Wednesday, 20 November 2013

The Media's Unexamined Pro-power Spin

In the Guardian today, Simon Jenkins writes on the recent spectacle of spy chiefs colluding with parliamentarians to completely gerrymander the enquiry into their criminal activities.

To give you a flavour of how woefully miscast this article is, here's a headline:

The days of believing spy chiefs who say 'Trust us' are over

Firstly, I dont know about you, but I never trusted either the spies or their chiefs. I never thought it made sense, for example, to trust someone whose entire reason for existing is to deceive, to lie, to dissemble, to mislead, and misdirect.

Now, I understand why politicians employ such people, but I never thought anyone should or would be fool enough to trust them. (Indeed, I dont believe the politicians ever did trust them; that's just another of the impolite fictions they promulgate against us. More on that later, maybe.)

And understanding this, I never trusted the assurances given to us by the politicians, that these people are totally under control, that politicians have rigorous knowledge of and oversight of their activities, and etc.

It's simply not credible, ever, that people selected, trained, legally empowered and funded, for their ability to deceive, can be trusted to be honest with their employers. This is especially true when their employers - the political class - are not exactly the most morally upright people to ever walk the earth, themselves.

But wait! - it gets worse:
The world now faces total electronic penetration, with huge power to those who control it. After Edward Snowden, we would be deluded to accept any assurances.
 After.  After Ed Snowden, we'd be deluded to 'accept any assurances'.

What about before Edward Snowden, Mr Jenkins? Would an intelligent, educated, informed, rational, prudent and cautious person, have accepted the bland and blithe assurances of the second-most dishonest class of people ever to walk the earth - politicians - before Edward Snowden's revelations?

The same people who lied us into invading Iraq, who lied about their reasons for invading Afghanistan, who are still lying about Syria, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Vietnam, and Korea?

Would assurances from these people have been acceptable if Edward Snowden had stayed on the reservation?

No, Mr Jenkins, no, these assurances were never credible, never onvincing, and never could be. They were never believable and no thoughtful person ever believed them.

In point of fact, no person in a position of public power should ever be trusted. The laws, the constitutional documents and customs, the checks and balances of democratic mechanisms, exist because we recognise explicitly that no person in a position of public power can ever be trusted.

We cannot afford to trust in such cirumstances. The probability of corruption is too high: approaching 100% over time, and the consequences of error are too great. As more of us are now realising; right, Mr Jenkins?

But wait! - it gets worse:
Any claim that "everyone knew these things were going on" is rubbish.
Quite. Not everyone knew because not everyone wanted to know. But some of us knew, not because we had the documentary evidence that Mr Snowden has now supplied, but because we had the evidence of history and of human nature, that history supplies to anyone who cares to look. Plus we had a lot of clues revealed by other events and stories, like this one.

Given what Mr Snowden has now revealed, who was talking rubbish before his revelations, Mr Jenkins?


Dont get me wrong, I agree with a lot of Mr Jenkins' views on any number of questions. He's often written excellent analyses subsequently published in the pages of the Guardian, and I've told him so in comments there.

The problem with Mr Jenkins' view on this point is that it continues and fosters the "oh dear, mistakes were made" dissembling of the most habitual and consequential criminals on our planet. Therefore, today he is my stalking horse for the whole of the establishment media.

I never made the mistake of accepting the blithe assurances of rigorous oversight by elected members.

The elected members themselves - with perhaps a very few very naive exceptions - never made this mistake.

Both I and they knew full well that the spies cannot ever be trusted.

So why does Mr Jenkins even attempt this pallid whitewash?

Why does an intelligent, informed, educated, and erudite man apparently believe that the Snowden revelations reveal something entirely unanticipated?

I dont believe Mr Jenkins is a consciously bad person. I dont believe he consciously intends to deceive. Quite the opposite, I believe in his good intentions.

But I also believe he is living a life of unexamined predispositions that have blinded him to otherwise very obvious truths, such as those I have described above regarding the innate untrustworthiness of those weilding great power in secret.

It's not like Mr Jenkins hasn't heard of Lord Acton and his famous dictum, is it? Surely he hasn't forgotten the destruction of Iraq? I mean, it's not entirely over yet, is it?

What Mr Jenkins is guilty of is not examining - and then rejecting - these predispositions when there is (A) an overwhelming wealth of historic and current evidence that they are false, and (B) no chance at all that Mr Jenkins has been ignorant of this evidence, and (C) no chance that Mr Jenkins lacks the ability to comprehend it's import.

Mr Jenkins' major guilt lies in his position of privilege: he not only has access to the relevant facts, access to the pertinent history, and is possessed of the intellect and training to deal with them, but he occupies the position of a protected purveyor of political analysis. In other words, he's a journalist whose explicit function is to critically examine these questions, these predispositions, and make public judgements on them.

It seriously calls into question his fitness for the role if he tries to claim he has not seen the necessity to first apply that critical examination process to himself.

The article he produces is thus true in the most limited sense: after Snowden, nobody should trust the bland assurances of the spies or the politicians who claim to have them under tight control.

We now know, without any possibility of error, that both of these assurances are false.

What the article gets wrong is that Mr Jenkins claims we didnt know this before Snowden. He further implies hat we couldn't anticipate the falsity of these assurances. That the corruption of those weilding enormous power in secret was neither inevitable nor predictable.

But we did know this before Snowden.

We could - and many of us did - anticipate the falsity of these assurances.

We knew without any possibility of error that the corruption was inevitable and we did predict it.

If Mr Jenkins didn't know this, and didn't anticipate it, what right has he to any audience today? What credibility does he have left as an informed and honest analyst of the weilding of public power?

The issues he has "overlooked" and left unexamined are the most critical issues facing us all today. If Mr Jenkins lacks the ability or the will to examine them critically then what good is he to us?

Mr Jenkins, your essay has been weighed in the balance and found wanting. Your performance is a pretty good marker for the state of your entire profession:

E minus: capable of far better.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Thoroughly Corrupted, Thoroughly Corrupting

We start with a relatively simple and demonstrable premise:
Our political systems in the self-styled western liberal democracies are thoroughly corrupted and, therefore, thoroughly corrupting.
In particular, the Party systems that dominate every democracy on this planet are the repositories of concentrated power and therefore – as per Lord Acton – concentrated corruption.

The most emphatic demonstration of the thorough corruption of our political systems is the utter dominance of imperial mercantilist policy over many decades, in spite of regular changes of governments between the major parties. These parties are nominally ideological opposites, allegedly implacably hostile to each others political philosophies and therefore policies.

In reality they maintain a continuity of policy that reveals the Kabuki theatre aspect of their existence; the opposition is fake, the hostility as genuine as a World Wrestling Federation match, the philosophical differences a matter of rhetoric over reality, of style over substance.

A further demonstration of the corruption of the Party system is the internal contradictions of each Party's policy positions.

The self-styled conservatives in both Britain and America (and their allies) have talked fiscal responsibility for decades, while simultaneously running up the largest deficits and debts the world has ever seen. They have spoken of peace, of humble foreign policy, and of a clear-eyed perspective on the limits of military power, while indulging in a horrific sequence of aggressive wars of choice against helpless foes, based on totally invented pretexts.

The self-styled liberals, their erstwhile opposition, have enthusiastically joined in both the economic and political adventures of the conservatives. In total abandonment of their rhetorical policy of peace they have escalated wars they previously (and somewhat cravenly) categorised as gross strategic blunders. In similar abandonment of their rhetoric of economic responsibility they have doubled down on the profligacy of the conservatives, reverting to their historic “deficits dont matter” spending practices but unmatched by their historic high tax policies, thereby increasing the already eye-watering indebtedness of their citizens.

In perhaps the worst betrayal of all, they have continued to talk like ACLU activists while actively participating in the building of the most intrusive and abusive global surveillance state imaginable, a system of executive over-reach that is inherently irreconcilable with any part of liberal philosophy.

Put plainly, there is nothing either conservative or liberal in the ongoing destruction of western civilisational norms perpetrated by both the major political parties that lay claim to these labels.

The self-applied labels have become false flags of convenience, tribal affiliation designators, and nothing else.

In short, they are lies. They are deliberate untruths designed to entrap the unwary.

The corrupting influence of these corrupt organisations is also apparent in the results they produce. The uniformity of policy across successive administrations displays the absolute abandonment of principle which is incumbent upon any potential candidates who want the support of the Party machinery which is typically necessary to challenge for high public office.

This is especially so when the candidate doesn't bring substantial amounts of their own funding, or funding sources, to the table. In other words, the history of Prime Ministerial and Presidential campaigns is that the most financially independent candidates have shown the most 'personality', the most steadfast adherence to their own personal beliefs, whereas the least financially independent have been the most craven servants of power.

(As Obama is rumoured to have "joked", this may be why he's still alive while JFK is not.)

We dont know, and will likely never know in specific individual cases, all of the reasons why it is that political candidates speak so eloquently and forcefully on their principles, values and beliefs during their campaigns, and then abandon those principles immediately on attaining office.

It may be they are willing deceivers from the beginning, or it may be that they are gradually corrupted over time as they reach successively higher offices and the price of Party support rises with each step they take on the ladder of power.

Whichever it is - and it is likely both in most cases - we see clearly in the sheer monotony of this pattern that the Party system itself is the primary corrupting agency. It is the source of selectorial favours, of public relations favours, of funding and other support (e.g. oratorial coaching, speech-writing expertise, etc).

Most significantly, the Party machine is the mechanism by which the money lobby purchases political influence. It is the conduit through which funding flows from vested interests into the public offices they seek to pervert in their favour.

It is the avenue through which influence flows into legislation, into executive political appointments, and into judicial advancement. In other words, the party machinery is the vector through which the pursuit of financial self-advancement has infected every branch of government.

None of the above is especially surprising or noteworthy, particularly to those who've been paying attention to politics and political systems for some time. But the implications of these two simple ideas – that our political systems are both thoroughly corrupted and thoroughly corrupting – most often escape notice, or at least public comment.

It is hardly surprising that the ardent supporters of Barrack Obama have themselves been most surprised by the ever-lengthening list of betrayals of his campaign positions (and thus the principles on which they rested). It is somewhat more surprising that even his most determined critics have been surprised by the scale and content of this list. Particularly in the areas of civil liberties and domestic welfare, where he was quite rationally expected to deliver real progressive policy, the Democrat Obama has been markedly worse than his Republican predecesssor, Bush.

If we look at the British situation we find an odd contrast allied to an even stronger congruence. Here the Conservative candidate Cameron campaigned on rolling back the national security over-reach of his Labour predecessor Blair. He vigorously talked up the necessity for doing so in the interests of a free and liberal society such as is necessary for a modern liberal democracy to prosper both materially and spiritually. This seems, at first glance, like a very strange contrast to Obama's campaign, given that Cameron's Conservative Party is the UK's equivalent to George W Bush's Republican Party, and therefore we might expect Cameron to sound more hawkish on military and national security matters than Obama. It appears that the labels have been flipped, or the players have changed sides.

However, the apparent paradox is resolved when we note that, rather than presenting any kind of real change in policy relative to Tony Blair's Labour government, Cameron and his coalition partners continue to pursue the War on Terror abroad and its associated domestic tyrannies with every bit of the blind stupid zeal of its original architects.

In very similar manner to Obama, they have in fact doubled down on the domestic tyranny front, copying play for play the Obama administration's war on whistleblowers, on journalists, and on any public dissent against authority.

The striking parallel is further emphasised when we consider that George W Bush himself could have used the very same speeches made by the candidate David Cameron, seeing as he campaigned on a humble foreign policy, no nation building adventures such as those of Clinton, and tight fiscal responsibility.

If you go further back and look at Tony Blair's campaign speeches you find a strikingly similar pattern: a vigorous denunciation of the financial profligacy of the previous government, of its thorough corruption through an extended hold on power, of its foreign policy blunders and domestic tyrannies.

Rather than changing sides, what this shows is that the players are all on the same side.

But while this cries out for public analysis and comment, I have not found any.

In the 90's UK a corrupt Conservative government is opposed by a crusading Labour Party candidate who rails against its many injustices, thefts, authoritarian aggressions, and habitual over-reach.

In the 90's USA a corrupt Democrat government is opposed by a crusading conservative Republican candidate who rails against its many injustices, thefts, authoritarian aggressions, and habitual over-reach.

After the successful candidates disastrously embrace and extend the worst excesses of their predecessors, the two parties change sides and:

In the USA a corrupt Conservative government is opposed by a crusading Democrat candidate who rails against its many injustices, thefts, authoritarian aggressions, and habitual over-reach.

In the UK a corrupt Labour government is opposed by a crusading Conservative candidate who rails against its many injustices, thefts, authoritarian aggressions, and habitual over-reach.

And, after these successful candidates have disastrously embraced and extended the worst excesses of their predecessors, what kind of deal will the voters be offered next?

Does one have to be Norman Einstein to predict the character and tone of the next election campaign in each nation?

It is plain from these examples (and the many many similar examples before them) that the Parties in each country long ago perceived their voters' weakness for the Man on the White Horse theory of politics. For the messianic figure, and the associated sugar daddy fantasy-mythologies of the secular salvation story.

What this means is that we as voters must grow up and stop pursuing these fantasies if we actually want real change, in a positive direction, to ever happen. We must abandon the Cult of Personality and all its attendant baggage, if we are ever going to build any kind of liberal society such as we say we want.

Some of this we will not enjoy. Some of it we will steadfastly resist.

For example, we will not like the idea that our favoured candidates are corrupted long before they're presented to us as candidates for high office. We will readily accept it of the candidates we typically oppose, but we will not want to accept it of those we've typically supported.

We will not like the idea that the individuals concerned are largely irrelevant to the process. The fact that corrupt political parties employ corruptible candidates to advance their own interests is as dull and unsurprising as the fact that hospitals employ doctors and fire departments employ firefighters. But we're very emotionally wed to the idea that the individuals are important. That their personalities, character, individual beliefs, and moral principles, are vital aspects of their campaigns and thus to their anticipated manner of government once elected.

(We will stubbornly resist acknowledging how devastating the pattern described above, of constant betrayal of every such avowed principle, is to this notion.)

We will especially resist even contemplating how this reality affects our interpretation of past events.

As difficult as it will be for many to accept, however grudgingly, that such a pattern clearly exists and that its existence unequivocally shows that Obama has not been turned after his election but has been a willing tool of corruption for many years prior to his ascendance, and that his individual character and personality are almost totally irrelevant to the policies pursued by his government, it will be nearly impossible for these same people to acknowledge that historic individuals like Hitler and Stalin were equally irrelevant to the policies pursued by their governments.
(Just think about that for a moment. Let it sit awhile.)
We might be persuaded to admit, grudgingly, that the secular salvation story of the Man on the White Horse is a childish myth that we should abandon if we want to grow up as citizens and construct truly liberal systems of government, but we will never be able to abandon it if we cannot simultaneously let go of its mirror image, the Man of Sin of the secular Devil Incarnate story.

To relinquish one is to relinquish, by logical necessity, the other.

To hold to one is, necessarily, to hold to the other.

No doubt I should point out here that I am not defending Stalin and Hitler. They were not nice people, and they were not well-intentioned or naive or misunderstood. 

They were bloody tyrants

The point is, so too are Cameron and Obama.

So too were Blair and Bush.

Neither their penchant for expensively tailored suits, nor the mechanism by which they achieved power, has any bearing on that fact.

They were, at some point prior to their selection as candidates, thoroughly corrupted by the thoroughly corrupt Party machinery that enabled their political careers. That they may or may not have been heinously corrupt individuals prior to this selection is utterly irrelevant.

As doctors are to hospitals, as firefighters are to fire departments, so are the corrupt and corruptible to our political parties. If the parties are the root, the candidates are the branches.

The salient fact is that if Buddha or Jesus were to enter into the same processes that gave rise to these political careers, only two results would be possible:
  1. They would fail to make the necessary accomodations, and be rejected, or
  2. They would compromise themselves and become indistinguishable from any modern candidates.
Indeed, what Obama and Bush both demonstrate - albeit in dramatically divergent fashion - is that the better the raw material, the smarter and more telegenic and charismatic the candidate, the more effective the tyrant he becomes.

So this is what we face; two-party systems that are thoroughly corrupt and thoroughly corrupting. In sum, the party machines of the modern democracies have become self-perpetuating engines of destruction, deceit, and despair.

They must be destroyed, root and branch.

As above, there are only two possibilities open to us; either we destroy them or they destroy us.

Either we find and found a better system that is protected against the corrupting influences presently assaulting our civilisation and attendant liberties, or those influences will continue to erode the foundations of our civilisation until it no longer exists.

Already much has been lost.

How much more we can lose before the course we are on becomes impossible to reverse without widespread long-running bloody violent revolution, I cannot say, but I strongly suspect the answer is, not much.

There isn't that much left.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Corporate Terrorism is Legal; Journalism is Not

From a recent Guardian piece on the ongoing David Miranda oppression:

The detention of the partner of a former Guardian journalist has triggered fresh concerns after it emerged that a key reason cited by police for holding him under terrorism powers was the belief that he was promoting a "political or ideological cause".
Also noted in that piece is that the security services asked the Police to detain Miranda, and to make it look like a 'normal' event (whatever that means in an era when it is normal for liberal democracies to murder remote strangers on a weekly basis).

But the key element of the Police representation is that David Miranda qualifies as a terrorism suspect because he is engaged in promoting a political or ideological cause.

Now for those who've been saying for many years now that the US government and its many-tentacled agencies are the world's biggest terrorist organisation, this might come as a somewhat ironic validation, given the source and the surrounding context.

But the people who work in the State Department might also wonder what will happen to them next time they visit England ... or simply pass through on the way to elsewhere.

On that note, I recall that it was the USA that began the assault on international law & custom in this matter, unilaterally repealing the established practice which recognised that a person passing through "in transit' and not entering the country via Customs, is not actually on local soil for legal purposes and not subject to the jurisdiction of the local Police forces but remains under the jurisdiction of the captain of the aircraft.

In other words, a political refugee could not be returned to those who would persecute them simply by means of a refueling decision made in some airline head office half a world away. There was a time when our governments claimed that this was an important principle.

But, in time-honoured imperial fashion, the satellite vassal states almost immediately adopted the same practices, with most of the subsequent differences - as in the case of the UK - being only to make things worse.

However, we all know - as do, no doubt, the people who work at State - that they're not going to encounter the same problems Miranda did. As his partner Glenn Greenwald has rigorously highlighted, the law in our modern liberal democracies operates in a neo-feudal two-tiered manner; there is one law for the wealthy and powerful and those connected thereto, another for the poor, powerless and unconnected.

It is plain, too, that the Chief Executive of Nissan Motors knows this. Because here he is, without a shred of irony or indeed apparent awareness of any kind, flagrantly threatening his British employees and the entire United Kingdom, should they pursue a political course he finds distasteful:

The head of Nissan has warned the car maker would reconsider its future in the UK if a push to leave the European Union succeeds.

Carlos Ghosn, chief executive of the Japanese motoring company, told the BBC his company would re-evaluate its position if the UK were to leave the EU.
Before anyone asks me if I am surprised - I'm not - there's no real mystery about the utter silence and inaction of MI6 and GCHQ in response to this blatant act of international corporate terrorism. Such threats are par for the course for those with wealth, power, and the political patronage that goes with them.

But I would love to hear them try to explain exactly what the difference is.

Perhaps if there are any journalists still working at the Guardian, one of them might be persuaded to ask?

Tell you what: I won't hold my breath.