When truth is replaced by silence, the silence is a lie.
― Yevgeny Yevtushenko
We all live in a golden age for the abuse of power. Examples abound and touch everyone’s life. We see profound abuses in politics daily. Recently the decades of abuse committed by Harvey Weinstein have come to light. Apparently, it barely existed in the shadows for years and years as one of Hollywood’s worst kept secrets. Weinstein preyed on women with virtual impunity with his power and prestige acting to keep his actions in the dark. The promise and threat of his power in that industry gave him virtual license to act. The silence of the myriad of insiders who knew about the pattern of abuse allowed the crimes to continue unabated. Only after the abuse came to light broadly and outside the movie industry did the unacceptability arise. When the abuse stayed in the shadows, and its knowledge limited to industry insiders, it continued.
Cowardice rightly understood begins with selfishness and ends with shame.
― José Rizal
The power of the online world and our free press should be a boon to exposing and bringing these monsters down. People can be alerted to unacceptable behavior and demand action to remove these abominations from power. It is not working out this way. Instead the power of information has been turned on its head, and the modern world of information has empowered them to new heights. We only need to look at the occupant of the Oval Office for proof. People in power have access to resources and talent not available to others. This power can be turned to marketing and shaping the message to allow them to retain power. Power has its privileges and among these are access to wealth, information and (sexual) favors, most of us can’t even dare to dream of. The abusers turn all of this into a machine that retains and even grows their power. The modern world of interconnection is the latest tool in their arsenal of power. The powerful have largely controlled the media forever, but this control has taken on a new character with Facebook and Twitter.
People follow leaders by choice. Without trust, at best you get compliance.
― Jesse Lyn Stoner
I see it at work in small ways. Sometimes it’s the desire of those in power to keep their poor leadership or stewardship from being open to criticism, i.e., an honest peer review. More recently we have seen ourselves subjected to training on information security that was merely an excuse to be threatened by the United States Attorney General, Jeff Sessions. It was a gross waste of resources to provide a platform for abuse of power (at the cost many millions of dollars to threaten people, and help crush morale). Ostensibly the training was to highlight the importance of protecting sensitive and classified information. This is a topic that we are already trained heavily on, and we are acutely aware of in our daily work. Given our ongoing knowledge of the topic, the whole training was provided to silence the critics of the administration, who will now misuse information control to hide their crimes.
Compliance” is just a subset of “governance” and not the other way around.
― Pearl Zhu
The United States has gone through a virtual orgy of classification since 9/11. This is an extremely serious issue and its tendrils permeate this entire topic. I’ve written in the past about our problems in this regard. Our government, related organizations, and contractors are running wild classifying everything in sight. Increasingly the classification is used to hide and bury information. Quite often things are labeled with the “official use only” category because it is basically unregulated. There is no standard and the tendency is to simply hide as much as possible. It is primed for wide scale abuse. I’m fairly certain that the abuse is already happening on an enormous scale. It is quite often used to keep embarrassing, criminal or simply slip-shod work out of sight and away from scrutiny. It is exactly the sort of thing the current (and past) administrations would use to hide stuff from view. Of course, higher levels of classification have been used similarly. The prime example is the cover-up of the slaughter of innocents by the military in Iraq central to the whole Chelsea Manning case. It wasn’t classified, it was criminal and embarrassing, yet classification was used to attempt to bury the evidence.
Those who lack the courage will always find a philosophy to justify it.
― Albert Camus
Our current President is serial abuser of power whether it be the legal system, women, business associates or the American people, his entire life is constructed around abuse of power and the privileges of wealth. Many people are his enablers, and nothing enables it more than silence. Like Weinstein, his sexual misconducts are many and well known, yet routinely go unpunished. Others either remain silence or ignore and excuse the abuse a being completely normal.
I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything…. Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.
– President Donald Trump
We are all enablers. We knew what kind of monster we were electing to the highest office, and people stood by silent. Worse yet they gave him their tacit approval. Weinstein is no different. Sessions is no different either, no sexual misconduct known there, but ignorance and racism is a clear part of his repertoire. In addition, he has direct conflicts of interests with vast prison stocks in his portfolio, and the power to improve his stock holdings through his office and his direct actins. Since his boss is a walking monument to conflict of interest, thus nothing will happen. He will abuse the power of his office with impunity. At this point the entire Nation has forgiven their crimes through willful ignorance. The mandated threat masquerading as training is simply the latest, and by no means the biggest violation of standards of conduct. The threat is designed to silence any documentation of violations and assist in their continued violation through our continued silence and tacit acceptance of their power.
The standards of conduct under the Trump Administration is headed straight to hell. The only thing that they are opposed to is threats to their power and ability to abuse it. They are an entire collection of champion power abusers. Like all abusers, they maintain their power through the cowering masses below them. When we are silent their power is maintained. They are moving the squash all resistance. My training was pointed at the inside of the institutions and instruments of government where they can use “legal” threats to shut us up. They have waged an all-out assault against the news media. Anything they don’t like is labeled as “fake news” and attacked. The legitimacy of facts has been destroyed, providing the foundation for their power. We are now being threatened to cut off the supply of facts to base resistance upon. This training was the act of people wanting to rule like dictators in an authoritarian manner.
I am personally quite concerned about how easily we accept this authoritarian approach to leadership. We seem all too willing and able to simply salute and accept the commands of corrupt overlords. We are threatened with extreme consequences, and those in power can do as they please with virtual impunity. For those abusing power, the set-up is perfect. They are the wolves and we, the sheep, are primed for slaughter. Recent years have witnessed an explosion in the amount of information deemed classified or sensitive. Much of this information is controlled because it is embarrassing or uncomfortable for those in power. Increasingly, information is simply hidden based on non-existent standards. This is a situation that is primed for abuse of power. People is positions of power can hide anything they don’t like. For example, something bad or embarrassing can be deemed to be proprietary or business-sensitive, and buried from view. Here the threats come in handy to make sure that everyone keeps their mouths shut. Various abuses of power can now run free within the system without risk of exposure. Add a weakened free press and you’ve created the perfect storm.
The mantle of National security and patriotism works to compliment the systematic abuse of power. One of the primary forms of abuse is financial gain. The decision making behind the flow of money is typically hidden. No one benefiting from the flow of money is too keen on the details of who got the money and why getting out. All one has to do is look at the AG’s finances. He benefits greatly through other people’s misery. More and longer prison sentences raise the stock prices he holds and enriches him. No one even asks the question, and the abuse of power goes unchecked. Worse yet, it becomes the “way things are done”. This takes us full circle to the whole Harvey Weinstein scandal. It is a textbook example of unchecked power, and the “way we do things”.
The real division is not between conservatives and revolutionaries but between authoritarians and libertarians.
― George Orwell
The only way to rid a system of these abuses is the exposure to clear view. When people see the way that those in power abuse the system, the abusers need to change their way or lose their power. This is the exact reason why the abusers are so keen to squash any disclosures (i.e., leaks). They like being able to run their shadow empires with impunity. Without the risk of exposure, the abusers can simply take their abuses to new levels. For systems needs genuine information control and security, the threat of abuse of power is extreme. If the system is not run with the highest level of ethics and integrity, the abuse of power, and the genuine need for secrecy are on a collision course. In taking my training, the threats from someone completely lacking any visible ethics or integrity is chilling. Simply put, the Attorney General is proven racist, white supremacist apologist, and serial abuser of power. He has no ethical basis to issue his threats, only unbridled power. He has been given free reign purely on ideological grounds.
Democracy can exist only in the countries where people are brave! Coward nations always live under the authoritarian regimes!
― Mehmet Murat ildan
This value system is in complete and total collision with the values that the United States is supposedly based on. This value system is unfortunately consistent with the actual values in the United States today. We are struggling between who we should be and who we are. At work this runs headlong into the fundamental character of the institutions and the people employed. We have a generally docile workforce who are easily cowered by power. We have installed authoritarian monsters in positions of power who are more than willing to abuse this power. So the sheep bow their heads to the wolves and simply welcome the slaughter. Our institutions are similarly cowered by money. The federal government pays the bills, and with that buys what is moral and ethical. A good and logical question is where does this end. What is the point where we rise up and say “NO!”? What is the point where the actions by those in power are too much to tolerate? We aren’t there yet, and I shudder thinking of where that line is. Worse yet, I’m not entirely sure there is a line that our employees, management or the institutions themselves would enforce. This is truly a terrifying prospect.
The strategic adversary is fascism… the fascism in us all, in our heads and in our everyday behavior, the fascism that causes us to love power, to desire the very thing that dominates and exploits us.
― Michel Foucault
No matter the reasons for the training I took, the tone and approach set by those governing my workplace should be chilling to contemplate. We are creating an environment where unethical conduct and rampant abuse of power go unchecked. Abusers can thrive and run free. We can be sure that their power will grow and extend to other areas. Without the checks and balances that exposure brings, the abuse of power is free to run wild and grow. We have installed an utterly repugnant serial abuser as President. He has a history of financial, personal and sexual ethics violations. He now has more power than ever, and is actively destroying the vehicles for oversight. He has surrounded himself with people of similar morality and ethics, or parasitic enablers who trade their own morality and ethics for power (like VP Pence, who like the religious right make their bed with this devil freely).
A fascist is one whose lust for money or power is combined with such an intensity of intolerance toward those of other races, parties, classes, religions, cultures, regions or nations as to make him ruthless in his use of deceit or violence to attain his ends.
― Henry A. Wallace
This sort of deal making isn’t simply for the rampant misogyny of the right wing to answer for. Those on the left have their own crimes to answer for as the Weinstein scandal makes clear. All those people standing up for Women’s rights in the World, but tolerating his private abuse of women are no better. All of their public stands for liberal causes are made shallow through the acts of private cowardice. They are equally guilty and no better than the so-called Christians embracing Trump. Some things are not acceptable, no matter who does them or their belief system. If you are a liberal Hollywood elite and you stood by while Weinstein abused and assaulted women, your morality is for sale. If you’re an evangelical Christian who voted for Trump, you are no better. Both men are monstrous abusers and morally unacceptable. Too often we make the case that their misdeeds are acceptable because of the power they grant to your causes through their position. This is exactly the bargain Trump makes with the right wing, and Weinstein made with the left.
Of course, I ask myself, am I really any better? I take my paycheck with the assumption that the terms of my employment mean they own me. What is the price of my silence? I have duty to my loved ones and my support for them. This keeps me as compliant as I am. I need to ask myself what too far looks like? I’ve asked what the limits for my employers are, and I fear there is no limit; I fear they will comply to almost anything. We are rapidly approaching a moral chasm if we haven’t already gone over the edge. Will we simply fall in, and let our nation become a kleptocracy with a wink and a nod toward our standards, ethics and morality while standing by and letting the abusers run wild. For the greater part, I think that we are already there. It is terrifying to think about how much worse it’s going to get.
Terror is a powerful means of policy and one would have to be a hypocrite not to understand this.
― Leon Trotsky