January 19, 2014

Open for the Day

I posted a lengthy, complex article late yesterday afternoon. I will say, setting modesty aside, that it is good. The essay concerns Obama's speech and certain patterns of thought that are instilled in most of us very early in life.

Following up on the latest hijinks with the tax folks (yes, it was the tax maniacs who swiped my bank account), I've reinstalled the PayPal link, but probably just for today. My PayPal account has been fine the last several days, and it should be fine on a Sunday. And I'd like to make it easier for anyone who might feel an overwhelming urge to make a donation. My bank charged me $170.00 in various fees in connection with the levy. So I'm out that much, plus the amount of the two bills that the small sum of money in the account was originally intended for. The grand total is over $300 in unexpected expense, on top of the fact that I was perilously close to broke to begin with.

So donations in any amount would be greatly appreciated. I'd like to at least be able to cover the unexpected levy expense, if possible. Many thanks, as always.

Are we having fun yet?

P.S. It remains the case that the mail is a very safe way to make a donation. If you want the details, please write me at arthur4801 at yahoo dot com. The cats and I would certainly welcome more snail mail penpals!

January 18, 2014

"Secret Information": Giving Up Your Life for a Vicious Lie

I. The damaged child, who is taught that cruelty and even violence are expressions of love

When I was 48 years old, I experienced what I found to be an unusually illuminating moment. I was reflecting on Alice Miller's work; more particularly, I was thinking again about one of her central themes: how the major authority figures in our lives -- most notably and most commonly our parents, during our earliest years of life -- instill in us the primacy of obedience to authority. This is training to which virtually all of us are subjected, with extraordinarily rare exceptions; this is why I refer to America as an "obedience culture." When we are children and ask our parents why we must obey -- and most children are strongly discouraged from asking such questions -- one very common explanation of the demand for obedience is no explanation at all. It consists of the claim that our parents possess "secret information" of which we have no knowledge and which, as children, we would have no means of understanding even if they were to share it with us.

A typical expression of the claim is: "You'll understand [why you must obey me] when you're older." If the parent is pressed for an actual explanation, the conversation will often deteriorate very quickly, finally ending in: "Just do it -- because I told you to!"

It is important to understand what is meant by such a claim of "secret information." The parent or other authority figure is not claiming the advantage of specialized knowledge -- she or he is not relying, for example, on the course of education required if the child were to be asked to perform a complex mathematical task, or to address a technical question of epistemology. Except for the unusual genius, children are never asked to do such things, and many (perhaps most) parents couldn't do them either, even when they're 70. The authority figure's claim is of an entirely different kind: the authority figure claims that the child must obey with regard to matters of common understanding -- when to go to bed, why the child can't go to a party on a school night, why the child must perform assigned household chores. Or, to use an example I've discussed in detail, why the child should not make it a regular practice to splash a lot of water all over the bathroom.

Matters of this kind are completely understandable to children, even to very young children. In my discussion of the water splashing example -- a condensed version will be found here, while the longer version is here -- I described different ways in which the parent could explain the problem in terms the child would easily understand: a wet floor can be dangerous, to the child himself and to others; wet floors and walls might be damaged, requiring repairs; wet towels will have to be replaced; and so on. If the child is engaged in an examination of these issues in a non-accusatory manner, he will be led to certain conclusions himself. As a result, he will adjust his behavior accordingly in the future, without the aid of absolute prohibitions that are to be obeyed in the absence of questioning and understanding.

But the splashing story is proudly volunteered by a mother -- and she offers no explanations of this kind. Instead -- and tragically, this is the pattern followed by most parents -- she tells the young boy that he did a "bad thing," and that he did so knowing that it was a "bad thing." The mother also tells the boy that she "was very disappointed," and that she "really didn't like what he did." In this way, the mother demands that the child behave in a certain way because of the parent's own needs and feelings. Those needs and feelings have nothing to do with the reality of the child's experience, just as they have nothing to do with the facts concerning the dangers of a very wet bathroom. In effect, the mother is demanding that the young child behave "properly" so that the mother herself will not be made unhappy. And the source of the unhappiness will be the child himself.

Because most adults have internalized these methods of control and manipulation -- and, which is far worse, because they view such methods as right -- the reality of the effects of such parental domination are largely inaccessible to them. For the child, the threat of the withdrawal of the parent's love is profoundly threatening. Although he may not be able to explain it explicitly (in the case of a very young child), the child is fully aware that he depends on the parent for survival and for life itself. If he makes his mother too unhappy, and if his mother therefore no longer loves him, what will happen to him? Like most children, he will do anything to make his mother happy. He will obey. Because the child senses that his life depends on his parents, he must believe something more. It would be intolerable to the child to believe that his parents intend to harm him and, in fact, most parents have rendered themselves unable to appreciate the harm they are inflicting. So the child must believe in his parents' goodness, and in their "good intentions."

Most parents engage in such manipulation in varying degrees. Let us state the lessons the mother is teaching the young boy in this example in a somewhat different form:

1. The young boy is learning that when he behaves in ways which might be undertaken in full innocence (Splashing water is fun! Some limits are necessary, but splashing water is fun!), he might nonetheless be guilty of being "bad," and of acting in ways that he knows are "bad." If this message is delivered to the child repeatedly (and such parents rarely restrict these methods to only one very delimited area), his chances of developing a healthy, positive view of himself are fundamentally undermined. If such lessons are delivered often enough over an extended period of time, those chances will be destroyed.

2. As a result, the child is learning to distrust himself on a basic level. He cannot trust himself to know what is "good" in terms of how he behaves or, as he gets older, in terms of what he thinks. He will have to wait for emotional signals from the relevant authority figures to know whether what he does or thinks is "good" or "bad," and then adjust his behavior or views accordingly.

3. Facts concerning the issue in question are entirely irrelevant; such facts are rarely if ever discussed. Instead, what matters are feelings and emotions -- not his own, since he can't trust those, but those of the authority figures. Since he cannot access the emotions of others directly, he will have to be constantly vigilant in seeking clues to their reactions, to determine whether his actions or opinions are met with approval or not. He is being taught how to manipulate others, just as his parents manipulate him.

4. The child is learning that these methods of control, domination and manipulation are expressions of love. Just as the child cannot doubt his parents' "good intentions," it is intolerable to think that his parents might not love him since he depends on them for survival. That is, and despite most parents' inability to appreciate the cruelty involved, the child is learning that cruelty is love. In those cases where parents inflict physical violence on a child (spanking, slapping and all other forms of physical abuse are never "okay"), and such violence remains distressingly common, the child is learning that violence is love. (Please note: one adult version of these beliefs is that bombing will bring the victims "freedom.")

I offer this further explanation of the consequences of these methods of control and of demanding obedience because it is critical to understand the immense scope of the damage that is inflicted on the child. On the deepest level, the child is being prevented from forming any genuine sense of self at all. The method of functioning he is being taught requires him to survive by constantly attempting to determine the reactions of others. In any conflict between his own views and those of certain authority figures, it is the views of the authority figures that will prevail.

Here is how I have summarized the effects of this kind of training:
These are the lessons we are all taught, and that only a very small number of people manage to resist successfully: to throttle any sign of a genuine, vital thought or feeling of our own; to obey the authority figures in our lives without question or hesitation; and to attempt to survive by making ourselves constantly aware of even the subtlest emotional signals from others, especially those whose favor we regard as crucial to our success. For this mode of functioning -- which is the mode of functioning of most people -- the facts relevant to any particular question or controversy do not matter. What matters, what is of life and death importance in psychological terms, is the view of the group(s) with which we have allied ourselves.
As this method of survival is constantly reinforced, the child will also be told that he must obey because his parent or other authority figure said so, and the parent or other authority figure will also proclaim that he has "secret information" which is denied to the child, and which he could not understand in any case. We can see the effects of this training in another way. Almost all of us, and this was certainly true in my case, view the world of our parents -- what they do at work, and socially, and in most other spheres -- as mysterious and largely incomprehensible. It is a realm entirely separate from the world the child inhabits, and it is a world completely barred to us as children. The promise is that when we become adults, we will be permitted to join that world and everything will become clear to us, through some means that are also never explained to the child. Because of his training, the child will have no means of challenging any of these pronouncements, and as the years go by, he will have less and less desire to do so. To challenge such statements would be to incur the disapproval of the authority figures and to make them unhappy. But the child has learned that his life depends on avoiding that outcome. He will not challenge the authority figures' claims. He will obey.

It is widely understood and agreed that the patterns of thinking and emotional response that we learn as children, especially when those patterns are constantly reinforced over a period of years, become deeply engrained in our adult selves. And most of us are subjected to the methods of control described above. Those individuals who set out to uproot this method of survival are very rare; to uproot it systematically also requires a period of years, and usually of decades. In Alice Miller's case, it was not until she was in her middle to late fifties that she fully understood these mechanisms and was finally able to challenge them successfully. The same was true in my own case, and I also know it to be true of many people I've communicated with about these issues.

What was the realization that I found so startling at the age of 48? I still had close to another decade of study and work before I understood Miller's books, and how these mechanisms had affected me, sufficiently so that I could begin writing about these issues myself. But I had grasped a fair amount about Miller's ideas by that time. As I thought about these issues, I suddenly realized that I was now roughly the age of my parents when they had claimed to have "secret information" that explained so many of their demands. (I was the last of three children, and my parents were nearing 40 when I was born.) And I had been among the world of adults for many years at that point, so all those earlier mysteries were now supposed to be completely understandable to me. And I wondered: What exactly is this "secret information" that I have as a 48-year-old, that would justify demanding that a child obey me in the absence of any further explanation?

That was the moment when I finally understood completely what a monumental lie it was. All that "secret information" consisted of precisely nothing.

II. The damaged adult, who still believes in the crucial importance of "secret information"

Obama's speech on the NSA and surveillance is a lengthy paean to the crucial importance of "secret information." The entire "intelligence" industry is founded on the belief that "secret information" is an absolute necessity for the survival and well-being of the United States. To one degree or another, most adult Americans share this belief.

It's a lie -- a vicious, cruel, murderous lie. I have written many, many articles about the fraud of "intelligence" over a period of almost ten years. I have often been astonished that very few people seem to understand in any meaningful way what I'm talking about. Even those people who I know have read at least two of three of my essays, and who have expressed their agreement with my argument, usually forget that argument the next time "intelligence" becomes an issue of debate and importance. Unless we work unrelentingly to uproot them, those patterns of thought that were instilled when we were very young remain deeply engrained in us as adults. We believe in the legitimacy of "secret information," in its utility, in its importance for our survival. It is one of the major reasons that so many Americans obey with such enthusiasm.

Insofar as "intelligence" is concerned, such "secret information" is almost always wrong; on the rare occasions when it is correct, it is likely to be disregarded, especially if it goes against a policy that has already been decided. Gabriel Kolko makes the point this way (from his book, The Age of War: The United States Confronts the World):
After 1991 the United States assumed that its objectives and desires, backed by its growing military armada, could increasingly guide change in any region it chose to intervene in. That is why the United States defines, for better or worse, the nature and course of international affairs in the future. The extent to which it acts rationally is, as with other nations throughout modern times, to a great degree dependent on the accuracy of its intelligence and the extent it uses information to guide its actions. But collective illusions have characterized the leaders of most nations since time immemorial. They have substituted their desires, ambitions, and interests for accurate estimates of what may occur from their actions. At best, intelligence organizations gather data of tactical rather than strategic utility. An infrastructure of ambitious people exists to reinforce the leaders' preconceptions, in part because they too are socialized to believe what often proves to be illusion. But bearers of bad tidings are, by and large, unwelcome and prevented from reaching the higher ranks of most political orders. It is extremely difficult for nations to behave rationally, which means accepting the limits of their power, and what is called intelligence has to confront the institutional biases and inhibitions of each social system. Thus deductive, symbolic reactions become much more likely, notwithstanding the immense risks of their being wrong. The US war in Iraq and the geopolitical folly of its larger strategy in the Persian Gulf is but one recent example of it.

It is all too rare that states overcome illusions, and the United States is no more an exception than Germany, Italy, England, or France before it. The function of intelligence anywhere is far less to encourage rational behavior--although sometimes that occurs--than to justify a nation's illusions, and it is the false expectations that conventional wisdom encourages that make wars more likely, a pattern that has only increased since the early twentieth century. By and large, US, Soviet, and British strategic intelligence since 1945 has been inaccurate and often misleading, and although it accumulated pieces of information that were useful, the leaders of these nations failed to grasp the inherent dangers of their overall policies. When accurate, such intelligence has been ignored most of the time if there were overriding preconceptions or bureaucratic reasons for doing so.
Some will nonetheless insist that "intelligence" is of vital significance, and that it depends on specialized knowledge, i.e., "secret information." That, too, is a lie. Here is Ray McGovern, who worked for the CIA (excerpted in my article, "You, Too, Can and Should Be an 'Intelligence Analyst'"):
The craft of CIA analysis was designed to be an all-source operation, meaning that we analysts were responsible - and held accountable - for assimilating information from all sources and coming to judgments on what it all meant. We used data of various kinds, from the most sophisticated technical collection platforms, to spies, to - not least - open media.

Here I must reveal a trade secret and risk puncturing the mystique of intelligence analysis. Generally speaking, 80 percent of the information one needs to form judgments on key intelligence targets or issues is available in open media. It helps to have been trained - as my contemporaries and I had the good fortune to be trained - by past masters of the discipline of media analysis, which began in a structured way in targeting Japanese and German media in the 1940s. But, truth be told, anyone with a high school education can do it. It is not rocket science.
In thinking about this issue during the years since I first excerpted McGovern, and given the intervening events, I've concluded that the 80% figure is almost certainly too low. I think the more accurate figure would be 90%, or even 95%. (Among other things, I doubt that McGovern wants to put his former colleagues, and possibly many friends of his today, largely or even completely out of work.)

I underscored this point when I wrote about the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate on Iran. You may recall that the NIE was the subject of much commentary. But one central fact was overlooked by almost everyone:
It deserves emphasis that this latest NIE tells us nothing -- let me repeat that, nothing -- that was not entirely obvious to a reasonably intelligent layperson who followed mainstream media reports about Iran for the last several years. As just one example, see my post, "Iran: The Growing Threat that Isn't," from close to a year ago.
You can read my article, "Played for Fools Yet Again: About that Iran 'Intelligence' Report," for the detailed argument about "intelligence" generally. It should also be noted that I and many others had been making the argument about Iran's entirely non-threatening status for quite a while, and almost no one paid us any mind. Suddenly, when the National Intelligence Estimate is issued by the government, what we had been saying all along became the incontrovertible truth. But I stress that I was entirely consistent in my argument. From later in "Played for Fools": "In the most critical sense, I don't care about this latest assessment, just as I did not care about the earlier ones, about Iran or on any other subject at all -- for in addition to the rather important fact that such assessments are invariably wrong, I recognize that policy decisions are made on different grounds altogether."

And here is Chalmers Johnson, in his review of the book Legacy of Ashes, about the CIA's decades of failure. I urge you to read this with care, for many of Johnson's arguments are critically relevant to the current debate about the NSA and all the other means of "intelligence" gathering:
The historical record is unequivocal. The United States is ham-handed and brutal in conceiving and executing clandestine operations, and it is simply no good at espionage; its operatives never have enough linguistic and cultural knowledge of target countries to recruit spies effectively. The CIA also appears to be one of the most easily penetrated espionage organizations on the planet. From the beginning, it repeatedly lost its assets to double agents.


Over the years, in order to compensate for these serious inadequacies, the CIA turned increasingly to signals intelligence and other technological means of spying like U-2 reconnaissance aircraft and satellites. In 1952, the top leaders of the CIA created the National Security Agency -- an eavesdropping and cryptological unit -- to overcome the Agency's abject failure to place any spies in North Korea during the Korean War. The Agency debacle at the Bay of Pigs in Cuba led a frustrated Pentagon to create its own Defense Intelligence Agency as a check on the military amateurism of the CIA's clandestine service officers.

Still, technological means, whether satellite spying or electronic eavesdropping, will seldom reveal intentions -- and that is the raison d'être of intelligence estimates. As Haviland Smith, who ran operations against the USSR in the 1960s and 1970s, lamented, "The only thing missing is -- we don't have anything on Soviet intentions. And I don't know how you get that. And that's the charter of the clandestine service [emphasis in original, pp. 360-61])."

The actual intelligence collected was just as problematic. On the most important annual intelligence estimate throughout the Cold War -- that of the Soviet order of battle -- the CIA invariably overstated its size and menace. Then, to add insult to injury, under George H. W. Bush's tenure as DCI (1976-77), the agency tore itself apart over ill-informed right-wing claims that it was actually underestimating Soviet military forces. The result was the appointment of "Team B" during the Ford presidency, led by Polish exiles and neoconservative fanatics. It was tasked to "correct" the work of the Office of National Estimates.

"After the Cold War was over," writes Weiner, "the agency put Team B's findings to the test. Every one of them was wrong." [p. 352] But the problem was not simply one of the CIA succumbing to political pressure. It was also structural: "[F]or thirteen years, from Nixon's era to the dying days of the Cold War, every estimate of Soviet strategic nuclear forces overstated [emphasis in original] the rate at which Moscow was modernizing its weaponry." [p. 297]

From 1967 to 1973, I served as an outside consultant to the Office of National Estimates, one of about a dozen specialists brought in to try to overcome the myopia and bureaucratism involved in the writing of these national intelligence estimates. I recall agonized debates over how the mechanical highlighting of worst-case analyses of Soviet weapons was helping to promote the arms race. Some senior intelligence analysts tried to resist the pressures of the Air Force and the military-industrial complex. Nonetheless, the late John Huizenga, an erudite intelligence analyst who headed the Office of National Estimates from 1971 until the wholesale purge of the Agency by DCI James Schlesinger in 1973, bluntly said to the CIA's historians:
"In retrospect.... I really do not believe that an intelligence organization in this government is able to deliver an honest analytical product without facing the risk of political contention. . . . I think that intelligence has had relatively little impact on the policies that we've made over the years. Relatively none. . . . Ideally, what had been supposed was that . . . serious intelligence analysis could.... assist the policy side to reexamine premises, render policymaking more sophisticated, closer to the reality of the world. Those were the large ambitions which I think were never realized."
You will find still more Johnson excerpts in this essay. Much more recently, we witnessed the "intelligence" follies in Boston, which I documented here.

In his review, Johnson urges the abolishment of the CIA, a recommendation with which I heartily concur. I would add to that the abolishment of the NSA. All right, I'll be reasonable: let's go with McGovern's estimate of the proportion of "intelligence" that relies on "open media." So cut the CIA and NSA budgets by 80%. That would be a good start, and then we can discuss all the other agencies and programs devoted to "intelligence" and decide which of them should be abolished or cut down by 80% (or 90% or 95%).

You can consult the articles linked above (and follow the internal links for much more on this) to appreciate the full scope of the fraud represented by "intelligence." The crucial point is that "intelligence" as it is thought of by most people -- and as it is marketed by the State -- is a fraud from start to finish. It is a damnable, unforgivable lie. I will probably have some narrower comments about Obama's speech, but the speech in its entirety is premised on a complete fabrication, on a conception of "intelligence" that corresponds to the facts and the truth at not even a single point. In that sense, Obama's speech is nothing but a lie.

I am painfully aware that my position represents an almost undetectable minority view. Very few people agree with me. Among other things, that is a testament to the training and conditioning to which all of us have been subjected. As children, we often had no choice but to accept our parents' and other authority figures' claims to "secret information," which was one of the supposed justifications for commanding our obedience. Most people carry this belief system into adulthood without alteration or serious challenge. An authority figure makes a serious pronouncement, and most adults are prepared to accept it; you see this dynamic with "experts" in all fields, even when what they say is obvious nonsense. The President makes a series of claims that have nothing to do with the truth, and there is no wise child -- and there are almost no adults -- who will declare: "You're a liar, and you're naked, too."

But I'll say it: You, Barack Obama, are a goddamned, bloody liar. And put some fucking clothes on.

January 16, 2014

Nobody Expects the SS!

Because I am so incredibly generous and thoughtful, I've decided to once again give you the benefit of a look into my crystal ball. (I had to get a new one; the old one was worn out from years of use and needed a vacation.) On this occasion, we will consider Obama's widely anticipated address tomorrow, a speech, as described by the New York Times, that he will give "this time at the Justice Department [sic] defending government spying even as he adjusts it to address a wave of public concern over civil liberties."

On an earlier occasion several years ago, when I considered the likely blubberings to be heard from Obama on the subject of his "new" strategy for Afghanistan, I wrote the following. Note how few adjustments are required to adapt the previous introduction to this moment:
The mountains will be in labour; an absurd mouse will be born. -- Horace
So many meetings of the war council! government agencies and committees, and even a special review panel! So much intense deliberation over so many months! So many knowledgeable experts training their finely honed minds on the problem of Afghanistan and Pakistan! government surveillance! So many challenges to conventional wisdom and the policies inherited from the reviled Bush administration! So much independence of thought, sober reflection, and careful calibration of the array of competing objectives and concerns!

Truly, the operations of our government -- and if not of government generally, certainly of the Obama administration -- are a wonder to behold. We are comforted by their deliberate, subtle approach, we are bathed in the soothing liquid of their studious avoidance of easy slogans and empty rhetoric. These are profoundly thoughtful people, putting forth their best effort to arrive at the best solution for all concerned.

And so, so many people fall for this stinking load of unmitigated shit. ...

Obama will offer something for everyone, although no one will be truly happy with the result. But this, we will be assured by the allegedly adult monitors of our behavior, is what real "compromise" means! In turn, this is a further demonstration of Obama's seriousness, of his willingness to make difficult decisions. No one is satisfied; therefore, he must be right! Aren't people even just slightly tired of this overused script? Not so that anyone in the ruling class need be concerned for more than a fleeting instant, if that.
I admit that I find it grimly amusing how entirely accurate this description remains, even though the specifics change. But once you understand the basic dynamics of how this game is played, the mystery evaporates.

I will also note, for those keeping score, that everything I predicted about the Afghanistan speech turned out to be right -- although the speech contained one additional (and awful) element that I hadn't predicted, all of which I discussed in a followup post. I suspect that Obama may offer a variant of that additional element in the speech tomorrow; I'll get to that in a moment.

The NYT story offers a useful blueprint for the speech, and for much of the commentary we will undoubtedly hear in its wake. (Should we call tomorrow's address the Spy Speech? And abbreviate it as "the SS," just to annoy those in the peanut gallery? Done.) One of the themes of the Times piece, and it may well be one of Obama's own themes, is that you have a very different perspective on questions of national security once you're the President. And those who use this argument actually do mean you, and they particularly mean anyone who dares to criticize Obama for violations of individual liberty and constitutional protections, and similarly inconsequential matters. "If you knew what the President knows, you'd understand how difficult these questions are!" Oohh, see, the President has secret information! If you only knew what that secret information was, you'd agree with him! And you'd see how much he suffers to do what is right!

The only problem with this argument is that such secret information is almost always wrong. Remember the comedy of errors concerning the Boston bombing? Just in case you've forgotten:
Consider how haphazard this business was. The FBI only investigated Tamerlan Tsarnaev in the first instance because Russia asked them to. When Russia later failed to respond to a request "for further information to justify more rigorous checks," and after an interview (just one, apparently) "revealed nothing suspicious," they dropped it. Then, the U.S. government knew (or didn't know) about the trip to Russia. And then: Boston.

Feeling safer?

What I fervently wish at least a few more people understood and appreciated is that this is how "intelligence" is conducted generally. I've written numerous essays about the farcical charade that is "intelligence," and still almost everyone (including people who I know have read several of these articles at a minimum) talks endlessly about how crucial it is that "we get the intelligence right." The "intelligence" is almost never right.
For the full argument about "intelligence," see this and this, and follow the links for much more.

The supposed possession of "secret information" can be used to justify anything. Anything. And such "secret information" is almost certain to be wrong. You forget these crucial truths at your great peril.

But the Times adores this argument:

*** "Like other presidents before him, the idealistic candidate skeptical of government power found that the tricky trade-offs of national security issues look different to the person charged with using that power to ensure public safety."

*** "[Aides] said his views have been shaped to a striking degree by the reality of waking up every day in the White House responsible for heading off the myriad threats he finds in his daily intelligence briefings.

“'When you get the package every morning, it puts steel in your spine,' said David Plouffe, the president’s longtime adviser. 'There are people out there every day who are plotting. The notion that we would put down a tool that would protect people here in America is hard to fathom.'”

*** "'[Obama is] sitting on the other end of the pen now,' said the former Obama aide. 'He has more information than he did then. And he trusts himself to use these powers more than he did the Bush administration.'"

And so on.

The Times story is nauseating in its deference to Obama's own PR efforts. Get a load of this:
[Obama] was surprised at the uproar that ensued [following the Snowden revelations], advisers said, particularly that so many Americans did not trust him, much less trust the oversight provided by the intelligence court and Congress. As more secrets spilled out, though, aides said even Mr. Obama was chagrined. They said he was exercised to learn that the mobile phone of Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany was being tapped.

Mr. Obama appointed a panel to review the programs. “The point we made to him was, ‘We’re not really concerned about you, Barack, but God forbid some other guy’s in the office five years from now and there’s another 9/11,’ ” said Richard A. Clarke, a former White House counterterrorism adviser who served on the panel. He had to “lay down some roadblocks in addition to what we have now so that once you’re gone it’ll be harder” to abuse spying abilities.
This is supposed to be some kind of "news analysis" -- and it's a goddamned fan letter written by a not very bright 12-year-old.

As for what Obama will specifically recommend: to the extent he will be specific at all, and it appears much of his speech will be deliberately vague on details, all of his recommendations are meaningless cosmetic changes. Whether it's maintaining telephone records at the phone companies themselves or some other third party, adding some sort of "public advocate" to the FISA court, creating an additional step or two for certain forms of surveillance (particularly of foreign leaders -- Obama wants to make sure they, or at least some of them, feel placated) -- none of it challenges the legitimacy of the surveillance itself. But look for many phrases on the order of, "I completely understand the concerns of many Americans with regard to respecting their privacy, and preventing the government from going on unnecessary fishing expeditions," blahblahblah. None of it will mean a damned thing. Not a single activity that the government cares about will be limited in any meaningful way.

In essence, the speech tomorrow will follow this pattern:

One: We face SERIOUS THREATS. We all know this, but it's even worse than you think. I have SECRET INFORMATION! It's BAD!! Be SCARED!!!

Two: My primary responsibility as President is TO PROTECT THE AMERICAN PEOPLE -- TO PROTECT YOU!

Three: I understand that we must find THE RIGHT BALANCE. And I'm completely sympathetic to your concerns for PRIVACY! It's one of the cherished freedoms that MAKES AMERICA UNIQUE AND THE GREATEST COUNTRY EVER!!

Four: Therefore, Cosmetic Changes 1 through whatever.

In my post several years ago following Obama's Afghanistan speech, I analyzed the additional element in Obama's remarks that I hadn't anticipated. I would not be the least surprised to hear a reprise in some form of the same idea in the SS tomorrow. (Hehe, I like that abbreviation.)

In the concluding section of the Afghanistan speech, Obama decried the "rancor and cynicism and partisanship that has in recent times poisoned our national discourse," and he added this to drive the point home: "I refuse to accept the notion that we cannot summon that unity again. I believe with every fiber of my being that we – as Americans – can still come together behind a common purpose."

I discussed these comments in the context of Obama's entire speech and observed:
Obama has put us all on notice: if we disagree with his policies, if we condemn the endless series of aggressive wars waged by the U.S., we are imperiling the strength and security of the United States itself. If we dare to criticize him or the actions of the U.S. government, we are displaying "rancor and cynicism and partisanship" that will "split asunder" the absolutely necessary national "unity." If we challenge Obama on any point of importance, we are "poisoning" the "national discourse."

In other words: disagreement on any matter of moment is not only dangerous, but illegitimate and even immoral. And if you consider the logical end of this argument, and what has happened before in American history (see this post about what happened during both World Wars, under Democratic presidents; much more about Wilson, World War I and the suppression of dissent will be found here), there is a further meaning: such disagreement may well be criminal.
I further noted that Obama hadn't yet made this argument in fully explicit terms, but the meaning of the principles he enunciated has certain implications. I would expect him to continue to avoid those implications -- Obama is such a wonderfully sympathetic figure (and also brave and heroic!), and he certainly doesn't want us to feel that we need to be scared of him! -- but he may well talk about how we need "to come together," recognize the concerns "that we hold in common," that we all understand we face genuine, serious threats and we must protect ourselves, etc. and so forth. And if you don't agree with him about all of that, you're just a horrible, terrible, cynical, rancorous, divisive, truly horrible person.

I think that covers the major points. It's going to be awful. And as before, it might be even more awful for still more reasons that I don't expect. We'll see soon enough.

January 15, 2014

And When the Rain Doth Fall...

To update my last post:

It appears the tax bastards are after me again. I think they swiped my bank account earlier today, although I don't yet have confirmation of that. But the money that was there to pay a couple of bills is gone, and my checking account is zeroed out. (Fortunately, there wasn't much at all there, but now I'll have to pay those bills twice in effect.) Although my PayPal account still seems to be all right, I've taken the link down -- if they're actively pursuing me again, the PayPal account will be their next stop. Fortunately again, I've already gotten everything except small change out of there. For the time being, it's donations by mail only. I still have a few inquiries to answer about mail donations, and I'll do that today and tomorrow. And I could use some further help, especially if the monsters are loose once more. (If you'd like my address for a donation by mail, please write me at arthur4801 at yahoo dot com.) Gee, do you think my good pal Petey would help me out? Especially since he's so devoted to dissenting voices and "fiercely independent" writers and all? No, you're right: not a chance in hell the shithead would help the likes of me.

And it had already been an entirely crappy week for different reasons completely. Perfect. I'll clarify what's going on as soon as it's clearer to me. In the meantime, I'll try to get a little blogging done in the next few days. Thank you again for your consideration and kindness.

P.S. Do feel free to write to Petey. Tell him he can solve all my problems and improve my life generally in a genuinely miraculous way -- and all for what he spends in A FEW FUCKING HOURS.

Just needed to get that out of my system. I would very much like to smash something at the moment. I know I have some old dishes around here somewhere...

January 10, 2014

Could Use Some Help

Well, I managed to get some writing done this week. Here, here and here. Not bad, all told.

Very sorry I was out of commission during December. In addition to the ongoing, heart-related health problems, I was completely sidelined for a week by truly agonizing lower back pain. Have no idea what set it off. But walking even a few steps was unbearably painful, and getting in and out of bed was close to impossible (and made me want to scream every time I did it). I used a heating pad almost all the time, rested close to 24 hours a day (couldn't do anything else), and it began to subside as week two commenced. I'm now in week three. It's still not gone completely, and I have to be careful about sitting too long or moving the wrong way(s).

In any event, I seem to be getting back into writing form. Good, because there's a lot of stuff I want to cover. In the meantime ... yeah, you know. I'm close to broke. Until I get a little more money together, I've placed my last grocery order. I still have a few January bills to pay. And I have very little toward February rent.

So I would be enormously grateful for donations in any and all amounts. PayPal should be fine, and the link is at the upper right. To be completely certain your donation isn't diverted, the mail is the way to go. If you'd like my address, please write me at: arthur4801 at yahoo dot com. (I have a couple of outstanding inquiries about mail donations, and I'll answer them over the weekend.)

As always, please allow me to extend my enormous gratitude for the wonderful kindness and generosity many of you have shown. I'm more grateful than I can say.

When Atrocity Is Central to Your Being

Over my more than ten years of blogging, I have written extensively about the criminal immorality and endless horror of the United States government's invasion and destruction of Iraq. I analyzed how the U.S.'s actions constituted an endless series of war crimes, not only in the light of general moral considerations, but also applying several provisions of the Nuremberg Principles. Those Principles establish beyond question that the U.S. government was guilty of the very crimes of which Nazis were once convicted. It should be emphasized that the invasion of Iraq is hardly unique in this respect in the history of the United States, which launches aggressive wars with a regularity that ought to horrify any minimally decent human being. That this history does not horrify most people signifies only that the majority of humanity has yet to grasp the sacred, irreplaceable value of a single human life. Most people never understood the meaning of the first murder; this grievous failing made the innumerable additional murders inevitable and equally unforgivable. In the case of Iraq, those additional murders constitute a genocide of world-historical proportions.

On numerous occasions (here's one representative example from August 2008), I also pointed out that the most severe criticisms of these monstrous crimes permitted by our culture of denial were (and are) that it was a "mistake" based on "bad intelligence," and that it was a "blunder." The first of these evasions is a lie based on a complete misunderstanding of the role of "intelligence" with regard to decisions of policy, while the second represents the superficial babblings of a person so severely damaged that he is incapable of grasping the meaning of words such as "value" and "life." The U.S. government and its military (and all other personnel involved) committed a series of horrifying crimes, they murdered countless people, they wounded and damaged huge numbers of additional persons, and they destroyed a country. Carelessly smashing a vase or blurting out an inappropriate comment before your employer is a "mistake" or a "blunder." Murder and destruction on a vast scale require deliberate, intentional, planned actions over a lengthy period of time; they are crimes which annihilate the concept of forgiveness.

I frequently argued that there is still one more horror beyond these crimes: that neither the U.S. government, nor the ruling class, nor many Americans have learned a single, goddamned thing from these ghastly events. The commitment to America's "right" to dominate world events and the necessarily related commitment to America's perpetual military superiority remain axiomatic and unchallengeable. The ongoing treatment of Iran as a nation that must be brought to heel, the "pivot" to Asia, and the actions of the U.S. government around the globe all attest to the ruling class's belief that America remains unique and uniquely suited to lead and direct events everywhere, a belief that most Americans also continue to accept enthusiastically.

It is one thing to simply deny the reality of our own history. It is quite another to reach back into the past, completely recast the actions of the U.S., transform horrifying crimes which defy description into acts of nobility, and make ourselves into sympathetic victims -- moreover, the only sympathetic victims worthy of note. This New York Times story does all of that, in a manner which caused me to veer between shocked disbelief and nauseated horror: "Falluja's Fall Stuns Marines Who Fought There." The article discusses the "Sunni insurgents, some with allegiances to Al Qaeda," who "retook" Falluja "and raised their black insurgent flag over buildings" where American Marines had fought. Its focus is on the reaction of the Marines who fought there, and its tone is one of deep sympathy and understanding. That is, deep sympathy and understanding with regard to the Marines. Is there any recognition of the ongoing agony of the Iraqis, agony which is the direct result of the U.S.'s actions -- and of the actions of these Marines themselves? Of course not.

For example, about Adam Banotai, who was "a 21-year-old sergeant and squad leader in the Marine Corps during the 2004 invasion of Falluja":
“I don’t think anyone had the grand illusion that Falluja or Ramadi was going to turn into Disneyland, but none of us thought it was going to fall back to a jihadist insurgency,” he said. “It made me sick to my stomach to have that thrown in our face, everything we fought for so blatantly taken away.”
About the significance of Falluja:
The bloody mission to wrest Falluja from insurgents in November 2004 meant more to the Marines than almost any other battle in the 12 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many consider it the corps’ biggest and most iconic fight since Vietnam, with nearly 100 Marines and soldiers killed in action and hundreds more wounded.
From later in the article:
“This is just the beginning of the reckoning and accounting,” said Kael Weston, a former State Department political adviser who worked with the Marines for nearly three years in Falluja and the surrounding Anbar Province, and later with Marines in Afghanistan.

Mr. Weston, who is now writing a book but remains in close contact with scores of the men he served with, said Marines across the globe had been frenetically sharing their feelings about the new battle for Falluja via email, text and Facebook.

“The news went viral in the worst way,” he said. “This has been a gut punch to the morale of the Marine Corps and painful for a lot of families who are saying, ‘I thought my son died for a reason.’'"

Ryan Sparks was a platoon commander during a seven-month Falluja deployment in which three men were killed and 57 wounded in his 90-man unit. Now about to take a job in Manhattan after recently leaving the Marines, Mr. Sparks, 39, said many of the younger Falluja veterans are angry “because we lost so many Marines, and it feels like they were sacrificed for nothing.”
And about Banotai, first quoted above, we are told:
Mr. Banotai has no regrets about supporting the war, and said it was a mistake for the United States to withdraw troops when it did, which he believes was done for political reasons, not because the mission was accomplished. But he also would not favor sending troops back. “It’s too late. Mistakes have already been made,” he said. “We can’t go back and rewrite history.”
We also learn about "one senior active duty officer" who was "part of an email chain circulating among Marine officers discussing how to respond to the inquiries they were receiving from Marines and their families about Falluja":
The officer cited what he called the Marines’ success in helping foster the Awakening movement — where local tribesmen turned against jihadists and partnered with American forces — and said that “without these victories, we might still be there today.”

The officer added: “What the Iraqi forces lost in the last month, four years after transition, is not a reflection of Marine efforts. If it is a reflection of anything, it is the nature of the Iraqi social fabric and long-suppressed civil discord.”
Those who refuse to acknowledge the horror of what the U.S. government has done -- and the horror of what they have done -- are always led to the final redoubt of the blasted, shriveled, unrecognizable soul: Anything bad that has happened and that continues to happen is the fault of the Iraqis -- those primitive, barbaric, uncivilized Iraqis. This is exactly what Hillary Clinton has said, as well as almost any politician you can name. We are expected to forget that the U.S. deliberately fomented "civil discord" (and "ethnic cleansing," too) among the contending groups as a means of fostering "stability," which they also knew would only be temporary in nature but would allow the U.S. to claim "victory" for a brief moment.

All of this -- the singular focus on the "success" of the U.S. military, the unexamined question of the legitimacy of the war itself, the enormous sympathy with the suffering of the Marines (all of whom are now safely out of harm's way, while the grisly violence continues to unfold in Iraq day after bloody day) -- is bad enough. But remember -- dear God, please, please remember -- that we are talking about Falluja. Many Marines "consider [Falluja] the corps' biggest and most iconic fight since Vietnam." Okay, let's talk about that, something neither the Times nor any of the quoted individuals has any intention of doing, certainly not with any measurable degree of honesty.

Chris Floyd wrote extensively about Falluja. I was unable to locate his posts on his own site, but I found one of his columns reprinted here. This is Floyd writing in December 2005:
Last month, the broadcast of a shattering new documentary provided fresh confirmation of a gruesome war crime covered by this column nine months ago: the use of chemical weapons by American forces during the frenzied, Bush-ordered destruction of Fallujah in November 2004.

Using filmed and photographic evidence, eyewitness accounts, and the direct testimony of American soldiers who took part in the attacks, the documentary ­ "Fallujah: The Hidden Massacre" ­ catalogues the American use of white phosphorous shells and a new, "improved" form of napalm that turned human beings into "caramelized" fossils, with their skin dissolved and turned to leather on their bones. The film was produced by RAI, the Italian state network run by a government that backed the war.

Vivid images show civilians, including women and children, who had been burned alive in their homes, even in their beds. This use of chemical weapons ­ at the order of the Bushist brass ­ and the killing of civilians are confirmed by former American soldiers interviewed on camera. "I heard the order to pay attention because they were going to use white phosphorous on Fallujah," said one soldier, quoted in the Independent. "In military jargon, it's known as Willy Pete. Phosphorous burns bodies; in fact it melts the flesh all the way down to the bone. I saw the burned bodies of women and children. Phosphorus explodes and forms a cloud. Anyone within a radius of 150 meters is done for."
Even this fails to capture the ungraspable barbarity of the attack on Falluja. Again from Floyd:
Meanwhile, in the Guardian, Mike Marquesse pounded home the reality of the overarching atrocity of the attack:

"One year ago this week, US-led occupying forces launched a devastating assault on the Iraqi city of Falluja. The mood was set by Lt Col Gary Brandl: 'The enemy has got a face. He's called Satan. He's in Falluja. And we're going to destroy him.'

"The assault was preceded by eight weeks of aerial bombardment. US troops cut off the city's water, power and food supplies, condemned as a violation of the Geneva convention by a UN special rapporteur, who accused occupying forces of "using hunger and deprivation of water as a weapon of war against the civilian population". Two-thirds of the city's 300,000 residents fled, many to squatters' camps without basic facilities.

"By the end of operations, the city lay in ruins. Falluja's compensation commissioner has reported that 36,000 of the city's 50,000 homes were destroyed, along with 60 schools and 65 mosques and shrines. The US claims that 2,000 died, most of them fighters. Other sources disagree. When medical teams arrived in January they collected more than 700 bodies in only one third of the city. Iraqi NGOs and medical workers estimate between 4,000 and 6,000 dead, mostly civilians -- a proportionately higher death rate than in Coventry and London during the blitz."
Floyd has still more, and you should read it if you can bear to. [Here is the article on Floyd's site. And here is a later piece by Floyd from 2011, concerning the long-term effects of Falluja's devastation (including a dramatic spike in the rate of birth defects).] Read articles such as these -- articles that tell the truth of this horror straight from the bowels of Hell -- and then decide how much sympathy you care to extend to the Marines who helped perpetrate these crimes.

There are those who will despise and loathe me for my failure of compassion toward U.S. personnel. What defense do they offer for these criminals -- perhaps that they were only "following orders"? I had thought we once agreed that such an excuse is without merit. But I suppose that's a standard we apply only in the case of others, never ourselves. But the defenders of our soldiers need to explain how moral agency is wholly erased once one joins the military. Do such people become mindless automatons? If that's the case, then they feel nothing, and no sympathy is required. But that is not what happens, and all of us know that is not what happens. (See "No, I Do Not Support 'The Troops'" for a detailed discussion of these and related issues.)

I am reminded of a passage from Hannah Arendt, one that I offered in a very different context but which is tragically apposite here. In writing about those who adamantly refused to be "participants" in the Nazi regime, Arendt asks: "in what way were those few different who in all walks of life did not collaborate and refused to participate in public life, though they could not and did not rise in rebellion?" Here is part of her answer:
The answer to the ... question is relatively simple: the nonparticipants, called irresponsible by the majority, were the only ones who dared judge by themselves, and they were capable of doing so not because they disposed of a better system of values or because the old standards of right and wrong were still firmly planted in their mind and conscience. On the contrary, all our experiences tell us that it was precisely the members of respectable society, who had not been touched by the intellectual and moral upheaval in the early stages of the Nazi period, who were the first to yield. They simply exchanged one system of values against another. I therefore would suggest that the nonparticipants were those whose consciences did not function in this, as it were, automatic way—as though we dispose of a set of learned or innate rules which we then apply to the particular case as it arises, so that every new experience or situation is already prejudged and we need only act out whatever we learned or possessed beforehand. Their criterion, I think, was a different one: they asked themselves to what extent they would still be able to live in peace with themselves after having committed certain deeds; and they decided that it would be better to do nothing, not because the world would then be changed for the better, but simply because only on this condition could they go on living with themselves at all. Hence, they also chose to die when they were forced to participate. To put it crudely, they refused to murder, not so much because they still held fast to the command “Thou shalt not kill,” but because they were unwilling to live together with a murderer—themselves. The precondition for this kind of judging is not a highly developed intelligence or sophistication in moral matters, but rather the disposition to live together explicitly with oneself, to have intercourse with oneself, that is, to be engaged in that silent dialogue between me and myself which, since Socrates and Plato, we usually call thinking. This kind of thinking, though at the root of all philosophical thought, is not technical and does not concern theoretical problems. The dividing line between those who want to think and therefore have to judge by themselves, and those who do not, strikes across all social and cultural or educational differences. In this respect, the total moral collapse of respectable society during the Hitler regime may teach us that under such circumstances those who cherish values and hold fast to moral norms and standards are not reliable: we now know that moral norms and standards can be changed overnight, and that all that then will be left is the mere habit of holding fast to something. Much more reliable will be the doubters and skeptics, not because skepticism is good or doubting wholesome, but because they are used to examine things and to make up their own minds. Best of all will be those who know only one thing for certain: that whatever else happens, as long as we live we shall have to live together with ourselves.
I am keenly aware of the suffering of many returning soldiers, and I feel compelled to read the stories about their plight, including their all too frequent suicides. (In fact, I've written several articles about suicide, a largely misunderstood phenomenon, which you will find here, under "The Causes and Dynamics of Suicide." One of those articles concerns a soldier's suicide.)

Among the primary reasons that I regularly return to the unspeakable crimes committed by the U.S. government and its military is to desperately attempt, in whatever small way I can, to prevent such crimes from ever occurring again. My first concern is always with the targets of the U.S.'s military campaigns (whether those campaigns be bombings, invasions, covert operations, or of any other kind, and I include economic sanctions in this category). Those targets, most of whom are entirely innocent of any wrongdoing and most of whom never constituted a threat of any kind to the U.S., must command the greatest share of our compassion and concern. But I also know that the perpetrators must necessarily suffer. I know one other fact, which most people seek to deny by means of endless rationalizations and stratagems: I know that if we act in certain ways, we will never again be able to find peace with ourselves. Thus, Arendt speaks of the "nonparticipants"who "refused to murder ... because they were unwilling to live together with a murderer -- themselves." These are the people who understand that "as long as we live we shall have to live together with ourselves."

How do you "live together" with yourself when you know you have murdered innocent human beings? When you know you have burned people alive? When you know you have "melt[ed] the flesh" of innocent people "all the way down to the bone"? I submit the answer is unavoidable, and awful beyond words: you cannot "live together" with yourself in any way which permits genuine happiness, or very often even minimally bearable survival. My evidence is the agony experienced by so many military personnel. As I once observed:
[C]ertain actions lead to destruction and loss in a manner and on a scale that forbid correction and amends ... on some occasions we can only accept the certainty of negative consequences that cannot be avoided. Human beings may be capable of remarkable, even wondrous achievement, but limits are inherent in existence itself. Sometimes those limits mean that wounds will never heal, that the pain will never end.
As the title of the essay in which that passage appears expresses the idea: "We are not special, and there is no happy ending." This is why, when we are compelled to act in certain ways, it is imperative to say, No -- if we wish to salvage any recognizably human part of our soul.

The NYT article makes depressingly, horrifyingly clear that we remain very, very far from becoming adults, if by "adult" we mean recognizing certain unalterable facts of our existence. Our politicians, our military personnel, and many Americans still refuse to face honestly and completely the reality of what the U.S. did in Iraq, just as they refuse to recognize the blood-drenched reality of U.S. foreign policy in general. It is inconceivable that any of the catastrophic consequences of our actions, including the suffering of U.S. military personnel, should be our own responsibility. We therefore blame anything and anyone else, including the victims of our own crimes.

The article makes one further fact unavoidable: The U.S. government, and many Americans, are fully prepared to do it all again. Perhaps in the next year or two, perhaps further in the future, perhaps against Iran, perhaps against some other country that will be designated as the target of our next campaign of destruction once it has been suitably demonized. When that happens, we must resist in every way we can, and we must say, No.

And so I will be compelled to return to these subjects still another time.

January 08, 2014

"Tone" Is the Tool of the Oppressor

Consider a well-known, even hackneyed version of a confrontation scene familiar in novel and film. A wife finally faces her husband and demands that they speak honestly about his serial adultery. (The couple need not be married, nor does it have to be a heterosexual couple.) Assume for our purposes, as this kind of fiction also assumes, that both parties explicitly view the relationship as a committed one, and that both parties view monogamy as a critical element.

In this scenario, the party guilty of adultery has engaged in a lengthy series of lies and manipulations. He has deceived his partner in countless ways. His behavior has rendered the committed relationship itself a lie, but he has sought to maintain the relationship's facade. To do this, he had to prevent his partner from learning the truth; in this way, he deprived his partner of both knowledge and the possibility of action -- that is, action she might have taken had she known the facts.

But the partner has nonetheless learned the truth. She decides to question him about his betrayals. At first, he denies that he has been unfaithful, telling her still more lies. But she is prepared for that, and she tells him the facts she has learned, which prove the reality of his affairs beyond all dispute. He seeks to minimize his betrayals and offers one threadbare rationalization after another ("We were having some problems then," "I was very upset about losing that promotion," "You had become very emotionally distant"). The partner points out that he never discussed these excuses with her openly and honestly, and that if she had become "emotionally distant," that was undoubtedly the result of his numerous lies and the resulting loss of intimacy between them.

As he continues to offer excuses and to minimize his own actions, his partner grows more and more upset. As her frustration with her partner's evasions and refusal to deal with her honestly increases, her voice rises and she speaks more heatedly. She might even yell at her partner more than once.

Now the husband/partner has his escape route, and he seizes it immediately: "I can't talk to you when you're like this. You're getting hysterical. Perhaps you should rest for a while, and we can try to talk about it when you're calm again. I hope you'll have more perspective about this later."

He's objecting to her "tone" -- and this is the voice of oppression. Keep in mind that, in this particular scenario, he is the guilty party. He has had a series of affairs and one-night stands, he has betrayed their commitment to monogamy, he has deceived his partner over a lengthy period of time, and he has ceaselessly manipulated her. When confronted, his manipulations and deceit continue. He will not admit the truth, and he seeks to avoid the consequences of his partner knowing the truth. Yet now -- when she speaks about the truth and her understanding of it -- he seeks to make the resulting conflict her fault. And he does more, and worse, than that: he condescends to her and insults her, accusing her of "hysteria," of being "out of control," of failing to behave "like an adult."

I was put in mind of this phenomenon by this tweet ("Silber reminds me that [it] is always 'libertarian' men who discuss 'tone' whenever a woman speaks.") and by watching Blue Jasmine yesterday. The Woody Allen film, which features a spectacular performance by Cate Blanchett, has a scene like the one described above. It's complicated by the fact that the Blanchett character is portrayed as genuinely unstable, but you can subtract that element from it and the basic dynamic is identical to the scene in countless other films (and books). And I must note that, as engrossing and well-done as the film is, the fact that Blanchett's character is the unstable one is another manifestation of our culture's basic orientation. The unfaithful husband, played by Alec Baldwin, is a financial criminal, who has stolen money from many people and ruined their lives. He is finally caught, and he commits suicide in jail. He is not precisely a model of mental health or moral probity. [Blue Jasmine is essentially a character study, and the story details won't detract in any noticeable way from your enjoyment of the film. And I think it is worth seeing simply for Blanchett's remarkable performance. But skip the next paragraph if you don't want to know anything else about it.]

But the focus of the film is not on the husband, but on the unstable, mentally ill wife. Allen adds a story element toward the end which makes this focus notably worse. The husband is caught because the wife reports his activities to the FBI. She does so after she realizes the extent of his infidelities. The "feel" of these developments is that she reports him out of spite, merely as a way to "get back at him." She later expresses regret that she reported him at all. Never mind that he actually was a vicious crook, and that he would have continued to ruin more people's lives had she not reported him.

In these respects, Allen's screenplay is yet another predictable result of a culture which views women as fundamentally evil, a foundational belief whose roots I discussed in detail in "Kill that Woman!" Women are "weak," "too emotional," prone to "hysteria," often "out of control." It is not coincidental that these same criticisms are often leveled at gay men; in a related essay, I remarked: "All too often, those whom we would destroy, we first feminize." In "Kill that Woman!," I discussed Oscar Wilde's superb retelling of the Salome story. These were my concluding paragraphs concerning the wider lesson:
It is inconceivable to Herod -- just as it is inconceivable to most men -- that the fault or the responsibility should be his. The fault and the responsibility must be Salome's. The fault and the responsibility must always be woman's. In any confrontation between a man and a woman in our culture, there is only one party to be punished: the woman. ...

Kill that woman. That is the motive, and that is the goal. To the extent women are successful, to the extent they threaten men's monopoly on power and control, they must be demeaned, diminished, treated with unending cruelty, and mocked. When all else fails, they must be eliminated. Kill that woman.

So ends our story for today.
The shift from the facts and arguments at issue to the "tone" with which they are being discussed is a common method by which a member of an oppressing class seeks to maintain domination and control. It is encountered in many relationships, and not only between romantic partners. It is a ploy often used by a boss in a work situation when a subordinate dares to complain about unjust or even outrageous treatment ("Yes, of course I understand your complaint, but why do you have to get so angry about it? We can't discuss it if you're going to get so upset."). And it comes up in ways that are profoundly sickening.

Several years ago, I wrote about the story of a young boy named Billy Wolfe, who became the target for continual, viciously cruel, often physically damaging bullying beginning when he was only 12 years old. (See "Let the Victims Speak.") I reprinted an especially powerful and disturbing letter about this horrifying story that had been sent to the NYT in response to its report:
The fortunate thing for Billy Wolfe is that he has supportive parents who are showing him acceptable ways of fighting back. The tragedy is that there are far too many kids in similar situations who, for one reason or another, can't turn to their parents.

As a former teacher in the New York City school system, I know how reluctant school officials often are to take definitive action in such circumstances. Yet, when a victim explodes or acts out in unacceptable ways, these same officials are shocked and indignant.

Why can't the bullies who make Billy's life miserable every day be suspended from school until they learn that intimidating and tormenting their peers will not be tolerated?
Keep in mind the other kinds of examples of this dynamic that I've mentioned as you read my comments on this letter:
Focus on the critical sentence: "Yet, when a victim explodes or acts out in unacceptable ways, these same officials are shocked and indignant."

What exactly are these "unacceptable ways" of exploding or acting out? Who decided they were "unacceptable"? Why is it that "reluctant school officials" will not "take definitive action" against the bullies -- thus tacitly conceding that the bullying itself is not all that "unacceptable" -- while the same officials are "shocked and indignant" when the victim protests too strongly?

This pattern, and certain of its origins, will be found throughout history, in every culture around the world. The pattern is a simple and deadly one: the oppressor -- that is, those who are in the superior position, whether they are parents, school officials, or the government, or in a superior position merely by virtue of physical strength -- may inflict bodily harm and/or grievous, lifelong emotional and psychological injury, but the victim may only protest within the limits set by the oppressor himself. The oppressor will determine those forms of protest by the victim that are "acceptable." ...

[T]here is another reason the victim cannot fully experience and give voice to his anger -- and that is his certain knowledge, conveyed by parents, teachers, the government and everyone else in a position of authority, that displays of such emotions are not permitted. If you go ahead and reveal how angry you are in defiance of the prohibition, you will be severely punished for your transgression.

Think about this very carefully for a moment. The oppressor may inflict unimaginable cruelties on innocent victims -- but the victims may only protest in ways which the oppressor deems "acceptable." The profound injustice is obvious, but not in itself remarkable or unexpected: this is how oppression operates. But ask yourself about the deeper reason for the prohibition. This is of the greatest importance: the victims may only protest within a constricted range of "permissible" behavior because, when they exceed the prescribed limits, they make the oppressors too uncomfortable. They force the oppressors to confront the nature of what they, the oppressors, have done in ways that the oppressors do not choose to face.
In the earlier essays, I emphasized the parallels between the bullies we encounter in our personal lives and the behavior of the State, and particularly the United States government; you may consult the earlier articles for details.

Let us briefly consider two examples from politics which follow the identical pattern. The U.S. government sends its military across the world, thousands of miles away, to bomb, subjugate and/or invade nations and peoples that have not threatened us, and could not threaten us in any serious manner. Yet when certain of the people who live in these other countries dare to fight back -- and especially when they attack and even murder U.S. personnel -- they are written off as "terrorists" (or, at best, common criminals) who deserve only death. Our ruling class demands that those the U.S. government bombs or seeks to destroy in other ways (by means of economic blockades, for example) acknowledge our noble and good "intentions," and that we supposedly act on their (that is, the oppressed people's) behalf. Any form of resistance to the U.S. drive to global hegemony is "unacceptable."

We saw the same phenomenon in connection with the Occupy movement several years ago. The ruling class increasingly brutalizes and impoverishes vast swathes of the U.S. populace, but when a very small group of individuals protest -- and when a very few individuals within that very small group commit the "outrage" of breaking a few windows or causing other very minor physical damage -- all we hear about (even from many "progressives") is how detestable it is that the protesters have acted in "violent" ways. Such violence -- not the violence committed every hour of every day by the government, at all levels, but the very limited, exceedingly brief "violence" of a minuscule number of protesters -- is utterly "unacceptable."

Whether or not it is the intention of those who criticize the victims for their response, in all these cases (and in many others that you can supply) the result is to deflect attention from the original crime and the original perpetrator to the behavior of the victims themselves in response to their victimization. One necessary effect is the minimization of both the original crime and the guilt of the original perpetrator, and a hugely disproportionate focus on certain, usually very limited tactics employed by those who are the victims. The profound injustice involved should be obvious. What must also be appreciated is the significant degree to which this shifting of focus redounds to the benefit of the oppressors, and the manner in which all of these examples constitute "blaming the victim." And this is the same mechanism we see in the fictional confrontation scene of the kind I described, as well as in the real-life counterparts I've mentioned.

Without any exceptions that I can think of, at least insofar as discussions of political matters are concerned, complaints about "tone" ultimately serve the same purposes. Several days ago, I discussed such complaints with regard to serious, systematic criticisms of the leak methodology adopted by Greenwald & Co., particularly those criticisms offered by Tarzie and me. I urge you to keep in mind what I consider to be the inevitable result of the manner in which Greenwald & Co. have chosen to publish only a tiny fraction of the documents Snowden provided to them. This is the brief summary of those final effects that I offered in one article:
Consider the enormous value of the hugely restricted publication of the Snowden documents to the various States involved. Rusbridger, Greenwald, et al. all trumpet the great triumph represented by the "debate" publication has engendered -- the clamor of public voices demands "reform," so committees will be formed, investigations will be undertaken, and when the dust has settled, life for the States involved will go on almost exactly as before (remember: if the NSA were disbanded today, identical surveillance would continue via other agencies and institutions of power) -- and the States will be able to claim that the public knows the "truth," and their activities now have the full blessing of informed public consent.
I think you might agree that this result will be disastrous in the extreme. If the Snowden material had been disseminated in a much wider (and faster) manner, it might well have been the catalyst for the beginnings of a strong resistance movement. As things stand now, the Snowden leaks are being frittered away in a way that ensures the States involved will not face a serious threat of any kind in the foreseeable future.

Both Tarzie and I have argued our cases at considerable length. (The previous post contains links to some of our articles, so you can peruse those arguments as you wish.) But now all we hear about is our "tone," and that we occasionally have been cutting, or mocking, or harsh in our treatment of these issues and some of the persons involved. Remember: these issues concern a brutal Death State and the ways in which we might finally be able to mount a challenge to its actions that could cause genuine consternation among the ruling class. Also remember that the Death State claims absolute power: the power to kill anyone it wishes, any time it wants, for any reason it chooses. But it appears that if we wish to protest against these hideous crimes -- and if we dare to criticize those who turn a magnificent opportunity for challenging the monstrous ruling class into yet another avenue for meaningless "debate" and "reform" -- we can only do so while speaking in the dulcet tones of the poet who murmurs of gentle spring breezes.

I consult history, and I look at the lessons of the past. I know -- as you do, too, as does anyone who considers the question honestly -- that such a poet ends up mangled and probably dead, choking in the end on his own sweet phrases in a blood-soaked gutter. We might end up dead as well, but at least a few more people may know that we've been here, and that we had something of consequence to say.

Given the stakes involved, when I see people complain about my "tone," I say: Fuck that. And given the horrifying, ongoing crimes of the ruling class, if you truly think the "tone" of a few protesters against these vast crimes is a subject that demands your oh-so-earnest attention and correction, I also say: Fuck you.

Oh, dear, oh, dear. Am I making some people uncomfortable? Christ, I hope so.

January 05, 2014


[For much more on these issues, from a broader perspective and in a more serious vein, if you will, see this followup essay: "Tone" Is the Tool of the Oppressor.]

Something familiar,
Something peculiar,
Something for everyone:
A comedy tonight!

Something appealing,
Something appalling,
Something for everyone:
A comedy tonight!

Nothing with kings, nothing with crowns;
Bring on the lovers, liars and clowns!

Old situations,
New complications,
Nothing portentous or polite;
Tragedy tomorrow,
Comedy tonight! -- Stephen Sondheim, "Comedy Tonight," A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
I am confident in predicting that, in significant part, 2014 will be The Year of Comedy. It's going to be a goddamn laff riot.

I recently read an article -- one which its author explicitly and painfully self-consciously intends to be super serious, man -- which, in its opening paragraphs, describes the targets of certain of its criticisms in the following terms:

-- "useless" and "moronic"

-- "dragging ... people through the mud"

-- "drowning everything in the noise of acrimony and belligerence"

-- "devolving into crude infighting"

-- "shameful, juvenile, and counter-productive"

Can we agree that such descriptions are, like, not nice? The writer indisputably believes his targets to be stupid, destructive and generally rotten.

Imagine my slack-jawed amazement when, in the midst of this cacophony of calumny, the writer insists -- dude, this is one of his major themes! -- that "tone is important, both for maintaining crucial solidarity within the larger resistance and for disciplining our own thinking against irrational laziness." Oopsie, sorry for my omission: his targets are guilty of "irrational laziness," too. Also not nice!

He really means this stuff about "tone," for he goes on to say: "We are learning lessons and hashing out disputes that will guide future whistleblowers, journalists, and activists for decades to come, and that elevates both criticism and civility as dual imperatives in ensuring a productive debate."

Ah, "civility." Well, maybe not so much for those who are "moronic," "belligerent," "shameful," "juvenile," "lazy" and generally rotten.

This is fucking grade-A comedy gold. I will pause until your helpless laughter subsides sufficiently so that your tears of merriment no longer make it impossible to apprehend the page before you.

I've been blogging for more than ten years, and I tell you this. Calls for "civility" and the proper "tone" surface with deadening regularity at all points of the political spectrum. In every case, without exception, those who demand "civility" are liars of the first order. (How else can you describe someone who levels multiple, damning insults while simultaneously insisting that everyone speak in the hushed, pinched tones of Emily Post with ten extra rods shoved up her ass?) In every case, without exception, they are pursuing aims which they do not choose to disclose, and an agenda which they decline to identify. That is: they're trying to get away with something, and they hope you won't notice.

Whenever I hear the calls for "civility," I think of certain celebrated writers and wonder how they would fare if we applied such a standard. What would we make of statements such as these?

*** Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.

*** The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out ... without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane, intolerable.

*** Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.

*** We must respect the other fellow's religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart.

*** God is the immemorial refuge of the incompetent, the helpless, the miserable. They find not only sanctuary in His arms, but also a kind of superiority, soothing to their macerated egos; He will set them above their betters.

*** The only good bureaucrat is one with a pistol at his head. Put it in his hand and it's good-bye to the Bill of Rights.

And how we would judge observations of this kind?

*** If Christ were here there is one thing he would not be -- a Christian.

*** You believe in a book that has talking animals, wizards, witches, demons, sticks turning into snakes, burning bushes, food falling from the sky, people walking on water, and all sorts of magical, absurd and primitive stories, and you say that we are the ones that need help?

*** All Congresses and Parliaments have a kindly feeling for idiots, and a compassion for them, on account of personal experience and heredity.

*** The more I learn about people, the more I like my dog.

*** Look at the tyranny of party -- at what is called party allegiance, party loyalty -- a snare invented by designing men for selfish purposes -- and which turns voters into chattles, slaves, rabbits, and all the while their masters, and they themselves are shouting rubbish about liberty, independence, freedom of opinion, freedom of speech, honestly unconscious of the fantastic contradiction; and forgetting or ignoring that their fathers and the churches shouted the same blasphemies a generation earlier when they were closing their doors against the hunted slave, beating his handful of humane defenders with Bible texts and billies, and pocketing the insults and licking the shoes of his Southern master.

You probably know that the first group of comments are from Mencken, and the second from Twain. "Civil" is not the first word that comes to mind. Colorful, wickedly clever, sinfully delightful would be fully appropriate. (I also note that this sampling but barely provides an indication of the riches offered by these writers, or the lacerating, uncivil wit of which they were capable. See here, here and here for much more.)

I will now provide the link to the article that so amused me: here it is. The title is: "An anarchist critique of the reporting on the Snowden leaks." The author is one "Jeremy Weiland." I put the name in quotes because, despite my atheism, I fervently pray that it is not the writer's real name. I would never willingly identify someone as the creator of such a soggy pile of leached, grayish pulp, often self-contradictory, sometimes unintelligible, unrelievedly dull. My reluctance is the direct result of my unfailingly charitable and generous nature. Similarly, I am eternally "civil," just as my "tone" is unassailably superb. Fuck's sake.

You may think that my providing the link to the article in question -- that is, the article I happen to be writing about -- isn't a big deal. That's what writers do all the time on the internet, right? We provide links to the subjects of our analyses, so that you can see what the hell we're talking about. But that's a curious thing about Weiland's piece: despite the litany of insults, he never identifies the targets of his condemnation. He never offers even one link to an example of the approach he so deeply detests. However, "Weiland" identifies himself as an "anarchist," and in anarchist circles (and, until very recently, even outside those circles) there have been only two writers who have offered systematic, detailed criticisms of the manner in which the Snowden leaks have been published. Those writers are Tarzie (here's his most recent post, and he provides links to others in his series), and me. (Here's my most recent article, and see here, here and here as well, and links will take you to still more.) Internal clues also make clear that Tarzie and I are Weiland's primary targets, the most obvious being Weiland's reference to "rancid denunciations."

A writer's refusal to link to the target of his own "denunciations" is another sign that he's trying to get away with something. When a link is provided, the reader can judge for herself whether the writer's description and judgment are accurate. Whatever else might be said of Tarzie's and my posts on this subject (good or bad), the numerous articles we've published are thick with substantive argument. Unless the reader of Weiland's piece brings independent knowledge of our writing on this subject, she will have no way of knowing that.

We also know that Tarzie and I are Weiland's primary targets thanks to several recent tweets. In one exchange, Weiland first claimed that his criticisms were general in nature, not tied to specific individuals:
@ohtarzie2 My post attacks behaviors & attitudes, naming nobody outright. If it doesn't describe you, why are you defending it? Exactly.
But just a few tweets later, Weiland says:
@ohtarzie2 I certainly won't deny that I referenced certain of your behaviors. But it's not a personal denunciation. Silber draws my ire too
Beyond this (finally) being an acknowledgment of his actual targets, the comment doesn't even make sense (a problem also present in the article itself, as we shall see). It's "not a personal denunciation" -- because it references "behaviors & attitudes" of more than just one person? What? It's entirely irrelevant whether he's referring to one person or 50: to the extent he denounces certain "behaviors & attitudes" exhibited by certain individuals, he is denouncing those persons with regard to those "behaviors & attitudes." Are we actually at the point where ideas of such numbing simplicity and obviousness must be explained? I feel as if I'm being forced to explain first-grade arithmetic to a pet rock.

Weiland goes on to declare that he really, really doesn't like me:
@ohtarzie2 I have loathed Silber's tone since the moment I discovered him. I love his writing on Alice Miller's thinking, but that's it.
@rancidsassy I read enough. I have a personal, irrational aversion to [Silber's] writing. I can't usually finish any of his pieces.
I dunno, "Weiland." I'm not feeling the "solidarity." And where oh where has "civility" flown? Or do we have two entirely different standards for articles and tweets?

And that's one of the dirty secrets about those who clamor for "civility" and insist on the importance of "tone." What they actually mean is that those whose "behaviors & attitudes" they approve -- or those whose favor they curry and/or whose power they fear -- will be invited for afternoon tea, when they will daintily sip their beverage with crooked pinky. Everyone else, and especially those of whom they strongly disapprove, will be heaved in the gutter with the other slop. So much for "civility" and "solidarity."

I find Weiland's statement that he "can't usually finish any of [my] pieces" mildly intriguing. As a preliminary matter, I note that it is curious indeed to launch a lengthy series of insults at a writer, only to acknowledge that you read the particular articles in question only selectively and sporadically. I suggest that you may have missed something. By contrast, before I began writing this piece (and a future one, which will deal with several substantive points concerning Greenwald & Co.'s leak methodology and Weiland's treatment of same), I read Weiland's article (both the original and the revised versions) several times. Yes, I am masochistically conscientious when it comes to my writing. But, then, I prefer to know what I'm talking about.

And slogging through Weiland's turgid prose is not a happy business (or a hygienic one, for that matter). For example, these two sentences:
Now, neither Snowden, Poitras, nor Greenwald are anarchists, so it surprises me not at all that they'd strike a very different balance on national security than I would. Berating them over this is particularly unhelpful, not least because it reinforces any elitist notion that the public at large is too immature or reckless to handle this information.
I've read and reread this, and I still have no idea what it means. How does the clause beginning "not least" follow from the preceding statements? Criticizing Greenwald & Co. for their highly restricted publication of the leaks is a crucially important point. How does criticizing them for their approach "reinforce any elitist notion..." etc.? To the contrary, arguing for much more complete and widespread dissemination of the leaks is directly opposed to the idea that "the public at large is too immature or reckless to handle this information." My argument has always been that the public is fully capable of handling all the data, even "raw" data, and, moreover, that the public is entitled to have it. Beyond this, it is critical to point out the grievous defects of the Greenwald approach because of its consequences. It is immaterial whether we can "expect" better or different behavior from them, particularly when many people don't seem to grasp fully the implications and results of this method of leaking. The nature of Greenwald's methodology and its likely results are of singular importance. I have always been focused on the methodology involved (and in my very first post on the Snowden leaks from last June, I contrasted the Greenwald methodology to that of WikiLeaks precisely because the question of methodology is so central) -- but it is Weiland who seeks to reduce these arguments to questions of personality, by the use of terms such as "berating."

Even though Weiland says that he "can't usually finish any of [my] pieces," I suspect he's read a fair amount of my writing on this subject. Some of his arguments -- interestingly, the ones that are comprehensible and with which I agree -- have a very familiar ring to them. From Weiland:
Moreover, I can't help but regard Greenwald's arguments for the urgency of mediation here as inherently elitist; the idea that we, the public, must be guided or conditioned by the "drip" strategy of reporting on the leaks seems almost insulting. If this debate is so important, why does it require so much guidance, especially from one faction of one class in society? If we the people cannot be trusted to react to these disclosures in the "proper" manner, why bother with reporting at all? Ultimately, as noble as I think Greenwald, Poitras, et al's ends are, I can't help but find this reasoning a bit hypocritical.
From my second article on the leaks, published on June 12:
I will also state frankly, again with regard to the similar justifications offered by both these journalists and the government, that there is a very strong element of elitism involved that I find objectionable in the extreme. In the case of the Guardian, we know that Greenwald and at least two other reporters had access to Snowden's documents (or at least parts of them). We can safely assume that at least one editor was also involved, and probably more than one given the "sensitivity" of the material and the attention they knew the stories would receive. We can also safely assume, as Greenwald does, that "the Guardian has consulted lawyers about all of this." How many lawyers? We don't know. I have some familiarity with matters of this kind, and I think we can say it's at least two or three, and possibly five or six (given the importance of this material and the stories based on it). So how many people are we talking about? Eight, 10, 15, 20? Almost certainly between 10 and 20, at a minimum. That's just at the Guardian. The same would be true at the Washington Post. So we're talking about 40 or 50 individuals, possibly more, who reviewed Snowden's documents or at least some of them. I'm probably undercounting.

On top of this, we've all seen the stories about how the government hands out clearances to classified and "Top Secret" information like candy. But now we're told that all those very special workers for the State, plus the 40 or 50 people (and probably more) at the Guardian and the Washington Post, well, they're so responsible, and conscientious, and impossibly pure that they can be trusted with information that apparently will cause the simultaneous implosion of numerous galaxies if it were to fall into the hands of irresponsible, criminally careless, and stupid people -- like you. Like me.
A week later, I returned to that theme:
In an earlier post about the NSA/surveillance stories, I discussed the profoundly offensive elitism involved in the argument that "special" people in both government and journalism, people endowed with understanding and judgment that is the envy of the gods and forever denied to all us ordinary schlubs, should decide what information will be provided to the motley mass of humans who merely pay for all of it, and for whose benefit all this godlike work is supposedly undertaken. Talk about idiocies: "We're doing all this for you! You're too stupid to be told most of what we're doing!" Put it on a bumper sticker, baby, so we can throw rotten eggs at it.
My "tone" may be unspeakably rude, even barbaric -- but my point and Weiland's are exactly the same. (I have frequently returned to this issue in my articles; if you follow the links provided above, you'll find those discussions. Sometimes, I even manage to hold my barbarism in check.)

Or consider this, from Weiland:
Journalistic mediation of source materials is not supposed to restrict access to the source facts themselves; that's not it's [sic] intent. Journalism is supposed to add clarity and understanding to the facts but not exercise total access control over them. Remember when Greenwald calling out [sic] Dina Temple-Raston for reporting national security stories based on materials only she was allowed to see? This is not the same situation, but it has a similar feel to it, because we're just supposed to trust the journalist without verifying it.
This is a theme I have discussed repeatedly, most recently on December 3:
Since it seems that, at most, a very, very small percentage of the Snowden documents will ultimately be made public, we are entitled to know why 98%, or 90%, or 50%, of the documents will never be made public. What percentage of the documents name names, and would therefore supposedly endanger "innocent" people? Can't the names be omitted, and the redacted documents then published? Which percentage might endanger "national security"? How are these journalists determining what endangers "national security" (or what "national security" is?) or how much "danger" is permissible, if any? Is there some percentage of the documents that the journalists have determined to be not "newsworthy"? How is that determination made? What are the factors involved? As I noted in one of my earliest posts about this, we are offered only vacuous phrases devoid of specific content when it comes to the reasons for non-disclosure. In fact, we have no specific idea how any of these judgments are being made. Thus, we are reduced to the identical posture with regard to both the State(s) and the "dissenting" journalists: we just have to trust them.
There are several additional examples of passages from Weiland that sound very familiar, but you get the idea. (In fact, much of the analysis in the immediately preceding excerpt of mine is echoed in Weiland's discussion of how wider dissemination of the leaks would be possible.) Yes, of course it is possible that writers can independently arrive at very similar ideas, and even similar means of expression. But as the similarities increase in number, certain possibilities are suggested.

I mention my earlier discussions of these points for another reason. Greenwald has now chimed in on Weiland's discussion:
@jeremy6d Your post was super thoughtful and, I believe, the first to address those questions. I hope to respond more at length.
"Super thoughtful." (I'm delighted to see we're all super literate.) And Weiland's post is "I believe, the first to address those questions." In his typical fashion, Greenwald leaves himself an out for this claim, two outs actually: "I believe," and "those questions." All of Weiland's major arguments (at least, the major arguments that are correct; there are some other arguments that are wrong and/or largely irrelevant, but I'll get to those another time) are ones that I've discussed at length, usually on multiple occasions. But Greenwald can claim "those questions" refers to some (minor and/or irrelevant) issues that I've never addressed. And he can claim he never read any of my posts (which I strongly doubt, since I know a number of people sent him links to many of my articles).

But we know that Greenwald has read (or at least skimmed) a couple of Tarzie's articles. We know that, because Greenwald commented on them: here, which is a comment to this post, and here (where Greenwald throws "civility" out the window, along with reason, logic and facts). In his posts, Tarzie discussed many of these same issues as well. But it's hardly surprising that Greenwald should feel favorably disposed to tweeting sweet nothings at Weiland: if someone burbled and gurgled about my "noble" ends, my "heroic acts," and how much he respects the general wondrousness of my person and work, I might want to give him a momentary nuzzle. And Weiland provides one further benefit to Greenwald: by failing to offer even a single link to one of Greenwald's loathsome, barbaric, deeply uncivilized critics, he seeks to erase those critics from this discussion going forward. And, it appears, that is a benefit Greenwald seized upon: "those questions" are now addressed for the first time.

Sad to say, anarchists (and those who call themselves "anarchists") are people, too. Social climbing, the cultivation of those in positions of power and influence, and career maintenance are hardly unknown among anti-Statists. Scratch my back, and I'll ... well, you know how it goes.

Also sad to say, there are a few other issues about this business I still want to address. But I may write about some other subjects before I get to that. At the moment, I feel as if I need to take several scaldingly hot showers.

UPDATE: See "Tone" Is the Tool of the Oppressor, for much more on the broader issues involved.