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Significance of Whistleblowers, Activism and Independent Media

7. January 2015

On the 6th of January 2015, an informational event was hosted by us at the Muffatwerk that shed light on issues that are crucial to the current and future order of our global society. The focus was on the significance and role of whistleblowers, the alternative-independent media and activism amd involved experts from the media, science and intelligence services.

Background info to the event:

In an era of economic globalization through the capture of the state, wealth and privilege have been concentrating in the hands of unaccountable private power. Wikileaks and the revelations of the NSA documents exposed by Edward Snowden have provided us glimpses into the clandestine and entrenched relationship between private wealth and the state which have had significant implications on the Western democracies.

What is the role of the alternative media, whistleblowers and activists in such a world? What has history taught us when private power and the state coalesce? What mechanisms are available to the public in order to revive democratic tendencies in a given society?

These questions and many more were answered by our discussion panel which included Noam Chomsky, Paul Jay and Annie Machon.

Experts on the discussion Panel:

Noam Chomsky is one of the most important intellectuals of our time and since the 1960s he has been one of the most vocal critics of US policies both at home and abroad. His 1988 book, “Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media” explains scientifically how the mainstream media serve as powerful ideological institutions that shape public opinion and carry out a system-supportive propaganda function. He is a role model for all whistleblowers, activists and alternative-independent media outlets. Prof. Chomsky is also a Professor Emeritus of MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and his scientific contributions in linguistics have not only revolutionized the field itself but have also had wide reaching impacts on philosophy, cognitive science, sociology, etc.

Former British MI5 intelligence agent turned whistle-bower, Annie Machon,  joined us to discuss the ramifications that a powerful surveillance state has on democracy. In 2005, Machon published her first book, “Spies, Lies and Whistleblowers: MI5, MI6 and the Shayler Affair” in which she offers criticism of MI5 and the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) based on her experiences with the two agencies whilst in the employment of MI5. She is currently the European Director of LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition).

Paul Jay is the CEO and Senior Editor of The Real News Network. He has overseen the production of over 7000 news stories and is the host of TRNN news analysis programming. Previously, he was Executive Producer of CBC Newsworld’s independent flagship debate show counterSpin for its 10 years on air. He is an award-winning documentary film-maker with over 20 films under his belt including Hitman Hart, wrestling with shadows; Return to Kandahar; and Never-EndumReferendum.

Exclusive Interview with Prof. Noam Chomsky

Discussion Panel with Paul Jay, Annie Machon & Zain Raza

Question & Answer Session – Paul Jay, Annie Machon and Zain Raza

Introduction with Lars Gollnick and Zain Raza

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5 replies on “Significance of Whistleblowers, Activism and Independent Media”

Wonderful discussion. I especially liked the opposing viewpoints of Annie and Paul on privacy of coordination, communication among journalists, activists and the public. As Jay points out, journalists are sometimes activists and vice a versa, but they are not exactly the same group.

Annie’s point is well made, that the end of privacy is the end of democracy, or something like that. And Paul’s point is more practical, saying effectively that secrecy can lead to usurping by the state the legitimacy of our work. Perhaps they would say it a little different, but hopefully I’m not far off from their views.

My thought is that transparency and secrecy are both tools that are available at different times with greater and lesser effectiveness. So whereas it’s true what Annie says, that we need to build mechanisms of communication that are secure, and that this is essential to democratic organizing and general freedom, we must also be aware that most activists are not working in this realm. They don’t yet have the sophistication to do this without making all sorts of steps that can probably be circumvented in any case. And to work hard at being secure in our communications isn’t easily available. Perhaps it will be developed through the reflections that Annie generates here.

To take a simple example, as a teacher I’m a little cautious of what I say publicly. I have a Facebook page and I post all sorts of comments that are available only to the 60 people who follow me. But I present a slightly toned down view if it were to the public. A bit chicken shit, I know. But we need to make a living, and concerns must be weighed carefully. I would be more careful. In both cases however, I’m always aware that NSA has all of it. And to try to circumvent that is pointless at this point in time. So I’m writing with them in mind all the time.

As for sources of information in journalism, it’s essential that we provide the mechanisms for secure transmissions and develop them to greater maturity constantly. We’ll probably not know for 30 years though whether our efforts today are effective. That will be the privy of state spys. But as Jay says, perhaps we can regularly turn some of them through our open disdain and de-legitimatizing of the state’s illegal work. Perhaps we can regularly work towards commentary that makes more of them think of standing for the people, and taking a life in refuge elsewhere (Russia, Ecuador) in the meantime. Of course, I’m referring to their turning over of knowledge of illegal activities by states (for those who following everything I say), like Annie and Snowden and Manning did.

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