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Indybay Feature

The property question and A new age of censorship is dawning

by T Kirmse, U Gasche & H Scheben (marc1seed [at] yahoo.com)
There is another good news, if not two good news, which are directly connected. A majority of people reject capitalism and want a different system. It is not difficult to link the global crises that threaten our very existence to our prevailing economic and social order, which is just more aptly described as capitalism than as a market economy. The unease is as great as the desire for change.
The property question
Housing is a human right and incompatible with private profit interests and market logic.
By Thiemo Kirmse
[This article posted on 10/25/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://www.rubikon.news/artikel/die-eigentumsfrage.]

Social movements and left political currents usually wage defensive struggles. The aim is to end war and fight for peace, to defend democratic rights of freedom and to protest against economic decline. The ecological crisis - although existential - almost gets pushed into the background. Finally, it is necessary to stand in the way of a strengthening right that can make political profit from all these crises caused by the ruling policy in the face of a left that lacks profile and courage. Those who only ever react remain captive to what they refer to. He is unable to set his own themes or advance his visions. It is time to go on the offensive. The socialization of housing is the right approach for this.

Current political developments are a cause for grave concern. It therefore remains our most urgent task for the time being to fight the defensive battles mentioned above - first and foremost, to consistently stand up for peace and demand a diplomatic solution to the Ukraine conflict. But there are also positive developments that stand in the way of all this, and deserve more of our attention and support. There is great potential in one of them, because at last the property issue is being seriously discussed.

For example, from October 7 to 9, a coalition of twelve organizations from the civil society sector invited participants to the so-called Vergesellschaftungskonferenz (1) in Berlin. The event, originally conceived for a few hundred participants, received unexpected popularity, so that registration had to be stopped at just under 1,500 people. On the campus of the Technical University of Berlin, people from current social struggles, from political parties, from trade unions, from academia and the media, and from other contexts came together to discuss political strategies for socialization and beyond.

In four large panel discussions and in 36 other discussion events and workshops, there was lively debate along seven thematic blocks, experiences were exchanged, ideas were discussed, and joint reflections were made on future strategies. The consideration of historical struggles, an insight into the activist practice of current struggles around property, and last but not least, again and again, the very big question of an alternative to capitalism formed a rich spectrum in theory and practice.

Berlin population votes for expropriation

The discussion about socialization has a concrete cause and starting point with the effort of the Berlin initiative "Expropriate Deutsche Wohnen & Co." (DWE) (2) and the successful referendum of September 26, 2021, on the expropriation of private housing corporations, which turned out very clearly with 59.1 percent of the votes. The success of this initiative lay in the combination of a demand that was radical in the best sense of the word and its realistic achievability. This point deserves attention: more than a million people in Berlin rallied behind the demand for expropriation. The basis is Article 15 of the Basic Law, which permits the socialization of land, natural resources and means of production.

Unsurprisingly, the result of the Berlin referendum is opposed by a majority to the will of the political parties in the Berlin Senate. This is also the case with other political issues. When it comes to the distribution of wealth and income, the privatization of public institutions in the area of services of general interest, the negotiation of so-called free trade agreements, a speed limit on German highways (3) or - long before the war in Ukraine and the secondary accompanying and all senses numbing media drumfire - arms exports (4), the majority of people in the country think differently than it corresponds to the actions of the political class.

The establishment of an expert commission following the Berlin referendum to examine the constitutionality of socialization, which is also to clarify questions of compensation, is seen within DWE as a filibuster. The political battle in Berlin over the issue of socialization of housing is far from over - especially since Article 15 of the Basic Law has not yet been applied. The likely rerun of the election for the Berlin House of Representatives will reignite the dispute.

Is housing a human right or a luxury?

The concern of the people in Berlin is more than justified, because housing is a basic need.

The desire for adequate and affordable housing is a matter of course, but under market conditions it becomes an impossibility. In Berlin, rents have doubled in the past ten years, without wage growth even coming close to keeping pace.

Rents in almost all other major German cities have also risen sharply in recent years, significantly outpacing inflation and wage increases. The often demanded new construction has not been able to solve the problem. It is not only highly critical from an ecological point of view, but also counterproductive in terms of rent development, as high rents for new buildings continue to pull up rents.

The situation is particularly difficult for those with the lowest incomes. On average, one in eight tenants in Germany has to spend more than 40 percent of their disposable income on housing, including energy (5). In the most burdened large cities, this figure is often much higher. When half the money of an already small budget is already gone at the beginning of the month, there is often no money left at the end of the month.

Socialization in the area of services of general interest

Therefore it does not surprise that the demand for the socialization of dwelling meets broad Zuspruch. And this demand, based on the Berlin model, is rubbing off. In Hamburg, a similar initiative (6) has been formed, seeking a referendum and calling for the socialization of all profit-oriented housing companies that have more than 500 apartments in the city. What is possible in the two large German city-states can also be attempted in the Flächenländer. It doesn't take that much imagination.

The question of socializing property does not end with the discussion of housing, however. Other sectors that fall within the scope of public services were also discussed at the conference. Basically, it is clear that the market is hardly suited to provide good solutions in all these areas.

Private profit interests are at odds with good care. However, the exchange of arguments is of little help at this point. It's about the question of enforcement power. The Berliners have shown how this can be done and who has to do it. Only when people unite and get involved will politicians move. But this movement will not happen on its own. It has to be organized.

Together against the corporations

It is above all the people at the bottom of society, the poorest, the marginalized and stigmatized, who must be included in the struggle. They are the ones who suffer the most from current policies.

Rightly, these people feel abandoned by politics. Their inner withdrawal and self-sacrifice also include a sense of inferiority, which leads to an acceptance of their role. They see no political options for action, and so they remain trapped in apathy.

However, the movement can only be strong if it includes and connects all people and becomes a social movement. In Berlin, this has succeeded for the moment. The referendum from last year is a great success, but at the same time no more than a stage victory. Continued resistance from the corporations is to be expected in any case. Unity, steadfastness and staying power are called for.

The Left Party makes no offers

It is actually the original task of a left-wing political party to address precisely these people, to make them an offer and to mobilize them. The Left Party does not manage to do this. Instead of positioning itself clearly and - once again in the best sense of the word - radically and courageously, it remains profileless and inactive, even though it would gain a lot of support precisely through radical and courageous positions. After all, it is on the right side in Berlin and in the struggle of DWE, although the closing of ranks from the street to parliament could be much closer.

In Corona policy, however, and in Ukraine policy as well, it is not making any offers that can be accepted and is thus leaving the field to the right. The only hope for the left is that it recognizes the signs of the times, joins the social movements from below, and perhaps is pushed onto a progressive course by its own party youth. The Socialist Democratic Students' Association (SDS) is organizing its own conference at the end of October, which, as a "System Change Congress" (7), points in the right direction according to its name.

Socialization in the areas of energy, health and transport

But the decisive changes will not be set in motion by the political parties anyway. In the first place, it is the people themselves who must move and get involved. On the issue of socialization, further movement has already emerged. "Expropriate RWE and Co" (8) also calls for socialization and, with the energy sector, concretely opens the field in another important area that is currently particularly in focus.

Housing, energy, health care and transportation are part of the public services of general interest that are relevant to the questions of socialization. It is clear that not every one of the areas mentioned can be treated equally, because if hospitals, for example, remain underfunded even in public hands, then little is gained by socialization.

Socialization does not mean nationalization

But what does socialization actually mean? First of all, socialization means expropriation, although when we think of housing, energy supply, the health sector and the transport sector, we are initially only talking about areas that were once under state control anyway. But this is precisely where the difference lies, because socialization, according to the activists, should not mean nationalization, but the appropriation of goods by the people for the people.

It is about securing and preserving property in the aforementioned areas for the people in the long term, so that it is not sacrificed again at some later point to private profit interests. It is about a permanent withdrawal from market logic, so that housing, energy and health care remain affordable for all people.

What this might look like in concrete terms needs to be considered individually for each case. DWE has already made a number of further considerations in this regard with the so-called "institution under public law" and with its successive experiences in the practice of self-organization. A recent book from the campaign describes "how socialization succeeds" (9).

Unwelcome privatizations and scandalous buybacks

Who is appropriating whose property here could also be discussed. DWE is not wrong in taking the view that the socialization of apartments in corporate ownership only takes back what belongs to the people anyway - in any case, what once belonged to them. After all, it was not long ago that publicly owned apartments were squandered for little money in the privatization mania that began in the 1990s.

In Berlin, a turnaround has recently been initiated and a partial buyback of the apartments has begun, which has rightly been described as scandalous (10). More than a billion euros in losses have been incurred. Added to this are the interest on the loans for the financing and a backlog of refurbishments.

The winners are the corporations that have not only been able to collect the rental income but, adjusted for inflation, have received about four times the amount they originally spent to buy the apartments - and that in a period of just 20 years. It is of little help if the politicians responsible at the time are remorseful and recognize that the privatizations were a mistake. Buying back at market prices is out of the question and cannot be a general solution.

The majority does not want capitalism

There is another good news, if not two good news, which are directly connected. A majority of people reject capitalism and want a different system. It is not difficult to link the global crises that threaten our very existence to our prevailing economic and social order, which is just more aptly described as capitalism than as a market economy.

The unease is as great as the desire for change. The only thing missing is the idea that things could be different and how they could be. Politics and the market economy appear as the natural order and without alternative. Yet it is clear that capitalism will not be able to solve any of the problems that it has played a major role in causing.

Discussion about alternatives takes place

This is precisely where the discussion about an alternative to capitalism, which was also held at the conference, comes in. It is not about vague images, slogans or set pieces of a diffuse and undefined future, but about concrete considerations of how a world beyond market and competition could look like. The discussion about alternatives to capitalism, which are formulated - not in detail, but tangibly enough - and which at the same time describe the way how to get there, are overdue (11).

Capitalism will surely end. A targeted exit is necessary, because the risks inherent in an uncontrolled end are now all too apparent before all our eyes. It is therefore not enough to stop at questions about socialization. They are only the beginning of the exit and, of course, they must be answered internationally in the world society in which we live.

So it's not just about ownership, but ultimately about the whole thing. The socialization of housing is an important first step and a more than legitimate concern.

Better to have a say than to defame

There is a strong headwind not only from the corporations, but also from the bourgeoisie. The objection that whoever says expropriation must also say gulag is clumsy propaganda and shows ignorance. On the other hand, it is justified, because the causal connection between the dreams of another world and the dead of Stalinism is obvious. It is, as the political writer Bini Adamczak says, inadmissible to be silent about this when dealing with alternatives to capitalism. The fears behind it are real and they are well-founded.

Anyone who follows the ongoing discussion about social alternatives will be reassured by this concern. Looking at the question of the socialization of living space alone, the objection is unworthy, because it only demands what should actually be self-evident. That is not much and the way to another society is still far from there. In any case, the discussion about social alternatives will ultimately only be fruitful if it expands and is conducted by many people. It can then become socially relevant. And one thing is certainly true for bourgeois-minded people as well: The state of the world cares for them, too.

Sources and notes:

(1) https://vergesellschaftungskonferenz.de/
(2) https://www.dwenteignen.de/
(3) https://www.n-tv.de/politik/Mehrheit-der-Deutschen-will-Tempolimit-article23272525.html
(4) https://www.ohne-ruestung-leben.de/nachrichten/article/83-prozent-gegen-waffenexporte-33.html
(5) https://www.haufe.de/immobilien/entwicklung-vermarktung/marktanalysen/wohnkostenbelastung-in-deutschland-miete-versus-einkommen_84324_521164.html
(6) http://hamburg-enteignet.de/
(7) https://systemchangekongress.de/
(8) https://rwe-enteignen.de/
(9) https://www.parthasverlag.de/buch/wie-vergesellschaftung-gelingt-zum-stand-der-debatte.html
(10) Carl Waßmuth: "Scandalous housing buybacks in Berlin," in Lunapark21-Extra "Rent explosion vs. public welfare," Winter 2019, pages 18 to 21.
The entire special issue on the topic is worth reading and provides a good foundation for the discussion on the socialization of housing. It can be viewed online here: https://www.lunapark21.net/inhalt-des-sonderheftes-mietexplosion-vs-daseinsvorsorge/
(11) https://www.rubikon.news/artikel/mehr-utopie-wagen

Thiemo Kirmse, born in 1976, first completed a commercial apprenticeship before studying mathematics and computer science in Bielefeld and Münster. Since then he has been working as a software developer. During the financial crisis, he became politically involved with Attac and Occupy. His criticism of capitalism has led him to the question of what a system alternative might look like. More information at utopia22.de.

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The gas lie
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Ukraine: dispute over risk of nuclear escalation

by Urs P. Gasche
The further Russia is driven out of all of Ukraine, the greater the risk of nuclear escalation.
[This article posted on 10/24/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, Ukraine: Streit über das Risiko einer nuklearen Eskalation - infosperber.]




Ukraine: Streit über das Risiko einer nuklearen Eskalation - infosperber

Je weiter Russland aus der ganzen Ukraine vertrieben wird, desto grösser wird das Risiko eines Atombomben-Einsat...




The NATO countries do not want to be blackmailed and are betting on victory. But nobody knows how Putin will react to a defeat. A two-line NZZ headline, intended to reassure, could not be missed: "Putin will hardly go all out". Reasoning: After a nuclear exchange, Russia would be a radioactive wasteland. The Russian state and Russian society would be destroyed for all time. This is what Professor Reinhard Wolf wrote in the prominently featured NZZ article on October 13.

Wolf carefully formulated that Putin would "hardly" go all out. He thus leaves open a residual risk of nuclear escalation.

In order to exclude such a risk as far as possible, NATO and NZZ editor-in-chief Eric Gujer see only one possibility in their public statements: under no circumstances give in, but rather supply Ukraine with weapons to the maximum and help it to a victory. Gujer is adamant: "Those who reject arms deliveries and justify this with the growing risk of a nuclear war are mistaken. The opposite is the case."

Georg Häsler, "editor for security policy issues" at the NZZ, also sticks almost entirely to the NATO line. True, Putin could "detonate the bomb simply as an act of state terror." But Häsler quotes David Petraeus , according to whom "Putin would have to realize in a careful cost-benefit analysis that he could only lose with the nuclear option." Petraeus was CIA director, U.S. four-star general, and commander-in-chief of U.S. forces in Iraq.

On October 10, Ulrich Speck wrote as a guest author in the NZZ: "If the West were to back down in the face of Russia's nuclear threat [...] the 'right' of the strongest would apply, i.e., the nuclear-armed powers, which could appropriate whatever they wanted." Speck is a foreign policy analyst at the German Marshall Fund in Berlin. He formerly worked at Radio Free Europe in Prague, as well as for Carnegie Europe in Brussels and for the Transatlantic Academy in Washington, D.C.

The Tamedia newspapers Tages-Anzeiger/Bund are also dominated by the call for an uncompromising stance. An editorial on October 6 carried the subtitle: "Even more dangerous than nuclear blackmail is capitulation to it." On October 9, editor Daniel Brössler demanded that Ukraine not be denied any weapons request: "For the despot, it would only be proof that he can accomplish more with his threats than his highly decorated generals with tanks and howitzers."

When 28 German celebrities opposed the delivery of heavy weapons in May, the Tamedia newspapers headlined the news with "Call for surrender." Whoever demanded any concessions from Ukraine was an "appeaser" (alluding to the policy against Hitler), who could be assigned to the Putin-understanding camp (Tages-Anzeiger, July 13, 2022).

On October 17, NZZ editor Guido Häsler repeated that one must bet on a Ukrainian victory. Only "Western European worrywarts on talk shows" would suggest another, "face-saving solution for Putin," Häsler opined. His article was titled "The Demonization of Nuclear Weapons."

Although in their view there is little risk of nuclear escalation even if Ukraine gains the upper hand in the war, Häsler and Gujer also analyze in the NZZ all the possibilities of how the U.S. could and would react if Russia did detonate a nuclear bomb. Häsler considers most likely a massive intervention by NATO states with conventional weapons to destroy Russian formations in Ukraine and the Russian Black Sea Fleet.

Headline in the NZZ of October 17, 2022 © nzz

Notable "worriers"

"Worriers," that is, doomsayers or cowards who seek a face-saving solution for Russia in order to minimize the risk of nuclear escalation, are not only participants in talk shows, however.

Among them, for example, is Theodor Winkler. The former senior advisor in the Swiss military and foreign affairs departments called for a cease-fire as early as mid-May in order to limit losses: "But that would mean that Putin would have to show success. The conquest and annexation of the Donbass would be a way to exit the war in a face-saving manner." Ukraine's renunciation of joining NATO and also of having weapons of mass destruction on its territory would be easy to stomach, he said, as long as Ukraine could join the EU.

Oliver Thränert is one of the "doubters": the head of the think tank at the Center for Security Studies at ETH Zurich stated on October 5, 2022 in the Tamedia newspapers: "State leaders like Putin are not necessarily irrational. But when they feel pushed to the wall and have very limited information, it can become dangerous. That could be the case with the Russian president."

Among the "worriers" or doomsayers is Ross Douthat, a columnist for The New York Times: "A Russian nuclear escalation becomes more likely if Russia is pushed back from the territories it has occupied in Ukraine since 2014." The risk is only discussed academically today, he said, but could soon become the most important issue in the world.

Among the "worriers" or doomsayers is Michael Kretschmer. The CDU politician and prime minister of Saxony warned in the NZZ of September 8, 2022: "The weapons must be silent, otherwise the whole world will plunge into chaos." He added that this war would not be decided on the battlefield.

Among the "doubters" is Tanner Greer. The strategy specialist writes regularly on security and international relations in the New York Times, "It's a real problem: We have to balance our desire to punish Putin for his devastating war of aggression in Ukraine with the many other casualties, Europe's long-term security interests, and the real risk of military escalation. Putin will call for at least a partial face-saving end to the war. This could be served by recognizing Crimea as part of the Russian Federation and lifting sanctions." The alternative would be many more deaths in Ukraine, decades of sanctions, a new Iron Curtain across Europe.

Greer writes: "Capturing a bear makes it more desperate, not less dangerous. Moscow, cornered by sanctions and facing higher NATO military budgets, may resort to extraordinarily drastic measures to stave off its demise [...] Russia has nuclear weapons to play with."

Among the "worriers" is George Beebe. The director of strategy at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft and former adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney opined on Oct. 14, 2022: "You don't escape a catastrophe by backing the other side into a corner [...] There can't be a choice between humiliation and nuclear war."

Beebe continued, "Escalations will continue [...] Responding to a limited nuclear strike with a massive conventional counterattack would guarantee escalation [...] The Russians do not have conventional weapons as sophisticated as the West and will not wait for such attacks to decimate their defenses [...] Putin seems convinced that the U.S. wants to eliminate Russia as a great power rival altogether [...] Accordingly, Russia will act. We are in a very very dangerous situation."

Among the "worriers" is multi-billionaire Elon Musk. He helped attacked Ukraine maintain access to the Internet thanks to Starlink terminals. On October 3, 2022, he proposed a peace offer: Russian-staged referendums should be repeated under UN supervision and Crimea should be recognized as part of Russia. Ukraine should no longer cut off the water supply to Crimea. Finally, Ukraine is not to become a member of NATO, but is to receive guaranteed neutrality.

Among the "doubters" is Romano Prodi. The former prime minister of Italy and president of the European Commission said on RTL on Oct. 16: "To end the war as soon as possible, we need negotiations between the world powers, the U.S. and China."

Finally, among the "worriers" is Heidi Tagliavini. The Swiss crisis diplomat, who sat at the table with conflicting parties in the former Soviet Union for decades, told Tamedia newspapers Oct. 12: "The suffering of the population in war and violence is so serious that any effort to resolve conflicts peacefully is worthwhile [...] You also have to negotiate with war criminals."

Cuba crisis precedent

U.S. President Joe Biden declared on October 6, 2022 "For the first time since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, the use of nuclear weapons is imminent."

Sixty years ago, the world was on the brink of nuclear war. The Soviet Union, at the request of Fidel Castro, had legally deployed nuclear-tipped missiles under international law. The United States had tried several times to overthrow Castro by force.

For the advisors of U.S. President John F. Kennedy, the matter was clear: There could not and must not be any understanding with the Soviet dictator Nikita Khrushchev and his comrade Castro in Havana. The Communists understood only the language of weapons.

What followed was summarized by Heribert Prantl in the Süddeutsche Zeitung: "Kennedy imposed a naval blockade on the island of Cuba, put the U.S. nuclear missiles and long-range bombers on high alert below the threshold of nuclear war. He warned and threatened and warned - and had his brother Robert negotiate with the Soviets in the utmost confidence. The danger was [...] settled with intense secret diplomacy: The U.S. renounced an invasion of the island and withdrew [as a concession and to save Khrushchev's face] its nuclear missiles stationed in Turkey and Italy. But the public was not informed of this [...] Kennedy is quoted as saying, representing his lesson from the Cuban Missile Crisis: Leaders of nuclear powers should not put themselves in a position 'where the only choice is between humiliation and nuclear war'"

The total defeat of Putin is the declared goal of the NATO states. With the help of the U.S., Russia is to be driven out militarily from all occupied territories in Ukraine. Maximum economic and financial sanctions are to isolate Russia and drive it into an economic corner until Putin is overthrown. Russia is to be weakened to the point where it will not be able to militarily threaten a neighboring country for a long time.

At the same time, the Pentagon has been running computer simulations for months, according to the New York Times: Nuclear weapons research laboratories as well as intelligence agencies would study variants of how the U.S. should respond if Putin detonates a "tactical" nuclear bomb.
_________________________________________________________________________________________

Anyone who wants to consult information and propaganda from the other side often comes across the message "unavailable" on Youtube. © YouTube
A new age of censorship is dawning: Resist the beginnings!

by Helmut Scheben
Free speech is the foundation of res publica. But even democratic governments are in the process of disposing of this principle.
[This article posted on 10/20/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, Ein neues Zeitalter der Zensur bricht an: Wehret den Anfängen - infosperber.]

Anyone searching for something on Google usually only looks at the top hits. No one knows the exact algorithms Google uses to prioritize the order of its search results. In the U.S., psychologist Robert Epstein and his team found that the search engine can "manipulate the thoughts and behavior of its users worldwide in this way." By placing certain content in pole position and suppressing others, he said, the voting behavior of billions of Google users could be influenced, for example.

Google or Twitter are no longer simply private companies that can do whatever they want within the legal framework. Rather, these corporations have international market power in the politically and democratically sensitive information market.

In the past, the state and the church had a monopoly on orthodox opinion

Censorship of written texts has existed since writing was invented. Umberto Ecco in his historical novel "The Name of the Rose" described how the Catholic Church in the late Middle Ages tried to make manuscripts disappear that conveyed the philosophical knowledge of pre-Christian antiquity.

The invention of letterpress printing with movable type was a media revolution that changed society as sweepingly as today's Internet revolution. From around 1450, printed matter could be produced faster, cheaper and in large quantities, and a wave of literacy began. But the state and the church thus lost their monopoly on the dissemination of orthodox opinion, and the Santa Inquisición, the authority for the suppression of heresy, got a lot to do.

The Holy Inquisition of our days

With the digital revolution, the free production of texts has increased a millionfold, and access to information has become limitless. The political explosive power of this development meant that the backlash was not long in coming. The Holy Inquisition of our day is called, for example, the Digital Services Act, a "digital basic law" that the EU is in the process of introducing. In Germany, it is to replace the "Network Enforcement Act" that has been in force since 2017. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen promised that the new law would, among other things, "guarantee freedom of expression."

If that's the case, one has to wonder why social media control is being pushed across the board and Internet surveillance is being perfected with artificial intelligence to an extent that would have been considered unimaginable just a few years ago.

Youtube deletes 40 to 50 million entries per year

No one opposes the idea of censorship where it can be justified under criminal law. But we have entered a situation where individual network giants in California decide in complete opacity what civil society is allowed to see, hear and read. Large online platforms such as Google subsidiary YouTube delete 40 to 50 million entries per year. They have trained tens of thousands of moderators for censorship. The goal is, among other things, to ward off hate speech and lies, it is argued.

The problem with this "algorithmic surveillance" can be summed up in a single question:

Who determines what is truth and lies, who determines what is disinformation and what is information?

What is wrong today may turn out to be right tomorrow. Historians are not the only ones to say this; each of us knows it from our own life experience.

Before the triumph of social media, censorship still had almost tolerable, one could almost say folkloristic traits. There were books in which entire pages were blacked out. We were used to this kind of censorship of documents, but in the case of books, the purely aesthetic perception was unfamiliar. The fact that a book is printed in which black bars show what the authorities have decreed may not be read is somewhat reminiscent of the times of Wilhelm Busch and the pedagogy of schoolmaster Lämpel. Or of the Vatican's "index" of sinful books, which still applied in my youth.

"A process of complete non-transparency".

John Nixon, a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Middle East expert, was the first to question Saddam Hussein for a few weeks after his capture in December 2003. In 2011, Nixon retired from the service and sent the CIA the manuscript for a book project titled "Debriefing the President: The Interrogation of Saddam Hussein."

The book was published in 2017 with numerous black covers. The wrangling between the author and his former employers had lasted six years before it was finally clear what could and could not be written. Nixon said of his problems with this censorship that it had been a process of complete opacity: "I don't think it ever occurred to the CIA that people who once worked there would write books. It's always seen as some kind of betrayal."

Where the political problem lies becomes clear when one reads what else of Nixon's book is allowed to be read. While he considers Saddam Hussein the head of a brutal, authoritarian regime, he also perceives a certain credibility and charismatic traits in the man. In 2003, Saddam was no longer the powerful political player that the West had been portraying, but was primarily concerned with the publication of his novels. Saddam denied to Nixon that he had given the order for the fatal poison gas operation in the Kurdish city of Halabja in March 1988.

In his book, Nixon thus somewhat dismantles the image of the great devil that was drawn in the West by the Iraqi president and was useful to justify the war of aggression. But if one were to ask the U.S. authorities, one would undoubtedly get a completely different justification for the censorship, namely the standard text that it was unavoidable where the security of the U.S. and its people was at risk. The same justification that sounds with the reliability of a telephone answering machine when the Freedom of Information Act is undermined in the USA with blacked-out texts.

Also in Switzerland is blithely blacked out

The methods of the U.S. secret services have been used for a long time. The Swiss Federal Council wanted to keep its vaccine contracts with the pharmaceutical industry under wraps. When it felt compelled to make them public, it had large parts blacked out. In small Switzerland, this sounds like a story from Seldwyla, but hardly anyone finds it funny.

The principle of publicity and the guarantee of diversity of opinion are praised in every speech as the political gold standard of Western democracies. Political censorship or deception of the public? For God's sake! That only exists in Russia. Or in China. Or in other authoritarian systems.

Unless our so-called "national security" was in danger. Or the interests of powerful corporations. Or the interests of the USA. Then it is argued that the government is no longer obliged to provide information about its actions. Then it happens that the Federal Council lets nearly two tons of documents about nuclear weapons deals disappear, as in the Tinner affair. The rhetorical gem that the government's actions are unfortunately "without alternative" is always extremely practical.

The right of free speech and freedom of opinion is an achievement that had to be fought for over centuries in painful experiences. Powerful Internet communication corporations are in the process of eliminating this fundamental right of democratic politics. Political censorship has become the norm. With resounding success. This can be seen in the fact that the frightening new normality is regarded as "quite normal" by the general public.

Example Syria war: Only one warring party censored

In the Syrian war, the warring parties tried to influence public opinion with numerous news platforms. The view of the insurgents, who wanted to overthrow the Assad government with financial and political help from the West and the Gulf Emirates, was disseminated by a media portal called Syrian Free Press, among others, which, according to previous findings, has not been subject to censorship to date.

The Syrianfreepress.Wordpress website, which disseminated the Syrian government's position, was different. Anyone who opens the page to watch a video from 2015 is told, "This video is no longer available." Thousands of Youtube clips from the aforementioned portal have been deleted. Those who investigate Google are instructed what the reasons for blocking an account or channel can be:

"The community guidelines specify what content is not allowed on YouTube. For example, we do not allow pornography, incitement to violence, harassment or hate speech."

In the deleted YouTube link, there were no violations of these guidelines, but political arguments to end the war in Syria. The decision to delete most of the videos on this network site was political censorship. "Hate speech" is obviously also another word for "opinion we can't stand". And "misinformation" is obviously also another word for "opinion we don't share."

The idea that a felt of political power groups and Internet corporations systematically eliminates what is politically undesirable is a nightmare. And this nightmare has long since become reality. For example, the current entanglements of the powerful IT companies in Silicon Valley with the Democratic Party and its cords in the administration and the security apparatus are too obvious.

Mark Zuckerberg recently admitted that the FBI had discreetly intervened with Facebook to prevent nasty things from becoming public in the 2020 presidential election about the Biden family's dealings in Ukraine, China and numerous other countries. The FBI people argued - as did U.S. intelligence officials shortly thereafter - that these were not facts but "Russian disinformation." After Biden won the election, it turned out that the facts about the Biden deals were not Russian fake, but facts. The major U.S. media from the New York Times to CNN had waited until after the elections to realize this.

Lesson: You can silence big media with warnings of hostile attacks on national "cybersecurity." And another lesson: Nothing is as effective in politics as disciplined silence at the tactically right moment. Biden might have lost the election.

Whistleblower: Google intervenes with political goals in mind

In 2019, software engineer Zachary Vorhiess, who had worked at Google for eight years, sent 950 pages of internal Google documents to the U.S. Justice Department. Vorhiess said the documents proved that Google was no longer an independent, objective platform but was pursuing a political agenda: that Google was "a highly partisan political machine" which, for example, had decided since 2016 not to allow someone like Trump to come to power again. The whistleblower: "They're trying to curtail the information landscape so they can spread their own version of objective truth."

Free speech advocates too often don't fight back against censorship by private IT giants, or even by governments when the censorship involves unpopular or hostile sources like Donald Tump, Bashar al-Assad, or Russian and Chinese state media. One suddenly finds it understandable that citizens are not trusted to distinguish between propaganda and facts themselves.

Even when Twitter removed the accounts of Trump and some of his friends from circulation and Amazon and Google took the conservative platform Parler off their websites, many liberal circles were extremely satisfied. They resemble lemmings who cannot see the abyss toward which they are running. Because if a political elite manages to agree with the Internet corporations on what we are allowed to learn and know and what we are not allowed to know, then democracy becomes a simulation of democracy.

At the end of this development, we turn into an ideologically homogeneous society, roughly speaking: into a herd of remote-controlled zombies who have surrendered their freedom and self-responsibility to a "Ministry of Truth," as George Orwell describes it.

It is of little use to argue that everything is even worse elsewhere, that in Russia Nawalny is behind bars, that anyone who criticizes Putin's war is put in jail, and that in China the Uyghurs are persecuted. This is certainly true, but it does not help us to get over the schizophrenia that our Western media report daily about censorship in Russia, China or Iran, but find nothing special in the fact that millions of Internet entries are deleted every day in the West, because our own view of world politics is to be prevented from being questioned and discussed.

More examples

In August 2019, Twitter announced that it had deleted 200,000 accounts related to the demonstrations in Hong Kong. The reason given was suspicion of Chinese disinformation. Prominent examples of the censored entries included video scenes in which hooded violent demonstrators appeared. Now, however, TV channels around the world at the time showed that among the student demonstrators in Hong Kong there were not only peaceful but also violent ones. Twitter obviously felt compelled to delete anything that did not fit into its woodcut-like framing of the Chinese dictatorship.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton unceremoniously deleted thirty thousand emails from the server she was running in the basement of her private apartment. The US Department of Justice ruled that this was legal. Government officials are allowed to decide for themselves what is of public concern in government documents and what is not.

If that is so, Donald Trump could also make use of this right. He had taken documents to his estate in Florida. The FBI then had the former president's residence searched. When the FBI was forced by a judge to publish the justification for the search warrant, the public was presented with 38 pages that were largely black. This gives the impression: quod licet Jovi Hillary non licet bovi Donald.

We are the good guys and know the truth

Censorship and secrecy are practiced with a matter of course and routine that should shock. But it doesn't. Russian TV channels are banned by the European Union and also by the Swiss Federal Council. Twitter and Youtube have been blocked by Russian state media. Even Chinese TV news can no longer be received via satellite.

The reason given is that they are dependent on the Kremlin or the Chinese CP and spread propaganda.

The population is believed to be able to see through and classify lies and misleading advertising for products and services. The population is also believed to be able to deal with untruths and misleading statements from both sides in referendums. But when it comes to foreign television stations, people supposedly have to be protected from any lies and misleading statements.

Also in our editorial offices sit journalistic alphatians, many of whom are members of transatlantic foundations and think tanks (see here and here) or are involved in secret government programs that fight "Russia's influence." With a Stefan Kornelius in the Süddeutsche and the Zürcher Tagesanzeiger, for example, NATO media spokesmen are redundant.

Our Western media world functions according to the motto: We are the good guys and know the truth. Everything else are hybrid weapons of the enemy. These must be suppressed, deleted, eliminated.

Meanwhile, the censorship mentality is spreading. In the U.S., according to surveys, four out of five doctoral students would bar conservative academics from their professions and campuses if they could (NZZ Nov. 18, 2021).

In the 1970s, the founder of the Allensbach Institute, Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann, showed in her standard work "The Spiral of Silence" how people no longer dare to stand by their opinions for fear of social isolation and conflict. According to a new survey by the Institute, almost every second person in Germany feels that they can no longer freely express their political opinion.

What a laugh was had in the West about the "lists of forbidden words" that applied to the state media in the defunct GDR! At that time, no one could have imagined that three decades later a new age of censorship would dawn.

Further information

Glenn Greenwald:
Ukraine: "Criticism of US/Nato policy is extremely censored"

Freedom of expression

Where does it stop? How far should it go? Privacy? Religious feelings? Trademark protection? Secrecy?
Was this article useful?

The editors automatically close the opinion exchange after ten days or did not enable it at all for this article.
11 opinions

Markus Stauffer, Langnau i. E.
on 20.10.2022 at 11:22 am

Thank you for this well researched and insightful article. I also consider this censorship of the do-gooders who are on the "right" side to be very dangerous. From the media and political representatives I would like to see less mindedness and more responsibility towards the population.

Ulrich Engelke, Helmstedt
on 20.10.2022 at 13:16 o'clock

I live in a place at whose former university Giordano Bruno once taught heresy for a time. Years later he was then executed and cruelly burned alive for his views also expressed in our country.

Punishment of dissenting opinions, which (can) be closer to the truth, as in Bruno's case, would be another aspect of the dictatorship of opinion. And also here it runs in the best way and in principle just as existence-destructive as at that time. The methods are different, do not directly grab the life, but destroy the social and economic existence.

This can be called a successful evolution of the methods, nobody is burned or shot anymore, but eliminated quite cleanly "according to the rule of law". The Strack-Zimmermanns then take care of the media execution, the banks terminate the accounts and the employers duly dismiss the persons concerned.

Uih, how mankind has changed positively!

Jürg Siegrist, Muri near Bern
on 20.10.2022 at 14:08 hrs

I seriously wonder how long Infosperber will exist in this form. The censorship takes more and more threatening features.
The manipulation of public opinion has already taken on proportions that I did not think possible a few years ago. When I recently confronted my friend J. with the fact that our freedom of opinion is seriously endangered, he replied in amazement and horror as to how I had come up with such an idea.
The other day, Federal Councillor Cassis made the following statement at the Congress of the Swiss Abroad: "Liberal democracies in particular have corrective mechanisms that can be used to adjust undesirable developments. Critical civil dialogue is one of their great strengths."
It was precisely this strength that was taken ad absurdum by the Federal Council, the authorities and the leading media during the Corona crisis. A dialogue no longer took place, instead dissenters were excluded and defamed in the worst possible way. This strategy has not changed so far.

Josef Hunkeler, Fribourg
on 20.10.2022 at 14:50 h

Best thanks for this compilation.

Admittedly, I also read books in my high school days only because they were on the index. Subsequently, I studied political science and internalized this media-critical attitude "professionally".

It is a pity that Switzerland is also increasingly getting on this "bandwagon".

Günter Wippel, Au
on 20.10.2022 at 14:51 hrs.

"We are the good guys and know the truth. Everything else are hybrid weapons of the enemy."
THAT is not only censorship, THAT is preparation for war.
Otherwise, super article, thank you.

Christian Büschi, Solothurn
on 10/20/2022 at 3:22 pm

On Youtube, thanks to the protection of intellectual property, you can only watch the drivel of ZDF, ARD, WELT, BR, and what they are all called. The rest disappears more and more from the scene! The free opinion may be restricted from my point of view neither from the right nor from the left. Only the call to violence and hate speech must not be tolerated.

Massimo Baccalà, Chironico
on 20.10.2022 at 17:56 hrs.

Parallel to the censorship mentioned in the article, I would like to point out the problem of data acquisition, or the identification and formation of user profiles, through which the actors mentioned in the article want to direct the consumption of certain content. In my opinion, it would be very short-sighted to believe that only economic interests are behind this.
Western politicians and media never tire of denouncing the censorship and surveillance practices of governments like China and Russia, to name just two examples, without (intentionally?) acknowledging and addressing tendencies that, albeit less drastic, are undeniably gaining an increasing foothold in our latitudes as well.
In part, there are real alternatives to the "giants" (duckduckgo, Signal, Threema, etc.), but unfortunately the masses - even with the appropriate knowledge - seem to prefer to blindly follow the "big herd" for lack of critical spirit, convenience or fear of social exclusion.



Jürg Brechbühl, Aeschau
on 21.10.2022 at 00:46 hrs.

While I find it interesting to read the author's observations on the censorship of private companies in the US, it distracts from the problems on our doorstep. I am a regular comment writer in Weltwoche and TX media head papers and have been in NZZ. I have a good overview of what is censored where.
1) In Weltwoche one is not allowed to criticize the Russo-fascist propaganda of the editor-in-chief.
2) In the Tagesanzeiger one is not allowed to write that there is no empirical proof for the human influence on the eternal, natural climate change.
3) In the Bernerzeitung, one is not allowed to write that the vast majority of perpetrators whose wives flee to a women's shelter come from non-cultural circles and that we will not solve this problem with more money for women's shelters.
4) It is not allowed to write in Infosperber that the editorial staff is leftist.

Is part of the media brainwashing on the way to the "Brave New World".
On this topic also worth reading articles on the Nachdenkseiten:
"Document Leak: How the German Government is Working on a "Narrative Equalization" on the Ukraine War".
Part 1 https://www.nachdenkseiten.de/?p=88618
Part 2 https://www.nachdenkseiten.de/?p=88771
Part 3 https://www.nachdenkseiten.de/?p=89213

Or also Norbert Häring: "On the End of Freedom of Expression in Europe".
https://norberthaering.de/propaganda-zensur/mosmamm-meinungsfreiheit/

As also:
Gustav le Bon - Psychology of the masses
Edward Bernays - Propaganda, the art of public relations
Walter Lippmann - The public opinion
Rainer Mausfeld - Why the lambs are silent
**************
NB: Is also so with sects and the followers are shielded. I am however of the opinion, the majority of the population wants to be lied to and does not want to be disturbed in its the well-being feeling filter bubble.
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