November 30, 2023

Resolution reaffirming the State of Israel’s right to exist

Whereas the Jewish people are native to the Land of Israel;

Whereas throughout history and across the reign of multiple kingdoms, the Jewish people were persecuted and expelled from the Land of Israel, forced to live as minority diaspora communities in other lands;

Whereas Jewish diaspora communities were historically violently persecuted in, and in some cases expelled from, other countries throughout the Middle East, Europe, Africa, and Asia due to their religion;

Whereas the Nazis attempted to annihilate the entire Jewish population of Europe during the Holocaust, murdering 6,000,000 Jews during this time;

Whereas this genocide provided new urgency to re-establish a Jewish homeland for the Jewish people following the Holocaust, where they would not be a vulnerable minority, where they could freely practice their faith, and where something like the Holocaust could never happen again;

Whereas the modern State of Israel was established on May 14, 1948;

Whereas even after the establishment of the State of Israel, other countries and terrorist entities continued to attack Israel, reject its right to exist, and call for its destruction; and

Whereas Israel is the only Jewish State, and therefore, despite persistent external threats, the existence of Israel provides Jews a place to live free from persecution and discrimination: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives—

(1) reaffirms the State of Israel’s right to exist;

(2) recognizes that denying Israel’s right to exist is a form of antisemitism;

(3) rejects calls for Israel’s destruction and the elimination of the only Jewish State; and

(4) condemns the Hamas-led terrorist attack on Israel.

October 28, 2023

A Brief History of Palestine Since World War I

The lands currently known as Palestine/Israel, Jordan, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon were regions of the Ottoman empire for some 400 years.

The Ottoman empire ended with, along with internal challenges, its defeat in World War I. France took control of Syria & Lebanon (as a single entity), Britain of Mesopotamia (Iraq) and Palestine (as separate entities) (Treaty of Sèvres, 1920). Palestine was intended for “the establishment ... of a national home for the Jewish people, ... it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine” (Balfour Declaration, 1917).

Jordan (Transjordan) was established as independent from Iraq, and Lebanon as independent from Syria, all of these countries recognized as increasingly independent through the 1920s and ’30s until the final withdrawal of France and Britain after World War II.

The League of Nations mandate for Palestine (1920) was superseded by the United Nations partition plan (1947) for two independent states, Jewish and Arab. Civil war between Jewish and Arab communities ensued. When the British Mandate expired in 1948, the Jewish state of Israel was declared, and the recently formed (1945) League of Arab States, including Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, and Syria, as well as Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen, invaded, resulting in an expansion of Israel (recognized internationally as the 1949 “Green Line” and later the “pre-1967” border) and occupation of the remaining areas meant for an Arab state by Jordan (West Bank) and Egypt (Gaza).

Arab militants continued raids through the 1950s and ’60s, with corresponding responses by Israel.

In 1956, Israel joined Britain and France to attack Egypt in their attempt (which failed) to regain control of the Suez Canal after its nationalization by Egypt. While in Gaza, Israel killed hundreds of Arab militants (or just young men) in Khan Younis and Rafah.

In 1967, Egypt closed the Straits of Tiran (the entrance to the Gulf of Aqaba from the Red Sea) to Israeli shipping, and Israel attacked Egypt (the “Six-Day War”). Jordan and Syria joined with attacks on Israel. Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria, the West Bank from Jordan, and the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza from Egypt. The Arab League reiterated its policy of no recognition of and no peace or negotiations with Israel.

In 1973 (the “Yom Kippur War”), Egypt attempted to retake the Sinai Peninsula and Syria the Golan Heights. The rest of the Arab League helped them, as did the Soviet Union. Israel pushed them back, but eventually both Israel and Egypt decided to make peace. Israel withdrew back to roughly the Golan Heights as before. With the 1978 Camp David Accords, Israel ceded the Sinai Peninsula and Egypt recognized Israel. Israel annexed the Golan Heights in 1981.

In 2005, Israel removed Jewish settlers and withdrew from the Gaza Strip.

In 2006, the Hamas movement became the elected government for the Arab Palestinians and in 2007 expelled the rival Fatah movement from Gaza. Israel and Egypt put Gaza under blockade. In 2014, Hamas launched attacks on Israel and Israelis, and Israel attacked Gaza to destroy Hamas’s military infrastructure and operations.

Hamas, as well as the Hezbollah movement in Lebanon, continued rocket attacks and incursions against Israel and Israelis.

In 2023, Hamas attacked Israel with thousands of rockets and an invasion by some 2,500 fighters, killing more than 1,400 people and taking more than 200 hostages.

October 12, 2023

Forgotten, but not yet gone

Forgotten, but not yet gone.

Progress is the insult done by each generation on the previous one.

(The first line is from Our Like WIll Not Be There Again: Notes from the West of Ireland by Lawrence Millman (1975). The second line paraphrases a line from The Trouble With Being Born by Emil Cioran (1973) that was used as an epigram to one of Millman’s chapters.)

“The Blasket people call their departure from their island “the vanishing.” … In a sense, they are living beyond their own disappearance.’

August 19, 2023

Ag caint ar gaoil

Ó Caisleáin Óir le Séamus Ó Grianna (1924):

« ‘A mháthair mhór’, arsa Séimí, i ndiaidh a theach chun an bhaile, ‘an bhfuil gaol ar bith againne do bhunadh Mháirtín?’

« ‘Is fada amach é’, ar sise. ‘Fan go bhfeice mé. Seáinín Mór agus Conall Ó Fríl clann an deirféar is a dearthár; Micheál Sheáinín agus Tarlach Chonaill an dá ó; d’athair agus Máirtín an dá fhionnó; tusa agus Babaí [iníon Mháirtín], dearfaidh mé, an dá dhubhó. … Tá fréamh eile ghaoil nó dhó ag Séimí anseo do chlann Mháirtín. Tá mise agus Síle Chuirristín — go ndéana Sé a mhaith ar na mairbh — clann an bheirt dearthár; fear an tí seo agus Máirtín an dá ó; Séimí agus clann Mháirtín an dá fhionnó. … Tá tuilleadh ann. Gaol mhuintír na Brád. Bríd Chéillín agus Nualaitín an clann is ó; Peigí Tharlaigh Dhuibh agus Croíán ó is fionnó; bean an tí seo agus bean Mháirtín fionnó agus dubhó; Séimí anseo agus clann Mháirtín dubhó agus glún taobh amuigh de sin.’ »

(Seáinín Mór and Conall Ó Fríl are the children of a brother and a sister [1st cousins], Micheál Sheáinín and Tarlach Chonail 2nd cousins [ó], your father and Máirtín 3rd cousins [fionnó], you and Babaí 4th cousins [dubhó]. … Síle Chuirristín and I are the children of brothers [1st cousins], the man of this house and Máirtín 2nd cousins [ó], Séimí and the children of Máirtín 3rd cousins [fionnó]. … The Bráds: Bríd Chéillín and Nualaitín are the children of 2nd cousins, Peigí Tharlaigh Dhuibh agus Croíán 2nd and 3rd cousins, the woman of this house and Máirtín’s wife 3rd and 4th cousins, Séimí and the children of Máirtín 4th cousins and further out.)

(The first relation is established through the fathers (who are thus 3rd cousins), the second through their mothers (who are 1st cousins), and the third through the children’s mothers (who are 3rd and 4th cousins, presumably the former relation by a tie not elucidated here, or perhaps “2nd and 3rd” means 2nd once removed).)

[[[[ ]]]]

“Cousin” in Irish is col ceathair. Col refers to impediment to marriage (the reason Séamí is asking how related he is to Babaí), and ceathair refers to 4, that is, 4 degrees of separation: self, parent, grandparent, parent’s sibling, cousin. Col cúigir (5) is 1st cousin once removed, col seisir (6) is 2nd cousin, col  seachtair (7) is 2nd cousin once removed, col ochtair (8) is 3rd cousin.

Similarly, the degree of relation can be expressed as, for example, Tá siad a dó is a dó, They are cousins; Tá siad a dó is a trí, They are cousins once removed.

Also: Is iad an treas glúin iad, They are second cousins (of the 3rd generation). This derives from the simple use of glúin for generation of descent, for example, an dara glúin ó Micheál Sheáinín, the 2nd generation after Micheál Sheáinín. (Glúin also means “knee”.)

In the above passage, yet another way of describing relations is used, based on ó (originally úa), meaning “grandson” or “grandchild”, as in surnames, for example, Ó Grianna, as mac means “son”, which is also used in surnames. (For women’s surnames, Ó and Mac are replaced with Ní and Níc, respectively. Second cousins, both grandchildren of the same grandparents, are an dá ó. Fionnó is “great-grandchild”, and 3rd cousins are an dá fhionnó. (Iarmhó is another word for great-grandchild.) And dubhó is “great-great-grandchild” and 4th cousins are an dá dhubhó.

Dinneen actually quotes the above passage extensively in the dictionary entry for ó. He provides some other examples of usage as well: Táimíd i n-ó le chéile, we are cousins; Táimíd i n-ó amháin, we are first cousins; Táimíd ar (or idir) dá ó, we are second cousins; Táimíd i dá ionn-ó le chéile, we are third cousins; Tá siad i dá dhubh-ó, they are fourth cousins.

A third cousin may also be referred to as dhá ó and a fourth cousin as trí ó.

An etymological question is the origin of fionnó and dubhó, which appear to mean white cousin and black cousin. Fionnó was originally ionn-ó (as in the example provided by Dinneen), suggesting legitimacy, that is, marriage is possible. Perhaps as ionn became fionn, so became dubh. Dú-ó would suggest what is natural, that is, marriage idir dá dhubhó is proper, fitting.

From Caisleáin Óir: « ‘Ta sibh saor ar cháin’, arsa Donnchadh Mór, ‘ó rachas sibh taobh amach de na fionnóí.’ » (You are free from censure since you have gone past 3rd cousins.)

August 5, 2023

Excerpts from a couple of essays in Tablet magazine

From “The Culture of Transgression,” by Michael Lind, July 31, 2023

Everywhere we see our political, cultural, and financial elites bankrolling activists to dismantle traditions. While flags and slogans celebrating racial or sexual identity are proudly displayed by Western governments and corporations, overt displays of national patriotism are regarded by establishmentarians on both sides of the Atlantic as vulgar and distasteful. Religions tend to be viewed with distrust and contempt by the trans-Atlantic elite, unless their premodern teachings have been modified into alignment with the views of the campus left. The Western canon, instead of being enlarged to include unjustly excluded authors, has been jettisoned, and liberal education has been replaced by ideological indoctrination in the name of “diversity, equity, and inclusion” (DEI).

Iconoclasm is nothing new in history. The term was coined to describe the controversy over icons in medieval Byzantium, and has come to mean any attack on cherished traditions and familiar imagery. Radical Protestant reformers broke the stained glass and smashed the statues of Mary and the saints. The Taliban dynamited Buddhist statues in Afghanistan in 2001, and later ISIS destroyed many ancient Mesopotamian monuments and statues.

In most historic cases, programmatic iconoclasm has been temporary and accompanied or followed by the fabrication of new traditions and the imposition of new orthodoxies. In communist Russia, the statues of the czars went down and statues of Lenin and Stalin went up. ...

But the cancellation of the Great Books curriculum has not led to a new consensus canon featuring minority, female, and nonbinary authors along with a smaller number of “dead white males” who are deemed acceptable. Instead, much of the energy of woke jihadists goes into purging or censoring existing works of art and thought—rewriting the novels of Roald Dahl, for example—or randomly parachuting nonwhite or “queer” characters into movie remakes instead of creating something new.

The cultural ferment in contemporary North America and Europe does not feel like an interregnum between one cultural regime and a stable successor. It feels like a permanent revolution.

Put another way, the Western elite culture of transgression is an example of antinomianism, not iconoclasm. Unlike iconoclasm, antinomianism is not a temporary campaign of destruction of older iconography and traditions to clear the way for the imposition of new canons and orthodoxies. Derived from the Greek words meaning “against” and “law” or “norm,” the term antinomianism refers to the view that all laws and norms are oppressive always and everywhere, and that the act of transgression in itself is virtuous, if not holy. ...

At the moment, the fashionable justifications invoked by the elite antinomian vandals attacking Western society from within are climate change, anti-racism, anti-sexism, anti-homophobia, and “anti-fascism” as a catchall category. Upper-middle-class young men and women who throw paint at artistic masterpieces or glue themselves to trains claim they are defending the earth’s environment, but they could just as well say they are fighting white supremacy or patriarchy. They are acting out the ethos of a Western elite culture that believes the act of transgression itself is virtuous; the alleged goal of the transgression is merely an excuse.

Call it “the culture of transgression” of the dominant overclass in North Atlantic democracies. The three saints of transgression are the illegal immigrant, the transsexual, and the woman who proudly celebrates abortion. All three are idealized by our revolutionary ruling class precisely because they violate traditional norms—the traditional norm of patriotism, based on the legitimacy of the city-state or nation-state or kingdom and its laws and borders; traditional gender norms; and traditional family norms, which celebrate the capacity of women to give birth and to nurture their infants and of men to provide for them. Most of what is called “progressivism” today is really transgressivism.

y now the antinomians in Western nations have won their war against tradition in every realm. The members of the credentialed corporate-government-nonprofit-academic-media oligarchy, along with billionaire entrepreneurs and bankers who themselves are usually born into managerial-professional families, are almost all modernist in their aesthetics, libertine in their views of sex and recreational drug use, and dismissive of nationalism and patriotism and religion, which they regard as mental diseases of the lower classes. They work in offices designed by trendy “starchitects” decorated with abstract art, and often live in postmodern homes designed to be sterile, off-putting, and the very opposite of petty bourgeois comfort.

Having vandalized every premodern tradition, the elite antinomians of the modern West now don’t know what to do next. What should rebels against the bourgeoisie rebel against when the bourgeoisie has fallen?

The answer, it is increasingly apparent, is to rebel against the proletariat. Instead of shocking the bourgeoisie, our post-bourgeois managerial overclass now delights in shocking the working class. ...

Whatever working-class “normies” believe and enjoy, the most influential tastemakers of the trans-Atlantic ruling class denounce and seek to ban, using one of their three or four specious all-purpose justifications. ...

By declaring the democratic preferences of the working class a danger to society, the West’s oligarchs justify subjecting their enemies to pervasive surveillance and other counterextremism measures originally designed for foreign terrorist groups. ...

From “The Obama Factor,” by David Samuels, August 02, 2023

[Note: There’s a lot of (counterfactual) anti-Putin/Trump crap in this piece, which rather plays right into the very stuff the authors critique. Samuels is also offended by Obama’s supposed minimization of American exceptionalism, but he equates that exceptionalism with empire, which Obama clearly embraced (to great harm).]

... By then, it was clear to any informed observer that the Obamas’ continuing presence in the nation’s capital was not purely a personal matter. To an extent that has never been meaningfully reported on, the Obamas served as both the symbolic and practical heads of the Democratic Party shadow government that “resisted” Trump—another phenomenon that defied prior norms.... The election of Joe Biden in 2020 gave the Obamas even more reasons to stay in town. ...

Near the end of June, for example, Politico ran a long article noting Biden’s cognitive decline, with the coy headline “Is Obama Ready to Reassert Himself?”—as if the ex-president hadn’t been living in the middle of Washington and playing politics since the day he left office. Indeed, in previous weeks Obama had continued his role as central advocate for government censorship of the internet while launching a new campaign against gun ownership, claiming it is historically linked to racism. Surely, the spectacle of an ex-president simultaneously leading campaigns against both the First and Second Amendments might have led even a spectacularly incurious old-school D.C. reporter to file a story on the nuts and bolts of Obama’s political operation and on who was going in and out of his mansion. But the D.C. press was no longer in the business of maintaining transparency. Instead, they had become servants of power, whose job was to broadcast whatever myths helped advance the interests of the powerful. ...

At bottom, Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama [by David Garrow] is a tragic story about a young man who was deeply wounded by the abandonment of both his white mother and his Black father—a wound that gifted him with political genius and at the same time made him the victim of a profound narcissism that first whispered to him in his mid-twenties that he was destined to be president. It is not hard to see how Garrow has come to believe that Obama’s ambition proved to be toxic, both for the man and for the country. ...

My own read of Obama has always been that he was a skillful elite-pleaser with a radical streak that did in fact emerge from the anti-imperialist politics of the 1970s, the foundational claim of which was that equality trumps freedom. ...

Progressive theology is built on a mythic hierarchy of group victimhood which has endured throughout time, up until the present day; the injuries that the victims have suffered are so massive, so shocking, and so manifestly unjust that they dwarf the present. Such injuries must be remedied immediately, at nearly any cost. The people who do the work of remedying these injustices, by whatever means, are the heroes of history. Conversely, the sins of the chief oppressors of history, white men, are so dark that nothing short of abject humiliation and capitulation can begin to approach justice.

It goes to say that nothing about the terms of progressive theology is original. It is the theology of Soviet communism, with class struggle replaced by identity politics. In this system, Jews play a unique, double-edged role: They are both an identity group and a Trojan horse through which history can reenter the gates of utopia.

Ghettos were invented for Jews. Concentration camps, too. How can Jews be “privileged white people” if they are clearly among history’s victims? And if Jews aren’t white people, then perhaps lots of other white people are also victims and therefore aren’t “white,” in the theological sense in which that term gains its significance in progressive ideology. Maybe “Black people” aren’t always or primarily Black. Maybe the whole progressive race-based theology is, historically and ideologically speaking, a load of crap. Which is why the Jews are and will remain a problem. ...

[Obama] was the guy chosen by history to put something in the American goldfish bowl that made all the fish go crazy and eat each other: America’s emerging oligarachy cementing its grip instead of going bust. The rise of monopoly internet platforms. The normalization of government spying on Americans. Race relations going south. Skyrocketing inequality. The rise of Donald Trump. The birth of Russiagate. It all happened with Obama in the White House. ...

[The interview:]

DS: What do you see as the connection, if any, between the personal lives of powerful men and their public lives, based on your years of research on Dr. King, and your experience writing about Obama?

DG: I think one can in large part, in King’s case, say these were sort of two separate lives. Because he lived it that way. He lived it as two separate lives.

DS: Might one make the same case about Obama, but in reverse? It seems clear that Obama leads an exemplary, highly controlled private life, consuming exactly seven almonds while watching The Man in the High Castle or Draymond Green highlights on ESPN for stress relief.

DG: Right. Yes.

DS: In fact, I can make the case that Obama’s public life was the amoral part, beginning with the toleration of genocide in Syria and the extrajudicial killing of U.S. citizens, and extending to wide-scale illegal surveillance and spying, and his now becoming the spokesperson for gutting the First Amendment in favor of government censorship of large tech platforms. ...

DS: So Obama starts out as an eloquent opponent of the Patriot Act, etc., etc. By the end of his presidency, his people are unmasking intercepts of his political opponents every day, and the FBI is spying on Donald Trump.

DG: That’s right. ...

DS: What interests you most about Obama today?

DG: The number one thing about Barack this past five years is how completely he’s vanished.

DS: Why is he living in the center of Washington, D.C., then?

DG: Well, how much time is he spending there as opposed to Martha’s Vineyard? I have no idea.

DS: Between July Fourth and Labor Day, sure. The rest of the year, he lives in a large brick mansion in Kalorama. Doesn’t it strike you as weird that he’s an ex-president, he’s comparatively young, and he’s living in the center of Washington, D.C.? The original excuse was that Sasha had to finish school. Then you could say, “Well, the opposition to Trump needs a figure to rally around.” But now Sasha has graduated from USC, Trump is gone, Joe Biden was elected present, but he’s still there.

DG: I never see any mentions of him.

DS: Doesn’t that strike you as odd? I mean, I have heard from more than one source that there are regular meetings at Obama’s house in Kalorama involving top figures in the current White House, with Secret Service and cars outside. I don’t write about it because it’s not my lane. There are over a thousand reporters in Washington, and yet there are zero stakeouts of Obama’s mansion, if only to tell us who is coming and going. But he clearly has his oar in.

DG: I don’t follow the Iranian stuff super, super carefully, but I have been puzzled at the Biden administration’s continuing attachment to the Iran deal.

DS: The easy explanation, of course, is that Joe Biden is not running that part of his administration. Obama is. He doesn’t even have to pick up the phone because all of his people are already inside the White House. They hold the Iran file. Tony Blinken doesn’t.

DG: Rob Malley was the guy on that.

DS: Rob Malley is just one person. Brett McGurk. Dan Shapiro in Israel. Lisa Monaco in Justice. Susan Rice running domestic policy. It’s turtles all the way down. There are obviously large parts of White House policymaking that belong to Barack Obama because they’re staffed by his people, who worked for him and no doubt report back to him. Personnel is policy, as they say in Washington.

Which to me is a very odd and kind of spooky arrangement. Spooky, because it is happening outside the constitutional framework of the U.S. government, and yet somehow it’s been placed off the list of permitted subjects to report on. Which is a pretty good indicator of the extent to which the information we get, and public reactions to that information, is being successfully controlled. How and by whom remain open questions, the quick answer to which is that the American press has become a subset of partisan comms.

DG: I’m going back to something you said 20 minutes ago. From the get-go, I know enough intelligence community stuff that from the first time I saw it, I realized that Christopher Steele’s shit was just complete crap. It was bad corporate intelligence, even. It was nonsensical.

DS: What scared me back then was coming to understand that a new milieu had been created consisting of party operatives, the people in the FBI and the CIA who are carrying out White House policy, and the press. It is all one world now. And that’s something people still seem loathe to admit, even to themselves, in part because it puts them in a state of dissonance with this new kind of controlled consensus that the press maintains, which is obviously garbage. But if you question it, you’re some kind of nut. ... Now the question becomes, why are they still fixated on Iran after the Iran deal failed, its premises are exploded? And who are “they,” exactly?

DG: Well, for Barack, everything has to be a success. Everything has to be a victory. I mean, I’m not a health policy expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I’ve always thought that the whole Obamacare thing was, in large part, a fraud. It’s a great achievement for the health insurance industry.

DS: Obama reluctantly started talking about health care because it was Hillary Clinton’s issue in 2008, and then they were like, “Well, you have to have a healthcare plan, because Hillary has her big healthcare plan.” It was like, “All right, fine, I’ll have one too.” ...

DS: I think future historians are going to look at the Obama presidency and see it as the moment when this new oligarchy merged with the Democratic Party and used the capacities of these new technologies and the power of this new class of people, the oligarchs and their servants, to create a new apparatus of social control. How far they can go with it, what the limits are … you see them trying to test it out every week or so. ... So if Obama is the first U.S. president from the periphery of empire, he’s also the first president from the billionaire-foundation-NGO complex, which makes him the perfect mediating figure between the progressive part of the party, the billionaires, and the security state. ...

DS: As someone who has been a serious student of this subject for the past 45 years, how consequential is the court’s decision to overturn Roe?

DG: It’s a class issue. That’s the number one thing. Even before Roe [and], if you were a woman who had your life together and could get yourself to New York, you were fine. If you had the time and the ability to buy yourself a plane ticket to New York City, you were fine. Anybody from the Rio Grande Valley needed to get, past tense, to San Antonio or Austin to get an abortion. And that’s what we’re looking at now, is that it’s a travel challenge, because there’s going to be this whole swath of states—Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Arkansas—where folks are going to need to get to New Mexico, Colorado, or Illinois. ...

[T]he problem with the reproductive rights movement, going all the way back to Mrs. Sanger in the teens and the ’20s, is that the activist population has no connection to the beneficiary population. Because the beneficiary population is generally poverty-class women who have messed-up lives—and, in some circumstances, abusive life situations. But they are working-class or poverty-class people for whom the ability to get out of Pittsburgh, just to use the local geography, to fly out of Pittsburgh, would be a humongous challenge for them. They can take the bus around Pittsburgh, but how do you get to the airport? How do you get a ticket? Where do you go? Do you have an internet connection at home? ...

DS: So how do you talk all this foundation-land, community-organizer shit and then preside over the transformation of the country into a Gilded Age oligarchy? Maybe I just answered my own question: Obama is the Magic Negro of the billionaire industrial complex. And targeting Jews as outsiders and pushing them outside the circle was the way that the Gilded Age oligarchy consolidated itself in America, back then and also now. ...

DS: [I]magine telling Harry Truman, “Hey, why don’t you sell that old house and buy three or four huge mansions in Martha’s Vineyard and Hawaii and Washington, D.C., and rake in hundreds of millions of dollars in sweetheart deals with big corporations while you’re vacationing on rich people’s yachts?” ...

DG: Everybody, especially white folks, thought that having a Black family in the White House would be cure for the legacy of American racism. Now there’s no question in anybody’s mind that on that score, that scale, the presidency was a total failure. But why are race relations, at least as people perceive them or imagine them, ostensibly well worse today post-Floyd than they were in 2008? ...

DS: [T]he point where race relations in America turned sour wasn’t with George Floyd in 2020; it was with BLM in 2014, and that’s squarely during Obama’s second term ...

DG: I think it’s inescapable that Barack’s success in ‘08 is rooted in white people seeing him as an easy ticket toward racial absolution. It’s a need that white people in this country have. And what we’re still seeing week after week now for these past two or three years, especially with places like the Times and the Post, is that this white need for absolution was not cured by the Obama presidency. ...

DS: The protagonists of the grand drama of race in America are the cultural and actual descendants of the Puritans, not Black people—who, as Americans, mainly desire the same things that other Americans do, like safe streets and decent jobs and health care and not to die prematurely from heart disease. White Puritans have more elevated concerns.

DG: Exactly. For them, 200-year-old statues are more important than five-year-old Black children. ...

DS: What do the Obamas and their circle have in common with each other? They are Ivy League people, who ran away from whatever they came from in order to become members of the credentialed elites, whose loyalty is to the system that gives them prestige—or rather, gives prestige to their degrees, of which they are the holders. Once they pair off and reproduce under the seal of Harvard or Yale, they may find it seemly to donate money to an NGO that offers microloans to female entrepreneurs in Pakistan. So why should Obama, the ultimate winner, carry on the charade that he’s part of a community, whatever that means, with these people? He’s happy to go on NPR and talk about meaning or Marilynne Robinson novels or whatever, to make the wine moms identify with him, so he can put one over on them. Just don’t ask him to visit the hospital when you get cancer, because he’ll be hanging out on someone’s yacht, with the other winners. ...

July 27, 2023

“Mar a chaith mé laethanta saoire an tsamhraidh”

Bíonn an t-úrscéal Diosco Dé le Séamas Mac Annaidh (Coiscéim, 2006) ag spaisteoireacht thart faoi samhradh mar teagasc Béarla i gcampa Tuirceach an bliain 1999. Tá sé mar bheadh cuntas taistil nó cuimhní cinn seachas úrscéal ann. Cúpla uair tá leaideanna go mbeidh eachtra mór ag forbairt, ach leanann an scéal go dtí eachtranna eile sa champa, i rith na turais, teannas agus comhcheilg idir na múinteoirí Gaeilge, na pearsantachtaí ar na múintoirí uile (Béarla agus Tuirceach) agus ar na daltaí nua gach coicís, an dúshlán ar an ceannais an an champa a choinnigh gabháil i gceart is go sabháilte.

Is as Doire atá an scéalaí agus a chailín Astrálach, agus tá siad ag filleadh (.i. pilleadh) chun an champa cá bualadh iad le chéile an bhliain roimhe. Tar éis naoi mí i nDoire, tá siad araon ag dúil le am ar cósta na mara Mharmara a chaitheamh.

Ni féidir a inis níos mó faoin scéal gan nochtadh an cúis go bhfuil sé seo cén úrscéal maith, mar ar deireadh is úrscéal an-tochtmhar é. Go cáiréiseach, fíonn an Annach an léitheoir isteach le scéal an scéalaí féin.

July 26, 2023

Climate change–fueled weather demands action now, sez Sarah Copeland Hanzas — annotated

Sarah Copeland Hanzas was a Vermont House member for 18 years before being elected as Secretary of State in 2022. This commentary, reproduced here in full with notes following, was published in several news outlets (without the notes).

Vermonters have always rallied to protect and care for our friends and neighbors in a crisis. I am grateful for Governor Scott’s calm and measured response when Vermont is in crisis. During the Covid-19 pandemic, Governor Scott followed the science and took the appropriate steps, despite considerable opposition,a to keep Vermonters safe and to prevent a greater tragedy. Now, we need the same courage and focus as we grapple with flood recovery and take action to address the underlying forces of climate changeb that drove its severity.

So far this summer, Vermont has seen a record heat wave in May,c the state’s worst air quality in history in June, and recently a record rainstorme that dumped as much as two months of normal rain on towns around the state in just over a day.

And this is clearly the new normalf for Vermont as the impacts of global warming hit us. Nolan Atkins, the former chair of the atmospheric sciences department at Vermont State University said: “In a warmer world and a warmer climate, [we should expect] these more frequent and more intense weather events.”

Yet despite the science, and clear evidence of increasingly severe weather, the Governor has vetoed every major piece of climate legislation the Vermont Legislature has put before him in recent years. We need Governor Scott to direct state agencies to recognize the climate emergency and treat climate action with the same emergency response and focus we are seeing right now during the floods, and that we did during Vermont’s Covid response.g

As the former co-chair of the Legislature’s Climate Solution Caucus, I traveled throughout the state listening to Vermonters’ concerns about the looming impacts of global warming and the urgent need to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. I heard over and over that if we don’t act on climate and curb our emissions we will run out of time; we will be too consumed by the effects of climate change to focus on transitioning to renewable energy.h

I have seen our pragmatic Governor do a policy pivot when faced with an emergency. After the shooting threat in Fair Haven High School, he was a constructive and supportive partner for meaningful gun safety reforms.

It is time for the Governor to pivot on climate policy. There are a few simple things the Governor can do right now to make a difference and help Vermont be a leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. And more importantly, prevent greater tragedy.

First, the Governor should direct his appointees on the Climate Council to shift to an emergency response.i The most immediate and constructive action he could take at this moment is to make sure Vermonters whose heating systems were destroyed in the flood are encouraged and incentivized to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy.j Let’s help provide loaner heating systems to get through the upcoming heating season and accelerate our investment in our green energy workforce. This will not only speed up Vermont’s green energy transition but also create jobs; we can combat climate change and help Vermont’s economy at the same time.

Second, direct his Agency of Natural Resources and Department of Public Service to become willing partners in implementing the Clean Heat Standard to help all Vermonters transition from fossil fuels for heating and cooling their homes and businesses. Over one-third of Vermont’s greenhouse gas emissions come from heating and cooling our homes and businesses. Despite this, Governor Scott and his administration have inexplicably been an anchor in getting this groundbreaking initiative into action.

And third, support legislation to ensure Vermont gets 100% of its electricity from renewable energy by the end of the decade. With the passage of President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, wind and solar power are cheaper than everk and price competitive with new natural gas. Vermont needs to do its part to clean up its electric sector and end our environmentally unjust practice of importing our power from oil- and natural gas–burning plants in low-income communities in Massachusetts and Connecticut.

I’m not saying it’s simple and easy, I understand firsthand the challenges rural Vermonters face in heating their homes and getting to work. But if we think transitioning to renewable heating and transportation is inconvenient or possibly a little more expensive, just look around at what we will be facing if we don’t.l Can we afford not to?


a“despite considerable opposition” — Actually, the considerable opposition was that he wasn’t draconian and dictatorial enough.

b“to address the underlying forces of climate change” — The earth revolves around the sun with a tilted axis, thus causing the seasons, and turns on that axis, thus causing day and night. These cause weather.

c“Vermont has seen a record heat wave in May” — And then it was over. We’re looking at a rather cool end of July and early August.

d“the state’s worst air quality in history in June” — Canadian forest fires, which we can hardly do anything about.

e“a record rainstorm” — Well, no, it wasn’t.

f“clearly the new normal” — If you were born yesterday.

g“We need Governor Scott to direct state agencies to recognize the climate emergency and treat climate action with the same emergency response and focus we are seeing right now during the floods, and that we did during Vermont’s Covid response.” — That “emergency response” to Covid was futile and harmful, as indeed is almost all of the “climate legislation” that the legislature has passed. In fact, Montpelier, along with other towns on rivers regularly floods and businesses bounce back. But they are only now recovering from that Covid response and don’t have the resilience and resources they would have otherwise.

h“transitioning to renewable energy” — From normal New England weather to CO₂ emissions as the culprit to renewable energy as the solution, this is a study in non sequitur. It is telling that as co-chair of the Legislature’s Climate Solution Caucus, she heard only people clamoring for what she is here clamoring for.

i“shift to an emergency response” — If everyone is already clamoring, it most certainly does not require an emergency response to force it on them. This “emergency response” is required precisely because people like to make their own decisions about how their homes are heated, weighing costs and benefits for their individual situation. Again, that “Covid emergency” was similarly imposed precisely to prevent people from making personal risk-benefit decisions, even to punish people for insisting on their right to make such decisions for themselves.

j“replace fossil fuels with renewable energy” — What is she talking about? She means replacing systems that burn fuel on site to provide warmth with electric space heaters. Granted, in Vermont, much of that electricity is from Canadian hydro, but the expanded demand of electric heat (and cars) will be provided by burning natural gas, converting a fraction of the released energy to electricity, transporting that electricity over powerlines at further loss, and then converting it back to heat. The inefficiency compared to burning fossil fuels on site is staggering, not to mention insanely bad policy.

Furthermore, every Vermonter knows that they need to be prepared for power outages, which can sometimes last for days. Depending on electricity for anything that you don’t have to is simply foolish. You will effectively be replacing efficient fossil-fuel systems with increased reliance on fossil fuel–powered back-up generators.

k“wind and solar power are cheaper than ever” — In fact, wind and solar are only getting more expensive. They completely depend on subsidies from taxpayers and ratepayers to be built at all.

l“just look around at what we will be facing if we don’t” — And we close with the veiled threat, based on the false premises the whole essay started with. “We’ll make sure you can’t afford not to make the choices we make for you.”

[[[[ ]]]]

From The History of Athens Vermont, Lora Wyman, 1963:

«Freshets and floods occurred too frequently down the years to mention more than a sample of them. A few that did the most extensive damage to Athens were the freshet of Oct. 4, 1869; the great blizzard of Mar. 12, 1888; the floods of 1927, 1936; and the great hurricane of 1938. Practically all adults living today can remember the destruction caused by the hurricane of 1938. In Athens countless trees were blown down, the roof on Henry Ward’s milk house and one side of the barn were blown off. A small bridge near Camp Nai-neh-ta was washed away and abutments on others were weakened. About one-half mile of the main road to Cambridgeport, parallel with the brook above Brookside bungalow was washed away. Traffic was detoured around the road past the David Karlson farm. Two of Ned Wyman’s 10′ × 12′ chicken houses on the lower road, floated down stream, one lodging in a tangle of brush. Next morning, expecting to find the 50 or more chicks housed inside drowned, Mr. Wyman happily discovered them all perched on the roost above the water, waiting for breakfast.»

Also see: 1816: The Year Without a Summer

July 25, 2023

FBI source report on Burisma and the Bidens

Federal Bureau of Investigation: CHS Reporting Document, FD-1023
Date: 06/30/2020

First Meeting with Burisma Executives in Kyiv, Ukraine 201S/2016.

... Pojarskii [Burisma CFO] said Burisma hired the former President or Prime Minister of Poland to leverage his contacts in Europe for prospective oil and gas deals, and they hired Hunter Biden to “protect us, through his dad, from all kinds or problems” ... CHS [confidential human source] asked why they (Burisma) needed to get CHS’s assistance regarding the purchase/merger of a US-based company when Biden was on their board. Pojarskii replied that Hunter Biden was not smart, and they wanted to get additional counsel. ...

Meeting with CHS, Ostapenko, and Mykola Zlochevsky [Burisma founder and CEO] in Vienna, Austria in 2016.

... CHS recalled this meeting took place around the time Joe Biden made a public statement about (former) Ukraine Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin being corrupt, and that he should be fired/removed from office. CHS told Zlochevsky that due to Shokin’s investigation into Burisma, which was made public at this time, it would have a substantial negative impact on Burisma’s prospective IPO in the United States. Zlochevsky replied something to the effect of, “Don’t worry Hunter will take care of all of those issues through his dad.” ...

CHS advised Zlochevsky it would be problematic to raise capital in the US given Shokin’s investigation into Burisma as nobody in the US would invest in a company that was the subject ot a criminal investigation. CHS suggested it would best if Burisma simply litigate the matter in Ukraine, and pay some attorney $50,000. Zlochevsky said he/Burisma would likely lose the trial because he could not show that Burisma was innocent; Zlochevsky also laughed at CHS’s number of $50,000 (not because of the small amount, but because the number contained a “5”) and said that “it cost 5 (million) to pay one Biden, and 5 (million) to another Biden.” ...

CHS told Zlochevsky that any such payments to the Bidens would complicate matters, and Burisma should hire “some normal US oil and gas advisors” because the Bidens have no experience with that business sector. Zlochevsky made some comment that although Hunter Biden “was stupid, and his (Zlochevsky’s) dog was smarter,” Zlochevsky needed to keep hunter Biden (on the board) “so everything will be okay.” CHS inquired whether Hunter Biden or Joe Biden told Zlochevsky he should retain Hunter Biden; Zlochevsky replied, “They both did.” CHS reiterated CHS’s opinion that Zlochevsky was making a mistake and he should fire Hunter Biden and deal with Shokin’s investigation directly so that the matter will remain an issue in Ukraine, and not turn in to some international matter. Zlochevsky responded something to the effect of, “Don’t worry, this thing Will go away anyway.” CHS replied that, notwithstanding Shokin’s investigation, it was still a bad decision for Burisma to spend $20-$30 million to buy a US business, and that CHS didn’t want to be involved with the Biden matter. Zlochevsky responded that he appreciated CHS’s advice, but that “it’s too late to change his decision.” CHS understood this to mean that Zlochevsky had already had paid the Bidens, presumably to “deal with Shokin.” ...

2016/2017 Telephone call. Shortly after the 2016 US election and during President Trump’s transition period, CHS participated in a conference call with Ostapenko and Zlochevsky. CHS inquired whether Zlochevsky was happy with the US election results. Zlochevsky replied that he was not happy Trump won the election. CHS asked Zlochevsky whether he was concerned about Burisma’s involvement with the Bidens. Zlochevsky stated he didn’t want to pay the Bidens and he was “pushed to pay”* them. ... Zlochevsky stated Shokin had already been fired, and no investigation was currently going on, and that nobody would find out about his financial dealings with the Bidens. CHS then stated, “l hope you have some back-up (proof) For your words (nemely, that Zlochevsky was “forced” to pay the Bidens). Zlochevsky replied he has many text messages and “recordings” that show that he was coerced to make such payments (See below, subsequent CHS reporting on 6/29/2020).

2019 Telephone call. After the aforementioned 2016 telephone call, CHS had no interactions with Zlochevsky/Bursima [sic] whatsoever, until 2019. In 201 9, CHS met with Ostapenko in London to discuss various business matters (which had nothing to do with Zlochevsky, Burisma, or the gas/oil industry ... At some point during this meeting, Ostapenko advised CHS he was going to call Zlochevsky. At this time, CHS understood Zlochevsky was living somewhere in Europe (NFI). During the call, Zlochevsky asked CHS and/or Ostapenko if they read the recent news reports about the investigations in to the Bidens and Bursima ... CHS mentioned Zlochevsky might have difficulty explaining suspicious wire transfers that may evidence any (illicit) payments to the Bidens. Zlochevsky responded he did not send any funds directly to the “Big Guy” (which CHS understood was a reference to Joe Biden). CHS asked Zloehevsky how many companies/bank accounts Zlochevsky controls; Zlochevsky responded it would take them (investigators) 10 years to find the records (i.e. illicit payments to Joe Biden). ...

On June 29, 2020, CHS provided the following supplemental reporting:

Regarding CHS’s aforementioned reporting that Zlochevsky said - “he has many text messages and ’recordings’ that show he was coerced to make such payments” - CHS clarified Zlochevsky said he had a total of “17 recordings” involving the Bidens; two of the recordings included Joe Biden, and the remaining 15 recordings only included Hunter Biden. CHS reiterated that, per Zlochevsky, these recordings evidence Zlochevsky was somehow coerced into paying the Bidens to ensure Ukraine Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin was fired. Zlochevsky stated he has two “documents (which CHS understood to be wire transfer statements, bank records, etc.), that evidence some payment(s) to the Bidens were made, presumably in exchange for Shokin’s firing.

Regarding aforementioned Oleksandr Ostapenko (alternate spelling, Alexander Ostapenko), who originally introduced CHS into this matter, Ostapenko currently “works in some office for the administration of President Zelensky (NFI)”, and also works for Valery Vavilov, who is the founder/CEO of cryptocurrency and blockchain technology business BitFury.

*CHS explained the Russian term Zlochevsky used to explain the payments was “poluchili” (transliterated by the CHS), which literally translates to “got it” or “received it”, but is also used in Russian criminal slang for being “forced or coerced to pay.”

May 30, 2023

Statement of Justice Gorsuch

Arizona, et al. v. Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of Homeland Security, et al.

This case concerns the “Title 42 orders.” Those emergency decrees severely restricted immigration to this country for the ostensible purpose of preventing the spread of COVID-19. The federal government began issuing the orders in March 2020 and continued issuing them until April 2022, when officials decided they were no longer necessary.

If that seems reasonable enough, events soon took a turn. … [T]he federal government found itself in an unenviable spot—bound by two inconsistent nationwide commands, one requiring it to enforce the Title 42 orders and another practically forbidding it from doing so. … Now, almost five months later, the Court puts a final twist on the tale. It vacates the appellate court’s order denying the States’ motion to intervene and remands with instructions to dismiss the motion as moot. Why the sudden about-face? Recently, Congress passed and the President signed into law a joint resolution declaring that the COVID-19 emergency is over. The Secretary of Health and Human Services, too, has issued his own directive announcing the end of the public-health emergency underlying the Title 42 orders. Apparently, these developments are enough to persuade the Court that the Title 42 orders the government wished to withdraw a year ago are now as good as gone and any dispute over them is moot.

I recite all this tortured procedural history not because I think the Court’s decision today is wrong. Nearly five months ago, I argued that the Court erred when it granted expedited review and issued a stay. As I explained at the time, I do not discount the States’ concerns about what is happening at the border, but “the current border crisis is not a COVID crisis.” And the Court took a serious misstep when it effectively allowed nonparties to this case to manipulate our docket to prolong an emergency decree designed for one crisis in order to address an entirely different one. Today’s dismissal goes some way to correcting that error.

I lay out the history of this case only because it is so typical. Not just as an illustration of the quandaries that can follow when district courts award nationwide relief, a problem I have written about before. Even more importantly, the history of this case illustrates the disruption we have experienced over the last three years in how our laws are made and our freedoms observed.

Since March 2020, we may have experienced the greatest intrusions on civil liberties in the peacetime history of this country. Executive officials across the country issued emergency decrees on a breathtaking scale. Governors and local leaders imposed lockdown orders forcing people to remain in their homes. They shuttered businesses and schools, public and private. They closed churches even as they allowed casinos and other favored businesses to carry on. They threatened violators not just with civil penalties but with criminal sanctions too. They surveilled church parking lots, recorded license plates, and issued notices warning that attendance at even outdoor services satisfying all state social-distancing and hygiene requirements could amount to criminal conduct. They divided cities and neighborhoods into color-coded zones, forced individuals to fight for their freedoms in court on emergency timetables, and then changed their color-coded schemes when defeat in court seemed imminent.

Federal executive officials entered the act too. Not just with emergency immigration decrees. They deployed a public-health agency to regulate landlord-tenant relations nationwide. They used a workplace-safety agency to issue a vaccination mandate for most working Americans. They threatened to fire noncompliant employees, and warned that service members who refused to vaccinate might face dishonorable discharge and confinement. Along the way, it seems federal officials may have pressured social-media companies to suppress information about pandemic policies with which they disagreed.

While executive officials issued new emergency decrees at a furious pace, state legislatures and Congress—the bodies normally responsible for adopting our laws—too often fell silent. Courts bound to protect our liberties addressed a few—but hardly all—of the intrusions upon them. In some cases, like this one, courts even allowed themselves to be used to perpetuate emergency public-health decrees for collateral purposes, itself a form of emergency-lawmaking-by-litigation.

Doubtless, many lessons can be learned from this chapter in our history, and hopefully serious efforts will be made to study it. One lesson might be this: Fear and the desire for safety are powerful forces. They can lead to a clamor for action—almost any action—as long as someone does something to address a perceived threat. A leader or an expert who claims he can fix everything, if only we do exactly as he says, can prove an irresistible force. We do not need to confront a bayonet, we need only a nudge, before we willingly abandon the nicety of requiring laws to be adopted by our legislative representatives and accept rule by decree. Along the way, we will accede to the loss of many cherished civil liberties—the right to worship freely, to debate public policy without censorship, to gather with friends and family, or simply to leave our homes. We may even cheer on those who ask us to disregard our normal lawmaking processes and forfeit our personal freedoms. Of course, this is no new story. Even the ancients warned that democracies can degenerate toward autocracy in the face of fear.

But maybe we have learned another lesson too. The concentration of power in the hands of so few may be efficient and sometimes popular. But it does not tend toward sound government. However wise one person or his advisors may be, that is no substitute for the wisdom of the whole of the American people that can be tapped in the legislative process. Decisions produced by those who indulge no criticism are rarely as good as those produced after robust and uncensored debate. Decisions announced on the fly are rarely as wise as those that come after careful deliberation. Decisions made by a few often yield unintended consequences that may be avoided when more are consulted. Autocracies have always suffered these defects. Maybe, hopefully, we have relearned these lessons too.

In the 1970s, Congress studied the use of emergency decrees. It observed that they can allow executive authorities to tap into extraordinary powers. Congress also observed that emergency decrees have a habit of long outliving the crises that generate them; some federal emergency proclamations, Congress noted, had remained in effect for years or decades after the emergency in question had passed. At the same time, Congress recognized that quick unilateral executive action is sometimes necessary and permitted in our constitutional order. In an effort to balance these considerations and ensure a more normal operation of our laws and a firmer protection of our liberties, Congress adopted a number of new guardrails in the National Emergencies Act.

Despite that law, the number of declared emergencies has only grown in the ensuing years. And it is hard not to wonder whether, after nearly a half century and in light of our Nation’s recent experience, another look is warranted. It is hard not to wonder, too, whether state legislatures might profitably reexamine the proper scope of emergency executive powers at the state level. At the very least, one can hope that the Judiciary will not soon again allow itself to be part of the problem by permitting litigants to manipulate our docket to perpetuate a decree designed for one emergency to address another. Make no mistake—decisive executive action is sometimes necessary and appropriate. But if emergency decrees promise to solve some problems, they threaten to generate others. And rule by indefinite emergency edict risks leaving all of us with a shell of a democracy and civil liberties just as hollow.

[link (pdf)]

April 18, 2023

Wordfence and Wordpress caching plugins

(Note: This applies to self-hosted Wordpress installations, not blogs hosted by

Although the Wordfence security plugin claims to work with Wordpress caching plugins, such as WP Super Cache, it does not operate as completely as it would otherwise. Namely, it may not process requests for pages for which a cached version is available. The two plugins both want to handle requests before Wordpress runs. If a requested page has a cached version available (i.e., html instead of php), Wordpress and thus Wordfence are not run. So if you want Wordfence to handle every request, the cache plugin needs to be set up to run after. What follows is the example of WP Super Cache. Apache 2.4, PHP 8.0, Wordpress 6.2, Wordfence 7.9.2, WP Super Cache 1.9.4.

In Wordfence, the firewall protection is enabled and the protection level is “extended”, such that “All PHP requests will be processed by the firewall prior to running.” This entails its adding a directive to the htaccess file of the Wordpress directory to prepend Wordfence.

But WP Super Cache in Expert mode also adds directives to the htaccess file to return cached html files if available instead of running Wordpress (and its huge resource demand). Thus, if the request is for a page that has a cached copy, it bypasses the Wordfence firewall.

For Wordfence to act on every request, WP Super Cache needs to be run in simple mode. And the advanced setting of “late init” (“Display cached files after WordPress has loaded”) needs to be turned on as well.

In summary, to allow the Wordfence firewall to work when cached files are returned, any caching plugin has to operate in PHP mode rather than via Mod_Rewrite in htaccess. Furthermore, it needs to operate after Wordpress is initialized.

On the other hand, serving cached html files is not only faster, but also avoids running PHP code, obviating the vulnerability that Wordfence protects against. As for DDoS attacks, your server should be providing that protection (and serving cached html pages makes it much more able to withstand such attacks).

March 31, 2023

Thirteen ways of looking at disinformation

A Guide to Understanding the Hoax of the Century, by Jacob Siegel, Tablet, March 28, 2023 [excerpts]:

In 1950, Sen. Joseph McCarthy claimed that he had proof of a communist spy ring operating inside the government. Overnight, the explosive accusations blew up in the national press, but the details kept changing. Initially, McCarthy said he had a list with the names of 205 communists in the State Department; the next day he revised it to 57. Since he kept the list a secret, the inconsistencies were beside the point. The point was the power of the accusation, which made McCarthy’s name synonymous with the politics of the era.

For more than half a century, McCarthyism stood as a defining chapter in the worldview of American liberals: a warning about the dangerous allure of blacklists, witch hunts, and demagogues.

Until 2017, that is, when another list of alleged Russian agents roiled the American press and political class. A new outfit called Hamilton 68 claimed to have discovered hundreds of Russian-affiliated accounts that had infiltrated Twitter to sow chaos and help Donald Trump win the election. ...

In his last days in office, President Barack Obama [had] made the decision to set the country on a new course. On Dec. 23, 2016, he signed into law the Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act, which used the language of defending the homeland to launch an open-ended, offensive information war.

Something in the looming specter of Donald Trump and the populist movements of 2016 reawakened sleeping monsters in the West. Disinformation, a half-forgotten relic of the Cold War, was newly spoken of as an urgent, existential threat. ...

To win the information war — an existential conflict taking place in the borderless dimensions of cyberspace — the government needed to dispense with outdated legal distinctions between foreign terrorists and American citizens. ...

Step one in the national mobilization to defeat disinfo fused the U.S. national security infrastructure with the social media platforms, where the war was being fought. The government’s lead counter-disinformation agency, the State Department’s Global Engagement Center (GEC), declared that its mission entailed “seeking out and engaging the best talent within the technology sector.” To that end, the government started deputizing tech executives as de facto wartime information commissars. ... In the fall of 2017, the FBI opened its Foreign Influence Task Force for the express purpose of monitoring social media to flag accounts trying to “discredit U.S. individuals and institutions.” The Department of Homeland Security took on a similar role. ...

It was not enough for a few powerful agencies to combat disinformation. The strategy of national mobilization called for “not only the whole-of-government, but also whole-of-society” approach, according to a document released by the GEC in 2018. “To counter propaganda and disinformation,” the agency stated, “will require leveraging expertise from across government, tech and marketing sectors, academia, and NGOs.”

This is how the government-created “war against disinformation” became the great moral crusade of its time. CIA officers at Langley came to share a cause with hip young journalists in Brooklyn, progressive nonprofits in D.C., George Soros–funded think tanks in Prague, racial equity consultants, private equity consultants, tech company staffers in Silicon Valley, Ivy League researchers, and failed British royals [cf. “Gleichschaltung”]. Never-Trump Republicans joined forces with the Democratic National Committee, which declared online disinformation “a whole-of-society problem that requires a whole-of-society response.” ... The American press, once the guardian of democracy, was hollowed out to the point that it could be worn like a hand puppet by the U.S. security agencies and party operatives. ...

What is coming into being is a new form of government and social organization ... A state organized on the principle that it exists to protect the sovereign rights of individuals, is being replaced by a digital leviathan that wields power through opaque algorithms and the manipulation of digital swarms. ...

When the blackbird flew out of sight,
It marked the edge
Of one of many circles.

In a technical or structural sense, the censorship regime’s aim is not to censor or to oppress, but to rule. That’s why the authorities can never be labeled as guilty of disinformation. ... Disinformation, now and for all time, is whatever they say it is. That is not a sign that the concept is being misused or corrupted; it is the precise functioning of a totalitarian system.

If the underlying philosophy of the war against disinformation can be expressed in a single claim, it is this: You cannot be trusted with your own mind. ...

I. Russophobia Returns, Unexpectedly: The Origins of Contemporary “Disinformation”

The foundations of the current information war were laid in response to a sequence of events that took place in 2014. First Russia tried to suppress the U.S.-backed Euromaidan movement in Ukraine; a few months later Russia [reclaimed] Crimea; and several months after that the Islamic State captured the city of Mosul in northern Iraq and declared it the capital of a new caliphate. In three separate conflicts, an enemy or rival power of the United States was seen to have successfully used not just military might but also social media messaging campaigns designed to confuse and demoralize its enemies — a combination known as “hybrid warfare.” These conflicts convinced U.S. and NATO security officials that the power of social media to shape public perceptions had evolved to the point where it could decide the outcome of modern wars — outcomes that might be counter to those the United States wanted. They concluded that the state had to acquire the means to take control over digital communications so that they could present reality as they wanted it to be, and prevent reality from becoming anything else. ...

II. Trump’s Election: “It’s Facebook’s Fault”

... [I]t’s easy to forget that Republican officials and the party’s donor class saw Trump as a dangerous radical who threatened their business ties with China, their access to cheap imported labor, and the lucrative business of constant war. 

The phenomenon was not unique to Trump. Bernie Sanders, the left-wing populist candidate in 2016, was also seen as a dangerous threat by the ruling class. But whereas the Democrats successfully sabotaged Sanders, Trump made it past his party’s gatekeepers, which meant that he had to be dealt with by other means.

Two days after Trump took office, a smirking Senator Chuck Schumer told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow that it was “really dumb” of the new president to get on the bad side of the security agencies that were supposed to work for him: “Let me tell you, you take on the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday of getting back at you.” ...

Immediately after the election, Hillary Clinton started blaming Facebook for her loss. ... The press repeated that message so often that it gave the political strategy the appearance of objective validity ... The false yet foundational claim that Russia hacked the 2016 election provided a justification — just like the claims about weapons of mass destruction that triggered the Iraq War — to plunge America into a wartime state of exception. With the normal rules of constitutional democracy suspended, a coterie of party operatives and security officials then installed a vast, largely invisible new architecture of social control on the backend of the internet’s biggest platforms.

Though there was never a public order given, the U.S. government began enforcing martial law online.

III. Why Do We Need All This Data About People?

The American doctrine of counterinsurgency (COIN) warfare famously calls for “winning hearts and minds.” ... When that fails, there is another approach in the modern military arsenal to take its place: counterterrorism. Where counterinsurgency tries to win local support, counterterrorism tries to hunt down and kill designated enemies. ...

The Pentagon built the proto-internet known as ARPANET in 1969 because it needed a decentralized communications infrastructure that could survive nuclear war — but that was not the only goal. The internet, writes Yasha Levine in his history of the subject, Surveillance Valley, was also “an attempt to build computer systems that could collect and share intelligence, watch the world in real time, and study and analyze people and political movements with the ultimate goal of predicting and preventing social upheaval. Some even dreamed of creating a sort of early warning radar for human societies: a networked computer system that watched for social and political threats and intercepted them in much the same way that traditional radar did for hostile aircraft.” ...

As Shoshana Zuboff writes in The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, at the start of the war on terror “the elective affinity between public intelligence agencies and the fledgling surveillance capitalist Google blossomed in the heat of emergency to produce a unique historical deformity: surveillance exceptionalism.” ...

Those efforts culminated in January 2016 with the State Department’s announcement that it would be opening the aforementioned Global Engagement Center ... Just a few months later, President Obama put the GEC in charge of the new war against disinformation. ...

In the wake of the populist upheavals of 2016, leading figures in America’s ruling party seized upon the feedback loop of surveillance and control refined through the war on terror as a method for maintaining power inside the United States. ...

But those were just branding changes; the underlying technological infrastructure and ruling-class philosophy, which claimed the right to remake the world based on a religious sense of expertise, remained unchanged. The human art of politics, which would have required real negotiation and compromise with Trump supporters, was abandoned in favor of a specious science of top-down social engineering that aimed to produce a totally administered society.

For the American ruling class, COIN replaced politics as the proper means of dealing with the natives.

IV. The Internet: From Darling to Demon

... It is a supreme irony that the very people who a decade ago led the freedom agenda for other countries have since pushed the United States to implement one of the largest and most powerful censorship machines in existence under the guise of fighting disinformation. ... These people — politicians, first and foremost — saw (and presented) internet freedom as a positive force for humanity when it empowered them and served their interests, but as something demonic when it broke down those hierarchies of power and benefited their opponents. ...

Declaring the platforms guilty of electing Trump ... provided the club that the media and the political class used to beat the tech companies into becoming more powerful and more obedient.

V. Russiagate! Russiagate! Russiagate!

If one imagines that the American ruling class faced a problem — Donald Trump appeared to threaten their institutional survival — then the Russia investigation didn’t just provide the means to unite the various branches of that class, in and out of government, against a common foe. It also gave them the ultimate form of leverage over the most powerful non-aligned sector of society: the tech industry. The coordination necessary to carry out the Russian collusion frame-up was the vehicle, fusing (1) the political goals of the Democratic Party, (2) the institutional agenda of the intelligence and security agencies, and (3) the narrative power and moral fervor of the media with (4) the tech companies’ surveillance architecture.

The secret FISA warrant that allowed U.S. security agencies to begin spying on the Trump campaign was based on the Steele dossier, a partisan hatchet job paid for by Hillary Clinton’s team that consisted of provably false reports alleging a working relationship between Donald Trump and the Russian government. While a powerful short-term weapon against Trump, the dossier was also obvious bullshit, which suggested it might eventually become a liability. ...

[Disinformation] provided a means to attack and discredit anyone who questioned the dossier or the larger claim that Trump colluded with Russia. All the old McCarthyite tricks were new again. ...

The claim that Russia hacked the 2016 vote allowed federal agencies to implement the new public-private censorship machinery under the pretext of ensuring “election integrity.” People who expressed true and constitutionally protected opinions about the 2016 election (and later about issues like Covid‑19 and the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan) were labeled un-American, racists, conspiracists, and stooges of Vladimir Putin and systematically removed from the digital public square to prevent their ideas from spreading disinformation. ...

And here’s the climax of this particular entry: On Jan. 6, 2017 — the same day that Brennan’s ICA report lent institutional backing to the false claim that Putin helped Trump — Jeh Johnson, the outgoing Obama-appointed secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, announced that, in response to Russian electoral interference, he had designated U.S. election systems as “critical national infrastructure.” The move placed the property of 8,000 election jurisdictions across the country under the control of the DHS. It was a coup that Johnson had been attempting to pull off since the summer of 2016 ...

VI. Why the Post-9/11 “War on Terror” Never Ended

... Twitter had the chance to stop the Hamilton 68 hoax before it got out of hand, yet chose not to. Why? The answer can be seen in the emails sent by a Twitter executive named Emily Horne, who advised against calling out the scam. Twitter had a smoking gun showing that the Alliance for Securing Democracy (ASD), the neoliberal think tank behind the Hamilton 68 initiative, was guilty of exactly the charge it made against others: peddling disinformation that inflamed domestic political divisions and undermined the legitimacy of democratic institutions. But that had to be weighed against other factors, Horne suggested, such as the need to stay on the good side of a powerful organization. “We have to be careful in how much we push back on ASD publicly,” she wrote in February 2018.

The ASD was lucky to have someone like Horne on the inside of Twitter. Then again, maybe it wasn’t luck. Horne had previously worked at the State Department, handling the “digital media and think tank outreach” portfolio. According to her LinkedIn, she “worked closely with foreign policy reporters covering [ISIS] … and executed communications plans relating to Counter-[ISIS] Coalition activities.” From there she became the director for strategic communications for Obama’s National Security Council, only leaving to join Twitter in June 2017. Sharpen the focus on that timeline, and here’s what it shows: Horne joined Twitter one month before the launch of ASD, just in time to advocate for protecting a group run by the kind of power brokers who held the keys to her professional future.

It is no coincidence that the war against disinformation began at the very moment the Global War on Terror (GWOT) finally appeared to be coming to an end. Over two decades, the GWOT fulfilled President Dwight Eisenhower’s warnings about the rise of a military-industrial complex with “unwarranted influence.” It evolved into a self-interested, self-justifying industry that employed thousands of people in and out of government who operated without clear oversight or strategic utility. It might have been possible for the U.S. security establishment to declare victory and move from a permanent war footing to a peacetime posture, but as one former White House national security official explained to me, that was unlikely. ... He described “huge incentives to inflate the threat” that have been internalized in the culture of the U.S. defense establishment and are “of a nature that they don’t require one to be particularly craven or intellectually dishonest.”

“This huge machinery was built around the war on terror,” the official said. “A massive infrastructure that includes the intelligence world, all the elements of DoD, including the combatant commands, CIA and FBI and all the other agencies. And then there are all the private contractors and the demand in think tanks. I mean, there are billions and billions of dollars at stake.” ... But it was not enough to sustain the previous system; to survive, it needed to continually raise the threat level. ...

Today, to keep America safe, it is no longer enough to invade the Middle East and bring its people democracy. According to the Biden White House and the army of disinformation experts, the threat is now coming from within. A network of right-wing domestic extremists, QAnon fanatics, and white nationalists is supported by a far larger population of some 70 million Trump voters whose political sympathies amount to a fifth column within the United States. But how did these people get [radicalized]? Through the internet, of course, where the tech companies, by refusing to “do more” to combat the scourge of hate speech and fake news, allowed toxic disinformation to poison users’ minds. ...

Americans are no longer presumed to have the right to choose their own leaders or to question decisions made in the name of national security. Anyone who says otherwise can be labeled a domestic extremist.

VII. The Rise of “Domestic Extremists”

A few weeks after Trump supporters rioted [sic] in the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, former director of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center Robert Grenier wrote an article for The New York Times advocating for the United States to wage a “comprehensive counterinsurgency program” against its own citizens.

Counterinsurgency, as Grenier would know, is not a limited, surgical operation but a broad effort conducted across an entire society that inevitably involves collateral destruction. Targeting only the most violent extremists who attacked law enforcement officers at the Capitol would not be enough to defeat the insurgency. Victory would require winning the hearts and minds of the natives — in this case, the Christian dead-enders and rural populists radicalized by their grievances into embracing the Bin Laden–like cult of MAGA. ...

“Civil wars don’t start with gunshots. They start with words,” Clint Watts [who headed up the Hamilton 68 initiative] proclaimed in 2017 when he testified before Congress. “America’s war with itself has already begun. We all must act now on the social media battlefield to quell information rebellions that can quickly lead to violent confrontations.” Watts is a career veteran of military and government service who seems to share the belief, common among his colleagues, that once the internet entered its populist stage and threatened entrenched hierarchies, it became a grave danger to civilization. ... The standard Watts and others introduced, which quickly became the elite consensus, treats tweets and memes — the primary weapons of disinformation — as acts of war. ...

VIII. The NGO Borg

In November 2018, Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media Politics and Public Policy published a study titled “The Fight Against Disinformation in the U.S.: A Landscape Analysis.” The scope of the paper is comprehensive, but its authors are especially focused on the centrality of philanthropically funded nonprofit organizations and their relationship to the media. ... To save journalism, to save democracy itself, Americans should count on the foundations and philanthropists — people like eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, Open Society Foundations’ George Soros, and internet entrepreneur and Democratic Party fundraiser Reid Hoffman. In other words, Americans were being asked to rely on private billionaires who were pumping billions of dollars into civic organizations — through which they would influence the American political process.

There is no reason to question the motivations of the staffers at these NGOs, most of whom were no doubt perfectly sincere in the conviction that their work was restoring the “underpinning of a healthy society.” But certain observations can be made about the nature of that work. First, it placed them in a position below the billionaire philanthropists but above hundreds of millions of Americans whom they would guide and instruct as a new information clerisy by separating truth from falsehood, as wheat from chaff. Second, this mandate, and the enormous funding behind it, opened up thousands of new jobs for information regulators at a moment when traditional journalism was collapsing. Third, the first two points placed the immediate self-interest of the NGO staffers perfectly in line with the imperatives of the American ruling party and security state. In effect, a concept taken from the worlds of espionage and warfare — disinformation — was seeded into academic and nonprofit spaces, where it ballooned into a pseudoscience that was used as an instrument of partisan warfare.

Virtually overnight, the “whole of society” national mobilization to defeat disinformation that Obama initiated led to the creation and credentialing of a whole new class of experts and regulators. ...

Everywhere one looks now, there is a disinformation expert. They are found at every major media publication, in every branch of government, and in academic departments, crowding each other out on cable news programs, and of course staffing the NGOs. There is enough money coming from the counter-disinformation mobilization to both fund new organizations and convince established ones like the Anti-Defamation League to parrot the new slogans and get in on the action.

How is it that so many people could suddenly become experts in a field — “disinformation” — that not 1 in 10,000 of them could have defined in 2014? Because expertise in disinformation involves ideological orientation, not technical knowledge. ...

It is not unusual that a government agency would want to work with private corporations and civil society groups, but in this case the result was to break the independence of organizations that should have been critically investigating the government’s efforts. The institutions that claim to act as watchdogs on government power rented themselves out as vehicles for manufacturing consensus.

Perhaps it is not a coincidence that the fields that have been most aggressive in cheerleading the war against disinformation and calling for greater censorship — counterterrorism, journalism, epidemiology — share a public record of spectacular failure in recent years. The new information regulators failed to win over vaccine skeptics, convince MAGA diehards that the 2020 election was legitimate, or prevent the public from inquiring into the origins of the Covid‑19 pandemic, as they tried desperately to do.

But they succeeded in galvanizing a wildly lucrative whole-of-society effort, providing thousands of new careers and a renewed mandate of heaven to the institutionalists who saw populism as the end of civilization.

IX. Covid-19

By 2020, the counter-disinformation machine had grown into one of the most powerful forces in American society. Then the Covid‑19 pandemic dumped jet fuel into its engine. In addition to fighting foreign threats and deterring domestic extremists, censoring “deadly disinformation” became an urgent need. To take just one example, Google’s censorship, which applied to its subsidiary sites like YouTube, called for “removing information that is problematic” and “anything that would go against World Health Organization recommendations” ...

President Biden publicly accused social media companies of “killing people” by not censoring enough vaccine disinformation. Using its new powers and direct channels inside the tech companies, the White House began sending lists of people it wanted banned, such as journalist Alex Berenson. Berenson was kicked off Twitter after tweeting that mRNA vaccines don’t “stop infection. Or transmission.” As it turned out, that was a true statement. The health authorities at the time were either misinformed or lying about the vaccines’ ability to prevent the spread of the virus. In fact, despite claims from the health authorities and political officials, the people in charge of the vaccine knew this all along. In the record of a meeting in December 2020, Food and Drug Administration adviser Dr. Patrick Moore stated, “Pfizer has presented no evidence in its data today that the vaccine has any effect on virus carriage or shedding, which is the fundamental basis for herd immunity.”

Dystopian in principle, the response to the pandemic was also totalitarian in practice. In the United States, the DHS produced a video in 2021 encouraging “children to report their own family members to Facebook for ‘disinformation’ if they challenge U.S. government narratives on Covid‑19.” ...

Klaus Schwab, head of the World Economic Forum and capo di tutti capi of the global expert class, saw the pandemic as an opportunity to implement a “Great Reset” that could advance the cause of planetary information control: “The containment of the coronavirus pandemic will necessitate a global surveillance network capable of identifying new outbreaks as soon as they arise.”

X. Hunter’s Laptops: The Exception to the Rule

The laptops are real. The FBI has known this since 2019, when it first took possession of them. When the New York Post attempted to report on them, dozens of the most senior national security officials in the United States lied to the public, claiming the laptops were likely part of a Russian “disinformation” plot. Twitter, Facebook, and Google, operating as fully integrated branches of the state security infrastructure, carried out the government’s censorship orders based on that lie. The press swallowed the lie and cheered on the censorship.

The story of the laptops has been framed as many things, but the most fundamental truth about it is that it was the successful culmination of the years-long effort to create a shadow regulatory bureaucracy built specifically to prevent a repeat of Trump’s 2016 victory. ...

While the laptop is the best-known case of the ruling party’s intervention in the Trump-Biden race, its brazenness was an exception. The vast majority of the interference in the election was invisible to the public and took place through censorship mechanisms carried out under the auspices of “election integrity.” The legal framework for this had been put in place shortly after Trump took office, when the outgoing DHS chief Jeh Johnson passed an 11th-hour rule — over the vehement objections of local stakeholders — declaring election systems to be critical national infrastructure, thereby placing them under the supervision of the agency. Many observers had expected that the act would be repealed by Johnson’s successor, Trump-appointed John Kelly, but curiously it was left in place.

In 2018, Congress created a new agency inside of the DHS called the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) that was tasked with defending America’s infrastructure — now including its election systems — from foreign attacks. In 2019, the DHS added another agency, the Foreign Influence and Interference Branch, which was focused on countering foreign disinformation. As if by design, the two roles merged. Russian hacking and other malign foreign-information attacks were said to threaten U.S. elections. ...

The latitude inherent in the concept of disinformation enabled the claim that preventing electoral sabotage required censoring Americans’ political views, lest an idea be shared in public that was originally planted by foreign agents.

In January 2021, CISA “transitioned its Countering Foreign Influence Task Force to promote more flexibility to focus on general MDM [misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation],” according to an August 2022 report from the DHS’s Office of Inspector General. After the pretense of fighting a foreign threat fell away, what was left was the core mission to enforce a narrative monopoly over truth. ...

Kept a secret from the public, the switch was “plotted on DHS’s own livestreams and internal documents,” according to Mike Benz. “DHS insiders’ collective justification, without uttering a peep about the switch’s revolutionary implications, was that ‘domestic disinformation’ was now a greater ‘cyber threat to elections’ than falsehoods flowing from foreign interference.”

Just like that, without any public announcements or black helicopters flying in formation to herald the change, America had its own Ministry of Truth.

Together they operated an industrial-scale censorship machine in which the government and NGOs sent tickets to the tech companies that flagged objectionable content they wanted scrubbed. That structure allowed the DHS to outsource its work to the Election Integrity Project (EIP), a consortium of four groups: the Stanford Internet Observatory; private anti-disinformation company Graphika (which had formerly been employed by the Defense Department against groups like ISIS in the war on terror); Washington University’s Center for an Informed Public; and the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensics Research Lab. ...

XI. The New One-Party State

... Not so long ago, talk of a “deep state” was enough to mark a person as a dangerous conspiracy theorist to be summarily flagged for monitoring and censorship. But language and attitudes evolve, and today the term has been cheekily reappropriated by supporters of the deep state. For instance, a new book, American Resistance, by neoliberal national security analyst David Rothkopf, is subtitled The Inside Story of How the Deep State Saved the Nation. ...

Faced with an external threat in the form of Trumpism, the natural cohesion and self-organizing dynamics of the [ruling] class were fortified by new top-down structures of coordination that were the goal and the result of Obama’s national mobilization. ...

What do the members of the ruling class believe? They believe, I argue [link], “in informational and management solutions to existential problems” and in their “own providential destiny and that of people like them to rule, regardless of their failures.” As a class, their highest principle is that they alone can wield power. If any other group were to rule, all progress and hope would be lost, and the dark forces of fascism and barbarism would at once sweep back over the earth. While technically an opposition party is still permitted to exist in the United States, the last time it attempted to govern nationally, it was subjected to a years-long coup. In effect, any challenge to the authority of the ruling party, which represents the interests of the ruling class, is depicted as an existential threat to civilization. ...

XII. The End of Censorship

The public’s glimpses into the early stages of the transformation of America from democracy to digital leviathan are the result of lawsuits and FOIAs — information that had to be pried from the security state — and one lucky fluke. If Elon Musk had not decided to purchase Twitter, many of the crucial details in the history of American politics in the Trump era would have remained secret, possibly forever.

But the system reflected in those disclosures may well be on its way out. ... The ultimate goal would be to recalibrate people’s experiences online through subtle manipulations of what they see in their search results and on their feed. The aim of such a scenario might be to prevent censor-worthy material from being produced in the first place.

In fact, that sounds rather similar to what Google is already doing in Germany, where the company recently unveiled a new campaign to expand its “prebunking” initiative “that aims to make people more resilient to the corrosive effects of online misinformation,” according to the Associated Press. The announcement closely followed Microsoft founder Bill Gates’ appearance on a German podcast, during which he called for using artificial intelligence to combat “conspiracy theories” and “political polarization.” Meta has its own prebunking program. ...

Meanwhile, the military is developing weaponized AI technology to dominate the information space. According to, an official government website, the two largest contracts related to disinformation came from the Department of Defense to fund technologies for automatically detecting and defending against large-scale disinformation attacks. The first, for $11.9 million, was awarded in June 2020 to PAR Government Systems Corporation, a defense contractor in upstate New York. The second, issued in July 2020 for $10.9 million, went to a company called SRI International.

SRI International was originally connected to Stanford University before splitting off in the 1970s, a relevant detail considering that the Stanford Internet Observatory, an institution still directly connected to the school, led 2020’s EIP, which might well have been the largest mass censorship event in world history — a capstone of sorts to the record of pre-AI censorship.

Then there is the work going on at the National Science Foundation, a government agency that funds research in universities and private institutions. The NSF has its own program called the Convergence Accelerator Track F, which is helping to incubate a dozen automated disinformation-detection technologies explicitly designed to monitor issues like “vaccine hesitancy and electoral skepticism.” ...

In March, the NSF’s chief information officer, Dorothy Aronson, announced that the agency was “building a set of use cases” to explore how it could employ ChatGPT, the AI language model capable of a reasonable simulation of human speech, to further automate the production and dissemination of state propaganda.

The first great battles of the information war are over. They were waged by a class of journalists, retired generals, spies, Democratic Party bosses, party apparatchiks, and counterterrorism experts against the remnant of the American people who refused to submit to their authority.

Future battles fought through AI technologies will be harder to see.

XIII. After Democracy

Less than three weeks before the 2020 presidential election, The New York Times published an important article titled “The First Amendment in the age of disinformation.” The essay’s author, Times staff writer and Yale Law School graduate Emily Bazelon, argued that the United States was “in the midst of an information crisis caused by the spread of viral disinformation” that she compares to the “catastrophic” health effects of the novel coronavirus. She quotes from a book by Yale philosopher Jason Stanley and linguist David Beaver: “Free speech threatens democracy as much as it also provides for its flourishing.”

So the problem of disinformation is also a problem of democracy itself — specifically, that there’s too much of it. To save liberal democracy, the experts prescribed two critical steps: America must become less free and less democratic. This necessary evolution will mean shutting out the voices of certain rabble-rousers in the online crowd who have forfeited the privilege of speaking freely. It will require following the wisdom of disinformation experts and outgrowing our parochial attachment to the Bill of Rights. This view may be jarring to people who are still attached to the American heritage of liberty and self-government, but it has become the official policy of the country’s ruling party and much of the American intelligentsia. ...

To a ruling class that had already grown tired of democracy’s demand that freedom be granted to its subjects, disinformation provided a regulatory framework to replace the U.S. Constitution. By aiming at the impossible, the elimination of all error and deviation from party orthodoxy, the ruling class ensures that it will always be able to point to a looming threat from extremists — a threat that justifies its own iron grip on power.

A siren song calls on those of us alive at the dawn of the digital age to submit to the authority of machines that promise to optimize our lives and make us safer. Faced with the apocalyptic threat of the “infodemic,” we are led to believe that only superintelligent algorithms can protect us from the crushingly inhuman scale of the digital information assault. The old human arts of conversation, disagreement, and irony, on which democracy and much else depend, are subjected to a withering machinery of military-grade surveillance — surveillance that nothing can withstand and that aims to make us fearful of our capacity for reason.

[[[[ ]]]]

Babylon Bee: Democrats Vow to Arrest As Many Political Opponents As It Takes to Defeat Fascism

RT: UK to use AI to detect foreign threats. “The AI unit will also be used to target distributors of alleged ‘disinformation’.”