The Dark Ages

Jonathan Cook:Can anyone still doubt that access to a relatively free and open internet is rapidly coming to an end in the west? In China and other autocratic regimes, leaders have simply bent the internet to their will, censoring content that threatens their rule. But in the “democratic” west, it is being done differently. The state does not have to interfere directly – it outsources its dirty work to corporations.trigger more text

As soon as next month, the net could become the exclusive plaything of the biggest such corporations, determined to squeeze as much profit as possible out of bandwidth. Meanwhile, the tools to help us engage in critical thinking, dissent and social mobilisation will be taken away as “net neutrality” becomes a historical footnote, a teething phase, in the “maturing” of the internet.

In December the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) plans to repeal already compromised regulations that are in place to maintain a semblance of “net neutrality”. Its chairman, Ajit Pai, and the corporations that are internet service providers want to sweep away these rules, just like the banking sector got rid of financial regulations so it could inflate our economies into giant ponzi schemes.

That could serve as the final blow to the left and its ability to make its voice heard in the public square.

It was political leaders – aided by the corporate media – who paved the way to this with their fomenting of a self-serving moral panic about “fake news”. Fake news, they argued, appeared only online, not in the pages of the corporate media – the same media that sold us the myth of WMD in Iraq, and has so effectively preserved a single party system with two faces. The public, it seems, needs to be protected only from bloggers and websites.

The social media giants soon responded. It is becoming ever clearer that Facebook is interfering as a platform for the dissemination of information for progressive activists. It is already shutting down  accounts, and limiting their reach. These trends will only accelerate.

Google has changed its algorithms in ways that have ensured the search engine rankings of prominent leftwing sites are falling through the floor. It is becoming harder and harder to find alternative sources of news because they are being actively hidden from view.

Google stepped up that process this week by “deranking” RT and Sputnik, two Russian news sites that provide an important counterweight – even if one skewed in its pro-Russia agenda – to the anti-Russia propaganda spouted by western corporate media. The two sites will be as good as censored on the internet for the vast majority of users.

RT is far from a perfect source of news – no state or corporate media is – but it is a vital voice to have online. It has become a sanctuary for many seeking alternative, and often far more honest, critiques both of western domestic policy and of western interference in far-off lands. It has its own political agenda, of course, but, despite the assumption of many western liberals, it provides a far more accurate picture of the world than the western corporate media on a vast range of issues.

That is for good reason. Western corporate media is there to shore up prejudices that have been inculcated in western audiences over a lifetime – the chief one being that western states rightfully act as well-meaning, if occasionally bumbling, policemen trying to keep order among other, unruly or outright evil states around the globe.

The media and political class can easily tap into these prejudices to persuade us of all sorts of untruths that advance western interests. To take just one example – Iraq. We were told Saddam Hussein had ties to al-Qaeda (he didn’t and could not have had); that Iraq was armed with WMD (it wasn’t, as UN arms inspectors tried to tell us); and that the US and UK wanted to promote democracy in Iraq (but not before they had stolen its oil). There may have been opposition in the west to the invasion of Iraq, but little of it was driven by an appreciation that these elements of the official narrative were all easily verified as lies.

RT and other non-western news sources in English provide a different lens through which we can view such important events, perspectives unclouded by a western patrician agenda.

They and progressive sites are being gradually silenced and blacklisted, herding us back into the arms of the corporate propagandists. Few liberals have been prepared to raise their voices on behalf of RT, forgetting warnings from history, such as Martin Niemoller’s anti-Nazi poem “First they came for the socialists”.

The existing rules of “net neutrality” are already failing progressives and dissidents, as the developments I have outlined above make clear. But without them, things will get even worse. If the changes are approved next month, internet service providers (ISPs), the corporations that plug us into the internet, will also be able to decide what we should see and what will be out of reach.

Much of the debate has focused on the impact of ending the rules on online commercial ventures. That is why Amazon and porn sites like Pornhub have been leading the opposition. But that is overshadowing the more significant threat to progressive sites and already-embattled principles of free speech.

ISPs will be given a much freer hand to determine the content we can can get online. They will be able to slow down the access speeds of sites that are not profitable – which is true for activist sites, by definition. But they may also be empowered to impose Chinese-style censorship, either on their own initiative or under political pressure. The fact that this may be justified on commercial, not political, grounds will offer little succour.

Those committed to finding real news may be able to find workarounds. But this is little consolation. The vast majority of people will use the services they are provided with, and be oblivious to what is no longer available.

If it takes an age to access a website, they will simply click elsewhere. If a Google search shows them only corporately approved results, they will read what is on offer. If their Facebook feed declines to supply them with “non-profitable” or “fake” content, they will be none the wiser. But all of us who care about the future will be the poorer.

Source Znet

Propaganda 2


Propaganda for beginners. Never a better time to to take note of the nature of the propaganda machine at election time when it’s in full swing. When its tactics become unguarded, blatant and raw.

Preamble on climate and connected issues Part 1.


Ideas around climate, access and public life with Peter Morton, engineer from Renfrew.

Remembering

A dynamic and tragic portrait of the life of Reddit co-founder and computer prodigy Aaron Swartz, a champion of open access who grew up to lead the internet community into a new age of data sharing and free speech.

Radical Imagination – Winning things

It is often forgotten that we need to be out to win things, not just to suffer. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will, says Frederick Douglass. What do we need to do to hurt what the bankers and neoliberals hold dear? What do we have to do to make the racists frightened again? What are our demands and what form should they take? We can not fight without an alternative, otherwise we are fighting to stay the same.

Protest is a tactic. This is a time for strategy. Freedom is the ability to set the terms of how you want to live. We have a history of winning things that grew out of small ordinary acts of ordinary people, that slowly but surely built our socialism, the direction we wanted to live. The Trumps of the world go out of their way and spend millions on hoping they can make us forget this fact. Because what neoliberals fear most is self determined communities. They know, more than us, once folk start to win things, no matter how small, they do not give them up easily.

We need to set out to win things and use our wins to build strategy, solidarity and forward thinking. Starting with the local

Radical Imagination Making news Building vision

Radical Imagination Making news Building vision

There are a ton of groups and individuals working on all sorts of projects out there. Do you ever wonder what they have in common? Are there coherent strands to this work, broader aims, coalitions, a bigger picture that directs any of this work?

If there is: Do you think its a good idea that it is carried out on Facebook? How do you reach out to a whole section of the population who do not use or have access or no interest in Facebook? Do you think the expanding of the, not for profit industrial complex, is helping to maintain the status quo? Do you think the Universal basic income might be something that could help free up the minds of those at the bottom rungs of society to allow them to be more innovative in building solutions and understanding of their own problems?

Have you ever wondered: Why most people who go under the term activist, are always to busy, and that many ordinary folk are sitting at home wondering what they should do? Is representative democracy working? What are we winning by it? Do you think we are obsessed with what technology can do and forgotten what it can’t do? Why we are informed and equate through the news, the plight of the poor, the asylum seeker, the mentally ill, the destitute, the unemployed, and never meet them?

What are the questions you would ask? Not just about the problems, but more about the solutions. Not just about the struggle but about our place within it. Not just about solving how to survive in the system, but practical solutions for changing it?

And the biggest question of all: How do we connect all this random activity to keeping the planet livable in the long term for human beings? If ever there was a time for convergence towards a collective idea it is now. If ever there was a time to put aside petty slights and find common ground it is now. If ever there was a time to put aside absolutes and to deal with pragmatic questions in the here-and-now, it is now. If ever there was the need to engage in a common project with an overarching narrative. it is now. If ever there was a time to engage in sensible conversation it is now.

Radical Imagination 2017

Making news Building vision

EU Should we stay or should we go?

Audio: 1:31:52

https://archive.org/details/EUDiscussion

Info:

Discussion around the EU (European Union) Referendum:

Recorded 16th June at 7pm Govanhill Trinity Church Hall

Govanhill Southside Exchange – SHOULD WE STAY OR SHOULD WE GO?

Poster:

Invited panelists from:

SNP, Left Leave, Green Party, Scotland Stronger in Europe, Podemos Spain
in Scotland, Global Justice

Issues to be discussed:

Liberty • Racism • Xenophobia • Brotherhood / Sisterhood • Democracy
Housing • Privatisation • Peace • Sovereignty • Doubt • Debt • NHS
Austerity • Geo politics • Human Rights • Health and Safety • Solidarity
Transport • The Economy • Food Security • Trade Unions

Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership • Freedom of Information

Facts or Fizz – Time for making your mind up!

Michael Albert: Lesser Evilism

Regarding the EU I think the question is what we do whether we are in or out. How does the opportunity help to change things for the better and for ordinary people? Michael Albert has a handle on the Clinton v Trump that would be useful in the EU debate.

Lesser Evilism

Chomsky’s view: Trump wins. His most virulent supporters become American Brownshirts. Climate deniers become policy makers. Inauguration becomes a death sentence for humanity. While Clinton is an imperial corporate savage, Clinton is also the lesser evil. So hold your nose, vote Clinton for the ten minutes it takes. Before and after, organize.

Joe’s view (Joe is a stand in name for many who hold this view): Clinton is despicable. A vote for Clinton is a vote for war. Hold your head high and vote for what you like or don’t vote at all. To waffle legitimates the Democratic party. To waffle aids empire. To waffle abets injustice. Lesser evilism sells out what is good.

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How might we evaluate this face off?

Chomsky assesses the difference between Trump and Clinton, adds concern for humanity, and arrives at a modest prescription. Vote Clinton in contested states. Organize before and after. Chomsky opposes U.S. imperialism, corporate domination, racism, and sexism. If he votes against Trump, does anyone seriously think Chomsky will slip slide into apologetics for injustice?

Joe lets warranted hostility to Clinton interfere with acknowledging that Trump being in the oval office would be much worse. Yet to perceive that simple fact would in no way deny Clinton’s evil, nor celebrate her as good. I have to assume Joe knows that some evils are worse than others – to deny that in general would be ridiculous. So Joe considers differential evil unimportant in this case. Why?

One possibility is that Joe thinks the evilness discrepancy is inconsequential because to do something other than vote for Clinton in contested states will do more to avoid greater damage. If so, okay, that is a tenable albeit not very persuasive view. After all, voting takes just a few minutes. But if Joe thinks that damage differences are inconsequential because he simply can’t bring himself to vote for Clinton because the pain to him would be too great, that is not tenable. (I leave aside here the argument that says Trump is actually the lesser evil. I’m not sure if the people saying this are just posturing, but if not, then their chance of being taken seriously by anyone involved in progressive movements is nil – and deservedly so.)

Returning to Joe, of course it is hard for a sensitive human being to vote for evil. What a horrible situation. But Chomsky knows what is wrong with Clinton. Chomsky is committed to fighting Clintonian style politics. Chomsky has invested incredible time, energy, and focus to taking on the Democratic Party and corporate America. Yet Chomsky indicates by his choice that the pain he would feel pulling a lever for Clinton is inconsequential when compared to the additional pain people throughout the U.S. and all over the world would feel were we to have to endure Trump as President. So, I wonder, why would Joe be unable to give ten minutes to casting a vote and then get on with his activism or other involvements without the slightest negative impact of having voted for Clinton? Chomsky has voted lesser evil over and over, and suggests others should follow that path as well, and having done so has had zero ill effects on his other involvements, other than, perhaps, great nausea on the nights in question.

Tom Hayden enters the debate. He says many good people really like Clinton (which is sadly true). On that basis, in sympathy with them, I choose to like her too, says Hayden (which is one of the most ridiculous rationales I have ever heard from a thoughtful and often admirable political commentator). Women benefit from a woman President, Hayden adds (which is also true, though it can be exaggerated), so lets celebrate Clinton’s nomination and support her vigorously. Celebrate the woman? That doesn’t follow. Celebrate the likely policies? That doesn’t follow. Celebrate that the country is ready for a woman president, only that makes sense.

I assume Hayden would much prefer Sanders as president. As Sanders’ nomination became a dimming prospect, I assume to help defeat Trump, Hayden decided to support Clinton. And I assume Hayden felt the only way to do that was by delivering a kind of excited support that any talk of Clinton being evil would compromise. Hayden is therefore at least publicly not pursuing lesser evilism. Joe could sensibly say Hayden is flirting with a slippery slope and, worse, that he is establishing such a slope that others may unknowingly (unlike Hayden) slide down.

More could be said about every aspect of the lesser evil face off, of course, but I hope you will pardon me if I note that to explore this too deeply is giving credibility to nonsense or, to avoid that, would have to become too psychological and motive focussed to remain civil.

I too feel inner disgust at the prospect of voting for Clinton, but I also see that succumbing to that disgust would elevate reflex above reason and personal comfort above social responsibility.

First, there is no sell out if one is openly clear about one’s reasoning and commitments. And second, if being true to oneself means you must ignore the immense additional pain and suffering that would mark the difference between a Trump victory as compared to a Clinton victory, then your self needs to develop a sense of empathy and justice, not posture behind left rhetoric.

Okay, but to move from the odd to the important, what about Sanders? Though Sanders’ situation is more complicated than Joe’s, Hayden’s, or Chomsky’s, I think essentially the same reasoning applies. For Sanders to call Clinton the lesser evil or, more to the point, for Sanders to constantly address what he doesn’t like and will continue to oppose in her agenda would make it virtually impossible for him to actively traverse the country giving rousing speeches about her virtues. So what can Sanders do, given that he wants Trump to lose?

On the one hand, Sanders can lie and say “Clinton is great, vote for her.” But I would agree with Joe that that would be a slippery slope for him and for many who have been drawn into social involvement by him. On the other hand, Sanders could continue to explain and reject what he believes is wrong with the government, with corporate rule, and with the Democrats and Clinton too, while he at the same time excoriates Trump and reaches out, as well, to Trump’s supporters with the truth about their situation and about Trump’s actual hostility to them and their needs. And, yes, based on all that, Sanders could still urge audiences to vote for Clinton in contested states, but to vote for Greens, or himself, or whoever, in safe states. This isn’t complicated. And it wouldn’t even be particularly hard within the contours of American politics because Clinton herself is likely to run more less this way. She will constantly emphasize that Trump is worse, not that she is wonderful.

But what would make Sanders taking this route convincing and what would cause Sanders supporters to not become passive or mired in Clintonism, but to instead remain passionate, aroused, and committed – voting for Clinton in contested states, but far more steadfastly and aggressively seeking to build a lasting movement for change in all states?

Likewise, what would prevent mainstream media from totally ignoring Sanders into oblivion? What would make his words during the campaign and the during Clinton’s administration compelling enough to keep his audiences large? What would help the support Sanders has galvanized grow steadily more astute and resolute all the way through the presidential campaign and into the subsequent Clinton administration? Here are some possibilities.

1. Sanders and the campaign could seek to arrive at its own platform, to be fought for not only at the convention, which is relatively minor, but also after the convention and into the campaign period, and then after the election and into the future. Optimally this could be a continually updated product of national discussion and exploration, not a top down inflexible delivery from above.

2. Sanders and the campaign could opt to create lasting organization to carry on. One possibility would be to set up a shadow government. Sanders could be its President…and then diverse activists could serve at all the other main positions, including Cabinet Secretaries, perhaps Senators, and so on. Sanders and his campaign could keep fund raising, no longer for the election process, but instead for the shadow government so it can pursue its program, battle the Clinton administration, and galvanize popular support for worthy change, while constantly, about every important government policy and situation, revealing what a government for the people would do, thereby continually growing support for positive aims.

3. Sanders and the campaign could move the campaign’s fund raising efforts even further than the above, from supporting his run, and then supporting the run of Sanders allies (which he has been doing for some time now), to supporting a shadow government (as proposed above), and then also supporting additional vehicles for what he has called a political revolution. His calls for funds could say, please give x for my campaign and our coming shadow government, give y for so and so’s campaign, and give z for this or that worthy movement or activist organization.

4. Sanders and the campaign could broaden and enrich his heretofore weak internationalism by traveling abroad to meet with worthy allies in other countries or to express solidarity with victims of U.S. supported imperial policies. Brazil could be an early destination. Greece too. Imagine Sanders speaking at and joining demonstrations against U.S. Military bases, or addressing immigration issues, or war and peace, again at major movement gatherings. Imagine he gives a galvanizing and inspiring speech at every stop. As but one example, at military bases around the world Sanders could speak about the needs of soldiers and of local communities and propose that such bases begin to benefit rather than diminish social good, for example, turning their energies to building inexpensive housing and sources of renewable energy for their hosts and not least for ex soldiers, all in place of endlessly squandering energy in nonsensical but corporation serving military bloat. Imagine not only Sanders giving such speeches and supporting demonstrations and gatherings, but other shadow government officials as well.

5. Sanders, the campaign, and then the shadow government could not only be a megaphone for inspiring analysis and vision, but also a touchstone for activism. Sanders has said over and over that neither he nor any other president could enact the political revolution he favors without millions of people organizing, including in the streets. Consistent with that correct insight, Sanders and his campaign and then the shadow government could call for diverse national campaigns – for example, for a higher minimum wage, for debt cancellation, against various trade policies, for a massive energy makeover, for military reduction and retooling, and on and on.

None of this has to diminish the number of votes Clinton receives much less raise the number of votes Trump receives. On the contrary, all of the above could do the opposite even as it builds organization, awareness, desire, and hope to fight on through Clinton’s presidency and into a better future.

As a first step, can we transcend the perspective that says beating Trump by having Clinton elected is one option, and fighting for real and lasting change and even for a new society, is another? The contrary truth is that with modest creativity, these ends can be simultaneously accomplished. Chomsky, Joe, and Hayden too could be on one team.

Website link

Norman Armstrong Philosophy, environment, access and bikes

Youtube    Vimeo

Discussions with folk who have worked and committed much of their time to community activism.

Grace Lee Boggs, said. “The most radical thing I ever did was to stay put”. If our interest is building movements we need to learn to stay put some of the time to see ideas through.

These videos will be about folk who work on the slow burn for the long term.

Radical Imagination Project