Power-Structure of Oppression I: The Media

One of the more notorious form of the kind of oppressive power structure outlined in previous post, has been placed under the glaring spotlight of the international media (very ironically) in this past week, and with the events and rippling consequences unfolding still: the Murdoch media empire across at least 4 continents.

Timothy Garton Ash wrote a good commentary on how this monolithic media empire came to wield such power and influence on governments and political actors across continents and countries.
[The article has a great picture displaying the insidious presence of a ‘Big Brother’-like monitoring eye. Nice.]


Phone-hacking scandal: Britain should seize this chance to break the culture of fear at its heart
From the putrid quagmire of the hacking scandal must emerge a new settlement between politics, media and the law

Timothy Garton Ash
13 July 2011

Britain’s drama has penetrated the carapace of American self-preoccupation. Legendary reporter Carl Bernstein compares it to Watergate. On morning television, Hugh Grant appeals to Americans to wake up to Rupert Murdoch’s pernicious influence on their own media. Business reporters track the impact on News Corp shares. Senator John Rockefeller calls for an inquiry into whether Americans’ phones were hacked. If it turns out that 9/11 victims were targeted, as suggested by the campaigning MP Tom Watson in prime minister’s questions, then this will no longer be just a foreign story. Only on Murdoch-owned Fox News is it as if none of this had really happened. A clip from Fox News Watch, filmed during a commercial break, shows the panellists joking about the one story they are not going to discuss. News watch indeed.

But what does it all mean? “A kind of British spring is under way,” writes the media columnist David Carr in the New York Times. “Democracy, aided by sunlight, has broken out in Britain.” Hyperbole, of course, but he has a point. I’d put it like this: the Murdoch debacle reveals a disease that has been slowly clogging up the heart of the British state for the last 30 years. This is the heart attack that warns you that you are sick, but also gives you the chance to emerge healthier than before. The root cause of this British disease has been overmighty, ruthless, out-of-control media power; its main symptom has been fear.


If the tabloids had not actually gone after you, the threat was always there. In corrupt, thuggish Russia, they call it kompromat: compromising material, ready to be used if you step too far out of line. We now know that the hacks and their hackers stopped at no one and at nothing. The royal family, families of soldiers killed in action, kidnapped children – all were targets for intrusion and exposure.

Overweening media power has also shaped British policy in important ways. Contemplating the ruins of Tony Blair’s well-intentioned attempt to resolve Britain’s chronic indecision about its place in the European Union, an attempt destroyed by the Eurosceptic press, I once concluded that Murdoch was the second most powerful man in Britain. But if the ultimate measure of relative power is “who is more afraid of whom?” then you would have to say that Murdoch was – in this narrow, hard core sense – more powerful than the last three prime ministers of Britain. They have been more frightened of him than he of them.

Consider the evidence. Blair had seen his predecessor as prime minister, John Major, and a Labour leader, Neil Kinnock, destroyed by a hostile press. He learned his lesson. He wooed those press barons for all he was worth. Only as he was about to leave office, after 10 years, did he dare to denounce the British media for behaving “like a feral beast”.


David Cameron out-Blaired Blair in wooing the press barons in general and Murdoch in particular. Worse, he hired the former editor of the News of the World, Andy Coulson, to be his communications director. I can not recall meeting anyone in British journalism who believed the ex-editor was as innocently unknowing as he claimed of what his reporters had been up to. But Cameron ignored all the warnings he was given.

Most shockingly, the Metropolitan police shelved an investigation that they should have pursued vigorously. They failed to tell thousands of people whose names appeared in the books of a private investigator that their phones might have been hacked. Only tenacious investigative reporting in the Guardian and the New York Times forced a reopening of the police investigation.

Perhaps the single most important thing the promised public inquiry now has to establish is why the police acted as they did. Here again, the most plausible explanation boils down to fear. The police were afraid of imperilling their cosy relationship with the Murdoch papers, which helped them in their inquiries and praised them for their crime-fighting efforts. Some police were paid by the Murdoch press. Senior officers now say that their own phones were hacked. Absent strong evidence to the contrary, the only reasonable conclusion is that the police feared being mauled rather than embraced by the feral beast. So they, too, bent the knee.

All that remains is for us to discover that a senior judge was spied upon, won over or intimidated. “Surely not!” we cry. “Not that!” But how many times before have we thought that we had reached bottom, only to hear knocking from underneath?


Out of this putrid quagmire there should emerge a whole new settlement: in the balances between politics, the media, the police and the law; in the self-regulation of the press and in the practice of journalism. The danger is that, once the initial outrage has passed, Britain will again settle for half-measures, half-implemented, as has already happened with the impulse for constitutional reform that came out of the parliamentary expenses scandal. But for now, one of the most important crises of the British political system in 30 years has produced an opportunity. I will return this autumn to a Britain that is slightly more free.

A Gentlemen’s Debate (in 3 languages): Foucault vs Chomsky [1971]

Foucault and Chomsky having a very polite gentlemanly debate on the forms of political and non-political structures and institutions of power, in 1971.

The Chomsky-Foucault Debate [excerpt, part 1/2]

The Chomsky-Foucault Debate [excerpt, part 2/2]

While I’m pretty sure one or both men were using off-screen interpreters, the set-up, framing and editing of the discussion is very interesting, with Foucault speaking in French, Chomsky in English, and with Dutch subtitles on the screen. Quite an entertaining exercise for the viewer.

Actually, I feel the two gentlemen are almost entirely in agreement here with regards to their identification of political and social structures of Power+ Oppression and similar advocating of activism, critiques and thoughtful civil disobedience towards these structures|institutions.
[with Foucault as always, just a little more militant and focusing on his traditional sources of political oppression, l’armée et la police, in the aftermath of the May 1968 students riots in Paris, as well as the Panopticon prisons of schools and educational institutions;



and with Chomsky already looking at non-governmental actors like the ever-growing-larger multinational corporations and latterly, the Media.

The main difference between the two thinkers I see, seem to stem from the two different philosophical traditions which each thinker more or less “inherited”, made invaluable and outstanding contributions to, and very ably and deservedly represented.

Chomsky had, by that time, burnished his reputation with his work in analytical linguistics and was probably the leading standard-bearer for the Anglo-American (but which arguably really had roots in Germany+Austria) tradition of Analytic Philosophy.
Foucault, then at the height of his intellectual powers, held sway over Continental Philosophy with his archaeology into knowledge and all things.

In the video Chomsky, analytical and particulate, measured and soft-spoken as always and true to his procedural methodology, wanted to begin with a definition of human nature, of the various structures of power+oppression, and of a future possible ideal society. Foucault, the wily Continentalist with gleaming teeth and all, declines to do so because he sees the danger and futility in defining and naming Power Structures with the very instruments/medium and under the norms, already dictated by these same institutions. Instead, Foucault advocates constant and never-ending critiques and ‘attacks’ on these institutions; in a way, Foucault does not see a solution or an end to the problem: it is a part of the human condition.

Être: To be (or more precisely — Being)

Être ou ne pas être
To be or not to be

For students of literature, the words “To be” almost always conjures up images of ghostly Hamlets with their haunting rhetoric.

But for students of language and philosophy, the words “To be” or more specifically “Être” [that most crucial French verb that lies at the center of the language and all its conjugation relations – see To be: Copula (linguistics)], where Être translates more precisely to Being, there sits the essence (“esse”) of an entire philosophical tradition:


Being (i.e. be+-ing, by synecdoche), is an English word used for conceptualizing subjective and objective aspects of reality, including those fundamental to the self — related to and somewhat interchangeable with terms like “existence” and “living”.


In abstract usage, “the being” or “one’s being” is the mind’s concept of the self as a whole entity —including both mind and body —wherein the being is in the mind, and the “body” is all sensory aspects within the being. Heidegger coined the Germanic term “dasein” for this property of being in his influential work Sein und Zeit (“this entity which each of us is himself…we shall denote by the term “dasein.””), in which he argued that being or “dasein” links one’s sense of one’s body to one’s perception of world. Heidegger, amongst others, referred to an innate language as the foundation of being, which gives signal to (and from, cf. cognition) all aspects of being.

In philosophy, being is the object of study of metaphysics, and more specifically ontology. In these contexts, the term “being,” is typically understood as one’s “state of being,” and hence its common meaning is in the context of human (personal) experience, with aspects that involve expressions and manifestations coming from a being’s innate being, or personal character.

In its most indeterminate sense, being could be understood as anything that can be said to be, which is opposed to nonexistence. For example one could ask: “why is there something instead of nothing?” where “something” implies being. For a metaphysician the main problem is not the scientific question of how the universe works, but why the universe (or anything such as a rock) is.

Thus, a reader of philosophy and linguistics upon reading the lines from Hamlet y Shakespeare,:

To be or not to be…

To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;

But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover’d country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought

may see the Thomistic influence still prevalent in Shakespeare’s time, tracing towards Thomas Aquinas and his reinterpretation of Aristotle:

“Being (ie. to be) is not a genus, since it is not predicated univocally but only analogically (or in degrees).”

10.2 Analogous Names

Aristotle spoke of “things said in many ways”, a notable instance of which is “being.” One of the difficulties with assigning being, or being as being as the subject of a science is that a subject must be univocally common to the things that fall under it. But ‘being’ is not univocal, as it has a plurality of meanings. Aristotle solved this problem with his account of “things said in many ways,” by observing that while they have many meanings, these form an ordered set with one of the meanings as primary and regulative. Substance is being in the primary sense, which is why the science of being as being is effectively a science of substance. Thomas’s term for such names is analogy: ‘being’ is an analogous term and its primary analogate is substance.


Being (sic) rather loathe to delve into the stultifying and myriad Medieval Theories of Analogy, let’s just say I prefer Spinoza’s patient (and sadly carcinogenic) lens-grinding and his admirable formulation of conatus and modes (but also ultimately flawed).

Conatus (Latin for effort; endeavor; impulse, inclination, tendency; undertaking; striving) is a term used in early philosophies of psychology and metaphysics to refer to an innate inclination of a thing to continue to exist and enhance itself. This “thing” may be mind, matter or a combination of both. Over the millennia, many different definitions and treatments have been formulated by philosophers. Seventeenth-century philosophers René Descartes, Baruch Spinoza, and Gottfried Leibniz, and their Empiricist contemporary Thomas Hobbes made important contributions. The conatus may refer to the instinctive “will to live” of living organisms or to various metaphysical theories of motion and inertia. Often the concept is associated with God’s will in a pantheist view of Nature. The concept may be broken up into separate definitions for the mind and body and split when discussing centrifugal force and inertia.


Spinoza (1632–1677) applies the idea of a conatus to the human body, psyche and both simultaneously, using a different term for each. When referring to psychological manifestations of the concept, he uses the term voluntas (will). When referring to the overarching concept, he uses the word appetitus (appetite). When referring to the bodily impulse, he uses the plain term conatus. Sometimes he expands the term and uses the whole phrase, conatus sese conservandi (the striving for self-preservation).

Spinoza asserts the existence of this general principle of a conatus in attempting to explain the “self-evident” truth that “nothing can be destroyed except by an external cause”. To him, it is self-evident that “the definition of anything affirms, and does not negate, the thing’s essence”. This resistance to self-destruction is formulated by Spinoza in terms of a human striving to continue to exist; and conatus is the word he most often uses to describe this force.

In Spinoza’s world-view, this principle is applicable to all things, and furthermore constitutes the very essence of objects, including the human mind and morals, for these are but finite modes of God.



In conclusion (and in direct opposition to Spinoza and to end this mindless lens grinding)…
Better to pass over, still my stirring conatus, and choose not to be, or un-Being.

CMIM + AMRO = AMF (Asian Monetary Fund)

Chiang Mai Initiative Multilateralisation + ASEAN+3 Macroeconomic Research Office == Asian Monetary Fund


The most useful bargaining chip towards influencing an institution, is one which can provide a viable or indeed preferred alternative, to the target itself (referring here to the IMF of course). All the better when the current situation allows the Asian chips to be ante’d up rather easily from 120Bn to 240Bn to whatever the required amount.
[I see this current actual figure to be less influenced by the outstanding Asian intra-regional trade flows, but more by the Asian central bankers waiting and seeing for the new IMF leadership to adjust IMF voting rights to more realistically reflect actual country economic output; failing which, Asian central banks can simply place the corresponding funds, which otherwise would have been used to top up their IMF funding share, into the CMIM]

{BTW, Spore may have won the right to headquarter the secretariat of the AMRO here for now, but for how long…}

Chiang Mai Initiative: China takes the leader’s seat
June 30th, 2011
Author: Joel Rathus, ANU

In early May, the ASEAN +3 Finance Ministers met in Hanoi and reached an agreement on two important issues in the development of the Chiang Mai Initiative (CMI).

Firstly, they appointed Wei Benhua to be the first director of the ASEAN+3 Macroeconomic Research Office (AMRO). Secondly, they decided to double the size of the CMI (to US$240 billion) while electing to leave in place the IMF link which limits the CMI’s independent capacity to act in a crisis. The CMI has seen further institutional progress despite major competition, even rivalry, between the players and now seems on track to emerge as a fully fledged Asian Monetary Fund (AMF) in the not too distant future. Already, it is possible to detect some of key characteristics of this future AMF.

The selection of a Chinese national as the first head of the CMI’s surveillance secretariat of AMRO is no accident — indeed it was a bitterly fought diplomatic battle. Typical of the CMI negotiations thus far, the outcome was a compromise between China and Japan. While Wei Benhua will lead the organisation in its critical first year, he will not see out the full term of three years. Instead, Wei will step down to allow the younger Japanese national Yoichi Nemoto to take over.

Placing Wei as the director is a victory for China. While Japan has pioneered the development of the institution, both the secretariat and the directorship were prizes which the Japanese were not able to win. In addition to the symbolic victory for China of having a Chinese national leading the CMI — marking China’s clear transition to the East Asian leader in terms of the provision of regional public goods — the first director of an international institution sets the tone for future institutional developments. One should therefore expect decisions made this year on personnel and AMRO’s structure to favourably position China institutionally. It is not clear if Nemoto will be able to revise (or reverse) those norms after taking over (even if he were to win a second term).