"Everything is as it should be."

                                                                                  - Benjamin Purcell Morris

 

 

© all material on this website is written by Michael McCaffrey, is copyrighted, and may not be republished without consent

Through the Looking Glass : Truth and Lies in Week One of 2017

Estimated Reading Time : 8 Minutes 44 Seconds

Week one of 2017 is in the books and boy oh boy was it a doozy. This most bizarre week no doubt portends the strangeness of the year to come. We are only one week into this new year and we are already through the looking glass where up is down, left is right, lie is truth, good is bad and nothing seems to make any sense whatsoever. What am I talking about…well…let's recount the week and discover the ways our world has gone topsy turvy. 

The big news of the week was the "Russia Hacking" story. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified before congress and assured everyone that the Russian government in general, and Putin in particular, were indeed behind the hacking of the election against Hillary Clinton. DNI Clapper followed that up by releasing a "report" by the CIA, FBI and NSA that was meant to prove his case for Russian hacking. None of that is very weird, but what was weird was how many republicans were skeptical of the intelligence community claims and how many democrats unquestioningly embraced the intelligence community claims. 

I have read the intelligence report, have you? Did you notice anything funny about the CIA report on Russian hacking into the election? Maybe I am crazy, but there is absolutely zero evidence in that report of Russian hacking or tampering in the election at all. Nothing. It is like the book reports I used to turn in in high school when I didn't read the book…which was always, because reading is for nerds. What would happen is that I wouldn't read the book and then I'd get the Cliff Notes, but I wouldn't even read those, just give them a half-assed skimming over the night before the report was due. Then I would just scratch a bunch of bullshit together in homeroom and hope to sneak by without anyone noticing I had no idea what I was talking about….sort of like what the Intelligence community just did with their hacking report. DNI Clapper turned in one hell of a whopper of a book report the other day and boy is he hoping no one actually reads it with a critical eye. What the Intelligence community did was make a bunch of assumptions, toss in some innuendo, and then played it off as some shocking new information of official Russian guilt and then let the media, and democrats, run with it. The media, of course, excitedly exclaimed that not only is this report proof that Russia hacked the election for Trump, but that Putin himself was the one who ran the whole operation…Dr. Evil style!! This entire episode is utter madness. Anyone who believes that evidence-free report needs to have their head examined. The intelligence community has been deceiving, propagandizing and fooling the populace for decades and yet the democrats cling to their every word because it means they didn't really lose the election!! 

Democrats jumped at the chance to take Clapper at his word without any evidence because it means they aren't as huge a train-wreck of a party as they fear they may be. See it wasn't their shitty candidate, or their shitty campaign, or their vacuous ideas, or their myopic political vision, no it was Putin and the mustache-twirling Russians fault that they lost. I warned democrats against embracing this Russia hacking story because it was too good to be true, and I stand by that. And if democrats would actually read the declassified report, they might not be so enamored with the intelligence community and their conclusions as to who is an enemy of the state. Let's go through the report quickly to see what I am talking about. 

First off, as I already stated, there is zero evidence presented. This report is simply a piece of paper that is meant to make "official" the leaks, which are nothing more than innuendo, that have been published across the media for weeks. The media are treating it like it is manna from heaven, but it is really regurgitated nonsense that contains nothing new. In addition to presenting zero evidence, the "sources" the document provides for their background information are embarrassingly absurd. The report uses an open source document from the internet to make their case that Russia had intent to hack the election. I am not kidding, go look at it.  The "Annex A" section (starting on Page 6, ironically enough) spends the majority of its time attacking the television channel RT (Russia Today) and blaming it for being such an effective propaganda tool for Putin to destroy American democracy. The majority of the report, in fact, is analysis of RT, which takes up 7 of the 25 pages of the report, in contrast to the actual meat of the report which takes up 5 pages.

RT is a lightning rod for the establishment as they often report on things the mainstream media would just as soon ignore. Anytime the mainstream media mention RT, they always describe it as "Kremlin controlled RT" or "Kremlin financed RT" or "Kremlin backed RT", which is pretty funny. I wonder why they don't describe the BBC as "Westminster financed or backed or controlled", or the US networks as "Washington financed, backed or controlled" or the cable channels as "Wall Street financed, backed or controlled"? Any time you hear a talking head describe RT as "Kremlin backed" immediately dismiss them as they are shoveling propaganda. Another sure fire sign of a propagandist is if they describe Putin as "former head of the KGB Putin". Yes, Putin was formerly the head of the KGB, but George HW Bush was formerly the head of the CIA, and yet no one describes him as "former head of the CIA George HW Bush", and they do not describe his son as "son of the former head of the CIA George HW Bush".  It is a simple propaganda ploy to trigger fear and distrust in the viewer and taint the story.

Getting back to the report…if democrats or liberals who are supporting it haven't read it yet,  they really should. The report gives a variety of examples of how RT attacked and undermined America's beloved democracy, the funny thing is though that many of those examples are from 2012, not 2016. Here are some of the more entertaining ones. The report states that in the lead up to the 2012 election RT introduced a new show, "Breaking the Set", hosted by Abby Martin, which "overwhelmingly focused on criticism of US and western governments". See you cannot criticize the US or western governments, that is an attack on America and democracy. Another way to look at it is that Abby Martin committed the crime of journalism. Shame on her! The hysterical part of this whole "Breaking the Set" thing being put in a report about Russian interference in the 2016 election is that "Breaking the Set" stopped airing two years before the 2016 election. Someone please buy James Clapper a calendar…and a TV Guide.

The next section of "Annex A" tells us that RT, in the lead up to the 2012 election, not the 2016 election, had the temerity to report on "alleged US election fraud and voting machine vulnerabilities". Can you believe the gall of a news agency reporting on the possibility of election fraud and voting machine vulnerabilities in the lead up to an election? RT is out of control!! You know who else reported on voting machine vulnerabilities, except unlike RT it wasn't in relation to the 2012 election, but the 2016 election? CBS and PBS just to name two. I wonder if they are Russian spies too? Probably…commie bastards!!

In the next part of Annex A, the report tells us that RT, in an effort to "highlight a lack of democracy in the United States" had "broadcast, hosted and advertised third party candidate debates". What monsters!! The lesson here is that when you are through the looking glass, more candidates, more debate and more democracy actually is an attack on democracy. According to the intel community, war is peace, slavery is freedom and ignorance is strength!!

Another section of Annex A will come as quite a shock to liberals and democrats…but in the lead up to the 2012, again, to be clear, this is not the 2016 election but the 2012 election, RT aired a documentary on Occupy Wall Street that the report described like this…"RT framed the movement (Occupy Wall Street) as a fight against the ruling class and described the current US political system as corrupt and dominated by corporations". Is there any rational and un-compromised human being on the planet who would describe the US political system any other way?

Some other parts of the Annex A section of the report say that RT "alleges widespread infringements of civil liberties, police brutality and drone use" in America. Another part says that RT is attacking the US by criticizing "alleged Wall street greed." Let that one sink in for a minute. I hope liberals and democrats are starting to understand how this report, and the intelligence community that prepared it, are not your friends, not by a long shot. Neither are they friends of Truth. 

And finally, the report claims that RT is attacking US democracy by "running anti-fracking programming, highlighting environmental issues and the impacts of public health." That is just outrageous!! How many liberals or democrats have seen Josh Fox's excellent documentary "Gasland"? Probably a lot of them. Well, they should realize that the intelligence community that they are so enamored with right now, thinks JOSH FOX IS JOSEF STALIN!! In essence, the intel community thinks Josh Fox will kill you and eat your children!! HBO is a tool of Putin!!

So, according to this report on election interference by the Russians in the 2016 election, the intelligence community writes a report that cites a russian news channel's reporting FROM 2012, that is basically in line with liberal or left leaning political positions. And democrats and the media are falling all over themselves to praise this report for its thoroughness and seriousness and attack anyone, even Glenn Greenwald, who questions in it the least. Rachel Maddow was nearly orgasmic when the report was released this week, and interestingly enough she said you should go read it, but she curiously told her viewers to only read the meat of it, which is 5 pages, and skip the "sources and methods" section, because that is longer and boring and confusing. Annex A is the sources and methods section where they only talk about RT. In other words, there are no sources, and there are no methods, there is only old speculation and assumptions. The Intel community, just like me in high school, didn't read the book or even skim the Cliff Notes, and yet the media are determined to make you not notice that. Do democrats and liberals not know this stuff? Have they not read the report? Maybe they should read it before embracing it. Dear liberals, please go read the report. Know what you are signing on to when you endorse this report. What you are signing onto to is the criminalization of your own beliefs and your own eventual demise.

It isn't only Rachel Maddow's coverage of the report and Clapper's testimony that has been both breathless and despicable.  On MSNBC the consistently deplorable Joy Ried, who is such a vacuous dimwit that she has quickly shot up that hapless network's ladder in record time, asked some bumpkin republican congressman from Nowheresville, USA whether he believed the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper or Julian Assange in regard to the Russian hacking allegations. It was an obvious "gotcha" type of moment that cable tv lives for…and watching this dope squirm was what was intended. There is just one problem with Ms. Reid's question and premise…and that is that any rational, sane human being would believe Julian Assange over DNI Clapper in a heartbeat, you know why? Because Julian Assange has never lied to them. Never. You may dislike what he has done, but he has never lied. Clapper? Clapper can't open his mouth without a swarm of lies flying out. Clapper lied to congress, which is a felony, just a few years ago in relation to the Snowden material. Has everyone lost their minds and memory all at once? Apparently the answer is yes. Assange has, at great personal expense, exposed US war crimes, Clapper, at great personal reward, has covered up his own and other war crimes. And I know it is in style at the moment to dismiss and demean Assange due to personal distaste for him, but those sex crimes charges against him reek of Intelligence community handy work.  If you think the US intel community wouldn't try and frame someone  by any means necessary, that they see as a mortal threat, you are incredibly naive.

And then there is the highest ranking democrat in the country, the loathsome Senator from New York, Chuck Schumer. Schumer went on Rachel Maddow's show last week and said that Trump better be careful because the intelligence community has "six ways to sunday to get back at you if you cross them." Think about that statement for a second. Democrats are holding up the intelligence community as the bastion of professionalism and patriotism and in the same breath are claiming the Intel community will circumvent the constitution and extra-judicially "get back" at their political enemies. If I said that same statement people would call me a conspiracy theorist and dismiss me out of hand. The ranking democrat in the country, Chuck Schumer, just said that the intelligence community will exact revenge on President Trump if he challenges them and no one bats an eye. Want to know two presidents who got on the wrong side of the intelligence community? Kennedy and Nixon. Remember how their presidency's ended? Kennedy's brains were splattered all over Jackie's nice pink suit in Dealey Plaza, and tricky Dick ignominiously gave us the "v" for victory sign and then flew off into historical oblivion after resigning. Both Kennedy's assassination and Nixon's impeachment had intelligence agency fingerprints all over them, and even some of the same intelligence operative fingerprints (I'm looking at you E. Howard Hunt). But of course thinking that, never mind saying it out loud, gets you labelled a "conspiracy theorist" and taken off the "serious person" list. But now we have the ranking Democrat directly saying it out loud on national television as a threat to the president-elect of the United States. I do not know how exactly this will play out, but I guarantee you that it will not end well. 

Speaking of repugnant Senators, John McCain and his common-law wife,  Senator Lindsay Graham aka The Southern Dandy, of course are banging the war drums claiming Russia's alleged hacking is an act of war. McCain and Graham are hawks who have never meet a war they didn't love. Democrats and liberals are empowering the war party by embracing this evidence-free report. You want a war with Russia, keep on taking the intel community at their word and I promise you will get one. It is what they want and they have convinced you that is what you want too.

Fake news has also been a major talking point of the media and even the intel community in the last week. As with the Russian hacking story, the fake news story is most bizarre. The mainstream media has claimed that fake news is what lead to Trump beating Clinton, as voters were misinformed as to the real facts and stories. The media have used a plethora of polls that say that Trump voters were terribly misinformed about the election, for instance overwhelming numbers of Trump voters believe he won the popular vote. As we know, this is not true, and so the media have used this point to say that fake news tainted the well so to speak. Of course, the media fail to mention their own part in misinforming the populace and how that is reflected in the media. For instance, there are polls that show how Clinton voters now believe that Russia actually hacked voting machines and changed votes in Trump's favor. This is untrue, even by the flimsy intel report standards, but the media would never blame themselves for this mis-information. 

In addition, the main generator of fake news, is the mainstream media. Just in the last few weeks the Washington Post has published the fakey-ist of fake news stories which much fanfare, but only after time and attention has passed have they sent out little noticed retractions. The WaPo stories were about the alleged fake news generated by Russian propaganda sources about the US election. The  PropOrNot Russian propaganda website lists made by an unnamed and unchecked source, which the Post published without questioning, is total nonsense. The other story was about Russian hacking as well, this time about how the Rooskies hacked into the Vermont power grid!! The story was absurd on its face but that didn't stop everyone from re-tweeting it and spreading it and shouting form the mountain tops about it. Of course, when the story turned out to be untrue, the Post didn't hype that fact, they sheepishly put a small disclaimer on top of it. The damage was done already…which is how fake news works. It is all about manufacturing consensus, consent and content…which is exactly why the Russia hacking the election story is fake news as well. The lack of evidence and proof don't matter to people because the story tells them what they want to hear, and the damage is done. Truth has no meaning in an empire of lies, and we are the ruling empire at the moment.

Speaking of truth, there has also been a great deal of talk about how with Donald Trump as president we now live in a post-truth world, where Truth or facts don't matter.  That may be true, but it isn't entirely Trump's doing…as the Washington Post keeps proving over and over again. Even the aforementioned Joy Reid, a vociferous attack dog against fake news and post-truth Trump, is guilty of spreading fake news and not correcting to fact. Ms. Reid, and the ludicrous "Russia" expert, the sleepy-eyed, charlatan Malcolm Nance, spread the lie pre-election that the DNC emails were proven to have been tampered with and altered. This is factually untrue, but Ms. Reid and Mr. Nance have never retracted those statements. Just like Trump, they have little regard for Truth.

The bottom line is this regarding the intel report, fake news and our post-truth world, if you take anything at face value you are a fool. Only a dupe or a dope, or both, would believe a word the intel community tells them. A brief look at recent and not-so recent history shows us that the American intelligence community are professional liars who will do anything and everything to obscure and destroy the Truth. Remember Clapper lying about surveillance? Remember the Iraq War? Remember the torture report and all the dirty tricks surrounding it? Remember the Gulf War? Remember Iran-Contra? Remember Nicaragua? El Salvador? Venezuela? Brazil? Argentina? Cuba? Iran and the Shah? Vietnam? Laos? Cambodia? I mean, c'mon, how dumb do you have to be to fall for the intel community bullshit again?

And in terms of Russia and Putin, it is most certainly possible that they hacked the election. I have no illusions about Putin being some saint, but regardless of that, what I demand in relation to any news or charges is evidence. I have yet to see compelling evidence that Russia shot down MH-17, or invaded Ukraine or committed war crimes in Syria or hacked the US election. That doesn't mean they definitely didn't do those things, only that I have not seen compelling evidence that they did. And until I see evidence I will not believe those claims, and neither should you. 

This past week is a wonderful launching pad for the chaos, disorder and madness to be unleashed in 2017. The media is abysmal, do not trust a word they say. The intel community are professional liars…never believe them…ever. Trump is incapable of telling any truth, ignore everything he utters. Trust nothing and no one. If someone makes a claim demand to actually SEE the evidence, not some report that is meant to appease people who will never read it and is void of any proof. Demand to see actual, tangible evidence, or consider it a lie.

And finally, if you are dismayed about the post-truth world we now inhabit, make it a practice to be loyal to the Truth above all else. Be loyal to the Truth above ideology, political party and even country. The Truth shall set you free, so stop being a slave to the lies and disinformation coming from "official sources". We are through the looking glass here people, we need to cast off wishful thinking and anchor ourselves to Truth or all will be lost. The road ahead is going to be very disorienting, I mean just last week Sarah Palin wrote an apology to Julian Assange and told people to go see Oliver Stone's Snowden… we are most definitely through the looking glass. Maybe if we can hold onto the Truth for dear life, we might just be able to make it through all of this madness.

©2017

Snowden : A Review and Commentary

****THIS IS A SPOILER FREE REVIEW!! THIS REVIEW CONTAINS ZERO SPOILERS!!!****

ESTIMATED READING TIME : 12 MINUTES AND 39 SECONDS

MY RATING : 3 out of 5 Stars

MY RECOMMENDATION : If you saw and liked Citizenfour, see Snowden in the theatre. If you don't like Edward Snowden, or are indifferent, see it on Netflix or Cable.

Snowden, written and directed by three-time Oscar winner Oliver Stone, is the story of famed NSA whistelblower Edward Snowden. The screenplay is based upon the books The Snowden Files by Luke Harding and Time of the Octopus by Anatoly Kucherena. The films stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Edward Snowden, with Shailene Woodley, Zachary Quinto, Melissa Leo, Rhys Ifans and Nic Cage in supporting roles.

Director Oliver Stone, like Edward Snowden, is a controversial figure who is despised and ridiculed by those in the establishment, which is a pretty good reason to like the guy. Stone has spent his career sticking his finger in the eye of those in power and their sycophants in the media. Stone and his films have been an important cultural counter weight to the prevailing winds of his time. During the height of conservative rule and thought in America during the 80's, when the nation was all too happy to forget its sullied not too distant past and corrupt present, Stone reminded America of its unresolved hubris with his Vietnam films (Platoon and Born on the Fourth of July) and his indictment of then U.S. foreign policy in Latin America with Salvador and the economic ruse of the times in Wall Street.

In the early 90's, while the nation was still basking in the warm glow of sunlight from Reagan's "morning in America", Stone pulled back the veil and tore off the scab to reveal the rot at America's core underneath the flag waving veneer with his films JFK, Nixon and Natural Born Killers.  Stone's insistence that America look at and acknowledge its true self was never warmly welcomed by those who need to deceive in order to succeed, thus the Washington and media establishment have always loathed him. All the more reason to admire the man and his work, which certainly struck a raw nerve for those in power.

Edward Snowden is also quite a controversial figure to say the least. As the marketing of the film tells us, some people call him a traitor, like those in the establishment and media, others call him a hero. The film Snowden itself is probably a Rorsharch test for viewers, with those who think Edward Snowden a hero liking it and those thinking he is a traitor hating it. The reality is that if you already think Snowden is a traitor, you probably aren't going to go see this film anyway. The people who believe Snowden is a hero are the most likely ones who will go and see this film.

With that context in mind, director Oliver Stone surprisingly pulls a lot of his punches in the film. In Snowden, Stone "bottles the acid", to quote Judge Haggerty from JFK,  and never goes in for the kill shot on the intelligence community, which is very out of character for the rebellious director. Considering Oliver Stone's past work, I found his indictment against the intelligence community in Snowden to be rather tame. That said, Stone certainly shows Edward Snowden in as positive a light as he can, and there is never any doubt as to Snowden's moral and ethical superiority throughout the story, but the scope, scale and magnitude of the evil being perpetrated by our intelligence community, and the impetus for Snowden to act, is under played and never fully fleshed out to satisfaction.

All that said, Snowden, while not a great film, it certainly is a good one. It is without question the best Oliver Stone film of the last twenty years or so since Nixon in 1995. The only other film of note from Stone during the second half of his career is 2008's W., which like Snowden, is also a Rorsharch test for viewers and is a good but not great movie. Both Snowden and W. pale in comparison to Oliver Stone's genius work during the first half of his career, when he made a bevy of tremendous films such as, Platoon, Salvador, Born on the Fourth of July, Wall Street, JFK, Nixon, The Doors and Natural Born Killers. When I speak of the futility in the second half of Stone's filmmaking career I am not counting his documentaries which can be quite good. His Showtime series Oliver Stone's Untold History of the United States is extremely well done and should be mandatory viewing for any citizen.

As for Snowden, as much as I enjoyed the film, the greatest issue I had with it was that it failed to use Stone's signature visual and editing style (think JFK) to tell the complex and mammoth tale of the various surveillance programs that Ed Snowden uncovered and revealed. This is the crux of the story as it shows why Snowden risked so much in order to inform the public as to what was being done to them and in their name to others. Stone does try to personalize the snooping that the programs do, but while that sequence is effective it isn't quite enough. Stone also under-uses actual news footage and cutting between it and the dramatic narrative of Snowden. Stone used that technique to great effect in JFK but fails to utilize it enough in Snowden, much to the detriment of the film. Stone's masterful work on JFK showed how to take an enormous and complex subject and whittle it down so that people could understand and digest it, he needed more of that approach in Snowden, not less. Oddly enough, Snowden almost feels like it was directed by someone other than Oliver Stone, as the film lacks his visual and storytelling trademarks.

As for the acting, Joseph Gordon-Levitt's performance is simply miraculous. Levitt's work is meticulous, detailed and vibrant. Levitt perfectly captures Snowden's unique vocal tendencies and looks strikingly like the man, so much so that in some shots I was wondering if that actually was Edward Snowden and not the actor. Snowden is not an easy character to take on, he is an enigmatic man, probably somewhere on the autism spectrum, who is both self conscious and self confident, sometimes all in the same moment. Levitt creates a genuine, complex human being with all of his intracacies and inhabits him fully, never letting the character slip into caricature or imitation. Levitt's Snowden is multi-dimensional and is a truly remarkable piece of acting work, proving Levitt to be among the best actors of his generation. In comparing Levitt's performance as Snowden to other actors in previous Oliver Stone films, the thing that is strikingly obvious is that other actors in Oliver Stone films were actors in "Oliver Stone films". For instance, Born on the Fourth of July is an "Oliver Stone film", not a "Tom Cruise film", the same can be said for Charlie Sheen in Platoon or Kevin Costner in JFK or Anthony Hopkins in Nixon, these actors all did solid work but were overshadowed by the talent and vision of their director Oliver Stone, hence they were in "Oliver Stone films" and not in "Sheen/Costner/Hopkins films". The very high compliment I can pay Joseph Gordon-Levitt is that Snowden is, without question, a "Joseph Gordon Levitt film", and not an "Oliver Stone film". Levitt outshines his director, which is a tribute to him as an actor, and a recognition of some creative slippage on the part of Stone the director.

The supporting cast is hit and miss. Shailene Woodley does a solid job in the terribly underwritten role of Snowden's girlfriend Lindsay Mills. Woodley is a strong actress, approachable and artistically honest, who has an undeniable charisma that lights up the screen. On the other hand there is Nic Cage, who is simply a dreadful actor of epic proportions, and frankly, contrary to popular opinion, always has been. Cage is in some very crucial scenes but is so distractingly bad that those scenes and the highly critical information they convey, get scuttled, much to the detriment of the film. It feels like Cage is in one of those god-awful National Treasure films and not a serious Oliver Stone film.

Zachary Quinto, Melissa Leo and Tom Wilkinson all do solid work as the documentarians and reporters Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Ewen MacAskill. The scenes with Snowden and the reporters in the Hong Kong hotel room are surprisingly compelling since they are scenes we have already seen in the documentary Citizenfourthat is a credit to the actors.

Snowden reminds me of two films, one, Citizenfour is pretty obvious. Snowden is a very nice companion piece to Laura Poitras' Academy Award winning documentary Citizenfouras it dramatizes and expands on what was revealed in that excellent film.

The second film I was reminded of is much less obvious, at least on the surface. That film is American Sniper. Here is the round-a-bout way in which Snowden reminded me of American Sniper. As I walked out of the theatre post-Snowden, I was wondering if Oliver Stone has simply lost his fastball as a filmmaker and was not able to land his punches quite as crispy and effectively as he was twenty five years ago in films like JFK, Platoon, Wall Street etc. Then I wondered if maybe Stone had just grown weary of the cultural battle to which he has dedicated his life, which seems never ending and futile at best. I thought this because of Stone's surprisingly conventional storytelling in Snowden, punctuated by an upbeat ending that, in my opinion, defies the reality we find ourselves in, in regard to surveillance and what the intelligence community is up to. And then I wondered if…and this gives a big benefit of the doubt to Oliver Stone, who, frankly, with the stellar filmography of his earlier years has earned that benefit, Stone had made a truly subversive film with Snowden, but it was hidden beneath the surface of the rather tepid bio-pic it was buried under. It could be that Snowden is Oliver Stone's answer to American Sniper, right down to mimicking its flaws?

Here is my theory…that Oliver Stone intentionally made Snowden to undermine the propaganda of American Sniper and reduce its power on the American collective unconscious.  Snowden the film and the man, are counter-myths to Chris Kyle and American Sniper. Like American Sniper, Snowden is structured as a standard bio-pic, almost hitting the same exact beats and with the same exact rhythm as American Sniper. Also like American Sniper, Snowden ties the dramatic film to the actual, real-life man in it's final scenes, blurring the lines between what is dramatized and what is real. That said, one real life difference between the films is that unlike with the Kyle family and American Sniper, Edward Snowden had no say or final approval of the final script, and received no money for Snowden.

I don't think those structural and narrative similarities between American Sniper and Snowden are accidental. If Oliver Stone is anything, he is a true-blue subversive and it is a stroke of genius to make Snowden a parallel to American Sniper. Oliver Stone has spoken of his masterpiece JFK as being a counter-myth to the prevailing myth of the Warren report. The only difference between the Warren report and JFK is that JFK readily admits it is a myth, while the Warren report holds onto the illusion and delusion that it is factual. And so it is similar with Snowden and American Sniper, as Stone sets out to counter Clint Eastwood in his bootlicking, ass kissing, myth making, propaganda with a counter-myth meant to celebrate the thoughtful, rebellious, principled subversive in the form of Edward Snowden.

Why do I think Oliver Stone is intentionally taking shots at American Sniper in Snowden? I think that because Stone has cast the remarkably wooden actor Scott Eastwood, American Sniper director Clint Eastwood's look alike son, as Trevor James, an NSA middle management type who never questions, or thinks, about what he is tasked to do, or much of anything really. It was seeing Scott Eastwood in the film that made me connect American Sniper and Snowden, and I think that that was not an accident. Stone could have cast a million other actors in that role, but he didn't, he cast Clint Eastwood's kid. Scott Eastwood being cast is not because of his superior talent (God knows) and it isn't a business decision, it is a creative and symbolic decision, and it is deliciously stealthy bit of cinematic intrigue.

Stone subtly and surreptitiously shows that Trevor James is, just like his father's American Sniper muse Chris Kyle, an unquestioning and unthinking fool who fights for tyrants and tyranny, as opposed to Snowden, who selflessly risks his life for the truth, and nothing else. That is what stands out the most to me in Snowden as a contrast to American Sniper, namely that Edward Snowden is smart and insightful enough to recognize the true enemy of America is within in the form of Bush, Obama, Clinton, Petreaus, Hayden, Clapper, the intelligence/political and media establishment et al. Stone is showing that Chris Kyle, like Trevor James, is a dupe, a sucker and a fool, who gives his life as a pawn for the powerful to exploit the weak, the stupid and the gullible. If Chris Kyle were a real man and the true American hero he has been sold to us as, he would not have gone to Iraq to keep us safe from phantom enemies a world away, he would have used his substantial sniping skill on the only actual threat to America that exists, namely the same tyrants who were sending him to war for their own benefit. Of course, Oliver Stone would be excoriated if he came out and said what I just wrote, and it is hard enough to sell movie tickets to a film about Edward Snowden, the man our country and culture has labelled a traitor, already, considering we live in a nation of propagandized flag waving dupes, dopes and dipshits who don't have a single clue between them and are as happy as pigs in shit about it. So Stone made a subtle and ingenious dig at Clint Eastwood, Chris Kyle and American Sniper, that only those cinematically savvy enough would be able to catch and I, for one, give him great credit for that.

One other thing to keep in mind in regards to Snowden and some parallels with American Sniper, namely that both of them may very well be pieces from the same propaganda puzzle brought to us by our power and control hungry friends who operate in the shadows (and are unaware of their own shadow - psychologically speaking!!). There is a part of me, and there is substantial evidence to back this up, that believes that The Legend Chris Kyle was created as a propaganda tool out of whole cloth. His story and his rise into public consciousness is very suspect to say the least, as we've seen from the revelations about his less than truthful depiction of his life and military career. The other thing to keep in mind though is that Snowden, as much as I admire what he did, he may very well be just another piece of counter intelligence propaganda meant to spread disinformation and to manipulate the masses. The reason I say that is because while Snowden revealed a great deal of government illegality, yet no one has ever been held to account for these crimes, which is quite convenient. One result of Snowden's revelations are that the public has become numbed into a shoulder shrugging apathy in regards to government surveillance. So with Snowden's revelations, the intelligence community gets to have the cover of being forced to  "come clean", meanwhile they can continue surveillance without anyone noticing or more importantly, caring.

In keeping with the intelligence communities playbook, right after Snowden's revelations the media went into hyper-drive to destroy Snowden personally. The usual suspects at the Washington Post and New York Times and all the television outlets painted him as a self serving, smug, fame hungry man trying to harm his nation for his own advantage. Even ferret faced "comedian" John Oliver got into the act. So now, any other whistleblowers will be reticent to come forward, and any other revelations of government criminality will be ignored. The cavalcade of information that Snowden revealed has been masterfully manipulated into having the effect of creating apathy in the general public and giving immunity to the intelligence community from any crimes committed.  Snowden may not have been a part of the bigger propaganda and counter intel project, but he was certainly useful to it.

Add to that that Snowden seemingly came out of nowhere…his life story reeks of someone who was snatched up by the intel community and groomed to be an asset. He never finished high school? Failed out of the Army Rangers? These are odd things for someone so obviously intelligent and highly functioning. To tie things back to Oliver Stone, Snowden may be a modern day Oswald, nothing more than a patsy. (Oswald too was a high school drop out and was seemingly much more intelligent than he seems at first glance, for example he allegedly taught himself to be fluent in Russian.)

The reality is that if I am to be suspect of Chris Kyle's story I need to be equally suspect of Edward Snowden's story, as both of them are littered with red flags, some waving higher than others. A giant red flag for both of them is that their stories were made into major motion pictures. Hollywood is a very useful tool to the intel community to shape culture and perception. The idea that Snowden is an intelligence asset meant to obfuscate the truth rather than reveal it may be a stretch to some people, but we must understand that nothing can be taken at face value. If you want to be a well informed human being, you have to be skeptical of everything you come across. Manipulation of the masses by the powers that be is as old as civilization itself, and one must always be vigilant against one's owns prejudices.  

The intel community could use Snowden's revelations to divert attention and distract us from what they are really up to, which is probably a hell of a lot more heinous than we can ever imagine. Maybe that is why Oliver Stone made such an un-Stone-like film. Maybe Stone had an inkling that not all was as it seemed in the Snowden story, and so he used the film as an opportunity to subtly undermine the military-industrial-propoganda complex by taking shots at American Sniper while telling a tepid version of the Snowden tale. Maybe…just maybe…Oliver Stone's Snowden is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. Or maybe my tinfoil hat is on too tight…who knows?

One final odd contradiction coming from people like Chris Kyle and his flag waving and ass kissing supporters, is that they are usually either Republicans or conservatives, and often times both. They dislike and rail against government, determined to reduce it to a size where they can drown it in a bathtub, but they fail to realize that the military, the intelligence services and law enforcement are all part of the government. In fact, military/intelligence/law enforcement are often times the most expensive form of government and the most dangerous to the things that I, and alleged conservatives, say we hold dear, namely, the constitution and our individual, GOD-given liberties. As Republicans and conservatives like to tell us, and as I certainly believe, government didn't give us our liberties, God did. So why are conservatives in general, and Republicans in particular, so infatuated with government power, violence and secrecy? It is odd. And don't get me wrong, the Democrats are usually just as awful as Republicans on these issues…look at the superstars who have been my Senators and representatives over the years, Jane Harman, Dianne Feinstein, Barbara Boxer, Chuck Schumer, Hillary Clinton…they are like a murderer's row for the military/Intelligence industrial complex and against civil liberties.

Which brings us to another point made in Snowden, albeit only in passing. Namely that all of these surveillance programs run by the intelligence community aren't meant to stop terrorists at all, they are meant for corporate and government espionage, and to scuttle civil unrest and protest. In the film, Nic Cage's character Hank Forrester describes to Snowden how he had developed a much better, much more accurate and much cheaper surveillance program than the one the CIA and NSA currently use, but they chose not to use it because they wanted to fill the coffers of the military industrial complex by using a bigger, less effective and more expensive by billions program. This sounds exactly like our trusted government in action. Even applying the most basic, Luddite logic, one would understand that the more information you sweep up, the less usable information you will actually be able to focus on. When you expand the haystack, needles don't get easier to find, they get harder.

This is proven by the fact that the NSA and CIA have never used these surveillance programs to stop a terror attack. They have CLAIMED to have stopped terror attacks using these surveillance programs, but there is absolutely no proof whatsoever that is true. Like the overwhelming majority of police work, these surveillance programs, at best, give the intelligence services something to do AFTER an attack, but never before. So what are these programs really about? These surveillance programs aren't about security, they are all about power.

If the U.S. government were so interested in stopping terrorists, then why do they bend over backwards to protect the home and heart of terrorists, Saudi Arabia. Bush's bestest hand holding buddy Saudi Prince Bandar, has been proven to be an accomplice and paymaster to the 9-11 hijackers, as was his wife. And yet, Bush and his successor Obama have moved heaven and earth to protect the Saudi's at all costs and to protect that information from coming to light…why? The Saudi's have been proven to have supported the 9-11 hijackers…think about that. Saudi Arabia was complicit in 9-11, where three thousand Americans were killed. 9-11 has been used as the catalyst and excuse for all of the intrusive (and illegal) surveillance the government has undertaken, and yet, that same government has no interest in pursuing justice in regards to the Saudi's. In fact, not only are they not holding the Saudi's accountable, they are actively arming and protecting them. Any rational human being could, in the light of this information, see the War on Terror for the Kabuki theatre that it is.

Further strengthening the case against the alleged use of surveillance in the war on terror is the fact that the U.S. is also actively working with, arming and supporting terrorists in Syria. ISIS and Al Qaeda are being used by the U.S. as weapons in their war against the Assad regime and its Russian benefactor.  We are doing the same thing in Ukraine where we supply and arm jihadists in the war against Russian nationalists in eastern Ukraine. We play our little public game of charades and pretend to deplore terrorists but behind the scenes we do everything we can to arm and empower them in Syria, Ukraine and across the globe. Is this the act of a nation so desperate for security that they would trample the Constitution and our civil liberties in order to stamp out terror? 

In conclusion, I have an opinion of what Edward Snowden that is probably right in synch with Oliver Stone's, thus I enjoyed the film. I think it could have been much better, but in the final analysis I think it was good enough. I am sure people on the other side of the argument will loathe the film. I believe that if Edward Snowden is the man he says he is, this is the type of man we as a nation should celebrate and hold in the highest regard. It is a sign of our culture's decadence, intellectual indifference and moral and ethical decay that Edward Snowden has successfully been labelled a traitor and an enemy by those in the establishment. He may be an enemy of the state, but he is undoubtedly a hero for the people. If we plan on getting our country back from the oligarchs, aristocrats, corporatists and military industrialists who currently reign over us with their Eye of Sauron intelligence apparatus, the people will need to wake up and fight back. The film Snowden is not perfect, and seeing it will not be a cure-all for the fear, weakness and stupidity that cripple us as a people, that said, seeing it would be a small and positive step in the right direction. 

©2016

 

THE JOHN OLIVER TWIST : Court Jester As Propaganda Tool

****ESTIMATED READING TIME : 15 MINUTES****

WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS QUESTIONABLE LANGAUGE. READER DISCRETION IS ADVISED!! CONSIDER THIS YOUR OFFICIAL TRIGGER WARNING…MOTHERFUCKERS!!

On a Sunday night last April, after finishing a session with my final client of the day (yes, I work on Sundays!!), I heated up some chicken and pasta, plopped myself down on the couch and tuned in to John Oliver's HBO weekly comedy show "Last Week Tonight". Oliver's main topic was the Internal Revenue Service, which makes sense since this was that most dreaded time of the year, tax time. Oliver's premise was that the I.R.S. is hated, but desperately needed, and terribly underfunded. He made the analogy that the I.R.S. is the "anus of the country", saying "you may not like to talk about it but you really need it to work." It's a clever anal-ogy*, which was no surprise since John Oliver is nothing if not clever…and an asshole.

*anal-ology…GET IT? See how clever I was there?

To start at the beginning, I am one of those rare people who through the years have not religiously watched Jon Stewart's "The Daily Show". Nor did I watch much of Stephen Colbert's "The Colbert Report". I am in a tiny minority in the world I inhabit when it comes to my viewing habits of Comedy Central political shows, I readily admit that. I'm not sure exactly sure why, I have nothing against either man, but I just never thought, or remembered, to watch their shows. Regardless, I only rarely watched, and because of that I was not familiar with John Oliver.

When John Oliver's HBO show came out, I missed the entire first season. The biggest reason I missed it is probably the same reason I didn't watch "The Daily Show", namely, because it never occurred to me to watch. Coming in a very close second for why I missed it is…I didn't have HBO at the time, so I was incapable of watching. I was aware of the show though because the media was gushing in its praise of the program and of Oliver. Nearly every media outlet did glowing pieces on Oliver, ebullient in their praise of him and the show, calling it, "smart, funny and insightful!" 

In no time at all, "Last Week Tonight" became a big hit and Oliver the darling of the hipster/intellectual/cool kid set. The mainstream media slobbered all over him, adorning him with the type of praise once only reserved for Saint Jon Stewart, the Patron Saint of Thinking People Everywhere™.  It was at this point that I got HBO, so the John Oliver option was suddenly on the table. So, I decided to check out "This Week Tonight" and see what all the fuss was about.

Season two of "Last Week Tonight"  started off innocuously enough, or so I thought. Oliver made fun of some racist tweets made by the Argentinian president while on her trip to China. He also talked about the closing of Radio Shack and the Republican congressman who decorated his office like Downton Abbey. It was clever enough if not a bit cloying, but as expected it was funny in a "man shooting fish in a barrel", substance-free way. In my opinion it was amusing enough, but not very "insightful". Oliver finished the show by doing a seemingly mundane bit about Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa. The bit included a video of Correa hosting a live talk show where he answers questions from the audience and pontificates on whatever topic he feels like. In the video, Correa (in Spanish, or as they say in Spanish, En Espanol) singled out a young Ecuadorian man who had tweeted that he wished President Correa were dead. Correa gave out the young man's name to his audience and told people to flood the mans Facebook and Twitter accounts. John Oliver excoriated Correa for bullying the poor, young man. He then showed a funny, weird and completely out of context clip of a creepy clown embracing Correa during one of these live talk shows. Oliver relentlessly mocked Correa, and he did it very, very well.  

After the show ended, out of pure curiosity, I looked Correa up on the internet. I knew nothing about him and frankly, very little about Ecuador. I was pretty shocked too see what kind of a man Correa was and what he had accomplished in his life. Correa isn't the tin-pot dictator and bully Oliver made him out to be, not in the least. Here are some of the highlights of Correa's public life. After resigning in protest over corruption as finance minister from the previous administration and being widely regarded as the most respected and trusted person in the country, he was voted into the Presidency in 2006 and took office in 2007. Upon becoming President, Correa immediately poked his finger into the eye of the IMF (International Monetary Fund), The World Bank, and the U.S. He declared Ecuador's national debt illegitimate since it was contracted by corrupt and despotic prior regimes. Correa then said that Ecuador would default on $3 Billion worth of bonds. He pledged to fight creditors in international court and reduced the price of outstanding bonds by 60%. He then refused to renew the U.S. lease of Eloy Alfaro Air Base in Manta, Ecuador, thus ending the U.S. military presence in the country. If Correa wanted to make enemies, he certainly succeeded. He not only made enemies, he made enemies with the most powerful country, military and financial institutions in the world. To make matters worse, for the U.S. anyway, Correa greatly reduced Ecuador's rampant unemployment and poverty, solidifying his popularity in the country. 

In addition to all that, Correa also took on foreign oil companies because they failed to meet environmental and investment regulations. He restructured the country's finances in order to increase spending on social programs, rather than on foreign debt, and set out to protect and support the indigenous Quechua Indians of Ecuador, a long brutalized people. In other words, Correa was a champion for justice and for the people of Ecuador. These might be things that John Oliver's audience might want to know about the man, but Brave Sir John Oliver had no interest in informing his audience, only propagandizing them.

If you still think Brave Sir John was doing the right thing by calling out Correa for his "bullying" of a citizen who was wishing him dead, you should look more closely at the historical context of Correa's comments. A brief perusal of South and Central American history shows us that colonialism has devastated the continent. Up to and including this century, the U.S. has been behind some of the most brutal and insidious policies in the region. Correa is an Ecuadorean nationalist, which means the U.S. government, military, Wall Street and Oil companies hate him, because he puts the Ecuadorian people first. When you see John Oliver ridiculing Rafael Correa for being a "bully" when someone publicly states they want to see him dead, keep in mind the history of U.S. backed assassination of people like fellow Ecuadorian President Jaime Roldos and Panamanian President Omar Torrijos to name just two of many, or the U.S. backed coups and wars that litter South and Central American history (Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras to name a few). Then keep in mind it is not Correa who is the bully.

John Oliver is the weapon used those by those in power to ridicule Correa in the eyes of the mostly liberal Americans who, if they knew anything about him, would, or should, greatly admire him. But now Correa is little more than a punchline, and if and when he is 'killed in a plane crash', or 'overthrown by a popular revolt', or 'hangs himself in his jail cell'* or a civil war or coup breaks out in Ecuador, Americans, liberal Americans in particular, will just nod and say "hey, thats that despotic clown we saw on John Oliver". The man who stood up for his country and the weakest of its people, and wouldn't be bullied by military or corporate empire is now a joke. Mission accomplished John Oliver, true dissent from the American establishment group-think, is now strangled in the cradle.

Oliver is just the newest propaganda tool of the American Empire, at home and abroad. So when Oliver was mocking Correa, he was intentionally doing the IMF's, World Bank's, U.S. Government's, Military's, Wall Street's and the Oil Company's dirty work. Way to go Brave Sir John, instead of bullying the bullies, you are bullying for the Bullies. Good work. 

John Oliver's greatest skill as host of "Last Week Tonight" is in reassuring his audience that they are, in fact, as smart as they think they are, and most definitely smarter than everyone else. What Oliver is really doing with his show is inoculating his audience from thinking critically. Oliver serves up the very bitter pill of American Empire and Citizen Subservience wrapped in a delicious serving of liberal red meat. His audience is too enamored with it's own delusions of superiority to realize that they are, in fact, just like those ridiculous Fox News viewers they love to hate, in that they too are gullible rubes lapping up gobs of American Imperialism by the bucketload. What the hell am I talking about? How can everyone's favorite, goofy, Brit really be a propaganda tool? That's how propaganda works. If it is obvious, it isn't any good. "Last Week Tonight" is really good propaganda because the show, and its host John Oliver pretend to be truth tellers against propaganda.

Oliver sells himself as the brave and noble truth teller, a much needed check to the power of the mainstream media. But Oliver only mimics speaking truth to power and standing up for the little guy. He appears to plant his flag on the high ground of rational thought, moral superiority and common sense, and waves it with a robust sense of self-satisfaction. This is all little more than theatrics though, because the reality is that John Oliver doesn't speak truth to power, he is merely a puppet of power, a useful idiot, a weapon they use to pacify and control those who believe themselves to be well informed and deeply critical thinkers. The stark truth is that John Oliver doesn't stand up for the little guy, he consistently kisses up and kicks down. And as for being a symbol of rational thinking, Oliver instead waves a red flag of emotion in front of liberals in order to get them on his side and then feeds them misinformation, disinformation and propaganda while they are in their highly emotional state.

"Last Week Tonight's" formula is obvious to any one with a nose for media manipulation, and it executes that formula with a surgical precision week in and week out. Oliver lures 'intellectuals' in with a wonkish bit on a very specific topic, be it infrastructure, the I.R.S., FIFA, NCAA, voting rights in U.S. territories or patents, and then, like a pied piper, once he gets the viewer hooked, he leads them to the establishment narrative he really wants to sell them, usually in the form of a foreign policy or intelligence issue, and they, wanting to not be seen as stupid, unquestioningly accept the story he is selling. If you also notice, when Brave Sir John does critique something "American", it is always and every time a critique of a that very specific thing, and never a critique of America. 

Another thing to take notice of are what type of targets and topics Brave Sir John decides to take on. Just as a quick example of how Brave Sir John earned that nickname...he has taken on both FIFA and the NCAA, two organizations that are universally loathed by every single person who has even the most remote knowledge of them, with the handful of corrupt men running them being the lone exceptions. Another example of Brave Sir John's tremendous, steadfast courage was when he took on both racism (he literally said "fuck racism!!" in regards to Ferguson, Missouri, I shit you not) and cigarette companies. Taking on racism and cigarette companies!! What truly brave stance to take…IN 1964.

Regardless of Brave Sir John's weak kneed choices in segment topics, he never fails to to be a propaganda tool when it comes to the issues that really count. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. So let's take a taste of John Oliver's rotten and rancid pudding, shall we, and see what we come up with. 

On episode two of season two, Oliver followed up his initial mocking of Correa with another flurry of attacks prompted by Correa actually defending himself against Oliver's baseless buffoonery the week before.

Episode three had Oliver belittling another countries finance minister, this time Greece, who had the temerity to take on the IMF. What a strange coincidence? Three episodes into season three and John Oliver had attacked enemies of the IMF on all three episodes. In this episode, he said Greece's finance minister looked like "Pitbull's uncle", looked "slimy" and probably smelled like "scented lube". All very funny stuff, but once again he was attacking the underdog, not the big bad bully of colonialism and empire. There is comedy to be found in the horror of the Greek economy, but it isn't the cheap kind at the expense of its finance minister. Why didn't Oliver make fun of Goldman Sachs engineering the whole Greek fiasco and then looting the public coffers once Greece was bailed out? Or JP Morgan? Why not make fun of the IMF, which basically ran an extortion racket that oversaw the entire Greek collapse? Is that not funny to John Oliver? Would his self described intellectual audience not "get it", like they "get" his making fun of the way the finance minister dresses and looks? Why not make fun of Germany for accomplishing what Hitler never did, conquering and ruling all of Europe without having to fire a single shot, by bailing out their reckless banks at the expense of the Greeks? The reason why Oliver wouldn't take that approach to the issue is obvious, it is contrary to the narrative the establishment is feeding the populace. Oliver's job is not to challenge the establishment narrative, but to reinforce it.

Episode three turned out to be a propaganda tour-de-force, as it also gave us Oliver's brave and cutting edge stance on Ukraine. His stance, not surprisingly, is identical to the mainstream media's and U.S. governments official stance…that EVIL PUTIN™ started that horrific war. What a brave and shocking stance to take!! The real comedy here is that anyone with the slightest bit of sense, curiosity and courage knows that the U.S. intelligence community started the Maidan protests and the civil war in Ukraine. The U.S. planned, funded and executed the whole thing, from soup to nuts. In a genuine piece of comedy completely ignored by Brave Sir John, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland was caught on tape during one of her phone calls saying as much. Even some Government-friendly media outlets like the BBC have reported that the snipers on rooftops at the Maidan who shot and killed protestors, weren't government forces, but rather some shadowy group attached to the protesters who were trying to start a revolution.

A great way to smell an establishment rat is to listen to them when they speak of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The U.S. has been at war with Russia for at least the bunch of years. The war started out purely in the form of propaganda (remember the Socchi Olympics and the media assault on all things Russian?), and has now morhped into a proxy shooting war in Ukraine and Syria. As many people who have senselessly died in these terrible wars, one of the greatest casualties has been the truth. There is, believe it or not, comedy to be found in Ukraine, Syria, Putin et al, but it is in the way the establishment group-think has to contort reality in order to make it fit their preconceived narrative. John Oliver is more than happy to ignore the contorting, and just mouth the same old party line in regards to these deadly serious issues. 

Now, you may be thinking, wait, Putin is a tyrant and a monster!! He wants the Soviet Union to come back and he wants to dominate Europe!! Look, I am not making the case that Putin is some saint, but like Correa, he is a true nationalist, and he is certainly not half of what the U.S. media and officialdom have painted him to be. For instance, there have been multiple accusations by the powers that be here in the U.S. that Putin has sent Russian troops into Ukraine. The problem is that there is no proof of this. It would be nice to have proof, because, as I am fond of saying, "proof proves things." But the charge has been made so often that it is now taken for granted that it is reality. It isn't reality, it is establishment fiction and propaganda.

The same is true of MH- 17, the plane shot down over Ukraine, killing all aboard. The U.S. said in the immediate aftermath of the shoot down that it had proof that Russia or Russian backed separatists shot down the plane. Again, there is no proof of this, and for some strange reason, the U.S. seems to have lost it's evidence because out hasn't released it. Maybe Russians did shoot the plane down, but there is no PROOF that they did. "Proof proves things!"  But again, this charge has been repeated so often by the media and establishment that it is taken as completely true.

The charge that Putin had a second rate political rival, Boris Nemtsov, assassinated in Moscow also became a part of the establishment narrative, and not surprisingly, there is no proof that is true ( Remember..."Proof proves things!!"), nor is there much logical sense to the accusation when you take Nemtsov's lack of political standing or threat to Putin into the equation. That didn't stop John Oliver on episode 4, from doing an entirely predictable bit about it though, that was completely uncritical of the U.S. official narrative. John Oliver, if he so wished, could have a field day holding the U.S. government's feet to the fire regarding their statements and actions in regards to Russia and Putin, but he has no interest in doing that. His only interest is in buttressing the story being told by those in power because he is not a truth teller, he is a lap-dog to power.

The most glaring example of Oliver being an incurious lap-dog for the establishment, was when he travelled to Russia and interviewed whistleblower Edward Snowden. The interview was so confrontational, and so obviously a piece of contrived propaganda that I was left slack jawed at the audacity of it. The propaganda script was easy to see from the get-go as Oliver started off the bit by playing like he was scared to death by just being in Russia. He was, in particular, very frightened because…shudder...across the way was the old KGB building from back in the Soviet Union days. He quivered like a nubile starlet in a horror film at the thought that the KGB, which has been defunct for over twenty years, might come and get him. He also was worried that they were 'eavesdropping'  and 'listening' to his conversations, even going so far as to talk to the imaginary microphones hidden in the room. This was particularly odd since the Russians aren't the ones who are proven to eavesdrop, THE U.S.. is the country that does that!! "Proof proves things…like NSA spying!!"

For some reason, Oliver also played up the drama that Snowden was an hour late for the interview. This was so strange as Oliver made it seem like a huge piece of intrigue, but the reality is that people sometimes get stuck in traffic, it happens. But Oliver made it out to be an intensely dramatic moment which was odd in and of itself. When Snowden showed, Oliver proved himself to be an even bigger douchebag than I had already thought he was. He proceeded to be completely adversarial, and frankly rude, to Snowden, even holding him accountable for the New York Times screwing up an article and putting out some classified information on ISIS in Mosul. He blamed Snowden for the mistake and called the situation a "major fuck up". This is just the most twisted and tortured sort of anti-logic imaginable, but it is right in line with the contortions propaganda salesmen routinely peddle. You see…according to Oliver, the U.S. government reads all our emails and listens to our phone calls, but Snowden is the bad guy because THE NEW YORK TIMES FUCKED UP. Got it, thanks again Brave Sir John for the "insight".

Things went downhill from there as Oliver proceeded to minimize the importance of the information Snowden released because it was "too complex" for regular people to really understand. He also dropped in a beauty of a throw away statement, namely that Julian Assange, creator of Wikileaks, was a "bad" guy and not likable. Good to know, Brave Sir John, thanks again for that nearly subliminal "insight" that is devoid of any context. He then proceeded to say it is hard to "wrap your head around perfect privacy vs perfect security."  Great straw man from Brave Sir John, as that is an entirely false argument. "Perfect security" is an impossibility, while "perfect privacy" is not.

Brave Sir John then followed this up by showing videos of people interviewed in Times Square who had no idea who Snowden was or what information he released. Oliver assured the viewer that these interviews were COMPLETELY representative!! Trust him!! Brave Sir John would never lie!! This is the oldest trick in the book in order to bolster your preconceived opinion…go and watch, if you dare, Bill O'Reilly's segment, "Water's World",  if you don't believe me. Or any "man on the street" segment on any two-bit show anywhere. This nonsense was followed by Oliver undermining the vital importance of the NSA survelience issue by reducing it to a bit on "dick pics". That is some solid, top notch, "insightful" comedy from America's favorite rat-faced, establishment lap-dog. Oliver succeeded in doing what Snowden himself said in the film Citizenfour the media would do to him to obfuscate the NSA spying issue, they would make the story about him and not about the NSA spying. Brave Sir John played that game plan perfectly. 

In response to the Oliver piece, all the cable channels, officialdom's own public relations department, did stories on the interview and sure enough, they all took shots at Snowden and diminished his truly brave work and service. On Chris Matthews reliably revolting show, he had a group of guests on, each more repugnant than the next, who all took the same courageous stance that John Oliver took, that Edward Snowden was a "leaker", and not a "whistleblower". Washington Post Establishment shill extraordinaire, the achingly ambitious yet utterly vacuous Jonathon Capehart, ended the Chris Mathews show segment by declaring Edward Snowden was "smug". Thanks for the thoughtful analysis Jonathon, have you ever heard of the phrase, "pot calling the kettle black?"

The most disturbing part of the entire Snowden affair happened a few days later, when I overheard some very liberal friends talking about Oliver's interview with Snowden. These true- blue liberals lapped up everything John Oliver had fed them. One of them kept mis-stating that Snowden "was the 'wiki-leaks' guy", showing that Oliver's disinformation and obfuscation campaign was a huge success with his target audience. Of course my liberal friends, like the rest of Brave Sir John's audience, think they are astoundingly well informed, but are, in reality, really dangerously mis-informed.

Oliver has proven, with his constant regurgitation of establishment narratives, on Putin, Snowden and Correa in particular, that he is a propaganda tool for the powers that be. If you watch his show closely enough, you will notice that John Oliver never, ever questions the things the Establishment holds dear... U.S. foreign policy, the Intelligence community, Israel, capitalism, The War on Terror, or the establishment itself. Brave Sir John is, at heart, a corporatist and Imperialist, which should come as no surprise since he is currently an employee of Time-Warner. 

It is important to understand that John Oliver is the symptom, not the disease, which is ironic because Brave Sir John only feels comfortable pointing out very specific symptoms on his show, and never the bigger disease. This is what the intelligence community does, they co-opt popular culture to their benefit in order to shape opinion. They manipulate, dominate, and misinform people through pop culture, media and film. It isn't just Brave Sir John, it is Bill Maher, Stephen Colbert and even...gasp…Jon Stewart!! I know people will have a tough time swallowing the charge against Jon Stewart, but go take a look at his interview with Kathryn Bigelow, director of Zero Dark Thirty, a well known propaganda piece, the day after the Senate Torture report came out showing that her film was filled with convenient lies for the intelligence community. Stewart and Bill Maher both had the same reaction to Bigelow when they interviewed her in the same week, they both ignored the torture and propaganda issue and instead let Bigelow plug her work involving African elephants. Stewart started his interview by bringing up the torture topic and asking her thoughts, and Bigelow simply replied, "it's been a tough week"...End of discussion, Stewart dropped the subject…NOW let's talk elephants!! It was truly bizarre on Stewarts part, but at least he asked her thoughts, Bill Maher ignored the topic altogether when Bigelow was on his show later in the week.

These "clowns", Oliver, Stewart, Colbert and Maher shape and form public opinion and thought, particularly on the political left. These guys and their imitators are insidious because they use the ruse of being rebellious comedians who scrutinize authority to actually cover their vehement defense and cultural enforcement of all things establishment. It is all the more insipid because these men are held up, and hold themselves up, as a vital check and balance to establishment authority. These clowns only play the role of court jester, but never have the courage to actually speak the truth to the ruling powers or challenge their authority. They are less like the court jesters of old and more like the court eunuchs. They are more interested in staying relevant and in good graces with the establishment than in growing a pair of balls and telling the truth.

Do I think that CIA operatives are sitting in the writers room at HBO or Comedy Central…no…well..probably not. That is not necessarily how it works. But I would say that John Oliver, Bill Maher and Stephen Colbert wouldn't have their jobs on television if they weren't vociferous establishmentarians. Would some corporate entity with a television channel have given a weekly or daily show to George Carlin or Bill Hicks when they were alive or if they were alive today? Not in a million years, because those guys directly challenged the establishment, their foundation of power and their false narratives. They didn't dance and giggle around specific symptoms like John Oliver, they punched hard and often by diagnosing the whole god-damned disease. And where are the Carlin's and Hick's of this new generation of comedians? They might be out there, but they won't be getting work on corporate television anytime soon. Guys like Carlin and Hicks are anathema to the corporatist, imperial system and the powers that be who run it. Dangerous comedians will be frozen out of the process entirely. That's how the game works.

In a normal world, comedy is found in being contrarian. But not with the comedy or propaganda we get from Brave Sir John and his ilk. Brave Sir John just tells people what they want to hear…that they are really, really smart!! That what they read in the New York Times and Washington Post is true!! Oh…and they are really smart BECAUSE they read the NY Times and Washington Post and can regurgitate the establishment party line on all matters big and small!! In reality, John Oliver and his ilk are cowards. They won't take on true power, which makes John Oliver in particular…and I'll use a British term here he will definitely be able to understand…a fecking twat.

"Last Week Tonight" begins its third season tonight, Sunday, February 14. I will be tuning in to watch if only to observe and note the propaganda that Brave Sir John will be selling. I will try and keep a running tally as season three progresses. If you watch the show, and if you like the show, watch it with a sharply critical eye. Watch how Brave Sir John lulls you into a false sense of liberal camaraderie and superiority, and then pay attention when he sells you the Establishment line. 

I know some of you may think I'm crazy, or an idiot, or both, well rest assured, you are in good and crowded company. But understand, I am not asking that you agree with me in thinking that John Oliver is a propaganda tool for the establishment, I am simply asking you to BE CONSCIOUS AND AWARE when you watch his show. There is more going with on with "Last Week Tonight" than meets the eye. Wake up and see through the bullshit you're being fed, whether it's the mainstream media or an "alternative" comedian who is feeding it to you.

I leave you know with a relevant quote from the wonderful writer and intellectual Chris Hedges.

"Those few who acknowledge the death of our democracy, the needless suffering inflicted on the poor and the working class in the name of austerity, and the crimes of empire—in short those who name our present and past reality—are whitewashed out of the public sphere. If you pay homage to the fiction of the democratic state and the supposed “virtues” of the nation, including its right to wage endless imperial war, you get huge fees, tenure, a television perch, book, film or recording contracts, grants and prizes, investors for your theater project or praise as an pundit, artist or public intellectual. The pseudo-politicians, pseudo-intellectuals and pseudo-artists know what to say and what not to say. They offer the veneer of criticism—comedians such as Stephen Colbert do this—without naming the cause of our malaise. And they are used by the elites as attack dogs to discredit and destroy genuine dissent. This is not, as James Madison warned, the prologue to a farce or a tragedy; we are living both farce and tragedy." - Chris Hedges, The Great Forgetting 1/10/2016
EPISODE 2 : THE JOHN OLVIER TWIST : THE DRUMPF AFFAIR AND LITTLE BILL MAHER'S POWER FETISH
EPISODE 3 : THE JOHN OLIVER TWIST : WAXING BRAZILIAN AND WANING CREDIBILITY
EPISODE 4 : THE JOHN OLIVER TWIST : OUT-TRUMPING TRUMP ON THE GREAT WALL OF TRUMP
EPISODE 5 : THE JOHN OLIVER TWIST : THINGS SAID AND UNSAID
©2016

Citizenfour : A Review and Random Thoughts

ESTIMATED READING TIME :  23 MINUTES

"In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act " - George Orwell

Citizenfour is the Academy Award winning documentary that chronicles whistleblower Edward Snowden's release of classified National Security Agency materials to journalist Glenn Greenwald and the ensuing NSA spying scandal. The film is directed by Laura Poitras and co-produced by Steven Soderbergh.

Edward Snowden, in case you don't know, was at the time of filming in 2013, a twenty nine year old U.S. citizen who worked as a system administrator for the National Security Agency under a sub-contract with the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton. It was at his job at the NSA that he surreptitiously obtained thousands of classified documents that exposed massive government spying and data collection programs. Once Snowden had taken possession of these documents, he then anonymously contacted director Poitras, and later journalist Glenn Greenwald, then of The Guardian newspaper, and set up a rendezvous in Hong Kong where he revealed the classified documents and explained their meaning and significance. The first face to face meeting took place on June 3, 2013 in Snowden's Hong Kong hotel room and the meetings continued for the next week. These meetings were filmed and make up a significant portion of Citizenfour.

In trying to disseminate the information he had gathered, Snowden had originally tried to reach out to Greenwald, but when they could not find a secure way to communicate, he contacted documentarian Laura Poitras, using the codename "Citizenfour" to protect his identity, hence the title of the film. Snowden couldn't have chosen a better film maker to document his story. I had not seen any of Poitras' work prior to Citizenfour. After seeing the film and being blown away by the sublime skills of the filmmaker, I eagerly searched out her earlier work. Both My Country, My Country (2006), about the first Iraqi election post-Saddam and The Oath (2011), about a pair of terrorists and their divergent paths, are remarkable documentaries and make up the powerful first two-thirds of what Poitras describes as her "post 9-11 trilogy" which she completes with Citizenfour.

Poitras, unlike many documentarians of our time, is notable in that she disappears behind the camera and never interjects her presence into the unfolding story. Her filmmaking confidence is highlighted by her lack of a need to direct action or explain circumstances. Poitras' minimalist presence creates documentaries that make the viewer feel like they themselves are behind the camera and, oddly enough, are eavesdropping and prying into the lives of the film's subjects. Even in Citizenfour, where she IS a part of the story, she never makes herself an obvious part of it,  but rather treats herself as just another character in the unfolding drama.

Poitras masterfully creates an ominous sense of menace lurking throughout the story of Citizenfour. This foreboding sense of menace is palpable, as is the tension. The tension building was so effective that there were times in the film when Edward Snowden would walk over and stare out the window of his Hong Kong hotel room and I wanted to yell at him "get away from the god damn window!!" While Snowden's story naturally has tension and hidden menace within it, Poitras adroitly enhances them with her use of camera framing, color scheme and temperature, and Trent Reznor's moody and eerie soundtrack.

"Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny." - Thomas Jefferson

Citizenfour also excels at conveying to the viewer how colossal and invasive the surveillance and spying programs the government employs truly are. As Snowden tells us in the film, every piece of communication or information traveling over the internet or by phone is collected by the intelligence community of either the United States or the United Kingdom. Internet history, Skype, Facebook, emails, texts and a whole host of other information, are all collected, spied on and tracked. That information, including physical location through the use of cell towers, can be used to show where you have been, who you have been with, what you have done and what you have talked about. This surveillance is done in close collaboration with the technology and telecom companies. And to be clear, this is not just "meta-data" as it has been portrayed elsewhere in the media, but rather, this surveillance and data collection scoops up content as well as meta-data, and not just of foreigners but of United States citizens.

The spying programs, with names like Tempora, Prism, Special Source Operations, Boundless Informant, Stellar Wind and X-Keyscore, may seem benign or passive yet they are anything but. The scope and scale of the spying is so invasive, the intelligence gathered so vast and the government ability to misuse that information so gargantuan, that it is inconceivable to even think of ever reigning the behemoth of the surveillance state back in line. As Snowden says in the film, "This is about state power versus people's ability to oppose that power." And that is why the state will never willingly relinquish this near-omnipotent spying power. History teaches us that once a state takes a power, it never peacefully gives that power up. It will use it's ever expanding power to insure its continued existence and dominion over those who would dare dream to oppose it.  Governments and government power only expand, and never peacefully contract. This is the lesson that our founding fathers knew all too well, but it is one that our current society has forgotten in our distracted and disgraceful civic sloth.

Edward Snowden presciently says while in Hong Kong, that the media strategy against him will be to make him the story, in order to distract from the rampant government spying he has revealed. Snowden knows the playbook of the establishment and their lackeys in the media all too well.  And sure enough, when Glenn Greenwald's story breaks and Snowden shares his identity, the usual suspects in the establishment press and government come out in droves with old rusty knives drawn. By employing the tactic of focusing on his personality, the government and its lapdogs in the press hope to obfuscate and undermine the legitimacy of the information he has exposed. The establishment is all too eager to make this an emotional issue and not a rational one. They do this by trying to convince us that Snowden is simply a narcissist out for attention, or a troubled man with a checkered past, or a loser with a history of failure behind him and last but not least, a traitor, who hates and betrayed his country.

Many Americans bought into these foolish narratives hook, line and sinker, and still do. I doubt many of those opposed to Snowden would sit down and watch Citizenfour since the media has already told them what to think about the man and the situation, which is a terrible shame. The film is a powerful antidote to the venomous disinformation and distractions spewing forth from the government and establishment media. In the film, Snowden comes across as a person who loves his country very much, but doesn't trust his government. To me, that is the mark of a civic-minded, sane, reasonable, rational and logical person. Snowden seems to be an intelligent, fiercely principled and genuinely decent person, which is in stark contrast to the shills in the government and establishment press who attack him and question his motives and integrity (in my opinion, anyone working in government or establishment media questioning the integrity of ANYONE, no matter what they are accused of doing, is the height of comedy).

"If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy." - James Madison

Keith Alexander, "Maybe if I put my hook in front of my mouth I will stop lying."

Keith Alexander, "Maybe if I put my hook in front of my mouth I will stop lying."

The government claims that this vast amount of surveillance is necessary for national security and to stop terrorism. Snowden and Greenwald make a convincing case in the film  that the spying isn't just for national security but also for political, industrial and economic reasons.  For instance, the U.S. has spied on its allies, including but not limited to, officials and citizens from Germany, Brazil, France and Spain. It was even revealed that the NSA tapped German Chancellor Angela Merkel's phone for a full decade starting in 2002, even before she ever became Chancellor.

James Clapper, "My conscience is this big!"

James Clapper, "My conscience is this big!"

In regards to surveillance keeping us safe from terrorists, National Security Agency General Director Keith Alexander has claimed that 54 terror plots have been thwarted through these spying programs. Of course, a closer look at Alexander's claims proves them to be false, and at best, maybe one terror plot was discovered by this vast spying. Keith Alexander was lying with the 54 plots-stopped claim, but that shouldn't be a surprise, Keith Alexander is a liar, it's his job to lie. He has lied to congress and the American public, but he isn't alone, lying is par for the course for those in the government and the intelligence community when it comes to surveillance. So many intelligence agencies and officials lie about so many topics, one wonders why anyone besides their stenographers in the establishment press ever believes a word that comes out of their mouths. 

"There is no crueler tyranny than that which is perpetuated under the shield of law and in the name of justice." - Charles de Montesquieu

CIA Director John Brennan, "I care about the rule of law… this much !"

CIA Director John Brennan, "I care about the rule of law…this much!"

Joining Alexander in lying to congress, which is a crime punishable with prison time by the way, is Director of National Intelligence James Clapper who lied to congress about surveillance. Will Alexander or Clapper be held to account for their criminal conduct? No, of course not. And neither will CIA director John Brennan, under whose leadership the Central Intelligence Agency spied upon the senate for having the temerity to actually investigate it. And neither will George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and the rest of the Bush gang for ordering torture. And neither will Barrack Obama for ordering "extra-judicial killings" of American citizens. None of these people will be held to account because the law doesn't apply to people like them, only to people like us, proving America is no longer a nation of laws, just a nation with laws. When you hear those in power pontificate about "law and order"what they really mean is "ORDER and law". To those in power, laws are meant to not only keep other people in order, but to keep the order of things where they are the ones atop the hierarchy. In their minds, "Laws and punishment for thee, but not for me!!" 

David Petreaus, "A slap on the wrist? I'll drink to that!"

David Petreaus, "A slap on the wrist? I'll drink to that!"

One final example of the two-tiered justice system for the elites is the recent case of General David Petreaus. Petreaus, if you remember, was the four-star darling of the neo-cons, the hawks and the mainstream media for his "surge" in Iraq, although his popularity probably had more to do with his "surge" in media glad handing and public posturing than in any battlefield success. Petreaus was then appointed the Director of the CIA, and proceeded to have an affair with his biographer with whom he shared troves of highly classified notebooks. For sharing classified materials, including the identity of agents, for no other reason than foreplay, Petreaus got a slap on the wrist in the form of losing his job but getting no jail time. But Edward Snowden reveals a massive government conspiracy of criminal spying on innocent American citizens and we get government officials openly talking about assassinating him or executing him. And people question why Snowden won't return to the U.S.?

"Speak the truth but leave immediately after" - Slovenian Proverb

Another favorite distractionary tactic by the establishment is to imply Snowden is a spy or a coward for not returning to the U.S. to face the charges pending against him. President Obama, Hillary Clinton and others have said that Snowden should have just gone through the chain of command at the NSA with his concerns and he would have gotten whistleblower protections by doing so. This is false. First, because Snowden says he did bring his concerns to his superiors and was either ignored or told to keep quiet. And secondly, because Snowden was under a sub-contract, and not an employee of the federal government, meaning he was not eligible for whistleblower status.

The other issue regarding Snowden and getting a fair trial, is that due to the law used against him, he cannot defend himself by claiming the government was committing crimes. The law, the Espionage Act, was originally meant to be used against spies, but in recent years has been used to prosecute people who have withheld information or shared information with the media. In fact, Obama has used the Espionage Act more than twice as much as all the other presidents in history…combined. What makes this all the more despicable is that Obama has used the act against whistleblowers and not spies. So much for Obama's pre-election pledge to be more transparent. It is obvious that Snowden could not get a "fair trial" under the law used to charge him, he could only give the government the opportunity for a show trial.

And as for the "spying" allegations, there is no credible evidence whatsoever that Snowden has turned over any classified information to any foreign government, including the Russians and Chinese.

"Truth is treason in an empire of lies" - Ron Paul

On Saturday, July, 20, 2013, British intelligence officials stormed The Guardian newspaper in London and demanded that the hard drives which contained the Snowden material on them be destroyed. In an act of monumental cowardice, The Guardian submitted to the request and destroyed the hard drives in front of the impatient intelligence officials.  The Guardian explained the reasoning behind their acquiescence was because of a "threat of legal action by the government". Oh no, NOT THAT!! Why not let the legal process play out? Why not force the government to actually have to prove their case in court. Even if you lose the case and have to destroy the hard drives, you still maintain your adversarial relationship with government and, more importantly, the public's trust in your journalism.

The Guardian aren't the only ones the intelligence community has bullied. Glenn Greenwald's partner, David Miranda, was detained using an anti-terrorism law at Heathrow airport by British Intelligence for nine hours and was not allowed any legal representation. Even upon Miranda's release, British officials refused to return seized possessions, including his laptop, cellphone and USB sticks.

Citizenfour director, Laura Poitras, was repeatedly held by U.S. custom officials after her film My Country, My Country came out in 2006. During the filming and editing of Citizenfour she moved to Germany in order to escape the strong arm tactic of the intelligence community.

The treatment of Miranda, Greenwald and Poitras has paled in comparison to the whistleblowers who have stayed in America and faced trial.  For example, torture is a crime according to U.S. law, but the only person prosecuted in regards to torture is the whistleblower who confirmed it, John Kiriakou, who spent nearly two years in federal prison. Other whistleblowers have been arrested and charged too, like Thomas Drake and Bradley Manning (who was sentenced to 35 years in prison and later became Chelsea Manning) as two examples, while none of the crimes and war crimes they exposed were ever prosecuted. And just note that Kiriakou, Drake and Manning were all charged under the aforementioned Espionage Act.

"All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent." - Edmund Burke

In the United States, "Good Citizens" allowing the police or intelligence agencies to spy upon them is anathema.  To be not only a good citizen, but a patriot, one MUST resist government intrusions. This isn't optional, it is required. According to the Declaration of Independence, it is their duty, "when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government"To use a more recent quote, from V for Vendetta, "People shouldn't fear their government, governments should fear their people". 

There are those who tremble at the sight of every jihadi video and threat, and run to government to protect them from the boogie man of the day, be it God-fanatic terrorists or back in the day, God-less communists. These people should understand one thing, government is not here to protect them, it is here to protect itself.

The reality behind this instinct to defer to authority is one that has been deeply ingrained in us as children. Children rely on authority, in the form of their parents, to keep them safe, fed and alive. That hard wiring of the brain during its development in infancy, is a difficult thing for people to overcome even once they have grow up. Stanley Milgram, a psychologist at Yale University, did some famous studies on the psychology of obedience in 1963. In a nutshell, Milgram's experiment tested whether regular people, when prompted by an authority figure, would give electric shocks to other people in the context of a test if they gave the wrong answer to a question. Milgram's basic conclusion states, "Ordinary people are likely to follow orders given by an authority figure, even to the extent of killing an innocent human being. Obedience to authority is ingrained in us all from the way we were brought up. People tend to obey orders from other people if they recognize their authority as morally right and/or legally based. This response to legitimate authority is learned in a variety of situations, for example in the family, school and workplace."

Milgram's work is in many ways relevant to this issue in that it shows people's strong, unconscious tendency towards obedience to authority. Milgram's experiments in obedience help us to understand the deep seeded psychological need some of us have to defer to authority and why some may reflexively defend government spying and decry Snowden for revealing it. 

Another psychologist, Abraham Maslow, came up with the "hierarchy of needs" theory in 1943. This theory states that people are motivated by the impulse to fulfill an unmet fundamental need. In Maslow's theory, he created a hierarchy of five needs, and one of the most important foundational needs is "safety". According to Maslow, people are motivated to satisfy their need for "safety". This "need for safety", or more accurately stated in relation to our topic, this "need for a feeling of being safe", may be another one of the psychological reasons for people to be so obedient to authority when it comes to surveillance.

In previous posts I have written about social psychologist Jonathan Haidt's excellent book The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion, which may also shed some light on the "obedience to authority" issue as well. In the book, Haidt hypothesizes that people can be divided in their political thought due to differing moral priorities. A few examples of the moral priority categories Haidt describes are Authority, Liberty and Fairness. So according to Haidt's approach, some people may have Authority as a greater moral priority than Fairness or Liberty. If someone is hard wired that way, it is easier to understand why they would find Snowden contemptible because he challenged and usurped authority and undermined the hierarchy. And, of course, the opposite is true as well, if someone has Liberty or Fairness as higher on their moral priorities than they would be less inclined to see anything wrong with Snowden revealing incriminating evidence against those in authority. 

In addition to Milgram's, Maslow's and Haidt's work, our old friend cognitive dissonance rears its head once again when we look at the obvious contradictory thought involved in the war on terror and civil liberties. Cognitive dissonance, if you'll recall from previous posts, is defined as "psychological conflict resulting from incongruous beliefs and attitudes held simultaneously" . The contradiction, or "incongruous attitude", at the heart of the war on terror is that people in power tell us that we must give up some rights, liberties and freedoms in order to protect ourselves from terrorists...who want to take away our rights, liberties and freedoms. We are told "they" (the terrorists) hate us for our freedoms, and in order to counter their attack upon our freedoms, we must reduce those freedoms. On its face this idea is absurd, to preempt a tyranny we fear so much with our own self-imposed tyranny. In order for this illogical premise to survive even the most basic scrutiny of reason, one must either contort oneself with extraordinary dexterity in order to create a willful blindness to it, or be under the unconscious sway of both cognitive dissonance and the psychological need for security in the form of Maslow/Milgram's work we touched upon previously. As a culture, it seems we would rather follow our more primitive impulses, and embrace authority and self deception in the search for that feeling of being safe, rather than the more psychologically difficult yet more evolved task of looking at these issues with the rational mind rather than the emotional one.

"It takes two to lie. One to lie and one to listen " - Homer Simpson

There are also those people who defend the NSA by saying "if you aren't doing anything wrong, then you have nothing to worry about". This whistling past the graveyard is little more than a short cut to thinking. Spying isn't about what you may or may not be doing wrong. Spying is about control. Spying is about defanging, declawing and defeating any and all dissent and protest. Government tyranny sees no political ideology or party. Surveillance kicked into high gear under Bush and it has gotten even worse under Obama. According to the material Snowden released, The U.S. government has over 1.2 million people on its watch listI would be willing to bet that that government watch list includes a considerable number of people from "Occupy Wall Street" AND the "Tea Party". And if pro-spying citizens think they are safe by being "good government bullshitters"*, guess again. As history shows us, the playing field will shift, it always does, and they will eventually be on the wrong side of the goal posts.

An important thing to remember is that the intelligence community is not an elected branch of government. But they are very capable and more than willing to spy upon our elected representatives, who, of course, are outraged when it happened to them, but not so much when it happened to us. I am speaking about both my former congresswoman, Jane Harman, and my current senator Dianne Feinstein. Both of whom have spent their political careers as little more than shills for the intelligence community, but who were incensed when they learned they were on the receiving end of the surveillance they so supported when it was directed at regular citizens. In Harman's case (linked above), she showed tremendous political and moral flexibility by aiding and abetting not only the criminality of the U.S. intel community but also the Israeli intelligence community. 

"I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man." - Thomas Jefferson

The intelligence community now has the capability to bully and blackmail elected officials who try to exercise their Constitutional role of governmental oversight. How can a democracy flourish when there is an unelected, unaccountable, extremely powerful group (the intelligence community) running roughshod over the Constitution which is meant to keep them in check? Technology has outpaced the ability for oversight of the use of that technology. Corruption, the human impulse for power and self preservation in government officials, make a "just trust us" approach to government powers in general, and surveillance powers in particular, an obvious act of futility, if not outright insanity. 

With an overly muscular and aggressive intelligence community and a neutered congress with no interest in oversight and a subserviently compliant establishment press, we are left with government only as an act of theater. In the final analysis, we only have the appearance of a democratic republic but not the actual practice of one.

If, as a citizen, your instinctive response is to always and every time defer to authority and mindlessly "OBEY", then you are one of those fools who have given up liberty for security, and you deserve, and will get, neither.  One should never confuse their government for their country as so many often do. "A waving flag is a blindfold for the fool." - Me

"Truth is such a rare thing, it is delightful to tell it" - Emily Dickinson

Some call Edward Snowden a traitor, others a hero. Some call him a leaker, others a whistleblower. Regardless of what you call him, thanks to Edward Snowden, willful ignorance and blindness is no longer an option in regard to government surveillance. Our republic can survive another heinous terrorist attack, no matter how awful, but it cannot and will not survive the obliteration of the liberties and freedoms upon which it was built. Sadly, if the United States government continues to trample the most basic principles upon which it was founded, it does not deserve to survive, and it most assuredly will not. Snowden's decision to bring to light the crimes of the government was a last ditch effort to save the republic from itself.

In the United States of America we now have "First Amendment Zones" where protestors are 'allowed' to voice their dissent away from eyes and ears of their political representatives and fellow citizens. Government officials openly break the law by lying to congress and face no punishment. The Intelligence community spies on American citizens and other branches of government and no one is held to account. Civil liberties, which our Constitution tells us are granted by God, are now little more than a nuisance and punch line to those who have sworn to defend them. We have an executive who uses imperial powers in the form of extra-judicial killings of American citizens. Not only have we tortured and killed people in our charge, we openly celebrate the torture and the war criminals who committed it. 

Everything chronicled in the previous paragraph and in the film Citizenfour, from the spying to the lying to the lack of legal accountability, sounds like something that would happen in some backwoods banana republic or a despotic, tyrannical dictatorship. Which brings us to the only rational conclusion possible once we study all of the facts presented to us, and that is that those who still think the United States of America is a force for moral good in the world, a "shining city on a hill", have lost their mind or moral compass or, very likely, both.  One must disabuse oneself of the notion that the United States of America is anything other than, at best, an amoral imperial kleptocratic aristocracy/oligarchy or, at worst, a mentally deranged, immoral, evil empire. To think anything else in the face of the current reality is an act of extraordinary self delusion, albeit an unconsciously self preserving one in terms of psychological health. The hard, brutal truth is that America is not a "shining city on a hill" anymore, it is a plague spreading its imperial disease across the globe, suffocating freedom and liberty in its wake.

"If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever " - George Orwell

In conclusion, Citizenfour is an extraordinary documentary well worth your time. It would also be worth the effort to watch Laura Poitras' other films My Country, My Country and The Oath. As great a film as Citizenfour is, one can't help but feel overwhelmed by the stark and bleak reality of the dystopian world it reveals to us. The government spying leviathan will not return to its lair in the deep and its slumber any time soon. It is wide awake, voraciously hungry and here to stay. Americans, and the rest of the world, must try to navigate this perilous world under the surveillance beast's watchful eye. We will be at its cold, bureaucratic mercy for the foreseeable future. As George Orwell presciently said, "If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever ". Thanks to our insidious intelligence community, and their chicken-shit apologists in the form of weak kneed politicians, access addicted establishment 'journalists' and a pliable electorate populated by feeble-minded dupes and dopes, we better get very used to the taste of boot leather. We are going to be having more than our fill of it in the years and decades to come.

© 2015

*Goodfellas

For further reading on the history of all things Edward Snowden and NSA spying. Please check out The Guardian, which has a full primer on the NSA spying including the actual files that are here and Glenn Greenwald's Guardian work here . Also check out Glenn Greenwald's new website The Intercept.

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