By John Kendall Hawkins
In these musical times, it’s important to distinguish between a whistleblower and a leaker. Probably the last place to look for the difference is the Main Stream Media, which is caught up in partisan politics and often blurs the line between the two, guided not by public interest but corporate self-interest. What does the term “whistleblower” mean to you? Take a moment, divest yourself of the MSM brainwash (all the same news all the time), the same way you divested yourself of those South African apart-hate stocks back in the day. Can you feel a jaunty Johnny Nash song coming on?
Personally, I like the comparison Edward Snowden draws in his recent memoir, Permanent Record (a title meant to bring attention to the fact that the US government now has an illegal dossier on every netizen in the world, and, he says, is willing to use it to take down its enemies — and we’re all suspects). It’s a straightforward distinction: “A ‘whistleblower’ … is a person who through hard experience has concluded that their life inside an institution has become incompatible with the principles developed in…the greater society outside it, to which that institution should be accountable.” Snowden compares this to leaking, which refers to “acts of disclosure done not out of public interest but out of self-interest, or in pursuit of institutional or political aims.”
The problem is, as Matt Taibbi so eloquently lays out in Hate Inc., his take on the Washington bread-and-circus shenanigans of the last few years, the MSM has abrogated its Fourth Estate duty as Bastard-Outer for the republic, because they’ve become caught up in the often-juvenile partisan snark attacks. Taibbi argues that the Press seems, more than ever, driven by profit motives, acceding to jingos, character assassination and sensationalism, rather than following the rules of journalism, as they close down and are forced to move online, where they don’t call the shots on what’s news (and not) any more. In short, the Press (and MSM) will name anyone a ‘whistleblower’ if it helps them sell ads, on paper or online.
Take, for example, Citizen X, the Ukraine quid pro quo whistleblower. The MSM has released very little information about him, other than acknowledging that he’s a CIA officer, because they don’t want to publish details that would inevitably allow free-thinking individuals to work out who he is. Why? Because their agenda is to kill, kill, kill Trump’s presidency. Foot soldierin’ for the Intelligence Community may be a noble cause, but it’s not very honest (balanced) journalism. The name of the whistleblower has been circulating for weeks in alternative-to-MSM publications, such as realclearinvestigations.com, run by, ahem, a former NY Times editor. There’s a lot of that going on: The Intercept is staffed with star reporters from the MSM who couldn’t hack it anymore.
If our third-hand-wringing whistleblower is who these altos say he is, then he doesn’t fit the criteria that Edward Snowden sees — a Daniel Ellsberg type — but rather a pawn in the Deep State game. The one-and-only CIA analyst to ever go to prison (albeit deeply minimum) for whistleblowing, John Kiriakou, has weighed in on the master debate. “If he’s a whistleblower,” writes Kiriakou, “and not a CIA plant whose task it is to take down the president, then his career is probably over.” Elsewhere, he says, “[I]nside the CIA, I guarantee you that people are saying, ‘Well, if he’s willing to rat out the president, he’s probably willing to rat out us.’ And so no one is ever going to trust this guy again.”
Spooks don’t rat. Snowden brought this reality home in Permanent Record when he describes LOVEINT, a computer interface that allows analysts to snoop and stalk love interests. But even though there were penalties in place for such abuses, nobody was ever even chastised, writes Snowden, a self-acknowledged abuser, because “you can’t exactly convict someone of abusing your secret system of mass surveillance if you refuse to admit the existence of the system itself.” Ostensibly, girlfriends would look at their Snowdens, their menfolk having the look of someone who’s been looking at them already. And for the Snowdens, their love interests “had the look of flowers that are looked at,” as that old mermaid whisperer TS Eliot puts it, referring to his wastrel years.
Unfortunately for the fused agendas of the MSM, our intrepid Deep State Throat, if the alt media information holds up, was a confidante of Joe Biden when he was the “point man” for Ukraine affairs after the CIA-encouraged coup there in 2014. In fact, according to the Real Clear whistleblow on the ‘whistleblower,” he was more than that: Deep State Throat was Obama’s NSC director for Ukraine. I’m a former newspaper journalist: This possibility is worth checking out, as it resounds with implications.
Even worse, and more heartbreaking for our nation’s future prospects, according to the report, he worked for serial liar and criminal John Brennan, who recently said of al-Bagdadi, as he was being chased by ungloved US forces, suicide-invested and clutching kids, “He died like a dog, he died like a coward…He died after running into a dead-end tunnel, whimpering and crying and screaming all the way…The thug who tried so hard to intimidate others spent his last moments in utter fear, in total panic and dread.” Oh, wait, I was thinking of Brennan’s retractable account of the bin Laden take-down he witnessed in the situation room. I dunno, maybe Trump was having a go at Obama again — some kind of conspiracy-theory riff.
There’s something wrong in America; you can tell, outside looking in. Elections, the heart-and-soul of democracy, aren’t working and nobody wants to fix them (electoral college issues, continued voter disenfranchisement, gerrymandering, and voter box hacking). The MSM, once the champion of Keeping the Bastards Honest, has settled into a selfish, stenographic funk, and has abrogated the moral authority embodied in the principles of sound journalism. They let evil, criminal doings off-the-hook with a warning, and blow up the bullshit and keep all eyes on the fan.
Those of us who still have marbles rolling around in our heads know George W. Bush probably stole the 2000 election, and maybe even 2004 (when the NYT quashed an October surprise story by James Risen that was a heads-up, eight years before Snowden’s revelations, about the NSA’s illegal dossier-building on everyone). When Bush called on the NSA to talk British intelligence into surreptitiously obtaining kompromat on UN security council members to sway their votes on the question of war with Iraq, as described in the recent whistleblower film, Official Secrets, he should have been brought before The Hague. When the WMD ruse was revealed, Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld should have been imprisoned. Hell, I’d have thrown in Kissinger, too, Nobel peace prize with him.
And Obama, who all we Lefties once praised, with hopeful audacinations, went dud so fast, even before his Inauguration, when he had to bail out too-big-to-fail Wall Street bankers, who’d tried to make zillions and zillions off the housing bubble that were little more than cynical bets that mortgages granted to millions of Black and poor people would fail. It almost qualified as a pyramid scheme. Bush came at Obama like Wall Street was a Twin Tower that terrorists missed that September morn and had come back around for, six years later. Neo-cons everywhere must have laughed to see that Mandela-like bounce of Obama disappear, as Bush whispered Dixie in his ear.
Well, some character whistleblowers say he was an asshole anyway, and his breaking bad had nothing to do with the Bail Out. It’s hard to say. If I were a conspiracy theorist, I could see some IC guy sitting him down and pushing a dossier of his secrets across the table at him, with a wink, and walking away. Or maybe Donald Trump’s birther hallucination unnerved the Big Guy (he did feel obliged to post the b/c to the White House website). Whatever it was that turned him, he turned to a life of crime.
You could start with an investigation of the legality of his secret wars. His indiscriminate use of drones (secretly, at first), and then, later, setting the criminal precedent of droning American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, and, more, of drone-murdering Abdulrahman, his 16 year old American son. Forcing down the plane of a head of state in the mistaken belief that a fugitive was on-board. He expanded the Orwellian surveillance machine. And the impeachable offense (separation of powers) of ordering the CIA to break in to the Senate intelligence sub-committee that was investigating the CIA for its illegal abuses during the Bush torture regime. And his overwrought prosecution of whistleblowers, under the Espionage Act, perhaps with the intent to obstruct justice.
Ironically, if we may be loose, Barack Obama was the first to blow the whistle on Trump’s presidency — even before DJ was inaugurated. You consider the source, of course, but Trump has been largely correct when he says that the Obama administration did, indeed, spy on him while he was a candidate. There’s even some evidence that Obama state department officials acted as go-betweens for ex-UK (now contract) spy Christopher Steele and, later, the Clinton campaign. It may even be that, as with Edward Snowden “working” for Dell Computers, Steele may have been a “contract” worker for MI6 at the time of his dossier-building on Trump, doing their business disguised as Orbis. In each collection of data, the president’s and the ex-secretary’s, the intention was to give Hillary a political edge in the 2016 presidential election. Why, that sounds criminal.
You could argue that the Trump campaign’s alleged “collusion” with the Russians, as “assessed’ by the four intel agencies, after a finding on the alleged DNC hack, was a form of cover-up for Obama’s lame-duck moves, and an attempt to lock in a political posture on Russia before leaving office, effectively sidelining Trump’s presidency, and keeping eyes off the American doings in Ukraine. If the CIA was used, on a phony pretext, to gather data on a presidential candidate in America, for the purposes of helping the opposing candidate win, as they’re so famous for in banana republics, then they broke the law and should have been (should be) tried. Maybe we could try them on the Espionage Act of 1917.
The forensic analysis done by the DNC’s computer security, Crowdstrike, was an online job; nobody seems to have bothered checking the servers physically — not even the FBI, who were told in almost hysterical terms that our Democracy had been ravaged by those Viking-like Russians. Yet, the Mueller Report, like James Comey’s FBI, relied on Crowdstrike’s hands-off analysis. Maybe because Crowdstrike has FBI connections, including Shawn Henry, who “joined CrowdStrike in 2012 after retiring from the FBI, where he oversaw half of the FBI’s investigative operations, including all FBI criminal and cyber investigations worldwide….” Again, this is the homo contractus stuff Snowden warns us of.
Further diminishing the ‘slam dunk’ evidence that Mueller relies on to call the DNC server breach a hack is Julius Assange’s August 3, 2016 revelation on the PBS NewsHour that the emails he published were leaks, not hacks, and that he knew who the insiders were. He went on to name them. All of which, the Crowdstrike association with the FBI and the Assange assertion, put the IC “findings,” upon which an indictable case against Russian hackers is drawn, in reasonable doubt. Who knows, maybe the server isn’t even at the DNC. You could turn a laptop or even, potentially, a mobile phone into a server, if so inclined; just download and configure a mail server app. After all, just because someone works at the State department doesn’t mean that’s where they have their mail server.
(Funny side speculation, Russia is said to have meddled in Ukraine’s recent presidential election, maybe giving them Volodymyr Zelensky, a comic actor, and political apprentice, as a way of further tweaking the nose of the CIA, and showing them how it’s done. Check out the Ukraine president’s IMDB rating!)
All red flags point to Ukraine still, not Russia. The latter’s many LNG gas lines to Europe all currently go under Ukraine, and it’s known that America wants to disrupt that flow. The obvious criminality of Trump’s quid pro quo telephone conversation with his fellow apprentice Zelensky, aside from whether it leads to Trump’s impeachment, had as its focus the continuation of the investigation of Burisma Gas Holdings, whose fields lie mostly under Crimean soil.
There may or may not be anything to the Joe Biden quid pro quo he successfully executed in 2016 and bragged about on live TV, with minor hand-wringing by the MSM, but it is worth noting that the continued investigation into Burisma that Trump was pushing would also have resulted in the question: Why is Cofer Black on its Board of Directors (since just after Trump’s inauguration in 2017)?
It’s speculation, but not wild, that Deep State Throat, Obama’s former NSC liaison for Ukraine, received a call of his own, perhaps from the American embassy anxious to continue the anti-Russian work of the previous administration. As Edward Snowden writes in Permanent Record, “The worst-kept secret in modern diplomacy is that the primary function of an embassy nowadays is to serve as a platform for espionage.”
This might help explain Cofer Black’s presence. The long established 9/11 narrative says that it was Cofer’s dire warnings to Bush of an imminent attack by al-Qaeda that were ignored; he was put in charge thereafter of tracking down bin Laden; he set up the renditions and black sites and torture program that followed; he helped found the private CIA group, Blackwater, with its basket of mercenary deployables; he is chairman of Total Intelligence Services, likely the homo contractus version of the Deep State’s Total Information Awareness program. Who knows, maybe he swaps secret men’s spit with Christopher Steele. It’s a small world when you’re a small man. Surely, with Black in town, it won’t be long before heads of departments are on sticks in Kiev and flies are crouch dancing across eyeballs in the Crimea. Metaphorically, of course.
Because Western democratic citizens live in a politically dysfunctional world — Five Eyes nations are enforcers for nation-state gangster goons guarding their ever-acquisitive interests — without a respected unifying governmental agency, such as a real league of nations, we get nothing crucial done as a globe — see climate change. We’ve become hive-minded, interconnected in uncomfortable ways, and seem to be suffering from some kind of colony collapse of consciousness.
This would help explain how these things keep happening under our noses, while the MSM looks the other way. Or leads us in a rendition of Two Minute Hate. Tiny cornball characters who see themselves as swaggering Gods. As Bobby Dylan sings,
They all play on the penny whistle
You can hear them blow
If you lean your head out far enough
From Desolation Row
Book Review: In Defense of Julian Assange eds. Tariq Ali and Margaret Kunstler
By John Kendall Hawkins
Crikey, he gives them the shits.
Hillary once said — even before the 2016 election — “Can’t we just drone him?”
Maybe you’re thinking she was just joking, like Obama that time at the White House Correspondents Dinner in 2010, when he cracked that he’d take out the Jonas Brothers with a Predator drone strike, if they got grabby with his daughters. Laughter all around. Of course, the joke was on them, because there was no drone warfare program at the time, WINK. Obama wouldn’t acknowledge the existence of such drone usage until he zapped out Anwar al-Awlaki a year later, and his 16 year-old son, Abdulrahman, shortly thereafter, both Americans.
The MSM darn near bust a gut. (The joke’s been told over and over since. Punch line here.)
Julian Assange had warmed the Press up nearly a month earlier when he released the top secret “Collateral Murder” video into the wilds of the public imagination. You could hear all kinds of laughter from the gunship soldiers machine-gunning away at civilians, like Chuck Connors, Russian mole, in the film Embassy. Rat-a-tat-tat! Who knew the War on Terror could be so funny? You don’t even want to call The Hague and file a report, you’re laughing so hard.
And Assange followed up that gag with a bing-bang-boom fusillade: the Afghan War Logs (all those unreported haw-haw casualties); the Iraq War Logs had Abu rolling over in his graib, with laughter; Cablegate released all that global goss and started the Arab Spring (Tunisia 2011); the Guantánamo Files — so many Code Reds the bulls went insane; the Spy Files demonstrated “the industrialization of global mass surveillance” — what an effing hoot; the Syria Files made Assad shoot off laughing gas at the rebels; elites fell over themselves, like drunken clowns, when Assange published “the secret draft of the TransPacific Partnership (TPP)”; the Saudi Cables brought on the Curly Shuffle in Riyadh.
You almost couldn’t believe that a guy who one wag described as having had a “wild…Tom Sawyer-like” childhood could cause so much angst. Why, he even spent his early years in an honest-to-goodness Jumping Frog of Calaveras County atmosphere on a small island, called Magnetic. How could he be found so unattractive by so many? When he moved to mainland Oz for his teen years he became John Connor, where he had his whole future in the rearview mirror, and spent his time in MILNET “hacking Pentagon generals’ emails,” he tells Ai WeiWei in the new collection of testimonials and supportive documents that make up In Defense of Julian Assange edited by Tariq Ali and Margaret Kunstler.
Assange was determined to rip off the veil of the Military-Industrial Complex (MIC) from an early age. And it’s another peculiarity that he, along with fellow Aussie John Pilger, have been so successful in penetrating to the core of the fascist heart that drives American foreign policy. Peculiar, because Australia, unlike America, has no Bill of Rights, so no fire in the belly for constitutional protections, and the press here is weak and getting weaker — thanks to the recent passage of “retention” laws that seem very much like the US Espionage Act that Assange will face in America. Yet, Pilger, in an interview with ex-CIA operative, Duane Clarridge, has totally exposed the ugly, roaring heart of Empire. Assange has laid out its blueprints.
So much has been written, movies have been made, you could make the case that Assange’s life is over-exposed, and that, ironically, this champion of personal privacy and governmental transparency, hasn’t had any real alone-time for quite awhile and has been swarmed with layers of surveillance designed to break his spirit. Outside the Ecuadorian embassy police spent years poised to pounce. Inside, there were microphones and cameras everywhere. “It was the Truman Show,” Assange is quoted in the book.
In the introduction to In Defense, Nils Melzer, a special UN rapporteur on torture, declared after visiting Assange in May at Belmarsh that:
In 20 years of work with victims of war, violence and political persecution I have never seen a group of democratic States ganging up to deliberately isolate, demonize and abuse a single individual for such a long time and with so little regard for human dignity and the rule of law.
Clearly, the State intends on having the last laugh. Sadists like their punch lines.
The great virtue of In Defense is that it collects all the controversial bits and pieces of Assange’s situation into one volume and mounts a fierce support for his personal and professional crises. A cogent introduction summarizes key segments of his current entrapment in a web of intrigue. There’s an impressive chronology of Wikileaks’ publications, from “Collateral Murder” to the Vault 7 CIA hacking tools. You wonder aloud if he’s more courageous than nuts, given the likely repercussions. The book is broken up into four parts: Expulsion; Confinement; the Internet, Censorship, and Scientific Journalism; and the Legacy of Wikileaks and Assange. A helpful point-by-point defense to Assange’s critics by Caitlin Johnstone lends focus. An appendix contains the superseding indictment for which he faces extradition to America.
Out of all that, In Defense attempts to answer three main questions: One, is Assange a terrorist or a journalist? Two, Is he a rapist? Three, What happens next? In Defense is unusual in that it transparently addresses all the questions Assange is likely to face in a courtroom, and summons forth the kinds of witnesses and evidence that will manifest in the proceedings. We hear from lawyers, technologists, whistleblowers, ex-spooks, radical feminists, government officials, and Assange himself — in a kind Open Source trialing of ‘discovery’ materials. The gambit in play appears to be that Assange is hoping to win people over to create a swelling base of support/protest once the secretive political trial begins.
Is Assange a terrorist or a journalist? As Tariq Ali notes in the introduction, “Assange and his colleagues made no secret of the fact that their principal subject of publication was the American Empire and its global operations.” Through his Wikileaks publishings, Assange has demonstrably established his intention to ‘document’ the dark agenda of Empire — and to oppose it. In this sense, he is an activist publisher, no different than, say, Ramparts, Counterpunch or Harper’s. But the material to support his opposition is primary documentation, procured through hacks and leaks. Like Socrates the “gadfly,” he wants people to make up their own minds. He sees himself as an Ethical Hacker, and an ethical leaker.
While he may not be able to use it as a defense tactic, WikiLeaks reminds me of the “necessity defense” that Abbie Hoffman and Amy Carter successfully argued in 1987 at their trial for criminal trespassing that followed their disruption of CIA recruiting efforts on the campus of the UMass-Amherst. They were able to convince the court that their ostensibly ‘illegal’ actions were to stop bigger crimes from happening on foreign soil, in the name of Americans, who were never consulted. Thus, when a Kissinger can advise a Nixon that he doesn’t see why America should sit by while a Chile elects an Allende, when there’s a Duane Clarridge ready to fix the problem, people needn’t accept it as the American Way. Wikileaks is necessary.
Because they control the narrative arc of “The Global War on Terror,” the US government can characterize its antagonists any way it pleases. The Americans, deeply learning from the tactics of the Viet Cong who gave them the shits in ‘Nam, labelled al Qaeda (who they’d helped set up to give the Russians a taste of their own ‘Nam quagmire in Afghanistan), after 9/11, “unlawful non-state enemy combatants.” They didn’t wear pajamas, had no central command, and, thank Christ, were a wonderful reason to slap boots down in multiple countries in search of naked sleeper cells who might wake from their dogmatic slumbers and hate on America for her Human Freedom Project™.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described Julian Assange and Wikileaks, as “a hostile non-state intelligence service.” This clown’s description of Wikileaks could include almost any left wing publication. Curiously, even the New York Times, a publication that has in the past spinached up its circulation by featuring stories based on Wikileaks documents, has turned on him. In April, the editorial board called him “a “foreign agent seeking to undermine the security of the United States through theft.” Pompeo would like to see Assange as akin to al Qaeda, then maybe honeypot him to some remote location, and, as Bobby Dylan would say, he could be caught without a ticket to the dance “and be discovered beneath a truck.” What, you think Empire is joking?
In a column for the volume, “The Naivete of Julian Assange,” Margaret Kimberly, a senior writer for Black Agenda Report, chides Assange for his ignorance of American domestic issues. Australia, while still dealing with aboriginal issues, has no legacy of slavery, and no Bill of Rights, and these deficits mean Assange lacks depth when it comes to American domestic political passions. She takes issue with a Tweet exchange he had during which “he questioned the need to fight the American Civil War” and seemed “unaware that the Confederacy started the war and steadfastly refused to end slavery.”
Nevertheless, she conceded, “His willingness to show us what war looks like or how trade agreements deprive millions of people of their rights make him an ally not just as a person but an ally of the principles Americans claim to care about.”
Her observations are a reminder that a lot of what’s going on is a bunch of white people fighting over power, with no sign that minorities are included in the conversation or will benefit from the process.
Is Assange a rapist? In Defense recounts the investigatory details that keep Assange tied to the Swedish justice system. The even reference a helpful YouTube animation that brings a viewer through the specious semi-allegations. The fact is that Assange would not be regarded as a potential rapist for ‘what happened’ in any other part of the world but Sweden, as the sex was consensual. He was investigated because a woman he slept with feared an alleged faulty condom might have allowed the transmission of an STD. As Caitlin Johstone writes in one of her mythbuster segments, “[One of the woman] admitted she had been ‘railroaded by police and others around her’” to pursue Assange. She reminds: He hasn’t actually been charged with anything in Sweden.
The US government doesn’t mind if Sweden takes its sweet ass time with its version of due process — the longer the better; they may even be behind the delays. Assange’s instincts were right about seeking asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy to avoid extradition to the US; the chances are they were right for the same reason had he returned to Sweden. Meantime, as long as the ‘investigation’ goes incomplete, he gets to be painted by the MSM as a sexually aggressive hornball who intentionally ‘leaks’ without regard for his partner. As he’s been accused of by the CIA with his Wikileaks. This helps sell him as a predator. We got drones for that.
The breach of the servers at the DNC during the 2016 presidential campaign changed everything about how Assange has been perceived in the US.
The Obama intelligence community successfully sold Americans — through a compliant MSM — on the still unsubstantiated claim that the Russians interfered in the 2016 presidential election, foisting Trump on us, effectively paying us back, clown for clown, for giving them Yeltsin in 1991. Obama then wanted to connect Assange to the Russian mischief by claiming he either worked directly with them to hack the DNC, or else worked indirectly by posting to Wikileaks emails received from Russians.
But understated is how irate Obama was in 2013 when Assange sent an emissary to Hong Kong to help Edward Snowden avoid being taken by the CIA, after he was outed by the mainstream media as the greatest top secrets leaker of all time. Recall that Obama’s unprecedented forcing of the plane of a head of state to land in Austria when he thought Snowden was aboard. Virtually an act of war, and something that should have been condemned by the paper tiger United Nations, who exist to keep nation-states from crossing the line with each other..
As Kevin Gosztola points out in the book, “[T]he Obama administration realized in 2013 that it … could not prosecute Assange without exposing journalists at the Times or Washington Post to potential prosecutions for publishing classified information.” But all of that changes if Assange can be re-classified as an agent of foreign powers, a kind of enemy combatant, rather than a journalist. Thus, as Gosztola suggests, Democratic leaders started referring to him as an enemy. Joe Biden called him a “high-tech terrorist” and Diane Feinstein referred to him as “an agitator intent on damaging our government, whose policies he happens to disagree with, regardless of who gets hurt.” Oh, those condomnations.
The Russian-DNC-Guccifer thing has all the hallmarks of a set-up. Tariq Ali points out in the intro, “The finding that the DNC documents were hacked from seven separate accounts by agents of the Russian state rests on the assertions of private cybersecurity companies, CrowdStrike, Fidelis, and Mandiant, rather than of the FBI, which was denied access to the DNC server.” And as Craig Murray adds, “[The Mueller Report’s] identification of ‘DC Leaks’ and ‘Guccifer 2.0’ as
Russian security services is something Mueller attempts to carry off by simple assertion.” You gudda pwobwem wid dat?
It is still an open question whether emails taken from the DNC servers were the result of a hack or an insider thumb drive. Former NSA techie and whistleblower William Binney says it was a thumb. Craig Murray reminds the reader of In Defense that he personally met the thumb. Assange has named DNC insiders as sources for his cache. None of them were sought out by Mueller.
The IC says the Russkies did it and that the Guccifer 2.0 WordPress site from which Assange got some emails was a Russian site. But an email address can be acquired in seconds, a wordpress site set up in minutes, and the site populated with all kinds of blog posts — like the one that tells about how to spoof a foreign power during a hack. Even “Guccifer” has the smell of the kind of spook nomenclature that Edward Snowden describes in detail in his memoir Permanent Record — Gucci Lucifer = Guccifer. Get it?
Who knows what kind of an environment Assange will be immersed in when he comes in chains to the Land of the Free. The current business with Trump could make a conspiracy-fearist out of anyone. Yeltsin may not even be president by the time Assange is tried — what with whistleblowers climbing over each like a Ukrainian sitcom to put an end to corruption as we know it. You can almost see CIA analysts lounging in the coffee room, mooning over the days of yore, and wondering aloud, “I don’t see why we have to sit around and watch this country go banana republic due to the irresponsibility of its people. Who wants to whistle dixie next?”
In a world that doesn’t seem capable of giving a shit any more (see climate change), we have been blessed with some people willing to do the dirty work of keeping the plumbing of the people running. Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, and Julian Assange, along with the many whistleblowers, VIPS, and voices of outrage and clarity that make up this volume, could be seen as a kind of superhero group in a future comedic movie: The Empire Turns Its Back. Assange as a Tom Sawyer figure — radicalized — the movie poster boasting: He didn’t just want a piece of the Empire, he wanted the whole Inshaallahllah.
Coming soon to a ‘reality-based’ cinema near you.
‘50 years later, we are celebrating (in that we are not protesting) a summer of surveillance and opacity instead of freedom and inclusion’
As large pockets of the African-American population spend parts of the summer of 2014 reminiscing about the spirited songs and protest marches of half a century ago in Mississippi that are widely regarded as keystones in the Civil Rights movement of the ’60s, most American whites, even progressives, will look on quaintly and with detachment, as though passively watching the doings of Carnivale or the Mardi Gras. It does not move them as an event of democratic solidarity and a celebration of inclusion.
History and memory being what it is, few will venture beyond the vagaries of the Summer of Love, let alone drift back to the violent, revolutionary beginnings to the slow, on-going evolution of black freedom in America that took hold that summer.
And fewer people around the world will see it as a watershed moment that can help them understand their own nation’s development in coping with the tolerant inclusion of the Other—the glue that makes civilization possible. Could the French not gain perspective on their historical treatment of Arab cultures by studying the riotous growth spurts in America? Could Czechs not gain insight into their treatment of the Roma? Do not the terrible insufficiencies of Mississippi in 1964 not have a blazing resonance in Australian Aboriginal relations?
There was a time — and it was then — when JFK was a Berliner and MLK was the living gospel of hope, when all eyes were on America and her determination to break through the remaining chains holding back the final growth spurt of civilization. America the exceptional. Or so it seemed.
In a recent Guardian article, Errin Haines points out the obvious: “Unfortunately, the anniversaries of the watershed moments of the civil rights movement are not embraced as thoroughly by white people in America as they are by black people, despite the reality that these events have benefited us all.”
Yes, this is sad indeed, the begrudging tokenism, the sense that the hard-fought “victories” of these years is seen by many whites with the same resentment as Affirmative Action. These early civil rights actions, especially the voting rights act, were the catalyst for the eventual near-revolutionary protests against violence in general and the war in particular that followed.
You could even argue that it was the principal progressive outlet for middle class whites, until the draft changed their focus and the 1970 Kent State atrocity forced progressives to put aside their sweet Age of Reasoning and inch closer to a more militant, black-driven ‘by any means necessary’ resolve.
But it should never be forgotten that though the events of Mississippi in 1964 were brutal and terrifying some mention is necessary, even in passing, of some of the blood sweat and tears years that came before and made Freedom Summer possible – Rosa Parks in 1954, Emmett Till in 1955, Little Rock in 1957, Medgar Evers in 1963, MLK’s Dream speech of 1963. All of these events built toward that tipping point momentum which made changes possible.
The Freedom Summer led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and, of course, it is right to emphasize that this was an accomplishment shared by like-minded whites and blacks. Clearly, the equal right to vote should be the crown jewel of any modern, pluralistic democracy, and the struggle to get there should be recalled with more universal pride than it is. Again as Haines sums up: “It is not … the responsibility of black Americans to make white Americans feel comfortable with this history. Rather, it is time for white Americans to simultaneously own their role in the ugly parts of segregation and be proud of those who were on the right side of history.”
And that’s where the rub comes in.
Had such pride in universal inclusivity been in play in 2000, it is unthinkable that the Florida presidential election debacle would have taken place—or, if it did, that it would have been allowed to stand.
While many white Democrats and self-styled progressives point to that colossal systemic failure in democracy and blame Ralph Nader for siphoning votes away from Al Gore, or the failure of the latter to win his own home state’s electoral votes, it is the rather quiet, almost-forgotten-already decision by the US Supreme Court to not allow a recount of votes in key Florida districts — with strictly partisan reasoning and the application of obtuse partisan technicalities (it would have gone beyond a mandated deadline).
As lightning rod attorney Alan Dershowitz remarked after the Justices handed down their decision: “[T]he decision in the Florida election case may be ranked as the single most corrupt decision in Supreme Court history, because it is the only one that I know of where the majority justices decided as they did because of the personal identity and political affiliation of the litigants. This was cheating, and a violation of the judicial oath.”
The decision outraged many people for a little while, and has now been all but forgotten. But it seems so much ‘progressive’ energy was poured into lamenting and blogging about the Supreme Court decision that all the outrage over the electoral processes that caused the crisis dissipated and went unaddressed. Indeed, Florida had similar problems again in 2004. And Florida is not alone: Pennsylvania and Ohio, two crucial ‘swing states’ continue to have significant systemic flaws to this day which disproportionately affect black voters.
But the Florida political circus wasn’t disturbing merely because of infrastructural flaws and weaknesses, but more importantly it was the underlying meanness and nastiness of the treatment, of denying a citizen the chance to vote because, they were being told to their astonishment, that they were felons who no longer deserved –and, in any case, no longer had – the right to vote.
No doubt some people would argue that the system was unintentionally disenfranchising and malignant, part of the general malaise of bureaucratic dysfunction, but I would not be so luxuriantly generous.
When it comes right down to, controlling and Republican authorities in Florida were simply not going to allow the most important election of the 20th century to be decided by blacks. One need only see the speed with which the issue fizzled after the Supreme Court handed down their edict; in how little effort was put into making sure such voting transgressions didn’t take place again; how small was the squall of outrage that a whole class of people was dis-empowered at a crucial moment in American Democracy; in returning to that comfortable numbness so well described in a song by Pink Floyd.
There were very few, if any, apologies for the clearly racist intentions leading to obviously successful political ends. But that’s the way that it is in Florida, as the Trayvon Martin episode amply demonstrated.
Even many African-Americans have “moved on,” largely bolstered by the energy of renewed hope for better things that came with the ascension of Barack Obama, the first black president. But by any measurement, including his progressive club pass for being born black, Obama is a bust as president, who has broken almost every significant campaign promise he ever made and left African-Americans in worse shape, all things considered, than they were 50 years ago during the Freedom Summer.
It’s true that African-Americans are no longer routinely brutalized in the Dixiecrat South the way they were half a century ago, but they continue to be brutalized nationally on a scale that is depressing to behold, and it is tragic to see a black man preside over such decay.
Glen Ford, of Black Agenda Report, has referred to Obama as a scourge to African-Americans, as not “the lesser of two evils but the more effective evil,” the implication being that after all Obama’s broken promises and betrayal there can be no hope again.
In 1995, when the Nation of Islam staged its Million Man March on Washington, by some estimates drawing as many as 850,000 black men to the Mall outside the White House. Speaker after speaker decried the state of being black in America. They cited record imprisonment rates, unrelenting unemployment, sub-standard educations, no real hope for large scale upward mobility, poor health care. And this low reached its high in 2000 when the Republicans stole the presidential election by taking away the votes of thousands of black Floridians.
It was an election that has turned into a key turning point in American (and, consequently, global) history, leading as it did to the lapses that helped produce pre-text tragedy of 9/11 and its security lockdown aftermath. It is no longer safe for the Nation of Islam to denounce American domestic policy. And Obama has turned into a smiling beast of posture, dissemblance, propaganda, and outright lies, turning his back on the black community and virtually handing the keys of the Republic over to elite private interests who don’t give a damn about plights or pleas or suffering.
In short, the irony is: 50 years later, we are celebrating (in that we are not protesting) a summer of surveillance and opacity instead of freedom and inclusion, and a black president is in charge as the ship of state sinks into the shark-infested waters of the post-democratic marketplace.
The world is busy fighting an abstract noun — terrorism that it cannot win. And just as other nations once turned to the US to find guidance for the Good, they are doing so today to implement the Evil.
In Europe austerity measures abound throughout the Union; in Turkey, the government works with the CIA to overthrow and possess Syria (and the former Ottoman imperial region); in Australia, the conservative Abbott government slashes away at the social safety net, while, at the same time, promising to find money to build up its military in support of Obama’s coming pivot toward confrontation with China.
In this milieu, voting rights seem quaint; democracy a dream that is almost too cruel to have ever had.