is an attempt to continue that critique, but in my own words.

At the beginning of blogpost, The Rancid Honeytrap quotes Snowden in a recent interview saying some surveillance is ok, especially if the “people say they want it”, claiming that

“…we can have people in every country make that decision because that’s what democracy is about. That’s what self-government is about…[not] making these decisions behind closed doors, without public debate, without public consent. That decision, belongs exclusively to the people of that country…I think it’s wrong of any politician, to take away the people’s seat at the table of government”

I agree with The Rancid Honeytrap that this isn’t what democracy is about, and even if all of Snowden’s premises are true, it “does not rightfully empower an acquiescent majority to vote away freedom from constant and pervasive government surveillance any more than people can.” At the same time, I think Snowden’s idea that people have such a voice in government is frankly not only absurd, but not true at all. [1] As an April 2014 study by Martin Gilens of Princeton University and Benjamin L. Page of Northwestern University  concluded,

“economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence…Our analyses suggest that majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts”

Noam Chomsky noted something very similar to this back in August of last year, saying that:

“… In the work that’s essentially the gold standard in the field, it’s concluded that for roughly 70% of the population – the lower 70% on the wealth/income scale – they have no influence on policy whatsoever. They’re effectively disenfranchised. As you move up the wealth/income ladder, you get a little bit more influence on policy. When you get to the top, which is maybe a tenth of one percent, people essentially get what they want, i.e. they determine the policy. So the proper term for that is not democracy; it’s plutocracy.”

After this, Chomsky goes on to define the US as a “Really Existing Capitalist Democracy” where  the public is supposed to” lend their weight every few years, to a choice among the responsible men” but they are meant to be spectators and not participants.Hey, why not add good ‘ole Chris Hedges into the mix, who has his problems as The Rancid Honeytrap and others like OLAASM know well. In his book, Empire of Illusion, Hedges writes that the idea of consent of the governed is an empty one (142-3):

“The words consent of the governed have become an empty phrase…Our nation has been hijacked by oligarchs, corporations, and a narrow, selfish, political, and economic elite, a small moneyed group that governs, and often steals, on behalf of moneyed interests…The government…provides little more than technical expertise for elites and corporations…It has become the greatest illusion in a culture of illusions. It perpetuates a power and democratic ethic it does not possess. It seeks to perpetuate prosperity by borrowing trillions of dollars it can never repay…corporate power…holds the government hostage.”

Add to this the controversial but well-sourced study titled ‘Human and Nature Dynamics (HANDY): Modeling Inequality and Use of Resources in the Collapse or Sustainability of Societies’ which not only talked about how collapse of human civilization, in their view can be avoided if “the rate of depletion of nature is reduced to a sustainable level and if resources are distributed equitably” (1) but that “the scenarios most closely reflecting the reality of our world today” (20) are what they consider, elite-commoner societies:

“the economic stratication of society into Elites and Masses (or “Commoners”)…accumulated surplus [or wealth] is not evenly distributed throughout society, but rather has been controlled by an elite. The mass of the population, while producing the wealth, is only allocated a small portion of it by elites, usually at or just above subsistence levels…Elites “prey” on the production of wealth by Commoners.” [2, 5]

Keeping what Martin Gilens and Benjamin L. Page’s study, Noam Chomsky, Chris Hedges and the HANDY study said, it is incorrect to say that people have a “seat at the table of government” or can even make decisions in a supposed democracy. They can’t, especially in the U.S. The same can apply to countries like Australia, which like Canada and the UK, in the words of a leaked 2005 Citigroup memo, is a plutonomy (while also being a plutocracy or a government controlled directly or indirectly by the rich) which refers to the habits of rich consumers, rather than “the rest, the “non-rich”, the multitudinous many” which is driven by a number of factors:

“Disruptive technology-driven productivity gains, creative financial innovation, capitalist-friendly cooperative governments, an international dimension of immigrants and overseas conquests invigorating wealth creation, the rule of law, and patenting inventions…six drivers of the current plutonomy: 1) an ongoing technology/biotechnology revolution, 2) capitalist-friendly governments and tax regimes, 3) globalization that re-arranges global supply chains with mobile well-capitalized elites and immigrants, 4) greater financial complexity and innovation, 5) the rule of law, and 6) patent protection”

This memo also notes that “at the heart of plutonomy, is income inequality. Societies that are willing to tolerate/endorse income inequality, are willing to tolerate/endorse plutonomy.” Such societies, like Australia and the U.S., are what I once called states in crisis, or those states that “elites have more power in forming public policy than the general populace or at minimum put in place elite-friendly policies.”

Such ideas also invalidate Snowden’s philosophy, if you could call it that, which is as follows [2]:

  • as “long as there’s broad support amongst a people, it can be argued there’s a level of legitimacy even to the most invasive and morally wrong program, as it was an informed and willing decision”
  • “the public needs to decide whether these policies are right or wrong.”

The people don’t have an ability to decide if policies are right or wrong because they aren’t part of the policy-making apparatus, and their views are easily brushed aside by elites in the U.S., and likely in other countries as well. Additionally, Snowden’s trust in the thoughts of the public also forgets the fact that public opinion polls can be manipulated as the GCHQ did, deceptive, or limit “people’s sense of wider possibilities,” which limits the scope of public debate.

To some extent, The Rancid Honeytrap says that Snowden’s idea that we can “register our consent” is absurd:

“…Let’s allow for argument’s sake that it’s entirely fine for people to waive their own rights and those of their dissenting neighbors. By what means does Snowden propose we register our consent? Do we get to vote on this? Or is our consent inferred from not toppling the government when it predictably makes things worse instead of better?”

The Rancid Honeytrap writes toward the end of their piece that whistleblowers themselves  are the “kind of people who get into the sort of deep, dark places from which whistles customarily get blown. Places that are uniquely attractive to patriots, ultra-conformists, imperialists and sociopaths” and that while he appreciates “their service to the truth, but with all due respect, these are not my kind of people.” It is definitely true that whistleblowers, whether Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, or Daniel Ellsberg, hold very reformist thoughts.

At one point, in the words of The Rancid Honeytrap, he rightly points out that Snowden still “insists he’s still working for it [the NSA]…[and] his only beef with the country’s gigantic security apparatus is bulk data collection conducted by that single agency.”  These reformist beliefs of Snowden are deeply problematic, as the system itself could afford getting rid of “bulk data collection” by the NSA, since the surveillance apparatus at-large would NOT be dismantled. Still, those who benefit from such collection don’t want it to go away.

One Juice Rap News segment back from September 2012, almost ten months before Snowden revealed himself to the world, encapsulates the holistic nature of the mass surveillance of the surveillance state, which has a 1984-ish vibe when the host, Robert Foster talks to General Baxter, who represents the state/military establishment/intelligence establishment all in one:


Robert Foster: “Explain why the state is spying on us?”

"My fellow Oceanians, we've always been at war with Eurasia, or is it East Asia? Either way its war and we need a vision to wage it. But now the proles are connecting online passing these illusionary divisions of race, religion, and nationality."

General Baxter: “My fellow Oceanians, we’ve always been at war with Eurasia, or is it East Asia? Either way its war and we need division to wage it! But now the proles are connecting online passing these illusionary divisions of race, religion, and nationality!”

"Sounds grand to me."

Robert Foster: “Sounds grand to me.”

"Its a catastrophe. Centuries of hard work being undone, profits are vanishing, and its due to the internet. Its empowering humanity. We need to get this snafu under control rapidly."

General Baxter: “Its a catastrophe! Centuries of hard work being undone, profits are vanishing, and its due to the internet! Its empowering humanity! We need to get this snafu under control rapidly.”

Robert Foster: "How?"

Robert Foster: “How?”

General Baxter: "Behold the latest weapon in the war of terror. Our greatest invention since 9/11. Guaranteed to keep us free and safe forever. I give you the surveillance state ladies and generals."

General Baxter: “Behold the latest weapon in the war of terror. Our greatest invention since 9/11. Guaranteed to keep us free and safe forever…I give you the surveillance state ladies and generals!”

General Baxter: "Our secret wires log your case dial. Monitor every single number on your speed dial. Rewind to your position with facial recognition and pinpoint you within 0.3 of a mile!"

General Baxter: “Our secret wires log your case dial. Monitor every single number on your speed dial. Rewind to your position with facial recognition and pinpoint you within 0.3 of a mile!”

General Baxter: "We've put eyes everywhere without consulting you, keeping you safe whether or not you want us to. Soon, they'll be no freedoms left for threatening. Then we'll have won the war! Take that terrorism!"

General Baxter: “We’ve put eyes everywhere without consulting you, keeping you safe whether or not you want us to. Soon, they’ll be no freedoms left for threatening. Then we’ll have won the war! Take that terrorism!”

While there is good criticism in the rest of The Rancid Honeytrap‘s post, my take on it will have to wait for another article, another time, another day. Sorry to say.


[1] While I say this, I am not saying that people do have have the ability to influence or push government to make certain decisions. However, I am saying that in general, the government, I’m mainly talking about the U.S. government but this could be applied to other governments, doesn’t really care what ordinary people think. They care what the people with the deep pockets say and think. That’s who they, in general, listen to. That is the current state of affairs.

[2] This was expressed in articles in the New York Times and The Guardian. Obviously, Snowden has more thoughts than this, but these are some of his major reformist views.

What Chelsea Manning has told us

17 Jun

 “[Chelsea Manning] did break the law by sharing private government knowledge with Wikileaks about what she observed while she was over in the Middle East. But there has been no proof that by leaking this information she risked our lives. By leaking this information we know about critical events in our countries actions while over in the Middle East.”- Lucas McCahill of the LGBTQ Humanist Council of Baltimore

With trans* whistleblower Chelsea Manning’s new op-ed in the New York Times about the U.S. military and media freedom there are those who will say that Manning got what she deserved, that she is a traitor, yadda yadda. Yet, none of this is true. Chelsea Manning leaked thousands of documents to the anti-secrecy and transparency organization, Wikileaks (which is also a legitimate journalistic outfit) which have improved the public discourse. These documents and files included the Afghanistan war logs, the Iraq war logs, the Guantanamo files,over 250,000 US diplomatic cables (which Wikileaks called ‘Cablegate'[1]), and the Collateral Murder video [2] This article highlights some of what was leaked, and shows that Manning was just following the montra of the current national security state: ‘if you see something, say something,’ by leaking dirty deeds of the US government, war crimes and much more.

Here are some specifics of what we know now because of Chelsea Manning:

1. “According to WikiLeaks cache of U.S. embassy cables, there is number of different discoveries about Iran. For one, the United States has been involved in Iran in some way since that time and people are tired of reforms,” secondly the US has been working to foment revolution in Iran and it is, “right for Iran to be angry at the United States due to current actions there covertly and actions in the past” as noted in an article I wrote for Interesting Blogger (on blogspot) back in December 2011 [3]

2. As noted in The Guardian, “Chevron negotiated with Tehran about developing an Iraq-Iran cross-border oilfield in spite of tight US sanctions…[and] a US state department source said that after a first round of bids in June 2009, there were news stories that Iraq’s government was in talks with Chevron to develop the Majnoon oilfield. It is one of the richest in the world, near Basra and the Iranian border.” [4]

3. As the founding director of Global Voices Advocacy has said, “what we call the Arab Spring was the result of many seemingly small things, butterfly effects. One of them was a courageous woman named Chelsea Manning. If the U.S. will take 35 years from Chelsea Manning’s life, may it console her that she has given us, Arabs, the secret gift that helped expose and topple 50 years of dictatorships.”

4. As noted by Greg Mitchell in an article in The Nation, he writes that there were a number of things that came out from the ‘Cablegate’ leaks:

  • “[the] Yemeni president lied to his own people, claiming his military carried out air strikes on militants actually done by the US. All part of giving US full rein in country against terrorists”
  • “[the] US tried to get Spain to curb its probes of Gitmo torture and rendition”
  • “Egyptian torturers [were] trained by FBI…allegedly to teach the human rights issues”
  • “[a] State Dept. memo [said that the] US-backed 2009 coup in Honduras was “illegal and unconstitutional””
  • cables on Tunisia which “appear to [have] help[ed] spark revolt in that country [show that] the country’s ruling elite described as “The Family,” with Mafia-like skimming throughout the economy. The country’s first lady may have made massive profits off a private school”
  • “[the] US knew all about massive corruption in Tunisia back in 2006 but went on supporting the government anyway, making it the pillar of its North Africa policy”
  • “[the] cables showed the UK promised in 2009 to protect US interests in the official Chilcot inquiry on the start of the Iraq war”
  • “[the] oil giant Shell claims to have “inserted staff” and fully infiltrated Nigeria’s government”
  • “[the] US pressured the European Union to accept GM[Os]”
  • “Washington was misled by our own diplomats on Russia-Georgia showdown”
  • “[an] extremely important historical document [was] finally released in full: Ambassador April Glaspie’s cable from Iraq in 1990 on meeting with Saddam Hussein before Kuwait invasion”
  • “the UK sidestepped a ban on housing cluster bombs…[there were] shocking levels of US spying at the United Nations…and intense use of diplomats abroad in intelligence-gathering roles”
  • “[a] potential environmental disaster kept secret by the US when a large consignment of highly enriched uranium in Libya came close to cracking open and leaking radioactive material into the atmosphere”
  • “[the] US used threats, spying, and more to try to get its way at last year’s crucial climate conference in Copenhagen”
  • “American and British diplomats fear Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program — with poor security — could lead to fissile material falling into the hands of terrorists or a devastating nuclear exchange with India”
  • “Hundreds of cables detail US use of diplomats as “sales” agents, more than previously thought, centering on jet rivalry of Boeing vs. Airbus”
  • “Millions in US military aid for fighting Pakistani insurgents went to other gov’t uses (or stolen) instead”
  • “Israel wanted to bring Gaza to the ”brink of collapse.””
  • “The US secret services [sic] used Turkey as a base to transport terrorism suspects as part of its extraordinary rendition program”
  • “as protests spread in Egypt, cables revealed that strong man Suleiman was at center of government’s torture programs, causing severe backlash for Mubarak after he named Suleiman vice president during the revolt. Other cables revealed or confirmed widespread Mubarak regime corruption, police abuses and torture, and claims of massive Mubarak family fortune, significantly influencing media coverage and US response.”

5. As noted on the site of the Chelsea Manning Support Network, Chelsea Manning revealed that (of things which haven’t been mentioned before)

  • “thousands of reports of prisoner abuse and torture had been filed against the Iraqi Security Forces” but the US government did nothing
  • “U.S. officials were told to cover up evidence of child abuse by contractors in Afghanistan”
  • the prison at Guantanamo “has held mostly innocent people and low-level operatives
  • “there is an official tally of civilian deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan”
  • “The State Department backed corporate opposition to a Haitian minimum wage law.”
  • “The State Department authorized the theft of the UN Secretary General’s DNA.”
  • “The Japanese and U.S. Governments had been warned about the seismic threat at Fukushima.”
  • “The Obama Administration allowed Yemen’s President to cover up a secret U.S. drone bombing campaign.”

6. As noted by Ryan Gallagher in an article in Slate magazine, Manning revealed that:

  • “Coalition troops’ [had an] alleged role in killing at least 195 civilians in unreported incidents, one reportedly involving U.S. service members machine-gunning a bus, wounding or killing 15 passengers.”
  • “U.S. special operations forces were conducting offensive operations inside Pakistan despite sustained public denials and statements to the contrary by U.S. officials.”
  • “A leaked diplomatic cable provided evidence that during an incident in 2006, U.S. troops in Iraq executed at least 10 Iraqi civilians, including a woman in her 70s and a 5-month-old, then called in an airstrike to destroy the evidence. The disclosure of this cable was later a significant factor in the Iraqi government’s refusal to grant U.S. troops immunity from prosecution beyond 2011, which led to U.S. troops withdrawing from the country.”
  • “A NATO coalition in Afghanistan was using an undisclosed “black” unit of special operations forces to hunt down targets for death or detention without trial. The unit was revealed to have had a kill-or-capture list featuring details of more than 2,000 senior figures from the Taliban and al-Qaida, but it had in some cases mistakenly killed men, women, children, and Afghan police officers.”
  • “The U.S. threatened the Italian government in an attempt to influence a court case involving the indictment of CIA agents over the kidnapping of an Egyptian cleric. Separately, U.S. officials were revealed to have pressured Spanish prosecutors to dissuade them from investigating U.S. torture allegations, secret “extraordinary rendition” flights, and the killing of a Spanish journalist by U.S. troops in Iraq.”

7. As noted by Rania Khalek on Alternet, Manning revealed that:

  • “US officials work as salespeople for Boeing.  The merger of state and corporate power is striking in a  slew of cables  detailing US State Department officials acting as marketing agents on behalf of one lucky corporation. Earlier this year the  New York Times  revealed details about how US diplomats have actively promoted the sale of commercial jets built by the US company Boeing. Hundreds of cables from WikiLeaks show that Boeing had a sales force of US diplomats that went up to the highest levels of government, even going as far as sabotaging sales for Boeing’s European rival Airbus. Enticing deals for the jetliners were offered to heads of state and airline executives in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Jordan, Turkey and other countries. The WikiLeaks documents also suggest that demands for bribes and payment to suspicious intermediaries still take place.”
  • “Public Citizen has discovered a cable from October 2009, when Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa issued a decree to “improve access to medicines and support public health programs through a protocol that would reduce drug costs. Cables from US embassy personnel in Ecuador to the U.S. Department of State show “the United States, multinational pharmaceutical companies, and three ministers within the government shared information and worked to undermine Ecuador’s emerging policy.””
  • “From Bolivia to Venezuela to Peru, American diplomats are obsessed with securing the profits of multinational mining corporations at the cost of indigenous rights and the environment. At least that is the impression given by WikiLeaks cables that detail the eruption of anti-mining protests near the Ecuador border against the mining firm Minera Majaz.”
  • “A more recent US embassy cable dated March 17, 2008, reveals that US diplomats spied on indigenous activists and their supporters who were organizing anti-summit protests against the European Union-Latin American Heads of State summit that was scheduled in Lima that year.”

8. As noted in a November 2010 Reuters article purportedly about the ‘main revelations’ of the Wikileaks cables, Manning revealed:

  • “King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has repeatedly urged the United States to attack Iran to destroy its nuclear program and is reported to have advised Washington to “cut off the head of the snake” while there was still time.”
  • “The Bahraini king told U.S. diplomats that Iran’s nuclear program should be halted by any means, and the crown prince of the emirate of Abu Dhabi saw “the logic of war dominating” when it comes to dealing with the Iranian threat.”
  • “Top oil exporter Saudi Arabia offered to promote energy ties with China if Beijing backed sanctions against Iran, U.S. diplomatic cables said.”
  • “The top diplomatic adviser to French President Nicolas Sarkozy told a senior U.S. diplomat last year that Iran was a “fascist” state and the time had come to decide further steps.”
  • “A non-Iranian businessman traveling often to Tehran told U.S. diplomats last year one of his contacts had been told by former President Ali Akbar Rafsanjani that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei had terminal leukemia and could die in a few months.”
  • “Iran has obtained sophisticated missiles from North Korea capable of hitting western Europe, and the United States is concerned Iran is using those rockets as “building blocks” to build longer-range missiles.”
  • “China’s Politburo directed the intrusion into Google’s computer systems in that country, a Chinese contact told the U.S. Embassy in January, as part of a computer sabotage campaign carried out by government operatives, private experts and Internet outlaws recruited by the Chinese government. They have broken into U.S. government computers and those of Western allies, the Dalai Lama and American businesses since 2002, cables said.”
  • “Some Chinese officials do not regard North Korea as a useful ally and would not intervene if the reclusive state collapsed, a South Korean official told the U.S. ambassador to Seoul citing conversations with high-level officials in Beijing.”
  • “In April 2009, He Yafei, then China’s vice foreign minister, told a U.S. diplomat in Beijing that North Korea acted like a “spoiled child” to attract U.S. attention through steps such as firing a three-stage rocket over Japan.”
  • “U.S. and South Korean officials discussed the prospects for a unified Korea should the North’s economic troubles and political transition lead the state to implode.”
  • “The South Koreans considered commercial inducements to China to “help salve” Chinese concerns about living with a reunified Korea that is in a “benign alliance” with Washington, according to the American ambassador to Seoul.”
  • “Russian Prime Minister Russia’s Vladimir Putin is an “alpha-dog” ruler of a deeply corrupt state dominated by its security forces, U.S. diplomatic documents said. By contrast, President Dmitry Medvedev “plays Robin to Putin’s Batman.””
  • “U.S. diplomats described Afghan President Hamid Karzai as “an extremely weak man who did not listen to facts,” but was easily swayed by conspiracy theories. They said his brother was widely believed to be corrupt and a drug trafficker.”
  • “Since 2007, the United States has mounted a secret and so far unsuccessful effort to remove highly enriched uranium from a Pakistani research reactor out of fear it could be diverted for use in an illicit nuclear device.”
  • “Saudi donors remain the chief financiers of Sunni militant groups like al Qaeda, and the tiny Persian Gulf state of Qatar was the “worst in the region” in counterterrorism efforts, according to a State Department cable last December.”
  • “American diplomats have bargained with other countries to help empty the Guantanamo Bay prison by resettling detainees. Slovenia was told to take a prisoner if it wanted to meet with President Barack Obama, and Kiribati was offered incentives worth millions of dollars to take in Chinese Muslim detainees. In another case, accepting more prisoners was described as “a low-cost way for Belgium to attain prominence in Europe,” a cable said.”
  • “U.S. diplomats cast doubts on the reliability of NATO ally Turkey, portraying its leadership as divided and permeated by Islamists and said advisers to Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan had “little understanding of politics beyond Ankara.”
  • “Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is “feckless, vain and ineffective” and his “frequent late nights and penchant for partying hard mean he does not get sufficient rest,” a U.S. diplomat said.”
  • “The United States has failed to prevent Syria supplying arms to Hezbollah in Lebanon, which has amassed a huge stockpile since its 2006 war with Israel, the cables said.”
  • “U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton questioned the mental health of Argentina’s President Cristina Fernandez, asking U.S. diplomats to investigate whether she was on medication.”

9. According to The Week magazine Manning revealed:

  • “Afghan soldiers are killing each other in drug-fueled, fratricidal skirmishes”
  • “The leaks contain “intriguing evidence” that the U.S. military is “paying local media outlets to run friendly stories,””
  • “A February 2009 report ominously suggests that the Taliban could have developed chemical weapons”
  • “The incident reports are full of stories of the U.S. chasing down and killing Taliban fighters with unmanned Reaper aerial drones, flown by joystick-wielding pilots in a Nevada bunker.”
  • “Among the “range of sensational plots” allegedly hatched by colluding Taliban and Pakistani intelligence agents was one to poison the beer headed to Western troops,”

10. As noted in a CBS News story, Manning showed:

  • “The Obama administration worked with Republicans during his first few months in office to protect Bush administration officials facing a criminal investigation overseas for their involvement in establishing policies that some considered torture…[and] leaned on Spain to derail this potential prosecution.”
  • “Secret State Department cables show a South Korean official quoted as saying that North Korea’s collapse is likely to happen “two to three years” after the death of the current dictator, Kim Jong Il”
  • North Korea is secretly helping the military dictatorship in Myanmar build nuclear and missile sites in its jungles, according to a leaked diplomatic cable.”
  • “Secret U.S. diplomatic cables reveal that BP suffered a blowout after a gas leak in the Caucasus country of Azerbaijan in September 2008, a year and a half before another BP blowout killed 11 workers and started a leak that gushed millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.”
  • Saudi Arabia is one of the largest origin points for funds supporting international terrorism, according to a leaked diplomatic cable.”
  • “Mexican President Felipe Calderon told a U.S. official last year that Latin America “needs a visible U.S. presence” to counter Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s growing influence in the region”
  • “A newly released confidential U.S. diplomatic cable predicts Cuba’s economic situation could become “fatal” within two to three years
  • “McDonald’s tried to delay the US government’s implementation of a free-trade agreement in order to put pressure on El Salvador to appoint neutral judges in a $24m lawsuit it was fighting in the country”

11. According to an article in The Daily Beast, Manning revealed:

  1. “As tensions on the peninsula escalate, American and South Korean officials have already discussed plans to unite the two Koreas should the North ultimately collapse.”
  2. “[the US] State Department Gives Low Marks to Germany’s Merkel”

12. As noted in a paper I published on, one can determine easily that Rwanda’s “two main opposition parties (the Liberal Party and the Social Democratic Party) cooperate with RPF [Rwandan Patriotic Front]; and did not oppose Kagame as President.” This means that Rwanda is “a terror state run by Kagame and his cadres…that benefits a specific group of elites over the poor masses,” and has little or no opposition to such a state in the political arena since the ‘opposition’ parties are not really opposition parties but are rather collaborators with the Kagame regime.


There is likely much more, but I think this is sufficient for now.[4] If there is something else that someone finds, please share it.



[1] This does not include the Kissinger Cables or the Carter Cables. The Kissinger Cables, as noted by Wikipedia, revealed that “Yasser Arafat, President of the Palestinian National Authority, was a key asset to the U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East…Kissinger and State Department were doubtful of Margaret Thatcher’s prospects of becoming the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom because of her “immaculate grooming” and “imperious manner”…The Vatican dismissed reports of massacres by the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet as “propaganda”…George Fernandes, chairman of the Socialist Party of India, who had faced prosecution for conspiracy against the government of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, sought to obtain funding from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and the French government in order to organize underground sabotage activities.”

[2] This video shows, according to Wikileaks, “the indiscriminate slaying of over a dozen people in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad” including two journalists from Reuters. I remember watching the whole thing sometime ago and its deeply disturbing and sickening what extent they go to so that these people are killed.

[3] For the specific cables used in that article, see: 09RPODUBAI316, 09RPODUBAI327, 01DUBAI1141, 97ABUDHABI3777, and 96ABUDHABI7350

[4] There has been some happiness from the right-wing after Wired wrote this article about the WMD hunt in Iraq, yet none of the times does it say that chemical weapons were found but only presumed to be…which is not conclusive evidence of WMDs…and once again says that there really weren’t WMDs in the country. Case closed.

Resisting digital personalization

8 Jun

Reposted from Z Blogs.

There is always talk about how the internet is a magically decentralized system. Eli Pariser, the former head of the liberal, pro-Democratic Party group, MoveOn, challenges this notion in his 2011 book, The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding From You, in which he sounds off on the dangers of digital personalization. This article will review the book and also attempt to offer some methods of resisting digital personalization.

Pariser focuses much of his book around the ‘filter bubble.’[1] Basically, the filter bubble is a set of algorithms used on sites such as Twitter, Google, Facebook, and Yahoo! to name a few.[2] Filtering is, as Pariser describes it, is personalized tailoring of information to your liking. Such personalization, he says, could narrow our thoughts because we are inundated with those perspectives that agree with our views, not those that challenge us. In addition, the storage of our personal information by private companies and corporations is used to blast personalized advertising at us and filter our content through ‘click signals.’ Pariser worries that such filtering concentrates the control of the internet in the hands of a few American multinational corporations.

Digital personalization itself is the subject of a recent Warner Brothers film, Her. On the surface, the movie is about a relationship between the lonely and rarely social protagonist Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix), who works for a company that writes letters for those in intimate relationships, and an operating system (OS) with artificial intelligence named Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johanson). Theodore, who is still married to a wife he has been separated with for years, tells Samantha his deepest thoughts as he falls deeply in love with her, and gets his life back together. Samantha is one of the many OS’s, commercial products that purport to make people understand their lives better, which evolve to meet the needs of the user, and personalize the content, so that they feel like a trusted friend. However, they are deceptive since the OS’s are not really human and their artificial intelligence creates a ‘lock in’ to their technology.[3] They also suggest what you may like based on your activities, thoughts, a bit like the function on sites such as Facebook or Amazon saying ‘if you like this, then you’ll like this!’ Theodore finds out the true nature of Samantha when she tells him that she is talking to more than 8,000 at the same time as him and is in love with about 1/10 of them. He is shocked as he thought Samantha was only his and possibly commits suicide (its open to interpretation) as the film closes. In essence, this movie warns of the dangers of digital personalization and how it can control human life.

After reading through this book I was a bit depressed about the future predicament of netizens.[4] US netizens, as they are called, are likely concerned about personalized ads being directed toward them. However, there is little action to counter such digital personalization. Interestingly, there has been more concern about the NSA engaging in mass surveillance on Americans and the rest of the world through the massive public-private national security complex, than the collection of personal data by companies such as Google and Yahoo!. This is not to say that NSA mass surveillance is not important, but rather that it is connected to what can rightly be called corporate surveillance. In the second part of the recent FRONTLINE documentary, United States of Secrets, it notes how the personal information which the

NSA collected to spy on Americans and people across the world was first exploited and stored by American multinational tech companies to benefit their bottom line.

Still, there is one major difference between collection of personal information which is digitally personalized by American multinationals and the ‘collect it all’ doctrine of the NSA & its partners. Digital personalization, as noted by Pariser, has the potential to seep into every part of our lives, as noted in the movie Her (talked about two paragraphs ago). NSA surveillance on the other hand is not all-encompassing, as it would be impossible for the NSA to collect all the personal information of Americans. Rather it is based on the idea of social control, where the NSA collects enough information for everyone to feel like they are under surveillance. Despite these differences, NSA surveillance and digital personalization are deeply connected, which is, strangely enough, not pointed out by Pariser, who only mentions the NSA once in passing in the book. But the book does allude to the possibility that government would exploit personal information used by American multinationals for their own uses (which they have done).

In the last chapter of the book, Pariser outlines what he believes are effective strategies for resisting digital personalization. They are pretty moderate in general. They include breaking your digital habits (looking at different things every day) and using technology where you have more control of the filter bubble imposed on you by the certain service. Pariser, for example, says that Twitter is better than Facebook because you get to control ‘your’ filter bubble. He also advocates for implementing and enforcing the Nixon-era Fair Information Practices as well.[5] Also, he writes that “to rescue our digital environment from itself, we’ll ultimately need a new constituency of digital environmentalists—citizens of this new space we’re all building who band together to protect what’s great about it.”[6] In a hopeful tone, Pariser says that “if the great mass of us decide that an open, public-spirited Internet matters and speak up about it…the lobbyists won’t stand a chance” (which was the case with the defeats of SOPA, PIPA and CISPA)[6]. But he worries that a “small group of American companies may unilaterally dictate how billions of people work, play, communicate, and understand the world.”[7] He concludes with the though that for “all of us,” protecting the “early vision of radical connectedness [on the internet] and user control should be an urgent priority.”[7]

I think that Pariser’s call to action to protect “radical connectedness” on the internet and resist digital personalization should be applauded. However, I feel that he does not go far enough. Companies like Google, Facebook, Yahoo! and others who are exploiting user information and selling it to advertisers and, at times, giving it to the government, are simply “digital imperialists…[who] violate the basic right to privacy…[and constitute] part of the globalization of the surveillance state.”[8] Pariser’s book is a reminder of the increasing control of the internet by corporate power, but he does not mention, sadly, the “corporate concentration of the [online] blogosphere” or the growing power of a small number of internet service providers (mostly American multinationals) in the US. [8] To be fair, Pariser is focusing on digital personalization and highlighting its dangers in his book, not the issues I just talked about. On the other hand, I agree with Pariser’s view that as users, we should choose services which give us more power over our information flow: Twitter instead of Facebook, a digital dictatorship. Additionally, efforts to fight government or corporate censorship, through the law or otherwise, should be fought off.

Still, it is not enough to just leave Tumblr (before Yahoo! took it over), Blogspot (after Google introduced an intrusive new privacy policy), or permanently delete your Facebook account as I have done. Rather, it is better to support privacy-centered and open-source technology that gives people power. On top of this, there should be a push for a more democratic internet, with communities building “next-generation networks that are directly accountable to residents and local businesses,” and owned municipally, by cooperatives, nonprofits, or otherwise, as advocated by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR). This may not be perfect, but its a better alternative than the status quo. Such a challenge to what is exists is the reason why “publicly owned high-speed internet” in Wilson, North Carolina, and Thomasville, Georgia have been attacked by the corporate bill-mill called ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council). In the end, while it is clear that the internet is a free marketeer’s dream, there must a concerted effort for the people to exert control of the internet, hopefully without government structures, to fight off further efforts to privatize the net.


[1] Other than Pariser’s book, most of the results are interviews with Pariser or reviews of his book. But there are also other articles like ‘Algorithms and the Filter Bubble Ruining Your Online Experience?‘ on Huffington Post, and ‘Tim Berners-Lee: Facebook could fragment web‘ in The Guardian.

[2] Much of the internet is tied into digital personalization, even constituting sites like the main feed on (you can somewhat control it), Myspace (yes its still around), and others.

[3] Pariser, E. (2011). The filter bubble: what the Internet is hiding from you (p. 40). New York: Penguin Press. Pariser defines this as “the point at which users are so invested in their technology that even if competitors might offer better services, it’s not even worth making the switch” (40).

[4] Michael Hauben defines this term, also called Net Citizen, as someone who exists “as a citizen of the world thanks to the global connectivity that the Net makes possible [since]…you physically live in one country but you are in contact with much of the world via the global computer network.” TechTarget adds that a netizen is a “a citizen who uses the Internet as a way of participating in political society” or an “internet user who is trying to contribute to the Internet’s use and growth.”

[5] Pariser, 239-40 and more directly defined the summary of the report of the Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Automated Personal Data Systems in July 1973 as the following: “[1]There must be no personal data record keeping systems whose very existence is secret. [2] There must be a way for an individual to find out what information about him is in a record and how it is used. [3] There must be a way for an individual to prevent information about him that was obtained for one purpose from being used or made available for other purposes without his consent. [4] There must be a way for an individual to correct or amend a record of identifiable information about him. [5] Any organization creating, maintaining, using, or disseminating records of identifiable personal data must assure the reliability of the data for their intended use and must take precautions to prevent misuse of the data.”

[6] Pariser, 242.

[7] Ibid, 243.

[8] My article on Nation of Change titled ‘The Digital Imperialists Strike Back.’

Two shows challenge thoughts, instead of insulating them

7 Aug

In the past few weeks I have watched two big shows: The Killing on TV and the Orange is the New Black (OITNB) via the internet. I have only watched all of the episodes of the latter, but not the former. Neither of the shows is revolutionary. In fact, the HRC and GLAAD both Gay Inc. organs, back the film. A number of publications like Time Magazine, The Globe and Mail, Newsweek, Salon and Mashable. Even activist & sports writer David Zirin likes the series as does former Dixie Chicks singer Natalie Maines. At the same time the political views of a few members of the cast: a libertarian, a Scientologist and an anti-choice activist, add to the show bit by bit. Regardless, these shows are likely to influence people’s perceptions but in a positive way.

Night by night, I watched episode by episode of the comedic drama, Orange is the New Black, each lasting between 50 and 60 minutes. There was always the one minute introduction with the different faces of the cast. Then the story, based on a book by Piper Kerman began about her time in prison, begins. By the end of the series, you develop an understanding for the characters, a kinship for them, and want the best for them. As Vice Magazine correspondent Bert Burykill (a pseudonym) writes, the show succeeds admirably in depicting at least a few fairly normal people who got locked up over some bullshit…[it] did a phenomenal job of keeping shit relevant and realistic…[the characters are] humans first and prisoners second.” Kit O’Connell of OccuQueers adds to this, writing in Firedoglake that the characters “flashbacks aren’t about romanticizing crime or even depicting the most dramatic moments that led to each character’s eventual conviction. Instead, they show how normal people end up in prison, breaking the idea that there’s a certain kind of person who becomes a criminal.” This depiction is part of the third-person limited omisicant narrator tells you the back stories of numerous inmates not just those of the protagonist, Piper Chapman.

The series has a number of strong suits. For one, a transgender person of color has a main part in the cast. This is unheard of in television and movies. As ColorLines noted, this is part of the hype of the show: “a transgender character played by a real live trans woman, a diverse cast of women of color, a decent exploration of queer sexuality…all in…a women’s correctional facility.” Additionally, gender is somewhat questioned along with sexual orientation. In a sense, both are perceived as fluid as said by Chapman at one point, during her affair with with her former girlfriend, Alex Vausse in prison. This questioning of identity has happened among many inmates, who are lesbians, putting it in a positive light. Already, there has been some discussion on twitter about how the queer characters on the show. In the show itself, the anti-lesbian, homophobic characters that run the prison are portrayed as evil and the same ones who exploit the powerlessness of the inmates. Despite this and the self-segregation by race, the inmates come together and help each other out. As one reviewer put it, “the reason this show can dive into characters of color so deeply is because in prison…even though people are segregated by race, they still have to deal with each other.” After one character is locked in a closet and dies after overdosing on pills, black and latino characters bring food and drinks to the funeral party on their bunks. There is sisterhood across racial & class lines, and some say there is a social critique in the show which is “tempered by its humorous representations of bureaucrats of the state…as boorish and buffoons.”

Still, there are some negatives to this show. Overall, the show seems to counter stereotypes, with one specific instance being when black characters mock white stereotypes. Even The Root writes that while Chapman is “oblivious to her own racial privilege, she delivers some hard-hitting soliloquies taking down male and heterosexual privilege.” Still they are rampant throughout the show especially among black characters, but also among the family of Chapman’s fiance.
Dr. Zigler writes on blac(k) academic about this very subject, giving a mix of the positives and negatives in the show.

“Orange is The New Black…written and directed by women with a majority women cast…is breaking new ground in a number of ways…mainly…by ushering in a new and powerful representation of black trans identity through the character of Sophia Burset. Although OITNB treads the line of racial stereotype, the show is redeemed by the ways in which it depicts female sexuality. For the most part, all of the women in the prison are represented as having control of their sexuality despite their reality of incarceration…the women are consistently shown with some semblance of sexual agency. The character of Sophia is no different…Sophia is advised to offer sexual favors to a sexually abusive guard in return for him sneaking in her life saving hormones…Sophia ultimately rejects the offer to seek out alternative means of trans survival…[Sophia is] a challenge to the widespread notion that black people are more homophobic and transphobic than any other racial group.”

ColorLines adds to this, making very valid points. Their article mentions the show’s problems with white privilege and more despite its strengths:

“the show does little to address the issue of sexual assaults in prisons, at times getting dangerously close to suggesting that the women willingly use their sexuality to get things like special food and medication, or better jobs in the prison…“Orange” often relies on cartoonish representations of people of color, most strongly personified by [lesbian] Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren…who aggressively pursues white lead character Piper Chapman…—whom she calls “dandelion.”…a straight, white woman remains at the center. It’s difficult to imagine that the memoir upon which the dramedy…would be so popular if…a woman of color taking a brief spin in a life of crime and landing a 15-month sentence.”

Tiffany Doggett, a character who believes that God saved her, preaching about it to other inmates is portrayed as completely insane, beyond recognition, resulting in her downfall. Maybe as one reviewer put it, she’s just shown as almost a “cartoonish character,” while having still having a “brillant performance” at times. Chapman’s fiance and his family, in the view of Sigal Samuel are stereotyped: “the show’s Jewish characters, all of whom feel cut from cardboard…The more you watch them, the more you start to feel like these three people are really just sad caricatures of themselves…[Larry’s] helicopter mom, who’s forever butting into her son’s personal life and nagging her husband to eat another bowl of soup, fits the Jewish mother stereotype to a tee. As for Larry’s dad, he is…a lawyer.” Later, after Larry raises a stink about Chapman in Solitary on Thanksgiving, in Samuel’s view, the bureaucrats say that “Piper, the liberal, wealthy offender, is connected to Larry, a liberal, wealthy Jew…[who] he has connections on Capitol Hill…[and] speculate…that he’s got a direct line to Obama himself…What emerges from this scene, then, is a continuation of the stereotype of the modern American Jew, who is understood as a powerful and intimidating bully…As a viewer, I found the portrayal of Jewish characters in “Orange” somewhat disappointing.” At the same time as another reviewer pointed out: there is an inherent case of white privilege at play because white lesbians have sex with each other, but there is no scene of lesbians of other races doing the same. Regardless, some even lose their white privilege, like Chapman, in the closing minutes of the series by committing a heinous, violent act.

But, there are some inherent problems with the series. Kit O’Connell argues that “Orange is the New Black is without a doubt political…it’s condemnation of the prison-industrial complex never feels preachy. It’s clear the system rarely metes out rehabilitation or justice, but we’re led to this conclusion.” While I agree it is political, I differ with his main point. While one of the characters goes into solitary confinement, there isn’t much criticism of it, other than in parts of the show people being afraid of it and the pysch ward. In my opinion, the show isn’t against violence, instead promoting a sort of “every person for themself” type of thoughts. Most importantly it doesn’t challenge the prison-industrial complex and makes it seem that you have to go to prison to repent your wrongs. In a counterpoint. In other words, it says that prison is necessary to deal with the wrongdoers, which is never questioned by any of the characters, other than complaining about how much time they have left.

There are also some additional questions as well. I keep asking myself if the show criticizes organized religion because there is sex in the church twice and a cross falls from the ceiling, resulting in it having to be replaced. As it turns out, there is some truth to this, with Chapman saying that God doesn’t exist (she says he believes in science), and Vausse mocking “organized religion, its conservative ideas and homophobia” as noted by Feministing .
Some say the showis anti-man like Denise Warner of Entertainment Weekly. This is not accurate at all, as certain male characters who don’t discriminate aren’t pushed below female characters.

The Killing, a wonderful thriller, is very different indeed. The two hosts of Citizen Radio mentioned the show, the politics of Peter sarsguard and how Jeremy Scahill likes the show as well! I can say that despite the title of the show, it does not, from the episodes I watched, seem to accept killing, terming it something unacceptable and not needed. In fact, in the ending part of the series detective Holder makes a plea to his fellow detective, Lyndn, to not kill a mass murderer. This is accompanied by the fact that the show time and time again has a very anti-death penalty message since one innocent man, who is wrongly suspected as a murderer, is killed. Such a view is unlike anything usually in a TV show and provides a unique perspective. This ties into the questioning of authority by the characters, which projects onto the viewer. This is also like Orange is the New Black, the theme of working together to achieve common ends, this time its male and female characters. There is only detractions I can think of: lack of people of color in the cast.

Both The Killing and Orange is The New Black have the ability to change people’s perceptions even though both are confined within the realms of TV entertainment. The Killing can influence thoughts on the death penalty and Orange is The New Black can question perconceptions about transgender people and lesbians, possibly even gender itself. I highly recommend you watch both and make your own impressions about each. As Gil-Scott Heron said in a 1982 performance of The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,
“The first revolution is when you change your mind about how you look at things, and see there might be another way to look at it that you have not been shown.”

Anarchy in the political spectrum

16 Jun

I recently wrote a piece on this blog defining four new positions on a political spectrum of my own making, including aristocrat/elitest, populist, reactionary and radical. However, this doesn’t take into account (as a libertarian twitter user noted) the concept of freedom. Since it is likely that I won’t use these terms and the chart which is way too complex, I am abandoning the whole chart. If you still want to use it, go ahead. I propose a better alternative: ANARCHY IN THE POLITICAL SPECTRUM!

What would this anarchy include? Well, you could still define someone as a fascist, democrat (Jeffersonian definition), aristocrat, anti-capitalist, elitist, conspiracist, socialist, or communist. But, there are certain groups which cannot be concretely pinned down to an ideology like Anonymous & the occupy movement. So, I instead encourage you to create your own political label of yourself, not taken in by the spectrums, charts and systems used to categorize people.

Distracting global resistance: conspiracy theories UPDATED

3 Jun

I have time and time again had to confront the growing problem of conspiracy theories on the internet. Its those people who ask you questions, and say “look it up on the internet,” which you know is a bad sign. The reason for this is because there are hundreds if not thousands of websites for conspiracy theories. Sadly, this has hampered down global resistance to the powerful.

There are some obvious examples of the distraction caused by these theories. Rosanne Barr, the Presidential candidate for a democratic socialist party in California, the Peace & Freedom Party, in 2012 said she supported chemtrails. These are the trails in the sky caused by planes, which they allege are spreading chemicals. In reality, major scientific organizations have rejected this as proposterous as there is no evidence of such chemicals being spread. At the sams time, certain accounts on twitter spread the gospel of conspiracy.

Searching using the name of one of the most popular conspiracy shows, Infowars, hosted by the Rush Limbaugh of the conspiracy world, Alex Jones, I found a number of accounts were spreading the message of this show and conspiracies in general.

These include:
– Citizen News Network [@IIIMEIIIXoP]
– TruthJusticeLiberty [@OccupyEarthNow]
– Anonymous 4th Estate [@4thAnon]
– Oh Boy What A Shot [@ohboywhatashot]
– Disinformation [@disinfo]
– Anonymous [@oPHILOSORAPTORo]
– We Are Free [@AllAboutHelp]
– Truther K [@fawking_riot]
– Anonymous [@YourAnonNews]
– The Real Anonymous [@anon99percenter]
– Luke Rudowski [@Lukewearechange]
– StopRealIDNow [@StopRealIDNOW]
– David Icke [@davidicke]
– cinnamon_carter [@cinnamon_carter]
– anonmoecephus [@anonmoecephus]
– #New World Order [@nwohashtag]
– beforeitsnews [@beforeitsnews]
– Political Dissident [@TehDissident]
– AKilluminati [@An0nkn0wledge]
– The Illuminati [@GodOfIlluminati]
– rouge67 [@rougek67]
– [@censorednewsnow]

I’m not saying all of what these accounts say is bad. However, this does tell you something troubling. The thought of conspiracy has gone into the minds of some of the Anonymous movement. I can tell you that the protest I went to on Saturday to free Bradley Manning had a person talking about how Ft. Meade was a FEMA Camp. I knew what he was talking about was complete bogus and was completely absurd because I’ve looked into the issue myself. Also, he said the “list of FEMA camps” was deleted from the internet. More like: IT DOESN’T EXIST, BUDDY. All of these theories, born out of misinformation, assume that government is competent and concidence equals causation must be discredited.

Theory #1: New World Order
Probably the most common conspiracy theory, this claims that the UN will create a one-world government to tyrannically rule over us all (and recently they say “seize our guns”.)This is connected to the theory about a perfectly laid out sustainable development plan, Agenda 21, and the Federal Reserve, which are rooted in the same idea in the theory. First off, as William Blum notes in his book, Rogue State, New World Order is really code word for American Empire or American domination of the world. Just replace the words “New World Order” with American Empire and you’ll see. When this is used in a foreign context, as by the Chinese, it means they want a new global system that would give them more control over the world like us Americans. As for Agenda 21, this is simply a 500 page plan for sustainable development & is NON-BINDING. In other words, it doesn’t have much force at all. This is how the whole “UN will create tyrannical govt.” thing falls apart. The UN overall is too weak just like its predecessor, The League of Nations, to implement such a system. It would clearly violate the UN Charter & is not in the interest of the UN members. Even the UN Security Council is just a tool of the elite, not a part of a global govt. There is already a one-world govt. made up of the Power Elite I have written about in the past, made up of the:
– World Bank
– World Economic Council
– Business Roundtable
And many others. This does NOT include the elite clubs that are unimportant like the Council of Foreign Relations, the Bohemian Grove, the Trilateral Commission, and the Bilderberg Group. Some might get mad as I say that, but its true. If you think otherwise, you have been deceived.

Theory #2: Illuminati
This is proported to be a secret society that has control over the world. This is proposterous because there is no real evidence of this in the slightest. No documents, no nothing. Some quotes but nothing substantial that I know of. Instead, its assumed it still exists because of the principle that since its not admitted by government officials, it exists. This is ridiculous. This assumes the government is competent for one.

Theory #3: 9/11 was an inside job
This one has become more and more widespread with govt. incompetance. Due to poor investigation into the causes of 9/11 and a medicore report by the 9/11 commission, people have turned to conspiracy theories. The main theory (not the one that directed energy weapons were fired at the World Trade centers or that there was a missile beneath the plane) was that it was a controled demolition. There are supposedly “scientists” and “engineers” who have said this haplened. However, as Noam Chomsky notes, no credible claim has been submitted to the main scientific journals. Instead, after careful analysis one can tell that the towers did fall from the planes not as Immortal Technique sings roughly “Bush blew up the towers.” If this actually happened, how could they cover it up? It would be revealed by now. That’s what theorists don’t get at all. Let me be clear: there is no truth about the 9/11 “truth” movement. Its better to call it: the 9/11 Truth about unreliable non-existent Truth (TAUNT) movement.

There are many other theories I don’t need to discuss here like ones about Aliens, Lizards ruling the world, UFOs, Flouride being toxic, and conspiracy to kill JFK (promoted by people like Oliver Stone) among others. Sadly, the debate about GMOs has caused groups like Infowars to declare they are toxic which is true but in the eyes of some it discredits the claim. This what I worry about and is why I will continue to find rabid conspiracy theories for the rest of time and promote the truth free of right-wing distraction. The SPLC has great lists of hate groups that must be examined as well. In the end, remember to be critical of government and ALWAYS skeptical of conspiracy theories.

After I wrote this article, I criticized one of the accounts mentioned above, @censorednewsnow, as peddling “ridiculous conspiracy theories” and here’s what they had to say in response (there was more, but here’s the nastiest of the responses):





Also, had debates with accounts about the “9/11 is an inside job” theory. Here are some of those tweets:







I end with this one:


“Public” Broadcasting or Propaganda Radio?

30 May

PBS fo real

In light of the recent criticism of PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) on Democracy Now!  I thought it was a good idea to look if corporate propaganda spewed by that public broadcasting station and National Public Radio (NPR) as well. One must wonder if is as propagandistic as the white propaganda outlets integrated into the US government.

I start with a quote from today’s Democracy Now! show:

“In Jane Mayer’s New Yorker article, she details how Neil Shapiro, president of PBS station WNET here in New York City, called David Koch, a resident of 740 Park Avenue, to warn him that the Alex Gibney film was, quote, “going to be controversial.” Koch was a WNET board trustee at the time. Over the years, he has given $23 million to public television. Jane Mayer writes that Shapiro offered to show him the trailer and include him in an on-air discussion that would air immediately after the film. The station ultimately took the unusual step of airing a disclaimer from Koch after the film that called it “disappointing and divisive.” Jane Mayer reports this exchange influenced what then happened to Citizen Koch, which was set to be aired on the same PBS series called Independent Lens. The film’s funder and distributor, ITVS, has now said it, quote, “decided not to move forward with the project…So, in essence, what we’re looking at here is not necessarily a direct intervention by Koch, but self-censorship by the public television community in an effort to prevent someone like Koch from pulling their dollars out.”

So maybe when Noam Chomsky said PBS was for a set of political elite, he was right. Now, this isn’t the only thing that PBS has refused. On an interview on The Real News Network, investigative journalist Greg Palast noted the following:

For British television, I investigated what really happened. Actually, right after Deepwater Horizon exploded on April 20, 2010, I get a message from a witness, an insider from the Caspian Sea, which is, you know, the other side of the planet, in Asia, saying, I know exactly what happened here, ’cause the exact same thing happened in the Caspian Sea two years earlier: there was another BP rig €”another BP rig blew out, just like the Deepwater Horizon. And BP covered it up. BP hid it because it occurred offshore off the nation of Azerbaijan, which is what I call in my book Vultures’ Picnic, I called it the Islamic Republic of BP. They own that place….But I put it on TV more than a year ago in Britain. It was all over the top of the nightly news all over the world, all over Europe, everywhere but the United States, where you could not get it on TV. You couldn’t get it into the news here for love or money. No way. And, you know, the Petroleum Broadcast System, PBS, was the worst of all. They absolutely refused to take the information. We offered it to them…I got to tell you, Frontline, for example, was offered our material, Frontline, PBS. Instead they ran a story that the Deepwater Horizon was caused by a so-called culture of lack of safety at BP, and they said specifically you’ll love this—that if it had been Chevron, this would not have happened, the Deepwater Horizon explosion. They actually had the president of Chevron saying, we wouldn’t have done this. But Chevron knew about the Caspian explosion, covered it up. I investigated Chevron. If you go, again, to or, you’ll get the information from Vultures’ Picnic that Chevron, you know, basically poisoned the Amazon Jungle areas, big parts of the Amazon in Ecuador. So PBS is basically fronting for Chevron. Why? Take a look at Chevron and at the PBS NewsHour home page. You have to go into the WayBack machine, in which you will find out that the number-one official national sponsor of NewsHour and PBS is Chevron oil. So what you’re getting is Chevron news, not real news. And the best, that’s PBS.”

That isn’t the case anymore, but using the current list of funders which is backed up by the page on the Internet Archive Wayback Machine, these two pictures I made below reflect more accurately the reality:

pbs newshour pbs newshour corporate

So, you’ll get news from a big oil company that caused the worst oil spill in US history, AT&T that has ok’d the National Call Database that stores all your phone calls, the Rockefeller Foundation which is a CIA front, and BNSF which paid a settlement of $2.5 million dollars for “discharging industrial stormwater containing toxic metals from an urban rail yard directly into the Puget Sound.” Then, there’s the Corporation of Public Broadcasting, but I’ll get to that later on. As a result, its no surprise that PBS Newshour would, according to FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting) would write in November 2012 that:

“A FAIR Action Alert (10/24/12) criticized the PBS NewsHour for reporting that “Iran’s nuclear weapons program has been a particular flash point” in the presidential race. As we noted, there is no hard evidence that Iran has such a weapons program; in fact, international inspections have consistently found no evidence that Iran has diverted uranium for military purposes…This is important, and wouldn’t have happened without the letter-writing. PBS did not issue an on-air correction, which is unfortunate. But you can’t help but feel like the NewsHour doesn’t really feel like they need to correct much–hence the reference to “Iran’s widely suspected military ambitions in pursuing nuclear energy.” Widely suspected by whom? They don’t say. What is clear is that the NewsHour knows they shouldn’t have reported this allegation as if it were a fact–but they want you to know that the allegation is considered a fact by a lot of serious people nonetheless.”

This is followed up by a post this April about how Margaret Thatcher, a free-market fundamentalist, was shown with kind words on PBS’s NewsHour:

“Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s death yesterday brought waves of mostly flattering coverage of the divisive right-wing leader.  It was striking to see the parallels between the way Thatcher was covered on the PBS NewsHour and Fox News Channel‘s most popular show, the O’Reilly Factor…The main Thatcher segment on the PBS newscast was a discussion with two former Republican secretaries of State, George Shultz and James Baker. Of course, both were big fans of Thatcher’s foreign policy…It was more than that, too; as Baker put it, Thatcher “emphasized the private sector and got rid of the oppressive influence of the trade unions.”…PBS had one other guest: former Conservative Canadian Prime Minister Kim Campbell, who cheered both Thatcher’s defeat of unions but also her humanity: “It’s kind of touching to be reminded of what a lovely woman she was.”…On PBS…reporter Margaret Warner declared that Thatcher “brought a free market revolution to Britain, lowering taxes and privatizing state industries…. Britain’s economy rebounded from her tough medicine.”…PBS is supposed to be about giving us the views that we’re not getting from the commercial media.”

Now, there are some more instances of PBS spreading propaganda. The worst includes the sponsoring of a show called America’s Heartland by Monsanto (and many others). The New Standard wrote in 2005:

“A new television series set for distribution this fall to public TV stations across the country is drawing fire from activists who say its funders exploit a model of factory farming that has profoundly undermined the same rustic lifestyle the program is meant to showcase. The telecast, America’s Heartland, consists of twenty half-hour episodes produced by PBS affiliate KVIE in Sacramento and is based on a popular, long-running KVIE broadcast called California Heartland. While the bulk of the new national program’s underwriting will be provided by the farming trade group the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) and biotech giant Monsanto, the show is also receiving financial support from other large farming associations such as the National Cotton Council, United Soybean Board and the US Grains Council…In a letter sent to public television managers about America’s Heartland, 70 groups “ including IATP, Public Citizen, Friends of the Earth, and the Organic Consumers Association “ suggest stations should either forego showing the series or schedule complementary programming to expose Heartland as a “piece of propaganda.”…They point out that Monsanto and the American Farm Bureau promote policies that “place the US food supply into the hands of a few major corporations” by pressuring politicians to keep federal subsidies flowing to large agribusinesses…Sheldon Rampton, research director at the Center for Media and Democracy, a media watchdog group, said a series like America’s Heartland can poison news-gathering at cash-strapped and politically insecure PBS stations. “The [funders] understand [station programmers] have a limited news hole,” he said, and “when someone else proposes programming [on a similar subject], they can say we’ve already covered that topic.””

If you go back in the Internet Archive Wayback Machine, you’ll see this:

monsanto and more

What about the sponsors of this show now? Well, the show which makes itself sound so grand, its still sponsored by a lot of the same industry groups, as a recent screencap shows:

sponsors of america's heartland 2013

There are more instances of this occurring, as with a new show on PBS called “The Rise of the Drones” which is interesting funded by Lockheed Martin which makes (you guessed it) drones. FAIR has the whole story here:

“The PBS Nova broadcast “Rise of the Drones” was sponsored by drone manufacturer Lockheed Martin–a clear violation of PBS‘s underwriting guidelines…Some of that technology, unbeknownst to viewers, was created by the company described as giving Nova “additional funding” at the beginning of the broadcast. Lockheed Martin, a major military contractor with $46 billion in 2011 sales, is a manufacturer of drones used in warfare and intelligence…The show did not entirely skirt the controversies over drones. A section of the broadcast dealt with drone pilots firing on targets in countries like Afghanistan or Pakistan. Viewers, though, are told that drone pilots have distinct advantage over conventional pilots…The show does not ignore the question of civilian deaths…But, in keeping with the generally upbeat tone, Nova tells viewers that technology will help turn things around…The program’s sponsorship tie to the drone industry were never mentioned–though there were opportunities to disclose that relationship. In addition to Lockheed Martin’s connection to one of the interview subjects, the show discussed a U.S. drone that was captured by Iran–without mentioning that it was manufactured by Nova‘s underwriter…Though the broadcast included an underwriting announcement at the beginning [on TV]…that credit was removed from the webcast, and the company is not credited on the Nova website for the episode.”

Since that post was written, PBS’s Ombudsman said Lockheed’s sponsorship presents  “a perception and commercial test problem for PBS.” However this should be no surprise because if you go on the site of the Rise of the Drones you’ll find that some of their “PRODUCTION ASSISTANTS” include AAI/ Textron Systems, Department of Defense, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Vanguard Defense Industries with “special thanks” given to BAE Systems, Inc. among others. Additionally a screencap from NOVA showed that two of their biggest sponsors are Boeing and the the David H. Koch Fund for Science which is run by one of the Koch Brothers:

sponsors of NOVA

Watchdog Progressive even writes about this, noting the sponsorship of NOVA by David Koch, saying that it could be part of Koch’s agenda to promote greenwashing.

The list of such programs sponsored by corporations doesn’t end here. There’s another one, since discontinued called “America Revealed” which officially was a “look at what makes America tick, what it takes to keeps the biggest food machine in the world going, the delicate balance that keeps our supermarkets stocked with groceries and fast food restaurants supplied with fries. How we keep America moving with its vast and complex transport systems.” Interestingly enough, in an archived homepage of the show, you can see their premier sponsor is Dow, which is the second biggest chemical company in the world by revenue after BASF and third biggest by capitalization (DuPont and Basf would be bigger). FAIR criticizes PBS for this show and notes the following:

“PBS ombud Michael Getler…agrees that the Dow Chemical Corporation’s sponsorship of a PBS series violates PBS underwriting guidelines. PBS, unfortunately, stands by its show. A FAIR Action Alert… pointed out that the decision to allow Dow to sponsor the series America Revealed, which deals with issues that closely track Dow’s business interests, flies in the face of PBS funding guidelines. Noting that he had received some 500 messages inspired by the alert, Getler agreed, saying that “the points raised by FAIR were fair ones, in my view, and many of the letters were quite comprehensive in their criticisms.”…The main problem with the funding arrangement, as Getler sees it, is that it fails the PBS “perception test,” which warns against allowing underwriting if viewers might “perceive that the underwriter has exercised editorial control.”…Getler wrote that “it would indeed be surprising if “a significant portion” of viewers, whether they write to me or not, or subscribe to FAIR or not, would not make some connection with Dow, its full range of operations, and the plus-side of this series. It took about 30 seconds for that to pop into my head as a viewer.”PBS, which has given corporate underwriters a pass several times over the years…does not think so. In response to several questions from Getler, PBS defended Dow’s sponsorship. They pointed out that the company has sponsored other programming, including An Evening With Smokey Robinson…As FAIR pointed out in the alert–and Getler agreed in his column–it would not be hard for an alert viewer to make a connection between Dow’s interests and the program it was sponsoring. One segment touted genetically modified corn, a controversial product made by Dow, as a “game changer” for agriculture; the four parts of the series…perfectly matched the four areas of business Dow touts on its website.PBS stressed that Dow was not involved editorially in the program. That may indeed be the case. It is also irrelevant, in that their perception test does not require such a direct link.”

Now, FAIR has also written twice (here and here) about changing PBS’s funding system and how it stymies some of the best work of Public TV. As I end the examination of PBS, I just took some screenshots of the donors recognized by PBS (which include the CIA front, the Ford Foundation) and the corporate sponsors of the Sponsorship Group for Public Television which gives money to PBS:

sponsors of SGPTV PBS founding funders

This is why PBS is called Petroleum Broadcasting Service or Propaganda Broadcasting Service.

Now, onto National Public Radio itself, which some call National Pentagon Radio (or National Propaganda Radio). I wrote about this on my now archived HermannView tumblr blog: “The American multinational giant, Yahoo! just bought Tumblr. I heard about this from that NPR, oh sorry National Propaganda Radio, show called Marketplace which just loves drones (, Monsanto (, and is propaganda for Wall Street (” Now, there is more to NPR than which I write about. The corporate sponsorship page doesn’t say much about this, so I looked farther into the organization itself. It’s 2010 Annual Report, the most recent on its website gives the following sponsors (starting on page 26).


Yes, I didn’t include all of the sponsors, only the corporate one (not even all of them because there’s so many!) but I was trying to make a point if there are any of those naysayers out there.

Now, taking this in mind, one begins to wonder: Is NPR really a public radio station or is it helping the elite? Well, NPR’s Ombudsman responded to FAIR’s study, saying:

“FAIR is a media watchdog group that describes itself as “progressive” — i.e., on the left. The study…assessed NPR interviews in its newsmagazine programs for June 2003. The study also looked at which experts were invited to speak on NPR over a four-month period from May to August of that year…FAIR says that NPR regularly has “elite” (FAIR’s term) experts and opinion makers to comment on events. This group of current and former government officials accounts for 28 percent of the interviews and commentaries. Twenty six percent were “professional experts” (academics, think tank experts, lawyers, doctors and scientists). Seven percent were journalists but overwhelmingly (83 percent) these journalists were from mainstream commercial outlets…FAIR says that NPR has improved in a couple of respects…Although there are more women on the air, they are still a minority of voices interviewed on NPR…The FAIR study seems about right to me with a couple of exceptions. In a similar study I commissioned, we looked at NPR interviews over a two-month period from Nov. 24, 2003 through Jan. 23, 2004. It is not entirely fair (as it were) to compare the studies since they were done at different times..Is NPR now ignoring the Democrats in a way it once may have ignored the Republicans? I have criticized NPR in the past for its narrow reliance on a few bright men (and they are overwhelmingly male)..Listeners are quick to dash to their e-mails when they hear an opinion that is not their own. NPR ‘s role, it seems to me is not to provide listeners with intellectual comfort food. FAIR is concerned whether the pendulum has swung too far. That’s my concern as well…At the same time, FAIR’s study seems to reinforce the notion that what constitutes the center in American journalism is rapidly becoming an endangered species.”

There is a host of articles criticizing NPR on CounterPunch and FAIR including but not limited to:

  1. NPR and the NAFTA Highway [about NAFTA and downplaying the construction of a highway]
  2. Spinners of Venezuelan Fairy Tales An Open Letter to All Things Considered: NPR’s Spinnners of Venezuelan Fairy Tales
  3. “No Doubt, It Needed to Happen”: NPR News: National Pentagon Radio?
  4. NPR Watch: Why NPR Refuses to Report on the Single Payer Movement … And What Should be Done About It
  5. Fanning the Hysteria About Iran: NPR Leads the Charge to War
  6. The Voice of a Quaker Hawk: Scott Simon, NPR & The Empire
  7. Expert Opinions: NPR: the Voices and Views of One Side
  8. Who Needs the Voice of America?: National Pentagon Radio (NPR) Watch
  9. NPR, the New York Times and Nicholas Kristof: Advocating Sweatshops
  10. Race, Politics and NPR: Was Juan Williams “Lynched”?
  11. An Open Letter to NPR’s Producers: The Distortions of NPR on Palestine
  12. NPR vs. Free Speech — FAIR: Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting
  13. NPR Disappears Iraqi Dead — FAIR: Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting
  14. NPR Ombud: ‘Critics are right’ on Zinn obituary — FAIR: Fairness & Accuracy…
  15. Is Critical Journalism Incomprehensible to NPR?
  16. NPR Could Use Some ‘Energy Independence’ of Its Own
Also, this article on Reader Supported News is relevant, reposting a story by the ombudsman at the time:
NPR hasn’t aired a story on the “Occupy Wall Street” protest— now entering its second week — but several of you aired your concerns about the lack of coverage, and Ralph Nader called to say NPR is ignoring the left. “You’ll cover the Tea Party, but god forbid you actually cover sane Americans demanding civilized economic policy,” wrote Brad Nolen from Mobile, AL. included a stream of Associated Press stories on the subject such as Dozens Arrested at ‘Occupy Wall Street’ Protest, 80 People Arrested at ‘Occupy Wall Street’ Protest, and Protesters Vow To Camp Near Wall St. Indefinitely.  But the online posts were not enough for Daniel Clay from Atlanta, GA, who wrote, “Does NPR think this is unimportant? Are you going to wait for someone to die or commit serious violence before you give it the attention it deserves?” We asked the newsroom to explain their editorial decision. Executive editor for news came back: “The recent protests on Wall Street did not involve large numbers of people, prominent people, a great disruption or an especially clear objective.” As ombudsman, I don’t weigh in on daily news judgment unless its totally egregious or part of a long term trend, and this one is neither. But the complaints have validity, too. Nader’s complaint is a broader one about how much he and other progressive war horses of his generation are interviewed on NPR in comparison to Tea Party leaders and the like. Nader is no longer the political player he once was and the left is not as organized as in the past. See this New York Times that ran yesterday. Still, I do want to follow whether the left is being shortchanged in coverage. Feel free to share your thoughts, and we’ll make sure that they get to the newsroom.”
I end with a quick look at the Board Members of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting which includes a California Business Lawyer, a former Democratic Senator and a former manager of a public radio broadcaster. That’s all for now as I find a page describing all of the public radio outlets in the country. In the end, all I can say is always be careful what you watch/listen to on PBS, the Petroleum Broadcasting Service, or NPR, National Pentagon Radio, because it isn’t meant for you, its a message that’s meant for a certain section of the ruling elite of this country.

HermannView plans to merge with Interesting Blogger

23 May

By Burkely Hermann

May 23, 2013

Somewhere, USA – Tumblr commentary blog HermannView announced today that it will be merging with Interesting Blogger effective August 31, 2013 (if not earlier). This date is subject to change if certain circumstances which are unknown at this time arise. “Officials” of both entities which happen to be the same person, are expected to meet in the inner reaches of the mind of the said person as soon as possible to discuss the transfer of information and the sadness from deleting a blog of tumblr which was independently owned until it was bought by the sick witch of the internet Yahoo! very recently.

The editor of HermannView  expects this merger to improve confidence and widen the base of readers.  In addition, this will ensure that the creation from this merger is independent from multinational companies which are raping the resources of the world, and allowing it to challenge such an order.  Hopefully there can be an area for submissions opened as well.

The merger will permit HermannView to continue its blogging but under the protection of free software and not corporate control.  In exchange, as soon as the merger is completed the name of this blog will change to HermannView, but the tagline will change (or both descriptions may be merged) and the url will remain the same as to keep all currently linked articles intact. There will be no “stores” opened except those in the mind and the promotion of the Really Really Free Market.

More information is expected to be released after the merger has been considered after consulting with followers of the said tumblr blog and other actors as needed.


About HermannView

HermannView was created in 2009, to our knowledge, by the said blogger. Its current mission is to “strive for an independent, fearless and fierce approach to global, national and local problems and issues. Through this, one blogger hopes to spread political awareness to fight the powers that be!”-


About Interesting Blogger

Interesting Blogger was made in protest of Google’s privacy policy this blog and was meant to “broadcast news relating to the people and that is critical to the elite. Not only is this an opinion blog but this is meant to help people learn more about important issues. Some posts come from other independent news sources and others are original…We are a blog for the people, by the people and of the people.”-



To learn more about this merger, please contact me!

Just comment on this post. That’s all you need to do.

No crap with emails or phone numbers.

We thank wikiHow for their wonderful help.