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Moving in the direction of totalitarianism

23.01.2017. Officials in Germany's Interior Ministry are urging Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière to establish a "Defense Center against Disinformation" (Abwehrzentrum gegen Desinformation) to combat what they call "political disinformation," a euphemism for "fake news." "The acceptance of a post-truth age would amount to political capitulation," the officials told Maizière in a memo, which also disclosed that the bureaucrats at the Interior Ministry are eager to see "authentic political communication" remain "defining for the 21st century." One wonders whether by "authentic political communication," the officials of the Interior Ministry are referring to the way German authorities scrambled to cover up the mass sexual attacks on women on New Year's Eve a year ago in Cologne? At the time, German police first claimed, surreally, on the morning of January 1, 2016, that the situation on New Year's Eve had been "relaxed." Cologne Police Chief Wolfgang Albers later dryly admitted, "This initial statement was incorrect." Alternatively, perhaps they are referring to the decision of Germany's public broadcaster, ZDF, not to report on the attacks until four days after they had occurred? Even a former government official, Hans-Peter Friedrich, Chancellor Angela Merkel's Interior Minister from 2011 to 2013, accused the media at the time of imposing a "news blackout" and operating a "code of silence" over negative news about immigrants. How is that for "authentic political communication"? Thus writes Judith Bergman in her article on Germany's New Propaganda Bureau, highlights of which include:

  • A married couple, Peter and Melanie M., were prosecuted and convicted in July 2016 of creating a Facebook group that criticized the government's migration policy. Also, in July 2016, 60 people suspected of writing "hate speech" online had their homes raided by German police.
  • None of the above seems to be enough, however, for the president of the Bundestag, Norbert Lammert, from Angela Merkel's CDU party, who believes that what Facebook is already doing against "hate speech" is not enough. According to the CDU politician, there is a need for more legislation.
  • The German government's view of what constitutes "hate speech" is highly selective and appears limited to protecting the government's own policies on immigration from legitimate criticism.
  • Firebombing a synagogue, however, is simply an "act of protest".

Read the entire article at Gatestone Institute.

See also The "Fake News" Censorship Industry by Robbie Travers, Gatestone Institute.


Connected to Daesh/ISIL?

08.01.2017. At least five people have been killed in an attack at Fort Lauderdale airport by a gunman who had reportedly previously told the FBI he was being forced to fight for ISIL. Esteban Santiago, a 26-year-old who had been treated for mental health issues, opened fire inside the baggage area of the busy airport and was taken into custody at the scene. He was carrying military ID and was wearing a Star Wars t-shirt. On Friday night law enforcement officials reportedly said that in November last year, Santiago had told the FBI in Anchorage that voices in his head were forcing him to join and fight for Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil). Officials said he was not on a watchlist of people suspected of Islamist radicalisation. Continue reading in The Telegraph. See also The Daily Mail: #1 and #2.


Should reconsider their ways

03.01.2017. What on earth is going on in the Western democracies? From the rise of Donald Trump in the United States and an assortment of right-wing parties across Europe through the June 23 Brexit vote, many on the Left have the sense that something dangerous and ugly is spreading: right-wing populism, seen as the Zika virus of politics. Something has gotten into "those people" that makes them vote in ways that seem—to their critics—likely to harm their own material interests, at least if their leaders follow through in implementing isolationist policies that slow economic growth. Thus writes Jonathan Haidt in the introduction to his July 2016 article When and Why Nationalism Beats Globalism - And how moral psychology can help explain and reduce tensions between the two (links in original):

Most analyses published since the Brexit vote focus on economic factors and some version of the "left behind" thesis—globalization has raised prosperity all over the world, with the striking exception of the working classes in Western societies. These less educated members of the richest countries lost access to well-paid but relatively low-skilled jobs, which were shipped overseas or given to immigrants willing to work for less. In communities where wages have stagnated or declined, the ever-rising opulence, rents, and confidence of London and other super-cities has bred resentment.

A smaller set of analyses, particularly in the United States, has focused on the psychological trait of authoritarianism to explain why these populist movements are often so hostile to immigration, and why they usually have an outright racist fringe.

Globalization and authoritarianism are both essential parts of the story, but in this essay I will put them together in a new way. I'll tell a story with four chapters that begins by endorsing the distinction made by the intellectual historian Michael Lind, and other commentators, between globalists and nationalists—these are good descriptions of the two teams of combatants emerging in so many Western nations. Marine Le Pen, the leader of the French National Front, pointed to the same dividing line last December when she portrayed the battle in France as one between "globalists" and "patriots."

But rather than focusing on the nationalists as the people who need to be explained by experts, I'll begin the story with the globalists. I'll show how globalization and rising prosperity have changed the values and behavior of the urban elite, leading them to talk and act in ways that unwittingly activate authoritarian tendencies in a subset of the nationalists. I'll show why immigration has been so central in nearly all right-wing populist movements. It's not just the spark, it's the explosive material, and those who dismiss anti-immigrant sentiment as mere racism have missed several important aspects of moral psychology related to the general human need to live in a stable and coherent moral order. Once moral psychology is brought into the story and added on to the economic and authoritarianism explanations, it becomes possible to offer some advice for reducing the intensity of the recent wave of conflicts.

Continue reading in The American Interest.

Jonathan Haidt is a social psychologist and professor in the Business and Society Program at New York University—Stern School of Business. He is the author of The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion.


Will they ever learn?

16.12.2016. There is something wrong with the media -- internationally. In Great Britain, they were unable to listen to British people who wanted to "Brexit." In the US, they were unable to listen to American people who wanted Trump. And in France, they were unable to predict the victory of François Fillon who "unexpectedly" won the presidential primary election of the center-right party. In each country, the media and journalists stigmatized and labeled the majority of the people -- those who wanted to Brexit, such as Trump and Fillon -- idiots and racists. So the question is: are journalists and media still people and companies paid to describe the world as it is? How did they go so wrong on such important questions? And go wrong so massively, with almost no exception? The corollary question is: are the media just playing a game? If so, what is the game? And why? Thus writes Yves Mamou in his article The Media Game: Creating the Hound Pack of the Day. He concludes as follows:

The problem for the media is coming: Brexit, Trump and Italy's referendum were a victory for millions of citizens from the "working class" against the elites, who seem to have become increasingly disconnected from them. They were also a victory for millions of people totally disconnected from the mainstream media, people liberated from "political correctness," people liberated from "ready-made answers and thinking." U.S. President-elect Donald Trump understood this disconnect so well that he has not even held a press conference since his victory, telling the press without a word that he does not need them. During the campaign, in fact, Trump spoke to very few from the media: He made his own media: tweeting every day, obliging the mainstream media to amplify his words. The more the lying media treating him as a liar, the more he was trusted.

Christiane Amanpour, a CNN anchorwoman, said: "We face an existential crisis. A threat to the very relevance and usefulness of our profession."

Arthur Sulzberger, publisher of the New York Times, understood quickly that empires -- and especially his empire -- can die. The day after Trump's election, he admitted the paper failed to appreciate Donald Trump's appeal:

"After such an erratic and unpredictable election there are inevitable questions: Did Donald Trump's sheer unconventionality lead us and other news outlets to underestimate his support among American voters?"

While insisting that his staff had "reported on both candidates fairly," he also vowed that the paper would "rededicate ourselves to the fundamental mission of Times journalism. That is to report America and the world honestly, without fear or favor." (It has not.)

Sulzberger also launched an appeal to the "loyalty" of Times subscribers -- because thousands of people abruptly cancelled their subscriptions. The disaffection with biased information is growing, and fewer and fewer people are ready to subscribe to propaganda, especially when the facts on the ground so visibly contradict it.

Democracy depends for its survival on journalists doing correctly the job for which they are paid: reporting facts and not stigmatizing people who do not resemble them. It is not the "noble" duty of journalists to prevent things from happening. Just report facts, propose analysis, and let people think for themselves.

New media have appeared on the internet, in the mold of Breitbart in the U.S. and Riposte Laïque in France -- many dozens across the U.S. and Europe. Their audiences consist of millions of readers. The mainstream media is still alive, but for how long? It had better move fast; a generation of new media is on its way.

Read the entire article at Gatestone Institute.


Not necessarily as stable as you think

29.11.2016. Yascha Mounk is used to being the most pessimistic person in the room. Mr. Mounk, a lecturer in government at Harvard, has spent the past few years challenging one of the bedrock assumptions of Western politics: that once a country becomes a liberal democracy, it will stay that way. His research suggests something quite different: that liberal democracies around the world may be at serious risk of decline. Mr. Mounk's interest in the topic began rather unusually. In 2014, he published a book, "Stranger in My Own Country." It started as a memoir of his experiences growing up as a Jew in Germany, but became a broader investigation of how contemporary European nations were struggling to construct new, multicultural national identities. He concluded that the effort was not going very well. A populist backlash was rising. But was that just a new kind of politics, or a symptom of something deeper? Continue reading the article How Stable Are Democracies? 'Warning Signs Are Flashing Red' in The New York Times.


Growing problems with no-go zones

20.11.2016. Mass, unvetted immigration from Africa, Asia and the Middle East is turning parts of Germany into no-go zones — lawless areas where the state has effectively lost control and where native Germans, including the police, increasingly fear to come. German authorities steadfastly deny the existence of such areas, but confidential police reports, testimonies from police on the ground and anecdotal evidence from local citizens all confirm that parts of major German cities have descended into pockets of lawlessness where criminal migrants have usurped control of the streets from German police. Observers say the problems are being exacerbated by the German government, which has relocated hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers and refugees into these areas. Thus writes Soeren Kern in his article Inside Germany's No-Go Zones: Part I - North Rhine-Westphalia:

  • "In Berlin or in the north of Duisburg there are neighborhoods where colleagues hardly dare to stop a car -- because they know that they'll be surrounded by 40 or 50 men." These attacks amount to a "deliberate challenge to the authority of the state -- attacks in which the perpetrators are expressing their contempt for our society." — Rainer Wendt, President of the German Police Union.
  • "Once Duisburg-Marxloh was a popular shopping and residential area. Now clans claim the streets for themselves. The police are powerless. The descent of the district is nightmarish." — N24 Television.
  • Police say they are alarmed by the brutality and aggression of the clans, who are said to view crime as leisure activity. If police dare to intervene, hundreds of clan members are mobilized to confront the police.
  • A 17-page report prepared for the NRW State Parliament revealed how Lebanese clans in Duisburg divide up certain neighborhoods in order to pursue their criminal activities, such as robbery, drug dealing and extortion.
  • "Further data collection is not legally permissible. Both internally and externally, any classification that could be used to depreciate human beings must be avoided. In this respect, the use of the term 'family clan' is forbidden from the police point of view." — Ralf Jäger, Interior Minister, North Rhine-Westphalia.
  • Two police officers stopped a driver who ran a red light. The driver got out of the car and ran away. When police caught up with him, they were confronted by more than 50 migrants. A 15-year-old attacked a policeman from behind and began strangling him, rendering him unconscious.

Read the entire article at Gatestone Institute. Hat tip Document.no.


Carnage in Calais

05.09.2016. Ruthless gangs deliberately causing crashes on the roads to the French port by hurling large objects at cars. Home Secretary Amber Rudd has spoken out after a team of journalists narrowly escaped death last week. Reporter Ben Ellery and photographers Steve Burton and John McLellan were all injured. They had been investigating a shocking explosion of violence at the squalid migrant camp. Continue reading in Mail on Sunday.

 


Serious suspicions of corruption

21.08.2016 (updated later the same day). Clinton Cash, is a feature documentary based on the Peter Schweizer book that the New York Times hailed as “The most anticipated and feared book of a presidential cycle.” Clinton Cash investigates how Bill and Hillary Clinton went from being “dead broke” after leaving the White House to amassing a net worth of over $150 million, with over $2 billion in donations to their foundation. This wealth was accumulated during Mrs. Clinton’s tenure as US Secretary of State through lucrative speaking fees and contracts paid for by foreign companies and Clinton Foundation donors. See the documentary film at YouTube.

See also: The Many Scandals of Donald Trump: A Cheat Sheet. The sordid story of the Trump Institute is a sequel to the damaging tale of Trump University.

 


Has it forgotten its Christian duty?

07.08.2016. As priest is slaughtered by ISIS at the altar, the West must wake up. Thus writes Fr. George Rutler in his article A Christian Duty in the Face of Terror:

After another devastating ISIS attack in France, this time against a priest in his 80s while he was saying Mass, the answer isn’t just, “Do nothing.” As racism distorts race and sexism corrupts sex — so does pacifism affront peace.

Turning the other cheek is the counsel Christ gave in the instance of an individual when morally insulted: Humility conquers pride. It has nothing to do with self-defense.

The Catholic Church has always maintained that the defiance of an evil force is not only a right but an obligation. Its Catechism (cf. #2265) cites St. Thomas Aquinas: “Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for someone responsible for another’s life, the common good of the family or of the State.”

A father is culpable if he does not protect his family. A bishop has the same duty as a spiritual father of his sons and daughters in the church, just as the civil state has as its first responsibility the maintenance of the “tranquility of order” through self-defense.

Christ warned the apostles, as shepherds, to beware of wolves. This requires both the "shrewdness of serpents and the innocence of doves." To shrink from the moral duty to protect peace by not using force when needed is to be innocent as a serpent and shrewd as a dove.

That is not innocence — it is naiveté.

[...]

The shortcut to handling the crisis is to deny that it exists.

On the first day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, there were over 60 speeches, and yet not one of them mentioned ISIS.

Vice has destroyed countless individual souls, but in the decline of civilizations, weakness has done more harm than vice. "Peace for our time" is as empty now as it was when Chamberlain went to Munich and honor was bartered in Vichy.

Hilaire Belloc, who knew Normandy and all of Europe well, said in 1929: "We shall almost certainly have to reckon with Islam in the near future. Perhaps, if we lose our faith, it will rise. For after this subjugation of the Islamic culture by the nominally Christian had already been achieved, the political conquerors of that culture began to notice two disquieting features about it. The first was that its spiritual foundation proved immovable; the second, that its area of occupation did not recede, but on the contrary slowly expanded."

The priest in Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvrary in Normandy, France, was not the first to die at the altar — and he will not be the last.

In his old age, the priest embodied a civilization that has been betrayed by a generation whose hymn was John Lennon's "Imagine" — that there was neither heaven nor hell but "above us only sky" and "all the people living for today." When reality intrudes, they can only leave teddy bears and balloons at the site of a carnage they call "inexplicable."

Read the entire article at LifeZette. Hat tip Document.no.

Fr. George William Rutler is a Catholic priest, author of several books, and the pastor of the Church of St. Michael in Manhattan.

 


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HonestThinking is dedicated and committed to the art of thinking honestly. Yet honest thinking is not the same as true thinking, for it is possible to think honestly, but be mistaken. For the same reason, honest thinking is not identical with objective thinking either. Honest thinking is striving to get things right. This involves being truthful about whatever one publishes, but just as importantly, it involves an uncompromising dedication never to suppress relevant data, even when data collides with dearly held prejudices. Such an approach may sometimes cause hurtful revisions in one’s belief system. That’s what HonestThinking is all about! Read the entire manifesto.



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The current European immigration and integration policy is profoundly disrespectful of both Muslims and Islam, because it is built on the tacit assumption that the Muslims will become like us. One claims to have respect for Islam and for Muslims, but one also expects Muslims to give up their orthodox faith when they come here. At the same time one is assuming that Islam will be reformed and modernized as soon as the Muslims become integrated and understand and appreciate how superior our Western culture is compared to their own. This is cultural shauvinism and arrogance indeed! The unspoken premise for this scenario is that Western socities are superior to Islam. Read more.

 


 

 

Human rights and democracy are under pressure. One threat comes from the Western world, in the form of lack of or dishonest thinking. There exists a peculiar Western "tolerance" which is so "tolerant" that it even tolerates totalitarian or anti-democratic ideologies. A tacit assumption underlying such an attitude is that all cultures, world views, and religions are really equally good. As a consequence of this assumption one is cut off from the possibility of critically examining the above mentioned ideologies. Read more.