A historian explains why India’s “national culture” is both Hindu and Muslim

May 22nd, 2018


As Indian as anything else. PHOTO/EPA/Harish Tygai

If history is essential to nationalism as has been frequently said, so too is the claim to a national culture frequently curated from this history. The problem arises when selections have to be made as to what goes into the construction of a national culture. At the official level there is a continued use of the colonial terms: majority and minority, derived from figures of those following different religions. Instead of looking for more valid descriptive terms, the configuring of culture as majority and minority cultures, however inept, is reinforced by saying that whereas the majority culture will be prominent, the cultures of the minorities will also figure. What this means is that Indian culture more often is defined centrally by what is projected as Hindu culture, with an addition if required of items associated with those that come from minority communities.

In India today Islamic and Hindu monuments dominate the landscape. Should they be juxtaposed or should there be an attempt to place each of them in the larger context where their relationship to each other and to the many more cultural items can be observed? Many today, either out of ignorance or for reasons of political ideology, propound theories that can only be called ridiculous—such as, that the Hindus have been victimized by Muslim rule and have been slaves during the last thousand years. The degree of ignorance contained in such a statement is astonishing, because it is actually a denial of the most effective, evocative and cherished religious articulations in various facets of Hinduism that took place during the last thousand years.

This is not to say that there was no confrontation at the political level but this should not be confused with claiming that there was massive victimization of the Hindus bringing about Hindu resistance in the late Mughal period. Political relations should be examined in terms of the politics of the time. Conflicts of a routine kind were clearly local and more casual than has been assumed. Relations between communities in general tend to be governed by some degree of accommodation and some degree of confrontation. It makes greater sense to try and analyse the reasons for either.

Political relations should be examined in terms of the politics of the time.

The British conquered India but did not settle in the land. They drained its resources to enhance industrial capitalism in the home country and find markets in the colonies. Unlike the British, the Turks, Afghans, Arabs, and Mughals—commonly bunched together as “the Muslim rulers”—invaded India, but also settled in the country. New communities and new patterns of thought and expression came into being. To treat all Hindu and Muslim cultures as separate cultures, entirely segregated and demarcated from each other, is historically untenable, nor is it viable in cultural terms. The form taken by facets of these cultures, and from earliest times, from the architecture and ornamentation of monumental buildings to the compositions of music whether as ragas or qawwalis, derives from the interplay of more than even two cultures. The recognition of this multiplicity gives authenticity to a cultural form.

Quartz for more

Pajulies under attack: Hydroelectric company bypasses resistance by military force

May 22nd, 2018


Residents of Pajuiles maintain a camp under a banner reading “For water and for life we will go to the end. Unity and struggle, Pajuiles resists.” PHOTO/Louis Bockner

A day after a Honduran judge dismissed charges of land invasion against 10 people from Pajuiles, at least 300 soldiers and police surrounded the small community near the North Coast of Honduras early Thursday morning in a show of force while guarding the company behind a controversial hydroelectric dam in the region.

Truckloads of state security as well as agents on foot arrived in the community around 5:30 a.m. local time accompanying president and CEO of the hydroelectric company Hidrocep, Jason Hawit. Community members said Hawit, who is also named as the General Manager of Baprosa, a rice production company in the neighboring department of Yoro, left the area around 6:00 p.m., but that military agents were still present well into the night.

“The company came completely guarded — five police trucks in front and five behind,” a witness who spoke on the condition of anonymity told Upside Down World. “It was like a war.”

The witness reported that the scores of state security included U.S. funded and trained TIGRES, as well as an “exaggerated presence” of officers from the Police Directorate of Investigations (DPI) and COBRA special operations unit. Police and military fired tear gas in a way that appeared to target prominent community leaders and took photos in an apparent attempt to intimidate local residents, the witness added.

For over a year, community members have denounced state violence and criminalization targeting their peaceful resistance to the Hidrocep project.

“We are completely militarized right now,” said Oscar Martinez, a community member who has faced criminal charges for being outspoken about the project. “The company’s equipment came through with the help of the National Police.”

Sigue la presencia policial y militar en la comunidad de Pajuiles en Tela, Atlántida. Las fuerzas represoras del Estado llegaron hasta la zona donde se localiza el campamento de resistencia en contra de la represa que está construyendo el empresario Jason Hawit dueño de Hidrocep. pic.twitter.com/9qMxulyqOL

— José Peraza (@PerazaJp) May 4, 2018

Heavy equipment, including bulldozers, to be used to build the hydroelectric dam, was ushered through the community Thursday as police and military stood guard. Pajuiles has long expressed opposition to the project, raising concerns that the dam will destroy its only source of potable water. Community members report that part of the forest has already been destroyed in the first phase of the construction, fueling concerns about environmental destruction and its consequences for local residents.

During Thursday’s police and military incursion, DPI officers detained local resident Gustavo Norberto Lopez Melgar after he filmed video footage of the state security surrounding the community. Police took Lopez to a police station in Tela before releasing him later the same afternoon.

This isn’t the first time that Hidrocep has used state security to gain entry to the community. Last August, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) condemned the excessive and indiscriminate use of state force, including tear gas, in Pajuiles. Five people, including a pregnant woman and a minor, were detained and several were charged by police.
Violence in Pajuiles

Since March 2017, the community of Pajuiles, with the support of the Broad Movement for Dignity and Justice (MADJ), has been blocking Hidrocep from entering the community in an attempt to stop further development of a hydroelectric dam along the Mezapa River in the Gracias a Dios mountain range. Last August, military and police used tear gas against community members to allow company vehicles and heavy equipment through to begin working on the dam project.

Upside Down World for more

End this charade: Donald Trump, Michelle Wolf and the White House Correspondents’ Dinner

May 22nd, 2018


Michelle Wolf; Donald Trump PHOTO/AP/ABC News

Here’s one thing Trump is right about: It’s time to shut down this shameful, pompous D.C. bonding ritual

The annual “nerd prom,” otherwise known as the White House Correspondents’ Dinner (WHCD), was Saturday night. If we are lucky, it will be the last one. The entire event is inappropriate, and it has nothing to do with comedians being rude to the people in the audience or on the dais. After all, they are hired to do that. The whole tired ritual is based on the old tradition of the comedy “roast,” where people get up and insult the guest of honor, which in the case of the correspondents’ dinner, is the president and the D.C. establishment, including the press.

No, the event is inappropriate because it’s an obnoxious suck-up to power, no matter who the president is or how edgy the comedian. The press and the politicians lining up on red carpets with Hollywood celebrities and yukking it up together, as if politics and government were just one big performance and this was their awards show, has always been an excellent illustration of everything that’s wrong with our civic life. But in the age of Trump it’s become downright decadent and disturbing.

This year’s dinner seems to have hit quite a nerve. Comedian Michelle Wolf’s comedy stylings were not appreciated by the press corps or the administration. She called the president and the White House staff liars, which is true, and pointed out that the media benefits from this surreal circus, which is also true. This bound both together in a way that clearly made everyone extremely uncomfortable, as it was meant to.

So now we have much clutching of pearls and rending of garments among members of the press, demanding apologies from Wolf for allegedly insulting Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ looks (which Wolf did not do) and for comparing her to Aunt Lydia in “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which is as spot-on as you can get. (As New Yorker TV critic Emily Nussbaum pointed out on Twitter, “her job is *exactly* like Aunt Lydia: she is the frowning female enforcer for a fascist patriarchal society, punishing those who resist her lies.”)

Anyway, Sanders has no right to be upset by any rude insults when she serves as an apologist for this man:

I heard poorly rated @Morning_Joe speaks badly of me (don’t watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came..

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 29, 2017

…to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year’s Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 29, 2017

Wolf’s jokes were sharp, to be sure, but they were nothing like that. I’m sure no one needs to be reminded of the president’s daily assaults on the press and his political rivals, or anyone else who angers him. So the Trump administration calling for smelling salts over this routine is the biggest laugh line of the night.

Here’s a typical example of the Beltway handwringing on Sunday morning.

Apology is owed to @PressSec and others grossly insulted ny Michelle Wolf at White House Correspondents Assoc dinner which started with uplifting heartfelt speech by @margarettalev – comedian was worst since Imus insulted Clinton’s

— Andrea Mitchell (@mitchellreports) April 29, 2018

This is also part of the tiresome ritual, which seems to work itself into a full blown hissy-fit every few years. Mitchell is referring to the Radio and Television Correspondents’ Dinner in 1996 where the comedian for the night was radio personality Don Imus, who rudely referenced the president’s infidelities in front of Hillary Clinton and said that the Clinton administration’s diverse cabinet looked like “the scene out of Star Wars.” Hillary glared and Bill covered his face and everyone was very upset. The correspondents’ association even sent the president and first lady an apology.

Salon for more

Saudi Arabian fossil find puts finger on the story of human dispersal

May 21st, 2018


palaeodeserts project, human bone, phalanx.

The finger bone is the oldest directly dated human fossil outside Africa and the Levant.

Paleontologist Iyad Zalmout of the Saudi Geological Survey was walking through the Al-Wusta dig site in 2016 when he spotted a tiny bone eroding out of a layer of sediment. The 87,000-year-old fossil turned out to be a human intermediate phalanx—the middle section of your finger—from what was probably a middle finger. It’s the earliest directly dated human fossil that has been found so far outside Africa or the Levant, and archaeologists say it’s evidence that once humans ventured beyond Africa, they spread farther and faster than previously thought.

A green Arabia

According to uranium-series dating, the fossil is between 85.1 and 90.1 thousand years old. At that time, the Nefud Desert wasn’t the 40,000-square-mile sea of sand that now stretches across the Northern Arabian Peninsula. Around 84,000 years ago, a shift in the climate brought stronger summer monsoons to Arabia. Based on evidence from layers of sediment at the site and hundreds of animal bones, Al-Wusta was the shore of a shallow lake, one of hundreds in an arid Pleistocene grassland. African antelope grazed here, and hippos wallowed in the muddy waters of the lake. And the site was home to a few dozen hunter-gatherers, according to Oxford University archaeologist Huw Groucutt, who directed the fieldwork at the site.

The people who dwelled here 87,000 years ago lived in a fairly densely populated landscape by the standards of the late Pleistocene. Groucutt and his colleagues have identified several other ancient lakes over the course of a decade of survey and excavation in the region, and many of them have their own stone tool assemblages, a sign that several hunter-gatherer bands roamed the lake-dotted landscape at around the same time. But Al-Wusta is the first site where archaeologists have found actual remains of those early settlers.

A team of biological anthropologists at Cambridge University took CT scans of the bone and compared its shape, dimensions, and proportions to the same bone in other hominins, nonhuman primates, and early and modern humans (if you want to compare the Al-Wusta bone to your own finger, it was 32.3mm long and 8.5mm wide at mid-shaft). Human fingers are much longer and more slender than those of Neanderthals and not even close to any of the nonhuman primates in the comparison group.

The team has pretty much ruled out DNA testing; since the bone has completely mineralized, it’s highly unlikely that there’s any DNA left. And the fossil doesn’t reveal much about the individual’s age beyond the fact that they were probably an adult. A finger bone isn’t much to go on if you want a person’s life story, after all, but the phalanx does offer one interesting detail: this ancient human did a lot of hard work with his or her hands. The finger bone sports a bony lump called an enthesophyte, which forms as a response to repeated physical stress where ligaments or tendons attach to the bone.

“We can speculate that it could be something from even, like, making stone tools from the site,” said archaeologist Michael Petraglia of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, the senior author of the study, “although there’s no way to be sure.”

Arstechnica for more

Karl Marx, 200 years later

May 21st, 2018


To ignore Marx the philosopher is to remain impoverished in a market-driven world

Today is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx, the author of Das Kapital and the leading spirit of the International Workingmen’s Association (known as the First International). In the words of Oscar Wilde, the Irish playwright and writer, “An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all.” If this statement is true in the case of only one thinker in the history of ideas, that person would certainly be Marx.

If Marx had not decided to change the world, he would have been remembered today only as a name on a gravestone in Highgate cemetery in London. Thus, there is no question why a thinker like Marx was at the same time a great influence on the most important thinkers of the twentieth century and a victim of a terrible misunderstanding for all those who made a revolutionary prophet out of him.

Not of gulags, killing fields

For over a century the fate of Marx’s thought was tied to that of Marxism. Even today, three decades after the fall of the Soviet empire, many still blame Marx for the cruel atrocities that happened around the world in the name of Marxism.

However, to think and to repeat that Marx is responsible for the Stalinist gulags or the killing fields of Pol Pot in Cambodia would be nothing but pure nonsense. No doubt, he would have been one of the first victims of Stalin, Pol Pot or any communist dictator. As such, the responsibility for the horrors of communist totalitarianism would be on the shoulders of no other ideology than Marxism-Leninism, which turned the materialist and historicist philosophy of Marx into a revolutionary eschatology and in many cases into a thermodynamics of terror. As Voltaire says majestically, “Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.”

Despite what happened in the past hundred years in the communist countries, Marx remains an important thinker and a central figure of the modern canon around the world. In other words, he should be read closely, with precision and patience. As such, any loosely philosophical approach or iconic view of Marx would turn the critical edge of his analysis of modernity and capitalism into wrong principles of a wrong struggle.

This is not to say that Marx provides us with all the answers to all our problems.

Hindu for more

Nikki Haley: The occasional activist

May 21st, 2018


Nikki Haley, U. S. ambassador to the U.N., at the United Nations Plaza in New York on March 6, 2017.

Trump’s U.N. ambassador promised to promote human rights. Then politics got in the way.

“I will never shy away from calling out other countries for actions taken in conflict with U.S. values and in violation of human rights and international norms,” Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor-turned-U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, assured senators during her January 2017 confirmation hearing. It was a remark primed to set her apart from the new U.S. president and the rest of his administration, who have seemed more inclined to cut deals with the world’s autocrats than to lecture them for mistreating their people.

Haley has used her current job to make the defense of human rights part of her political identity. She has denounced Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as a coldblooded “war criminal,” warned that Russian President Vladimir Putin could never be a “credible partner” of the United States, organized U.N. Security Council sessions on human rights, and traveled to refugee camps to draw attention to civilian abuses. She has also strongly condemned the ongoing atrocities in Myanmar.

Yet critics say Haley, like many of her predecessors, is often inconsistent in her championing of human rights, and her strident “America First” rhetoric has rankled her foreign counterparts. The picture that has emerged is of a sometime crusader: one who seems to believe in the power of America’s moral voice, even in the era of Donald Trump, but who cannot be consistently relied on to use it.

When Haley is acting as a human rights advocate, she occupies a space the rest of the U.S. leadership has all but abandoned. Take what happened in September 2017. Saudi Arabia was fighting off a diplomatic offensive at the U.N. Human Rights Council led by the Netherlands, which wanted to establish an open-ended commission of inquiry probing atrocities in Yemen by the Saudi-led military coalition and the Houthi insurgents. David Satterfield, the acting U.S. assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, was reluctant to support the Dutch initiative, fearing American backing would chill U.S. relations with Riyadh. The Defense Department also opposed an open-ended investigation since the United States provides targeting advice to pilots in the Saudi-led coalition and refuels the bombers responsible for the majority of atrocities committed during the war.

Haley was the sole high-ranking U.S. official to recommend that the country vote in favor of the commission of inquiry; in the end, a compromise preempted a vote.

But her advocacy has been viewed as self-serving. After anti-government protests erupted in Iran in early January, Haley convened an emergency session of the Security Council to address the regime’s attacks on peaceful demonstrators.

Vassily Nebenzia, Russia’s U.N. ambassador, accused Washington of insincerity, and even France’s U.N. ambassador, François Delattre, told the council, “It is up to the Iranians, and to the Iranians alone, to pursue the path of peaceful dialogue.”

Yet Haley has been credited for drawing attention to abuses in parts of the world that the Trump administration has otherwise overlooked. In October, she was moved to tears when she visited camps for refugees in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, and South Sudan. Haley took a series of photos and presented them to South Sudan’s leader, Salva Kiir, warning that his government risked losing further U.S. aid if he did not allow humanitarian assistance into his country. When she came back from Africa, she was “eloquent in defense of the need to take care of the most vulnerable and the victims of these wars,” says Akshaya Kumar, the deputy U.N. director for Human Rights Watch.

Advocates say that while they appreciate Haley’s stance on such issues, they believe her positions are sometimes calculated to promote the White House’s goals, enhance her own political fortunes, and protect key allies, most notably Israel.

Foreign Policy for more

Weekend Edition

May 18th, 2018

Is Trump a complete fascist?

May 18th, 2018


CARTOON/Pierre de Senarclens/Le Temps (Switzerland)/Watching America

factors required for a person to achieve a complete fascist status?

one should be a racist
one should have a big ego
one should be self-obsessed
one should be over-confident
one should be a consistent liar
one should never ever say sorry
one should be an ultra nationalist
one should tolerate no opposition
one should have a fascistic temperament
one should be in control of a friendly media
one should be endowed with an utterly cruel nature
one should have endorsement from religious leaders
one should have a base which blindly follows him/her
one should have a compliant party at her/his disposal
one should have a greedy/selfish rich class on his side
one should have support of a violent/racist police force
one should have at his command a strong/warring/hawkish military
one should possess a demented mind which thinks it’s always right

a bigot behind whom is his base and most of the Republican Party is Trump
a thug who has the support of hawkish military/violent police is Trump
a racist with a big ego who’s self obsessed with himself is Trump
a liar who’s overconfident and would never apologize is Trump
a very cruel person with fascistic temperament is Trump
an ultra nationalist with demented mind is Trump

a case in point about Donald Trump’s cruel nature:
there was no urgent need for Trump to move the US embassy to Jerusalem
he did it to please the fanatic evangelists at the expense of Palestinians -
about 60 Palestinians were murdered by the Israeli soldiers

Trump has nothing to do with religion/Bible/Jesus
if Trump ever came across Jesus
Jesus who’s not a violent person, according to the Bible
wouldn’t hesitate to pump some bullets in this bigot’s body
(National Rifle Association (NRA) would of course blame Jesus
not the hundreds of millions of guns sold by merchants of death)

but three things are not yet under Trump’s control:
(1) the news media
except FOX (Farts of Xenophobes) TV channel
none of the major channels are supports Trump
(2) the opposition Democratic Party is still strong
(3) the rich class is not totally in Trump’s favor
it’s divided between the conservative and liberal sides
though the liberal side is not too vocal in its opposition
it has benefited from Trump’s reduction of corporate tax from 35% to 21%

conservative or liberal, rich class’s god is money
even if a fascist government, they’ll join it
it’s not difficult to sway the rich class

it’s the opposition which is a difficult thorn for Trump
if he succeeds in getting the Democrats on his side
the liberal media will quietly follow suit

one may wonder is it possible?
well, most people, including Trump, was not sure he’ll win the presidency
but he did
in today’s environment
nothing seems impossible …

B. R. Gowani can be reached at brgowani@hotmail.com

Norman Finkelstein: Palestinians have the right to break free of the “unlivable” cage that is Gaza

May 18th, 2018


Palestinians carry the victims of the Israeli soldiers PHOTO/Palestine Chronicle

This spring’s mass nonviolent protests in Gaza come as the human rights conditions in the “open-air prison” have even further deteriorated. Last year, the United Nations issued a report warning Gaza is already “unlivable.” The majority of its water is contaminated, and electricity is limited to only a few hours a day. About half the population is children. Almost all are refugees who are prevented from ever leaving the tiny Gaza Strip, one of the most densely populated places on Earth. For more, we speak with Norman Finkelstein, author and scholar whose most recent book is titled “Gaza: An Inquest into Its Martyrdom.”

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I want to turn to State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert, speaking on Tuesday.

HEATHER NAUERT: But let’s go back to something that we have covered extensively here, and let’s go back to the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza. We have had many Gazans who have suffered at the—from the loss of medical care, not being able to have access to enough medical care, not having access to consistent electricity, food, jobs and many other things, as well. The misery that is faced by people in Gaza is because of a result of Hamas. That is something that we come back to. People want to blame Israel for all of this that is going on over the past few weeks. Let’s take a look at the dire situation that people in Gaza are facing, and that is a result of Hamas’s governing.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: That was the State Department spokesperson. Norm, this whole—people forget that the blockade, how the—the origins of the existing blockade around Gaza as a result of Israel’s reaction to a democratic election that occurred in the Palestinian territories. Could you refresh the viewers’ minds about this? And who is responsible for the humanitarian crisis in Gaza?

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: OK. First of all, as Amira Hass, the respected journalist from Haaretz, pointed out today in the newspaper, the blockade of Gaza, in its milder form, but still severe form, it goes back 27 years. It started in 1991 during the first intifada. The blockade was then significantly, qualitatively intensified after the Hamas won the parliamentary elections—what Jimmy Carter, who was an observer, called a completely and honest—completely honest and fair elections, in January 2006. The immediate reaction of Israel, followed by the United States and then the EU, was to impose this brutal blockade on Gaza, which at a certain point even blockaded, prohibited chips, potato chips, baby chicks, chocolate from entering Gaza. And then, after Hamas preempted a coup, orchestrated by the United States, Israel and elements of the Palestinian Authority in 2007, Israel ratcheted up the blockade of Gaza.

Now, who is responsible for the current crisis in Gaza? First of all, we have to be clear about—OK, let me start with who’s responsible. As you are no doubt aware, there’s been a—there’s a proliferation of reports, from the World Bank, from various U.N. agencies, UNCTAD, the IMF. They put out report after report after report after report. And there’s a complete—there’s a consensus. There’s a consensus that the proximate cause of the horror in Gaza, the proximate cause, is the Israeli blockade. It’s not Hamas. There might be some Hamas responsibility, but it’s so marginal, so minimal, as compared to that blockade.

Now, we have to be clear, and I don’t want to get too dramatic about it, too emotive about it, but we have to be clear about that blockade. Number one, it’s a flagrant violation of international law, because it constitutes a form of collective punishment. Number two, since 2012, the United Nations—and these are very staid, conservative bureaucrats, who don’t use—they don’t use poetic language. They start, in 2012, by saying—issuing a report in the interrogative: Will Gaza be livable in 2020? In 2015, UNCTAD issued a report. It then used the declarative. It said, on its present trajectory, Gaza will be unlivable in 2020. Now, bear in mind, literally unlivable. These are U.N. reports by professional economists. By 2017, the U.N., Robert Piper, he said, “We were too optimistic. Gaza passed the unlivability threshold years ago. Gaza, as we speak, it’s unlivable.”

Now, what does that mean concretely? Ninety-seven percent of Gaza’s drinking water is contaminated. Now, bear in mind, of the 2 million people in Gaza, 1 million or more, 51 percent, are children. One million or more are children. Sara Roy, who’s the world’s leading authority on Gaza’s economy—she’s at the Harvard Center for Middle Eastern Studies—in the latest edition of her standard work on Gaza’s economy, she says, “Innocent people, most of them young, are slowly being poisoned by the water they drink.” Now, Sara is a very respected, cautious economist, or political economist, as she calls herself. “Innocent people, most of them children, are slowly being poisoned.” That’s what Gaza is today.

Now, to get back to Nikki Keddie—Haley, excuse me—to get back to Nikki Haley, she said, “What country in the world would do anything different to protect their border?” Let’s be clear: That is not a border, and that is not a border fence. Baruch Kimmerling, the sociologist in Hebrew University, the late sociologist, he said Gaza is the biggest “concentration camp” ever to exist. David Cameron, the conservative British prime minister, he said Gaza is an “open-air prison.” Haaretz, the most respected of Israel’s newspapers, referred to the “Palestinian ghetto.” Israel’s snipers are poised not on a border. They’re poised on the perimeter—call it a concentration camp, call it a ghetto, call it an open-air prison.

And the people of Gaza—it’s unusual in the world today. As the United Nations Relief and Works Agency pointed out, they said Gaza is different than all the other humanitarian crises. Why? If there is a natural disaster, like a drought, people move. If there’s a human-made disaster, like Syria, people move. Gaza is the only place on Earth where the place is unlivable and the people can’t move. They can’t leave. They’re trapped.

And then that raises, for me, what’s the fundamental question. Even the human rights organizations which haven’t been bad, even they refer to Israel’s use of excessive force. They refer to Israel’s use of disproportionate force. Implicit in that language is, Israel has the right to use proportionate force. Israel has the right to use moderate force. In fact, leaving aside the legalities and the technicalities, let’s just look at the picture raw. Israel doesn’t have the right to use any force. Two million people, half of whom are children, are trapped, caged in an unlivable space where they are, to quote Sara Roy, “slowly being poisoned.” Unless you believe that Israel has the right to poison 1 million children, it has no right to use any force against the people of Gaza. They have the right to break free from the cage Israel has created for them.

AMY GOODMAN: So, Norm Finkelstein, as we begin to wrap up, what do you think is the solution?

Democracy Now for more

The internet apologizes …

May 18th, 2018



Even those who designed our digital world are aghast at what they created. A breakdown of what went wrong — from the architects who built it.

Something has gone wrong with the internet. Even Mark Zuckerberg knows it. Testifying before Congress, the Facebook CEO ticked off a list of everything his platform has screwed up, from fake news and foreign meddling in the 2016 election to hate speech and data privacy. “We didn’t take a broad enough view of our responsibility,” he confessed. Then he added the words that everyone was waiting for: “I’m sorry.”

There have always been outsiders who criticized the tech industry — even if their concerns have been drowned out by the oohs and aahs of consumers, investors, and journalists. But today, the most dire warnings are coming from the heart of Silicon Valley itself. The man who oversaw the creation of the original iPhone believes the device he helped build is too addictive. The inventor of the World Wide Web fears his creation is being “weaponized.” Even Sean Parker, Facebook’s first president, has blasted social media as a dangerous form of psychological manipulation. “God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains,” he lamented recently.

To understand what went wrong — how the Silicon Valley dream of building a networked utopia turned into a globalized strip-mall casino overrun by pop-up ads and cyberbullies and Vladimir Putin — we spoke to more than a dozen architects of our digital present. If the tech industry likes to assume the trappings of a religion, complete with a quasi-messianic story of progress, the Church of Tech is now giving rise to a new sect of apostates, feverishly confessing their own sins. And the internet’s original sin, as these programmers and investors and CEOs make clear, was its business model.

To keep the internet free — while becoming richer, faster, than anyone in history — the technological elite needed something to attract billions of users to the ads they were selling. And that something, it turns out, was outrage. As Jaron Lanier, a pioneer in virtual reality, points out, anger is the emotion most effective at driving “engagement” — which also makes it, in a market for attention, the most profitable one. By creating a self-perpetuating loop of shock and recrimination, social media further polarized what had already seemed, during the Obama years, an impossibly and irredeemably polarized country.

The advertising model of the internet was different from anything that came before. Whatever you might say about broadcast advertising, it drew you into a kind of community, even if it was a community of consumers. The culture of the social-media era, by contrast, doesn’t draw you anywhere. It meets you exactly where you are, with your preferences and prejudices — at least as best as an algorithm can intuit them. “Microtargeting” is nothing more than a fancy term for social atomization — a business logic that promises community while promoting its opposite.

New York Magazine for more