• $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • other
  • use Paypal

CALLING ALL COUNTERPUNCHERS! CounterPunch’s website is one of the last common spaces on the Internet. We are supported almost entirely by the subscribers to the print edition of our magazine and by one-out-of-every-1000 readers of the site. We aren’t on the receiving end of six-figure grants from big foundations. George Soros doesn’t have us on retainer. We don’t sell tickets on cruise liners to the “new” Cuba. We don’t clog our site with deceptive corporate ads or click bait. Unlike many other indy media sites, we don’t shake you down for money every month … or even every quarter. We ask only once a year. But when we ask, we mean it. So over the next few weeks we are requesting your financial support. Keep CounterPunch free, fierce and independent by donating today by credit card through our secure online server, via PayPal or by calling 1(800) 840-3683. Note: This annoying box will disappear once we reach our fund drive goal. Thank you for your support!


"Edward Who?" Said the Doctor


If you’re an American working in the service sector, you probably don’t have the luxury of expressing an opinion about Edward Snowden.

Snowden, you may or may not know, is the former intelligence contractor and National Security Agency employee being pursued by the U.S. government for leaking details of the NSA’s indiscriminate global spying program.

I say “may or may not know” because it can be difficult to determine the average restaurant- or shop worker’s level of social awareness. This is not a slam against working people. The difficulty is a consequence of the taboo placed upon workers against speaking about anything a patron within earshot might construe as politically or otherwise controversial. Customers may not like what they hear, and driving them away is the last thing a business owner wants to do. Employees who want to keep their jobs stay quiet.

I perhaps witnessed this phenomenon at my dentist’s office this morning. I was lying in the examination chair following a routine cleaning when the doctor appeared. She was characteristically pleasant, and after our initial greeting asked how my work was going.“Exciting,” I said. “Are you following the NSA story?”

“Hmm?” she responded. She turned to the instruments on the nearby table.

“The news over the last couple of weeks. For years now the National Security Agency has been spying on Americans’ phone calls and Internet activity,” I answered.

“Oh. Right,” she allowed. She adjusted the light and readied the mirror.

“It’s a big deal,” I said. “We’ve known about this for a while, but never in this detail. Now we have it confirmed in documents written by the spies themselves.” I showed her my newly polished smile. “What do you think of Edward Snowden, the source of the leaks?” I asked.

Goggles and a mask now concealed her face, but I could tell she was grinning and looking me in the eye. “It’s a wild and crazy world,” she said. Light laughter drove the words through the air. A moment of silence followed. Then she asked about my teeth.

This anecdote proves nothing about what’s going on in the larger society. But it is representative of an experience I have just about every time I try to discuss a subject of national importance with a service worker in his or her place of work, be it in New York City, San Francisco or Duluth, Minn. This includes places where conversation between customers and employees is expected and the environment is not busy, and with people who are otherwise happy to talk at length.

No doubt other settings are more suitable for this kind of talk. But it merits recognizing that, aside from family members and colleagues, secretaries, servers, clerks and others whose jobs involve being social represent a significant portion of our opportunities to interact with those with whom we share society.

The notion that such people should be expected to be genuinely personal with those they serve is strange to many younger Americans. Some even find it repulsive. But my friends who lived through the 1940s, 50s and 60s tell me it once wasn’t so uncommon. Apart from horrors like the communist witch-hunts, when strangers met they spoke their minds about a broader range of subjects, they say, and they were less concerned with the possibility of offending each other.

For the reasons given at the beginning of this piece, it is easy to grasp why Americans would be tight-lipped in the workplace. Competition for paychecks increases as the population grows and proportionally fewer jobs are available. The resulting anxiety has a constricting effect on what a person is willing to say and do in the presence of those who hire and fire them. A willingness to cooperate on the part of workers is not new, but a deteriorating economy, with a disappearing margin for worker error, easily turns cooperation into coercion. Americans fear their bosses. And rightly so—the risk of losing their livelihood makes them less free in the workplace.

The worse things get, the quieter Americans seem to become about the issues that affect them as a group. When people are silent with each other, is their mental development not impeded? Or what is worse, do their minds not shrink? The significant issues include the facts made available to us by Snowden, knowledge that our political leaders and their partners in business are engaged in wholesale worldwide spying that enables them to become more and more like our workplace managers: ever more powerful bosses of what the rest of us do, say and think.

Alexander Reed Kelly is an assistant editor at Truthdig.

This piece is reprinted from the author’s soon-to-be-active website, This Is A Crime Story.

© 2013 Alexander Reed Kelly

October 13, 2015
Dave Lindorff
US Dispatched a Murderous AC-130 Airborne Gunship to Attack a Hospital
Steve Martinot
The Politics of Prisons and Prisoners
Heidi Morrison
A Portrait of an Immigrant Named Millie, Drawn From Her Funeral
Andre Vltchek
Horrid Carcass of Indonesia – 50 Years After the Coup
Jeremy Malcolm
All Rights Reserved: Now We Know the Final TTP is Everything We Feared
Omar Kassem
Do You Want to See Turkey Falling Apart as Well?
Paul Craig Roberts
Recognizing Neocon Failure: Has Obama Finally Come to His Senses?
Theodoros Papadopoulos
The EU Has Lost the Plot in Ukraine
Roger Annis
Ukraine Threatened by Government Negligence Over Polio
Matthew Stanton
The Vapid Vote
Mel Gurtov
Manipulating Reality: Facebook is Listening to You
Louisa Willcox
Tracking the Grizzly’s Number One Killer
Binoy Kampmark
Assange and the Village Gossipers
Robert Koehler
Why Bombing a Hospital Is a War Crime
Jon Flanders
Railroad Workers Fight Proposed Job Consolidation
Mark Hand
Passion and Pain: Photographer Trains Human Trafficking Survivors
October 12, 2015
Ralph Nader
Imperial Failure: Lessons From Afghanistan and Iraq
Ishmael Reed
Want a Renewal? Rid Your City of Blacks
Thomas S. Harrington
US Caught Faking It in Syria
Victor Grossman
Scenes From a Wonderful Parade Against the TPP
Luciana Bohne
Where Are You When We Need You, Jean-Paul Sartre?
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
The US Way of War: From Columbus to Kunduz
Paul Craig Roberts
A Decisive Shift in the Balance of Power
Justus Links
Turkey’s Tiananmen in Context
Ray McGovern
Faux Neutrality: How CNN Shapes Political Debate
William Manson
Things R Us: How Venture Capitalists Feed the Fetishism of Technology
Norman Pollack
The “Apologies”: A Note On Usage
Steve Horn
Cops Called on Reporter Who Asked About Climate at Oil & Gas Convention
Javan Briggs
The Browning of California: the Water is Ours!
Dave Randle
The BBC and the Licence Fee
Andrew Stewart
Elvis Has Left the Building: a Reply to Slavoj Žižek
Nicolás Cabrera
Resisting Columbus: the Movement to Change October 12th Holiday is Rooted in History
Weekend Edition
October 9-11, 2015
David Price – Roberto J. González
The Use and Abuse of Culture (and Children): The Human Terrain System’s Rationalization of Pedophilia in Afghanistan
Mike Whitney
Putin’s “Endgame” in Syria
Jason Hribal
The Tilikum Effect and the Downfall of SeaWorld
Gary Leupp
The Six Most Disastrous Interventions of the 21st Century
Andrew Levine
In Syria, Obama is Playing a Losing Game
Louis Proyect
The End of Academic Freedom in America: the Case of Steven Salaita
Rob Urie
Democrats, Neoliberalism and the TPP
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
The Bully Recalibrates: U.S. Signals Policy Shift in Syria
Brian Cloughley
Hospital Slaughter and the US/NATO Propaganda Machine
Paul Street
Hope in Abandonment: Cuba, Detroit, and Earth-Scientific Socialism
John Walsh
For Vietnam: Artemisinin From China, Agent Orange From America
Hadi Kobaysi
How The US Uses (Takfiri) Extremists
John Wight
No Moral High Ground for the West on Syria