Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Calling Michael Hastings(!)  (Car Hacking News Not Interesting to Media Mavens?)  Bullies Unite! (Come to USA Haven) Bullies Rock - Just Ask Them  (Don't Believe the PC - They're Self-Satisfied Little Pricks)

Yet, with only a few exceptions, the media has shown little interest in probing deeper into  what may have been a spectacular and fatal car hacking on the streets of Los Angeles.

Apparently, neither "Wired," nor the "Los Angeles Times," nor CNN, nor the "New York Times," nor virtually any other major journalistic enterprise, no matter how “cool” or “edgy,” can bring itself to investigate the possibility that a car hacking might have been used to silence a journalist famous for digging into the secrets of powerful people and institutions.

Not even the “ballsy” "Buzzfeed," which gets admiring coverage in other media for its much-hyped expansion into “serious” journalism, saw fit to publish a serious investigation into the death of its own correspondent.

Instead, the media rushed to dig up  negative scuttlebutt about Hastings — of the sort that can be dredged up about many people — to paint a picture of a reckless man who would and could cause his own death, no less in this unlikely and spectacular scenario.

The pressure not to break from the consensus “accident or lone nut” scenario on potential “security state” killings has always been intense, as the Kennedy clan knows only too well.
In its November 10, 2013 issue, New York Magazine went out of its way to ridicule those who question the official cause of Hastings’s death:  “On Twitter and Reddit and in the febrile swamps of websites like InfoWars and Prison Planet, there was heated squabbling about ‘the official narrative’ and false-flag operations and staged accident scenes.” (This is how they wrote about skeptics of the government-approved version of the Kennedy assassination. Their formula seems to be:  hardsell the official story, ignore evidence that undermines it, and display contempt toward those who question it. They should be, at the very least, agnostic).
CNN even got Hastings’s widow to go on television for an interview in which she disavowed any  “conspiracy” theories. Before the investigation in her husband’s death was completed, Mrs. Hastings, who once worked for Condoleezza Rice at George W. Bush’s National Security Council, revealed that her gut told her it was just a “tragic accident.”
. . . Now that "Wired" has proven, and Chrysler has admitted, that the ability to hack a car isn’t just a wild speculation, it’s time for the media to put some investigative muscle into unpacking the truth behind the surely tragic but not necessarily accidental death of Michael Hastings.

Yes, there's new information about Michael Hastings' car crash that should interest any true news organization.

You won't be hearing about it, however, from any major ones in the USA USA USA!

WhoWhatWhy has the lowdown.
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Sometimes it seems like bullying, which is today's catchphrase for bad behavior among peers (incivility to nice people), perfectly describes the new world's winners.

After all, how would you best describe the neolib-cons who run amuck in governments today?

They aren't really cowards, as some would define them, as they have absolutely no moral doubts and are quite fearless (fearsome?) when it comes to making the decision to murder innocents. But they are hardly courageous.

The Bully’s Pulpit

On the elementary structure of domination
David Graeber

In late February and early March 1991, during the first Gulf War, U.S. forces bombed, shelled, and otherwise set fire to thousands of young Iraqi men who were trying to flee Kuwait. There were a series of such incidents — the “Highway of Death,” “Highway 8,” the “Battle of Rumaila” — in which U.S. air power cut off columns of retreating Iraqis and engaged in what the military refers to as a “turkey shoot,” where trapped soldiers are simply slaughtered in their vehicles. Images of charred bodies trying desperately to crawl from their trucks became iconic symbols of the war.

I have never understood why this mass slaughter of Iraqi men isn’t considered a war crime. It’s clear that, at the time, the U.S. command feared it might be. President George H.W. Bush quickly announced a temporary cessation of hostilities, and the military has deployed enormous efforts since then to minimize the casualty count, obscure the circumstances, defame the victims (“a bunch of rapists, murderers, and thugs,” General Norman Schwarzkopf later insisted), and prevent the most graphic images from appearing on U.S. television. It’s rumored that there are videos from cameras mounted on helicopter gunships of panicked Iraqis, which will never be released.

It makes sense that the elites were worried. These were, after all, mostly young men who’d been drafted and who, when thrown into combat, made precisely the decision one would wish all young men in such a situation would make:  saying to hell with this, packing up their things, and going home. For this, they should be burned alive?

When ISIS burned a Jordanian pilot alive last winter, it was universally denounced as unspeakably barbaric — which it was, of course. Still, ISIS at least could point out that the pilot had been dropping bombs on them. The retreating Iraqis on the “Highway of Death” and other main drags of American carnage were just kids who didn’t want to fight.

But maybe it was this very refusal that’s prevented the Iraqi soldiers from garnering more sympathy, not only in elite circles, where you wouldn’t expect much, but also in the court of public opinion. On some level, let’s face it:  these men were cowards. They got what they deserved.

There seems, indeed, a decided lack of sympathy for noncombatant men in war zones. Even reports by international human rights organizations speak of massacres as being directed almost exclusively against women, children, and, perhaps, the elderly.

The implication, almost never stated outright, is that adult males are either combatants or have something wrong with them. (“You mean to say there were people out there slaughtering women and children and you weren’t out there defending them? What are you? Chicken?”)

Those who carry out massacres have been known to cynically manipulate this tacit conscription:  most famously, the Bosnian Serb commanders who calculated they could avoid charges of genocide if, instead of exterminating the entire population of conquered towns and villages, they merely exterminated all males between ages fifteen and fifty-five.

But there is something more at work in circumscribing our empathy for the fleeing Iraqi massacre victims. U.S. news consumers were bombarded with accusations that they were actually a bunch of criminals who’d been personally raping and pillaging and tossing newborn babies out of incubators (unlike that Jordanian pilot, who’d merely been dropping bombs on cities full of women and children from a safe, or so he thought, altitude).

We are all taught that bullies are really cowards, so we easily accept that the reverse must naturally be true as well. For most of us, the primordial experience of bullying and being bullied lurks in the background whenever crimes and atrocities are discussed. It shapes our sensibilities and our capacities for empathy in deep and pernicious ways.

Cowardice Is a Cause Too

Most people dislike wars and feel the world would be a better place without them. Yet contempt for cowardice seems to move them on a far deeper level. After all, desertion — the tendency of conscripts called up for their first experience of military glory to duck out of the line of march and hide in the nearest forest, gulch, or empty farmhouse and then, when the column has safely passed, figure out a way to return home — is probably the greatest threat to wars of conquest.

Napoleon’s armies, for instance, lost far more troops to desertion than to combat. Conscript armies often have to deploy a significant percentage of their conscripts behind the lines with orders to shoot any of their fellow conscripts who try to run away. Yet even those who claim to hate war often feel uncomfortable celebrating desertion.

About the only real exception I know of is Germany, which has erected a series of monuments labeled “To the Unknown Deserter.” The first and most famous, in Potsdam, is inscribed:  “TO A MAN WHO REFUSED TO KILL HIS FELLOW MAN.” Yet even here, when I tell friends about this monument, I often encounter a sort of instinctive wince. “I guess what people will ask is:  Did they really desert because they didn’t want to kill others, or because they didn’t want to die themselves?” As if there’s something wrong with that.

In militaristic societies like the United States, it is almost axiomatic that our enemies must be cowards — especially if the enemy can be labeled a “terrorist” (i.e., someone accused of wishing to create fear in us, to turn us, of all people, into cowards). It is then necessary to ritually turn matters around and insist that no, it is they who are actually fearful. All attacks on U.S. citizens are by definition “cowardly attacks.” 

The second George Bush was referring to the 9/11 attacks as “cowardly acts” the very next morning. On the face of it, this is odd. After all, there’s no lack of bad things one can find to say about Mohammed Atta and his confederates — take your pick, really — but surely “coward” isn’t one of them.

Blowing up a wedding party using an unmanned drone might be considered an act of cowardice. Personally flying an airplane into a skyscraper takes guts. Nevertheless, the idea that one can be courageous in a bad cause seems to somehow fall outside the domain of acceptable public discourse, despite the fact that much of what passes for world history consists of endless accounts of courageous people doing awful things.

. . . The question we should be asking is not why people are sometimes cruel, or even why a few people are usually cruel (all evidence suggests true sadists are an extremely small proportion of the population overall), but how we have come to create institutions that encourage such behavior and that suggest cruel people are in some ways admirable  - or at least as deserving of sympathy as those they push around.

Elementary (School) Structures of Domination

I am speaking, of course, about schoolyard bullying. Bullying, I propose, represents a kind of elementary structure of human domination. If we want to understand how everything goes wrong, this is where we should begin.

In this case too, provisos must be introduced. It would be very easy to slip back into crude evolutionary arguments. There is a tradition of thought — the Lord of the Flies tradition, we might call it — that interprets schoolyard bullies as a modern incarnation of the ancestral “killer ape,” the primordial alpha male who instantly restores the law of the jungle once no longer restrained by rational adult male authority.

But this is clearly false. In fact, books like Lord of the Flies are better read as meditations on the kind of calculated techniques of terror and intimidation that British public schools employed to shape upper-class children into officials capable of running an empire.

These techniques did not emerge in the absence of authority; they were techniques designed to create a certain sort of cold-blooded, calculating adult male authority to begin with.

Today, most schools are not like the Eton and Harrow of William Golding’s day, but even at those that boast of their elaborate anti-bullying programs, schoolyard bullying happens in a way that’s in no sense at odds with or in spite of the school’s institutional authority. Bullying is more like a refraction of its authority. To begin with an obvious point:   children in school can’t leave. Normally, a child’s first instinct upon being tormented or humiliated by someone much larger is to go someplace else.

Schoolchildren, however, don’t have that option. If they try persistently to flee to safety, the authorities will bring them back. This is one reason, I suspect, for the stereotype of the bully as teacher’s pet or hall monitor:  even when it’s not true, it draws on the tacit knowledge that the bully does depend on the authority of the institution in at least that one way — the school is, effectively, holding the victims in place while their tormentors hit them. This dependency on authority is also why the most extreme and elaborate forms of bullying take place in prisons, where dominant inmates and prison guards fall into alliances.

Even more, bullies are usually aware that the system is likely to punish any victim who strikes back more harshly. Just as a woman, confronted by an abusive man who may well be twice her size, cannot afford to engage in a “fair fight,” but must seize the opportune moment to inflict as much as damage as possible on the man who’s been abusing her — since she cannot leave him in a position to retaliate — so too must the schoolyard bullying victim respond with disproportionate force, not to disable the opponent, in this case, but to deliver a blow so decisive that it makes the antagonist hesitate to engage again.

. . . “It doesn’t matter who started it” are probably six of most insidious words in the English language. Of course it matters.

. . . It’s also possible that audiences of grade schoolers react passively to bullying because they have caught on to how adult authority operates and mistakenly assume the same logic applies to interactions with their peers. If it is, say, a police officer who is pushing around some hapless adult, then yes, it is absolutely true that intervening is likely to land you in serious trouble — quite possibly, at the wrong end of a club.

And we all know what happens to “whistleblowers.” (Remember Secretary of State John Kerry calling on Edward Snowden to “man up” and submit himself to a lifetime of sadistic bullying at the hands of the U.S. criminal justice system? What is an innocent child supposed to make of this?) The fates of the Mannings or Snowdens of the world are high-profile advertisements for a cardinal principle of American culture:  while abusing authority may be bad, openly pointing out that someone is abusing authority is much worse — and merits the severest punishment.

A second surprising finding from recent research:   bullies do not, in fact, suffer from low self-esteem. Psychologists had long assumed that mean kids were taking out their insecurities on others. No. It turns out that most bullies act like self-satisfied little pricks not because they are tortured by self-doubt, but because they actually are self-satisfied little pricks. Indeed, such is their self-assurance that they create a moral universe in which their swagger and violence becomes the standard by which all others are to be judged; weakness, clumsiness, absentmindedness, or self-righteous whining are not just sins, but provocations that would be wrong to leave unaddressed.

Read the entire essay at The Baffler.

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