Bruce Schneider

Recentemente, Elon Musk [Um bilionário empreendedor e filantrópico sul-africano] e o The New York Times foram ao Twitter e à Internet para discutir dados –  e suas queixas –  por causa de um test-drive e uma avaliação de carro que falharam. Enquanto isso, um funcionário da [cadeia de restaurantes] Applebee coloca uma petição no portal Change.org para recuperar o emprego que perdeu por ter postado online uma conta sem gorjeta de um cliente clérigo. Um funcionário desenvolvedor da rede de academias Web Fitness SF, por não ter sido pago com rapidez suficiente, reescreveu a página da empresa a fim de expor a sua reclamação. Todos esses ‘casos’ estão buscando seus julgamentos no tribunal da opinião pública. O tribunal da opinião pública tem um registro completo; nem mesmo os estabelecimentos de tijolo e cimento são imunes.

Cada vez mais indivíduos –  e empresas –  estão contornando inteiramente o processo tradicional legal, na esperança de obter uma audiência mais favorável perante o grande público. Todos os dias nós temos que interagir com milhares de estranhos, que vão das pessoas com quem cruzamos na rua e pessoas que manipulam o nosso alimento, às pessoas com quem mantemos relações comerciais de curto prazo. Muito embora a maioria de nós não seja capaz de proteger os nossos interesses pela força física, todos podemos ter confiança ao lidar com esses estranhos, porque –  pelo menos em parte – confiamos que o sistema jurídico intervirá em nosso nome, na eventualidade de algum problema. Às vezes, esse problema envolve pessoas que violam as regras da sociedade, e, os tribunais criminais lidam com elas; quando o problema é um desacordo entre duas partes, os tribunais civis irão fazer isso. Os tribunais são um sistema antigo de justiça, e a sociedade moderna não pode funcionar sem eles.

O que importa no sistema judicial tradicional são os fatos e as leis. Os tribunais são supostamente imparciais e justos na distribuição de sua justiça, e as sociedades florescem com base na medida em que se aproximam desse ideal. Quando os tribunais são injustos –  quando os juízes podem ser subornados, quando os poderosos são tratados melhor, quando os advogados mais caros produzem resultados mais favoráveis ​​–  a sociedade é prejudicada. Tornamo-nos mais medrosos e menos capazes de confiar uns nos outros. Ficamos menos dispostos a entrar em acordo com estranhos, e, dedicamos mais esforços para proteger os nossos, porque não acreditamos que o sistema existe para nos apoiar.

O tribunal da opinião pública é um sistema alternativo de justiça. É muito diferente do sistema judicial tradicional: esse tribunal é baseado em reputação, vingança, humilhação pública e nos caprichos da massa. Ter uma boa história é mais importante do que ter a lei do seu lado. Ser um oprimido simpático é mais importante do que ser justo. Os fatos são importantes, mas não existem padrões de avaliar precisão. A velocidade da internet agrava isso; uma boa história se espalha mais rápido que um monte de fatos.

Esse tribunal oferece justiça de reputação. Os argumentos são medidos em relação à reputação. Se uma parte fizer uma reclamação contra outra que parece ser plausível, com base em ambas as reputações, é provável que essa reclamação seja recebida favoravelmente. Se alguém fizer uma afirmação que colida com a reputação das partes, é provável que não seja recebida. A reputação é, obviamente, uma mercadoria, e a perda de reputação é a penalidade que esse tribunal impõe. Nesse sentido, ele recompensa menos frequentemente a parte lesada e mais frequentemente causa vingança ou retribuição. E embora essas perdas possam ser brutais, os efeitos geralmente duram pouco.

O tribunal da opinião pública tem limitações significativas. Funciona melhor para a vingança e a justiça do que para resolução de disputas. Ele pode punir uma empresa por demitir injustamente um de seus funcionários ou por mentir no test-drive de um automóvel, mas é menos eficaz em desvendar um litígio complicado sobre patentes ou em um processo de falência.

De muitas maneiras, esse é um retorno a uma noção medieval de ‘fama’ ou reputação. De outras maneiras, é como a justiça da massa: às vezes benigna e benéfica, às vezes terrível (pense na Revolução Francesa). O julgamento pela opinião pública não é novo; você se lembra do Rodney King e do O. J. Simpson?

A mídia de massa tem permitido esse sistema há séculos. Mas a internet, e, em particular as mídias sociais, mudaram a forma como estão sendo usadas. Agora, ele está sendo usado de maneira mais deliberada e frequente, por entidades cada vez mais poderosas, como mecanismo de retificação. Talvez porque seja considerado mais eficiente ou talvez porque uma das partes sinta que pode obter uma audiência mais favorável neste novo tribunal, mas está sendo usado em vez de ações judiciais. Ao invés dos shows dos figurantes (as partes) dos processos judiciais reais, o tribunal da opinião pública está se transformando em um sistema alternativo de resolução de disputas e de justiça.

Parte dessa tendência se deve ao fato de a internet facilitar muito o processo perante a corte da opinião pública. Costumava ser sobre uma parte injuriada persuadir um meio de comunicação tradicional a divulgar o seu caso; agora a parte injuriada pode levar o seu caso diretamente ao povo. E, embora ainda seja uma surpresa quando alguns casos se tornam virais, enquanto outros perduram na obscuridade, é simplesmente mais eficaz apresentar seu caso no Facebook ou no Twitter.

Outra razão é que o sistema judicial tradicional é cada vez mais visto como injusto. Hoje, o dinheiro pode comprar justiça: não subornando diretamente os juízes, mas contratando advogados melhores e forçando o outro lado a gastar mais dinheiro do que as suas posses permitem. Sabemos que os tribunais tratam os ricos e os pobres de maneira diferente, que as empresas podem se safar de crimes que os indivíduos não podem, e, que os poderosos podem fazer lobby para obter as leis e regulamentos específicos que desejam –  independentemente de quaisquer noções de justiça.

Empresas inteligentes já se prepararam para as batalhas no tribunal da opinião pública. Eles contrataram especialistas em direcionamentos políticos. Eles contrataram empresas para monitorar o Facebook, Twitter e outros locais da Internet onde essas batalhas se originam. Eles já têm em vigor estratégias de resposta e planos de comunicação. Eles reconheceram que, embora esse tribunal seja muito diferente do sistema jurídico tradicional, dinheiro e poder contam, e, que existem maneiras de alterar os resultados a seu favor: por exemplo, falsos movimentos de base podem ser tão eficazes na Internet quanto no mundo offline.

Está na hora de reconhecermos o tribunal da opinião pública pelo que ele é –  um sistema de justiça alternativo habilitado pelas multidões. Precisamos começar a discutir os seus méritos e as suas falhas; precisamos entender quando o mesmo resulta em justiça e como pode ser manipulado pelos poderosos. Também precisamos ter uma conversa franca sobre as falhas do sistema de justiça tradicional, e, porque as pessoas estão motivadas a levar suas queixas ao público. Apesar da existência de empresas de relações públicas que funcionam 24 horas, e de planos de resposta a incidentes, este é um tribunal em que empresas e governos estão em uma inerente desvantagem. E, como os fracos continuarão correndo na frente dos poderosos, os que estão no poder preferirão usar os mecanismos mais tradicionais do governo: a polícia, os tribunais e as leis.

A pesquisadora de mídia social Danah Boyd acertou quando escreveu aqui na Wired: “Em uma sociedade em rede, quem de nós decide onde estão os limites morais? Essa não é uma pergunta fácil e está na raiz de como nós, como sociedade, conceituamos a justiça”‘. Não é uma pergunta fácil, mas é a pergunta principal. As questões morais e éticas que cercam o tribunal da opinião pública são aquelas reais, que a sociedade terá que enfrentar nas próximas décadas.

                                                                                                                     

Artigo publicado na revista Wired, seção Opinião, 26 de fevereiro, 2013. Bruce Schneier é um tecnólogo de segurança. O seu último livro é Liars and Outliers: Enabling the Trust Society Needs to Survive. (Mentirosos e outliers: como criar a confiança que a sociedade precisa para sobreviver). Tradução de JPO.

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Jo Pires-O’Brien

Review of the book Provocations by Camille Paglia. Pantheon Books, © 2018, 712pp

I still recollect the first time I ran across the name of Camille Paglia, the Italian-American woman of letters.  It happened in Brazil in 1992, when a one-page article by her, probably one of her syndicated columns, was published in a Brazilian weekly magazine, inside a larger article covering the troubles on the celebrations in Brazil of the 500 anniversary of Columbus epic voyage of discovery due to opposing activism. Paglia was the only public intellectual who dared to criticize the twin activism in the United States, which explains why her article was used in Brazil. After that, I began to pay attention to her name wherever it would appear in the media, and soon discovered that Paglia was a household name in the Anglophone world, and more recently, that she has many admirers in Brazil.

Paglia has been at the centre of the culture wars at the American colleges and universities, on the side that stands for tolerance to ideas and authentic scholarly principles. Her new book Provocations (2018) starts by listing the contraindications and indications, determined by people’s ways of thinking, before getting to the point of what the book is about. The collection of essays and short interviews in Provocations covers two and a half decades since her last essay collection was published in her 1994 book Vamps & Tramps. However, Provocations also includes essays on her previous books and interviews. According to Paglia, since her student days she wanted to develop an ‘interpretative’ style of writing that could integrate high and popular culture, which is how she describes her style in Provocations. Although she doesn’t say there that the biology of human nature is a crucial component of the interpretative’ style, this is implicit in many of her essays.

The essays and interviews in Provocations are organized into eight categories: popular culture; film; sex, gender, women; literature; art; education; politics; and religion. The eight categories required to organise these essays are revealing of Paglia’s encyclopaedic knowledge. However, her way of thinking is best revealed by the threads of ideas she interweaves in each category. They are things like art, historical timeline, Shakespeare, post-structuralism and postmodernism, nature, biology and freedom of expression.

The essays on ‘popular culture’ include such topics as Hollywood, song lyrics, Rihanna, Prince, David Bowie and his alter ego Ziggy Stardust, punk rock, favourites popular songs, Gianni Versace and the Italians’ way of seeing death.  The essays on the category ‘film’ talk about Alfred Hitchcock and his female characters, ‘the waning of European Art film’, ‘the decline of film criticism’, ‘movie music,’ and ‘Homer on film.’ The essays on the category ‘sex, gender, and women’ starts with the essay ‘Sex Quest in Tom of Finland’, the story of a Finnish homoerotic artist (actual name Touko Laaksonen) which was turned into a movie. The essays on the category ‘literature’ start with one telling off publishers for sending out unsolicited manuscripts accompanied by a request of a ‘blurb,’ a short description of a book written for promotional purposes; the remaining are properly framed on literature. These include essays on play writers such as Shakespeare, Tennessee Wiliams, Norman Mailler, and about why it took her five years to select the world’s best poems of all times for her book Break, Blow, Burn. The essays on the category ‘art’ covers Andy Warhol, the Mona Lisa, and the power of images. The essays on category ‘education’ covers a variety of themes associated with the aforementioned culture wars at the American colleges and universities, inclusive the intrusive federal regulations aimed at enforcing politically correctness on campus activities. The category of ‘politics’ starts with an interview for Salon magazine about the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and then go on to analyse political figures such as Bill Clinton, Sarah Palin and Donald Trump. The last category is ‘religion’, and it includes essays on the Bible, ‘that old-time religion’, the cults and cosmic consciousness in the sixties in America, ‘religion and the arts in America’, and one essay on why religion should be part of the curriculum of higher education.

One essay I found especially intriguing was that on the Russian-American philosopher Ayn Rand’ (1905-1982), whose objective was to clarify similarities and differences between Rand and herself, after some of her readers pointed out that they had noticed parallels between Hand’s writing and her own. When Paglia finally decided to read Rand she was astonished in finding similar passages to those in her own books. However, she also stresses the main differences between herself and Rand. Paglia describes Rand as an intellectual of daunting high seriousness she describes her style as playful, emphasizing her belief that comedy is a sign of a balanced perspective on life. There is a paradox in this assertion in the fact that Paglia excludes herself from the category of ‘serious thinkers’ and yet displays a kind of self-knowledge that is typical of serious thinkers.

The essay ‘Women and Law’ caught my attention due to her description of the statue of Justice placed in front of Brazil’s Supreme Federal Court. Like most Brazilians, I know what the statue of Justice looks-like. It is a seated woman holding a sword with her eyes blindfolded, signifying the impartiality of the law. However, I did not know that it was the work of the Italian-Brazilian sculptor Alfredo Ceschiati (1918-1989), using a ‘rugged block of creamy granite from Petropolis,’ and neither the historical lineage of the ‘allegorical personification of justice’ that this statue represented. She explains: “Ceschiati has strangely flattened the head of Justice, as if he is alluding to the bust of Nefertiti, with her conceptually swollen wig-crown, or to the Meso-American Chack Mool, who oversaw with alert eyes the ritual of blood sacrifice, guaranteeing the rise of the sun”. Really? I always thought that the flat head of the statue of Justice in Brasília was due to the sculptor’s decision to make his sculpture as tall as his block of granite would allow. However, Paglia was simply allowing her imagination to wander, for she soon returns to the known facts, when she clarifies that the iconic blindfolded goddess of Justice, “was not an ancient motif, but appeared first in the Northern European Renaissance”. Following that, she takes a side step to raise the question whether gender, or any other basic descriptor of a group of people, should be visible or invisible to the law. Women made gains in the law only in piecemeal way, in a long saga that started in Sumeria, under the Code of Hammurabi, passing through Egypt, Judaea, Athens, Rome, Christianized Europe, China and Japan. The contemporary call for special concessions to women would require making them visible, and that this would trample the idea of the impartiality of the law.

The essay ‘Erich Newmann: Theorist of the Great Mother’ reveals where Paglia gained her perspectives art, women, religion, and higher education. Newmann (1905-1961) was a member of the Weimar culture and a product of what Paglia considers “the final phase of the great period of German classical philology, which was animated by an ideal of profound erudition”. Newmann obtained his PhD in philosophy at the University of Erlangen in Nuremberg, and after that he began to study medicine at the University of Berlin, although the discrimination to Jews introduced by the Nazis prevented him from doing the internship necessary to obtain the medical degree. Nevertheless, he carried on his research, which took a new turn after he met Carl Jung (1875-1961), known for his work of archetypes.  Under Jung, Newmann created the archetype of the Great Mother, “a dangerously dual figure, both benevolent and terrifying, like the Hindu goddess Kali”.  It is also from Newmann that Paglia learned to appreciate things like alchemy and the I Ching. On page 439 of this essay she writes that “Authentic cultural criticism requires saturation in scholarship as well as a power of sympathetic imagination”. Paglia’s fondness of Neumann is due to two things: the quality of his scholarship and the fact that it represented last authentic period of learnedness in higher education, before everything was spoilt by post-structuralism.

It was in the category ‘education’ where I found the essays I liked best. Paglia’s essays on education cover the various problems of colleges and universities which triggered the culture wars of the 1980s, from their traditional mission to protect the free flow of ideas to the circumstances that drove them to be swamped by intrusive federal regulations campus aimed to enforce politically correct policies. In the essay ‘Free speech and the modern campus’, Paglia remembers her old-guard professors at Yale Graduate School, in the late 1960s, as the last true scholars. Here is how she describes how it was then and how it is now:

They believed they had a moral obligation to seek the truth and to express it as accurately as they could. I remember it being said at that time that a scholar’s career could be ruined by fudging a footnote. A tragic result of the era of identity politics in the humanities has been the collapse of rigorous scholarly standards, as well as an end to the high value once accorded to erudition, which no longer exists as a desirable or even possible attribute in job searches for new faculty.

In this same essay Paglia states that it was during the five years she researched her book Glittering Images: A journey through art from Egypt to Star Wars (2012) when she noticed the sharp decline in quality of scholarship in the humanities. She conducted a small experiment to detect when this decline started. That experiment involved selecting 29 images from a period extending offer 3,000 years, starting in ancient Egypt and ending in the present, and compiling the scholarly literature on each image. She found that the big drop off in quality happened precisely in the 1980s, which is when post-structuralism and post-modernism encroached into the colleges and universities.

What caused the scholarship of the humanities to slacken according to Paglia was political correctness, for it stunted the sense of the past and reduced history to a litany of inflammatory grievances. She also points out that this problem became worse when colleges and universities decided to embrace the wrong type of multiculturalism, which started to blame all g social inequalities on Western colonialism. Most conservative thinkers now dislike multiculturalism altogether, but Paglia believes in a right type of multiculturalism that incorporates Western civilization alongside the others. She favours a reform in higher education to prompt the return of authentic scholarly principles. To her, the introduction of popular culture in universities should not occur at the expense of the past. Colleges and universities must have an atmosphere of tolerance, and for that to happen, the spectrum of permissible ideological opinion must be broadened, rather than narrowed. The best way that colleges and universities can fully become a place for learning is by allowing free speech and the free flow of ideas; their departments should not become fiefdoms; no group should have a monopoly on truth; and students should be encouraged to be resilient and to accept personal responsibility.

The last category of essays is religion. Paglia admits being both an atheist and having a ‘1960’s mystical bent’ that fuels her interest in astrology, palmistry, ESP, and the I Ching.  Her essay ‘Cults and cosmic consciousness’ is the longest of this book, with 48 pages. In it, she talks about ancient and modern cults and traces the rise to the New Age movement during the 1980s and 1990s to the spiritual yearnings of her generation. In the essay ‘Resolved: Religion belongs in the curriculum’, the penultimate in this book, she argues the importance of the understanding of religions to the understanding of civilization. She believes that “every student should graduate with a basic familiarity with the history, sacred texts, codes, rituals, and shrines of the major world religions – Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaeo-Christianity, and Islam”. She recalls the religious overtone of her 1991 book Sexual Personae. Here is Paglia’s justification for this:

Judeo-Christianity never did defeat paganism, which went underground during the Middle Ages and erupted in three key moments: the Renaissance, Romanticism, and modern popular culture, as signalled by the pantheon of charismatic stars invented by studio-era Hollywood and classic rock music.

If universities had to choose between the teaching of religion and the teaching of the cult of Foucault – Postmodernism, they would be much better off with religion. Here is how she completes her argument:

Veneration of Jehovah brings vast historical sweep and a great literary work – The Bible – with it. Veneration of Foucault (who never admitted how much he borrowed from others – from Emile Durkheim to Erwin Goffman) traps the mind in simplistic, cynical formulas about social reality, applicable only to the past two and a half centuries of the post-Enlightenment. The highest level of intellect, conceptual analysis, and rigorous argumentation in the collected body of ancient Talmudic disputation and medieval Christian theology far exceeds anything in the slick, game-playing Foucault.

Postmodernism, including the poststructuralism which was rooted in the field of literary criticism, is one of the various threads of thought that weaves in and out of the eight categories of this book. Paglia threats the two terms as synonymous. In her essay ‘Scholars talk writing’ she describes the Yale she knew during the period as a graduate student there, from 1968 to 1972. It was a time when “French post-structuralism was flooding into Yale”. This is how she ends this same essay: “I’ve spent 25 years denouncing the bloated, pretentious prose spawned by post-structuralism. Enough said! Let the pigs roll in their own swirl”. In the essay ‘Free speech and the modern campus’ she describes the simultaneous rise of deconstruction and poststructuralism:

The deconstructionist trend started when J. Hillis Miller moved from Johns Hopkins University to Yale and then began bringing Jacques Derrida over from France for regular visits. The Derrida and Lacan fad was followed by the cult of Michael Foucault, who remains a deity in the humanities but whom I regard as a derivative game-player whose theories make no sense whatever about any period preceding the Enlightenment. The first time I witnessed a continental theorist discoursing with professors at a Yale event, I said in exasperation to a fellow student: ‘They’re like high priests murmuring to each other.’ It is absurd that elitist theoretical style, with its opaque and contorted jargon, was ever considered leftist, as it still is. Authentic leftism is populist, with a brutal directness of speech.

Poststructuralism or postmodernism was the major cause of the weakening of scholarship in the colleges and universities. In her aforementioned essay on Erich Newmann Paglia shows how important nature was in Newmann’s time and how things have changed.

The deletion of nature from academic gender studies has been disastrous. Sex and gender cannot be understood without some reference, however qualified, to biology, hormones, and animal instinct. And to erase nature from the humanities curriculum not only inhibits student’s appreciation of a tremendous amount of great, nature-inspired poetry and painting but also disables them even from being able to process the daily news in our uncertain world of devastating tsunamis and hurricanes.

As I started to read Camille Paglia’s Provocations I soon understood that the word ‘provocations’ is used in the sense of inciting thought. Although inciting thought is not the same as inciting rage, the first can lead to the second. Paglia has made some foes on her campus, who would like to see her pushed aside. History repeats itself when its past lessons are forgotten. During the trial of Socrates in 399 BCE, the philosopher told the Athenian people that although they saw him as a pesky ‘gadfly’, he was ‘a gadfly given to them by God,’ and one which will be difficult to replace.’ Paglia is the modern-day ‘gadfly’. She too will be difficult to replace.

                                                                                                                                               

Jo Pires-O’Brien is a Brazilian-Brit and the editor of PortVitoria.

Editor’s Note. Two important points of this interview are Maurice Strong (1929-2015), the organizer of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, June 3-14, 1992 in Rio de Janeiro, and how this conference fostered the emergence of a number of new environmental NGOs, which, despite being designated ‘non-governmental’ and projecting an image of enemies of large corporations, received money from both the Canadian government and Canadian oil companies. The interview also underlines the hypocrisy of Canada’s foreign policy in employing foreign aid to divert potential sedition from French-speaking Africa in support of Quebec’s separation, and in the years preceding Rio 92, to move the same sedition from Canada to Brazil, by funding NGOs knowingly that part of the money would be used to fund political candidates in Brazil. This hypocrisy plus the use of the media to direct public opinion are hallmarks of the social constructionism characteristic of Postmodernism. All pf this point to the need to ask what other hypocrisies and dishonesties were committed by the organizers Rio 92 with the connivance of the UN. Jo Pires-O’Brien

James Corbett (JC): Welcome friends, James Corbett here, corbettreport.com Today is the first of February 2016 and we are going to talk about something that I wrote about recently on the website, namely Maurice Strong, and you will be forgiven if all of your knowledge of Maurice Strong comes from the recent coverage of the memorials that were taking place for him in Ottawa[1]. You may be forgiven for thinking he was simply an environmental leader in a straight forward sense and simply concerned with the planet or something along those lines and certainly we have seen a lot of people paying tribute to him as a visionary who was interested in changing the world for the better, but there is a much, much more interesting, much more detailed, much more nuanced story that paints an altogether, I think, different picture of the modern environmental movement and, more specifically, the international institutions and organizations that have been created to forward that movement.

And on that note, again, people who read my recent article will be familiar with Elaine Dewar, a Canadian journalist who wrote a book a couple of decades ago called [The] Cloak of Green which I mentioned in that article and which I would highly recommend as an interesting source on the environmental movement and its development and also Maurice Strong who she also had the opportunity to interview for that book. She is at elainedewar.blogspot.com and you can check out some of her other books including Smarts: The Boundary Busting Story of Intelligence, and The Second Tree of Clones, Chimeras and Quests For Immortality but today we are going to be asking her to stretch her memory back a couple of decades to talk about Cloak of Green. Elaine Dewar, thanks for joining us today on the program.

Elaine Dewar (ED): Well, thanks for asking me.

JC: Well, as I say, you did write this book a couple of decades ago and I understand that this was an extension of your own experience in the late 1980s being concerned, as most of the planet was at that time, with some of the types of stories we were hearing the destruction of rain forests and the depletion of the ozone layer and that led you on a personal journey that took you in places that perhaps you weren’t expecting to go. I would love to hear about how Cloak of Green came together and what really propelled you towards writing it.

ED: Well, it got started in the strangest way; actually, I was looking for an escape. I’ll just quickly tell you this in background,that prior to this story I’d been working on a very large and complex story about a developer family which ended up in a huge lawsuit and it was consuming and I really needed a story that would take me away from my daily concerns. And the story presented itself was about the dangers of the expansion of Brazilian society and the building of a large series of dams on the Xingu River system in the Amazon and what that might mean to the global climate, to the atmosphere, to all of us.

The theory then was that the major CO2 sink in the world was, in fact, the forest and the forest was being destroyed by development and the only people who stood in the path of that development were a group of native people from Brazil called the Kayapo.

So I attended a major fundraiser that took place at a church in downtown Toronto and I believe it was 1989, perhaps 1988, in which Paiakán, one of the leaders of that group, was presented to the crowd as a representative of who would take the money, put it to good use, defend the rain forest, and protect us all from a massive and dangerous impact on the global environment.

I should point out to you that I found it very strange that in Canada where we have had a very complex and unkind relationship to native people that so many people would have turned out to support a native person from another country. I mean it was great to see and it was also very odd. What was also odd was as it transpired, the native group in question was, in fact, trying to use changes in the Brazilian political structure to afford a kind of sovereignty to themselves to delineate their territory to prevent people from coming in and out and, in fact, to take a kind of sovereign control that had been taken away from them by an encroaching Brazilian state.

So that was where the story started and I followed it down and I was surprised to find a number of Canadian environmental organizations that I had reasons to rely upon in the past as a reporter, which were suddenly turning their attention away from Canadian environmental issues to the Amazon rain forest and they were all trekking down there, going to conferences, raising money, and, in any case, slowly and carefully, layer by layer, I was dragged down to an understanding that these groups that I thought I knew and thought I understood and thought were democratic and related to the community, turned out to be groups that, in effect, took direction and took certainly large whacks of money from the corporate interests that they were decrying in public and from governments which were organizing towards what’s called the Rio Summit. And that introduced me to Maurice Strong.

JC: Exactly.

ED: I had, in fact, met Mr. Strong years before at a dinner that was given by a colleague of mine and had always been sort of interested in what he had done with the formation of Canada’s national oil company, which is called Petro Canada. I had reason to do a piece about Petro Canada after Mr. Strong left the organization and it was run by someone else. So I had sort of bits and pieces of information about him and I knew lots of people in common who knew him, and so, connected but not connected and the Kayapo story took me to the preparatory conference for the Rio Summit, which Mr. Strong was organizing for the UN.

JC: Now, I think that’s an extremely important background and it does help to elaborate on the point that this book is about the bigger picture of these environmental organizations and their connections. But I think Maurice Strong is the perfect microcosmic example of that, from his own biography. And to give people a sense of Maurice Strong and the organizations he was involved in… I mean it’s so almost laughable that when you actually try to line them all up and just enunciate them; and I pulled this from his official website talking just about post Rio Summit years of his career where he

continued to take a leading role in implementing the results of Rio through establishment of the Earth Council, the Earth Charter movement, his chairmanship of the World Resources Institute, membership on the board of the International Institute for Sustainable Development, the Stockholm Environment Institute, the African American Institute, the Institute of Ecology in Indonesia, the Beijer Institute of The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and others. Also, Strong was a lifetime founding director of the World Economic Forum, a senior adviser to the president of the World Bank, and member of the International Advisory of Toyota Motor Corporation, the advisory council for the Center for International Development of Harvard University, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, the World Conservation Union, the World Wildlife Fund, the Resources for The Future, and the Eisenhower Fellowships.

And that’s just a slice of a couple of decades of his biography. It’s…

ED: It’s missing a lot of stuff like the Ethiopian famine, et cetera. No, this is a very, very, very interesting human being. I don’t know if your listeners care to know about how he grew up, but you know he was born in Oak Lake Manitoba, a very small community not far from Brandon, which is not far from Winnipeg. His parents really suffered during the Depression. His mother apparently died in a mental institution. There was a lot of hunger. Life was really bloody tough. He ran away from home, I think he was in grade 9 or grade 10, got himself on lake boat, got himself onto the Coast Guard, this was all during World War II and eventually you know finished grade 11 and then went up to Chesterfield Inlet which if your listeners are familiar with Canadian geography is on the coast of Hudson’s Bay, way up north and went to work for a Hudson Bay Company factory at a very, very interesting time when the government of Canada was trying to figure out if it could actually defend our northern borders by moving troops up to the north up to the Copper Mine River and then down to Edmonton and when they were also searching for uranium. As you may recall uranium became a strategic material because of the Manhattan Project and everybody from 1945 on was trying to find uranium. And uranium was, in fact, found at Baker Lake.

So, Mr. Strong enters the big world through a guy by the name of ‘Wild’ Bill Richardson who was a sort of prospector married into an oil family called McColl, whose company was called McColl-Frontenac, it was a major importer of oil from the middle east. It that had been taken over long since by the Texaco Company through a brokerage house called Nesbitt Thomson. In a way, Mr. Strong was introduced to the world of big oil and the world of resources at a very young age. He was picked up as a very smart kid taken under the wing of a man named Paul Martin Sr. who was a cabinet minister and whose son would go on to become the Prime Minister of Canada. and introduced to the oil patch though people at the very top and that would include David Rockefeller.

So, his life story is a story of layers of understanding how networks work and being introduced at the very top rung of the, I guess you would say, the industrial and resource developers who were advancing the American empire at the end of World War II. That’s where he gets his start and he very quickly became a very significant figure in the Liberal Party, the dominant political party in this country for many years became very active in the oil patch in Calgary. He was allowed to run an oil company by the time he was 31, backed effectively by Rockefeller owned or Rockefeller controlled independent oil companies and became a very active player in the Y network. The YMCA in the immediate postwar period was a very interesting organization both nationally and internationally. It had outlets in places on the other side of the cold war boundaries; so it had outlets in China, it had outlets in Russia, and a great deal of the political discourse that went on postwar happened in unofficial and informal places likes the Y(MCA) so Mr. Strong was extremely well placed in all three: politics, business, and what we call `civil society` at the same time, and he advanced himself through those networks very quickly.

JC: Now I think an important aspect of this story is the types of organizations that Strong himself really spearheaded or set up or was the founding director of that appear on first glance to be governmental or at least quasi-governmental organizations but when you scratch the surface are much different entities underneath and I think one example of that from relatively early in his career would be after he was appointed to Canada’s external aid program and developed the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and the International Development Research Center (IDRC) which probably not a lot of Canadians have heard about but continue to function to this day.

Of course, set up as ostensibly a program extending Canadian aid to developing nations but, as you note in your book, really an interesting way of peddling political influence in the developing world that, of course, was…

ED: Yeah, and for Canada that was particularly important, because you know we had going on in Quebec, in the early 60s, something called the ‘Quiet Revolution’ in which the strictures of a very conservative Catholic church were being overthrown by a population that was for the first time getting access to higher education in big numbers.

Mr. Strong, at that point, was working as the vice-president and then the president of Power Corporation, another one of those layered organizations that had huge political influence as well as huge business influence. Power Corporation ended up having a huge pile of cash deposited in its lap when its hydro operations in, I believe, Manitoba British Columbia [and] in Quebec were taken over by those provinces; and suddenly with cash to spend (it) sort of turned itself away from being a power operation into being a different form of power operation with a great deal of political influence.

So Mr. Strong left Power Corporation when his colleague and partner Mr. Paul Martin Sr., who was head of external affairs, the Minister of External Affairs, took on external aid which had in those days a very small budget and almost no staff. [He] turned it into the Canadian International Development Agency, again, with almost no money and almost no staff; and so he made a deal with SNC, which is now known as SNC-Lavalin, a huge engineering firm, to hire people that he approved of, not hire people he didn’t approve of, and take on contracts in francophone Africa.

The concern at the time was that a French Gaullist government would stir the pot in Quebec and that it would stir that pot by one of its colonies in Africa, suddenly recognizing Quebec as a sovereign state. That was ‘the fear’. So the question for the government of Canada was how do we forestall that, and the answer turned out to be, go and do a bunch of aid deals make them nice and sloppy; allow people to be as corrupt as nature allows them to be and meanwhile do some good in the world, but keep your ear to the ground in French Africa and keep control of events.

So Maurice Strong basically led that effort.

JC: Such a remarkable political coup and yet it only represents, again, just a tiny fraction of what Strong was involved in but I think gives a sense of the way that he used the various organizations. He certainly leveraged a lot of the power that he was given or appointed.

ED: He saw business as the answer to how he would get power. He didn’t have an advanced degree. he wanted to be in external affairs, and they wouldn’t take him. They wouldn’t even let him apply because he didn’t have any university education so he decided okay business is my entry point and he used it pretty brilliantly. A very smart man.

JC: Indeed, well, let’s talk about another extremely important organization that he helped to found after first chairing the first major global environmental conference, the United Nations Conference On The Environment in Stockholm which led to the development of the United Nations Environment Program which was situated in Nairobi, Kenya and as you write in Cloak of Green, Nairobi was Strong’s old stomping ground having, I believe, lived there in the 1950s briefly. Placing UNEP in Africa was…

ED: Working for Caltex by the way.

JC: Yes, a Rockefeller company…

ED: ….he was working for an oil company stomping all over East Africa.

JC: Yes, and then you go on to say “Placing UNEP in Africa was explained as a sop to the developing countries, who had been suspicious of Western intentions. But it was also useful for the big powers to have another international organization in Nairobi. After the Yom Kippur War in 1973, Nairobi became the key spy capital of Africa.” Which again I think lends another intriguing layer to the possibilities of someone like Strong and his involvement in organizations like the Y.

ED: Right, his major gift is information. Using it, finding it, sharing it and leveraging it.

JC: And, yes, using narratives to help paint pictures that will help place him in positions of other power.

Well, then let’s project this forward we could talk about the Brundtland Commission and other things he was involved in but, as you say, this leads towards the 1992 Earth Summit, the Rio Conference, which is I would assume for anyone who was at least alive at that time will probably remember that conference and all of the media coverage that surrounded it and it still is today cited as one of the major touchstones of the environmental movement and, of course, it was chaired by Maurice Strong. Let’s talk about your relation to that conference and as you say the preparatory work for that conference where you actually got to meet with Strong and interview him for the book.

ED: Right, and he was very helpful. I mean, a naïve Canadian reporter who really doesn’t really understand the way the world works go to see Mr. Strong, that would be me, and he opened every single door there was to open, he asked every question that…every question I put to him he answered. Had I not prepared I’m sure the answers would have been different, but, you know what I was looking at was how is it that all these environmental groups which are supposedly located in locales, that would be Canada, in the cases of the groups I was following most closely, but also have all these international connections. How is it that all of these groups are getting funded by governments and by really large oil and gas interests and shipping interests and whatever?

How did that work and what are they doing at this conference? In the case of the Canadian organizations actually appearing on the Canadian delegation, on the one hand, and on the other hand, when they are meeting in a private room or a room they hope to remain private, but which I sort of busted my way into. How come these NGOs are being organized by people who are in fact being paid by the government of Canada to organize it? I mean, it became a kind of exercise for me to see who was connected to who, and how they all ended up in Maurice Strong’s lap. And they all did. They all had either funding or governmental help or were reporting back to the government; when they were presenting themselves to the world as non-governmental organizations, which is to say representatives of the grassroots. There was nothing grassy or ‘rooty’ about any of them.

JC: Which I think lends itself to the question, the fundamental question of what this is about because Maurice Strong obviously had his own interests to peddle and he had his own power, influence, and money and things of that nature; but, this is clearly about something more than one man or his vision.

ED: Sure. This is about shaping political opinion and about shaping political opinion in places where you know where one man cannot make a difference so if you are trying to shape the political opinion of the United States of America there better be lots and lots and lots of people out there carrying that message, the message that you are trying to shape in the public eye. One guy standing on a soapbox is going to make no difference. Thousands of organizations with their own advertising campaigns and their own local impact are going to make a difference and he understood that from I would say the early part of the middle sixties when, for example, Pierre Elliott Trudeau became Prime Minister in 1968 didn’t just get visited upon the Canadian public from nowhere but in fact had been groomed for a public role by Power Corporation years before so he understood the power of the right phrase being carried out of the right mouth and appearing on the right television show at the right time.

In the conference in Rio his major ally for that conference for getting his message out was Ted Turner who covered the thing on CNN right, left, and center, and whose people at CNN were working with the Kayapo from Brazil trying to raise funds and trying to bring attention to the Amazon issue long, long, long before the conference actually took place so he started organizing for that conference in, I believe, 1986 – 1987 when the Swedes asked him to take it on and the conference took place five years later so that’s five years of relentless organizing, relentless fundraising, large corporate interests to NGOs, NGOs funding other NGOs. It was an incredibly complex bit of business, which he orchestrated brilliantly.

JC: Well, let’s talk about what they were ultimately hoping to leave as the impression for the general public if this was an operation to influence public opinion. What was that geared towards and let me just point out this passage from your book that I thought was particularly important in that regard:

Rio was publicly described as a global negotiation to reconcile the need for environmental protection with the need for economic growth. The cognoscenti understood that there were other, deeper goals. These involved the shift of national regulatory powers to vast regional authorities; the opening of all remaining closed national economies to multinational interests; the strengthening of decision making structures far above and far below the grasp of newly minted national democracies; and, above all, the integration of the Soviet and Chinese empires into the global market system. There was no name for this very grand agenda that I had heard anyone use, so later I named it myself–the Global Governance Agenda.

Can you tell us about that agenda?

ED: Well, I think if you think about what was going on at the time you’ll sort of have it. I mean, Brazil was chosen or self-chosen, chose itself as the site for this conference as it was coming out of its last throes of the military dictatorship. It was becoming a new democracy and it was trying to control the shape of that democracy and many parties who had interest in Brazil, Canada being one, were attempting in their own way how to shape how that democracy would function.

The Canadian Embassy was very active with the Brazilian government, on the one hand, and with Brazilian NGOs on the other. Funding NGOs with the “right views” and those NGOs because of the rules in Brazil were putting money into the political process. In other words, giving money to political candidates and helping them get elected. I mean that kind of thing was legal in Brazil, it’s illegal in Canada, it’s illegal in the United States, but, you know, different rules for different folks.

So, at the same time, things were very strange in China, it was going down the opening of its economy road while also repressing a democratic movement in Tiananmen Square in 1989. So they wanted to have political control with an expansion of a more and more capitalist based economy.

Russia was going through a collapse, I mean, in effect, Gorbachev’s democratic and perestroika reorganization of the way the Soviet state conducted itself had basically become unstuck and it was transiting very, very quickly from a totally authoritarian state to something entirely different; everything was up for grabs and it’s a huge oil state so people with interests in oil and gas were very concerned about the political structures that would ensue in the Soviet Union or the post-Soviet Union at that time.

The World Economic Forum, which Maurice helped to found, was a place where all of these groups came together to have discussions out of the public eye. So, if you were a Chinese official and you were trying to open up your economy but you were afraid of going too far and losing political control, there were lots of people at the World Economic Forum at Davos who would sit and talk with you about how you might manage these transitions and there were lots of corporate interests who were happy to tell you they were happy to help and, you know, who knows maybe your kid could be educated at Harvard and you could have a nice house in Vancouver five years down the road.

So, all of these places, these sites that Maurice organized, were organizing towards a larger open global economic system, where local political authority would have less control and larger, possibly non-democratic authorities, would have more control over the shape of things to come. The European Union was coming into existence, I mean, when you think about the amount of political change that was going on, say, from 1986 to 1996 it was absolutely bloody staggering. And he was sitting in the catbird seat for a lot of that change.

JC: And in a way, you were riding shotgun for that ride, perhaps sneaking in the side door. As you alluded to, perhaps they weren’t necessarily expecting someone like yourself in the midst of writing about this. What was your sense with Maurice Strong? Was he guarding and defensive with his questions and answers or was he quite open about this?

ED: Nope, very open. One of the things that interested me was the question of whether he set up an intelligence system for this country that functioned abroad that was informal. I put that question to him and he basically said to me I really didn’t think about it that way but, you know, now that you mention it, well, yes, I guess.

He also described his situation at the UN, he loved working at the UN because, he said, he had more unfettered political power at the UN than any Canadian cabinet ministry, even a Prime Minister would have. He was able to fund his own office, he was able to fund his own officials, he could do it without being audited, he could move money here, there, and everywhere without anybody asking him any questions, I mean, he had unfettered power. And he also described the UN system as an open leaky ship in which everybody was watching everybody else. So, he assumed that the KGB or the follow on organization, the FSB, was watching him. He assumed that MI5, and MI6, and CIA, and everybody was watching everybody else and they often gave him information or shared information with him that might be of use. And, yes, he was open about that, he did not back off one bit when I asked those questions.

JC: That is fascinating and perhaps, I mean, again, it doesn’t seem like he was very secretive about this; it was just that no one paid attention to was he was doing, in the general public for the most part, despite the extraordinary number of connections that he had in the business and civil society world.

ED: Actually, quite a few people paid attention to him here. You can’t do this kind of, how should I call it, weaving of interests, without running into trouble and he ran into several problems, especially in the later course of his career when things began to pile up. I mean, people noticed that he had acquired the ownership of a ranch in Colorado sitting on top of a huge aquifer and that there was a business plan that he was a part of to sell the water from that aquifer while he was running the Rio Summit and people said what the hell, you know, what’s going on here? How can an environmentalist be selling off the aquifer that all these people rely on? What’s going on?

There were many moments in Mr. Strong’s career when he was close to the line and people thought he went over the line and there were a hue and cry. Plenty of them.

JC: And yet he had nine lives until the oil for food scandal.

ED: He did.

JC: And that…

ED: Even there, what happened to him? Nothing!

JC: Nothing legally.

ED: He was a happy boy.

JC: He ran away to China. Did you maintain any kind of contact…?

ED: He ran away to the largest economy in the world and he seems to have had significant influence over the shape of things in China.

JC: Fascinating, especially given the historical influence of the Rockefeller family in China as well. Maybe just a continuation of things earlier.

ED: And the Desmarais family in China.

JC: Indeed, the Canadian Rockefellers.

Again, so many different aspects to this. I guess the final question, did you maintain any sort of contact with Strong over the years or did you follow his career after that point?

ED: I followed his career as best I could from a distance, obviously I went on to other stories. In Canada…I don’t know where you are from James. Are you from here?

JC: I am from Calgary.

ED: From Calgary. So, you understand that this is a smallish place and especially if you are in the media you are going to know lots of people who know lots of people so you’ll be in a kind of milieu where there are lots of connections so, for example, Mr. Strong’s protégé John Ralston Saul is a very active, politically active writer in this country and I would run into him on other issues for years after this book was published.

One of his friends and associates was Adrienne Clarkson, the Governor-General, and I would run into her, so it’s like…. it’s not as if I looked for Mr. Strong after this but there were lots of sort of crossovers that continued on.

JC: His influence is difficult to miss I guess if you’re moving in high circles in Canada.

ED: Well, it’s not high circles, it’s media circles. If you do this kind of work you are going to cross paths over and over again with people who are making decisions because it’s a small number of people making decisions in this country.

So Stephen Lewis lives a few blocks from me. Stephen Lewis and Maurice Strong were working together on the conference in Rio and worked together on African issues and, you know, you’re going to keep crossing paths.

JC: Well, then I guess my final question may be a bit unfair since you haven’t looked at this issue for a couple of decades now but I guess I would be interested in your take on whether you believe that these organization that you’re covering in Cloak of Green, do you think they’ve fundamentally changed since the time you were covering them or are they operating under the same principles?

ED: No, they’re operating under that same principles, they’re not democratic organizations, this is the thing that I found most staggering. You know, I operated under the assumption that since people came to my door and asked me for money that they were voluntary based organizations with, you know, huge numbers of people supporting them. In fact, when I went back after that prep com and started to actually look at these organizations, just look at what they published about themselves, interviewed the people who ran them, it became staggeringly obvious that they were not membership organizations in that memberships control their behaviors, control their agendas, they were very small organizations that raised large sums of money and used those sums of money to have political influence.

That’s what they were about and I’m talking about World Wildlife Fund, I’m talking about Pollution Probe, another spin-off from a pollution front called Energy Probe – small organizations with a large political reach.

JC: Fascinating issue and probably one that there is still a lot of meat left on that bone to pick at.

Hopefully, you or someone can be recruited to do that at some point in the future but I guess we’ll leave that….

ED: The question you haven’t asked, though, is whether they were correct in their arguments about the environment. I mean, to me, the really important thing, the thing that drove me to this story in the first place was to generate [an] air conditioning; you know, we’re breathing stuff that’s crap; is global warming real or is it not; and, there are a number of questions that were very alive in the late 1980s early 1990s, and the question is whether they were right. Were they right that the global environment is degrading, that the climate is changing and changing radically and that human beings have a large role in those changes?

And, to me, the answer is yes, human beings do have a large role in those changes and we need to do something about it. The question is what and how?

JC: Well, exactly, if every single organization of any political influence is controlled in some way then what is the ultimate aim of this and how do you go about changing the way that it’s structured?

ED: Well, nothing stops us from starting our own organizations that nobody controls but us.

JC: Tall order. I think you put a tall order on the plate for the listeners out there who are concerned about these issues. Alright, I think we will leave it there, but as I say Cloak of Green we’ve talked about that book quite a lot throughout this conversation. I’ll obviously link to your website but I am dismayed to note that the only actual copies of that book that I can find online are used copies since it’s out of print and the cheapest one that I could possibly find was seventy plus dollars and the most expensive one was twelve hundred dollars….so.

ED: Yeah, I think the thing to do is to go to the Formac site, the publisher’s name is Lorimer, and ask for a copy and I am sure they will send it to you.

JC: Any chance there will be an E-book re-release of this book at some point?

ED: This book was done long before, you know, digitization became ubiquitous and the only thing I can think of is for awhile there when Google was basically grabbing all books in libraries and making them available online without permission, it was available then, you could click right through and read the whole thing online. Since then, it’s been taken down but I’m sure that a book can be purchased from Formac which is the name of the company that does the printing for Lorimer out of Halifax.

JC: Alright, well once again we’ll direct people to ElaineDewar.blogspot.com and I understand you are writing a new novel but you’re putting it online for free. Tell us about that.

ED: Yeah, the novel I wrote a few years ago but there is another one that follows on after that so I’ve been having fun.

JC: Interesting stuff, well Elaine Dewar, I do genuinely thank you for taking the time to talk about this today it’s an important subject and your book was very important on breaking a lot of that ground so thank you for your time.

ED: Thank you.

Transcription by: ‘phreedomphile’, a Corbett Report member.

Tagged with: books • environmentalism • Maurice Strong • oil • Rockefeller

[1] The post by James Corbett

https://www.corbettreport.com/meet-maurice-strong-globalist-oiligarch-environmentalist/

 

Notes:

This is a transcript of the interview published in ‘The Corbett Report’ on 01.02.2016, prepared by ‘phreedomphile’, a member of the Corbett Report

Elaine Dewar is a Canadian journalist, researcher, and author of: Cloak of Green (1995), Bones: Discovering the First Americans (2001), and The Second Tree: Of Clones, Chimeras and Quests for Immortality (2005).

James Corbett is a journalist and broadcaster and presenter of ‘The Corbett Report,’ an independent, listener-supported alternative news source. It operates on the principle of open-source intelligence and provides podcasts, interviews, articles, and videos about breaking news and important issues from 9/11 Truth and false flag terror to the Big Brother police state, eugenics, geopolitics, the central banking fraud and more.