The availability of surveillance technology increases the urgency of the decentralist project. Death to the Empire.
By Kim Zetter
Since May, as protesters around the country have marched against police brutality and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, activists have spotted a recurring presence in the skies: mysterious planes and helicopters hovering overhead, apparently conducting surveillance on protesters. A press release from the Justice Department at the end of May revealed that the Drug Enforcement Agency and U.S. Marshals Service were asked by the Justice Department to provide unspecified support to law enforcement during protests. A few days later, a memo obtained by BuzzFeed News offered a little more insight on the matter; it revealed that shortly after protests began in various cities, the DEA had sought special authority from the Justice Department to covertly spy on Black Lives Matter protesters on behalf of law enforcement.
Although the press release and memo didn’t say what form the support and surveillance would take, it’s likely that the two agencies were being asked to assist police for a particular reason. Both the DEA and the Marshals possess airplanes outfitted with so-called stingrays or dirtboxes: powerful technologies capable of tracking mobile phones or, depending on how they’re configured, collecting data and communications from mobile phones in bulk.
Stingrays have been used on the ground and in the air by law enforcement for years but are highly controversial because they don’t just collect data from targeted phones; they collect data from any phone in the vicinity of a device. That data can be used to identify people — protesters, for example — and track their movements during and after demonstrations, as well as to identify others who associate with them. They also can inject spying software onto specific phones or direct the browser of a phone to a website where malware can be loaded onto it, though it’s not clear if any U.S. law enforcement agencies have used them for this purpose.
China is a test market for high-tech state repression elsewhere.
James Lindsay on the theology of the new theocracy. The two most important things that are happening in the developed world at the present time are the re-feudalization of class relations and the growth of totalitarian humanism as the self-legitimating ideology of the rising ruling class. Just as neo-feudalism is reinstating the kinds of class societies that existed in the premodern world, totalitarian humanism is resurrecting premodern caste systems based on ascribed status, but within the technocratic framework of modern totalitarianism. The principal differences between totalitarian humanism and the 20th-century models of totalitarianism are two things: 1) the commercial values of capitalism require a certain degree of cultural openness that is not possible in a Stalinist type of system (hence, “soft totalitarianism” rather than “hard totalitarianism”) and 2) contemporary methods of propaganda and ideological control are far more sophisticated than those of 20th-century totalitarians, more Edward Bernays than Joseph Goebbels.
By Mara Hvistendahl, Sam Biddle
While doctors and politicians still struggle to convince Americans to take the barest of precautions against Covid-19 by wearing a mask, the Department of Homeland Security has an opposite concern, according to an “intelligence note” found among the BlueLeaks trove of law enforcement documents: Masks are breaking police facial recognition.
By Ramon Blecua
The current global health emergency provoked by COVID-19 is accelerating deep changes that will have far reaching implications not only for the way international relations are conducted but in every aspect of social life and economic activity.
The influence of powerful non-state actors in the international stage was already becoming more relevant than the classic power struggles among states at the height of globalization. States have been progressively losing their exclusive role in the construction of the multilateral international system.
Now, their diminished sovereignty has to do with the increased power and influence of transnational corporations — of which Big Tech is the ultimate example — the privatization of military force, and the international role of private armies and militias, transnational terrorist organizations, and drug cartels and other criminal groups.
The important takeaway from this article is that it describes how Big Tech has now become the dominant wing of the capitalist class, as Joel Kotkin has pointed out (along with the national security state and financial sector). The ruling class is not a unified monolith, but comprised of competing interests. Nor is there egalitarianism among the ruling class, which is stratified into layer hierarchies in the same way as the general society.
By Carole Cadwalladr
There is no power on this earth that is capable of holding Facebook to account. No legislature, no law enforcement agency, no regulator. Congress has failed. The EU has failed. When the Federal Trade Commission fined it a record $5bn for its role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal, its stock price actually went up.
Which is what makes this moment so interesting and, possibly, epochal. If the boycott of Facebook by some of the world’s biggest brands – Unilever, Coca-Cola, Starbucks – succeeds, it will be because it has targeted the only thing that Facebook understands: its bottom line. And if it fails, that will be another sort of landmark.
By Jebediah Reed
New York Intelligencer
Even before he became the point person in a global effort to find a coronavirus vaccine, Dr. Francis Collins occupied an interesting perch in government. One of the few Obama appointees still serving in a major role in the Trump administration, Collins, who rose to prominence in 1990s as leader of the Human Genome Project, is the head of the National Institutes of Health, the federal government’s gargantuan hub for medical research.
Well, at least we know which firms to attack during the next wave of uprisings (if we didn’t already). And intra-ruling class conflict is always welcome. It’s also interesting how “hate” has become the new “obscenity.” It shows that the ruling class can always use whatever mores are dominant in the wider society to their advantage.
It couldn’t have happened to nicer people. The most ironic thing is that the Facebook boycott is just a virtue-signaling scam by corporations, some of whom use child slave labor in the global South. This would be like the National Socialists denouncing the Catholic Church for its legacy of anti-Semitism.
A growing number of major advertisers are abandoning Facebook amid criticism the social media company is letting hateful or false posts go unchecked.
Chipotle, HP, Pfizer and Puma are the latest to pull their ads from Facebook. They join a list of major brands including Adidas, Clorox, Coca-Cola, Conagra, Denny’s, Ford, Starbucks, Unilever and scores of smaller businesses that have halted advertising on the platform. A pledge by Mark Zuckerberg on Friday to label rule-breaking posts has done little to mollify advertisers.
First, we had Spanish Flu Two. Then we had Great Depression Two, followed by 1968 Two. Now, we’ve got Dust Bowl.
By Doyle Rice
A huge plume of dust and sand, blown by the wind from the Sahara Desert, has finally reached the U.S. mainland.
It’s one of the most significant Saharan dust events in decades, forecasters said.
The densest plume of dust began to emerge off western Africa last weekend and has now moved into the Gulf of Mexico and the South, the Weather Channel said.
Excellent. Let’s hope more firms follow suit. Spare us the annoyance of advertising while bankrupting Big Tech.
By Orion Rummler
Coca-Cola is pulling all paid social media advertisements for 30 days, saying “there is no place for racism on social media,” CEO James Quincey said in a statement on Friday.
Why it matters: Although Coca-Cola does not single out Facebook in its announcement, the company’s decision to temporarily pull ads comes as Hershey’s, Verizon, Unilever and other brands have joined a boycott of the social network over its content moderation policies.
The ultimate intentional community.
By Charles Wohlforth and Amanda R. Hendrix
The idea of a human colony on Titan, a moon of Saturn, might sound crazy. Its temperature hovers at nearly 300° below zero Fahrenheit, and its skies rain methane and ethane that flow into hydrocarbon seas. Nevertheless, Titan could be the only place in the solar system where it makes sense to build a permanent, self-sufficient human settlement.
We reached this conclusion after looking at the planets in a new way: ecologically. We considered the habitat that human beings need and searched for those conditions in our celestial neighborhood.
Our colonization scenario, based on science, technology, politics and culture, presents a thought experiment for anyone who wants to think about the species’ distant future.
Just like the traditional white collar priesthood, the newer white coat priesthood doesn’t mind “bearing false witness” when it’s convenient.
Krystal and Saagar react to Dr. Fauci’s interview where he admits health officials downplayed the importance of masks to save PPE for healthcare workers.
As the New Church, corporate media and Big Tech connive to impose censorship on heretics and to conveniently eliminate their business competitors in the process.
Krystal and Saagar discuss NBC News’ apparent push to have Google remove conservative sites from the search giant’s ad platform.
As I have often said, the same role that was played by the Church in the Middle Ages is now being played by the media, universities and educational system, Big Tech, Big Science, and the whitecoat priesthood.
Google is acting directly to shape what people can say and where they’re allowed to speak.
Trucks will be self-driving in a few years anyway so it doesn’t matter.
Because the police don’t care if someone is filming them if the wider apparatus of the state is backing them up. Why does anyone think Derek Chauvin choked George Floyd to death knowing full well he was being filmed the whole time? Because he thought the department, prosecutor’s office, and the union would back him up. Unluckily for Derek, the combination of the pandemic, the depression, months of house arrest, the Ahmaud Arbery shooting, the Breonna Taylor shooting, canceled sports and concerts, closed clubs and a lack of summer parties caught up with him.
By Ethan Zuckerman
The murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers was captured on video, not once but half a dozen times. As we try to understand why a police officer continued compressing a man’s neck and spine for minutes after he’d lost consciousness, we have footage from security cameras at Cup Foods, where Floyd allegedly paid for cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill. As we wrestle with the sight of three officers standing by as their colleague killed Floyd, we have footage from the cell phones of witnesses who begged the officers to let Floyd off the ground. In the murder trial of Officer Derek Chauvin, who was patrolling despite 17 civilian complaints against him and previous involvement in two shootings of suspects, his defense may hinge on video from the body cameras he and other officers were wearing.
None of these videos saved George Floyd’s life, and it is possible that none of them will convict his murderer.
The evidence is overwhelming that most people would conform.
By Nick Chater
Margaret Atwood’s novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, described the horror of the authoritarian regime of Gilead. In this theocracy, self-preservation was the best people could hope for, being powerless to kick against the system. But her sequel, The Testaments, raises the possibility that individuals, with suitable luck, bravery and cleverness, can fight back.
But can they? There are countless examples of past and present monstrous regimes in the real world. And they all raise the question of why people didn’t just rise up against their rulers. Some of us are quick to judge those who conform to such regimes as evil psychopaths – or at least morally inferior to ourselves.
But what are the chances that you would be a heroic rebel in such a scenario, refusing to be complicit in maintaining or even enforcing the system?
For some time, I have largely regarded ideological conflict as a conflict between what I have called “psychological tribes” featuring groups of people with different personality types and psychological makeups, with these personality differences probably being rooted in genetics. In order words, people are genetically predisposed to have certain political positions.
By Emily Laber-Warren
BLUE STATE, red state. Big government, big business. Gay rights, fetal rights. The United States is riven by the politics of extremes. To paraphrase humor columnist Dave Barry, Republicans think of Democrats as godless, unpatriotic, Volvo-driving, France-loving, elitist latte guzzlers, whereas Democrats dismiss Republicans as ignorant, NASCAR-obsessed, gun-fondling religious fanatics. An exaggeration, for sure, but the reality is still pretty stark. Congress is in a perpetual stalemate because of the two parties’ inability to find middle ground on practically anything.
Once again, the Babylon Bee proves to be one of the most reliable news journals. Fuck the Zuck. Techno-oligarch piece of shit.
MENLO PARK, CA—Giving his arms and legs a nice little stretch while reclining in his office chair Tuesday afternoon, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, confirmed that he had successfully completed another long day of deciding what people around the world should believe.
“We’ve got over two billion users now, so it’s never been more important to show them only what we want them to see, while throttling to death of all content that we don’t think they should be consuming for whatever reason,” the Facebook chief said. “My days are longer than ever.”
This scene resembles one of those science fiction films where astronauts travel to space only to return and find that Planet Earth has been destroyed in an apocalypse.