Usefully Dumb and Usefully Dumber: Naomi Klein and Glenn Greenwald

I can’t think of anyone more qualified to hold forth on the Proper Way to Oppose The Ruling Class than wealthy clerks who work for oligarchs. So we who agonize over how to end capitalism while respecting the privacy rights of people who topple governments and spread fascism should be very grateful that ruling class fascism enablers George Soros and Pierre Omidyar kindly put their respective administrative assistants, Naomi Klein and Glenn Greenwald, at liberty to commingle their brands on whether or not disclosure of John Podesta’s emails is a step too far. Spoiler alert: The answer from both is yes.

What is power, wonders Klein. Who gets to decide when it trumps privacy? Am I powerful? Are you? Isn’t the Podesta hack the kind of thing Snowden was protecting us from? I am reminded of the right-wing harassment of climate change activists. Assange seems personally and politically motivated. He doesn’t care how the stakes for this election are so very high. I know a war resister who’s living in a church in Vancouver. He wants a pardon. He’s not aiming to destroy anything. Unlike Assange, he’s principled.

Well, you know, says Glenn, Snowden said that actually trying to change things directly is sociopathic and narcissistic, regardless of how abhorrent those things are. Which is why he handed his documents off to me for curation. So that people could know only the things I think they should know and talk about them. I think Assange is alone now in thinking there is a better way than this for handling leaks. He’s been shut inside that embassy for years and clearly it’s driving him insane.

And so on.

When do these people agonize in the same proportion over Empire’s “collateral damage” as they do over largely hypothetical imperial functionaries who are injured or embarrassed by an attack on power? Where is their handwringing over the nazis Soros and Omidyar helped bring to power in Ukraine?

Fucking Klein shilled for empire’s terrorist proxies in Libya. The “tide of history” she called them. Clearly her awesomely nuanced view of privacy and power does not afford protection from knife rape to an official enemy’s anus; nor, seemingly does a Honduran indigenous activist’s brain enjoy protection from death squad bullets. At least not enough to place the person responsible for these violations outside contention for the presidency in an election with the highest stakes ever. For all her revoltingly stupid blather about privacy, Klein’s immediate concerns are clearly partisan. The leaks are hurting Hillary who, like her, is on the Soros payroll.

I won’t dignify this swamp by further wallowing in it. Trust that Greenwald and Klein continue to make complete asses of people who think that the Celebrity Left’s main purpose is something more lofty than containment and discipline, or that riff raff like Soros and Omidyar are their patrons for any other reason. This is a matter of simple fucking common sense. It’s sickening that it’s still subject to debate.


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The Tarzie Snowden Reader

Though early notices suggest it may come and go very quickly, Oliver Stone’s Snowden will nonetheless generate renewed interest in its title character. As one of an extremely small number of writers that criticize Snowden from the left, I feel a civic duty to boost my archive to people who, as a result of the movie, want to get the lefty lowdown on Snowden and his secrets for the first time. I hope that long-time readers might find some value in this also, if only to counter the emetic of hagiographic idiocy and juvenile cheerleading the film is likely to spawn.

The working title of one of my great unwritten blog posts is Everything is a Psy Op, the topic of which would be the efficiency nowadays with which the media system turns everything to the advantage of the class that owns it. Of course, there is a long, rich history of conspiracy between the Security State and media in platforms large and small, and no doubt such collaboration continues to this day. However, day-to-day evidence suggests that media consolidation and other changes have practically automated the constant production of ruling class and state propaganda, such that daily interference by what used to be stupidly called infiltrators,  and publicity stunts by plants, seem largely unnecessary under most conditions.

One of the things I find most striking about television footage from the 60s and 70s — in addition to people being more eloquent, more grown-up and less ready for their close-up than nowadays  — is that there were clearly pores through which dangerous ideas and personalities could slip in.  Those days are long gone.  The proof is in things like the lead-up to Obamacare, in which televised advocacy of Medicare for All was practically non-existent, and in Presidential elections, where any anti-imperialist or vaguely anti-capitalist candidate is ostracized and then disappeared.  Indeed, the idea that capitalism is something provisional that society could ultimately reject doesn’t come up except in small left-branded journals that recommend tactical alliances with liberal Democrats, posit Scandinavian-style social democracy as the next logical step and routinely ridicule radicals that reject incrementalism of this kind.

There can be no intelligent, leftist consideration of Snowden, or any other figure of similar stature for that matter, without recognizing that we know him entirely through instruments specially designed to prevent and suppress any dissent that’s likely to disquiet members of the ruling class and their state security apparatus even a little. Therefore, we must consider why, of the many weird things about Snowden, the very weirdest is the warm welcome the mainstream media and elites from industry and government — including members of the intelligence community — have given him.

Of course, there is no consensus among The Spectacle’s feature players that Snowden’s theft of NSA state secrets was a great thing, but those whose regard for Snowden is more hostile than mixed are most certainly in the minority.  Among the few genuinely entertaining aspects of The Snowden Show at its peak was the struggle of his hand-picked media proxies — particularly clownish Glenn Greenwald — to look like enemies of the state as they flew from place to place, entirely without incident, to collect Polks, Pulitzers and Oscars for the dangerously disruptive attack on the security state they’d facillitated.  At one point, Greenwald and his army of dolts circulated a letter of inquiry by Florida Congressperson Alan Grayson to Eric Holder as if it were a Grand Jury indictment.

Because of Snowden’s and his crew’s immunity from anything like the ostracism and character assassination that invariably greets anyone that’s genuinely disruptive, his own participation in the ostracism of Chelsea Manning just as she went to trial, and his reciting of clearly rehearsed talking points in a radio announcer’s voice, tongues wagged early on to the effect that Snowden was running what’s known in intelligence as a limited hangout. According to former special assistant to the Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency Victor Marchetti, a limited hangout is

…a favorite and frequently used gimmick of the clandestine professionals. When their veil of secrecy is shredded and they can no longer rely on a phony cover story to misinform the public, they resort to admitting—sometimes even volunteering—some of the truth while still managing to withhold the key and damaging facts in the case. The public, however, is usually so intrigued by the new information that it never thinks to pursue the matter further.”

This certainly resonates when considering Snowden, who, in relation to an unimaginably vast apparatus of surveillance and control that has tentacles in the oceans, the heavens, and everywhere in between, encourages us to focus entirely on signals intelligence, and within that narrow constraint, on only one of the federal agencies that collect signals intelligence, and within that, only on bulk data collection from computers and phones, and within that, on mostly minor details of practices that were already known. You will not often find Snowden talking about any other agencies, and indeed he has explicitly ruled out whistleblowing directed at the CIA for which he was once an agent, claiming, ridiculously, that blowing whistles on the CIA endangers individuals in a way that blowing whistles on the NSA does not.  Snowden ignores the importance of federalized state and local police to mass surveillance as well the role of private contractors that account for over 50% of the intelligence budget, even though it was as a contractor that Snowden learned the NSA’s secrets.

There are a number of things besides just Snowden’s pernicious minimizing that make a respectable case for fake, but I haven’t attempted to make that case because, one, we’ll never know for sure, and two, whether orchestrated by a cabal somewhere in deepest State, or shaped by a media system for which everything is the raw material of propaganda, he is what he is and his impact is no more nor less pernicious.  Whatever the reason, Snowden has led a tightly circumscribed, elite-supported, mind-numbingly trivial conversation about surveillance, that, above all else, chillingly reminds people they’re always being watched; accepts as self-evident the need for a massive surveillance apparatus and the good intentions that guide it; recommends not collective action but rather atomized resistance through individual use of privacy software produced by private companies and defense contractors;  establishes restrictive norms for whistleblowing by, among other things, promoting dishonest criticism of Chelsea Manning; and finally climaxed with declaring victory when elements from CISPA — legislation reviled by privacy advocates — were pasted onto The Patriot Act and passed as The Freedom Act.

There is absolutely nothing here to warrant even grudging respect from leftists, let alone admiration, so lucky for Snowden, the workaround for the embargo on genuine dissidence, even in marginal media, is to insist on the inherent subversiveness of information all by itself. The unambiguously laudable leftishness of disclosing state secrets is to be taken as obvious, regardless of the discloser’s politics or whatever the most conspicuous effects of their disclosures are.  If you’re skeptical, sharp tacks saying usefully idiotic things, like that Snowden’s politics don’t matter because he’s not running for office, are available to sort you out.

Indeed, there has been little in recent memory that professional lefties and privacy advocates have committed themselves to with more zeal than shielding Snowden and his associates in media and the privacy industry from scrutiny, and their efforts have paid off. Nonetheless, incorrigibles like me, afflicted with a misanthropy that hears shut up from some dipshit as more please, soldiered on, as the record below shows.

The posts listed here are organized by theme and within those themes I’ve organized them in the order in which I think they’re most effective, rather than chronologically.  My understanding of Snowden and what was going on evolved over time, and following that evolution is entirely unnecessary and likely to be dull. I am confident that these posts can be profitably read in any order, as both a close examination of The Snowden Whistleblowing event and, more generally, as a guide to the swamp of pseudo-dissidence in which it dwells.


In Conclusion
Snowden will change nothing for the better, I wrote, correctly, in 2013 after several months of writing about him.

Whitewashing The Problem

Snowden’s minimization of the security apparatus took several forms. One was to narrowly focus on a subset of NSA practices, to the exclusion of everything else. Another was to depict the corporate sector as victim rather than collaborator. Finally, Snowden attained peak whitewash when he proclaimed victory at the renewal of the Patriot Act with some CISPA thrown in.

With or Without Section 215, Mass Surveillance of Cell Phones is Pervasive
Multiple agencies gathering cell phone data render Snowden’s crowing over the Freedom Act ridiculous.

While You Gloat About Snowden, The FBI is Watching You
At the same time Snowden cheered the Freedom Act’s privatizing of phone data collection, stories broke about the FBI’s fleet of spy planes, which, among other things, simulate cell phone towers to snarf up phone data.

Mass Surveillance and No NSA. It Happens!
Lexis Nexis proudly adds to its data vacuuming and analysis product line for law enforcement, demonstrating how narrow the Snowden Show’s focus on the NSA truly is.

Fuck These Google Guys
Snowden’s disclosure that the NSA hacked Google, makes employees of that company really sweary, proving that Google will be a great ally in the fight for privacy, even though it secretly gave the NSA access to its networks in 2010.

Is The Freedom Act a Stealth CISPA?
The Freedom Act that Snowden and his proxies were touting as reform seems quite the opposite.

Bashing Manning While She’s Down

Consistent with celebrity dissent generally, The Snowden Show dons defiance drag and extols obedience.  Nothing illustrates this more than the campaign Snowden and his proxies waged against Cablegate leaker Chelsea Manning, who they repeatedly misrepresented beginning on Day 1.

Good Whistleblower/Bad Whistleblower
A comprehensive look at how Snowden and his representatives repeatedly set up Manning as Snowden’s wayward, reckless antithesis.

Confronting Edward Snowden’s Remarks on Manning
A dissident star is born, and celebrates his coming out by repudiating Manning, just as the trial that would consign her to a cage for decades gets underway.

Another Snowden News Story. Another Lesson in Proper Whistleblowing.
An article in the Washington Post about upcoming leaks becomes another occasion for Snowden to distance himself from Manning a full three months after he’d come on the scene and after she’d been sentenced to 35 years.

Snowden Lays an Egg, a Statue Grows in Brooklyn and Manning Wins a Round
In an interview with John Oliver, Snowden admits he did not read every document in his trove, contradicting the claims he and his advocates made repeatedly to differentiate him from Chelsea Manning.

Glenn Greenwald, Snowden’s Leak Boss

Above I mentioned Snowden’s great immunity from serious scrutiny on the left. No single individual deserves more credit for that than Greenwald, who clearly understood that his star would rise in proportion to repressing agitation from transparency radicals and the left.

Take Your Drip and Stick It
However much an emerging cult wants to believe otherwise, Snowden has the stage because elites want him there. Greenwald’s opportunism, muddled reformist politics and troll army make him the perfect stage manager.

My Reply to Glenn Greenwald’s Comments on Take Your Drip and Stick It
Pursuant to igniting a Twitter beatdown, Greenwald spews juvenile invective on my blog and I reply.

A Heat Vampire in  Search of a Movie Deal
News of bidding for movie rights to Greenwald’s Snowden book demonstrate how nicely ambition and service to power go together.

The Friends of Glenn
How authoritarian trolls in high places and low will attack when you criticize Greenwald or Snowden too much.

I Read the New York Magazine Omidyar Article So You Don’t Have To
In a puff piece on the billionaire who bought the Snowden leaks, Greenwald extols the merits of his new boss, and announces a plan to give other journalists access to the leaks, something he said he couldn’t do a little over a year before.

 Oligarchs and media hacks agree: Best Whistleblower Ever

Of course Snowden and his crew had some showy detractors and Greenwald and co did their best to make this tiny minority look like a dangerous army.  But titans of industry like Mark Zuckerberg and Upper East Side bluebloods declared their love early and many of their peers would soon follow. In media, no whistleblower has ever received the kind of love Snowden has, with both he and his proxies given lengthy, respectful prime time interviews — such as this with Brian Williams — and hagiographic write-ups across the political spectrum. His hand-picked chroniclers received the most prestigious prizes in journalism and film and ultimately the patronage of a multi-billionaire.

Dr. Rosen and The Snowden Effect
In regarding the chain of events following a whistleblowing as inevitable, NYU media professor Jay Rosen completely misapprehends how the media works.

Oligarchs Approve The NSA Debate. I Guess We’re #Winning
An astonishing number of elites pledge support to Snowden.

First Look’s Omidyar Introduces The Intercept 
The tech wing of the intelligence community rewards Greenwald and Laura Poitras for their convincing portrayal of dissident journalists, giving them there own multimillion dollar online media venture with which to play investigatey journalers. Like Snowden, it blows dissident smoke and promotes military-industrial orthodoxy.

Ryan Devereaux is No Gary Webb
In a look back at Gary Webb and Dark Alliance, The Intercept provides a helpful reminder of how real whistleblowers get treated. In the process it uncritically recapitulates CIA smears against Webb from twenty years ago, leaving no doubt as to what side Snowden’s apostles are on.

The Politics Of a Career Spook

Politically speaking, Snowden is everything you’d expect in a security state careerist.

Edward Snowden’s Bizarre Conception of Human Rights
Mass surveillance only sucks if the people haven’t had a chance to ratify it, says Ed.

Philip Agee and Edward Snowden: A comparision.
60s CIA whistleblower Agee, unlike Ed, said his real beef was with capitalism.


Edward Snowden’s Incredible Mutating Document Trove
Why does the reported size of the document leak keep changing?

Snowden and The Place Where No One Would Look
Within days of the Snowden movie premiere, we learn the never-before-told tale of poor refugees in the Hong Kong slums harboring Snowden, making the ex-soldier and career spook a refugee just like them.

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Snowden and The Place Where No One Would Look

Hey yinz, have you heard the NEVER-BEFORE-TOLD, LIKE-SOMETHING-FROM-A-SPY-NOVEL, FEATURED-IN-AN-UPCOMING-FILM story of how Snowden hid out in the slums of Hong Kong at the start of his amazing truth-telling journey? It goes like this:

As Snowden made his way from Hong Kong to political asylum, his Hong-Kong based, Canadian attorney Robert Tibbo needed a way to hide his client from the media and authorities. Tibbo had the keen insight that an intelligence apparatus with eyes and ears everywhere would overlook the Hong Kong slums, since the possibility of a feature player like Snowden hob-nobbing with the ickiest of poors is completely unfathomable to all but the most fearlessly imaginative.

As a professional dedicated to using human rights as a cudgel against the hegemon’s rivals, Tibbo had many clients in Hong Kong’s icky people sector. Since leveraging the fear and misery of these people to his own ends was Tibbo’s daily bread, and since they were entirely dependent on him for their own security, bullying a few of them into harboring a fugitive presented no moral quandary and was easily done.  Tibbo chose his client Ajith, a Sri Lankan asylum-seeker to chaperone Snowden in the place where Tibbo knew “no one would look”, and the refugees Supun and Vanessa to house him. Each of Snowden’s hosts gave him their only bed.

Snowden, who prior to this had been staying in the 5 star Mira Hotel, magnanimously gave each family between 30 and 50 bucks for each night they’d slept without beds in harm’s way.  “Imagine the world’s most wanted dissident brought to your door.” he told the National Post. “Would you open it? They didn’t even hesitate, and I’ll always be grateful for that.”

Of course, as Snowden knows, Tibbo scrupulously avoided telling Ajith, Supun and Vanessa anything about him, so they had no idea what they’d opened their doors to. As to not hesitating, that no doubt had everything to do with their dependence on Tibbo and the strong-arm approach he took. In Vanessa’s case, for instance, Snowden, Tibbo and another attorney simply showed up  late at night.  Once ensconced in a home, Snowden would on a subsequent day theatrically reveal his identity by sending his host for a newspaper, where they would find him on the front page.

Ajith told the National Post,  “I was very happy to help him…This famous person was a refugee too, same as me.” Who am I, then, to beef on Ajith’s behalf? Well see, Snowden isn’t a refugee same as Ajith. Rather, from the moment he became employable, Snowden dedicated his life to global capital’s police force which, through surveillance, violence and terror, condemns people like Ajith, Supun, and Vanessa to lifelong poverty and insecurity, an apparatus which, according to his own account, he now only seeks to make work more precisely. “I’m still working for the NSA” he once said, and, regardless of what theory you have about The Snowden Show, he is undeniably correct.  So where the belligerently stupid rubes who jerk off in Glenn Greenwald’s Twitter mentions see an inspiring story of solidarity, I see a spook and a human rights racketeer reproducing imperialism in a Hong Kong slum, making the most desperate people on the planet means to their ends.

Now, considering how everything Snowwald-related reeks of bullshit, it’s impossible to know what, if any, part of this story is true, especially given its film tie-in, and its NGO-ish finger-waving at Hong Kong.  However, as propaganda or marketing intended to make our blood race and our hearts warm, it doesn’t stink less.  In the fantasy’s current chapter, Tibbo’s famous client deeply worries that he may have unwittingly put his Hong Kong protectors at risk by revealing their role for the upcoming Oliver Stone movie, the release of which so neatly ties into this never-before-told story.  To compensate for their potential troubles, he’s sent them each $1000.


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Thoughts on The Intercept’s new Leak Policy

While box office receipts for Oliver Stone’s upcoming biopic may prove me wrong, Greenwald and Snowden no longer matter, however hard they try.  By my reckoning, the only people who are still interested is a smattering of careerists and spooks in the emerging privacy industry; the cargo cult of dipshits that never tire of hearing the same story over and over again, framed each time as a “scoop”; and a gaggle of ostensible detractors who continue to beat the drum about releasing more  of these dull, unsurprising, and old documents to more people.

Bullshit calls on this nonsense are doomed to become as repetitive and pointless as the scoops themselves. To the extent that they legitimize the leaks via demands for more of them, they’re downright idiotic, and maybe even a little pernicious. I admit there was a time when I took the bait and demanded more leaks, but as I so often do when I read old blog posts, I marvel at my lack of skepticism and my faith in the disruptive power of information. This shit is phony baloney from tip to tail, either by design or by way of its managers.

For the fans that expect me to weigh in, this is the best I can do almost a full three years since Snowden came on the scene:  Greenwald announced blah blah blah, which contradicts his previous claim that blah blah blah. Meanwhile, The Intercept is redacting blah blah blah, and consulting with the NSA on blah blah blah. True to form, The Intercept has cherry-picked empire-friendly blah blah blah. Blah blah compliance as defiance blah blah blah.

While I erred on the quality of the leaks, I otherwise had this thing’s number three years’ ago, almost from day one, when I called out Snowden for the not-Manning schtick that showed his hand. If you’re still taking any of this shit at face value, God help you.  Short of a comprehensive analysis of the whole show, or a rundown of how right all the early detractors got everything, it’s not even interesting as a limited hangout anymore. But feel free to mine my archives if you still care. I also recommend my buddy Lorenzo’s excellent post on the “diminishing returns of info-spectacles.” They’re far more interesting than anything in The Intercept’s stupid, done-to-death trove.


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Hollywood Trolling Hard with Snowden and Obama biopics

These are some gifts for anyone who’s feeling blue. Up first, the trailer for Oliver Stone’s, Snowden biopic, about which the @Snowden account manager tweeted this:

For two minutes and thirty nine seconds, everybody at NSA just stopped working.

I reckon if they paused at the NSA it was to laugh, since the least funny thing about this unintended comedy is that Zachary Quinto is playing Glenn Greenwald. What, was Justin Timberlake not available?

From the trailer we learn that Snowden walks with broken legs and has a mind that’s 8 x faster than his peers. Dude is superhuman. This shit has to bomb. It has to.

Since the first draft of this post, Kevin Dooley brought my attention to Exit,  Snowden’s musical collaboration with French electronica musician Jean Michel Jarre. It aims to a spooky but hip reminder of just how completely surveilled we are, and what’s so striking is the complete absence of anything you could consider protest.

Finally, there’s Southside With You,  a film that purportedly “recounts the eventful summer day in 1989 when a young law firm associate named Barack Obama (Parker Sawyers) tried to woo lawyer Michelle Robinson (Tika Sumpter) during a daylong date…”

I’ve embedded all the videos below. Discuss.

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Assad, Putin, Iceland and…David Cameron???

Since I’m too lazy to recap, this post will make much more sense if you read my last post, “Assad, Putin and…Iceland???

Having concluded that this Panama Papers spectacle could not be more contrived, I can’t help trying to figure out what the point is. There’s no careful study required when the person at the center of the scandal is Russian, Syrian or South American, but when an ostensible pal gets a drubbing, the point is less obvious. For the second time, identifying the target‘s connections to China reveals interesting possibilities, like this Vox post from a year ago, excerpted below:

How a Chinese infrastructure bank turned into a diplomatic fiasco for America

Last fall, China rolled out a new regional economic initiative — the Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank — on which it was partnering with India and a range of smaller Asian countries. The United States swiftly announced its opposition to the plan, which it said would undermine the existing global financial architecture, and began leaning on allies around the world to give the bank the cold shoulder.

This March, America’s AIIB diplomacy suddenly and dramatically collapsed, as the United Kingdom — over the objections of the UK’s own Foreign Office — said it would join the bank. And that opened the floodgates. Germany, France, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Korea, and Brazil are now all on board. The US is isolated, America is sniping at its closest foreign allies, and the Obama administration has been dealt a humiliating diplomatic defeat.


So is this all David Cameron’s fault?

That’s more or less how it looks from Washington. The Obama administration’s pique is re-enforced by the fact that, as Jamil Anderlini and Kiran Stacey reported for the Financial Times, the United Kingdom’s decision to join the bank was made over the objections of the UK Foreign Office. As Thomas Wright of the Brookings Institution writes, “It appears as if David Cameron’s government took this decision because it wanted to be the first to join and to get the credit from China for doing so.”

This haste to obtain nonspecific commercial advantages at the expense of following America’s lead on grand strategy is seen by many in DC as crass and opportunistic.

You may recall, as my pal @lstwheel did, that a pig-fucking scandal, courtesy of this dude, afflicted Cameron half a year later.  Admittedly, Lord Ashcroft had possible reasons of his own — or so we’re told — but surely pissing off Washington and the Foreign Office gave the story the strongest of legs.

Perhaps it wasn’t punishment enough.


There’s this also, from last month:

Barack Obama says David Cameron allowed Libya to become a ‘s*** show’

Of course, every leader does things that the US is not happy about, but these are big. If nothing else, badmouthing Cameron for a year suggests the marriage is kaput.


Of course we’ve all been instructed by the leaknoscenti to never roll our eyes and say, “old news” but since posting this I’ve learned that there really is no way to credibly deny it this time. Here from 2012:  Cameron family fortune made in tax havens. The lede:

David Cameron’s father ran a network of offshore investment funds to help build the family fortune that paid for the prime minister’s inheritance, the Guardian can reveal.

Cameron mentioned the 2012 dress rehearsal in his early remarks to the Press, but it slipped by me.

That this scandal has come and gone before makes a useful point. The idiots that love these dramas are in thrall to the childish idea that it’s the leaks themselves that incite protests, investigations, resignations and reforms. But no, dipshits, like everything else in the spectacle, a leak lives or dies in accordance with its utility to people with power. You know, the people that own the story and all the means of telling it and stirring shit around it. The people without whom you wouldn’t even know what Mossack Fonseca is.


Clearly, the story of Cameron’s Dad didn’t make the cut of Really Important People Priorities the last time around. That seems to have changed and resources have been mobilized accordingly. Rubes are jumping through hoops predictably, starting with the “This Four-Year-Old Story is REALLY Important” hoop. That is, exercising their agency.

It’s amazing to me that there are actual adults wondering if this scandal is going to create a crisis for capitalism. This is just hilarious. The way playing practical jokes on yourself is hilarious. Seriously, even if this show isn’t entirely contrived, who the fuck do you think is in charge here?

You preening tools that sneer at people who are rightfully skeptical about what looks unmistakably like weaponized scandal,  I would love to know what theories about power, information and media you’re operating under. What history of spying, propaganda, blackmail and coups is your reference point? Put another way, do you know anything?

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Assad, Putin and…Iceland???

The Panama Papers “leak” is blatantly a propaganda op, with ties to soft imperialism’s usual suspects — Open Society, USAID, the Ford Foundation etc — and leading off with the most crude attacks on Putin and Assad. It’s so blatant I found myself wondering if it were intentional but couldn’t imagine why. Is it to further normalize the credulous boobery of the knowing knowers who honed their belligerent stupidity on Snowwald? Whatever the case, it’s certainly fitting, and not at all surprising, that Snowden, the Way-Better-Than-Manning avatar of scare quote dissidence, was among the very first Twitter accounts to tweet out a link to The Biggest Most Important Leak ever, just after it went live.

These spectacles are useful in two ways: you get an idea of what’s bugging a certain segment of the ruling class, and you identify the biggest tools and operatives in media by the avidity with which they promote the show. An example of the latter is The Guardian which has, for the umpteenth time, made itself a complete laughingstock, with ham-fisted gems like this “video explainer” on how Putin allegedly offshored a billion dollars.

But if this is an op, why Iceland?  A few commenters have dismissed the attack on Iceland as cover for the obvious targets — the U.S. State Department’s official bogeymen and Panama, the “problem child” impeding “global tax transparency plans.” But considering how much traction the Iceland scandal got in the media and how much Snowden and his ilk have been boosting it, this seems extremely unlikely. Certainly Iceland has been proportionally the country most affected by the leaks, with its Prime Minister, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, resigning today in the wake of a large protest rally calling for his ouster.

Corruption scandals are a tried and true method by which empire stokes instability and fosters regime change, but what had Iceland done that warrants a hit job? Well, one can only speculate, but my money is on the increasingly cozy relationship its current government has been cultivating with China.

Global warming has made Iceland extremely important strategically, by opening up new polar shipping routes that greatly reduce travel time, and providing access to previously unreachable resources, including huge reserves of oil and natural gas.  By way of a trade agreement it signed with Iceland’s current leadership in 2013, China got its foot in the door for increasing its presence and influence in the region. This coincides with the diminishing influence of the United States in Iceland, where the last of its military aircraft were withdrawn in 2006.

All of this is spelled out in this 2013 New York Times Op-Ed by Einar Benediktsson, a former Iceland ambassador to the United States, NATO and the European Union, and Thomas Pickering, a former U.S. under secretary of state for political affairs and ambassador to Russia and the United Nations.  The column conjures a China aggressively pushing its tentacles into the region and, with a great deal of urgency, calls on the United States to “take the changing situation more fully into account.” UPDATE: In February of this year, the US resumed the use of its Cold War air base in Keflavik, with the stated purpose of patrolling Russian submarines in the North Atlantic.

One certain outcome of the current scandal will be greatly increased political power for Iceland’s Pirate Party, which, in the four years since its founding, has become the most popular political party in the country. It only got three members into Iceland’s Parliament in 2013, but since mid-2015 it has consistently outpolled all other parties for the parliamentary election in 2017. In the wake of the Panama Papers, protestors are calling for early elections, which would give the Pirate Party a huge advantage in light of its high poll numbers and heady new car smell.

Assuming the U.S. is attempting to further its interests in Iceland, what does it get from an ascendant, nominally radical, political party with ties to Wikileaks that denounces the NSA and advocates for Snowden? Well, for starters, the Pirate Party was the only party to oppose the agreement with China, ostensibly out of human rights concerns. The Party’s rising star, Birgitta Jónsdóttir, one of the three party members in Parliament, bemoans China’s human rights trangressions a lot and seems in helpful alignment with U.S. foreign policy generally.

Jónsdóttir, who refers to herself as a “poetician,” called for no fly zones in Libya and Syria during campaigns for intervention in those countries. The present government, however, opposed military intervention in Libya, and when Obama fingered Syria for chemical weapons, and Jónsdóttir reflexively called for a no fly zone, Iceland’s foreign minister said he needed more evidence for Obama’s claims before he would support intervention.

In the wake of the attacks on Charlie Hebdo, Jónsdóttir and her party zealously joined the reactionary Je Suis Charlie campaign, and successfully sought repeal of Iceland’s 75-year-old anti-blasphemy law, so that the crucial speech act of anti-Islam provocation would be legal.

Pirate Parties vary widely, but clearly Iceland’s is one more expression of a “post-ideological” radicalism focused on democratic process, privacy, free speech, transparency, and “internet freedom”, that dispenses with even gestures toward that relic, socialism, or any other form of anti-capitalism. Of course, there is nothing post-ideological about any of this. It simply finds the common ground between leftists and reactionaries and leaves out the rest. This is undoubtedly why there is “a rabid and growing right-libertarian wing within [the Pirate Party’s] ranks” according to Vidar Thorsteinsson, an activist from Iceland, writing in Jacobin.

For Empire, what’s not to like about this radical party and its “anarchist” leadership? Very little, it seems, unless political asylum for Snowden is a dealbreaker, which I strongly doubt.


A number of people felt the impetus for the engineered ouster of Iceland’s prime minister was the hard line Iceland had taken against the bankers responsible for that country’s financial crisis. I discounted that initially, simply because The Pirate Party that is about to dominate Iceland’s politics is not likely to be any softer on the bankers than the current government.

However, I may have to reconsider that, because only days after Gunnlaugsson resigned, three of the bankers Iceland sentenced to prison were released after serving only one year of their five year sentences. The story is that newly enacted legislation about prison sentencing made this release possible, suggesting that the best way to speed up improvement in the penal system is to throw rich people in jail.

I still think empire’s enemies and the BRICS countries are mostly what this targeted anti-corruption campaign is about, but it’s unlikely those are the only things. Certainly the good example Iceland set with the banks is not something empire wants to see repeated anywhere else.

UPDATE (link to this update)

…and David Cameron???

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