Zebra 3 Report by Joe Anybody
Tuesday, 8 February 2011
FBI want to join with Portland Police - Listen about FBI spying on Antiwar-Peace groups
Mood:  incredulous
Now Playing: Tom Burghardt expains how FBI
Topic: FAILURE by the GOVERNMENT

http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2011/02/405926.shtml


 

 

Feb 6 2011

FBI Abuses Reveals Contempt for Political Rights, Civil Liberties    
written by Tom Burghardt
 

 

 

American Police State: FBI Abuses Reveals
Contempt for Political Rights, Civil Liberties
by Tom Burghardt l Antifascist Calling...
As mass revolt spreads across Egypt and the Middle East and citizens there demand jobs, civil liberties and an end to police state abuses from repressive, U.S.-backed torture regimes, the Obama administration and their congressional allies aim to expand one right here at home.

Last week, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) released an explosive new report documenting the lawless, constitutional-free zone under construction in America for nearly a decade.

That report, "Patterns of Misconduct: FBI Intelligence Violations from 2001-2008," reveals that the domestic political intelligence apparat spearheaded by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, continues to systematically violate the rights of American citizens and legal residents.

A rather ironic state of affairs considering the free passes handed out by U.S. securocrats to actual terrorists who killed thousands of Americans on 9/11, as both WikiLeaks and FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds disclosed last week.

Although illegal practices and violations were reported by the FBI to the Intelligence Oversight Board (IOB) after an unexplained two-and-a-half-year delay, a further violation of lawful guidelines, lawbreaking continued unabated; in fact, it accelerated as the Bureau was given a green light to do so by successive U.S. administrations.

The IOB is a largely toothless body created in 1976 by the Ford administration in the wake of disclosures of widespread spying and infiltration of political groups by America's secret state agencies during the sixties and seventies.

Reeling from revelations uncovered by Congress, investigative journalists and citizen activists in the wake of the Watergate scandal, Ford's caretaker government was forced to call a halt to the more egregious practices employed by the FBI to keep the lid on and crafted guidelines governing intelligence and surveillance operations.

In fact, the Attorney General's Guidelines regulating both FBI National Security Investigations and Foreign Intelligence Collection (NSIG) stipulate that "all government intelligence operations occur with sufficient oversight and within the bounds of the Constitution and other federal laws."

While it can rightly be argued these protocols were largely ineffective, and had been breeched more often than not by the 1980s under President Reagan, as revealed during the Iran-Contra scandal, and that antiwar, environmental and solidarity groups continue to be spied upon and destabilized by agents provocateurs and right-wing corporate scum, they were thrown overboard entirely by the Bush regime in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.

Today the "looking forward, not backward" Obama administration has whole-heartedly embraced Bushist lawlessness while charting an even more sinister course of their own, now asserting they have the authority to assassinate American citizens the Executive Branch designate as "terrorists" anywhere on earth without benefit of due process or court review.

According to EFF, more than 2,500 documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act revealed that:

* From 2001 to 2008, the FBI reported to the IOB approximately 800 violations of laws, Executive Orders, or other regulations governing intelligence investigations, although this number likely significantly under-represents the number of violations that actually occurred.
* From 2001 to 2008, the FBI investigated, at minimum, 7000 potential violations of laws, Executive Orders, or other regulations governing intelligence investigations.
* Based on the proportion of violations reported to the IOB and the FBI's own statements regarding the number of NSL [National Security Letter] violations that occurred, the actual number of violations that may have occurred from 2001 to 2008 could approach 40,000 possible violations of law, Executive Order, or other regulations governing intelligence investigations. (Electronic Frontier Foundation, Patterns of Misconduct: FBI Intelligence Violations from 2001-2008, January 30, 2011)


But FBI lawbreaking didn't stop there. Citing internal documents, EFF revealed that the Bureau also "engaged in a number of flagrant legal violations" that included, "submitting false or inaccurate declarations to courts," "using improper evidence to obtain federal grand jury subpoenas" and "accessing password protected documents without a warrant."

In other words, in order to illegally spy on Americans and haul political dissidents before Star Chamber-style grand juries, the FBI routinely committed perjury and did so with absolute impunity.

Reviewing the more than 2,500 documents EFF analysts averred that they had "uncovered alarming trends in the Bureau's intelligence investigation practices" and that the "documents suggest the FBI's intelligence investigations have compromised the civil liberties of American citizens far more frequently, and to a greater extent, than was previously assumed."

According to EFF, the "documents show that the FBI most frequently committed three types of intelligence violations--violations of internal oversight guidelines for conducting investigations; violations stemming from the abuse of National Security Letters; and violations of the Fourth Amendment, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), and other laws governing intelligence investigations."

"Based on statements made by government officials and the proportion of violations occurring in the released reports," EFF estimates that "the FBI may have committed as many as 40,000 intelligence investigation violations over the past ten years."

The civil liberties' watchdogs revealed that the type of violation occurring most frequently involved the Bureau's abuse of National Security Letters (NSLs), onerous lettres de cachet, secretive administrative subpoenas with built-in gag orders used by the FBI to seize records from third-parties without any judicial review whatsoever.

Although National Security Letters have been employed by investigators since the 1970s, after 9/11 Congress passed the repressive USA PATRIOT Act which "greatly expanded the intelligence community's authority to issue NSLs."

"During the course of a terrorism or counterintelligence investigation," EFF writes, "NSLs can be used to obtain just three types of records: (1) subscriber and 'toll billing information' from telephone companies and 'electronic communications services;' (2) financial records from banks and other financial institutions; and (3) consumer identifying information and the identity of financial institutions from credit bureaus."

Abuses have been well-documented by the Justice Department's own Office of the Inspector General. In their 2008 report, the OIG disclosed that the FBI issued some 200,000 requests and that almost 60% were for investigations of U.S. citizens and legal residents.

Given the symbiosis amongst American secret state agencies and grifting corporations, EFF discovered that "the frequency with which companies [received] NSLs--phone companies, internet providers, banks, or credit bureaus--contributed to the FBI’s NSL abuse."

"In over half of all NSL violations reviewed by EFF, the private entity receiving the NSL either provided more information than requested or turned over information without receiving a valid legal justification from the FBI."

In fact, "companies were all too willing to comply with the FBI's requests, and--in many cases--the Bureau readily incorporated the over-produced information into its investigatory databases."

This too is hardly surprising, given the enormous profits generated by the surveillance state for their corporate beneficiaries. As The Washington Post revealed in their investigative series, Top Secret America, more than 800,000 corporate employees have been issued top secret and above security clearances. Beholden to their employers and not the public who foots the bill and is the victim of their excesses, accountability is a fiction and oversight a contemptible fraud.

In a follow-up piece, Monitoring America, investigative journalists Dana Priest and William M. Arkin revealed that the FBI "is building a database with the names and certain personal information, such as employment history, of thousands of U.S. citizens and residents whom a local police officer or a fellow citizen believed to be acting suspiciously."

In other words, in order to "keep us safe" unaccountable securocrats are constructing a Stasi-like political intelligence system that has overthrown the traditional legal concept of probable cause in favor of a regime rooted in fear and suspicion; one where innocent activities such as taking a photograph or attending an antiwar rally now serves as a pretext for opening a national security investigation.

According to Priest and Arkin, the Bureau database "is accessible to an increasing number of local law enforcement and military criminal investigators, increasing concerns that it could somehow end up in the public domain," and used by employers to terminate political dissidents or other "undesirable" citizens merely on the basis of allegations emanating from who knows where.

As Antifascist Calling reported in October, "predictive behavior" security firms, generously funded by the CIA's venture capitalist arm, In-Q-Tel, have increasingly turned to monitoring social media sites such as Blogger, Facebook, Flickr, Twitter and YouTube and are exploiting powerful computer algorithms for their clients--your boss--thereby transforming private communications into "actionable intelligence" that just might get you fired.

In one case, EFF discovered that the FBI "requested email header information for two email addresses used by a U.S. person." In response, researchers averred "the email service provider returned two CDs containing the full content of all emails in the accounts. The FBI eventually (and properly) sequestered the CDs, notified the email provider of the overproduction, and re-issued an NSL for the originally requested header information; but, in response to the second NSL, the email provider again provided the FBI with the full content of all emails in the accounts."

To make matters worse, "third-parties not only willingly cooperated with FBI NSLs when the legal justification was unclear, however: they responded to NSLs without any legal justification at all."

In conclusion, EFF wrote that "while the reports documenting the FBI's abuse of the Constitution, FISA, and other intelligence laws are troubling, EFF's analysis is necessarily incomplete: it is impossible to know the severity of the FBI's legal violations until the Bureau stops concealing its most serious violations behind a wall of arbitrary secrecy."

This sordid state of affairs is likely to continue given Congress's utter lack of interest in protecting Americans' constitutionally-protected right to privacy, free speech and assembly.

With new moves afoot in Congress to pass a data retention law that requires internet service providers to retain records of users' online activity or, as in the repressive Egyptian U.S. client state, handing the Executive Branch a "kill-switch" that would disconnect the American people from the internet in the event of a "national emergency," the U.S. oligarchy is planning for the future.

As the World Socialist Web Site points out, "The US government is well aware that the Internet provides a forum for rapid communication and organization, as demonstrated by the events in Egypt this week. In an attempt to block communication within Egypt and with the external world, US-backed dictator Hosni Mubarak cut off the country's access to the Internet altogether."

"Similarly," left-wing journalist Patrick Zimmerman writes, "the fundamental goal of the US government in its attempts to gain control of the Internet and monitor user activity has nothing to do with the 'war on terror' or prosecuting criminals. Under conditions of growing social inequality, government austerity, and expanding war abroad, the government anticipates the growth of social opposition in the United States."

The Bush regime's "preemptive war" doctrine has been fully incorporated into the Obama administration's "homeland security" paradigm. The formidable police state apparatus that accompanies America's imperial adventures abroad are now deployed at home where they have devastating effects on an already dysfunctional democracy sliding ever-closer towards an authoritarian abyss.

Tom Burghardt is a researcher and activist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to publishing in Covert Action Quarterly and Global Research, an independent research and media group of writers, scholars, journalists and activists based in Montreal, his articles can be read onDissident Voice, The Intelligence Daily, Pacific Free Press, Uncommon Thought Journal, and the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks. He is the editor of Police State America: U.S. Military "Civil Disturbance" Planning, distributed by AK Press and has contributed to the new book from Global Research, The Global Economic Crisis: The Great Depression of the XXI Century.


Posted by Joe Anybody at 9:14 PM PST
Monday, 7 February 2011
Portland Indymedia Principles of Unity
Mood:  lyrical
Now Playing: UNITY AND - YOU BE THE MEDIA ((( i )))
Topic: MEDIA

Portland Indymedia Principles of Unity

Cool 
  • All portland indymedia working groups are not-for-profit. All volunteers donate their time and have agreed to receive no personal monetary gain. In otherwords, nobody gets paid.
  • All working groups recognize the importance of process to social change and are committed to the development of non-hierarchical and anti-authoritarian relationships, from interpersonal relationships to group dynamics. Therefore, they shall organize themselves collectively and be committed to the principle of consensus decision-making and the development of a direct, participatory democratic process that is transparent to those involved.
  • All working groups recognize that the contribution of an individual's labor is a prerequisite for participation in the decision making process of a working group or at a portland indymedia general meeting. Individuals who are not committing tangible labor to a portland indymedia working group are encouraged to share their views but may not "block" a consensus.
  • All working groups are committed to caring for one another and their respective communities both collectively and as individuals and will promote the sharing of resources including knowledge, skills and equipment.
  • Whenever possible, all working groups shall be committed to the use of free software and open source code, in order to develop the digital infrastructure, and to increase the independence of themselves by not relying on proprietary software.
  • Openess: All working groups shall be committed to the principle of human equality, and shall not discriminate based upon race, spiritual belief, gender, age, class or sexual identity. Working groups are committed to the ideal of building diversity within their activities.

==============================================================

 PRINCIPLES OF UNITY 1. The Independent Media Center Network (IMCN) is based upon principles of equality, decentralization and local autonomy. The IMCN is not derived from a centralized bureaucratic process, but from the self-organization of autonomous collectives that recognize the importance in developing a union of networks. 2. All IMC's consider open exchange of and open access to information a prerequisite to the building of a more free and just society. [3. All IMC's respect the right of activists who choose not to be photographed or filmed.] 4. All IMC's, based upon the trust of their contributors and readers, shall utilize open web based publishing, allowing individuals, groups and organizations to express their views, anonymously if desired. **see appendix: Open Publishing document --> still in proposal phase, at this address: http://lists.indymedia.org/mailman/public/imc-communication/2001-April/001707.html http://lists.indymedia.org/mailman/public/imc-communication/2001-April/000874.html 5. The IMC Network and all local IMC collectives shall be not-for-profit. 6. All IMC's recognize the importance of process to social change and are committed to the development of non-hierarchical and anti-authoritarian relationships, from interpersonal relationships to group dynamics. Therefore, shall organize themselves collectively and be committed to the principle of consensus decision making and the development of a direct, participatory democratic process] that is transparent to its membership. 7. [All IMC's recognize that a prerequisite for participation in the decision making process of each local group is the contribution of an individual's labor to the group.] 8. All IMC's are committed to caring for one another and our respective communities both collectively and as individuals and will promote the sharing of resources including knowledge, skills and equipment. 9. All IMC's shall be committed to the use of free source code, whenever possible, in order to develop the digital infrastructure, and to increase the independence of the network by not relying on proprietary software. 10. All IMC's shall be committed to the principle of human equality, and shall not discriminate, including discrimination based upon race, gender, age, class or sexual orientation. Recognizing the vast cultural traditions within the network, we are committed to building [diversity] within our localities.   

Posted by Joe Anybody at 12:04 PM PST
Sunday, 6 February 2011
A defense mechanism, which they labeled “backfire...
Mood:  d'oh
Now Playing: Stephen Dufrechou - Are We Too Dumb for Democracy?
Topic: CONSPIRACY

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Stephen Dufrechou - Are We Too Dumb for Democracy? The Logic Behind Self-Delusion

 http://integral-options.blogspot.com/2010/12/stephen-dufrechou-are-we-too-dumb-for.html

That's not a rhetorical question. But I also am not convinced "dumb" is the right word. Dufrechou is solid footing in referencing George Lakoff, but much less so when referring to psychoanalysis.

To be honest, Dufrechou has it backwards in saying that psychoanalysis supports Lakoff's research - it's the other way around. There is little to no empirical support for psychoanalysis, while Lakoff, as a linguist, is rivaled only by Chomsky.

Anyway, this is an interesting look at why people hold on to false beliefs in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

When faced with facts that do not fit seamlessly into our individual belief systems, our minds automatically reject (or backfire) the presented facts.
A recent cognitive study, as reported by the Boston Globe, concluded that:

Facts don’t necessarily have the power to change our minds. In fact, quite the opposite. In a series of studies in 2005 and 2006, researchers at the University of Michigan found that when misinformed people, particularly political partisans, were exposed to corrected facts in news stories, they rarely changed their minds. In fact, they often became even more strongly set in their beliefs. Facts, they found, were not curing misinformation. Like an underpowered antibiotic, facts could actually make misinformation even stronger.

In light of these findings, researchers concluded that a defense mechanism, which they labeled “backfire”, was preventing individuals from producing pure rational thought. The result is a self-delusion that appears so regularly in normal thinking that we fail to detect it in ourselves, and often in others: When faced with facts that do not fit seamlessly into our individual belief systems, our minds automatically reject (or backfire) the presented facts. The result of backfire is that we become even more entrenched in our beliefs, even if those beliefs are totally or partially false.

“The general idea is that it’s absolutely threatening to admit you’re wrong,” said Brendan Nyhan, the lead researcher of the Michigan study. The occurrence of backfire, he noted, is “a natural defense mechanism to avoid that cognitive dissonance.”

The conclusion made here is this: facts often do not determine our beliefs, but rather our beliefs (usually non-rational beliefs) determine the facts that we accept. As the Boston Globe article notes:

In reality, we often base our opinions on our beliefs, which can have an uneasy relationship with facts. And rather than facts driving beliefs, our beliefs can dictate the facts we chose to accept. They can cause us to twist facts so they fit better with our preconceived notions. Worst of all, they can lead us to uncritically accept bad information just because it reinforces our beliefs. This reinforcement makes us more confident we’re right, and even less likely to listen to any new information. And then we vote.

Despite this finding, Nyhan claims that the underlying cause of backfire is unclear. “It’s very much up in the air,” he says. And on how our society is going to counter this phenomena, Nyhan is even less certain.

These latter unanswered questions are expected in any field of research, since every field has its own limitations. Yet here the field of psychoanalysis can offer a completion of the picture.

Disavowal and Backfire: One and the Same

In an article by psychoanalyst Rex Butler, Butler independently comes to the same conclusion as the Michigan Study researchers. In regards to facts and their relationship to belief systems (or ideologies), Butler says that:

there is no necessary relationship between reality and its symbolization … Our descriptions do not naturally and immutably refer to things, but … things in retrospect begin to resemble their description. Thus, in the analysis of ideology, it is not simply a matter of seeing which account of reality best matches the ‘facts’, with the one that is closest being the least biased and therefore the best. As soon as the facts are determined, we have already – whether we know it or not – made our choice; we are already within one ideological system or another. The real dispute has already taken place over what is to count as the facts, which facts are relevant, and so on.

This places the field of psychoanalysis on the same footing as that of cognitive science, in regards to this matter. But where cognitive studies end, with Nyhan’s question about the cause of backfire, psychoanalysis picks up and provides a possible answer. In fact, psychoanalysts have been publishing work on backfire for decades; only psychoanalysis refers to backfire by another name: “disavowal”. Indeed, these two terms refer to one and the same phenomena.

The basic explanation for the underlying cause of disavowal/backfire goes as follows.

“Liberals” and “conservatives” espouse antithetical belief systems, both of which are based on different non-rational “moral values.” This is a fact that cognitive linguist George Lakoff has often discussed, which incidentally brings in yet another field of study that supports the existence of the disavowal/backfire mechanism.

In accordance with these different non-rational belief systems, any individual’s ideology tends to function also as a ‘filtering system’, accepting facts that seamlessly fit into the framework of that ideology, while dismissing facts that do not fit.

When an individual—whether a “liberal”, “conservative”, or any other potential ideology—is challenged with facts that conflict with his/her ideology, the tendency is for that individual to experience feelings of anxiety, dread, and frustration. This is because our ideologies function, like a lynch pin, to hold our psychologies together, in order to avoid, as Nyhan puts it, “cognitive dissonance”. In other words, when our lynch pins are disturbed, our psychologies are shaken.

Psychoanalysts explain that, when this cognitive dissonance does occur, the result is to ‘externalize’ the sudden negative feelings outward, in the form of anger or resentment, and then to ‘project’ this anger onto the person that initially presented the set of backfired facts to begin with. (Although, sometimes this anger is ‘introjected’ inward, in the form of self-punishment or self-loathing.)

This non-rational eruption of anger or resentment is what psychoanalysts call “de-sublimation”. And it is at the point of de-sublimation, when the disavowal/backfire mechanism is triggered as a defense against the cognitive dissonance.

Hence, here is what mentally occurs next, in a matter of seconds:

In order to regain psychological equilibrium, the mind disavows the toxic facts that initially clashed with the individuals own ideology, non-rationally deeming the facts to be false—without assessing the validity of the facts.

The final step occurs when the person, who offered the toxic facts, is then non-rationally demonized. The person, here, becomes tainted as a ‘phobic object’ in the mind of the de-sublimated individual. Hence, the other person also becomes perceived to be as toxic as the disavowed facts, themselves.

At this point, ad hominem attacks are often fired at the source of the toxic facts. For example: ‘stupid liberal’ or ‘stupid conservative’, if in a political context. Or, ‘blasphemer’ or ‘heretic’, if in a religious context. At this point, according to psychoanalysis, psychological equilibrium is regained. The status quo of the individual’s ideology is reinforced to guard against future experiences of de-sublimation.

Why Do Different Ideologies Exist?

This all begs the obvious question about the existence of differing ideologies between people. Why do they exist? And how are they constituted differently? George Lakoff has demonstrated in his studies (which are supported strongly by psychoanalysis), that human beings are not born already believing an ideology. Rather people are socialized into an ideology during their childhood formative years. The main agents which prescribe the ideology are the parental authority figures surrounding the child, who rear him, from infantile dependency on the parent-figures, into an independent adult. The parental values of how the child should be an independent and responsible adult, in regards to his relations between his self and others, later informs that child’s ideology as an adult.

Lakoff shows that two dominant parenting types exist, which can determine the child’s adult ideology. Individuals reared under the “Strict Parent” model tend to grow-up as political conservatives, while those raised under a “Nurturing Parent” model tend to become political liberals. His most influential book on these matters, “Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think”, was published in 1996.

Of course, peoples’ minds can fundamentally change, along with their ideological values. But short of a concerted effort by an individual to change, through one form of therapy or another, that change is mostly fostered by traumatic or long-endured life experiences.

Yet many minds remain rock solid for life, beliefs included. As psychiatrist Scott Peck sees it, “Only a relative and fortunate few continue until the moment of death exploring the mystery of reality, ever enlarging and refining and redefining their understanding of the world and what is true.”

Thus to answer Nyahan’s question—how can society counter the negative effects of backfire?—it seems only one answer is viable. Society will need to adopt the truths uncovered by cognitive science and psychoanalysis. And society will have to use those truths to inform their overall cultural practices and values. Short of that, Peck’s “fortunate few” will remain the only individuals among us who resist self-delusion.

~ Stephen Dufrechou is Editor of Opinion and Analysis for News Junkie Post.

Posted by Joe Anybody at 12:01 AM PST
Updated: Monday, 7 February 2011 9:55 AM PST
Saturday, 5 February 2011
TWEET - Hear Me - ... Oh I do!... ReTweet Tweet tweet
Mood:  happy
Now Playing: Social Media & Why one person usees Twitter
Topic: MEDIA

jfleck at inkstain

A few thoughts from John Fleck, a writer of journalism and other things, living in New Mexico


Social Media and the Journalist’s Toolkit

Posted on | February 5, 2011 |

http://www.inkstain.net/fleck/?p=5302

Three interesting case studies this week in the use of social media in my journalism (or in one case just my life), which I hope might be of some interest to others (especially colleagues who have been skeptical of its utility – you know who you are).

twitter screen grabNew Mexico had a historic storm this week, a freeway-clogging, school-closing, pipe-freezing, gas-service-interrupting mess. One of my jobs at the newspaper is to pay attention to the weather and explain/warn as needed. I could not have done that, or done it as well, without Twitter.

Every newsroom I’ve worked in over the decades has had, as its soundtrack, the chatter of a police scanner. We know how to use that – quick bursts of information, often unconfirmed, that are worth paying attention to in a low level, background way.

My Twitter feed is like that, but on a broad range of topics. It includes, for example, a number of people working at the National Weather Service’s Albuquerque office, who do a great job of sending out links to their latest forecast information, interesting data, and a heads up when the weather is about to get interesting. (That’s Kerry Jones and Daniel Porter you see in the accompanying picture, passing along a link to Daniel’s latest storm update.) My feed also includes other journalists, emergency services folks (both agency and individual feeds) and a lot of regular people who live around New Mexico. When an event like our epic cold happens, the chatter picks up, creating an ambient awareness of the developing situation – tidbits to check out, alerts from government officials, journalists linking to their latest info, people asking questions, other people giving answers.

There is, for example, Melwell Romancito up in Taos, where the gas has been off for more than 48 hours. I have no idea who she is, but people started Retweeting her stuff, I followed her, and she’s become a great source of information. (She just pointed out a problem with some info that’s currently making the rounds from an earlier gas company release. Turns out we still have that info on the newspaper’s web site. Must get it fixed.) Or TaosJohn, who shared a link to the Taos Police Department Facebook page. There also are official channels, like the New Mexico public safety folks.

This is the sort of ongoing, rapid fire communication that has always gone on in a story like this – trying to reach out and communicate as quickly as possible with a range of people who might have relevant information. Twitter is simply a huge force multiplier.

The second case study is far simpler and less freighted, but has a lot of similarities.

I don’t write much directly about economics, but it is an important boundary condition for a lot of what I cover – water policy, energy, environmental issues. So I try to have a sort of ongoing ambient awareness about what’s going on in the economy, to help me understand when I need to dive into in more detail. My Twitter feed includes a list of economists and economics journalists (and probably some people who are both) that acts as a sort of police scanner for the economy. When Friday’s confusing set of jobs/unemployment numbers came out, I didn’t have the time or the expertise to sort it out myself. But that was OK, because the people I follow on Twitter did it for me in a 24-hour burst of shared links – first alerting me to the data release, then taking me through the sorting out they were all doing.

Again, this is the sort of thing I could have done (and often still do) in other ways – hunting through the econ blogs and work of various journalists or diving into the data myself. Twitter made it far easier and more serendipitous.

There are a lot of other subject areas like these – New Mexico politics and the state legislature, climate science and politics, energy policy, western water – where a carefully assembled Twitter feed of smart people chatting about what they know is an incredibly useful way of tracking what’s going on. Having the equivalent of a police scanner for the water policy beat is awesome.

In the previous cases, I am my own “curator”, picking which feeds to follow, getting a feel for who to listen to and how. The previous cases also relate directly to my job. The final case study is Egypt, where I’ve joined 39,414 other twitter users (as of 8:27 p.m. MST Saturday) and outsourced the curation to Andy Carvin. Amy Gahran at Knight Digital Media explains a bit about who Carvin is (NPR “senior strategist”, whatever that means) and how he’s doing it. The bottom line is that he’s find and sharing information at an amazingly rapid fire and amazingly useful rate.

Plus, there’s ro_bot_dylan.

Related posts:

  1. Social Media Signposts
  2. On Media and Bunk
  3. A Problem the News Media Can’t Fix
  4. Harlow the Journalist
  5. RSS

Related posts brought to you by Yet Another Related Posts Plugin.

 


I have my Twitter info page here:

http://www.joe-anybody.com/id143.html

~joe anybody


Posted by Joe Anybody at 8:46 PM PST
Thursday, 3 February 2011
Mubarak intensifies press attacks with assaults, detentions
Mood:  don't ask
Now Playing: protesters in Egypt ATTACKED
Topic: HUMANITY

Mubarak intensifies press attacks with assaults, detentions

SIPA Press agency photojournalist Alfred Yaghobzadeh is treated by anti-government protesters after being wounded during clashes in Cairo. (AP)
SIPA Press agency photojournalist Alfred Yaghobzadeh is treated by anti-government protesters after being wounded during clashes in Cairo. (AP)

 http://cpj.org/2011/02/mubarak-intensifies-press-attacks-with-assaults-de.php

New York, February 3, 2011--Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak unleashed an unprecedented and systematic attack on international media today as his supporters assaulted reporters in the streets while security forces began obstructing and detaining journalists covering the unrest that threatens to topple his government. 

"This is a dark day for Egypt and a dark day for journalism," said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. "The systematic and sustained attacks documented by CPJ leave no doubt that a government-orchestrated effort to target the media and suppress the news is well under way. With this turn of events, Egypt is seeking to create an information vacuum that puts it in the company of the world's worst oppressors, countries such as Burma, Iran, and Cuba.

"We hold President Mubarak personally responsible for this unprecedented action," said Simon, "and call on the Egyptian government to reverse course immediately."

Here is a round-up of attacks on the press:

 

  • The Washington Post told CPJ that they have heard from multiple witnesses that the paper's Cairo bureau chief, Leila Fadel, and Linda Davidson, a photographer, were among a number of journalists detained this morning. Their status was unclear late today.
  • The New York Times reported today that two of its reporters were released after they were detained overnight in Cairo.
  • Canadian Globe and Mail journalist Sonia Verma tweeted that she was being taken "into some kind of custody." She later reported that she was held by the military for three hours.
  • CNN-IBN reported that video journalist Rajesh Bharadwajm was "taken away" from Tahrir Square by military forces. Bharadwajm's status was not immediately clear.
  • Government officials, pro-government journalists, and commentators loyal to Mubarak have for the past two days been engaged in a systematic campaign to present foreigners, and particularly foreign journalists, as spies. CPJ has documented at least seven instances on state-owned television or on private stations owned by businessmen loyal to Mubarak in which individuals described elaborate foreign plots to destabilize Egypt that centered on foreign provocateurs, including journalists. In several instances, they were described as "Israeli spies." In one instance, a woman whose face was obscured "confessed" to having been trained by "Americans and Israelis." She went on to say that the alleged training took place in Qatar, where Al-Jazeera is based.
  • Mubarak supporters stormed Cairo's Hilton Hotel searching for journalists, Al-Jazeera reported today. Journalists inside the hotel posted a Tumblr entry that said: "About 20 foreign journalists are currently holed up." No injuries were immediately reported, but the journalists' status was unclear.
  • Dima Salem, a reporter for Dubai-based Al-Arabiya television, was attacked by pro-Mubarak supporters who took her cameraman's equipment and tried to beat her. Witnesses helped them escape, Al-Arabiya reported on the air.
  • Two Al-Jazeera English journalists were attacked by Mubarak supporters, the Qatar-based satellite station reported on the air. Three other network reporters were detained in Cairo, the station reported. No names were given.
  • A BBC producer tweeted that Margaret Evans, a CBC reporter, was forced to hand over recording equipment to military forces in Tahrir Square.
  • At least four Spanish journalists were attacked in Cairo, according to news reports. Joan Roura, a correspondent for TV3, a Catalan public television station, was attacked by men who tried to steal his mobile phone while he was conducting a live broadcast for the 24 hours news channel. Assaults were also reported against Sal Emergui, a correspondent for Catalan radio RAC1; Gemma Saura, a correspondent for the newspaper La Vanguardia; and Mikel Ayestaran, a correspondent for the newspaper Vocento/ABC.
  • Several Turkish journalists were attacked by Mubarak supporters, according to news reports. Cumali Önal of Cihan News Agency and Doğan Ertuğrul of the Turkish Star Daily were attacked and beaten by pro-Mubarak supporters on Wednesday. Both were in stable condition today.
  • Men with knives seized Erol Candabakoğlu, a Turkish Fox TV reporter, along with his unidentified cameraman and driver on Wednesday while they were filming in the Boulaq neighborhood of Cairo, according to news reports. The Turkish news agency Anatolia reported that Egyptian police later freed them.
  • Metin Turan, a reporter for the Turkish state-run TRT channel, was assaulted today and beaten by Mubarak supporters, who seized his camera, money, and cell phone, according to the Turkish newspaper Today's Zaman. The reporter escaped and sought refuge at the Turkish Embassy; embassy officials told the paper they would take Turan to the hospital because he suffered from wounds and bruises. Isa Simsek, a photographer for Today's Zaman, was also assaulted today by a Mubarak supporter, according to news reports.
  • Popular Egyptian blogger Mahmoud (aka "Sandmonkey") tweeted " I was ambushed & beaten by the police, my phone confiscated, my car ripped apar& supplies taken." He said he was briefly detained.
  • The British-based communications company Vodafone accused the Egyptian government of hijacking its text messaging services and sending out text messages supportive of Mubarak, according to news reports.
  • Multiple journalists for state-owned or government-aligned media have resigned or have refused to work after the government put pressure on them to sanitize the news or to not report on violence against demonstrators, several CPJ sources said. Shahira Amin, an anchor on the state-owned Nile TV channel, said on the air: "I refuse to be a hypocrite. I feel liberated."

 


Posted by Joe Anybody at 11:01 AM PST
Monday, 31 January 2011
No Internet - Human RIghts and Social Media Protesters
Mood:  loud
Now Playing: INTERNET BLACKOUT IN EGYPT DURRING PROTEST
Topic: TECHNOLOGY
http://www.techworld.com.au/article/374871/microsoft_shifts_some_work_egypt/ 

 INTERNET BLACKOUT IN EGYPT


The Think Tank Cafe in the Smart Villages hi-tech park in Cairo. (Image: Smart Villages) WASHINGTON -- Egypt has been aggressively attracting tech companies to its wired office parks to help create jobs for its young, educated and often English-speaking workforce.

 But by cutting off Internet access last week in the wake of civil unrest, Egypt's government demonstrated just how quickly it can unwind its hi-tech goals.Microsoft is among the 120 companies located in Cairo's Smart Villages , an office park created in 2003 to be Egypt's "prime" information technology park.

It includes a health club, swimming pool, video conferencing services, a conference center and a pyramid-shaped restaurant called the "Think Tank Caf."

Egypt's move to block Internet access prompted Microsoft to respond. Asked about the situation in Egypt, Microsoft said in a written response to a query that it "is constantly assessing the impact of the unrest and Internet connection issues on our properties and services.

What limited service the company as a whole provides to and through the region, mainly call-center service, has been largely distributed to other locations."Another tech firm with a presence in Smart Villages is Hewlett-Packard, which has asked it employees to stay at home .

President Barack Obama and other administration officials are urging the Egyptian government to restore Internet services and see access as a human right. "It is our strong belief that inside of the framework of basic individual rights are the rights of those to have access to the Internet and to sites for open communication and social networking," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said at a briefing Friday.

Egypt's decision to cut Internet access was apparently intended to disrupt the ability of protestors to use social networks to organize . But hi-tech companies have similar flip-the-switch abilities and can shift services in response to a natural or manmade disaster. It is almost certain that tech companies in Egypt will respond to the current uncertainty much the same way Microsoft did -- if they haven't already.

Phil Fersht, the CEO and head of research at Horses for Sources, an outsourcing research and advisory firm, said top-tier providers rely on Egyptian resources largely for call center work and software support and development. For these firms "it's a massive, massive concern when the government shuts off the internet and all hell is breaking loose," he said in an e-mailed response to questions."

Egypt has proven capable as a good quality resource location for the Middle East, Africa and European regions in areas such as IT, BPO and call center services and has invested significantly in promoting its capabilities worldwide," said Fersht. "The country has invested millions to promote its capabilities -- and now that investment is looking under threat."Not surprisingly, the government agency responsible for hi-tech development in Egypt, the Information Technology Industry Development Agency, (ITIDA), has been offline.

Efforts to reach officials by telephone, e-mail or through a Facebook account have been unsuccessful.Fersht suggested that the current problems in Egypt could prompt hi-tech firms to re-think the risks they face in other regions."If situations, such as what is currently happening in Egypt, proliferate to other countries with sourcing support services, the first reaction of governments now seems to be to 'shut off the Internet,'" said Fersht, "You have to question how this impacts ITO/BPO services that are hugely reliant on the Internet to succeed."

The Egypt situation is a serious blow to many of the developing nations seeking to take their share of global services [that] have potentially questionable political stability," said Fersht.Smart Villages said that by the end of 2009 there were 28,000 professionals working at various companies in the office, and that by 2014 it expected that more than 100,000 would be working at some 500 companies.Microsoft is one of numerous tech firms with a presence in Egypt's Smart Villages hi-tech park.

Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed .

His e-mail address is pthibodeau@computerworld.com .  


Posted by Joe Anybody at 8:58 AM PST
Updated: Monday, 31 January 2011 9:00 AM PST
Sunday, 30 January 2011
Working Around the Internet Kill Switch - Egypt workarounds
Mood:  lyrical
Now Playing: Explaining the tech work-arounds for keeping the "net connected"
Topic: TECHNOLOGY

Without Internet, Egyptians find new ways to get online

Nancy Gohring and Robert McMillan

 

 

"When countries block, we evolve," an activist with the group We Rebuild wrote in a Twitter message Friday.

That's just what many Egyptians have been doing this week, as groups like We Rebuild scramble to keep the country connected to the outside world, turning to landline telephones, fax machines and even ham radio to keep information flowing in and out of the country.

Although one Internet service provider -- Noor Group -- remains in operation, Egypt's government abruptly ordered the rest of the country's ISPs to shut down their services just after midnight local time Thursday. Mobile networks have also been turned off in some areas. The blackout appears designed to disrupt organization of the country's growing protest movement, which is calling for the ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

"[B]asically, there are three ways of getting information out right now -- get access to the Noor ISP (which has about 8 percent of the market), use a land line to call someone, or use dial-up," Jillian York, a researcher with the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, said via e-mail.

Egyptians with dial-up modems get no Internet connection when they call into their local ISP, but calling an international number to reach a modem in another country gives them a connection to the outside world.

We Rebuild is looking to expand those dial-up options. It has set up a dial-up phone number in Sweden and is compiling a list of other numbers Egyptians can call. It is distributing information about its activities on a Wiki page.

One of the dial-up numbers is run by a small ISP called the French Data Network, which said it was the first time it had set up such a service. Its modem has been providing a connection "every few minutes," said Benjamin Bayart, FDN's president, speaking in an online chat.

The international dial-up numbers only work for people with access to a telephone modem and an international calling service, however. So although mobile networks have been suspended in some areas, people have posted instructions about how others can use their mobile phones as dial-up modems.

The few Egyptians able to access the Internet through Noor, the one functioning ISP, are taking steps to ensure their online activities are not being logged. Shortly before Internet access was cut off, the Tor Project said it saw a big spike in Egyptian visitors looking to download its Web browsing software, which is designed to let people surf the Web anonymously.

"We thought we were under denial-of-service attack," said Andrew Lewman, the project's executive director. The site was getting up to 3,000 requests per second, the vast majority of them from Egypt, he said. "Since then we've seen a quadrupling of Tor clients connecting from Noor over the past 24 hours," he said.

Even with no Internet, people have found ways to get messages out on Twitter. On Friday someone had set up a Twitter account where they posted messages that they had received via telephone calls from Egypt. A typical message reads: "Live Phonecall: streets mostly quiet in Dokki, no police in sight. Lots of police trucks seen at Sheraton."

Others are using fax machines to get information into Egypt about possible ways to communicate. They are distributing fax machine numbers for universities and embassies and asking people to send faxes to those numbers with instructions about how to use a mobile phone as a dial-up modem.

Members of the hacker group Anonymous have also been getting in on the act. They are reportedly faxing some of the latest government cables from WikiLeaks which reveal human rights abuses under President Mubarak, to locations in the country, according to Forbes magazine.

We Rebuild describes itself as "a decentralized cluster of net activists who have joined forces to collaborate on issues concerning access to a free Internet without intrusive surveillance." It has set up an IRC for people who can help with ham radio transmissions from Egypt. They are trying to spread the word about the radio band they are monitoring so that people in Egypt know where to transmit. Some ham enthusiasts are setting up an FTP site where people can record what they hear and post the recordings. So far, they say they've picked up Morse code messages.

Allen Pitts, a spokesman for the National Association for Amateur Radio, said no one has picked up any voice transmissions from Egypt for the past couple of days. But it's possible that people in Egypt are transmitting over shorter-range frequencies that carry only 30 or 50 miles, he said.

One problem with ham radio is that most people who know how to use it in Egypt were probably trained by the military and may be opposed to the protests. Others may be wary of transmitting because they are worried about who might be listening.

During earlier protests in Iran and Tunisia, the governments clamped down on specific websites, but access to the Internet was not severed in such a wholescale fashion.

It is not unprecedented though. In a blog post Friday written with a colleague, York from the Berkman Center for Internet & Society noted that in 2005 the government of Nepal cut off the Internet connection there, and in 2007 the Burmese government did the same in that country.

Nancy Gohring covers mobile phones and cloud computing for The IDG News Service. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @idgnancy. Nancy's e-mail address is Nancy_Gohring@idg.com


Posted by Joe Anybody at 12:01 AM PST
Wednesday, 26 January 2011
Monkeys and Inequity - Nobody likes to be treated unfairly
Mood:  not sure
Now Playing: If its unfair ...me and my monkey will be pissed off!
Topic: ANYBODY * ANYDAY

 http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/pf/38265675.html


Monkeys Show Sense Of Fairness, Study Says

Sean Markey
National Geographic News
September 17, 2003

Monkeys Show Sense Of Fairness, Study Says

 

If you expect equal pay for equal work, you're not the only species to have a sense of fair play. Blame evolution. Researchers studying brown capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella) have found that the highly social, cooperative species native to South America show a sense of fairness, the first time such behavior has been documented in a species other than humans. The question of whether human aversion to unfair treatment—now shown by other primates—is an evolved behavior or the result of the cultural influence of large social institutions like religion, governments, and schools, in the case of humans, has intrigued scientists in recent years.  The new finding suggests evolution may have something to do with it. It also highlights questions about the economic and evolutionary nature of cooperation and its relationship to a species' sense of fairness, while adding yet another chapter to our understanding of primates.  "It looks like this behavior is evolved … it is not simply a cultural construct. There's some good evolutionary reason why we don't like being treated unfairly," said Sarah Brosnan, lead author of the study to be published in tomorrow's issue of the science journal Nature. Brosnan, a biology Ph. D. candidate schooled in zoology and psychology at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center and Living Links Center at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, said her research was inspired, in part, by studies into human cooperation conducted by Swiss economist Ernst Fehr, who found that people inherently reject unfairness. Monkey Business To test whether or not such behavior is found in other species, Brosnan designed an experiment for brown capuchin monkeys, a species well-known for strong social bonds and relatively cooperative behavior, particularly in shared food-gathering activities like hunting squirrels and locating fruit trees. Individuals were drawn from two large, well-established social groups of captive brown capuchins from colonies at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center and paired with a partner. Pairs were placed next to each other and trained to exchange with human handlers a small granite rock within 60 seconds to receive a reward, in most cases, a piece of cucumber. "That may actually sound simple, but not very many species are willing to relinquish things, especially intentionally," Brosnan said in a telephone interview. (Think of trying to pry a large bone from a dog's mouth.) Only female capuchins were tested because they most closely monitor equity, or fair treatment, among their peers, Brosnan said. Partners of capuchins who made the swap either received the same reward (a cucumber slice), or a better reward (a grape, a more desirable food), for the same amount of work or, in some cases, for performing no work at all. Brosnan said the response to the unequal treatment was astonishing: Capuchins who witnessed unfair treatment and failed to benefit from it often refused to conduct future exchanges with human researchers, would not eat the cucumbers they received for their labors, and in some cases, hurled food rewards at human researchers. Those actions were significant. They confirmed that not only did capuchins expect fair treatment, but that the human desire for equity has an evolutionary basis. Susan Perry, a primate expert at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, studies the behavior of Cebus capucinus, a capuchin species closely related to brown capuchin monkeys, in the wild. Based on her review of a brief summary, Perry described Brosnan's research as a "fascinating paper."  "It is not so surprising to me that the monkeys act in this way," Perry wrote via e-mail. "After all, humans often respond in an apparently irrational way … accepting no reward for both them and their partners rather than accepting unequal rewards … in the ultimatum game," she wrote, referring to the classic laboratory test of inequity aversion.  Primate Culture The study is the latest in a series of findings on human and primate behavior, culture, and evolution that has spurred new fields of inquiry. In recent years, researchers have identified an array of unique behaviors found among distinct groups of primate species, including chimpanzees, orangutans, and capuchin monkeys, and associated them with culture. Scientists have sought to explain the social-learning processes by which such behavior is acquired by individual members.  In 2001 Andrew Whiten at St. Andrews University, Scotland, together with Jane Goodall and other researchers analyzed five decades of data on chimpanzees and identified 39 distinct behaviors tied to mating, eating, grooming, and tool use, concluding that chimps have culture. Researchers are turning their gaze to other primate species. "People are looking at these so-called cultural behaviors, which are behavioral variants between two different groups of the same species that can't be explained by their ecology," said Brosnan. "In other words, how come some [chimpanzees] nut-crack and some [chimpanzees] don't, even though both of them have nuts available that could be cracked?" "Social learning is believed to be the mechanism by which cultures evolve," said Brosnan, who notes that the ability to socially learn and a species' sense of fairness must be linked, in her view, since both require individuals in a social group to closely observe and monitor the behavior of their peers. Brosnan's research strengthens the tie between aversion to unfair treatment and cooperation in species. However, scientists have yet to tease an answer from the chicken-and-egg dilemma of which came first, cooperation or a sense of fairness? "We don't know whether individuals become cooperative and then learn to not like being treated unfairly, or the other way around," said Brosnan. "But that opens up a whole new research field." Her study and other research leads scientists to ponder just why cooperation evolved and what benefits it bestowed to species. Cooperation Economics The finding adds new information to the debate about why species cooperate and the economic decision-making process behind such behavior. "No one really seems to know why individuals should cooperate," said Brosnan. Some economists and scientists have argued that cooperation is not a rational, or logical, behavior for species individuals since energy or other resources must be expended in the effort—with no direct benefit to the cooperative individual. But Fehr, the Swiss economist from the University of Zurich presently based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, among others, rejects such thinking. He argues that logic applies not just to the ends but to the means during economic decision-making. "There is nothing irrational in being altruistic," he said in a telephone interview. Brosnan echoes similar notions. "People often forgo an available reward because it is not what they expect or think is fair," she said in a press statement. "Our findings in nonhuman primates indicate the emotional sense of fairness plays a key role in such decision-making." Fehr, who has published key research on the economics of human equity, cooperation, and altruism since 1999, observed: "The new finding that even monkeys reject unequal pay is very important, I think, because it suggests that this is a very deeply rooted behavior that we observe among humans." 

Posted by Joe Anybody at 1:56 PM PST
END: CIV and the Submedia connection
Mood:  caffeinated
Now Playing: END: CIV - a review and commentary repost
Topic: POLITICS
Technogeek watches END:CIV and likes it

 

Review: END: CIV Posted on January 26, 2011 by Joe B When Frank Lopez first was promoting Derrick Jensen, I have to admit that I was skeptical. Actually, skeptical may have been too light of a term. I didn’t like Derrick Jensen, and I still don’t like Derrick Jensen. To me, Derrick Jensen sounds too much like a con man, who is looking to sell his books. He tells people, the converted, things that he wants them to hear.

Now, those of you who are familiar with Franklin Lopez and Submedia may be familiar with the show “It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine”, which features commentary from The Stimulator”, who uses foul language and goes over various news throughout the world. Below is one of the year-end specials, “Riot 2010, Part 1″: The difference between “It’s the End of the World as We Know it and I feel fine” and END: CIV is the tone.

You can see that video here -->

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=47Mfy59n1UM 

While ITEOTWAWKIAIFF is optimistic, but barely scratches the surface of various issues, END:CIV on the other hand, gets deep to the heart of the matter. The movie is based on 4 premises of Derrick Jensen’s Book ENDGAME, and while I think that Primtivism and END:CIV are themselves also death cults that don’t appear to provide anything new or constructive to the conversation, I have to say that I don’t totally disagree with this movie, most likely because of the way it deals with Violence, the State and its Monopoly of Force.

One thing that is really frustrating about talking to people who are pacifists is that they use what Derrick Jensen calls the Ghandi Shield. They repeat the names of Ghandi and Martin Luther King over and over again. However, the fact is that without the more radical elements in the civil rights movement, and the Indian Independence Movement, neither of these people would matter as much as they do.

This is a discussion that radical movements need to seriously have in the world right now. Personally, I agree with Derrick Jensen when he says that we need it all, however I think that people lack basic strategy and don’t realize that the certain opportunities for change only come once in a lifetime. The thing that I find interesting about the concept of END:CIV is the fact that I expect to be dead in the world after Civilization.

I’m clearly part of the old world, and most other people who are on the Internet are. The Internet is an interesting thing, but it’s a product of civilization and without the Internet, and without the ability to get food from the Supermarket, combined with the fact that the only weapons in my apartment is probably my multi-tool and maybe a hammer, I’m pretty fucked. Most people that aren’t super rich, or armed or are already able to cope outside of this society are going to be fucked! However, I’m OK with that, because I’ll either be totally fucked and die when the Civilization ends, or I’ll die before it ends. However, If there was a nice Post-Civ solution, one where we’re NOT fucked, I’m all ears.

Right now there isn’t anything substantial, and that’s because people believe that things are fine. The purpose of films like END: CIV are to highlight that things aren’t fine and that these are things that we should be thinking about. However, the world is NOT black and white, and you’re going to have to help people as well as the animals, because nothing is more dangerous than corporate leaders with people cornered like scared animals during the collapse, which is what we see in disaster situations. Anyway, I highly recommend seeing this film, and not only because I’m friends with Frank, and a lot of the other people who put this film together. The film is going on tour, and I recommend checking it out at the dates on the website.

Technogeek watches END:CIV and likes it

Posted by Joe Anybody at 9:03 AM PST
Updated: Wednesday, 26 January 2011 9:08 AM PST
Thursday, 20 January 2011
Tunisia Revolution and "breaking Free from Opression"
Mood:  lyrical
Now Playing: revolution and leaders - I want one but not the other
Topic: PROTEST!

A Dire Warning to Tyrants

Posted by Darian Worden on Jan 20, 2011 in
 CommentaryComments (0)

Arab politicians fear that the revolution still working itself out in Tunisia is inspiring their own subjects to revolt. The escalating protests that managed to unseat the 23-year rule of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali were immediately sparked by the self-immolation of a fruit peddler after police seized his vending cart, an event that people chafing under political repression and economic marginalization could not ignore. As an anarchist — an advocate of maximizing individual liberty by eliminating authority — I recognize the Tunisian revolution is unlikely to immediately establish my ideal, but I celebrate it nonetheless.

The flight of Ben Ali from the country he once ruled is a warning to other tyrants, particularly those in the Arab world. There are limits to the amount of oppression people will suffer passively. Tyrants who go too far in their domination and looting of the ruled will lose their seats of power. The top oppressors might be able to take some loot with them and retire under the protection of fellow criminals, but even they should not rest easy in a time of revolution. When enough individuals are motivated to withdrawal acquiescence to government, tyrants will be unseated. The powers of persuasion, solidarity, technology, strike, and direct action can help freedom-seeking people overcome all the lies and terrorism that ill-gotten wealth can purchase.

Withdrawing support for one government leaves the question of who and what will replace it. Within society there are many groups of individuals pushing for different interests. Some of them are well-positioned to move into the blind spots of unrest and establish their power over other people. Foreign and domestic economic interests and political ambitions threaten liberty in any revolutionary scenario.

Even if all the officials bearing large responsibility for the old regime were ousted, the exchange of rulers would be disdained by those who want no rulers. Anarchists should take steps to prevent the rise of new authorities. This requires not being overly dogmatic, but knowing to apply and discuss principles in a way that is relevant to peoples’ lives.

An empowered populace with strong libertarian principles can prevent new tyrants from gaining hold. The oft-lamented “power vacuum” that political strongmen take advantage of would be less of an issue if power is widely distributed through social networks that empower individuals and challenge authority.

Popular revolution, even when it does not immediately make a country ungovernable, can be a step in society’s evolution toward anarchy. Anarchy may be a continually evolving process, but some evolutions are more crucial and sudden than others. A popular revolution can result in a more favorable environment for establishing libertarian autonomous zones, and enable people to seize and mutualize services and resources controlled by the government and its cronies. As always the political climate must figure into any reasonable calculus of action. Action should motivate more people to support projects of anarchy than it motivates to support reactionary projects of repression.

From an anarchist perspective, there is merit to the argument that the establishment of a less-bad government perpetuates the institution of government: If an evil is tolerable, it is more likely to be tolerated, but if a peoples’ only experience with government is negative, they might be more inclined to discard it altogether. However, it seems at least as likely that severely oppressed people will aim to create a government that is better relative to what they are used to. A government that does less evil might create a more favorable environment for the expansion of libertarian social organization to the point where government is popularly looked upon as an unnecessary intrusion and thereby disintegrates. In the Tunisian case, the experience gained in undermining oppression through direct action will probably be beneficial to cultural development.

However events in Tunisia unfold, they show that revolution is possible and that individuals outside the power structures are not stuck with the roles of spectator, cheerleader, or pawn in the maneuvers of the powerful. I congratulate the revolutionaries of Tunisia and hope they make this revolution a major step in the evolution toward maximum individual liberty.


C4SS News Analyst Darian Worden is an individualist anarchist writer with experience in libertarian activism. His fiction includes Bring a Gun To School Day and the forthcoming Trade War. His essays and other works can be viewed at DarianWorden.com. He also hosts an internet radio show, Thinking Liberty.

Posted by Joe Anybody at 12:42 PM PST

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