December 07, 2010

Goddamned Bastards

[Update: As a further measure of exactly where we are now, I have the following question: Are you ever sorry you missed the 1930s in Europe? Don't be.]

On the latest news concerning WikiLeaks, including the arrest of Julian Assange, I strongly recommend that you read Chris Floyd immediately: "Truth in Chains." Then you should read this related Floyd article.

Floyd covers several issues that I view as of critical importance and deserving of additional commentary. And there are some further considerations regarding WikiLeaks in general that I've been intending to address for a while.

Unfortunately, I'm going through an especially bad period right now health-wise. I hope it will pass in another several days. So all that will sadly have to wait at least until the end of the week. (Several people have written about my last post. I apologize for my delay in responding, but that too will have to wait a few days. In the meantime, many thanks for your kindness, and my immense gratitude to those who have so generously made donations.)

I'll be back as soon as possible. There are some issues I'm especially eager to discuss. The recent developments concerning WikiLeaks and Assange in particular fill me with immense rage, and they also cause me profound sadness. I'm not in the least surprised that the murderous bastards who rule us and much of the rest of the world are so intent upon destroying him and WikiLeaks, as all my writing on WikiLeaks has made clear from the beginning. They perceive all too clearly the very significant threat WikiLeaks represents.

Still, to see the vicious motherfuckers pursue destruction and death with such grisly, insatiable, bloodthirsty determination ... it's the stuff of nightmares. As Floyd remarks, the nightmare is our life, as it has been for some time:
WikiLeaks will doubtless try to struggle on. And Assange says he has given the entire diplomatic trove to 100,000 people. By dribs and drabs, shards of truth will get out. But the world’s journalists – and those persons of conscience working in the world’s governments – have been given a hard, harsh, unmistakable lesson in the new realities of our degraded time. Tell a truth that discomforts power, that challenges its domination over our lives, our discourse, our very thoughts, and you will be destroyed. No institution, public or private, will stand with you; the most powerful entities, public and private, will be arrayed against you, backed up by overwhelming violent force. This is where we are now. This is what we are now.

December 04, 2010

Killing WikiLeaks, and Making Collaborators of Us All

First, Amazon forbade WikiLeaks the use of its servers. Now, PayPal "has permanently restricted the account used by WikiLeaks." WikiLeaks won't be able to receive any donations via PayPal in future.

Coincidentally, I had recently been attempting to learn some of the details regarding precisely how Amazon attained its behemoth status online. Conservatives and "libertarians" devoted to the "free market" (and probably many contemporary liberals as well) doubtless believe Amazon's success is due solely to creative and marketing genius. Of course, that's a lie.

The very existence of the State means that certain groups and individuals will receive favored treatment, while those who are disfavored will be marginalized to varying degrees, or even prohibited from entering the market altogether:
From the first historic forms of the State, the State has always formed and will always form alliances with certain individuals and segments of society -- to which the government bureaucrats will provide favors and special dispensations, and to the severe disadvantage of those individuals and groups that are not so favored.
In fact, and to go to a still deeper level of analysis, the formation of the State itself means that certain interests have established their dominance over others:
Thus, it is not enough to say, as I myself did, that "the State has always formed and will always form alliances with certain individuals and segments of society," although that is also true. The more accurate statement, and a formulation that delves more deeply, is that the State would never have taken form at all, and it would not have been able to impose its rule, but for the existence of a class or group of individuals that crafted the State to their particular ends. Here, I am not concerned with evaluating whether those ends are good or bad (except for the fact that one may believe that domination and exploitation are always bad, as I do), but rather with identifying the basis on which the State is founded.
These ideas are developed further in "The State and Full Spectrum Dominance."

If you study the history of any industry in the United States -- from the railroads, to telephone companies, to steel and automobile companies -- you will find that the most successful companies are those which have received the most favorable treatment from the State. Sometimes it is "legal," in the form of regulations largely crafted by the regulated industries themselves (which is exactly what happened during the Progressive Era of the early twentieth century: "It was not a coincidence that the results of progressivism were precisely what many major business interests desired," Gabriel Kolko), subsidies and the like, or illegal, via bribes and other forms of payoffs.

So while I haven't yet gotten very far in my research on Amazon in particular, I know that favored treatment by the State must necessarily be involved. After several decades of reading about and studying this subject, I have yet to come across a single exception to this general rule. More significantly, given the nature of the State and its manner of operation, it simply isn't possible for any enterprise to become and remain notably successful (especially when it is as dominant as Amazon, for example) without becoming enmeshed in the State apparatus. It's possible that a company may escape more complex involvement with the State in its early years, but if a company maintains its dominance over a significant period of time, it necessarily must be the recipient of State favoritism. In the better case, such a company may be largely the passive recipient of such favoritism (in contrast to those who eagerly seek special treatment from a succession of government agencies and flunkies and will happily pay for it in any manner demanded), but such favoritism will always be present.

This is even more true given the incomprehensible, endless and endlessly complex regulations which control every area of our lives. (Consult an essay from over five years ago, "The Waiting Game," for a discussion of the extent of State control over our lives. Some formulations in that article trouble me now, and there are a few I would even reject, but I fully stand by the principal argument.) To be successful in the United States, you must necessarily collaborate with the State in innumerable and byzantine ways.

What I'm certain is true for Amazon is also true for PayPal, which is unquestionably the dominant service provider in its field. If the market were genuinely free, and if the State did not provide numerous advantages to PayPal (whether those advantages are sought after or not), it would not be able to maintain its sole dominance over the length of time it has.

Therefore, when WikiLeaks states, as it has about the decisions of both Amazon and PayPal, that those companies are acceding to the demands and pressures of the U.S. government, WikiLeaks' statement must necessarily be true. The success and dominance of these companies in the corporatist State mean it cannot be otherwise. And the State need not say much at all. Those who created and lead Amazon and PayPal are obviously not stupid, and they understand very well how the system works. Again, they could not be as successful as they are if they did not know how it works. If they want to survive in their current form, and if they wish to continue on their current level of success (and perhaps become even more dominant), they will do as the State demands. They will obey.

As I wrote in "We'd like his cooperation...," I have no doubt at all about what the U.S. government would like to do to Julian Assange, and very probably others involved with WikiLeaks as well. But people can be killed in a variety of ways, as humans have repeatedly demonstrated with nauseating imaginative capacity throughout history. Cutting off WikiLeaks' means of survival, be they internet access, funding or otherwise, is another way of seeking the death of those whom they wish to destroy. Make no mistake about the ultimate aim: the U.S. government -- and a number of other governments too, I'm sure -- want to kill WikiLeaks. If they can force enough people to obey their orders to cut off WikiLeaks' lifelines, they may well succeed in time.

One additional aspect of the operation of the corporatist-authoritarian State is especially critical, so I set it apart by itself for emphasis:
The corporatist-authoritarian State is designed to force all of us to become its collaborators. If you wish to survive in such a State, you either collaborate or your life becomes increasingly difficult. In the most extreme case, your non-cooperation means you will die.
In response to the Amazon denial of service to WikiLeaks, some people have decided to boycott that company. Amazon provides many advantages to the consumer (the huge variety of products, speed and reliability of service, etc.), but a person can find other outlets for the products he wants. It may be more difficult, but it's not impossible. Note how the impact of the associated cost has shifted: the loss to Amazon is undoubtedly very small (I can't imagine that such a boycott will come to represent a serious loss of revenue to the company), but the cost to the individual consumer may be considerable. In some cases, perhaps with regard to certain products needed on a mandatory schedule, the cost of using a non-Amazon service may be prohibitive.

I think all of this is almost certainly more true of PayPal. I've heard of other donation/payment services, but I've also read a number of complaints about them. Most of those complaints concern the availability of funds; since that availability is largely the point of such a service for the person or organization which asks for donations or sells goods, this may mean that PayPal is necessary for survival itself.

Allow me some personal notes. I've linked Amazon a number of times in the past, using the Amazon Associate Program links (which means I get a very small percentage of the purchase price for each item shipped). I won't do that in the future, and I won't link to Amazon at all. That's a negligible sacrifice for me; given my very small readership, the amounts I received through the Associate program were very small (in most months, the amounts have been so small that they don't even meet the minimum required for payment to me). I won't swear never to purchase anything from Amazon myself ever again; I can imagine a situation where I can't find what I need anywhere else. I would expect that to be very rare, but it might happen.

In my case, it's complicated because of my particular circumstances. My very bad health means that I'm almost entirely housebound. That, in turn, means that almost everything I get has to be delivered -- not just the occasional book or DVD, but groceries too. Once or twice a week (and sometimes less often these days), I'll walk to the grocery store a block away; it's mainly for the exercise, since I can't carry much now. But to do so is exhausting for me, and it now takes me about five times longer than it did just a few years ago. So ordering online is a necessity for me; unless kind friends and neighbors are willing to run errands (and asking for such favors constantly creates a different set of problems), I can't survive without it.

My health also means I'm unable to do anything other than the writing I try to do here, and even that has become increasingly sporadic over the last few years. As regular readers know, sometimes I'm in such bad shape that I can't write for months at a time. Other than the donations I receive through PayPal, I have no income at all. That's all I live on, and I barely manage to do that. I am profoundly grateful for the generosity of a number of readers; unfortunately, I must again note that my readership is painfully small. Hence, the amount I receive through donations is not all that much: enough for rent, food and basic bills, and some books, CDs and such -- but never anywhere close to enough for the kind of medical care I so badly need, and which I'll never be able to afford. I've known for a while that one of the results is that I'll die five or ten years before I would otherwise. If you think knowledge of that kind doesn't tend to drive you insane much of the time, you're very badly mistaken. In order to survive, I forbid myself to think about it. I don't always succeed.

I don't know of a reliable service for donations other than PayPal. If I refuse to use PayPal, I'll be without food and shelter in fairly short order. And that, as they say, will be that. Even though it's entirely possible I might die at any time now (a worsening heart condition that's not treated tends to lead in that direction), I also might survive another few years. There's more writing I'd like to do, if I can. So as desperately as I'd prefer not to use PayPal, I'll continue to use it for the moment. And sadly enough, I had been planning to ask for a few donations again in another week or two. Now that I've paid the December rent and basic bills, funds are beginning to run low again.

Given PayPal's action, a few points about that. If you have any suggestions about another service, please let me know. Also, if you continue to use PayPal, I think it lowers (or perhaps even eliminates) the fee that PayPal receives if you send the donation to me directly instead of using the donation button. You need to have a PayPal account to do that. If you have one, go into your account, and then simply send the donation directly to my email address for the PayPal account: arthur4801 at earthlink dot net. Some kind readers already do that, and I've been meaning to mention this issue for a while. Also, if you want to send a donation by old-fashioned mail, please write me for my address. Since I don't read email regularly any longer (too many nasty missives from extraordinarily nasty people), please put "Mailing address" in the subject line. I hadn't liked to do that in the past for several reasons, and sending donations by mail in my case isn't as simple as you might think. But I'll explain that to those who inquire.

The complications that I only allude to in my case result from the fact that in some crucial ways, I do not cooperate with the corporatist-authoritarian system that has now targeted WikiLeaks. If you've read a fair number of my articles, and if you read one like this in particular -- and then ask yourself what it would mean not to support a system like ours, which seeks to make us collaborators in our own destruction -- certain of my actions should become clear to you. It's not that hard to figure out. Please keep it to yourself, when you do. (As I was writing this, I remembered that I discussed in some detail how the victims are forced to participate in their own destruction several months ago: "Memo to the Victims: You Yourselves Will Pay for the Crimes of the Ruling Class.")

I've described some of my own thinking about the issues raised by the Amazon and PayPal decisions in part because I'm certain that many others are also grappling with these issues. And I see one benefit from the actions of Amazon and PayPal, as deeply horrifying as it is. It throws into stark relief the depth of the evil embodied in a system such as the one that now rules us. That system seeks to force all of us to collaborate not only in our own destruction, but in the destruction of all those we value. In such circumstances, we must withdraw our support in every we can. But if we wish to continue living, and if we are unable to relocate to another country, we cannot withdraw our support entirely. It may be that to breathe is to collaborate -- but degrees of collaboration, and therefore of guilt and responsibility, remain. To identify the different degrees of collaboration and their significance becomes a singularly crucial task.

I have no solution to this unspeakably terrible dilemma, but can only shed light on it to the extent I'm able. I am convinced that the first step in this journey is one I return to again and again: we must see evil for what it is, we must identify evil as evil.

The corporatist-authoritarian system that rules our lives desires nothing more than to see all those who would protest its true nature commit murder and suicide in slow motion. If such a system is not evil, then nothing ever was or ever will be.

December 02, 2010

P.S. They'll Lie About Everything

At the end of July, in the first part of my series about WikiLeaks, I discussed the specific manner in which WikiLeaks releases material it has been provided. It is crucial to appreciate the significance of the two-pronged method of release WikiLeaks utilizes.

One of the articles I excerpted noted (this concerned the Afghanistan documents, but the approach is the same for all of WikiLeaks' major releases in recent months):
In joining up with the Guardian, the New York Times and Der Spiegel to release the Afghan war logs, Wikileaks has sought to combine the impact of front-page news and analytic skills of specialist reporters with the radical transparency of publishing thousands of original documents.
I also referred to an unusually valuable article by Jay Rosen, who teased out this issue still more:
5. And just as government doesn’t know what to make of Wikileaks (“we’re gonna hunt you down/hey, you didn’t contact us!”) the traditional press isn’t used to this, either. As Glenn Thrush noted on
The WikiLeaks report presented a unique dilemma to the three papers given advance copies of the 92,000 reports included in the Afghan war logs — the New York Times, Germany’s Der Speigel and the UK’s Guardian.

The editors couldn’t verify the source of the reports — as they would have done if their own staffers had obtained them — and they couldn’t stop WikiLeaks from posting it, whether they wrote about it or not.

So they were basically left with proving veracity through official sources and picking through the pile for the bits that seemed to be the most truthful.
Notice how effective this combination is. The information is released in two forms: vetted and narrated to gain old media cred, and released online in full text, Internet-style, which corrects for any timidity or blind spot the editors at Der Spiegel, The Times or the Guardian may show.
Given the impact of WikiLeaks' releases during the intervening months, I emphatically repeat my evaluation of this strategy: it is bloody brilliant.

In terms of the issue I want to focus on here, note again that, in addition to releasing the documents to a small number of newspapers (the "old media"), WikiLeaks also releases the original material online.

It turns out, entirely unsurprisingly to those people who understand how this deadly game works, that the availability of the original material is critical. It also turns out that very, very few people are honest about what's in that material.

Enter Gareth Porter, who has consulted the original document relating to a U.S. claim that has delighted the warmongers. Porter writes:
A diplomatic cable from last February released by Wikileaks provides a detailed account of how Russian specialists on the Iranian ballistic missile program refuted the U.S. suggestion that Iran has missiles that could target European capitals or intends to develop such a capability.

In fact, the Russians challenged the very existence of the mystery missile the U.S. claims Iran acquired from North Korea.

But readers of the two leading U.S. newspapers never learned those key facts about the document.

The New York Times and Washington Post reported only that the United States believed Iran had acquired such missiles - supposedly called the BM-25 - from North Korea. Neither newspaper reported the detailed Russian refutation of the U.S. view on the issue or the lack of hard evidence for the BM-25 from the U.S. side.

The Times, which had obtained the diplomatic cables not from Wikileaks but from The Guardian, according to a Washington Post story Monday, did not publish the text of the cable.

The Times story said the newspaper had made the decision not to publish "at the request of the Obama administration". That meant that its readers could not compare the highly- distorted account of the document in the Times story against the original document without searching the Wikileaks website.

As a result, a key Wikileaks document which should have resulted in stories calling into question the thrust of the Obama administration's ballistic missile defense policy in Europe based on an alleged Iranian missile threat has instead produced a spate of stories buttressing anti-Iran hysteria.
Porter offers more detail, and I suggest you read it.

Those who have read my last two posts can see how this connects to one of my ongoing arguments about those who lead and direct the American Empire and their method of operation:
The United States seeks global hegemony. To justify its quest, the United States invents a series of terrifying threats, all of which, in one way or another, are alleged to be "existential" threats to our very survival. With almost no exceptions at all, the leaders of the American Empire concoct these threats out of nothing.

I now think I should have expressed this point more simply and directly. Perhaps I ought to have said:


The "they" includes not only virtually everyone in the national political class but their many eager courtiers, including the media.

To anyone who has paid even minimal attention during the last few decades -- and whose views are not fatally distorted by tribal political loyalties -- this is a mindnumbingly obvious point. The Clinton administration lied about its policy in Yugoslavia ("We have to stop a genocide!" -- except there wasn't one until we intervened), almost everyone lied and continues to lie about Iraq, almost everyone lies about Iran and has for years. The United States government has lied its way into every war it's ever fought: it's "The American Way of Doing Business."

And in "The Slaughter of the Diseased Animals," I described the pattern in these terms:
For a very long time, the United States government has specialized in the pattern pursued by Israel. The vastly more powerful nation wishes to act on a certain policy -- almost always territorial expansion, for purposes of access to resources, or to force itself into new markets, or to pursue the evil notion that economic and ideological success depend on brutality and conquest -- but a specifically moral justification for its planned actions does not lie easily to hand.

So the powerful nation embarks on a course designed to make life intolerable for the country and/or those people that stand in its way. The more powerful nation is confident that, given sufficient time and sufficient provocation, the weaker country and people will finally do something that the actual aggressor can seize on as a pretext for the policy upon which it had already decided. In this way, what then unfolds becomes the victim's fault.

The United States government has utilized this tactic with Mexico, to begin the Spanish-American War, even, dear reader, in connection with the U.S. entrance into World War II, most recently in Iraq, possibly (perhaps probably) with Iran in the future, and in numerous other conflicts. It's always the fault of the other side, never the fault of the United States itself. Yet the United States has always been much more powerful than those it victimizes in this manner.
In my last two posts -- here and here -- I addressed in detail the criticism that WikiLeaks has provided aid and support (either inadvertently or otherwise) to those who desire still more war. As the example analyzed by Porter shows, WikiLeaks itself has done nothing of the kind. I further submit that the same will be true in broad outline of every alleged justification the warmongers offer based on this or any other WikiLeaks material, for it is invariably true of every justification for war they have ever offered.

For the sake of precision, I note that I don't view the Russian analysis of the missile question as necessarily true, either. However, the cable itself certainly seems to make the Russian case far more persuasive. But as Porter demonstrates, the story as so gleefully reported by several major "news" outlets is profoundly distorted. It may simply be the case that we can't reach any final judgment. I should also add that discussions of this kind are "arguing about the intelligence" -- which is always a grave and terrible mistake. As I often state the point: never, ever argue about "intelligence" -- at least, never do so without also arguing the policy. In the case of Iran, I stated my own view several years ago: "So Iran Gets Nukes. So What?"

Many of those who distort and lie about what is in the WikiLeaks material, including declining to publish the full text of key documents -- perhaps, as in this instance, "at the request of the Obama administration" -- are sickeningly eager to provide supposed justifications for future conflict. Thus, the statement in my title should not be treated as a postscript, which was only my small attempt at irony. Rather, it should be the immovable initial premise from which all analysis of the ruling class and its deadly activities proceeds. I repeat it once again for emphasis: