Contact’: Trump’s American Empire
2. After the Apocalypse: Trying to Describe
Reality in Unreal
3. President Bannon?: Racist,
Islamophobic Breitbart Leader
Consolidates Power in Trump
4. Reuters Instructs Reporters to Cover Trump Like Any Other
5. Worse Than We Imagined: Trump’s Mission Creep Takes Giant
6. Whatever happened to the public intellectual?
This is a Nederlog of Thursday, February 2, 2017.
Summary: This is
a crisis log with 6 files and 7 dotted links: Item 1
is about a very fine video by Chris Hedges who
interviews Allan Nairn; item 2
is about an interesting article by Sarah Jaffe, except that the uses
terms to describe the media ("objective press" is one of them) I
haven't seen in the media in 30 years or so; item 3
is about an article and interview by Amy Goodman on Stephen Bannon; item 4 is about an interesting small article by the
chief editor of Reuters on how to cover Trump and his government; item 5 is about a very fine article by Bill
Moyers and Michael Winship; and item 6
is an article about "public intellectuals", though it is in fact mostly
about British philosophers, and I don't quite agree with it (and this last
item also is not a crisis item).
As for today
(February 2, 2017): I have changed my site yesterday to make it easier
that it might be read,
because it now happened for most
of last year that both of my sites are not uploaded
Contact’: Trump’s American Empire
On xs4all.nl it may be days, weeks or months behind to show the proper
last date and the proper last files (in the last 4 years always
date it was that day); on one.com it may be shown as December 31, 2015
often was!!!); and I am sick of being systematically made
unreadable and therefor changed the site.
For more explanations, see here.
The first item today is a video by Chris Hedges
(<-Wikipedia) who is interviewing investigative reporter Allan Nairn
This comes with the comment:
On this week’s episode of On
Contact, host Chris Hedges examines the future of the American empire
under the Trump Administration with investigative journalist Allan
Nairn. RT Correspondent Anya Parampil looks at the global reach of the
The video takes slightly over
28 and a half minutes, and was published om January 28, 2017.
I think it is very good: It is strongly recommended.
the Apocalypse: Trying to Describe Reality in Unreal Times
The second item is by Sarah Jaffe on Common Dreams:
This is from near the beginning:
This election in particular was marked
by debates about media, its biases and “fake”-ness, and even
allegations of foreign propaganda. From the primaries to the cabinet
selections, debates over the appropriate amount and tone of coverage
raged and rage on.
The rise of “fake news” has led many to
return to the idea of objectivity,
blaming partisanship rather than sloppiness (or malice) for the spread
of disinformation. Yet it has seemed many times since Trump’s election
that the norms and practices of objective media are uniquely unsuited
to covering the news in unreal times.
Well... yes, but (i) while I am
reading 35 magazines and papers every day and since over 3 1/2
years, I have hardly seen any of the "debates over the appropriate amount and tone of coverage" that are said to have "raged and
rage on" all of the last 3 1/2 years
(and I am not denying they probably occur: I simply haven't seen
them), and also (ii) what are the "objective
The last question again is about a term - "objective media"
- I have not read in any context for very many
years: I may have last read it in the 1980ies, but not later.
I do suppose Sarah Jaffe has more
or less clear meanings in her head, but the terms she uses are completely
unfamiliar to me. The same is true of the next bit:
The partisan press has a long history in
the United States—in fact, much longer than what we think of as the
“objective” media. Its rise once again, as the institutions of the
objective press break down, is not particularly surprising, but the
internet—particularly social media—seem to have created a perfect storm
of incentives for websites to stretch, distort or plain make up stories
in order to gain clicks by telling people what they want to hear.
What is the "partisan
press"? What are - and note the quotes
which are not mine - "the “objective”
media"? What is "the objective press"?! I have really hardly any idea (and to speak
about an "objective press" in the USA seems simply false, at least
since the 1980ies or 1990ies, and it also sounds quite misleading).
In any case, I have read many
discussions about the US media, and the distinctions I allow are
between the mainstream media, which covers the big papers and
nearly everything on American TV, and the non-mainstream media,
which covers magazines like Truthdig, AlterNet, Common Dreams and shows
like Democracy Now! and more, which are much poorer than the
mainstream media, and also are much more honest, and that - unlike
the mainstream media - still seem to be trying to cover the
news as well as they can (and normally from their perspectives, which I
don't mind ).
I also don't necessarily agree with
anything the non-mainstream media write, but they do seem (to me,
at least, and I have read a lot of journalism the last
55 years or so, and am a real intellectual) usually decent, indeed also
if I disagree with what they are saying.
There is this on the - enormous -
declines in standards, norms, practices and products of the
mainstream media (and I am sorry to use my distinctions,
but I simply do not know what "the objective press" is supposed to mean
As advertising dollars shifted away from
journalism and diffused across the internet, the news media’s revenue
sources collapsed, with leading websites and even legacy news
organizations coming to rely less on expensive and time-consuming
original reporting. Instead, they hired a stable of bloggers and
freelancers to aggregate, comment upon and argue over the news of the
day. There are fewer factcheckers, and more people whose job it is to
come up with the most clickable headline, in order to maximize eyeballs
Yes, this is quite correct, though most of
this happened around 2005 (or a bit earlier), which is twelve
Taking advantage of Facebook
in particular, which presents all news stories in a similar format and
deemphasizes the name of the outlet or blog, a variety of
less-than-scrupulous actors have flooded the scene.
Facebook is for me a neofascist
organization (and I use "neofascism"
in my sense: check it out if you did not). If you trust that,
you trust absolutely anything. I never visited it since
2011, and visited then only because I was slandered and offended by
someone who only wrote there.
Then there is this:
The distrust that many have for the
existing “objective” media is grounded in reality: The norms of
“balance” that for-profit media have relied on to avoid offending news
consumers have been flawed for decades and seem utterly useless under
an administration that considers lies simply “alternative
facts.” The groundwork for that declaration was laid with decades
of he-said, she-said, you-decide reporting, and deference to authority
figures no matter how untruthful they be.
I mostly agree, and suppose this is about the
mainstream media, though I like to add that - indeed - they
"have been flawed for decades and seem utterly
useless" since quite a long time (and indeed
already - in my experience, but I did try to follow it
then - in the Gulf War, from 1990-1991, for this was not
properly covered at all by the mainstream media).
Then there is this on the current American
Added to this challenge is that of
handling the world’s first Twitter troll president.
When we’ve elected someone with a tendency to pick fights with the
less-powerful on Twitter (and at this point, nearly
everyone is less powerful), what is the role of news outlets in
covering such utterances?
I have given my opinion about him here and here and elsewhere - and I am a real
intellectual (unlike most journalists) and a psychologist (unlike most journalists).
Here is the last bit that I'll quote from
I agree and indeed I do want
journalists who say "this is what I think, and this is my real
evidence". Also, I like the reference and the link to George
Orwell's excellent essay - which still is not properly quotable
in Great Britain and the USA because of totally insane
Of course, we as journalists bear
responsibility for what we put out in the world. Relying on readers to
navigate the maze of buzzwords, jargon and heavy-handed conventions is
simply unfair, not to mention unrealistic.
In considering the news crisis in
Trumplandia, I have found myself returning over and over again to
George Orwell’s “Politics
and the English Language.”
And this is a recommended article, though I would have like it better
if the press had been described in terms I recognize, instead of as
"objective press" etc. which really is the first time I have
met these terms in three decades (and I read more of the press than the
vast majority does).
Bannon?: Racist, Islamophobic Breitbart Leader Consolidates Power in
Trump White House
The third item is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!:
This starts with the following
President Trump took the unprecedented
step of giving Bannon a full seat on the "principals committee" of the
National Security Council last week. Bannon has emerged as one of the
most powerful figures in the White House. On Tuesday, The New York
Times ran an editorial posing the question "President Bannon?" The
Times wrote, "We’ve never witnessed a political aide move as brazenly
to consolidate power as Stephen Bannon—nor have we seen one do quite so
much damage so quickly to his putative boss’s popular standing or
pretenses of competence." For more, we speak with Josh Harkinson,
senior reporter at Mother Jones. His recent article is headlined "The
Dark History of the White House Aides Who Crafted Trump’s 'Muslim Ban.'"
The introduction on Democracy Now! is
normally copied by me in my reviews, simply because it usually gives a
good introduction of the interviews in it.
There is this about Bannon:
AMY GOODMAN: (...) Bannon is the former head
of Breitbart News, a site that’s been described as online haven for
white nationalists. He left the job in August to run Trump’s campaign.
Last week, Trump took the unprecedented step of giving Bannon a full
seat on the principals committee of the National Security Council.
And Trump deleted the director of
national intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
from regular attendance to the National
Security Council (which is quite odd).
Here is Harkinson on Bannon:
JOSH HARKINSON: Well, I think, at heart,
Stephen Bannon is a nationalist who—you know, he turned Breitbart News
into an empire that is really one of the preeminent platforms for the
alt-right, as he told us back this last summer. And, you know, he is
deeply opposed to Islam, on many levels. But, you know, he is basically
a demagogue in the mold of those from past eras. And I, you know, think
he’s risen to power within the Trump administration based on his
ability to inflame racial fears and xenophobia.
Quite possibly so, but I don't know enough
about Stephen Bannon
Here is more about Bannon:
AMY GOODMAN: So, let me ask you about this
most recent information that has come out, that he has been made a
principal on the National Security Council, what exactly this means,
this man who came out of Goldman Sachs, who was the head of Breitbart
News, a news haven for white supremacists and nationalists. What is he
doing on the National Security Council? (..)
JOSH HARKINSON: Right. This is really
unprecedented. You know, David Axelrod, Obama’s political adviser,
sometimes sat in on these meetings, but he had nothing close to a
permanent position. And Bannon’s elevation, while these other officials
are demoted, really tells us that he’s going to be playing a key role
here on this council, which should be deeply disturbing, not just
because of his radical ideology, you know, his views on Islam, but also
because he’s a political operative, and his MO has always been to use
policy as an arm of politics, his arm of winning over his adversaries.
And so, it’s scary. I mean, he could start a war just for political
Again I say: quite possibly so. Here is
the last bit that I'll quote from this article:
AMY GOODMAN: I’d like to turn to comments
Bannon also made about the media in that interview last week with The
New York Times, where he said, "The media should be embarrassed
and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while."
Bannon added, "I want you to quote this. The media here is the
opposition party. They don’t understand this country. They still do not
understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States."
Very quickly, Josh?
JOSH HARKINSON: Yeah, so this war against the
media is, you know, a classic authoritarian tactic, discrediting the
people who tell you what’s going on in the world, questioning their
authority to give you the facts, which causes basically the people to
not know what’s up and what’s down, to question, you know. And so, then
that allows him to do whatever he wants, with impunity, ultimately.
I agree with that and this is a
Instructs Reporters to Cover Trump Like Any Other Authoritarian
The fourth item is by Kali Holloway on AlterNet:
This starts as follows:
Reuters editor-in-chief Steve
Adler sent a letter to staff Wednesday with recommendations on how to
cover the Trump administration. The message suggests that the news
organization’s journalists should report on Trump’s actions the same as
they do other authoritarian regimes around the world.
I say! I did not know this, and since
Reuters is a large and international news organization, I think this is
also rather interesting. Here is a link to Steve Adler's
This is from the beginning:
12 days of the Trump presidency (yes, that’s all it’s been!) have been
memorable for all – and especially challenging for us in the news
business. It’s not every day that a U.S. president calls journalists
“among the most dishonest human beings on earth” or that his chief
strategist dubs the media “the opposition party.” It’s hardly
surprising that the air is thick with questions and theories about how
to cover the new Administration.
I take it that is simply all true. And this
is from the ending of the article:
--Never be intimidated, but:
--Don’t pick unnecessary fights or make
the story about us. We may care about the inside baseball but the
public generally doesn’t and might not be on our side even if it did.
--Don’t vent publicly about what might
be understandable day-to-day frustration. In countless other countries,
we keep our own counsel so we can do our reporting without being
suspected of personal animus. We need to do that in the U.S., too.
--Don’t take too dark a view of the
reporting environment: It’s an opportunity for us to practice the
skills we’ve learned in much tougher places around the world and to
lead by example – and therefore to provide the freshest, most useful,
and most illuminating information and insight of any news organization
This is our mission,
in the U.S. and everywhere. We make a difference in the world because
we practice professional journalism that is both intrepid and unbiased.
When we make mistakes, which we do, we correct them quickly and fully.
When we don’t know something, we say so. When we hear rumors, we track
them down and report them only when we are confident that they are
factual. We value speed but not haste: When something needs more
checking, we take the time to check it.
I like all of that, though I cannot
say how well these fairly obvious rules have been obeyed, and also
Reuters mostly - to the best of my knowledge - provides basic factual
news, but the interpretative articles (if that is the right name) are
generally not written by journalists from Reuter, again to the best of my knowledge.
The last of the above two last dotted links is recommended, simply
because it is by the chief-editor of Reuters and because it makes sense.
5. Worse Than We Imagined: Trump’s
Mission Creep Takes Giant Leap Forward
The fifth item today is by Bill Moyers and Michael Winship on Common
This starts as follows:
The smell of a coup hung over the White
House this past weekend, like the odor of gunpowder after fireworks on
the Fourth of July.
In these first few days of the Trump
administration we have witnessed a series of executive orders and other
pronouncements that fly in the face of the republic’s most fundamental
values. But Friday’s misbegotten announcement of a ban on refugees from
Syria and a 120-day
ban on refugees from seven Muslim nations defies reason, pandering
to a segment of the population festering with paranoia and rage.
Yes, I mostly agree. And there is this on
president Trump - and he is the president of the USA, but I will not
write a big "P" for reasons partially indicated here:
The president’s decree on immigration is
the act of a self-assumed Caesar — a Peronista strongman, wielding
power like a blunt instrument with no regard for the short- or
long-term consequences on fellow human beings or other nations. The
courts have countered him for the moment on some provisions, but the
stay is temporary. And Trump will soon be replacing
more than 100 federal judges, all in his image, no doubt, like
mannequins in a store window.
I agree Trump is much like "a self-assumed Caesar", with the
addition that he lacks all intellectual talents that Julius
Caesar did have (and Trump is not stupid, though he is mad, according to
three professors of psychiatry, myself, and many other
psychologists and psychiatrists).
Then there is this:
Post columnist Ruth Marcus got it right: “You don’t have to
disagree with Trump’s policies to be rattled to the core by his
unhinged behavior. Many congressional Republicans privately express
concerns that range from apprehension to outright dread.” Which raises
another question: Why do GOP lawmakers remain so publicly cowed? Is it
because they cherish their party’s power more than they do America’s
I agree Marcus had it more or less right,
and my own answer to the last question is an emphatic yes
for most "GOP lawmakers", though I agree this might change a bit if
more come to see that Trump
is not sane. (Same reference as above.)
And there is this on Stephen Bannon:
Now the new president has placed his
spooky senior counselor Steve Bannon on the National Security Council.
This is a man so far to the right he called William Buckley’s National
Review and William Kristol’s The Weekly Standard “both
left-wing magazines.” During his reign as chief of Breitbart
News he tolerated racist and sexist attitudes, and announced
to a real journalist, “I am a Leninist.” He went on to explain:
“Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal, too. I want to
bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s
I don't know Kristol's magazine, but
someone who says William
Buckley (<- Wikipedia) was a leftist or that the
National Review was a "leftwing magazine" either is in the crazy far
right or is bullshitting
Then there is this:
With all this instability, it’s not
surprising that not only progressives but also thoughtful conservatives
already have had it with the president. Here’s neo-con
Eliot Cohen in The Atlantic: “Trump, in one spectacular
week, has already shown himself one of the worst of our presidents, who
has no regard for the truth (indeed a contempt for it), whose
patriotism is a belligerent nationalism, whose prior public service lay
in avoiding both the draft and taxes, who does not know the
Constitution, does not read and therefore does not understand our
history, and who, at his moment of greatest success, obsesses about
approval ratings, how
many people listened to him on the Mall and enemies. He will do
much more damage before he departs the scene, to become a subject of
horrified wonder in our grandchildren’s history books.”
As it happens, I completely agree
with Eliot Cohen, though I am not at all a neo-con. Then again,
I do not know how many "thoughtful conservatives" there are.
Here is the last bit that I'll quote from
Ladies and gentlemen, we are already in
the midst of a national emergency. The radical right — both religious
and political — have been crusading for 40 years to take over the
government and in Trump they have found their rabble-rouser and
enabler. They intend to hallow the free market as infallible, outlaw
abortion, Christianize public institutions by further leveling the
“wall” between church and state, channel public funds to religious
schools, build walls to keep out brown people and put “America first”
on the road to what Trump’s nominee to be Secretary of Education, Betsy
DeVos, has called “God’s
You can see in the chaos a pattern: the
political, religious and financial right collaborating to move America
further from the norms of democracy with the triumph of one-party,
one-man rule. There’s never been anything like it in our history.
Yes indeed: I quite agree. And
this is a strongly recommended article.
6. Whatever happened to
the public intellectual?
The sixth and last item today is by David Herman on the New Statesman:
This starts as follows (and I do not
know who David Herman is, for he is not among the four listed in
Wikipedia, but he is probably a British philosopher):
Philosophy used to be a staple of
television and the newspapers. Not any longer. So where did all the
The Oxford philosopher Derek Parfit died on New Year’s Day. He was one
of the leading thinkers of his generation, yet his death was not widely
reported outside the obituary pages of the broadsheets. The contrast
with the response to John Berger’s death the following day is striking.
Soon after Berger died, a number of pieces appeared on the Guardian
and New Statesman websites, and there were tributes on the
BBC’s News at Ten, Newsnight and Today
Parfit was an outstanding philosopher.
However, few people outside academic philosophy could name one of his
books. Perhaps more telling, how many could name any British
Hm. I have been very seriously
following philosophy since
the late 1960ies, indeed mostly in Great Britain and the USA, and that
because I am a scientific
realist with strong tastes in analytical philosophy and logic. And while I
agree that there was considerably more philosophy in the
newspapers and on TV in (especially) the 1970ies, it seems to
me to be an exaggeration to speak of it as "a staple" - but
OK, people do use words differently.
Then there is this:
Has academic philosophy lost its place
in mainstream British culture? If so, who is to blame? Is it the fault
of academic philosophers themselves, or the media, or are there other
changes going on in British culture?
Not so long ago philosophers such as
Berlin, A J “Freddie” Ayer, Bernard Williams and Anthony Quinton were
well-known public figures and received due recognition. Berlin was
knighted in 1957, Ayer in 1970, Williams in 1999. The dates are
significant. These years, from the 1950s to the 1990s, mark a golden
age of British academic philosophy in mainstream culture.
I don't quite agree (and have no
personal financial interest in British or in any other
philosophy, quite unlike all academically employed
philosophers) but I am a genuine philosopher, who studied
it for 50 years, and who was refused (illegally) his M.A. in
philosophy in 1988 because I was not a Marxist, because
I was pro science,
and because I had created a student-party that opposed Marxism and
anti-science that were both current and very much leading in
the University of Amsterdam from 1971 till 1995, both
politically and intellectually. 
As to academic philosophy "in mainstream British culture": I am
sorry but philosophy is not even a science; most British
philosophers are not scientists; and I do not see what
they could bring that was of much rational interest anyway (and
I have read most leading British philosophers of the 20th
Century, and for me almost only Bertrand Russell
Ramsey had first-class minds and indeed also knew a lot
Then there is this:
From the 1960s onwards, it was
television that brought leading philosophers into our living rooms. In
1978 the BBC broadcast 15 hour-long interviews with leading
philosophers called Men of Ideas. Bryan Magee interviewed the
likes of Berlin, Ayer and Noam Chomsky.
Yes, and I saw most of the Men of Ideas
(<-Wikipedia), though much
later, namely in 2009, when I first had fast internet. They were not
bad, although the format they were served in was quite ugly. I also saw
most of a similar series by Bryan Magee
(<-Wikipedia) in 1987, called The Great
Philosophers (<-Wikipedia). 
Then there is this:
Today this seems like something from a
bygone age. According to David Edmonds, the editor of the recently
published essay collection Philosophers Take on the World
(Oxford University Press): “The idea that you would now commission
someone to interview Freddie Ayer in an armchair for 45 minutes with no
sound effects, no cutaways, is almost inconceivable.”
Perhaps an interview of 45 minutes with a
leading intellectual is at present "almost
inconceivable" (although I don't see why,
except that TV must be addressed at folks
with an IQ that is a bit below 100, so as to please the majority), but
the two series that Magee made were the only programs about serious
academic philosophy between 1970 and 2010 that I am aware
of. (So the "bygone age"
seems more similar to the present age than it does to Herman - but then
again, I agree that I never had a TV since 1970, since I felt I
had better things to do than being bored by that, so I may
have missed some that Herman didn't miss.)
Here is the last bit that I'll quote from
John Gray is more critical. “No
intelligent general reader follows academic philosophy today,” he
argues. He points to the huge changes that have transformed the
subject’s status. First, he says, there was the Second World War. “As a
result of the war, philosophers like Berlin, Hampshire and H L A Hart
had a much larger experience of the world that involved making
difficult choices and gave them what Berlin called ‘a sense of
reality’.” Hampshire had interrogated Nazi war criminals and Hart
worked at Bletchley Park. “They were brought close to moral and
political realities in a way that subsequent generations were not.”
Second, Gray says, there has been a
shift in “the social position of academics, especially academic
philosophers. A previous generation had contact with leading figures
in the worlds of culture and politics . . . That’s gone
today. Academics have become marginal.”
I mostly agree with John
Gray (<-Wikipedia) about this. And no, I also don't
think that "the modern viewers" miss much by not seeing
academic philosophers for - once again - most are not
scientists, and most know little of real science.
P.S. Feb 3, 2017: I forgot yesterday to include the Notes. Here they are:
 I don't mind different perspectives in different papers, indeed als if I don't agree with them, simply because toleration of most perspective is one of the bases of
a legal democracy. Also, getting a different perspective may sharpen one's own.
 Once again: The Dutch universities were in an absolutely unique position in the whole world in that they had been formally given to the students in 1971 by a parliamentary decision
(the so-called Veringa-law). This was probably motivated by fear that
else similar things might have happened in Holland as did in Paris
three years before, but I don't know.
In practice, this meant that all the Dutch universities were
governed like the Dutch state: By "a government" that usually consisted
from professional politicians who also were academics (and in the
University of Amsterdam always from the "Social Democrats" aka PvdA),
that was formally ruled by a parliament on the university-level that in
Amsterdam was between 1971 and 1995 always ruled by the ASVA, that from
1972 till 1983 was again always ruled by "communist" students, who were
members from the communist party (but not and never real
communists like my parents were), and who strongly, corruptly and
deviously collaborated with "the government" of the University of Amsterdam, and indeed this pattern was repeated for all the
faculties of all of the universities: There too were governed by "a
parliament" and by "a government" that usually consisted of professors and lecturers.
There were every year votes for everybody who worked for the
university, and for both levels: That of the university and that of the
faculties, and these votes were organized by the rule that (i) everyone
who worked in the university - toilet cleaners, secretaries, lecturers,
and professors all got one vote, and (ii) every student got one vote.
This meant that the students, who vastly outnumbered the staff, always
had the absolute majority, which meant in the University of Amsterdam
that in fact the Dutch Communist Party mostly ruled the University from
1972 till 1983 (as has been admitted also by various former members of
it, in a booklet published in 1991 - "Alles Moest Anders", in Duch - after the collapse of the Soviet Unions, and after the collapse of the Dutch Commumist Party).
And this was the structure of all the Dutch universities from 1971 till 1995, when another parliamentary act (of the real national Dutch parliament) completely destroyed the structure, and gave all
the power to "the government", which meant in the case of the
University of Amsterdam to the three or so members of the "Social
Democrats" and their bureaucracy.
And in fact I also saw these first in 2009 and 2010. Then again, while
I do not know who the author of the article - David Herman - is, I do
know some about Bryan Magee, and indeed read two books by him, and
these make it quite clear that Magee was an outsider in British
philosophy, both in terms of his own philosophical choices and in terms
of his career: He quite consciously worked for the BBC because this
paid appreciably better than professors were paid. And since Magee's
two series with interviews with living philosophers are the only ones I know and the only ones Herman mentions, I infer that either series was much more due to Magee's choice of career
- that was quite abnormal - than that it was "a staple" on British television.