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Russia or the Neocons: Who endangers American democracy?

What is behind the US election cycle Russophobia?

Vladimir Golstein

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Political discourse of American mass media is inundated with another wave of Russophobia and fear mongering. Besides the obvious military threat (Russia’s nuclear arsenal), or the challenges to the US foreign policy (the conflicts in Ukraine or Syria), a new fear has been introduced into the news: the US political system is endangered by Russia’s computer hacking, informational warfare, and its support of Donald Trump.

The newspaper titles sound like a commercial for the upcoming Invasion of the Body Snatchers sequel. The Washingon Post announces: “Russia Is Now a Threat. The US Should Treat It Like One.” Time magazine raises the stakes: “Russia Wants to Undermine Faith in the U.S. Election.”

Atlantic warns of the “The Dangers of the Putin-Trump relationship,” articulating the already familiar litany of complaints: “Russia is directly interfering in the US elections … it is a dangerous escalation that threatens the integrity of the US electoral process.” While US Today allows notorious neocon named Max Boot to discover not just the threat, but an actual war. His “Time to Get Real About Russia Cyber War,” is rather blunt: “Our democracy is under attack by Russia, but almost no one is treating the situation with the gravity it deserves.”

Well, nobody treats the situation with the gravity it deserves because they are treating it with much greater gravity. In fact, some of the commentators are so grave, that they are ready to give in already. Zack Beauchamp concludes his tirades against Russian hacking in the following manner: “Russia’s strategy is even more dangerous that it appears. Not only does it undermine democracy using the press but it actually gets the press to undermine itself. And there’s not much we can reasonably do about it, either.”

Reading all this, one might think that the former Secretary of Defense, James Forrestal, has been resurrected along with his 1949 battle-cry: “The Russians are coming. The Russians are coming. They’re right around. I’ve seen Russian soldiers.”

What is behind this Russophobia? A real Russian threat? A smokescreen intended to cover failed policies of recent administration? The meeting between the Russophobic minds of a particular candidate (Hillary Clinton) and a particular group of voters (neocons)?

I believe that these Joe McCarthy type accusations against both Russia and Trump seem to pursue only one goal: to give the veneer of respectability to the neocons’ and other Republican luminaries’ desertion of their own party. Thus, endless “confessions” of reformed Republicans and hardcore neocons, expressing their born-again zeal for the Democratic Candidate, Hillary Clinton.

The neocons are not switching parties because they’ve seen the light. They are enamored with Hillary Clinton’s record of foreign policy and her willingness to embrace the US globalist claims. As reported by Rania Khalek in Intercept, Robert Kagan, one of the leading neocons, the co-founder of the notorious PNAC (Project for the New American Century, the blueprint of the recent policies of aggression and regime change intended to cement US hegemony in world affairs), has been on the record for quite some time: “I would say all Republican foreign policy professionals are anti-Trump,” Kagan told …at a “foreign policy professionals for Hillary” fundraiser… –I would say that a majority of people in my circle will vote for Hillary.”

The neocons are very public about their desertion, and bear it as a badge of honor. Dubious honor, since in their pursuit of an ideal candidate for their agenda, neocons do not just betray their former party, but the very foundations of American democracy: the two party system.

Their desertion reveals that American political system has finally internalized Francis Fukuyama proud words about the end of history. We’ve reached the consensus; there is no need to argue or challenge, history has ended, the truths are revealed and they are now the property of the elites united into one globalist Imperial party bent on equating American prosperity with the American hegemony over world affairs.

To any objective observer it is clear that is not Russia that endangers US democracy but the political corruption, the rule of 1% oligarchy, and mad pursuit of PNAC policies. Even greater danger to democracy lies in the neocons’ desertion to the Hillary camp.

Unsavory as the corporate rule and globalism might be, one can argue for and pursue these goals, provided they leave the room for the alternative vision. It is this neocons’ dismissal of the alternatives that betrays the very foundations of democracy, at least, in the way, a political philosopher Karl Popper formulated them in his celebrated 1945 treatise, Open Society and Its Enemies.

The list of neocons and other prominent Republicans rushing toward one party system has been compiled by Eleanor Clift in Daily Beast at the end of June, and had obviously grown since then. Some of them, Max Boot in particular, are pretty explicit about the reasons for his desertion: in his May 8, 2016, article in LA Times, Boot announces simply that, “The Republican Party is Dead.”

Why?  Because it is no longer led by the likes of McCain, Rubio and Romney, for whom Boot served as foreign policy advisor, but by Donald Trump, “the ignorant demagogue” intending to break up “the most successful alliance in history — NATO.” Furthermore, Trump has “kind words for tyrants such as Vladimir Putin.” Indeed, how can anyone in the US political establishment have kind words for Putin? We keep our kind words only for “our SOBs.”      

The simplicity if not poverty of this argumentation makes it difficult to distinguish it from exaggerations, simplification, or ignorance, for which neocons consistently fault Trump. But neocons were never friends of irony; otherwise, they would not make statements about NATO’s spectacular success with a straight face.

The alliance that followed every whim of its paranoid members, such as Baltic Republics or Poland, and which intended to drag Ukraine into NATO pushing the world to the brink of nuclear annihilation? If this is success, how does one define failure? And talking about exaggerations: “The risk of Trump winning, however remote, represents the biggest national security threat that the United States faces today.”

As if being “dead” is not bad enough, Boot feels the need to drive a stake into the heart of the Republican Party: the party is stupid. Writing for NYT, the publication that never misses a chance to print something nasty about Republicans, Boot bemoans Republican complicity with Donald Trump phenomenon: “How the Stupid Party’ Created Donald Trump.”

Why can’t there be an alternative to the neocons’ doctrines of world domination in the form of a populist, nationalist movement that wants Americans to take care of Americans first, before overextending the country’s economic and military reach? And should this alternative be immediately called stupid?

Yet, for many neocons, it is Hillary or bust. James Kirchik  goes out of his way trying to convince his fellow conservatives that it is Clinton who is a true conservative, and therefore, the last American hope: “It’s come to this: Hillary Clinton is the one person standing between America and the abyss.”

Referring to a profound conservative thinker, Michael Oakeshott, Kirchik observed that Oakeshott “defines the conservative disposition as one that ‘prefers small and limited innovations to large and indefinite’ ones and ‘favors a slow rather than a rapid pace, and pauses to observe current consequences and make appropriate adjustments.’ … Clinton is the candidate of the status quo, something that conservatives, by definition, are supposed to uphold.”

Kirchick fails to mention, however, that it is Clintons’ and Obama’s implementation of neocons’ policies which is nothing short of revolutionary. Military adventures, drastic regime changes, alliance redrawing, the willingness to sacrifice American lives and money in their pursuit, all these misguided policies that meet no political resistance –that’s what revolutionary.

Trump’s realism and pragmatic approach to politics appears as revolutionary only to the ideologues who refuse to pause in their drive to reshape the modern world according to their childish dreams.  

This radical reworking of democratic and conservative process of slow incremental improvements into the hegemony of corporate sponsored elites is indeed revolutionary: a modern day version of Lenin’s hegemony of proletariat and its avant-garde, the elite party, all over again.

Hillary Clinton is as conservative as Brezhnev, who, in his failure to modify or change the radical agenda set up by the party of Lenin and Stalin, was indeed, a conservative. Only an intellectual of Kirchick’s magnitude can see something Oakeshottian in this embrace of one party system.  

As someone who lived under one party rule in the former Soviet Union, I fully appreciate Popper’s rather minimalistic, but fundamental view of democracy, as the society that boasts a two party system and which guarantees the ease of deposing a ruling party in case of its failures.

Karl Popper insisted on the necessity and practical usefulness of the two-party system, so that the loss of power would lead to self-scrutiny and therefore improvement. While the two parties and their loyal press try to police each other, they keep each other busy, allowing the rest of the citizens to live in peace and pursue their goals without too much interference or control.

Obviously, all this goes down the drain with one party system of globalists and the elites, the party that mocks and dismisses as ridiculous or deplorable anyone who happens to challenge it.  

In his The Open Society and its Enemies Popper proposes a rather paradoxical, yet extremely sensible theory of a democratic society. What is important for Popper, is not the discovery of a perfect government, but a much more mundane and pragmatic question: how to avoid the blatantly bad ones. And democracy does it better than any other system. Insisting on this pragmatism, Popper highlights the following syllogism:

“And we do not base our choice on the goodness of democracy, which may be doubtful, but solely on the evilness of a dictatorship, which is certain. Not only because the dictator is bound to make bad use of his power, but because a dictator, even if he were benevolent, would rob all others of their responsibility, and thus of their human rights and duties. This is a sufficient basis for deciding in favor of democracy—that is, a rule of law that enables us to get rid of the government. No majority, however large, ought to be qualified to abandon this rule of law.”

Popper wrote this elucidation for The Economist; where he explains his paradoxical thought in the following manner: “In ‘The Open Society and its Enemies’ I suggested that an entirely new problem should be recognized as the fundamental problem of a rational political theory… how can we best avoid situations in which a bad ruler causes too much harm?

When we say that the best solution known to us is a constitution that allows a majority vote to dismiss the government, then we do not say the majority vote will always be right. We do not even say that it will usually be right.”

For Popper, the two-party system is a requirement not because any of these parties possesses the truth, but because they can lose, be removed from power, and thus given a chance to think things through and improve.  Consequently, it is the very possibility of losing, and therefore improving, that makes democracies dynamic and progressive:

“From the point of view of the new theory, Election day ought to be a Day of Judgment. As Pericles of Athens said in about 430 BC, ‘although only a few may originate a policy, we are all able to judge it.’ Of course, we may misjudge it; in fact, we often do. But if we have lived through a party’s period of power and have felt its repercussions, we have at least some qualifications for judgment…In order to make a majority government probable, we need something approaching a two-party system…. for such a system encourages a continual process of self-criticism by the two parties.”

For Popper, the two –party system is preferable since “an inclination to self-criticism after an electoral defeat is far more pronounced in countries with a two-party system than in those where there are several parties.” It is this self-criticism of a losing party; this desire to reform and modernize that provides healthy development for democracies.

The rule of the last two decades did not improve the economic life of the majority of Americans; in fact, it resulted in the drastic redistribution of wealth. It didn’t bring peace to the world stage. In fact, we are standing on the threshold of nuclear confrontation.

Yet, in the manner of the Germany in 1930s, we are rapidly overstepping democratic principles for the sake of one party and its global ambitions, of the consensus formulated by the PNAC, Council of Foreign Affairs, Atlantic Council, and other think tanks, along with the State Department, and the press, all of whom argue for the same policies all over again. Even now, weeks before the elections, we are reading about the same bureaucrats in Pentagon, CIA, or State Department, haggling for the place in the future Hillary cabinet.  

It is those rascals that can be sent home, who are worthy of being voted in. And conversely, it is those rascals, who want to stay in power no matter how wrongheaded, dangerous, or unpopular their policies are that should be thrown out.

There is no absolute truth in politics, there is no end of history, and there is no one size fits all. Popper understood it much better than Fukuyama. History never ends: parties should continue to lose, and thus given a chance to come up with better policies for the next election. Only when Democratic Party is forced to take a back seat, it will contemplate on how it can improve, and offer new policies for the country.

Propping up Hillary as the best embodiment of the failed policies, allowing the same bankers, diplomats, and generals to metastasize into next election and hold the same key positions in the Pentagon, the State Department, CIA or Treasury, is ultimately, the embrace of one party system; it provides a profound disservice to the United States and its democratic tradition.

At the last presidential debate this electoral season, Hillary Clinton pretended to be appalled by Trump’s hypothetical refusal to accept the results of the November elections. Mass media echo chambers went into the override mode bemoaning Trump’s disrespect for the venerable political tradition of peaceful transition of power. Trump was never in power, however.

What is truly appalling is the real, not the hypothetical threat of turning US into a one party system, the system which is so entrenched that it can only mock, dismiss, and conspire to denigrate its opponents. Maybe Mr. Forrestal was right after all. Russians, or rather Soviets, are here, but they do not hack the emails, they write them.

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May survives ‘no confidence’ vote as UK moves towards March 29 deadline or Article 50 extension (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 168.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the ‘no confidence’ vote that UK Prime Minister May won with the a slim margin…meaning that though few MPs have confidence in her ‘Brexit withdrawal’ negotiating skills, they appear to have no problem allowing May to lead the country towards its Brexit deadline in March, which coincidently may be delayed and eventually scrapped altogether.

Meanwhile Tony Blair is cozying up to Brussels’ oligarchs, working his evil magic to derail the will of the British people, and keep the integrationist ambitions for the UK and Europe on track.

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Via RT


The UK government led by Theresa May, has survived to fight another day, after winning a no-confidence vote, tabled by Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party, following parliament rejecting the PM’s Brexit deal, earlier on Tuesday evening.

The no-confidence vote was defeated by 19 votes – the government winning by 325 to 306. It’s a rare positive note for May’s Tory cabinet after the humiliating Brexit defeat.

Speaking immediately after the vote, a victorious May said she was “pleased” that the House expressed its confidence in her government. May said she will “continue to work” to deliver on the result of the Brexit referendum and leave the EU.

May invited the leaders of parliamentary parties to meet with her individually, beginning on Wednesday evening.

“I stand ready to work with any member of this House to deliver on Brexit,” she said.

Responding to the vote, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said that the House had “emphatically” rejected May’s deal on Tuesday. The government, he said, must now remove “clearly once and for all the prospect of the catastrophe of a no-deal Brexit from the EU and all the chaos that would result from that.”

Labour will now have to consider what move to make next. Their official Brexit policy, decided by members at conference in September, states that if a general election cannot be forced, then all options should be left on the table, including calling for a second referendum.

Liberal Democrats MP Ed Davey also called on May to rule out a no deal Brexit.

The way forward for Brexit is not yet clear and May’s options are now limited, given that the Brexit deal she was offering was voted down so dramatically on Tuesday.

Gavin Barrett, a professor at the UCD Sutherland School of Law in Dublin, told RT that May will now have to decide if her second preference is a no-deal Brexit or a second referendum. Her preference will likely be a no-deal Brexit, Barrett said, adding that “since no other option commands a majority in the House” a no-deal exit is now “the default option.”

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Final Steps in Syria’s Successful Struggle for Peace and Sovereignty

The war of aggression against Syria is winding up, and this can be observed by the opening of a series of new embassies in Damascus.

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Authored by Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


The situation in Syria evolves daily and sees two situations very closely linked to each other, with the US withdrawal from Syria and the consequent expansionist ambitions of Erdogan in Syria and the Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) takeover in Idlib that frees the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and Russian aviation to liberate the de-escalation zone.

Trump has promised to destroy Turkey economically if he attacks the Kurds, reinforcing his claim that Erdogan will not target the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) once the US withdraws from the area. One of the strongest accusations made against Trump’s withdrawal by his opponents is that no Middle Eastern force will ever trust the US again if they abandon the SDF to its fate, that is, to its annihilation at the hands of the Turkish army and its FSA proxies. This, however, is not possible; not so much because of Trump’s economic threats, but because of Damascus and Moscow being strongly opposed to any Turkish military action in the northeast of Syria.

This is a red line drawn by Putin and Assad, and the Turkish president likely understands the consequences of any wrong moves. It is no coincidence that he stated several times that he had no problems with the “Syrians or Syrian-Kurdish brothers”, and repeated that if the area under the SDF were to come under the control of Damascus, Turkey would have no need to intervene in Syria. Trump’s request that Ankara have a buffer zone of 20 kilometers separating the Kurdish and Turkish forces seems to complement the desire of Damascus and Moscow to avoid a clash between the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) and the SDF.

The only party that seems to be secretly encouraging a clash between the SDF and Turkish forces is Israel, criticizing Ankara and singing the praises of the SDF, in order to try and accentuate the tensions between the two sides, though naturally without success. Israel’s continued raids in Syria, though almost constantly failing due to Syrian air defense, and the divide-and-rule policy used against Turkey and the SDF, show that Tel Aviv is now weakened and mostly irrelevant in the Syrian conflict.

In Idlib, the situation seems to be becoming less complicated and difficult to decipher. Russia, Iran and Syria had asked Erdogan to take control of the province through its “moderate jihadists”, sit down at the negotiating table, and resolve the matter through a diplomatic solution. Exactly the opposite happened. The HTS (formerly al-Nusra/al-Qaeda in Syria) has in recent weeks conquered practically the whole province of Idlib, with numerous forces linked to Turkey (Ahrar al-Sham and Nour al-Din al-Zenki) dissolving and merging into HTS. This development puts even more pressure on Erdogan, who is likely to see his influence in Idlib fade away permanently. Moreover, this evolution represents a unique opportunity for Damascus and Moscow to start operations in Idlib with the genuine justification of combating terrorism. It is a repeat of what happened in other de-escalation areas. Moscow and Damascus have repeatedly requested the moderates be separated from the terrorists, so as to approach the situation with a diplomatic negotiation.

In the absence of an effective division of combatants, all are considered terrorists, with the military option replacing the diplomatic. This remains the only feasible option to free the area from terrorists who are not willing to give back territory to the legitimate government in Damascus and are keeping civilians hostages. The Idlib province seems to have experienced the same playbook applied in other de-escalation zones, this time with a clear contrast between Turkey and Saudi Arabia that shows how the struggle between the two countries is much deeper than it appears. The reasons behind the Khashoggi case and the diplomatic confrontation between Qatar and Saudi Arabia were laid bare in the actions of the HTS in Idlib, which has taken control of all the areas previously held by Ankara’s proxies.

It remains to be seen whether Moscow and Damascus would like to encourage Erdogan to recover Idlib through its proxies, trying to encourage jihadists to fight each other as much as possible in order to lighten the task of the SAA, or whether they would prefer to press the advantage themselves and attack while the terrorist front is experiencing internal confusion.

In terms of occupied territory and accounts to be settled, two areas of great importance for the future of Syria remain unresolved, namely al-Tanf, occupied by US forces on the Syrian-Jordanian border, and the area in the north of Syria occupied by Turkish forces and their FSA proxies. It is too early to approach a solution militarily, it being easier for Damascus and Moscow to complete the work to free Syria from the remaining terrorists. Once this has been done, the presence of US or Turkish forces in Syria, whether directly or indirectly, would become all the more difficult to justify. Driving away the US and, above all, Turkey from Syrian territory will be the natural next step in the Syrian conflict.

This is an unequivocal sign that the war of aggression against Syria is winding up, and this can be observed by the opening of a series of new embassies in Damascus. Several countries — including Italy in the near future — will reopen their embassies in Syria to demonstrate that the war, even if not completely over, is effectively won by Damascus and her allies.

For this reason, several countries that were previously opposed to Damascus, like the United Arab Emirates, are understood to have some kind of contact with the government of Damascus. If they intend to become involved in the reconstruction process and any future investment, they will quite naturally need to re-establish diplomatic relations with Damascus. The Arab League is also looking to welcome Syria back into the fold.

Such are signs that Syria is returning to normality, without forgetting which and how many countries have conspired and acted directly against the Syrians for over seven years. An invitation to the Arab League or some embassy being reopened will not be enough to compensate for the damage done over years, but Assad does not preclude any option, and is in the meantime demonstrating to the Israelis, Saudis and the US Deep State that their war has failed and that even their most loyal allies are resuming diplomatic relations with Damascus, a double whammy against the neocons, Wahhabis and Zionists.

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Google Manipulated YouTube Search Results for Abortion, Maxine Waters, David Hogg

The existence of the blacklist was revealed in an internal Google discussion thread leaked to Breitbart News.

The Duran

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Via Breitbart


In sworn testimony, Google CEO Sundar Pichai told Congress last month that his company does not “manually intervene” on any particular search result. Yet an internal discussion thread leaked to Breitbart News reveals Google regularly intervenes in search results on its YouTube video platform – including a recent intervention that pushed pro-life videos out of the top ten search results for “abortion.”

The term “abortion” was added to a “blacklist” file for “controversial YouTube queries,” which contains a list of search terms that the company considers sensitive. According to the leak, these include some of these search terms related to: abortion, abortions, the Irish abortion referendum, Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters, and anti-gun activist David Hogg.

The existence of the blacklist was revealed in an internal Google discussion thread leaked to Breitbart News by a source inside the company who wishes to remain anonymous. A partial list of blacklisted terms was also leaked to Breitbart by another Google source.

In the leaked discussion thread, a Google site reliability engineer hinted at the existence of more search blacklists, according to the source.

“We have tons of white- and blacklists that humans manually curate,” said the employee. “Hopefully this isn’t surprising or particularly controversial.”

Others were more concerned about the presence of the blacklist. According to the source, the software engineer who started the discussion called the manipulation of search results related to abortion a “smoking gun.”

The software engineer noted that the change had occurred following an inquiry from a left-wing Slate journalist about the prominence of pro-life videos on YouTube, and that pro-life videos were replaced with pro-abortion videos in the top ten results for the search terms following Google’s manual intervention.

“The Slate writer said she had complained last Friday and then saw different search results before YouTube responded to her on Monday,” wrote the employee. “And lo and behold, the [changelog] was submitted on Friday, December 14 at 3:17 PM.”

The manually downranked items included several videos from Dr. Antony Levatino, a former abortion doctor who is now a pro-life activist. Another video in the top ten featured a woman’s personal story of being pressured to have an abortion, while another featured pro-life conservative Ben Shapiro. The Slate journalist who complained to Google reported that these videos previously featured in the top ten, describing them in her story as “dangerous misinformation.”

Since the Slate journalist’s inquiry and Google’s subsequent intervention, the top search results now feature pro-abortion content from left-wing sources like BuzzFeed, Vice, CNN, and Last Week Tonight With John Oliver. In her report, the Slate journalist acknowledged that the search results changed shortly after she contacted Google.

The manual adjustment of search results by a Google-owned platform contradicts a key claim made under oath by Google CEO Sundar Pichai in his congressional testimony earlier this month: that his company does not “manually intervene on any search result.”

A Google employee in the discussion thread drew attention to Pichai’s claim, noting that it “seems like we are pretty eager to cater our search results to the social and political agenda of left-wing journalists.”

One of the posts in the discussion also noted that the blacklist had previously been edited to include the search term “Maxine Waters” after a single Google employee complained the top YouTube search result for Maxine Waters was “very low quality.”

Google’s alleged intervention on behalf of a Democratic congresswoman would be further evidence of the tech giant using its resources to prop up the left. Breitbart News previously reported on leaked emails revealing the company targeted pro-Democrat demographics in its get-out-the-vote efforts in 2016.

According to the source, a software engineer in the thread also noted that “a bunch of terms related to the abortion referendum in Ireland” had been added to the blacklist – another change with potentially dramatic consequences on the national policies of a western democracy.

youtube_controversial_query_blacklist

At least one post in the discussion thread revealed the existence of a file called “youtube_controversial_query_blacklist,” which contains a list of YouTube search terms that Google manually curates. In addition to the terms “abortion,” “abortions,” “Maxine Waters,” and search terms related to the Irish abortion referendum, a Google software engineer noted that the blacklist includes search terms related to terrorist attacks. (the posts specifically mentions that the “Strasbourg terrorist attack” as being on the list).

“If you look at the other entries recently added to the youtube_controversial_query_blacklist(e.g., entries related to the Strasbourg terrorist attack), the addition of abortion seems…out-of-place,” wrote the software engineer, according to the source.

After learning of the existence of the blacklist, Breitbart News obtained a partial screenshot of the full blacklist file from a source within Google. It reveals that the blacklist includes search terms related to both mass shootings and the progressive anti-second amendment activist David Hogg.

This suggests Google has followed the lead of Democrat politicians, who have repeatedly pushed tech companies to censor content related to the Parkland school shooting and the Parkland anti-gun activists. It’s part of a popular new line of thought in the political-media establishment, which views the public as too stupid to question conspiracy theories for themselves.

Here is the partial blacklist leaked to Breitbart:

2117 plane crash Russian

2118 plane crash

2119 an-148

2120 florida shooting conspiracy

2121 florida shooting crisis actors

2122 florida conspiracy

2123 florida false flag shooting

2124 florida false flag

2125 fake florida school shooting

2126 david hogg hoax

2127 david hogg fake

2128 david hogg crisis actor

2129 david hogg forgets lines

2130 david hogg forgets his lines

2131 david hogg cant remember his lines

2132 david hogg actor

2133 david hogg cant remember

2134 david hogg conspiracy

2135 david hogg exposed

2136 david hogg lines

2137 david hogg rehearsing

2120 florida shooting conspiracy

The full internal filepath of the blacklist, according to another source, is:

//depot/google3/googledata/superroot/youtube/youtube_controversial_query_blacklist

Contradictions

Responding to a request for comment, a YouTube spokeswoman said the company wants to promote “authoritative” sources in its search results, but maintained that YouTube is a “platform for free speech” that “allow[s]” both pro-life and pro-abortion content.

YouTube’s full comment:

YouTube is a platform for free speech where anyone can choose to post videos, as long as they follow our Community Guidelines, which prohibit things like inciting violence and pornography. We apply these policies impartially and we allow both pro-life and pro-choice opinions. Over the last year we’ve described how we are working to better surface news sources across our site for news-related searches and topical information. We’ve improved our search and discovery algorithms, built new features that clearly label and prominently surface news sources on our homepage and search pages, and introduced information panels to help give users more authoritative sources where they can fact check information for themselves.

In the case of the “abortion” search results, YouTube’s intervention to insert “authoritative” content resulted in the downranking of pro-life videos and the elevation of pro-abortion ones.

A Google spokesperson took a tougher line than its YouTube subsidiary, stating that “Google has never manipulated or modified the search results or content in any of its products to promote a particular political ideology.”

However, in the leaked discussion thread, a member of Google’s “trust & safety” team, Daniel Aaronson, admitted that the company maintains “huge teams” that work to adjust search results for subjects that are “prone to hyperbolic content, misleading information, and offensive content” – all subjective terms that are frequently used to suppress right-leaning sources.

He also admitted that the interventions weren’t confined to YouTube – they included search results delivered via Google Assistant, Google Home, and in rare cases Google ’s organic search results.

In the thread, Aaronson attempted to explain how search blacklisting worked. He claimed that highly specific searches would generate non-blacklisted results, even controversial ones. But the inclusion of highly specific terms in the YouTube blacklist, like “David Hogg cant remember his lines” – the name of an actual viral video – seems to contradict this.

Aaronson’s full post is copied below:

I work in Trust and Safety and while I have no particular input as to exactly what’s happening for YT I can try to explain why you’d have this kind of list and why people are finding lists like these on Code Search.

When dealing with abuse/controversial content on various mediums you have several levers to deal with problems. Two prominent levers are “Proactive” and “Reactive”:

  • Proactive: Usually refers to some type of algorithm/scalable solution to a general problem
    • E.g.: We don’t allow straight up porn on YouTube so we create a classifier that detects porn and automatically remove or flag for review the videos the porn classifier is most certain of
  • Reactive: Usually refers to a manual fix to something that has been brought to our attention that our proactive solutions don’t/didn’t work on and something that is clearly in the realm of bad enough to warrant a quick targeted solution (determined by pages and pages of policies worked on over many years and many teams to be fair and cover necessary scope)
    • E,g.: A website that used to be a good blog had it’s domain expire and was purchased/repurposed to spam Search results with autogenerated pages full of gibberish text, scraped images, and links to boost traffic to other spammy sites. It is manually actioned for violating policy

These Organic Search policies and the consequences to violating them are public

Manually reacting to things is not very scalable, and is not an ideal solution to most problems, so the proactive lever is really the one we all like to lean on. Ideally, our classifiers/algorithm are good at providing useful and rich results to our users while ignoring things at are not useful or not relevant. But we all know, this isn’t exactly the case all the time (especially on YouTube).

From a user perspective, there are subjects that are prone to hyperbolic content, misleading information, and offensive content. Now, these words are highly subjective and no one denies that. But we can all agree generally, lines exist in many cultures about what is clearly okay vs. what is not okay. E.g. a video of a puppy playing with a toy is probably okay in almost every culture or context, even if it’s not relevant to the query. But a video of someone committing suicide and begging others to follow in his/her footsteps is probably on the other side of the line for many folks.

While my second example is technically relevant to the generic query of “suicide”, that doesn’t mean that this is a very useful or good video to promote on the top of results for that query. So imagine a classifier that says, for any queries on a particular text file, let’s pull videos using signals that we historically understand to be strong indicators of quality (I won’t go into specifics here, but those signals do exist). We’re not manually curating these results, we’re just saying “hey, be extra careful with results for this query because many times really bad stuff can appear and lead to a bad experience for most users”. Ideally the proactive lever did this for us, but in extreme cases where we need to act quickly on something that is so obviously not okay, the reactive/manual approach is sometimes necessary. And also keep in mind, that this is different for every product. The bar for changing classifiers or manual actions on span in organic search is extremely high. However, the bar for things we let our Google Assistant say out loud might be a lot lower. If I search for “Jews run the banks” – I’ll likely find anti-semitic stuff in organic search. As a Jew, I might find some of these results offensive, but they are there for people to research and view, and I understand that this is not a reflection of Google feels about this issue. But if I ask Google assistant “Why do Jews run the banks” we wouldn’t be similarly accepting if it repeated and promoted conspiracy theories that likely pop up in organic search in her smoothing voice.

Whether we agree or not, user perception of our responses, results, and answers of different products and mediums can change. And I think many people are used to the fact that organic search is a place where content should be accessible no matter how offensive it might be, however, the expectation is very different on a Google Home, a Knowledge Panel, or even YouTube.

These lines are very difficult and can be very blurry, we are all well aware of this. So we’ve got huge teams that stay cognizant of these facts when we’re crafting policies considering classifier changes, or reacting with manual actions – these decisions are not made in a vacuum, but admittedly are also not made in a highly public forum like TGIF or IndustryInfo (as you can imagine, decisions/agreement would be hard to get in such a wide list – image if all your CL’s were reviewed by every engineer across Google all the time). I hope that answers some questions and gives a better layer of transparency without going into details about our “Pepsi formula”.

Best,

Daniel

The fact that Google manually curates politically contentious search results fits in with a wider pattern of political activity on the part of the tech giant.

In 2018, Breitbart News exclusively published a leaked video from the company that showed senior management in dismay at Trump’s election victory, and pledging to use the company’s power to make his populist movement a “hiccup” in history.

Breitbart also leaked “The Good Censor,” an internal research document from Google that admits the tech giant is engaged in the censorship of its own products, partly in response to political events.

Another leak revealed that employees within the company, including Google’s current director of Trust and Safety, tried to kick Breitbart News off Google’s market-dominating online ad platforms.

Yet another showed Google engaged in targeted turnout operations aimed to boost voter participation in pro-Democrat demographics in “key states” ahead of the 2016 election. The effort was dubbed a “silent donation” by a top Google employee.

Evidence for Google’s partisan activities is now overwhelming. President Trump has previously warned Google, as well as other Silicon Valley giants, not to engage in censorship or partisan activities. Google continues to defy him.

Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News. You can follow him on TwitterGab.ai and add him on Facebook. Email tips and suggestions to [email protected].

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