Paradise of Storm

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Obama and the Free Press, or, Why Are Pigeons Everywhere

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by Guy Walker

After half an hour of comic relapses and festal banter at last week’s Correspondents’ Dinner, President Obama broke into a ten minute eulogy about the importance of a free press. It was serious, heartfelt, earning applause and an agreeable rhythm of nodding heads, everyone concluding that indeed they and Obama are essentially a single effulgent team of transparency and courage. Obama reassured the audience (which consisted of reporters, actors, and Kendall Jenner), “Our free press is why we once again recognize the real journalists who uncover the horrifying scandal and brought some measure of justice to thousands of victims throughout the world.” Maybe they’re a little tough on Obama sometimes, he later referred to, but this is testament to a healthy potent democracy. He can jab at them, they can jab at him, and consequently, they are the freest most sterling State in the world.

But there’s a problem. During Obama’s presidency, more whistleblowers and official leakers have been prosecuted under the 1917 Espionage Act than during all previous presidents combined. The Espionage Act was of course proposed by then President Woodrow Wilson, shortly after the US entry into World War I, in order to wage a war on spies. But under Obama’s watch, they were whistleblowers, not spies. There was Thomas Drake, a former senior executive at the NSA, who shared classified information with the press regarding the warrantless surveillance of American citizens. Stephen Jin-Woo Kim was a nuclear proliferation specialist working for the State Department, and handed intelligence about North Korea over to Fox News. John Kiriakou, a former CIA agent, gave journalists the names of two colleagues who used waterboarding to interrogate detainees. Shami Leibowitz, a former FBI Hebrew translator, leaked FBI wiretaps of the Israeli embassy to a blogger. Chelsea Manning leaked 700,000 government documents to Wikileaks, the most notable of which was a video of American Apache helicopters killing a dozen innocents, including two Reuters reporters and then the first responders. Jeffrey Sterling, also a former CIA officer, leaked classified information to a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. Edward Snowden, of course, handed a mass of data on the NSA surveillance program over to Glenn Greenwald. Again, the 1917 Espionage Act was designed to prosecute spies—those, as Woodrow Wilson stated, who were “born under other flags”—not those who handed information over to journalists about the scandalous and sometimes nefarious work of their own government.

But President Obama continued, personally commending Jason Rezaian, the Iranian-American journalist who wrote for The Washington Post, who was jailed for nearly two years on accusations of espionage: “Last time this year we spoke of Jason’s courage as he endured the isolation of an Iranian prison. This year we see that courage in the flesh, and it’s living testament to the very idea of a free press, and a reminder of the rising level of danger and political intimidation and physical threats faced by reporters overseas. And I can make this commitment that as long as I hold this office, my administration will continue to fight for the release of American journalists held against their will, and we will not stop until they see the same freedom as Jason had.”

Supporting Rezaian’s release from an Iranian jail is obvious and banal. It’s political-speak, an easy reference that’s confident for a round of applause. What about other journalists? What about the case of Yemeni investigative journalist, Abdulelah Haider Shaye?

Shaye discovered that a remote village in Yemen was bombed by US-made Tomahawk missiles and cluster bombs (neither of which were a part of the Yemeni military’s arsenal), killing fourteen women and twenty-one children, and quite possibly not a single AQAP (Al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula) operative. And yet Shaye was consequently imprisoned under suspicious circumstances. After a sham trial, Shaye’s supporters pressured the Yemeni government to release him, and he was set to be pardoned; but on February 2, 2011, President Obama called Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, and “expressed concern” over his release, resulting in the continued imprisonment of the journalist for exposing the US involvement in the bombing of a Yemeni village.

To Obama’s credit, he did specify that he would continue to fight for American journalists, not Yemeni. But this is clearly not a matter of a truly free press, but rather that of political clout. The rule is: if you matter enough, we won’t prosecute you. David Patraeus, for example, gave his biographer and lover Paula Broadwell notebooks full of classified information, but was merely charged with a misdemeanor. Former CIA director and defense secretary Leon Panetta allowed Zero Dark Thirty filmmakers access to the savory details about the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in 2011. It’s the same reason President Obama never even sought prosecution of the major bankers responsible for the 2008 financial collapse, why former Attorney General Eric Holder admitted “some of these institutions [become] so large that it does become difficult to prosecute them,” only to return to the corporate law firm Covington & Burling immediately following his tenure with the Obama administration. Abacus Federal Savings Bank, an insignificant family-owned bank in New York’s Chinatown, jammed between two noodle shops, was the only bank indicted. It’s the same reason four Blackwater mercenaries were finally sentenced last year for the Nisour Square massacre, but the founder of the company, Erik Prince, will likely never be held accountable. Or why the guards at Abu Ghraib were sentenced for their torture methods but Donald Rumsfeld was not. There is priority and privilege at work. To be a significant enough of a player is to work with almost complete impunity.

Unfortunately, this is nothing new. And the problem surely doesn’t entirely fall onto Obama’s shoulders. It was here all along.

In a lecture Noam Chomsky gave on March 15, 1989, entitled “Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media,” he spoke of two very different, yet strikingly similar cases of freedom of the press. The first being the famous case of Salman Rushdie and his novel Satanic Verses. At the time, then Supreme Leader of Iran issued a fatwa calling for the death of Rushdie and his publishers for printing such beastly words. A couple days before Chomsky’s lecture, the Prime Minister of Iran proposed that a compromise could be made, and if all of the copies of the heinous book were to be burned then the fatwa would presumably be revoked.

The second case Chomsky referred to was one that he was personally involved in. A book he co-authored in 1974 with Edward Herman (who also co-authored the book Manufacturing Consent with Chomsky) about American foreign policy and mass media, was published by a subsidiary of Warner Communications Incorporated. When an executive at Warner saw he book, he disliked it so much he responded by pulping not just all 20,000 copies that were published, but all books published by that subsidiary, ending the company entirely. Chomsky grimly jokes that the only difference between the Rushdie case and his own is that Warner actually carried it out.

A free press is always in jeopardy by its own limitations, by the actors of secrets, power, and worship. This is larger than President Obama. Hegel’s dialectical “power of negation” is clearly at work—that is, opposites do not cancel or neutralize each other, but rather develop into one another until they are both monstrous bodies of unrecognizable flesh. The more whistleblowers there are exposing its governments’ various libidinal affairs with autocracy, the more the government will crack down on whistleblowers, and the more whistleblowers will counter and expose. And on and on, until there is nothing left but beige flattened forms of scandal, and the rest of us just a herd of troglodytic squatters on American soil. It’s the free press that lets us live, the free press that lets us breed and spread across the universe. Kendall Jenner and Will Smith applauding that liberty is still with us. It takes us back to the old question: why are pigeons everywhere if they’re so stupid? Because they love trash.

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Chancroidial Proof that Seth Rogen is Kim Jong Un

by Guy Walker

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The image is always the same. A squalid, yet verdurous Bethlehem, gentle and peaceful in its scenery, peasants pulling creaking wooden carts full of hardened breads, dead birds, and sinless obedient children covered in the mire of prayer and utter boredom. The town bells ring. A dove farts, then flies away under the parting clouds. Everyone is preparing in their forgetful timid ways, for another Jewish baby to be born. But this isn’t just any Jewish baby. This baby’s mother swears her and her husband don’t fuck. Rumors spread throughout the country that indeed she is quite prudish, and so the lonely oligarchs come with presents, and the stars shine a little brighter for us this night.

The birth of Jesus was indeed significant for many reasons. For instance, time began. For another, centuries of war and hatred and overall misery began not in the name of healthy animalistic impulse, but rather in the name of love. Another: Starbucks, Best Buy, K Mart, and many other doloric laboratories of perpetual grief sell several times their regular numbers around the time of his designated birth, as if to say, Another country peasant was born. Let’s buy stuff! Christmas is good for us. Many 16-year-old girls in Calabasas were just gifted their first of many BMW’s. Many women in Newport Beach were given new tits. My cat ate a special dinner of wet food instead of his regular dry food. But as important as all this is, the birth of Jesus is still a secondary abstract peroration in the line of a happy and free society; it’s a trifling stroke in the historic strength of the first world. America’s freedom has recently been jeopardized—North Korea has tried to take our movies away. Prominent leaders in the first world have been recently seen chanting in the streets of Hollywood, throwing crumpled napkins at the clouds, protesting the trauma caused to them by Kim Jong Un and the alleged Guardians of Peace—the cyberhackers who compromised the private information of thousands of Sony Corporation employees. Jesus can’t save us! they chant, but Seth Rogen sure can! I toured the famous avenues today, as I do everyday, hopping on every star on the Walk of Fame like it was happy celebrity hopscotch. Then I took a photo with Superman and giggled with all the cute Japanese girls as we took three thousand selfies with an extended pole. And all the stars were out. Not Jesus’s guiding stars, and not the Walk of Fame stars—the real movie stars, in their naked morbid flesh. They were having an event, waving a tremendous banner that read, “Freedom of Speech Against Kim Jong Un and his Little Dick.” Everyone was there, sucking each other, smiling, never not smiling, waving at the flashing cameras. It was a chancroidial fetid nightmare—thousands of assholes and armpits and tongues intermingling. Everyone quite literally had a very brown nose. Brett Ratner had his face plunged into Spielberg’s graying butt hair, licking it ferociously, Spielberg giggling uncontrollably, clawing at the piss-stained gum-matted sidewalk. Ro-gen! the masses of groping famous bodies chanted. Ro-gen! We’re just women and men, and we love Seth Ro-gen!

Seth Rogen is the writer, director, and star of the feature film The Interview, currently amidst much international controversy around the issues of censorship and freedom of speech. A national outcry has erupted over whether or not the Canadian high school dropout can release his movie, something even President Obama has expressed much concern over, even considering whether or not to return North Korea to the terror watch list. But Rogen is one of those strange diabolically misshapen lackeys of life who cannot actually summon enough comedy to be controversial. He’s a lightweight comedian at best, but he is still very much overweight. When you see him speak and then make the grunting gestures of laughter at his own jokes, you can almost taste his lonely nihilism pushing out with the tears of his sweat. Seth Rogen has the ugliest laugh in the history of the world. I want to pee on him. We laugh because he’s the fat kid in school we don’t want to go on a rampage because he didn’t get enough attention, a dismal L’Heautontimoroumenos who masturbated too many times to feel anything anymore.

The wry irony in the outcry over Rogen’s movie is that while we Americans refuse to be censored by another overweight imperious Korean man, we don’t stir much dour opposition over Edward Snowden’s compulsory expatriation for exposing the NSA’s massive domestic spying program, or Chelsea Manning’s thirty-five year imprisonment for his release of American military warcrimes, or Julian Assange’s indefinite asylum for his evangelical testament for freedom of the press.

We go to the movies to spend an hour and a half watching someone with a more fantastic life than ours. The very act of going to the movies is a fervent inveigling drama that we are blue miasmic animals, so tired of this life of ours. It’s the ultimate nihilism. But it’s not all that different from laying on your back in the dirt, staring at the stars, wondering what this life is all about. It’s beautiful in a way, until you realize you’re not the attractive man winning on the huge screen. Even writing is a contentious business—I have created far more enemies than friends through the written word—and of all the inflammatory nightmares I have dreamt up, my mom finally said I need to start being a man of grace. Last night I had a dream about Rimbaud, but he was such aggravating company, he just drank and threw bottles at me. I don’t know what that’s supposed to mean, but I do know that writers are the worst of hypocrites—they don’t actually live. Every twenty-something year old with a stupid hat standing in line for an art opening with a title of something like “Illegal Paradise is Upon Us,” will mechanically quote their Nietzsche, so desperately trying to convince us they might be something of a serious intellectual themselves. Live Dangerously! Nietzsche declared, as he literally chained himself to his desk, forcing himself not to live, but to write. He slept with one woman in his whole flaccid desolate life—a whore, who he contracted syphilis from. Writers are awful creatures. That’s why Seth Rogen is a writer.

Hollywood’s own hypocrisy is beyond measure. They happily mock North Korea for their poor Orwellian idealism, representing the entire society as having not a single independent thought, no passionate loves, no heartbreak or tragic wonder, no lonely squalid nights that send us to the edge of life. But they refuse to discuss it in interviews, or sign petitions, just as they refuse to recognize the iniquitous genocide of the Palestinians, afraid their own pallid lachrymose careers will end in a cold wind. But we’re all guilty. We’ve all snorted too much horse tranquilizer in too many cold florescent bathrooms, that our smiles become weak fixtures of happiness—we stand under the buzzing city lights in the middle of the night, frantic for some fried chicken, not knowing that eventually we’re going to screw it all up.

In 1945, when Korea was liberated from decades of Japanese rule, there was overwhelming support from within Korea itself to be unified and self-governed. Russia came down from the north, the United States came from the south, and they met roughly at the 45th parallel with ensuing violence and almost a million and a half dead. Dropping 800 tons of bombs a day, the United States dropped more napalm and bombs on North Korea than they did in all of the Pacific during WWII. U.S. Air Force General Curtis LeMay stated, “we went over there and fought the war and eventually burned down every town in North Korea anyway, some way or another, and some in South Korea too.” In the later stages of the war, because the United States had destroyed every meaningful military and communication target in North Korea, they began bombing a series of hydroelectric dams—which is a serious warcrime in itself—killing unnumbered Korean peasants, flooding and destroying all food crops, and wiping out the entire power grid in North Korea for two weeks.

The Interview may just be another routine comedy, another gilded masturbation that will be completely forgotten in a few years. But it might not be. If we look deep into the bilious heart of it, we can unlock Seth Rogen’s fustian contention. In Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, he highlights that the world itself cannot be a collection of things, but rather of facts. Our day-to-day is one great fetid orgy, interacting with laws and effects. I desire a woman’s marvelous body not because of her breasts and curves and sensual drama as things of themselves, but rather because the erotic fact of beauty makes it so. If we read deep enough into his Philosophicus, we realize the frightening truth about Seth Rogen: “The specification of all true elementary propositions describes the world completely. The world is completely described by the specification of all elementary propositions plus the specification, which of them are true and which are false…With regard to the existence to n atomic facts there are Kn = SUMMATION(v=0 to n, binom-coeff(n over v))  possibilities.” Meaning Seth Rogen could be anything, any queer monster we were too afraid dream of. If we plug “Seth Rogen” into n atomic facts, we find our definitive answer: Seth Rogen is in fact Kim Jong Un himself—fat and relishing and always laughing at his own traumatic existence.

After its first week after release, The Interview is the highest grossing online movie of all time. The despondent calamity of Kim Jong Un spreads throughout the terrible bleak countryside, and Seth Rogen picks his nose and chuckles.

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