Free Speech

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John Pilger: Silencing the Lambs. How Propaganda Works

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 09/09/2022 - 1:58am in

In the 1970s, I met one of Hitler’s leading propagandists, Leni Riefenstahl, whose epic films glorified the Nazis. We happened to be staying at the same lodge in Kenya, where she was on a photography assignment, having escaped the fate of other friends of the Fuhrer.

She told me that the ‘patriotic messages’ of her films were dependent not on ‘orders from above’ but on what she called the ‘submissive void’ of the German public.

Did that include the liberal, educated bourgeoisie? I asked.  ‘Yes, especially them,’ she said.

I think of this as I look around at the propaganda now consuming Western societies.

Of course, we are very different from Germany in the 1930s. We live in information societies. We are globalists. We have never been more aware, more in touch, better connected.

Are we? Or do we live in a Media Society where brainwashing is insidious and relentless, and perception is filtered according to the needs and lies of state and corporate power?

The United States dominates the Western world’s media. All but one of the top ten media companies are based in North America. The internet and social media – Google, Twitter, Facebook – are mostly American owned and controlled.

In my lifetime, the United States has overthrown or attempted to overthrow more than 50 governments, mostly democracies. It has interfered in democratic elections in 30 countries. It has dropped bombs on the people of 30 countries, most of them poor and defenceless. It has attempted to murder the leaders of 50 countries.  It has fought to suppress liberation movements in 20 countries.

The extent and scale of this carnage is largely unreported, unrecognized; and those responsible continue to dominate Anglo-American political life.

In the years before he died in 2008, the playwright Harold Pinter made two extraordinary speeches, which broke a silence.

‘US foreign policy,’ he said, is ‘best defined as follows: kiss my arse or I’ll kick your head in. It is as simple and as crude as that. What is interesting about it is that it’s so incredibly successful. It possesses the structures of disinformation, use of rhetoric, distortion of language, which are very persuasive, but are actually a pack of lies. It is very successful propaganda. They have the money, they have the technology, they have all the means to get away with it, and they do.”

In accepting the Nobel Prize for Literature, Pinter said this:

The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It’s a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.”

Pinter was a friend of mine and possibly the last great political sage – that is, before dissenting politics were gentrified. I asked him if the ‘hypnosis’ he referred to was the ‘submissive void’ described by Leni Riefenstahl.

‘It’s the same,’ he replied. ‘It means the brainwashing is so thorough we are programmed to swallow a pack of lies. If we don’t recognise propaganda, we may accept it as normal and believe it. That’s the submissive void.’

In our systems of corporate democracy, war is an economic necessity, the perfect marriage of public subsidy and private profit: socialism for the rich, capitalism for the poor. The day after 9/11 the stock prices of the war industry soared. More bloodshed was coming, which is great for business.

Today, the most profitable wars have their own brand. They are called ‘forever wars’: Afghanistan, Palestine, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and now Ukraine. All are based on a pack of lies.

Iraq is the most infamous, with its weapons of mass destruction that didn’t exist. Nato’s destruction of Libya in 2011 was justified by a massacre in Benghazi that didn’t happen. Afghanistan was a convenient revenge war for 9/11, which had nothing to do with the people of Afghanistan.

Today, the news from Afghanistan is how evil the Taliban are – not that Joe Biden’s theft of $7billion of the country’s bank reserves is causing widespread suffering. Recently, National Public Radio in Washington devoted two hours to Afghanistan – and 30 seconds to its starving people.

At its summit in Madrid in June, Nato, which is controlled by the United States, adopted a strategy document that militarises the European continent, and escalates the prospect of war with Russia and China. It proposes ‘multi domain warfighting against nuclear-armed peer-competitor. In other words, nuclear war.

It says: ‘Nato’s enlargement has been an historic success’.

I read that in disbelief.

A measure of this ‘historic success’ is the war in Ukraine, news of which is mostly not news, but a one-sided litany of jingoism, distortion, omission.  I have reported a number of wars and have never known such blanket propaganda.

In February, Russia invaded Ukraine as a response to almost eight years of killing and criminal destruction in the Russian-speaking region of Donbass on their border.

In 2014, the United States had sponsored a coup in Kyiv that got rid of Ukraine’s democratically elected, Russian-friendly president and installed a successor whom the Americans made clear was their man.

In recent years, American ‘defender’ missiles have been installed in eastern Europe, Poland, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, almost certainly aimed at Russia, accompanied by false assurances all the way back to James Baker’s ‘promise’ to Gorbachev in February 1990 that Nato would never expand beyond Germany.

Ukraine is the frontline. Nato has effectively reached the very borderland through which Hitler’s army stormed in 1941, leaving more than 23 million dead in the Soviet Union.

Last December, Russia proposed a far-reaching security plan for Europe. This was dismissed, derided or suppressed in the Western media. Who read its step-by-step proposals? On 24 February, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy threatened to develop nuclear weapons unless America armed and protected Ukraine.  This was the final straw.

On the same day, Russia invaded – according to the Western media, an unprovoked act of congenital infamy. The history, the lies, the peace proposals, the solemn agreements on Donbass at Minsk counted for nothing.

On 25 April, the US Defence Secretary, General Lloyd Austin, flew into Kyiv and confirmed that America’s aim was to destroy the Russian Federation – the word he used was ‘weaken’. America had got the war it wanted, waged by an American bankrolled and armed proxy and expendable pawn.

Almost none of this was explained to Western audiences.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is wanton and inexcusable. It is a crime to invade a sovereign country. There are no ‘buts’ – except one.

When did the present war in Ukraine begin and who started it? According to the United Nations, between 2014 and this year, some 14,000 people have been killed in the Kyiv regime’s civil war on the Donbass. Many of the attacks were carried out by neo-Nazis.

Watch an ITV news report from May 2014, by the veteran reporter James Mates, who is shelled, along with civilians in the city of Mariupol, by Ukraine’s Azov (neo-Nazi) battalion.

In the same month, dozens of Russian-speaking people were burned alive or suffocated in a trade union building in Odessa besieged by fascist thugs, the followers of the Nazi collaborator and anti-Semitic fanatic Stephen Bandera.  The New York Times called the thugs ‘nationalists’.

‘The historic mission of our nation in this critical moment,’ said Andreiy Biletsky, founder of the Azov Battaltion, ‘is to lead the White Races of the world in a final crusade for their survival, a crusade against the Semite-led Untermenschen.’

Since February, a campaign of self-appointed ‘news monitors’ (mostly funded by the Americans and British with links to governments) have sought to maintain the absurdity that Ukraine’s neo-Nazis don’t exist.

Airbrushing, a term once associated with Stalin’s purges, has become a tool of mainstream journalism.

In less than a decade, a ‘good’ China has been airbrushed and a ‘bad’ China has replaced it: from the world’s workshop to a budding new Satan.

Much of this propaganda originates in the US, and is transmitted through proxies and ‘think-tanks’, such as the notorious Australian Strategic Policy Institute, the voice of the arms industry, and by zealous journalists such as Peter Hartcher of the Sydney Morning Herald, who labeled those spreading Chinese influence as ‘rats, flies, mosquitoes and sparrows’ and called for these ‘pests’ to be ‘eradicated’.

News about China in the West is almost entirely about the threat from Beijing. Airbrushed are the 400 American military bases that surround most of China, an armed necklace that reaches from Australia to the Pacific and south east Asia, Japan and Korea. The Japanese island of Okinawa and the Korean island of Jeju are loaded guns aimed point blank at the industrial heart of China. A Pentagon official described this as a ‘noose’.

Palestine has been misreported for as long as I can remember. To the BBC, there is the ‘conflict’ of ‘two narratives’. The longest, most brutal, lawless military occupation in modern times is unmentionable.

The stricken people of Yemen barely exist. They are media unpeople.  While the Saudis rain down their American cluster bombs with British advisors working alongside the Saudi targeting officers, more than half a million children face starvation.

This brainwashing by omission has a long history. The slaughter of the First World War was suppressed by reporters who were knighted for their compliance and confessed in their memoirs.  In 1917, the editor of the Manchester Guardian, C.P. Scott, confided to prime minister Lloyd George: ‘If people really knew [the truth], the war would be stopped tomorrow, but they don’t know and can’t know.’

The refusal to see people and events as those in other countries see them is a media virus in the West, as debilitating as Covid.  It is as if we see the world through a one-way mirror, in which ‘we’ are moral and benign and ‘they’ are not. It is a profoundly imperial view.

The history that is a living presence in China and Russia is rarely explained and rarely understood. Vladimir Putin is Adolf Hitler. Xi Jinping is Fu Man Chu. Epic achievements, such as the eradication of abject poverty in China, are barely known. How perverse and squalid this is.

When will we allow ourselves to understand? Training journalists factory style is not the answer. Neither is the wondrous digital tool, which is a means, not an end, like the one-finger typewriter and the linotype machine.

In recent years, some of the best journalists have been eased out of the mainstream. ‘Defenestrated’ is the word used. The spaces once open to mavericks, to journalists who went against the grain, truth-tellers, have closed.

The case of Julian Assange is the most shocking.  When Julian and WikiLeaks could win readers and prizes for the Guardian, the New York Times and other self-important ‘papers of record’, he was celebrated.

When the dark state objected and demanded the destruction of hard drives and the assassination of Julian’s character, he was made a public enemy. Vice President Biden called him a ‘hi-tech terrorist’. Hillary Clinton asked, ‘Can’t we just drone this guy?’

The ensuing campaign of abuse and vilification against Julian Assange – the UN Rapporteur on Torture called it ‘mobbing’ — brought the liberal press to its lowest ebb. We know who they are. I think of them as collaborators: as Vichy journalists.

When will real journalists stand up? An inspirational samizdat  already exists on the internet: Consortium News, founded by the great reporter Robert Parry, Max Blumenthal’s  Grayzone, MintPress News, Media Lens, Declassified UK, Alborada, Electronic Intifada, WSWS, ZNet, ICH, Counter Punch, Independent Australia, the work of Chris Hedges, Patrick Lawrence, Jonathan Cook, Diana Johnstone, Caitlin Johnstone and others who will forgive me for not mentioning them here.

And when will writers stand up, as they did against the rise of fascism in the 1930s? When will film-makers stand up, as they did against the Cold War in the 1940s? When will satirists stand up, as they did a generation ago?

Having soaked for 82 years in a deep bath of righteousness that is the official version of the last world war, isn’t it time those who are meant to keep the record straight declared their independence and decoded the propaganda? The urgency is greater than ever.

Feature photo | Illustration by MintPress News

John Pilger has twice won Britain’s highest award for journalism and has been International Reporter of the Year, News Reporter of the Year and Descriptive Writer of the Year. He has made 61 documentary films and has won an Emmy, a BAFTA the Royal Television Society prize and the Sydney Peace Prize. His ‘Cambodia Year Zero’ is named as one of the ten most important films of the 20th century. This article is an edited version of an address to the Trondheim World Festival, Norway. He can be contacted at www.johnpilger.com

The post John Pilger: Silencing the Lambs. How Propaganda Works appeared first on MintPress News.

Those Angry at Rushdie’s Stabbing Have Been Missing In Action Over a Far Bigger Threat to our Freedom

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 17/08/2022 - 3:10am in

Nothing I am about to write should be read as diminishing in any way my sympathy for Salman Rushdie, or my outrage at the appalling attack on him. Those who more than 30 years ago put a fatwa on his head after he wrote the novel, “The Satanic Verses,” made this assault possible. They deserve contempt. I wish him a speedy recovery.

But my natural compassion for a victim of violence and my regularly expressed support for free speech should not at the same time blind me or you to the cant and hypocrisy generated by his stabbing on Friday, just as he was about to give a talk in a town in Western New York.

British prime minister Boris Johnson said he was “appalled that Sir Salman Rushdie has been stabbed while exercising a right we should never cease to defend.” His Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, one of the last two contenders for Johnson’s crown, concurred, describing the novelist as “a champion of free speech and artistic freedom”.

Across the Atlantic, President Joe Biden stressed Rushdie’s qualities: “Truth. Courage. Resilience. The ability to share ideas without fear… We reaffirm our commitment to those deeply American values in solidarity with Rushdie and all those who stand for freedom of expression.”

The truth is that the vast majority of those claiming this as an attack not only on a prominent writer but on Western society and its freedoms, have been missing in action for the past several years as the biggest threat to those freedoms unfolded. Or, in the case of Western government leaders, they have actively conspired in the undermining of those freedoms.

Prominent figures and organizations now expressing their solidarity with Rushdie have kept their heads down, or spoken in hushed tones against – or, worse still, become cheerleaders for – this much more serious assault: on our right to know what mass crimes have been committed against others in our name.

Rushdie has won trenchant support from Western liberals and conservatives alike, not for being a brave articulator of difficult truths, but because of who his enemies are.

 

Holding up a mirror

If that sounds uncharitable or nonsensical, consider this. Julian Assange has spent more than three years in solitary confinement in a high-security prison in London (and before that, seven years confined to a small room in Ecuador’s embassy), in conditions Nils Melzer, the former United Nation’s expert on torture, has described as extreme psychological torture.

Melzer and many others fear for Assange’s life if British and U.S. authorities succeed in dragging out much longer the Wikileaks founder’s detention on what amounts to purely political charges. Assange has already suffered a stroke – as Melzer notes, one of the many potential physical reactions suffered by those enduring prolonged confinement.

And all of this is happening to him, remember, for one reason alone: because he published documents proving that, under cover of a bogus humanitarianism, Western governments were committing crimes against peoples in distant lands. Assange faces charges under the draconian Espionage Act only because he made public the gruesome truth about Western military actions in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.

Yes, there are differences between Rushdie and Assange’s respective cases, but those differences should elicit more concern for Assange’s plight than Rushdie’s. In practice, the exact opposite has happened.

Rushdie’s right to free speech has been championed because he exercised it to imagine an alternative formative history of Islam and implicitly question the authority of clerics and governments in far-off lands.

Assange’s right to free speech has been ridiculed, ignored or at best supported weakly and equivocally because he exercised it to hold up a mirror to the West, showing exactly what our governments are doing, in secret, in many of those same far-off lands.

Rushdie’s right to life was threatened by distant clerics and governments for questioning the moral basis of their power. Assange’s right to life is threatened by Western governments because he questioned the moral basis of their power.

 

Worthy victims

If we lived in functioning democratic societies in the West – ones where power is not so deeply entrenched we are largely blind to its exercise – no journalist, no media commentator, no writer, no politician would fail to understand that Assange’s plight deserves far more attention and expressions of concern than Rushdie’s.

It is our own governments, not “mad mullahs” in Iran, who threaten the free society that permitted Rushdie to publish his novel. If Assange is crushed, so is the basis of our fundamental democratic rights: to know what is being done in our name and to hold our leaders to account.

If Rushdie is silenced, we will still have those freedoms, even if, as individuals, we will feel a little more nervous about saying anything that might be construed as an insult to the Prophet Mohammed.

So why are the vast majority of us so much more invested in Rushdie’s fate than Assange’s? Simply because our sympathy has been elicited for one of them and not the other.

Ultimately, that has nothing to do with whether one or the other is more worthy, more of a victim. It has to do with how much they have, or have not, served the interests of a Western narrative that constantly reinforces the idea that we are the Good Guys and they are the Bad Guys.

Rushdie and the fatwa against him became a cause célèbre for Western elites because he offered a literary sensibility to one of the West’s most cherished modern pieties: that Islam poses an existential threat to the values of an enlightened West. Here was a man, born to a Muslim family in India, attacking the religion he supposedly knew best. He was an insider spilling the beans, stating what other Muslims were supposedly too cowed to admit in public.

Though it was doubtless not his intention or his fault, he was quickly adopted as a literary mascot by Western liberals who were pushing their own “clash of civilizations” thesis. That is not a judgment on the merits of his novel – I am not equipped to make that assessment – but a judgment on the motivations of so many of his champions and on why his work resonates so strongly with them.

 

Racist worldview

In a real sense, that is true of all literature. It earns its status within a cultural milieu, one policed by media elites with their own agendas. It is they who decide whether a manuscript is published or discarded, whether the subsequent book is reviewed or ignored, whether it is celebrated or ridiculed, whether it is promoted or falls into obscurity.

We tell ourselves, or we are told, that this process of weeding out is decided strictly on the basis of merit. But if we pause to think, the reality is that a work finds an audience only if it stays within a socially constructed consensus that gives it meaning or if it challenges that consensus at a time when the consensus is overdue being challenged.

George Orwell is a good example of how this works. He prospered – or at least his reputation did – from the fact that he questioned certainties about the “natural order” that had long been enforced by Western elites but had become hard to sustain after two world wars in quick succession. At the same time, he exposed the dangers of an authoritarianism that could be easily ascribed to the West’s main adversary, the Soviet Union.

Orwell’s body of work contains ideas that speak to universal values. But that is only part of the reason it has endured. It also benefited from the fact that the ambiguity inherent in those universal lessons could be recruited to a much narrower agenda by Western elites, readying for a Cold War that was about to become the tragic legacy of those two preceding hot wars.

Much the same is true of Rushdie. His novel served two functions: First, its main theme chimed with Western elites because it reassured them that their prejudice against the Muslim world was fully justified – not least because the novel provoked a violent backlash that appeared to confirm those prejudices.

And second, “The Satanic Verses” indemnified Western elites against the accusation of racism. Rushdie inadvertently provided the alibi they so desperately needed to promote their racist worldview of a civilized West opposed by a barbaric, insecure East. It served as midwife to the rantings of Islamophobic tracts like Melanie Phillips’ “Londonistan” and Nick Cohen’s “What’s Left?”.

 

Literary sedition

For the past two decades, we have been living with the appalling consequences of the West’s smug condescension, its wild posturings, its violent humanitarianism – all masking a thirst for the Middle East’s most precious resource: oil.

The result has been the wrecking of whole countries; the ending of more than a million lives, with millions more made homeless; a backlash that has unleashed even more terrifying forms of Islamist extremism; a deepening self-righteousness among Western elites that has ushered in an all-out assault on democratic controls; an entrenchment of the power of the war industries and their lobbies; and a relentless undermining of international institutions and international law.

And all this has served as an endless excuse to delay addressing the real issue plaguing humanity: the imminent extinction of our species, caused by our addiction to the very resource that got us into this mess in the first place.

Sadly, the attack on Rushdie, and the ensuing indignation, will only intensify the trends noted above. None of that is Rushdie’s fault, of course. His desire to question the authority of the clerical bullies he grew up among is an entirely separate matter from the purposes to which Western elites have harnessed his personal act of literary sedition. He is not responsible for the fact that his work has been used to underpin and weaponize a larger, flawed Western narrative.

Nonetheless, Friday’s violent assault will once again be used to shore up a fearmongering narrative that empowers politicians, sells newspapers, and, if we can still see the bigger picture, rationalizes the West’s dehumanization of more than a billion people, its continuing sanctions against many of them, and the advancement of wars that fabulously enrich a tiny section of Western societies that continue to evade major scrutiny.

 

Hollow joke

Those elites have evaded scrutiny precisely because they are so successful at vilifying and eliminating anyone who seeks to hold them to account. Like Julian Assange.

If you think Assange brought trouble upon himself, unlike Rushdie, who is simply a hapless victim caught in the crossfire of a menacing “clash of civilizations”, it is because you have been trained – through your consumption of establishment media – into making that entirely unfounded distinction. And those training you through their dominant narratives are not a disinterested party, but the very actors who have most to lose should you arrive at a different conclusion.

In Assange’s case, there has been an endless stream of lies and misdirections that I and many others have been trying to highlight on our marginal platforms before we are algorithmed into oblivion by Google and Facebook, the richest corporations on the planet.

As Melzer pointed out at length in his recent book, the Swedish authorities knew from the outset that Assange had no case to answer on sex allegations they had no intention of ever investigating. But they made a pretence of pursuing him anyway (and left the threat of onward extradition to the U.S. hanging over his head) to make sure he lost public sympathy and looked like a fugitive from justice.

Anyone who writes about Assange knows only too well the army of social media users adamant that Assange was charged with rape, or that he refused to be interviewed by Swedish prosecutors, or that he skipped bail, or that he colluded with Trump, or that he recklessly published classified documents unedited, or that he endangered the lives of informers and agents.

None of that is true – nor, more significantly, is it relevant to the case the U.S., aided by the U.K. government, is advancing against Assange through the British courts to lock him up for the rest of his life.

For Assange, the West’s much vaunted principle of free speech is nothing more than a hollow joke, a doctrine weaponized against him – paradoxically, to destroy him and the free speech values he champions, including transparency and accountability from our leaders.

There is a reason why our energies are so heavily invested in worrying about a supposed menace from Islam rather than the menace on our doorstep, from our rulers; why Rushdie makes headlines, while Assange is forgotten; why Assange deserves his punishment, and Rushdie does not.

That reason has nothing to do with protecting free speech, and everything to do with protecting the power of unaccountable elites who fear free speech.

Protest the stabbing of Salman Rushdie by all means. But don’t forget to protest even more loudly the silencing and disappearing of Julian Assange.

Feature photo | Graphic by MintPress News

Jonathan Cook is a MintPress contributor. Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are 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 www.jonathan-cook.net.

The post Those Angry at Rushdie’s Stabbing Have Been Missing In Action Over a Far Bigger Threat to our Freedom appeared first on MintPress News.

Intergroup Dialogue in the Philosophy Classroom (guest post)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 12/07/2022 - 6:30pm in

“Over 70% of our students… reported being more likely than before to listen to someone who held an opposing viewpoint…”

The following is a guest post* by Wes Siscoe (University of Cologne, University of Graz) and Zachary T. Odermatt (Florida State University. It is part of the series of weekly guest posts by different authors at Daily Nous this summer.

Intergroup Dialogue in the Philosophy Classroom: Helping Students to Have Productive Conversations about Race and Gender
by Wes Siscoe and Zachary T. Odermatt

If you’re reading this blog, we don’t need to tell you that there are a number of challenges to allowing undergraduates to have a class-wide, free-for-all conversation about the philosophy of race or the philosophy of gender. Nevertheless, ongoing dialogue is an important part of doing philosophy, making it a priority to teach students how to discuss even the most challenging of topics. In order to help students build the necessary skills to have constructive conversations about race and gender, we used an Innovation in Teaching Grant from the AAPT to create a course centered around weekly dialogue groups. In this post, we will describe the structure and format of our dialogue groups, explain how they were able to overcome some obvious challenges, and provide you with the resources to create dialogue groups in your classes.

Students have a number of fears when discussing controversial issues like race and gender. Many of our students were concerned that they would accidentally say something racist or sexist, while others worried that they would be the targets of racism or sexism. One promising method for confronting these fears is intergroup dialogue—sustained, small group discussions with participants from a variety of social identities. In 2008, a group of nine universities set out to explore whether intergroup dialogue could help students have conversations about race and gender, a project known as the Multi-University Intergroup Dialogue Research Project. What they found was that intergroup dialogues helped students improve their communication skills and grow in empathy and understanding, helping them to overcome their fears of being seen as racist or sexist or being the targets of racism or sexism.

In order to incorporate the lessons learned from the Intergroup Dialogue Project, we designed dialogue groups that emphasized student leadership and a strong sense of community. To begin with, we gave students ownership over their dialogue groups. The groups, each of which had 20 students, met once a week for the duration of the semester and were supervised by TAs. The first day of dialogue was dedicated to students creating their own group norms, the ground rules that would guide their discussions throughout the semester. Potential norms included the following:

  • Charitable Listening – Always assume that group members mean well when they share, and allow them to clarify if they feel that have been misunderstood
  • No Generalizing – No reasoning about others using generalizations, either positive or negative
  • Names Stay, Ideas Leave – Continue discussing interesting ideas outside of the classroom, but do so without attaching participants’ names to stories or beliefs

After the first day of dialogue groups, during which students chose their group norms, the dialogue sessions were facilitated—not by faculty or TAs—but by the students themselves. Students were assigned a partner along with a day that they would lead the discussion, creating a decentralized power structure that gave the students the primary role in creating a productive conversation.

In order to further build a sense of community, each session began with an ice-breaker activity to help students get to know one another on a more personal level. These activities were designed both to encourage familiarity and camaraderie as well as prompt thoughts and ideas that would be relevant to the subsequent discussion. To allow the sense of community time to develop, discussion topics at the beginning of the semester should be kept fairly non-confrontational. For instance, a helpful early semester discussion-starter might be, “What is a positive aspect of what you see as masculinity?” as opposed to, “What makes someone a man or a woman?” Discussion topics like these allow students to practice following the group norms without diving into the most difficult issues right at the outset.

Here are some of the most promising results from our course. In the post-course survey, over 80% of students agreed that they were more comfortable discussing issues surrounding race and gender than they were before, with only 5% saying they were less comfortable, while over 70% said that they are now more likely to initiate similar conversations outside of class. Over 70% of our students also reported being more likely than before to listen to someone who held an opposing viewpoint regarding issues of race or gender, while only 4% said that they were less likely to do so. Here is the full breakdown of how the groups affected the comfort levels of dialogue participants:

If you’re interested in adding dialogue groups to a class covering the philosophy of race or the philosophy of gender, then here is everything you need to get started. Feel free to download all of the rubrics and documentation, modifying them as necessary!

  1. Scheduling your Dialogue Groups – How you schedule your dialogue groups will depend on how many students you have. If your class has less than 25 students, then you can simply make one class session a week into a dialogue session that includes all of the students. If you have more than 25 students, then you should consider creating multiple dialogue groups. In our case, we had 120 students, so we created 6 dialogue groups that met once a week, with each TA leading 1-2 dialogue groups. If you do not have TAs, you can still create multiple groups by staggering when and how often they meet. If you have 40 students, for example, you can have a 20-student group meet each week, rotating which group meets, or you can schedule both groups each week, having them meet back-to-back.
  2. Creating Group Norms – The initial dialogue session was led by the course instructor or TA, explaining the structure and goals of the dialogue group. As a part of this session, the instructor or TA also led the students through the process of choosing their own discussion norms. Students might not be immediately familiar with what qualifies as a helpful group norm, so sharing a number of examples is often a good way to get started. See this link for more guidance on creating group norms, along with a full list of example norms.
  3. Assigning the Lesson Plan – At the initial dialogue session, students were randomly assigned a partner and a day that they would lead the discussion. Several days before their assigned discussion group, they turned in a lesson plan that included dialogue activities and discussion questions (here is an example of the lesson plan that one pair of students created). In order to help them create effective lesson plans, students were provided with this rubric, this list of possible dialogue activities, and feedback on their lesson plans, making revisions to their initial lesson plan before they ultimately led the group discussion.
  4. Grading the “Presentation” – Students also received a grade for how well they led their dialogue group. Along with earning points for revising and executing their lesson plan, they earned points by creating a sense of community on their discussion day—arriving early to greet everyone, encouraging everyone to participate in the conversation, and asking effective follow-up questions. The rubric that we used to grade dialogue leaders is here.

Maybe you’re not convinced yet that dialogue groups are the way to go, so before we close, we’d like to address a couple of concerns. First of all, having weekly dialogue groups takes away from instructional time, raising the possibility that such groups will prevent students from mastering the course content. Not a lot of research has been dedicated to this issue, but what has been done suggests that dialogue groups might add to, not detract from, student learning outcomes. When compared to large lecture courses, for example, intergroup dialogues did not detract from student mastery in a course on the sociology of race and ethnicity. This could be because dialogue groups are a form of active learning, giving students a chance to use concepts that they have been learning in the classroom.

Secondly, by adopting the dialogue format, the instructor relinquishes a fair amount of control over what students say, raising the concern that dialogue groups open the door to hurtful and demeaning comments. This is an important concern, and demonstrates why it is essential to have an instructor or TAs oversee the discussions. While they are not there to lead the group, the TA or the instructor has the final say on what does and does not qualify as constructive conversation, playing an important role in helping students feel comfortable enough to share their own thoughts and experiences. For a full description of our dialogue groups, along with the pedagogical considerations that went into designing them, see our forthcoming paper in Teaching Philosophy, or feel free to ask away in the comments!

[top image: detail of string art by Ani Abakumova]

As Anti-BDS Bills Become the Norm, ACLU Takes Free Speech Fight to the Supreme Court

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 08/07/2022 - 1:34am in

Little Rock, Arkansas — In June, a federal appeals court upheld an Arkansas law barring state contractors from boycotting Israel, sparking concerns over First Amendment rights in the United States.

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a decision made last year by a panel of three judges who found that mandating a pledge to not boycott Israel is unconstitutional.

However, the recent court ruling determined boycotts are not expressive conduct and instead related to commercial activity and therefore the state can regulate such actions.

“It only prohibits economic decisions that discriminate against Israel,” Judge Jonathan Kobes, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump, wrote in the court’s opinion. “Because those commercial decisions are invisible to observers unless explained, they are not inherently expressive and do not implicate the First Amendment.”

“By declaring Arkansas’ Anti-BDS Law to be constitutional, the court has tacitly endorsed a Palestine-exception to the First Amendment,” Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) National Litigation Director, Lena Masri, said in a statement.

In 2018, The Arkansas Times sued the state over its Israel boycott law after refusing to sign the pledge. Originally, Arkansas Times publisher Alan Leveritt lost in District Court but won when he appealed to the Eighth Circuit Court. The state then appealed to the full appeals court and was granted a rehearing.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which represented The Arkansas Times, confirmed it plans to appeal to the Supreme Court. Brian Hauss, the ACLU’s chief litigator on the case, said in a statement that the court’s decision “misreads Supreme Court precedent and departs from this nation’s longstanding traditions.” “It ignores the fact that this country was founded on a boycott of British goods and that boycotts have been a fundamental part of American political discourse ever since,” Hauss said.

Leveritt, who is not participating in a boycott of Israel, told MintPress News that, as a matter of free speech, he wouldn’t sign the pledge.

“No media protected by the First Amendment in this country should take a political position in return for advertising,” Leveritt said. “This is America. The government doesn’t dictate to us  what we say and do and think, so that’s why we’re fighting it.”

A clause in the law mandates contractors who do not sign the pledge must then reduce their fees by 20%, which Leveritt said has severely hurt the publication’s finances.

 

Israeli government influencing US laws

Bills targeting the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement have spiked in recent years, according to Palestine Legal, an organization protecting the rights of pro-Palestine activists.

As detailed in the documentary, “Boycott”, the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs established the propaganda project, Concert, as a public benefit corporation in order to circumvent U.S. laws on foreign interference. Concert’s primary purpose is to quell growing support for the BDS movement worldwide.

Through Concert, Israel has been able to funnel millions of dollars to organizations that would then lobby for these anti-BDS bills. Christians United for Israel — one of the main advocates for pro-Israel legislation — received $1.3 million from the Israeli government. Other groups include Eagle’s Wings, Hasbara Fellowships, America-Israel Friendship League, and the Israel Allies Foundation.

 

How the Supreme Court may rule

If the Arkansas case does reach the Supreme Court, opponents of anti-BDS legislation like CAIR are optimistic the recent appeals court decision will be overturned.

“We realized the Supreme Court is not always a friend of civil rights, but the Eighth Circuit is very conservative, far more conservative than the Supreme Court even,” Justin Sadowsky, trial attorney with CAIR, said. “We’re very hopeful that the Supreme Court, which has often been champions of the First Amendment, will take a more nuanced look at it.”

CAIR’s deputy executive director, Edward Ahmed Mitchell, agreed with this sentiment. He noted that most of the Supreme Court justices take an originalist approach when interpreting the law, meaning they consider the original text of the constitution and apply it to modern scenarios.

“If they really look at what the constitution says — the plain meaning of it — and then also the history of it as originalists tend to do, then they have to rule that these laws are an unconstitutional violation of the free speech of the American people,” Mitchell told MintPress News.

Yet Alison Weir, founder and executive director of the independent research institute, If Americans Knew, outlined the Supreme Court’s pro-Israel influences – something that could lead to a less favorable ruling.

Weir explained in a recent article how the Supreme Court has a history of handing down decisions related to Israel that have changed longstanding American traditions.

These included a 1967 ruling which sided with an Israeli citizen and overturned a ban on dual citizenship and a decision in 1998 that handed the Israel lobby’s flagship organization, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a victory over allegations the group violated federal election laws.

These decisions can be attributed to Israel partisans on the court like former Justices Abe Fortas and Stephen Breyer. Today, the court is still packed with Israel loyalists. Kentanji Brown Jackson, Amy Coney Barrett, and Brett Kavanaugh all have pro-Israel influences hidden in their education and career beginnings. Weir surmised Justice Elena Kagan may also pose a potential problem, given her love for Israel and her admiration for the country’s former Supreme Court president, Aharon Barak.

 

Setting a ‘dangerous precedent’

Other versions of the boycott law have passed in 33 states since 2016. Several Americans have challenged these laws in recent years — in Texas, Georgia, Arizona, and Kansas — suing their states for violating their First Amendment rights and winning. But Arkansas is an outlier. Leveritt fears that if he loses in the Supreme Court, this could overturn favorable rulings in lower courts as well.

But it is not just Israel boycotts that are under threat. Boycotts, in general, appear to be at risk in the U.S. “In upholding Arkansas’ anti-BDS law, the court refused to confront the reality that these laws are part of an effort to shield Israel from accountability,” Palestine Legal said in a statement. “Given the proliferation of anti-boycott laws targeting other social justice movements, this decision sets a dangerous precedent for anyone interested in seeking social, political, or economic change.”

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which has been instrumental in passing anti-BDS laws across the country, is now targeting financial firms for divesting from the fossil fuel industry.

The group works with corporate lobbyists and Republican state legislators to author legislation. In 2021, ALEC drafted the Energy Discrimination Elimination Act, requiring companies of 10 or more full-time employees to provide written verification it doesn’t boycott fossil fuel businesses before entering into a government contract. So far, Oklahoma, North Dakota, and Texas have signed similar legislation into law. Texas has also passed legislation prohibiting contracts with companies that boycott the firearms industry. ALEC is funded primarily by Koch Industries and a host of other energy and utility companies.

Other states are also using the anti-boycott model to target politically-charged industries. Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin all have drafted anti-BDS legislation.

Julia Bacha, director of the documentary “Boycott”, described the rapid trajectory of anti-BDS legislation in the U.S. in a Twitter thread following the Eighth Circuit Court ruling. “When we started production, the risk that the anti-BDS bill would be used as a template was still theoretical. By the time we locked-picture, it was a reality,” she wrote.

But she also cautions Americans to not solely pin the blame on Republicans over anti-BDS bills becoming the norm, writing,

Beware of press coverage that points the finger at Republicans for stripping away our rights without recognizing that Democrats were complicit in opening the pandora’s box when they overwhelmingly supported anti-BDS bills. There’s no First Amendment Exception to Palestine and this is as good [sic] time as any for the Democratic Party to learn this lesson, before irreparable damage to our rights in America is done.”

Thus, if certain pro-Israel and pro-fossil fuel advocates get their way, a fundamental right to protest will be removed from Americans.

Feature photo | Graphic by MintPress News

Jessica Buxbaum is a Jerusalem-based journalist for MintPress News covering Palestine, Israel, and Syria. Her work has been featured in Middle East Eye, The New Arab and Gulf News.

The post As Anti-BDS Bills Become the Norm, ACLU Takes Free Speech Fight to the Supreme Court appeared first on MintPress News.

Ad Nauseum: Addressing America’s Advertising Problem

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 24/06/2022 - 12:41am in
by Haley Mullins

One of the biggest roadblocks to achieving a steady state economy is advertising. While seemingly innovative solutions to consume conscientiously are becoming more prevalent, most people aren’t Marie Kondo-ing their way through each purchase, stopping to question whether the item in their shopping cart will “spark joy.” But how much blame can we really assign consumers when they’ve been dropped onto a hamster wheel of coupons, cash-back credit cards, and “consumer confidence” indicators?

We live in the age of the internet, where we can purchase anything with one click on Amazon. Websites track our movements and preferences as we surf the web, offering us personalized advertisements so we can discover and buy more of what interests us. To put into perspective how expansive advertising is in the USA, China is the second-largest advertising market in the world, yet its ad expenditures are estimated at less than half the amount calculated for the USA.

Advertising and Growth

Super Bowl promotions in a grocery store, featuring doritos advertising.

Super Bowl Sunday might be better named National Advertising Day. (CC BY 2.0, JeepersMedia)

In 1941, right before a baseball game between the Brooklyn Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies, the first legal TV commercial aired in the USA. It was just ten seconds long and only cost the company nine dollars. Forty years later, the standard for prime-time TV was 9.5 minutes of ads per hour; today, it’s up to 14–17 minutes per hour. The cost of advertising has skyrocketed, too, but marketers are still willing to pay big bucks to make buyers aware of the “Next Big Thing.” In 2020, advertisers spent an average of $5.6 million for a 30-second spot in Super Bowl 54.

Firms advertise to create demand and promote consumption. (I don’t know about you, but I didn’t want socks with my cat’s face on them until I saw a Facebook ad for it.) While firms compete against each other for our business, they rally around the goal of GDP growth. Wall Street and Madison Avenue aren’t far apart—figuratively or politically—and both have skin in the growth game.

Americans have a love-hate relationship with ads though. A typical American might understand the role of advertising in economic growth, yet—apart from Super Bowl Sunday—we detest ads and go to great lengths to avoid them. By 2021, 27 percent of U.S. internet users used ad blockers on their connected devices. Younger generations are particularly put off; 48 percent of Gen Z consumers and 46 percent of Millennials prefer to pay a premium than watch advertisements on streaming video services.

First Things First

Steady staters have some significant hurdles to overcome in the degrowth of the American ad industry, the first of which is the First Amendment.

Advertising falls under the First Amendment right to free speech and free press, the most cherished of our constitutional rights. However, even the sanctity of the First Amendment doesn’t guarantee the freedom to say anything. The circumstances are important, too. Reasonable restrictions of free speech are imposed most notably when public safety is concerned. The classic example of unprotected speech is yelling “Fire!” at the movie theater when no fire exists, as the welfare of people supersedes your right to yell “Fire!”

While advertising isn’t as directly harmful as in this example, the prevalence and effects of advertising—unnecessary consumption, growth, and environmental impact—have become increasingly harmful to public welfare. Advertising restrictions already in place substantiate our cultural awareness of advertising as a danger to the public. Under the law, claims in advertisements must be truthful, and cannot be deceptive or unfair. Additionally, there are restrictions on promoting harmful products like tobacco and alcohol, as well as advertising to children, who can’t interpret ads with a critical lens.

Society understands the power of advertising and the dangers it poses when used manipulatively. Thus, it’s poor reasoning to use the First Amendment as an excuse for “anything goes” in the advertising industry. So, what policies could we enact to moderate advertising, slow consumption, and (in the process) improve wellbeing?

Ad-equate Policies

Defenders of advertising argue the importance of the practice in aiding competition, a fundamental facet of a capitalist system to keep prices low and fair. As American economist Lester Telser once described, “If sellers must identify themselves in order to remain in business, then formally unless they spend a certain minimum amount on advertising their rate of sales will be zero. Regardless of price, buyers would not know of sellers’ existence unless the sellers make themselves known by incurring these advertising outlays.”

1960 Budweiser advertisement with four Black men holding beers and chatting in a kitchen.

Advertising: framing the consumption of market goods as raising one’s quality of life. (CC BY-NC 2.0, ChowKaiDeng)

Touché, Telser. Eliminating the practice of advertising isn’t practical, as people would struggle to discover necessary goods and services. But billions of dollars are spent annually on advertising, far surpassing the optimal scale of the industry. In 2020, U.S. firms spent $240 billion on advertising; all of it tax deductible, as it’s considered a necessary business expense to generate or keep customers. Herman Daly and Joshua Farley argue for advertising taxes in Ecological Economics (Second Edition), declaring it appropriate to tax advertising as a public bad because production should meet existing demand rather than create new demands for whatever gets produced.

But if we’re truly to curb overconsumption of market goods, merely reducing the quantity of advertising will only do so much in the aggregate. To change consumer habits, an alternative to market goods must be introduced. Thus, in addition to taxation, Daly and Farley suggest making media information flows more symmetric so that the public is equally exposed to nonmarket goods as they are to market goods. Essentially, we need a sort of nonprofit advertising to balance out the advertising of firms.

Nonmarket goods, things that are neither bought nor sold directly, do not have a readily quantifiable monetary value. Some examples include visiting the beach, birdwatching, or going for a walk. Perhaps, with more attention given to nonmarket goods, consumer culture might shift to better appreciate our planet and better understand the true cost of frivolously consuming market goods that come from the Earth and return to the Earth as waste. Our resources might then be reallocated to the preservation of invaluable nonmarket goods, a shift that may aid in transitioning to a steady state.

Redefining Ethical Advertising

Cartons of cigarettes with several different warning labels making it clear that smoking is hazardous to people's health.

Full disclosure: unchecked consumption kills people and planet. (CC BY 2.0, kadavy)

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) defines “ethical advertising” as “truthful, not deceptive, backed by evidence, and fair.” The FTC assesses the adherence of these principles through the lens of a “reasonable consumer” to determine whether an ad meets the requirements. However, some argue that the FTC has a responsibility to protect the ignorant consumer to the same extent as the reasonable one.

If the last several decades of celebrated economic growth are considered, I’d say the vast majority of consumers fall into the ignorant category—ignorant to limits to growth, at least. Is it not within the scope of ethics, then, to make the true cost of consumption for advertised market goods evident? Is it not deceptive for ads to display a price tag that fails to factor in the environmental costs of production? We have warning labels on tobacco and alcohol products that consumption may lead to adverse effects, so why aren’t we warning buyers of the consequences of consuming other goods?

If we don’t restrict the amount or reach of advertising, the least we can do is demand full-disclosure advertisements that detail the environmental cost of producing and purchasing the product. This would, at minimum, include estimated life-cycle emissions, quantity of natural resources extracted, and the energy required to produce each unit. Such disclosures would, over time, raise awareness of limits to growth and could, perhaps, be the catalyst that converts our culture of conspicuous consumption to one of careful conservation.

Haley Mullins, managing editor for CASSEHaley Mullins is the managing editor at CASSE.

The post Ad Nauseum: Addressing America’s Advertising Problem appeared first on Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy.

Linguistic Society of America Considers Free Speech Resolution

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 28/04/2022 - 9:56pm in

Tags 

Free Speech

The Linguistic Society of America (LSA), the main professional organization in the U.S. for academic linguists, is considering adopting a version of the “Chicago Principles on Freedom of Expression.”

The resolution is sponsored by Noam Chomsky, Sabine Iatridou, Pauline Jacobson, Jason Merchant, Pritty Patel-Grosz, Yael Sharvit, Philippe Schlenker, Tim Stowell, Harold Torrence, and Charles Yang, and is in its 30-day comment period. A ballot date to vote on the resolution has not yet been set.

Here’s the body of the resolution:

Because the Linguistic Society of America (LSA) is committed to free and open inquiry in all matters, it guarantees all members of the LSA community the broadest possible latitude to speak, write, listen, challenge, and learn. Except insofar as limitations on that freedom are necessary to the functioning of the Society, the LSA fully respects and supports the freedom of all members of the LSA community “to discuss any problem that presents itself.”

Of course, the ideas of different members of the LSA community will often and quite naturally conflict. But it is not the proper role of the Society to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive. Although the LSA greatly values civility, and although all members of the LSA community share in the responsibility for maintaining a climate of mutual respect, concerns about civility and mutual respect can never be used as a justification for closing off discussion of ideas, however offensive or disagreeable those ideas may be to some members of our community.

The freedom to debate and discuss the merits of competing ideas does not, of course, mean that individuals may say whatever they wish, wherever they wish. The Society may restrict expression that violates the law, that falsely defames a specific individual, that constitutes a genuine threat or harassment, that unjustifiably invades substantial privacy or confidentiality interests, or that is otherwise directly incompatible with the functioning of the Society. In addition, the LSA may reasonably regulate the time, place, and manner of expression to ensure that it does not disrupt the ordinary activities of the Society. But these are narrow exceptions to the general principle of freedom of expression, and it is vitally important that these exceptions never be used in a manner that is inconsistent with the Society’s commitment to a completely free and open discussion of ideas.

In a word, the LSA’s fundamental commitment is to the principle that debate or deliberation may not be suppressed because the ideas put forth are thought by some or even by most members of the LSA community to be offensive, unwise, immoral, or wrong-headed. It is for the individual members of the LSA community, not for LSA as an institution, to make those judgments for themselves, and to act on those judgments not by seeking to suppress speech, but by openly and vigorously contesting the ideas that they oppose. Indeed, fostering the ability of members of the LSA community to engage in such debate and deliberation in an effective and responsible manner is an essential part of the LSA’s educational mission.

As a corollary to the Society’s commitment to protect and promote free expression, members of the LSA community must also act in conformity with the principle of free expression. Although members of the LSA community are free to criticize and contest the views expressed in academic, professional, and other settings, and to criticize and contest speakers who are invited to express their views, they may not obstruct or otherwise interfere with the freedom of others to express views they reject or even loathe. To this end, the Society has a solemn responsibility not only to promote a lively and fearless freedom of debate and deliberation, but also to protect that freedom when others attempt to restrict it.

You can view the whole resolution and the discussion of it among LSA members here.

Commenters raise a number of questions about the powers of the LSA to enforce this resolution, the contexts in which it may be thought to apply, what events relevant to the LSA’s domain that might have precipitated the resolution, its possible effectiveness, the ways it might inhibit speech, its consistency with the aims of the organization, the implications of the last paragraph about individual members’ responsibilities, and more. One commenter links to a piece by philosopher Sigal Ben-Porath (University of Pennsylvania) on the limited value of the Chicago Principles. The discussion is quite interesting.

Call for mini-essays on “the cost of freedom” in free knowledge movements in honor of Bassel Khartabil

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 30/10/2015 - 1:54am in

Dear friends,

I’m helping organize a book titled “The Cost of Freedom” in honor of Bassel Khartabil, a contributor to numerous free/open knowledge projects worldwide and in Syria, where he’s been a political prisoner since 2012, missing and in grave danger since October 3. You can read about Bassel at https://www.eff.org/offline/bassel-khartabil
https://blog.wikimedia.org/2015/10/08/bassel-missing-syria/ https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/MDE24/2603/2015/en/ and lots more at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bassel_Khartabil and http://freebassel.org/

Much of the book is going to be created at a face-to-face Book Sprint in Marseille Nov 2-6; some info about that and the theme/title generally at http://costoffreedom.cc/

We’re also asking people like yourself who have been fighting in the trenches of various free knowledge movements (culture, software, science, etc.) to contribute brief essays for inclusion in the book. One form an essay might take is a paragraph on each of:

* An issue you’ve faced that was challenging to you in your free knowledge work, through the lens on “cost”; perhaps a career or time opportunity cost, or the cost of dealing with unwelcoming or worse participants, or the cost of “peeling off layer upon layer the proprietary way of life” as put in
http://www.adamhyde.net/open-is-not-a-license/
* How you addressed this challenge, or perhaps have yet to do so completely
* Advice to someone starting out in free knowledge; perhaps along the lines of had you understood the costs, what would you have done differently

But feel free to be maximally creative within the theme. We don’t have a minimum or a maximum required length for contributed essays, but especially do not be shy about concision or form. If all we get is haiku that might be a problem, or there might be a message in that of some sort.

Other details: The book will be PUBLISHED on Nov 6. We need your contribution no later than the end of Nov 3 UTCThursday, Nov 5 at 11:00 UTC (Paris: noon; New York: 6AM; Tokyo: 9PM) to be included. The book will be released under CC0; giving up the “right” to sue anyone for any use whatsoever of your contribution is a cost of entry…or one of those proprietary layers to be peeled back. Send contributions to book@costoffreedom.cc

Feel free to share this with other people who you know have something to say on this topic. We’re especially looking for voices underrepresented in free knowledge movements.

Cheers,
Mike

p.s. Please spread the word about #freebassel even if you can’t contribute to the book!

Lessig is the most patriotic candidate

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 12/10/2015 - 6:32pm in

Almost always for me ‘patriot’ is a term of derision, but here I mean something specific: putting one’s preferred issues and interests to the side to focus on fixing the relevant institutions, in this case of the state. To make the state stronger (as in less degenerate, not necessarily huger). To make collective action work better. To steer the system away from N-party competitive distribution of public spoils by fixing the system rather than blaming particular groups of outsiders or insiders (i.e., what usually passes as ‘patriotic’).

By that specific meaning, Lawrence Lessig is by far the most patriotic candidate for U.S. temporary dictator. I hope he gets into more polls (and prediction markets) and the debates. In Republic, Lost (2011; pdf; my notes on the book below) Lessig evaluates the chances of a presidential campaign like the one he is running: “Let’s be wildly optimistic: 2 percent.” That sounds fair, but the campaign still makes sense, for building name recognition for a future campaign or for injecting non-atavistic patriotism into the debate (so let him).

The campaign worked on me in the sense that it motivated me to read Republic, Lost (which had been in my virtual ‘fullness of time’ pile). I hadn’t followed Lessig’s anti-corruption efforts closely because I was burned out from working for him at Creative Commons and based on headlines, they looked like a turbocharged version: grand and good basic ideas (roughly fixing knowledge regulation and fixing democracy, respectively), politician-like (now actual politician) total campaigning (both for money and to convince the public; in the short term the free culture movement is surely poorer in both respects relative to a world in which Lessig did not shift focus), and constant startup-like pivoting and gimmicks that seemed to me distractions from the grand and good ideas (but no doubt to him are essential innovations). There are many reasons Creative Commons was not a venue ripe for experimentation, and it seems to (I’m barely involved anymore) have mostly settled into doing something close to commons coordination work I believe it is most suited to, including work on license interoperability and supporting open policy. But in hindsight a venue or series of them (cf. Change Congress, Fix Congress First, Mayday.US, NHRebellion, RootStrikers…) built for experimentation might have made for a more contribution to the [semi]free culture world than did a conservatism-inducing (appropriately) license steward (of which there were already plenty). All of which is to say that I’m looking charitably upon Lessig’s many political experiments, including the various novel aspects of his current campaign, though I can understand how they (the means, not the ends of fixing democracy) could be interpreted as gimmicks.

One of my takeaways from Republic, Lost is that the referendum candidacy (Lessig intends to resign after passing one bill, making his candidacy a referendum for that bill) is sort of an anti-gimmick, a credible commitment mechanism, without which any candidate’s calls for changing the system ought be interpreted as hot air. In the book Lessig expresses deep disappointment with Obama, who ran promising fundamental change, which he then failed to deliver or even really attempt, with the consequence of corrupting the non-system-changing reforms he has pushed through (e.g., health care reform contains massive giveaways to drug and insurance industries).

Experimentation with novel commitment mechanisms and anti-gimmicks is great, so I heartily applaud Lessig’s referendum candidacy. But so far it seems to have backfired: the anti-gimmick is interpreted as a gimmick and (not sure if following has been mentioned in press, but is usual response from friends I’ve mentioned the campaign to) the commitment is not taken as credible: it’s still just a politician’s (worthless) promise, power would go to his head, exigencies would intervene, or even if none of this is true, the bill would never pass. On the last bit, Lessig argues that if he won as a referendum candidate, members of Congress would understand the electorate was making an extraordinary demand and pass the bill — they want to be re-elected. Sounds reasonable to me, given the extraordinary circumstance of Lessig being elected without deviation from his referendum platform. The extraordinary circumstance that election would be also seems to me to mitigate the other objections, though less so.

Speaking of power head trips, what about the problem of executive power (thus my preference for calling the U.S. presidency a temporary dictatorship)? Abuse and non-reform thereof has been my biggest disappointment with the Obama administration. I can only recall an indirect mention in Republic, Lost: Congressional deliberation is now rare in part due to members’ need to constantly fundraise, thus, according to a quoted former member, Congress is “failing to live up to its historic role of conducting oversight of the Executive Branch” and “[N]o one today could make a coherent argument that the Congress is the co-equal branch of government the Founders intended it to be.” It does seem totally reasonable that if Congress is non-functional and dependent on concentrated money, the executive branch would also be able to cultivate Congress’ dependency (Lessig does a good job of explaining his use of this term early in the book) and thus thwart Congress as an effective regulator of executive power. I wish Republic, Lost had more on the relationship of Congress and the executive, and related, on Congress and the military/foreign policy/state security complex. To what extent does concentrated money from military contractors, “legislative subsidy” (motivated analysis; a less distracted Congress might make such less needed to the extent it is benign and easier to defend against to the extent it is not) from contractors and the military itself make Congress less able to regulate and indeed eager to go along with disastrous and criminal militarism?

What if politicians could and regularly did make credible commitments to upholding their promises? If the mechanism were not novel and the promises reasonable, perception of gimmickry would largely go away. So would the need for the novelty of a referendum candidacy with a promise of resignation: the referendum would be built in, resignation would be required when a candidate does not uphold their promises, not when they do. Could a stronger commitment be made by a candidate now, without any changes to the law? Would a contract with an intermediary, perhaps a non-profit existing only to enforce candidate promises made to it, be upheld? If politicians upholding their promises is a good thing, shouldn’t a commitment mechanism be built into the law?

Assume for a moment that it would be good for government institutions to make candidate promises enforceable (optionally; a candidate could still make all the hot air promises they wished). We can’t have that reform until the system “rigged” (a term Lessig uses in his campaign, but not appearing in the book) by the need to fundraise from concentrated interests is fixed, because we can’t have any reform until the system is fixed, at least not any reform that isn’t corrupted by having to survive the rigged system. Is it the case that concentrated money in elections is the essential rigging that must be removed before good progress on any other issue can be obtained?

Lessig does make a very good case that dependency of politicians on concentrated money interests is a problem. Three points (among many) stood out to me. First, at the least politicians must spend a huge portion of their time fundraising, making them distracted, relatively ignorant (having to be fundraising rather than studying or discussing issues), and I’d imagine relatively stupid (selection for fundraising tolerance and ability, driving out other qualities). Second, we often go through great lengths to ensure judges are removed from cases in which they have even an appearance of conflict — shouldn’t we want to isolate law makers from even the appearance of corruption just as much, if not more? (Does this not suggest a different reform: bar legislators from any vote in which any impacted party has donated above some very small amount to the legislator’s campaigns?) Third, academic literature on the influence of money in legislative outcomes tends to find little. Lessig argues that this literature is looking for keys under the lamppost because that’s where the light is — it’s easy to look at roll call votes, but almost all of the action is in determining what legislation makes it to a vote.

Intuitively the effect of dependence on concentrated money on agenda setting and thus outcomes ought be large. Is there any literature attempting to characterize how large? I didn’t notice any pointers to such in Rebpublic, Lost, but may have missed them. A comment made late in a forum on Subsidizing Democracy: Can Public Financing Change Politics? indicates that the empirical work hasn’t been done yet, at least not through the lens of the impact on outcomes of various forms of public financing of U.S. state legislature campaigns. But public financing does seem to have big impacts on legislator time dedicated to fundraising, time spent talking to potential voters, and who runs and is elected.

Vying with the brief contrast of demands for independence of judges and legislators for the most valuable portion of Republic, Lost is a brief mention with supporting footnote of U.S. state legislative campaign public funding reforms, particularly in Arizona, Connecticut, and Maine:

Over the past fifteen years, three states have experimented with reforms that come very close to this idea. Arizona, Maine, and Connecticut have all adopted reforms for their own state government that permits members of the legislature (and of some statewide offices) to fund their campaigns through small-dollar contributions only. Though the details of these programs are different, the basic structure of all three is the same: candidates qualify by raising a large number of small contributions; once qualified, the candidates receive funding from the state to run their campaigns.

References about these, include one by Michael G. Miller, author of Subsidizing Democracy (2014). I haven’t read this book, but I did find a recording of a forum on the book held at New America Foundation, which I recommend — the other commentators provide valuable context and critique.

Spencer Overton’s comments, starting at about 30 minutes, seem to give an overview of leading thinking on campaign finance, in particular three points. First money in politics is not the problem, dependency on concentrated money is, therefore subsidizing small contributions in exchange for opting to accept limits on large contributions is a solution (note this reform steers clear of reasonable free speech objections to simply banning concentrated money). Second, mitigating corruption is a good outcome of such a solution, but increasing citizen engagement in politics is another good outcome. I’m fairly certain Lessig would be in strong agreement with these first two points; he mentions Overton’s work on “participation interest” in Republic, Lost. Third, states (and cities, e.g., NYC) are learning from and improving their reforms: the impacts on candidate and legislator behavior studied by Miller (primarily in Arizona, if I understand correctly) are based on reforms which are being improved. Overton in particular mentioned the value of matching small donations on an ongoing basis rather than only using small donations to qualify for a lump subsidy (note this would make the reforms much more similar to Lessig’s proposal).

The mention of U.S. state reforms is in the “strategies” section of Republic, Lost, in a description of the first strategy: simply getting Congress to pass a reform similar to those already passed in a few states. Lessig dismisses this strategy because lobbyists are a concentrated interest standing in its way. I’m not convinced by the dismissal for three reasons. First, aren’t state level reforms an existence proof? Lobbyists exist at the state level and are a potential interest group. Second, just how concentrated is the interest of lobbyists qua lobbyists? They are paid to represent various concentrated interests, but how well do they support the Association of Government Relations Professionals, renamed in 2013 from the American League of Lobbyists? Do lobbyists as a class suffer from all the usual collective action problems? Admittedly, to the extent they do form a coherent interest group, they do know just how to be effective. Third, can’t success at the state and local level drive cultural change (especially if reforms obtain demonstrably improved outcomes, but even if not they change the culture of the farm team for Congress and eventually Congress, by removing selection pressure for tolerance of and skill at fundraising), making passing a bill in Congress even against lobbying interests more feasible? This path does not have the urgency of a national campaign, but by Lessig’s own estimates such urgency is nearly hopeless, e.g., as mentioned above “wildly optimistic: 2 percent” for a presidential campaign.

Regardless of whether he favored a long-term state and local innovation driven strategy, I wish Lessig had written more about state and local reforms in order to make the case that concentrated money is a problem more concrete and less intuitive and that reforms similar to ones he proposes make the sort of essential difference that he claims (changed state outcomes could help demonstrate both things). Perhaps there was not enough experience with state and local reforms that de-concentrated and added money to campaigns to say much about them in Republic, Lost (2011), but is that still the case in the current campaign? I also would have and would appreciate some analysis of the impact of various campaign financing regimes around the world on the campaigns, composition, behavior, and outcomes of legislatures. The sole contemporary non-U.S. legislature mentioned in Republic, Lost is the UK House of Commons, which often deliberates as a body, unlike the U.S. Congress. Is this an outcome of different campaign financing? Lessig doesn’t say. Yes cross-country comparisons are fraught but surely some would be helpful in characterizing the size of the problem of concentrated money and the potential impact of reform.

While I’m on the “strategies” section of Republic, Lost, a few notes on the other three proposed. Recall the first (discussed above) is passing a bill in the U.S. Congress, dubbed “The Conventional Game”. The second is “An Unconventional (Primary) Game” strikes me as classic Lessig — it involves getting celebrities on board (each celebrity would contest primaries for U.S. Congress in multiple districts), and I don’t quite get it. He gives it a “wildly optimistic: 5 percent” chance of working. With that caveat, and a reminder to myself about taking these proposals charitably, it is a creative proposal at the least. I suppose it could be thought of as a way to turn a legislative primary election season into a referendum on a single issue. Crucially for the single issue of campaign finance reform, without the cooperation of incumbents fit for the current system, or as Lessig writes, it would be a strategy of “peaceful terrorism” on such incumbents.

The third strategy is “An Unconventional Presidential Game”, which the current Lessig campaign seems to be following closely.

The fourth strategy is “The Convention Game”:

A platform for pushing states to call for a federal convention would begin by launching as many shadow conventions as is possible. In schools, in universities—wherever such deliberation among citizens could occur. The results of those shadow conventions would be collected, and posted, and made available for critique. And as they demonstrated their own sensibility, they would support the push for states to call upon Congress to remove the shadow from these conventions. Congress would then constitute a federal convention. That convention—if my bet proves correct—would be populated by a random selection of citizens drawn from the voter rolls. That convention would then meet, deliberate, and propose new amendments to the Constitution. Congress would refer those amendments out to the states for their ratification.

In the book, this strategy seems to be where Lessig’s heart is. He gives it “with enough entrepreneurial state representatives” a “10 percent at a minimum” chance of success. A constitutional convention brings up all kinds of arguments; I recommend reading the chapter in Republic, Lost. I include it in this post for completeness, for its reliance on entrepreneurial state representatives (the long-term “conventional game” also does, see above), and most of all for its inclusion of — sortition (random selection)! That is my preferred reform for choosing legislators (and indirectly, executives, including national temporary dictators), removing not only dependence on concentrated money, but dependence on campaigning, which surely also has a strong selection effect, for tolerance of and skill at campaigning, against other qualities. But much like range voting, land value taxation, and prediction markets (and others; let’s see how the new thing, quadratic voting, fares), sortition’s real world use is about the inverse of its theoretical beauty (dependencies at odds with apparent objectives or corruption broadly conceived is probably a big part of the story for each, example; note similarity to my question about broad conceptions of commoning). Oh well. Perhaps de-concentrating money in political campaigns is a first step toward more ideal institutions.

But is it the essential first step claimed by Lessig, before which no other reform can go forward uncorrupted?

In Republic, Lost Lessig does a decent job of turning stereotypical left and right objections into arguments that de-concentrating money in political campaigns is the essential first step. The left objection is that wealth inequality must be addressed first; without doing so the wealthy will always find ways to rig the system in their favor. Turn: you can’t expect to achieve wealth redistribution when the system is rigged by concentrated money from the wealthy. The right objection is that the essential problem is that government is doing too much; reduce the size and scope of government first, then its remaining essential functions (if any) can run like Swiss clockwork. Turn: you can’t expect to reduce the size and scope of government when the system is rigged by concentrated money protecting every grotesque program. I don’t expect these turns will convince many of those strongly convinced that the essential problem is wealth inequality or big government. In small part because it’s not entirely clear, as for lobbyists, that “the wealthy” or “big government” constitute concentrated interests able to use the rigged system to protect themselves from what a dream crisis or candidate of the left or right would do to them. Rather, there are a bunch of different concentrated interests that probably tend to increase upward wealth redistribution and the size of government. Systematic reform would mitigate these tendencies but from the left or right perspective is not ‘striking at the root’ and does not have the feel of urgency of a dream crisis or candidate. If a referendum candidate is an effective vehicle, why not one who promises to hack at the rich or at government, then resign? But for the not entirely committed, perhaps de-concentrating money in political campaigns can be made to seem a good first step, possibly an essential non-revolutionary (that is, not a catastrophic invitation to trolls) strategy.

Another objection to de-concentration of money in political campaigns as the essential first step is lots that ought be construed as reform is not dependent on elected legislatures. Much does not go directly through government. Everything from organizations to culture to interpersonal relationships all have scope for independent reform, which happens all the time. As do other organs of government such as courts and administration. These objections could be turned to apologia for the primacy of de-concentration of money in political campaigns. They explain why one can perceive good reform happening (e.g., marriage equality) when Lessig tells us no good reform is possible until campaign finance is reformed. These independent sources of reform mask just what a poor job the U.S. Congress does. Clearly lots of important reform is dependent on action by the U.S. Congress, and any such reform is wholly blocked or corrupted by having to survive a U.S. Congress dependent on concentrated money, which meanwhile also passes all kinds of anti-reform.

There are numerous reforms which would reduce corruption, capture, and inappropriate dependency which could be taken as objections to campaign finance reform as the essential first reform, or buttress the argument for it, depending on their dependence on a U.S. Congress dependent on fundraising from concentrated money. The Scourge of Upward Redistribution, a recent article by Steven Teles, surveys a number of such reforms, which tend to give regulatory decision makers more resources and push regulatory decisions into more accessible venues, making decisions less dependent on and controlled by concentrated interests. The control is not just about venue, but imagination: broader participation in regulatory decision making could reduce “cognitive capture” or “cultural capture”. (Needless to say all of these reforms have great intuitive appeal, but like campaign finance reforms, cry out for evidence from where similar are now implemented.) Teles does not mention campaign finance reform at all. I wondered whether this was a critique by omission, and found A New Agenda for Political Reform by Teles and Lee Drutman. They consider attempts to get money out of politics and increase participation to have largely failed and to have poor prospects, and argue the essential reform is to give the U.S. Congress more resources. Conclusion:

Convincing Congress, especially this Congress, to invest in its own staff capacity clearly won’t be easy. But neither is it inconceivable. Even small-government conservatives are feeling pressure to do something about the influence of corporate lobbying. Improving congressional capacity is a reform action they can take that would increase their own power, wouldn’t force them to agree with liberal get-the-money-out-of-politics types, and wouldn’t directly cross the corporate lobbying community. For those concerned about the malign influence of corporate power on our democracy, increasing government’s in-house nonpartisan expertise is almost certainly a more promising path forward than doubling down on more traditional reform strategies.

In Republic, Lost Lessig mentions many of the reforms that Teles writes about, and clearly considers dependence on fundraising concentrated money to be the essential blocker and first reform. I don’t know which is “right”. They largely see the same problems of a government controlled by concentrated interests. To the charge of failure and poor prospects above, I imagine that people like Lessig and Overton would respond that they have moved beyond getting money out of politics to getting more diverse money into politics, and beyond getting people to vote and somehow pay attention to getting them to feel more committed through making small and well matched donations. Presumably both sets of reforms are complementary, except to the extent they compete for reform attention.

This brings us to why I don’t like the referendum candidacy, where the referendum aims to fix the “rigged” system, and the referendum candidate resigns as soon as the bill intended to fix the system is passed. Many reforms are needed to fix the system, including those mentioned by Teles, and probably a selection of reforms favored by people who are committed to reducing wealth inequality as well as the power of government in some dimensions. In order to make the first reform resilient, further strengthening of governing and regulating institutions will have to be made, and the context of inequality and arbitrary power changed. Cursory reading of histories of empires in periods of decline show patriotic (in the sense described at the top) reform attempts, occasionally met with a bit of success, but quickly lost. Why would the American empire be any different? There’s no reason to think it might be other than patriotic (in the bad sense) delusion. If a candidate like Lessig were to get a mandate for reform, I’d want them to see it through. Passing one bill to de-concentrate campaign funding might be the necessary first reform, but I can’t see it being sufficient even to ensure the survival of itself, uncorrupted.

The Lessig referendum candidacy’s one bill includes more than a measure to de-concentrate campaign funding though. This measure is bundled with two others (voting rights and election method and districting reforms) under the name Citizen Equality Act. There is perhaps a hint of this in Republic, Lost, where equality of voting is mentioned, but in contrast to the inequality of campaign funding rather than as something needing reform. Now surely there are useful reforms to be made in these areas which would get closer to every voter having equal weight, in terms of access to voting and impact of their votes. But what happened to the one essential reform that must happen before any other than be achieved, uncorrupted? It’s there of course, but why have it share the focus with two good but non-blocking reforms? Here’s what I imagine: concern about inequality bubbles to the top of mainstream discourse, Lessig thinks that he’s got to connect with the equality movement, and comes up with the brand and bundling of “Citizen Equality”. Or maybe campaign finance reform was deemed to be not enough to base on referendum candidacy on, even though it is claimed to be the essential first reform. I have no idea how the Citizen Equality idea came about…but maybe it is a good one. Anti-corruption measures, especially as Lessig defines corruption, seem to largely be consequentialist: we can’t get nice things from a corrupt system (and if one is not careful, anti-corruption measures can be rights violating, even if they achieve good things on net). Voter equality measures on the other hand, seem largely to be about rights: the rights of individual voters, and the ability of minority groups to have a voice through the ballot and protect their rights from the majority. I imagine (surely this is something that has been studied in depth, but I am ignorant) that consequence and rights arguments appeal differently to different voters; a proposal which appeal to both could have better chances of acceptance.

Before closing I have to comment on a few bits pertinent to knowledge policy found in Republic, Lost:

Consider, for example, the case of movies. Imagine a blockbuster Hollywood feature that costs $20 million to make. Once a single copy of this film is in digital form, the Internet guarantees that millions of copies could be accessed in a matter of minutes. Those “extra” copies are the physical manifestation of the positive externality that a film creates. The value or content of that film can be shared easily—insanely easily—given the magic of “the Internets.”

That ease of sharing creates risk of underproduction for such creative work: If the only way that this film can be made is for the company making it to get paid by those who watch it, or distribute it, then without some effective way to make sure that those who make copies pay for those copies, we’re not going to get many of those films made. That’s not to say we won’t get any films made. There are plenty of films that don’t exist for profit. Government propaganda is one example. Safety films that teach employees at slaughterhouses how to use dangerous equipment is another.

But if you’re like me, and want to watch Hollywood films more than government propaganda (and certainly more than safety films), you might well be keen to figure out how we can ensure that more of the former get made, even if we must suffer too much of the latter.

The answer is copyright—or, more precisely, an effective system of copyright. Copyright law gives the creator of a film (and other art forms) the legal right to control who makes copies of it, who can distribute it, who displays it publicly, and so forth. By giving the creator that power, the creator can then set the price he or she wants. If the system is effective, that price is respected—the only people who can get the film are the people who pay for it. The creator can thus get the return she wants in exchange for creating the film. We would be a poorer culture if copyright didn’t give artists and authors a return for their creativity.

I realize this just serves as an example in the context of Republic, Lost, but it’s an appallingly bad one. What risk of underproduction? What does that even mean in the context of entertainment? People love whatever culture they’re immersed in. Individuals have limited attention, massively over-saturated by a huge market. Private tax collection by copyright holders is not the only way to get films made; film making is hugely subsidized (even in the U.S., through location rent seeking), those subsidies could obtain films not subject to private enforcement of speech restrictions. Safety films and government propaganda as the examples of what would be produced without copyright? For government (in particular military/security state) propaganda — watch Hollywood. When not under the influence of offering explanations of how Hollywood blockbusters justify copyright, Lessig and the like celebrate the extraordinary creativity of non-commercial video artists of many forms, uploading countless hours of film superior to safety instruction and propaganda videos. Now presumably there would be many fewer Hollywood-style blockbusters without copyright (incidentally I think a zero was left off the cost figure in the quote, though much of that may be marketing). But a poorer culture? A somewhat different culture, certainly — one in which private censors are not empowered to damage the net, one in which monopoly knowledge rents do not concentrate cultural power, increase wealth inequality, and exclude the poorest from access to knowledge. I don’t expect Lessig to become a copyright abolitionist, and in any case think it is far more useful to advocate for commons-favoring policy than against copyright. But granting the commanding heights of culture wholesale to the copyright industry and narrowing the vision of what the commons can produce is no way to argue for any sort of reform, other than the sort the copyright industry wants.

Elsewhere in the book:

As with any speech regulation, the first question is whether there are other, less restrictive means of achieving the same legislative end. So if Congress could avoid dependence corruption by, say, funding elections publicly, that alternative would weaken any ability to justify speech restrictions to the same end. The objective should always be to achieve the legitimate objectives of the nation without restricting speech.

Apply this to the ends of entertainment production.

This seems like a good juncture to mention a related question: why not free political speech from private censorship? All political speech (by some definition, preferably all speech…but presumably speech paid for by campaign contributions) should be in the public domain. I doubt this would have any significant impact on campaigns or fundraising, but more freedom of speech, especially political speech, seems independently worthy.

A briefer and less bad mention of patents:

Those patents are necessary (so long as drug research is privately financed), but there has long been a debate about whether they get granted too easily, or whether “me-too” drugs get protection unnecessarily.

This seems to be another odd case in which an writer grants more necessity to copyright for entertainment production and less imagination for an alternative than for patents and drug development. Though I’m glad to see the parenthetical above (of course it ought be noted that public money already pays for much of the research, and buys much of the product…), I find the ordering bizarre. The piece I’ve seen similar but even more pronounced recently in is Teles’ The Scourge of Upward Redistribution!

From the “Conventional Game” and “Choosing Strategies” chapters:

These four reasons all point to a common lesson in the history of warfare: You don’t beat the British by lining up in red coats and marching on their lines, as they would on you. You beat them by adopting a strategy they’ve never met, or never played. The forces that would block this bill work well and effectively on Capitol Hill, and inside the Beltway. That is their home. And if we’re going to seize their home, and dismantle it, we need a strategy that they’re sure is going to fail. Yet we need it to win.

Insurgent movements have to fight the war on unconventional turf. If the issue gets decided finally within institutions that depend upon things staying the same, things will stay the same. But if we can move the battle outside the Beltway, to venues where the status quo has no natural advantage, then even small forces can effect big change.

These are exactly why in the space of knowledge policy that commons-based products and commons-favoring policy are so potent, and ought be taken as the primary mechanism of knowledge policy reform. Uncorrupted direct reform of copyright and patents (the standard menu includes things like reducing term lengths and increasing ‘quality’) probably is hopeless without de-concentrating funding of political campaigns (or whatever anti-corruption measure turns out to be the essential first step). Good luck to Lessig. In the meantime, knowledge commons can slowly (far too slowly now, I admit) change the structure of the knowledge economy, create concentrated interests that benefit from commons-favoring policy, and increase policy imagination for what is possible without intellectual property.

I started off claiming that Lessig is the most patriotic candidate for U.S. temporary dictator because he’s the only one putting his preferred issues to the side to fix the institutions of government and make collective action work better. But I have to admit that jingoist patriots (those with some patience anyway) ought also favor Lessig, because those are the qualities that give a nation the capacity to dominate others over the long term, if its constituents have such ugly desires.

Aus Race Laws In Spotlight After Paris Attacks

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 13/01/2015 - 10:55am in