I’m mostly finished reading Daniel Goleman’s 1985 book, Vital Lies, Simple Truths: the Psychology of Self Deception (I found a copy of the book online here). He’s preaching to my choir, based on a paper I wrote in 1996 (“Decision Making, the Failure of Principles, and the Seduction of Attention), where I pointed out the critical and often unconscious role of attention in embellishing and distorting our moral decision-making. My targets were the many people who believe that morality is mostly founded on the conscious application of rules. I concluded that humans define and frame moral situations as a result of the way they attend (or don’t attend) to the situations. I warned that it is important that we become aware that we have great (often subconscious) power to define the situation as moral (or not). My thesis was as follows:
Attention is constantly steering us in directions which dramatically affect the application of principles [including moral principles]. For starters, if we completely fail to attend to a subject, we will likely be ill-informed about that subject, and likely less competent to make decisions regarding such matters. At the other extreme, excessive attention can bloom into an obsession, causing one to see the entire world through glasses colored by that obsession. Attention also works in subtler ways, however, rigging the machinations of legal and moral reasoning. Attention rigs decision-making in two ways:
1) by the manner in which we attend to our perceptions of the world, and
2) in the way by which we perceive and attend to the principles themselves.
I concluded that high-level decision making is based far more on attentional strategies than on traditional problem solving skills.
Join EFF and the Public Participation Project in calling on Congress to support the PETITION Act, strong federal anti-SLAPP legislation. The concept is simple: when a blogger faces a legal threat for legitimate online content, she can file a motion to get the case dismissed quickly. If the case is found to be frivolous in court, she won’t have to pay the legal fees.”
Here is discussion of a meritless suit against Matthew Inman that illustrates the need for such a law.
Electronic Frontier Foundation offers a thought-provoking article about World Press Freedom day. The bottom line is that the United States can do much better than it is currently doing. Here’s an excerpt from the article:
Journalists’ sources in the U.S. have been the hardest hit in recent years. The current administration has used the Espionage Act to prosecute a record six whistleblowers for leaking information to the press—more than the rest of the previous administrations combined. Many of these whistleblowers have exposed constitutional violations such as the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping program and the CIA’s waterboarding practices—issues clearly in the public interest—and now face years in prison. Meanwhile, the Justice Department has brought no prosecutions for the crimes underlying the exposed allegations.
In addition, a grand jury is reportedly still investigating WikiLeaks for violations of the Espionage Act for publishing classified information—a practice that has traditionally been protected by the First Amendment and which other newspapers engage in regularly. It would not only be completely unprecedented to prosecute a publisher under the archaic statute, but would also endanger many U.S. based publications like the New York Times. And as former State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley has remarked, the U.S. government’s investigation into WikiLeaks undermines the United States’ ability to pressure countries like Russia and China to allow greater press freedom.
Shame on America for prosecuting Former CIA officer John Kiriakou. But America’s actions are understandable because Kiriakou embarrasses America by saying true things like this:
- On Iraq: “The answer to why we’re still in Iraq to this day has almost everything to do with the failures of leadership in 2003 and 2004 and, in some cases, the ascendance of rank deception—deliberate distortions of the facts on the ground.”
- On FBI waste: After raiding a Taliban “embassy” in Pakistan in early 2002, Kiriakou’s colleague “found something interesting and provocative. A file of telephone bills from the Taliban embassy revealed dozens of calls to the United States . . . For ten days leading up to September 11, 2001, the Taliban made 168 calls to America. Then the calls stopped. The file, amazingly, was in English . . . The calls ended on September 10, 2001, and started up again six days later, on September 16.” Years after sending the phone records to the FBI, Kiriakou followed-up and his FBI contact “replied that it was like a scene out of that Indiana Jones movie. The files were still in those [original] boxes, in an FBI storage facility in Maryland . . . What a waste.”
- On CIA’s deception about waterboarding: “Now we know that Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded eighty-three times in a single month, raising questions about how much useful information he actually supplied. . . it was a valuable lesson in how the CIA uses the arts of deception even among its own.” (Previously, the CIA told Kiriakou that Zubaydah was waterboarded only once and cracked, which fiction Kiriakou repeated in a television interview because his own agency lied to him.)
- On Torture: “But even if torture works, it cannot be tolerated – not in one case or a thousand or a million. If their efficacy becomes the measure of abhorrent acts, all sorts of unspeakable crimes somehow become acceptable. . . . There are things we should not do, even in the name of national security.”
It’s time to step up and voice your concerns because we now have a bit of momentum. Here’s how to strike back against Internet censorship.
Here is why you should consider taking at least a few minutes to get involved.
I’ve blackened the DI banner today as a symbol of my concern regarding efforts to pass SOPA (pending in the House) and the Protect IP Act (pending in the Senate).
Free Press has offered a page indicating the senators who are pro, con and on the fence. If you plug in your zip code, you will be presented with phone numbers for your senators and it LITERALLY takes only a minute to voice your concern to the staffer of your senator. I called my two senators in two minutes. Please join me in voicing your concern to your elected officials. You will be doing your part to use logic, fairness and reason to oppose $90 million in campaign contributions. Reason sometimes work, as demonstrated by today’s reversal of course by Senator Marco Rubio of Florida.