SACW - 28 March 2018 | Burma: Rohingyas biased history / Bangladesh: Workers Rights, Safety / India-Pakistan: Growing Danger / Pakistan: war on journalists; women's rights / India: Freedom To Love & Democracy ; disarmament seminar / China: Rain Making / France: The Paris attack suspect / New Military-Industrial Complex of Big Data / Mass Psychology in the Age of Trump

Harsh Kapoor aiindex at
Wed Mar 28 17:10:58 EDT 2018

South Asia Citizens Wire - 28 March 2018 - No. 2979 
[via South Asia Citizens Web - since 1996]

1. Rohingyas & Oxford’s Neo-Orientalism: Concoction of biased history | C R Abrar
2. Bangladesh: CGWR Research Report on Workers Rights, Safety - Five years after Rana Plaza Diasater
3. Full audio Ravish Kumar on Freedom To Love and Democracy in India 
4. Select audio recordings from the Delhi seminar (March 2018) on The Landmark Treaty Prohibiting Nuclear Weapons Opportunities and Challenges
5. Recent on Communalism Watch:
 - India: Liberal Dogmatism | Irfan Engineer
 - India: News report reveals contact between police and Dera Sacha Sauda followers in Haryana before Ram Rahim verdict
 - India: Rewriting of History and Sectarian Nationalism | Ram Puniyani
 - India - West Bengal: police personnel injured in clashes over Ram Navami rally
 - India: In Bad Faith - Lingayats’ claim to ‘separate religion’ status is untenable | Tahir Mahmood
 - India: Break the mould, end the siege | Harbans Mukhia
 - Riot: West Bengal, 2017-Basirhat, Baduria, Tentulia - Fact Finding Report edited by Subha Protim Roy Chowdhury
 - India: Citizenship rights, not burka | Suhas Palshikar
 - India: Why Ankit Saxena's murder has been easily forgotten | Tani S Bhargava
 - India: ‘Hindu liberalism shouldn’t need the crutches of Muslim liberalism’ Asghar Ali Engineer 2004 response to Ramachandra Guha
 - India: Why Political Parties Play Upon Fears of Muslims - Political opportunism requires a consolidated community, living in perpetual fear
 - India: Lingayat leadership is under an erroneous belief that recognition of a religious community depends on law
 - India: Cow Vigilantism - Crime, Community and Livelihood - Press Conference and Release of PUDR Report (22 March 2018)
 - India: The Communal Politics of Eviction Drives in Assam
 - India: Jawaharlal Nehru’s views on religion and secularism as read by Rajeev Bhargava
::: URLs & FULL TEXT :::
6. Pakistan’s military is waging a quiet war on journalists | Kiran Nazish 
7. Pakistan: Which political party has done the most and the least for the advancement of women’s rights?
8. Pakistan - India: What’s Happening At The Loc Is Very Dangerous, Says Pakistani Nuclear Physicist Pervez Hoodbhoy
9. India: Break the mould, end the siege | Harbans Mukhia 
10. India: Will a rising East Wind hit Modi govt in 2019? | Bharat Bhushan
11. Why these Indian millennials are choosing arranged marriage | Moni Basu
12. India: How to Talk about Sex Without Offending People - Malayalam writer Nalini Jameela on her new book | Pooja Pillai 
13. China needs more water. So it's building a rain-making network three times the size of Spain
14. France: The Paris attack suspect is in jail. But still he is inspiring others | Iman Amrani
15. Germany: How a small town reclaimed its grid and sparked a community revolution | Aditya Chakrabortty
16. The New Military-Industrial Complex of Big Data Psy-Ops | Tamsin Shaw	
17. Adventures in the Trump Twittersphere | Zeynep Tufekci
18. Mass Psychology in the Age of Trump: Why is Trump driving liberals berserk? | John T. Jost Orsolya Hunyady

Dr Jacques Leider is reputed for his denial of Rohingya identity, their unique history, and the crime of genocide the group has been subjected to for decades.

Bangladesh has been emblematic of low wages, poor working conditions, union-avoidance, and a series of mass fatality disasters in garment factories, culminating in the collapse of Rana Plaza in 2013. With the five-year anniversary of the catastrophe approaching , the question arises as to whether the intervening years have seen meaningful gains for workers.

Full audio of the keynote address in Hindi at Festival 2018 (Wordcraft & Dept of English Ramjas College) by India’s prominent journalist and TV anchor Ravish Kumar on personal freedoms, right to love and democratic society. The talk was held at Ramjas college, University of Delhi on 15 March 2018. The first recording is that of Mukul Mangalik introducing Ravish Kumar to the audience. The second audio is the full talk by Ravish Kumar. [This recording by audio archive is hosted here for public educational purposes]

Indian Doctors for Peace and Development (IDPD), the Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (CNDP), the All India Peace and Solidarity Organisation (AIPSO) organised an international seminar on the theme “The Landmark Treaty Prohibiting Nuclear Weapons - Opportunities and Challenges” on 24th and 25th March 2018 in Deputy Speakers Hall at Constitution Club, New Delhi. This will be followed by a Dialogue with Decision makers and shapers to highlight the need for abolition of nuclear weapons.
Posted below are few audio recordings from the seminar made available here via audio archive

 - India: Liberal Dogmatism | Irfan Engineer
 - India: News report reveals contact between police and Dera Sacha Sauda followers in Haryana before Ram Rahim verdict
 - India: Rewriting of History and Sectarian Nationalism | Ram Puniyani
 - India - West Bengal: police personnel injured in clashes over Ram Navami rally
 - India: In Bad Faith - Lingayats’ claim to ‘separate religion’ status is untenable | Tahir Mahmood
 - India: Break the mould, end the siege | Harbans Mukhia
 - Riot: West Bengal, 2017-Basirhat, Baduria, Tentulia - Fact Finding Report edited by Subha Protim Roy Chowdhury
 - India: Citizenship rights, not burka | Suhas Palshikar
 - India: Why Ankit Saxena's murder has been easily forgotten | Tani S Bhargava
 - India: ‘Hindu liberalism shouldn’t need the crutches of Muslim liberalism’ Asghar Ali Engineer 2004 response to Ramachandra Guha
 - India: Why Political Parties Play Upon Fears of Muslims - Political opportunism requires a consolidated community, living in perpetual fear
 - India: Lingayat leadership is under an erroneous belief that recognition of a religious community depends on law
 - India: Cow Vigilantism - Crime, Community and Livelihood - Press Conference and Release of PUDR Report (22 March 2018)
 - India: The Communal Politics of Eviction Drives in Assam
 - India: Jawaharlal Nehru’s views on religion and secularism as read by Rajeev Bhargava

 -> available via:
::: URLs & FULL TEXT :::
As activists and journalists are kidnapped, entire regions of the country are going silent.
by Kiran Nazish
March 27, 2018

DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan — On December 2, 2017, 40-year-old Raza Khan, a Pakistani political activist, disappeared from his home. When Raza wouldn’t answer his phone, Khan’s brother went to his residence in Lahore. He found the lights on, the curtains drawn, and the doors locked — but no sign of Raza.
It wasn’t until one of Raza’s activist colleagues visited the house that they found a clue to why he’d disappeared: Raza’s computer was missing. Diep Saeeda, Reza’s colleague, immediately thought that one of Pakistan’s notorious intelligence agencies had taken him. “It could be no one else,” she told me.
Saeeda visited police stations, hospitals, restaurants, and the morgue, looking for any trace of Raza. But she turned up nothing, and the authorities had no information either.

Almost three months later, Raza is still missing, and it’s become clear that his disappearance is part of a larger trend. 
Pakistan is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for activists and reporters: According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, nearly 10,000 people have gone missing in the country since 2001, with nearly 3,000 still unaccounted for. In 2016 alone, there were 728 disappearances. The HRCP and human rights activists say these numbers are significantly underreported.

Pakistan’s powerful and secretive security establishment — which ranges from its feared intelligence agency, the ISI, to the country’s military, which has carried out three coups since its inception in 1947 — has long used abductions to silence anyone who dares to question and expose their actions. This matters, of course, for ordinary Pakistanis, who can’t speak freely about their government. It also affects Pakistani lawmakers, whose ability to craft legislation is hampered by the lack of information.

But the disappearances have real consequences for the rest of the world as well.

In his first tweet of 2018, President Trump took aim at Pakistan’s government and what he called their failure to assist the US in the global war on terror. “The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit,” he wrote. “They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help.”

While many may disagree with the US president’s view, his tweet speaks to a larger issue: Pakistan, which is a nuclear power, is battling its own war on terror. Many parts of the country, including Waziristan, on its porous border with Afghanistan, have turned into safe havens for militants and terror groups. The Pakistani military has been accused of working closely with and even aiding terrorists there.

So as Pakistan becomes a black hole of information due to the lack of reporting and independent voices on the ground, we lose sight of what’s actually taking place. This not only complicates global efforts to counter terrorism but puts the region and the world at large at risk.

In January, the Trump administration announced it would suspend $900 million in security aid to Pakistan until the country got serious about cracking down on terrorist groups like the Taliban and Haqqani network. But without objective observers and reporting in the region, there’s no way to verify if this is happening.
Pakistan’s intelligence agencies operate like an independent arm of the state

Back in 2015, I experienced the power of the country’s deep state firsthand.

In April, Sabeen Mahmud, a friend of mine and one of the country’s most prominent free speech activists, hosted a panel about disappearances in the country’s largest province, Balochistan. The Pakistani government is fighting a separatist uprising there of Baloch nationalists, and though accurate numbers are difficult to find, more than 20,000 people have reportedly gone missing. The same evening, after the panel concluded, Mahmud was shot and killed by unknown gunmen.

I wrote about her death for an Indian magazine and started receiving threats myself from agents with ISI, Pakistan’s infamous government intelligence agency. They repeatedly told me, both in person and over the phone, that I was going to be killed like my friend Sabeen, “and no one will find who did it.”

I also learned that killing one person and then using their death to generate more fear was a common tactic that the Pakistani intelligence agencies used against journalists. It leads to self-censorship, and it works almost every time. 

I was no exception. Since the ISI threatened my life, I’ve been too afraid to live and report in Pakistan, and currently divide my time between New York and Turkey.

It’s important to note that Pakistan’s government, although democratically elected, does not have the power to control or influence the far-reaching and powerful military establishment. Intelligence agencies gained more power after 9/11; the ISI in particular received funding and resources from the US and Pakistani governments to help fight the war on terror. The new resources helped the ISI expand its influence and freedom to act however it saw fit, and it began operating much like an independent arm of the government.

The intelligence agencies hold so much power that even the police can’t touch them. An officer at Peshawar’s police headquarters told me the police see several abduction cases a week but can’t write up official police reports. “We have orders not to meddle in such cases that might be part of an anti-terror campaign,” he told me. “The military … is an institution with higher power.”

And despite criticism and warnings from international groups, and pledges by the government of Pakistan, these disappearances seem to be getting worse.

Last year, Pakistan’s Commission on Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances “received nearly 300 cases of alleged enforced disappearances from August to October 2017, by far the largest number in a three month period in recent years,” according to the commission.

And in early 2017, three Pakistani bloggers who were critical of the government disappeared for weeks, without a trace. When they were released, all three described torture and sexual abuse at the hands of Pakistani security personnel.
Protesters hold images of three bloggers who disappeared during a rally in Lahore on January 12, 2017. Protesters hold images of three bloggers who disappeared during a rally in Lahore on January 12, 2017. Rana Sajid Hussain/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

Waqass Goraya, one of the bloggers, said he was detained by a government organization with ties to the Pakistani military. “More and more people are being harmed — our friends, our colleagues — so how can we stop [speaking out]? Someone has to stand up,” he told the BBC. Goraya currently lives in the Netherlands, where he continues his activism from afar.
Reporting on the Pakistani military’s abuses is important. It’s also really dangerous.

Trump alluded in his January tweet to the Pakistani military’s reputation for working closely with terrorist groups. This extends back several decades: In the 1980s, the US covertly sent about $5 billion to Pakistan to fund militant groups to help fight the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Pakistan continued to train and fund militants to help in the fight over Kashmir, a disputed border area between India and Pakistan.

The US ramped up funding to Pakistan again in the wake of 9/11 in exchange for Pakistan’s help in fighting the war on terror. US officials say, however, that they have not seen results and that much of the money has been lost due to corruption, or ended up in the hands of terrorist groups.

In 2011, Saleem Shahzad, a freelance journalist, reported about how Pakistani naval officers were involved in aiding a terrorist attack on Pakistani naval headquarters in Mehran, a short distance from the capital of Karachi. Afterward, Shahzad was brutally murdered. His death received much publicity, and since then, it appears that no Pakistani journalists have dared to report in depth about the military’s links with terrorist groups.
Pakistani journalists offer funeral prayers for their slain colleague Syed Saleem Shahzad outside the National Press Club in Islamabad, Pakistan on Wednesday, June 1, 2011. Pakistani journalists offer funeral prayers for their slain colleague Syed Saleem Shahzad outside the National Press Club in Islamabad on Wednesday, June 1, 2011. B.K. Bangash/AP

“Anyone who reports on Balochistan, or terrorism in Pakistan, knows that the military agencies will come after them,” said Khushal Khan, a research officer at the HRCP.

Waziristan, the restive region on the Western border with Afghanistan, is one of the most underreported places in the country. There’s almost no information that hasn’t been vetted or censored by the military going in or out.

The Pakistani military has claimed several times that they defeated terrorism in this area and forced out the terrorists — but the military refuses to let journalists or NGOs visit the area to verify their claims.

Anyone who attempts to report on what’s happening in Pakistan now runs the risk of disappearing. When I was investigating abductions of civilians from Waziristan in 2015, my sources were threatened and told that they “should not speak to journalists.”

A leading activist in the region, Manzoor Pashteen, told me that hundreds of people who have been critical of the military in the region disappeared in 2017, and dozens more have vanished this year. “Every other day I get a call … [someone] is missing or someone’s body has been found,” Pashteen said.

Last month, when I visited Dera Ismail Khan, a city near Waziristan, I met with more than a dozen civilian sources who said they knew people who had been abducted from the region. The people who were taken had direct knowledge of the alleged close relationship between the Pakistani military and terrorist groups like the Taliban and the Haqqani network, my sources told me.

In November 2017, Pashteen was abducted by intelligence agencies that told him to stop working as an activist and speaking out against the military establishment. But Pashteen said he would continue to be vocal against the continuing abductions.

“What kind of state is this, against its own people?” Pashteen asked me. “This country is also ours, and the state needs to stop treating us like terrorists.”

Kiran Nazish is an independent journalist covering South Asia and the Middle East. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Foreign Affairs, Al Jazeera, and other news outlets. She is a former senior fellow at New America. 

Newsline, March 27, 2018

The Big Question: 

Afiya Zia

It has been the PML-N, especially in Punjab. Not just in terms of legislation but also in policy implementation, institutional strengthening for pro-women work, putting women in leadership positions and in flagship programmes. The liberal PPP pales out in comparison and the less said about the non-existent PTI work for women, the better.

Manifestos are fairly redundant. They shouldn’t be, but it seems that with the ‘death of ideology’ they’ve become just formalities. I don’t expect any radical shift or effort being put in by any of the parties, with the exception of AWP (Awami Workers Party). Political party workers of PPP and PML factions and some nationalist parties workers will not be reinventing their manifestos despite the major economic changes witnessed in the country. Civil society rarely lobbies for updated or specific amendments for manifestos – again with the exception of Women’s Action Forum (WAF), which has drawn up a women’s manifesto for every election. They demand attention to the impact of CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor) on women and working classes etc. But most supporters, especially of the PTI, mostly just troll on issues. So the shift has come from a generation that wants to debate interactively, moralistically and superficially rather than on substance. At best, laws will be discussed and dissected but not policies. This distinction is interesting. In any case, I bet hardly anyone you ask this question of will have any idea what the manifesto of the party they support says. But they’ll know micro details of other features – personal and other data. The manifestos of religious parties are very interesting. Only some old-school journalists (Zia ur Rehman, Ali Arqam) look into these aspects of parties. I don’t even understand how a party that says it’s for the ‘youth’ isn’t invested in resurrecting student unions – which organised sector of the youth can then seriously claim to represent or contribute to the party’s policies and offer a representative manifesto on youth issues?

Women activists of the PPP marching to mark International Women’s Day in Karachi.

In terms of vision, the PPP used to be the most progressive on women’s issues but today the AWP and some nationalist parties have strong feminist undertones to their stated positions and manifestos. Women’s groups should be throwing their weight behind WAF’s demands which include the call for a progressive and substantive divorce law, regulation of their work in the informal sector, secularisation of state and society, gender-responsive budgeting in all public sector institutions, restrictions on vigilantism and media-led misogyny, repeal of discriminatory laws and the death penalty, housing and social protection for the poor and immediate merger and reforms for FATA with the inclusion of women in the process. WAF would also demand of parties that they adopt WAF’s stance that Violence Against Women is Violence Against the State. So essentially, the PPP and PML-N have passed several progressive laws for women – this is important and they should be given due credit. And now it’s time to focus – not just on their “implementation,” but on policies that support and strengthen institutions that apply the principles of women’s equality. It would be good if parties started empowering the provincial women’s commissions as conduits to carry out their mandates because these are the sites which make laws and policies meaningful. Parties will be taken seriously on the woman question when they start promoting women from within their party cadres and awarding them leadership roles, provided these women are strong on women’s, minority and human rights. At the moment the ANP is the only party I know of, that doesn’t separate women into ‘wings’ but includes them like equal adults in the mainstream party.


Zohra Yusuf

With general elections just four months away, political parties are yet to make public their manifestos. However, judging by the legislation and positions taken, it is reassuring to know that all political parties are responsive to issues concerning women. Going by past performance, the Pakistan People’s Party has demonstrated its commitment to women’s rights more categorically than other parties.

The PPP government, last in power between 2008 and 2013, enacted the highest number of pro-women legislation in Pakistan’s history. The groundbreaking bills passed covered issues such as sexual harassment at the workplace, ban on customary laws and practices that violated the rights of women, while the National Commission on the Status of Women was given autonomy and the bill for setting up the National Commission on Human Rights was signed. The Sindh provincial legislature enacted laws against domestic violence and child marriage. Moreover, for the first time, a woman was appointed Speaker of the National Assembly.

Benazir Bhutto’s election as prime minister in 1988 brought a sense of euphoria among Pakistani women. She created history by becoming the first Muslim woman prime minister in the world. While unable to undo many of the discriminatory laws introduced by the regime of Zia-ul-Haq she, nevertheless, took several tangible steps for women’s empowerment. These included setting up of First Women Bank, women police stations and the appointment of women as high court judges.

At the provincial level, the PML-N has taken the lead in ensuring women’s rights. Its Provincial Commission on the Status of Women is both credible and active. Domestic violence has been outlawed and a well-equipped women’s protection centre has been set up as a pilot project in Multan. Additionally, enforcement of pro-women laws has been more effective than in Sindh.

The Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (an alliance of religious parties), that formed the government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in 2012, was certainly the most anti-women party. While in power, its policies closely followed those of the routed Taliban in Afghanistan. The ‘Hasba’ bill that it tried to introduce would have meant strict segregation and denied women many fundamental rights.  Its component parties continue to hinder women’s progress.

A commitment to ensure women’s greater participation in the political process should be one of the key promises in the manifestos of all political parties. It could be the beginning of change in many aspects of a woman’s life.


Haris Gazdar

Our social institutions are very patriarchal and there is a debate about whether and to what extent the state counters or reinforces patriarchy. The formal makeup of the state – as expressed in the constitution – is liberal in the sense that it recognises the political equality of individuals regardless of sex. Moreover, the state is formally based on a social contract among individuals rather than patriarchal collectives such as family, clan or tribe. We have a long way to go, and I believe that those politics which strengthen this liberal aspect of the state advance, in the long term, the rights of women. So, political parties that stand up for this social contract do good, while those that give primacy to patriarchal collectives such as the nation, religious sect, tribe and family do the reverse. In practical terms some parties have been known to steer progressive legislation for women’s rights, and others have often opposed such legislation. I think that besides legislation, policy and programme design can endorse patriarchy or quietly undermine it. One example is income support. Before the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) most cash transfer programmes in Pakistan recognised the male head of the household as the primary beneficiary, and women only in cases where male heads were not available. BISP changed this and made women the primary beneficiaries.

Going forward, one issue that interests me greatly is the recognition, protection and promotion of the rights and wellbeing of women agricultural workers. Although women constitute over half of the agricultural workforce in Pakistan, their contribution remains hidden and unrecognised – in official statistics, in policy, in terms of wages and working conditions, and in the way that communities and families assign importance to their economic contribution. This has to change.  I would like to see proactive laws and policies for the recognition, protection and promotion of the rights of women as workers, particularly in the agricultural sector. I would like to see the issue debated, placed in party manifestos and taken forward.


Zubeida Mustafa

In my opinion, no political party in Pakistan has really done much for the advancement of women’s rights. The fact is all parties pay lip service to the women’s cause because they know that if they don’t profess to be supportive of women, they would not enjoy much electoral backing in an election. But that hardly means that they genuinely try to improve conditions for women.

How would one judge a political party’s achievements on the women’s issue? First, one can assess the stance of a party – its posture and not so much what it actually does. Secondly, one can evaluate what has actually been done on the ground. Using the two criteria, I find that most parties in Pakistan have adopted a very “correct” stance on women. Their manifestos have all said the right things at the right time.

Which means that political parties generally cannot be faulted for the stand they take on the gender issue. But it is also clear that they evade specifics in their election manifestos and party policy statements. No measurable goals are mentioned so that the party is not pinned down to concrete action.

Thus the Jamaat-e-Islami qualifies every mention of women’s rights with the phrase, “as guaranteed by the Shariah.” How can one interpret this? It is an easy way of escaping responsibility for any wrong that is done.

On the second criterion – action on the ground – we find the situation rather ambivalent. For instance, the Pakistan People’s Party stands head and shoulders above the others in promoting pro-women laws. This tradition goes back to the days of Z.A. Bhutto which also coincided with the first International Women’s Conference in 1975 when Nusrat Bhutto led Pakistan’s delegation to Mexico. Benazir Bhutto was the prime minister in 1996, when her government ratified CEDAW which had been in force since 1981 with Pakistan not committing itself to the specified guidelines.

Senior PTI members hold a meeting with women members of the party at Banigala.

The PPP was instrumental in getting many women-friendly laws adopted such as Domestic Violence (Prohibition) Act, Child Marriage Restraint Act, Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act and so on. These laws have had the backing of the PPP and that is why Sindh, where the PPP rules the roost, has been the first province to adopt many of these laws, when other provinces ruled by other parties have been slower. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where the PTI and Jamaat-e-Islami rule in a coalition, still has no domestic violence law. One can say the PPP has the right stance.

But this did not lead to a remarkable enhancement in the status of women. Women continue to be victims of patriarchy. Other parties have failed to do even this.

Karamat Ali

In my view, women’s issues have not been on the priority list of most political parties in Pakistan. It was the Communist Party of Pakistan that took the lead and established the Democratic Women’s Association (Anjuman-e-Jamhuriyat Pasand Khawateen), in the early days after Partition. It was led by the gutsy Tahira Mazhar Ali Khan.

However, if one had to identify one party that has done a certain amount of work for the advancement of women, it would have to be the PPP. One can trace it down to the first PPP government, when one saw workers’ participation in politics and key institutions increase, significantly, and many women also joined mainstream politics, irrespective of class differences.

In Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s government, Begum Nusrat Bhutto was quite assertive; she brought women rights issues to the fore for the first time. She participated in the first United Nations Conference on Women in Mexico in 1975. Begum Ra’ana Liaquat Ali Khan, who had been an important member of the original Muslim League, later joined PPP and was appointed the first female governor of the province of Sindh on February 15, 1973.

Both Begum Nusrat Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto led the resistance movement against the dictatorial Martial Law regime of General Zia-ul-Haq, which eventually resulted in the formation of WAF. The female leadership of the PPP also played a prominent role during the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD) in 1983, as did the Sindhiani Tehreek.

Benazir’s election as Prime Minister in 1988 proved to be highly significant in advancing the cause of women in Pakistan. It was a momentous, path-breaking event that made waves not just in Pakistan, but also in the rest of the Muslim world. The PPP government also took practical measures for the advancement of women. But it was General Musharaf who introduced 18 per cent representation of women in parliament and 33 per cent in local government institutions through reservation. However, even today, the reserved seats for women in Parliament and the provincial assemblies are less than 18 per cent. Despite their small numbers, the performance of women parliamentarians is much better than their male counterparts. Incidentally civil society had submitted a memorandum to the present Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reforms for bringing changes in the current electoral system, but they did not consider any of the recommendations.

Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto delivering the keynote address at the fourth UN World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995.

The second Benazir government, from November 1993 to August 1996, also took some practical measures for women like the appointment of women judges in the Sindh and Lahore High Courts and established separate women’s police stations across the country. In her second tenure, Benazir Bhutto took part in the Fourth UN World Conference on Women held in Beijing in September 1995 that put forward a platform of action that made it incumbent on governments to ensure women’s equality, empowerment and justice. But unfortunately, she was overthrown yet again.

The Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N), which has had the chance of leading the federal and the Punjab Government for three terms since 1990, has done virtually nothing for the advancement of women in Pakistan. In fact, the introduction of the Shariat Bill under the 15th Constitutional Amendment in 1998 by then prime minister Nawaz Sharif was considered a regressive step and women’s organisations had opposed it vociferously.

As far as the cause of women’s advancement is concerned, we have the glaring example of a South Asian country, Nepal, before us, where the people not only restored democracy by overthrowing monarchy, but framed a very progressive Constitution, which ensures 33 per cent reserved seats for women both in the Parliament and the local government. Every political party is bound to nominate women for at least 33 per cent seats in the general elections. Besides the 33 per cent reserved seats, about seven to eight per cent women have been elected on the general seats as well.

Ms Bidhya Devi Bhandari, a long-time member of the South Asian Labour Forum and Peoples’ SAARC, is the second President of the country. Nepal’s present Parliamentary Speaker and the Chief Justice of the Nepalese Supreme Court are also women.

Mumbai Mirror
March 25, 2018

By Danish Khan, Mumbai Mirror | 

INTERVIEW: Pervez Hoodbhoy, Pakistani Nuclear Physicist

The Pakistani nuclear physicist on how casualties on both sides are increasing and why leaders in India and Pakistan must step up.

Pakistani nuclear physicist and scholar Pervez Hoodbhoy has been a tireless crusader for rationalism and freedom of speech. Through his writings, activism, and teaching, Hoodbhoy has emerged as one of the wellknown members of the Pakistani intelligentsia. Born in Karachi, Hoodbhoy completed his PhD in nuclear physics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1978, and has been a visiting faculty in institutes around the world. He was one of the earliest to describe A Q Khan, considered the father of Pakistan’s nuclear programme, to be a “bomb-maker and not a scientist”.

In a hurried visit to United Kingdom where he had come to meet his daughter and attend a seminar organised by the London based Democracy Forum, Hoodbhoy spoke on Indo-Pak relations, the Army in Pakistan, and the teaching of history.

What are your thoughts on the harassment of diplomats in both the countries?

The way in which India and Pakistan are dealing with each other’s diplomats is descending to a new low in civility. One is absolutely astonished that door bells are being rung at three in the morning; that Indian diplomats in Pakistan are being denied membership in Islamabad club — this is not the way for two countries who will be forever in proximity with each other to behave. And this reflects the rise of ultra-nationalist sentiments in India and the assertion of the Pakistani establishment in opposition to the former government of Nawaz Sharif. On one hand you have Indian nationalism, which is definitely on the rise, and on the other hand, within Pakistan there has been a rise in the relative power of the Army with respect to the civilian government.

How do you see the relationship between India and Pakistan evolve in the long term?

Presently, it is very hard to say how things will go because domestic politics is so important in determining international relations between Pakistan and India. In the long term, India and Pakistan have to make peace with each other — they have to trade, establish means where people from both sides can go from one side of the border to the other. But in the short run, things are not looking good because of domestic politics. What’s happening at the LoC is very dangerous. There is shelling practically every day. The Indian doctrine which is represented in the Pakistani doctrine now is: For every one violation of the other side, we shall do two from our side, and then as weapons change from hand held to automatic to artillery, this is going to get worse. The casualties on both sides are increasing and this is not a tenable situation and cannot continue for long. At this time, the political leadership of both the countries have to step up and say ‘enough of this’.

With Nawaz Sharif gone, the Army in Pakistan seems to have an upper hand. What drives the Army to take charge of the country’s administration?

The Pakistani Army feels that they (civilians) are not sufficiently educated, sufficiently well-versed in the running of public affairs and are corrupt and incompetent. There is a feeling in the Army that ‘we are the real stakeholders of Pakistan — the true patriots’. In the past, there has been martial law but I do not believe there will be a martial law in the next few years. However, an attempt will be made to have an army-friendly government unlike the government of Nawaz Sharif and a lot of effort is being expended to ensure Sharif is forever banned from politics. In fact, the recent steps such as the senate elections testify to that and the corruption case against him achieve that to an extent. But in his place, there will be an alternative, perhaps in the form of Imran Khan, who is much more pliable and willing to listen to the Army.

You have spoken against wrongful depiction of events in history books. Tell us some of the most brazen things that you have encountered.

In a conversation with the then vicechancellor of my university, Dr Daler Khan of Quaid-e-Azam University, I once complained that Pakistani school and college books were filled with inaccuracies and sometimes outright lies. I quoted examples of two extreme distortions of history: Our supposed victory over India in the 1965 war and the separation of East Pakistan in 1971. ‘You don’t have to tell the truth all the time, he said, else our students won’t learn to love Pakistan. It is all for a greater good’, he said.

Has social media aided the distortion and misrepresentation of historical facts?

For the untutored mind, social media is exceedingly dangerous. Every kind of nonsense can get freely propagated, in some cases achieving a life of its own. By tracking conversations on political and historical matters, one can get to see how ignoramuses mutually support and reinforce each other’s views while totally rejecting evidence that might stand in the way. Contrary opinions get shouted down abusively. The anonymity of the internet makes possible the use of language, which would be considered impermissible in face-to-face discussions.

by Harbans Mukhia 
The Indian Express
March 23, 2018

The stereotype of a single Muslim identity has been exploited by the ‘secular’ parties and the communalist parivar. It needs to be broken to achieve genuine social transformation.

Harsh Mander (‘Sonia, sadly’, March 17) and Ramachandra Guha (‘Liberals, sadly’, March 20) have both expressed legitimate concerns about the situation of Indian Muslims in the current socio-political scenario and understandably each has a variant diagnosis and therefore a variant solution. Without going into the merits of either, I suggest that the analysis of the problem demands that we traverse a little longer distance into history and take a more general view.

The two major proponents of the two-nation-theory, V D Savarkar and M A Jinnah, also shared a political strategy, that is of creating a siege mentality for their respective communities, the Hindus and the Muslims, each imagined as exclusive, internally cohesive and facing a threat from the other. If Savarkar’s support to divisive politics was halted because an alternative vision of Mahatma Gandhi and the Congress had an immensely wider social acceptance, Jinnah was largely spared the travails of an alternative even though it was not completely absent. What has, however, survived the Partition is the siege mentality, pervasive among Indian Muslims and now being laboriously cultivated among Hindus.

The mentality among the Muslims has been reinforced by almost every political and social grouping around. The association of guilt for the Partition, thrust on the manifold more numerous Muslims who stayed back than those who went away, is never allowed to pass into silence. The single driving force of the RSS and its extensive parivar is intense hostility, indeed hatred, for the Muslims, with frequent violent expression as communal riots, pushes the community into defensive isolation. This has come electorally handy for the Congress: Vote for us is the price of protection; else, see the RSS sword hanging on your head?

The sangh parivar is, especially under the present political leadership, assiduously carrying out M S Golwalkar’s mission of disenfranchising the Muslims by seeking to consolidate the 80 plus per cent Hindu vote-bank, adding a massive dose to the Muslims’ defensiveness and insularity. The leadership of the Muslim community, largely abandoned into the hands of imams, could only make itself indispensable by highlighting the siege that had entrapped the community and suggesting that the way out is by going back to a more puritanical Islam with all its attendant rituals, including its supposed dress codes and issuing the most absurd fatwas on the most absurd issues.

The liberal Muslims too have only weakly driven home to the community the challenges of the 20th and 21st century and the need for meeting these with contemporary modes of thinking and mobilisation of its own internal resources alongside what the state has to offer. They have been mainly concerned with the alleged decline of Urdu, the denial of government jobs and educational opportunities; the responsibility for the backwardness of the community remains entirely outside of itself. In other words, everyone, including the community, has contributed to the strengthening of the single Muslim identity, especially vulnerable to political exploitation both by the “secular” parties as much as by the communalist parivar.

It is not as if no voices of dissent within the community and therefore, challenge to these dominant forces have ever been raised. Besides individuals, the most telling instance of activism on its behalf was the Shah Bano case when strong voices of men like Arif Muhammad Khan and numerous Muslim women were getting a growing public audience and approval for the judgment delivered by the Supreme Court in favour of the abandoned lady and warning the government against overriding it. But the political leadership, at the helm of which stood the impeccably secular leader Rajiv Gandhi, was persuaded that the Muslim community could not be trusted with any voice other than that of the imams. The fear of losing the Muslim vote if the imams were ignored lurked in the background. A great symbolic opportunity to break the siege was lost. The consequences of it are still with us. Succumbing to the imams did not fetch Rajiv Gandhi the Muslim votes, but it gave social acceptance to the sangh charge of minority appeasement and, far more than Advani’s rath yatra, boosted the political fortunes of the BJP. Incidentally, succumbing to the Muslim clergy has never yielded political dividends to any party: The CPM too found it to its own cost when the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government in West Bengal did not waste even minutes throwing out Taslima Nasreen from Kolkata on the eve of elections when half a dozen little-known Muslims demanded it. Her ousting did not bring Muslim votes to the party. Conclusive proof, if it was needed, that Muslims do not vote as per the diktats of their clergy. But the political class goes by the stereotypes it has itself created: No proofs have any relevance here.

The problem then is not of wearing skull caps and burkas, or of Rahul Gandhi visiting temples on the eve of elections or visiting all places of worship all the year round. It is one of breaking the single mould into which the entire community has been cast over the past hundred odd years and this mould is one of siege. When we speak of the Hindu community, we immediately highlight the innumerable divisions within, caste divisions in particular, but the Muslims have just one identity, never mind the numerous differences and stratifications among them and the multiple times they have demonstrated these. The inherited single mould gets reinforced again and again by the addition of a sense of fear and insecurity which has been part of the deal handed out to the community and for breaking out of which the community has shown rather feeble energy, some instances notwithstanding.

The endeavour to break out has to be led from within the community, boldly taking risks and standing up for the community and for India. Not easy, especially when a militant majoritarian threat is looming large on it, but when were social transformations easy?

Bharat Bhushan
The Asian Age
March 23, 2018

The BJP and its allies should have nothing to fear from a debate in the Lok Sabha where they outnumber the Opposition.

With the Narendra Modi government blocking the admission of the Opposition’s no-confidence motion, it is quite possible that the Lok Sabha will continue to be adjourned on flimsy pretexts till the Budget Session ends on April 6.

Although this will deny the Opposition a parliamentary forum to criticise the government, recent moves suggest that it might not prevent them from coming together before the 2019 general election.

The Speaker of the Lok Sabha daily throws up her hands saying that because of disruptions in the House she is unable to count 50 MPs who need to stand up in favour of admitting the no-confidence motion. At first it was the Congress and Telugu Desam Party (TDP) MPs agitating in the Well of the House demanding a debate on the Nirav Modi fraud and special status for Andhra respectively. Then the no-confidence motion galvanised the non-BJP Opposition parties.

Since March 18, it is the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) MPs who have forced adjournments. Political observers believe that they are inadvertently or willingly playing into the hands of the parliamentary floor managers of the ruling BJP.

The no-confidence motion is not about the numbers in the Lok Sabha. On that count, the government is safe. It is about debating the performance of the government. It would seem that the Modi government does not want a live telecast of the Opposition lambasting it, following its resounding electoral defeats in the Gorakhpur, Phulpur and Araria Lok Sabha byelections.

The BJP and its allies should have nothing to fear from a debate in the Lok Sabha where they outnumber the Opposition. However, in Prime Minister Narendra Modi the government has a leader who will not stand for any public criticism of his government. Unlike veteran BJP leaders Atal Behari Vajpayee and Lal Krishna Advani, he is not a product of parliamentary discussions. He has little use for parliamentary debate — unless he himself is holding forth — and sees it only as an opportunity for an “unworthy” Opposition to attack him.

While the government’s record can be criticised on a host of issues, perhaps the one that scares the Modi government most is a debate on the `13,580-crore bank fraud perpetrated by Nirav Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi right under the eyes of this government. After all, the Opposition jibe “Chhota Modi” has now stuck to Nirav Modi, and the irony of the PM using the intimate form “hamare Mehulbhai” — literally, “my brother Mehul” — to single out Choksi at a public function at his residence is not lost in the public’s perception.

The government thinks that it may have successfully pushed the “Chhota Modi” issue to the background by publicly pursuing corruption cases against the son of former finance minister P. Chidambaram and announcing the death of 39 Indian workers in Iraq. But a debate on a no-confidence motion would reopen the issue and allow the Opposition to consolidate.

Yet the BJP cannot be unaware of a series of recent developments indicating that a realignment of Opposition forces is taking place.

In the Lok Sabha bypolls in UP, the Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) were brought together by fear of BJP president Amit Shah breaking their parties through promises of power and pelf. It is a strategy he has successfully followed elsewhere in the country.

The electoral alliance in UP has spoiled the political atmosphere for the BJP in the run-up to 2019. The manic support that existed for Mr Modi in 2013 before the last general election, with crowds chanting “Modi-Modi”, is completely absent today. The SP-BSP victory and their intention to work together has effectively exorcised the Modi-mania or whatever support was left for the BJP after its disastrous economic policies and its violently divisive Hindutva drive.

Even the windsock of Indian politics, Ram Vilas Paswan of the Lok Janshakti Party, an ally of the BJP, appeared to be politically repositioning himself with his comment that the “NDA needs to take along all sections of society”, though he has since recanted. And the man who-could-have-been-king until he chose political hara-kiri, Nitish Kumar of the Janata Dal (United), has begun to argue for building “an inclusive society” and to appreciate some virtues in the way the Congress governs. Recently a virtual political nobody like Om Prakash Rajbhar of the Suheldev Bahujan Samaj Party got away with the threat that he would not vote for the BJP candidate in the coming Rajya Sabha elections in UP unless he was given an “appointment” with BJP president Amit Shah. These straws seem to indicate a rising wind against the Modi government.

The last 10 days alone have seen a number of initiatives aimed at taking on the BJP frontally. Former Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s dinner for the Opposition attracted 20 political parties; while Nationalist Congress Party leader Sharad Pawar is holding a similar event on March 27; even the TDP has broken its alliance with the BJP to move a no-confidence motion against the government; Trinamul Congress leader Mamata Banerjee has held a meeting with K. Chandrashekhar Rao of the TRS to explore the formation of a non-BJP, non-Congress alliance of regional parties; Congress president Rahul Gandhi has called on Sharad Pawar; and at the 84th plenary session of the Congress a political resolution has been adopted calling for “a pragmatic approach to cooperation with all like-minded parties” and “a common workable programme” against the BJP in the next general election.

Of these moves, Ms Banerjee and Mr Rao’s proposed “federal front” has the potential to divide the non-BJP Opposition. In trying to battle the Congress in their respective regions, these leaders may undermine the larger national level struggle of the Opposition to oust the BJP. As of now, however, these are exploratory moves and their outcomes are uncertain. It may be too early to judge whether the rising East Wind will grow strong enough to wither the Narendra Modi government in 2019.

The writer is a senior journalist based in New Delhi.

by Moni Basu
 (CNN)In many ways, Naina is no different than millennial women I know in the United States.
She is 20 and finishing a degree in psychology at a Delhi university. She wears Zara skinny jeans and H&M T-shirts and hangs out with her girlfriends at one of Delhi's myriad American-style malls and coffee shops.
She listens to R&B and EDM on Apple Music; her favorite song is "She Will Be Loved" by Maroon 5. Cable TV is so yesterday; she streams shows and movies on Netflix. Her favorite? "Something Borrowed," in which a young woman falls in love with her best friend's fiancé.
But when it comes to marriage, Naina's views might shock American women her age. She reflects a way of thinking long engrained in the culture of my homeland: Your parents know best.

Malayalam writer Nalini Jameela on her new book and why her unconventional views about sexual relationships have been seeded in practicality.
by Pooja Pillai 
The Indian Express,  March 25, 2018

When Nalini Jameela burst onto the Malayalam literary landscape in 2005 with her book Oru Laingikathozhilaliyute Aathmakatha (2007, The Autobiography of a Sex Worker), there were indignant protests from every possible side. Guardians of morality and some feminist groups — usually at loggerheads with each other — took umbrage at what they saw as a “glorification” of prostitution. The former feared that this would have a deleterious effect on the morals of society, while the latter condemned what they saw as Jameela’s attempt to show sex workers as mere bodies for transaction. The loudest protests came from the literary establishment. The book was “prurient”, said the titans of contemporary Malayalam literature, with writer M Mukundan lamenting that great novels in the future won’t be written by great (male) authors but by (female) sex workers. As denouncements of this type have the effect of arousing rather than suppressing curiosity, the book became a bestseller: it sold 13,000 copies, went into six editions within 100 days of publication and brought its writer a great deal of international renown. [ . . . ]

see also:


South China Morning Post
Monday, 26 March, 2018

Vast system of chambers on Tibetan plateau could send enough particles into the atmosphere to allow extensive clouds to form

China is testing cutting-edge defence technology to develop a powerful yet relatively low-cost weather modification system to bring substantially more rain to the Tibetan plateau, Asia’s biggest freshwater reserve.

The system, which involves an enormous network of fuel-burning chambers installed high up on the Tibetan mountains, could increase rainfall in the region by up to 10 billion cubic metres a year – about 7 per cent of China’s total water consumption – according to researchers involved in the project. 
Tens of thousands of chambers will be built at selected locations across the Tibetan plateau to produce rainfall over a total area of about 1.6 million square kilometres (620,000 square miles), or three times the size of Spain. It will be the world’s biggest such project.

The chambers burn solid fuel to produce silver iodide, a cloud-seeding agent with a crystalline structure much like ice. 
The chambers stand on steep mountain ridges facing the moist monsoon from south Asia. As wind hits the mountain, it produces an upward draft and sweeps the particles into the clouds to induce rain and snow.

[One of the fuel-burning chambers that have been deployed on the Tibetan plateau. Photo:]

“[So far,] more than 500 burners have been deployed on alpine slopes in Tibet, Xinjiang and other areas for experimental use. The data we have collected show very promising results,” a researcher working on the system told the South China Morning Post. 

The system is being developed by the state-owned China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation – a major space and defence contractor that is also leading other ambitious national projects, including lunar exploration and the construction of China’s space station. 

China builds ‘world’s biggest air purifier’ (and it seems to be working)

Space scientists designed and constructed the chambers using cutting-edge military rocket engine technology, enabling them to safely and efficiently burn the high-density solid fuel in the oxygen-scarce environment at an altitude of over 5,000 metres (16,400 feet), according to the researcher who declined to be named due to the project’s sensitivity. 
While the idea is not new – other countries like the United States have conducted similar tests on small sites – China is the first to attempt such a large-scale application of the technology. 
The chambers’ daily operation will be guided by highly precise real-time data collected from a network of 30 small weather satellites monitoring monsoon activities over the Indian Ocean. 
The ground-based network will also employ other cloud-seeding methods using planes, drones and artillery to maximise the effect of the weather modification system. 

Is Mekong River set to become the new South China Sea for regional disputes?

The gigantic glaciers and enormous underground reservoirs found on the Tibetan plateau, which is often referred to as Asia’s water tower, render it the source of most of the continent’s biggest rivers – including the Yellow, Yangtze, Mekong, Salween and Brahmaputra. 
The rivers, which flow through China, India, Nepal, Laos, Myanmar and several other countries, are a lifeline to almost half of the world’s population. 
But because of shortages across the continent, the Tibetan plateau is also seen as a potential flashpoint as Asian nations struggle to secure control over freshwater resources. 
Despite the large volume of water-rich air currents that pass over the plateau each day, the plateau is one of the driest places on Earth. Most areas receive less than 10cm of rain a year. An area that sees less than 25cm of rain annually is defined as a desert by the US Geological Survey. 

Rain is formed when moist air cools and collides with particles floating in the atmosphere, creating heavy water droplets.
Resource-hungry China is in overdrive as it wages water wars by stealth

The silver iodide produced by the burning chambers will provide the particles required to form rain. 
Radar data showed that a gentle breeze could carry the cloud-seeding particles more than 1,000 metres above the mountain peaks, according to the researcher. 

A single chamber can form a strip of thick clouds stretching across more than 5km. 
“Sometimes snow would start falling almost immediately after we ignited the chamber. It was like standing on the stage of a magic show,” he said. 
The technology was initially developed as part of the Chinese military’s weather modification programme. 
China and other countries, including Russia and the United States, have been researching ways to trigger natural disasters such as floods, droughts and tornadoes to weaken their enemies in the event of severe conflict. 
Efforts to employ the defence technology for civilian use began over a decade ago, the researcher said.
One of the biggest challenges the rainmakers faced was finding a way to keep the chambers operating in one of the world’s most remote and hostile environments.
“In our early trials, the flame often extinguished midway [because of the lack of oxygen in the area],” the researcher said. 

But now, after several improvements to the design, the chambers should be able to operate in a near-vacuum for months, or even years, without requiring maintenance. 
China diverts 10 billion cubic metres of water to arid north
They also burn fuel as cleanly and efficiently as rocket engines, releasing only vapours and carbon dioxide, which makes them suitable for use even in environmentally protected areas. 

Communications and other electronic equipment is powered by solar energy and the chambers can be operated by a smart phone app thousands of kilometres away for through the satellite forecasting system.
The chambers have one clear advantage over other cloud-seeding methods such as using planes, cannons and drones to blast silver iodide into the atmosphere. 
“Other methods requires the establishment of a no-fly zone. This can be time-consuming and troublesome in any country, especially China,” the researcher said. 

[One of the chambers in operation in Xinjiang autonomous region. Photo:]

The ground-based network also comes at a relatively low price – each burning unit costs about 50,000 yuan (US$8,000) to build and install. Costs are likely to drop further due to mass production. 
In comparison, a cloud-seeding plane costs several million yuan and covers a smaller area. 
One downside of the burning chambers, however, is that they will not work in the absence of wind or when the wind is blowing the wrong direction. 
This month, the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation signed an agreement with Tsinghua University and Qinghai province to set up a large-scale weather modification system on the Tibetan plateau. 
In 2016 researchers from Tsinghua, China’s leading research university, first proposed a project – named Tianhe or Sky River – to increase the water supply in China’s arid northern regions by manipulating the climate. 
The project aims to intercept the water vapour carried by the Indian monsoon over the Tibetan plateau and redistribute it in the northern regions to increase the water supply there by five to 10 billion cubic metres a year. 

Chinese engineers plan 1,000km tunnel to make Xinjiang desert bloom
The aerospace corporation’s president, Lei Fanpei, said in a speech that China’s space industry would integrate its weather modification programme with Tsinghua’s Sky River project. 
“[Modifying the weather in Tibet] is a critical innovation to solve China’s water shortage problem,” Lei said. “It will make an important contribution not only to China’s development and world prosperity, but also the well being of the entire human race.” 

Tsinghua president Qiu Yong said the agreement signalled the central government’s determination to apply cutting-edge military technology in civilian sectors. The technology will significantly spur development in China’s western regions, he added. 
The contents of the agreement are being kept confidential as it contains sensitive information that the authorities have deemed unsuitable to be revealed at the moment, a Tsinghua professor with knowledge of the deal told the Post. 
[Scientists at Tsinghua University in Beijing first devised the plan for the “Sky River”. Photo: Shutterstock]
Climate simulations show that the Tibetan plateau is likely to experience a severe drought over the coming decades as natural rainfall fails to replenish the water lost as a result of rising temperatures. 
“The satellite network and weather modification measures are to make preparations for the worst-case scenario,” the Tsinghua researcher said. 
The exact scale and launch date for the programme has not been fixed as it is pending final approval from the central government, he said. 
Debate is also ongoing within the project team over the best approach for the project, he added. While some favour the use of the chambers, others prefer cloud-seeding planes as they have a smaller environmental footprint. 

Spring is coming earlier to the Tibetan plateau and it could affect the lives of millions

Ma Weiqiang, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research, said a cloud-seeding experiment on such a scale was unprecedented and could help answer many intriguing scientific questions. 
In theory, the chambers could affect the weather and even the climate in the region if they are built in large enough numbers. But they might not work as perfectly in real life, according to the researcher. 

“I am sceptical about the amount of rainfall they can produce. A weather system can be huge. It can make all human efforts look vain,” Ma said. 
Beijing might not give the green light for the project either, he added, as intercepting the moisture in the skies over Tibet could have a knock-on effect and reduce rainfall in other Chinese regions. 
This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Scientists test military tech for world’s biggest rain-making network Scientists test military tech for rain network

Iman Amrani
The Guardina
28 March 2018

Salah Abdeslam is becoming a figurehead for would-be terorrists across Europe, as the latest French atrocity shows

‘In just a few sentences, Salah Abdeslam elevated himself from a deluded criminal to a potentially dangerous spokesman.’ Abdeslam (right) on trial in Brussels in February. Photograph: Emanuel Dunand/EPA

Last Friday, 25-year-old Redouane Lakdim killed four people and injured 16 others after taking hostages in a supermarket in south-west France. It has since emerged that he was known to French intelligence services, who were concerned he was at risk of Islamist radicalisation. Lakdim himself was shot dead, but his motive for the attack shines a light on the continuing threat posed by another Islamist extremist, still being held behind bars.

Lakdim had demanded the release of Salah Abdeslam, the sole survivor from the group behind the 2015 Paris attacks that killed 130 people. Abdeslam had evaded the security services for months, but was eventually caught hiding in Molenbeek, the suburb of Brussels where he lived and grew up.

From his maximum security cell in France, Abdeslam has become infamous, receiving messages from women who want to bear his children, and numerous media interview requests. He has refused to speak, even to his lawyers, yet his silence has seen his influence grow. He appears defiant in the face of the French and Belgian justice systems, which are viewed by many black and Arab youngsters as being prejudiced against them.

    In Molenbeek during the week of the hearing, I felt a degree of sympathy for him. One young man said: 'He has a point.' 

The profiles of most would-be jihadis usually include some history of petty crime – Lakdim himself had drug and firearms convictions – and often some time in prison, which is where many young men have been radicalised. Abdeslam’s defiance appeals beyond the walls of his prison, to those people who have been through the judicial system or view it with distrust.

The power dynamic has changed, and everyone from the French media to the victims’ families is waiting with bated breath to see if he will break his silence and give answers about what happened on the night of the Paris attacks. Why did he not blow himself up like his older brother, Brahim, who killed himself and several others in the Comptoir Voltaire cafe, yards from the Bataclan concert hall? Was the explosive belt believed to be his, which was found in a bin, faulty, or did he change his mind?

The Paris and Brussels attacks

Yet if young men are attracted to jihadism because it feels thrilling and violent, like something out of a movie, then Abdeslam’s story has dangerous potential for at-risk youth. He has fashioned himself into the ultimate antihero, a prisoner of the state appealing to his community on the outside. His choice of words makes him even more dangerous. In court last month, he spoke only to say that his silence was his form of defence.

“What I observe is that Muslims are judged, treated in the worst of ways,” he said. “They are judged mercilessly. There is no presumption of innocence, there is nothing, we’re immediately guilty, voilà. My silence does not mean that I am guilty: it is my defence.” In just a few sentences, Abdeslam elevated himself from a deluded criminal to a potentially dangerous spokesman for disillusioned young Muslims across Europe. He finished by saying: “Judge me, do what you want to do. I place my confidence in Allah. I have not fear of you.”
'Quest for justice': former Isis hostage on capture of ‘Beatles’ – video

Sven Mary, Abdeslam’s lawyer in Belgium, referred to his client as “stoic”. Journalists in court scoffed at this description, but Abdeslam’s performance wasn’t for their benefit. In Molenbeek the week of the hearing, I felt a degree of sympathy for him. One young man said to me: “He has a point.” Others told me they didn’t believe the system would allow him a fair trial.

The French and Belgian authorities must not confirm these prejudices. Abdeslam’s story is being watched around the world, and the process needs to be seen as being completely fair, upholding justice and showing that European courts hold the moral authority.

Nicolas Hénin was kidnapped in Syria in 2013 by a group of Islamic State fighters that included two members of the group of British nationals known as “the Beatles”. When they were arrested last month, Hénin was vocal about how a fair trial was essential to prevent further radicalisation. He’d experienced first-hand anger fuelled by images of Guantánamo Bay detention camp.

“Why do you think [our captors] put us in these stupid orange jumpsuits? Why do you think they waterboarded some of us? It’s because they were mocking Guantánamo,” said Hénin. “Guantánamo was actually one of their reasons for their engagement in extremism and jihad, so if we perpetrate this kind of atrocity, we are not helping our quest for justice.”
French supermarket siege: memorial service held for victims
Read more

Given such a difficult figure as Abdeslam, it can be hard to ensure justice is seen to be done by even the most disillusioned of watchers. There has never been a case like this. But as last Friday’s attack shows, we cannot get it wrong. We cannot allow Abdeslam to build himself into a living martyr, to use his platform to speak for frustrated young Muslims, or inspire them to strike in his name.

Abdeslam may not give us the answers we are looking for, but we already know that there is a real problem among some disillusioned youngsters across Europe. These young men are often not particularly religious, but have limited prospects, and live on the fringes of society. We need to find a way to bring them back into mainstream society and away from the messages peddled by Isis. That means building trust between communities, police and the justice system. We must not let him be the most prominent voice, even in his silence, appealing to those who feel angry, violent or lost.

Abdeslam’s trial on terror charges over the Paris attacks will not begin in full until 2019; but whatever the final verdict, if things continue as they are, he will remain a threat, and a symbol for all those whose aim is to pitch Muslims against the west.

• Iman Amrani is a Guardian multimedia journalist

by Aditya Chakrabortty
The Guardian
28 Feb 2018

The latest article in our new economics series looks at what happened when a German utilities contract expired, and one man thought his neighbours could take over

A general view of Wolfhagen in Germany.

‘Wolfhagen, a somnolent town whose biggest previous claim to fame was that one of the Brothers Grimm had stayed there.’ Photograph: Lukas Schulze/Getty Images

Martin Rühl never imagined this fight would define the rest of his life. Not for a moment did he reckon it would become so epic in length, in scale, in consequences. He just thought his speck of a town should run its own electricity supply.

A modest proposal, but in the Germany of 2003 it was highly unusual. Gerhard Schröder was still chancellor and, although a social democrat, was pushing through more privatisations of public assets than any other leader in German history. This was in a Europe that had learned from Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan to stop worrying and start loving the private sector. Now here, swimming against history’s current, was one orderly, slightly anxious engineer.

    German politicians don’t privatise because they believe it will lead to better services. They mainly want the euros 

On Rühl’s side were evidence, arguments and expertise. What he lacked was his multinational opponent’s money and firepower. The mismatch produced a battle that lasted years, that set off ripples around Germany and whose lessons should be pondered by anyone who wonders whether Britain could improve how it runs its electricity and gas, its water, its train services. And it kicked off in Wolfhagen, a somnolent town whose biggest previous claim to fame was that one of the Brothers Grimm had stayed in one of its half-timbered buildings.

Fifteen years ago, Wolfhagen was like thousands of other German towns and cities in leasing its electrical grid for its 14,000 residents to one of the world’s largest energy companies, E.ON. But two things made this place different. First, it still had a Stadtwerke, or municipally owned electricity supplier. Second, it had Rühl, who’d only recently become the Stadtwerke’s boss.

Rühl spotted that E.ON’s 20-year licence was approaching its expiry. Rather than just sign again on the dotted line, he thought Wolfhagen ought to reclaim the grid for itself – and pressed the case repeatedly upon the local council for months. For all the legal and financial advice he’d garnered, Rühl was not at all sure he’d persuade the politicians. “Lots of people were saying something totally different.” Yet, “I knew it was legal and correct, and morally right.”

Perhaps it was his passion that enthused councillors, but “everyone said, ‘Well if it’s good for Wolfhagen, it’s good for us. Let’s do it.’”

Now this small-town hick had to tell one of the giants of the energy world that the council no longer needed their services. How did E.ON take it? “Well … ” He remembers a scrap of English understatement: “They were not amused.”

The Germans have a name for what Rühl was about to do: Rekommunalisierung. One of those satisfyingly ungainly bits of Deutsch, it denotes a town or city reclaiming ownership of its public utilities. The term was partly spread by Wolfhagen’s epic fight for control over its power supply.

The British have their own word: lunacy. No matter how bad our privatised utilities get, any politician who suggests taking them back into public ownership may as well count the hairs on their palms.

Rail franchises can collapse in a single afternoon. Energy giants (including E.ON) face accusations of overcharging the public. Water companies can deny the taxman his dues and the public their investment, while shovelling billions into the pockets of shareholders.

For decades, Britons have paid through the nose for someone else – often based thousands of miles offshore – to rip them off. Now a clear majority of voters, even true-blue Tories, want public ownership of basic utilities.

Yet to call for that very thing, as Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn does today, is to face the molten wrath of the rightwing press, the trade lobbyists and the Conservative party. To resist the ideological extreme that the private sector must always run our public services is to be denounced as an extremist ideologue.

Rühl faced his own denunciations from E.ON. “They said we couldn’t do it. That the lights would go out. They said we were uneconomical … either the town would have to subsidise energy or residents would have to pay more.” All “bullshit”, he says. Yet the fight brought sleepless nights and days besieged by worry that he wasn’t up to the job.

He realised he was attacking E.ON’s business model. “For them it was like, ‘If [Wolfhagen] want their grid back then maybe everyone does.’ I was part of the breaking of the dam. So they had to give it their all.” And the amount they wanted to be compensated for the grid was far higher than the town’s starting bid.

Kai Mellinghorf poses in his cinema.

‘Kai Mellinghoff is the third generation of his family to run the town’s cinema.’ Photograph: Lukas Schulze/Getty Images

Approached for comment on these and other issues, E.ON said: “Wolfhagen was one of the first cases of remunicipalisation in Germany. Many commercial, technical and legal questions were not clarified. That’s why both sides negotiated for so long.”

The multinational went back and forth with Rühl for three years, before compromise was reached in 2006. E.ON’s payoff was cobbled together by loans for local banks. His town had won control of its own grid. One epic battle had ended, but many more were to follow, across Germany.

A two-hour train ride from Wolfhagen lies Frankfurt, where I met the closest thing Germany has to a professor of privatisation studies. Tim Engartner can list the family silver flogged by his country – the airline Lufthansa, Deutsche Post, Deutsche Telekom. But, crucially, unlike their Westminster counterparts, German politicians don’t privatise because they believe it will lead to better services. They mainly want the euros. “Selling public assets gives them a huge windfall to spend on roads or social projects.”

This lack of dogmatism has two major consequences. First, it gives half a chance to any Martin Rühl who can show that public control will yield even more euros for those essential works. Second, when a privatisation leads to worse services or higher prices, politicians can be pressured into reversing it.

In the east German city of Potsdam, the privatisation of water pushed charges up by a third within two years – so it was cancelled. City after city has taken back bin collection in-house. And then there’s energy. In 2005, Wolfhagen was into the final straight of taking its grid into public hands. Since then 284 municipalities, including the second-biggest city ofHamburg, have followed suit.

Such cases don’t get much of a showing in the British press. The pundits and policy wonks who equate public ownership with Red Robbo, Bakelite phones and stale British Rail sandwiches never mention that across Europe there have been 567 instances of public services being taken into public ownership since the year 2000. Everything from care homes for the elderly to bus companies is now run by continental towns and cities.

In the 1870s, Birmingham was the birthplace of municipal socialism: the city’s then-mayor, Joseph Chamberlain, bought the gas and waterworks and ran them for a public profit. Nearly 150 years later, Europe is pioneering a new form of municipal socialism, while Theresa May’s ministers try the most motley methods to keep the failed East Coast mainline out of the public sector.

Even so, Wolfhagen stands out. It’s where the Japanese and South Koreans fly in just to take lessons. Visit the Stadtwerke today and Rühl’s successor, Alexander Rohrssen, will list its achievements. A profit every year, which has not only paid off the bank loans but funds the town’s kindergartens. Generally cheaper electricity than most competitors, including E.ON. The number of staff has almost doubled and this still-small enterprise has won national prizes for its innovation on reducing energy use.

A pretty street in Wolfhagen.

‘Wolfhagen stands out. It’s where the Japanese and South Koreans fly in just to take lessons.’ Photograph: Lukas Schulze/Getty Images

But to see the real difference made by public ownership you need to head into the middle of the town, to a small cinema that opened in 1948. Kai Mellinghoff is the third generation of his family to run it. He barely remembers the battle with E.ON: “It was in the paper, but people weren’t moved by it.” A few months afterwards, however, Rühl came to him with a proposal. He wanted to hire the cinema to screen environmental films. It was 2006, the year of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. Tickets were either free or cheap, all 90 of the red plush seats were filled. This was an event.

After the film, there might be a speaker on climate change or electric cars, and the audience would be invited on to Mellinghoff’s terrace. He shows me its postcard view of the timber rooftops of his town and the woods beyond. Out here, the townspeople would clutch glasses of wine and discuss the film, the environment and what part they could play in preserving it.
In 2011 Preston hit rock bottom. Then it took back control

Rühl wanted the now-public Stadtwerke to go 100% renewable by 2015; these evenings were his way of spreading the idea. Renewables meant a forest of solar panels, and giant wind turbines on the mountain that overlooks Wolfhagen. The prospect split the town in two: opponents of the wind farm produced mock-up posters of turbines looming out of a napalmed forest and leering down at locals.

The Ancient Greeks would have known what to call Mellinghoff’s terrace. It was an agora, a place for citizens to discuss politics. For all its fury, the debate turned the Stadtwerke from a company under new management to an asset in which everyone had a stake. That bond got closer after Wolfhagen had adopted the renewables pledge. To raise the millions needed to build the wind farm, the town sold a quarter of the energy firm’s shares to locals in a citizens’ co-op. The co-op has seats on the board of the company, giving residents a direct say over how their utility is managed.

Even after all the years of fighting, I ask, would Rühl recommend Britons do the same with their utilities? He ponders all the failures of British privatisation – with a special, sad mention of “your rail system”. (Every German I meet uses the same regretful tone about British trains, as if discussing a child with behavioural problems.) Then he says something that sounds uncannily resonant to anyone in Brexit Britain. “Germans say we can’t make decisions because everything is decided in Brussels or by big companies. If you can improve your standard of living and make your own choices, that has to be good.”

One snowy afternoon, Iris Degenhardt-Meister walks me up the mountain to see the wind turbines up close. Over the couple of kilometres uphill, she laughs while rehearsing the charged town debates of a decade ago, as if remembering university pranks. A civil servant, she’s also a co-op director. The shares give her a decent dividend, albeit capped by a Gierbremse, or greed brake. As for the turbines: “We love them!” She can identify each one. That way lies eins, over there is vier.

I ask a question that would be absurd in privatised Britain: does she feel they belong to her? “Yes!” A pause to consider the size of the co-op’s stake. “After all, we own a quarter of them.”

Additional reporting by Josie Le Blond
by Tamsin Shaw	
NYR Daily
March 21, 2018

Bryan Bedder/Getty Images
Alexander Nix, CEO of Cambridge Analytica, addressing the Concordia Summit in New York, September 19, 2016

Apparently, the age of the old-fashioned spook is in decline. What is emerging instead is an obscure world of mysterious boutique companies specializing in data analysis and online influence that contract with government agencies. As they say about hedge funds, if the general public has heard their names that’s probably not a good sign. But there is now one data analysis company that anyone who pays attention to the US and UK press has heard of: Cambridge Analytica. Representatives have boasted that their list of past and current clients includes the British Ministry of Defense, the US Department of Defense, the US Department of State, the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and NATO. Nevertheless, they became recognized for just one influence campaign: the one that helped Donald Trump get elected president of the United States. The kind of help the company offered has since been the subject of much unwelcome legal and journalistic scrutiny.

Carole Cadwalladr’s recent exposé of the inner workings of Cambridge Analytica shows that the company, along with its partner, SCL Group, should rightly be as a cautionary tale about the part private companies play in developing and deploying government-funded behavioral technologies. Her source, former employee Christopher Wylie, has described the development of influence techniques for psychological warfare by SCL Defense, the refinement of similar techniques by SCL Elections through its use across the developing world (for example, a “rumor campaign” deployed to spread fear during the 2007 election in Nigeria), and the purchase of this cyber-arsenal by Robert Mercer, the American billionaire who funded Cambridge Analytica, and who, with the help of Wylie, Trump campaign manager Steve Bannon, and the company’s chief executive Alexander Nix, deployed it on the American electorate in 2016.

But the revelations should also prompt us to ask deeper questions about the kind of behavioral science research that enables both governments and private companies to assume these powers. Two young psychologists are central to the Cambridge Analytica story. One is Michal Kosinski, who devised an app with a Cambridge University colleague, David Stillwell, that measures personality traits by analyzing Facebook “likes.” It was then used in collaboration with the World Well-Being Project, a group at the University of Pennsylvania’s Positive Psychology Center that specializes in the use of big data to measure health and happiness in order to improve well-being. The other is Aleksandr Kogan, who also works in the field of positive psychology and has written papers on happiness, kindness, and love (according to his résumé, an early paper was called “Down the Rabbit Hole: A Unified Theory of Love”). He ran the Prosociality and Well-being Laboratory, under the auspices of Cambridge University’s Well-Being Institute.

Despite its prominence in research on well-being, Kosinski’s work, Cadwalladr points out, drew a great deal of interest from British and American intelligence agencies and defense contractors, including overtures from the private company running an intelligence project nicknamed “Operation KitKat” because a correlation had been found between anti-Israeli sentiments and liking Nikes and KitKats. Several of Kosinski’s co-authored papers list the US government’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, as a funding source. His résumé boasts of meetings with senior figures at two of the world’s largest defense contractors, Boeing and Microsoft, both companies that have sponsored his research. He ran a workshop on digital footprints and psychological assessment for the Singaporean Ministry of Defense.

For his part, Aleksandr Kogan established a company, Global Science Research, that contracted with SCL, using Facebook data to map personality traits for its work in elections (Kosinski claims that Kogan essentially reverse-engineered the app that he and Stillwell had developed). Kogan’s app harvested data on Facebook users who agreed to take a personality test for the purposes of academic research (though it was, in fact, to be used by SCL for non-academic ends). But according to Wylie, the app also collected data on their entire—and nonconsenting—network of friends. Once Cambridge Analytica and SCL had won contracts with the State Department and were pitching to the Pentagon, Wylie became alarmed that this illegally-obtained data had ended up at the heart of government, along with the contractors who might abuse it.

This apparently bizarre intersection of research on topics like love and kindness with defense and intelligence interests is not, in fact, particularly unusual. It is typical of the kind of dual-use research that has shaped the field of social psychology in the US since World War II. Much of the classic, foundational research on personality, conformity, obedience, group polarization, and other such determinants of social dynamics—while ostensibly civilian—was funded during the cold war by the military and the CIA. The cold war was an ideological battle, so, naturally, research on techniques for controlling belief was considered a national security priority. This psychological research laid the groundwork for propaganda wars and for experiments in individual “mind control.” The pioneering figures from this era—for example, Gordon Allport on personality and Solomon Asch on belief conformity—are still cited in NATO psy-ops literature to this day.

The recent revival of this cold war approach has taken place in the setting of the war on terror, which began in 1998 with Bill Clinton’s Presidential Decision Directive 62, making terrorism America’s national security priority. Martin Seligman, the psychologist who has bridged the military and civilian worlds more successfully than any other with his work on helplessness and resilience, was at the forefront of the new dual-use initiative. His research began as a part of a cold war program of electroshock experiments in the 1960s. He subjected dogs to electric shocks, rendering them passive to the point that they no longer even tried to avoid the pain, a state he called “learned helplessness.” This concept then became the basis of a theory of depression, along with associated ideas about how to foster psychological resilience.

In 1998, Seligman founded the positive psychology movement, dedicated to the study of psychological traits and habits that foster authentic happiness and well-being, spawning an enormous industry of popular self-help books. At the same time, his work attracted interest and funding from the military as a central part of its soldier-resilience initiative. Seligman had previously worked with the CIA and even before September 11, 2001, his new movement was in tune with America’s shifting national security priorities, hosting in its inaugural year a conference in Northern Ireland on “ethno-political conflict.”

But it was after the September 11 attacks that terrorism became Seligman’s absolute priority. In 2003, he said that the war with jihadis must take precedence over all other academic research, saying of his colleagues: “If we lose the war, the laudable, but pet projects they endorse, will not be issues… If we win this war, we can go on to pursue the normal goals of science.” Money poured into the discipline for these purposes. The Department of Homeland Security established Centers of Excellence in universities for interdisciplinary research into the social and psychological roots of terrorism. Elsewhere, scholars worked more obliquely on relevant behavioral technologies.

Some of the psychological projects cultivated under the banner of the war on terror will be familiar to many readers. Psychologists such as Jonathan Haidt and Steven Pinker, and their colleagues in other disciplines (most prominently, the Harvard Law professor Cass Sunstein) rehabilitated the cold war research on “group polarization” as a way of understanding not, this time, the radicalism that feeds “totalitarianism,” but the equally amorphous notion of “extremism.” They sought to combat extremism domestically by promoting “viewpoint diversity” both on campus (through organizations such as the Heterodox Academy, run by Haidt and funded by libertarian billionaire Paul Singer) and online, suggesting ways in which websites might employ techniques from social psychology to combat phenomena such as “confirmation bias.” Their notion of “appropriate heterogeneity” (Sunstein) in moral and political views remains controversial.

Seligman himself saw the potential for using the Internet to bring his research on personality together with new ways of gathering data. This project began shortly after the September 11 attacks, with a paper on “Character Strengths Before and After September 11,” which focused on variations in traits such as trust, love, teamwork, and leadership. It ultimately evolved into the innovative World Well-Being Project at Penn. Seligman also fostered links with Cambridge University, where he is on the board of the Well-Being Institute that employs the same kind of psychometric techniques. The aim of these programs is not simply to analyze our subjective states of mind but to discover means by which we can be “nudged” in the direction of our true well-being as positive psychologists understand it, which includes attributes like resilience and optimism. Seligman’s projects are almost all funded by the Templeton Foundation and may have been employed for entirely civilian purposes. But in bringing together the personality research and the behavioral technologies that social psychologists had for decades been refining with the new tool of big data (via the astonishing resources provided by social media), it has created an important template for what is now the cutting-edge work of America’s intelligence community.

In 2008, then Secretary of Defense Robert Gates commissioned the Minerva Initiative, funded by the DoD, which brought researchers in the social sciences together to study culture and terrorism, and specifically supported initiatives involving the analysis of social media. One of the Cornell scientists involved also participated in the famous and controversial Facebook study of emotional contagion. Less well known is the Open Source Indicators program at the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity, or IARPA (a body under the Director of National Intelligence), which has aimed to analyze social media in order to predict social unrest and political crises.

In a 2014 interview, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, speaking then as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said that such open-source data initiatives, and in particular the study of social media such as Facebook, had entirely transformed intelligence-gathering. He reported that traditional signals intelligence and human intelligence were increasingly being replaced by this open-source work and that the way in which intelligence agents are trained had been modified to accommodate the shift. A growing portion of the military’s $50 billion budget would be spent on this data analytics work, he claimed, creating a “gold rush” for contractors. A few weeks after this interview, Flynn left the DIA to establish the Flynn Intel Group Inc. He later acted as a consultant to the SCL Group.

Carole Cadwalladr reported in The Observer last year that it was Sophie Schmidt, daughter of Alphabet founder Eric Schmidt, who made SCL aware of this gold rush, telling Alexander Nix, then head of SCL Elections, that the company should emulate Palantir, the company set up by Peter Thiel and funded with CIA venture capital that has now won important national security contracts. Schmidt threatened to sue Cadwalladr for reporting this information. But Nix recently admitted before a parliamentary select committee in London that Schmidt had interned for Cambridge Analytica, though he denied that she had introduced him to Peter Thiel. Aleksandr Kogan and Christopher Wylie allowed Cambridge Analytica to evolve into an extremely competitive operator in this arena.

It was by no means inevitable that dual-use research at the intersection of psychology and data science would be employed along with illegally-obtained caches of data to manipulate elections. But dual-use research in psychology does seem to present a specific set of dangers. Many areas of scientific research have benefited from dual-use initiatives. The National Cancer Institute began its life in the early 1970s as part of a coordinated program examining the effects of tumor agents developed as bio-weapons at Fort Detrick. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, similarly, researched the effects of militarily manufactured hazardous viruses. This was the foundation of a biotechnology industry that has become a paradigm case of dual use and has led, in spite of its more sinister side, to invaluable medical breakthroughs. But the development of behavioral technologies intended for military-grade persuasion in cyber-operations is rooted in a specific perspective on human beings, one that is at odds with the way they should be viewed in democratic societies.

I’ve written previously about the way in which a great deal of contemporary behavioral science aims to exploit our irrationalities rather than overcome them. A science that is oriented toward the development of behavioral technologies is bound to view us narrowly as manipulable subjects rather than rational agents. If these technologies are becoming the core of America’s military and intelligence cyber-operations, it looks as though we will have to work harder to keep these trends from affecting the everyday life of our democratic society. That will mean paying closer attention to the military and civilian boundaries being crossed by the private companies that undertake such cyber-operations.          

In the academic world, it should entail a refusal to apply the perspective of propaganda research more generally to social problems. From social media we should demand, at a minimum, much greater protection of our data. Over time, we might also see a lower tolerance for platforms whose business model relies on the collection and commercial exploitation of that data. As for politics, rather than elected officials’ perfecting technologies that give them access to personal information about the electorate, their focus should be on informing voters about their policies and actions, and making themselves accountable.

by Zeynep Tufekci
The New York Times, 
March 31, 2016

EVERY morning since August, I have steeled myself to enter an alternate universe. I scroll through social media feeds where people are convinced that Congress funds the Islamic State, that our president hates this country and wants it to fail and that Donald J. Trump is the only glimmer of hope in this bleak landscape.

It’s my look at a list of Twitter users whom I’ve identified as Trump supporters. Some accounts have only a few followers while some have tens of thousands. (No one comes close to Mr. Trump himself, at more than seven million.) They include people of many professions and backgrounds. I found them by reading at responses to news media or political accounts, and then went on to seek out other accounts they followed. It’s a large, sprawling network.

As an academic, I study social media and social movements, from the uprising in Egypt to Black Lives Matter. As I watched this election season unfold, I wanted to gain a better understanding of the power of the Trump social media echo chamber. What I’ve been reading has surprised even my jaded eyes. It’s a world of wild falsehoods and some truth that you see only rarely in mainstream news outlets, or hear spoken among party elites.

It’s popular to argue today that Mr. Trump’s success is, in part, a creation of the traditional news media — cable networks that couldn’t get enough of his celebrity and the ratings it brought, and newspapers that didn’t scrutinize him with enough care. There is some truth in that, but the contention misses a larger reality.

Mr. Trump’s rise is actually a symptom of the mass media’s growing weakness, especially in controlling the limits of what it is acceptable to say.

For decades, journalists at major media organizations acted as gatekeepers who passed judgment on what ideas could be publicly discussed, and what was considered too radical. This is sometimes called the “Overton window,” after Joseph P. Overton of the conservative Mackinac Center for Public Policy, who discussed the relatively narrow range of policies that are viewed as politically acceptable. What such gatekeepers thought was acceptable often overlapped with what those in power believed, too. Conversations outside the frame of this window were not tolerated.

For worse, and sometimes for better, the Overton window is broken. We are in an era of rapidly weakening gatekeepers.

When I first came to this country from Turkey as a graduate student in the late 1990s, I was something of an anomaly: an adult foreigner with white skin who was fluent in English but not a native. Though I was a newcomer culturally, many people in my new home, Austin, Tex., assumed I was born and raised here. I have a bit of an accent, but my appearance seemed to overwhelm their ear.

Curious about my new country, I soaked up conversations. Sometimes, they went very, very wrong in ways I couldn’t understand.

It would go something like this: I would be chatting with a seemingly nice person who would complain that a brother-in-law had lost a job. As I sympathetically listened, there would be a brief, unrelated mention of a black man who was hired for some other job. Just as I was squinting to try to comprehend the point, a vile and thunderous racist rant would be unleashed.

I ran back to my classmates who were born in this country, in horror, wondering what had happened.

“Oh, you don’t know the code,” they told me with a laugh.

“The code” was their shorthand for how racists sent out feelers to find kindred spirits. Since many people of all races opposed racism, racial identity itself was no guarantee of agreement. I didn’t know the markers of this “code,” so I sometimes failed to recognize them, or responded inadequately to them.

Today, this feeling-out process happens online and is much quicker, resulting in cascading self-affirmation. People naturally thrive by finding like-minded others, and I watch as Trump supporters affirm one another in their belief that white America is being sold out by secretly Muslim lawmakers, and that every unpleasant claim about Donald Trump is a fabrication by a cabal that includes the Republican leadership and the mass media. I watch as their networks expand, and as followers find one another as they voice ever more extreme opinions.

After many months of observing Mr. Trump’s supporters online, I wanted to see this phenomenon in person, so this month I attended a Trump rally in Fayetteville, N.C.

I tried a few conversations that sought to challenge the attendees’ beliefs, but they went nowhere for a simple reason: His supporters and I did not share the same factual universe. At one point, I heard Mr. Trump declare that Congress had funded the Islamic State. I looked around, bewildered, as there was no reaction from the crowd. My social media forays confirm that even that was not an uncommon belief.

Mr. Trump doesn’t only speak outrageous falsehoods; he also voices truths outside the Overton window that have been largely ignored, especially by Republican elites. For example, academic research shows that rather than deep cuts, Tea Party voters actually favor government programs, as long as they perceive a benefit for themselves. It’s fairly obvious that the current model of global trade provides a lot more benefits to corporations than to workers, and yet it took Mr. Trump’s rise to have this basic issue widely covered. In Fayetteville, Mr. Trump complained that much of the military’s expensive weaponry had been purchased simply because the large corporations selling it had political clout. As he said this, the people around me, many of them from military families, leapt to their feet in approval.

The demagogy that Mr. Trump deploys didn’t come out of nowhere, but was encouraged by the Republican leadership. In 2012, Mitt Romney effusively accepted Mr. Trump’s endorsement even though the tycoon had repeatedly questioned President Obama’s citizenship. In this election, the Republican Party may have hoped to engineer a controlled fire that would burn only political opponents — the current president, say, or Democrats as a whole, but not their preferred candidates. That’s a technique that may have worked in the era of mass media. Instead, it now rages, uncontrolled, on social media.

Many of the Trump supporters whom I’ve been following say that they no longer trust any big institutions, whether political parties or media outlets. Instead, they share personal stories that support their common narrative, which mixes falsehoods and facts — often ignored by these powerful institutions they now loathe — with the politics of racial resentment.

Mr. Trump has been criticized for not conducting internal polling to adjust his message, as major campaigns generally do. He does something better, though. He uses Twitter as a kind of gut focus-group polling to pick up and amplify messages that resonate. Also, while his rally speeches may seem rambling, after having watched many, I believe he uses crowd response to refine his message. He is not a bumbling celebrity; he is a politician deeply in touch with his own, polarized base.

The Trump phenomenon is not simply a creation of newspaper columnists or cable news bookers who initially thought his candidacy was a joke to be exploited for ratings. His emergence shows the strength of his supporters, united on social media, who believe that the media is a joke. Mr. Trump and his fans have broken the Overton window, and there is no going back.

Zeynep Tufekci is an assistant professor at the School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina and a contributing opinion writer.

Why is Trump driving liberals berserk? Is it him or us—or both?
By John T. Jost Orsolya Hunyady
from Spring, No. 48

It has been more than a year now, and while the initial shock may have worn off, the horror of President Trump, for liberals, has not. Weekly, daily, sometimes hourly, Trump does something that liberals experience as not merely wrong or politically abhorrent, but something that violates all the norms and principles of public life that we hold most dear. He drives liberals crazy in ways that even Presidents Nixon, Reagan, and Bush never did.

Why? What is it about Trump’s personality, his followers, and the brand of authoritarian conservatism they share? And what is it about liberals that renders them so apoplectic in this situation? Pop psychologists and pundits have brushed up against these questions, but no one has quite wrestled them to the ground. We think we know why Trump makes liberals go berserk. The answer is only partly about Trump. It also has to do with the essential characteristics of liberal ideology and psychology, that is, the very qualities that make liberals “liberal.” We’ll get there, but first we need to establish a few points about conservatism, authoritarianism, Trump’s personality, and the psychology of the liberal mindset.
The Slippery Slope from Conservatism to Authoritarianism

Let us acknowledge that there is something human and intrinsically valuable about the “conservative” impulse to preserve social, economic, and political legacies. As the late Marxist philosopher Gerald A. Cohen pointed out, nearly all of us possess a “natural” bias in favor of existing value and are often heard bemoaning the fact that “things ain’t what they used to be.” When political conservatives tout the importance of the nuclear family or the Constitution or even American exceptionalism, they strike a chord that resonates with most if not all of us.

The understandable, even admirable reverence for tradition can, however, easily slip into more dangerous forms of ideological calcification that wittingly or unwittingly prop up existing forms of exploitation and oppression and stifle opportunities for progress, equality, and social change. Thus, Cohen added that he could never be a conservative about matters of social justice, “because what conservatives like me want to conserve is that which has intrinsic value, and injustice lacks intrinsic value (and has, indeed, intrinsic disvalue).” The challenge, for all of us living in a liberal democracy, is to distinguish clearly between elements of the societal status quo that possess intrinsic value and those that do not, and to conserve only the former. No doubt, this is more easily said than done.

More than any other political system, democracy—as Plato pointed out long ago—has the inherent ability to actualize its own demise. By manipulating the democratic process, elites can limit the freedoms of individuals or social groups and put in place leaders who are not democratically inclined. In a very concrete sense, democracy depends upon ordinary citizens’ capacities and motivations to absorb democratic values and tolerate those with diverse social, cultural, ethnic, and ideological backgrounds. These are precisely the values that those on the right wing have been attacking for years, and they have exploited the inherent popularity of conservative ideology to do so.

In the immediate aftermath of World War II, Theodor W. Adorno, Else Frenkel-Brunswik, Daniel Levinson, and Nevitt Sanford observed a close connection between the holding of extremely conservative, system-justifying values and authoritarian tendencies. They took a multi-methods approach, conducting structured interviews and administering questionnaires and projective tests to countless samples of American adults. Among other things, they observed that people who endorsed statements like “America may not be perfect, but the American Way has brought us about as close as human beings can get to a perfect society” were also more likely to express prejudice, anti-Semitism, and anti-democratic sentiments. Conversely, “liberals” who felt that “poverty could be almost entirely done away with if we made certain basic changes in our social and economic system” were less likely to exhibit authoritarian tendencies. Ever since the Democratic Party first took a strong leadership role on the issue of civil rights for African Americans in the 1960s, authoritarian tendencies have consistently predicted support for Republican presidential candidates.

Social scientists have long known that highly threatening historical periods are accompanied by an increase in authoritarianism in the general population. Thus, following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, there was a predictable uptick in support for authoritarian conservatism, as well as decreased commitment to tolerance and the protection of civil liberties. Similar shifts have occurred in response to bombing and terrorist attacks in India, Israel, and throughout Europe. The fear of terrorism has broadened to encompass the so-called “migrant crisis.” And there is plenty of reason for economic anxiety after 40 years of flat wages (despite increased worker productivity) under capitalist economic systems that have become more and more efficient at exploiting resources of labor.

Whatever the proximal psychological causes, we are bearing witness—all over the world—to the rebirth of extreme right-wing movements that thrive under conditions of anxiety. These movements promise a return to “traditional” (often religious) values, a curtailing of reproductive and other rights of women (as well as sexual minorities), and a revival of nationalistic (often ethnic) pride and the “restoration” of national boundaries, along with a dismantling of the “administrative” welfare state and the imposition of illiberal reforms and vindictive immigration policies. Once in power, they flirt with (and sometimes embrace) totalitarian practices, such as intimidating and even incarcerating protestors, journalists, academics, and any others whom they find potentially threatening or disruptive. With the support of conservative voters, illiberal governments have gained power in Hungary, Poland, Turkey, and many other countries. Radical right-wing parties are also resurgent in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands, France, and the United Kingdom. Understanding mass psychology in this day and age, and the ways in which authoritarian politicians have so successfully tapped into it, is of paramount importance for understanding how this happened and how it can be fought; that is, for the long-term preservation of democratic systems.
Trump This! Authoritarianism by the Book

Even before Donald Trump was elected President, many worried that his campaign style signaled a sea change in American politics—a new danger that right-wing authoritarianism would finally triumph at home. Other Republicans had been accused of dog-whistle politics, using coded language to cue fairly subtle racial biases, but Trump makes comments that come off as overtly, unabashedly racist, sexist, and xenophobic. To some citizens, these comments are taken as evidence of Trump’s authenticity—a breath of “fresh air”—and principled opposition to “political correctness.” To others, it has been shocking to see a successful candidate for President using crass language and defending violence. According to Time, Trump said he’d “like to punch protesters in the face and offered to pay the legal fees of supporters who did.” His rallies were “punctuated by his roar—‘Get ’em out!’—when a dissenter [began] chanting or raising a sign.”
Whatever the psychological causes, we are witnessing the rebirth of extreme right-wing movements that thrive under anxiety.

The reality of the situation throws into stark relief the fact that political scientists today are working with an impoverished conception of authoritarianism—one that emphasizes little more than child-rearing values of obedience and conformity. Contemporary researchers often distance themselves from Adorno, Frenkel-Brunswik, Levinson, and Sanford, in part because of methodological problems that were not as obvious in the 1940s as they are now, but also because these authors were influenced by Marx and Freud, who have fallen out of fashion. Some social scientists have backed off from using the concept of authoritarianism altogether for fear of alienating social conservatives. Others simply put a smiley face on authoritarianism, claiming that in-group loyalty, obedience to authority, and the desire for “purity” are legitimate moral values that liberals ought to respect rather than suspect.

It is worth recalling that Adorno and his colleagues identified nine characteristics of the authoritarian syndrome (not just one or two or three): (1) aggression against those who deviate from “the norm,” (2) submission to idealized moral authorities, (3) uncritical acceptance of conventional values, (4) mental rigidity and a proclivity to engage in stereotypical thinking, (5) a preoccupation with toughness and power, (6) exaggerated sexual concerns, (7) a reluctance to engage in introspection, (8) a tendency to project undesirable traits onto others, and (9) destructiveness and cynicism about human nature. These characteristics provide an uncanny description of Donald Trump. It is as if he has been doing authoritarianism by the book.

It is unnecessary to analyze every one of these characteristics, but let’s consider a few. Not only has Trump courted violent aggression against detractors, he has demanded submission from peers, including Republican opponents during the primary debates, whom he belittled in various ways. Is Trump preoccupied with toughness and power? Here is how he announced a presidential endorsement from boxer (and convicted rapist) Mike Tyson: “Iron Mike. You know, all the tough guys endorse me . . . when I get endorsed by the tough ones, I like it, because you know what? We need toughness now. We need toughness.” And is Trump preoccupied with sexual concerns? How else can we understand bizarre comments about his daughter’s “figure” and the menstrual cycles of female journalists—as well as his claim that Hillary Clinton was “schlonged” when she lost the Democratic nomination to Barack Obama in 2008? It is also a useful thought experiment to imagine what authoritarian conservatives would have done if Obama had been accused of cheating on his wife with an adult film actress, as Trump has been. As for reluctance to engage in introspection, Trump admitted in a 2014 interview: “I don’t like to analyze myself because I might not like what I see.”

In other words, Trump perfectly exemplifies the “authoritarian syndrome,” and surveys confirm that Trump supporters differ from other voters—including other Republicans—in terms of their affinity for right-wing authoritarianism and social dominance orientation. Regardless of whether he has truly significant mental health problems—narcissism, sociopathy, or some other personality disorder—his behavior is crazy-making. He tweets one thing, then the opposite. Policies that may affect millions of people, especially immigrants, are dashed off on a whim, inspired by the latest rant on “Fox and Friends.” “Why are we taking people from ‘shithole’ countries?” asks the President of the United States, in all seriousness. Cavalierly, he tosses paper towels to hurricane victims in Puerto Rico.

Does this mean that Trump has pulled off an authoritarian coup? Certainly not. His government is disorganized and largely ineffective, and in terms of policy he has accomplished little other than tax cuts for the rich and the dismantling of certain forms of economic regulation during the first year of his presidency. But many of his appointments to the judiciary and various governmental units will inflict harm on liberal causes, including the environment, for decades to come. These are angst-ridden times for American liberals, even if the illiberal ambitions of the President—and, worse, many of his supporters (our friends, our co-workers, our family members)—will fail in the long run. In the long run, as they say, we will all be dead.
The Liberal Conundrum: Tolerating the Intolerable

A mad social scientist could not have devised a character who is more antithetical to the liberal worldview than Donald Trump—even a staunch conservative with a more disciplined commitment to right-wing ideals. Trump is unique in his ability to provoke, upset, and irritate those with liberal sensibilities. No doubt this is part of his appeal to a certain segment of the population—the ones who have been told since Nixon that “liberal elites” were laughing at them.

The writer Katha Pollitt confesses that, “I sometimes feel like I’m a different person now. I’m fidgety and irritable and have trouble concentrating . . . But the main difference is that I hate people now. Well, not all people, of course. Just people who voted for Trump. People who do their own ‘research’ on the Internet and discover there that President Obama is a Muslim and Michelle Obama is a man.” Likewise, Michelle Goldberg of The New York Times observes, “What now passes for ordinary would have once been inconceivable. The government is under the control of an erratic racist who engages in nuclear brinkmanship on Twitter. . . . It’s been a year, and sometimes I’m still poleaxed by grief at the destruction of our civic inheritance.”

What precisely is it about Trump that drives liberals to these cataclysmic views? The answer has to do as much with liberals as with Trump himself. First, there is the nature of liberal ideology itself, which—because of its peculiar characteristics and internal contradictions—contributes to the present situation. Second, there are psychological factors, the dispositional tendencies of those who are drawn to liberal ideology. These two elements are related because there is a close and reciprocal connection—what Max Weber called an “elective affinity”—between psychological needs on one hand and the philosophical contents of an ideology on the other.
The Tensions in Liberal Ideology and Psychology

Liberalism as an ideology is a system of values. The distinctive ideological contents of liberalism are openness to social change (or progressivism) and the promotion of social, economic, and political equality. If a conflict arises for liberals but not for conservatives, it is probably because liberalism prioritizes equality above all else. The liberal call for diversity (and, by extension, pluralism) is, among other, things, a call to treat different values equally—to avoid elevating one over others in terms of status and respect. This applies even to conservatism. On some abstract level, liberals feel compelled to proclaim that conservative intuitions are equally acceptable, equally valuable, and equally valid to their own intuitions. At the same time, when it comes to the specific content of conservative opinions (on affirmative action, universal health care, Social Security, gun control, climate change, gay rights, and so on), liberals are convinced that conservatives are dead wrong. Strictly speaking, this conflict is not resolvable and is manifested as genuine ambivalence.

The hate speech debate illustrates the conflict. On one hand, it is impermissible, understandably so, for liberals to simply declare certain kinds of speech or ideas or values off-limits. And yet hate speech severely undermines liberal values, and, to the extent that it gains traction, undermines liberal-democratic societies. What often follows for the liberal in such a quandary is a quixotic, obsessional attempt to identify precisely what qualifies as “hate speech.” One way in which liberals cope with the contradiction is to be permissive in theory, but to become more prohibitive when it comes to specific cases (like Richard Spencer), without ever being able to resolve the inconsistency.

Another manifestation of liberal ambivalence is to advocate (relentlessly) for increased open-mindedness (“we should listen to Trump supporters and figure out what we are missing”), while at the same time slamming Trump himself. Liberals want to validate the needs and desires of fellow citizens that gave rise to the Trump vote without validating the vote itself. They struggle to separate Trump and his actions from the people who elevated him to power, and in doing so, they retain the ability to be empathetic and critical. It is an ingenious trick of the unconscious, the essence of compartmentalization: Trump is not the same as his followers; his followers are not all like him. Do conservatives engage in similar contortions of a political psychological nature? No, because their philosophy (and their psychology) does not require it.

Liberals, therefore, face a special conflict that they are especially ill-equipped to resolve: between tolerance and the “tolerance of intolerance.” If the conflict is unavoidable, and ultimately unresolvable, one can commit to one side only at the expense of the other. If the liberal decides that openness and acceptance matter above all, that we should never treat anyone as “the other,” and that we always need to listen, this inevitably comes at the expense of progressive political goals, including the single-minded pursuit of ideological opposition to the conservative agenda. If, instead, she decides that enough is enough, that the time to fight is now, she is accused—even by fellow liberals—of being “closed-minded,” prejudiced, intolerant, and hypocritical—and, indeed, comes to worry herself that this may be the case. Fifty years ago, Bob Dylan chastened himself for “fearing not that I’d become my enemy in the instant that I preach.” Today many liberals are virtually paralyzed by such a fear. The liberal conundrum cannot really be resolved, and in this way the suffering under Trump and his ilk is compounded and quite possibly prolonged.

The conflict in liberal political ideology manifests itself in liberal psychology as well. We have recently conducted a quantitative meta-analysis of 181 studies based on more than 130,00 research participants, and it reveals that, in comparison with conservatives, liberals exhibit the following psychological characteristics: openness to new experiences, tolerance of ambiguity and uncertainty, cognitive flexibility and complexity, and need for cognition (or enjoyment of thinking). Liberals also score lower than conservatives on measures of dogmatism and personal needs for order, structure, and cognitive closure. To be sure, there are epistemic virtues associated with a more “deliberative” thinking style: Liberals are less likely than conservatives to exhibit self-deception, and they are generally less receptive to conspiracy theories and “pseudo-profound” bullshit.

But the prototypical liberal is also someone who exhibits the defense mechanism of intellectualization and may engage in compartmentalization and other forms of obsessional thinking, which divorce feelings from thought and action. The liberal wants, sometimes desperately, to maintain hope and trust in the positive aspects of human nature, even when it comes to those who are self-declared enemies of liberalism. She sees herself as driven by compassion and is therefore uncomfortable (or ambivalent) about her own competitive and aggressive impulses. Liberals promote the ideal of cooperation and the metaphor of government-as-caretaker (or, in George Lakoff’s phrase, “the nurturant parent”), and they place a strong emphasis on equality and acceptance of difference. And it is true that values such as care and cooperation can, to some degree, provide a psychological bulwark against feelings of guilt, anger, resentment, and helplessness. But there are downsides as well. Politics is not—and probably never will be—as rational as the liberal would like.
The Problem with Trump

We are now equipped to answer the question: Why does Trump—even more than other conservatives—make liberal brains go haywire? It is because he makes it impossible, in practice, for liberals to be tolerant (egalitarian), rational, and optimistic about human nature—three things that are essential aspects of liberal ideology and liberal psychology. Trump makes it preposterous, in other words, for liberals to be “liberal” in the usual sense.

Even Reagan and Bush, for all their dog-whistling, never resorted to language that was explicitly authoritarian, racist, misogynistic, and xenophobic. But Trump does so regularly; he states that some neo-Nazis are “very fine people.” Liberals cannot in good conscience tolerate these “values”—or treat them as equally valid (or “moral” or “tribal”), when their opposites are readily available. Second, while other Republicans (and some Democrats, too, of course) have lied in office, no one has ever displayed so little regard for the truth. How can anyone who deeply values reason and scientific evidence countenance the biggest conservative bullshitter of them all, a man in power who appears to care not one whit about the facts of the matter on issue after issue? Any observation he dislikes, no matter how grounded in reality, is dismissed as “fake news.” On top of all this, liberals must somehow come to terms with the fact that roughly half of the Americans who voted wanted to put him in office. And 35 percent appear willing to stand by him no matter what, even if—as he boasted during the campaign—he were to “stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody.” Our faith in tolerance, reason, and humanity, in our neighbors, in our liberal-democratic institutions, all of it seems to be shattering in real time.

This is because Trump’s personality, even more than his politics, oozes authoritarian ugliness. The fact that his authoritarianism is so utterly ordinary, shared by millions around the world, gives no comfort. To take the anti-intellectual crudeness of his persona, his incessant bullying, his disdain for the cherished norms of liberal democracy, and his erratic behavior from “The Apprentice” and move them into the West Wing—this is a special kind of affront to “blue America.” Trump feels vindicated by the mere fact of having been elected President—a fact that he brings up constantly. He has more power than any one person in this country to influence the lives of millions, yet he shows no signs of comprehending the significance or moral responsibility of this. Why not destroy the families of immigrants? They’re not even white. Like a spoiled, spiteful, indifferent king, he makes no pretense of listening to or representing us—half the nation—in any way. In this respect, he is worse—more personally contemptuous of liberal norms, traditions, and accomplishments—than Nixon, Reagan, and Bush. If Trump were more religious he would resemble a pre-Enlightenment figure; it would be difficult to find a less scientifically informed member of the upper class. And yet the whole country, it seems, is held hostage to his narcissistic wounds, authoritarian rants, and Twitterstorms.

Liberals share a miserable concoction of disenchantment, astonishment, and outrage, but—like a herd of cats—their notions about what has happened since November 8, 2016 (and why) differs wildly from person to person. To be sure, many are committed to some form of “resistance,” but others worry that the problem lies with us. Thus, Pollitt agonizes, “I know what you’re thinking: you are the problem, Katha, alienating Trump voters with your snobbish liberal elitism and addiction to ‘identity politics.’” Some liberals hit the conservative think-tank circuit to blame “cultural Marxists” for our nation’s woes. Others worry that we liberals are just not tolerant enough. Is liberal “political correctness” to blame for the rise of Trump and alt-right? Perhaps we have not listened closely enough to our conservative brethren. Should we “take our fingers out of our ears?” Are we overreacting?

More pertinent than ever is Robert Frost’s admonition that “A liberal is a man too broadminded to take his own side in a quarrel.” Or, to put it in game-theoretic terms, liberals just can’t help wanting to cooperate (at least some of the time) with conservatives, while American conservatives always defect. Now, in the face of authoritarian demagoguery and a “predatory world view,” liberals must realize “how ineffectual were Obama’s nostrums of bipartisan cooperation, conciliation, and reasonable compromise, or Hillary Clinton’s insistence that America is great because it is good,” as the noted psychoanalyst Jessica Benjamin puts it. Even if we assume that some diversity of opinion is expected, useful, and healthy within a community that otherwise shares a given value system (like democracy), could it be that “liberal” responses are too fragmented, too ramified, and too idiosyncratic to constitute a coherent form of opposition to Trumpism? Is there a sense in which liberals are unwittingly participating in self-sabotage, holding themselves back from doing what it takes to reclaim their country?

At least some of the reactions to Trump’s presidency that have taken the form of introspection or “self-examination” (something that would never even occur to the authoritarian conservative) reflect a psychological discomfort with placing blame squarely onto “the other.” To be sure, rational, objective analysis and a dedication to learning from the past (even the recent past) are indispensable characteristics of sound democratic deliberation. But a failure to distinguish between important and unimportant details is unhelpful and, in the language of attachment theory, avoidant. A woman registering voters for Jill Stein insists that Hillary Clinton is just as bad as Donald Trump and glides away, saying that it doesn’t matter anyway, because Trump could never win the election…

Conservatives hammer liberals for being too “idealistic”—indeed unrealistic about the selfish, “dark side” of human nature—as well as hypocritical and elitist (even as liberals take up the cause, if not the lifestyle, of the underdog). There is some truth to this. As Benjamin points out, liberal political failures often stem from “an inability to acknowledge harming, to admit that such destructive, anti-democratic forces are and have always been part of our legitimated political structure.” Much more than liberals, conservatives take the “dark side” for granted—and many justify it, advocating for the very things that call it out: the relentless pursuit of material self-interest, competition, power, discipline, obedience, and conformity. Conservative politicians demonstrate a willingness to bend or break the rules, to do everything “necessary”—or more precisely, possible (such as gerrymandering, voter suppression, and outright obstruction)—to win. For nearly a year, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell successfully prevented Congress from even considering President Obama’s nomination for the Supreme Court so that they could install one of their own after Trump was elected. Liberals may feel betrayed, but what do they do about it? What can they do—without turning into “the enemy”?
Joining the Fray

None of what we are saying should be taken to suggest that there is a dearth of effective, creative, passionate, and courageous activists (or would-be activists) on the liberal left who are capable of meeting the challenges of our time. There are. Many “liberals” (whether or not they embrace the term) report being galvanized by the Trump presidency, the Charlottesville riots, ongoing sexual harassment scandals, and other recent events. They resolve to take a stronger, more active political stance than ever before. And, historically speaking, we should never forget that most of the things that Americans truly celebrate are, in fact, liberal victories over illiberal institutions and arrangements, from the eradication of slavery to the defeat of the Nazis. Liberals should be proud of their historical legacy, and they should own it. But every one of those victories was hard fought: They took persistence, resilience, and an unwavering commitment to winning.

It may yet turn out that Trump’s presidency will mobilize the liberal left in ways that are innovative, far-reaching, and enduring. But it is part of the liberal conundrum to worry that whenever we take truly decisive action we are becoming just like conservatives: closed-minded, prejudiced, biased, intolerant, hypocritical, and so on. Every day Trump gives liberals new reasons to be despondent, livid, and contemptuous of what he is doing, how he is doing it, and what he represents. But these feelings are themselves a source of threat for liberals—and where threats emerge, defenses rally. At an unconscious level, many liberals turn inward—to a place of self-doubt, even self-recrimination. “And of course, I hate myself, too,” writes Pollitt. Fortunately, she has not stopped fighting, but these dynamics hamper many a liberal’s ability to take effective—indeed, combative—measures to vanquish the right.

The liberal conundrum cannot be resolved ideologically (philosophically) or personally (psychologically). We lash out at our political opponents and regret it almost immediately. We try to maintain a sober, rational distance from our own emotions, because we cannot trust their epistemic value. Our adversaries, meanwhile, are all “guts-and-glory,” with no time for introspection, no energy for deliberation, and certainly no patience for us. Some conservatives, it must be recognized, are appalled by Trump’s behavior. From David Frum and Bill Kristol to Jeff Flake and Mitt Romney, conservatives who know something of history and philosophy, freedom and tolerance, reason and democracy are finally as horrified as liberals at the direction the country is headed in. But too many conservatives are not. They deflect criticism of the President reflexively by engaging in “whataboutism”—shifting the topic of conversation to the failings of Obama or Clinton or Al Franken or whomever. While many conservatives understandably dismiss the liberal’s tentative, ambivalent entreaties, the half-hearted attempts to “reach out,” “open-minded” liberals attack one another for not being tolerant enough. Every now and then, frustration peaks, and rage boils over. We unload, finally, on the men in power—they are racists, sexual predators, plutocrats, polluters, quislings, and worse. We are not wrong, but it doesn’t feel entirely right to participate in the culture of denunciation either, at least not for long.

There is a certain continuity to liberal ideology in Western political thought, and there is also something quite distinctive to what we, in the twenty-first century, consider to be the “liberal left” in the United States. Sometimes liberals forget that liberalism does not exist in a vacuum; it is yoked, inextricably, to its conservative counterpart—and American “conservatism” has changed quite radically over the past few decades. The effectiveness of the “progressive agenda” therefore does depend, in one sense, on how attuned it is to what is happening on the other side and how well it counters that. Ideological rigidity undermines success. But so, too, does any lack of resolve or unity in opposition. For Lincoln and FDR, as Jessica Benjamin writes, “the willingness to identify and call out enemies was a crucial action.” Today conservatives are far more comfortable than liberals with the zero-sum nature of ideological legitimacy, competition, and conflict.

Liberals would be better off “owning” the struggle in this historical moment. Rather than playing out our own internal contradictions, we should try to become as fully aware of them as possible. The situation forces a confrontation, a battle for America’s future, perhaps—a bitter conflict that most liberals wish to avoid, that they will never be enthusiastic about. Liberals must also face up to the fact that “the powers that be” will never side with them for long, and that is one reason why liberal guilt is so misplaced: The liberal left does not set the political landscape in the United States, and never really has. Liberals today are in the unenviable position of responding to whatever is taking place, outside of their control. This is an unpleasant state for anyone to be in. But for liberals to be put here by Donald Trump, of all people, this is an indignity that is practically unbearable.

In a preface to The Mass Psychology of Fascism, Wilhelm Reich wrote that “‘fascism’ is only the organized political expression of the structure of the average man’s character.” The fact that authoritarian inclinations are so mundane and quotidian means that they are a constant danger—and a constant source of anxiety for the liberal. It would be foolish at this historical moment to suggest that fascism has come to America. It has not. But to many of us, it feels as if we are closer to it than we ever thought possible.
Read more about Donald TrumpLiberalismpsychology

John T. Jost is Professor of Psychology and Politics and Co-Director of the Center for Social and Political Behavior at New York University.

Orsolya Hunyady is a Psychoanalyst in private practice in New York City.


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