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More Clapp-trap: Senate Hearing on Russian Election Mischief Again Fails to Prove Anything

By Dave Lindorff

 

            The Russian hacking hysteria in the US media and, surprisingly, among educated liberals (who should know better after years of government lies and deceit, particularly about foreign affairs), is becoming increasingly embarrassing.

Book review/essay: Morally Surviving America’s War on Vietnam

By Johhn Grant

 

The War I Survived Was Vietnam: Collected Writings of a Veteran and Antiwar Activist

New Rogue Anti-Russia Committee Created in "Intelligence" Act

I don't know why we didn't pick playing with live electrical wires and call that "intelligence" instead of the stuff we do. I think I'll stick with calling what the U.S. government does "counter-intelligence." So, here's the latest from the counter-intelligence community.

Section 501 of the Counter Intelligence Act creates a "Committee to Counter Active Measures by the Russian Federation to Exert Covert Influence Over Peoples and Governments."

This is followed by Section 502 which limits Russian and only Russian diplomats in the United States to traveling no more than 25 miles from their offices.

I suspect there may have been a Section 503 in an earlier draft that required CNN to show a photo of Vladimir Putin without his shirt and make fun of him at least once every 4 hours. If so, that section would have been stripped out as unnecessary.

The establishment wants more and more hostility with Russia. Trump wants to ever so slightly tweak the establishment and focus more hostility on China. That shift is obviously not one toward enlightenment. But when there is a chance for better relations between the U.S. and Russian governments, Congress should not be allowed to inject its counter-intelligence.

Of course countering active measures by the Russian Federation to exert covert influence over peoples and governments sounds like a good thing. But it's not a good thing if those active measures do not exist. This is like putting weapons in space to "counter" others doing it, when nobody else is. It's offense under the banner of defense. And offense will be taken.

It's also not a good thing if the active measures (real or imagined) are not countered in the wisest manner. One way to counter assassinations, for example, would be to expose them, prosecute them as crimes, and seek reconciliation. Another would be to empower a special committee to engage in "counter-assassinations."

Contrary to good liberal faith, there is zero public evidence that Russia has been engaging in these activities listed in the Counter Intelligence Act:

(A) Establishment or funding of a front group.
(B) Covert broadcasting.
(C) Media manipulation.
(D) Disinformation and forgeries.
(E) Funding agents of influence.
(F) Incitement and offensive counterintelligence.
(G) Assassinations.
(H) Terrorist acts.

Are there Russian front groups in the United States? Name one. Prove it. Is there covert broadcasting underway? Is that where you broadcast to nobody? Presumably it is where you create television and radio content purporting not to be Russian but actually serving the Russian government. Where is that? May we see a 30 second clip of it, please? Has the media been manipulated? [Apart from this failed effort?] By disinformation and forgeries? Expose one, for godsake, this is an emergency! Don't let those forgeries go on deceiving us a moment longer! "Funding agents of influence" sounds more like overt broadcasting. Russia does do that using Russian television and radio networks (something the United States would never ever engage in!) -- but how will this committee counter those? "Incitement" to what? "Offensive counterintelligence"? Offensive to whom? "Assassinations"? Of whom? Has someone been assassinated? "Terrorist acts"? Wouldn't we, almost by definition, have heard of these?

Now I realize that most people don't give a rat's ass about stirring up hostility with the other major nuclear nation. So, here's another problem with this bill that people may want to object to, as they should. This committee is empowered to do anything the president tells it to, and it sends occasional reports to Congress, not the public. Most, if not all, of the people it counter-intelligently counters will not have anything to do with the Russian government.

The Washington Post has already published a ludicrous but dangerous list of supposed Russian front group media outlets. If this committee does the same, and especially if it does so in secret, what recourse will the falsely accused have? This committee, selected by presidential appointees, will not be publicly accountable.

If the New-McCarthyite Anti-Russia Committee secretly labels you a Russian agent and accuses you of media manipulation, will it then manipulate the media to destroy your reputation? If it accuses you of "disinformation and forgeries" will it "counter" that with disinformation about you and forgeries incriminating you? Will it confiscate your funding as being that of an "agent of influence"? What will it do if it accuses you of assassinations? And will all the Russian agents of influence turn out to be Democrats during Republican presidencies, and vice versa?

Presumably the CIA hasn't challenged Congress to a duel over this new committee horning in on its territory because it's not technically supposed to spread its counter-intelligence domestically. Same with USAID and the rest. And the FBI is not supposed to be at war with foreign nations. But the lines between the military policing of the globe and the police militarization at home are ever blurring. And that's part of what's wrong with this bill. All's fair in war, meaning there is no requirement of fairness. Don't expect any. Resist instead.

Media Complicity Is Key to Blacklisting Websites

By Norman Solomon

We still don’t have any sort of apology or retraction from the Washington Post for promoting “The List” -- the highly dangerous blacklist that got a huge boost from the newspaper’s fawning coverage on November 24. The project of smearing 200 websites with one broad brush wouldn’t have gotten far without the avid complicity of high-profile media outlets, starting with the Post.

On Thursday -- a week after the Post published its front-page news article hyping the blacklist that was put out by a group of unidentified people called PropOrNot -- I sent a petition statement to the newspaper’s executive editor Martin Baron.

“Smearing is not reporting,” the RootsAction petition says. “The Washington Post’s recent descent into McCarthyism -- promoting anonymous and shoddy claims that a vast range of some 200 websites are all accomplices or tools of the Russian government -- violates basic journalistic standards and does real harm to democratic discourse in our country. We urge the Washington Post to prominently retract the article and apologize for publishing it.”

About that legacy, Mr. President: Obama Has a Small Window to Go Out with Some Flair and Excitement

By Dave Lindorff

 

            There is a lot of talk going on among the pundits about how President Obama is leaving no enduring legacy -- that his progressive actions as president, few and small that they may have been, were written in the sand of executive orders, which can and likely will be erased within days of Donald Trump’s inauguration.

Of Veterans and Black Mirror Roaches

If you're a fan of the Netflix show Black Mirror, go watch the episode called "Men Against Fire" before reading this. It's the one about war.

In this 60-minute science fiction show, soldiers have been (somehow) programed so that when they look at certain people they see them as freaky monsters with pointed teeth and bizarre faces. These people look frightening and non-human. They are thought of as objects, not as people at all. In reality they are themselves terrified, unarmed, ordinary looking people. And they have a tool with which to protect themselves, a stick with a green light. It doesn't kill or injure. The stick deprograms a soldier so that when he looks at someone he sees them as they really are without the monstrous distortion.

Of course a deprogramed soldier is of no use to the military. In "Men Against Fire" the military offers a deprogramed soldier two choices. He can re-experience on an endless loop a recent reality in which he murdered helpless human beings, but this time experience it while seeing them as human beings instead of as "roaches" (what the military calls the intended victims made to appear monstrous), or he can be reprogramed and get back to the untroubled work of extermination.

While this story is more fiction than science, some reality breaks into the Netflix drama. During World War I, we're told accurately, a commander beat troops with a stick to get them to shoot at enemies. Troops we're also routinely drugged for the same purpose. During World War II, we're told, also on the basis of actual studies, only 15% to 20% of U.S. troops fired at opposing troops. In other words, 80% to 85% of the Greatest Heroes of the Greatest War Ever were actually a drain on the killing campaign, whereas the conscientious objector featured in the new Mel Gibson movie or, for that matter, the guy who stayed home and grew vegetables contributed more to the effort.

Killing and facing killing are extremely difficult. They require the closest human reality to programing. They require conditioning. They require muscle memory. They require thoughtless reflex. The U.S. military had so mastered this programing by the time of the war on Vietnam that as many as 85% of troops actually fired at enemies -- though some of them also fired at their own commanders. The real trouble came when they didn't remember these acts of murder as the extermination of "roaches" but as the reality of what they were. And veterans remembered their acts of murder on an endless loop with no option to be re-programed out of it. And they killed themselves in greater numbers than the Vietnamese had killed them.

The U.S. military has advanced not an inch in the matter of reconciling its killers to what they have done. Here's an account just published of what that means for veterans and those they know and love. You can easily find another such account every day online. The top killer of members of the U.S. military is suicide. The top killer of the people who live in "liberated" nations during their liberations is members of the U.S. military. This is not coincidental. Veterans suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (only a disorder from the perspective of those who'd like to suppress healthy inhibitions), moral injury (what a veteran friend calls "a fancy word for guilt and regret"), and neurocognitive disorder/brain injury. Often the same individual suffers all three of these types of harm, and often they are hard to distinguish from each other or to fully diagnose prior to autopsy. But the one that eats your soul, the one solved only by science fiction, is moral injury.

Of course science fiction only works when it overlaps with nonfiction. U.S. troops conditioned to kick in doors in Iraq or Syria and view every person inside as a non-human threat don't use the term "roaches," preferring "hadjis" or "camel jockeys" or "terrorists" or "combatants" or "military aged males" or "Muslims." Removing the killers physically to a drone piloting booth can create psychic "distance" aided by reference to victims as "bugsplat" and other terms in the same vein as "roaches." But this approach to producing conscience-free killers has been a spectacular failure. Watch the real suffering of the real drone killers in the current movie National Bird. There's no fiction there, but the very same horror of the roach-killing soldier re-experiencing what he's done.

Such failures and shortcomings for the military are never complete failures of course. Many kill, and kill ever more willingly. What becomes of them afterward is not the military's problem. It couldn't possibly care less. So, awareness of what becomes of those who kill won't stop the killing. What we need is the real life equivalent of a little stick with a green light on it, a magic tool for deprograming members of every military on earth, every potential recruit, every investor in weapons dealing, every profiteer, every willing tax payer, every apathetic observer, every heartless politician, every thoughtless propagandist. What can we use?

I think the closest equivalents to the stick with the green light are passports and telephones. Give every American a passport automatically and free. Make the right to travel inviolable, including for felons. Make the duty to travel and to speak multiple languages part of every education. And give every family in every nation on the Pentagon's potential enemies list a phone with a camera and internet access. Ask them to tell us their stories, including the stories of their encounters with the rarest of species: the newly appearing Unarmed American.

The choice this year is easy: Why No Leftist, Progressive or Liberal Should Vote for Hillary Clinton

By Dave Lindorff

 

            With one week to go in this year’s presidential election -- an astonishing and depressing contest in which the two least-liked and least-trusted candidates in history are the two choices put up by our two main political parties -- it’s time to look at why left and liberal people should not vote for the Democratic Party’s nominee, Hillary Clinton.

All Governments Lie, The Movie

Picture, if you will, video footage of vintage (early 2016) Donald Trump buffoonery with the CEO of CBS Leslie Moonves commenting on major media's choice to give Trump vastly more air time than other candidates: "It may not be good for America, but it's damn good for CBS."

That's the introduction to a powerful critique of the U.S. media. A new film screens in New York and Los Angeles this week called All Governments Lie: Truth, Deception, and the Spirit of I.F. Stone.

The website AllGovernmentsLie.com has screening dates, a list of lies, and a list of good journalists who expose lies. The lists on the website are not identical to the content of the film, but there's a good deal of overlap -- enough to give you a sense of what this project is about.

I'd have made various changes and additions to the film. In particular, I'm tired of all the focus on Iraq 2003. This film touches on war lies since then, but still gives that one particular set of war lies prominence.

Still, this is a film that should be shown in cities, homes, and classrooms across the United States. It includes and is driven by Noam Chomsky's analysis of how the media system is "rigged" without those doing the rigging believing they've done anything at all. It's a survey of skullduggery by corporate media. It's an introduction to numerous journalists far superior to the norm. And it's an introduction to I.F. Stone. It includes footage of a presentation of the annual Izzy Award which goes to journalists acting in Stone's tradition.

Public vs. Media on War

A new poll from an unlikely source suggests that the U.S. public and the U.S. media have very little in common when it comes to matters of war and peace.

This poll was commissioned by that notorious leftwing hotbed of peaceniks, the Charles Koch Institute, along with the Center for the National Interest (previously the Nixon Center, and before that the humorously named Nixon Center for Peace and Freedom). The poll was conducted by Survey Sampling International.

They polled 1,000 registered voters from across the U.S. and across the political spectrum but slanted slightly toward older age groups. They asked:

"Over the last 15 years, do you think U.S. foreign policy has made Americans more or less safe?"

What Police Videos Teach Us About Wars

counterterrorism

Before people had an easy way to see video footage of police murders, headlines crediting the police with just and noble actions couldn’t be effectively questioned.

We’re still back there in the dark ages when it comes to war murders, but we can overcome the lack of quickly shared videos if we choose to. When the headlines celebrate some sort of “victory” in Mosul or anywhere else, we can point out that the videos of people being blown up in their houses would be truly horrific if we had them. This is not, after all, a point on which there can actually be any question.

The police who murder innocents say they serve a grander purpose of maintaining law and order. Watching the videos of what they do eliminates all possibility of taking that seriously.

The war makers say they serve a grander purpose of . . . well, it depends; sometimes it’s also law and order, other times spreading democracy, other times weapons elimination, other times simply revenge. Imagining the videos we aren’t seeing should help us understand why these justifications do not hold up.

The U.S. has, in recent years, bombed Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen. None of them is safer, less armed, more democratic, more peaceful, more prosperous, or less of a threat to others. Quite the contrary. “Defeating” ISIS by bombing people will fuel more suffering and violence, just as “defeating” the government of Saddam Hussein fueled ISIS.

Picture a woman in Mosul who lacks permission to go outside without a male guardian. Now picture that woman’s roof collapsing on her and her children with a thunderous crash and a cloud of dust. Is she better off? Do those who love her appreciate her “liberation”? Would the video be allowed on U.S. media outlets unless we shared it on social media as many times as we do a police video?

“One unfortunate incident.” “Collateral damage.” “A few bad apples.”

No. Police murder routinely and with immunity. Wars murder extensively, immorally, counterproductively, and illegally with immunity. There can be good policing. But there cannot be good war making. It’s all illegal under the U.N. Charter and the Kellogg-Briand Pact. The war on terrorism has been increasing terrorism for years. The U.S. government itself admits it has no idea who most of the people are that it murders with drones.

“So you’re on the side of the criminals.” “You must love ISIS.” “Putin LOVER!”

In fact, this childish retort is more common on the question of war and, tragically, is sometimes fueled by a grain of truth. Even so-called peace groups have fallen for the “pick a side” routine on Syria for years. I know people opposed to U.S. war-making in Syria but not to the U.S. providing weapons to others. I know people opposed to both of those things but not to Syrian government war-making with help from Russia and others. I know people opposed to Syrian and Russian war-making but not to anything directed at overthrowing the Syrian government. I know people in favor of war against ISIS but not against Syria. I know people in favor of any war making armed and funded by Saudi Arabia or Qatar or Turkey but not by the United States or Russia. I could list 18 more variations, all from people claiming — as does the Pentagon — to favor peace.

I oppose war in the way I oppose dueling or blood feuds, not by supporting one side. I oppose the U.S.-led arming of Western Asia the way I oppose pushing heroin in poor neighborhoods, not by wanting particular people to get it all. I oppose murder by police or soldiers in the way that I oppose capital punishment — that is: not because videos make my social media browsing unpleasant, but because people’s lives are being taken.

It’s time we put an end to war as if we could see it.

Keywords to add to all electronic communications: As the Surveillance Expands, Best Way to Resist is to Bury the NSA in Garbage

By Dave Lindorff

 

Word that Yahoo! last year, at the urging of the National Security Agency, secretly developed a program that monitored the mail of all 280 million of its customers and turned over to the NSA all mail from those who used any of the agency's thousands of keywords, shows that the US has become a total police state in terms of trying to monitor every person in the country (and outside too).

A scandal that reveals more than it says: Yahoo Scanned All Users’ Mail for the Government

By Alfredo Lopez

 

If you are one of the approximately 280 million people with Yahoo email accounts, your email was scanned for content and possibly turned over to the U.S. government. Yahoo, on Tuesday, admitted that fact.

US Propaganda Campaign to Demonize Russia in Full Gear over One-Sided Dutch/Aussie Report on Flight 17 Downing

By Dave Lindorff

 

If the danger of the anti-Putin, anti-Russian disinformation propaganda campaign out of the Pentagon and promoted by the US corporate media weren't so serious, the effort itself might be laughable. I did laugh,

The African American History Missing from the Smithsonian

The new corporate-funded African-American History museum in Washington, D.C., built on the former site of Camp Democracy and all sorts of protests and festivals, is getting a great deal of purely positive press before its doors have opened.

This press and the museum's own website suggest that the museum covers slavery, Jim Crow, racism, sports, and entertainment, but doesn't step out of the mold set by the Smithsonian when it celebrated the Enola Gay or began letting war profiteers fund and shape the exhibits in the Air and Space Museum or in the American History Museum, which has gone out of its way to glorify war.

The New York Times informs us about the new museum: "Above ground, the museum departs from the chronological narrative to examine African-American achievements in fields like music, art, sports and the military. Visitors can tour these brighter third-floor and fourth-floor themed Culture and Community galleries without venturing into the harsher history sections below."

Get it? War is part of a well-rounded liberal life alongside music and sports, unlike those "harsh" bits of history. The new museum's website promotes "Military" as a category of exhibit item. Click it and you'll find 162 things including smiling portraits of soldiers in uniforms, medals, letters, hats, binoculars, propaganda posters, etc. If you search the site for "Peace" you find one photo of an unidentified man wearing a peace sign necklace and one photo of unidentified men holding up a giant peace sign.

We know that Marin Luther King Jr. is to be found in the new museum, but we don't know if he's the corporate-approved Martin Luther King Jr. who opposed racism but never noticed war. We know that Muhammad Ali shows up in the sports section along with his head-gear and gloves. We don't know if his reasons for refusing the Vietnam War draft are included.

African Americans have been a major part of resistance to war, especially from the Korean War through the nomination of Barack Obama for president. Some of this history is told by Kimberley Phillips who will be speaking in Washington, D.C., as the museum opens, but speaking at a conference at American University called No War 2016.

Does the Smithsonian touch on African-American resistance to wars on Africa or the growth of Africom? Also speaking at No War 2016 will be Maurice Carney of Friends of the Congo. Is the story his group tells in the film Crisis in the Congo told by the Smithsonian? Also speaking on a panel on racism and war at No War 2016 will be Bill Fletcher Jr. and Darakshan Raja. Where is their wisdom at the Smithsonian? Where is any history of the ties between a racist foreign policy and domestic racism? What is the relationship between racism and war propaganda? I wouldn't enter the new museum holding your breath until you find that exhibit.

What public service is being offered by a museum that celebrates the Tuskeegee Airmen but thus far has given no public indication that it will explore the significance of the Tuskeegee Syphilis Experiment? Bombing foreigners who engage in human experimentation makes a better story than just bombing foreigners while engaging in human experimentation. The story can be told with the flaws of segregation, later remedied or in the process of quickly being repaired. There is value in that story. It's not without its merits. But it is fundamentally false and may just get us all killed.

Speaking Events

Jan 19-22: Washington, D.C.: Non-Violent Protest Anti War/Anti Nuke on Inauguration Day and on Facebook

January 29: David Swanson speaking in Arlington, Va.

February David Swanson debating a war supporter in Boston, Mass.

April 7-9: Huntsville, Alabama: 25th Annual Space Organizing Conference & Protest

May or June: UNAC's annual conference in Richmond, Va. April 29: possible multi-issue protest in DC.

August 2-6: Democracy Convention in Minneapolis.

Find more events here.

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