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Literary Magazines for Socialists Funded by the CIA, Ranked (theawl.com)
176 points by samclemens on Aug 25, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 133 comments



If anyone can read this and /not/ believe that the security state is very much active in a covert way on social media, reddit, and even specialized forums like this...

I realize that to suggest that, say, some proportion of the reddit mods are on the payroll of a .gov alphabet agency sounds like tinfoil hat territory, but it would have been dramatically crazier in the 50's to suggest that the CIA was funding socialist literary magazines, art galleries, and the like.


How is it tinfoil hat territory when we have been leaked information confirming what you said?

We really need to ditch the tinge of conspiracy "theory" when we talk about these issues, they're backed up by primary sourced evidence that wasn't tampered with and corroborated by insiders that are independent from each other. If this were science, this would be as much evidence as we would have for the primary working hypothesis to describe the phenomena.


We need to stop classifying whole swaths of ideas as junk because they sound too similar to 'conspiracy theories'. This dogma is unspeakably harmful to the truth and is easy to cultivate by those on the other end, by those who would be served better if the opposition were bearers of tinfoil, not bearers of bad news. Most of it is bullshit, sure, but most people are indeed 'sheep' (for lack of a better word), they don't do any sort of digging to figure out the truth for themselves. Whoever gets to them first earns the right to spread their own opinion, since the first opinion is the hardest to change.


'Tinfoil hat' and 'conspiracy theorist' are just debate-stopping names thrown around.

This is obviously true because anyone who tries to introduce an idea typically feels compelled to put a disclaimer 'I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but' as a leader.

The same pattern appears whenever whole topics of discussion are regarded as not allowed. It's the unmistakable signature of a move by someone to shut down debate using labels over arguments.


Ditch the tinge of conspiracy? How is he supposed to get clicks and pay his rent?


Hey this is serious stuff, the government is manipulating your brain without your consent, don't reduce it to crass commercialism.


I am more worried about Kim Kardashian's mind control powers over the masses.


Really? I'd have thought it was a pretty uncontroversial claim that government agencies were funding anti-communist media organizations in the middle of the Cold War (when, let's face it, they were doing it quite openly in many instances). I wouldn't be at all surprised to they are doing something similar with moderate Islamic organizations and interfaith dialogue groups (not to mention many anodyne business ventures with roots in the Middle East) today.

But suggesting that censoring the anti-authoritarian playground that is Reddit or persuading Hacker Newsers of the virtues of the TSA are sufficiently high on their list of current national security priorities to dedicate manpower to in our current environment just seems... rather more of a stretch.

If they are attempting to astroturf these particular corners of the internet it's something of an understatement to say they're not very good at it.


You're thinking about to simplistically. The point wasn't always to alter the message, but to embolden and radicalize the target groups.

A reasonable communist might appeal to the people, you discredit them by making them more extreme. When the FBI and NYPD infiltrated the antiwar movement in the 60s, in many cases the agents were agent provocateurs, ultra-extreme "members" of these groups encouraging violence or other behaviors not in the interest of the group. The idea was to undermine and anti-war movement and identify the leaders and undermine them.

(Example: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gainesville_Eight "Bill Lemmer, the Southern regional assistant coordinator of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, revealed himself as an undercover FBI operative in May 1972. Bill Lemmer had been thrown out of a 'fast'/protest by DCVC(VVAW) on the Capitol steps in Washington D.C. in January 1972 after advocating for violent, destructive actions on the Washington Monument." )

If there is a covert presence on internet fora, it would probably be in a similar light -- build trust among potentially influential adversaries by emboldening them, then cutting them down by hook or crook. The ultimate coup is to actually co-opt the radical agenda.


See, I believe that government agencies actually do this (best 9/11 conspiracy theory: some of the ridiculous "controlled demolition" claims were planted or encouraged to divert the instinctive conspiracy theorists from asking more damaging questions about response times)

But on Reddit? I don't think government agencies are needed to persuade Redditors to say and upvote things that don't look good in the media, or that the Reddit hivemind represents a perceived threat on a par with the antiwar, socialist or even civil rights movements in the 60s


How would something like the infamous "Loose Change" video be ginned up and popularized in 2015? Outlets like Reddit, influential Twitter people, etc.


Sure. But you don't need a 50 Cent Party, or even to be at all active on social media to find some conspiracy theorists who'll happily do the legwork of promoting the video for you; you can probably entirely outsource the job to the people and organizations you keep files on.


Eh, you'd be surprised. Reddit is locked down and largely mainstream now.


Here is why it's not a stretch:

The CIA and other TLAs have long contracted with PR firms for propaganda work. PR firms actively court this business.

PR firms now sell astroturfing-as-a-service. How likely is it that they haven't sold this service to their government clients?

The same goes for the whole consent-manufacturing industry.


> But suggesting that censoring the anti-authoritarian playground that is Reddit or persuading Hacker Newsers of the virtues of the TSA are sufficiently high on their list of current national security priorities to dedicate manpower to in our current environment just seems... rather more of a stretch.

> If they are attempting to astroturf these particular corners of the internet it's something of an understatement to say they're not very good at it.

This is where I have trouble buying into this being present on HN or reddit. For what purpose? What goal are they pursuing?


Surely the same goal as everywhere else? To shape the minds of people.


Nice try, CIA.


Damn it, cover blown! When startup enthusiasts start joining ISIS in droves it'll be all your fault :-)


Edward Walker has a dissertation and book ("Grassroots for Hire") which includes data on modern-day commercial astroturfing, https://qualpolicomm.wordpress.com/2014/10/06/q-a-with-ed-wa...

"Walker examines the “back stage” work that public affairs professionals do to organize the “front stage” of public participation on behalf of various clients in part by incentivizing, coordinating, and orchestrating engagement ... the book does open up a new agenda .. on a variety of topics including public trust in advocacy groups (and its consequences) .. and also broader questions about the consequences of professionally-facilitated advocacy ... we also need to know more about how these campaigns affect corporate bottom lines, similar to how others have studied the effects of protests on stock prices."


Not just literary magazines and social media.

For instance, I went to an art exhibition in Berlin a couple of years back to see a retrospective of mid 20th century painting, and some of the info-cards claimed that the CIA sponsored a lot of the avant-garde US and European artists as a way to reject Soviet Social Realism movement. To show in a way that art in the West was freer in its imagination, execution, and scope. Quick Google, here's[1] a piece from the British newspaper, the Independent form 1995 :)

It is interesting that despotic regimes tend to persecute intellectuals and artists whereas the CIA, though far from lily-white, seems to have done the opposite. Though I'd say the dossier on Chomsky is a mile long!

[1] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/modern-art-was-cia-w...


For something a bit more concrete. Take a look at what IARPA is funding and has funded in the past.

http://www.iarpa.gov/index.php/research-programs

This may not go far in answering your questions regarding government funded sock puppets, but it gives an idea of what they're interested in. Basically they're interested in damn near everything, and they're willing to spend large sums of money investigating what works.


iirc there was a Powerpoint slide in one of Snowden's leaks that basically explicitly discussed manipulation of such fora. I post this in hopes someone who recalls better links to it.



"Through the CCF, as well as by more direct means, the CIA became a major player in intellectual life during the Cold War—the closest thing that the U.S. government had to a Ministry of Culture. This left a complex legacy. During the Cold War, it was commonplace to draw the distinction between “totalitarian” and “free” societies by noting that only in the free ones could groups self-organize independently of the state. But many of the groups that made that argument—including the magazines on this left—were often covertly-sponsored instruments of state power, at least in part. Whether or not art and artists would have been more “revolutionary” in the absence of the CIA’s cultural work is a vexed question; what is clear is that that possibility was not a risk they were willing to run. "

I wonder if the CIA really stopped being the Ministry of Culture?


The roots of cultural control go further back than the Cold War. Arguably it was Edward Bernays, father of public relations, who used his uncle Sigmund Freud's theories about humans being irrational economic actors motivated by primal instincts of fear, sex, and so on, to sell them products they didn't need.

The U.S. Government (and many around the world, including nazi Germany, whose head of propaganda admired Bernays) adapted these techniques as means to control people, or at least keep them from going out of control (Bolshevik Revolution, Naziism, etc). The popular image of the happy-go-lucky 1950s wasn't just how things "turned out to be," it was a concerted government effort to create the ideal and stable society that wouldn't overthrow the government.

You can see the same influence today in ideological news networks using compelling and vapid distractions instead of keeping focus on the "real" issues.

The BBC made a great documentary on this subject: "Century of the Self."


Yes, I am a student of Bernays as well. Bernays was a greater genius than Freud, I think-- and his teachings are still practiced enthusiastically as they were laid out back then.

I'm not convinced that the 1950s Americana was a result of intentional crafting from the top-down, though. Sure, bacon and eggs were forced onto the plate by PR campaigns along with countless other things, but a lot of it was the happenstance of having an entire generation come home from the war and then have the tools of prosperity handed to them via the GI bill.

Keep in mind that the 1950s begat the 1960s... hardly a time that can be described as controlled.

Century of the Self is quite good, and I highly recommend it as well. I agree with the vapid distractions problem, as it's very blatantly always in play on the MSM outlets.


I'd argue that Bernays and the modern assembly line directly enabled WW2


The BBC made a great documentary on this subject: "Century of the Self."

The best source is to just read Bernays' own book: Propaganda (1929).


> The U.S. Government (and many around the world, including nazi Germany, whose head of propaganda admired Bernays) adapted these techniques as means to control people, or at least keep them from going out of control (Bolshevik Revolution, Naziism, etc). The popular image of the happy-go-lucky 1950s wasn't just how things "turned out to be," it was a concerted government effort to create the ideal and stable society that wouldn't overthrow the government.

I was up with you until this point. As with most grand conspiracy theories, this seems like a big leap from the emergence of commercialism to a pastoral, planned society for the purposes of control.


Things like suburbs and consumerism were natural, but the reinforcement of that image as the ideal was effective for government that wanted stable citizens, and corporations that wanted predictable consumers. Still works - I didn't think I needed an iPhone 6 until I got one.


The influence of Bernays is correct, and the government has had a longstanding relationship with PR firms in crafting propaganda.


Cultural control has been going on WAY before Edward Bernays.


What culture? Fox News, Professional Sports, and reality TV? I miss the days when intellectuals were pandered to. Now they are just irrelevant.


Could be, but I think those choices are too unfocused in intent to be the work of the government. Hard to say exactly what their focus is, if they even still do those kinds of operations.

If I were the CIA, I'd start by looking at mainstream American Muslim groups safely inside the fold, then move on to groups closer to the fringe but still not radical, as these would be the perfect kind of organization to create, both for the ability to keep tabs on muslims and also for crafting the millieu of the muslim subculture within the US. I guess the point here would be to create a moderate muslim front domestically in order to prevent ISIS sympathizers from gaining traction. I'm not sure if this is actually a good idea or not.

After I'd found some of those aforementioned groups, I'd check out their preferences for pornography, video games, and illegal drugs-- the most reliable way to do this is to be in person. These options are a good place to start looking for an outside nudge, given that they're still taboo, especially among muslims.

After thinking it through, this seems a bit far fetched. I'm not sure that the CIA would be wasting so much time on dubious culture creation/shaping without it being proven as extremely effective in the right context.


Their history certainly supports their penchant for enthusiastically engaging in strategies with no proven effectiveness (like giving people LSD for the purposes of mind control). Though there's (maybe) something of an argument to be made that the Cold War was an era of particular lunacy and that the CIA of today is more sober-minded.


I'm not sure that the CIA would be wasting so much time on dubious culture creation/shaping without it being proven as extremely effective in the right context.

Like any other effectively-unsupervised bureaucracy, the only context that matters is, "are we spending more and more money?" If a plausible hole can be found, the CIA will be happy to throw money down it.


And don't get me started on Hollywood's love for barely covered propaganda movies.


I assume that's a rhetorical question...


I'd genuinely like to know, but I'm not sure where to get started if I were interested in finding the CIA's influence on the culture of today.


Maybe apply for a job.


Don't forget to report your findings here!


Did anyone actually read why these magazines were "highly ranked"?

> the CIA actually thought that Levitas’s anti-Communism was too ferocious, unrelenting, and “conservative.” ... the CIA wanted a more moderate and “sophisticated” voice ... The New Leader remained progressive in the context of U.S. domestic politics; it was one of the first publications to publish Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail.

> Like other magazines affiliated with the Congress for Cultural Freedom, Mundo Nuevo published essays critical of U.S. policy in Latin America and Vietnam. Its usefulness, from the U.S. government’s point of view, consisted in its defense of the responsibility of the artist as an independent critic of power ...

I'm probably the only one in this thread, but I actually think some of these cases fall short of crimes against humanity.

I mean, of all the dirty secret squirrel things governments do, if I had to pick, then (1) funding the early publication of 'Letter from a Birmingham Jail' and (2) encouraging artists to challenge entrenched power (to include US policy) would be pretty high on my list.


> I'm probably the only one in this thread, but I actually think some of these cases fall short of crimes against humanity.

It's good to resist making generalizing statements about the community. There's little evidence here of readers objecting to the CIA having funded literary journals during the Cold War. (They funded a lot of things, including great musicians [1]. It's surprising what good taste they had.) Mostly the thread consists of extrapolation to present affairs—maybe not the most substantive discussion because it's so speculative, but probably unavoidable.

1. http://www.openculture.com/2014/03/louis-armstrong-plays-his...


So it's not "when did the CIA become a rogue actor", but rather "which stuff did the CIA fund", right?

Also, is there anything like a "free market" in the US? It appears that some government agency or another is financing things, or feeding info to entities in just about every single market. This has been going on since WW2, at least. So when do I get to scoff at any mention of a "free market"?


Free markets are about freedom of choice in participation - freedom to create a business, take or leave a job, freedom to product or buy the products you want. It's about economic freedom.

That the CIA interfered with things doesn't change the fact that people are still free to do those things. You could argue about whether people really free to not buy a diamond ring to announce an engagement or not, in the same way the CIA has been influencing and financing operations. But the fact of the matter is there is no state actors forcing you to do such things.


> That the CIA interfered with things doesn't change the fact that people are still free to do those things.

It certainly does interfere. The propaganda articles displaces other articles and other publications.

Or, for a larger example, do you thing AT&T could be driven out of business because of their cosy relationship with the NSA? Heck no. It's more likely that AT&T's government partners will reward it regulatorily and with more contracts, and with social media astroturfing if a movement to boycott AT&T got going. Shut up and consume.


Any individual might be free to buy or sell or participate or not, but if there's some covert support, monetary or regulatory or informational, then the market isn't working according to the participant's input.

A firm offering worse prices to consumers, but getting inside information might drive its competitors out of business, even if they offer superior service or value. The outcome is different. I don't see how re-defining a free market in terms of the participant's choice makes it work like a market in which the government agency hasn't meddled.


It's not re-defining what a free market is, that's always been the case.

I guess the point I haven't got across is that even if the government interferes covertly with one specific product or market, it has little effect on the overall market. Just think of the number of SKUs in an average Walmart and you'll get an idea of what I mean.


It's a matter of degree. There is no 100% free market - your transactions are influenced by a lot of factors, from the taxes in Nicaragua to your physical location. Government intervention is one of those limiting factors; mobsters demanding protection money from a shop owner is another.

We (libertarians) prefer the markets to be as free as possible (with an ideal of 100% free) because we've seen a direct relationship between market freedom and economic prosperity (utilitarians) and / or because we find it more moral than the alternative.


In recent years I've started entertaining a bit of a heresy. I wouldn't say I believe this, but it's at least a question worth asking:

Is there actually any such thing as a "grassroots" movement?

Over the years I've seen so many unmasked as the product of someone or something with deep pockets: corporations, think tanks, governments. At the very least it's hard for me to think of any movement where major institutions didn't play some role.

Intelligence agencies seem to figure prominently too, and not necessarily in the areas you would think. The 60s counterculture was in part seeded by CIA LSD research, and Tor was funded by the US Department of Naval Intelligence (to provide two random examples).


Is it possible for a movement to spawn purely out of a cultural vacuum? Sure. I'm sure the people in the Tea Party think so.

Thing is, once the people notice opportunity, it isn't long until money and power follow suit. And even then it's hard to determine what was genuine feeling or subversive influence, or complex forces of history we can't even recognize. The dead are a presence among the living


You'd have to say that - yes, there is such a thing.

But gaining momentum and power requires money and leadership. Unless a grassroots movement can create those things themselves - which would be quite rare - inevitably a true grassroots movement is going to be co-opted by someone seeking to use their popularity. Thus the origins of the movement are always likely to be questioned by the opponents, because plenty of evidence of funding and leadership are going to appear. Placing them in a chronological order to determine the 'grassrootedness' of the movement is going to be tricky, unless someone kept very careful notes. Which is also very unlikely.


Occupy.

(Note that this is not necessarily a good thing -- Occupy's leaderless, grassroots-über-alles nature is a big part of why it eventually tore itself apart.)


Indeed. Occupy ran into the inevitable growing pains of any organization acquiring a measure of power or prestige. It attracted people who like power and prestige. They immediately proceeded to do what such people do best - fight over power and prestige while insisting loudly they do nothing of the sort.


Very suspicious that anti-war protests vanished from the headlines as Occupy Wall Street took hold.


The anti war movement was dead before Occupy, IMO. Of course, it's still dead after Occupy, which is a problem. There may only be carrying capacity among the left wing for one (strong at first, then weakly sustained) protest group at a time-- right now it's Black Lives Matter.

Besides, it's somewhat fundamentally the same group of people from what I can tell. A few scruffy leftists at the core, a few victims of the issue du jour, and a bunch of irritated but fleeting "moderates" (apoliticals) orbiting from time to time.


I am from Brazil, from my point of view Occupy was a sort of copy-cat of the spanish occupy (that spawned from the financial crisis), also vaguely related to Arab Spring.

At the time, I even tought about how closely it looked to the "Stand Alone Complex" discussed in the anime series of same name, when people create a social movement, and they believe they are being copy-cats, but there is no "original" to copy.

When Occupy happened, it was the same time as occupy-style protests in Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece, the Spanish and Portuguese called themselves "Indignados", and if you saw live feeds of the Greece movement, you could see people carrying "Indignados" banners too.

Also Arab spring happened at the same time, one thing interesting was that Anonymous (the 4chan Anonymous "group") was present in all of those, sometimes doing important things, for example in the same IRC channel they organized live feeds of spanish protests, medical help in Tunisia (a couple of "Anons" with actual medical training in Tunisia roamed around in makeshift ambulances helping injured protesters) and internet infrastructure in Egypt (in Egypt after the government shutdown the internet, "Anons" drove around in vans with satellite and various forms of local connections to provide data links so people could upload photos and videos of the protests).

Occupy Wall Street was a sort of natural consequence, lots of US people got involved in the overseas protests, and it does not surprise me they decided to try the same in US.

The thing is, that in US the cause they could fight for was completely unrelated, in Europe the problem was the stupid austerity programs and the debt problems, in the muslim world it started as protests against corruption (the first protester, a Tunisian that set fire to himself, was upset that the Tunisian police could stroll on the market and take whatever they wanted without paying, that Tunisian was a shopkeeper).

US has much less obvious corruption than Tunisia (ie: no cops stealing food from food trucks), and although US has crazy debts, the dollar being reserve currency allow the US to pretend the debt problem does not exist, so Occupy had to protest confusing stuff.


>Occupy had to protest confusing stuff.

I agree that a lot of the details of the financial system fly over society's collective heads, but I think the impunity of white-collar bad actors was a very concrete non-confusing source of outrage.


It's a very power populist message. But it's hard to channel that into reform. Holding banks responsible for the crash just wasn't possible. Creating regulation for the future was possible, but it's wonkish and doesn't lend itself to crowd pleasing measures.


No. Occupy was generated by Adbusters, a non-profit group. The campaign went viral, and then launched into the thing it became.


"Somebody had an idea and it grew naturally from there" is very different than "somebody conjured it up out of whole cloth by dumping money on people." Adbusters planted the seed, but Occupy was hardly a Wholly Owned Subsidiary of Adbusters Inc., especially by the time it became something significant.


I've been fascinated to read some comparisons between Occupy and I think it was second-wave feminist groups. Basically, the feminists ran into many of the same problems as Occupy, a few decades ago.


GNU software? It's hard to imagine big coroporations pushed that.


Which brings up the interesting situation of the linux kernel. Lots of corporations (with their own agendas) have contributed alongside with lots of independent devs.



I think that progressives (especially Chomsky) overstate the role of hard power/money in politics. Or perhaps they understate the role of soft power. E.g. the progressive movement in the West is driven by a relatively small group of academics and journalists. It is notable how many social sciences professors are self-professed Marxists. I don't see this in a conspiratorial way (as some do), of Marxists seeking to push an agenda. But rather, the core of the progressive movement are people who think that both the economic, and also the political and social realm, are characterized by power, domination and oppression. If you don't believe this about economics, it's much harder to believe this about the rest.


"Is there actually any such thing as a "grassroots" movement?"

I would hope that this would be an easy question to answer, simply by identifying some minor thing you have done that would qualify as - even as the germ of - grassroots action.

I can think of one or two things I have done myself that would fall into that category, and I would hope that would be the case for everyone. Even if it's minor (as mine have been) if it welled up from within you it is ipso facto the start of a grassroots movement.


I wasn't suggesting there are no grassroots actions, but I was questioning whether there are (many) coherent grassroots "movements."

At the very least they seem quite rare.


Yes, there are plenty of people starting grassroots movements. However, once it gets big, it will start attracting attention and infiltrators.


How about movements that direct money towards smaller or local entities? It's hard for me to imagine the eat local / farmers market movement as being quietly backed by corporations.


I wouldn't be absolutely shocked to learn that there are industry advocacy groups that push movements like that.

I'm also suspicious about the whole organic movement and companies like Whole Foods. See also: the concept of 'food gentrification.'

https://bitchmedia.org/post/foodgentrification-and-culinary-...


There was actually just an AMA on Reddit from a scientist whose research group was being harassed by an organic food lobby called "US Right to Know."

https://www.reddit.com/r/science/comments/3g8l2h/an_antibiot...

Anti-GMO group that’s harassing university scientists is the real tool of corporate America

http://www.thecollegefix.com/post/23847/


Bitcoin, but like any of those could be hijacked by a group with an ulterior motive.

LSD and Tor were developed by the US government, but took on a life of their own, quite the opposite of what is described in the article.


Unless you know who Satoshi Nakamoto is, Bitcoin's origins are a mystery.

As for LSD, it was discovered by Albert Hofmann, a Swiss and while the US government helped the movement along a lot (mostly unintentionally), they didn't start it or control it.


By the way, one magazine like that still exists.

CIA, using Ford Foundation, co-founded the Brazillian publisher "Abril", their flagship magazine is called "Veja" (it translates to "See"), it is a sort of centrist magazine (its views resemble the US democratic party, in Brazil this is right of most parties, so the hardcore brazillian left consider "Veja" extreme right-wing, but actual right-wingers consider the magazine as left).

It is interesting that although they do spouse many positions that the brazillian right wing consider left, the magazine usually is supportive of US, the few times it said something against the US is when the US pulled some obviously evil stunt (ie: something that even a stupid and ignorant person can perceive as evil).

I had a hobby of buying "Veja" and "Carta Capital" (It translates to "Capital Letter"), the CC magazine is clearly leftist, usually supporting the obviously marxist and communist parties, also CC magazine is very critical of US, it is not uncommon to see Veja and CC make reports on the same thing, with completely different conclusions, or see Veja and CC taking stealth jabs at each other (example: insulting someone that has a position the other has, without naming the other directly).


"CIA, using Ford Foundation, co-founded the Brazillian publisher "Abril"

Source?


Czeslaw Milosz wrote that it was very clear that there was American government money behind the Congress for Cultural Freedom--one didn't need inside information to figure it out.


These are not the only magazines CIA funded. They where very active in the (radical) feminist movement and funded among other "Ms." and Gloria Steinem, who also was sent to Moscow for Socialist meet-ups, payed by the same.

Also this movement is rooted in socialism (to primarily break down the family union, as we can see today). No one can say feminism is not influential in the world today.

Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gloria_Steinem#CIA_ties ->

http://www.namebase.org/steinem.html http://www.namebase.org/foia/festival.html

And in an interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4HRUEqyZ7p8

https://www.marxists.org/archive/kollonta/1920/communism-fam...


It's obviously not any news that CIA and similar agencies sponsor disruptive activities all over the world as long as they see fit to their own interest. So-called "democracy" and "freedom" etc. are just all convenient excuses, pretext of war. Maybe the only interesting thing here is the assertion that apparently leftists don't only fight capitalists, they also fight totalitarian regimes which have long abandoned their leftist roots. This might further clarifies things a bit.


Anyone read Eric Schmidt "The New Digital Age", Eric talks about cyberwar, Luddites, and geo politics as it relates to tech and data collection for the government, just replace the word the future with the present.


Communism uses suppression as a means to control the population.

I've never considered the converse, using 'promotion' to control the population.


It's done quite frequently in international geopolitics. Promote the group that is the most sympathetic to you, suppress the opposite.

Maybe if you're extra clever you promote two groups, one to be the clean "moderates" that you will ultimately back, and the other being the dirty "radicals" that you will use to brutally suppress your opponents. Wait til the job is done, then dispose of the radicals. I'm sure this has happened before.


Yes, there's even examples that are very recent or still ongoing: Ukraine (Right Sector/Svoboda/Azov being the extremists, Poroshenko the 'moderate'), and Syria - although that one backfired.


You're probably right, given the CIA fingerprints all over the current Ukrainian administration.

If you want a trip, check out how Arseniy Yatsenyuk rose to power. US "Department of State" is even listed as a benefactor to his political group.


I've been following Ukraine politics for years, from before the 'Orange Revolution'.

It's funny, one 'spontaneous' revolution fails due to in-fighting and corruption, so the next time round, they just run the opposition strait out of the country, for all practical purposes ban their party, and there's a string of 'spontaneous' suicides of opposition politicians. Never mind the crackdown against the opposition in the east (when the uprising in the east merely started as a counter-maidan - with about the same level of violence and arms).

And of course the media is doing a fine job of covering up the fact that Ukraine's economy has tanked over 10%, and even their western debtors are losing patience over Ukraine's inability to pay back loans. They also omit certain facts, like that from the 1990's up until Yanukovych was overthrown, Russia basically bankrolled Ukraine's economy. They were given cheap gas, their debts were forgiven, their products were imported, and Russia looked the other way when their gas was being siphoned off... And the most pertinent detail, they forget to mention that the bulk of DPR forces are made up of defectors from the Ukrainian armed forces and retired soldiers.

Anyhow, the only difference between modern day coups and coups like Iran 1953 or Chile 1973 is that the CIA is much more covert these days. 'Spontaneous' uprisings (that happen to be accompanied by perfect logistics and media coverage) that just happen to put US interests into power. Soft power and cultural/media influence wins minds today. They spread the American dream, convince people it will happen if only they rebel against their own leaders, and chaos and destruction follows. The US convinced Libya, Syria, and Ukraine to rebel, and now all 3 are plunging into failed-state territory.


Dictatorships use suppression. Communism is a style of collective government. The USSR was never communist, the government merely used the lexicon of communism to suit its needs.


It's nearly impossible to accomplish communist goals without power centralization, i.e., dictatorship.


Communism is defined by a desire of common ownership of the means of production, absence of social classes, money, and the state. So it's kinda hard to conceive of this end goal through dictatorship, but you're welcome to try.


The USSR was a dictatorship. Whenever that became impossible to deny, leaders characterized themselves as caretakers. Now Russia pretends to be democratic. But it's still a dictatorship.


The USSR was never communist

By this definition, has there ever been a communist country?


It's a no-true-scotsman fallacy at heart.

Pretty common though: North Korea is a democratic state (according to its name), but not real democracy. National Socialism wasn't really socialist. The UK isn't a real monarchy.

It's a language game compelled by the guilt-by-association level of political sophistication of our culture. When the debate is rarely more sophisticated than 'that's socialist, like Hitler!!!!1!', it's no wonder that the response has to be 'that wasn't true socialism'.


The National Socialists were socialists in that they wished to control the means of production. State takeover was not part of that (as in the Soviets case) but new state-run industries (e.g. Volkswagen) were very much a part of that. The National Socialists controlled the economy through price setting and out put setting. Ostensibly the businesses were still privately owned - but if you can't control your prices, your output, or enter a new market, how much ownership do you really have? The same went for Labour unions - independent Labour unions were undermined to promote nationalised Labour unions, for the same purposes. The purpose is to centralise control of the entire nation for the purposes of planning the economic direction and output.

The big difference between National Socialists and International Socialists was that the former wished to strengthen their economy/people through careful curation of the economy and nation, whereas international socialists wished to replace private ownership everywhere (communism), and most promoted revolution as a means to that end.

I agree with you entirely that most people fall back on the 'no true scotsman' fallacy to disassociate their ideology with Hitler and the Nazis. What has always been curious to me is that people still identify with USSR socialism despite Stalin and the Soviets being equally as abhorrent as Hitler and the Nazis.


Every political ideology claims to make things better (if only for some folks). The practical question is - which one is likely to devolve into a pathological state, given a historical and cultural milieu where it is implemented, plus the natural limitations on information transfer between humans and entropy that pushes against our organizational efforts?


The UK is no longer an absolute monarchy, and has not been for many centuries, but the UK is a real constitutional monarchy. Australia, Canada and New Zealand are real constitutional monarchies too, in personal union with the UK.


There may be a monarch, but not one with any power.


The monarch has real genuine powers, and real discretion in how to exercise them, in the case of a constitutional crisis. Constitutional crises are rare, but they do happen. Consider a case from Australia - the dismissal of the Whitlam government in 1975 by the Governor-General Sir John Kerr. That is an example of a Vice Regal official exercising real, discretionary power. If the same situation had happened in the UK instead of Australia, the discretion would have resided with the Queen personally, as opposed to with her (largely indepedently acting) representative. Even in Australia, it is plausible the Queen could become involved in a 1975-style situation. If Whitlam had suspected Kerr was going to sack him, he could have tried to sack Kerr first. If there was a race to sack each other between the PM and the Governor-General, the Queen would have to personally decide how to react. e.g. if the PM advises the Queen to sack the GG, and immediately after that advice but before the Queen acts on it, the GG sacks the PM, should the Queen act on the request of the just sacked PM to sack the GG, or refuse? What if the GG advises the Queen to not sack him/her after all, or immediately appoints a new PM who conveys the same advice? Ultimately, whatever she did in such a scenario would be her personal decision, and it is unlikely that any court (whether in Australia or the UK) would entertain overturning it.


Consider your statement in the context of the term "Capitalism", which was in fact coined by none other than Karl Marx.


The term Communist Dictatorship is an oxymoron. Even though it's true that Lenin envisioned a dictatorship based on Marx's theories, this is not really anything like communism in the sense that Marx envisioned. The Jewish Kibbutz is a communist organization and notice how democratic it is.


The phrase communist country is a contradiction, communism means there are no countries.

The people drawing cave paintings in Chauvet 30,000 years ago were living in a communist society. 10,000 years ago the entire world was communist. Then slave societies arose in the Middle East and elsewhere.


Catalonia from 1936 to 1939. Maybe.


Greece shortly after WWII, Maybe.


Read about "la commune de Paris", though it is more anarchism than communism.


Hm, wonder if samclemens reads Marxmail.... Louis sent this out a couple hours before you posted it here so thought it might be the case :)


So is it just socialist publications, then? No publications of other ideological bents deserving of similar scrutiny? Fantastic.


The Soviet Union was a dictatorship. Democratic socialists are natural foes of dictatorships the world over.


Subthread detached from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10118981 and marked off-topic.


Democratic socialists are quite capable of forming dictatorships themselves. See: Venezula under Hugo Chavez and Nicaragua under Daniel Ortega.


That's a very liberal (no pun intended) use of the term "dictatorship". I think we should be careful to reserve it for countries which are actually dictatorships, not just countries whose policies or methods of government we disagree with or dislike. Venezuela and Nicaragua were not dictatorships under any realistic definition of the word; they had democratically elected governments within the rule of law, with finite terms and with clear means of political participation.

The problem with "dictatorship" is that it's become a curse word. There is a similar problem with "fascism": it has become a way to insult people or governments, whether their are actually fascist (unlikely) or not (more likely).


Pretty sure once you abolish time limits, build a dynasty and squash all opposition you are a dictator.

You can be Stalin, you can be more pleasant like Hugo, or you can be "Benevolent" like Lee Kuan Yew. A dictatorship is still a dictatorship benevolent or otherwise.


We can use one definition of the word, that offered on the Wikipedia page for Dictatorship:

"is a form of government where political authority is monopolized by a person or political entity, and exercised through various mechanisms to ensure the entity's power remains strong."

Both Chavez and Ortega regularly intimidated opposition media and relied heavily on propaganda to maintain popular support. Both abolished term limits in their respective countries to remain Presidents for Life. Chavez personally selected his successor, Nicolas Maduro, who narrowly beat Henrique Capriles, Chavez's main opposition, in the 2013 presidential elections, elections that Capriles protested as fraudulent. When Ortega couldn't get the Supreme Court to support his unlimited term limits, he replaced dissenting Justices with sympathetic ones.

If these aren't all the signs of a dictatorship, I don't know what is.


I don't think that particular snippet from Wikipedia is a complete and accurate description of a dictatorship. It leaves key aspects out, as Wikipedia goes on to describe. A dictatorship is also a totalitarian form of government which seeks absolute power and control over every citizen's private life, as well as the removal of political participation and dissent, which wasn't precisely the case in either country we're discussing.

Sure, removing term limits and replacing dissenting judges may be signs of an unhealthy democracy, but they still don't qualify as a dictatorship.

Note that in particular, when referring to Latin America, populist governments with strong individualist leaders are invariably called dictatorships by their opponents, whether accurate or not. I happen to think it's incorrect, and born out of frustration by non-populist opponents from reaching the population and winning general elections. I do think there are serious criticisms to be made for this kind of governments; it's just that accusing them of being dictatorships isn't one... instead, it's lazy.

It's also very common for media conglomerates in many Latin American countries, such as Venezuela, to claim to be "impartial observers", while actually being powerful political actors with vested interests, as well as money and support for politicians in the opposition. This places them in a particularly convenient situation: they can influence people by telling them every day that their country is going to the dogs, while at the same time, every time they're rebuked or criticized by the government they can claim it's "an attack on the free and independent press".


I've never understood the difference between a stereotypical dictatorship and mob rule by the (inevitably unenlightened) majority in a true democracy. I'm not sure there is a difference. They both sound like hell on Earth.


> I've never understood the difference

You are not interested in understanding, you only seek emotional comfort from fear of "mob rule", which is actually a straw man. If you truly were interested, the answer is obvious.

Switzerland, United States (some states) and Iceland sure don't sound like hell on Earth. These are some of the most democratic countries on Earth.


To be fair, as I remember from a documentary I watched, the number of people, when asked, who believe that democracy in America means "majority rule", outnumbers those who do not.

That we aren't a democracy, but are instead a federal republic, is a distinction lost on many, especially as they clamor to remove the constitutionally protected rights of others.


It indeed means majority rule, in a certain sense. The majority is adhoc, unlike in dictatorship, where the decision makers are defined independently of the issue. This distinction is also lost on many. :-)

Regarding democracy/republic distinction. This is a non-issue, mostly invoked by people against democracy. Of course functioning democracy needs republic, constitution, and protection of rights of others, especially the right to vote (which is btw one of the first things stripped to people before genocide happens). Democracy by definition includes all minorities. You cannot have people democratically voting to take democratic rights away from someone - that's kind of a Russell's paradox.

And I believe that U.S. would be much better off (for normal folks) if it actually were democracy on federal level, which it isn't, I agree. On state level U.S. is often more democratic (these are remnants of progressive movement from the beginning of 20th century) and some decisions are lot better; there are even studies that show that.


It would be a non-issue if people understood that the rights of others weren't fungible. If the equal protection clause were better understood, such that other people's voting rights were as sacrosanct as their own, as would be other peoples' marriages, freedom of association, etc. Or perhaps if our legislative process weren't focused so much on attempting to pay lip service to the letter of the law while wholly attempting to violate the spirit of it.

Regardless, we should reject majority rule where it violates constitutional restraint, but in practice, people on both sides have shown themselves all to happy to prioritize their own whimsies over the rights of others.

This is not a critique of democracy, mind you, but it is a critique of the people who fail to understand the premise of constitutional restraint while attempting to enjoy their democratic privileges. If more people realized that, as a matter of schema, certain policy options were off the table, and that's a legitimate feature, not a bug, then I think we'd all be better off, but whether done through noble intent or bigotry, the suppression of another's rights is the result of having failed to understand that the necessary component to a healthy democracy is in the required inability to take things away from those you don't like.


Well, practice shows that people in direct democracies understand this. Because for them, being minority in referendum is a common thing. Most people are mostly in the majority and sometimes in the minority. It has been shown that (semi)direct democracy actually decreases the polarization in the society and increases willingness to compromise with others.

So you may have a valid complaint, but unless the society actually practices democracy it won't get better - you will just continue to live with the imaginary fear of "majority".


Being a minority in a referendum leaves you with being exactly that -- the minority in a referendum.

Having your views represented directly is only as effective as the majority respects them. Historically, we haven't been all that great there.

I'm not saying there's no good in it, but we should similarly not forget that Proposition 8 was the result of referendum.


> Being a minority in a referendum leaves you with being exactly that -- the minority in a referendum.

The point is, if there is reasonable number of referenda, you're (unless your views are extreme) unlikely to be always in the minority, and vice versa, you're unlikely to be always in the majority. So you get quickly exposed to "being on the other side of the fence". This IMHO doesn't happen in the U.S. because it is deeply divided according to party lines.

> we should similarly not forget that Proposition 8 was the result of referendum

Similar thing to Prop. 8 happened to Switzerland, you just need to give people time, because they are generally conservative (meaning "cautious", not in political/religious sense). I think this was case of some benefits for disabled people, first it was shot down in the referendum by similarly thin majority, but few years later the referendum was repeated and the proposal passed.


I hear you. And, to be fair, clearly, the federal republic / representative democracy that we have isn't certain to solve these problems either. That's just as much an issue of the people demanding things that they shouldn't (and our legislators capitulating) as we would have in a direct democracy -- I just prefer for there to be a filter between a knee-jerk majority and the enactment of their laws, even if it isn't as effective as I'd like it to be.

If we were all starting with the assumption that everyone's rights were equal, then waiting a bit would be a more appropriate course of action than where we are. Martin Luther King Jr. once said "A right delayed is a right denied," and that resonates deeply with me. A single day in which a homosexual couple cannot be married is too much. A single day in which a transexual is not allowed agency is too much. According to the courts, a constitutionally enumerated right that is infringed is irreparable harm. I agree with that.

But, that aside, the problem in either system is that we have a system in which oppressing the rights of the few is the default, and not the exception. So long as that is the case, I will prefer that the legislative process be slow, and offer as much opportunity for objection as it can possibly have, on the grounds that it is more likely to imperil further infringements than it is to slow amelioration, which is all too often only resolved by the courts.


I understand a great deal about those particular countries. I understand that in Switzerland, the People have decided that it's reasonable to hand out $1 million speeding tickets. [1]

Pornography was illegal in Norway until 2006 [2], while the US (not a direct democracy or even close to one) has had its First Amendment since 1791.

In Iceland, you must pay a "congregation tax" to the church of your choice[3]. Those who do not belong to a church pay the same amount to the state, according to Wikipedia, but the Church of Iceland receives funding beyond the congregation taxes paid by its members.

Also in Switzerland, professional fisherman must attend classes in compassion, and special chemicals are issued for putting goldfish to death. [4]

A government that can do these things to you can also do much worse, and history suggests that it eventually will. Democracy is no guarantee of liberty and rationality, and neither is a secular population.

But yes, you're probably right, I'll pipe down now and move to Somalia (which I'm sure will be your next suggestion.)

[1] http://jalopnik.com/the-eight-biggest-speeding-tickets-ever-...

[2] http://www.internationalskeptics.com/forums/showthread.php?t...

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_tax

[4] http://scienceblogs.com/zooillogix/2008/04/28/swiss-governme...


>Pornography was illegal in Norway until 2006 [2], while the US (not a direct democracy or even close to one) has had its First Amendment since 1791.

Is your claim here that pornography was legal in the United States since 1791, or something else?

>A government that can do these things to you can also do much worse, and history suggests that it eventually will.

All of the states you've mentioned have had that power and ability for at least a century. None of them are dystopian hellholes.


(Shrug) My invocation of "mob rule" was called a straw man. I responded with concrete examples of policies that make no rational sense, and that could just as easily have arisen under a dictatorship or other harsh regime. If I hadn't identified the countries in question, it wouldn't be unreasonable to guess I was talking about Pakistan or Saudi Arabia.

And yes, in the plain language of our Constitution, pornography and every other product of the "press" has not been subject to legal oversight since 1791. We haven't always lived up to that ideal, but we do a better job of it than essentially anyone else including the supposedly-enlightened Nordic democracies.

Here's my recent favorite act of humanist, secular "democracy": http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objecti...

Like I said, I don't see a qualitative difference between that and dictatorship. Feel free to mod me down if you disagree... but please do it with a mouse, and not a gun.


It is a straw man, here's why. There is no case in history where the decision of majority would be significantly, from the moral perspective, worse than the decision of the elites from the same culture. The problem of your argument is that you compare real democratic decision with some moral ideal. But in real world you have to compare democratic decisions to decisions of elites inside the same culture (because these are the options you have).

It was studied and we know, normal people will be more conservative than elites. But they don't make worse moral decisions, quite the opposite. People also tend to spend less money in government than elites, for better or worse.

I don't downvote or upvote in threads I discuss in (that's Slashdot habit). Btw, I was downvoted, I suspect because someone thought I attacked personally. And I did, because the person is fair game - saying majority is making life hell-hole is a personal attack on 3.5 billion people.


If they form dictatorships, they are by definition not democratic socialists


Sure. One form of government often changes to another. Democratic Republics change into oligarchies, like what's going on in the US.


Quote from "Tempo presente", the Italian magazine in the list (first number, opening text):

> [...] sono incerti e problematici i confini del nostro mondo morale; incerte le norme del comportamento individuale; incerti il significato e i limiti dell'azione politica quale oggi la si pratica o la si propugna; incerto soprattutto il valore delle idee e delle ideologie correnti.

> [...] uncertain and problematic are the confines of our moral world; uncertain the norms of individual behavior; uncertain the meaning and limits of the political action practiced or defended today; uncertain most of all the value of current ideas and ideologies.

source: http://www.bibliotecaginobianco.it/flip/TEP/01/0100/#/3/zoom...


The US financed Bin Laden and the Afghani Mujaheddin to counterbalance the Soviets in Central Asia in the 80s despite the clear signs of Islamic terrorism gathering pace in the late 70s destabilizing the region and the middle east as well.

So all bets are off with these people.


George Orwell wrote in 1984 about how much effort was put into propagandizing to the professional-managerial class by the state. He should know, he was an informant against the left for the Foreign Office via Celia Kirwan.

Just go to the front page of the New York Review of Books ( http://www.nybooks.com ). I know I just had to scan the front page to find some article condemning Arab nationalism and of course one is there, "The Mystery of ISIS" by an anonymous author. It contains pictures of people about to be executed, and a picture of someone pointing a gun at the camera, so you can guess what the text is. What it doesn't talk about is how the US in the past supported religious fanatics in the Middle East against the real US enemy - secular, left-leaning pan-Arab nationalists. Just as the US does today. The US supports Saudi Arabia, where women can't drive, yet bombed Libya, just a few years after Qadaffi had given in to the US and UK after years of Nasserite posturing. Now Islamic fundamentalists sprout there. In Iraq, we had another Nasserite, pan-Arab secular nationalist in a party with socialist roots - Saddam Hussein was overthrown and now we have ISIS in Iraq. More recently the pan-Arab secular nationalist in a party with secular roots in Syria has the US and Europe working to undermine his power. This just happened. So now ISIS controls much of Syria, and just blew up an ancient pagan temple. It's quite clear with all its work to undermine Bashar al-Assad that this is what the US was working to have happen. We can go more into the distant past as well - the secular nationalist parliament of Mossadegh being replaced by a dictatorship initially backed by the mullahs by the US/UK in the 1950s, then the persecution and execution of the secular left - eventually the mullahs changed their mind and now Iran is run by them and devoid of the secular liberals that the CIA sent lists around to be executed.

I'm surprised the New York Review of Books doesn't have a nostalgic front-cover piece bashing the Warsaw Pact. Well there were just two on HN's front page the other day. It's great - while the US government is tapping its own citizens and the whole world, extraditing and torturing nationalists who oppose foreign intervention in their home countries, ringing the world with military bases - a US soldier just murdered a Filipino prostitute who he learned was a transvestite, spying on foreign corporations and stealing their industrial secrets, sending drones to willy-nilly bomb villages in Pakistan and Afghanistan and so on, everyone can focus on the errors Lenin commited a century ago, or how some ISIS militants blew up an ancient pagan temple in Syria (who the US helped back by undermining al-Assad's government - in fact investigative reporters have found the US has been actively backing jihadists in Iraq even in recent years).


This comment is completely wrong, infuriatingly so.

I'm a NYRB subscriber. No national publication was more critical of the U.S. Iraq adventure, or more critical of U.S. torture and detention policies. And all this long before it became received wisdom. (A sample, with examples all the way back to 2003: http://www.nybooks.com/contributors/mark-danner/).

Before the war, the editor of the magazine (Robert Silvers), and several of its most influential writers, went on a national speaking tour to expose the risks of the adventure. UCLA wouldn't even let them hold the event there. They had to go to a smaller venue at Occidental College nearby.

It is ignorant and delusional to accuse them of somehow ignoring secular or left-leaning Arabs, and rubber-stamping American projects there.

I suggest, by the way, you read the post on ISIS that you scoffed at (http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2015/aug/13/mystery...). You seem to have only skimmed the photos. The piece takes the ISIS phenomenon seriously as a political force, and tries to understand where it is headed and why it has been so successful. It ends with:

"I have often been tempted to argue that we simply need more and better information. But that is to underestimate the alien and bewildering nature of this phenomenon. To take only one example, five years ago not even the most austere Salafi theorists advocated the reintroduction of slavery; but ISIS has in fact imposed it. [...] It is not clear whether our culture can ever develop sufficient knowledge, rigor, imagination, and humility to grasp the phenomenon of ISIS. But for now, we should admit that we are not only horrified but baffled."

It is evident that this is not some kind of triumphalist perspective.


Your comment history consists of bashing the US and more bashing the US.


Not really and there's nothing wrong with criticizing aspects of the government, backed up by fact.


There isn't much good to say about us foreign Politics.




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