Monday, June 5, 2017

Glen Greenwald: The Only Real Antidote to the Abuse of Power

Blessed are all the courageous truth-tellers of our time.  
May they inform and inspire us all.- Molly

 "In times of universal deceit,  
telling the truth is a revolutionary act."
- George Orwell

Quotes by Glen Greenwald

When people in power can operate in the dark, inevitably they abuse that power. So, you need outside forces to bring light and transparency to what they're doing. And, one of the ways you do that is through journalism, and through guaranteeing a free press. That is its purpose, to provide a check on those who wield power.

I personally think honestly disclosing rather than hiding ones subjective values makes for more honest and trustworthy journalism. But no journalism - from the most stylistically objective to the most brazenly opinionated - has any real value unless it is grounded in facts, evidence, and verifiable data.

The way things are supposed to work is that we're supposed to know virtually everything about what they [the government] do: that's why they're called public servants. They're supposed to know virtually nothing about what we do: that's why we're called private individuals.

It is hard to imagine having a government more secretive than the United States. Virtually everything that government does, of any significance, is conducted behind an extreme wall of secrecy. The very few leaks that we’ve had over the last decade are basically the only ways that we’ve had to learn what our government is doing.

The ultimate test of a society's freedom is not how it treats its good, obedient, compliant citizens; it's how it treats its dissidents.

History shows that the mere existence of a mass surveillance apparatus, regardless of how it is used, is in itself sufficient to stifle dissent. A citizenry that is aware of always being watched quickly becomes a compliant and fearful one.

All of the evidence highlights the implicit bargain that is offered to citizens: pose no challenge and you have nothing to worry about. Mind your own business, and support or at least tolerate what we do, and you'll be fine. Put differently, you must refrain from provoking the authority that wields surveillance powers if you wish to be deemed free of wrongdoing. This is a deal that invites passivity, obedience, and conformity. The safest course, the way to ensure being “left alone,” is to remain quiet, unthreatening, and compliant.  

There is a massive apparatus within the United States government that with complete secrecy has been building this enormous structure that has only one goal, and that is to destroy privacy and anonymity, not just in the United States but around the world.

An elite class that is free to operate without limits - whether limits imposed by the rule of law or fear of the responses from those harmed by their behavior - is an elite class that will plunder, degrade, and cheat at will, and act endlessly to fortify its own power.

The term propaganda rings melodramatic and exaggerated, but a press that—whether from fear, careerism, or conviction—uncritically recites false government claims and reports them as fact, or treats elected officials with a reverence reserved for royalty, cannot be accurately described as engaged in any other function.

The definition of an extreme authoritarian is one who is willing blindly to assume that government accusations are true without any evidence presented or opportunity to contest those accusations.   

Terrorist, noun: 1. Someone my government tells me is a terrorist; 2. Someone my President decides to kill.

Terrorism: the word that means nothing, yet justifies everything.

[I]t's impossible to evade the fact that Endless War will inevitably degrade the citizenry of the country that engages in it. A country which venerates its military above all other institutions, which demands that its soldiers be spoken of only with religious-like worship, and which continuously indoctrinates its population to believe that endless violence against numerous countries is necessary and just - all by instilling intense fear of the minorities who are the target of that endless violence - will be a country filled with citizens convinced of the virtues and nobility of aggression.

The fact that war is the word we use for almost everything—on terrorism, drugs, even poverty—has certainly helped to desensitize us to its invocation; if we wage wars on everything, how bad can they be?

It's hard to imagine a more potent sign of a weak, declining empire than having one's national 'credibility' depend upon periodically bombing other countries. 

Secrecy is the linchpin of abuse of power, . . . its enabling force. Transparency is the only real antidote.  

As a journalist, I think the only question that you ask yourself - once you've determined that the material is authentic - is what is in the public interest to know. And then you go about and report it.

I don't have a 'side'—I'm responsible for what I say and nothing else.

The single most remarkable (and revealing) fact of the Obama presidency may very well be the lack of a single prosecution of Wall Street executives for the massive fraud that precipitated the 2008 financial crisis.

As always with any discussion of elite immunity, it's crucial to note that what makes this development such a particularly warped travesty is that the very same elites who enjoy this immunity have created the world's largest, and the Western world's most oppressive and merciless, penal state for ordinary citizens.

When someone who wields political power does something you dislike or disagree with, it's incumbent upon you to object, criticize, and demand a different course. Those who refuse to do so are abdicating the most basic duty of citizenship and rendering themselves impotent.

Fearlessness can be its own form of power.  

Nobody has the right to shield any idea as so sacred it can’t be challenged. ... Almost all human progress is driven by people who stood up and said ‘I disagree’ with this idea that society at the time considered to be the most precious.

Revealingly, the central function of the Constitution as law--the supreme law--was to impose limitations not on the behavior of ordinary citizens but on the federal government. The government, and those who ran it, were not placed outside the law, but expressly targeted by it. Indeed, the Bill of Rights is little more than a description of the lines that the most powerful political officials are barred from crossing, even if they have the power to do so and even when the majority of citizens might wish them to do so.

The more fear confrontational activism can put into the heart of the political class, the better.  

I think that - not just as a journalist but as a human being - I have the ethical responsibility to avoid actions that harm innocent people. 

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