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Prisons of Pleasure or Pain: Huxley’s “Brave New World” vs. Orwell’s “1984” – TheTollOnline.com

Prisons of Pleasure or Pain:  Huxley’s “Brave New World” vs. Orwell’s “1984”

Prisons of Pleasure or Pain: Huxley’s “Brave New World” vs. Orwell’s “1984”

 

April 21, 2017

 

by Uncola:

 

 

 

Definition of UTOPIA

1: an imaginary and indefinitely remote place

2: a place of ideal perfection especially in laws, government, and social conditions

3:   an impractical scheme for social improvement

 

Definition of DYSTOPIA

1: an imaginary place where people lead dehumanized and often fearful lives

2: literature: anti-utopia

Merriam-Webster.com

 

 

 

 Many Americans today would quite possibly consider Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” to be a utopia of sorts with its limitless drugs, guilt-free sex, perpetual entertainment and a genetically engineered society designed for maximum economic efficiency and social harmony. Conversely, most free people today would view Orwell’s “1984” as a dystopian nightmare, and shudder to contemplate the terrifying existence under the iron fist of “Big Brother”; the ubiquitous figurehead of a perfectly totalitarian government.

 

Although both men were of British descent, Huxley was nine years older than Orwell and published Brave New World in 1932, seventeen years before 1984 was released in 1949. Both books are widely considered classics and are included in the Modern Library’s top ten great novels of the twentieth century.

 

 

 

Brave New World

 

Aldous Huxley was born to academic parents and he was the grandson of Thomas Henry Huxley, a famous biologist and an enthusiastic proponent of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution who was known as “Darwin’s Bulldog”. Huxley’s own father had a well-equipped botanical laboratory where young Aldous began his education. Given the Huxley family’s appreciation for science, it makes perfect sense that Brave New World began in what is called the “Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre” where human beings are artificially grown and genetically predestined into five societal castes consisting of: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta and Epsilon.

 

Initially, the story centers on Bernard Marx, who is a slightly genetically flawed Alpha Plus psychologist with an inferiority complex due to his short stature. By the end of the novel, however, the protagonist becomes a boy named “John the Savage” who is the bastard child of the “Director of the Central London Hatchery”, and a lady named Linda, who naturally birthed John on a remote American Indian Reservation. When Bernard discovers the true identities of John and Linda, he arranges to fly them back to London in order to leverage his position with John’s biological father, the Hatchery Director.

 

Bernard is in love with a beautiful fetus technician named Lenina Crowne, who, upon meeting John the Savage falls madly in lust. Lenina is a gal who enjoys multiple lovers because, in the Brave New World, “everyone belongs to everyone else”. In other words, sexual promiscuity is encouraged as sort of a societal “pressure relief valve” designed to discourage negative emotions such as jealousy and envy. John the Savage, however, suppresses his sexual attraction to Lenina because he considers her a slut.

 

Eventually, John’s sexual repression contributes to him violently attacking some children of the Delta caste who were waiting in line for their “Soma”, a mood-altering drug; and the outburst causes both Bernard and John to be brought before the powerful Mustapha Mond, who is one of ten world controllers. A debate ensues between John and Mr. Mond who explains to the Savage that a stable society requires the controlled suppression of science, religion, and art. John, who is an avid admirer of William Shakespeare, argues that human life is not worth living without these things.

 

In Brave New World, the State achieves a harmonic equilibrium via the economic parity of production and consumption while utilizing Eugenics as a means to counterbalance the life and death of the citizens. Technology is employed as a means of control in lieu of any search for scientific, or spiritual, truth; as these are considered a threat to the established order. People are cloned in hatcheries in accordance to the needs of the State and trained into obedience through “Hypnopedia”, or sleep-teaching. Happiness is valued over dignity and morality, and emotions are regulated through the use of the drug, Soma, amid constant entertainment including superficial games and virtual reality venues called the “feelies”. Although there is no God or religion, per se, in Brave New World, Henry Ford is canonized in the place of a deity as a testament to corporate efficiency, assembly line production and rampant consumerism.

 

 

 

1984

 

Like Huxley, George Orwell also envisioned a future where government monitored and controlled every aspect of human life; yet the world is much more terrifying in 1984. Orwell actually volunteered and fought in the Spanish Civil War in 1936 before being injured by a sniper’s bullet in May of 1937; it was there where he witnessed, first-hand, the ghastly barbarism of political fascism. Moreover, he previously observed the rise of Joseph Stalin in the Soviet Union and, later, Adolf Hitler in Germany. In turn, Orwell published Animal Farm in 1945 and four years later, his novel 1984, as literary warnings to mankind.

 

The setting of 1984 takes place in a futuristic, post-apocalyptic Great Britain which, at that time, was part of “Oceania”; one of three world super-states all engaged in never-ending warfare. The protagonist of the novel is Winston Smith, a middle-class member in the Outer Party of INGSOC, a totalitarian regime led by the figurehead known only as “Big Brother”.

 

Winston works in the Records Department of the “Ministry of Truth” where he revises history on behalf of the Party while under constant surveillance both at work and home. Everywhere he goes; there are posters with a photo of the party’s leader and the words: “BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU”. In an act of rebellion, Winston acquires a diary and begins to record what Big Brother and the INGSOC party would label as “crimethink” and “thoughtcrime”.

 

Eventually, Winston meets and falls in love with a beautiful coworker named Julia, and they engage in what they believe to be a secret affair whereby they have illicit sex as a form of political rebellion. In 1984, the Party members living in Oceania are brainwashed to have sex only for procreation and this is how sexual repression is channeled into enthusiasm for the State.

 

Under the threat of detection by the “Thought Police”, torture and even “vaporization”, which would eliminate every last vestige of proof he ever existed, Winston persists in his rebellion against the Party with certain fatalism. In fact, just before he and Julia are captured by the militant, jackbooted INGSOC Party authoritarians, Winston told Julia “we are the dead”; to which she replied the same words back to him.

 

Throughout Orwell’s dark narrative, various themes are explored such as “Newspeak” which is a language of mind control; the terrifying tyranny of totalitarianism; historical revisionism; torture, and psychological manipulation. The INGSOC Party’s prisonlike control and complete invasion of individual privacy is such that a citizen’s own facial expression could betray their inner disloyalty to the Party through what Orwell labeled as “crimeface”:

 

 

 

Your worst enemy, he reflected, was your own nervous system. At any moment the tension inside you was liable to translate itself into some visible symptom.

– Winston Smith, 1984, part 1, chapter 6

 

 

 

Orwell was near prophetic in describing the proliferation of listening devices in both public and private settings as well as “telescreens”, which simultaneously broadcast propaganda while relaying live video feeds back to the Party watchers. In Orwell’s chilling story, free will and individuality are sacrificed to the extreme demands of Collectivism and in deference to complete societal control by an authoritarian government.

 

 

 

Compared and Contrasted

 

In both, Brave New World and 1984, common themes are addressed including government, orthodoxy, social hierarchy, economics, love, sex, and power. Both books portray propaganda as a necessary tool of government to shape the collective minds of the citizenry within each respective society and towards the specific goals of the state; to wit, stability and continuity.

 

In Brave New World, The “Bureaux of Propaganda” shared a building with the “College of Emotional Engineering” and all media outlets including radio, television, and newspaper. Much of the brainwashing of the citizens in Huxley’s world included messaging to stay within their genetically predetermined castes or to encourage the daily use of the drug, Soma, in order to anesthetize emotional agitation:

 

 

 

a gramme in time saves nine

A gramme is better than a damn

One cubic centimetre cures ten gloomy sentiments

When the individual feels, the community reels.

 

 

 

The “Ministry of Truth”, in 1984, also known as “minitrue” in Newspeak, served as the propaganda machine for Big Brother and the INGSOC regime. Although its main purpose was to rewrite history in order to realign it with Party doctrine and make the Party look infallible, the Ministry of Truth also promoted war hysteria in order to unite the citizens of Oceania while broadcasting simple messages designed to discourage any self-determination or autonomous thought.

 

 

 

Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.

 

war is peace

freedom is slavery

ignorance is strength

 

 

 

Whereas the citizens of Brave New World used the drug Soma and cursory material distractions to vanquish any desire for real knowledge or truth; the “memory hole” in 1984 was a chute connected to an incinerator and served as the mechanism by which the Ministry of Truth would abolish historical archives as if they never existed.

 

In other words, truth was unimportant to the citizens of Brave New World and it was summarily rescinded from the realm of 1984.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Furthermore, in order to additionally fill the empty existence of those living in Brave New World, Huxley envisioned a character by the name of Helmholtz Watson as a creator of hypnopaedic phrases designed to fill the mental and emotional vacuum vacated by knowledge:

 

 

 

Alpha children wear grey. They work much harder than we do, because they’re so frightfully clever. I’m really awfuly glad I’m a Beta, because I don’t work so hard. And then we are much better than the Gammas and Deltas. Gammas are stupid. They all wear green, and Delta children wear khaki. Oh no, I don’t want to play with Delta children. And Epsilons are still worse. They’re too stupid to be able to read or write. Besides, they wear black, which is such a beastly colour. I’m so glad I’m a Beta.

– BNW, Chapter 2, pg. 27

 

 

 

In 1984, however, Orwell conceived of a character named Syme, who was an enthusiastic Newspeak redactor of language:

 

 

 

It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words.

 

Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it. Every concept that can ever be needed will be expressed by exactly one word, with its meaning rigidly defined and all its subsidiary meanings rubbed out and forgotten.

– Syme, 1984, part 1, chapter 5

 

 

 

 

In Brave New World, Helmholtz Watson worked to fill the mind of people with hypnotic messages. In 1984, Syme strived to remove words from the English language in order to eliminate what the Party considered to be “thoughtcrime”.

 

Although the methodologies varied, mind control was prevalent throughout both the fictional worlds of Huxley and Orwell.

 

Social hierarchies were also present in both futuristic novels. The citizens of Brave New World consisted of the Alpha caste which held the highest jobs in the world state, and Betas, who were allowed to interact with the Alphas. The Gamma’s were considered to have average intelligence, they were eight inches shorter than Alpha’s in height, and they maintained the office jobs and held administrative positions. The Delta’s were trained from a very young age to despise books and were conditioned to work in manufacturing, while the Epsilon caste members were considered as morons who performed the menial labor within the lowest strata of society.

 

Although 1984 doesn’t have a caste system, per se, the citizenry were still separated into three groups: the Inner Party, the Outer Party, and the Proles, or the proletariat. The Proles constituted 85% of the population and were allowed privacy and anonymity, yet they lived in extreme privation in pursuit of bread and circuses.

 

 

 

As the Party slogan put it: ‘Proles and animals are free.’

– ”1984”: part 1, chapter 7

 

 

 

Although both Inner and Outer Party members of 1984’s Oceania lived under constant surveillance, the members of the Inner party led lives of relative luxury compared to the middle-class lifestyle of those within the Outer Party. Additionally, the members of the Outer Party were denied sex, other than within marriage and for the sole purposes of procreation. They were also denied motorized transportation and were allowed cigarettes and gin as their only vices.

 

Governments of both Brave New World and 1984 also filtered information and propaganda in accordance to the class ranking of their citizens.

 

In Brave New World, the separate castes, except for the Epsilons who couldn’t read, received their own newspapers delivering specific propaganda for each class of society; whereas the INGSOC party members of 1984 were allowed newspapers and to view broadcasted reports of world news via their telescreens.

 

Even though there is no actual organized religion described in either book, there were deities endorsed by the government, primarily for economic reasons, and complete with mandated rigorous orthodoxies.

 

Again, the aforementioned god of Brave New World was called “Ford”, after Henry Ford, in celebration of his efficient assembly-line production of goods that was worshiped by both the overseers and citizenry of the world state.

 

In 1984, Big Brother served as the almighty “beginning and end”, creator, judge, grand architect and savior for the INGSOC party disciples.

 

In Huxley’s vision of the future, the higher power of consumerism guided the people; complete with memorized short phrases designed to encourage the replacement of material items in lieu of repairing them; and, those wearing older clothes were shamed into purchasing new apparel:

 

 

 

Ending is better than mending.

The more stitches, the less riches.

BNW, Chapter 3, pg. 49

 

 

 

Orwell, on the other hand, considered war as the means by which a collectivist oligarchy could maintain a hierarchical society by purging the excess production of material goods from the economy; thus, keeping the masses impoverished and ignorant by denying them the surplus “spare time” that is afforded via the convenience of modern technology:

 

 

 

The essential act of war is destruction, not necessarily of human lives, but of the products of human labour. War is a way of shattering to pieces, or pouring into the stratosphere, or sinking in the depths of the sea, materials which might otherwise be used to make the masses too comfortable, and hence, in the long run, too intelligent.

— Emmanuel Goldstein, ”1984”: part 2, chapter 9

 

 

 

 

 

 

The futuristic societies envisioned by Huxley and Orwell, additionally, both discouraged romantic love, yet diverged on the subject of sex. As mentioned earlier, Brave New World treated sex as a “pressure relief valve” remaining constantly open in order to release any negative emotions like suspicion, distrust, jealousy, rage or envy. “Everyone belonged to everyone else”, so there was no need for secrets. Even children were encouraged to sexually experiment guilt free. Of course, sex was meant to be enjoyed only as a means of pleasure in Brave New World; as procreation was considered an anathema by the people and beneath the dignity of mankind.

 

In Orwell’s dark dystopia, however, promiscuous sex was encouraged among the proletariat and the Ministry of Truth even had a pornography division called “Pornosec”, which distributed obscene media for consumption by the Proles alone. Conversely, and also as mentioned prior, the members of the INGSOC party were required to abstain from sex; except for married couples attempting to procreate solely on behalf of the government.

 

In reading both books, it was also fascinating to see how both Huxley and Orwell painted their female protagonists, Lenina Crowne and Julia, respectively, as shallow nymphomaniacs.

 

Nevertheless, the procreative sterilized purity and casual sexual promiscuity of Brave New World along with 1984’s hierarchical rationing of sex, combined with the twisted morality of the INGSOC Party, represented the power of government invading into the most personal means of expression, and engenderment, between individuals of both worlds.

 

The concept of “everyone belongs to everyone else” in Brave New World allowed intimate acts to be considered merely as trivial recreation whereas the Party’s power over copulation in 1984, created a sense of fatalism within Winston and Julia as they made love knowing they were “the dead”.

 

In spite of any differences, both scenarios were the end result of extreme philosophical collectivism manifested into distorted and perverse destinies of speculative, future populations.

 

 

 

The Future is Now

 

For reasons described heretofore, many might consider Brave New World to be a utopian dream. In the context of individual autonomy, however, as well as the pursuit of truth, the opportunity for personal self-actualization, the dilemma of ethical considerations and the governmental dispensation of immoral law; Huxley’s vision of the future removes the lid of a veritable Pandora’s Box of questions. In reality, the societal structure as delineated in Brave New World would greatly resemble what could be called a “prison of pleasure” and, perhaps, even a “penitentiary of profligate practicality”.

 

Applying the same philosophical critique of 1984, and in similar fashion, Orwell’s nation-state of Oceana would be considered as a bona fide dystopian “prison of fear”.

 

As a matter of fact, both societies portray prisons of man’s own making, formed by governments following their own directions toward their respective future destinations. To say it another way: The road to hell is actually paved with bad intentions. As the Inner Party member (and administrator of torture), “Obrien”, admitted to Winston Smith in Room 101 of The Ministry of Love:

 

 

 

We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it.Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power.

– Obrien, ”1984”: part 3, chapter 3

 

 

 

Both power structures in Brave New World and 1984 chose to diminish individual rights in order to achieve societal stability. To the governments of both super-states, their citizens were considered as mere “means to an end”; namely, the continuation of power.

 

 

 

Now I will tell you the answer to my question. It is this. The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power. Not wealth or luxury or long life or happiness; only power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from all the oligarchies of the past in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just round the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that.

– Obrien, ”1984”: part 3, chapter 3

 

 

 

This is a perfect description of mankind striving to be as gods; an attempt to create metaphysical law from carnal desire. Foregone were the virtues of mercy, humility, temperance, autonomy, self-reliance, and restraint.

 

Mustapha Mond, one of ten world controllers in Brave New World and the evil Obrien of 1984’s nation of Oceana, both knew what they were doing. They were fully conscious in order to exert complete control and ensure the continuation of their respective, fictional nation-states.

 

But, could this type of power consolidation occur in the real (non-literary) world?

 

To answer that question one only needs to study history then, go turn on all of the various “telescreens” in their private homes: Televisions, smartphones, tablets, lap-taps and desktop computers. Tyrannical regimes have been centralizing and fortifying ramparts of power from the time man first crushed grapes. And, obviously, as the exiled enemy of the State, Edward Snowden, has revealed, modernity is no antiserum to the cancerous systematization of power.

 

When considering the prosperous technological paradise of Brave New World, where the societal elite had unrestricted access to intercontinental transportation and private helicopters; where even the lower classes enjoyed pampered lives of perennial comfort, ceaseless entertainment, and eternal recreation; as compared to the dingy, post-apocalyptically war-torn, third-world existence of 1984; it becomes difficult not to view both Huxley and Orwell as prophets.

 

Indeed, both futures have come to pass and are merely economically separated and dispersed into diverse geographic locations.

 

Today, it is the westernized cultures of the world, including Asian nations like Japan and South Korea, that more closely resemble Brave New World, whereas vestiges of 1984 can be seen in the eastern bloc communist countries, China, North Korea and the Islamic societies of the middle-east.

 

Although Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” of Capitalism had created a rising economic tide that lifted many boats; much of the world’s population still languishes in squalor and will never rise from the muck.

 

Moreover, even the modernized nations today have sacrificed individual freedom upon the altar of Collectivism as political correctness stifles free speech; families suffocate beneath mountains of debt and United Nations Agenda 21 policies release a deluge of regulations causing extra-governmental autonomous innovation to collapse before the inexorable, gravitational pull of the hive-mind.

 

Corporations like Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Samsung and Apple have become the eyes and ears of Big Brother who is always watching, and ever listening.

 

To the sounds of mouse-clicks, once free people have “accepted” the “terms” of their surrender and have forfeited their liberty in the name of convenience. Like buzzing insects, the citizens of modern societies are caught in silicon honey traps mortgaged with plastic and electronically powered via USB cable nooses wrapped tightly around their collective throats.

 

The Technocratic Powers That Be wield weapons far more powerful than any time prior in history and soon, people will wake up to realize the electronic buzzing sound ringing in their ears was not emanating from their own wings, but rather, it was merely the sound of drones over their heads.

 

Like in Brave New World, science now rules supreme over ethics as medical professionals sell fetus organs to advance the cause of genetic research. The United States currently leads the world in illegal drug use and consumes near all of the global opioid supply; according to U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy:

 

 

 

In most countries, the use of opioid prescriptions is limited to acute hospitalization and trauma, such as burns, surgery, childbirth and end-of-life care, including patients with cancer and terminal illnesses. But in the United States, every adult in America can have “a bottle of pills and then some.

 

 

 

Just as 1984’s Ministry of Truth purveyed pornography to the Proles, statistics show at least 35% of all internet downloads and at least 30% of all data transferred across the internet are porn-related. Also similar to Huxley’s Brave New World, sex runs rampant throughout the modernized nations as cases of sexually transmitted disease have reached a record high in the United States.

 

In correlation to the ever-expanding gulf between rich and poor, strict adherence to orthodoxy now determines how high one can rise in the societies of the westernized nations, as political correctness defines the faith of the pantheistic disciples of Mother Earth in the form of Gaia worship; and social hierarchy is increasingly determined via the identity politics of the collectivist left. The American body politic has now witnessed the rise of the warrior cop and the militarization of domestic law enforcement, as interminable wars are eternally fought on foreign shores and sovereign nations are bombed under false pretense.

 

Even 1984’s “Victory Gin” has manifested in the form Russian Vodka within the eastern nations, as Oceania’s type of man-made orthodoxy silently drowns the human spirit in devastating despair, while contorted moralities overtake both the Christian and Islamic societies of the modern age.

 

Orwell defined “doublethink” as:

 

 

 

the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them

— Emmanuel Goldstein, ”1984”: part 2, chapter 9

 

 

 

Only in wealthy westernized nations do billionaires own multiple mansions, fly private jets and ride in eight-cylinder limousines to climate-change conferences where policies are decreed to lower the carbon footprint of the proletariat. Only in wealthy westernized nations, do ever-increasing numbers of women consider white men to be pigs while simultaneously striving to be their equals. And, only in the wealthy Christian nations of the northern hemisphere will citizens support a women’s right to third-trimester abortions, while rigorously and righteously battling for legislation to save endangered dung beetles.

 

Throughout Islamic societies, drinking alcohol and gambling is forbidden, but the governments and their citizens gladly tolerate canings, whippings, lashings, honor killings, suicide attacks, and the genital mutilation of young girls.

 

This does NOT prevent, however, the citizens of the wealthy Christian nations in the West to welcome with open arms, and in the name of “tolerance”, the pervading flood of Islamic immigrants.

 

The writings of Huxley and Orwell resonate by the echoes of history, over the canyons of time, and to the very cliff upon where mankind now stands. Propaganda daily spews via the machinations of five corporations which control 90% of all mainstream media channels. These companies toe the war-party line and wield their great powers of disinformation to contort facts or even censor the failures of the politicians whom they favor while, simultaneously, attacking their political enemies with lies and innuendo; even to the point of creating a phony election hacking narrative to satisfy their radioactive lust for war with nuclear powered enemies.

 

Even the characters of both Brave New World and 1984 are resonant of familiar archetypes from days gone by. Brave New World portrayed the character Bernard Marx as being short like Hitler, with a small man’s inferiority complex and complete with the surname of Karl Marx, the eponymous founder of Marxism.

 

The noble sounding Lenina Crowne’s name contains the surname of Vladimir Lenin, and Orwell’s portrayal of Julia does not seem overly diverse from former President’s Obama’s vision of “The Life of Julia”. Even the mustachioed, evil-eyed Big Brother from 1984’s dystopian nation of Oceana, looks eerily similar to just about every other tin-pot dictator who ever walked the earth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Art imitating life? Indeed.

 

Yet the irony fails to impress America’s young social justice warriors of the Millennial generation who have been raised on a steady diet of socialism, political correctness, and participation trophies; a far cry from the rugged individualists of previous American generations. In the 2016 U.S. Democratic Party Primaries, and with the same sense of vague dissatisfaction as exhibited by Huxley’s Bernard Marx, millions upon millions of rainbow worshipping Snowflakes, old and young alike, turned out in force to show their support for another Bernard: Bernard Sanders, a redistributionist of the line of Robin Hood who, in the spirit of Santa Claus, offered free college educations to all of Uncle Sam’s children.

 

Sadly, Big Brother is here to stay and, with time, he will only grow more bigly; regardless of any transitory elected politicians in the governments of the world’s “sovereign” nations today.

 

Although Aldous Huxley and George Orwell valiantly spun fictional narratives in order to warn the real world’s future citizens, they were not alone in their efforts.

 

On January 17, 1961, former President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned of an ever-encroaching “Military Industrial Complex” in his farewell address to the nation:

 

 

 

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

 

 

 

Exactly 100 days after Ike’s farewell, on April 27, 1961, John F. Kennedy spoke before the American Newspaper Publishers Association in an address that later became known as his “Secret Society” speech. In that address, he stated the following:

 

 

 

For we are opposed around the world by a monolithic and ruthless conspiracy that relies on covert means for expanding its sphere of influence: on infiltration instead of invasion, on subversion instead of elections, on intimidation instead of free choice, on guerrillas by night instead of armies by day. It is a system which has conscripted vast human and material resources into the building of a tightly knit, highly efficient machine that combines military, diplomatic, intelligence, economic, scientific and political operations. Its preparations are concealed, not published. Its mistakes are buried not headlined. Its dissenters are silenced, not praised. No expenditure is questioned, no rumor is printed, no secret is revealed. Without debate, without criticism, no Administration and no country can succeed– and no republic can survive. That is why the Athenian lawmaker Solon decreed it a crime for any citizen to shrink from controversy.

 

 

 

Thirty months after that speech, President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963.

 

Many people consider Kennedy to have been the last American president not controlled by a financial global elite hell bent on world domination.

 

In one of the twentieth century’s minor ironies, Aldous Huxley died on the very same day that John F. Kennedy was killed. It was also the exact day C.S. Lewis, the British author, and Christian apologist, passed from this earth.

 

Coincidence? Only God knows.

Regardless, by 1984 all had been forgotten; and, in a Brave New World, none of it really matters anyway.

 

Prisons of Pleasure or Pain: Huxley’s “Brave New World” vs. Orwell’s “1984” – TheTollOnline.com.

The Dark Secret at the Heart of AI – MIT Technology Review

The Dark Secret at the Heart of AI

 

No one really knows how the most advanced algorithms do what they do. That could be a problem.

 

 

Last year, a strange self-driving car was released onto the quiet roads of Monmouth County, New Jersey. The experimental vehicle, developed by researchers at the chip maker Nvidia, didn’t look different from other autonomous cars, but it was unlike anything demonstrated by Google, Tesla, or General Motors, and it showed the rising power of artificial intelligence. The car didn’t follow a single instruction provided by an engineer or programmer. Instead, it relied entirely on an algorithm that had taught itself to drive by watching a human do it.

Getting a car to drive this way was an impressive feat. But it’s also a bit unsettling, since it isn’t completely clear how the car makes its decisions. Information from the vehicle’s sensors goes straight into a huge network of artificial neurons that process the data and then deliver the commands required to operate the steering wheel, the brakes, and other systems. The result seems to match the responses you’d expect from a human driver. But what if one day it did something unexpected—crashed into a tree, or sat at a green light? As things stand now, it might be difficult to find out why. The system is so complicated that even the engineers who designed it may struggle to isolate the reason for any single action. And you can’t ask it: there is no obvious way to design such a system so that it could always explain why it did what it did.

The mysterious mind of this vehicle points to a looming issue with artificial intelligence. The car’s underlying AI technology, known as deep learning, has proved very powerful at solving problems in recent years, and it has been widely deployed for tasks like image captioning, voice recognition, and language translation. There is now hope that the same techniques will be able to diagnose deadly diseases, make million-dollar trading decisions, and do countless other things to transform whole industries.

 

This story is part of our May/June 2017 Issue

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But this won’t happen—or shouldn’t happen—unless we find ways of making techniques like deep learning more understandable to their creators and accountable to their users. Otherwise it will be hard to predict when failures might occur—and it’s inevitable they will. That’s one reason Nvidia’s car is still experimental.

Already, mathematical models are being used to help determine who makes parole, who’s approved for a loan, and who gets hired for a job. If you could get access to these mathematical models, it would be possible to understand their reasoning. But banks, the military, employers, and others are now turning their attention to more complex machine-learning approaches that could make automated decision-making altogether inscrutable. Deep learning, the most common of these approaches, represents a fundamentally different way to program computers. “It is a problem that is already relevant, and it’s going to be much more relevant in the future,” says Tommi Jaakkola, a professor at MIT who works on applications of machine learning. “Whether it’s an investment decision, a medical decision, or maybe a military decision, you don’t want to just rely on a ‘black box’ method.”

There’s already an argument that being able to interrogate an AI system about how it reached its conclusions is a fundamental legal right. Starting in the summer of 2018, the European Union may require that companies be able to give users an explanation for decisions that automated systems reach. This might be impossible, even for systems that seem relatively simple on the surface, such as the apps and websites that use deep learning to serve ads or recommend songs. The computers that run those services have programmed themselves, and they have done it in ways we cannot understand. Even the engineers who build these apps cannot fully explain their behavior.

This raises mind-boggling questions. As the technology advances, we might soon cross some threshold beyond which using AI requires a leap of faith. Sure, we humans can’t always truly explain our thought processes either—but we find ways to intuitively trust and gauge people. Will that also be possible with machines that think and make decisions differently from the way a human would? We’ve never before built machines that operate in ways their creators don’t understand. How well can we expect to communicate—and get along with—intelligent machines that could be unpredictable and inscrutable? These questions took me on a journey to the bleeding edge of research on AI algorithms, from Google to Apple and many places in between, including a meeting with one of the great philosophers of our time.

 

The artist Adam Ferriss created this image, and the one below, using Google Deep Dream, a program that adjusts an image to stimulate the pattern recognition capabilities of a deep neural network. The pictures were produced using a mid-level layer of the neural network.

Adam Ferriss

 

In 2015, a research group at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York was inspired to apply deep learning to the hospital’s vast database of patient records. This data set features hundreds of variables on patients, drawn from their test results, doctor visits, and so on. The resulting program, which the researchers named Deep Patient, was trained using data from about 700,000 individuals, and when tested on new records, it proved incredibly good at predicting disease. Without any expert instruction, Deep Patient had discovered patterns hidden in the hospital data that seemed to indicate when people were on the way to a wide range of ailments, including cancer of the liver. There are a lot of methods that are “pretty good” at predicting disease from a patient’s records, says Joel Dudley, who leads the Mount Sinai team. But, he adds, “this was just way better.”

 

At the same time, Deep Patient is a bit puzzling. It appears to anticipate the onset of psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia surprisingly well. But since schizophrenia is notoriously difficult for physicians to predict, Dudley wondered how this was possible. He still doesn’t know. The new tool offers no clue as to how it does this. If something like Deep Patient is actually going to help doctors, it will ideally give them the rationale for its prediction, to reassure them that it is accurate and to justify, say, a change in the drugs someone is being prescribed. “We can build these models,” Dudley says ruefully, “but we don’t know how they work.”

Artificial intelligence hasn’t always been this way. From the outset, there were two schools of thought regarding how understandable, or explainable, AI ought to be. Many thought it made the most sense to build machines that reasoned according to rules and logic, making their inner workings transparent to anyone who cared to examine some code. Others felt that intelligence would more easily emerge if machines took inspiration from biology, and learned by observing and experiencing. This meant turning computer programming on its head. Instead of a programmer writing the commands to solve a problem, the program generates its own algorithm based on example data and a desired output. The machine-learning techniques that would later evolve into today’s most powerful AI systems followed the latter path: the machine essentially programs itself.

At first this approach was of limited practical use, and in the 1960s and ’70s it remained largely confined to the fringes of the field. Then the computerization of many industries and the emergence of large data sets renewed interest. That inspired the development of more powerful machine-learning techniques, especially new versions of one known as the artificial neural network. By the 1990s, neural networks could automatically digitize handwritten characters.

But it was not until the start of this decade, after several clever tweaks and refinements, that very large—or “deep”—neural networks demonstrated dramatic improvements in automated perception. Deep learning is responsible for today’s explosion of AI. It has given computers extraordinary powers, like the ability to recognize spoken words almost as well as a person could, a skill too complex to code into the machine by hand. Deep learning has transformed computer vision and dramatically improved machine translation. It is now being used to guide all sorts of key decisions in medicine, finance, manufacturing—and beyond.

 

Adam Ferriss

 

The workings of any machine-learning technology are inherently more opaque, even to computer scientists, than a hand-coded system. This is not to say that all future AI techniques will be equally unknowable. But by its nature, deep learning is a particularly dark black box.

You can’t just look inside a deep neural network to see how it works. A network’s reasoning is embedded in the behavior of thousands of simulated neurons, arranged into dozens or even hundreds of intricately interconnected layers. The neurons in the first layer each receive an input, like the intensity of a pixel in an image, and then perform a calculation before outputting a new signal. These outputs are fed, in a complex web, to the neurons in the next layer, and so on, until an overall output is produced. Plus, there is a process known as back-propagation that tweaks the calculations of individual neurons in a way that lets the network learn to produce a desired output.

The many layers in a deep network enable it to recognize things at different levels of abstraction. In a system designed to recognize dogs, for instance, the lower layers recognize simple things like outlines or color; higher layers recognize more complex stuff like fur or eyes; and the topmost layer identifies it all as a dog. The same approach can be applied, roughly speaking, to other inputs that lead a machine to teach itself: the sounds that make up words in speech, the letters and words that create sentences in text, or the steering-wheel movements required for driving.

 

Ingenious strategies have been used to try to capture and thus explain in more detail what’s happening in such systems. In 2015, researchers at Google modified a deep-learning-based image recognition algorithm so that instead of spotting objects in photos, it would generate or modify them. By effectively running the algorithm in reverse, they could discover the features the program uses to recognize, say, a bird or building. The resulting images, produced by a project known as Deep Dream, showed grotesque, alien-like animals emerging from clouds and plants, and hallucinatory pagodas blooming across forests and mountain ranges. The images proved that deep learning need not be entirely inscrutable; they revealed that the algorithms home in on familiar visual features like a bird’s beak or feathers. But the images also hinted at how different deep learning is from human perception, in that it might make something out of an artifact that we would know to ignore. Google researchers noted that when its algorithm generated images of a dumbbell, it also generated a human arm holding it. The machine had concluded that an arm was part of the thing.

Further progress has been made using ideas borrowed from neuroscience and cognitive science. A team led by Jeff Clune, an assistant professor at the University of Wyoming, has employed the AI equivalent of optical illusions to test deep neural networks. In 2015, Clune’s group showed how certain images could fool such a network into perceiving things that aren’t there, because the images exploit the low-level patterns the system searches for. One of Clune’s collaborators, Jason Yosinski, also built a tool that acts like a probe stuck into a brain. His tool targets any neuron in the middle of the network and searches for the image that activates it the most. The images that turn up are abstract (imagine an impressionistic take on a flamingo or a school bus), highlighting the mysterious nature of the machine’s perceptual abilities.

 

This early artificial neural network, at the Cornell Aeronautical Laboratory in Buffalo, New York, circa 1960, processed inputs from light sensors.

 

Ferriss was inspired to run Cornell’s artificial neural network through Deep Dream, producing the images above and below.

Adam Ferriss

 

We need more than a glimpse of AI’s thinking, however, and there is no easy solution. It is the interplay of calculations inside a deep neural network that is crucial to higher-level pattern recognition and complex decision-making, but those calculations are a quagmire of mathematical functions and variables. “If you had a very small neural network, you might be able to understand it,” Jaakkola says. “But once it becomes very large, and it has thousands of units per layer and maybe hundreds of layers, then it becomes quite un-understandable.”

In the office next to Jaakkola is Regina Barzilay, an MIT professor who is determined to apply machine learning to medicine. She was diagnosed with breast cancer a couple of years ago, at age 43. The diagnosis was shocking in itself, but Barzilay was also dismayed that cutting-edge statistical and machine-learning methods were not being used to help with oncological research or to guide patient treatment. She says AI has huge potential to revolutionize medicine, but realizing that potential will mean going beyond just medical records. She envisions using more of the raw data that she says is currently underutilized: “imaging data, pathology data, all this information.”

 

After she finished cancer treatment last year, Barzilay and her students began working with doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital to develop a system capable of mining pathology reports to identify patients with specific clinical characteristics that researchers might want to study. However, Barzilay understood that the system would need to explain its reasoning. So, together with Jaakkola and a student, she added a step: the system extracts and highlights snippets of text that are representative of a pattern it has discovered. Barzilay and her students are also developing a deep-learning algorithm capable of finding early signs of breast cancer in mammogram images, and they aim to give this system some ability to explain its reasoning, too. “You really need to have a loop where the machine and the human collaborate,” -Barzilay says.

The U.S. military is pouring billions into projects that will use machine learning to pilot vehicles and aircraft, identify targets, and help analysts sift through huge piles of intelligence data. Here more than anywhere else, even more than in medicine, there is little room for algorithmic mystery, and the Department of Defense has identified explainability as a key stumbling block.

 

David Gunning, a program manager at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is overseeing the aptly named Explainable Artificial Intelligence program. A silver-haired veteran of the agency who previously oversaw the DARPA project that eventually led to the creation of Siri, Gunning says automation is creeping into countless areas of the military. Intelligence analysts are testing machine learning as a way of identifying patterns in vast amounts of surveillance data. Many autonomous ground vehicles and aircraft are being developed and tested. But soldiers probably won’t feel comfortable in a robotic tank that doesn’t explain itself to them, and analysts will be reluctant to act on information without some reasoning. “It’s often the nature of these machine-learning systems that they produce a lot of false alarms, so an intel analyst really needs extra help to understand why a recommendation was made,” Gunning says.

This March, DARPA chose 13 projects from academia and industry for funding under Gunning’s program. Some of them could build on work led by Carlos Guestrin, a professor at the University of Washington. He and his colleagues have developed a way for machine-learning systems to provide a rationale for their outputs. Essentially, under this method a computer automatically finds a few examples from a data set and serves them up in a short explanation. A system designed to classify an e-mail message as coming from a terrorist, for example, might use many millions of messages in its training and decision-making. But using the Washington team’s approach, it could highlight certain keywords found in a message. Guestrin’s group has also devised ways for image recognition systems to hint at their reasoning by highlighting the parts of an image that were most significant.

One drawback to this approach and others like it, such as Barzilay’s, is that the explanations provided will always be simplified, meaning some vital information may be lost along the way. “We haven’t achieved the whole dream, which is where AI has a conversation with you, and it is able to explain,” says Guestrin. “We’re a long way from having truly interpretable AI.”

It doesn’t have to be a high-stakes situation like cancer diagnosis or military maneuvers for this to become an issue. Knowing AI’s reasoning is also going to be crucial if the technology is to become a common and useful part of our daily lives. Tom Gruber, who leads the Siri team at Apple, says explainability is a key consideration for his team as it tries to make Siri a smarter and more capable virtual assistant. Gruber wouldn’t discuss specific plans for Siri’s future, but it’s easy to imagine that if you receive a restaurant recommendation from Siri, you’ll want to know what the reasoning was. Ruslan Salakhutdinov, director of AI research at Apple and an associate professor at Carnegie Mellon University, sees explainability as the core of the evolving relationship between humans and intelligent machines. “It’s going to introduce trust,” he says.

 

 

Just as many aspects of human behavior are impossible to explain in detail, perhaps it won’t be possible for AI to explain everything it does. “Even if somebody can give you a reasonable-sounding explanation [for his or her actions], it probably is incomplete, and the same could very well be true for AI,” says Clune, of the University of Wyoming. “It might just be part of the nature of intelligence that only part of it is exposed to rational explanation. Some of it is just instinctual, or subconscious, or inscrutable.”

If that’s so, then at some stage we may have to simply trust AI’s judgment or do without using it. Likewise, that judgment will have to incorporate social intelligence. Just as society is built upon a contract of expected behavior, we will need to design AI systems to respect and fit with our social norms. If we are to create robot tanks and other killing machines, it is important that their decision-making be consistent with our ethical judgments.

To probe these metaphysical concepts, I went to Tufts University to meet with Daniel Dennett, a renowned philosopher and cognitive scientist who studies consciousness and the mind. A chapter of Dennett’s latest book, From Bacteria to Bach and Back, an encyclopedic treatise on consciousness, suggests that a natural part of the evolution of intelligence itself is the creation of systems capable of performing tasks their creators do not know how to do. “The question is, what accommodations do we have to make to do this wisely—what standards do we demand of them, and of ourselves?” he tells me in his cluttered office on the university’s idyllic campus.

He also has a word of warning about the quest for explainability. “I think by all means if we’re going to use these things and rely on them, then let’s get as firm a grip on how and why they’re giving us the answers as possible,” he says. But since there may be no perfect answer, we should be as cautious of AI explanations as we are of each other’s—no matter how clever a machine seems. “If it can’t do better than us at explaining what it’s doing,” he says, “then don’t trust it.”

 

The Dark Secret at the Heart of AI – MIT Technology Review.

Now We Can Finally Get to Work

Dear Democrats,

Are you finding yourselves suddenly a bit doubtful of the wisdom of drone wars? Presidential wars without Congress? Massive investment in new, smaller, “more usable” nuclear weapons? The expansion of bases across Africa and Asia? Are you disturbed by the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Yemen? Can total surveillance and the persecution of whistleblowers hit a point where they’ve gone too far? Is the new Cold War with Russia looking less than ideal now? How about the militarization of U.S. police: is it time to consider alternatives to that?

I hear you. I’m with you. Let’s build a movement together to end the madness of constantly overthrowing governments with bombs. Let’s propose nonviolent alternatives to a culture gone mad with war. Let’s end the mindset that creates war in the first place.

We have opportunities as well as dangers. A President Trump is unpredictable. He wants to proliferate nuclear weapons, bomb people, kill people, stir up hatred of people, and increase yet further military spending. But he also said the new Cold War was a bad idea. He said he wanted to end NATO, not to mention NAFTA, as well as breaking the habit of overthrowing countries left and right. Trump seems to immediately back off such positions under the slightest pressure. Will he adhere to them under massive pressure from across the political spectrum? It’s worth a try.

We have an opportunity to build a movement that includes a focus on and participation from refugees/immigrants. We have a chance to create opposition to racist wars and racism at home. We may just discover that what’s left of the U.S. labor movement is suddenly more open to opposing wars. Environmental groups may find a willingness to oppose the world’s top destroyer of the environment: the U.S. military. Civil liberties groups may at long last be willing to take on the militarism that creates the atrocities they oppose. We have to work for such a broader movement. We have to build on the trend of protesting the national anthem and make it a trend of actively resisting the greatest purveyor of violence on earth.

I know you’re feeling a little beat down at the moment. You shouldn’t. You had a winning candidate in Bernie Sanders. Your party cheated him out of the nomination. All that stuff you tell yourselves about encouraging demographic trends and the better positions of young people is all true. You just looked for love in all the wrong places. Running an unpopular candidate in a broken election system is not the way to change the world. Even a working election system would not be the central means by which to improve anything. There’s no getting back the mountains of money and energy invested in this election. But activism is an unlimited resource. Directing your energies now in more strategic directions can inspire others who in turn can re-inspire you.

 

Dear Republicans,

Your outsider is threatening insiderness. He’s got the same tribe of DC corporate lobbyists planning his nominations that Hillary Clinton had lined up for hers. Can we resist that trend? Can we insist that the wars be ended? Can those moments of off-the-cuff honesty about dinosaurs like NATO be turned into actual action? Donald Trump took a lot of heat for proposing to be fair to Palestinians as well as Israelis, and he backed off fast. Can we encourage him to stand behind that initial inclination?

Can we stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership and end NAFTA as well? We heard a million speeches about how bad NAFTA is. How about actually ending it? Can we stop the looming war supplemental spending bill? Can we put a swift halt to efforts in Congress to repeal the right to sue Saudi Arabia and other nations for their wars and lesser acts of terrorism?

How about all that well deserved disgust with the corporate media? Can we actually break up that cartel and allow opportunities for media entrepreneurs?

 

Dear United States,

Donald Trump admitted we had a broken election system and for a while pretended that he would operate outside of it by funding his own campaign. It’s time to actually fix it. It’s time to end the system of legalized bribery, fund elections, make registration automatic, make election day a holiday, end gerrymandering, eliminate the electoral college, create the right to vote, create the public hand-counting of paper ballots at every polling place, and create ranked choice voting as Maine just did.

Voter suppression efforts in this year’s elections should be prosecuted in each state. And any indications of fraud in vote counting by machines should be investigated. We should take the opportunity created by all the McCarthyist nonsense allegations of Russian interference to get rid of unverifiable voting.

There are also areas in which localities and states, as well as international organizations and alliances, must now step up to take the lead. First and foremost is investing in a serious effort to avoid climate catastrophe. Second is addressing inequality that has surpassed the Middle Ages: both taxing the overclass and upholding the underclass must be pursued creatively. Mass incarceration and militarized police are problems that states can solve.

But we can advance a positive agenda across the board by understanding this election in the way that much of the world will understand it: as a vote against endless war. Let’s end the wars, end the weapons dealing, close the bases, and cut the $1 trillion a year going into the military. Hell, why not demand that a businessman president for the first time ever audit the Pentagon and find out what it’s spending money on?

 

Dear World,

We apologize for having elected President Trump as well as for nearly electing President Clinton. Many of you believe we defeated the representative of the enlightenment in favor of the sexist racist buffoon. This may be a good thing. Or at least it may be preferable to your eight-year-long delusion that President Obama was a man of peace and justice.

I hate to break it to you, but the United States government has been intent on dominating the rest of you since the day it was formed. If electing an obnoxious president helps you understand that, so much the better. Stop joining in U.S. “humanitarian wars” please. They never were humanitarian, and if you can recognize that now, so much the better. The new guy openly wants to “steal their oil.” So did the last several presidents, although none of them said so. Are we awake now?

Shut down the U.S. bases in your country. They represent your subservience to Donald Trump. Close them.

Want to save the earth’s climate? Build a nonviolent movement that resists destructive agendas coming out of the United States.

Want to uphold the rule of law, diplomacy, aid, decency, and humanitarianism? Stop making exceptions for U.S. crimes. Tell the International Criminal Court to indict a non-African. Prosecute the crime and crimes of war in your own courts. Stop cooperating in the surrounding and threatening of Russia, China, and Iran. Clinton wanted to send weapons to Ukraine and bomb Syria. Make sure Trump doesn’t. Make peace in Ukraine and Syria before January.

It’s time that we all began treating the institution of war as the unacceptable vestige of barbarism that it can appear when given an openly racist, sexist, bigoted face. We have the ability to use nonviolent tools to direct the world where we want it to go. We have to stop believing the two big lies: that we are generally powerless, and that our only power lies in elections. Let’s finally get active. Let’s start by ending war making.

 

Now We Can Finally Get to Work.

Vote as if your life depended upon it, because it does.

Here’s why:

Hillary has repeatedly said: “We should also work with the coalition and the neighbors to impose no-fly zones that will stop Assad from slaughtering civilians and the opposition from the air. Opposition forces  on the ground, with material support from the coalition, could then help create safe areas where Syrians could remain in the country, rather than fleeing toward Europe.”

This would mean that U.S. fighter-jets and missiles would be shooting down the fighter-jets and missiles of the Syrian government over Syria, and would also be shooting down those of Russia. The Syrian government invited Russia in, as its protector; the U.S. is no protector but an invader against Syria’s legitimate government, the Ba’athist government, led by Bashar al-Assad. The CIA has been trying ever since 1949 to overthrow Syria’s Ba’athist government — the only remaining non-sectarian government in the Middle East other than the current Egyptian government. The U.S. supports Jihadists who demand Sharia law, and they are trying to overthrow and replace Syria’s institutionally secular government. For the U.S. to impose a no-fly zone anywhere in Syria would mean that the U.S. would be at war against Russia over Syria’s skies.

Whichever side loses that conventional air-war would then have to choose whether to surrender, or instead to use nuclear weapons against the other side’s homeland, in order for it to avoid surrendering. That’s nuclear war between Russia and the United States.

 

Would Putin surrender? Would Hillary? Would neither? If neither does, then nuclear war will be the result.

Here are the two most extensive occasions in which Hillary has stated her position on this:

To the Council on Foreign Relations, on 19 November 2015:

      We should also work with the coalition and the neighbors to impose no-fly zones that will stop Assad from slaughtering civilians and the opposition from the air. Opposition forces on the ground, with material support from the coalition, could then help create safe areas where Syrians could remain in the country, rather than fleeing toward Europe.

      This combined approach would help enable the opposition to retake the remaining stretch of the Turkish border from ISIS, choking off its supply lines. It would also give us new leverage in the diplomatic process that Secretary Kerry is pursuing. …

      QUESTION: When you were secretary of state, you tended to agree a great deal with the then-Secretary of Defense Bob Gates. Gates was opposed to a no-fly zone in Syria; thought it was an act of war that was risky and dangerous. This seems to me the major difference right now between what the president — what Obama’s administration is doing and what you’re proposing.

      Do you not — why do you disagree with Bob Gates on this?

      CLINTON: Well, I — I believe that the no-fly zone is merited and can be implemented, again, in a coalition, not an American-only no-fly zone. I fully respect Bob and his knowledge about the difficulties of implementing a no-fly zone. But if you look at where we are right now, we have to try to clear the air of the bombing attacks that are still being carried out to a limited extent by the Syrian military, now supplemented by the Russian air force.

      And I think we have a chance to do that now. We have a no-fly zone over northern Iraq for years to protect the Kurds. And it proved to be successful, not easy — it never is — but I think now is the time for us to revisit those plans.

      I also believe, as I said in the speech, that if we begin the conversation about a no-fly zone, something that, you know, Turkey discussed with me back when I was secretary of state in 2012, it will confront a lot of our partners in the region and beyond about what they’re going to do. And it can give us leverage in the discussions that Secretary Kerry is carrying on right now.

      So I see it as both a strategic opportunity on the ground, and an opportunity for leverage in the peace negotiations. …

      QUESTION: Jim Ziren (ph), Madam Secretary. Hi. Back to the no- fly zone. are you advocating a no-fly zone over the entire country or a partial no-fly zone over an enclave where refugees might find a safe haven? And in the event of either, do you foresee see you might be potentially provoking the Russians?

      CLINTON: I am advocating the second, a no-fly zone principally over northern Syria close to the Turkish (ph) border, cutting off the supply lines, trying to provide some safe refuges for refugees so they don’t have to leave Syria, creating a safe space away from the barrel bombs and the other bombardments by the Syrians. And I would certainly expect to and hope to work with the Russians to be able to do that. [She expects Putin to join America’s bombing of Syria’s government and troops and shooting-down of Russia’s planes in Syria, but no question was raised about this.] …

      To have a swath of territory that could be a safe zone … for Syrians so they wouldn’t have to leave but also for humanitarian relief, … would give us this extra leverage that I’m looking for in the diplomatic pursuits with Russia with respect to the political outcome in Syria.

During a debate against Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries:

      Hillary Clinton, in a debate with Bernie on 19 December 2015, argued for her proposal that the U.S. impose in Syria a “no-fly zone” where Russians were dropping bombs on the imported jihadists who have been trying to overthrow and replace Assad: “I am advocating the no-fly zone both because I think it would help us on the ground to protect Syrians; I’m also advocating it because I think it gives us some leverage in our conversations with Russia.” She said there that allowing the jihadists to overthrow Assad “would help us on the ground to protect Syrians,” somehow; and, also, that, somehow, shooting down Russia’s planes in Syria (the “no-fly zone”) “gives us some leverage in our conversations with Russia.”

      Bernie Sanders’s response to that was: “I worry too much that Secretary Clinton is too much into regime change and a little bit too aggressive without knowing what the unintended consequences might be.” He didn’t mention nuclear war as one of them.

The “no-fly zone” policy is one of three policies she supports that would likely produce nuclear war; she supports all of them, not merely the “no-fly zone.”

Hillary Clinton has never been asked “What would you do if Russia refuses to stop its flights in Syria?” Donald Trump has said nothing about the proposal for a no-fly zone (other than “I want to sit back and see what happens”), because most Americans support that idea, and he’s not bright enough to take her on about it and ask her that question. Probably, if he were supportive of it, he’d have said so — in which case it wouldn’t still be an issue in this election. Trump muffed his chance — which he has had on several occasions. But clearly he, unlike her, has not committed himself on this matter.

Hillary Clinton is obviously convinced that the U.S. would win a nuclear war against Russia. The question for voters is whether they’re willing to bet their lives that she is correct about that, and that even if the U.S. ‘wins’, only Russia and not also the U.S. (and the world) would be destroyed if the U.S. nuclear-attacks Russia.

Every other issue in this election pales by comparison to the no-fly-zone issue, which is virtually ignored, in favor of issues that are trivial by comparison. But a vote for Hillary Clinton is a vote for nuclear war against Russia, regardless of whether or not the voters know this. And a vote for Trump is a vote for the unknown. Could the unknown be even worse than Hillary Clinton? If so, would it be so only in relatively trivial ways?

This election should be about Hillary Clinton, not about Donald Trump.

—————

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

 

Vote as if your life depended upon it, because it does..

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