Letter to My Representatives on Gaslighting and Source Burning: Post-truth is Pre-fascism

Senator Cornyn, Senator Cruz, Representative Williams,

Respected and sober voices in the diplomatic and natsec communities are sounding the alarm and even using the words treason and traitor. Such words are merited when a request to turn over private citizens, including ethical patriots like Bill Browder, is greeted as an “incredible offer”.

For the last ten years, I’ve been trying to avoid getting killed by Putin’s regime, and there already exists a trail of dead bodies connected to its desire to see me dead. Amazingly, Trump stood next to him, appearing to nod approvingly. He even later said that he considered it “an incredible offer.”

Source: I’m Bill Browder. Putin Made a Mistake When Talking About Me | Time

This moment is striking in both its ineptitude and its thoughtless treachery.

It should be noted that not only did Trump fail to recognize the request to interrogate Browder & Amb. McFaul as outrageous, it seems not to have occurred to him that a president has no power to order a private citizen to submit to interrogation by foreign agents.

So basically: Putin makes a completely disingenuous proposal to “trade” interrogations, knowing the U.S. won’t & probably can’t meet his conditions. Trump cluelessly takes the bait & fawns all over the “incredible offer” Putin has made.

Note this is a direct result of Trump’s bizarre insistence on meeting with Putin alone. Any minimally competent diplomat would have recognized the “offer” as bogus and prevented Trump from embarrassing himself. Or tried to, anyway.

Source: Julian Sanchez on Twitter

From the start, Trump has muddied a clear message: Putin interfered.” “In January 2017, Donald Trump was shown evidence that Vladimir Putin personally ordered pre-election hacking. He has since publicly questioned it.” Natsec folks are discussing how many sources POTUS possibly has burned. “Trump, who was briefed in Jan 2017, burned the source to Russia just like he burned Israeli intelligence.” “Did Trump tell Putin the name of CIA source close to Putin?” “I’d speculate the intel sources here reasonably concluded that Trump has already burned their sources and methods to Putin.” “This sensitive intelligence didn’t leak in this kind of detail through all the sturm and drang of the last year and a half. Trump’s fawning behavior in Helsinki shook this loose and into public view.

How many of the “trail of dead bodies” were burned by the Trump administration? The operational reality we live and work in is that we must assume POTUS has burned sources and methods. The EU is now treating the US as an adversary. So too are the many professionals tasked with protecting our systems.

The sitting President and the party in the power are gaslighting us, telling us that what we witness every day isn’t true. Jeff Flake spoke to this today in a speech I’m glad he delivered. I have no faith he will vote in accordance with his words, but hearing a Republican MoC acknowledge the mentally abusive mass gaslighting of a nation going on right now was a needed affirmation of objective reality.

Mr. President, in his dystopian novel ‘1984,’ George Orwell wrote, ‘A party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.’ Well, we saw earlier this week in Helsinki what was truly an Orwellian moment. What we saw earlier this week in Helsinki is what happens when you wage war on objective reality for nearly two solid years, calling real things fake and fake things real, as if conditioning others to embrace the same confusion. Ultimately you’re rendered unable to tell the difference between the two and are at critical times seemingly rendered incapable of thinking clearly. Your mind, a hash of conspiracy theory and fragments of old talking points, deployed in response to a question no one even asked. Ultimately you fail to summon reality in the face of a despot in defense of your country. It wasn’t a hard question, Mr. President.

Source: Jeff Flake: We Saw Earlier This Week in Helsinki What Was a Truly an Orwellian Moment :: Grabien – The Multimedia Marketplace

In Chapter 10, “Believe In Truth”, of “On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century”, historian Timothy Snyder writes:

To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power, because there is no basis upon which to do so. If nothing is true, then all is spectacle. The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights.

You submit to tyranny when you renounce the difference between what you want to hear and what is actually the case. This renunciation of reality can feel natural and pleasant, but the result is your demise as an individual—and thus the collapse of any political system that depends upon individualism. As observers of totalitarianism such as Victor Klemperer noticed, truth dies in four modes, all of which we have just witnessed.

Fascists despised the small truths of daily existence, loved slogans that resonated like a new religion, and preferred creative myths to history or journalism. They used new media, which at the time was radio, to create a drumbeat of propaganda that aroused feelings before people had time to ascertain facts. And now, as then, many people confused faith in a hugely flawed leader with the truth about the world we all share.

Post-truth is pre-fascism.

Source: Snyder, Timothy. On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century (pp. 65-69, 71). Crown/Archetype. Kindle Edition.

You, Senator Cornyn, ”blocked the passage of a resolution from Flake and Sen. Christopher Coons (D-Del.) that would have given Senate support to the intelligence community’s finding that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election”. You blocked acknowledgment of an obvious and true thing. You have abandoned facts and freedom. “Accepting untruth of this radical kind requires a blatant abandonment of reason.” The endless repetition that Russia did not interfere in the election despite all evidence to the otherwise is “shamanistic incantation”. “The fascist style depends upon “endless repetition,” designed to make the fictional plausible and the criminal desirable.

Meanwhile, you, Representative Williams, and the rest of the Republican House voted down election security spending.

And voted down a motion to subpoena the interpreter for the Trump-Russia summit.

A summit that the DNI hasn’t been briefed on.

You too have abandoned facts and freedom.

Election and information security professionals have been calling for an overhaul of our election security and voting machines for years. Our infrastructure is a shambles. Our machines are trivially compromised and untrustable. When we don’t spend on security, we get hacked.

In New York, the city BOE spends nearly $1M on Mandiant. Didn’t get hacked. Schuyler county was massively hacked by Russia. Not just the poll books. Even the sheriff’s office.

You, my reps, are denying Russia interfered in our elections and refusing to invest in badly needed election security. What would you call Democrats who did this given all else going on? Would you hesitate to call them traitors? I don’t think you would.

Wanted: psychologists, psychiatrists, neuropsychiatrists, and neurologists who…

Wanted: psychologists, psychiatrists, neuropsychiatrists, and neurologists who…

Despite increased spending on mental health treatment, mental illness disability and suicide rates have skyrocketed. “Perhaps more disturbingly,” notes clinical psychologist Noël Hunter, “recent evidence has demonstrated that as contact with psychiatric intervention increases, so too does completed suicide, suggesting the possibility that the current mental health system may be creating the very problems it purports to aid.” In Hunter’s recently published Trauma and Madness in Mental Health Services (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018), she asks, “Are we continuing to funnel money into a fundamentally broken system?”

Far fewer on the Left recognize that the psychiatric- industrial complex (which includes the American Psychiatric Association and its Big Pharma financial partners) is also devoted only to its own preservation and expansion, thus routinely exacerbating emotional suffering-this despite many individual practitioners who want to help their patients.

Hunter is a rare psychologist. She not only has extensive knowledge of the empirical research, but she herself was once diagnosed with serious mental illness, and she takes very seriously the insights of “experts by experience”-recovered ex-patients-who Hunter quotes throughout her book. Both objective and subjective sources make clear to Hunter that the essential cause for what is called serious mental illness is not some kind of biochemical or genetic defect but some kind of trauma, and that the essential remedy is healing from trauma. For critical thinkers who are not mental health professionals, Hunter’s assertions in Trauma and Madness in Mental Health Services may sound like simple common sense, but it is sense that is not common in the mental health profession.

In a scientific sense, terms like “schizophrenia” are completely meaningless-wastebaskets to toss people who are behaving in ways that appear bizarre to doctors. Often what causes people acting in unusual ways to become chronically dysfunctional are their doctors’ problematic reactions and “treatments.” In other words, it is common for the source of chronic dysfunction to be physician-induced (iatrogenic) trauma.

In the real world of psychiatric diagnoses, probably the most important criteria for whether you are diagnosed with schizophrenia or dissociative identify disorder (DID) is how much your doctor likes you, and Hunter was likable enough to get a DID diagnosis. For reasons of dogma, not science, trauma is taken seriously for DID but not for schizophrenia (in which one is simply seen as defective). So, Hunter considers herself relatively lucky, and one senses her “survival guilt.”

Professionals often waste their limited time obsessing over a diagnostic process that is scientifically invalid and unreliable. “Rather,” Hunter concludes, “what is more important is to take an individualized, collaborative, trauma-informed approach that is attuned to individual needs without making assumptions and considering the person’s subjective experiences as real and something to be respected.” It’s important, Hunter concludes, to help people find meaning and value in the adaptive nature of their atypical experiences.

Source: Politics and Psychiatry—Brave New Book on the Cost of the Trauma Cover-Up

Carlin was a far better therapist for critical thinkers than are the vast majority of my mental health professional colleagues. Shaming hopelessness as some kind of character flaw or, worse, psychopathologizing it as a symptom of mental illness only adds insult to injury. Hope missionaries ignore the reality that pathologizing hopelessness does not make critical thinkers more hopeful, only more annoyed.

I know many mental health professionals who espouse hope but who are broken and compliant with any and all authorities. In contrast, I know anti-authoritarians who, like Carlin, express hopelessness but who are unbroken and resist illegitimate authorities. Carlin modeled a self-confident rebellion against authoritarianism and bullshit, and he provided the kind of humor that energizes resistance.

I don’t know the exact moment when I became hopeless about my mental health profession, but my experience has been that one can be embarrassed by one’s profession for only so long before that embarrassment turns into hopelessness.

The symptoms of ODD include often argues with adults and often refuses to comply with authorities’ requests or rules. At that time, I was in graduate school for clinical psychology and already somewhat embarrassed by the pseudoscientific disease inventions of my future profession; and throwing rebellious young people under the diagnostic bus with this new ODD label exacerbated my embarrassment.

My embarrassment transformed into hopelessness as it became routine to prescribe tranquilizing antipsychotic drugs to ODD kids; to diagnose kids with mental disorders merely for blowing off school while their entire family was falling apart; and to prescribe Ritalin, Vyvanse, Adderall, and other amphetamines to six-year-olds who had become inattentive as their parents were engaged in a nasty divorce.

Achieving hopelessness about my profession had great benefits. It liberated me from wasting my time with authoritarian mental health professionals in efforts at reform; and it energized me to care solely about anti-authoritarians who already had their doubts about my profession and sought validation from someone within it. Embracing my hopelessness about my profession made me whole and revitalized me.

Witnessing a mental health profession that is fast on its way to achieving complete ignorance about the nature of human beings would simply have validated Carlin’s general hopelessness.

Source: Hopeless But Not Broken: From George Carlin to Adderall Protest Music

We have a medical community that’s found a sickness for every single human difference. DSM keeps growing every single year with new ways to be defective, with new ways to be lessened.

The myth of normal is what’s broken, and the identity that, if you don’t fit it, that you are less than, that’s what’s broken. We need to reframe what we problematize, not bodies, not difference, but this pervasive imperative to be normal.

Disability industrial complex is all about what people can’t do. We spend most of our time trying to fix what they can’t do. When all we do is fix people the message we give to them is that they are broken.

We have created a system that has you submit yourself, or your child, to patient hood to access the right to learn differently. The right to learn differently should be a universal human right that’s not mediated by a diagnosis.

Source: The Gift: LD/ADHD Reframed – Ryan Boren

Mass Graves, Peonage, and Convict Leasing

CW: slavery, violent racism, mass graves

A mass grave was unearthed in Sugar Land, Texas, where imprisoned and enslaved people worked sugar plantations during the slavery and Jim Crow eras. “One local historian believes this is the tip of the iceberg — that similar sites span the surrounding area.”

Those prisoners were people trapped in racist peonage.

But the most corrupt and abusive peonage occurred in concert with southern state and county government. In the south, many black men were picked up for minor crimes or on trumped-up charges, and, when faced with staggering fines and court fees, forced to work for a local employer would who pay their fines for them. Southern states also leased their convicts en mass to local industrialists. The paperwork and debt record of individual prisoners was often lost, and these men found themselves trapped in inescapable situations.

Source: Slavery v. Peonage | Slavery By Another Name Bento | PBS

The plantation soon became notorious across the state as the “Hellhole on the Brazos.”

Source: Confronting Sugar Land’s Forgotten History

Let’s get some context for these mass graves from Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness”. Convict leasing was racist, brutal, and unjust.

Black people found themselves yet again powerless and relegated to convict leasing camps that were, in many ways, worse than slavery. Sunshine gave way to darkness, and the Jim Crow system of segregation emerged—a system that put black people nearly back where they began, in a subordinate racial caste.

Once again, vagrancy laws and other laws defining activities such as “mischief” and “insulting gestures” as crimes were enforced vigorously against blacks. The aggressive enforcement of these criminal offenses opened up an enormous market for convict leasing, in which prisoners were contracted out as laborers to the highest private bidder. Douglas Blackmon, in Slavery by Another Name, describes how tens of thousands of African Americans were arbitrarily arrested during this period, many of them hit with court costs and fines, which had to be worked off in order to secure their release. With no means to pay off their “debts,” prisoners were sold as forced laborers to lumber camps, brickyards, railroads, farms, plantations, and dozens of corporations throughout the South. Death rates were shockingly high, for the private contractors had no interest in the health and well-being of their laborers, unlike the earlier slave-owners who needed their slaves, at a minimum, to be healthy enough to survive hard labor. Laborers were subject to almost continual lashing by long horse whips, and those who collapsed due to injuries or exhaustion were often left to die.

Convicts had no meaningful legal rights at this time and no effective redress. They were understood, quite literally, to be slaves of the state. The Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution had abolished slavery but allowed one major exception: slavery remained appropriate as punishment for a crime. In a landmark decision by the Virginia Supreme Court, Ruffin v. Commonwealth, issued at the height of Southern Redemption, the court put to rest any notion that convicts were legally distinguishable from slaves:

For a time, during his service in the penitentiary, he is in a state of penal servitude to the State. He has, as a consequence of his crime, not only forfeited his liberty, but all his personal rights except those which the law in its humanity accords to him. He is for the time being a slave of the State. He is civiliter mortus; and his estate, if he has any, is administered like that of a dead man.

The state of Mississippi eventually moved from hiring convict labor to organizing its own convict labor camp, known as Parchman Farm. It was not alone. During the decade following Redemption, the convict population grew ten times faster than the general population: “Prisoners became younger and blacker, and the length of their sentences soared.” It was the nation’s first prison boom and, as they are today, the prisoners were disproportionately black.

This harsh reality harks back to the days after the Civil War, when former slaves and their descendents were arrested for minor violations, slapped with heavy fines, and then imprisoned until they could pay their debts. The only means to pay off their debts was through labor on plantations and farms—known as convict leasing—or in prisons that had been converted to work farms. Paid next to nothing, convicts were effectively enslaved in perpetuity, as they were unable to earn enough to pay off their debts. Today, many inmates work in prison, typically earning far less than the minimum wage—often less than $3 per hour, sometimes as little as 25 cents. Their accounts are then “charged” for various expenses related to their incarceration, making it impossible for them to save the money that otherwise would allow them to pay off their debts or help them make a successful transition when released from prison. Prisoners are typically released with only the clothes on their backs and a pittance in gate money. Sometimes the money is barely enough to cover the cost of a bus ticket back home.

Source: The New Jim Crow – Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness Michelle Alexander

This Texas Monthly piece looks into Sugar Land’s history, its willful amnesia, and the connections between convict leasing and today’s mass incarceration.

Off U.S. 90, behind a bustling shopping center, is a small cemetery surrounded by two concentric rings of chain-link fence. Inside are several dozen crumbling headstones, inscribed with the names and prison numbers of the convicts who died working the sugar plantations that gave the city its name. Most of the convicts died young.

Harvesting cane was even more arduous than picking cotton. Slaves worked around the clock during harvest season to cut the sugarcane, press out the cane juice, boil it down, and then pack the finished product onto trains to be shipped around the country. “Sugar work was about as bad as you can imagine,” said Sean Kelley, a historian of early American history at the University of Essex. “People got sick, they died. Women’s fertility rates plummeted. Europeans quickly discovered that you couldn’t get people to work in this voluntarily, which is why there’s a strong historical linkage between sugar and slavery.”

Cunningham and Ellis survived the abolition of slavery by finding a new source of cheap labor: the Texas prison system. Although they weren’t the first growers to use convict labor, they were the biggest: in 1878 they signed a contract with the state to lease Texas’s entire prison population. This was perfectly legal, since the Thirteenth Amendment, which outlawed slavery, made one very consequential exception: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” (Italics added.)

After abolition, the prison population exploded, disproportionately with black men. Unable to house and feed all the new prisoners, the state began renting them out to private companies, who were grateful for the supply of cheap labor.

The working conditions in Cunningham and Ellis’s sugar fields were as bad or worse than they had been on the slave plantations. Mosquito-borne epidemics, frequent beatings, and a lack of medical care resulted in a 3 percent annual mortality rate. The plantation soon became notorious across the state as the “Hellhole on the Brazos.”

Almost totally missing from the city’s historical memory, Moore realized, is any trace of the slave and convict labor that made the area’s sugar plantations so profitable. The history on the official city website makes no mention of slavery or convict leasing.

“Convict leasing is the missing link between slavery, which everyone knows about, and the disparate impact of the criminal justice system on African Americans today.”

Source: Confronting Sugar Land’s Forgotten History

See also,

As a Twitter thread:

Why confronting this matters: