Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

Posts Tagged ‘Dissent’

Opinion: – Assange wins. The cost: Press freedom is crushed, and dissent labeled mental illness

Posted by M. C. on January 6, 2021

By Jonathan Cook

January 04, 2020 “Information Clearing House” – The unexpected decision by Judge Vanessa Baraitser to deny a US demand to extradite Julian Assange, foiling efforts to send him to a US super-max jail for the rest of his life, is a welcome legal victory, but one swamped by larger lessons that should disturb us deeply.

Those who campaigned so vigorously to keep Assange’s case in the spotlight, even as the US and UK corporate media worked so strenuously to keep it in darkness, are the heroes of the day. They made the price too steep for Baraitser or the British establishment to agree to lock Assange away indefinitely in the US for exposing its war crimes and its crimes against humanity in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But we must not downplay the price being demanded of us for this victory.

A moment of celebration

We have contributed collectively in our various small ways to win back for Assange some degree of freedom, and hopefully a reprieve from what could be a death sentence as his health continues to deteriorate in an overcrowded Belmarsh high-security prison in London that has become a breeding ground for Covid-19.

For this we should allow ourselves a moment of celebration. But Assange is not out of the woods yet. The US has said it will appeal the decision. And it is not yet clear whether Assange will remain jailed in the UK – possibly in Belmarsh – while many months of further legal argument about his future take place.

The US and British establishments do not care where Assange is imprisoned – be it Sweden, the UK or the US. What has been most important to them is that he continues to be locked out of sight in a cell somewhere, where his physical and mental fortitude can be destroyed and where he is effectively silenced, encouraging others to draw the lesson that there is too high a price to pay for dissent.

The personal battle for Assange won’t be over till he is properly free. And even then he will be lucky if the last decade of various forms of incarceration and torture he has been subjected to do not leave him permanently traumatised, emotionally and mentally damaged, a pale shadow of the unapologetic, vigorous transparency champion he was before his ordeal began.

That alone will be a victory for the British and US establishments who were so embarrassed by, and fearful of, Wikileaks’ revelations of their crimes.

Rejected on a technicality

But aside from what is a potential personal victory for Assange, assuming he doesn’t lose on appeal, we should be deeply worried by the legal arguments Baraitser advanced in denying extradition.

The US demand for extradition was rejected on what was effectively a technicality. The US mass incarceration system is so obviously barbaric and depraved that, it was shown conclusively by experts at the hearings back in September, Assange would be at grave risk of committing suicide should he become another victim of its super-max jails.

One should not also discard another of the British establishment’s likely considerations: that in a few days Donald Trump will be gone from the White House and a new US administration will take his place.

There is no reason to be sentimental about president-elect Joe Biden. He is a big fan of mass incarceration too, and he will be no more of a friend to dissident media, whistleblowers and journalism that challenges the national security state than was his Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama. Which is no friend at all.

But Biden probably doesn’t need the Assange case hanging over his head, becoming a rallying cry against him, an uncomfortable residue of the Trump administration’s authoritarian instincts that his own officials would be forced to defend.

It would be nice to imagine that the British legal, judicial and political establishments grew a backbone in ruling against extradition. The far more likely truth is that they sounded out the incoming Biden team and received permission to forgo an immediate ruling in favour of extradition – on a technicality.

Keep an eye on whether the new Biden administration decides to drop the appeal case. More likely his officials will let it rumble on, largely below the media’s radar, for many months more.

Journalism as espionage

Significantly, Judge Baraitser backed all the Trump administration’s main legal arguments for extradition, even though they were comprehensively demolished by Assange’s lawyers.

Baraitser accepted the US government’s dangerous new definition of investigative journalism as “espionage”, and implied that Assange had also broken Britain’s draconian Official Secrets Act in exposing government war crimes.

She agreed that the 2007 Extradition Treaty applies in Assange’s case, ignoring the treaty’s actual words that exempt political cases like his. She has thereby opened the door for other journalists to be seized in their home countries and renditioned to the US for embarrassing Washington.

Baraitser accepted that protecting sources in the digital age – as Assange did for whistleblower Chelsea Manning, an essential obligation on journalists in a free society – now amounts to criminal “hacking”. She trashed free speech and press freedom rights, saying they did not provide “unfettered discretion by Mr Assange to decide what he’s going to publish”.

She appeared to approve of the ample evidence showing that the US spied on Assange inside the Ecuadorian embassy, both in violation of international law and his client-lawyer privilege – a breach of his most fundamental legal rights that alone should have halted proceedings.

Baraitser argued that Assange would receive a fair trial in the US, even though it was almost certain to take place in the eastern district of Virginia, where the major US security and intelligence services are headquartered. Any jury there would be dominated by US security personnel and their families, who would have no sympathy for Assange.

So as we celebrate this ruling for Assange, we must also loudly denounce it as an attack on press freedom, as an attack on our hard-won collective freedoms, and as an attack on our efforts to hold the US and UK establishments accountable for riding roughshod over the values, principles and laws they themselves profess to uphold.

Even as we are offered with one hand a small prize in Assange’s current legal victory, the establishment’s other hand seizes much more from us.

Vilification continues

There is a final lesson from the Assange ruling. The last decade has been about discrediting, disgracing and demonising Assange. This ruling should very much be seen as a continuation of that process.

Baraitser has denied extradition only on the grounds of Assange’s mental health and his autism, and the fact that he is a suicide risk. In other words, the principled arguments for freeing Assange have been decisively rejected.

If he regains his freedom, it will be solely because he has been characterised as mentally unsound. That will be used to discredit not just Assange, but the cause for which he fought, the Wikileaks organisation he helped to found, and all wider dissidence from establishment narratives. This idea will settle into popular public discourse unless we challenge such a presentation at every turn.

Assange’s battle to defend our freedoms, to defend those in far-off lands whom we bomb at will in the promotion of the selfish interests of a western elite, was not autistic or evidence of mental illness. His struggle to make our societies fairer, to hold the powerful to account for their actions, was not evidence of dysfunction. It is a duty we all share to make our politics less corrupt, our legal systems more transparent, our media less dishonest.

Unless far more of us fight for these values – for real sanity, not the perverse, unsustainable, suicidal interests of our leaders – we are doomed. Assange showed us how we can free ourselves and our societies. It is incumbent on the rest of us to continue his fight.

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His books include “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is If you appreciate his articles, please consider making a donation

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Why the Police Must Be Removed from the Equation

Posted by M. C. on July 8, 2020

Of course, if the police are trained primarily to control the citizenry
rather than to be a part of the community, they will eventually inspire
alienation, resentment and hatred.

There can be no doubt that there will be widespread unrest and riots as a result. At this point, the US has a host of federal enforcement agencies: the NSA, DHS, USMS, CIA, FBI, BOP, USSS, TSA, CBP, BIS, OLE, DIA, NGA, OCR, FAMS, DEA, National Guard and literally dozens of others.

If and when the people of the US begin to rebel on a significant scale, it would not be at all surprising if some or most of these agencies were called out to suppress dissent.

by Jeff Thomas

In America, no one likes the police… not really.

There are many, perhaps even half of Americans, who conceptually support the idea of the police, but virtually no one likes what the police have become.

At one time, the fellow in the image above was America’s idea of the neighbourhood cop. Today, if one were to conjure up an image of a policeman, it would be a more Darth Vader-like image of a man whose face is obscured by mask, goggles and helmet, wearing body armour, and carrying an assault weapon.

Decades ago, the local cop was looked upon as a good guy – part of the community. He may not have been thought of as having been part of the intelligentsia, but he did receive his training under the concept of “serve and protect,” and for the most part, he behaved accordingly.

But that’s no longer so.

Somewhere along the line, policemen ceased to receive training under the heading of “serve and protect,” and now receive an entirely different form of training that focuses on control.

Not long ago, I watched a police training video in which police recruits were being led by a trainer, punching their fists in the air in unison, and shouting repeatedly, “I have the power! I have the power!”

And, unfortunately, that’s the direction the police in America have gravitated to – if not on a national level, then at least in areas of high population concentration.

This is quite an important change. Once the latest batch of recruits have been indoctrinated into the concept that “You must submit to my authority,” there will be more frequent extremes in force, including some actual homicides. Whilst most police will be likely to maintain a measure of self-control, there will be those few who, if any resistance occurs, will go to any length to achieve submission, including homicide.

Of course, if the police are trained primarily to control the citizenry rather than to be a part of the community, they will eventually inspire alienation, resentment and hatred.

But if we’re objective, we’ll recognize that, periodically, there have always been community protests and that they’ve sometimes become violent. In each such case the local police have been called in.

So, what’s different now?

Well, although few police have actually overstepped their authority and become unreasonably forceful, they tend to all be tarred with the same brush – both the protestors and the media tend to label them all as fascist and racist – even those police who are the same race as their accusers.

Clearly, logic is not a deterrent to typecasting.

This is not the first time such accusations have occurred – they tend to pop up whenever police are tasked with controlling crowds.

But now we’re seeing a new twist.

Governors, mayors, police commissioners and even police chiefs now routinely apologise for their officers, accepting the media’s tendency to lump them all together as being fascist and racist.

This has not resulted in a toning down of the vitriol heaped on the police. Quite the contrary – the rhetoric has only become louder and is led on a daily basis by the media.

And we’re now beginning to see the reaction by the police themselves. Those who previously accepted their task of confronting protesters and rioters have begun to call in sick en masse, or even walk away from their jobs entirely.

No doubt they’re hoping that their disappearance from duty will make both the public and their own superiors swallow hard and say, “We’re sorry, I guess we were too harsh. We should have supported you in doing the job you were hired to do. Please come back.”

But this is not what will happen. Those who are in the upper reaches of the police hierarchy will try to save their own skins, and will take a knee, on camera, in apology for their officers.

This will only serve to further polarize the front-line police from their superiors.

At the same time, we’re seeing placards by the thousands, reading, “Defund the Police.”

And this is not a mere idle threat. The media now promote a programme under which most police duties would be turned over to social workers, mental health practitioners, and “victim advocates.”

So, the objective here is not to defund, but to re-allocate those funds, diminishing the numbers of actual police drastically.

It would appear that only a small segment of the population actually support this concept, yet the great majority who may well fear diminished police protection are noticeably silent, apparently fearful of appearing to be politically incorrect.

The outcome would be to de-fang police at the local level, to render them incapable of the “protect” portion of “serve and protect.”

But why? And why now?

Well, the US has entered an economic crisis. At present, it’s perceived by most to be a downturn due to the coronavirus, but it will soon become apparent that it is a major crisis that has only just begun.

And it will be devastating to the lives of Americans.

Soon, they’ll figure out that the government, the banksters, et al, have robbed them of their economic stability and they’re headed for a state of neo-serfdom.

There can be no doubt that there will be widespread unrest and riots as a result. At this point, the US has a host of federal enforcement agencies: the NSA, DHS, USMS, CIA, FBI, BOP, USSS, TSA, CBP, BIS, OLE, DIA, NGA, OCR, FAMS, DEA, National Guard and literally dozens of others.

If and when the people of the US begin to rebel on a significant scale, it would not be at all surprising if some or most of these agencies were called out to suppress dissent.

And this perception is not by any means conjecture or “conspiracy theory.” The 2001 Patriot Act and 2011 National Defense Authorization Act effectively allow the entire US to be redefined as a battleground, to be controlled by martial law.

Of course, if federal troops are deployed in the US, the group of combat-trained individuals who are most likely to stand against them would be the local police. After all, it’s their own communities that would be under fire, their own neighbours who would be the casualties.

History has shown that, when the central government’s troops move in to control a population, the local enforcers often turn against them and become their adversaries.

Therefore, a federal government would be wise to diminish that potential opposition, months prior to any major move toward martial law.

If that is indeed what’s in store, we should not be surprised if the central government and the media work together to remove the local police from the equation.

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The Demonization of Dissent

Posted by M. C. on October 30, 2019

James Carden

The war of words between former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and current 2020 presidential aspirant Tulsi Gabbard has been, in some respects, clarifying. Clinton’s insinuation that Russia is “grooming” the Hawaiian Democrat for a third-party run in order to influence the outcome of next year’s election, instead of provoking a “have you no shame?” response from the establishment media, was gleefully repeated by such establishment fixtures as the journalist Jonathan Alter and the scholar Norman Ornstein. In other words, McCarthyism has gone mainstream.

To get to the root of what is going on here, the spat between the Clinton camp and the upstart, anti-interventionist Gabbard must be placed within the broader context of the past several years during which, under the influence of Russiagate, the Democratic Party and the establishment media have taken the lead in calling for a new Cold War. Only then can Clinton’s accusation be seen for what it is, part of a long campaign of vilification and demonization against critics of the establishment consensus on Russia going back at least to late 2013, if not earlier.

Express doubts about the establishment’s preferred policy toward Russia, and you will find yourself not only in the crosshairs of the liberal mainstream media but, even more worryingly, on the radar of the intelligence community—just ask a minor Trump campaign functionary like George Papadopoulos…

Over the last several years, high government officials have attempted to paint discourse and policy proposals with which they disagree as proof of disloyalty, if not worse.

One need only look to March 2017, when, on the floor of the US Senate, the senior senator from Arizona, John McCain, accused Kentucky Republican Rand Paul of “working for Vladimir Putin.” The accusation came amid an effort by Paul to have an actual debate (as opposed to a voice vote) over whether Montenegro should join NATO. Said McCain to Paul, “If there is objection, you are achieving the objectives of Vladimir Putin.”

Still more alarming, several months later, in December 2017, a little-noticed amicus curiae brief sent by former high-ranking US intelligence officials asserted that Russia uses “political organizers and activists, academics, journalists, web operators, shell companies, nationalists and militant groups, and prominent pro-Russian businessmen” to subvert the American political process.

Russia’s intermediaries, said the brief cosigned by, among others, former CIA director John Brennan, may include “the unwitting accomplice who is manipulated to act in what he believes is his best interest, to the ideological or economic ally who broadly shares Russian interests, to the knowing agent of influence who is recruited or coerced to directly advance Russian operations and objectives.”

And this is precisely what Clinton has now accused Tulsi Gabbard, a woman of color, a combat vet, and a major in the Army National Guard, of being: an accomplice in Russia’s malign campaign to influence the 2020 election. What we are now seeing is nothing less than a joint effort by the former secretary of state and her allies in the media (which very much include certain former high-ranking members of the US intelligence community) to vilify those like Gabbard who vocally oppose a new Cold War with Russia…

the silence with which this development has been greeted by many of the erstwhile guardians of political dissent on the left has been nothing short of deafening.

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Hillary Clinton's Hatred For Tulsi Gabbard Summed Up By ...



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The Growing Surveillance State

Posted by M. C. on August 22, 2011

Glenn Greenwald, the lone beacon of light at, talks about the increasing government suppression of dissent.  For another example see here.

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