Showing posts with label The War On Terror(Democracy). Show all posts
Showing posts with label The War On Terror(Democracy). Show all posts

March 3, 2017

Fake News, Propaganda and Lies Can Destroy a Democracy




Who was the first black president of America? It’s a fairly simple question with a straightforward answer. Or so you would think. But plug the query into a search engine and the facts get a little fuzzy.
 When I checked Google, the first result – given special prominence in a box at the top of the page – informed me that the first black president was a man called John Hanson in 1781. Apparently, the US has had seven black presidents, including Thomas Jefferson and Dwight Eisenhower. Other search engines do little better. The top results on Yahoo and Bing pointed me to articles about Hanson as well.
Welcome to the world of “alternative facts”. It is a bewildering maze of claim and counterclaim, where hoaxes spread with frightening speed on social media and spark angry backlashes from people who take what they read at face value. Controversial, fringe views about US presidents can be thrown centre stage by the power of search engines. It is an environment where the mainstream media is accused of peddling “fake news” by the most powerful man in the world. Voters are seemingly misled by the very politicians they elected and even scientific research - long considered a reliable basis for decisions - is dismissed as having little value.
For a special series launching this week, BBC Future Now asked a panel of experts about the grand challenges we face in the 21st Century – and many named the breakdown of trusted sources of information as one of the most pressing problems today. In some ways, it’s a challenge that trumps all others. Without a common starting point – a set of facts that people with otherwise different viewpoints can agree on – it will be hard to address any of the problems that the world now faces.
Having a large number of people in a society who are misinformed is absolutely devastating and extremely difficult to cope with – Stephan Lewandowsky, University of Bristol 
The example at the start of this article may seem a minor, frothy controversy, but there is something greater at stake here. Leading researchers, tech companies and fact-checkers we contacted say the threat posed by the spread of misinformation should not be underestimated.
Take another example. In the run-up to the US presidential elections last year, a made-up story spread on social media claimed a paedophile ring involving high-profile members of the Democratic Party was operating out of the basement of a pizza restaurant in Washington DC. In early December a man walked into the restaurant - which does not have a basement - and fired an assault rifle. Remarkably, no one was hurt.
(Credit: Alamy)
After a malicious rumour spread online about a pizza restaurant in Washington DC, a man walked into the restaurant and fired an assault rifle (Credit: Alamy)
Some warn that “fake news” threatens the democratic process itself. “On page one of any political science textbook it will say that democracy relies on people being informed about the issues so they can have a debate and make a decision,” says Stephan Lewandowsky, a cognitive scientist at the University of Bristol in the UK, who studies the persistence and spread of misinformation. “Having a large number of people in a society who are misinformed and have their own set of facts is absolutely devastating and extremely difficult to cope with.”
A survey conducted by the Pew Research Center towards the end of last year found that 64% of American adults said made-up news stories were causing confusion about the basic facts of current issues and events.
Alternative histories
Working out who to trust and who not to believe has been a facet of human life since our ancestors began living in complex societies. Politics has always bred those who will mislead to get ahead.
But the difference today is how we get our information. “The internet has made it possible for many voices to be heard that could not make it through the bottleneck that controlled what would be distributed before,” says Paul Resnick, professor of information at the University of Michigan. “Initially, when they saw the prospect of this, many people were excited about this opening up to multiple voices. Now we are seeing some of those voices are saying things we don’t like and there is great concern about how we control the dissemination of things that seem to be untrue.”
There is great concern about how we control the dissemination of things that seem to be untrue – Paul Resnick, University of Michigan 
We need a new way to decide what is trustworthy. “I think it is going to be not figuring out what to believe but who to believe,” says Resnick. “It is going to come down to the reputations of the sources of the information. They don’t have to be the ones we had in the past.”
We’re seeing that shift already. The UK’s Daily Mail newspaper has been a trusted source of news for many people for decades. But last month editors of Wikipedia voted to stop using the Daily Mail as a source for information on the basis that it was “generally unreliable”.
Yet Wikipedia itself - which can be edited by anyone but uses teams of volunteer editors to weed out inaccuracies - is far from perfect. Inaccurate information is a regular feature on the website and requires careful checking for anyone wanting to use it.
For example, the Wikipedia page for the comedian Ronnie Corbett once stated that during his long career he played a Teletubby in the children’s TV series. This is false but when he died the statement cropped up in some of his obituaries when writers resorted to Wikipedia for help.
(Credit: Getty Images)
Several obituaries for the comedian Ronnie Corbett falsely claimed he had once played a Teletubby because this statement appeared in his Wikipedia entry 
(Credit: Getty Images)
Other than causing offense or embarrassment – and ultimately eroding a news organisation’s standing - these sorts of errors do little long-term harm. There are some who care little for reputation, however. They are simply in it for the money. Last year, links to websites masquerading as reputable sources started appearing on social media sites like Facebook. Stories about the Pope endorsing Donald Trump’s candidacy and Hillary Clinton being indicted for crimes related to her email scandal were shared widely despite being completely made up.
“The major new challenge in reporting news is the new shape of truth,” says Kevin Kelly, a technology author and co-founder of Wired magazine. “Truth is no longer dictated by authorities, but is networked by peers. For every fact there is a counterfact. All those counterfacts and facts look identical online, which is confusing to most people.”
For every fact there is a counterfact and all those counterfacts and facts look identical online – Kevin Kelly, co-founder Wired magazine 
For those behind the made-up stories, the ability to share them widely on social media means a slice of the advertising revenue that comes from clicks as people follow the links to their webpages. It was found that many of the stories were coming from a small town in Macedonia where young people were using it as a get-rich scheme, paying Facebook to promote their posts and reaping the rewards of the huge number visits to their websites.
“The difference that social media has made is the scale and the ability to find others who share your world view,” says Will Moy, director of Full Fact, an independent fact-checking organisation based in the UK. “In the past it was harder for relatively fringe opinions to get their views reinforced. If we were chatting around the kitchen table or in the pub, often there would be a debate.”
But such debates are happening less and less. Information spreads around the world in seconds, with the potential to reach billions of people. But it can also be dismissed with a flick of the finger. What we choose to engage with is self-reinforcing and we get shown more of the same. It results in an exaggerated “echo chamber” effect.
People are quicker to assume they are being lied to but less quick to assume people they agree with are lying, which is a dangerous tendency – Will Moy, director of Full Fact 
“What is noticeable about the two recent referendums in the UK - Scottish independence and EU membership - is that people seem to be clubbing together with people they agreed with and all making one another angrier,” says Moy. “The debate becomes more partisan, more angry and people are quicker to assume they are being lied to but less quick to assume people they agree with are lying. That is a dangerous tendency.”
The challenge here is how to burst these bubbles. One approach that has been tried is to challenge facts and claims when they appear on social media. Organisations like Full Fact, for example, look at persistent claims made by politicians or in the media, and try to correct them. (The BBC also has its own fact-checking unit, called Reality Check.)
Research by Resnick suggests this approach may not be working on social media, however. He has been building software that can automatically track rumours on Twitter, dividing people into those that spread misinformation and those that correct it. “For the rumours we looked at, the number of followers of people who tweeted the rumour was much larger than the number of followers of those who corrected it,” he says. “The audiences were also largely disjointed. Even when a correction reached a lot of people and a rumour reached a lot of people, they were usually not the same people. The problem is, corrections do not spread very well.”
The problem is that corrections do not spread very well – Paul Resnick, University of Michigan 
One example of this that Resnick and his team found was a mistake that appeared in a leaked draft of a World Health Organisation report that stated many people in Greece who had HIV had infected themselves in an attempt to get welfare benefits. The WHO put out a correction, but even so, the initial mistake reached far more people than the correction did. Another rumour suggested the rapper Jay Z had died and reached 900,000 people on Twitter. Around half that number were exposed to the correction. But only a tiny proportion were exposed to both the rumour and correction.
This lack of overlap is a specific challenge when it comes to political issues. Moy fears the traditional watchdogs and safeguards put in place to ensure those in power are honest are being circumvented by social media.
“On Facebook political bodies can put something out, pay for advertising, put it in front of millions of people, yet it is hard for those not being targeted to know they have done that,” says Moy. “They can target people based on how old they are, where they live, what skin colour they have, what gender they are. We shouldn’t think of social media as just peer-to-peer communication - it is also the most powerful advertising platform there has ever been.”
We shouldn’t think of social media as just peer-to-peer communication, it is also the most powerful advertising platform there has ever been – Will Moy, director of Full Fact 
But it may count for little. “We have never had a time when it has been so easy to advertise to millions of people and not have the other millions of us notice,” he says.
Twitter and Facebook both insist they have strict rules on what can be advertised and particularly on political advertising. Regardless, the use of social media adverts in politics can have a major impact. During the run up to the EU referendum, the Vote Leave campaign paid for nearly a billion targeted digital adverts, mostly on Facebook, according to one of its campaign managers. One of those was the claim that the UK pays £350m a week to the EU - a figure Sir Andrew Dilnot, the chair of the UK Statistics Authority, described as misleading. In fact the UK pays around £276m a week to the EU because of a rebate.
“We need some transparency about who is using social media advertising when they are in election campaigns and referendum campaigns,” says Moy. “We need to be more equipped to deal with this - we need watchdogs that will go around and say, ‘Hang on, this doesn’t stack up’ and ask for the record to be corrected.”
(Credit: Getty Images)
Many people are worried that fundamental disagreement over basic facts is damaging the democratic process (Credit: Getty Images)
Social media sites themselves are already taking steps. Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, recently spelled out his concerns about the spread of hoaxes, misinformation and polarisation on social media in a 6,000-word letter he posted online. In it he said Facebook would work to reduce sensationalism in its news feed on its site by looking at whether people have read content before sharing it. It has also updated its advertising policiesto reduce spam sites that profit off fake stories, and added tools to let users flag fake articles.
Other tech giants also claim to be taking the problem seriously. Apple’s Tim Cook recently raised concerns about fake news, and Google says it is working on ways to improve its algorithms so they take accuracy into account when displaying search results. “Judging which pages on the web best answer a query is a challenging problem and we don’t always get it right,” says Peter Barron, vice president of communications for Europe, Middle East and Asia at Google.
When non-authoritative information ranks too high in our search results, we develop scalable, automated approaches to fix the problems, rather than manually removing these one by one. We recently made improvements to our algorithm that will help surface more high quality, credible content on the web. We’ll continue to change our algorithms over time in order to tackle these challenges.”
Judging which pages on the web best answer a query is a challenging problem and we don’t always get it right – Peter Barron, Google 
For Rohit Chandra, vice president of engineering at Yahoo, more humans in the loop would help. “I see a need in the market to develop standards,” he says. "We can’t fact-check every story, but there must be enough eyes on the content that we know the quality bar stays high.” 
Google is also working with fact-checking organisations like Full Fact to develop new technologies that can identify and even correct false claims. Together they are creating an automated fact-checker that will monitor claims made on TV, in newspapers, in parliament or on the internet.
Initially it will be targeting claims that have already been fact-checked by humans and send out corrections automatically in an attempt to shut down rumours before they get started. As artificial intelligence gets smarter, the system will also do some fact-checking of its own.
“For a claim like ‘crime is rising’, it is relatively easy for a computer to check,” says Moy. “We know where to get the crime figures and we can write an algorithm that can make a judgement about whether crime is rising. We did a demonstration project last summer to prove we can automate the checking of claims like that. The challenge is going to be writing tools that can check specific types of claims, but over time it will become more powerful.”
What would Watson do?
It is an approach being attempted by a number of different groups around the world. Researchers at the University of Mississippi and Indiana University are both working on an automated fact-checking system. One of the world’s most advanced AIs has also had a crack at tackling this problem. IBM has spent several years working on ways that its Watson AI could help internet users distinguish fact from fiction. They built a fact-checker app that could sit in a browser and use Watson’s language skills to scan the page and give a percentage likelihood of whether it was true. But according to Ben Fletcher, senior software engineer at IBM Watson Research who built the system, it was unsuccessful in tests - but not because it couldn’t spot a lie.
“We got a lot of feedback that people did not want to be told what was true or not,” he says. “At the heart of what they want, was actually the ability to see all sides and make the decision for themselves. A major issue most people face without knowing it is the bubble they live in. If they were shown views outside that bubble they would be much more open to talking about them.”
We got a lot of feedback that people did not want to be told what was true or not – Ben Fletcher, IBM Watson Research 
This idea of helping break through the isolated information bubbles that many of us now live in comes up again and again. By presenting people with accurate facts it should be possible to at least get a debate going. But telling people what is true and what is not does not seem to work. For this reason, IBM shelved its plans for a fact-checker.
“There is a large proportion of the population in the US living in what we would regard as an alternative reality,” says Lewandowsky. “They share things with each other that are completely false. Any attempt to break through these bubbles is fraught with difficulty as you are being dismissed as being part of a conspiracy simply for trying to correct what people believe. It is why you have Republicans and Democrats disagreeing over something as fundamental as how many people appear in a photograph.”
One approach Lewandowsky suggests is to make search engines that offer up information that may subtly conflict with a user’s world view. Similarly, firms like Amazon could offer up films and books that provide an alternative viewpoint to the products a person normally buys.
There is a large proportion of the population living in what we would regard as an alternative reality – Stephan Lewandowsky, University of Bristol 
“By suggesting things to people that are outside their comfort zone but not so far outside they would never look at it you can keep people from self-radicalising in these bubbles,” says Lewandowsky. “That sort of technological solution is one good way forward. I think we have to work on that.”
Google is already doing this to some degree. It operates a little known grant scheme that allows certain NGOs to place high-ranking adverts in response to certain searches. It is used by groups like the Samaritans so their pages rank highly in a search by someone looking for information about suicide, for example. But Google says anti-radicalisation charities could also seek to promote their message on searches about so-called Islamic State, for example.
But there are understandable fears about powerful internet companies filtering what people see - even within these organisations themselves. For those leading the push to fact-check information, better tagging of accurate information online would be a better approach by allowing people to make up their own minds about the information.
Search algorithms are as flawed as the people who develop them – Alexios Mantzarlis, director of the International Fact-Checking Network 
“Search algorithms are as flawed as the people who develop them,” says Alexios Mantzarlis, director of the International Fact-Checking Network. “We should think about adding layers of credibility to sources. We need to tag and structure quality content in effective ways.”
Mantzarlis believes part of the solution will be providing people with the resources to fact-check information for themselves. He is planning to develop a database of sources that professional fact-checkers use and intends to make it freely available.
But what if people don’t agree with official sources of information at all? This is a problem that governments around the world are facing as the public views what they tell them with increasing scepticism.
Nesta, a UK-based charity that supports innovation, has been looking at some of the challenges that face democracy in the digital era and how the internet can be harnessed to get people more engaged. Eddie Copeland, director of government innovation at Nesta, points to an example in Taiwan where members of the public can propose ideas and help formulate them into legislation. “The first stage in that is crowdsourcing facts,” he says. “So before you have a debate, you come up with the commonly accepted facts that people can debate from.”
When people say they are worried about people being misled, what they are really worried about is other people being misled – Paul Resnick, University of Michigan 
But that means facing up to our own bad habits. “There is an unwillingness to bend one’s mind around facts that don’t agree with one’s own viewpoint,” says Victoria Rubin, director of the language and information technology research lab at Western University in Ontario, Canada. She and her team have been working to identify fake news on the internet since 2015. Will Moy agrees. He argues that by slipping into lazy cynicism about what we are being told, we allow those who lie to us to get away with it. Instead, he thinks we should be interrogating what they say and holding them to account.
Ultimately, however, there’s an uncomfortable truth we all need to address. “When people say they are worried about people being misled, what they are really worried about is other people being misled,” says Resnick. “Very rarely do they worry that fundamental things they believe themselves may be wrong.” Technology may help to solve this grand challenge of our age, but it is time for a little more self-awareness too.

  • By Richard Gray

July 29, 2016

ISIS Loosing Grip of Territory Changes Narrative

 


Abu Mohammad al-Adnani, the official spokesman for ISIS, has come pretty close to acknowledging that the territory controlled by the group is slipping away. 

In a statement released in May, Adnani warned the enemies of ISIS, “O America! Listen, O Crusaders! Listen, O Jews!”

“You will never be victorious. You will be defeated,” he said. “Do you, O America, consider defeat to be the loss of a city or the loss of land?” 

“And would we be defeated and you be victorious if you were to take Mosul or Sirte or Raqqa or even take all the cities and we were to return to our initial condition? Certainly not!” Adnani added.

Back in 2014, after its fighters shocked the world by seizing vast territories in Iraq and Syria, the messengers from ISIS made a pitch to young Muslims that went something like this: Come join the caliphate of the prophecy! Be part of history by helping to build the Islamic state described in the Quran. 

ISIS was never just about state-building, says Daveed Gartenstein-Ross of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “That being said, as they lose ground, they need to show that they’re still strong,” he says.

The terrorism campaign launched during this past holy month of Ramadan is a case in point. 

“It was an extraordinarily bloody month, with multiple terrorist attacks across at least 10 different countries across the globe that were claimed in the name of ISIS,” Gartenstein-Ross says. 

“Losing 25 percent or 40 percent of their ‘state’ doesn’t mean that they lose 25 or 40 percent of their capabilities to carry out attacks abroad,” he adds. 

ISIS is not giving up on state-building either, says J.M. Berger of George Washington University. He’s a co-author of “ISIS: The State of Terror.” 

But the group’s propaganda has shifted. Instead of calling followers from the West to the caliphate, it's now asking them to stay put and carry out terrorist attacks where they are, no matter how small. 

Does its shrinking "state" undermine the legitimacy of ISIS? 

“It takes a lot of air out of the balloon. But not all of it,” Berger says. 

“A lot of their initial success and propaganda was based on a narrative that they were a very successful group, that they were holding this territory, that they had done things that nobody else had ever done,” Berger says. 

“It will be harder for them to mount that claim. I think it’s going to hurt them. But I don’t think it’s going to end them.”

The followers of ISIS are extremists, which means that many of them will not be easily dissuaded by facts on the ground, Berger says. 

“We’ve seen that ISIS itself is really a mutation that was born out of intense pressure and near-defeat” in the wake of the Iraq War. “When they face that [same near-extinction], we will see a new mutation.” 

Berger says it is too early to be optimistic about the defeat of ISIS as a network, which is quick to claim responsibility for all kinds of violent attacks. 

“What we’re seeing now is an unprecedented wave of terrorist attacks that are emanating from ISIS, whether they’re actually directing those attacks … inspiring those attacks, or … successfully claiming credit for people who are mentally ill and carry out [acts of] violence.” 

European police say about 5,000 foreign fighters have answered the ISIS call to go fight in Iraq and Syria, and now about a third of those people have returned to Europe. 

However, Rob Wainwright, the director general of Europol, said recently that he believes ISIS is in decline. 

“I do think that in the end like all forms of terrorism, like all forms of terrorist groups, both domestic and international, they are ultimately defeated. And ISIS will be as well. How long it takes, I don’t know. Between now and then we live in a dangerous time,” Wainwright said.
Matthew Bell (follow) 
PRI.org
 Navy Seals Deploy in Afgh.

~~~~~~~~US Gets Hold of Terabytes of Data from ISIS

The U.S. is sifting through more than four terabytes of data gleaned from the U.S.-led coalition’s offensive on the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) in the Syrian city of Manbij. It is the biggest data seizure from the radical Islamist group since the U.S. special forces raid on its finance chief Abu Sayyaf in May 2015.

Manbij has acted as a landing and sorting station for many ISIS foreign fighters after they have entered into Syria from Turkey, officials say, making the information vital to understanding the workings of ISIS’s foreign fighter network and preventing their return to Europe to carry out attacks.

“We think this is a big deal,” Colonel Christopher Garver, a spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, told Pentagon reporters in a video briefing from Baghdad on Wednesday, ABC reported. “We're learning about how they ran Manbij as a strategic hub.”

He continued: “It is a lot of material, it is going to take a lot to go through, then start connecting the dots and trying to figure where we can start dismantling ISIS.”

Members of Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) attend the funeral of eight fellow fighters who died during an assault against ISIS in the town of Manbij, in the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobane on June 24. The fighters have retrieved a huge trove of data that U.S. intelligence is using to learn about the group's foreign fighters, officials say.
DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

The gathered material, mostly in Arabic, includes items ranging from notebooks to laptops, as well as textbooks and USB drives.

“As a foreign fighter would enter, they would screen them, figure out what languages they speak, assign them a job—and then send them down into wherever they were going to go, be it into Syria or Iraq, somewhere,” he added. But he noted that no evidence had been discovered that suggested ISIS was sending fighters westwards to Europe.

After helping Iraqi forces capture Fallujah from ISIS in western Iraq last month, the U.S.-led coalition’s focus has been on liberating what is known as the “Manbij pocket” from ISIS.

The coalition is supporting the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a coalition of Kurdish and Arab fighters, with air strikes and special forces operating in an advisory and support role.

The SDF forces have advanced to the city’s outskirts and have given ISIS two 48-hour deadlines to leave the city, in order to prevent civilian casualties. While many ISIS operatives have fled, the coalition still needs to clear the city of remaining fighters before it can claim that it has been fully liberated.
 
Newsweek

December 13, 2014

“Democracy substitutes election by the incompetent many for appointment by the corrupt few.” BShaw

“We need to cure the satiable taste for blood in mankind” (lag)


Article by WN.com Correspondent Dallas Darling
Over the last century democracy has become regarded as the ideal system of government. Osama bin Laden, and others like him, didn't think so. But if democracy is a pre-eminently legitimate form of government that provides a political and social structure within which people can live happy, fulfilled and responsible lives(1), why did he retaliate against the United States? He assumed in a democracy the entire population was accountable for their elected leaders and their actions. He also believed that "the will of the people" was responsible for America's militant and economically exploitive policies around the world. For bin Laden, then, American democracy appeared to be the rule of the militant many, the tyranny of the market majority. In attacking the Pentagon and World Trade Center, he also thought militarism and capitalism depended on each other. 
The same is true of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and their recent beheadings. While exposing the atrocities of the Syrian Civil WarJames Foley was beheaded by ISIL. David Haines and Alan Henning, who worked for humanitarian groups assisting refugees, were captured and beheaded. Peter Kassig was providing food, clothing, medicines, medical assistance, and trauma care to refugees when he was beheaded. At the time of his execution, Kassig was wearing an orange jump suit like those in Guantanamo Bay-a notorious prison camp where "suspected" terrorists have been tortured. Even if American and British citizens appear to be humanitarians, for ISIL they represent the world's two most powerful democracies. Democracies which are primarily militant and economically exploitive and ruled by the pathological many.
Bin Laden, who thought democracy was a "religion of ignorance", and ISIL are surprisingly in good company. Plato and Aristotle scornfully dismissed democracy as inherently unruly, corrupt and unstable. Jean-Jacques Rousseau believed democracy would lead to a "people of gods" resulting in primordial urges, domestic abuses, and foreign wars. "Democracy," wrote George Bernard Shaw, "substitutes election by the incompetent many for appointment by the corrupt few." Even Thomas Jefferson had misgivings about democracy, claiming it "is nothing more than mob rule."(2) In the U.S. and Britain, militant majorities continually behead humanitarians through censorship, free speech zones, lack of public access, and imprisonment. A rapacious market destroys their aspirations and goals in trying to transform inequality and economic disparity.
At the same time, Western militant and market democracies have for decades waged imperial wars against Islamic societies. Others have exploited their natural resources and labor forces. Still, some have disregarded Islamic nations and their peoples by overthrowing popular rulers, as was the case when the U.S. toppled a democratically elected leader in Iran. From the Maghreb to the Persian Gulf and Southwest Asia, preemptive wars, lengthy military occupations, economic sanctions, promoting internal strife and divisions, and favoring some nations and peoples at the expense of others-like Israel and the Palestinians-have caused the deaths of millions of people, including tens of millions of refugees. This is why bin Laden and ISIL have little regard for militarized and market oriented democracies, along with their consenters.
Also, recall that when Jesus started to identify with the marginal ones, when he was moved to compassion and humanitarian concerns, it was then that the Roman Empire and religious rulers planned to kill him. Humanitarian and compassionate acts always constitutes a radical form of criticism, for it announces that the hurt and despair of others is to be taken seriously. At the same time, empathetic acts of social uplift declare that dehumanization and injury are not to be accepted as the norm but are an abnormal and unacceptable condition for humanness and society. Since empires live by numbness, personal emotional reaction is a type of public criticism against the numbness, against the blindness of the militaristic majority and corporatized many which demand allegiance or death.(3) It is why the democratic crowd, or mob rule, chose to execute Jesus.
Whether at home or abroad, democratic empires also directly or indirectly behead their own humanitarians. Can imperial and aggressive democracies behead so many reformers-with competing visions of economic equality and political liberty for all-that even the true meaning of democracy disappears? ISIL's beheadings of individuals is a misguided and symbolic representation, a defense mechanism, of their desire to behead politically militant and economically aggressive democracies wanting to rule their region. What is the U.S.'s and Britain's excuse? U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry just called ISIL's beheadings a cowardly act. Cowards are also those who fail to fight injustices in their own nation. The actors and bystanders who participate in the "crimes of war" committed by the same. The voracious and unequal profiteering performed by the majority.
Dallas Darling (darling@wn.com)
(Dallas Darling is the author of Politics 501: An A-Z Reading on Conscientious Political Thought and Action, Some Nations Above God: 52 Weekly Reflections On Modern-Day Imperialism, Militarism, And Consumerism in the Context of John's Apocalyptic Vision, and The Other Side Of Christianity: Reflections on Faith, Politics, SpiritualityHistory, and Peace. He is a correspondent for www.worldnews.com. You can read more of Dallas' writings at www.beverlydarling.com and wn.com//dallasdarling.)
(1) Dupre, Ben. 50 Political Ideas You Really Need To KnowLondon, United KingdomQuercus Publishers, 2011., p. 24. 
(2) Ibid., p. 25, 26.

October 22, 2013

It’s 3am and Your Door is Tore Down and Lights and Guns Flash Your Face { isNot Democracy}

By  (about the author)      
by Official U.S. Navy Imagery (pic below)
"Democracy means that if the doorbell rings in the early hours, it is likely to be the milkman."--Winston Churchill

From http://www.flickr.com/photos/56594044@N06/7179931903/It's 3 a.m. You've been asleep for hours when suddenly you hear a loud "Crash! Bang! Boom!" Based on the yelling, shouting and mayhem, it sounds as if someone--or several someones--are breaking through your front door. With your heart racing and your stomach churning, all you can think about is keeping your family safe from the intruders who have invaded your home. You have mere seconds before the intruders make their way to your bedroom. Desperate to protect your loved ones, you scramble to lay hold of something--anything--that you might use in self-defense. It might be a 
flashlight, your son's baseball bat, or that still unloaded gun you thought you'd never need. In a matter of seconds, the intruders are at your bedroom door. You brace for the confrontation, a shaky grip on your weapon. In the moments before you go down for the count, shot multiple times by the strangers who have invaded your home, you get a good look at your accosters. It's the police.




Before I go any further, let me start by saying this: the problem is not that all police are bad. The problem, as I point out in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, is that increasing numbers of police officers are badly trained, illiterate when it comes to the Constitution, especially the Fourth Amendment, and, in some cases, willfully ignorant about the fact that they are supposed to be peacekeepers working for us, the taxpayer.

Unfortunately, with every passing week, we are hearing more and more horror stories in which homeowners are injured or killed simply because they mistook a SWAT team raid by police for a home invasion by criminals. Never mind that the unsuspecting homeowner, woken from sleep by the sounds of a violent entry, has no way of distinguishing between a home invasion by a criminal as opposed to a government agent. Too often, the destruction of life and property wrought by the police is no less horrifying than that carried out by criminal invaders.

Consider, for example, the sad scenario that played out when a SWAT team kicked open the door of ex-Marine Jose Guerena's home during a drug raid and opened fire. Thinking his home was being invaded by criminals, Guerena told his wife and child to hide in a closet, grabbed a gun and waited in the hallway to confront the intruders. He never fired his weapon. In fact, the safety was still on his gun when he was killed. The SWAT officers, however, not as restrained, fired 70 rounds of ammunition at Guerena--23 of those bullets made contact. Guerena had had no prior criminal record, and the police found nothing illegal in his home.

Seven-year-old Aiyana Jones was sleeping on her living room sofa, which was positioned under a window, when suddenly, the silence of the night was shattered by a flash grenade thrown through the living room window, followed by the sounds of police bursting into the apartment and a gun going off. Rushing into the room, Aiyana's father, Charles, found himself tackled by police and forced to lie on the floor, his face in a pool of his daughter's blood. It would be hours before Charles would be informed that his daughter was dead. The 34-year-old suspect the police had been looking for would later be found elsewhere in the apartment building.

Then there was the time police used a battering ram to break into the home of 92-year-old Kathryn Johnson, mistakenly believing her house to be a drug den. Fearing that burglars were entering her home, which was situated in a dangerous neighborhood, Johnson fired a warning shot when the door burst open. Police unleashed a hail of gunfire, hitting Johnson with six bullets. Johnson died.

Eighty-year-old Eugene Mallory suffered a similar fate when deputies with the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, claiming to have smelled chemicals related to the manufacture of methamphetamine, raided the multi-unit property in which Mallory lived. Thinking that his home was being invaded by burglars, Mallory allegedly raised a gun at the intruders, who shot him six times. Mallory died. "The lesson here," observed the spokesman for the sheriff's department, "is don't pull a gun on a deputy."

In Fort Worth, Texas, two rookie police officers sent to investigate a possible burglary circled 72-year-old Jerry Waller's house with flashlights shining. Waller, concerned that his home was being cased, went to his garage, armed with a gun for self-defense. The two officers snuck up on Waller, who raised his gun on the intruders. When Waller failed to obey orders to lower his gun, the officers shot and killed him. It turned out the officers had gone to the wrong address. They blamed the shooting death on "poor lighting."

During a raid in Ogden, Utah, police dressed in black and carrying assault rifles charged into a darkened home. Upon entering the hallway and encountering a man holding a shiny object that one officer thought was a sword, police opened fire. Three shots later, 45-year-old Todd Blair fell to the floor dead. In his hands was a shiny golf club.

In Sarasota, Florida, a mixture of federal and local police converged on the apartment complex where Louise Goldsberry lived after receiving a tip that a child rape suspect was in the complex. Unaware of police activity outside, Louise was washing dishes in her kitchen when a man wearing what appeared to be a hunting vest pointed a rifle at her through her window. Fearing that she was about to be attacked, Louise retrieved her revolver from her bedroom. Meanwhile, the man began pounding on Louise's front door, saying, "We're the f@#$ing police; open the f@#$ing door." Identifying himself as a police officer, the rifle-wielding man then opened the door, pointed a gun at Goldsberry and her boyfriend, who was also present, and yelled, "Drop the f@#$ing gun or I'll f@#$ing shoot you." Ironically, the officer later justified his behavior on the grounds that he didn't like having a gun pointed at him and because "I have to go home at night."

These incidents underscore a dangerous mindset in which civilians (often unarmed and defenseless) not only have less rights than militarized police, but also one in which the safety of civilians is treated as a lower priority than the safety of their police counterparts (who are armed to the hilt with an array of lethal and nonlethal weapons), the privacy of civilians is negligible in the face of the government's various missions, and the homes of civilians are no longer the refuge from government intrusion that they once were.

It wasn't always this way, however. There was a time in America when a man's home really was a sanctuary where he and his family could be safe and secure from the threat of invasion by government agents, who were held at bay by the dictates of the Fourth Amendment, which protects American citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures. 

The Fourth Amendment, in turn, was added to the U.S. Constitution by colonists still smarting from the abuses they had been forced to endure while under British rule, among these home invasions by the military under the guise of writs of assistance. These writs were nothing less than open-ended royal documents which British soldiers used as a justification for barging into the homes of colonists and rifling through their belongings. James Otis, a renowned colonial attorney, "condemned writs of assistance because they were perpetual, universal (addressed to every officer and subject in the realm), and allowed anyone to conduct a search in violation of the essential principle of English liberty that a peaceable man's house is his castle." As Otis noted:

"Now, one of the most essential branches of English liberty is the freedom of one's house. A man's house is his castle; and whilst he is quiet, he is as well guarded as a prince in his castle. This writ, if it should be declared legal, would totally annihilate this privilege. Custom-house officers may enter our houses when they please; we are commanded to permit their entry. Their menial servants may enter, may break locks, bars, and everything in their way; and whether they break through malice or revenge, no man, no court can inquire. Bare suspicion without oath is sufficient."

To our detriment, we have now come full circle, returning to a time before the American Revolution when government agents--with the blessing of the courts--could force their way into a citizen's home, with seemingly little concern for lives lost and property damaged in the process. 

Actually, we may be worse off today than our colonial ancestors when one considers the extent to which courts have sanctioned the use of no-knock raids by police SWAT teams (occurring at a rate of 70,000 to 80,000 a year and growing); the arsenal of lethal weapons available to local police agencies; the ease with which courts now dispense search warrants based often on little more than a suspicion of wrongdoing; and the inability of police to distinguish between reasonable suspicion and the higher standard of probable cause, the latter of which is required by the Constitution before any government official can search an individual or his property. 

Indeed, if Winston Churchill is correct that "democracy means that if the doorbell rings in the early hours, it is likely to be the milkman," then it's safe to say that we no longer live in a democracy. Certainly not in a day and age when the Fourth Amendment, which was intended to protect us against the police state, especially home invasions by government agents, has been reduced to little more than words on paper.

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