donderdag 21 september 2017

Ian Buruma en 'het betrekkelijk goedaardige imperialisme uit Washington' 17

De reden waarom Ian Buruma achterhaalde mythes gebruikt om zijn betogen te onderbouwen, vloeit voort -- denk ik -- uit een combinatie van factoren. Enerzijds bezit hij te weinig verbeeldingskracht om zich een alternatief voor te stellen voor het huidige almaar totalitairder wordende neoliberale kapitalisme, anderzijds dwingt een onverzadigbare ambitie hem zijn broodheren te behagen. Het zijn de kwalen van de provinciaal die ‘has no mind of his own; he does not trust what his eyes see until he has heard what the metropolis — towards which his eyes are turned — has to say on any subject,’ zoals de Ierse dichter Patrick Kavanagh ooit eens opmerkte. Wanneer Buruma, hoogleraar ‘Democracy, Human Rights, and Journalism,’ verkondigt dat ‘even if the end of Pax Americana does not result in military invasions, or world wars, we should ready ourselves for a time when we might recall the American Empire with fond nostalgia,’ dan heeft hij het niet over de werkelijkheid zelf, maar over het officieel gesanctioneerde beeld ervan, zoals dat elke dag weer gepropageerd wordt door de commerciële massamedia. Het is het beeld van de VS als ‘land of the free, home of the brave,’ waarvan het ‘betrekkelijk goedaardig imperialisme’ een zegen voor de mensheid is. Dit beeld van opiniemaker Buruma wijkt fundamenteel af van dat van Amerikaanse intellectuelen als de gezaghebbende historicus Daniel J. Boorstin. Deze in 2004 overleden hoogleraar bekleedde van 1975 tot 1987 de prestigieuze positie van  ‘Librarian of the United States Congress.’ In zijn boek The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-events in America (1962) beschreef Boorstin de

shifts in American culture — mainly due to advertising — where the reproduction or simulation of an event becomes more important or ‘real’ than the event itself. He goes on to coin the term pseudo-event, which describes events or activities that serve little to no purpose other than to be reproduced through advertisements or other forms of publicity.

Boorstin waarschuwde voor de schijnwereld, opgebouwd uit ‘images,’ met andere woorden:

the world of our making; how we have used our wealth, our literacy, our technology, and our progress, to create the thicket of unreality which stands between us and the facts of life. I recount historical forces which have given us this unprecedented opportunity to deceive ourselves and to befog our experience.

Of course, America has provided the landscape and has given us the resources and the opportunity for this feat of national self-hypnosis. But each of us individually provides the market and the demand for the illusions which flood our experience.

We want and we believe these illusions because we suffer from extravagant expectation. We expect too much of the world. Our expectations are extravagant in the precise dictionary sense of the word – ‘going beyond the limits of reason or moderation.’ They are excessive.

Over de gecreëerde virtuele werkelijkheid schreef hij:

A juvenile critic recently said that television was ‘chewing gum for the eyes.’ In the late nineteenth century a bitter critic called cheap novels ‘the chewing gum of literature, offering neither savor nor nutriment, only subserving the mechanical process of mastication.’ But chewing gum (an American invention and an American expression) itself may have a symbolic significance. We might say now that chewing gum is the television of the mouth. There is no danger so long as we do not think that by chewing gum we are getting nourishment. But the Graphic Revolution has offered us the means of making all experience a form of mental chewing gum, which can be continually sweetened to give the illusion that we are being nourished.

More and more accustomed to testing reality by the image, we will find it hard to retrain ourselves so we may once again test the image by reality. It becomes ever harder to moderate our expectations after experience, and not vice versa. For too long already we have had the specious power to shape ‘reality.’ How can we discover the world of the uncontrived?

De vraag is inderdaad hoe de westerse mens zich kan bevrijden van het 'verzonnen' beeld, de 'verzonnen' werkelijkheid, en hoe hij een weg kan terugvinden naar ‘de wereld’ die niet ‘bekokstoofd’is. Hoe bevrijden ‘we’ ons van al dat ‘fake news,’ al die propaganda van mainstream-opiniemakers die telkens weer een mening moeten prodceren over van alles en nog wat, al die ijdelheid van narcisten die ‘wish to lead others, when they should be led,’ omdat ze verloren zijn geraakt in ‘an endless maze’ van 'dwaasheid,' zoals William Blake in The Voice of the Ancient Bard (1789) dichtte. De vraag is urgent omdat ‘[v]ivid image came to overshadow pale reality.’ Professor Boorstin was zich bewust van het feit dat 

[w]e have fallen in love with our own image, with images of our making. which turn out to be images of ourselves.

How can we flee from this image of ourselves? How can we immunize ourselves to its bewitching conceit-full power?

This becomes ever more difficult. The world of our making becomes ever more mirror-like. Our celebrities reflect each of us; faraway ‘adventures’ are the projections of what we have prepared ourselves to expect, and which we now can pay others to prepare for us. The images themselves become shadowy mirror reflections of one another; one interview comments on another; one television show spoofs another; novel, television show, radio program, movie, comic book, and the way we think of ourselves, all become merged into mutual reflections. At home we begin to try to live according to the script of television programs of happy families, which are themselves nothing but amusing quintessences of us.

Our new New World, made to be an escape from drab reality, itself requires a predictable monotony from which there seems no escape. This is the monotony within us, the monotony of self-repetition. Our tired palates will not let us find our way back. When we look for a ‘natural’ flavor all we can find is one that is ‘non-artificial.’

Bovendien wees hij al meer dan een halve eeuw geleden erop dat: 

[n]owadays everybody tells us that what we need is more belief, a stronger and deeper and more encompassing faith. A faith in America and in what we are doing. That may be true in the long run. What we need first and now is to disillusion ourselves. What ails us most is not what we have done with America, but what we have substituted for America. We suffer primarily not from the vices or our weaknesses, but from our illusions. We are haunted, not by reality, but by those images we have put in place of reality.

To discover our illusions will not solve the problems of our world. But if we do not discover them, we will never discover our real problems. To dispel the ghosts which populate the world of our making will not give us the power to conquer the real enemies of the real world or to remake the real world. But it may help us discover that we cannot make the world in our image. It will liberate us and sharpen our vision. It will clear away the fog so we can face the world we share with all mankind…

Our problem is complicated by the fact that the prescriptions which nations offer for themselves are also symptoms of their diseases. But illusory solutions will not cure our illusions. Our discontent begins by finding false villains whom we can accuse of deceiving us. Next we find false heroes whom we expect to liberate us. The hardest, most discomfiting discovery is that each of us must emancipate himself. Though we may suffer from mass illusions, there is no formula for mass disenchantment (ontgoocheling. svh). By the law of pseudo-events, all efforts at mass disenchantment themselves only embroider our illusions.

While we have given others great power to deceive us, to create pseudo-events, celebrities, and images, they could not have done so without our collaboration. If there is a crime of deception being committed in America today, each of us is the principal, and all others are only accessories. It is dangerously tempting to treat our illusions by compounding (mengen. svh) them. To try to cure the ills of advertising by creating a more favorable image of advertising. To salve mediocrity by mediocre appeals for ‘excellence.’ To drown our illiteracy in illiterate appeals for literacy. To hide our individual purposeless in the purposelessness of a committee fabricating an attractive image of national purpose.

Het probleem van de Amerikaanse consumptiecultuur is dat zij meer belooft dan zij ooit kan bieden. Maar omdat die cultuur totalitair is en dus in zichzelf zit opgesloten, staat zij niet open voor de werkelijkheid, en heeft de kitsch van de Buruma’s de plaats ingenomen van de werkelijkheid. Daniel Boorstin:

Each of us must disenchant himself, must moderate his expectations, must prepare himself to receive messages coming in from the outside. The first step is to begin to suspect that there may be a world out there, beyond our present or future power to image or to imagine. We should not worry over how to export more of American images among which we live. We should not try to persuade others to share our illusions. We should try to reach outside our images.

Deze beschrijving van de leegte in het hart van de Amerikaanse cultuur is kennelijk ongemerkt aan Buruma voorbij gegaan. De mainstream-opiniemaker zou niet weten wat hij aanmoet met Boorstin’s  waarschuwing dat:  

[o]ne of our grand illusions is the belief in a ‘cure.’ There is no cure. There is only the opportunity for discovery. For this the New World gave us a grand, unique beginning.

We must first awake before we can walk in the right direction. We must discover our illusions before we can even realize that we have been sleepwalking. The least and the most we can hope for is that each of us may penetrate the unknown jungle of images in which we live our daily lives. That we may discover anew where dreams end and where illusions begin. This is enough. Then we may know where we are, and each of us may decide for himself where he wants to go…

The efficient mass production of pseudo-events — in all kinds of packages, in black-and-white, in Technicolor, in words, and in a thousand other forms — is the work of the whole machinery of our society. It is the daily product of men of good will. The media must be fed! The people must be informed! Most pleas for ‘more information’ are therefore misguided. So long as we define information as a knowledge of pseudo-events, ‘more information’ will simply multiply the symptoms without curing the disease.

Demanding more than the world can give us, we require that something be fabricated to make up for the world’s deficiency. This is only one example of our demand for illusions,

aldus één van de meest gerespecteerde geleerden, die de VS in de twintigste eeuw heeft voortgebracht. Boorstin, die twintig eredoctoraten ontving, kwam in The Image tot de slotsom dat:

[b]y harboring, nourishing, and ever enlarging our extravagant expectations we create the demand for illusions with which we deceive ourselves. And which we pay others to make to deceive us.

The making of the illusions which flood our experience has become the business of America, some of its most honest and most necessary and most respectable business. I am thinking not only of advertising and public relations and political rhetoric, but of all the activities which purport to inform and comfort and improve and educate and elevate us: the work of our best journalists, our most enterprising book publishers, our most succesful entertainers, our best guides to world travel, and our most influential leaders in foreign relations. Our every effort to satisfy our extravagant expectations simply makes them more extravagant and makes our illusions more attractive. The story of the making of our illusions — ‘the news behind the news’ — has become the most appealing news of the world.

We tyrannize and frustrate ourselves by expecting more than the world can give us or than we can make of the world. We demand that everyone who talks to us, or writes for us, or takes pictures for us, or makes merchandise for us, should live in our world of extravagant expectations. We expect this even of the peoples of foreign countries. We have become so accustomed to our illusions that we mistake them for reality. We demand them. And we demand that there be always more of them, bigger and better and more vivid. They are the world of our making: the world of the image.

En op die vraag inspelend weet een broodschrijver als Ian Buruma, die public relations voor de elite bedrijft, dat er altijd een markt voor zijn producten zal blijven bestaan, omdat de angst van de identiteitsloze sterker is dan diens sluimerende verlangen naar werkelijkheid. En dus schakelde ook Buruma  snel over op de Koude Oorlogsretoriek die door de ‘liberal’ en ‘neoconservative’ elite nieuw leven in is geblazen. In zijn column van 11 november 2014 op de website Project Syndicate, die zich afficheert als ‘The World’s Opinion Page,’ beweerde hij: 

Much has been written about post-communism in Russia and China. But two recent films reveal the social and political landscapes of these countries more clearly than any scholarly book or serious journalism has been able to do.

NEW YORK – The times we live in are often most clearly reflected in the mirror of art. Much has been written about post-communism in Russia and China. But two recent films, Jia Zhangke’s A Touch of Sin, made in China in 2013, and Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Leviathan, made in Russia in 2014, reveal the social and political landscapes of these countries more precisely than anything I have seen in print. […]

It is irrelevant that President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia Party, unlike the CCP, makes no claim to any form of Marxist ideology. The way both governments operate is quite similar: party bosses, tycoons, and corrupt bureaucrats divide the spoils, while promoting chauvinism and ‘traditional values’ […] What these governments share is the fusion of capitalist enterprise and political authoritarianism. […]

And yet, for now, the societies depicted so acidly in Leviathan and A Touch of Sin continue to look good in the eyes of many people who are disillusioned with Europe’s economic stagnation and America’s political dysfunction. Western businessmen, artists, architects, and others who need large amounts of money for expensive projects enjoy working with authoritarian regimes that ‘get things done.’ Illiberal thinkers on the far right and left admire strongmen who stand up to America.

A Touch of Sin has been shown to great acclaim all over the world, but not in China. Leviathan, by contrast, has been submitted as the official Russian entry for the Oscars.

Perhaps China’s rulers are less sure of themselves than Putin. Or perhaps Putin is just a bit cannier (bedachtzamer. svh). His followers in Russia are unlikely to see, let alone be influenced by an art film, and this sliver of Russian free expression might just persuade foreigners that there is still some liberalism left in Putin’s authoritarian democracy – at least until that, too, ends up as a shattered illusion.

Wat meteen opvalt is de arrogantie van de ‘politiek-literaire’ opiniemakers bij wie  Buruma zich kritiekloos heeft aangesloten. Zo beweert hij met grote stelligheid dat het ‘onwaarschijnlijk’ is dat Poetin’s ‘followers in Russia’ de film Leviathan zullen zien, ‘let alone be influenced by an art film,’ want de mainstream-opiniemaker kijkt op het gewone volk neer, en zeker op het Russische volk, dat, in tegenstelling tot Ian’s vader, tegen de nazi-bezetting vocht. Hier speelt een ander opmerkelijk feit mee. Buruma junior kwalificeert Leviathan ineens als een ‘art film,’ terwijl hij in de rest van zijn column deze ‘art film’ behandelt als een politieke film. Zo treedt opnieuw aan het licht hoe doortrapt de werkwijze van een mainstream-opiniemaker kan zijn, want voor een ‘art film’ zijn een ‘certain degree of experience and knowledge required to fully understand or appreciate such films,’ en volgens Buruma zelf ‘onthult’ ook de film Leviathan de 'social and political landscape’ van de Russische Federatie. Desondanks meent de huidige hoofdredacteur van The New York Review of Books dat de ruim 63 procent van de Russen die in 2012 op presidentskandidaat Poetin stemde,  zeker niet ‘beïnvloed’ zullen worden door Leviathan. De reden waarom niet, verzwijgt Buruma angstvallig. Laat ik daarom enig verhelderend licht op zijn beweringen werpen. Hoewel Ian, net als de westerse mainstream-pers, suggereert dat Poetin’s ‘volgelingen’ te onnozel zijn om de dagelijkse werkelijkheid te kunnen zien, en hij als westerse ‘intellectueel’ dat wel kan, vrees ik toch dat hij de kluit belazerd. In tegenstelling tot wat Buruma beweert, benadrukt de regisseur van Leviathan desgevraagd dat zijn film een 'universeel' thema behandelt, dat, ik citeer Andrej Zvjagintsev opnieuw,

overal kan plaatsvinden. En vanuit die gedachte besloten wij om het in Rusland te laten spelen. Omdat het leven hier ons nader staat, net als de levensstijl en de realiteit, dan een verhaal over een Amerikaanse boer. Het Westen wil de film graag als een politiek statement zien. Juist nu het actueel is. Maar dat zou kortzichtig zijn.

Dit weerhield Buruma geenszins om de film te misbruiken, in een poging zijn eigen meningen geloofwaardig te maken. Het verschil tussen een broodschrijver als Buruma en een filmregisseur als Zvjagintsev, is dat eerstgenoemde een propagandistische journalist is en laatstgenoemde een kunstenaar die de werkelijkheid in beeld tracht te brengen. In 1986 stelde de auteur Frans Kellendonk in zijn lezing ‘Idolen’ de dwaasheid en het gevaar van dit soort westerse journalistiek aan de kaak, door te stellen dat het journalistieke ‘realisme een weerspiegeling van de werkelijkheid [veinst] te zijn, maar’ dat ‘stiekem het afbeelden precies andersom [gaat]: aan de werkelijkheid wordt door het realisme een beeld opgedrongen.’ Dus wat Zvjagintsev ook mag zeggen of in beeld brengen, Buruma kan dit alles domweg niet begrijpen, aangezien hij als manicheïst subtiliteiten domweg niet kan zien, hij kan alleen in zwart-wit beelden de wereld registreren, waarbij het Kwaad altijd de ander is en het Goede altijd de eigen partij. Dit is des te gevaarlijker omdat het verwrongen 'realisme,' aldus Kellendonk, 'oppermachtig heerst' in 'de journalistiek. Die geeft zich zonder voorbehoud uit voor naakte werkelijkheid,’ waarbij ‘[n]iets zo levend [is], of deze geestdodende vervreemdingsmachine weet het onverwijld op maat te snijden.' 

De veronderstelling dat commerciële pers de werkelijkheid zou kunnen weergeven is onzinnig, daarvoor is de werkelijkheid te groot, te gelaagd, te verfijnd en te gecompliceerd om die elke dag weer in kort bestek te kunnen samenvatten. Flaubert had een heel boek nodig om de complexiteit van Madame Bovary te belichten, Tolstoj had Oorlog en Vrede nodig om te laten zien hoe de mens door krachten buiten hem om wordt meegesleurd. Het enige dat de journalistiek daar tegenover kan stellen is een uiterst simplistische ideologie. Met recht wees Kellendonk erop dat de 'journalistieke media allemaal verpolitiekt [zijn]' waarbij de 'ideologie de wereld van het uitgeschakelde denken is en de volautomatische moraal.' Goed en Kwaad zijn bij voorbaat onwrikbaar vastgelegd, omdat ‘de mens zich een wereld [wenst] waarin het goed en het kwaad duidelijk van elkaar te onderscheiden zijn, want in hem huist het ingeschapen en ontembare verlangen te oordelen alvorens te begrijpen,’ aldus de auteur Kundera in één van zijn schitterende essays. In dit opzicht had Oscar Wilde gelijk dat ‘all art is useless.’ Buruma is niet bij machte om te beseffen dat corruptie en geweld universele thema’s zijn, zoals ook blijkt wanneer hij het Amerikaans ‘imperialisme’ prijst als ‘betrekkelijk goedaardig,’ alsof het voortdurende grove geweld en de grootschalige schendingen van het internationaal recht niet veel typerendere kenmerken zijn van het Amerikaans streven naar hegemonie, en het in stand houden van zijn imperium. Hoe kunstzinnig en subtiel een ‘art film’ als Leviathan mag zijn, nooit zal hij de registratie van het tragische kunnen doorgronden, overigens in tegenstelling tot de Russische bevolking, die uit ervaring weet wat corruptie en geweld betekenen, maar die beseffen dat de mens niet in staat is de macht in toom te houden, niet in Rusland en ook niet in de Verenigde Staten, zoals iedereen met een beetje ontwikkeling kan zien, behalve dan een propagandist als Buruma, die op pedante toon vergeefs tracht de werkelijkheid te verhullen. Wat hij ook niet beseft is dat een kunstenaar als Zvjagintsev natuurlijk geen film maakt die zodra Poetin van het toneel is verdwenen gedateerd is, dat doen alleen propagandisten. Een kunstenaar zoekt per definitie het universele van 'het menselijk tekort.' Laat ik een voorbeeld geven uit onze 'democratische' wereld, een kort overzicht van hoe de VS de afgelopen 15 jaar de ‘civil rights’inperkte en de staat almaar totalitairder werd:

Chart: How 9/11 Changed the Law


The FISA Amendments Act of 2008

Allowed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to authorize warrantless surveillance of Americans’ international electronic communications.

In 2005, the New York Times reported on the Bush administration’s secret wiretapping of American citizens since 9/11. Civil liberties advocates were outraged, but it didn’t stop Congress from passing this law in 2008 essentially legalizing certain aspects of the system. Under the new law, for the first time since the inception of the modern legal framework governing surveillance, the government can intercept Americans’ international communications without a warrant as long as one party to the communication is ‘reasonably believed’ to be outside the US.

USA PATRIOT Act of 2001

Authorized “sneak and peak” searches.

‘Sneak and peak’ search warrants allow the government to search your home or business without telling you about it until months later. Although national security concerns were the stated justification for this authority, these warrants are issued overwhelmingly in drug cases, with less than 1 percent used for terrorism cases.

USA PATRIOT Act of 2001

Expanded the authority of the FBI to issue National Security Letters (NSL) requesting information from and about Americans.

NSL's can compel banks, internet service providers, and other third parties to secretly reveal your personal information. No judicial approval is required, and the FBI need only certify that the requested information is ‘relevant’ to a terrorism investigation (a much lower standard than under previous law). The number of NSLs has doubled in the last two years, and the Justice Department’s Inspector General has found widespread abuse of this law enforcement tool.

Humanitarian Law Project v. Holder, 2010

Criminalized pure speech in furtherance of the non-criminal acts of terrorist groups.
The USA PATRIOT Act expanded 18 USC. § 2339, which criminalizes giving ‘material support’ to terrorists, to include ‘expert advice or assistance’ as a prohibited form of ‘support.’ Under previous Supreme Court precedent, pure speech could be criminalized only if it had the intent and likely effect of furthering a group’s illegal aims. In 2010’s Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, however, the Supreme Court held that the First Amendment permitted criminalization, under the ‘material support’ law, of efforts to provide advice to members of a terrorist group on how to use international law and other non-violent conflict-resolution mechanisms.

Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004

Authorized the Department of Homeland Security to develop a ‘strategic plan’ for airport security measures.

The new plan called for the TSA to improve and deploy equipment that detects weapons and other objects in airports. Beginning in March 2010, TSA began employing some 450 full body scanners, which display an image of the passenger’s body underneath his or her clothing. Despite continued outrage from passengers, the D.C. Circuit of Appeals ruled in July 2011 that the use of scanners did not violate the 4th Amendment, which guards against unreasonable searches and seizures.

US Customs and Border Protection and Department of Homeland Security Policy Changes

Allowed suspicion-less searches of documents and electronic devices carried by US citizens returning from overseas travel.

Before this change, a government directive allowed customs officials to read documents or papers belonging to Americans returning from overseas travel only if there was a reasonable suspicion that a US law had been violated. The new policy, introduced by the Bush administration and followed by the Obama administration, allows government officials to search any documents or papers, including the entire contents of laptops and other electronic devices, without any suspicion of wrongdoing.

Attorney General Guidelines for Domestic FBI Operations, 2008

Domestic FBI operations have expanded dramatically since 9/11. Intrusive investigations are now permitted based on less evidence of wrongdoing than in the past. The 2008 Attorney General Guidelines for Domestic FBI Operations, in particular, allow the FBI to conduct ‘assessments’ using techniques such as informants, ‘pretext interviews’ in which an agent surreptitiously questions an individual, and 24-hour physical surveillance — even in the absence of any factual predicate for the investigation.

FBI Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide, 2008

Allowed ethnic profiling.

The FBI’s 2008 domestic investigations guide institutionalized suspicion of Muslim Americans by allowing the FBI to map “locations of concentrated ethnic communities” and “ethnic-oriented businesses and other facilities” as permissible means of gathering information about potential terrorism. The FBI has reportedly conducted such mapping in cities with concentrated Muslim populations in California, Michigan and Minnesota.

En dan zijn er nog de door de Amerikaanse staat geheim gehouden massale afluisterpraktijken van de National Security Agency, die dankzij Edward Snowden tijdens het bewind van Obama bekend werden. Snowden ‘copied and leaked classified information from the National Security Agency (NSA) in 2013 without authorization. His disclosures revealed numerous global surveillance programs, many run by the NSA and the Five Eyes Intelligence Alliance with the cooperation of telecommunication companies and European governments.’

De BBC berichtte op 17 januari 2014:

After fleeing to Hong Kong, Edward Snowden told the South China Morning Post that the NSA had led more than 61,000 hacking operations worldwide, including many in Hong Kong and mainland China.

He said targets in Hong Kong included the Chinese University, public officials and businesses.

‘We hack network backbones - like huge internet routers, basically - that give us access to the communications of hundreds of thousands of computers without having to hack every single one,’ Mr Snowden was quoted as saying.

EU offices ‘bugged'

Claims emerged on 29 June that the NSA had also spied on European Union offices in the US and Europe, according to Germany's Der Spiegel magazine.

European parliament president Martin Schulz: ‘I am deeply shocked’

The magazine said it had seen leaked NSA documents showing that the US had spied on EU internal computer networks in Washington and at the 27-member bloc's UN office in New York.

The paper added that it had been shown the ‘top secret’ files by Edward Snowden.

One document dated September 2010 explicitly named the EU representation at the UN as a ‘location target,’ Der Spiegel wrote.

The files allegedly suggested that the NSA had also conducted an electronic eavesdropping operation in a building in Brussels, where the EU Council of Ministers and the European Council were located.

It is not known what information US spies might have obtained. But observers say details of European positions on trade and military matters could be useful to those involved in US-EU negotiations.

Merkel phone calls ‘intercepted'

The German government summoned the US ambassador on 24 October — a very unusual step — after German media reported that the NSA had eavesdropped on Chancellor Angela Merkel's mobile phone.

The allegations dominated an EU summit, with Mrs Merkel demanding a full explanation and warning that trust between allies could be undermined. She discussed the matter by phone with US President Barack Obama. He assured her that her calls were not being monitored now and that it would not happen in future. But the White House did not deny bugging her phone in the past.

Past surveillance by secret police — whether Nazi or communist — has made Germans very sensitive about privacy issues. Mrs Merkel grew up in the former East Germany, where the Stasi spied on millions of citizens.

France's President Francois Hollande meanwhile expressed alarm at reports that millions of French calls had been monitored by the US.

The Guardian later reported that the NSA had monitored the phones of 35 world leaders after being given their numbers by another US government official. Again, Edward Snowden was the source of the report.

Embassies 'under surveillance’

A total of 38 embassies and missions have been the ‘targets’ of US spying operations, according to a secret file leaked to the Guardian.

Countries targeted included France, Italy and Greece, as well as America's non-European allies such as Japan, South Korea and India, the paper reported on 1 July.
EU embassies and missions in New York and Washington were also said to be under surveillance.

The file allegedly detailed ‘an extraordinary range’ of spying methods used to intercept messages, including bugs, specialized antennae and wire taps.

The Guardian report also mentioned codenames of alleged operations against the French and Greek missions to the UN, as well as the Italian embassy in Washington.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said that activities to protect national security were ‘not unusual’ in international relations.

Latin America ‘monitored'

US allies in Latin America were angered by revelations in Brazil's O Globo newspaper on 10 July that the NSA ran a continent-wide surveillance programme.

The paper cited leaked documents showing that, at least until 2002, the NSA ran the operation from a base in Brasilia, seizing web traffic and details of phone calls from around the region.

Is Brazil US espionage target?

US agents apparently joined forces with Brazilian telecoms firms to snoop on oil and energy firms, foreign visitors to Brazil, and major players in Mexico's drug wars.
Mexico, Brazil, Colombia and Chile all demanded answers from the US.

But the revelations on Latin America kept coming, and in September more specific claims emerged that emails and phone calls of the presidents of Mexico and Brazil had been intercepted.

Also, the US had been spying on Brazil's state-owned oil firm Petrobras.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff cancelled a state visit to the US in the most high-profile diplomatic move since the scandal hit.

US spying ‘errors'

Documents leaked to the Washington Post in mid-August suggested the NSA breaks US privacy laws hundreds of times every year.

The papers revealed that US citizens were inadvertently snooped on for reasons including typing mistakes and errors in the system,

In one instance in 2008, a ‘large number’ of calls placed from Washington DC were intercepted after an error in a computer program entered ‘202’ — the telephone area code for Washington DC — into a data query instead of ’20,’ the country code for Egypt.

Later in August, the Washington Post reported that US spy agencies had a ‘black budget’ for secret operations of almost $53 billion in 2013.

SMS messages 'collected and stored’

In January 2014, the Guardian newspaper and Channel 4 News reported that the US had collected and stored almost 200 million text messages per day across the globe.

A National Security Agency (NSA) program is said to have extracted and stored data from the SMS messages to gather location information, contacts and financial data.

The documents also revealed that GCHQ had used the NSA database to search for information on people in the UK.

The program, Dishfire, analyses SMS messages to extract information including contacts from missed call alerts, location from roaming and travel alerts, financial information from bank alerts and payments and names from electronic business cards, according to the report.

Through the vast database, which was in use at least as late as 2012, the NSA gained information on those who were not specifically targeted or under suspicion, the report says.

The revelations came on the eve of an expected announcement by President Obama of a response to recommendations by a US panel on ways to change US electronic surveillance programs.

Maar Obama stopte de illegale NSA-praktijken niet. Sterker nog, 23 mei 2017 schreef Sara A. Carter ‘a national and international award-winning investigative reporter,’ dat volgens de Amerikaanse rechtbank 'regeringsfunctionarissen' berispte,

saying the failure to disclose the extent of the violations earlier amounted to an ‘institutional lack of candor’ and that the improper searches constituted a ‘very serious Fourth Amendment issue,’ according to a recently unsealed court document dated April 26, 2017.

The admitted violations undercut one of the primary defenses that the intelligence community and Obama officials have used in recent weeks to justify their snooping into incidental NSA intercepts about Americans.

In zijn studie Democracy Inc. Managed Democracy And The Specter Of Inverted Totalitarianism (2010)benadrukte de vooraanstaande Amerikaanse ‘politiek theoreticus,’ en emeritus hoogleraar aan Princeton University, Sheldon S. Wolin, dat

even before Obama took the oath of office, he and the leaders of the Democratic Party largely followed the initiatives proposed by the Bush administration during its final weeks. The major one was the $600 billion bailout of the major banks and credit institutions whose arcane (geheime. svh) and largely unregulated practices were mainly responsible for the crisis. At the same time, the Obama administration hastened to staff its councils with seasoned veterans from the financial world. Save for the huge sums involved and the brazenness of the giveaway, what could be more unchanging than the perpetuation of the cozy and longstanding relationship between Washington and Wall Street? 

Een feit dat door de gevestigde orde en haar pleitbezorgers werd gezien als een even ‘very sensible gesture’ als, volgens Buruma, Obama's besluit om het borstbeeld van Churchill in 'the oval office' te verwisselen voor die van Abraham Lincoln, de man wiens Republikeinse Partij, net als de politici van de Democratische Partij, ‘used the powers of the central government to benefit its corporate supporters, usually at the expense of the general public. Lincoln himself was what today would be called a “lobbyist” for the railroad industry.’ Een 'industry' die door de westwaartse kolonisatie van de VS destijds één van de machtigste en rijkste industrieën, aldus de Amerikaanse hoogleraar Economie Thomas DiLorenzo in zijn boek Lincoln Unmasked (2006). Hij beschreef voorts hoe de politiek van de ‘Lincoln Cult’

uses the Lincoln Legacy to promote imperialistic, if not totalitarian, policies in today’s world. Advocates of an American empire — that would wage ‘perpetual war for perpetual peace’ to borrow a phrase from Gore Vidal — hope to use the Lincoln legend to encourage America’s youth to participate in such adventures… 

Tegelijkertijd toont professor DiLorenzo overtuigend aan dat ‘one of the most important negative consequences of the war’ in de praktijk ‘the death of states' rights’ betekende, en 

particularly, of the founding fathers' notion of 'divided sovereignty.' This idea, which is often associated with James Madison, was that the federal government could not be trusted to be the arbiter of what limits would be placed on its own powers. The citizens of the free and independent states, as sovereigns, were to have that role under the original Constitution. This ended in 1865, after which the federal government, through the Supreme Court, would decide what limits would be placed on its own powers. Not surprisingly, it has decided that there are, in essence, no limits at all, just as the founders warned. Throughout the twentieth century all the worst tyrants in the world would attack the idea of states' rights and divided sovereignty and champion the cause of consolidated or centralized government. 

Ook wat dit betreft was er sprake van een duidelijk herkenbare continuïteit in de politiek van Obama. Wolin wees erop dat:

If Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the New Deal exploited an opportunity for change, Obama and his administration assumed automatically the limits of change. Which raises the question of whether the truly profound change of the twentieth century, the dominance of corporate power politically, economically, and culturally — has not produced an equally profound change: the effective management of the citizenry. Clearly, these two developments —  corporate dominance and a managed electorate — point to a certain political rigidity that is reflected in perhaps the most striking aspect of the present predicament: the absence of alternatives other than variations on the theme of economic orthodoxy. When the idea of nationalizing the banks was being suggested it provoked an immediate storm: it was alleged as tantamount to ‘socialism.’ The Obama administration panicked and immediately declared it had no such plans, thereby denying itself a range of more imaginative remedies. 

That reaction points to another great regressive change: the paucity of intellectual proposals that deviate from the current orthodoxies. This reflects a quiet but paradigmatic change: a shift in intellectual and ideological influence from academia to think tanks, the vast majority of which were conservative and dependent upon corporate sponsorship. Whereas the former had on occasion housed and nurtured deviants, ‘impractical dreamers’ of new paradigms and challengers of orthodoxy, the think-tank inmates are committed to influencing policy makers and hence their horizons are restricted by the demands of practicality and constricted by the interests of their corporate sponsors to proposing mitigative changes…

In using the financial institutions as the means of recovery it was reinforcing the state-corporate alliance. The significance of the placement of governmental representatives on the boards of various banks and financial institutions was in effect the legitimation of that alliance and of the paradigm shift which it represented.  The fundamental nature of that shift was underscored in the bailout of General Motors Corporation. The terms of the settlement involved the co-optation and neutralization of a powerful trade union, the United Automobile Workers…

While ‘the audacity of hope’ which Obama wrote about in his autobiography certainly has been fulfilled by the fact of his own election, that audacity does not appear to challenge the system of power which has brought the nation an endless war, bankruptcy, recession, and high unemployment. Change aplenty and all feeding the drift toward the system described in the pages that follow,

aldus Sheldon Wolin, daarbij verwijzend naar het feit dat  

totalitarianism is capable of local variations; plausibly, far from being exhausted by its twentieth-century versions would-be totalitarians now have available technologies of control, intimidation and mass manipulation far surpassing those of that earlier time.  

Hoewel president Obama tot op het laatst van zijn ambtstermijn weigerde ‘to pardon Snowden,’ werd tijdens en na zijn presidentschap geen van de NSA-functionarissen die massaal de wet hadden geschonden juridisch vervolgd. Wolin:

inverted totalitarianism is only in part a state-centered phenomenon. Primarily it represents the political coming of age of corporate power and the political demobilization of the citizenry. 

Unlike the classic forms of totalitarianism, which openly boasted of their intentions to force their societies into a preconceived totality, inverted totalitarianism is not expressly conceptualized as an ideology or objectified in public policy. Typically it is furthered by power-holders and citizens who often seem unaware of the deeper consequences of their actions or inactions. There is a certain heedlessness, an inability to take seriously the extent to which a pattern of consequences may take shape without having been preconceived. 

The fundamental reason for this deep-seated carelessness is related to the well-known American zest for change and, equally remarkable, the good fortune of Americans in having at their disposal a vast continent rich in natural resources, inviting exploitation. Although it is a cliché that the history of American society has been one of unceasing change, the consequences of today's increased tempos are, less obvious. Change works to displace existing beliefs, practices, and expectations. Although societies throughout history have experienced change, it is only over the past four centuries that promoting innovation became major focus of public policy. Today, thanks to the highly organized pursuit of technological innovation and the culture it encourages, change is more rapid, more encompassing, more welcomed than ever before — which means that institutions, values, and expectations share with technology a limited shelf life. We are  experiencing the triumph of contemporaneity and of its accomplice, forgetting or collective amnesia. Stated somewhat differently, in early modern times change displaced traditions; today change succeeds change…

Thanks to advances in science and invention it was possible to conceive change as ‘progress,’ an advancement befitting all members of society. Progress stood for change that was constructive, that would bring something new into the world and to the advantage of all. The champions of progress believed that while change might result in the disappearance or destruction of established beliefs, customs, and interests, the vast majority of these deserved to go because they mostly served the Few while keeping the Many in ignorance, poverty, and sickness. 

An important element in this early modern conception of progress was that change was crucially a matter for political determination by those who could be held accountable for their decisions. That understanding of change was pretty much overwhelmed by the emergence of concentrations of economic power that took place during the latter half the nineteenth century. Change became a private enterprise inseparable from exploitation and opportunism, thereby constituting a major, if not the major, element in the dynamic of capitalism. Opportunism involved virtually anything, from religion, to politics, to human wellbeing. Very little, if anything, was taboo, as before long change became the object of premeditated strategies for maximizing profits. 

Dit is de totalitaire werkelijkheid die westerse mainstream-opiniemakers blijven verdedigen. Zo voorspelde Ian Buruma op 6 juni 2017 tegenover het Angelsaksische publiek zonder enig voorbehoud dat ‘even if the end of Pax Americana does not result in military invasions, or world wars, we should ready ourselves for a time when we might recall the American Empire with fond nostalgia.’ Drie dagen later herhaalde hij in NRC Handelsblad met evenveel stelligheid, maar in iets andere bewoordingen, dat ‘we ons moeten voorbereiden op een tijd waarin we met weemoed terugkijken op het betrekkelijk goedaardige imperialisme uit Washington.’ Deze propaganda stuit nu op een toenemende scepsis onder het grote publiek, omdat de westerse burger zich begint te realiseren dat ‘the actual direction of contemporary politics is toward a political system’ dat, aldus Wolin, ‘the very opposite’ is ‘of what the political leadership, the mass media, and think tank oracles claim that it is, the foremost exemplar of democracy.’  Het gevolg is dat ook Buruma’s propaganda steeds absurder klinkt. Al in 2008 concludeerde Wolin:

Increasingly one hears ordinary citizens complaining that they ‘no longer recognize their country,’ that preemptive war, widespread use of torture, domestic spying, endless reports of corruption in high places, corporate is well as governmental, mean that something is deeply wrong in the nation's politics. 

Vanzelfsprekend moet Buruma deze realiteit negeren wanneer hij spreekt over ‘fond nostalgia’ en ‘metweemoed terugkijken op het betrekkelijk goedaardige imperialisme’ van de VS, maar daarmee maakt hij zichzelf slechts belachelijk en ongeloofwaardig, en bewijst hij alleen voor eigen parochie te preken, bestaande uit een kleine corrupte elite van vooral witte mannen, een kongsi die niet bij machte is zich af te vragen: ‘what causes a democracy to change into some non- or anti-democratic system, and what kind of system is democracy likely to change into,’ het thema van Sheldon’s Wolin boek over ‘managed democracy and the specter of inverted totalitarianism.’ Overigens is deze gedachtegang niet nieuw, want al meer dan een halve eeuw geleden merkte de grote Britse historicus Arnold Toynbee in zijn boek America and The World Revolution and Other Lectures (1962) het volgende op:

America is today the leader of a world-wide anti-revolutionary movement in the defense of vested interests. She now stands for what Rome stood for. Rome consequently supported the rich against the poor in all foreign communities that fell under her sway; and, since the poor, so far, have always and everywhere been far more numerous than the rich, Rome’s policy made for inequality, for injustice, and for the least happiness of the greatest number.

Een dergelijke constatering is voor de mainstream-pers absoluut ondenkbaar, het wordt gezien als vloeken in de kerk, radicale nonsens van een onverantwoordelijke dissident. En dus herhalen opiniemakers kritiekloos de ‘received truths’ zoals die worden uitgesproken door bijvoorbeeld Barack Obama, met zijn alom ‘aanvaarde waarheden’ als deze:

For nearly seven decades, the United States has been the anchor of global security. This has meant doing more than forging international agreements; it has meant enforcing them. The burdens of leadership are often heavy, but the world’s a better place because we have borne them.

In dit geval is de wrange ironie dat ‘de eerste zwarte president’ van de VS een beroep deed op de dezelfde ‘burdens,’ die ruim een eeuw eerder door de Britse dichter Rudyard Kipling werden geprezen in ‘The White Man's Burden,’ een ode aan het Amerikaans imperialisme, dat met oorlogsmisdaden het verzet op de Filippijnen tegen de Amerikaanse bezetting probeerde de kop in te drukken. De Amerikaanse beleidsbepalers ‘understood the phrase The white man's burden to justify imperialism as a noble enterprise of civilization, conceptually related to the American philosophy of Manifest Destiny.’ Hier is sprake van hetzelfde blanke ‘exceptionalism’, die terugkeerde in de zienswijze van Obama toen hij op 29 oktober 2014 als Amerikaans president verklaarde: ‘I’m a firm believer in American exceptionalism,’ en als reden hiervoor gaf: 

It’s because we don’t run and hide when there’s a problem… So we’re having not just effect by what we do directly but also by a change in mindset in the countries affected and around the globe. That’s what’s happening because of American leadership, and it is not abstract: It is people who are willing to go there at significant sacrifice to make a difference. That’s American exceptionalism. That’s what we should be proud of. That’s who we are.

Om daaraan op 3 december van hetzelfde jaar toe te voegen: 

the bottom line is, is that America continues to lead,’ en ‘at the G20 (bijeenkomst in Brisbane. svh), what was striking was the degree of optimism that the world felt about the American economy — an optimism that in some ways is greater than how Americans sometimes feel about the American economy. I think what you saw among world leaders was consistent with what we know from global surveys, which is when you ask people now, what is the number-one place to invest, it’s the United States of America.

Ook tijdens Obama,'s regime ging het ‘outsourcen’ van arbeid naar de lage lonen landen en het ‘downsizen’ van bedrijven door automatisering gewoon door, terwijl hij de buitenlandse schuld van de VS liet oplopen tot rond de 20 biljoen dollar. En ondanks al het illegale Amerikaanse buitenlandse geweld stelde ‘de eerste zwarte president’ dat de grotendeels witte elite in zijn land ‘exceptional’ blijft niet door ‘our ability to flout international norms and the rule of law,’ maar juist door ‘our willingness to affirm them through our actions.’ 

Obama’s beweringen waren even absurd als de kwalificatie van Ian Buruma dat Obama’s besluit het borstbeeld van Churchill in de ‘Oval Office’ te verwisselen voor dat van de uitgesproken rascistische president Abraham Lincoln ‘a very sensible gesture’ was. Hoewel de macht zich altijd en overal bedient van mythen, en de hofhouding van sycofanten en opiniemakers die mythen altijd en overal blijft verspreiden, blijkt uit de geschiedenis dat de legitimiteit van de macht toch een houdbaarheidsdatum kent. Op den duur zijn de heersende mythen onhoudbaar geworden, en ontstaan er nieuwe mythen die het ancien regime van zijn troon stoten. Nu hij hoofdredacteur van The New York Review of Books zou een opportunist als Ian Buruma er goed aan doen tevens de ‘Iron law of oligarchy’ niet te vergeten, die inhoudt

that all complex organizations, regardless of how democratic they are when started, eventually develop into oligarchies. Michels observed that since no sufficiently large and complex organization can function purely as a direct democracy, power within an organization will always get delegated to individuals within that group, elected or otherwise.

Using anecdotes from political parties and trade unions struggling to operate democratically to build his argument in 1911, Michels addressed the application of this law to representative democracy, and stated: ‘Who says organization, says oligarchy.’ He went on to state that ‘Historical evolution mocks all the prophylactic measures that have been adopted for the prevention of oligarchy.’

De ‘ijzeren wet van de oligarchie’ werd voor het eerst geformuleerd in 1911 door de Duitse socioloog Robert Michels in zijn boek Zur Soziologie des Parteiwesens in der modernen Demokratie; Untersuchungen über die oligarchischen Tendenzen des Gruppenlebensdat in 1915 onder de titel Political Parties: A Sociological Study of the Oligarchical Tendencies of Modern Democracy ook in de Angelsaksische wereld verscheen, en sindsdien beschouwd wordt als ‘one of the classics of social sciences, in particular sociology and political science.’  Volgens

Michels all organizations eventually come to be run by a ‘leadership class,’ who often function as paid administrators, executives, spokespersons, political strategists, organizers, etc. for the organization. Far from being ‘servants of the masses,’ Michels argues this ‘leadership class,’ rather than the organization's membership, will inevitably grow to dominate the organization's power structures. By controlling who has access to information, those in power can centralize their power successfully, often with little accountability, due to the apathy, indifference and non-participation most rank-and-file members have in relation to their organization's decision-making processes. Michels argues that democratic attempts to hold leadership positions accountable are prone to fail, since with power comes the ability to reward loyalty, the ability to control information about the organization, and the ability to control what procedures the organization follows when making decisions. All of these mechanisms can be used to strongly influence the outcome of any decisions made 'democratically' by members.

Michels stated that the official goal of representative democracy of eliminating elite rule was impossible, that representative democracy is a façade legitimizing the rule of a particular elite, and that elite rule, which he refers to as oligarchy, is inevitable. 

Het is juist dit proces waarop oud president Jimmy Carter doelde toen hij in 2015 constateerde dat de Amerikaanse democratie in handen was gekomen van een ‘oligarchy with unlimited political bribery.’ Vanzelfsprekend weten ook de opiniemakers, in dienst van de ‘oligarchie,’ dat de democratie dood is, maar zodra iemand als Ian Buruma, publiekelijk zou verklaren dat de elite de democratie heeft vermoord, dan zou hij zijn inkomsten en aanzien dermate schaden dat hij zijn geprivilegieerde positie vaarwel zal moeten zeggen. En net als zijn vader, die onder de nazi-bezetting, dus na de schending van de Nederlandse grondwet en het collectieve ontslag van joods Nederlandse juristen, rechten ging studeren aan de Universiteit Utrecht, wordt ook Buruma junior gedreven door een brandende ambitie en een onverzadigbare ijdelheid. In de huidige ‘managed democracy’ onder een ‘inverted totalitarianism’bezit ook de conformist Ian Buruma een kameleontische aanpassingsvermogen aan het doortrapte en zelfs criminele milieu, waarin hij zo graag wil verkeren. Later meer. 

2 opmerkingen:

Anoniem zei

lezenswaardige discussie

Roelf Turksema zei

Poeh! Dank!

Ian Buruma's Gebrek aan Logica 15

Symptomatisch voor Ian Buruma’s houding was zijn gedwongen ontslagname als hoofdredacteur van The   New York Review of Books , nadat h...