Thought Crimes

think-2967821_1280

Katie Aguilera

Recently, an article entitled “Conspiracy theorist given important role in reviewing child deaths,” written by Molly Young, was published on the Oregonian’s OregonLive website.  The article discusses the social media activity and public advocacy actions of Jennifer Wynhausen, an employee of Oregon Department of Human Services.  The point of the article seems to be that Wynhausen’s behaviors make her suitability for her job questionable.

This article is a follow-up piece to another OregonLive article, also written by Young, that discussed how the Oregon Department of Human Services lacks transparency and fails to issue reports in cases of children who die as the result of abuse and neglect.  That article was certainly excellent reporting about a very important and troubling issue.  However, Young’s second article reads like a personal attack that essentially accuses Wynhausen of committing thought crimes.

In case you don’t know, thought crime is a reference from George Orwell’s book Nineteen Eighty-Four.  In that book, they are the “criminal act of holding unspoken beliefs or doubts that oppose or question Ingsoc, the ruling party.”

So what thought crimes has this “conspiracy theorist,” Jennifer Wynhausen, that Young writes about committed?  “Wynhausen expressed support for activists who questioned the [9/11] attacks and opposed the military response to them.”  She shared a video in which Jesse Ventura “criticized the federal government for spending so little on investigating the attacks.”  And, “she often questioned the political motives of both Republicans and Democrats…”

The article does describe other thought crimes Wynhausen is guilty of that most people would consider pretty far out there. For example, she liked a video that suggests a government research project caused the earthquake in Haiti in 2010, among other things.

The article offers no evidence that any beliefs Wynhausen holds about any subject matter, whacky or not, have had any effect on her job performance.   However, the article seems to imply Wynhausen’s behavior makes her unsuitable for her position with the Department of Human Services.

The Oregonian spent some time pouring through Wynhausen’s social media history.  Young concludes her article by describing a shirt Wynhausen expressed an interest in.  The shirt says, “I have a beautiful daughter.  I also have a gun, a shovel, and an alibi.”  According to Young, Wynhausen wrote, “I need one of these,” in reference to the shirt.  Young writes, “within weeks, she [Wynhausen] was managing the state’s child fatality reviews.”

When an ordinary public employee likes what is just a variation of an old joke, that’s a problem and she should lose her job.  When the president of the United States makes what is essentially the same joke, it’s hysterically funny.  (“I’ve got two words for you, Predator drones.”  Hahaha.)

The article is disturbing for all these reasons.  To think every single action taken on one’s social media accounts could be considered cause to question one’s job qualifications, mental competence, or character is alarming.  It is also concerning that expressing dissent to empirical war and questioning the 9/11 Commission’s narrative about the attacks are considered cause for public shaming by anyone in journalism.  Perhaps that is the line of reasoning that is to blame for the lack of extensive reporting on the many, many facts that have emerged about the attacks and related history since September 11, 2001.  (No, I’m not talking about holograms and controlled demolition here, see below for more resources.)

This isn’t to suggest that social media posts are never an indication of a person’s mental state or their potential to commit violent behavior.  They certainly can be, as has been seen in countless cases.  But questioning the actions of one’s government, or liking or sharing weird or unconventional theories, is far from hate speech.  It shouldn’t be considered proof of unstable mental health without more corroborating, real-world indications.

In addition to writing about Wynhausen, Young also writes about another activist, Jon Gold, in what can only be read as a disparaging way.  Young wrote, “Wynhausen met with outspoken 9/11 doubter Jon Gold…Gold runs several social media pages dedicated to Sept. 11 ‘truth’ and ‘justice’ and believes the U.S. government has withheld evidence about its role in the attacks.”  Gold posted a response in the comment section of Young’s article, but it was removed.

Gold posted his comment publicly, and also sent it to Young.  He also sent a letter to the editor.  Gold’s entire comment can be read here.  He wrote, “I’ve done my absolute best to try and be supportive of the 9/11 Families seeking truth, accountability and justice, in a court of law.  Many of the families have KSA [Kingdom of Saudi Arabia] in the courts as we speak.”  He goes on to discuss his anti-war advocacy and his advocacy for 9/11 first responders.  Gold concludes with, “these are all good things in my mind.  And yet, you tried to use me in an effort to try and paint Jennifer in a bad light.  I just wanted you to know.”

Gold also attempted to post the contents of his letter to the editor on the OregonLive article comment section in which he wrote, “as for Jennifer, I don’t agree with everything she says but who does agree with everything someone has to say?  People are entitled to their beliefs.  If a person’s beliefs are skewed, use information to help someone with their beliefs, don’t try to take away someone’s job because of them.”  His second comment never posted to the site.

In response to an emailed question as to why Gold’s comments were not posted to the comment section, the Oregonian stated, “we in the newsroom are not in charge of monitoring comments on our news stories and deciding which go public. Our company hires a third-party firm that specializes in moderating comments to ensure they comply with web site terms of use.”  It is unclear what terms of use Gold’s comments may have violated.

The Oregonian also published a significantly edited version of Gold’s letter to the editor in a Sunday edition of their print newspaper.  It can be found online here.   A comment from Gold does appear in the comment section of another letter to the editor posted on OregonLive on December 1, 2018, that expresses disapproval for Young’s article.  To date, Gold says he has received no response from Young or the Oregonian and his original comment doesn’t appear on the site.

So, move along.  Don’t question anything your government does.  Or some newspaper will write a scathing report about you, calling into question your character and your suitability for your unrelated job.  You will be publicly shamed for daring to oppose the actions of those in power.  And the ease of internet censorship will ensure any defense of yourself goes unnoticed by the masses.

That’s always worked out so well throughout history.

******

Update: 12/11/2018 8:59 a.m.  This has been updated to note that Gold’s edited letter to the editor has been published on OregonLive.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am acquainted with Jon Gold, I consider him a friend, and I have previously written about his book, We Were Lied to About 9/11.

 

*If you want to know more about why I question the official narrative of the September 11, 2001 attacks and related history, I recommend the following books and websites, for a start.

The Watchdogs Didn’t Bark by John Duffy and Ray Nowosielsksi

Who Is Rich Blee?, Duffy and Nowosielski’s interview with former counter-terrorism czar, Richard Clarke.

9/11 Press For Truth, documentary film by Nowosielski and Duffy

Disconnecting the Dots:  How 9/11 Was Allowed to Happen by Kevin Fenton

Triple Cross:  How Bin Laden’s Master Spy Penetrated the CIA, The Green Berets, and the FBI and Cover Up:  What the Government is Still Hiding About the War on Terror by Peter Lance.

The Commission:  the Uncensored History of the 9/11 Investigation by Philip Shenon

We Were Lied to About 9/11:  the Interviews by Jon Gold.  The interviews are also available to listen to on YouTube.  The first one can be found here.

28pages.org

historycommons.org

floridabulldog.org

 

Image courtesy of Pixabay

 

Advertisements

Broken

 

glass-984457_1920

America, we are broken.  Own it.

 

So, what are we to do?  Scream at each other in the streets?  Gun each other down in our places of worship and education?  Bomb each other?  Run cars over each other?  Should we barricade ourselves in basements and dark rooms, armed with multiple guns and a computer to spew more fear and divisive hatred at each other from the safe, impersonal distance of the internet?  Curl up in a ball and wait for the inevitable new civil war to come and go and hope to survive?  Is that what we really want?

No?

Then stop acting like it.

Step out onto the street.  Shake the hands of your neighbors.  Look people in the eyes.  Keep your phones in your pockets and interact with people in real life because social media doesn’t represent reality.  Help strangers.  Welcome them into your life.  Forget your biases and truly listen to each other.  Hear each other’s stories.  Remember everything you have ever stood for, fought for, sacrificed for, taken a knee for, worked for, and loved.  Then accept that others have done so too for reasons different than your own.  Accept it and tolerate it.

We are more than our politicians.  We are more than political parties.  We are more than our religions, our races, our genders.  We are humans, and only our humanity can fix us.  So own it.

America, it’s time.

STOP THE HATE.

**********

Image courtesy of Pixabay.

Meanwhile, In Yemen…

yemen-2132697_1920

Katie Aguilera

It is being reported that at least 33 people have been killed in Yemen as the result of Saudi-led coalition strikes that hit a wedding on Sunday, April 22, 2018.  This comes just days after 20 civilians were killed when the vehicle they were traveling in was hit by another Saudi-led coalition airstrike.

But that’s okay, it wasn’t chemical-laden weapons that killed these civilians.  These were weapons likely sold to the Saudis by the US and the UK.  So don’t worry about it when Reuters reports:

“The head of Al Jumhouri hospital in Hajjah told Reuters by telephone that the hospital had received 40 bodies, most of them torn to pieces, and that 46 people had been injured, including 30 children, in air strikes that hit a wedding gathering.”

Or this:

“The attack hit a car transporting 20 passengers south of Taiz province, locals told Reuters. Six bodies had been identified but the rest were charred beyond recognition, they added.”

Let’s just continue to allow the US and UK to sell Saudi Arabia weapons.  Let’s continue to refuel their warplanes so they can keep dropping those bombs.  I mean, just think of the profits.  And, let’s continue to help the Saudi-led coalition select its targets because clearly that’s working.

Don’t worry that the United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterras has stated that Yemen is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.  “As the conflict enters its fourth year, more than 22 million people—three quarters of the population—need humanitarian aid and protection.”  Don’t worry about the starvation, the cholera and diarrhea, the six children under the age of five that die from preventable causes every hour.  Just don’t pay any attention at all to what Gutteras has to say.

“Civilians have been facing indiscriminate attacks, bombing, snipers, unexploded ordnance, cross-fire, kidnapping, rape and arbitrary detention.”

But that’s okay.  It’s our ally committing many of these atrocities after all.  So, don’t worry about it.

Image courtesy of pixabay.com

 

US national security focus to shift

Katie Aguilera

In an address at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies on January 19, 2018, US Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, discussed details of the first National Defense Strategy to be drafted in a decade.  Mattis stated that terrorism will no longer be the main focus of US security.

“…with great power competition between nations becoming a reality again, though we will continue to prosecute the campaign against terrorists that we’re engaged in today, but great power competition, not terrorism, is now the primary focus of US national security.”

The unclassified summary of the National Defense Strategy, or NDS, makes it very clear who these great powers are.  It states “China is a strategic competitor using predatory economics to intimidate its neighbors while militarizing features in the South China Sea. Russia has violated the borders of nearby nations and pursues veto power over the economic, diplomatic, and security decisions of its neighbors. As well, North Korea’s outlaw actions and reckless rhetoric continue despite United Nation’s censure and sanctions. Iran continues to sow violence and remains the most significant challenge to Middle East stability. Despite the defeat of ISIS’s physical caliphate, threats to stability remain as terrorist groups with long reach continue to murder the innocent and threaten peace more broadly.”

The NDS is peppered with language that demonstrates the desire for US global dominance.  It states that the Department of Defense will “be prepared to defend the homeland, remain the preeminent military power in the world, ensure the balances of power remain in our favor, and advance an international order that is most conducive to our security and prosperity.”

Apparently, the war hawks are feeling the need to remind the world that the US is the mightiest great power, and is willing to do whatever it takes to defend its empire.  After all, these competing great powers have been building up their strength for years while the US has been eroding its own in Afghanistan and Iraq (and everywhere else).  Mattis warned, “if you challenge us, it will be your longest and worst day.”

What could go wrong?

******************

If you would like to support my work, please click here.

That Twitter Email

Screenshot_20180120-135215~2

This is a portion of an email that was in my (and many others’) inbox this morning.  My first reaction was, no big deal.  I have no doubt I’ve encountered any number of bot accounts (Russian or otherwise) on Twitter.  I am constantly following stories and topics that expose some of the things our government does wrong, and has vested interest in keeping out of sight.  The sort of stories a foreign government wishing to sow dissent within our nation would undoubtedly want to push on social media.

War, protest, surveillance, injustice…

I also know that I have been susceptible many times to social media memes that are considered anti-government because I happen to disagree with many of the things my government is doing, both here and abroad.  And, I do question the established, official narrative more often than not.  This leads me down many strange internet paths.

After thinking about this email more, however, I find it to be more than a little disturbing.  It’s like an early warning of greater surveillance to come.  A sort of, “we know who you’ve been talking to and what you’ve been talking about,” message, and if I’m not careful in the future, that can be used against me.

As if to warn me away from disagreeing with anything the government does, or agreeing with anyone who presents opinions or ideas that oppose the government approved narrative.  As if to warn me that my activity on social media is monitored 24/7 for any sign of treason.

Not that it comes as a surprise that any (all) social media activity is monitored.  This email that so many received this morning is just such a friendly reminder of that fact.  An officially sanctioned admission of that fact.

*******************

If you would like to support my work, please click here.

Protest On Trial: Six defendants arrested during Disrupt J20 protests on Inauguration Day fighting felony charges in court

riot-41342_1280

Katie Aguilera

On November 20, 2017, trial began in Washington DC superior court for six defendants arrested during the protests that took place on Inauguration Day.  More than 200 people were arrested that day after a small number of protesters clashed with police, smashed windows, and committed other acts of property destruction.  Six police were injured, and an estimated $100,000.00 in damage resulted from the violence.

The six now on trial are the first of over 200 arrested on Inauguration day who have all been charged with felonies.  Those charges include conspiracy to riot, engaging in a riot, inciting a riot, and multiple property damage charges, and come with a maximum ten-year prison sentence for each count.  Some have already pleaded guilty to lesser charges and some have had the charges dropped.  But nearly 200 people still face felony convictions, and possible 60-year sentences, if found guilty.

The prosecution in this first trial has made it clear they don’t intend to prove that any of the six defendants personally caused any property damage or injury, but rather that all who face charges are guilty because they are all collectively responsible for the actions of a few.  US Attorney Jennifer Kerkhoff said in her opening statement, “though there is no evidence the defendants caused any of the damage directly, the government considers the entire group of protesters to be responsible.”

 “The prosecution is pursuing a somewhat unusual strategy: Rather than trying to prove that any of individual defendant was personally guilty of destruction, prosecutors are arguing that all demonstrators present that day were aware and supportive of the violent intentions of the others.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Kerkhoff, in her comments, has repeatedly referred to the ‘black bloc tactics’ of the protesters as part of a message that everyone participating in the protest came with either the intention to commit violence or the knowledge that violence was part of the plan.”

Ashraf Khalil, Associated Press November 21, 2017

The government is arguing that all of the defendants conspired to cause the violence and rioting, regardless of whether they participated in any advance planning.  They argue that the defendants intended for the property destruction and violence to occur even if they didn’t cause damage themselves.  They argue that by continuing to move together down the street as some in their midst engaged in criminal behavior, everyone arrested became responsible for the resulting damage.

This idea of collective liability is what makes this trial so important, and all Americans should be paying attention.  The mere act of charging so many, with the possibility of such severe punishment, threatens to stifle legitimate protest and first amendment activity.  If exercising one’s right to peacefully protest comes with the risk of felony charges for the criminal behavior of others, many will opt to stay home.  If these six are convicted, it sets a very dangerous precedent.

Kris Hermes, an organizer of a support group for the defendants called Defend J20, is quoted in the Washington Post as saying, “what the government is saying to us is, dissent is not an acceptable form of expression in this country, and if you choose to go out on the street and express yourself, then you risk being arrested and seriously prosecuted.”

Eoin Higgins wrote in an October 25, 2017 article for the Intercept, “by charging everyone together with conspiracy counts, the government seems intent on making an example of the J20 protesters.”  He also writes, “that the government’s case does not differentiate between actors and bystanders could be an indication of future clampdowns on protest.”

There are other very important aspects of this case, such as the tactics used during the arrests, the arrests of journalists covering the protests, the methods of evidence gathering employed in the months after the arrests, etc.  But the very fact that these defendants face these charges when there is no evidence they personally caused any damage should have us all very concerned.  Any threat to an individual’s first amendment right is a threat to all of our first amendment rights.

Image courtesy of pixabay.com

The Trouble With Today

 

cereals-100263_1920Katie Aguilera

Veterans Day is hard for me.  I am not a veteran.  I’m not close with very many veterans.  And, I don’t believe we should be fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, and all the other places around the world where we have troops active.  But, I care very much for all the lives affected by war.  So, the trouble with today is how to express that care without celebrating or glorifying war and militarism?

A simple “thank you for your service” feels hollow, it doesn’t feel genuine.  Because, I don’t feel thankful for what my country is doing around the world with its military.  I do, however, feel immense gratitude for people who are willing to serve their communities and countries, in large and small ways.

Some say that opposing the war on terror somehow suggests that those who have died fighting died for nothing.  I myself have felt this, a heart-breaking sadness that young men and women have died senseless deaths for no good reason.  I don’t believe that anymore, though the sadness is no less heart-breaking.  I don’t believe soldiers have died fighting over there to protect my freedoms.  I do believe that soldiers die, not for nothing, but rather for each other.

I don’t know how to make peace with all the lives lost to those caught in the middle.  I don’t know how to make peace with the fact that our Congress refuses to do anything to bring this war on terror to an end.  I don’t know how to make peace with the apathy of the American public, who largely seems to forget we are still at war.  But, I make peace with Veterans Day by reflecting back to the original intent of creating a holiday on November 11th.

The cessation of hostilities of World War I officially ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918.  A year later, November 11th was declared Armistice Day in commemoration of that.  The war to end all wars was over, and the world celebrated peace.  President Woodrow Wilson stated, “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…”

On May 13, 1938, Armistice Day became an official holiday, “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace.”  In 1954, the name of the holiday was changed to Veterans Day to honor those who served in World War II and the war in Korea as well World War I.

Veterans For Peace states,

“Almost a hundred years ago the world celebrated peace as a universal principal. The first World War had just ended and nations mourning their dead collectively called for an end to all wars. Armistice Day was born and was designated as “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated.”

After World War II, the U.S. Congress decided to rebrand November 11 as Veterans Day. Honoring the warrior quickly morphed into honoring the military and glorifying war. Armistice Day was flipped from a day for peace into a day for displays of militarism.”

In today’s world of never-ending conflict, it’s hard to imagine celebrating genuine world peace.  But today, Veterans Day, to all who have served and are serving in the military, I pray you have a day of peace.  For the world, I pray we find the courage to put a stop to the fighting.

 

Image courtesy of Pixabay.com

 

If you enjoyed this article and would like to support the author, click here.