Trump’s DHS to monitor and compile an “undesirable” media database

There is a very good reason the Constitution’s Framers and Founding Fathers made “freedom of the press” a top priority in the young nation’s Constitution and included it in the Bill of Rights’ First Amendment. That reason has been reiterated by champions of freedom and democracy throughout history and that particularly includes from this nation’s founding continuing to the 21st Century threat posed by an aspiring tyrant. At least in free societies the concept of a free press is regarded as sacrosanct and until recently, that was the case in America. A little over a week ago, a former Daily Kos writer and activist now working at the The Intercept, Shaun King, discovered the harsh truth about being an activist journalist living in Trump’s America.

Democracy Now reported last week that Mr. King and his family were detained by Customs and Border Patrol agents at JFK International Airport and endured questioning about his activism in support of Black Lives Matter. Mr. King reported that after being called out by name, he and his family were taken to a “secluded questioning room” where the officer, who “had clearly been reading his tweets,” asked about his “support for the Black Lives Matter movement.” It is a sad commentary, but it appears that going forward there will be an increasing number of Americans facing detention, or at least heavy-handed government scrutiny, by Trump’s security forces based on the “sentiment” in what they write or say.

Whether it was Founding Father and third President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, or war hero and U.S. Senator John McCain, they concur with no small number of American leaders insisting that America as it was created cannot survive without a free press . Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1786:

The only security of all is in a free press. The force of public opinion cannot be resisted, when permitted freely to be expressed. The agitation it produces must be submitted to. It is necessary, to keep the waters pure.”

Well over two centuries later, and in response to the speech and actions of the “aspiring dictator” Trump, Senator John McCain defended the free press while he was in Munich Germany saying:

“We need a free press. We must have it. It’s vital. If you want to preserve […] democracy as we know it, you have to have a free and many times adversarial press. And without it, […] we would lose so much of our individual liberties over time.”

Not to be outdone, Arizona’s other Republican Senator Jeff Flake took to the floor of the Senate to give a speech assailing Trump for perpetually attacking the media for factual reporting. Suffice it to say, even Republicans comprehend the importance of a free press for a bevy of reasons, but none more so than protecting democracy. Republicans cannot ignore the threat to democracy posed by Trump.

That is why it was, although sickening, not shocking that the anti-democracy Trump administration is targeting the free press by giving a federal law enforcement agency the authority to target Americans who express the “wrong sentiment” in what they write, share on social media, or insinuate in a recording. And let’s face it; the “wrong sentiment” includes anything contrary to what Trump thinks is the “right sentiment.”

Bloomberg reported that a posting by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) under the heading, “Media Monitoring Services” is nothing less than a devious “big brother” type maneuver if there ever was one. There was an attached Statement of Work that outlined precisely what the federal law enforcement agency planned to do to bring the media and many Americans into compliance with all things Trump; gather and monitor the activities of the public media and everything and everyone associated with it.

Now, it appears that Senator McCain’s warning about losing “our” personal liberties is not something that is going to happen “over time.” The threat from Trump’s Department of Homeland Security with an attack on the free press is a dangerous portent that the aspiring tyrant is attempting to keep pace with a rash of attacks on the media worldwide.

This is underway in America, “traditionally one of the bastions of press freedom,” where a powerful federal agency is planning to compile a comprehensive list of journalists, social media influencers, bloggers, and podcasters to monitor what they are “putting out to the public” with a particular interest in the “sentiment” they express.

As Michelle Fabio noted:

We are entering potentially dangerous territory with the government keeping track of the ‘sentiment’ of American citizens in a Department of Homeland Security media database.”

The primary concern of the Trump administration is “the sentiment” being expressed by private American citizens, media organizations, bloggers, print journalists and Americans active on social media. It is unlikely that DHS is going to do the same level of monitoring of “foreign” sentiment towards America as the other intelligence agencies such as the NSA and CIA. This action is targeting domestic “sentiment” and although it is normal for dictatorships Trump aspires to emulate, it is an abomination in an alleged “free society” anywhere in the world, much less in the United States of America.

It is nothing less than an outrage in a liberal democracy that a federal agency is monitoring and compiling data on what the dictionary deems are private citizens’  “views of, or an attitude toward, or an opinion of a particular situation or event.” Only someone who has been comatose for the past two years is unaware that the prevailing sentiment in America, and around the world, toward Trump is overwhelmingly negative. It should terrify all Americans that expressing those sentiments is deemed “dangerous” enough to warrant Homeland Security putting them in a federal law enforcement database; something that is unprecedented except in dictatorships.

An organization that has spent the past nearly 40 years monitoring press freedom, Freedom House, “recently concluded that global media freedom has reached its lowest level in the past 13 years.” The organization places the blame for less press freedom on government threats to journalists and media outlets in “major democracies” and “authoritarian countries like Russia and China.” The report also noted that:

It is the far-reaching attacks on the news media and their place in a democratic society by Donald Trump, first as a candidate and now as president of the United States [White House occupant] that fuel predictions of further setbacks in the years to come.”

This action is a dangerous administration’s attempt to rule by tyranny and intimidation and little else. It is also not the first time the Trump administration has suggested keeping a federal database of “undesirables.”

First they proposed forcing American Muslims to “register” in a national database, and then attempted to garner the highly-personal voting and citizenship information from Americans with a bogus “commission” to ferret out the non-existent massive voter fraud. Now they have tasked a federal law enforcement agency with compiling a database consisting of journalists, media organizations, bloggers, podcasters and “influencers” on social media based on their “sentiment?”

It is hardly arguable that the government does not already monitor everything Americans are reading, saying, and writing, and by its very nature everything related to the “media” is not secret. However, the concept of a federal agency monitoring the “sentiments” of Americans and creating a federal database based on those “sentiments” is chilling. It is also another indication that America under Trump, since his poorly-attended inauguration, is experiencing the exact same process that eventually gave the world North Korea, Russia and Nazi Germany.

Trump’s FCC Attack On Net Neutrality Is Fascist Censorship

In a serious attack on freedom of speech, and another giveaway to giant corporate demands, Trump’s Federal Communications Commission chairman announced his plan to repeal so-called “net neutrality.” Obviously what that means for Internet access in America is that it will no longer be an open or neutral entity or free of censorship; it will be under complete partisan control of a trio of corporate giants.

In keeping with the GOP’s practice of working exclusively for corporate interests against the people, Trump’s Republican FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, did exactly what Internet giants such as AT&T, Comcast and Verizon wanted and announced the elimination of rules that protected Americans’ access to the Internet. The soon-to-be abolished rules prohibited high-speed internet service providers from blocking or slowing down the delivery of whichever websites offended their sensibilities, or charging exorbitant fees for other internet services they consider unfriendly.

The announcement infuriated free speech activists who know what will happen when corporations control what is considered a basic right on the same level as telephones and television. And despite pushback from Internet giants such as Amazon and Google, it is all but certain that net neutrality is finished and corporations win again.  The Republican FCC chairman said in announcing the corporate gift:

Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the internet. Instead, the F.C.C. would simply require internet service providers to be transparent about their practices so that consumers can buy the service plan that’s best for them and entrepreneurs and other small businesses can have the technical information they need to innovate.”

There is so much bovine excrement in that one statement it is curious why Pai would say things no-one with a functioning brain believes without choking on his lies.

First, it is curious that Republicans consider federal rules protecting the people’s Internet access  as “micromanaging,” and yet they have no issue using the federal government to “micromanage” women’s vaginas and restrict their constitutional right to self-determination on when to give birth. It is also curious, and hypocritical, that the Trump administration “doesn’t want the government micromanaging the Internet,” but they have no problem micromanaging corporate mergers such as blocking AT&T’s bid to buy Time-Warner; Trump is suing to stop the merger on behalf of the federal government.

It is also worth noting that as it stands now, with net neutrality in place, consumers are already able to “buy the service that’s best for them.” And regardless the “speed” they buy, they have complete and unfettered access to an Internet that is “neutraland not controlled by corporate interests. That includes “entrepreneurs and other small businesses” who have complete and unfettered access to all the “technical information” available on the web.

Now, what is the typically Republican pile of bullshit is this joke on the people that instead of rules preventing censorship,  the FCC “will simply require corporations offering Internet access to be transparent.” It is code for the failed Republican claim that the people benefit most and are best protected when corporations regulate themselves. That did not work out for the Gulf of Mexico when BP made its own safety regulations on DeepWater Horizon, or when coal mining companies comply with their own safety standards. Giving the “big three” Internet providers free rein to “be transparent” as they see fit is something every corporation lusts for and naturally they immediately celebrated the FCC announcement.

In fact, upon learning of the FCC’s intent, the giant telecom corporations cheered Mr. Pai’s announcement  because if there is only one thing corporations detest more than declining profits, it’s rules that protect consumers.

According to Jonathan Spalter, the chief executive of a leading telecommunications lobbying group, even though net neutrality rules are less than two years old, they are archaic and have crushed the broadband industry. The lobbyist parroted a typical corporate line that net neutrality, like taxes, has prevented the industry from making investments to help the American people by improving their access to the Internet. Spalter said:

The removal of antiquated, restrictive regulations will pave the way for broadband network investment, expansion and upgrades.”

It is noteworthy that “net neutrality” did not prevent corporate giants AT&T, Verizon, or Comcast from investing in, or expanding and upgrading, their own broadband networks. In fact, they advertise that they are “constantly” investing, expanding and upgrading their networks – even after “net neutrality” rules took effect. And, repealing “net neutrality” rules will have no effect whatsoever whether or not a corporation makes investments in the services they provide; it is almost unbelievable they would make such a claim.

Various consumer advocacy groups and Democrats have noted what any sane American should be aware of; this move specifically harm consumers and Internet businesses that rely on net neutrality rules to ensure that all content is equally available to all Americans. And they did not hesitate in citing the greatest threat cognizant Americans have feared since Trump’s poorly-attended inauguration: censoring free speech. The same three or four corporations providing the preponderance of news to the masses will have the authority to put up barriers to sites unwilling to toe the corporate Republican line. This is as frightening an act of censorship that can occur in an allegedly free society and it has nothing whatsoever to do with corporate profits. It is about control.

Consumer groups say broadband companies have been incredibly profitable under the net neutrality rules and have been greatly expanding their networks into new communities and with incredibly faster speeds despite the FCC chairman and telecom industry complaints that rules hamper their businesses.

Businesses such as Amazon and Google that depend on an “open Internet” said the net neutrality rules leveled the playing field for American consumers. Google commented on the FCC move saying the big losers are the  consumers; which is the intent of ending net neutrality. In a statement from Google:

The FCC’s net neutrality rules are working well for consumers, and we’re disappointed in the proposal released today.”

The former head of the FCC, Tom Wheeler, called the move “tragic” and he told Americans to expect the same kind of treatment they complain about from cable providers that will now have no restraints on how they deliver services. Mr. Wheeler said:

If you like your cable company, you’ll love what this does for the Internet. The job of the FCC is to represent the consumer. Tragically, this decision is only for the benefit of the largely monopoly services that deliver the Internet to the consumer.”

 And a former senior advisor at the FCC, Gigi Sohn said:

Your internet service provider will be free to make online fast lanes and favor the content of its choice. It will take away your control of your internet experience and give it to Comcast, AT&T and Verizon.”

This action by Trump’s FCC is an attack on free speech as well as a back-door corporate censorship of “unfriendly and uncooperative” news sites. Since most Americans refuse to read magazines or newspapers, nearly all of their information comes from corporate broadcast media and if they wanted the truth they went to alternative news sites freely available on the Internet. Now, although those “alternative” news sources might still be allowed to exist, they will cost consumers dearly if they are not banned outright or put out of business paying corporations to keep their sites unblocked.

Trump has made censoring news he doesn’t like a big part of his administration; including recently claiming that networks he doesn’t like should lose their ability to operate. He even wondered why the Federal Communications Commission wasn’t taking action on his behalf. Although he still hasn’t sorted out how to legally criminalize “unfriendly” media, he did the next best thing in using the FCC to give corporations the power to do his bidding.

As more Americans get the preponderance of their news from the Internet these days, this action by Trump’s can only be seen as an FCC an attack on free speech and blatant censorship. It will have an impact on more Americans access to information than if he had just banned print journalism outright.

Although many Americans fail to see just how fascist of a move this horrible FCC announcement was, they will learn soon enough that the free exchange of information in America is on pace to rival North Korea and China; where a powerful ‘central committee’ controls what Internet content its citizens can and cannot see.

Image: HuffPo

Trump Inches Closer Towards Censoring Media

For all of Trump’s enmity toward North Korea’s Trump-like leader, the fascist in the White House is embracing concepts that keep Kim Jong-un in power without opposition or dissent. After a typical Trump Twitter outburst yesterday, it appears that he is serious in using the United States Congress to target, investigate, and punish the news media and journalists. Yesterday he called on the United States Senate to “investigate” the various news outlets that publish unflattering, but accurate and truthful, stories about him and his administration.

Apparently when Trump took the “swear to godoath of office to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States” he was lying.  Of course he was lying and that became obvious the day of his poorly attended inauguration. Trump doesn’t have much use for the Constitution, much less any intent to preserve and protect it; not when he’s violated it willfully and often for pecuniary gain. But this is the first time he has made it clear he wants to use the federal government to aid him in violating the Constitution’s 1st Amendment to censor the media like his fascist paramours in Russia, North Korea, the Philippines and Saudi Arabia.

Trump’s panties were in a wad over a couple of reports, and one report that never happened, regarding his strained relationship with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson; a strained relationship like Trump eventually develops with anyone who fails to lick his boots. Apparently Trump was incited to a Twitter outburst after learning that his Secretary of State called him a “moron” with “an R-rated modifier” that rhymes with “trucking.” Tillerson’s aptly-worded remarks were many Americans’ reaction to Trump’s self-aggrandizing campaign speech to the Boy Scouts. For dog’s sake, except for evangelical extremists and Nazis, nearly everyone in America and around the world has called Trump a moron – probably with several “R-rated modifiers.”

A couple of hours before dawn yesterday, Trump “tweeted:

Why Isn’t the Senate Intel Committee looking into the Fake News Networks in OUR country to see why so much of our news is just made up-FAKE!”

As any eighth grader knows, the “Senate Intel Committee” isn’t investigating any kind of media because unlike Trump, the preponderance of senators comprehend that the First Amendment forbids Congress from abridging freedom of the press.

It is noteworthy that Mr. Tillerson held a news conference after the reporting that he called Trump a “f*cking moron;” a report he definitely did not deny. Instead, he took the “kind-of” high road and said, “I’m not going to deal with petty stuff like that.” Still, Trump interpreted Tillerson’s “non-denial” later in the day as proof  the media was lying by claiming the story reported by NBC was “totally refuted” and “made up.”

Not content to use Twitter to spread his own “totally refuted” and “made up” claims about what Tillerson did or did not say, Trump went back to Twitter less than an hour later; surely to impress on his devotees how important it is for Congress to investigate the press. Trump assailed NBC as spreading “fake news” that Rex Tillerson threatened to resign. He “tweeted:”

Rex Tillerson never threatened to resign. This is Fake News put out by NBCNews. Low news and reporting standards. No verification from me.”

 Besides news outlets or journalists not needing verification (approval) from the liar-in-chief, there is the minor issue of Trump’s wont of spreading “Fake News” to incite rage against the media. It is “Fake News” from Trump that NBC reported Tillerson threatened to resign; it just didn’t happen. What its report did claim was that Tillerson “was on the verge” of stepping down. It is an entirely believable claim after Trump assailed the Secretary of State in public for wasting his time in seeking a diplomatic solution to North Korea.

The insinuation from Trump, and a glaring dog whistle to his zealot followers, is that there is no “real news” except that which he “personally verifies is real” to reporters and news outlets. It is precisely how the “news” is curated in North Korea; only news personally approved by Kim Jong-un is real and verified as suitable for delivery to the public.

Many politicians have rocky relationships with the free press, especially those who lie at about the same rate most people use a toilet. But Trump is a different animal, (all due respect to every animal on the planet). Since his campaign he has made inciting animus toward the press nearly as high a priority as boasting about himself at every opportunity.

Trump has regularly assailed reporters en masse, and very personally. He incites his acolytes, especially in rallies, against various media outlets and reporters, and hypocritically accused individual reporters of sedition. As an aside, writing an accurate story is only considered seditious in countries like North Korea and Saudi Arabia.

During the campaign Trump made a big deal out of wanting libel laws changed to make it easier to sue news outlets he considers spreading fake news; like accurate stories and stories that don’t acknowledge his divinity. He also uses “memes” of violence against news outlets and they are not humorous or inconsequential. They are highly successful incremental acts to incite his followers to violence against the free press.

Although this latest call for the Senate to investigate news outlets is an authoritarian dictator’s move, and it is no revelation that Trump wants the authority to censor the free press, there is the “vengeance” factor Trump is renowned for. Remember, it was the free press that reported every moronic word Trump uttered as well as reporting that Trump is connected to Russia; and that he lies more often than an infant soils its diaper. Those accurately reported stories are one of the reasons the public even knows why the Senate Intelligence Committee, like several other committees and 17 different intelligence agencies, are investigating the corrupt fascist. Getting vengeance on people he thinks wronged him is Trump’s admitted raison d’être. Now he thinks the White House gives him authority to “get back” at his perceived enemies and it explains his attacks on the NFL and now poses a serious threat to the free press.

It is uncertain if anything comes from this latest authoritarian move, at least legally and in the near future. But what is certain is that Trump continues instilling a violent distrust of the media, and the truth, into his feeble-minded acolytes and Americans too ridiculously stupid to recognize a corrupt fascist dictator when they see one.

There is no doubt Trump would unilaterally censor the media if it was within his power, but since he can’t he is doing the next best thing; calling on Congress to do his dirty work. If Trump succeeds, there will still be media in America, but it will be Alex Jones Infowars, Brietbart and Fox News, and the extremist evangelical networks; the only media Trump hasn’t attacked because they are the only groups spreading his fake news.

Fearful of Liberals, Alt-Right Cancels Massive Book Burning

During the presidential campaign there was a wealth of reporting and commentary describing how closely Trump’s rhetoric was to that of Adolf Hitler as he guided his Nazi party’s dominance in Germany. That being the case, it isn’t surprising that America’s Nazis lovingly embraced Trump as one of their own; and not only because he adheres to their dreams of a purely Aryan America. Neo-Nazis may be ignorant and hate-filled, but they are also well-versed, like Trump, in Hitler’s tactics and machinations necessary to wipe out cultural, political, and religious opposition; all of which are crucial to any aspiring tyrant’s success.

As many Americans discovered after the events in Charlottesville Virginia, the majority of American people are not as easily maneuvered, frightened or intimidated by hate as the white supremacists expected. In fact, it turns out that the neo-Nazis and white supremacists comprising the so-called “alt-right” are terrified when decent Americans stand up to their vile acts.

Last week, at about the same time Nazis began crying that they were afraid after “the left” exposed them as haters resulting in the public’s harsh condemnation, an alt-right fanatic was canceling an event taken right out of 1933 Nazi Germany out of fear of being confronted by “the left.”

The event was a good old-fashioned book burning organized by an alt-right rising star, Juan Cadavid, and a representative of the Three Percenters, Brian Enright. The book burning was slated to be held at Huntington State Beach in California and was dubbed “Burning Degeneracy – CA.” The idea of literature opposed by the event’s organizers being labeled “degenerate” was a favorite tactic of 1930s Nazis to justify purging anything contrary to “Nazi ideology and policy.”

Although the Nazis were not necessarily pushing morality borne of religion on German society, they were very adept at using that term “degenerate” to justify all of their atrocities. That is according to the U.S. Holocaust Museum in explaining that in “1933 Germany Nazis purged cultural organizations of Jewish and other officials alleged to be politically suspect or who performed or created art works which Nazi ideologues labeled ‘degenerate.’” And, the museum also noted that part and parcel of wiping out what Nazis regarded as “degenerate” included “book-burning to censor cultural, religious, or political opposition.”

According to a report in “The OC Weekly,” the Nazi impersonators advertised their book burning as an event to show and “tell the people that it is time to purge their homes, their state, and their country of degenerate literature.

The description of the event on Facebook cited the type of literature the group considered degenerate and warranted destruction.

This includes literature of Marxism, Communism, Bolshevism, literature with liberal, democratic tendencies/attitudes, and writings supporting the decline of Western Culture. Books on sexuality and sexual education which serves to indoctrinate the life of degeneracy, such as Cosmo and Teen Vogue should be brought to the fire as well. We will also burn the Koran, publications such as Karl Marx, and more. We must create a future without degeneracy for our children.

After word spread about the proposed book burning around “the OC” (Orange County) and Los Angeles areas, “plenty of trolling took place on the discussion section of the event;s [Facebook] page,” the alt-right Nazis scuttled the event after seizing on the “violent alt-left” narrative pushed by the head Nazi Donald Trump. The uber-brave “three percenter” Enright canceled the event and issued a statement in support of “free speech and free expression.” Then he deleted the Facebook event page.

According to the book burning event’s organizers, despite planning to burn books, an assault on free speech and expression, they were frightened that liberals would exercise their free speech rights and protest the Nazi group’s freedom to destroy literature they deemed “degenerate.” In a statement expressing his “strong personal convictions” regarding free speech, so-called real patriot (three percenter) Enright told the OC Weekly:

Free speech in America is under attack and as much as I do not want to shut this event down due to strong personal convictions regarding free speech, I cannot be responsible for injury or death due to intolerance from the violent Socialists.

 I do not want to go into a long explanation at this time. The event was in no way intended to eradicate these publications, more a symbolic way of showing that we do not approve of what is being taught to our children and maybe that should have been made clearer, I do not endorse the censorship of literature or personal political views in any way.”

Mass burning of literature, in most people’s minds, is endorsing censorship as much as it is endorsing 1930s Nazi tactics that included burning what they considered degenerate literature.

The takeaway from the “event’s” cancelation is that these alt-right Nazis are not only hypocrites in decrying other Americans’ free speech to protest against hate, they are cowards when faced with counter-protests. The good news over the past week-and-a-half is that it appears Americans are not going to be frightened into submission by, or tolerate, Nazis or their fascist tactics and that being vocal and resolute terrifies them silly.

For far too long, many pundits and commentators were quick to blow off warnings of the rising threat of white nationalism, white supremacy, and blatant bigotry that propelled Trump’s ascendancy to the White House. It is too bad too, because if more Americans were aware of the real threat Nazis and fascists posed through Trump, it is possible that more voters would have seen exactly what Donald J. Trump represented; a revival of 1930s Nazism. Tragically, that never occurred and now a 21st Century Hitler wannabe occupies America’s White House. It is a dangerous situation that Republicans show no sign of protesting making them as culpable as the idiot voters that put Trump in a place no Nazi belongs.

Image: WikimediaCommons