Stasi in the West

The East Germany Ministry of State Security, commonly known as the Stasi, is considered to have been one of the most “effective” surveillance operations ever. As Amnesty International notes, part of what made it so oppressive was its massive network of informants:

The Stasi’s surveillance network spiralled out into every aspect of daily life. Among an estimated 274,000 employees were at least 174,000 informants, which would have been about 2.5% of the working population.

Informants snooped in every office, cultural and sporting society, and apartment building. They recorded people in their own homes and in the homes of their friends.

The governments across the West are increasingly turning to Stasi-like systems in efforts to silence criticism of the ruling class policies – from unpopular wars and climate change inaction to plunder and eugenic public health policies.

Much of this is being done under the guise of combating “hate.”

Below is a list of all the efforts to turn citizens in the US and Europe into informers in the burgeoning Stasi system that collects information on individuals accused of bias or hate or enact censorship in other ways.

A few quick notes before the rundown of the new laws and reporting systems. A neat trick by making it appear as if these laws are anti-hate is that opposition to them can be dismissed as pro-hate. In reality, the issue really has nothing to do with hate, but is more a question of free speech. In the US, for example, there are already hate crime laws on the books.

So why is the government trying to hoover up data on alleged hate “incidents” – which are protected rights even if you disagree with them. How could this information be abused by the state?

The problem is that the definition of bias or hate is incredibly slippery and is often just any speech that the powers that be don’t want to hear. It can range from an “offensive” joke to criticism of Israeli policy. We now have concrete examples of exactly how it could be abused as Canada works to enact a precrime law that would punish individuals accused of hate incidents before they (in theory) commit a hate crime.

It looks like this is either some sort of coordinated (by who?) effort or it caught on like a fashion trend among governments in the West. Maybe this is just more of the liberal effort to build some sort of unifying “woke” ideology in the place of nationalism or religion. Even if that’s the charitable view, the fact remains that once these powers are in place, they will be very difficult to get rid of, and in times of crisis they will be wielded widely against anyone who challenges power structures.

One could argue (convincingly in my humble opinion) that we are already in times of crisis and that this is the true intention of these laws. Roll them out under the guise of protecting minorities, but their true use will be to silence anyone who challenges power, primarily directed at the following:

Labor organizers and antiwar activists: We have seen governments in Canada and Germany crack down on truckers and farmers, respectively, labeling them as hate-filled bigots in order to dismiss their economic concerns or vaccine mandate concerns. Allegations of hate are again coming from high places with regards to the current encampments on university campuses:

Many of the following laws listed here equate any criticism of Israel with antisemitism and have also been used to silence criticism of the war against Russia. They will also no doubt be used to help crush labor action much along the lines of past laws like the California Criminal Syndicalism Act of 1919 which prohibited speech that suggested the use of violence for political aims. It came at a time when workers were winning important battles in the class war raging across the state. California started locking up Wobblies en masse and within a few years the state organization was jailed into submission.

Alternative news. Naked Capitalism readers don’t have to look far for errors (or intentional targeting) in this system as Google’s AI targeted this site for “hateful content” among other alleged sins.

With that being said, it’s probably a good time to assemble all these efforts in one place. Readers, if I’m missing any, please add in comments.

The US


Let’s start in the Pacific Northwest. As far as I can tell, Washington’s bill was unique because it not only asked citizens to report on one another, it also planned to offer payments of up to $2,000 to those on the receiving end of bias incidents. While the payouts were removed from the bill before it became law, the fact such a scheme was considered at all raises the alarm level even higher.

How many fabricated reports would be attempts to simply collect some money? Maybe I’m not jaded enough yet, but it’s shocking that with so many needs (e.g., Washington has the sixth-highest homelessness rate in the country), this is an item lawmakers thought would be a good use of funds. That’s telling of the direction we’re headed.


Oregon now has its Bias Response Hotline to track “bias incidents.”

New York 

In December of 2022, New York launched its Hate and Bias Prevention Unit. A new telephone hotline and online portal came online in October of last year.


Maryland, too, has its system – its hate incidents examples include “offensive jokes” and “malicious complaints of smell or noise.” Maryland also has its Emmett Till Alert System that sends out three levels of alerts for specific acts of hate. For now, they only go to black lawmakers, civil rights activists, the media and other approved outlets, but expansion to the general populace is under consideration.


California has a multilingual statewide hotline and website that encourages people to report all acts of “hate” with the definition for hate at least partially provided by rightwing Zionist Anti-Defamation League(ADL). The aforementioned law in Washington was also pushed by the ADL.

The CA vs Hate hotline was part of a broader $166.5 million investment in state anti-hate initiatives that was passed in 2021. Since then, California has been sending a large chunk of that funding to nonprofits across the state “to provide support to victims and survivors of hate incidents.”

European and Canadian readers will have to chime in on the difference in countries there, but in the US, hate speech or a hate incident is very different from a hate crime:

In the United States, hate speech is protected by the First Amendment. Courts extend this protection on the grounds that the First Amendment requires the government to strictly protect robust debate on matters of public concern even when such debate devolves into distasteful, offensive, or hateful speech that causes others to feel grief, anger, or fear.

…the FBI has defined a hate crime as a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity,” including skin color and national origin.

In effect, these programs are asking citizens to report one another for First Amendment-protected speech. And who knows what happens to the information collected on alleged perps. I was directed to the California Civil Rights Division for an answer to that question and reached out on March 20 of this year; I have yet to receive a response.

These programs have been helped by federal funding but have argely been left to the states thus far. The efforts were also pioneered on college campuses. From the New York Post back in August of 2022:

Bias hotlines have been popping up at universities across the US in recent years — but experts fear such initiatives are becoming “more pervasive and more repressive” than ever. New York University is among the handful of colleges that publicly advertise a specific “hotline” — including on the back of student ID cards — as a way for them to anonymously file complaints about discrimination, harassment and a string of other issues.

Other universities across the country appear to only have online portals, or other methods, in place for lodging complaints under their own bias response systems. Critics, however, claim that the hotlines — and broader bias response systems in place at hundreds of other universities — are often used to just report faculty or students for expressing controversial opinions.

“Most purport to curb discrimination and harassment, but define those terms well beyond their legal definitions, suggesting that ‘offensive,’ ‘unwanted,’ or ‘upsetting’ words, alone, are unlawful. That’s almost never true,” Alex Morey, an attorney for the free speech rights advocacy group Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), told The Post on Tuesday.

“But the result is students think they ought to be reporting fellow students or faculty to administrators simply for expressing a controversial opinion, or something they subjectively find offensive.”

And many US school districts are preparing kids to report at even younger ages. Parents Defending Education tracks bias response systems in high schools across the US. As of September 2023, here’s where we are:

Number of states that have them: 22 plus District of Columbia

Number of total school districts: 115

Number of total schools: 4,565

Number of total students: 2,492,241


The country to the US’ north provides an excellent case study as to where all this focus on “hate” and development of a Stasi citizenry could be headed.

Ottawa’s online harms bill includes a provision to impose house arrest on someone who is feared to commit a hate crime in the future. From The Globe and Mail:

The person could be made to wear an electronic tag, if the attorney-general requests it, or ordered by a judge to remain at home, the bill says. Mr. Virani, who is Attorney-General as well as Justice Minister, said it is important that any peace bond be “calibrated carefully,” saying it would have to meet a high threshold to apply.

But he said the new power, which would require the attorney-general’s approval as well as a judge’s, could prove “very, very important” to restrain the behaviour of someone with a track record of hateful behaviour who may be targeting certain people or groups…

People found guilty of posting hate speech could have to pay victims up to $20,000 in compensation. But experts including internet law professor Michael Geist have said even a threat of a civil complaint – with a lower burden of proof than a court of law – and a fine could have a chilling effect on freedom of expression.

The Canadian bill would also allow “people to file complaints to the Canadian Human Rights Commission over what they perceive as hate speech online – including, for example, off-colour jokes by comedians.”


Its new hate law came into effect on April 1. Craig Murray provides the details and repercussions:

This vastly increases the amount of speech subject to criminal prosecution. It introduces new categories of protected characteristics, and gives Ministers powers to add new ones without going back to parliament. There is a specific power in the Bill for ministers to add “sex” as a protected characteristic, for example. Crucially it removes the need to prove intent embodied in current law. If you call someone an “old fool”, you will be committing a criminal offence even if you meant nothing by it and were just using a common phrase, age being a protected characteristic. Calling someone a “stupid boy” will similarly become illegal. To possess “inflammatory” material will specifically be a crime even if you had no intention to communicate it to others.

Richard III would very definitely be illegal under this legislation for anti-disabled prejudice. The Merchant of Venice would be illegal for anti-semitism. Once “sex” is added by Ministers, The Taming of the Shrew would be illegal for misogyny. I was glancing through The 39 Steps yesterday and was struck by a very anti-semitic passage I had forgotten was there. Is possessing John Buchan to be illegal? I can see nothing in the bill which would protect you from prosecution for possessing Buchan, if the Crown Office decided to go for you over it.

The Bill specifically includes performance. Politically incorrect jokes will become an actual criminal offence. Really. Pretty well every Carry On film ever made would now be illegal and subject its producers, writers and performers to possible imprisonment if made now. I quite accept that the mores of society change, and there is much in Carry On films society would find unacceptable now, but criminal? The Act moves matters of taste and disapproval firmly into the field of the police and the courts. It is a grossly authoritarian piece of legislation.

Once you have statutes in place that make telling a sexist joke a crime, you are dependent on the police and on prosecutors to apply the law in a sensible and liberal manner. But what the case of both Mark Hirst and myself makes plain – as indeed does the Alex Salmond case itself – is that Scotland does not have that at all. Scotland has politically controlled, vindictive and corrupt police and prosecutors who will, as the Mark Hirst case could not demonstrate more plainly, twist any law to the maximum to contrive a prosecution against those labeled as political enemies.


Gilbert Doctorow recently pointed out a proposed law in France that will make certain comments made in private conversations a crime:

 Insults, defamatory remarks or remarks provoking discrimination against people on the grounds of their ethnic or religious affiliation, gender identity, etc., when these are not public, become offences, punishable by a fine of €3,750.

The new law makes criminally punishable defamation and discrimination in conversations between, shall we say ‘consenting adults,’ in private quarters.

One wonders how remarks made behind closed doors are brought to the attention of the authorities if not by libelous anonymous protectors of public morality worthy of Venice in its worst days.

There’s also the possibility that French authorities could use their new powers that allow police to remotely take over a suspect’s devices, with access to cameras, microphones and GPS data. These are powers that are used by many governments even if they’re not officially sanctioned.


London is expanding its definition of extremism so that it now includes “the promotion or advancement of an ideology based on violence, hatred or intolerance” that aims to “negate or destroy the fundamental rights and freedoms of others; or undermine, overturn or replace the U.K.’s system of liberal parliamentary democracy and democratic rights,” or intentionally create a “permissive environment” for others to do so. Ironically, the law does exactly what it claims to want to prevent.

Even the leaders from the Church of England weighed in against the law:

 The archbishop of Canterbury — Justin Welby, who is the head of the church and a peer in the House of Lords — and the archbishop of York said in a statement on Tuesday that the new definition “not only inadvertently threatens freedom of speech, but also the right to worship and peaceful protest, things that have been hard won and form the fabric of a civilized society.”

The EU

Nick Corbishley has written frequently here at Naked Capitalism about the EU Digital Services Act and the dangers it poses to freedom of speech. See here, here and here. How does European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen plan on using these laws?

These laws are already having chilling effects online and in the real world as countries like Italy and Germany ban events where opinions could be aired that are at odds with the ruling class’ official narrative.

It’s strange. The governments in the West have spent decades warning about the authoritarian boogeymen in Russia, China, and elsewhere around the world. Now, in more ways than one they have become that boogeyman:

What to make of all this?

One possibility is that Western governments are aware that the moment of their relative decline is here, and they plan to revert to more overt forms of colonialism wherever possible around the world. At the same time, the Western ruling class plans to double down on its plunder at home. In both cases, more authoritarian measures will be necessary to silence critics.

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  1. Emma

    The more I learn about the GDR and other ‘repressive’ countries like Iran, Syria, and China, the more I think the West is simply marketing its own projections by assuming that everybody else is ‘repressive’ in the same way and for the same reasons that it is repressive. As opposed to having to monitor for the very real saboteurs and Western marketed ‘dissidents’ intent to take down the country, as we’ve seen in Syria, Libya, Hong Kong, and Ukraine.

    Or as the kids say –

    1. Emma

      Justin Podur talks about Zionist lying starting at 25:40 that I found very insightful. Lying is not about convincing people. It’s a power play to create their own reality. Anytime reality does impede on their feeling of complete control and impunity, there’s a doubling down to reassert control, just as genocide is a form of asserting psychological control.

      I highly recommend Podur’s Sitrep, not only for covering the events through the perspective of the Resistance, but because he delves into important big picture topics like this that we will need to understand, for the day after.

    2. The S

      Yeah, I definitely became less scared of the Stasi stories when I learned how many NATO saboteurs were crossing into the GDR to poison supplies of sausage, milk, and infant formula, or to wreck factories and electrical grids. Real authoritarianism is rich people who do no work monopolizing all the power in a bought and paid for political system.

  2. Mikel

    “One possibility is that Western governments are aware that the moment of their relative decline is here, and they plan to revert to more overt forms of colonialism wherever possible around the world. At the same time, the Western ruling class plans to double down on its plunder at home. In both cases, more authoritarian measures will be necessary to silence critics.”

    Covertly, the “security” agencies will continue to subvert anti-authoritarianism by silencing whistleblowers, infiltrating organizations of dissenting voices and warping messaging to produce counter-revolution, and other tricks of the psy-op trade.

    1. bertl

      The élites think that anyone who supports any person or cause they do not is a Deplorable. Maybe we need a party called , “The Deplorables”, so the majority of us might find a voice in Congress, Westminster and, God forbid, Brussels. If the Russians and Chinese each have one improving the lives of the majority, why can’t we?

  3. Ian

    I must be getting old: did I write Prison Planet in the search bar? Hmm, I must get a new prescription for my glasses.

    Wait, nope! It’s just another Connor Gallagher piece.

  4. Benny Profane

    Jerry Seinfeld just pointed out in an interview that this is the first TV season for, like, ever, that there are no new sitcoms coming on line. The producers and big media companies have given up, and don’t want to risk the blowback. Or worse.

    1. griffen

      Watching comedy reruns yesterday afternoon of The Big Bang Theory, some older episodes but still I was laughing just as much the first time I saw them. Netflix is a reasonable choice for comedy stand up specials, but it’s not gonna be for everyone of course.

      The four guys are travelling to a Star Trek convention, stop for a photo shoot in their best Trekkie outfit and their car gets stolen. Oh goodness.

        1. griffen

          Ha! The Dr Cooper voice over on the GPS was hilarious.

          Stupid reruns cut short on most episodes unfortunately.

      1. Kouros

        Try watching The Big Bang Theory without the added laughter support, see if you find it as amusing…

        1. Benny Profane

          Read an interview with the head writer of the Simpsons once (not Conan), and he made a statement that still rings true, that most sitcoms are middle class people insulting each other with a laugh track.

        2. griffen

          I find humor where I can, and I am easily amused as it is. Having lost two jobs in three years between 2009 to 2012 trust me on the laughter being necessary…taped audience laughter or not.

          When Sheldon Cooper breaks into a Christmas song unprompted…no laugh track necessary. I played Good King Wenceslaus on the piano as a kid.

        3. Terry Flynn

          The “with”/”without” laugh track is a false dichotomy. TBBT and a bunch of other network comedies had live studio audiences. The “laugh track” is not usually something dating from 1950: it is usually sampled from parts of the episode being filmed…..just not necessarily the take that makes it to broadcast.

          For instance, the “Monica + Chandler reveal” in Friends could not possibly use the actual audience reaction because the audience just could not stop screaming and laughing. A 23 minute show can’t have 4 minutes of laughter. Similarly, if the director only gets things to his/her satisfaction on the fourth take, the audience laughter will be short or sound faked (since they’ve seen the joke already). Thus the crew simply, for joke A (which only worked on take 4 but got an enormous guffaw on take 1) use the laugh for joke B (which worked on take one). They generally try to match the degree/intensity of laughter from the first take, though that might mean using the laughter from a joke at another point in the show.

          YouTube encourages people to fight about this issue. Which is why I never click on anything referring to laugh tracks. They are gaslighting us and I’m not playing ball. FWIW I liked the first couple of seasons of TBBT then thought it degenerated into total insulting dross.

    2. Emma

      Good riddance! I have almost entirely lost interest in TV and movies once I realized that ghouls and cowards dominate the industry. Seinfeld’s wife gave $5,000 to the ‘counterprotest’ goons at UCLA. Both Seinfeld and Spielberg are major contributors to the illegal West Bank settlement movement.

      I hope these people all eventually die bankrupt from lawsuits from victims of their activities.

      1. The Rev Kev

        And right now Spielberg is helping Biden to convey his reelection message-

        ‘Spielberg, a long-time supporter of Biden, is reportedly providing strategy for the Democratic National Convention, scheduled to take place August 19-22 in Chicago. He has been meeting event organizers, who expect more than 5,000 delegates from 50 states to offically select the Democratic Party’s presidential and vice presidential nominees, according to the outlet.’

      1. Michael Fiorillo

        Thank you.

        Seinfeld was an aggressively unfunny show about aggressively unpleasant people.

        Seinfeld’s recent verbal excretions are just confirmation of how awful he’s always been.

      2. Lena

        I enjoy reruns of The Dick Van Dyke Show (Rob and Laura), Leave It To Beaver, Get Smart and The Andy Griffith Show. They’re fun shows. I never cared for Seinfeld or Friends. They’re about annoying people being annoying. There’s enough of that in real life.

        1. The Rev Kev

          I could easily watch those reruns as well as those for Gilligan’s Island, the Addams family and the Flintstones.

        2. digi_owl

          So much of Friends seems to be about a misunderstanding snowballing because everyone insist their take is the correct take.

          That is not comedy, that is office politics.

          Then again i have found that as i grow older i can no longer enjoy anything with an audience laughter or similar.

          Could be how it is mixed though, as on older shows you can hear the audience more organically ebb and flow with the jokes. But these days it seems like the producer control the audience mic volume, and every little zing get this roaring laughter rather than letting the punchline linger.

      3. Emma

        The humor was always centered on cruelty and cringe. In retrospect it was a sign that the creators were psychopaths who were trying to normalize their anti-human world view.

        1. Expat2uruguay

          It can’t be better than Alexander Mercouris. Just saying!!

          How does this comment end up mo deration??!

    3. Terry Flynn

      My comment is in response to this (good) one, as well as ones below. I think Netflix have settled on a model where they promote “visual musack”. This term comes from the channel Nando v Movies. I have watched his video “That Netflix movie that everyone watched by accident” on Nebula, but (as per the way things go) he has yet (as of 14:00 BST 1st May) to release the YouTube version. He uses that term in the last few minutes of the video and it really was a “yeah, gotcha” moment to me.

      The media companies want people to pay for “visual musack” in the background whilst they are glued to their phone. Friends/Seinfeld are ideal. Rev Kev below says Friends is unfunny and toxic. Toxic? Those “friendships” undoubtedly were. Unfunny? Lots of it is just visual musack but I will die on the hill that there are a handful of episodes that make me laugh out loud to this day – The One With The Embryos. Friends is still on Netflix in the UK and clearly is on in the background in a lot of British homes.

      Perhaps the funniest skit I’ve seen that refers to Friends is by the Great Tracey Ullman. It has language as they say….

      1. griffen

        Joey was the best sidekick in the show’s cast, I thought. But as for funny episodes, there are several on the Thanksgiving holiday theme are outstanding. One featured Brad Pitt.

        They got very popular and then found it difficult to deviate I think. Watching Anniston mature into that comedy role ( her turn in Office Space was also a good choice) also helped…who is wearing small shirts anymore?

        1. Terry Flynn

          Yeah the cast allegedly knew that from around season 8 they were on borrowed time and the writing suffered from “Babylon 5” syndrome – creating stories that could wrap the show in case of non-renewal but which then created headaches for continuation when recommissioned.

          I agree the Thanksgiving ones are generally good. LeBlanc is IRL just as inappropriately funny as Joey. Look up on YouTube what he did to get the most inappropriate laugh ever during a take concerning Phoebe’s birth to the triplets. Perry egged him on and the result was pure gold (and HIGHLY inappropriate!)

      2. lyman alpha blob

        I’m with you. I liked Friends quite a bit back in the day, but at the time I was living the sitcom to some extent, albeit with lots of alcohol substituting for Central Perk coffee.

        Seinfeld’s humor was a bit on the mean side, but isn’t that the point? Comedy is supposed to allow you to laugh at things you aren’t supposed to laugh at in everyday life. And to get you to laugh at yourself. There was a street preacher annoying the crap out of me at the bus stop the other day, and all I could think of was Elaine making fun of her boyfriend Putty for his conversion to Xtianity and I really wanted to give that preacher the devil horns, but I managed to restrain myself.

        Been a Dave Chappelle fan for decades now. I agree that Netflix is largely “visual musack” but I do appreciate that they still have Chappelle and other good comedians on their service and have resisted calls to remove them. Found one the other day whose name I forget now, and the only reason I watched him was because he was, according to the idpol crowd, some right wing deplorable with dangerous viewpoints. Turns out he was just your average comedian and pretty funny.

        Here’s one of my favorites from Chappelle’s Show, where he clearly knows he’s using stereotypes that were old and dated at the time to get a laugh, but breaks them at the end –

        As he says “People of Earth, no matter what your instrument, keep dancing.” And I would add, “Don’t let the haters and wannabe hall monitors get you down.”

        1. Terry Flynn

          Re Dave Chappelle. I’m not one of those people who dislike him for edginess. Personally I have no problem with “what he’s trying to say”. I just (personally and subjectively) don’t find his most recent stuff to be half as funny as his earlier stuff.

          That leads me to Jimmy Carr, another Netflix “celebrity”. Again, I enjoyed his early stuff but find his recent stuff to be distinctly “meh”. I actually agree with the Grauniad in this instance (shock horror). Fun fact. My Cambridge college had approx 450 undergrads so you usually knew practically everyone by sight, even if you likely never spoke to anyone outside your clique or subject group. After Carr became famous, one of my closest friends told me “You do know he was at our college with us?” I ascertained that he made ZERO impact on anyone, it seems, after I asked around. I’ve always wondered why none of his material goes back to his uni days.

          1. lyman alpha blob

            I agree on that – my main critique of Chappelle is that he has gotten a bit of a swollen head in recent years. When he starts talking about himself too much, the routine is far less funny. His most recent special is the one I enjoyed the least.

            Jimmy Carr I find not funny at all and I think I watched maybe 5 minutes of him before switching the channel. But to each their own I suppose – he recently played in my city and did two shows, so someone likes the guy.

            1. Terry Flynn

              To return to the spirit of the thread – people defending or accusing others, I feel increasingly uncomfortable watching C4 episodes of shows like 8 out of 10 cats does Countdown.

              Jimmy Carr and others have no problems with Rachel Riley. You don’t have to do much research to find her utterly repugnant utterings regarding Israel vs Palestine and learn who are the “insiders”. I’m willing to bet she’d rant at every single video NakecCapitalism has linked to, claiming anti-Israel bias. Why is she still on telly? (A possible answer nobody in the UK will utter out loud is clear when you see her on air.)

          2. Revenant

            Hah! I can tell you why, Terry: he spent all his time at my College! :-)

            If I remember correctly, Jimmy was at the College I always think of as “Dracula’s Castle” (famous for its wealth, medical fellows, law library, public school boys and recently publicised reactionary values).

            He used to hang out with the year above at our College (or possibly the third years, a guy called Scott Robinson who did look a bit like Jason Donovan…). We claimed to have the best catering in the prospectus so maybe that was why he always ate in our dining hall.

            Our College? Well, the poor (Puritans from Emma stole our silver plate in the civil war) and famously insular one with the best bops and the best bridge. Oh and an official JCR motto “If you’re not from XXX then fuck off!” to stamp on hands for admission to said bops.

            Jimmy Carr was pretty funny but not stand out funny. It’s a high bar in College, especially given much of his celebrity is for the shock value of what he says, which was nothing shocking for our milieu. Undergrads profane everything.

            He was however wearingly relentless in pursuit of a laugh and that pathological dedication to getting a reaction has propelled him to success when the rest of us were content to be darkly mordant in private.

            1. Terry Flynn

              Wow. You’ve got my mind racing (somewhat in vain against the horrid Long COVID brain fog). I and Jimmy (one year below me but given his age I think he took a gap year so would have been my year otherwise) was at the “we like grammar and minor independent schools and infamously are not bothered about standing out in ANY Cambridge Uni society attitude” college (Caius)….but WE had a top law library, top medical Fellows and a lot of wealth (from owning the land under East Anglian ports). But awful food….

              Was he bunking off to D or Q college? They best fits your hints….

              The things you discover on NC!

              1. Revenant

                In Name That College tonight, Terry Flynn has already got scores on the doors with one point for Caius. Can he make the double? Is it D or is it Q? It’s… The one on both sides of the river!

                One and a half points, Terry, for giving two answers! Nevertheless, come on down, you can choose a cuddly toy, a matching teaset or Bully’s star prize, a motorboat!

                (I am guessing your D was Darwin as poor landlocked Downing has no need of a bridge. Tee hee!).

                I did once comment to you that we probably know some fellows and alumni in common but still, it is a small world, I had not realised we actually overlapped….

                In my years at the Boar’s Head, Caius was one of the homes (the other was Jesus) of a mate’s endless stream of schoolfriends who were St Paul’s boys. They were all quite alike – oafishly, sleekly smart – and most unlike my mate. Were they a tribe when you were there?

                Cauis was also reputed to be the home of one of the MI6 recruiters, a History (?) fellow with rooms at the front corner overlooking Market Square / King’s Parade. Various people claimed or were claimed to have been tapped on the shoulder.

                I went into Caius once and once only for reasons that now escape me. Maybe a law thing or a milk round thing? My abiding memory is gloom – dark wood, dark stone – but that may be unfair. Here endeth the recollections of Caius. :-)

  5. The Rev Kev

    For a bit of historical context, mention should be made of the Espionage Act of 1917 and Sedition Act of 1918 passed by Woodrow Wilson. Under these laws, people at the time suffered from the Stasi effect in that it was not wise to say what you were thinking in case a friend, family member or neighbour reported you for what you said. It had a chilling effect on First Amendment rights as these laws crippled it. And if you were of German ancestry, this was doubly true-

    ‘Throughout American history, free speech has often been tested during times of war. During World War I, President Woodrow Wilson pushed for new laws that criminalized core First Amendment speech. Congress passed the Espionage Act shortly after the U.S. entered the war. The Act made it a crime to convey information intended to interfere with the war effort. Later, the Sedition Act imposed harsh penalties for a wide range of dissenting speech, including speech abusing the U.S. government, the flag, the Constitution, and the military. These laws were directed at socialists, pacifists, and other anti-war activists. The Wilson Administration argued that these Acts were essential to the war effort and prosecuted thousands of anti-war activists under their various provisions. While modern scholars view these Acts as violating core free speech protections, the Supreme Court at the time upheld these convictions. The Supreme Court reversed course in future decades, increasingly protecting free speech over time—building on a series of famous opinions by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes and Justice Louis Brandeis in the 1910s and 1920s. By the 1960s, the Supreme Court advanced a broad vision of free speech protections.’

    Though modified, these laws are still on the books and I believe that Julian Assange is being prosecuted under the Espionage law though not even a US citizen.

    1. AG

      thank you.

      On the same note: 2 years ago

      Chris Hedges: So there’s a lot there, and you raise several, I think, really important points. The left, the radical left let’s call it, the militants, the Wobblies, the old CIO, the Communist Party, which was very important to the working class, kind of written out of American history, was very powerful on the eve of World War I and very effectively crushed by Woodrow Wilson, especially through the use of the Sedition Act and the Espionage Act. People forget that this was then turned immediately on the left, not on German spies. Emma Goldman was deported under it, Eugene V. Debs, the head of the Socialist Party, was imprisoned under it.

      the entire piece:

      “Chris Hedges: Mass politics must be rooted in class struggle
      Jason Myles and Pascal Robert of THIS IS REVOLUTION speak with world-renowned journalist and activist Chris Hedges about the George Floyd uprisings, COVID politics, labor unrest, and the state of mass politics in the US today.”
      transcript included


      “HEDGES: Hundreds of nurses in Worcester, Massachusetts, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees. This has all been in the last couple years. The pillage on the part of the very rapacious ruling elite has now become so grotesque. I mean, Wall Street banks recorded record profits for 2021. They milked the underwriting fees from the Fed-based borrowing. They made massive amounts of money from mergers and acquisitions. What did they do with their profits? This is fueled by roughly $5 trillion in fed spending since the start of the pandemic. They used it for what they always use it for, which is to pay themselves massive bonuses and stock buybacks. You inflate the price of the stock and that increases the money that you are paid. This has been true in the defense industry, pharmaceuticals, oil, gas, all of which have had record profits.”

      -” HEDGES: 745 billionaires in the US have seen their net worth grow from $2.1 trillion to $5 trillion since March of 2020. Workers are pushing back. Kroger’s a good example. We can go into Kroger. People are not paid… This is true of Walmart. It’s true at major corporations, I think Walmart’s our largest employer. People, on average, in Walmart work about 28 hours a week, which puts them below the poverty line. So I think that mass politics are not dead, but I think that they’re rooted in the class struggle. I have great admiration, by the way, for the people who took to the streets, many with great risk given the lethality of our militarized police, in the wake of the George Floyd murder. But they didn’t come with a political vision, and they weren’t tied to that class consciousness which is essential, I think, for ultimately pressuring and, hopefully, overpowering and destroying the corporate state.

      MYLES: Well, let me follow up with that same question about the George Floyd protests of the summer of 2020. How much of that do you think is COVID related? Because we were going through the lockdowns at that time. And how much of that do you think is Trump related, because Trump was definitely doubling down on his racist dog whistling at that time as well?

      HEDGES: Well, I don’t know if it was COVID related, because people were out in the streets defying the pandemic. I mean, this was before the vaccine. So not only were they risking police retribution but they were risking the pandemic itself. The racist dog whistles by Trump, I mean, you’re talking about a dethroned or dispossessed sense of dethronement by the white working class which fuels this neofascist cult-like Republican party gathered around Trump. I don’t think that that was a major factor in… I think that the protest petered out – You’re probably better on this than I am – But kind of petered out. There was a kind of exhaustion within the protest movement itself.”

    2. AG

      And this one: On the use of the word “fascism”, with a countering critique, Patrick Lawrence:

      “This Isn’t Fascism – Political confusion and deluded notions of fascism colored Max Azzarello’s tragic death by self-immolation. ”

      There are so many misnomers abroad among us, amid the panic on our sinking ship, one sometimes grows weary of language altogether. Russia is an aggressor, China is an imperialist power, Israel is a democracy, and so on through the Orwellian lexicon: War is peace, etc.

      On the domestic side, the Jan. 6, 2021, protests at the Capitol were an attempted coup. Or an insurrection. We have Donald Trump is a tyrant. We have Donald Trump is a dictator — “King Trump,” I am now reading in The New York Times. And we have it that America, as per the late Max Azzarello and countless other like him, is on the eve of a Fascist takeover.

      Much of this, let’s call it the pollution of public discourse, comes from the liberal authoritarians. Rachel Maddow, to take one of the more pitiful cases, wants us to think Trump the dictator will end elections, destroy the courts, and render the Congress powerless. The MSNBC commentator has actually said these things on air.

      One-man rule is the theme, if you listen to the Rachel Maddows. The evident intent is to cast Donald Trump in the most fearsome light possible, as it becomes clear Trump could well defeat President Biden at the polls come Nov. 5.

      We can mark this stuff down to crude politicking in an election year, surely. There is nothing new in it. But this is not the point.

      There is a straight line between this relentless, politically motivated fear-mongering and the thought that Fascism in some American incarnation is hard upon us — a straight line, this is to say, from our Rachel Maddows to the self-immolation of Max Azzarello. This is the point.

      1. JonnyJames

        Good comments as usual here. Hedges and others have used Sheldon Wolin’s concept of ‘inverted totalitarianism’ to describe the US. Or we can call it an empire ruled by a bloodthirsty oligarchy that poses as a democratic republic.

      2. Kouros

        Oligarchy’s most feared enemy is centralized political power in the hand of a “tyrant”. They can beat the masses, which are usually unarmed and leaderless. The tyrant cry is their own projected fears, not necessarily to scare the american hoi polloi.

  6. Jake

    The radical left in Austin ALWAYS pulls out the “You just hate homeless people!!!!!!!!1111” anytime anyone mentions anything that goes against their narrative. Like machete attacks at the meth camps the radical left setup. If someone gets attacked at a meth camp, the news will never report the exact location of the attack because “that’s hateful to the people living in these areas.” The reality is the people living in those areas will always be better off if everyone knows what they are put through in the camps. Same with posting pictures of the horrors happening at the meth camps. “That’s cruel to post those pictures, those people are just trying to live and you are hateful!!!!!!!!!11” They do it reflexively. I may actually go back and read this comment here on NC to see some of the other commenters doing the same thing.

    1. tegnost

      Homeless meth camps in austin?
      Well I’ll be darned… that’s a surprising factoid that I’ve never seen before.
      Learn something new every day I guess…

    2. JonnyJames

      Radical left? you mean the compatible left. There is no radical left in the USA, the faux left only concentrate on superficial “identity politics” and ignore economics and other issues the old-school left focused on.

      If you want radical left in the USA, read some history. The left was far more “radical” in the 1930s.

      1. Polar Socialist

        For what it’s worth, in my corner of the globe even center-right folks are happy to house homeless people to solve the multitude of problems homelessness entails and aggravates (like meth usage).

        Thus it’s really hard to imagine any kind of left fighting for camps for homeless people.

    3. Blob Blarker

      “I don’t like being criticized for hating homeless people” says individual that hates homeless people.

  7. CoffinJoe

    In the Global South, Brazil is already going through a strange form of online judiciary repression with the Supreme Court curbing or directly censoring online speech over the pretext of “defending democracy” or “combating extremism”. Since the PsyOp in January 8th 2022 the Brazilian legislative body also decide to pass laws combating “fake news” that critics point out could wisely be exploited by cunning politicians. As for today “rumble” is inaccessible in Brazil due to Judicial demands for content removing, access to some communities in Telegram are also limited. I think that it will not take too long for “undesirable” news sites such as RT, Sputnik and TeleSur also be ruled out in Brazil. This was a demand made by the commander of U.S. SOUTHCOM Gen. Laura Richardson back in 2023 when she stated that the influence of Russian Media in Latin-America was a threat.

      1. lyman alpha blob

        Hadn’t heard that one, but it does make me more leery of Shellenberger than I already was. He seems pretty new to this journalism thing and also very naive, and definitely doesn’t have the chops that his recent partners like Taibbi do. Looks like Taibbi didn’t join that particular expose.

        That being said, Glenn Greenwald has been talking about heavy censorship in Brazil for quite some time now – Rumble has now been banned in Brazil. It was the corrupt judicial system that removed Rousseff and jailed Lula with the CIA-sponsored “Car Wash” investigation. I’m not sure what Lula’s current relationship with the Brazilian court system is, and how much of what’s currently going on he favors or opposes, but I doubt all the bad actors in that system have been cleared out yet.

        1. Paris

          This is a lot of misinformation here. Rousseff was removed on legitimate reasons, constitutionally, by Congress. The national oil company, Petrobras, was assaulted by the corruption at the heart of the Workers Party. You need to read in Portuguese to get all the news there. Everything that was reported here is highly biased. Sorry, but you’re totally mistaken.

          1. Revenant

            I note you don’t claim Lula was legitimately imprisoned. So, not everything here is highly biased. Anyway, you are Javier Bolsonaro ad I claim my ten pounds! :-)

          2. Emma

            I may not know Portuguese, but I sure as hell can spot a US backed regime change operation. Maybe you should spent more time reading up on the history of American involvement in Latin America and less time reading right-wing Portuguese tabloids.

            1. CA


              May 25, 2016

              Transcripts of a recorded conversation between then Senator Romero Jucá, and former oil industry executive Sergio Machado indicate that what many people suspected about the impeachment of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is true: some of the most corrupt and powerful politicians in Brazil are using impeachment as a means of protecting themselves and their power. It is of course deeply ironic: Dilma, who is not accused of any corruption, is being impeached by corrupt members of Congress whose power is threatened by the unprecedented capacity that she gave to prosecutors and the judiciary to go after corruption…

          3. lyman alpha blob

            If you want to split hairs, then OK Rousseff was removed by Congress. But the bogus charges brought against her came up because of the CIA-sponsorsed Car Wash investigation. The only propaganda here (how I hate that word “misinformation”) is yours. My point stands.


  8. Ergo Sum

    I grew up in one of the Warsaw-Pact countries. My country’s Constitution, like most others, stated freedom of speech. We had a motto had been “We have freedom of speech, but not freedom after the speech.”
    Living in one of the Western countries for decades, I am regretting my move here. The Western governments are becoming worse, if not there already, than my home country had been back in the days. Granted, our digital world is partially responsible for this, but still. It’s hard to believe how far democracy deteriorated in the Western Worlds….

    1. Emma

      I’m just trying to imagine a world where people are guaranteed housing, job, education, childcare care, and maybe 2 weeks of vacation at a modest state hotel somewhere. Sure the job is boring and you don’t like your boss, the housing requires sharing a communal kitchen with 2 other families, and there are bedbugs at the hotel. But no worrying about how to pay next month’s rent or pay for little Dasha’s daycare

      Would we all be much saner and more caring human beings?

      1. Paris

        That’s hilarious. You certainly do not understand what drives human beings. That experience worked pretty well during communist “dream” times #not

        1. witters

          “You certainly do not understand what drives human beings.”

          Well, Dear Paris, I believe we all understand you.

  9. Carolinian

    a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity,” including skin color and national origin

    In other words a thought crime since they intend to leave off the “criminal offense” part and just criminalize the motivation. Of course the law has always taken factors like contrition into account when sentencing for crimes but now lack of contrition will itself be the crime. Welcome to 1984.

    But the trend is totally in line with the current thoughty class idea of “it’s ok when we do it.” It’s who you are and not what you do that now matters. Ordinary people, lacking elaborate moral theories, don’t have much trouble seeing through this. Hence the panic over a populism that doesn’t want to get with the program.

  10. Patrick Donnelly

    Cui Bono?

    The Great Theft continues, but it is also coming to an end as banks begin to fall over. They have been stuffed with poor quality debt. The Insurance corporations will be next.

    The PMC i now realizing why the really clever one who should have been promoted, refused that dubious honour. It has take 25 years of flooding debt. The aftermath will have to be polite as hate speech is banned.

    Some interesting families will leave the USA, perhaps?

    But where will they go and how to transfer all that wealth?
    When the poor have nothing left, who will pay the taxes?

    The cottish police seem to be dithering about JKR and others. Overreach? Are some in the PMC over egging the pudding to provoke vomiting? Will mentioning the excesses become an artform, to avoid arrest?

    Without discourse Democracy and a Republic are impossible. What is left? An inefficient fascism?

    The lack of infrastructure is because some may be abandoning Boeing, bridges, EVs etc. Is it hate speech to slander manufactured products? Where will it end….?

    1. ArvidMartensen

      We could revert to principalities run by oligarchs where all the land and water and housing is owned by the one oligarch, who also has his own army to keep everything the way he likes it. That lovable rogue Zuckers is setting up something already in Hawaii that has potential.

      Going back to medieval times, serfs and all.

      Except this time it would be worse because every move a serf makes and every word a serf says is recorded and scrutinised.

  11. Terry Flynn

    Whilst I feel sad about these laws, part of me thinks “a lot of this was going on for decades, it’s just that the bright shining light of technology has forced the authorities to be more obvious”.

    I’ll just give an anecdote concerning when I was quizzed by MI5. Back in the early 1990s at Cambridge I was named for “character interview” by a university friend for his application to work at GCHQ. I’d known the guy at school too (so going back to age 11) so he really couldn’t leave me out of the list submitted.

    One Saturday morning the interviewer turned up. Whilst there will never be anyone to admit he was MI5, I could join the dots and my friend told us as much as he was permitted about what would happen. Twas an amusing interview. Some classic British tropes: “Is he homosexual? I stress we ask this not to discriminate, merely to establish any blackmail possibilities if he is closeted.” Blah blah blah. What made my ears prick up was a sudden call by him to look out of my College room window to “see Prince Charles’s helicopter as it approached”. Yes, our now monarch was doing a visit to Cambridge that morning. I realised the interviewer was keenly interested in my reaction and the penny dropped. Strong Irish roots, blah blah. I showed no interest, not due to any anti-monarchist stance but because an almighty hangover was in play and I wanted him gone before I might throw up. My friend did get the job but quit after 2 years because it was “boring”.

  12. ilpalazzo

    As someone who remembers life in a WP country rather fondly I don’t much like suggestions that authoritarian aspects of current western regimes and their WP counterparts are analoguous. The analogy is false because of the goal of the fight is the opposite. Older members of my family and myself (of a peasant descent and living in small towns) had never seen a security services functionary in their life.
    I see US conservatives lamenting their country is turning into Soviet Russia, well my answer is they’d wish it was true at least they’d have public healthcare, paid sick leave, holidays, rail network and utilities and myriad other things that common people value. Meanwhile Western elites would rather burn the place down than make any concessions.

  13. pjay

    I watch the network news every evening (usually NBC) to learn the propaganda spin of the day. Necessarily, they have been covering the campus protests. While at least some reality has made it on air (Israel seems to be the one topic where liberal “humanitarian” concerns sometimes challenge official policy), I’ve noticed that NBC *always* frames this as a “free speech vs. hate speech” issue. They always use these words. This phrase is clearly a primary talking point that appears in every story, just like the word “unprovoked” always appeared before “Russian invasion” in every story about the Ukraine conflict. Given this framing, protesting genocide is “hate speech,” and the question is whether our “free speech” principles protect such conduct, much like protecting a Nazi march. Conor provides an excellent explanation of why this language is used.

  14. Lena

    Thank you, Conor, for yet another excellent, well- researched piece. I always look forward to your posts.

    (I apologize my comment above about sitcoms was so off topic.)

    1. AG


      …even if off-topic, it reminded me to go back to this new piece by HARPERS on the change in Hollwyood economy (focused on the WGA strike)

      “The Life and Death of Hollywood
      Film and television writers face an existential threat ”

      Containing this short passage which I wanted to share:

      In the end, the precarity created by this new regime seems to have had a disastrous effect on efforts to diversify writers’ rooms. “There was this feeling,” the head of the midsize studio told me that day at Soho House, “during the last ten years or so, of, ‘Oh, we need to get more people of color in writers’ rooms.’ ” But what you get now, he said, is the black or Latino person who went to Harvard. “They’re getting the shot, but you don’t actually see a widening of the aperture to include people who grew up poor, maybe went to a state school or not even, and are just really talented. That has not happened at all.

      This in a nutshell shows you how naive and unknowing many artists today are. (This used to be different, alas.)
      And why by and large they bear major responsibility for all the desasters which we are discussing, here on NC e.g. so as to not go crazy.

      Eventually of course to employ “poor people” for writers rooms to gain “another”, a “poor”´s perspective is as much revealing and dumb.

      To go back to your original sitcom post earlier – this compartmentalisation and stigmatisation of everything not part of the usual and desireable in today´s world, where everything is an item to be categorized and sold, was not part of the old comedy schools. Those were sitcoms/features grounded in reality. Made by people who knew reality. Not by buzzwords, but contradictions.

      In an industry which in fact was built by people who were poor before they had become crooked and rich, poor in itself was not a label. It was not a genre, or a product that should be sold. It was a normal part of how the US looked. And as such it informed the other artistic forms and genres, be it sitcom or everything else. Before the labels “representation” or “identity” became popular they had long been in effect.

      Just compare Western street photography until the 1980s – everyday people looked everything but “perfect”.
      What we consider physical flaws today was usual then. Bodies deformed by hard labour, non-corrected teeth, normal female (and male for that matter, breasts), and so on.

      And this total fabrication of physical appearances, of life through media reperesentation, is of course mirrored in the popular narratives that are being sold to mass audiences.

      I stop before I create a major piece of off-topic myself. But there is a reason why Preston Sturges or Frank Capra used to be “megastars” and are virtually gone today.

      In how far Seinfeld as a professional, not as a salesman, would not disagree is another question for another day.

  15. Aurelien

    What’s interesting is that the kind of regimes served by the Stasi and its equivalents largely used the security services and their informants to protect the rule of the Party, and to stay in power. Overt intellectual dissidence was only targeted to the extent that it threatened this hold on power. Likewise, some of the most ruthlessly efficient secret police forces of modern times (Syria, Rwanda, Libya among others) were essentially geared to regime preservation, and if you kept quiet you would generally be left alone.

    There’s another category of repression that seeks to control public behaviour, such as in Iran and Saudi Arabia, and criminalises those who call for changes in what is allowed (a popular rapper in Iran has just been sentenced to death for supporting women’s’ rights protests, and other public figures have been imprisoned.) But this is at least coherent: the idea is to force the population to behave in a way that those in power consider to be acceptable according to their understanding of shariah law.

    By contrast, recent western initiatives just seem comletely incoherent, even surreal, because they effectively target thoughts, and not only thoughts, but thoughts you have not expressed and didn’t even necessarily know you had. (See 1984, passim). The whole idea of “hate crime” has always seemed ridiculous to me anyway: how can you prove beyond reasonable doubt that someone “hates” someone else? You can’t, so you have to infer it from arbitrary postulates, and you are punishing people not for the crimes they commit but for the motives you attribute to them for the crimes.

    I really think that the Party is scared. Like Orwell’s, it has no real coherent ideology of its own, and therefore has nothing to defend except its hold on power. And that hold is coming under increasing challenge from all parts of the political spectrum, as social and economic neoliberalism crashes and burns. My impression, for what it’s worth, is that the Party is actually more frightened than it appears, because it sees its hold on power as very tenuous. At least some of those who claim that for Trump or Le Pen to come to power would be the end of the world seem to me to sincerely believe that. Since the Party has no interest in the common people, and nothing to offer them (and indeed despises them) its only weapon is intimidation. And after the bloodcurdling threats of incipient Fascism have proven to be ineffective, this is all that’s left.

    1. Emma

      “popular rapper in Iran has just been sentenced to death for supporting women’s’ rights protests, and other public figures have been imprisoned.”

      Toomaj Salehi was sentenced for sedition and fueling violent protests intended to bring down the Iranian government. The protests have nothing to do with women’s rights (Iranian women enjoy some of the highest level of education, workplace participation, ability to divorce and keep property in West Asia) but with basically lies about what happened to one Kurdish woman who was temporarily detained in police custody for not having head covering. BTW, the head covering laws have now been repealed.

      So characterizing his sentence as about woman’s rights is just not true.

      You can debate whether a death penalty is appropriate for seditious activities, but I would note that Iran regularly suffer terrorist attacks by Western and Gulf Arab despots funded terror groups such as the MEK.

      Considering how the liberal West treats Assange and the completely peaceful student demonstrators, I would not give any Westerner any moral authority to criticize how another country implements its laws.

      1. Emma

        I do agree that the turn towards open repression is a sign of weakness and senility.

        For the Israelis and the cops, overwhelming brutality against any sign of resistance is their MO. So it’s understandable. Furthermore, the IDF’s lack of preparedness and use of ‘mass Hannibal’ meant that they pretty much have to lie extravagantly and go completely brutal, to avoid total collapse of legitimacy of Netanyahu’s government and possibly the Israeli entity.

        But I can’t believe that our local overlords are now so stupid abd inside the bubble, that they think brutalizing students rather than ignoring and then discretely prosecuting students individuals, is the way to go. They had successfully ignored massive demonstrations in all their major cities for months and months, but now they decided to crack heads? They’re arguable trying to engineer a distraction around the Rafah invasion but I really don’t see how tying in violations of American civil liberties is going to help them at all.

      2. JonnyJames

        Well stated Emma. And not to mention the ongoing funding, support and arming Apartheid Israel and the Genocide of Palestine. The UK, US and Israel are all lauded as “democracies” and all that. At the end of the day, it really does not matter if a state is “fascist” or a “democracy” in name – the results are the same.

        1. Emma

          As a hopefully good Marxist Leninist, I am compelled to say that liberalism and fascism are just two sides of the same coin.

          I know that liberals like to define fascism as a close jointure of state and corporate interests, but are there any liberal ‘democracies’ where capitalists do not already direct the state? Yes, a socialist democracy with a large public sector and string unions, and strong enough guardrails will diminish that influence for a time, but then it’s a social democracy and not a liberal democracy, and capital is always standing in the sidelines to chip away at the socialist gains.

          The difference is that the one pretends to be lawful and mostly peaceful, while the other is openly violent and indifferent to laws. Generally a liberal facade is preferred because oppression and lawlessness is costly to maintain and generate responses in the oppressed population that can lead to its own destruction. So fascism is rolled out in periods of crisis (including ones manufactured to push towards a particular goal) and ideally for it rulers, flip back to liberalism after the crisis passes.

          If you want to investigate this topic further, Gabe Rockhill has a bunch of talks on this. This one is particularly good as a starting point.

          1. renard

            If you can spare the time to read a book about that I’d recommend Ishay Landa’s ‘The Apprentice’s Sorcerer’.

      3. Paris

        The head covering law has not been repelled. Please state your source, because it’s nowhere to be seen. Women in Iran are so free they can’t even uncover their hair. Puh-lease, what sort of propaganda are you trying to spread?

        1. Yves Smith

          Emma said no such thing. Straw manning compounded by nastiness and a personal attack, all violations of our written site Policies. I trust you will find your happiness on the Internet, elsewhere.

          1. Emma

            Hey Yves,

            I appreciate the defense but I’m this case I was wrong about the hijab. I had heard shortly after the Amini protests that the hijab ban would be repealed. In addition, there are lots of photographic evidence of Iranian women in public without hijab. However, when I searched PressTV archives, I saw that the latest articles say the Iranian state continue to maintain its hijab requirement.

            To “Paris” – requiring a hijab has as much to do with women’s rights as laws in the US that require me to cover my breasts in public. Culturally modulated standards of decency dictate what is and is not acceptable for each society, but what really matters for women’s rights is their ability to control their lives through the ability to pursue education, careers, choice of spouse, and control of their children and possessions.

          2. Kouros

            “BTW, the head covering laws have now been repealed.” Unfortunately she did write it down. But people do make mistakes, misunderstand things, gloss over things, hear things that hope to be true. This mistake by no means refutes everything eles Emma has stated.

            1. Yves Smith

              I stand corrected, I don’t know how I missed that. I did read Emma’s comment 3x. And I can’t blame Mercury Retrograde :-)

              Regardless, Paris has also repeatedly violated the house rule of “don’t be an asshole,” see the reply to lyman alpha blob below for one of several more examples. Nastiness and personal attacks are not on.

    2. lyman alpha blob

      I despise this notion of “hate crimes”. A crime is a crime, and I have yet to discover any perpetrators who committed one because they loved their victim and wanted to shower them with unicorns and rainbows.

      1. Paris

        Hilarious. So bank robbers hate banks? Yeah right. For a crime to be committed you need to have a victim that was robbed of their lives and/or possessions/rights. Hate crimes are BS because there are no mental crimes. Just because people feel offended because the sun rises everyday that doesn’t mean a crime was committed against them. It just means they are resented little human beings with thin skin.

      2. Emma

        Agreed. A crime is a crime is a crime. It should be clearly defined with a minimum of prosecutorial discretion to add or remove punishment. If the existence sentence is too heavy or too light, change the law.

        If the conditions are sufficiently compelling to justify a lighter sentence, it should be done through jury nullification.

        The way half the population in this country gets a hard on for punishing people through imprisonment, and especially through exposure to prison rape, violence, and terrible conditions, is absolutely sickening.

        1. Gulag

          ” A crime is a crime is a crime.”

          Unfortunately, from the perspective of our national security state there are good crimes and criminals and bad crimes and criminals.

          It can be argued quite persuasively that from the perspective of our intelligence agencies that presently most of the cartels in Central and Latin America consist of good criminals participating in good crimes. However from the perspective these same intelligence agencies the old Italian Mafia (since it is no longer seems able to skim the large amounts of money now needed for money, arms and regime change–are to now be considered bad criminals engaging in bad crimes.

          1. Polar Socialist

            It can be argued from the perspective of society that every crime happens in a context.

            Say, a person punches other person in the face to take his/hers money – does it matter if the money is for punchers child’s medication or puncher’s methamphetamine fix? Or maybe a person just punched the other person in the face because that person appears to belong to a group of people the puncher dislikes/hates.

            I think we have courts partly because every crime is different – otherwise we could do with Judge Dredd. And, that world, I believe, is dystopia.

            1. Emma

              I maintain that giving prosecutors and judges discretion is letting the power accrue to a few powerful individuals, and also keeps bad laws on the books.

              I do believe in right to trial by jury of one’s peers. So if the situation is indeed very unfair or contain substantial extenuating circumstances, jury nullification should be available to achieve justice.

              I’m not sure how this is compatible with my general bloodthirstiness against our ‘elites’. I just spent a pleasant evening weeding and listening to the Electronic Intifata weekly podcast, which involves me periodically shrieking the most blood curdling curses on certain individuals.

        2. ArvidMartensen

          Not entirely. If you are part of the oligarch and upper class, then you make the laws. If you don’t like a law, then you get your paid representatives (aka politicians) to change the laws you don’t like.
          And you get your other paid representatives (judges) and security staff (police/intelligence services) to enforce your laws. And as an added extra, you also get to choose the penalties the little people will pay for breaking your upper class laws.

          The rest of the country is by law forced to obey the laws that please the upper classes.
          So we ordinary people can only show our opposition to a law by breaking it and going to jail or being bankrupted by fines.

          Laws are in the eye of the beholder. Justice is another matter entirely.
          When you look at the history of repression and wars, you see that the more things change …………..

          1. Emma

            Dictatorship of the proletariat. Pretty soon and forever! (I say this as a rather pampered member of the PMC.)

            1. Alice X

              It is generally forgotten that in Marx’s Critique of the Gotha Program, where the famous phrase is found, it is thus:

              Between capitalist and communist society there lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other. Corresponding to this is also a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.

              The final transformation leads to a classless withering away of the state, which had been, until then, said revolutionary dictatorship.

              (From a sometimes artistic [I like to think], otherwise member of the proletariat.)

              1. CA



                Critique of the Gotha Programme
                By Karl Marx

                What transformation will the state undergo in communist society? In other words, what social functions will remain in existence there that are analogous to present state functions? This question can only be answered scientifically, and one does not get a flea-hop nearer to the problem by a thousand-fold combination of the word ‘people’ with the word ‘state’.

                Between capitalist and communist society there lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other. Corresponding to this is also a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.

    3. Ignacio

      It is quite true that some people who feel insecure try to compensate tightening control and this very much explains much of what Conor describes above. Control and deception, manipulative behaviour is almost certainly well analysed by psychologists. A feature I have read about this behaviour: the more people realise they are being deceived, the more insecure the leadership feels so they double down trying to tighten control. I believe we are exactly witnessing this. Scholz’s government is in my opinion a good example. These people feel constantly under threat and become increasingly paranoid. In this sense the US government has no parallel right now. En route to fascism.

  16. eg

    Thomas Frank has for years, as I recall, been warning liberals that they are forgetting how they themselves were once targets (McCarthyism being a notorious example) and that they ought to be very wary of establishing and wielding a surveillance/censorship regime because it WILL inevitably be turned upon them eventually.

    But in their arrogance they ignored him. As they have sown, so shall they reap …

  17. KD

    No one seems to be worrying that Western Elites are setting up a kind of Nat Sec Praetorian Guard to protect them from domestic threats. In a post-democracy era, political repression and surveillance on the proles is one thing, but who is going to protect the Elites if their tools decide they want to be master?

  18. JBird4049

    It probably will not matter to the people imposing these laws, but one of the reasons for the higher crime and murder rates in poorer neighborhoods aside from the poverty in the United States is the not unreasonable belief that the police are the enemy.

    Aside from the reluctant of people to cooperate with the police, which does frustrate many police officers, is the decreasing focus on and the lack of skills needed to solve crime including murder; the focus on drug crime, civil asset forfeitures, fines, fees, and the use of questionable, often flatly illegal, tactics to do so not only alienates the population, but shifts the police’s resources from solving assault, rape, and murder cases. Serial rapists and murderers have either never been caught or more often operated years, even decades, longer because they are ignored by the police either because they are not profitable to solve or the patterns are missed.

    An alienated population with law enforcement increasingly rusty, ineffective, even just incompetent on solving violent crime and now the imposition of thought crime, which will make it worse. And I can’t wait to go back to class and verbally dance around possibly ungood thoughts and speech.

    The whole thing will keep driving a wedge between the people and the authorities rather like how the poor handling of Covid has, which will just keep on destroying our collective ability to deal with crisis.

    1. Jams O'Donnell

      The police in most, possibly all, states are not principally there to ‘solve crime’. They are there to enforce the rule of the owning classes. Solving crime is a mere cosmetic by-product. For instance, the vast majority of crimes against women in the UK are unsolved and basically un-investigated – there is no money in it. Day to day lawlessness is tolerated in cities, where walking into shops and (sometimes openly) lifting goods and walking out is commonplace. This last will be clamped down on only if it gets to be a real problem for large companies.

      It was pretty surprising to me that Theresa May’s government fell out with the police so badly. Obviously they had forgotten what the original intention was.

  19. digi_owl

    One thing to ponder is that the reason STASI had such an extensive network of informers is that there was few alternatives.

    These days however every last device with an IP address is a potential informant.

  20. hemeantwell

    A moment of respectful silence for Alexander Cockburn, who back in the 80s was alert to the repressive potential of making derogatory speech a crime. I’m also reminded of Catherine MacKinnon, and her effort to build anti-porn laws around complaints by someone that they were made uncomfortable by porn.

    Does being anti-free speech constitute a hate crime? I’m certainly made extremely uncomfortable by attacks on free speech, and am compelled to imagine social outcomes that are far worse that anyone complaining about porn had in mind, unless they went full Sodom and Gomorrah.

  21. darifarn

    The collection of data might be carried out under the name of government but if you check the small print, it is in fact being carried out by corporations – Meta, Amazon, Microsoft, Alphabet, which are then leveraging their links to government and law enforcement and health services to cross reference and link all the data to create a matrix of likely events. This was instigated by the British during WW2, when they used increases in radio traffic to predict movements by the German and other Axis forces.
    The ‘no broken pane of glass’ approach used by NYC during the police attack on civil liberties during the 1980s is similar to what is happening now, the belief that by stopping small infractions to stop larger ones is still misguided and wrong and outright counter productive.
    We see this repression on Facebook, Linkedin (facebooks worse cousin), twitter, tiktok, instagram. Just as algorithms are used to select and delete data on notice boards and websites, so they will be used to sanction those reported and those doing the reporting, as well as collecting data similar to the methods used in China

  22. Chris Cosmos

    This has been a long-time coming for me. I expected that after the fall of the USSR that the West (what has become a global empire centered in Washington DC) would come to resemble that state–and miracles of miracles this is coming to pass along more interesting and complicated ways than the Soviet Empire but nonetheless the same basic thing.

    There is only one possibility in countering this movement among the powerful who have nothing but contempt for liberal democracy–and why shouldn’t they have contempt for it when they see the mass of the public only interested in money and fantasies. The ordinary people just eat up the propaganda that maintains the mainstream narrative despite the fact many of them know that the information that is distributed cannot be trusted. The only path forward for those that actually like truth, liberty, love/compassion and so on is to separate from the mainstream by forming intentional communities (does not mean we all have to live together). The oligarchs do have communities and networks they use to dominate ever more aggressively and they work very well. The rest of us will have to do something similar.

    In short, the best we can do is ease into a neo-feudal future to forestall a totalitarian future which is obviously what the oligarchs are on schedule (by 2030) to do. Is slavery fueled by drugs, as in Brave New World really what we want? If not we need to organize friends and family the best we can before insect sized drones come after us for pre-crime.

  23. Gulag

    “Aurelian– My impression for what it is worth is that the Party is actually more frightened than it appears, because it sees its hold on power as very tenuous.”

    I wish this sentiment was accurate. But the Uniparty in the U.S., in terms of the continuing high level functioning of the real institutional networks of power, still seems largely in charge, although I will admit that its greater media
    political narrative is beginning to show signs of shredding/and increasing incoherence, which is enjoyable to listen to.

    But our State Department, our Department of Defense on our intelligence agencies all seem to be still working in smooth cooperation. Last I heard the policy planning staff of the Dep. of State still is serving as an extremely competent co-ordinator/liaison with our intelligence community (in particular our CIA) to jointly manage our empire whether in Ukraine or the Middle East.

  24. ArvidMartensen

    It was always going to happen, this slide into repression and totalitarianism.

    The die was cast when the upper class got wind of events that might threaten their money and hold on power. These events included global warming, peak oil, the disappearance of arable land, pandemics etc etc.
    If you looked at the confluence of events 20 years ago, you could see that the upper class response had to be totalitarianism. And so it is coming to pass.

    The upper classes knew global heating and the loss of fossil fuels were threats long ago.

    How could they not know? They have long employed teams of the brightest professionals backed by serious computer grunt, doing scenario planning to identify risks to their businesses and wealth. The goal has been to design the best ways to mitigate the risks to wealth by shifting said risks to those who cannot fight back (aka “consumers”, the working classes, the poor, the global south).

    There was no master plan, or evil genius. There were just a lot of very wealthy people with the same goals coming to the same conclusions with maybe slightly different implementations.

    Stage 1 of the planning has been a soothing PR blanket of denials to keep us plebs all ignorant of the coming threats to our homes, families and lives. Mitigating the risk of having to make uneconomic changes to working profit models.

    Stage 2 is kicking in. The carnage of global warming can no longer be hidden. So insurance cartels are raising premiums to unaffordable levels while refusing to pay out. So who ya gonna call? Your politicians are owned, and some of your judges.
    Food will continue to rise in price. Housing is becoming unaffordable or is in dangerous locations. Private healthcare and education are rising in cost while free public healthcare and education are plummeting in quality. Inflation is eating at wages, while the flood of poor climate refugees is depressing wages.

    Stage 2 also plans for the fading middle classes being very cross indeed as they are forced into penury. Mitigation? Control the media, control what is allowed speech, harshly penalise protestors.
    The waves of identity campaigns that come out of nowhere and then retreat into nothingness (#MeToo, Black Lives Matter, Trans, #GuessTheNextOne) show the way that consent for repression is going to manufactured. Hate speech!!

    Stage 3 and you will be cowed into submission in countries which are hollow shells of themselves (looking at you, USA) while the upper classes eff off to wherever they have bought land in ‘safe’ locations for their fiefdoms. New Zealand? Northern Canada? Russia will be nice once “we” get rid of Putin.

  25. SocalJimObjects

    Somewhere in the afterlife, Adolf Hitler and his buddies are having a toast.

  26. jrkrideau

    I’m sorry Conor but I actually live in Canada. In fact, not all that far from Ottawa.

    We have seen governments in Canada down on truckers ….

    There were damn few truckers in that mob. There were all kinds of political nutcases including those advocating the overthrow of the Government of Canada , a good sprinkling of religious nutters, and a sizeable collection of citizens who were quite justifiably resentful of how the world was working. This last group has my sympathy.

    One of the first things this band of heroes did, upon their arrival in Ottawa, was invade a downtown homeless shelter and demand food.

    A noticeable proportion of funds donated to the “Convoy” came from foreign, mainly US sources. Perhaps, 16 to 18 %.

    I do not think the Canadian Government really likes foreign money financing internal political disputes.

  27. Palm & Needle

    I’m a bit late to the discussion, but I’ll add a remark here anyway, if only for posterity:

    One thing that is striking about this movement to intensify surveillance and censorship is how fast it was implemented.

    It took only a few short years. The fact that the right to free speech, a supposed fundamental liberal democratic right, can so easily and quickly be systematically dismantled across several different countries without a popular consensus reveals some important aspects about Western liberal democracy – really, bourgeois democracy – that are normally obfuscated by propaganda and mythology. These are:

    1. Liberal rights are not universal rights
    Liberal Rights are not fundamental social values guaranteed to every human being. Rather, they are given as a compromise to pacify the masses, as long as they are not “abused” to overrule the interests of the ruling class. You are a free person, so long as you use that freedom to do what the ruling class wants you to do.

    This would be no secret to those who attentively read the founding philosophical works of liberalism, such as John Locke, Adam Smith, Alexis de Tocqueville, John Stuart Mill, etc. These authors made it clear how the human rights and freedoms they extol do not apply to everyone, only white men who own property (i.e. the ruling class in those times, but also largely today). It is a folly of the Western working class to presume that these rights ever applied to them.

    2. The “democracy” part is not for the masses, and happens behind closed doors
    In capitalism, the ruling class are those who control capital, i.e. capitalists; the “democracy” part is exclusively for this capitalist class.

    This is plain when contrasted to big problems that concern the working class and require a political solution, such as poverty, food and housing, access to education and healthcare, climate change, access to the city, etc. In some cases, even centuries of popular political struggle have barely moved the needle of progress. On the other hand, when something is a big problem for the capitalist class, a solution makes progress quickly, is strangely synchronized everywhere, and is ruthlessly effective. When there are delays or inconsistencies in implementing a solution, that is only because the capitalist class has not yet reached a consensus.

    From the working class perspective, the democracy exists only in form but not in substance; it is a constant battle to preserve what little rights we feel we might have. We can vote for representation, but our bourgeois governments are structured in such way that accountability and responsibility are so dilute and obscure, that popular demands are easily halted in a web of finger-pointing and ass-covering. If and when laws are passed to satisfy popular demands, they are almost always implemented minimally, partially, or often simply ignored.

    3. State borders are not national borders, they are ruling class administrative segments
    The fact that surveillance and censorship has developed in such a coordinated fashion across Western liberal democracies shows how a ruling class is making decisions cross-border through their own set of institutions. Our state borders are not there for national reasons. Rather, state borders define administrative regions with a purpose to organize capital accumulation along territorial and demographic boundaries according to the interests of the capitalist ruling class.

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