May 28, 2019

   Crisis: The Mass Media + Chomsky on Democracy, the Green New Deal, and Nuclear War

“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous, than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”
  -- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.



1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from May 28, 2019

This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, May 28, 2019.

There will be more about computers and Ubuntu in Nederlog soon, but I am happy to announce that Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, that I installed in 2017, works again as it did before on May 24, and after 24 hours of misery.

And on May 23 I also got a working computer with 18.04 LTS (which is worse than 16.04 LTS because its Firefox also is a menuless horror that I refuse to use, but happily SeaMonkey is not, for it still has it menus and can be installed on 18.04), so I am at present - and after two weeks of struggling - in the possession of two more or less, though not yet quite decently working computers.

So today there is a more or less common Nederlog, where "common" is the style I developed in 2013.

1. Summary

This is a crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was until 2013:

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch, but since 2010 in English) and about the enormous dangers of surveillance (by secret services and by many rich commercial entities) since June 10, 2013, and I will continue with it.

On the moment and since more than three years (!!!!) I have problems with the company that is supposed to take care that my site is visible [1] and with my health, but I am still writing a Nederlog every day and I shall continue.

2. Crisis Files

These are four crisis files that are mostly well worth reading:

A. Selections from May 28, 2019:
1. The Mass Media Is Poisoning Us With Hate
Chomsky on The Undermining of Democracy
Chomsky on The Arrest of Assange
Chomsky on The Green New Deal
The items 1 - 4 are today's selections from the 35 sites that I look at every morning. The indented text under each link is quoted from the link that starts the item. Unindented text is by me:

1. The Mass Media Is Poisoning Us With Hate

This article is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

In “Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media,” published in 1988, Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky exposed the techniques that the commercial media used to promote and defend the economic, social and political agendas of the ruling elites. These techniques included portraying victims as either worthy or unworthy of sympathy. A Catholic priest such as Jerzy Popiełuszko, for example, murdered by the communist regime in Poland in 1984, was deified, but four Catholic missionaries who were raped and murdered in 1980 in El Salvador by U.S.-backed death squads were slandered as fellow travelers of the “Marxist” rebel movement. The techniques also included both narrowing the debate in a way that buttressed the elite consensus and intentionally failing to challenge the intentions of the ruling elites or the actual structures of power.

Yes indeed - and in fact this bit may be summarized by its ending: "The techniques also included both narrowing the debate in a way that buttressed the elite consensus and intentionally failing to challenge the intentions of the ruling elites or the actual structures of power."

And this in turn is to a large extent a matter of "personalizing" the news:

As if that was made by prominent public individuals (if these are not almost completely cut of from having a voice in the - mainstream - media, like Noam Chomsky), who are themselves projected as either lovable or hateable by the audience (which in turn is deemed sufficient to all other opinions associated with these loved or hated public personalities).

Here is some more:

“Manufacturing Consent” was published on the eve of three revolutions that have dramatically transformed the news industry: the rise of right-wing radio and Fox-style TV news that abandon the media’s faux objectivity, the introduction of 24-hour cable news stations, and the creation of internet platforms—owned by a handful of corporations— that control the distribution of news and information and mine our personal data on behalf of advertisers, political campaigns and the government. The sins of the old media, bad though they were, are nothing compared with the sins of the new media. Mass media has degenerated into not only a purveyor of gossip, conspiracy theories and salacious entertainment but, most ominously, a purveyor of hate.

Yes, I think that is correct, although I tend to think that the main loss since the 1990ies and 2000s is less due to the increase of hate as to the loss of any independent conception of factual truths: "The facts" are - now - simply what anyone thinks they are, independent of his or her intelligence, knowledge, information or anything else. Besides, this has been strenghtened a lot by - what seems to me - the almost universal adoption of aliases that cannot be checked by ordinary users of computers.

Here is some more:

The new media, Taibbi points out, still manufactures consent, but it does so by setting group against group, a consumer version of what George Orwell in his novel “1984” called the “Two Minutes Hate.” Our opinions and prejudices are skillfully catered to and reinforced, with the aid of a detailed digital analysis of our proclivities and habits, and then sold back to us. The result, Taibbi writes, is “packaged anger just for you.” The public is unable to speak across the manufactured divide. It is mesmerized by the fake dissent of the culture wars and competing conspiracy theories. Politics, under the assault, has atrophied into a tawdry reality show centered on political personalities. Civic discourse is defined by invective and insulting remarks on the internet. Power, meanwhile, is left unexamined and unchallenged. The result is political impotence among the populace.

Well... I more or less agree, but I do also have a comment: If so - and Taibbi does write a considerable amount of the truth - then what about the intellectual intelligence and the moral or ethical decency of large parts of the population? It seems to me as if either these have for the most part disappeared or else were never strong.

Here is the last bit that I quoite

The fact that on most big issues the two major political parties are in agreement is ignored. The deregulation of the financial industry, the militarization of police, the explosion in the prison population, deindustrialization, austerity, the endless wars in the Middle East, the bloated military budget, the control of elections and mass media by corporations and the wholesale surveillance of the population by the government all have bipartisan support. For this reason, they are almost never discussed.

Yes, I agree with this and this is a strongly recommended article.

2. Chomsky on The Undermining of Democracy

This article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! I abbreviated the title. It starts as follows:

As President Trump pulls out of key nuclear agreements with Russia and moves to expand the U.S. nuclear arsenal, Noam Chomsky looks at how the threat of nuclear war remains one of the most pressing issues facing mankind. In a speech at the Old South Church in Boston, Chomsky also discusses the threat of climate change and the undermining of democracy across the globe.

Yes, I agree - but I also had to abbreviate the long title. But I do in fact agree with Chomsky that the main dangers for human civilization now are: 1. nuclear war 2. climate change and 3. the undermining of democracy everywhere (by the internet, which 4. I regard as by far the best reason to expect neofascism, although Chomsky may not hold that position).

Also, this is the first of - in all - six interviews with Noam Chomsky on Democracy Now yesterday, of which I am reviewing three in this Nederlog.

Here is some more:

NOAM CHOMSKY: I want to make a couple of remarks below about the severe difficulty of maintaining and instituting democracy, the powerful forces that have always opposed it, the achievements of somehow salvaging and enhancing it, and the significance of that for the future. But first, a couple of words about the challenges that we face, which you heard enough about already and you all know about. I don’t have to go into them in detail. To describe these challenges as “extremely severe” would be an error. The phrase does not capture the enormity of the kinds of challenges that lie ahead. And any serious discussion of the future of humanity must begin by recognizing a critical fact, that the human species is now facing a question that has never before arisen in human history, question that has to be answered quickly: Will human society survive for long?

Well, as you all know, for 70 years we’ve been living under the shadow of nuclear war. Those who have looked at the record can only be amazed that we’ve survived this far. Time after time it’s come extremely close to terminal disaster, even minutes away. It’s kind of a miracle that we’ve survived. Miracles don’t go on forever.

Yes indeed: I agree with Chomsky that (i) the question at present about human civilization is: "Will human society survive for long?" and that (ii) at least in the short term of the next 10 or 20 years, the main risk is nuclear war, indeed (iii) in part because I also agree with Chomsky on the fact that humankind have rather miraculously survived several times already in the past 50 years.

And there is this:

Well, meanwhile, global warming proceeds on its inexorable course. During this millennium, every single year, with one exception, has been hotter than the last one. There are recent scientific papers, James Hansen and others, which indicate that the pace of global warming, which has been increasing since about 1980, may be sharply escalating and may be moving from linear growth to exponential growth, which means doubling every couple of decades. We’re already approaching the conditions of 125,000 years ago, when the sea level was about roughly 25 feet higher than it is today, with the melting, the rapid melting, of the Antarctic, huge ice fields.

Yes, I agree. And here is the nuclear danger:

Meanwhile, the Doomsday Clock of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists last January was set at two minutes to midnight. That’s the closest it’s been to terminal disaster since 1947. The announcement of the settlement—of the setting mentioned the two major familiar threats: the threat of nuclear war, which is increasing, threat of global warming, which is increasing further. And it added a third for the first time: the undermining of democracy. That’s the third threat, along with global warming and nuclear war. And that was quite appropriate, because functioning democracy offers the only hope of overcoming these threats.

Yes, I agree again, and this is a strongly recommended article.

3. Chomsky on The Arrest of Assange

This article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! I abbreviated the title. It starts as follows:

Attorneys for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange are vowing to fight his possible extradition to the United States following his arrest in London, when British police forcibly removed Assange from the Ecuadorean Embassy, where he had taken asylum for almost seven years. In April, Democracy Now!'s Amy Goodman spoke to Noam Chomsky about Assange's arrest, WikiLeaks and American power.

Yes indeed - and this is the second of six articles on Chomsky on yesterday's Democracy Now!

Here is some more:

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, the Assange arrest is scandalous in several respects. One of them is just the effort of governments—and it’s not just the U.S. government. The British are cooperating. Ecuador, of course, is now cooperating. Sweden, before, had cooperated. The efforts to silence a journalist who was producing materials that people in power didn’t want the rascal multitude to know about—OK?—that’s basically what happened. WikiLeaks was producing things that people ought to know about those in power. People in power don’t like that, so therefore we have to silence it. OK? This is the kind of thing, the kind of scandal, that takes place, unfortunately, over and over.

Yes indeed: I completely agree. Here is more (and the speaker is Chomsky):

After Lula’s—after he left office, a kind of a “soft coup” take place—I won’t go through the details, but the last move, last September, was to take Lula da Silva, the leading, the most popular figure in Brazil, who was almost certain to win the forthcoming election, put him in jail, solitary confinement, essentially a death sentence, 25 years in jail, banned from reading press or books, and, crucially, barred from making a public statement—unlike mass murderers on death row. This, in order to silence the person who was likely to win the election. He’s the most important political prisoner in the world. Do you hear anything about it?

Well, Assange is a similar case: We’ve got to silence this voice. You go back to history. Some of you may recall when Mussolini’s fascist government put Antonio Gramsci in jail. The prosecutor said, “We have to silence this voice for 20 years. Can’t let it speak.” That’s Assange. That’s Lula.

Yes, I agree. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

The other scandal is just the extraterritorial reach of the United States, which is shocking. I mean, why should the United States—why should any—no other state could possibly do it. But why should the United States have the power to control what others are doing elsewhere in the world?
You can ask yourself: Why is this accepted? So, in this case, why is it acceptable for the United States to have the power to even begin to give even a proposal to extradite somebody whose crime is to expose to the public materials that people in power don’t want them to see? That’s basically what’s happening.

Quite so, although part of the explanation is that the USA is the only country in the world which has - I believe - its troops stationed in 135 other countries (out of a rough total of 200 countries) in the world, often also since a long time. Anyway, this is a strongly recommended article.

4. Chomsky on The Green New Deal

This article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! I abbreviated the title. It starts as follows:

Supporters of the Green New Deal recently staged a nationwide tour to build support for the congressional resolution to transform the U.S. economy through funding renewable energy while ending U.S. carbon dioxide emissions by 2030. Democracy Now! spoke with Noam Chomsky about the Green New Deal and the lessons of the old New Deal in Boston in April.

Yes indeed. Here is some more:

NOAM CHOMSKY: First of all, I think the Green New Deal is exactly the right idea. You can raise questions about the specific form in which Ocasio-Cortez and Markey introduced it: Maybe it shouldn’t be exactly this way; it should be a little bit differently. But the general idea is quite right. And there’s very solid work explaining, developing in detail, exactly how it could work. So, a very fine economist at UMass Amherst, Robert Pollin, has written extensively on, in extensive detail, with close analysis of how you could implement policies of this kind in a very effective way, which would actually make a better society. It wouldn’t be that you’d lose from it; you’d gain from it.
So the basic idea is, I think, completely defensible—in fact, essential. A lot of the media commentary ridiculing this and that aspect of it are essentially beside the point. You can change the dates from 2030 to 2040, you can do a couple of other manipulations, but the basic idea is correct.

Yes, I quite agree. And here is a link to Robert Pollin. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

[Erik Loomis] makes an interesting point. He says every successful labor action has had at least tacit support of the government. If the government and the ownership classes are unified in crushing labor action, they’ve always succeeded. OK? Very significant observation. And in the 1930s, there was a sympathetic administration, for many reasons. But that combination of militant labor action—it was a very lively political period in many ways—and a sympathetic administration did lead to the New Deal, which greatly changed people’s lives.

Yes, I think I quite agree - and please note this is about the 1930ies. And this is a strongly recommended article.


[1] I have now been saying since the end of 2015 that is systematically ruining my site by NOT updating it within a few seconds, as it did between 1996 and 2015, but by updating it between two to seven days later, that is, if I am lucky.

They have claimed that my site was wrongly named in html: A lie. They have claimed that my operating system was out of date: A lie.

And they just don't care for my site, my interests, my values or my ideas. They have behaved now for 3 years as if they are the eagerly willing instruments of the US's secret services, which I will from now on suppose they are (for truth is dead in Holland).

The only two reasons I remain with xs4all is that my site has been there since 1996, and I have no reasons whatsoever to suppose that any other Dutch provider is any better (!!).
       home - index - summaries - mail