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Nederlog

January 15, 2015
Crisis: Paris, Real Labour (?), Real Obama, France's "freedoms", Psychiatry
  "They who can give up essential 
   liberty to obtain a little temporary
   safety, deserve neither liberty
   nor safety."
 
   -- Benjamin Franklin
   "All governments lie and nothing
   they say should be believed.
"
   -- I.F. Stone
   "Power tends to corrupt, and   
   absolute power corrupts
   absolutely. Great men are        
   almost always bad men."
   -- Lord Acton
















Prev- crisis -Next

Sections
Introduction

1. Paris is a warning: there is no insulation from our wars
2. The Labour party of my dreams would stand up for
     poorer people. Where is it?

3.
The Source of Barack Obama’s Power to Trick Us Comes
     from Our Willingness to Be Tricked

4.
France Arrests a Comedian For His Facebook Comments
5. post without an end…
 


Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Thursday, January 15, 2015.

This is a crisis log.
There are 5 items with 5 dotted links. Item 1 is about how the European political leaders made from the demonstration in Paris a show for themselves; item 2 is about a real Labour party as conceived by Simon Jenkins and David Marquand; item 3 is about the real Obama (and from 2012); item 4 is Glenn Greenwald on the selectivity of "free speech"; and item 5 is a reflection by
a pensioned psychiatrist on the history of psychiatry since 1980.


Also, earlier today there was a fairly long Nederlog called "On Philosophical Assumptions".

1. Paris is a warning: there is no insulation from our wars

The first item today is an article by Seumas Milne on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:
The official response to every jihadist-inspired terrorist attack in the west since 2001 has been to pour petrol on the flames. That was true after 9/11 when George Bush launched his war on terror, laying waste to countries and spreading terror on a global scale. It was true in Britain after the 2005 London bombings, when Tony Blair ripped up civil liberties and sent thousands of British troops on a disastrous mission to Afghanistan. And it’s been true in the aftermath of last week’s horrific killings at Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket in Paris.
Yes, indeed. And here is some more:

The absurdity was there for all to see at the “Je suis Charlie” demonstration in Paris on Sunday. A march supposedly to defend freedom of expression was led by serried ranks of warmongers and autocrats: from Nato war leaders and Israel’s Binyamin Netanyahu to Jordan’s King Abdullah and Egypt’s foreign minister, who between them have jailed, killed and flogged any number of journalists while staging massacres and interventions that have left hundreds of thousands dead, bombing TV stations from Serbia to Afghanistan as they go.

The scene was beyond satire.

Yes, I found the press reports the next day also rather revolting, precisely because they were mostly about "our leaders", and much less about the people or Charlie Hebdo.

Then again, it also seems to me as if the majority wants this (and no, I myself do not want this, and indeed do not like any "political leader" I know of).

2. The Labour party of my dreams would stand up for poorer people. Where is it?  

The next item is an article by Simon Jenkins on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:
There is the moment in an election campaign when I crave a choice, not an echo. That moment is now. For starters, I want a real Labour party. I know what the Tories are about. I have watched them at it for years. But against them the nation surely deserves a party of what is conventionally called the left. Where is it?
The brief answer to that is: Tony Blair killed the Labour Party, as was, and did so that he could succeed, which he did (he owns at least 20 million pounds now, and possibly a lot more: he was very successful, for himself).

The longer answer is considerably more complicated, but since - in my view - it agrees with the brief answer, I will not try to give it here.

Simon Jenkins has quite a few paraghraphs describing what a "Real Labour" would be, and do, and say, and propose, and you can read them using the last dotted link, but since the real Labour party is quite dead, I will not copy them.

He also says:

I do not advocate a vote for such a party; I merely suggest it as a true opposition to the ideology of the right. It would recall the radicalism of the left yet remain within the bounds of modern electoral plausibility.

Elections should be between real options, not between leaders who disguise their fear of radicalism with waffle about transformative authenticity, realism and delivering change.
Yes, indeed. Jenkins also has a reference to a book called "Mammon's Kingdom" by David Marquand (<- Wikipedia), which has a review on The Guardian, from which I quote this:
[Mammon's Kingdom - MM] is pure polemic, a raging against the dying light of a more decent age. The last three or four decades have, in Marquand's analysis, witnessed the defeat of decency at the hands of a hedonism. Widening inequality, rising poverty, consumerism, decline of public trust, class snobbery, family breakdown – all symptoms of the same disease: "moral individualism".

The fall of three elites – an intellectual clerisy, public service professionals, and working-class leadership – paved the way for the rapid triumph of an atomistic, relativistic individualism, market logic in economics, and supine obedience in the civil service. These "decent elites", Marquand laments, were replaced by "new elites, with little or no sense of public duty. Money and celebrity became society's chief yardsticks of merit and achievement, endlessly celebrated by a gawping media."

While I do not think I quite agree with Marquand (for one thing, he is too sympathetic to David Cameron) the above quotation seems right to me.

And in any case, there is no real Labour party anymore.

3. The Source of Barack Obama’s Power to Trick Us Comes from Our Willingness to Be Tricked

The next item is an article by Matt Stoller on Naked Capitalism:

I should first note that I found this thanks to a link yesterday on Naked Capitalism, but that the article appeared there on June 25, 2012. I don't agree with all of it, but it does give an interesting picture of Obama.

On the one hand, there is this, that most men who are at least faintly progressive or liberal seem to believe:

Politicians play hardball all the time.  They lie on a regular basis, it’s one of the tricks of the trade.  But Obama’s politics, and his career, are built on an exquisitely and brilliantly constructed narrative of integrity and progress.  He is the outsider become the insider, the multi-racial meritocrat whose black and white heritage came together into the ultimate conciliator and political leader.  His is the story of America, that of a brilliant Harvard Law school educated striver with roots in community organizing, who became a powerful orator, and then America’s first black President.

On the other hand, there is this, when you look closer to Obama's real policies and speeches:

But there is another narrative, a real narrative about Barack Obama and his administration.  Obama is the ultimate cynic, a dishonest, highly reactionary social and corporate ladder climbing con artist.  Obama is the guy who calls a female reporter “sweety”, who plays poker with the guys, and who thinks that his senior advisor’s decision to cash out after making a “modest” salary of $172,000 at the White House is just natural.
(...)
He runs on populism with a worse record than George W. Bush on income inequality.  His narcissism, and the post-modern ironic sense of self-awareness of how his narrative is put together and tended, is his defining character trait.  It’s not just that he’s a liar.  Lyndon Johnson was a liar, but LBJ lied us into a war in Vietnam as well as a war on poverty.  FDR lied all the time, for good and ill.  Obama’s entire edifice is based on lying almost entirely to help sustain his image, with almost no interest in sound policy-making.
(...)
Obama reads Paul Krugman – he studied the left intensely and spent years as a community organizer.  He understands his opposition, those crying out for justice against the powerful, and finds them laughable, finds in them weakness at best, a punchline at worst. (...)  Obama understands Saul Alinsky.  He gets left-wing ideas.  But he hates the left, with the passion of any bully towards his victims.  To him, they are chumps, weak, pathetic, losers.  They are such pathetic losers, in fact, that they will believe anything he tells them.  And Obama has no better nature, he is what he’s done in office, someone who murders children with drone strikes and then jokes about it to his rich friends.

Note this is just a selection. There is considerably more in the article, that also contains this on America's pretenses:

Yes, American institutions are no better, and in many ways are more malignant, than those of many other countries.  Yes, our political leaders, our press, our military leadership, operate in service to sociopathic aims.  Yes, our freedoms are often an illusion, unless you fit a very narrow criteria.  Yes, our banks are run to rob us, yes, our CIA spies on us, and yes, our government is fundamentally anti-democratic.  Yes, our President is a con artist, and yes, nearly every reporter who writes about him participates in this set of lies, because of careerism, social financial reasons, or a simple lack of competence or imagination.

As I said: I don't agree with everything, but this is an interesting article.

4. France Arrests a Comedian For His Facebook Comments, Showing the Sham of the West’s “Free Speech” Celebration

The next item is an article by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:

Forty-eight hours after hosting a massive march under the banner of free expression, France opened a criminal investigation of a controversial French comedian for a Facebook post he wrote about the Charlie Hebdo attack, and then this morning, arrested him for that post on charges of “defending terrorism.” The comedian, Dieudonné (..), previously sought elective office in France on what he called an “anti-Zionist” platform, has had his show banned by numerous government officials in cities throughout France, and has been criminally prosecuted several times before for expressing ideas banned in that country.

The apparently criminal viewpoint he posted on Facebook declared: “Tonight, as far as I’m concerned, I feel like Charlie Coulibaly.” Investigators concluded that this was intended to mock the “Je Suis Charlie” slogan and express support for the perpetrator of the Paris supermarket killings (whose last name was “Coulibaly”). Expressing that opinion is evidently a crime in the Republic of Liberté, which prides itself on a line of 20th Century intellectuals – from Sartre and Genet to Foucault and Derrida – whose hallmark was leaving no orthodoxy or convention unmolested, no matter how sacred.

Incidentally, it is not that Glenn Greenwald likes Dieudonné, for he doesn't: it is that Glenn Greenwald is for freedom of expression - and he is right that saying that one feels "like Charlie Coulibaly" is at most in bad taste, and is not fit for being prosecuted for at all.

Glenn Greenwald also correctly diagnoses what "free speech" these days is supposed to mean:

(..) “free speech,” in the hands of many westerners, actually means: it is vital that the ideas I like be protected, and the right to offend groups I dislike be cherished; anything else is fair game.

Yes. For more, use the last dotted link.

5. post without an end…

The last item today is an article by 1 boring old man on his site:

This will not belong to the crisis as most people understand it, but it is by a pensioned psychiatrist and about psychiatry, and it is a a fairly long reflection on psychiatry since the DSM-III of 1980.

Here are two possible narrative schemes:
The main narrative is of a revolt against the dominant ideology of the time, psychoanalysis, and a move into the world of "Evidence Based Diagnosis and Treatment" – the scientific mainstream of medicine. A contrary version describes it as the unfounded assumption of a biological causality for mental illness and the primacy of medication in treatment, fueled by grossly inappropriate commercial interests.
In case you have read parts of my DSM-series (the last link contains most of what I wrote about it, while DSM-5: Medicine is a very sick business in the US - 2 is a good beginning), you will know that I hold that "evidence based medicine" is an ideological slogan; that psychiatry never was a real science and still is a pseudoscience; that the DSMs cannot be distinguished from fraud (and yes, I do have excellent degrees in psychology and philosophy - and see my long but thorough: DSM-5: Question 1 of "The six most essential questions in psychiatric diagnosis"); and that the "contrary version" mentioned above at least has the merit of being true (though I also disagree with most that the vast majority of all psychiatrists that I have read have claimed).

Anyway - I found this an interesting post, and that is why it is mentioned here.

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