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Under Amazon’s CIA Cloud: The Washington Post

12:58 pm in Uncategorized by Norman Solomon

News media should illuminate conflicts of interest, not embody them. But the owner of the Washington Post is now doing big business with the Central Intelligence Agency, while readers of the newspaper’s CIA coverage are left in the dark.

Outside the Washington Post

Norman Solomon wants the Washington Post to come clean about its CIA ties.

The Post’s new owner, Jeff Bezos, is the founder and CEO of Amazon — which recently landed a $600 million contract with the CIA. But the Post’s articles about the CIA are not disclosing that the newspaper’s sole owner is the main owner of CIA business partner Amazon.

Even for a multi-billionaire like Bezos, a $600 million contract is a big deal. That’s more than twice as much as Bezos paid to buy the Post four months ago.

And there’s likely to be plenty more where that CIA largesse came from. Amazon’s offer wasn’t the low bid, but it won the CIA contract anyway by offering advanced high-tech “cloud” infrastructure.

Bezos personally and publicly touts Amazon Web Services, and it’s evident that Amazon will be seeking more CIA contracts. Last month, Amazon issued a statement saying, “We look forward to a successful relationship with the CIA.”

As Amazon’s majority owner and the Post’s only owner, Bezos stands to gain a lot more if his newspaper does less ruffling and more soothing of CIA feathers.

Amazon has a bad history of currying favor with the U.S. government’s “national security” establishment. The media watch group FAIR pointed out what happened after WikiLeaks published State Department cables: “WikiLeaks was booted from Amazon’s webhosting service AWS. So at the height of public interest in what WikiLeaks was publishing, readers were unable to access the WikiLeaks website.”

How’s that for a commitment to the public’s right to know?

Days ago, my colleagues at RootsAction.org launched a petition that says: “The Washington Post’s coverage of the CIA should include full disclosure that the sole owner of the Post is also the main owner of Amazon — and Amazon is now gaining huge profits directly from the CIA.” More than 15,000 people have signed the petition so far this week, with many posting comments that underscore widespread belief in journalistic principles.

While the Post functions as a powerhouse media outlet in the Nation’s Capital, it’s also a national and global entity — read every day by millions of people who never hold its newsprint edition in their hands. Hundreds of daily papers reprint the Post’s news articles and opinion pieces, while online readership spans the world.

Propaganda largely depends on patterns of omission and repetition. If, in its coverage of the CIA, the Washington Post were willing to fully disclose the financial ties that bind its owner to the CIA, such candor would shed some light on how top-down power actually works in our society.

“The Post is unquestionably the political paper of record in the United States, and how it covers governance sets the agenda for the balance of the news media,” journalism scholar Robert W. McChesney points out. “Citizens need to know about this conflict of interest in the columns of the Post itself.”

In a statement just released by the Institute for Public Accuracy, McChesney added: “If some official enemy of the United States had a comparable situation — say the owner of the dominant newspaper in Caracas was getting $600 million in secretive contracts from the Maduro government — the Post itself would lead the howling chorus impaling that newspaper and that government for making a mockery of a free press. It is time for the Post to take a dose of its own medicine.”

From the Institute, we also contacted other media and intelligence analysts to ask for assessments; their comments are unlikely to ever appear in the Washington Post:

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Google: Doing Evil with ALEC

1:28 pm in Uncategorized by Norman Solomon

Google Inc. is now aligned with the notorious ALEC.

Quietly, Google has joined ALEC — the American Legislative Exchange Council — the shadowy corporate alliance that pushes odious laws through state legislatures.

In the process, Google has signed onto an organization that promotes such regressive measures as tax cuts for tobacco companies, school privatization to help for-profit education firms, repeal of state taxes for the wealthy and opposition to renewable energy disliked by oil companies.

ALEC’s reactionary efforts – thoroughly documented by the Center for Media and Democracy — are shameful assaults on democratic principles. And Google is now among the hundreds of companies in ALEC. Many people who’ve admired Google are now wondering: how could this be?

Well, in his recent book “Digital Disconnect: How Capitalism Is Turning the Internet Against Democracy,” Robert W. McChesney provides vital context. “It is true that with the advent of the Internet many of the successful giants — Apple and Google come to mind — were begun by idealists who may have been uncertain whether they really wanted to be old-fashioned capitalists,” he writes. “The system in short order has whipped them into shape.”

McChesney adds: “Any qualms about privacy, commercialism, avoiding taxes, or paying low wages to Third World factory workers were quickly forgotten. It is not that the managers are particularly bad and greedy people — indeed their individual moral makeup is mostly irrelevant — but rather that the system sharply rewards some types of behavior and penalizes other types of behavior so that people either get with the program and internalize the necessary values or they fail.”

Google has widely mythologized itself as some kind of humanistic techno-pioneer. Obscured in a fog of digital legend is the agenda that more than ever is transfixed with maximizing profits while capitalizing on anti-democratic leverage of corporate power. Google’s involvement in ALEC is consistent with the company’s mega-business model that relentlessly exploits rigorous data-mining of emails, online searches and so much more.

Yet image-conscious companies can be skittish about public pressure. That helps to explain why dozens of firms withdrew from ALEC during the last year.

A few days ago — when my colleagues at RootsAction.org sent out an email alert about news of ALEC’s connection with Google as well as with Facebook and Yelp — more than 25,000 people quickly signed a petition urging those companies to “stop funding ALEC.” Several thousand of the petition signers added comments that can be read online along with the petition.

Those comments reflect widening comprehension of Google and the significance of its alignment with ALEC. Here’s a sampling:

“I expected better. Maybe that was naive.”  James C., San Jose, CA

“What happened to your big pledge? ‘Don’t be evil’? Guess it was just words…”  Lois W., Sun City, AZ

“Better check your definition of EVIL — look it up on Google…”  Armando A., Vista, CA

“Please don’t fund tyranny. You were supposed to be one of the good guys.”  Ernest W., Easthampton, MA

“Your credibility is fading associating with this kind of scum.”  John B., Easton, CT

“You are subverting the wishes of your clients/users while undermining democracy.”  Vincent G., Sioux Falls, SD

“Shame on you. Think about what the majority of your users want instead of the ‘rich’ guys.”  Karen B., Westminster, CO

“If you continue to support ALEC, I will along with countless others, discontinue use of ALL your products and services!”  Ronald P., Milford Center, OH

“Quit helping to Destroy our democracy.”  Kevin B., Lynnwood, WA

“Corporate power is corrupting this nation’s ability to have a decent governing system.”  Jean and Jesper C., Louisville, KY

“What is wrong with Google acting like the one tenth of the 1%? Too much filthy lucre has covered their conscience.”  Doug Y., Albany, CA

“Google! How could you do this? Don’t you realize this organization stands for ALL the wrong things? I’m sure most of your employees would not want to belong to ALEC. Please reconsider for their sake and that of all of us.”  Judith S., Carbondale, IL

“If you sleep with dogs, you get fleas.”  Robert J., Fern Park, FL

“Shame! We thought you were supposed to be a tool for the people, not a tool for the corporations!”  Sharon T., Irvine, CA

“Happy Sociopath Day to you people!”  Gary S., Big Bear Lake, CA

“Google has evolved to be one of the most unethical corporations in the world!”  Eric K., Montclair, NJ

“This is so obviously evil, and it causes real suffering.”  Terrell S., Seattle, WA

“Don’t you corporate executives make enough money? How much can you spend? Don’t you realize that people have to have money to buy your product? What the heck are you ‘dumb-asses’ thinking?”  Lon K., Waterloo, IA

“Good companies are becoming evil in order to please ALEC and the upper 1%. I thought Google would never need to stoop to that. I’m sadder than sad.”  Linda A., Medina, WA

“ALEC promotes corporate dominance over the democratic processes that our country was founded on. Shame on you!”  Judy D., Port Townsend, WA

“Laws should be written by elected representatives with citizen input, NOT by cookie-cuttered legalese templates created by and for the corporate interests.”  Liz A., Los Angeles, CA

“Noooooo Google! I love you but I will have to abandon you and many of your products should you do this. I really, really, really don’t want to do that! But will…”  Rochelle W., Reading, PA

“ALEC organizes capital to crush people by gaining any all benefits for the wealthy. That has consequences for children, elderly, disabled, veterans, working people — your customers. Please look beyond the near-term bottomline.”  Benita C., Burgettstown, PA

“Greed may be the worst terror facing this country. Greed, of corporations and some individuals, seems bent on destroying our democracy. We have to fight back!”  Anne G., Arlington, TX

“ALEC is evil. Those who fund ALEC are enabling evil. Enough said.”  Monty N., Helena, MT

“Google: Better get your house in order and your priorities straight. Average Americans are in no mood for this crap.”  Lawrence H., Fall Creek, WI

“For a company that loves to talk about the forward thinking way it treats employees, it surely seems acts just like every other ultra conservative corporate giant.”  Andrew W., Pittsfield, MA

“Why such cowardice?”  Mitchell S., Philadelphia, PA

“I knew the Don’t Be Evil mantra would disappear once the big money started flowing in. They’re no different than any other sleazy money-grubbing corporation in the cesspool of greed the USA has become.”  Gill F., Olympia, WA

“Disgusting professional activity on the part of this huge corrupt business. Google is going to have to do a lot of work to earn back the respect of a huge segment of the public; this only one of many recent revelations about Google’s despicable conduct as an entity.”  Susan H., Lafayette, IN

“Big money, big business, big lies.”  Stephen D., Grants Pass, OR

“Please stand for individual’s freedom rather than corporate greed and stop supporting ALEC.”  Carol B., San Rafael, CA

“Your company went from hip and caring to right of Attila the Hun and nasty in a few years…”  Roger W., Montpelier, VT

“ALEC has been a disaster for the vast majority of citizens in Wisconsin and other states. It has become a leading supporter of fascist attacks on women’s sacred reproductive rights.”  Edith M., Milwaukee, WI

“ALEC has done tremendous harm to this country and its political system. Any support for the organization is support for tearing down constitutional government.”  James F., Minneapolis, MN

“Just provide a service and take home your inflated paycheck. Stay out of the rest. And by the way, erase my browsing history, you nosey anti-American hacks.”  Jeff Cole, Tucson, AZ

“If Google and Facebook have any integrity left, please prove it by not funding ALEC!”  Douglas W., Chicago, IL

“ALEC is trying to dismantle our civil society. Do not be part of it.”  Jean Beck, Lynnwood, WA

“Have a heart!!!!!!”  Artalious S., McDonough GA

“ALEC is a big step backwards in human evolution, or a big step toward Big Brother.”  Victoria G., Portland, OR

“Disgusting. More government for the highest bidders.”  Michael P., Morton Grove, IL

“The worst thing about ALEC is its anti-democratic nature which buys votes to override the will of the people. As an information source this should violate your principles.”  Lon H., Ferndale, MI

“When you are as giant as Google, you ALMOST have stomp on us little people. Please please please be with US…”  Jon S., Lafayette, CO

“This is indicative of what happens when the founders of a company grow extremely wealthy. They align themselves more and more with the organizations that will further their agenda of market dominance and profit taking. The support of ALEC by the two founders of Google is particularly hypocritical because of their original pledge to not be evil. Shame on both of you.”  Bruce B., Port Townsend, WA

 

Digital Grab: Corporate Power Has Seized the Internet

10:28 am in Uncategorized by Norman Solomon

If your daily routine took you from one homegrown organic garden to another, bypassing vast fields choked with pesticides, you might feel pretty good about the current state of agriculture.

Digital Disconnect

Robert W. McChesney documents a corporate power grab on the Internet in Digital Disconnect.

If your daily routine takes you from one noncommercial progressive website to another, you might feel pretty good about the current state of the Internet.

But while mass media have supplied endless raptures about a digital revolution, corporate power has seized the Internet — and the anti-democratic grip is tightening every day.

“Most assessments of the Internet fail to ground it in political economy; they fail to understand the importance of capitalism in shaping and, for lack of a better term, domesticating the Internet,” says Robert W. McChesney in his illuminating new book, Digital Disconnect.

Plenty of commentators loudly celebrate the Internet. Some are vocal skeptics. “Both camps, with a few exceptions, have a single, deep, and often fatal flaw that severely compromises the value of their work,” McChesney writes. “That flaw, simply put, is ignorance about really existing capitalism and an underappreciation of how capitalism dominates social life. . . . Both camps miss the way capitalism defines our times and sets the terms for understanding not only the Internet, but most everything else of a social nature, including politics, in our society.”

And he adds: “The profit motive, commercialism, public relations, marketing, and advertising — all defining features of contemporary corporate capitalism — are foundational to any assessment of how the Internet has developed and is likely to develop.”

Concerns about the online world often fixate on cutting-edge digital tech. But, as McChesney points out, “the criticism of out-of-control technology is in large part a critique of out-of-control commercialism. The loneliness, alienation, and unhappiness sometimes ascribed to the Internet are also associated with a marketplace gone wild.”

Discourse about the Internet often proceeds as if digital technology has some kind of mind or will of its own. It does not.

For the most part, what has gone terribly wrong in digital realms is not about the technology. I often think of what Herbert Marcuse wrote in his 1964 book One-Dimensional Man: “The traditional notion of the ‘neutrality’ of technology can no longer be maintained. Technology as such cannot be isolated from the use to which it is put; the technological society is a system of domination which operates already in the concept and construction of techniques.”

Marcuse saw the technological as fully enmeshed with the political in advanced industrial society, “the latest stage in the realization of a specific historical project – namely, the experience, transformation, and organization of nature as the mere stuff of domination.” He warned that the system’s productivity and growth potential contained “technical progress within the framework of domination.”

Fifty years later, McChesney’s book points out:

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