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Brownstone Institute

The Real Threat of 15-Minute Cities

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From the Brownstone Institute

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The Guardian’s Oliver Wainwright recently discussed a new “international socialist conspiracy” that has taken the world by storm. “Fringe forces of the far left,” he noted, “are plotting to take away our freedom to be stuck in traffic jams, to crawl along clogged ring roads and trawl the streets in search of a parking spot.” The name of this “chilling global movement?” he asked, sarcastically and somewhat contemptuously: The “15-minute city.” Wainwright believes these cities are simply part of a “mundane planning theory.” He’s wrong.

A few days after Wainwright’s piece was published, three academics called 15-minute cities (FMCs) “the hottest conspiracy theory of 2023.” In a truly elitist manner, they poked fun at those who dared to question the motive behind FMCs.

One needn’t be a card-carrying QAnon member to have fears over these Trojan-like creations. Before going any further, it’s important to get our definitions in order. As the political scientist Kelly M. Greenhill has noted, not all conspiracy theories are wacky, and not all conspiracy theories are wrong. Take the Watergate conspiracy theory, for instance, or the fact that Edith Wilson made most of the executive decisions after her husband, President Woodrow Wilson, suffered a stroke. Quite often conspiracy theories turn out to be accurate.

Also known as smart cities, FMCs are places where everything imaginable, from your place of work to your favorite pizzeria, is accessible either by foot or bike (not by car, though; they will be verboten) in 15 minutes or less. What’s so bad about this?

On first inspection, very little. We are, after all, creatures of comfort. We live in a world where the mantra “Too Long, Didn’t Read (TL;DR)” now reigns supreme. We crave convenience; we crave expediency. However, expediency isn’t always a good thing; sometimes it’s downright dangerous. This is especially true when people, either consciously or otherwise, trade their freedom for ease of access to certain services. FMCs may make it easier for citizens to get from A to B, but these creations will also make it easier for those in power to spy on us, to harvest our data, and enable Big Brother to become Bigger Brother.

As I write this, FMCs are being actively championed by the World Economic Forum (WEF), the group behind the “Great Reset” and the idea of owning nothing, having absolutely no privacy, and being very happy. This fact alone should concern all readers.

Want to discuss the WEF?

To many, I’m sure FMCs sound incredibly cool. But don’t be fooled by the name. FMCs are actually “smart cities.” As I have noted elsewhere, the word “smart” is really just a synonym for surveillance. These ultra-modern, tech-saturated monstrosities use hundreds of thousands of sensors to vacuum up copious amounts of personal data.

FMC policies are currently being rolled out in cities such as Barcelona, Bogotá, MelbourneParis, and the dystopian wasteland known as Portland. What do these cities have in common? Surveillance technology. Between now and 2040, cities right across the United States (and beyond) are predicted to spend trillions of dollars on the installation of additional cameras and biometric sensors. Sure, surveillance is bad now. But, as Randy Bachman famously hollered, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

By 2050, more than two-thirds of the world’s population will live in closely surveilled urban centers, like glorified rats in cramped cages. Contrary to popular belief, we no longer live in a panoptic society. When Jeremy Bentham, the English philosopher and social theorist, put forward the idea of this prison system, there was no internet. In truth, there weren’t even cars. We now live in a post-panoptic world—a digital panopticon, if you will—with huge social media platforms collecting personal user data before selling it to the highest bidder.

The companies running these platforms often work closely with government officials, identifying supposed sinners and punishing them in the swiftest of manners. As the writer Kylie Lynch has noted, these companies know absolutely everything about you; they have instant access to your browser history, your activity online, and now, rather worryingly, even your biometrics. Not surprisingly, these Big Tech companies will have a big impact on the FMCs of the future, by providing the underlying digital infrastructure needed to monitor us and ensure mass compliance.

FMC are wolves in sheep’s clothing. Don’t believe the countless stories telling you otherwise. It has become common for elitist, mainstream outlets to poke fun at those who dare to question the “we have your best interests at heart” narratives. We have been burned too many times before.

Republished from Epoch

Author

  • John Mac Ghlionn

    With a doctorate in psychosocial studies, John Mac Ghlionn works as both a researcher and essayist. His writing has been published by the likes of Newsweek, NY Post, and The American Conservative. He can be found on Twitter: @ghlionn, and on Gettr: @John_Mac_G

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Brownstone Institute

Assange and the Whistleblowers That Could’ve Been

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From the Brownstone Institute

By BILL RICE  

“‘Can’t we just drone this guy?’ Clinton openly inquired, offering a simple remedy to silence Assange and smother WikiLeaks via a planned military drone strike, according to State Department Sources…”

In the last four years of our Orwellian New Abnormal, the following thoughts occurred to me countless times:

What the world desperately needs is far more brave whistleblowers. What we need is an active and robust WikiLeaks…or far more organizations that perform the vital work of WikiLeaks.

The reasons this has not occurred are, of course, obvious.

The main reason is that the people who could disclose important information about government or Deep State crimes are simply terrified to do this.

They are afraid to do this because they, quite correctly, know they’d suffer deeply unpleasant consequences if they did disclose “inconvenient truths” that expose how corrupt the world’s most important organizations have now become.

Another reason: Organizations that might actually publish the claims of important whistleblowers, largely, do not exist. The entrepreneurs who might create and try to run these organizations have clearly noted the undeniable message the Establishment sent to Julian Assange and WikiLeaks.

That message? If you do publish documents or testimony that embarrasses or threatens us, THIS is what will happen to you.

Truth Bombs That Never Detonated

It’s true WikiLeaks continued to exist while its founder was imprisoned on bogus charges. However, the significant work product of WikiLeaks effectively disappeared while Assange was “dealt with” by the State.

With a few lower-profile exceptions, no organizations assumed the risks of performing the dangerous work of WikiLeaks.

Because of this, many narrative-changing “truth bombs” never detonated…at a time when the world needed Real Truth more than ever.

While Assange is no longer in a British prison—and won’t have to serve the rest of his life in an American Maximum Security prison—the Intimidation State largely achieved its primary goal of taking proactive measures to ensure no one would expose their crimes.

Even today, 100 shocking scandals—genuine “crimes against humanity”—could be definitively exposed if more whistleblowers came forward…and if the information provided by these whistleblowers was disseminated to the mass public.

These Revelations That Never Happened are all “unknown unknowables.” The public will never know things it might otherwise have learned about our society’s real rulers.

It is surely not a coincidence that in the 12 years Assange was either in prison or seeking refuge in an embassy, the Censorship Industrial Complex transitioned from non-existent to the largest growth industry in the bureaucratic state.

Whether it’s NewsGuard, Media Matters, or the Stanford “Virality Project,” scores of anti-disinformation organizations now exist to shut down or deamplify dissenting voices. These well-funded and coordinated organizations eagerly do the bidding of governments that fear and despise “free speech” and a “search for the truth.”

If Julian Assange was trying to warn the world that Big Brother was going to get much bigger (and he was sending this warning), he was clearly proven right.

A Few Details of the Assange Saga Should Not Be Forgotten

Before writing this story, I refreshed my memory regarding the details of the Assange saga.

I was reminded that Mike Pompeo, the former US Secretary of State and CIA director, once seriously considered a plot to assassinate Assange.

So did Hillary Clinton when she was Secretary of State.

According to this Substack review, “Hillary Clinton, one of the worst warmongers in the history of America, proposed to use Barrack (sic) Hussein Obama’s favorite illicit assassination method for Assange.

“‘Can’t we just drone this guy?’ Clinton openly inquired, offering a simple remedy to silence Assange and smother WikiLeaks via a planned military drone strike, according to State Department Sources…”

Hillary was no fan of Assange because it was WikiLeaks that revealed her sycophants conspired with the Democratic Party (via Clintonian “dirty tricks”) to ensure her nomination.

WikiLeaks went a Leak Too Far when the organization published videos showing that US Army helicopters killed many innocent Iraqi civilians—including several International journalists—in one of our nation’s wars to “protect democracy.”

The organization also published reports of torture and mistreatment of prisoners and documented revelations showing how the massive US Intelligence Community was spying on, potentially, millions of citizens.

I Get Why Most Americans Don’t Want to Think about Assange

I think I understand why many Americans view Assange as either a villain or simply prefer to not think about what’s been done to this man.

Every WikiLeak revelation supports the conclusion that America might not be the force for “freedom” most Americans grew up thinking our nation was.

For most people, the thought that “Maybe we aren’t the Good Guys after all” is intolerable medicine.

Still, the national consensus should have been that it was the country’s leaders—and government entities—who are acting as tyrants. That is, it wasn’t everyday Janes and Joes who were mimicking North Korea; it was our government and all the organizations that wanted to stay on the safer side of this 900-pound gorilla.

The message that’s yet to resonate with enough people is that “We the People” could easily get rid of these Bad Actors who are trying to rebrand the “American Way.”

Portrayed as Enemy No. 1 by our government, Julian Assange was simply trying to provide citizens the knowledge we needed to self-correct and purge these actors before they became too powerful to stop.

Let Us Not Forget Who Was Fine with Assange’s Imprisonment

As some of us celebrate Assange’s release, we should also reflect on the powerful institutions and influential citizens who never rallied to his defense.

Surreally, chief among these groups is the vast majority of members of the mainstream media “watchdog” press.

The Washington Post tells us that “Democracy dies in darkness” and yet the Post was more than content with Julian Assange languishing in a dark prison cell for the rest of his life. That is, the Post never used its considerable editorial influence to free the man who had shed the most light on the true nature of our leadership organizations.

Ninety-nine point-nine percent of the country’s activist celebrities were conspicuously silent about the deplorable treatment of Julian Assange (or Ed Snowden or Chelsey Manning or any person who disagreed with Anthony Fauci).

The best-known defenders of Julian Assange were the conceptual leader of Pink Floyd and an actress who once starred in Baywatch.

One has to ask where Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Bono, Jane Fonda, and Robert DeNiro were when Assange was in a British prison? They certainly weren’t outside his prison cell protesting.

Assange Has Not Received ‘justice’

Some are now saying that “justice” has been served for Assange. As Caitlin Johnstone reminds us, Assange hasn’t gotten any “justice.”

“So while Assange may be free, we cannot rightly say that justice has been done.

“Justice would look like Assange being granted a full and unconditional pardon and receiving millions of dollars in compensation from the US government for the torment they put him through by his imprisonment in Belmarsh beginning in 2019, his de facto imprisonment in the Ecuadorian embassy beginning in 2012, and his jailing and house arrest beginning in 2010.

“Justice would look like the US making concrete legal and policy changes guaranteeing that Washington could never again use its globe-spanning power and influence to destroy the life of a foreign journalist for reporting inconvenient facts about it, and issuing a formal apology to Julian Assange and his family.

Justice would look like the arrest and prosecution of the people whose war crimes Assange exposedand the arrest and prosecution of everyone who helped ruin his life for exposing those crimes. This would include a whole host of government operatives and officials across numerous countries, and multiple US presidents …”


On the occasion of last year’s World Freedom Day, “President” Joe Biden said, “Today—and every day—we must all stand with journalists around the world. We must all speak out against those who wish to silence them.”

Does anyone remember Joe Biden speaking out—even one time—against those who “silenced” Julian Assange?

And, for the record, who silenced him?

Republished from the author’s Substack

Author

Bill Rice, Jr. is a freelance journalist in Troy, Alabama.

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Brownstone Institute

Karma Catches Up to the Stanford Internet Observatory

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From the Brownstone Institute

By ANDREW LOWENTHAL 

Karma has caught up with the Stanford Internet Observatory (SIO), which will be scaled back to just three staff, according to the Washington Post. The contracts of its leading protagonists, Alex Stamos and Renee DiResta, have not been renewed. It was former CIA fellow Renee DiResta who led SIO’s signature initiatives, the Election Integrity Partnership (EIP) and the Virality Project (VP).

SIO’s demise is a result of a string of efforts including those of RacketPublic, the Murthy v. Missouri plaintiffs, the New Civil Liberties Alliance, the Disinformation Chronicle, the Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, and many more. Network Affects also contributed original research.

Founded with a $5 million donation from Craig Newmark, SIO took countering “misinformation” to new heights; the Virality Project advised its Big Tech partners to consider “true stories” to be “misinformation:”

I unearthed that document while assisting Matt Taibbi with Twitter Files research, just in time for his and Michael Shellenberger’s testimony before the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government. It is perhaps the most egregious example of the internet research and digital rights fields 180°– an inorganic flip that undermined a decades-long commitment to free expression.

Inorganic because the EIP and VP were not “research initiatives” as is often claimed; they were seeded by the security state, namely the Department of Homeland Security and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, as demonstrated by emails released by the House Committee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government. Below the Atlantic Council’s Graham Brookie (an EIP/VP project partner) explains that “we just set up an election integrity partnership at the request of DHS/CISA:”

The Atlantic Council is essentially NATO’s think tank and its board includes Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former Secretary General of NATO the Rt. Hon. Lord Robertson, former US Secretary of Defense and CIA Director Leon Panetta, Goldman Sachs Secretary of the Board John F. W. Rogers, and many, many more.

As Taibbi further demonstrated, Twitter was aware of EIP’s links to the intelligence community:

So when content takedown recommendations came onto Twitter, they knew they were more than just serving suggestions.

The content of those requests was made clear after SIO was forced to release details of their internal flagging system. This again, via Taibbi’s reporting:

Furthermore, VP was in close contact with the White House and hosted Surgeon General Murphy for a discussion on health “misinformation.”

They also had pipeline-level access to more than 50 million Covid-related tweets per day:

This was in no way an insignificant research project.

VP pushed to censor other academics, such as Martin Kuldorff, a former Harvard Professor of Epidemiology and former member of the CDC’s Vaccine Safety Subgroup. As Alex Gutentag and I reported, VP  “played a major role” in censoring Kuldorff. On March 15, 2021, Kulldorff tweeted, “Thinking that everyone must be vaccinated is as scientifically flawed as thinking that nobody should. COVID vaccines are important for older high-risk people, and their care-takers. Those with prior natural infection do not need it. Nor children.”

VP flagged the tweet to Twitter and it was subsequently labelled as “misleading” and Kuldorff was temporarily suspended from the platform.” VP also marked him as a “repeat offender.”

However many outlets describe SIO’s demise as the result of “sustained right-wing campaign” by “conservative outlets” and ignore the corruption at the heart of the project. Predictably Stanford, DiResta, Stamos, and their supporters shout “Everything is right-wing” as they scramble to come up with a narrative that deflects accountability for their actions.

The truth is just that SIO was doing something egregiously wrong and was targeting people regardless of ideology. Those reporters could easily find that out – the lead tweet of Taibbi’s House testimony has been viewed more than 40 million times:

Stamos and DiResta will of course find other work. Stamos already has, starting a company with former CISA head Chris Krebs. Meanwhile, DiResta has a new book out – endorsed surprisingly by Jonathan Haidt, who was also among the top signatories of the Westminster Declaration. Despite SIO crumbling accountability still appears to be sorely lacking. DiResta appeared top of the bill at a recent Yale conference on propaganda.

It should never have gone this far; a properly self-regulating anti-disinformation field would have sniffed out bad actors early, but the conversation and the ecosystem are broken. SIO shouldn’t be the last center to be shut down or see leadership changes. Breaking basic research ethics, hiding your relationship with government and intelligence agencies, protecting corporate products from proper scrutiny, and pushing for the censorship of other academics is not “free academic inquiry” or “free speech;” it is corruption.

My non-profit, liber-net, will be strengthening our efforts over the coming months to bring accountability to other leading civil society censorship initiatives.

Meanwhile, SIO leaves a malign legacy, having damaged the reputation of the anti-disinformation field, and academia more broadly. The question is, will the anti-disinformation field clean house, or continue to ignore the corruption within its ranks?

Links to my past Stanford Internet Observatory and Virality Project-related content can be found below.

Stanford’s Virality Project pushed to censor the vaccine-injured

The Virality Project was a government front to coordinate censorship

Stanford Group Helped US Government Censor Covid Dissidents and Then Lied About It, New Documents Show

Twitter Files Extra: How the World’s “No-Kidding Decision Makers” Got Organized

Republished from the author’s Substack

Author

Andrew Lowenthal is a Brownstone Institute fellow, journalist, and the founder and CEO of liber-net, a digital civil liberties initiative. He was co-founder and Executive Director of the Asia-Pacific digital rights non-profit EngageMedia for almost eighteen years, and a fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society and MIT’s Open Documentary Lab.

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