Bureaucracy and Violence10-08-2017
Bureaucracy and Violence
[caption id="attachment_19232" align="alignright" width="300"] By Mariordo (Mario Roberto Durán Ortiz) - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0[/caption]
"I am quoting Hannah Arendt:Limbaugh's focus on the bureaucracy of the Health and Human Services Administration is not exactly what Arendt has in mind. Arendt distinguishes different types of bureaucracy. Her original critique of bureaucracy does not target the civil service but administrators who rule without oversight. In a chapter of Origins of Totalitarianism called "Racism and Bureaucracy," Arendt argues that bureaucracy is what allows racist administrators to rule over colonies without responsibility or limit. There is a difference between bureaucratic rule that empowers bureaucratic Viceroys to rule with absolute power and a civil service that employs bureaucrats in an effort to administer the law and practice good government.
“The greater the bureaucratization of public life, the greater will be the attraction of violence. In a fully developed bureaucracy there is nobody left with whom one could argue, to whom one could present grievances, on whom the pressures of power could be exerted. Bureaucracy is the form of government in which everybody is deprived of political freedom, of the power to act; for the rule by Nobody is not no-rule, and where all are equally powerless we have a tyranny without a tyrant.”Let me explain this. As a democracy bureaucratizes, which we have. Another name for bureaucracy would be called the deep state. The bureaucracy is cabinet level administration, every government agency you can think of. And believe me, there are more government agencies than any single one person could name from memory. They are many, and they are redundant. And what do bureaucracies do? They’re like plugging the drain on a bathtub. When you have to deal with a bureaucracy, if you have a grievance, you’re not gonna get a solution because you get passed up to the next department, to the next supervisor. You never get an answer, you never get a solution, because nobody is empowered to make one. A fully fleshed out bureaucracy, the total bureaucratization of a democracy, of a country, leads to average, ordinary Americans having no power whatsoever to address grievance, particularly grievance that have its origins within the state.... If Health and Human Services has some stupid rule that penalizes you or your business, there’s nowhere you can go to fix it. You can’t even go to Health and Human Services. You try it, and it is like everything is the DMV where you never get your license updated. And she theorizes this is gonna lead to mounting frustration with unstable people being unable to deal with the lack of action, the lack of solution, the lack of movement, and they’re gonna go nuts. And she theorized the attraction to violence from frustration will increase because there is nobody in a fully developed bureaucracy, there is nobody with whom you can argue. There’s plenty of people to argue with."
Writing from the American Academy in Berlin, Thomas Chatterton Williams compares the thesis of the German Sonderweg—that German Nazism was a result of a specifically German cultural flaw—with the recent American Sonderweg theory—that the national triple sin of slavery, land theft and genocide "don’t just reverberate through the ages — they determine the present." Williams writes that Ta-Nehisi Coates has done more than anyone else to popularize the American Sonderweg, according to which, in Coates' words, “white supremacy was so foundational to this country that it would not be defeated in my lifetime, my child’s lifetime, or perhaps ever.” After interviewing many of the leading figures of the White Supremacist movement in the United States, Williams argues that Coates, by giving Whiteness talismanic powers, "mirrors ideas of race — specifically the specialness of whiteness — that white supremacist thinkers cherish."
"“We Were Eight Years in Power” can leave a reader with the distinct impression that its author is glad, relieved even, that Donald Trump was elected president. It is exhibits A through Z of Mr. Coates’s national indictment, proof that the foundations of the United States are anti-black and that the past is not dead — it’s not even past, to echo William Faulkner. This argument, which would have been much harder to prosecute had Wisconsin and Pennsylvania stayed blue, is compelling because there is much disturbing truth in it. Pent- up white racism did fire Mr. Trump’s candidacy, and he happily fanned the flames. Yet that alone cannot explain why, in 2016, of the nearly 700 counties that voted for a black president twice, over 200 opted for Mr. Trump rather than backing a member of the white Washington establishment. Given the genuine severity of the Trump threat, some readers of this essay may wonder, why devote energy to picking over the virtue and solidarity signaling of the left? Quite simply because getting this kind of thinking wrong exacerbates the very inequality it seeks to counteract. In the most memorable sentence in “The First White President,” Mr. Coates declares, “Whereas his forebears carried whiteness like an ancestral talisman, Trump cracked the glowing amulet open, releasing its eldritch energies.” I have spent the past six months poring over the literature of European and American white nationalism, in the process interviewing noxious identitarians like the alt-right founder Richard Spencer. The most shocking aspect of Mr. Coates’s wording here is the extent to which it mirrors ideas of race — specifically the specialness of whiteness — that white supremacist thinkers cherish. This, more than anything, is what is so unsettling about Mr. Coates’s recent writing and the tenor of the leftist “woke” discourse he epitomizes. Though it is not at all morally equivalent, it is nonetheless in sync with the toxic premises of white supremacism. Both sides eagerly reduce people to abstract color categories, all the while feeding off of and legitimizing each other, while those of us searching for gray areas and common ground get devoured twice. Both sides mystify racial identity, interpreting it as something fixed, determinative and almost supernatural. For Mr. Coates, whiteness is a “talisman,” an “amulet” of “eldritch energies” that explains all injustice; for the abysmal early-20th-century Italian fascist and racist icon Julius Evola, it was a “meta-biological force,” a collective mind-spirit that justifies all inequality. In either case, whites are preordained to walk that special path. It is a dangerous vision of life we should refuse no matter who is doing the conjuring."Form more information visit: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/06/opinion/ta-nehisi-coates-whiteness-power.html?_r=1
"Flooding" and Censorship
[caption id="attachment_19234" align="alignright" width="300"] By Brandt Luke Zorn - Photo taken by Brandt Luke Zorn, CC BY-SA 2.0[/caption] Tim Wu argues that the First Amendment, while important, is not up to the job of protecting and regulating speech in the new era where speech is cheap and attention is scarce. While Wu, I think, underestimates the possibility and threat of government censorship of dissenting speech (just ask those dissenters sitting in Russian prisons), he is right to see the need for creating thinking about new threats to meaningful public speech. Troll armies, as Wu argues, can silence and chill those who would express controversial or unpopular opinions. Even more important in the efforts by governments to suppress or control publicly meaningful speech may be the technique Wu calls "flooding."
"Reverse censorship, which is also called “flooding,” is another contemporary technique of speech control. With roots in so-called “astroturfing,”72 it relies on counter-programming with a sufficient volume of information to drown out disfavored speech, or at least distort the information environment. Politically motivated reverse censorship often involves the dissemination of fake news (or atrocity propaganda) in order to distract and discredit. Whatever form it takes, this technique clearly qualifies as listener-targeted speech control. The Chinese and Russian governments have led the way in developing methods of flooding and reverse censorship.73 China in particular stands out for its control of domestic speech. China has not, like North Korea, sought to avoid twenty-first-century communications technologies. Its embrace of the Internet has been enthusiastic and thorough. Yet the Communist Party has nonetheless managed to survive — and even enhance — its control over politics, defying the predictions of many in the West who forecast that the arrival of the Internet would soon lead to the government’s overthrow.74 Among the Chinese methods uncovered by researchers are the efforts of as many as two million people who are paid to post on behalf of the Party. As King, Pan, and Roberts have found:Form more information visit: https://knightcolumbia.org/content/tim-wu-first-amendment-obsolete
[T]he [Chinese] government fabricates and posts about 448 million social media comments a year. In contrast to prior claims, we show that the Chinese regime’s strategy is to avoid arguing with skeptics of the party and the government, and to not even discuss controversial issues. We show that the goal of this massive secretive operation is instead to distract the public and change the subject, as most of these posts involve cheerleading for China, the revolutionary history of the Communist Party, or other symbols of the regime.75In an attention-scarce world, these kinds of methods are more effective than they might have been in previous decades. When listeners have highly limited bandwidth to devote to any given issue, they will rarely dig deeply, and they are less likely to hear dissenting opinions. In such an environment, flooding can be just as effective as more traditional forms of censorship. Related to techniques of flooding is the intentional dissemination of so-called “fake news” and the discrediting of mainstream media sources. In modern times, this technique seems, once again, to be a key tool of political influence used by the Russian government. In addition to its attacks on regime critics, the Russian web brigade also spreads massive numbers of false stories, often alleging atrocities committed by its targets.76 While this technique can be accomplished by humans, it is aided and amplified by the increasing use of human-impersonating robots, or “bots,” which relay the messages through millions of fake accounts on social media sites like Twitter. Tufekci has documented similar strategies employed by the Turkish government in its efforts to control opposition. The Turkish government, in her account, relies most heavily on discrediting nongovernmental sources of information. As she writes, critics of the state found “an enormous increase in challenges to their credibility, ranging from reasonable questions to outrageous and clearly false accusations. These took place using the same channels, and even the same methods, that a social movement might have used to challenge false claims by authorities.”77 The goal, she writes, was to create “an ever-bigger glut of mashed-up truth and falsehood to foment confusion and distraction” and “to overwhelm people with so many pieces of bad and disturbing information that they become confused and give up trying to figure out what the truth might be — or even the possibility of finding out what is true.”78 While the technique was pioneered overseas, it is clear that flooding has come to the United States. Here, the most important variant has been the development and mass dissemination of so-called “fake news.” Consider in this regard the work of Philip Howard, who runs the Computational Propaganda Project at Oxford University. As Howard points out, voters are strongly influenced by what they think their neighbors are thinking; hence fake crowds, deployed at crucial moments, can create a false sense of solidarity and support. Howard and his collaborators studied the linking and sharing of news on Twitter in the week before the November 2016 U.S. presidential vote. Their research produced a startling revelation: “junk news was shared just as widely as professional news in the days leading up to the election.”79 Howard’s group believes that bots were used to help achieve this effect. These bots pose as humans on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media, and they transmit messages as directed. Researchers have estimated that Twitter has as many as 48 million bot users,80 and Facebook has previously estimated that it has between 67.65 million and 137.76 million fake users.81 Some percentage of these, according to Howard and his team, are harnessed en masse to help spread fake news before and after important events. Robots have even been employed to attack the “open” processes of the administrative state. In the spring of 2017, the Federal Communications Commission put its proposed revocation of net neutrality up for public comment. In previous years, such proceedings attracted vigorous argument by (human) commentators. This time, someone directed robots to impersonate — via stolen identities — hundreds of thousands of people, flooding the system with fake comments, all of which were purportedly against federal net neutrality rules.82 As it stands, the First Amendment has little to say about any of these tools and techniques. The mobilization of online vitriol or the dissemination of fake news by private parties or foreign states, even if in coordination with the U.S. government, has been considered a matter of journalistic ethics or foreign policy, not constitutional law. And it has long been assumed (though rarely tested) that the U.S. government’s own use of domestic propaganda is not a contestable First Amendment concern, on the premise that propaganda is “government speech.”83 The closest thing to a constitutional limit on propagandizing is the premise that the state cannot compel citizens to voice messages on its behalf (under the doctrine of compelled speech)84 or to engage in patriotic acts like saluting the flag or reciting the pledge of allegiance.85But under the existing jurisprudence, it seems that little — other than political norms that are fast eroding — stands in the way of a full-blown campaign designed to manipulate the political speech environment to the advantage of current officeholders."