Barrett Brown arrested again

[UPDATE: Barrett Brown released again after four days in federal prison.]

I have written previously about outspoken journalist Barrett Brown, who was arrested by the government and sent to prison and even spent time in solitary confinement as a result of his insouciant attitude towards the prison authorities. While there, he wrote some excellent insider accounts of what prison life was like and its arbitrary and cruel nature, for which he won awards. As Alex Emmons writes:
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The book royalties racket

Like many academic writers, I make hardly any money on my books and write them mainly for the intellectual satisfaction they give me. The world of huge advances that are paid for books by politicians and celebrities occupy a totally different publishing world and is something that I have no knowledge of. I have long been curious as to what purpose such advances serve. What happens to people who get huge advances? Are the author’s royalties kept by the publisher until they have reached the amount of the advance? What happens if the book does not sell enough copies to justify the advance?
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Good riddance, Bill

Trevor Noah provides a fitting farewell to the odious Bill O’Reilly who has been given a golden parachute to leave Fox News in the wake of the latest revelations about his awful behavior that resulted in practically the entire stable of advertisers yanking support from his show. It has been clear for a long time that O’Reilly was an awful, abusive man who treated many of his co-workers at Fox abominably and yet Fox was quite happy to tolerate and make excuses for him when he was making money for them but once that money source started drying up, they turned on him.
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Using unpopular targets to undermine press freedoms

Authoritarian governments often use people and groups who are unpopular at any given time to undermine the freedoms that everyone should have but that restrict the government’s freedom to act with impunity. This is why it is necessary to defend the rights of even those whom you disagree with and even despise. Right now, WikiLeaks is hated by both Republicans and Democrats, and the Trump administration is making dangerous noises about curbing speech and press freedom using WikiLeaks as the excuse.
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The five filters that shape the media narrative

In the groundbreaking book Manufacturing Consent published in 1988 by Noam Chomsky and Edward Hermann, they proposed a model of how the media in the US is used by the establishment as a means of control of the population. This works less overtly than in openly authoritarian countries where state dominance over the media is obvious. In the US, control of the media is not by the state but by an establishment elite. This control is hidden and achieves its effects more subtly and this feature actually makes the propaganda more effective because people do not realize that their opinions are being manipulated.
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Who actually reads political memoirs?

Reports have emerged that the bidding war for the rights to publish memoirs by both Barack and Michelle Obama have reached the stratospheric level of $65 million for the two-book contract. While this is particularly high, book publishers seem to be willing to shell out big bucks advances for books written (usually ghost written) by prominent politicians. This raises once again in my mind a question that I had been idly pondering for a long while, and that is who actually reads such books? After all, the publishers are obviously hoping to recover the costs in sales. At (say) a discounted price of $10 per book, we are talking about millions of books sold.
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How good journalism should work

The long running controversy over what contacts Donald Trump and members of his campaign staff had with Russian government officials and the nature of those discussions have been going on for some time, with Trump vigorously denying any wrongdoing, though since he is a pathological liar, his assurances do not count for anything. Jon Schwarz says that Trump can easily settle this issue once and for all if he wanted to.
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In praise of an adversarial press-government relationship

Donald Trump clearly has a strong dislike for much of the press, except for the alt-right extremists. This is not surprising. Trump is an incredibly thin-skinned and petty man who cannot stand any criticism from any quarter and during the campaign he received quite a lot of negative coverage. That much of it was generated by his own words and actions does not seem to matter to him. He seems to want and need fawning adulation all the time.
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Does anonymity worsen online behavior?

The fact that the internet seems to have a large number of people who indulge in abusive behavior towards others is hardly news. Why people behave this way is not clear. My own theory is similar to what I think about sports. My high school in Sri Lanka had a strong sports emphasis, since it was modeled on British public schools that took seriously the motto mens sana in corpore sano (“a healthy mind in a healthy body”). One used to constantly hear the phrase that playing sports builds character but I always doubted that. It seemed to me that what sports did was reveal character, since on the athletic field, one’s behavior was now visible to large number of people.
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