Archive | February 10th, 2015

Playing with Fire? A Debate on U.S. Arming Ukraine & NATOExpansion to Russia’s Border



Is Ukraine a Proxy Western-Russia War? U.S. Weighs Arming Kiev as Violence Soars


Charles Wald, retired four-star Air Force general and the former deputy commander of U.S. European Command. He is co-author of the new report, “Preserving Ukraine’s Independence, Resisting Russian Aggression: What the United States and NATOMust Do.”

John Mearsheimer, professor of political science at the University of Chicago and author of The Tragedy of Great Power Politics. His most recent op-ed, “Don’t Arm Ukraine,” was published by The New York Times.

As fighting continues in Ukraine, President Obama said Monday he has not ruled out arming the Ukrainian military against Russian-backed rebels. Meeting with Obama at the White House, German Chancellor Angela Merkel reiterated her opposition to arming Ukraine, saying the conflict could not be resolved militarily. Merkel is set to hold talks in Minsk on Wednesday with the leaders of Russia, Ukraine and France in a bid to end the crisis that has killed thousands and displaced 1.5 million people over the past year. Should the United States escalate its role in the conflict by arming Ukraine? We host a debate between retired Air Force general Charles Wald, the former deputy commander of U.S. European Command, and University of Chicago professor John Mearsheimer.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AARON MATÉ: We begin in Ukraine. As fighting continues, President Obama says the U.S. has not ruled out arming the Ukrainian military against Russian-backed rebels. Obama made the comment Monday during a joint White House news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Now, it is true that if in fact diplomacy fails, what I’ve asked my team to do is to look at all options. What other means can we put in place to change Mr. Putin’s calculus? And the possibility of lethal defensive weapons is one of those options that’s being examined, but I have not made a decision about that yet. I have consulted with not just Angela, but will be consulting with other allies about this issue. It’s not based on the idea that Ukraine could defeat a Russian army that was determined; it is, rather, to see whether or not there are additional things we can do to help Ukraine bolster its defenses in the face of separatist aggression. But I want to emphasize that a decision has not yet been made.

AMY GOODMAN: German Chancellor Merkel reiterated her opposition to arming Ukraine, saying the conflict could not be resolved militarily.

CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL: [translated] We continue to pursue a diplomatic solution, even though we have suffered a lot of setbacks. These days, we will see whether all sides are ready and willing to come to a negotiated settlement. I’ve always said I don’t see a military solution to this conflict, but we have to put all our efforts into bringing about a diplomatic solution.

AARON MATÉ: On Wednesday, Angela Merkel will travel to the Belarus capital of Minsk for talks with leaders of Russia, Ukraine and France in a bid to end the crisis that has killed thousands and displaced 1.5 million people over the past year. Over the weekend, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov accused the West of helping to escalate the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Posted in UkraineComments Off on Playing with Fire? A Debate on U.S. Arming Ukraine & NATOExpansion to Russia’s Border

Vatican To Offer Haircuts, Shaves To Rome’s Homeless


The Vatican will offer homeless people in Rome not only showers but also haircuts and shaves when new facilities open next month, the head of Pope Francis’ charity office said.The Vatican announced last year that it would provide shower facilities in St Peter’s Square for homeless people. Bishop Konrad Krajewski told the Italian Catholic newspaper Avvenire on Thursday that it would also offer haircuts and shaves when the services start on Feb. 16 in an area under the colonnade of the square.

Krajewski, whose official title is the pope’s almoner, said barbers and hairdressers would volunteer their services on Mondays, the day their shops are traditionally closed in Italy. They had already donated chairs, hair-cutting instruments, and mirrors, the newspaper’s website said. Krajewski came up with the idea of building showers in St. Peter’s Square last year after a homeless person told him that while it was relatively easy to find places to eat at Rome charities, it was difficult to find places to wash. He immediately received the pope’s backing for the shower project and then expanded it to include haircuts and shaves.

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.

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Croatia writes off debts for poorest citizens


Thousands of Croats will see their debts written-off on Monday as part of an attempt to boost the economy by helping households to regain access to basic facilities including bank accounts. The scheme, which has been dubbed “fresh start”, will see the debts of around 60,000 citizens erased by banks, telecoms and utilities operators as part of a deal with the government. Around 2.1bn kuna (£20m) worth of bad debts are expected to be written off by creditors who have signed up to the scheme. None will be refunded for their losses. Qualifying households must have debts lower than 35,000 kuna (£3,500), and their monthly income should not be higher than 1,250 kuna. Croats who own property or have any savings will not benefit from the deal. “Some 60,000 citizens … will be given a chance for a new start without a burden of debt,” said Milanka Opacic, Croatia’s deputy prime minister. The program will give 20pc of the 317,000 Croatians whose accounts were frozen in July last year due to bad debts access to their accounts again. “This is the first time that any (Croatian) government tries to solve this difficult problem and we are proud of it,” Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic told a cabinet session. The deal will be noted in Greece, where the new Syriza government is trying to renegotiate the terms of its multi billion euro bail-out.

Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.


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New Video Evidence of Americas Coup in Ukraine


And What it Means

Global Research

New video evidence has been added to the already-conclusive video evidence which shows that the U.S. Government was the controlling power behind the extremely violent and illegal 18-27 February 2014 Ukrainian coup, which overthrew the democratically elected and never legally removed-from-power Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

This new evidence proves, even more than before (if that were even possible to do), that the current regime in Ukraine is definitely illegal but thats not all. Even after fake democratic elections, its the same illegal regime in Ukraine that the U.S. imposed at its February 2014 coup, because no nationwide vote has occurred in Ukraine throughout that countrys expanse after the American coup; its still just a rump-Ukrainian Government, not one representing the residents either in Crimea or in Ukraines far east (neither of which regions participated in Ukrainian elections after the coup) and yet this illegal violent coup-imposed Ukrainian regime (and the U.S. that imposed it, and even the EU that sheepishly backed it) nonetheless demand (against all legalities) that this blatantly illegalU.S.-imposed Ukrainian Government must control those areas, which reject this nazi imposed Government that the residents in the regions that had voted overwhelmingly for Yanukovych dont have the right to self-determination, but must instead accept a coup that goes exactly against, and even has gone so far as to overthrow, the Government for which the residents in those regions had overwhelmingly voted.

This was a violent takeover of the Ukrainian Government, by profoundly racist anti-Russian nationalist Ukrainians, who were in the pay of the U.S. Government. And, it sparked such terror into the hearts of Russians and of Ukraines minorities (who were especially large a proportion of the Crimean population), so that, first, Crimea broke away and declared its no longer being a part of Ukraine (it would return to Russia, of which it had been a part from 1783-1954, almost its entire modern existence); and, then, starting on May 9th of 2014, a Ukrainian civil war broke out when the U.S.-installed Government of Ukraine actually invaded the regions (other than Crimea) that rejected it; and the United States oversaw and sent even more mercenaries to this extremely bloody ethnic cleansing campaign to get rid of the residents in the specific region (called Donbass and shown in dark purple on this map) of Ukraine that had voted 90% for Yanukovych.

This was the first outright nazi action ever undertaken by any American President. Ever. Thats how bad it is, as a historical precedent for this country. It is being carried out by proud racist fascists (nazis), who are specifically admirers and followers of Adolf Hitlers Nazis, which were the first, the original, nazi political party, and which are the pattern for Obamas operatives in Ukraine the perpetrators of this coup and its subsequent (also totally illegal) ethnic-cleansing campaign. (For examples: all these firebombings that Obamas forces are doing to the residents in Donbass are against international law.) These Ukrainian nazis even send their children to nazi schools where kids are trained tohate Russians.

Obama uses these people; he found this extermination of pro-Russians in Ukraine to be necessary; so as to get rid of the voters whose votes had made Yanukovych President. In Donbass, 90% of the voters had voted for Yanukovych; so, this was the prime area to be ethnically cleansed (and sometimes theyre driven at night to the countryside and shot at the edge of a ditch). If those voters were ever again allowed to vote in Ukraine, then a pro-Russian government could again be elected in Ukraine, and Obamas action in that country (his turning it rabidly anti-Russian in its policies) could thus turn out to have been a mere waste for him just a temporary matter. The strategy here is carefully thought-out, and this is also one reason why it has the support of almost every member of the U.S. House and Senate (even though 67% of the American public oppose it). A similar strategy would be as if Obama were to firebomb and otherwise lay waste Utah because it had voted in the 2012 election 73% for Romney and only 25% for Obama, and so killing the residents there would increase the future chances of electing a Democratic President in the U.S. But in Donbass, Yanukovych had actually won 90% of the vote, not a mere 73%; and, besides, nobody in the U.S. and its allies is even so much as criticizing Obamas exterminations of the residents in Donbass (the people that Obamas Ukrainian Government calls terrorists for simply living there), but instead Vladimir Putin is being criticized in the West for his Russian aggression, because he helps those forlorn people defend themselves from the Obama teams firebombs, clusterbombs, bullets, and other killing-machines. (And heres one of the Obama teams firebombings of the city of Donetsk just a few days ago.)

The nazi United States Government today is ideologically, by its nazi actions, at war against the democratic United States that, by its democratic actions, had fought and shed blood to defeat Hitlers Nazis in World War II. (And unlike the firebombing of Nazi Dresden in February 1945 Donetsk and the Obama teams other Donbass targets are anti-nazi; the U.S. is this time the nazi invader, via its local Ukrainian surrogates. This is not to say that any firebombing should be allowed, but just to say that America has ideologically switched sides since then, which is atrocious.) Of course, there have been nazis in America even before Hitler came to power in Germany; but they were not running the U.S. Government until now; and, now, for the first time ever, the U.S. has itself a nazi Government, which is backed up by nazi American think tanks and media, etc., the entire panoply of political horror. The chief difference from Hitlers (other than that thisnazi government hasnt yet gone as far toward its ultimate objectives as Hitlers did) is that this one hates and seeks to destroy mainly Russians, whereas Hitlers focused mainly against Jews. However, this one seems to be just about as obsessive about eliminating Russians as Hitlers was about eliminating Jews. In fact, Obamas hatred of Russia explains not only his Ukrainian policy but also his Syrian policy. Furthermore, Iran is also allied with Russia, and American policy there too might partly be a reflection of Obamas bigotry against Russia it should instead be a reflection of strictly U.S.-Iranian issues. Understanding Obamas foreign policies without recognizing his vicious (and until fairly recently, secret) anti-Russian obsession, which is proven by his actions (not his rhetoric, which is basically dishonest and should simply be ignored except as his PR) cant be done: it produces only misunderstanding (which is the real purpose behind most of his rhetoric).

So, this new item of evidence, which was posted to youtube on 27 January 2015, shows a courageous member of the Rada or Ukraines parliament, Oleg Tsarev, on 20 November 2013, and you can see the videos (broken) English translation transcript, by clicking there on More. This is a parliamentary speech, in which he says (and Ive cleaned up the translation here, only to make it easier to understand):

In my role as a representative of the Ukrainian people, activists from the Volya Public Organization turned to me, providing clear evidence that within our country, with support and direct participation of the US Embassy in Kiev, a “TechCamp” project is under way in which preparations are being made for a civil war in Ukraine. The “TechCamp” project prepares specialists for information warfare and for the discrediting of state institutions [the Government] using modern media potential revolutionaries for organizing protests and the toppling of the Government. This project is overseen by and currently under the responsibility of the US Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey R. Pyatt. After the conversation with the Volya Organization, I learned that they actually succeeded to access facilities in the TechCamp” project [they had hacked into it] disguised as a team of IT specialists. To their surprise, were found briefings that were held on peculiarities of modern media. American instructors explained there how social networks and Internet technologies can be used for targeted manipulation of public opinion as well as to activate potential protest to provoke violent unrest on the territory of Ukraine radicalization of the population, and triggering of infighting. American instructors show examples of successful use of social networks to organize protests in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya. Tech Camp representatives currently hold conferences throughout Ukraine. A total of five events have been held so far. About 300 people have been trained as operatives, who are now active throughout Ukraine. The last conference took place on 14 and 14 November 2013, in the heart of Kiev, inside the US Embassy! You tell me which country in the world would allow an NGO to operate out of the US Embassy? This is disrespectful to the Ukrainian Government, and against the Ukrainian people! I thus appeal to the constitutional authorities of Ukraine with the following question: Is it conceivable that representatives of the US Embassy who organize the “TechCamp” conferences misuse their diplomatic immunity? [Someone tries to interrupt him.] A UN Resolution of 21 December 1965 regulates inadmissibility of interference in the internal affairs of any State, and protects its independence and sovereignty. I urge that there be an official investigation into this matter.

Wikipedias Timeline of the Euromaidan starts on 21 November 2013, the day after Tsarevs speech. It says there:

Euromaidan started in the night of 21 November 2013 when up to 2,000 protesters gathered at Kiev’s Maidan Nezalezhnosti and began to organize themselves with the help of social networks.[7] After he heard of the Ukrainian government decree to Yatsenyuk government,suspend preparations for signing of the Association Agreement on 21 November 2013,[8][9] opposition party Batkivshchyna faction leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk called, via Twitter, for protests (which he dubbed as #Euromaidan) on Maidan Nezalezhnosti.[10]

Of course, Yatsenyuk was the person who, in a 4 February 2014 phone-conversation between Victoria Nuland of Obamas State Department and Mr. Pyatt of her Kiev Embassy, she told Pyatt was to be selected by him, as the head of the coup-Government that would become installed during the coup, which extended from 18-27 February 2014. (In other words: the coup started two weeks after that phone-conversation in which the new leader had already been selected.)

The CIA edits wikipedia articles, and so the title of the wikipedia article on the coup is 2014 Ukrainian revolution, not 2014 Ukrainian coup. Also because of the CIAs editing, the date of Yatsenyuks official appointment to head the Government is buried, instead of being featured in that article (as it should be). The day-by-day account given there starts on 18 February, and ends on 21 February. Then comes: Deals Aftermath. Then, after yet 9 more such sections, comes Lustration, which mentions the new leaders appointment only in passing: On 26 February 2014, Ehor Sobolev was nominated to lead the Committee on Lustration in the new Yatsenyuk Government. In other words: the appointment, and the official installation, of Yats to run the new Government, isnt even so much as mentioned in that article. If one clicks there on Yatsenyuk government, then one comes to an article that opens: The first government headed by Arseniy Yatsenyuk was created in Ukraine on 27 February 2014 in the aftermath of the Ukrainian revolution.[1] The cabinet was formed as a coalition of the parties Batkivschyna, UDAR and Svoboda and the parliamentary factions Economic Development and Sovereign European Ukraine and other independent MPs.[1] Nothing is said there about the new Governments domination by nazis (who were selected by Victoria Nulands man Yats). The rest of the article is just as deceptive, in the standard way: by avoiding to state the things that are the most important to state in order for a reader to be able to understand or interpret the given matter accurately. In other words: Its written for deception.

The time when this speech was delivered by Tsarev is also extremely significant: The very next day, Yanukovych rejected the EUs deal. On 21 November 2013, the reporter for Britains Guardian headlined online, Ukraine suspends talks on EU trade pact as Putin wins tug of war, and he reported that Ukraine has abruptly ditched its plans to sign a historic pact with the European Union aimed at shifting the country out of the Kremlin’s orbit. What Tsareve was saying on November 20th was that the U.S. had geared up long before that decision by Yanukovych, to overthrow him if he didnt cave to the pressures from the U.S. and its allies, and that the Euromaidan demonstrations which immediately thereafter became stage-setting for Americas coup against him, were extremely well planned in advance, and constituted only the democratic cover for the coup and would be nothing more than that which turned out to be the case.

Oleg Tsarev, the man who warned parliament one day prior to the start of the Euromaidan demonstrations, was subsequently, in mid-May of 2014, phoned by the oligarch Ihor Kolomoysky, a friend of the Obama White House, and he was told to leave Ukraine or else he would be killed because some unnamed individual(s) had placed a million-dollar price on his head. Tsarev didnt comply. (His courage was remarkable: he had already survived a beating by a nazi crowd on 15 April 2014. Speaking truth to power was his characteristic way.) Instead, Tsarev became elected to the parliament in one of the two breakaway new republics constituting Donbass. On 19 December 2014, Tsarev wrote that the Ukrainian Government was failing miserably all Ukrainians, not only in the areas that had left Ukraine; and he also mentioned, in passing, that, in one of Kolomoyskys businesses,Kolomoysky delivers cheesy vests for the price of gold chain mail. Heres what that passing reference meant: On 11 August 2014, Life News in Russia had headlined, Ukrainian Ministry of Defense spent $ 3.5 million on substandard body armor and reported that, in a no-bid deal with Ukraines army, the insider Kolomoysky had sold to the army substandard fake bulletproof vests, which they couldnt use, and which were moreover priced at twice the going rate for real bulletproof vests. Kolomoysky then stole one of the Tsarev familys own businesses, but there was no legal recourse, because Kolomoysky had been appointed by Obamas people as the local governor in the region where that business happened to be located.

So: Obama is treated as if he is a respectable person, while Putin is treated as if he had been the aggressor in all this. But there was once a time when the differences between the U.S. and U.S.S.R. were ideological, and the U.S. was an authentic democratic nation, and the U.S.S.R. was an authentic communist dictatorship; and, in that time, and specifically back in 1962, it was the U.S.S.R. that was seeking to place nuclear missiles near to us (in Cuba), not like now, when the dictatorial U.S. is instead trying to place nuclear missiles near to democratic Russia (inside Ukraine). Did Americas major news media, back at that earlier time, think that what the U.S.S.R. was trying to do to us was tolerable, and should be permitted? Of course not! So: why their double standard now? Or is todays U.S. instead a totally different country, an outright nazi one now, against Russia? Even if Russia were a dictatorship (and its probably less so than the U.S. now is), what America is trying to do to it is disgraceful. And what the U.S. Government is trying to do to the residents in Donbass is absolutely outrageous, and should be presented to the International Criminal Court for war-crimes trials. (Maybe thats why the U.S. has refused to sign to the Courts jurisdiction; maybe G.W. Bush and Obama were intending to commit international war crimes.)

America (and its client Ukraine) is the aggressor; Russia (and its client Donbass) is doing what it needs to do in order to defend themselves from the U.S. and its allies: there are 27 of those other nations in the U.S.-run Russia-hating club; its called NATO, and it needs to be disbanded immediately, because its constructive function ended when the Soviet Union did; and, afterwards, its just nazi, and is a huge threat against the entire world.

This new evidence from Tsarev, piled on top of all the other evidence that already proved the assertion by the founder of the private CIA firm Stratfor, that the overthrow of Yanukovych was the most blatant coup in history, simply cements the reality, that all of the sanctions against Russia, and all of the me too statements supporting Obamas coup and ethnic cleansing in Ukraine, by David Cameron, Stephen Harper, and Obamas other co-nazis, are abominations, which should be loudly condemned by all decent persons in all countries. The aggressor here is Obama, not Putin; and NATO must end, now: all decent nations should quit it ASAP. (War crimes trials against Obama and his agents should follow. After all: these people are bringing the world closer to a nuclear war than has been the case since 1962, and there is no decent reason for it.)

Here was Professor Francis Boyle, the most internationally prestigious authority on such matters, summing it all up:

Boyle told RIA Novosti on May 8: The Ukrainian crisis had been planned as well as the war. There was a war plan, there was a war game. Then it was revised and implemented. … We are seeing steps now being taken that were planned in advance, Boyle said, adding, This is all being used as a pretext to bring NATO military forces, as Rasmussen said, by air, sea, and land right up to the borders of the Russian Federation. They are clearly going ahead with this.

Boyle extolled Russia for trying to exhaust all diplomatic means possible to resolve the Ukrainian crisis, and accused the United States and NATO of deliberate escalation.

So that the US wont be provided with any more pretexts for hostile provocative maneuvers that they are going to take in any event, Boyle asserted, … Russian President Vladimir Putin is in a very difficult and dangerous situation and needs to be very careful. The US has already resumed the Cold War with the neo-Nazi coup détat in Ukraine that the United States sponsored, controlled, and directed, he said.

Its still not too late for the condemnation by the entire decent world to come down upon the leading nazis and force them to stop, before they blow the entire habitable world up with their evil.

Never before in the history of the world have the proofs of perfidy come so voluminously and so much in current time, as has now happened here, in the Age of the Internet. One doesnt have to wait for places like Auschwitz to open up to the world before the evil is laid bare for all to see: it already has been, well before things get that far. Thus, whats desperately needed now is action: the condemnation, by the publics, in all countries, against those nazis.

The time for the collecting of evidence is already past. The evidence is already here. There are already international war crimes enough, and so no need exists for us to await the ultimate one a totally unnecessary nuclear war before finally acting.

To start with: the sanctions against Russia must end immediately. They are crimes that can end fast. And they must, in order for the prosecutions against the perpetrators to start, and in order for this nazi cancer upon humanity to be removed before its too late to be able to do that. The patient might already be in the emergency room.

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CIA did use United Kingdom territory for secret terror interrogations, says top US official


Terror suspects held by the CIA were interrogated on the British owned island of Diego Garcia despite the repeated denials of London and Washington that any such incidents took place, a senior American official said today. Lawrence Wilkerson, who was the chief aide to former US Secretary of State Colin Powell, said the remote UK-administered military base in the Indian Ocean was used as a back-up location for “nefarious activities”, such as the questioning of prisoners in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. In an interview with the Vice News website, Mr Wilkerson said that Diego Garcia did not host a permanent CIA prison but was used as a back-up location to conduct interrogations. Mr Wilkerson, 70, who served as chief of staff to Mr Powell throughout the Iraq war, said he had not learnt of the CIA’s alleged use of Diego Garcia until after he stepped down in 2005. He said that on the basis of his own experience while serving on the island in the 1980s and information from his sources, he believed it to be unlikely that any interrogations could have happened without the knowledge of British liaison staff who are in command of the base. The former Prime Minister Tony Blair and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw have previously denied any use of the coral atoll for rendition. It was reported last year by Al Jazeera that the Senate Intelligence Committee report, which provided an account of torture by the CIA, would confirm Diego Garcia was used for rendition “with the full co-operation of the UK”. When the document was published the locations of black sites had been redacted.

Note: Diego Garcia has been known to be a center for the CIA’s nefarious activities for years. This newspaper article shows how the torture was sometimes done on military prison ships near the island to keep it hidden from the people there.

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Woman’s Claims About Prince Andrew, Others Reignite Sex Case


First came the allegations late last year that Britain’s Prince Andrew and a prominent American lawyer took part in a wealthy sex offender’s abuse of teenage girls. Defense attorney Alan Dershowitz … represented the highly connected Jeffrey Epstein and was himself named in the latest court filings. Jane Doe No. 3 and three others who say Epstein victimized them want a federal judge to … throw out the part of Epstein’s plea deal that guaranteed that neither he nor any co-conspirators would [remain anonymous or] face federal charges. They contend their rights as victims were trampled by the then-secret agreement. Now a 31-year-old wife and mother, Jane Doe No. 3 insists her motives are to hold the elite accountable, [and to] “help expose the problem of sex trafficking.” She first met Epstein in 1999 … at age 15. What followed was a three-year whirlwind of paid sex abuse, international travel and encounters with many of Epstein’s powerful friends. “I was trained to be everything a man wanted me to be,” she said in her affidavit. “They said they loved that I was very compliant and knew how to keep my mouth shut.” Although she was paid for her services and was given luxurious accommodations by Epstein, Jane Doe No. 3 said, it was also clear she could get into “big trouble” if she tried to leave or refuse his sexual advances and requirements to provide sex to others. “He let me know that he knew many people in high places,” she said. “Speaking about himself, he said, ‘I can get away’ with things. I was very scared, particularly since I was a teenager.”

Note: Jane Doe #3 has not kept her identity secret, and continues use her real name in court to expose the FBI cover up of this elite sex trafficking ring, but one of her attorneys requested that the AP not use her name in the above article. For more, watch powerful evidence in a suppressed Discovery Channel documentary showing that child sexual abuse scandals reach to the highest levels of government, or read deeply revealing sex abuse scandal news articles from reliable major media sources.


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Thatcher stopped Peter Hayman being named as paedophile-link civil servant

Papers released to National Archives about senior diplomat will be of interest to campaigners for victims of historical sex abuse.…
Margaret Thatcher addresses the Tory conference in 1980
 Margaret Thatcher in 1980, the year she received a memo that Peter Hayman was engaging in sexual perversion in 1966 when he returned from Berlin to the Foreign Office. Photograph: PA/TopFoto

Margaret Thatcher was adamant officials should not publicly name Sir Peter Hayman, a senior diplomat connected to a paedophile scandal, even after she had been fully briefed on his activities, examination of formerly secret papers released to the National Archives shows.

The 37-page file includes numerous handwritten notes and annotations by the late Conservative prime minister. It also reveals that security services were not initially informed about Hayman’s proclivities, as a secretary forgot to pass on a message to the relevant official and police neglected to follow up the matter.

The densely typed documents, which are available for view to the public for the first time on Tuesday, also describe how Hayman, who died in 1992, apparently arranged for “obscene correspondence” to be sent to the British high commission in Ottawa when he was the most senior diplomat there. A member of domestic staff at the mission was wrongly blamed at the time for the letters, which were sent to a false female name.

The file, compiled between October 1980 and March 1981, is made up of memos and background notes put together for Thatcher, then prime minister, and is littered with her handwritten notes, underlinings and crossings out.

The existence of the file was revealed by Sky News last month. On Friday the Cabinet Office announced it had reviewed the decision to keep the file secret beyond the standard 30-year deadline and was releasing it to the National Archives in Kew. A preview of the file was issued to the media.

The details of the treatment of Hayman’s case will be of interest to campaigners seeking justice for the victims of historical sex abuse, whose cases will be considered by an inquiry commissioned by the home secretary, Theresa May.

A page of the previously secret file confirms that Hayman was a member of the Paedophile Information Exchange

A page of the previously secret file released by the Cabinet Office confirming that Peter Hayman was a member of the Paedophile Information Exchange group. Photograph: Dominic Harris/PA

A number of the files refer to decisions by Sir Michael Havers, then the attorney general. May’s original choice of head for her inquiry, Lady Butler-Sloss, is the sister of Havers, and stepped down after victims and their families objected.

In a three-page document from 17 March 1981 titled Sir Peter Hayman – Background Note, unnamed legal officials explain why Hayman was not prosecuted when, three years previously, police discovered he was a member of the Paedophile Information Exchange group, who sent indecent material to others by post and had sexual fantasies about children.

The note explained Hayman had been only on the periphery of inquiries into PIE, and that there was no evidence of his having sought to approach any child for sexual purposes, or his seeking to incite others to do so, meaning he was not prosecuted. None of the other eight people involved in the correspondence was prosecuted, it added. At a subsequent Old Bailey trial involving more senior PIE members, the note adds, Hayman was referred to as a “senior civil servant”, not to protect him, but because he was not a witness and none of the defendants knew his identity.

The memo ends: “It is the policy of the law officers that persons who have been investigated by the police but not prosecuted should not be named in the House [of Commons], as to do so is to cast an unnecessary slur on the person without his having the opportunity to clear his name before a court.”

Thatcher amends this paragraph to cross out “in the House”, indicating that she did not believe Hayman should be named anywhere. She also strongly underlined the word “slur”.

All this effort was for nothing. The next day, 18 March 1981, a Conservative MP, Geoffrey Dickens, used parliamentary privilege to ask in the Commons if the attorney general “will prosecute Sir Peter Hayman under the Post Office Acts for sending and receiving pornographic material though the Royal Mail”, prompting an official response from the attorney general, Havers, which named Hayman.

Thatcher’s insistence on not naming Hayman appeared always unlikely to succeed. The retired Stowe and Oxford-educated career diplomat had come to the attention of police in 1978 when a package containing sexually explicit correspondence was found on a London bus, addressed to a Mr Henderson, the pseudonym Hayman used within PIE. Police raided his flat in west London and found 14 years’ of journal entries detailing his fantasies, many involving children.

The director of public prosecutions decided that Hayman and his co-correspondents should not be charged, but after he was anonymously referred to in the subsequent PIE trial, the magazine Private Eye ran a story detailing what had happened and naming him. Other newspapers, among them the Guardian, then also named Hayman before Dickens’s question in the Commons.

The file shows that prior to the Private Eye article, in October 1980, Thatcher and her officials had no idea that police had even investigated Hayman. More worryingly, neither had the security services, amid fears he could have been blackmailed by foreign powers.

Portrait of Peter Hayman, smiling

Peter Hayman in about 1980. He was the subject of a police investigation after he left a package of paedophilia-related materials on a bus. Photograph: Keystone/Getty Images

A briefing note from October 1980 from Thatcher’s private secretary, Sir Robert Armstrong, gives her a rundown on what had been swiftly learned about Hayman, noting that before the revelations he had seemed “to all appearances a healthy, normal and happily married man”.

Hayman had taken part in sexual activities “with consenting adults (of both sexes)”, Armstrong told Thatcher. However, any material related to children “appeared to be all fantasy”. The memo noted that it was “clear that Sir Peter Hayman was already engaging in sexual perversion in 1966 when he returned from Berlin to the Foreign Office, and it must be presumed that he was doing so before that time”. This was, in retrospect, a big security risk at the time, he added.

While he was high commissioner in Ottawa, Armstrong wrote, “There was a problem of obscene correspondence addressed to a fictitious female name at the high commission, apparently as a result of advertisements placed in a pornographic magazine.” He added, drily: “At the time this was laid at the door of a member of the domestic staff; the latest report raises the question of whether it should have been laid at Sir Peter’s door.”

He advises Thatcher to say publicly that it remained to be investigated why Hayman’s “character defect” had not been uncovered by vetting processes. He added: “The fact is that none of us – neither the Cabinet Office, nor the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, nor the security service – knew anything about the affair until the article [was] published, and I doubt whether there is any point in trying to conceal this fact.”

The file containing the allegations against Peter Hayman
The file released to the National Archives outlines official investigations into Sir Peter Hayman, who was accused in 1983 of being a paedophile in parliament by MP Geoffrey Dickens. Photograph: Dominic Harris/PA

A later background note, apparently from March 1981 but not dated or signed, explains why the security services were not told, as police or prosecutors should have done when someone so prominent and potentially open to blackmail was involved.

“An attempt was made to contact security services when the first police report was under consideration,” it read. “The contact was unavailable and his secretary said he would ring back – but he did not do so. Later, the final decision not to prosecute was reached and the need to chase the unreturned phone call was overlooked.”

As it transpired, no security implications were found, something Thatcher also took a keen interest in. In a note to her the day after Dickens’s Commons question, titled “line to take”, she scribbles her own semi-legible verdict on what should be said. “Say authorities have carried out an investigation,” it orders. “Nothing to suggest that security prejudiced.”

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Laughter in the Dark

A Fearful Solidarity

In the wake of the Paris shootings, the Western world exalted in the euphoria of unity. Angela Merkel and Benjamin Netanyahu (the party crasher) held hands. Two doomed politicians, David Cameron and Francoise Hollande, kissed cheeks. Even the disgraced Nicolas Sarkozy seemed freshly polished for a miraculous second act. The left and the near right—though not the vexing Marine Le Pen—paraded together to the Place de la Republique in a revel of solidarity. Fractious France has united, the press cooed, the terrorists have failed.

But what at a distance seems like a spontaneous coalescence can also be interpreted as a deeply-encoded cultural reflex, a kind of collective defense of the superiority of so-called Western values and identity. This united front must surely have been viewed as a fearful solidarity to Europe’s Muslim community, a confirmation of their worst fears. The surging rallies in defense of free speech were simultaneously mass endorsements of intolerance. Even the slain editors and cartoonists ofCharlie Hebdo would likely have cringed at the sight of millions of people who had never read their scabrous magazine reflexively adopting the slogan “Je suis Charlie; nous somme tout Charlie.” It has all the hallmarks of an ominous outbreak of imperial groupthink.

No one paused for a moment to question what set off the killers, what kind of grievances they may have nursed, what kind of motives drove them to slaughter. Judgment was immediate. These were the people Bernard Henri-Levy and Michel Houellebecq warned against. The excitable Muslims, the irrational ones, the fanatics with Kalashnikovs. People who defy our understanding, whose stimulus to action is unworthy of contemplation.

But the Paris killers were French. The Kouachi brothers were, in fact, wards of the state for years, educated by the state, inculcated with French values, bemused by Asterix the Gaul cartoons, and fortified by French food. They were not born “others” or reared as outsiders.


They wore French clothes and movies, they played French hip-hop and frequented Parisian clubs. At what point did they come to feel like aliens in their own land? What triggered their transformation into urban jihadis? Was it simply a sudden, irrational eruption over demeaning cartoons in a little-read French weekly?

The western elites would like you to think so, but Cherif Kouachi told those who would listen a much different story. His metamorphosis was sparked by other images, images of sadist degradation of Muslims in Iraq, the photos of American soldiers torturing Iraqis held in Abu Ghraib prison.

Here’s the first thing to know about the Kouachis. While the brothers were born in France, their parents were Algerians, who moved to France from war-torn North Africa while the stench of destruction, assassination and torture was fresh. The stories of those terrible days must have been relayed, again and again to the Kouachi children. They knew better than most that the French torturers of their relatives in Algeria had written the how-to-manual for the American torturers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Here was visual proof for the bloody continuity of colonialism. If you’re looking for an ignition point, you might find that the fuse was lit, decades ago, in the abattoirs of Algiers.

Back in Paris, as the transcontinental celebration of tolerance for bigotry reached a frenzied pitch of self-congratulation, French police arrested the acerbic black comedian Dieudonné for making piquant jokes about Benjamin Netanyahu. His routines were deemed anti-Semitic. His post-massacre tweets cited as offensive, a transgression of French laws. Dieudonné had touched the third rail of tolerance.

While Dieudonné was being hauled off to a post-modern Bastille for thought crimes, 10,000 French troops swarmed the streets of Paris, Lyons and Marseilles, dressed in black ops gear, armed with automatic weapons, infused with sweeping new powers of domestic surveillance–a bracing reminder of just how swiftly the feted freedoms of French republic could transform into a police state, poised to crush unauthorized dissent, such as the newly banned protests for Palestinian rights.

One can ignore the cries of rage and despair simmering in the banlieues at your own peril, which, naturally, is exactly what French politicians did, as the National Assembly voted 488-1 to expand its role in the war on ISIS, only a week after the shootings. There was no room for debate. No to march in lockstep was viewed as a measure of seditious disloyalty. The French just put the smirk back on George W. Bush’s face.

Voltaire, France’s fiercest satirist, repeatedly admonished his coterie of radicals to: “Get the laughter on our side.” Chris Rock pithily translated Voltaire’s advice this way: “Satire should be punching upward.” It is a call to use our pens and keypads to puncture the pretensions and prejudices of the powerful.

And here we confront Charlie Hebdo’s greatest failing, not that its cartoonists mocked the Prophet or skewered the Mullahs, but that the magazine became a tool of the ruling order, aiming its most savage work at the most vulnerable citizens of France: the weak, the marginalized and the dispossessed. In the end, Charlie Hebdo, like much of the French intelligentsia, became an agent of orthodoxy, a persecutor of the poor and the powerless, deaf to their desperation.

One person’s euphoria is another’s worst nightmare.

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The Storm Blowing From Paradise

Grappling With the New World Disorder

The twentieth century, the Age of Ideology, promised to bring heaven to earth, heralding a new age of infinite improvement. By the late 1990s, with the collapse of communism—symbolized in the razing of the Berlin Wall—the promise of a socialist utopian lay in ruins. In the face of this collapse and a growing disquiet regarding some of the products of our scientific age, global leadership appears to be floundering in an ethical vacuum. Like the angel in Paul Klee’s famous painting, “Angelus Novus,” we are turned in horror as we survey the wreckage of the past. It keeps piling up as the winds of progress sweep forward. The angel would stop to make whole that which has been smashed. But the storm blowing from Paradise has caught hold of the angel’s wings with such impulsion that the angel cannot close them (See Walter Benjamin’s Theses on the Philosophy of History).

Contemporary humankind has inherited a tarnished version of the age of progress, launched so optimistically in the scientific revolution and the age of enlightenment. We are uneasy with absolutes, with finding the truth, because so many of those bearing the truth have terrorized the rest of us. We are reluctant to embrace newly fabricated utopias, big dreams bearing sweeping reform agendas. But this loss of metaphysical certainty and our awareness of increasing risk and uncertainty in our globally imbricated world have left us as human beings and citizens with serious and daunting problems of meaning, governance, leadership and citizen empowerment.

I would like to focus our attention on how we as global citizens might grapple with the new world disorder that has emerged chaotically and dangerously after 9/11. In particular, how do we name it—what are its salient features that provide orientation for the requisite learning processes to live together in this world peacefully and respectfully? And how do we find an ethical and moral compass to navigate our way through the new world unfolding (or disintegrating) before our eyes?

I would like to argue that post-secularism and pluralism are central components of our social and political condition in the second decade of the 21s century. From a different angle, if they are central components, then the threat we face is the unravelling of social solidarity. The post-secular condition, a central point of philosophical, theological, historical and social scientific discourse in our time, poses crucial learning challenges to our global society and its citizens (some inhabiting liberal democracies, others far removed). To identify our condition as “post-secular” means that the old enlightenment dream of the withering away of “religion” has not, and will not, occur any day soon (if at all).

Both religious and secular citizens (and the endless in-betweens) co-exist within the same nation-state (and international constellation). They will either learn to address and work with one another, or they will not with outcomes of further violence and mayhem. The consequences for social solidarity in local and international communities are considerable if we are unable to establish “complementary learning processes” (Habermas’ phrase) to bridge difference. Judith Butler says we need to be able to “cross over into each other’s world.” And we also need to knock out the material inequities enabling the demonization of the other.

The liberal democracies contain many different religious forms and expressions—within cultural and political formations shaped by Christian traditions, modes of worship and social engagement. Today these societies exist in a post-Christendom milieu; one can choose freely whether one believes in God or not; one can embrace non-Christian religions or none at all. The majority of the population in Europe, Canada and the United States are only nominally “Christian” (often “internally secularized” in remarkable ways). And, yes, it is true, as many scholars note, that Western Europe is quite different in religious complexion than the United States. Around twenty percent of Americans are in church on Sunday mornings; Western Europeans have exited their beautiful churches for their exquisite cafes. But


more than ever before these countries have hosted, sometimes unwillingly or hesitantly, peoples forced to move because of war, famine, excruciating poverty, political oppression. Many of the immigrants are religious people who hold beliefs and engage in practices that are not Christian. If they are Muslims entering nominally Christian nations, they will face potential disrespect and disparagement as nervous people can’t comprehend different forms of dress or religious practices. But we also must acknowledge the uneasiness many of us in the West feel in the light of the abounding evidence that political Islam is tangled in violence—illustrated in all of the Arab cultures, and breaking out in our own societies. At this very moment, Islamophobia flows through Europe’s veins.

Citizens of the western liberal democracies, knowing very little about Islam and Christian history and tradition, can easily link violent mayhem perpetrated by men and women claiming to be Islamist to the core belief structure of Islam itself. Conversely, it is not overly difficult to reverse this scenario, with some Muslims looking on aghast as their homelands are bombed and smashed up by a “Christian” nation led by people who pray to their God and appear to be on yet another crusade. Political theology is back on the scene with a vengeance. As difficult as this intellectual task may be, we must face the question that makes everyone nervous and fretful—do the sacred texts of the great world religions permit the use of violence to attain various ends? Is this a Gordian knot that needs magic to untie?

Our world is bent out of shape. It is all twisted and tangled like a bombed out bridge after an air raid. As we gaze out upon this mangled world, on a very bad day one can see apocalypse around every corner. This was the case in July, 2011, when Anders Breivik systematically massacred 76 children at a Labour party youth camp, situated on an idyllic island, in Norway of all places. When some of us in the West first heard this grizzly news, we immediately thought that this must be linked in some ghoulish way with Islamist terrorists. And that is just the problem, isn’t it? Since 9/11, we in the West can easily slip and slide into this quick judgment. Mention terrorism, think Muslim. But Breivik is not linked with Al-Qaeda. He is a Norwegian who actually mixes “Christian” language in his perverse rambling manifesto of 1500 pages. Breivik’s own description of his attack provides some examples. “I’m pretty sure I will pray as I’m rushing through the city blazing, with 100 armed system protectors pursuing me with the intention to stop me and/or kill….It is likely that I will pray to God for strength at one point during the operation, as I think most people in that situation would…If praying will act as an additional mental boost/soothing it is the pragmatical [sic] thing to do. I guess I will find out….If there is a God I will be allowed to enter heaven as all other martyrs for the church in the past.”

This is surely disturbing (and evil), but it is strangely rational. He has a worked out framework. He is crazy, but a twisted logic courses through his words. He and his Knights of the Templar (sounds like a video game) want to purify the “Christian” (white?) world of its impure virus. He wants to defend “Christendom” against its Muslim enemies. This mentality is not unknown in the history of the troubled relationship of Islam and Christianity. In fact, using violence to cleanse and erase the other, who threatens a homogenous identity, is well known everywhere in the world, past and present. It has both religious and non-religious roots.

The bombings during the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013 were perpetrated by young men claiming allegiance to Islam who were foreign-born but apparently assimilated into American culture. Only two weeks earlier, three Canadian young men were linked with the jihadist bombing of an Algerian refinery. Their photographs speak of nothing out of the ordinary whatsoever. Were they hockey fans? The CBC (and other media) tracked their movements into the darkest corners of the desolate Mauritanian desert. These events trigger our memory of the violence perpetrated by British young men in July, 2005 who, seemingly, loved soccer and beer, but chose out of misunderstood depths to bomb certain subways. On May 22, 2013 our dinners were visited by horrendous television images of a Black man with a bloody cleaver who had just hacked a British soldier to death shouting: “We swear by Almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you. We must fight then as they fought us.” The exploding bomb and bloodied body are the dominant symbols of our age, the “war on terror” its dishonourable moniker. Actions directed against the innocent citizen arise from inexplicable murky places.

In his sensational essay, “Faith and knowledge” (published in The Frankfurt School on Religion [2005], Jurgen Habermas contrasts the speechlessness of violence with communicative action. He states: “if we want to avoid a clash of civilizations, we must keep in mind that the dialectic of our own occidental process of secularization has not come to a close. The ‘war against terror’ is no war, and what comes to be expressed in terrorism is also the fatally speechless clash of worlds, which have to work out a common language beyond the mute violence of terrorists or missiles. Faced with a globalization imposing itself via deregulated markets, many of us hoped for a return of the political in a different form—not in the original Hobbesian form of the globalized security state, that is, in its dimensions of police activity, secret service, and the military, but as world-wide civilizing force. What we are left with, for the moment, is little more than the bleak hope for a cunning of reason—and for some self-reflection. The rift of speechlessness strikes home, too. Only if we realize what secularization means in our post-secular societies can we be far-sighted to the risks involved in a secularization of instrumental reason and destructive secularization”. The “fatally speechless clash of worlds” is already present malevolently in the world. It awaits us at the extreme end of mute acts of violence that speak for themselves. The negation of speech, or communicative action, shreds the world into little tattered pieces. But mumbled speech or unwillingness to try very hard to be conversible also part of the problem we face in our world.

All the major religions have experienced fundamentalist movements and tendencies. Violent speechlessness inhabits Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism. In Muslim countries, minority religions such as the Copts of Egypt have experienced repression, imprisonment, death and oppression from their state. On January 1, 2011 in Alexandria, the Two Saints Coptic Church was bombed killing 20 Copts. On Tuesday, March 8th, 2011, thirteen people were killed and 140 injured in an attack on St. Mina and St. George Church in the village of Sol. The church was burnt to the ground and Copt homes attacked. The attack against Christian Copts in Sol was precipitated, it seems, by a relationship between Ashraf Iskander, a 40-year old married Christian and a married Muslim women. This tense situation exploded into heated fights within the Muslim family, leading to two deaths. In the southern Sudan and Northern Nigeria, Christians have been attacked and massacred. In turn, Nigerian Christians have sought revenge and killed Muslims. And twenty years ago, Rwandan Christians killed each other, with ethnic superiority trumping dogmatic commonality. Religion and violence is like a tangled fishing net that requires stamina to sort out.

Dictatorships such as Egypt and Libya long relied on the West to keep the lid on “Muslim extremists” (in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood primarily). With the fall of Ben Ali, Gadhafi and Mubarek, the Arab Spring erupted with its agonized cry and action for human dignity. Now in the disenchanted aftermath, the idea of putting a constitutional democratic and pluralistic secular state in place is very much in question. Elsewhere, in India and Pakistan, Muslims and Hindus battle each other; in Sri Lanka, it’s the Buddhists and the Hindus. Ethnic suffering and threatened identity—all coalesce to create speechlessness before the other. In Europe and North America, incidents of aggressive and hostile reactions to Muslims—in particular—have flared up in troubling ways

In Philosophy in a Time of Terror (2003), Habermas argues that fundamentalism is itself a product of modernity; modernity (or the failure of modernization) is perceived as a threat to religious identity (or, the unsettling of one’s lifeworld and meaning structures). With the onset of modernity, those adhering to the teachings of the world religions, which make universal claims, have been challenged to let go of the universally binding character and political acceptance of their doctrine to co-habit with others in a pluralistic world. But in many countries, particularly Islamic ones, there has been deep resistance to co-existing with the religiously other. However, considerable segments of the American “Christian right” are profoundly and disturbingly resistant to Islam and secular humanism. One can always count on some small Protestant sect to throw up some self-proclaimed parson to burn the Qur’an. What might seem like “reasonable accommodation” in Canada is not at all reasonable elsewhere. Globalization has intensified the “defensive reaction” to modernity—with its “violent uprooting of traditional ways of life.” Globalization produces winners, beneficiaries and losers. Thus, within the Arab world (but not there alone), the “West” becomes a scapegoat for the Arab’s perceived (and real) losses. This creates a “psychologically favourable situation” for the acceptance of polarized world-views.

Religious sources are drawn upon in order to resist the secularizing force of western influence, and even re-assert ethnic or national identity. Once world-views (which include self-understanding) are polarized, communication is distorted. Within Habermas’ world-understanding, the “spiral of violence begins as a spiral of distorted communication that leads through the spiral of uncontrolled reciprocal mistrust, to the breakdown of communication.” Terrorism becomes a communicative pathology. The world is ripped apart. The act of stopping speaking lies mainly in the abysmal life-situations of the mute. But not there only. We must try with delicacy and humility to examine the malady of Islam, Christianity and Judaism in our world today (the sickness that can creep into the centre of monotheistic religions).

In inter-cultural forms of communication, those who refuse to speak to the other do not recognize “each other as participating members of a community.” The act of taking the gag out of the mouth is one step toward mutual trust. But building a culture of trust cannot take place while oppression and fear dominate. Improvement of material conditions and a political culture where each can engage in mutual perspective-taking underpins a culture of trust. Fundamentalism, then, is not about the holding of dogmatic or orthodox viewpoints. All the world religions have dogma. But orthodoxy veers toward fundamentalism when “representatives of the true faith ignore the epistemic situation of a pluralistic society and insist—even to the point of violence—on the universally binding character and political acceptance of their doctrine.” This statement from Habermas characterizes Islamist, Jewish and Christian forms of fundamentalism.

Habermas wonders if the whole conception of communicative action has been brought into disrepute in our shattered and deaf world. He thinks that the West has gotten used to structural violence—the “unconscionable social inequality, degrading discrimination, pauperization, and marginalization” (both within its own countries in in the global community). However, he adds this caveat: “But our social relations are not totally governed by violence, strategic action and manipulation. The praxis of our daily living rests on a solid base of common background convictions, self-evident cultural truths, and reciprocal expectations. If violence thus begins with a distortion in communication, after it has disrupted it is possible to know what has gone wrong and what needs to be repaired.” This is the foundation, if you like, of Habermasian cultural vision and pedagogical hope in despairing times. Martha Nussbaum, writing in The New Religious Intolerance (2012), speaks of the “cultivation of the ‘inner eyes,’ the capacity to see the world from the perspective of minority experience” (p. 59). This cultivating process is at the heart of the pedagogics of mutual tolerance and respect.

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Selfie Culture at the Intersection of the Corporate


The Surveillance States

Terrorizing the Self

Surveillance has become a growing feature of daily life wielded by both the state and the larger corporate sphere. This merger registers both the transformation of the political state into the corporate state as well as the transformation of a market economy into a criminal economy. One growing attribute of the merging of state and corporate surveillance apparatuses is the increasing view of privacy on the part of the American public as something to escape from rather than preserve as a precious political right. The surveillance and security-corporate state is one that not only listens, watches, and gathers massive amounts of information through data mining necessary for monitoring the American public—now considered as both potential terrorists and a vast consumer market- but also acculturates the public into accepting the intrusion of surveillance technologies and privatized commodified values into all aspects of their lives. Personal information is willingly given over to social media and other corporate based websites such as Instagram, Facebook, MySpace, and other media platforms and harvested daily as people move from one targeted website to the next across multiple screens and digital apparatuses. As Ariel Dorfman points out, “social media users gladly give up their liberty and privacy, invariably for the most benevolent of platitudes and reasons,” all the while endlessly shopping online and texting.[1] While selfies may not lend themselves directly to giving up important private information online, they do speak to the necessity to make the self into an object of public concern, if not a manifestation of how an infatuation with selfie culture now replaces any notion of the social as the only form of agency available to many people. Under such circumstances, it becomes much easier to put privacy rights at risk as they are viewed less as something to protect than to escape from in order to put the self on public display.

When the issue of surveillance takes place outside of the illegal practices performed by government intelligence agencies, critics most often point to the growing culture of inspection and monitoring that occurs in a variety of public spheres through ever present digital technologies used in the collecting of a mass of diverse information, most evident in the use video cameras that inhabit every public space from the streets, commercial establishments, and workplaces to the schools our children attend as well as in the myriad scanners placed at the entry points of airports, stores, sporting events, and the like. Rarely do critics point to the emergence of the selfie as another index of the public’s need to escape from the domain of what was once considered to be the cherished and protected realm of the private and personal. Privacy rights in this instance that were once viewed as a crucial safeguard in preventing personal and important information from being inserted into the larger public domain. In the present oversaturated information age, the right to privacy has gone the way of an historical relic and for too many Americans privacy is no longer a freedom to be cherished and by necessity to be protected. In fact, young people, in particular, cannot escape from the realm of the private fast enough. The rise of the selfie offers one index of this retreat from privacy rights and thus another form of legitimation for devaluing these once guarded rights altogether. One place to begin is with the increasing presence of the selfie, that is, the ubiquity of self-portraits being endlessly posted on various social media. One recent commentary on the selfie reports that:

A search on photo sharing app Instagram retrieves over 23 million photos uploaded with the hashtag #selfie, and a whopping 51 million with the hashtag #me. Rihanna, Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga and Madonna are all serial uploaders of selfies. Model Kelly Brook took so many she ended up “banning” herself. The Obama children were spotted posing into their mobile phones at their father’s second inauguration. Even astronaut Steve Robinson took a photo of himself during his repair of the Space Shuttle Discovery. Selfie-ism is everywhere. The word “selfie” has been bandied about so much in the past six months it’s currently being monitored for inclusion in the Oxford Dictionary Online.[2]

What this new politics of digital self-representation suggests is that the most important transgression against privacy may not only be happening through the unwarranted watching, listening, and collecting of information by the state. What is also taking place through the interface of state and corporate modes of the mass collecting of personal information is the practice of normalizing surveillance by upping the pleasure quotient and enticements for young people and older consumers. These groups are now constantly urged to use the new digital technologies and social networks as a mode of entertainment and communication. Yet, they function largely to simulate false notions of community and to socialize young people into a regime of security and commodification in which their identities, values, and desires are inextricably tied to a culture of private addictions, self-help, and consuming.

The more general critique of selfies points to their affirmation as an out of control form of vanity and narcissism in a society in which an unchecked capitalism promotes forms of rampant self-interests that both legitimize selfishness and corrode individual and moral character.[3] In this view, a market driven moral economy of increased individualism and selfishness has supplanted any larger notion of caring, social responsibility, and the public good. For example, one indication that Foucault’s notion of self-care has now moved into the realm of self-obsession can be seen in the “growing number of people who are waiting in line to see plastic surgeons to enhance images they post of themselves on smartphones and other social media sites. Patricia Reaney points out that “Plastic surgeons in the United States have seen a surge in demand for procedures ranging from eye-lid lifts to rhinoplasty, popularly known as nose job, from patients seeking to improve their image in selfies and on social media.”[4] It appears that selfies are not only an indication of the public’s descent into the narrow orbits of self-obsession and individual posturing but also good for the economy, especially plastic surgeons who generally occupy the one percent of the upper class of rich elites. The unchecked rise of selfishness is now partly driven by the search for new forms of capital, which recognize no boundaries and appear to have no ethical limitations.

In a society in which the personal is the only politics there is, there is more at stake in selfie culture than rampant narcissism or the swindle of fulfillment offered to teenagers and others whose self-obsession and insecurity takes an extreme, if not sometimes dangerous, turn. What is being sacrificed is not just the right to privacy, the willingness to give up the self to commercial interests, but the very notion of individual and political freedom. The atomization that in part promotes the popularity of selfie culture is not only nourished by neoliberal fervor for unbridled individualism, but also by the weakening of public values and the emptying out of collective and engaged politics. The political and corporate surveillance state is not just concerned about promoting the flight from privacy rights but also attempts to use that power to canvass every aspect of one’s life in order to suppress dissent, instill fear in the populace, and repress the possibilities of mass resistance against unchecked power.[5] Selfie culture is also fed by a spiritually empty consumer culture driven by a never-ending “conditions of visibility…in which a state of permanent illumination (and performance) is inseparable from the non-stop operation of global exchange and circulation.”[6] Jonathan Crary’s insistence that entrepreneurial excess now drives a 24/7 culture points rightly to a society driven by a constant state of “producing, consuming, and discarding”—a central feature of selfie culture.[7]

Once again, too many young people today seem to run from privacy by making every aspect of their lives public. Or they limit their presence in the public sphere to posting endless images of themselves. In this instance, community becomes reduced to the sharing of a nonstop production of images in which the self becomes the only source of agency worth validating. At the same time, the popularity of selfies points beyond an over indulgent narcissism, or a desire to collapse the public spheres into endless and shameless representations of the self. Selfies and the culture they produce cannot be entirely collapsed into the logic of domination. Hence, I don’t want to suggest that selfie culture is only a medium for various forms of narcissistic performance. Some commentators have suggested that selfies enable people to reach out to each other, present themselves in positive ways, and use selfies to drive social change. And there are many instances of this type of behavior.

Many young people claim that selfies offer the opportunity to invite comments by friends, raise their self-esteem, and offer a chance for those who are powerless and voiceless to represent themselves in a more favorable and instructive light.[8] For instance, Rachel Simmons makes a valiant attempt to argue that selfies are especially good for girls.[9]While this is partly true, I think Erin Gloria Ryan is right in responding to Simmons claim about selfies as a “positive-self-esteem builder” when she states: “Stop this. Selfies aren’t empowering; they’re a high tech reflection of the fucked up way society teaches women that their most important quality is their physical attractiveness.”[10] It is difficult to believe that mainstream, corporate saturated selfie culture functions to mostly build self-esteem among young girls who are a target for being reduced to salacious sexual commodities and a never-ending market that defines them largely as tidbits of a sensationalized celebrity culture. What is often missing in the marginalized use of selfies is that for the most part the practice is driven by a powerful and pervasive set of poisonous market driven values that frame this practice in ways that are often not talked about. Selfie culture is now a part of a market driven economy that encourages selfies as an act of privatization and consumption not as a practice that might support the public good.

What is missing from this often romanticized and depoliticized view of the popularity of selfies is that the mass acceptance, proliferation, and commercial appropriation of selfies suggests that the growing practice of producing representations that once filled the public space that focussed on important social problems and a sense of social responsibility are in decline among the American public, especially many young people whose identities and sense of agency is now shaped largely through the lens of a highly commodified and celebrity culture. We now live in a market-driven age defined as heroic by the conservative Ayn Rand, who argued in her book, The Virtue of Selfishness, that self-interest was the highest virtue and that altruism deserved nothing more than contempt. This retreat from the public good, compassion, care for the other, and the legitimation of a culture of cruelty and moral indifference is often registered in strange signposts and popularized in the larger culture. For instance, one expression of this new celebrity fed stupidity can be seen less in the endless prattle about the importance of selfies than in the rampant posturing inherent in selfie culture most evident in the widely marketed fanfare over Kim Kardashian’s appropriately named book,Selfish, which contains, of course, hundreds of her selfies. As Mark Fisher points out, this suggests a growing testimony to a commodified society in which “in a world of individualism everyone is trapped within their own feelings, trapped within their own imaginations…and unable to escape the tortured conditions of solipsism.”[11]

Under the surveillance state, the greatest threat one faces is not simply the violation of one’s right to privacy, but the fact that the public is subject to the dictates of arbitrary power it no longer seems interested in contesting. And it is precisely this existence of unchecked power and the wider culture of political indifference that puts at risk the broader principles of liberty and freedom, which are fundamental to democracy itself. According to Skinner:

The response of those who are worried about surveillance has so far been too much couched, it seems to me, in terms of the violation of the right to privacy. Of course it’s true that my privacy has been violated if someone is reading my emails without my knowledge. But my point is that my liberty is also being violated, and not merely by the fact that someone is reading my emails but also by the fact that someone has the power to do so should they choose. We have to insist that this in itself takes away liberty because it leaves us at the mercy of arbitrary power. It’s no use those who have possession of this power promising that they won’t necessarily use it, or will use it only for the common good. What is offensive to liberty is the very existence of such arbitrary power.[12]

The rise of selfies under the surveillance state is only one register of neoliberal inspired flight from privacy. As I have argued elsewhere, the dangers of the surveillance state far exceed the attack on privacy or warrant simply a discussion about balancing security against civil liberties.[13] The critique of the flight from privacy fails to address how the growth of the surveillance state and its appropriation of all spheres of private life are connected to the rise of the punishing state, the militarization of American society, secret prisons, state-sanctioned torture, a growing culture of violence, the criminalization of social problems, the depoliticization of public memory, and one of the largest prison systems in the world, all of which “are only the most concrete, condensed manifestations of a diffuse security regime in which we are all interned and enlisted.”[14] The authoritarian nature of the corporate-state surveillance apparatus and security system with its “urge to surveill, eavesdrop on, spy on, monitor, record, and save every communication of any sort on the planet” [15] can only be fully understood when its ubiquitous tentacles are connected to wider cultures of control and punishment, including security-patrolled corridors of public schools, the rise in super-max prisons, the hyper-militarization of local police forces, the rise of the military-industrial-academic complex, and the increasing labeling of dissent as an act of terrorism in the U.S.[16] Selfies may be more than an expression of narcissism gone wild, the promotion of privatization over preserving public and civic culture with their attendant practice of social responsibility. They may also represent the degree to which the ideological and affective spaces of neoliberalism have turned privacy into a mimicry of celebrity culture that both abets and is indifferent to the growing surveillance state and its totalitarian revolution, one that will definitely be televised in an endlessly repeating selfie that owes homage to George Orwell.

Henry A. Giroux currently holds the McMaster University Chair for Scholarship in the Public Interest in the English and Cultural Studies Department and a Distinguished Visiting Professorship at Ryerson University. His most recent books are America’s Education Deficit and the War on Youth (Monthly Review Press, 2013) and Neoliberalism’s War on Higher Education (Haymarket Press, 2014). His web site is


[1] Ariel Dorfman, “Repression by Any Other Name,” Guernica(February 3, 2014). Online:

[2] “Self-portraits and social media: The rise of the ‘Selfie’,” BBC News Magazine(June 6, 2013)

[3] Anita Biressi and Heather Nunn, “Selfishness in austerity times,”Soundings , Issue 56, (Spring 2014), pp. 54-66

[4] Patricia Reaney, “Nip, tuck, Click: Demand for U.S. plastic surgery rises in selfie era,” Reuters (November 29, 2014). Online:

[5] Brad Evans and Henry A. Giroux, Disposable Futures (San Francisco: City Lights Books, 2015).

[6] Jonathan Crary, 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep, (Verso, 2013) (Brooklyn, NY: Verso Press, 2013), p. 5.

[7] Ibid., p. 17.

[8] The kind of babble defending selfies without any critical commentary can be found in Jenna Wortham, “Self-portraits and social media: The rise of the ‘selfie’,”BBC News Magazine (June 6, 2013). Online:


[9] Rachel Simmons, “Selfies Are Good for Girls,” Slate (November 20, 2013). Online:

[10] Erin Gloria Ryan, “Selfies Aren’t Empowering. They’re a Cry for Help,” Jezebel (November 21, 2013). Online:

[11] Mark Fisher, Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative?(Winchester, UK: Zero Books, 2009), p. 74.

[12] Quentin Skinner and Richard Marshall “Liberty, Liberalism and Surveillance: a historic overview” Open Democracy (July 26, 2013). Online:

[13] Henry A. Giroux, “Totalitarian Paranoia in the Post-Orwellian Surveillance State,” Truthout (February 10, 2015). Online:

[14] Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Declaration (Argo Navis Author Services, 2012), p. 23.

[15] Tom Engelhardt, “Tomgram: Engelhardt, A Surveillance State Scorecard,” Tom (November 12, 2013). Online:

[16] I take up many of these issues in Henry A. Giroux, The Violence of Organized Forgetting (San Francisco: City Lights Publishing, 2014), Henry A. Giroux, The Twilight of the Social (Boulder: Paradigm Press, 2012), and Henry A. Giroux, Zombie Politics and Culture in the Age of Casino Capitalism (New York: Peter Lang, 2011).

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