Category Archives: Resistance

Finding my voice in the era of alternate truths.

The List

The Trump administration is collecting a list they will likely publish to ignite public opinion against Muslim immigrants to further their divisive strategy. Authorization of the list was included in Trump’s executive order on immigration, currently blocked by court order but likely to re-emerge like some toxic fungus after a rain.

The list includes…

Section 10 (iii) information regarding the number and types of acts of gender-based violence against women, including honor killings, in the United States by foreign nationals;

(iv) information on the immigration status of foreign nationals charged with major offenses.

This is likely to be a tactic similar to the Nazi outing Jews accused of crimes against the German people. The annotated executive order is available from NPR.

America the Fearful

It’s estimated that there are over 300 million weapons in America, enough to arm every citizen—man, woman, and child. Not only do we buy an inordinate amount of weapons, we export more than any other country in the world. In 2015, American weapons manufacturers made over $209 billion dollars in sales—56% of the world’s lethal production. France sold $15 billion, Russia only $11 billion. We are the most weaponized nation on the planet.

We have over 800 military bases around the world. Last year American special forces were deployed in 138 countries, two thirds of the 190 countries on the planet. At home, we have imprisoned over two million people, the largest prison population in the world and the highest per-capita incarceration rate, second only to the Seychelles (a total prison population of 735 out of a population of around 92,000).

We have become the most feared and most frightening nation on earth, and yet we are still afraid. Afraid of Muslim terrorists. Afraid of Mexican immigrants. Afraid of ourselves. Afraid of the future.

Trump wasn’t an isolated phenomenon. He found fertile ground in the heavily armed, fear laden heartland of America. What have we become?

The Third Estate, Besieged

Journalists are leery in the new world of alternate truths after the arrest of four covering Washington protests. Initially they were charged with felony rioting; charges were later dropped.

They have good reason. The Trump administration can use the military to arrest them, extradite them to some black site anywhere in the world, without trial, without habeas corpus, and without end—all legally.

Some background is required to explain such dictatorial power. Surprising to many, it was written into law at the insistence of Barrack Obama, defender of civil rights.

U.S. Battlefield

In 2011, Congress voted to redefine the U.S. as a battlefield and subject to the rule of warfare. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) was quoted in 2011 that the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2011 will “basically say for the first time that the homeland is part of the battlefield.”

The bill was drafted in secrecy by Senators Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), then passed in closed-door committee meeting without public hearing.

Senator Mark Udall (D-Colo.) said of the bill “One section of these provisions, section 1031 [later renamed 1021], would be interpreted as allowing the military to capture and indefinitely detain American citizens on U.S. soil. Section 1031 essentially repeals the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 by authorizing the U.S. military to perform law enforcement functions on American soil.”

President Obama insisted that his “”Administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens” because “doing so would break with our most important traditions and values as a Nation,” promising that his “Administration will interpret section 1021 in a manner that ensures that any detention it authorizes complies with the Constitution, the laws of war, and all other applicable law.” The problem: Indefinite detention is not against the law and Obama is no longer president.

The Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 prohibited the federal government from using the military to enforce domestic policies within the United States. It was the law of the land until 2011. Now the land is ruled by the law of war.

Section 1021 allows the government to detain anyone, including U.S. citizens, who “substantially support”—a phrase the legislation doesn’t define—al Qaida, the Taliban, or “associated forces”—another undefined phrase. Those detained under Section 1021 can be imprisoned by the military without due process until “the end of hostilities.” Given the endless War on Terror, the end of hostilities may be a life sentence. Anyone detained under the NDAA can be imprisoned in “any foreign country or entity.” In effect, extraordinary rendition.

Section 1021 was declared invalid by the Southern District Court of New York when challenged by Chris Hedges, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, but appealed by the Obama administration. The appeal was approved and Section 1021 remains as law.

Robert M. Loeb, lead attorney for the administration’s appeal, argued that “independent journalists” we were exempt from the law and had no cause for concern.

Hedges still had concerns. “I have interviewed members of al-Qaida as well as 16 other individuals or members of groups on the State Department’s terrorism list. When I convey these viewpoints, deeply hostile to the United States, am I considered by the government to be ‘independent’?”

“I traveled frequently with armed members of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front in El Salvador and the Sandinista army in Nicaragua during the five years I spent in Central America. Senior officials in the Reagan administration regularly denounced many of us in the press as fifth columnists and collaborators with terrorists. These officials did not view us as ‘independent.’ They viewed us as propagandists for the enemy. Section 1021(b)(2) turns this linguistic condemnation into legal condemnation.”

Loeb stated that if journalists used journalism as a cover to aid the enemy, they would be seized and treated as enemy combatants. The paradox is that journalists, once seized for suspicion of aiding the enemy, lose their right to a trial by their peers and the opportunity to exonerate themselves.

Sami Al-Hajj, a journalist for the Al-Jazeera news network, was arrested by the U.S. military and imprisoned for 7 years in Guantanamo.

“Just calling yourself a journalist doesn’t make you a journalist, like Al-Hajj,” Loeb said during the appeal. “He used journalism as a cover. He was a member of al-Qaida and provided Stinger missiles to al-Qaida.”

Al-Hajj was never charged with a crime. As a result, he could never defend himself.

“The power to detain — or, for that matter, kill — without charge or trial effectively inverts the presumption of innocence,” Shahid Buttar wrote in the Huffington Post.

Given the vagueness of Section 1031, the Trump administration could link journalists with terrorist organizations simply because they were doing their jobs, as Chris Hedges feared. Trump’s vengeful nature and cavalier disregard for the law should be disconcerting for journalists. Their job, more important now more than ever, just got a lot more dangerous.

 

Rebutting the Big Lie

The Big Lie (große Lüge) coined by Hitler in Mein Kampf is a lie so blatant people can’t believe someone “could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.” It’s a strategy Donald Trump has adopted with a vengeance.

Trump has demonstrably lied about the attendance at his inauguration, his massive landslide in the Electoral College, voter fraud that cost him the popular vote, his tremendous support from women, 14% of non-citizens registered to vote, his landslide victory in the debates with Hillary Clinton, 30 million illegal immigrants in the U.S., record levels of inner city crime, Barack Obama founding ISIS, his relationship with Vladimir Putin…and these are only the ‘pants on fire’ lies.

Lying about something in the past that can be obviously disproved befuddles most critics who question Trump’s rationality as a result. No one knows quite what to do with it.

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

The quote is from Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Minister of Propaganda. Rarely has a propaganda minister been so candid.

The technique is also known as gaslighting after the movie Gaslight (1944) where a woman begins to question her own memories, perceptions and sanity because of her husband’s lies and manipulation.

Remember the “memory hole” in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four? It was the mechanism for disappearing documents, photographs, or records distasteful to the regime, systematically replaced by the Ministry of Truth with a history more to their liking. It calls to mind the sudden disappearance of the White House web pages on climate change and LGBT issues when the Trump administration first took office.

Whoever controls the past controls the future. As Umair Haque, author of The New Capitalist Manifesto, wrote recently: “If you could say that you were going to do anything — and then rewrite it to be successful, noble, glorious, wonderful, no matter how much of an abject failure it really was, so that people believed you were smashing, awesome, amazing, the best — then you would have maximum power.” That’s the power of the Big Lie.

The Big Lie works by repetition. Repeat it often enough and people eventually believe it. Repeat it with enough authority and people will eventually believe it. The only defense is to refute it as often as it’s repeated.

The American press isn’t in a strong position to resist the authoritarian tactics of the Trump administration. They’ve long since abandoned the moral high ground for the swamp of popularity and vested interests. But this is the time when the Republic most needs an independent press focused on facts rather than hearsay and gossip.

I’ve heard it suggested that Trump’s future press conferences be broadcast on time delay, interrupting the feed to contradict demonstrable lies. It would be an extraordinary tactic for the press but these are extraordinary times. The U.S. has never been closer to slipping into despair and despotism.

As individuals, somehow we have to constantly confront the gaslighting of this administration. I’m not sure how, frankly. I’m feeling my way in this new world of alternate truths. One way, I think, is to better understand the mechanisms of propaganda—how to recognize it, how to translate subtext, how to separate fact from innuendo, and how to resist.