Thursday, November 24, 2016

Evidence against Marcos propaganda is substantial and obvious

What you didn’t know: Pro-Marcos propaganda too hip for its own good

By Lisandro Claudio
June 2, 2016
Published in Rappler

The original definition of hipster (prior to indie rock and beards) was someone “in the know.” Unlike plebs who fell for mainstream ideas about politics and culture, hipsters were said to know better. Pro-Marcos apologists thrive off a similar sense of privileged exclusivity. They are proud of having access to secret knowledge denied to them by “yellow” media and armchair academics.

I would have admired this nonconformity had it been grounded on credible information. Unfortunately, Marcos apologia is too hip for its own good.

A good example of this bloated sense of knowing is the contrarian website, Get Real Philippines. Run by an anonymous Sydnesider called Benign0, GRP claims to promote “hard to swallow observations about Philippine society” made by “smart people” who “clarify the muddled and challenge the traditional.”

The site is explicit about its intellectual elitism and often makes the claim that Filipinos are idiots. Amid this sea of stupidity, Benign0 believes that Marcos supporters are “young, educated, upwardly-mobile Filipinos.” The observation is false (Marcos' support base is older and polls at top universities reveal, at best, divided support for BBM), but now is not the time to quibble. What is curious is Benign0’s insinuation of an aspiration: to be young, educated, and upwardly mobile is to be pro-Marcos.

Again, its warped sense of exclusivity makes people rally to the banners of Batac. You get a similar version of this arrogance on the website,, which also claims that many Filipinos are “bobotantes (stupid voters),” while arguing that the bearers of truth are OFWs (particularly in America) who have found enlightenment.

Reality loop

I’m an open minded-guy and, despite doctoral research on the Marcos regime, I’m sure I missed out on some things. Moreover, like Benign0, I am not invested in the glorification of People Power and the Aquinos, having previously researched Cojuangco-Aquino skullduggery in Hacienda Luisita. So in the spirit of openness, I asked Benign0 for sources.

I first asked him if he could name a single university-published, peer-reviewed book that endorses the Marcos regime, and got a non sequitur for a reply. I prodded further, asking, “So, no book?” to which he simply replied, “Nope.”

Failing to spur dialogue, I asked him for his sources on Philippine politics during the Marcos period. He remained dismissive: “What I read in my own time is my business. What I publish via is all u got.” As for bothering with academic sources, Benign0 believes that “Ph history academe is a tiny community of inbred minds.”

Herein lies the problem with Marcos apologists: Since they have rejected verifiable sources of information, they often place themselves in a reality loop. The source of good information for Get Real Philippines is none other than Get Real Philippines.

Consistency of sources

But let us give the website the benefit of the doubt and trace their sources for them. One of Benign0’s most recent posts has the sensationalist title, “The TRUTH about Martial Law: Young Filipinos no longer believe that it was all bad!”

For an article claiming to spread the “truth,” it is odd that it only has two sources. The first is a rambling Facebook post from an academic that has primarily published on forestry and not martial history. The second more credible source is Manila Times columnist Bobi Tiglao. Benign0 is delighted that Tiglao, rather than holding Marcos accountable for torture and extra judicial killings, instead blames “Communist chief Jose Maria Sison...because he deployed” activists “who were barely out of their teens to foment unrest and revolt in the countryside.”

According to Benign0, we should trust Tiglao because he was actually there during martial law, unlike “has-been celebrities like Jim Paredes and Leah Navarro.” (Actually, they were there too.) Under Benign0’s logic, credibility is best established by one’s proximity to the event. Let us assume his logic once more.

If proximity establishes credibility, surely the Bobi Tiglao writing in 1988 would be more credible than the Bobi Tiglao of today. That younger Bobi Tiglao was categorical in his essay, “The Consolidation of the Dictatorship,” in which he claimed, “Together, unhampered by any democratic process of accountability and fully aware of the climate of feat and intimidation that kept the Filipino people perpetually intimidated, Marcos and the military effectively maintained 14 years of plunder and terrorism.” Benign0 failed to examine the consistency of his sources.

Verification vs manipulation

Why are historians like myself obsessed with these sources anyway? Because the historical record is easily manipulated and we need means of verification.

No system of verification is perfect, but professional historians believe that peer-reviewed academic studies are the best vetted and, therefore, most verifiable sources of information.

Peer review is usually an anonymous process where experts in the field check and evaluate an academic text before it is published in either a professional journal or a university press. Those who have gone through it know that it is a grueling process, involving the scrutiny of the smallest facts.

I do not know of any peer-reviewed study – published here or abroad – that argues martial law was good for our country. If either Benign0 or the angry guy at FlippinFlips can refer me to one, I would be genuinely open to reading and engaging in dialogue. Surely they can find at least one. After all, Herr FlippinFlips loves to remind his followers that, as an American, he has access to more books than those of us back home.

While I await their sources, I will provide everyone with a partial list of my own. And to make sure I don’t get accused of forwarding the biases of local professors, I will only cite works published abroad by foreign authors (though I will insist that local academics are just as qualified).

Here goes:

1. McCoy, Alfred W. Policing America’s Empire: The United States, the Philippines, and the Rise of the Surveillance State. Madison and London: The University of Wisconsin Press, 2009.

In the middle chapters of this book, University of Wisconsin history Professor Al McCoy details how Marcos had a direct hand in corrupting our military and enabling the torture of civilians. In “brutalizing” the military and giving them unlimited power, Marcos made it difficult for successive presidents to reign in their violent tendencies. Previously McCoy also proved that Marcos’s record of war heroism was faked.

2. Thompson, Mark R. The Anti-Marcos Struggle: Personalistic Rule and Democratic Transition in the Philippines. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1995.

Professor Thompson is the acting head of Political Science at the City University of Hong Kong. This is the book version of his groundbreaking PhD thesis at Yale University, which argues that the Marcos regime was “sultanistic.” Instead of forming a professional political class, Marcos used corruption to strengthen his family and other oligarchs.

3. Anderson, Benedict. “Cacique Democracy in the Philippines: Origins and Dreams.” New Left Review 169, No. 3 (1988): 3-31.

Cornell University’s Benedict Anderson is the fourth most cited social scientist in the world and was the leading commentator on Southeast Asian politics of his generation. This article proves that critics of Marcos are not all “yellowtards,” as Anderson is also very critical of Cory Aquino. In this polemic, Anderson argues that Marcos made himself the warlord of the entire Philippines, turning the military into his own private army.

4. Boyce, James K. The Political Economy of Growth and Impoverishment in the Marcos Era. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1993.

Boyce is a professor of Economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and a leading expert in developmental economics. Anybody who claims the economy was better during Marcos’ time should read this book. Boyce argues that Marcos increased inequality and reduced the real wages of Filipino workers and farmers. The net effect: more poverty.

5. Caouette, Dominique. “Constructing and Controlling People’s Power from the Grassroots: Philippine Social Movement Activism in Historical Perspective.” Montreal: University of Montreal: Cerium, 2011.

University of Montreal Political Scientist Dominique Caouette wrote the most comprehensive history of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the NPA. In this article, he shows how Marcos’ repressive policies led to the burgeoning of the NPA. It reminds me of an old joke from decades ago: Marcos was the Communist Party’s number one recruiter. Ngayon, kung maayos talaga nung panahon ni Marcos, bakit sobrang daming NPA noon? (If the situation was really good during the time of Marcos, how come there were so many NPA then?)

As I said, this is just a partial list. I can give you dozens more, because the evidence against Marcos propaganda is substantial and obvious. To the pseudo-hipsters and contrarians, knowing bad history is not hip; it’s just stupid. Wanna be better than others? Read more and read right. Because, in the end, the truth is always sexier. –

Lisandro Claudio is a Research Associate at the Institute of Philippine Culture, Ateneo de Manila University. He is also an Affiliated Assistant Professor at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Your smartphone is a civil rights issue

In the spring of 2016, a legal battle between Apple and the Federal Bureau of Investigation captured the world's attention.

Apple has built security features into its mobile products which protect data on its devices from everyone but the owner. That means that criminals, hackers and yes, even governments are all locked out. For Apple's customers, this is a great thing. But governments are not so happy. You see, Apple has made a conscious decision to get out of the surveillance business. Apple has tried to make surveillance as difficult as possible for governments and any other actors.

There are really two smartphone operating systems in the global smartphone market: iOS and Android. iOS is made by Apple. Android is made by Google. Apple has spent a lot of time and money to make sure that its products are as secure as possible. Apple encrypts all data stored on iPhones by default, and text messages sent from one Apple customer to another Apple customer are encrypted by default without the user having to take any actions.

What this means is that, if the police seize an iPhone and it has a password, they'll have a difficult time getting any data off of it, if they can do it at all. In contrast, the security of Android just really isn't as good. Android phones, or at least most of the Android phones that have been sold to consumers, do not encrypt data stored on the device by default, and the built-in text messaging app in Android does not use encryption. So if the police seize an Android phone, chances are, they'll be able to get all the data they want off of that device.

Two smartphones from two of the biggest companies in the world; one that protects data by default, and one that doesn't.

Apple is a seller of luxury goods. It dominates the high end of the market. And we would expect a manufacturer of luxury goods to have products that include more features. But not everyone can afford an iPhone. That's where Android really, really dominates: at the middle and low end of the market, smartphones for the billion and a half people who cannot or will not spend 600 dollars on a phone.

But the dominance of Android has led to what I call the "digital security divide." That is, there is now increasingly a gap between the privacy and security of the rich, who can afford devices that secure their data by default, and of the poor, whose devices do very little to protect them by default.

So, think of the average Apple customer: a banker, a lawyer, a doctor, a politician. These individuals now increasingly have smartphones in their pockets that encrypt their calls, their text messages, all the data on the device, without them doing really anything to secure their information. In contrast, the poor and the most vulnerable in our societies are using devices that leave them completely vulnerable to surveillance.

In the United States, where I live, African-Americans are more likely to be seen as suspicious or more likely to be profiled, and are more likely to be targeted by the state with surveillance. But African-Americans are also disproportionately likely to use Android devices that do nothing at all to protect them from that surveillance. This is a problem.

We must remember that surveillance is a tool. It's a tool used by those in power against those who have no power. And while I think it's absolutely great that companies like Apple are making it easy for people to encrypt, if the only people who can protect themselves from the gaze of the government are the rich and powerful, that's a problem. And it's not just a privacy or a cybersecurity problem. It's a civil rights problem.

So the lack of default security in Android is not just a problem for the poor and vulnerable users who are depending on these devices. This is actually a problem for our democracy. I'll explain what I mean.

Modern social movements rely on technology -- from Black Lives Matter to the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street. The organizers of these movements and the members of these movements increasingly communicate and coordinate with smartphones. And so, naturally governments that feel threatened by these movements will also target the organizers and their smartphones. Now, it's quite possible that a future Martin Luther King or a Mandela or a Gandhi will have an iPhone and be protected from government surveillance. But chances are, they'll probably have a cheap, $20 Android phone in their pocket.

And so if we do nothing to address the digital security divide, if we do nothing to ensure that everyone in our society gets the same benefits of encryption and is equally able to protect themselves from surveillance by the state, not only will the poor and vulnerable be exposed to surveillance, but future civil rights movements may be crushed before they ever reach their full potential.

Thank you.


Helen Walters: Chris, thank you so much. I have a question for you. We saw recently in the press that Mark Zuckerberg from Facebook covers over his camera and does something with his headphone mic jack. So I wanted to ask you a personal question, which is: Do you do that? And, on behalf of everyone here, particularly myself, Should we be doing that? Should we be covering these things?

Christopher Soghoian: Putting a sticker -- actually, I like Band-Aids, because you can remove them and put them back on whenever you want to make a call or a Skype call. Putting a sticker over your web cam is probably the best thing you can do for your privacy in terms of bang for buck. There really is malware, malicious software out there that can take over your web cam, even without the light turning on. This is used by criminals. This is used by stalkers. You can buy $19.99 "spy on your ex-girlfriend" software online. It's really terrifying. And then, of course, it's used by governments. And there's obviously a sexual violence component to this, which is that this kind of surveillance can be used most effectively against women and other people who can be shamed in our society. Even if you think you have nothing to hide, at the very least, if you have children, teenagers in your lives, make sure you put a sticker on their camera and protect them.

HW: Wow. Thank you so much. CS: Thank you.

HW: Thanks, Chris.


Source: TED Talks

Thursday, November 10, 2016

How Trump Won Over White Working Class

Why the White Working Class Rebelled: Neoliberalism is Killing Them (Literally)

By Juan Cole
Nov. 9, 2016

The Democratic Party has been the Establishment for eight years, and the Clintons have arguably been the Establishment for 24 years. Since the late 1990s, members of the white working class with high school or less have seen their life-chances radically decline, even to the point where they are dying at much higher rates than they have a right to expect.

A year ago Anne Case and Angus Deaton, Princeton University economists, published a study with the startling finding that since 1999 death rates have been going up for white Americans aged 45-54. It is even worse than it sounds, since death rates were declining for the general population.

One of the big reasons for this increased death rate has been increased use of opiods and other drugs, leading to overdoses, along with liver disease from drinking too much alcohol and increased suicide rates. The problems were especially acute among working class and rural whites with only high school or less, and later studies found that they extended to younger members of this social class in their 20s and 30s. Loss of good-paying manufacturing jobs was clearly a primary reason for this despair.

Compared to 1999, white workers, according to another recent study in the Commonwealth Foundation: “have lower incomes, fewer are employed, and fewer are married.” This study found other causes for the increased death rates than just the ones mentioned above, but didn’t deny the Princeton findings. Here is their chart:

The only comparison I can think of to this situation is what happened to Russians in the 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Russian Federation had a population of nearly 150 million in 1990 and thereafter fell to about 144 million. The end of the Soviet Union caused their confidence in the future to collapse and the end of the old economic system created very high unemployment. They stopped having children and drank themselves to death.

Neoliberalism– putting the market in charge of social policy and actually encouraging industries to move abroad for higher profit margins (but for fewer industrial jobs at home)– had much the same effect on the white working class as the fall of the Soviet system had on the Russian working class. Look at what happened to the proportion of the US economy accounted for by industry when Neoliberal policies became dominant:

People who argue that the working class in the US is coddled, with too many benefits and is too well-paid infuriate me. German workers have good benefits and pay, and German industry is thriving in a way that American industry is not. It is about the overall policies enacted by the government.

And consider these conclusions of Mark Levinson of the Congressional Research Service:
  • The United States’ share of global manufacturing activity declined fro m 28% in 2002, following the end of the 2001 U.S. recession, to 16.5% in 2011 . Since then, the U.S. share has risen to 17.2%. These estimates are based on the value of each country’s manufacturing in U.S. dollars ; part of the decline in the U.S. share was due to a 23% decline in the value of the dollar between 2002 and 2011, and part of the rise since 2011 is attributable to a stronger dollar.
  • China displaced the United States as the largest manufacturing country in 2010 . Again, part of China’s rise by this measure has been due to the appreciation of its currency, the renminbi , against the U.S. dollar.
  • Manufacturing output , measured in each country’s local currency adjusted for inflation, has grown more slowly in the United States over the past decade than in China, Japan, Germany, and Mexico.

And among the prime operators of the Neoliberal system were the Clintons.

There is an intervening irony. The one thing that helped working class whites with their increasing health problems was Obamacare. But that help was blunted by the Republican statehouses that refused to support it. So some of the rage of the workers about Obamacare was connived at by the GOP, which didn’t want them to have health care in the first place. (The GOP only really represents big business, which didn’t want to pay for it).

The rage of these workers accounted for the unpredictability of the 2016 election, since they voted in very large numbers for Donald Trump. (There were lots of other constituencies for Trump, but many of them were longstanding GOP groups; the white working class mostly voted Democratic). What appealed to them in Trump’s message was
  1. protectionism and slamming trade partners like China and Japan, which Trump and his audience saw as having gained unfair advantages
  2. Attacks on NAFTA and TPP and making an issue of industries and jobs lost to Mexico and China.
  3. Attacks on Hillary Clinton over her massively well paid speeches to the big banks on Wall Street, whose shenanigans had cost many in the white working class their homes.
  4. Anti-immigrant sentiment, the sense of losing jobs and cultural supremacy to incoming workers.

The Democratic Party’s refusal to do anything about Wall Street mega-fraud in 2009 and after came home to roost. In other words, the Clintons were inextricably entangled in the very policies that white workers saw as having ruined their lives. And objectively speaking, they weren’t wrong.

And the white working class punished the Democratic Party for not being a Left party.