Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Obama Disconnect

"All in the game yo, all in the game." - Omar Little, The Wire

The current US President Barack Obama is a PR representative's dream. In television appearances, he is calm, relaxed, witty and at ease with even hostile questioning on the very rare occasions he is subjected to it. He is serious and statesmanlike when necessary: at the announcement of his outstanding foreign policy success, the assassination of Bin Laden, and on receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, where he extolled the virtues of 'necessary' war. He can be very amusing, a natural comedian, on scripted occasions such as the White House Correspondent's Dinner and even off the cuff.

Back when he was Senator Obama, he even said his favorite TV show was The Wire, and that he especially liked the intelligent, principled gangster-killer character, Omar Little. This went down a storm with the younger generation, who were practically orgasmic that, after eight years of George W Bush, they were finally getting someone really cool in the top job.

They were not the only ones taken in, and millions are still deceived. The only meaningful way to judge the leader of a nation is on his actions and policies, not the PR gold. Looking at the actions of the Obama administration, the disconnect between image and reality is truly shocking to behold.

Courtesy of Politifact, here is a (four-page) list of broken campaign pledges. They range from the minor to the major (Guantanamo Bay, public health care option etc.), despite Obama having total command of both Congress and the Senate for the first two years.

This article written 9 months ago is a little out of date but it provides a succinct list of Bush policies continued and/or expanded by the Obama administration. In particular, the massively expanded use of drones in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, which have killed hundreds of civilians, including children, must be highlighted.

Obama has also presided over an unprecedented war on whistle-blowers, men and women who should be revered as heroes in any democracy worth the name. He has extended and expanded the powers of the Patriot Act, and on his watch the National Security Agency is making the US a surveillance state of almost dystopian proportions.

Does this sound like the man who reveres shows like The Wire? Anyone who watched the third season dealing with Hamsterdam and the heartbreaking War on Drugs would surely understand that this particular tragedy must end. The disconnect is staggering and can only be explained by either Obama being a pathological liar, or the President not actually being in control of the actions of his own administration. Or both.

The US version of democracy is a sham, as a vote for either major party will lead to a continuation of all the above policies and more. Bipartisan consensus is now so broad in US politics that the only differences between the two major parties are cosmetic. The only viable candidate for any voter who dislikes his tax money being used to murder children in foreign countries in the next election would be Ron Paul, who is dismissed and ridiculed by the establishment media for his anti-war, anti-interventionist policies. If the choice is Mitt or Barack, there is no choice at all; whoever you vote for, you will get Wall Street and the military industrial complex safely in the driving seat once again. And so it goes.

Tragically, to the vast armies of Obama supporters, he is a rock star, a cool dude, and naturally someone with such a big smile could not possibly be responsible for the above disgraces. The message of this blog to all US voters is simple: bear in mind that voting for either of the major parties in the US is tacit support for the killing of children, among other atrocities. Think about that, and how you might feel if a foreign power dropped a bomb on your child in your own town, and then called it 'collateral damage'.

'The 99.99998271% - Why the Time is Right for Direct Democracy’ by Simon Wood is available for free download. In this 70-page book, the current state of human rights and democracy is discussed, and a simple method of implementing direct democracy is suggested.
Simon Wood on twitter (simonwood11) and Facebook or at his blog.




Money

"Money, It's a gas. Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash. New car, caviar, four-star daydream. Think I'll buy me a football team" - Pink Floyd - 'Money'

The global financial elites are hiding 18 trillion dollars in offshore accounts for the purpose of tax avoidance, a perfectly legal caper because of easily-exploited loopholes in tax laws. The corporations, banks and very rich currently see no reason to invest and are simply sitting on their cash until something juicy comes along. When it does come along, they will become even richer, and will of course sit on the gains until, erm...something juicy again hoves into view; a clear demonstration of their priorities: namely, themselves.

18 trillion dollars in the right hands and used wisely would solve just about every serious social issue on this planet. One can argue, of course, that it is their money so they can do what they wish with it. However, that argument requires one to also believe that financial elites avoiding tax, legally or not, is acceptable.

For nations which depend significantly on the private sector for their vital public services, this reluctance to invest presents a serious concern. The UK has Margaret Thatcher and the Conservative Party to thank for the massive wave of privatization of its industries and services, ably abetted by Tony Blair's New Labour. In this must-read article by Richard Seymour, we see how this was brought about via political calculation against widespread public opposition.

33 years on, what kind of society have these policies brought about?

The Sunday Times today released its 2012 Rich List. In it we see that the wealth of the richest people in the UK has soared to record levels, this against the backdrop of the economic crisis and austerity policies of the UK coalition government.

At the same time, income inequality in the UK is growing faster than in any other rich country. That might be OK if the people wanted it to be that way, but they don't: 65% say that inequality is too high. Yet more evidence, as if it were needed, that the rulers of the UK, supposedly democratically elected servants of their populace, represent only the interests of themselves and the rich.

Massive privatization from 1979 coincides with huge inequality now.

Deborah Orr of the Guardian wrote a fine piece on the evils of only valuing work that generates profit. This kind of thinking is relentlessly reinforced throughout the media and in every walk of life, profoundly influencing the philosophies of ordinary people living in such an atmosphere, particularly the younger generations who have no experience of anything else and therefore know of no other way to think.

This vicious philosophy has to be combated at all costs. The idea that profit trumps all other aspects of life such as volunteer work, charity, self-improvement, spiritual fulfillment and so on can only lead to a truly shallow world, one which places value on image and financial gain at the cost of all else, even human dignity. One needs only to behold the obscene entity known as the Olympics to see how something that once stood for human unity and endeavor can be corrupted. The modern Olympics is simply a marketing vehicle for giant corporations like McDonald's and Coca Cola, entities as far removed from the true spirit of the human struggle as can be envisaged.

What lies at the root of all this? The first-past-the-post electoral system of the UK has been instrumental in creating a society that does not accurately represent the values of its people. This system, more than any other, encourages tactical voting, where people vote not for a candidate who represents their views, but for one most likely to defeat a candidate who holds opposing views. Democracy is simply not meant to be like this, and the monster known as vast inequality is the result.

There are better systems available, and the most ideal is direct democracy, which is perfectly viable in the internet age. In order to reverse this deadly trend toward societies lying throats exposed to trans-national corporations, the banks and the very rich, who have demonstrated repeatedly that they have no interest in helping anyone but themselves, a grassroots movement toward direct democracy is absolutely vital.

Far too many media commentators simply moan on and on about these issues. It is not enough to fume at home and do nothing about it. We have seen from what has happened to the Occupy movement that thanks to corporate media ownership and police brutality, traditional protest as a means of effectively changing society is dead, and even if it does bring about some change, it will be short-lived because the underlying system is rotten. Going out onto the streets certainly raises public awareness, but you can be sure the elites will never allow anyone to change the status quo in any way that will threaten their dominance. The only way to defeat them is via a grassroots movement, which is completely beyond their power to prevent. My free book (see below) sets out how this can be brought about.

There is no question that things can be fixed. The problem is that for the entities in power, those voted in by people in demonstrably unfair and unrepresentative electoral systems, there is nothing to fix. Things are exactly as they want them to be, and that will not change until we do something about it.

'The 99.99998271% - Why the Time is Right for Direct Democracy’ by Simon Wood is available for free download. In this 70-page book, the current state of human rights and democracy is discussed, and a simple method of implementing direct democracy is suggested.
Simon Wood on twitter (simonwood11) and Facebook or at his blog.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Propaganda Masquerading As Journalism

It was with no sense of satisfaction that I witnessed the points made in my recent blog posting about the smearing of Wikileaks and Occupy proven depressingly correct in the slew of 'reviews' of Julian Assange's first show last week on Russia Today (RT). The aims of these articles can be summed up best in two high-profile ones: this bitchy little piece, in which Luke Harding of The Guardian meows impressively, and this one from The New York Times, allegedly a serious publication and so-called newspaper of record.

The opening lines of the latter piece deserve to be singled out: 'When Anderson Cooper began a syndicated talk show, his first guest was the grieving father of Amy Winehouse. Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, unveiled a new talk show on Tuesday with his own version of a sensational get: the Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah'.

Is there a clearer example of the state of modern journalism than that? Proper journalists interview the parents of dead singers; self-promoting, upstart propagandists, or even worse, bloggers, talk to a leader of an important and influential group that is central to one of the world's most serious conflicts.

These reviews, gleefully spread by hordes of people on Twitter and in other media, contained almost no information about the actual content of the interview - only four out of eighteen paragraphs in The New York Times article contained any reference at all to the interview and only three out of twelve in The Guardian one. Instead, readers were treated to the usual snide comments about Assange's personality and behavior along with righteous speculation on the connection of Assange to RT. In other words, this interview, which attracted a huge amount of media attention, was seized upon as yet another opportunity to focus on the perceived flaws of Assange, as well as the too-good-to-miss chance to link Assange with a channel that is widely viewed and ridiculed by the West as a mouthpiece for the Kremlin.

Memo to establishment journalists: to focus on such peripheral issues and smears in a piece which is supposed to be a simple review of a television interview makes you at best ignorant, at worst a propagandist. And given the history of bad blood between Wikileaks and these two famous organs of journalism, any reader who is even slightly awake will most certainly believe the latter.

This is not to say that exploring the connection between Assange and RT is wrong; on the contrary, it is in the public interest. However, in a supposed review of an interview, any discussion of this connection beyond initial setting of the scene (along with date, time, location and participants) is a clear attempt to negatively influence the opinions of the reader, and reinforces the personality cult carefully constructed around Assange. And it works. Witness the disdainful reaction of thousands of people focusing on the RT connection and Assange's behavior. The actual content of the interview was an afterthought.

Which is exactly what happened with the release of the US diplomatic cables. The actual abuses ignored, the messengers shot to pieces.

Propaganda.

Misconceptions about Assange and Wikileaks propagated by the media are undoubtedly a combination of both ignorance and design, but whatever the reason, they must be challenged. I therefore urge all readers who think they know everything they need to know about the Assange case to read this article with an open mind, and I guarantee that you will learn something you either did not know, or have been misinformed about.

In short, it addresses four major misconceptions:

First, that Assange has been charged with a crime. He has not, in any country, been so charged. Sweden is attempting extradition for questioning in relation to allegations of sexual misconduct.

Second, that Assange is accused of rape in the normal sense.

Third, that Assange fled Sweden to avoid questioning. In fact, he stayed in Sweden to face questioning but all attempts to face interviews made through his lawyer were refused, and Assange in fact left Sweden after receiving approval from the Swedish prosecutor, Marianne Ny. Further, Assange has offered himself for questioning via telephone or video link from London, all legal methods under Swedish law, but has been rebuffed. This fact alone rings alarm bells about the ulterior motives of sympathizers within the Swedish administration of the US government. Why would they refuse these interviews if their motives were simply wanting Assange for questioning?

The fourth misconception is too complex for a simple summary, so again, I urge those readers who can't be arsed to follow the link.

A neutral, honest and well-meaning media is absolutely vital to the health of a democracy. True democracy depends in a major part on the citizenry being informed of the truth, not lazy reporting or misleading information that could lead to people voting against their interests. In a direct democracy, any media outlet reporting false information or misleading by omission for whatever reason could be punished with prohibitive fines and/or other serious punitive measures because such reporting is a direct attack on the public's right to know the truth, an attack on democracy itself.

It is essential that the relentless propaganda of establishment media against any who step outside 'acceptable' (as defined by the establishment itself) boundaries of comment or behavior becomes a thing of the past. And the only people who can bring this to pass are the people themselves, via a grassroots movement towards true democracy, that of the people, by the people and for the people.

'The 99.99998271% - Why the Time is Right for Direct Democracy’ by Simon Wood is available for FREE download. In this 70-page book, the current state of human rights and democracy is discussed, and a simple method of implementing direct democracy is suggested.
Simon Wood on twitter (simonwood11) and Facebook or at his blog.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Drone Wars - The Insanity of the CIA

A truly revealing article in the Washington Post today told us that the CIA is seeking authority to expand its drone campaign in Yemen. It is worth highlighting some of the paragraphs from this report:

The CIA is seeking authority to expand its covert drone campaign in Yemen by launching strikes against terrorism suspects even when it does not know the identities of those who will be killed, U.S. officials said.

We are off to a great start here. As the world debates the sanity or lack thereof of Anders Breivik, we realize that we're focusing on the wrong entity. Is any further evidence required that the CIA needs to be reined in irrevocably?

Securing permission to use “signature strikes” would allow the agency to hit targets based solely on intelligence indicating patterns of suspicious behavior, such as imagery showing militants gathering at known al-Qaeda compounds or unloading explosives.

Indeed. Because 'terrorists' always follow the behavior patterns they learned in their terrorist textbooks. There is no chance whatsoever that any ordinary people or children could be killed by accident.

The practice has been a core element of the CIA’s drone program in Pakistan for several years. But Director David H. Petraeus has requested permission to employ the tactic against the al-Qaeda affiliate in Yemen, which has emerged as the most pressing terrorism threat to the United States, officials said.

Yes. It has worked so well in Pakistan that we need to expand on our success.

For President Obama, an endorsement of signature strikes would mean a significant, and potentially risky, policy shift. Until now, the administration has placed tight limits on drone operations in Yemen to avoid being drawn into an often murky regional conflict and risk turning militants with local agendas into potential al-Qaeda recruits.

As opposed to Pakistan, which is of course, completely different.

A senior Obama administration official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive internal deliberations, declined to discuss what he described as U.S. “tactics” in Yemen but said that “there is still a very firm emphasis on being surgical and targeting only those who have a direct interest in attacking the United States.”

If a high-up anonymous source says something is true, well...I don't know about you, but I'm convinced.

U.S. officials acknowledge that standard has not always been upheld. Last year, a U.S. drone strike inadvertently killed the American son of Anwar al-Awlaki, an al-Qaeda leader. The teenager had never been accused of terrorist activity and was killed in a strike aimed at other militants. Some U.S. officials have voiced concern that such incidents could become more frequent if the CIA is given the authority to use signature strikes.

Elementary, my dear Watson. Incidentally: Inadvertent (adjective, not comparable) - not intentional; not on purpose; not conscious. Imagine me scratching my chin.

“How discriminating can they be?” asked a senior U.S. official familiar with the proposal. Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen “is joined at the hip” with a local insurgency whose main objective is to oust the country’s government, the official said. “I think there is the potential that we would be perceived as taking sides in a civil war.”

Yes, and that would be terrible! Note how no mention is made by the official of the tragedy of innocents dying, just how it would look. That's the mindset of people who should not be anywhere near executive power right there.

Proponents of the plan said improvements in U.S. intelligence collection in Yemen have made it possible to expand the drone campaign — and use signature strikes — while minimizing the risk of civilian casualties. They also pointed to the CIA’s experience in Pakistan. U.S. officials said the agency killed more senior al-Qaeda operatives there with signature strikes than with those in which the agency had identified and located someone on its kill list.

If you shoot at every single 'suspicious' gathering you see, you are going to hit a few targets by chance. Is this the future of due process? Yes, it is...until we do something about it. See below.

In Pakistan, the CIA “killed most of their ‘list people’ when they didn’t know they were there,” said a former senior U.S. military official familiar with drone operations.

See above comment. It is striking, is it not, how casually extrajudicial assassination is spoken of, as if this is the way it has always been done.

The agency’s strategy in Pakistan was centered on mounting a drone campaign so relentless that it allowed no time between attacks for al-Qaeda operatives to regroup. The use of signature strikes came to be seen as critical to achieving that pace. The approach involved assembling threads of intelligence from multiple sources to develop telltale “signatures” of al-Qaeda activity based on operatives’ vehicles, facilities, communications equipment and patterns of behavior.

What could go wrong?

Sarcasm aside, this is wrong on multiple levels. If this operational authority is expanded into Yemen, it follows that it will eventually be expanded to any theater. If the United States does it, you can be certain that other nations will follow such a precedent. And ordinary people, men, women, kids and babies, are going to get killed. But they're just Arabs, right?? They're probably terrorists at heart! Quite a few Americans seem very much OK with their tax dollars going toward the killing of children, as long as they're secure in the knowledge that 'terrorists' are being wiped out.

From a democracy point of view, this is an utter disaster. Democracy implies freedom of choice, but where is the choice for the sane Americans who are against their government's policy of mass murder? Obama has drastically expanded the drone program while, until very recently, not even admitting its existence (until Evan from Brooklyn saved the day). What would Romney do? I think you know the answer. Ron Paul might run as a third candidate, but the media will ridicule his campaign down to a nub because nothing elicits establishment media scorn more than a candidate suggesting policies outside the traditional US orthodoxy of preemptive interventionalism and imperial militarism in general.

Under a functioning direct democracy, where children are taught at school to be active members of their communities and to value life and the rule of law; where the media is absolutely prohibited from lying, misleading or omitting vital information under the threat of devastating fines and other punitive measures; and where every single citizen has a voice, this murderous campaign would simply not be possible. The huge support for the drone program can be explained by the total ignorance of most US citizens of how their tax dollars are spent. If their media did its job and actually showed non-sanitized images of war, if people could actually see six-year-old kids dead as a result of their tacit support, does anyone honestly think that 83% would support the campaign? Ordinary Americans prove their kindness and generosity every time a disaster occurs around the world, and they dip into their wallets to donate. If they knew what was really going on here, how many would react with outrage and disgust?

My FREE book details a way of implementing direct democracy via an online grassroots movement. We desperately need to do something to remove the sociopaths who rule us, and trust me: this is the only way. For that, we need mass support from all right-minded people. Please read the text under the book cover on my home page for details of how you can help.

'The 99.99998271% - Why the Time is Right for Direct Democracy’ by Simon Wood is available for free download. In this 70-page book, the current state of human rights and democracy is discussed, and a simple method of implementing direct democracy is suggested.
Simon Wood on twitter (simonwood11) and Facebook or at his blog.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Farcical War on Terror

This site has a truly hypnotic trio of counters. Watch for a few seconds and envisage the tragedy conveyed. These two wars, both part of the so-called 'Global War on Terror', at first dominated US foreign policy in the post-9/11 era, although now the focus has been shifting also to Pakistan's Federally Administrated Tribal Areas, as well as Yemen and Somalia.

A June 2011 report by scholars with the non-partisan, non-profit Eisenhower Research Project at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies found even more startling statistics. In it they include costs for disability and health care for veterans, and also give figures for the total cost of the wars, including future interest payments, as it should be remembered that the wars have been financed almost completely by borrowing. I will not include the figures here as I want to ensure that all readers follow the hyperlink at the start of this paragraph. Hint: you should.

The Obama administration prefers another name for the War on Terror: Overseas Contingency Operations. This is because they understand it is a brand, just like Gucci or any other company, that has to be sold to the public via an unquestioning, pliant media. Sometimes brand names have to be changed in emergencies - just ask Blackwater, now known as Academi (such a scholarly name). 'Overseas Contingency Operations' is a benign-sounding name likely designed by some PR type in the CIA to make you feel safe in bed at night in the knowledge that your government is looking after you.

The base budget for US military spending on Overseas Contingency Operations for fiscal 2010 was $663.8 billion. The US military is deployed (all operations, not just the War on Terror) in more than 150 countries around the world, with, for example, almost 10,000 troops in the UK. Outside of combat zones, the largest presence can be found in Germany (around 54,000), Japan (around 39,000) and South Korea (around 28,500). According to the Washington Post, US Special Operations forces are deployed in 75 countries, an increase for the Nobel Peace Prize winner from 60 countries at the end of the Bush administration.

According to the New York Times, the Pentagon now has around 7,000 aerial drones, compared with less than fifty a decade ago, and has asked the US Congress for around $5 billion dollars to make more in 2012. CIA estimates in 2010 were of between 50 and 100 al-Qaeda fighters still in Afghanistan or Pakistan, making it 70 drone aircraft for each fighter at least. An estimated sixty drone bases are now operational around the globe, with no doubt more on the planning table.

All this...for a War on Terror. For all this spending, all this terrible cost in human lives and suffering, infrastructure, happiness, and resources...for all this we must surely be facing a truly fearsome enemy. Let's take a closer look.

According to Charles Kuzman, a professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina, as of September 2011 there had been 33 deaths in the US - THIRTY-THREE, count 'em - from extremist Muslim terrorism since 9/11. That's 3.3 people per year. He also says that a third of tips responsible for foiling low-level terrorist threats have come from within the Muslim-American community itself, rather putting to the sword the popular (and disgusting) perception, happily propagated by certain corporate media outlets, that Muslim Equals Terrorist(TM). As an aside, after shamelessly perpetrating this outrage, perhaps the NYPD should make themselves more aware of the fact that the overwhelming majority of American Muslims are law-abiding citizens.

I do not wish to minimize terrorism. Obviously, any terrorist attack is going to cause unimaginable levels of grief and suffering. However, throwing obscene amounts of money at a problem will not change anything unless the strategy is correct. If I want to cross the Pacific, do I spend billions on a huge platinum ship that looks good, or do I spend wisely and build a craft that does the job, nothing more, nothing less?

So are the US government and the CIA idiots? Surely they realize that all this spending is not working and will, in fact, create even more radicalization as young Muslim mothers and fathers lose their children (collateral damage) in drone attacks? The behavior of private US contractors also exacerbates the problem (see this truly astonishing video here to see what I mean).

No, they are not idiots; I am afraid they understand this all too well. The purpose of the War on Terror is not, in fact, to prevent terrorism. In fact, I would argue (as others have before) that its true purpose is to engender it, in order to provide a perpetual war scenario that ensures the endless existence of the military-industrial complex, while also providing justification for savage curtailing of domestic civil liberties.

All this for 33 deaths over 10 years. I have not included the deaths from the 9/11 attacks as that is an exceptional case in terms of the loss of life and also scale; the vast majority of terrorist attacks do not even come close. If the 9/11 death toll is included, however, the number is around 3,000. I have also not included the worldwide figures, as this blog concerns the justifications only for US spending, namely, the fact that the US government officially executes this War on Terror in order to Keep Americans Safe(TM). Yet even if we include all deaths worldwide from true acts of terrorism, the figures are still dwarfed by those of other preventable deaths.

Annually in the US, 17,000 people die due to drug abuse and 20,000 from sexually-transmitted diseases. That is in just one year. Note that these deaths are in many cases preventable.

A sane government that is interested in the welfare of its citizens and that has no interest in profit or preserving hegemony would focus on the demonstrably far more serious preventable deaths, not to mention helping ordinary people who are simply trying to survive in increasingly difficult times. Unfortunately, whichever of the main parties the US people vote for, sane is not on the ballot. My article on the corruption of US democracy goes into more detail.

If the trillions that are ultimately going to be spent on these murderous, pointless and heartbreaking wars had been spent on social needs, the world would be a far, far happier place. Thanks to the sociopaths who have brought us to this pass, we instead live in a world ruled by fear, poverty, misery and despair. We continue to 'go to the polls' and elect our leaders in 'free elections', but this is utter idiocy. Democracy as we know it is a sham, a front for the super rich and the corporations. They have already won and they're laughing their heads off every time millions line up to vote. A grassroots movement toward direct democracy, as detailed in my free book (see footnote below), is desperately needed for more reasons than even Rockefeller can count.

Note: This posting focuses on the US simply because it is the main force behind the War on Terror. I am well aware that the US is not the only villain, and I intend to single out other ones in future posts.

'The 99.99998271% - Why the Time is Right for Direct Democracy’ by Simon Wood is available for free download. In this 70-page book, the current state of human rights and democracy is discussed, and a simple method of implementing direct democracy is suggested.
Simon Wood on twitter (simonwood11) and Facebook or at his blog.


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Crushing Dissent - The Smearing of Wikileaks and Occupy

Close your eyes for a moment and imagine the worst possible future abuse by a government over its own citizens. The first thing likely to come to mind for many would be assassination of citizens without due process. Sadly, you will have to think a bit harder; in the US, which so often describes itself as the world's leading democracy and regularly criticizes the human rights records of other nations, the right to kill its own citizens before allowing them a chance to give their side of the story has already been reserved. Targets are placed on a 'kill list' by a secret panel working out of the White House, and their findings are brought to the President, who makes the final decision on whether a suspect will live or die. And not just the suspect, anyone else unfortunate enough to be standing close by when the drone strikes.

It is a fundamental tenet of law in any country that can call itself even remotely civilized that one is innocent until proven guilty, and that no matter how bad something looks on the surface, formal due process must be followed to get to the root of any alleged guilt. The alternative is chaos: lynch mobs and random punishment based on hearsay or unverified evidence. Terrifyingly, the World's Leading Democracy(TM) now countenances such lawlessness, setting a precedent that other nations are bound to follow, basing their judgments on 'secret evidence', while the citizenry are supposed to blindly trust the actions of the same government that has demonstrably lied and orchestrated cover-ups on multiple issues.

Imagine if citizens, sufficiently outraged, took to the streets and blogs to protest. Would it make any difference? Make no mistake: the powers behind the governments, namely the banks, the corporations, special interest/lobbying groups, and the super rich, are working toward ensuring that any protest in the future that threatens the status quo will be ineffective.

Some protests will succeed (to some degree), of course - the Trayvon Martin case being one such recent display of people power - but the elites will not be overly concerned about giving in on such issues of justice as they do not even slightly threaten their hold on real power; indeed, such concessions serve to reinforce the false view that ordinary people actually have the power to change society in any meaningful way under the current system.

In reality, any form of dissent which presents a potential threat will be crushed mercilessly. Citizen protest sadly has as much chance of changing things as an asthmatic squirrel has of scaling the north face of the Eiger on an antique tricycle...ahem. Recent examples include Julian Assange/Wikileaks and the Occupy movement. A closer look at how these two threats were dealt with yields details of the methodology used.

Instead of learning the truly astonishing abuses uncovered via Wikileaks, the public is told in multiple media outlets and by a glittering cast of political household names that the recklessness of Wikileaks in publishing secret information will cost innocent lives. Then the target of hate is given a face; and so a personality cult is created around Julian Assange. Almost every single article has the words 'rape allegations' tacked on the end, so the reader goes away subconsciously thinking Assange is a rapist, even though he has not been charged with any crime. Tell that to The Daily Mail, which was forced to run five corrections regarding false allegations they made in articles about Wikileaks and Assange. In my book, I argue for prohibitive fines for such misleading journalism - only in that way can newspapers be forced to stop deliberately deceiving the public.

David Leigh, the 'investigations' executive editor of The Guardian unnecessarily published the password of the file containing the US diplomatic cables in one of the most stupid acts of internet recklessness of all time in his book co-written with Luke Harding (not in any way written to cash in on the Wikileaks phenomenon) and then went on to shamelessly blame Wikileaks for recklessness. He also told journalism students at City University that Assange is a 'Frankenstein's monster' who 'didn't used to wash regularly' and was 'quite deranged'. Meanwhile, supporters of Assange are smeared in comments threads around the world by astroturfers and ordinary people who have been taken in by the propaganda as 'naive' and 'Assange worshippers'.

On a more ominous note, the recent Stratfor leaks prove that the US has issued a sealed indictment against Assange, ready for if/when he is extradited to Sweden. The expectation is that he will then be taken to the US, where his outlook would be bleak when we consider the abusive treatment of the alleged leaker of the US diplomatic cables, Bradley Manning. Assange can expect no sympathy from Barack Obama, who, when asked about Bradley Manning, said: "He broke the law." I am no lawyer, but even I can see that Obama, a graduate of Harvard Law School, has some basic misconceptions about assigning guilt to a man yet to stand trial.

This all-encompassing deluge of, erm...bullshit leaves the average reader of news, the vast majority who lack either the time or the inclination to read past the surface, with an overwhelmingly negative impression of Wikileaks and its founder. To them, Assange is simply an attention-seeker with dubious personal habits and hygiene. Without digging deeper, what else could the average punter possibly think? And the actual abuses revealed via Wikileaks are lost in the background noise and fail to stir popular outrage. This is a tragic failing of modern establishment media.

The Occupy movement has suffered a similar fate. After the initial wave of euphoria which swept the world when people heard someone was actually going out onto the streets to try to do something about the criminals in government and on Wall Street, the propaganda machine ground into action. Lacking a single leader, the movement was smeared throughout the corporate-owned media en masse as a bunch of hippies who smoke a lot of marijuana and don't wash. They were advised to 'get a job' and stop bothering ordinary hard-working people. The fact that the movement itself contains a huge number of ordinary hard-working people failed to reach the front pages. In a presidential election year, they are now nigh on ignored, and we are instead treated to a witless stream of endless gaffes and missteps of candidates and their campaign staff.

On top of the smear campaign, protesters are regularly subjected to police violence and intimidation despite protesting peacefully, and those arrested can also expect special treatment at the hands of the police.

Returning to our original question, how many people do you know (including yourself) would risk the citizen abuses above, knowing full well that any protest you make is almost certainly likely to fail or be ignored no matter how long you continue? Protesting takes time, energy, conviction and courage, things that many people do not possess as they have families, jobs and other obligations to protect, obligations which would be severely jeopardized in the event of injury or arrest.

Meaningful protest in the traditional sense is finished. The only remaining frontier for effective protest is the internet, and the elites are already working hard to ensure this also comes under their control, justifying such efforts by invoking the threats of online piracy and even terrorism. You can be certain that internet-savvy organizations like Wikileaks and Anonymous will be the subjects of massive FBI investigations to ensure their silencing. For this reason, these organizations deserve our support and, indeed, respect for the risks they are taking on behalf of a world public that is largely hostile to them thanks to the endless smearing in the media.

What is the answer? There is only one thing that the elites would not be able to prevent: a massive grassroots movement towards direct democracy, a perfectly viable (despite what people often believe) system of government that would greatly reduce or even eliminate the abuses of the elites. Switzerland, a strong and stable society, utilizes a form of direct democracy, proving that such a system is workable.

In order to excise this cancer, massive support of such a movement would be required from all popular progressives and other public figures in order to promote awareness. One possible way of implementing such a grassroots campaign is detailed in my book (see footnote below), which is free to download. If we do not act soon, even the freedom of the internet will be severely curtailed and the chance will be lost. For those of us who do not want a future of pervasive surveillance of every aspect of our lives and ever-worsening abuses by those in power, it really is that critical. In a media environment suffering a surplus of superlatives, that cannot be stressed enough.

'The 99.99998271% - Why the Time is Right for Direct Democracy’ by Simon Wood is available for free download. In this 70-page book, the current state of human rights and democracy is discussed, and a simple method of implementing direct democracy is suggested.
Simon Wood on twitter (simonwood11) and Facebook or at his blog.