Why Is New York City Planning to Sell and Shrink Its Libraries?

Defend our libraries, don't defund them. . . . . fund 'em, don't plunder 'em

Mayor Bloomberg defunded New York libraries at a time of increasing public use, population growth and increased city wealth, shrinking our library system to create real estate deals for wealthy real estate developers at a time of cutbacks in education and escalating disparities in opportunity. It’s an unjust and shortsighted plan that will ultimately hurt New York City’s economy and competitiveness.

It should NOT be adopted by those we have now elected to pursue better policies.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

With Scathing “Perpetual War Letter” Email William Arkin Self-exiles Himself From NBC (And the Rest of Corporate Mainstream) Thus Adding Himself To Our List Of Journalists Similarly Absent Or Banished Because of Their Views

Just a few weeks ago, we added Marc Lamont Hill, fired from CNN for expressing views sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians, to our:
List of Journalists Fired or Self-exiled From Mainstream Media Outlets Because They Expressed or Wanted to Express Views (Like Being Critical of U.S. Wars) Unacceptable to the Outlets They Were Working For.
We have also recently been busy updating our list of importantly catalytic books that have been suppressed:
Books As Catalysts In A World Where Information And Points of View Are Often Suppressed.
Now with his dramatic publication of what has been termed his “Perpetual War Letter” email, journalist William M. Arkin has exiled himself from NBC and the rest of the mainstream, corporately-owned media, at least for now with his 2,228-word farewell “blistering critique” of what he calls “perpetual war” and the “creeping fascism of homeland security.”

Arkin’s letter, a fascinating read, is a lot to absorb and it helps to go beyond the letter itself in figuring out exactly what his departure means and just how incompatible with corporate mainstream media the things he is saying now make him.   Listening to his interview on Democracy Now is particularly valuable in this regard.  On Democracy Now Arkin was clear his critique “applies to all of the mainstream networks,” CNN, Fox, etc, not just NBC.  And Arkin said he wanted to “step back” and “think about how we can end this era of perpetual war and how we can build some real security, both in the United States and abroad.”  See: Longtime Reporter Leaves NBC Saying Media Is “Trump Circus” That Encourages Perpetual War, January 09, 2019.

That Arkin is a critic of “perpetual war” and the “creeping fascism of homeland security” seems to be one of the key, agreed upon takes to characterize his departure (media columnist Brian Stelter works that pronouncement in as paragraph seven of what he wrote for CNN), however Democracy Now’s blunt summary that Arkin was accusing the national media itself of “warmongering” is probably fair and on target, certainly worth thinking about.

Perpetual War and Warmongering

In his letter Arkin says he’s “proud to say that” he “was one of the few to report that there weren’t any WMD in Iraq and remember fondly presenting that conclusion to an incredulous NBC editorial board” and he says:
I find it disheartening that we do not report the failures of the generals and national security leaders. I find it shocking that we essentially condone continued American bumbling in the Middle East and now Africa through our ho-hum reporting.  
On Democracy Now Arkin pointed out that in the last year the United States has been bombing nine countries, ten if you include all of the U.S. participation in the bombing of Yemen, the other nine countries being: Mali, Niger, Somalia, Libya, and then, in the Middle East, it’s Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria.

Arkin wrote in his letter that he realized how “out of step” he was with his employer’s mainstream media reflexive support for war and conflict because of the way the network responded to Trump’s various “bumbling intuitions” toward possibly sometimes taking the U.S. in more peaceful directions, saying of Trump and the NBC response:
Of course he is an ignorant and incompetent impostor. And yet I’m alarmed at how quick NBC is to mechanically argue the contrary, to be in favor of policies that just spell more conflict and more war. Really? We shouldn’t get out Syria? We shouldn’t go for the bold move of denuclearizing the Korean peninsula?  Even on Russia, though we should be concerned about the brittleness of our democracy that it is so vulnerable to manipulation, do we really yearn for the Cold War?
Arkin likewise seems to feel for (his words) another president:
 poor Obama who couldn’t close Guantanamo or reduce nuclear weapons . . . because it was just so difficult.
Arkin’s letter says that, after Trump got elected, everything:
got sucked into the tweeting vortex, increasingly lost in a directionless adrenaline rush. . .  I would assert that in many ways NBC just began emulating the national security state itself – busy and profitable. No wars won but the ball is kept in play.
On Democracy Now, however, Arkin dated the cessation of responsible mainstream media coverage of this country’s war activities even earlier saying that something happened post-9/11 where the mainstream media’s coverage of war has been taken over by talking heads who are “former government officials,” and “retired generals,” whose voices replaced the points of view civilian experts on war like university professors who have been banished from the airwaves so that there is “shallower and shallower” coverage, “particularly in an area like national security” so that:
We’ve just become so shallow that we’re not really able even to see the truth, which is that we’re at war right now in nine countries around the world where we’re bombing, and we hardly report any of it on a day-to-day basis.
So, to me, the crisis is that we condone perpetual war by virtue of our lack of reporting and investigation, and then, second, we fill the airwaves or we fill the newspapers with stories about the immediate and don’t give an adequate amount of space to deeper investigations or what I would say would be net assessment investigations of what really is going on.
He told Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman:
the real crisis is that when we have a panel discussion on television, in the mainstream press, and even in the mainstream newspapers, we don’t populate that panel with people who are in opposition. We have a single war party in the United States, and it’s the only one that is given voice. And so, really, the crisis is not so much that there are experienced government officials speaking out; the problem is that there aren’t critics who are sitting next to them saying that “You’re full of it.” And so, to me, we need to balance that.
Worse, he said “because of the phenomenon of Donald Trump”:
what we see on TV now is former Obama administration officials masquerading as analysts who are nonpartisan, when in fact they are partisan. And indeed we see fewer retired generals and fewer retired admirals, who sometimes are useful in terms of explaining the profession of arms and the conduct of military operations, in favor of these political figures who have a partisan view.
Arkin refers to us as being in “hostage status as prisoners of Donald Trump.”

In his letter, Arkin said it was “clear that NBC (like the rest of the news media) could no longer keep up with the world.”  (Or at least, NBC and the rest apparently aren’t keeping up with the world.)   He went on to say about the “leaders and generals”:
To me there is also a larger problem: though they produce nothing that resembles actual safety and security, the national security leaders and generals we have are allowed to do their thing unmolested. Despite being at “war,” no great wartime leaders or visionaries are emerging. There is not a soul in Washington who can say that they have won or stopped any conflict. And though there might be the beloved perfumed princes in the form of the Petraeus’ and Wes Clarks’, or the so-called warrior monks like Mattis and McMaster, we’ve had more than a generation of national security leaders who sadly and fraudulently done little of consequence. And yet we (and others) embrace them, even the highly partisan formers who masquerade as “analysts”. We do so ignoring the empirical truth of what they have wrought: There is not one country in the Middle East that is safer today than it was 18 years ago. Indeed the world becomes ever more polarized and dangerous.
Although Arkin, finding it “disheartening that” the failures of “the generals and national security leaders” go unreported, is clearly calling for their military exploits to be examined skeptically and much more deeply by the press, who knows whether examination of the expensive ineffectuality that embroils us in perpetual wars would lead to the conclusion that such ineffectuality is wholly just incompetence or might even involve certain aspects of intentionality.  In figuring that out, it is relevant that Arkin says that, faced with how “perpetual war has become accepted as a given in our lives,” we need to “better understand” what is actually driving “terrorists” to fight, and notes how American “airpower” is the future and “the enabler and the tool of war today.”

Arkin’s letter speaks despairingly of how the NBC and other media coverage descends to a base “political horse race” narrative (sometimes as if the casualties of war are only those who suffer political defeats): “Rumsfeld vs. the Generals, as Wolfowitz vs. Shinseki, as the CIA vs. Cheney, as the bad torturers vs. the more refined, about numbers of troops and number of deaths.”

Creeping Fascism

While the above pretty much covers what Arkin expressed about “perpetual war,” there are also his not unrelated warnings offered about the “creeping fascism of homeland security.”

In his letter, Arkin listed Trump’s “attacks on the intelligence community and the FBI” among Trump's “bumbling intuitions” that are of likely merit, which Arkin says he was “alarmed” to see NBC “mechanically argue” against.  In his letter Arkin says he’d “argue that under Trump, the national security establishment not only hasn’t missed a beat but indeed has gained dangerous strength. Now it is ever more autonomous and practically impervious to criticism.”

On Democracy Now he referred to as the “crazy collateral damage of Donald Trump” that:
there are a lot of liberals in America who believe that the CIA and the FBI is going to somehow save the country from Donald Trump. Well, I’m sorry, I’m not a particular fan of either the CIA or the FBI. And the FBI, in particular, has a deplorable record in American society, from Martin Luther King and the peace movements of the 1960s all the way up through Wen Ho Lee and others who have been persecuted by the FBI. And there’s no real evidence that the FBI is either—is that competent of an institution, to begin with, in terms of even pursuing the prosecutions that it’s pursuing. But yet we lionize them. We hold them up on a pedestal, that somehow they are the truth tellers, that they’re the ones who are getting to the bottom of things, when there’s just no evidence that that’s the case.
At one point the Democracy Now discussion steered into the subject of the money being spent on the intelligence and surveillance industry and the huge percentage of the American population that owes its livelihood directly to the military and the surveillance industry.  In his letter, Arkin mentions his having written “about the increasing power of the national security community,” and how he produced “long before Trump and `deep state’ became an expression . .  .one ginormous investigation – Top Secret America – for the Washington Post (which he did working with Dana Priest-- it was also made into a PBS “Frontline” report) about the huge growth of resources being channeled into secret surveillance and intelligence.

“Ginormous” is also a good adjective for our nation's military spending, and especially the amount of money and resources going into surveillance and intelligence operations that we know little about and don't know the spending amounts associated with.

That military spending drives more military spending through a cycle of lobbying and drives the actual use of weapons (our arsenals of bombs dropped need to be replaced) is itself an important story and key insight.  What makes the spending on the part of the industry devoted to surveillance and the intelligence perhaps the most alarming part of this brew is the secrecy that prevents those numbers from being known and that prevents accountability as trillions of dollar slosh around unaccounted for.  In fact, government accounting standards have just been changed to make it acceptable to lie about how money is being spent for black ops.  You may be told that money is being spent for something that doesn't disturb you when it is really being spent on something else.  (For recent stories related to this see: Counterspin- ‘The Pentagon Has Steadfastly Stonewalled Against Making Its Budget Auditable’CounterSpin interview with Dave Lindorff on Pentagon budget fraud, Janine Jackson, December 14, 2018, Project Censored Show- Dave Lindorff Explores the Pentagon’s Financial Mysteries, December 11, 2018, and The Nation: Exclusive: The Pentagon’s Massive Accounting Fraud Exposed- How US military spending keeps rising even as the Pentagon flunks its audit, by Dave Lindorff, November 27, 2018.)
In his letter Arkin also notes that he wrote “a nasty book – American Coup – about the creeping fascism of homeland security.”

It should be noted that Arkin’s background was originally in Army intelligence.

On Democracy Now Arkin said that we’ve “shifted from the dominance of the military-industrial complex, if you will, to a much more insidious and much more difficult-to-diagnose information complex. . .” so that:
most people would be surprised to learn, for instance, that Amazon is one of the largest defense contractors, that they’re building the cloud and they’re building the data centers which support the intelligence community and support the military. And there are other civilian companies, that we associate with being civilians, who are also terrific beneficiaries of the military’s largesse.
(People wouldn’t be so surprised about that if they were reading what we are making available about the book industry-destroying Amazon– now coming engorged with subsidies to Queens–  at Citizens Defending Libraries.)

Arkin spoke about the increasingly insidious invisibility of it all, how “the national security state has the ability to do what they want to be doing autonomously, with very little intervention on the part of civil society,” because it’s “become more invisible as a result of the style of American warfare” that is now conducted with drones, airpower, space and cyber.

The “creeping fascism of homeland security”?  Arkin on Democracy Now said we may have been told “Homeland Security” was about “counterterrorism,” but:
    . .  we’ve seen they’re creeping into cybersecurity. We’ve seen them creeping into election security. We’ve seen ICE and TSA become the second and third largest federal law enforcement agencies in the country. And so, now homeland security sort of has become a domestic intelligence agency with really an unclear remit, really with broad powers that we don’t fully understand.
Arkin says “`Homeland security’ sounds a little bit brown-shirty to me.”

Arkin’s recent departure from NBC and mainstream media hasn’t lasted long enough for it to have yet stood the test of time.  Has he nevertheless said enough to qualify himself now as a legitimate exile from mainstream media who, like so many other journalists on our list, can’t return to jobs in mainstream media after expressing views that are problematic for that corporate conglomerate industry?  Most often the views of those exiled journalists are problematic in that they, like Arkin, are critical of the wars the United States wages.

Is it possible Arkin could ever return to mainstream media?  Arkin refers to his departure only as taking “a break.”  (And, as noted before, he also referred to it as taking “a step back.”)  Moreover he expressed much praise for co-workers at NBC and said he was “proud of the work I’ve done with my team and know that there’s more to do.”  In his letter Arkin refers to himself as “a difficult guy” and gives NBC credit for tolerating him “through my various incarnations.”  Arkin’s announcement of his leaving coincides with his announcement that he is working on several books, both fiction and nonfiction, one of which sounds like he wants to release it soon.  Is this good publicity as well as a good time for a convenient break intended to be just temporary?

Arkin, ends up saying about his consulting role that: “There’s a saying about consultants, that organizations hire them to hear exactly what they want to hear.”  Although he says this wasn’t the case with him at NBC, it’s not clear that mainstream media is going to want to hear any more from him after what he has now said.

So, even though Arkin’s departure has not yet withstood the test of time, given the strength of his  statements and how eloquently those statements express things that accord with what's been said by other exiled journalists on our list, we think he should, indeed, be added to our list of exiled journalists.  Plus the unlikelihood that mainstream media will take Mr. Arkin back is so extreme that it seems almost guaranteed Mr. Arkin won't be rehired.

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