10 January 2018

And Now Comes the Internet Censorship

"A credibility trap is when the regulatory, political and/or informational functions of a society have been so compromised by a long term, generalcorruption that they cannot address any meaningful reform without implicating, at least incidentally, themselves.  The status quo has at least tolerated the corruption and fraud, if not profited directly from it, and most likely continues to do so.  The power brokers have become susceptible to various forms of blackmail.  And so a failed policy is sustained long after it is seen to have failed, because admitting failure is not an option for those who hold positions of advantage and power."


"One of the primary characteristics of narcissists is their exaggerated sense of entitlement.  It's hardly surprising then that so many politicians somehow think they deserve to game the system.  After all, from their self-interested perspective, isn't that what the system is for?  In their heavily self-biased opinion, if they want something, by rights it should be their's.  So, nothing if not opportunistic, they take from public and private coffers alike whatever they think they can get away with. And given their grandiose sense of self, they're inclined to believe they can get away with most anything."

Leon F. Seltzer

"Representative institutions no longer represent voters. Instead, they have been short-circuited, steadily corrupted by an institutionalized system of bribery that renders them responsive to powerful interest groups whose constituencies are the major corporations and wealthiest Americans. The courts, in turn, when they are not increasingly handmaidens of corporate power, are consistently deferential to the claims of national security."

Sheldon Wolin, Inverted Totalitarianism

"The crash has laid bare many unpleasant truths about the United States. One of the most alarming, says a former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, is that the finance industry has effectively captured our government—a state of affairs that more typically describes emerging markets, and is at the center of many emerging-market crises. If the IMF’s staff could speak freely about the U.S., it would tell us what it tells all countries in this situation: recovery will fail unless we break the financial oligarchy that is blocking essential reform."

Simon Johnson, The Quiet Coup

"On Wall Street he and a few others—how many?— three hundred, four hundred, five hundred?—had become precisely that—  Masters of the Universe."

Tom Wolfe, Bonfire of the Vanities

The pain of remaining human—  when the increase in wickedness unleashes the age old enemy, and makes the love of most grow cold.

How does the status quo deal with an erosion of confidence in their actions in the late stage of a cycle of looting and abuse, caught as they may be in a credibility trap?

This is the point where we seem to be, when the facade of benevolent justice starts slipping away, and the looting and self-dealing becomes all too visible, on brazen display in scandal after scandal,  special privileges and bailouts, and historic inequality.

And if there is an erosion of confidence, it surely cannot be due to anything that the best among us have done.  They are wise and benevolent, heavily burdened by the task of guiding the public.

So there must be some foreign enemy or internal dissidents, actively trying to  cause people to lose confidence in their rule.

When you run out of credible answers, one solution is to stop people from asking the questions.   An offer of the bullet or the bribe is often effective for those with significant profiles and platforms.  It is being used now more than you may know.   The pressure on the well-informed to be silent is presently palpable.  The quiet sacrifice of many people of conscience is under-appreciated.

A broader and more general use of censorship is sufficient for the rest.   Concentration of mainstream media ownership in a few powerful hands is soon followed by increased and unilateral censorship powers over the wider variety of remaining independent sources.

There is a case to be made for restricting certain types of public speech, especially that which incites the public to violent prejudice. But that case must be narrow, highly transparent, and exceptional and infrequent. Unfortunately in times of general corruption measured restraint becomes abusive, widely and secretly used to silence any form of truth-telling and dissent from the established narratives and powers.

And it should be noted that in the cases of the most extreme examples of hate speech in history, their power was not in their eloquence, or the powerful logic of their arguments, of which they had neither.  If we look at them now their language is crude and their ideas vulgar, false, and repugnant..

No, their power was that no one was able to speak out freely against them, to dissent from their obvious misstatements and errors, that were repeated endlessly without anyone who could effectively stand against them.  And the people followed those lies into the abyss.

The Intercept
First France, Now Brazil Plan to Empower the Government to Censor the Internet
By Glenn Greenwald

Yesterday afternoon, the official Twitter account of Brazil’s Federal Police (its FBI equivalent) posted an extraordinary announcement. The bureaucratically nonchalant tone it used belied its significance. The tweet, at its core, purports to vest in the federal police and the federal government that oversees it the power to regulate, control and outright censor political content on the internet that is assessed to be “false,” and to “punish” those who disseminate it. The new power would cover both social media posts and entire websites devoted to politics...

Tellingly, these police officials vow that they will proceed to implement the censorship program even if no new law is enacted. They insist that no new laws are necessary by pointing to a pre-internet censorship law enacted in 1983 – during the time Brazil was ruled by a brutal military dictatorship that severely limited free expression and routinely imprisoned dissidents...

The move to obtain new censorship authority over the internet by Brazilian police officials would be disturbing enough standing alone given Brazil’s status as the world’s fifth most populous country and second-largest in the hemisphere. But that Brazil’s announcement closely follows very similar efforts unveiled last week by French President Emmanuel Macron strongly suggests a trend in which government are now exploiting concerns over “Fake News” to justify state control over the internet...

Beyond having one’s political content forcibly suppressed by the state, disseminators of “Fake News” could face fines of many millions of dollars. Given Macron’s legislature majority, “there is little doubt about its ability to pass,” the Atlantic reports.

Both Brazil and France cited the same purported justification for obtaining censorship powers over the internet: namely, the dangers posed by alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election. But no matter how significant one views Russian involvement in the U.S. election, it is extremely difficult to see how – beyond rank fear-mongering – that could justify these types of draconian censorship powers by Brasília and Paris...

So for those who are comfortable with the current French leader overseeing a censorship program in conjunction with courts to censor “Fake News” from the internet, do you trust the Trump administration to make those determinations? Do you trust Marine Le Pen?...

Read the entire essay at The Intercept here.

Given the growth of intolerance, a surprisingly large segment of the public will not only tolerate, but may welcome censorship.  They wish to escape the pain of thinking, of being human.  They wish to smash all the mirrors that reflect their growing inhumanity.

"It seems that under the overwhelming impact of rising power, humans are deprived of their inner independence and, more or less consciously, have given up establishing an autonomous position toward the emerging circumstances.

The fact that the foolish person is often stubborn must not blind us to the fact that he is not independent. In conversation with him, one virtually feels that one is dealing not at all with him as a person, but with slogans, catchwords, and the like that have taken possession of him.

He is under a spell, blinded, misused, and abused in his very being. Having thus become a mindless tool, the foolish person will also be capable of any evil and at the same time incapable of seeing that it is evil. This is where the danger of diabolical misuse lurks, for it is this that can once and for all destroy human beings.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“A true opium of the people is a belief in nothingness after death— the huge solace of thinking that for our betrayals, greed, cowardice, and murders that we are not going to be judged.”

Czesław Miłosz