Category Archives: Security

Captain Morgan Hated Being Called a Pirate Because He Hated Democracy

Someone just suggested to me that the Spanish loved pirates while the British hated them.

This isn’t even remotely true and it reminded me how a Spanish city official (Don Juan Pérez de Guzmán, a decorated veteran of wars in Flanders) once called Captain Morgan a pirate, meaning to insult him as the Spanish monarchy hated pirates.

The story then goes Morgan indeed hated the exchange and was so enraged that he planned a devastatingly brutal siege of the Spanish city Guzmán defended, torturing residents and pillaging the area for weeks.

Here’s how one historian has referred to Morgan’s style of leadership:

Behind him were smoldering ruins, pestilence, poverty, misery and death.

A first-person’s account of Morgan’s battles was written by Alexandre Exquemelin, a doctor serving him, in a book called Buccaneers of America. Exqumelin wrote that Morgan lashed together Spanish nuns and priests to use as human shields while he attacked the Spanish military, and that he regularly imprisoned and raped women.

Painting Morgan commissioned of himself while “under arrest” in London after 1672. Source: National Trust of the United Kingdom
Morgan’s argument to the Spanish was that he was a proud privateer in service of the British monarchy during war (Governor of Jamaica in 1667 gave Morgan a letter of marque to attack Spanish ships).

He ran an autocratic and ruthless mercenary operation accused by his own men of “cheating” them of promised wages and benefits as he pillaged cities, which he wasn’t even authorized to do. But hey, that’s privateer life in the immoral service to monarchy (ultimately charges against him were dismissed and instead he received a formal appointment to government, where he proudly owned hundreds of slaves to operate Jamaican sugar plantations). How dare anyone accuse him of being fair to his own people or a democratic leader? He would surely have tortured and killed them if they did.

In that sense, pirates seem almost like entrepreneurs challenging the brutality of unjust political systems of monarchy. Pirates fought against those who had expressly denied human rights and trafficked in human exploitation. They weren’t going to fight in wars that benefited only a few elites, because Pirates often used a democratic system of leadership based on votes and qualifications.

Privateers functioned almost in the opposite way to pirates; as business operators appointed by authority they served awful political systems to exploit high-risk and unregulated markets. They operated as ruthless mercenaries milking a corrupt system for some personal gain.

It’s a significant difference between an owner-operator business in undefined territory versus exploitative vigilantism. Somehow pirates have become associated with the latter when historically they seem to have operated more as the former.

This perhaps is best explained in Chapter 8 of “The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates” by Peter T. Leeson

“Knowledge Wins”

The U.S. Army JFK Special Warfare Center and School has released a video called “Knowledge Wins Episode 4 – Great Power Competition – Part 1

The video starts by asking for a definition of competition, and the answer is…open. There are many different and relative definitions of competition, although in my research so far I’ve found universally that knowledge competes with privacy.

The video starts with this war-time poster encouraging people to gain knowledge:

And that reminded me of these two posters that hinted at war-time issues of privacy, information and knowledge:

This Day in History: 1945 US Dropped Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima, Japan

Japanese cities destroyed by strategic bombing in World War II. Source: “Tokyo vs. Hiroshima,” Alex Wellerstein, September 22, 2014

The usual story told in American history classes is that dropping two atomic bombs on Japan saved American lives. This is mostly false.

Studies now show nearly as many Americans died from nuclear radiation and fallout during creation of these bombs, as died in Japan from the bombs being dropped.

Source: “Some Unintended Fallout from Defense Policy: Measuring the Effect of Atmospheric Nuclear Testing on American Mortality Patterns,” Keith Meyers, University of Arizona

One might still say American soldier lives were saved at the time these two bombs were dropped (instead of invasion), even if so many Americans were killed at shockingly high rates for decades afterwards.

The problem with this theory is the atomic bombs didn’t force surrender either.

Nonetheless a story told in American policy circles has been that dropping two bombs on Japan proved such a level of superiority in warfare (“assured destruction”), it somehow suddenly compelled the Japanese to immediately give up… not to mention a story also told that atomic bombs held the Soviets at bay afterwards. All this unfortunately is false history (see “Hidden Hot Battle Lessons of Cold War“, for additional perspective).

Here is Truman’s famous June 1st, 1945 speech calling on Japan to surrender, just to set the context of what the public was hearing at the time:

Take note that the warning was after massive bombing campaigns like March 9-10, 1945 where some 330 B-29 bombers burned 40 square miles of wood-built Tokyo to the ground killing over 100,000 civilians.

Source: “A Forgotten Horror: The Great Tokyo Air Raid,” Time, March 27, 2012

However Japan didn’t fear civilian casualty loads and couldn’t have really understood at the time why this new bomb mattered in August after a long summer of entire cities being destroyed. In a chillingly ironic manner US military leaders also didn’t fear civilian casualties.

Source: “Dar-win or Lose: the Anthropology of Security Evolution,” RSA Conference 2016

Japanese leaders instead greatly feared Soviet declaration of war on them. They thought Stalin’s shift to formal enemy would very negatively alter the terms of surrender (Soviets no longer would mediate a surrender that Japan had been asking about for weeks before the bombs were dropped).

I don’t write these things to be provocative, rather to help us better educate people about the past and also to plan for the future. Perpetuating a false narrative doesn’t do America any favors. And most of what I’m writing here is old news.

In 2013 for example Foreign Policy published “The Bomb Didn’t Beat Japan … Stalin Did

Japanese historians contended it was the USSR declaring war against Japan that convinced their Emperor and gov that surrender was the only option.

Japan referred to atomic bombs like a “single drop of rain in the midst of a hurricane”, given that they already had seen months-long fire-bomb raids of Tokyo that left it over 50% destroyed with 300,000 burned alive and 750,000 injured.

The reason Tokyo wasn’t targeted with atomic bombs was it was too destroyed already — atomic effect wouldn’t have been measurable (125,000 were killed in atomic attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which would mean it was similar in effect or even less than a single night of the fire bomb raids hitting Tokyo for months)

Two years before the Foreign Policy piece, a 2011 article in Boston papers offered the following insightful analysis in “Why did Japan surrender?

“Hasegawa has changed my mind,” says Richard Rhodes, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “The Making of the Atomic Bomb.” “The Japanese decision to surrender was not driven by the two bombings.” […] “The bomb – horrific as it was – was not as special as Americans have always imagined. …more than 60 of Japan’s cities had been substantially destroyed by the time of the Hiroshima attack, according to a 2007 International Security article by Wilson, who is a senior fellow at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. In the three weeks before Hiroshima, Wilson writes, 25 cities were heavily bombed. To us, then, Hiroshima was unique, and the move to atomic weaponry was a great leap, military and moral. But Hasegawa argues the change was incremental. “Once we had accepted strategic bombing as an acceptable weapon of war, the atomic bomb was a very small step,” he says. To Japan’s leaders, Hiroshima was yet another population center leveled, albeit in a novel way. If they didn’t surrender after Tokyo, they weren’t going to after Hiroshima.

It’s very hard to argue with these common sense points. Massive civilian casualties were mounting and having little effect. Did novelty of a bomb that was a secret suddenly change minds? Even common sense would say no, and the historical record increasingly confirms this.

Or as DW puts it in their documentary, why did American drop a second bomb on Nagasaki if that Hiroshima one supposedly could send a message to surrender?

Civilian suffering had never coerced Tokyo to change tactics, and these bombs also failed in that sense. Hiroshima was the 69th city in Japan destroyed by bombing and Nagasaki wasn’t even the primary target when it was destroyed just for the sake of bombing someplace at all.

In the end, America dropped these bombs most probably to see what the effects of dropping atomic bombs would be (expressed in the DW video above as “…my mother fell apart like dry sand when I touched her foot…”) and then the US Air Force created a supporting narrative to justify continuing the program.

Historians have been trying to explain the false stories away ever since.

Cultural Spectrum of Trust

Are you more likely to believe a prince in Africa is coming to give his wealth to you (get rich quick), or that AntiFa is coming to take your wealth away from you (get poor quick)? American cognitive trust has a dangerous vulnerability called… bias.

Often I speak about the cultural relativity of privacy. Americans and Swedes will sacrifice privacy for selfish reasons, while on the other end of the spectrum China and India will sacrifice privacy for social good… according to a study by Microsoft buried in a 2013 “connected world” transcript of the FTC.

The last variation is when we look at the value exchange from no benefit to community benefit. And what we see here, and this is a trend throughout the rest of the survey, is that the value exchange for community benefit is much, much larger proportionally in China and India than in the western countries.

Another interesting area of cultural relativity is notions of trust. The following HBR study of “Getting to Yes Across Cultures” may help explain why the 419/AFF scam is so effective on US targets.

Source: Getting to Yes Across Cultures, HBR 2015

Our research has shown how the 419/AFF attack uses an emotional appeal mixed into a cognitive blindness test to disarm even the most rational, trained and intelligent people.

On the above linear chart you perhaps see the issue more easily (note the spread between US and Nigeria).

A purely emotional appeal alone would not work on the cognitive end, since affection sits far away on a trust spectrum for business deals that require a cognitive-style presentation. That is why people assume intelligence is a defense and they are invulnerable by being typical rational thinkers.

However, the emotional appeal becomes very dangerous, weaponized if you will, by building a short-cut bridge to the other end based on a vulnerability in cognition (cognitive bias). It’s dangerous because each end has its own set of expertise, tools and skills to stay safe.

Thus, evidence of bias should be seen as a key predictor to unlock why highly intelligent people still may be vulnerable to emotive fraud campaigns that bridge the two ends (e.g. AntiFa, AFF). Victims act when they have impulse/motivation towards an emotional appeal that has successfully breached their attention, such as greed or fear.

People who connect with false sudden wealth (greed) fall for AFF being real opportunity. People who connect with false sudden loss (fear) fall for AntiFa being real threat.

Again, it is wrong to think that intelligence or success in life is an antidote to these attacks. Someone wise to their own world of defense, law, finance, medicine, etc. is actually at high risk to develop a false cognitive trust when they harbor a bias.

In the case of AFF that bias tends to be ignorance about blacks and specifically Africans (racism), which means victims believe a rich prince or relative of a dictator really might have some money that needs laundering. We’ve seen a lot of this cognitive bias attack since we started formal research on it in 2005.

The movie “Coming to America” gives a good sense of what some people in America would not register as a comedy but think actually how the world works.

More recently, in the case of AntiFa, we’re seeing a new bias vulnerability. It looks to be class-based ignorance (modern versions of racist McCarthyism, or misogynist Birchirsm) with fears of progressive movements causing loss of establishment power. Targets are triggered by the idea of impoverished youth redistributing power (perceived loss) and threatening assets or disrupting sense of control.

Narratives warning of AntiFa seem to have the same attack patterns as AFF that engineer target behavior, yet the complete inversion. While “Coming to America” comedy is about joy from sudden wealth, the AntiFa story is fear of sudden wealth loss. Perhaps a new and updated movie is needed.

Think of it this way. Saying to a hawkish policy thinker there is no chance of sudden loss from AntiFa is like saying to a racist banker there is no chance of sudden gain from an African prince.

It is an emotional appeal to a deep-seated bias why we see far-right sympathetic Americans ignore report after report that AntiFa is not a threat, while ignoring the obvious and mounting deaths from far-right terrorists:

Perhaps most convincingly to the unbiased thinker is a simple fact of history that AntiFa is “anti-fascism”. While it promises to negate threats to life it offers little or no substantial directive power towards any political movement even during troubled times.

…the labor movement’s failure to defeat Hitler and the fact that Germany had required liberation from without drove antifascists to a largely reactive policy, vigorously pursuing former Nazi officials and purging society of collaborators, but neglecting to build a plausible vision for a “new Germany” beyond both fascism and Cold War machinations.

Being anti-fascist thus is a negation of fascism, and historically has lacked the vigor for anything more directed. At best it is a centrist’s guard rail against extremism, because it serves as movement towards defense of basic rights. At worst it’s a nuisance cost when property needs restoration. It’s the opposite of any generalized threat, as it mainly negates an actual and specific threat called fascism. Here are two historic examples that may help clarify:

First, Birchirism manifested in being anti-ERA. That didn’t mean it was not a threat but rather begs the question of whether its negation of equal rights can be taken as such a generalized threat that it demands militarized violent response and classification of being anti-ERA as a form of terrorism?

Second, AntiFa is like calling a seat belt an anti-head-injury movement. Does it threaten American freedom to stop deaths of Americans? There were indeed Americans who used to argue against seat belts in this way (and against air bags, for that matter) yet it turns out seat belts enabled freedom by preventing huge numbers of dead (and yes, death is the most definitive end of freedom).

Of course, it is still true there are both dictators in Africa attempting to launder money (gain wealth) as well as youths attempting to stop fascism (redistribute power) when they see it. The point is not to say these are untrue facts, rather to say that a grain of truth can be made explosive in asymmetric information warfare and turn facts into completely false narratives.

Counter-terrorism expert Paul Cobaugh of Narrative Strategies perhaps put it best:

U.S. Department of Homeland Security and others are running around trying to make AntiFa into some type of grand, orchestrating terrorist org that’s a threat to the US. This is not true. They do show up in a semi-organized fashion to physically oppose those they consider “fascist”. I don’t condone any violence in our streets but when it comes to being a national threat, they are very low on the priority list, unless of course, you’re a fascist.

Americans on average are no more likely to get rich from African dictators laundering money than they are at risk from liberal youths storming their McMansion walls to take wealth away in the name of racial justice. However, in both cases cognitive thinkers can be seen flipping into very emotional yet unregulated territory and being set up for errors in judgment (manipulated by threat actors hitting them with “get rich/poor quick” attacks).

In conclusion, beware: false emotional appeal triggers cognitive thinkers by attacking a dangerous vulnerability known as… bias. Disnformation trackers/destroyers constantly need to be updated.

This Day in History 1947: U.S. National Security Act

A recent post I published gave some of the backstory of modern intelligence and information warfare in America, from 1930s through WWII. That post actually culminates on this day in 1947, when the CIA was established officially.

The history department of the CIA doesn’t put things lightly when it describes their founding in the 1947 U.S. National Security Act (NSA):

President Harry S. Truman signed the National Security Act of 1947 (P.L. 80-235, 61 Stat 496) on July 26, 1947. The act – an intricate series of compromises – took well over a year to craft. […] The importance of the National Security Act cannot be overstated. It was a central document in U.S. Cold War policy and reflected the nation’s acceptance of its position as a world leader.

You can read more details about that “intricate series of compromises” they mention, in a 1996 document hosted by the State Department: 1945-1950 Emergence of the Intelligence Establishment

Speaking of the State Department, their historian is far more muted in assessment of the NSA and takes a weird tangent that leaves the CIA to a secondary story:

Each President has accorded the NSC with different degrees of importance and has given the NSC staff varying levels of autonomy and influence over other agencies such as the Departments of State and Defense. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, for example, used the NSC meetings to make key foreign policy decisions, while John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson preferred to work more informally through trusted associates. Under President Richard M. Nixon, the NSC staff, then headed by Henry A. Kissinger, was transformed from a coordinating body into an organization that actively engaged in negotiations with foreign leaders and implementing the President’s decisions. The NSC meetings themselves, however, were infrequent and merely confirmed decisions already agreed upon by Nixon and Kissinger.

To be fair, while Truman had a particular take on it, those following him into office haven’t been entirely different. The Act created a National Security Council (NSC) with an Executive Secretary to advise the President indirectly (arguably through Department of State), yet did not say anything about a National Security Advisor (NSA). Nonetheless after Eisenhower’s appointment of Robert Cutler in 1952 to be “Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs”, which elevated/oversaw the Council, every president since has appointed a NSA.

The Air Force historian, for some additional perspective, takes an opportunity to thumb its nose at the Army and Navy, while pumping up its own balloon and ignoring the CIA altogether:

This act officially established the United States Air Force as a separate and co-equal branch of the United States Armed Forces. The U.S. Air Force’s quest for independence was a long and often contentious struggle between air-minded officers and the entrenched Army and Navy bureaucracy.

To be fair, the NSA also replaced the Department of War (started in 1789) with an Army Department in a new National Military Establishment (NME). Seems unfair for the Air Force to be talking about independence from an entrenched Army, given an Army department also was brand new and co-joined to the Air Force in NME (by 1950 called the Defense Department).

However, back to the CIA claiming acceptance of world leader position in 1947, it would take another whole year to this very same day in 1948 before Truman signed Executive Order 9981 to formally push Civil Rights and declare an end to discrimination in its own military.

The CIA historian is not wrong about the NSA being a significant event in American history. It completely shifted the entire country to discussion of National Security along the lines that the CIA’s father Donovan in “room 109” had envisioned. It seems obvious now because the shift is complete but back in 1947 it was revolutionary for the term “security” to bring more expansive thinking than prior terms such as defense, adversary or threat.

Somehow both this creation of the National Security mindset and the seminal Civil Rights order for it to work properly always have taken a back seat, if mentioned at all. Almost all narratives given about America during the Cold War focus instead on the Truman Doctrine and Marshall Plan. Check out my BSidesLV presentation called “Hidden Hot Battle Lessons of the Cold War” for more on this topic of American security, leadership and civil rights.

Permanent Improvisation: Nazi Dictatorship Was Opposite to Law and Order

Important insights come from reading “The German Dictatorship” by Karl Dietrich Bracher, who was a professor of politics and history at the University of Bonn

The German dictatorship did not mean ‘law and order.’ The Third Reich lived in a state of permanent improvisation: the ‘movement’ once in power was robbed of its targets and instead extended its dynamic into the chaos of rival governmental authorities.

Nazi Germany was a state of permanent improvisation.

Today this method of unaccountable governance is seen in headlines such as “[White House occupant] and Woody Johnson act as if the rules don’t apply to them”

Bracher goes on to say it was democracy, through regulation and governance, where the foundations of prosperity could be found because it offered a meaningful level of stability (true order based on justice).

Perhaps the next time someone says they love the “fail faster” culture of Facebook, ask them if they also see it as a modern take on the state of permanent improvisation favored by Hitler.

Facebook’s staff now claim to be in opposition to their own failure culture “Hurting People at Scale“:

“We are failing,” [a seven-year Facebook engineer] said, criticizing Facebook’s leaders for catering to political concerns at the expense of real-world harm. “And what’s worse, we have enshrined that failure in our policies.”

The failures and real-world harm are intentional and orchestrated by Facebook officers who somehow manage to escape responsibility:

…growing sense among some Facebook employees that a small inner circle of senior executives — including Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg, Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, Nick Clegg, vice president of global affairs and communications, and Joel Kaplan, vice president of global public policy — are making decisions that run counter to the recommendations of subject matter experts and researchers below them, particularly around hate speech, violence and racial bias…

It begs the question again, can the Security Officer of Facebook be held liable for atrocity crimes and human rights failures he facilitated?

After reading Bracher’s wisdom on Nazi platform design, and seeing how it relates to the state of Facebook, now consider General Grant’s insights of 1865 at the end of the Civil War when Lee’s treasonous Army of Northern Virginia surrendered:

I felt like anything rather than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse.

It should be no surprise then that it was Grant who created the Department of Justice.

We won’t rejoice at the downfall of Facebook, despite them being one of the worst companies for which a people ever worked, and for which there was the least excuse. Their unregulated state of permanent improvisation — a fast-fail culture used to avoid accountability for real-world harms for profit at scale — needs to end.

Facebook is a digital slavery plantation. “fail faster” turns out to be just “fail” without accountability, which turns out to just be privilege to do known wrongs to people and get rich.

Grant wasn’t opposed to change or failure, of course, he just put it all in terms of being on the right side of history, which he forever will be (PDF, UCL PhD Thesis) and unlike the Facebook executives who should be sent to jail:

My failures have been errors in judgment, not of intent.

The 18th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, frames Grant’s memoirs for us like this:

Our intentions matter. They reflect our motivations, our beliefs, our character. If we start with good intentions, and hold ourselves accountable to them, we start in the right place.

Facebook management continuously had bad intentions since it was first conceived as a platform for men to amass power and do wrongs (a failed attempt to invite crowds into physically shaming women who refused to go on a date with the founder).

…opened on October 28, 2003—and closed a few days later, after it was shut down by Harvard execs. In the aftermath, Zuckerberg faced serious charges of breach of security, violating copyrights, and violating individual privacy. Though he faced expulsion from Harvard for his actions, all charges against him were eventually dropped.

Bad intentions. No justice.

Fast forward to today, and officers of the company haven’t truly been held accountable. They definitely did not start in the right place and they continue to wrong people around the world. Their state of immoral and permanent improvisation has been a human rights disaster and needs to be stopped.

Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.

Photo of me applying smooth and fast theory to the 2007 North American Championships of the A-Class Catamaran

1873 Slaughterhouse Cases Explain US #Covid19 “Anti-Mask” Cultism

Typically told in terms of reconstruction and establishing rights of black Americans after the Civil War, an 1873 court decision about the meat industry (e.g. wet markets, the kind infamous today for spreading COVID19) offers useful insights into modern culture of health and safety in America.

1868 the 14th Amendment was passed to provide and protect emancipated slaves with citizen rights that had been denied them by America.

1869 a set of lawsuits were brought in New Orleans to test the 14th. Five years later (1873) these so-called Slaughterhouse Cases were decided in Supreme Court, undermining civil right protections.

New Orleans in 1873. Source: Perry-Castañeda Library
Map Collection, University of Texas at Austin

The key to seeing the parallel to today’s “Anti-mask” movement is in reference to slaughterhouses contaminating New Orleans drinking water:

The Slaughterhouse Cases (1873) was a supreme court case which became the first to interpret the thirteenth and fourteenth amendments. After slaughterhouse practices continued to contaminate New Orleans drinking water, Louisiana state legislature passed an act that allowed the city to create a company which essentially monopolized the slaughterhouse industry. All butchers interested in slaughtering meat had to do so at Crescent City Livestock Landing and Slaughterhouse Company. The Butchers’ Benevolent Association, an organization of New Orleans butchers, assembled in multiple cases to sue on the grounds that the government, by creating the company, violated their privileges or immunities and deprived them of their liberty and property without due process as protected by the fourteenth amendment. Additionally, they claimed that Crescent city violated the 13th amendment, referring to their actions as “involuntary servitude.” They appealed after losing in all trial cases. The supreme court affirmed and held that neither their 13th or 14th amendment rights had been violated. The narrow reading of Privileges or Immunities in The Slaughterhouse Cases rendered the clause nearly insignificant.

Newly developing science of healthy water found that white slaughterhouse companies were in the practice of systemically wronging residents by dumping waste upstream of the black neighborhoods.

In response to the polluting of the river, a New Orleans grand jury recommended that the slaughterhouses be moved to the southern portion of the city; however, since the majority of the slaughterhouses were outside city limits, the grand jury’s recommendations held little weight. The city later appealed to the state legislature and as a result, the Louisiana legislature passed a law that allowed the city to create a centralized corporation that consolidated all slaughterhouses in New Orleans.

Thus a city tried to regulate local harmful practices by organizing a system that mandated reducing pollution, much in how today we have sewer systems designed to route waste away from drinking water. Perhaps look at it like wet market (slaughterhouse) regulation for health and safety in modern terms of COVID19: Americans recently have tried to demand China shut their wet market down while demanding American ones have to remain open, meaning COVID19 spread in America, which led China to ban American imports of meat… it’s complicated.

Anyway, in response to the novel health and safety mandates of 1869 trying to stop disease contagion, powerful lawyers who had recently tried to fight a war to expand slavery took up that cause again by fabricating a strange defense of white slaughterhouses polluting black neighborhoods.

The argument was privileged whites operating businesses were being treated as slaves when they were forced to pay into social safety measures, and also violated when regulated on health and safety (risks organized into a platform and monitored).

Sound familiar? It should, the occupant of the White House has pushed dangerously false propaganda that compares good safety measures that protect society (wearing masks) to slavery:

“Masks aren’t about public health but social control,” a conservative columnist tweeted, linking to a Federalist piece. “Image of Biden in black mask endorses culture of silence, slavery, and social death.”

The lawyers in 1869 very strategically fought a pitched battle that would ultimately attack and water down the new protections of freed slaves.

The Supreme Court ended up extremely narrowly defining rights and protections from the 14th Amendment.

…in limiting the protection of the privileges and immunities clause, the court unwittingly weakened the power of the Fourteenth Amendment to protect the civil rights of blacks.

Let me put this another way, because I often find people confused about the man who led this battle to weaken the 14th: John A. Campbell.

Campbell was openly in favor of owning slaves as a “Jacksonian Democrat” (white supremacist) attorney who was serving on the U.S. Supreme Court before the Civil War.

Then when slave owners declared Civil War to forcefully expand their human trafficking (apparently peaceful protest wasn’t the preference of white supremacists), Campbell resigned his lifetime appointment to join their cause. He abandoned his oath to defend the Constitution in order to fight in the war against his own country… to kill Americans.

He was the only justice to commit treason and his true self became clear as he took the top appointment as Assistant Secretary of War in an attempt to keep alive the violent expansion of slavery.

In October 1862, with the Confederacy struggling to survive, he accepted an appointment as assistant secretary of war, overseeing the Confederacy’s draft laws.

After Campbell lost the war he was imprisoned for six months as the violent traitor he was, which was a far better outcome than the hanging for treason that he clearly deserved.

In 1865 leaders of the war to expand slavery such as Campbell had tried an appeal to Lincoln, begging him for an agreement in the face of imminent military defeat, yet refusing to surrender.

“Mr. President, if we understand you correctly, you think that we of the Confederacy have committed treason; that we are traitors to your government; that we have forfeited out rights, and are proper subjects for the hangman. Is that not about what your words imply?” With brutal frankness Lincoln replied: “Yes, you have stated the proposition better than I did. That is about the size of it.”

To put this in perspective is was only a few months later, after the high death tolls in the war to expand slavery had been extended because refusal to surrender, that Campbell sat in jail. It was his release from jail that really should be seen as where and when the Slaughterhouse Cases began.

Released from prison, the treasonous Campbell went straight back to trying to get his shamefully racist ideas into the Supreme Court. This is when he cooked up an extremely crooked lawsuit to challenge the 14th Amendment.

Campbell obviously had an uphill battle in the Slaughterhouse Cases. After all, the states were empowered to enact laws to protect the “health, safety, morals, and welfare” of the citizenry. Clearly, this law related to protecting the people of New Orleans from polluted water.

What did Campbell do? He took the language of the Fourteenth Amendment and created an ingenious argument…that there were certain rights that were so fundamental that the government could not take them away even if the correct procedures were followed.


What was the fundamental right that the Louisiana legislature was infringing upon? That right was economic liberty [of whites that]… trumped the police powers of the state [to protect blacks].

So the whites were arguing under Campbell that blacks gaining rights as citizens should be seen as privileged white people becoming victims, on the “fundamental” concept of white people losing their economic “liberty” to wrong blacks.

When someone in US says they want to pollute others as a fundamental privilege and refuse to wear a mask on the principle that to do so would be “slavery”… please remember the tactics started by pro-slavery white supremacist lawyers in 1873; a way to perpetuate racist war via the courts and destroy civil rights for blacks.

Also keep in mind the New Georgia Encyclopedia doesn’t think it important to mention Campbell was a slave owner.

However, his tax records show in 1841 how Campbell owned eight humans and within five years he had expanded that to fourteen humans enslaved. In 1857, five years after being nominated to the Supreme Court the records show he again purchased three humans and then seven more the following year.

Campbell was firmly in the camp of slavery as the country slid towards Civil War by secession. He was actively engaged in wealth accumulation through human slavery and jumped to the side preserving human trafficking. Moreover he kept it going while leading anti-American forces to expand slavery, as their Secretary of War.

This hopefully gives some important context for the man who drove a Supreme Court case to undermine the 14th and harm blacks. A man who falsely tried to argue government regulation of health measures that improve social welfare and protect black communities are the exact opposite; that good health is slavery.

Perhaps if he were alive today he would be forced to issue an apology like this one recently posted by an ill-informed and angry COVID19 “Anti-mask” protestor:

My intent was to take a stand for the freedom of all human persons and I mistakenly held a sign that conveyed the opposite.

Indeed. Not wearing a mask conveys the opposite of being for freedom of all human persons. Wear your mask to support freedom.

Were the WWII RAF Dambusters Racist?

Is friendly fire still fire? Yes, the Dambusters clearly embraced racism. Just look at the name of their “mascot”…

It’s been a problem for Dambusters’ story-tellers. Back in 2011 the BBC reported that the Dambuster “mascot”, a black Labrador named the N-word, in a movie produced by Peter Jackson would be instead called “Digger“:

You can go to RAF Scampton and see the dog’s grave and there he is with his name, and it’s an important part of the film. The name of the dog was a code word to show that the dam had been successfully breached. In the film, you’re constantly hearing ‘N-word, N-word, N-word, hurray’ and Barnes Wallis is punching the air. But obviously that’s not going to happen now. So Digger seems OK, I reckon.

The BBC goes on to say that decision reflected a fact of a larger story to tell where a dog’s real name is a tiny, unessential detail.

“The film is not about the dog. My big concern would be if they watered down what the Dam Busters had achieved.”

If the N-word is used in its full form, then historians must also talk about a bigger picture of the N-word being a known wrong in 1943 and allowed anyway.

The Independent for example reported seven years later in 2018 that screenings of the original 1955 movie would leave the N-word intact, and instead warn potential viewers of its offensive language.

…”send a clearer warning to parents that the film contains discriminatory language of a nature that will be offensive to many”. The name has previously been censored for TV broadcasts, while some American versions have used dubbing to edit the dog’s name to Trigger.

Digger, Trigger… Vigor, Rigor, Bigger. These codewords based on mascots or any other thing don’t have to be accurate for retelling the main story. Look at it this way, do you really care what the words in the left column are?

Codeword Meaning
Cooler Callsign for Operation Chastise
Pranger Attack Mohne dam. German word for “pinch badly” and name for a medieval torture device
N-word Mohne dam breached, divert to Eder
Dinhgy Eder dam breached, divert to Sorpe
Tulip Cooler 2 take over Mohne, Cooler 4 take over Eder
Gilbert Attack last-resort targets
Mason Return to Base
Goner Upkeep release status (1-7) with results (8-10) on target (A-F). For example Goner 1-8-A is failed to explode, no breach of Mohne, whereas Goner 7-10-A is exploded on contact, large breach of Mohne

It shouldn’t matter what a dog’s name was in the Dambuster narrative (“convincing people on both sides that the Allies were winning“) unless you also want to talk about systemic racism in the RAF at that time… which tends to undermine “winning” narratives and get lots of attention from neo-Nazis.

In other words, if Peter Jackson’s film crew had tried to use the original racist slur name in their movie, they would have needed to address racism with a lot more that just basic context setting. One can’t simply insert the N-word and pretend like all the RAF racism at the time in 1943 doesn’t also come along with it. And going into the known racism of the RAF (being Racist AF?) would have been a very different movie.

Using the N-word also means doing far more to set the context than tossing out “you can go to RAF Scampton and see the dog’s grave” to learn more. I understand such a sentiment, as it’s low cost to drive interested viewers to some other production. The writers suggested anyone who needs to see the original dog name could visit the grave, meaning the fuller story could be found elsewhere.

That is not an unexpected response but that particular statement no longer will fly, given how Sky News reports today that even RAF Scampton has removed the N-word from the gravestone.

It is understood the decision was taken in order to not give prominence to an offensive word that goes against the modern RAF’s ethos.

So you can’t just go and see the N-word being celebrated anymore (on a base scheduled to be closed next year).

Removal of racism is the right decision by the RAF. However, note how Sky News is itself making a subtle racist mistake.

It really should have concluded it’s sentence with “…an offensive word that goes against the RAF’s ethos.” Saying it goes against the modern ethos is problematic because it means Sky News is passively excusing a legacy of racism in the RAF.

Fortunately the BBC does a better job and reports it the proper way:

The RAF said it did not want to give prominence to an offensive term that went against its ethos.

Right. RAF should take down the distraction and when it comes up explain that unfortunate choices were made, explaining why those choices were mistakes and that they are being corrected.

Everyone should be able to agree it was clearly and widely known to be derogatory after the 1800s, as the definitive book “Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word” explains:

We do know… that by the end of the first third of the nineteenth century, nigger had already become a familiar and influential insult. […] For many whites in positions of authority, however, referring to blacks as niggers was once a safe indulgence. […] Given whites’ use of nigger, it should come as no surprise that for many blacks the N-word has constituted a major and menacing presence that has sometimes shifted the course of their lives.

“A safe indulgence” by “whites in positions of authority” seems exactly to be what has happened in the case of the Dambusters naming their dog a racist slur 200 years after it was known to wrong blacks.

The African American Registry explains how change does indeed come slowly for those in positions of authority:

No matter what its origins, by the early 1800s, it was firmly established as a derogative name. In the 21st century, it remains a principal term of White racism, regardless of who is using it. […] In 2003, the fight to correct the shameful availability of this word had positive results. Recently Kweisi Mfume, president and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), gave a speech at Virginia Tech. There everyone was informed that a landmark decision was made with the people at Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Recognizing their error, beginning with the next edition, the word nigger will no longer be synonymous with African Americans in their publication.

While the word obviously has been harmful this whole time across two centuries, some still try to erase that fact of history by falsely presenting the Dambuster racism as innocent of motive.

It was not innocent, and it was not a different time.

Although, to be fair, during WWII general British society was less racist towards black soldiers than the British military was, and British society also was far less racist than the American military:

…when US military authorities demanded that the town’s pubs impose a colour bar, the landlords responded with signs that read: “Black Troops Only”.

Consider then how a 1964 campaign slogan used the N-word, because it was so harmful, as a weapon to attack Britain. That’s right, a politician won a competition by flouting the N-word in “the most racist election” he could. And this was just 20 years after the Dambusters raid:

Conservative MP, Peter Griffiths, had been elected in the previous year’s general election on the slogan “If you want a nigger for a neighbour, vote Labour.”

If anyone says that Dambuster dog name was neutral and at a “different time”, ask them how it ended up in a very public 1964 hate campaign.

Griffiths openly acknowledged his use of the term was racist. And it’s not like 1943 was such a different time from 1968; those who used the term in military campaigns then would have been voters in their 50s. Who were the Dambusters really targeting when they grotesquely indulged in racism by messaging the N-word over and over and over again?

And then in 1975 an episode of the popular Fawlty Towers comedy on BBC had their military veteran character Major Gowen (played by Ballard Berkeley) repeatedly saying the N-word.

The Major says: ‘The strange thing was that throughout the morning she kept referring to the Indians as n*****s.’ He adds: ‘ “No, no, no, no,” I said, “n*****s are West Indians, these people are w**s”. ‘ “No, no, no,” she said, “all cricketers are n*****s”.’

So you can plainly see a BBC comedy in 1975 was highlighting, as I am here today, how the N-word in Britain was treated by the “old fossil” military types — a hateful word used for a very long time.

That is why by 1943, during the raid that gave the Dambusters their famous name, there should be no question the N-word was known to be racist, as it has been widely documented widely as such before and after.

Its use in fact undermined the fight against Nazism — like dropping bombs all over black neighborhoods of the British Empire — as friendly-fire that was entirely unnecessary and easily prevented.

Again, friendly fire is still fire.

The best case for the Dambusters would be claiming weak leadership — despite public condemnations of racism — as they allowed unfortunate wrongs against their own citizens to continue unchallenged; even that doesn’t change a fundamental fact the N-word was known harmful and use of it by the Dambusters means RAF has to deal with a legacy of racism.

British racism goes bigger than just this one word, of course, given how the N-word is a reference to slavery in the military of a country that used to enforce slavery practices. Keep in mind how a push for abolition of slavery is as old as slavery itself, and the 1700s was when the British experienced mass condemnation (thus leading to its widespread abolition in the early 1800s).

We can’t say in context of this early 1800s abolitionism that because some whites in WWII found that their position of power and privilege conveniently allowed them to indulge in harms without consequences, therefore let’s erase the black experience and instead comfort whites taking the immoral luxury of perpetuating slavery and it’s associated language.

That is very wrong analysis as leaving the N-word prominently displayed without context legitimizes wrongdoing.

Quite clearly there was racism in British ranks, and quite clearly it should be treated as such if their racism is repeated in the open. We even have documentation of the problem from those who suffered it.

…In 1939, the peacetime recruiting regulations…restricted entry into the RAF to men of “pure European descent”. Under the Act, all “men of colour” were automatically debarred…. […] …a Guyanese man…in 1941 was recruited by the RAF. Grant wanted to be a fighter pilot…. Years later after being shown Air Ministry records researched by Roger Lambo be was to painfully learn of the racism with informal Air Ministry policies.

And again, even more to the point:

As Robert Murray, who left Georgetown, Guiana to join the RAF, recalls: “I never heard of racism until I got to Britain.” …there is now a desire to celebrate the achievements of those such as Flight Sergeant Jimmy Hyde, the much-decorated Trinidadian piolt, there has been little recognition of the isolation they felt in the RAF. […] There is an official RAF photograph of Hyde, from 132 Squadron, with his Spitfire and holding “Dingo”, the squadron commander’s pet dog. Hyde, while forcing a smile, looks uneasy: it is unclear which one is the mascot.

[Source: Caribbean Air Crew in the RAF – Imperial War Museum (IWM) Reference CH11978]

However, rather than go too far down the complicated paths to explain motives for systemic racism in the military, we really should keep focus on consequences here.

Given the term was known harmful from the 1800s onward, and given that most blacks who heard the term would consider it harmful, with many first-person confirmations of being wronged, historians must conclude:


Perhaps this clarity to me comes from unique experience that makes the right answer more obvious versus those casually looking at the problem?

I spent many hours deep in the UK government’s military archives for my graduate degree in history from the London School of Economics. In those papers and secret memos I found an excessive amount of racism of an almost unbearable level, especially in the war-time Colonial Office correspondence on the North African campaigns (as you might imagine from the office name).

The intolerance and hate is all still there if you want to open the folders, but it most certainly should not be paraded or celebrated. And if someone pulled that racism from the archive and built a gravestone or monument to it for celebration, I would ask them frankly why they are trying to erase history (ignore the black experience) by trying to elevate and apologize for a particular racist tangent.

And here’s a sad example of a historian of Dambusters who fails miserably at this. He both acknowledges the catastrophe of the N-word and also falls victim to the false trope of “said things differently then”. From the 2020 edition of Operation Chastise.

…I have been repeatedly asked whether it is an embarrassment to acknowledge the name of Gibson’s dog, which became a wirelessed codeword for the breaching of the Mohne. A historian’s answer must be: no more than the fact that our ancestors hanged…and imprisoned homosexuals. They did and said things differently then. It would be grotesque to omit Nigger from a factual narrative merely because the word is rightly repugnant to the twenty-first-century ears. […] Yet in the twenty-first century it also seems essential to confront… the enormity of the horror that the unthinking fliers unleashed upon a host of innocents.

This is a clumsy section of the book, which has to be read very carefully. He is saying he leaves in the N-word as evidence of a wrong. Does he call it out effectively as a wrong?

No, it appears he gives far more careful consideration to the wrongs the RAF may have committed against Nazis, than the wrongs against blacks (or against homosexuals) in the RAF who were fighting against those Nazis.

Note the UK after the war coldly tried and executed their own war hero Alan Turing, for example, simply because he was gay. That narrative is almost never told correctly, given how the government today tries to elevate his name in spite of unjustly killing him.

Interesting data point: given this author of the 2020 Operation Chastise book says historians ought not to omit references to the dog’s name, he makes only 2 mentions in all its pages. And I am sure if he had gone to zero mentions, it would have done nothing to change his narrative.

If anyone believes that erasing history is harmful, then they should see removing the N-word is a restoration project (like cleaning graffiti or pulling down fences). Don’t believe anyone who claims the N-word was acceptable at the time, or that it didn’t get a reaction from those it slighted. Again, as I can’t say this enough, presentation of it without context erases the black experience.

To post such a word believing it to be “factual” without thinking of its factual consequences, is an act of erasure. It erases history and continues to promote severe and lasting wrongs, by failing to acknowledge mistakes as such. The RAF is right to correct the mistake, acknowledge the bigger story and fuller history, and move the racist name to where it can be studied appropriately for being racist.

As Randall Kennedy, the Michael R. Klein Professor at Harvard Law School and author of the definitive history of the N-word, puts it:

“Given the power of ‘nigger’ to wound, it is important to provide a context within which presentation of that term can be properly understood.

What would context look like for the 1943 Operation Chastise? That’s fairly easy to answer.

The BBC three years earlier on May 16, 1940 responded to an angry letter and issued a public apology for its use of the N-word on air, acknowledging it as “sincerely regretted”.

My attention has been drawn to the fact that one of your announcers, when interpreting some records on the 11th inst., made use of the offensive term ‘nigger’. There is no need for me to remind you that this is one of the unfortunate relics of the days of slavery, vexatious to present day Africans and West Indians, and an evidence of incivility on the part of its user. I hope, sir, as a public corporation, you will take some steps to repair the damage done. I shall be glad to be advised as to what steps you take so that I may be able to inform my Committee accordingly.


From the Director, Secretariat of BBC to the President of the League. 16/5/40–

Following my earlier letter, I find that our announcer was at fault. The point raised on your letter is fully appreciated, and is one which the BBC is at pains to keep constantly in mind. It was unfortunately overlooked on this occasion, and a reminder on the subject is being given to announcers. I hope that your Committee will accept the BBC’s apology for this slip, which is sincerely regretted.

And speaking of the BBC, here’s an even better contextual reference from one of their own broadcasters ten years earlier…

The following poem by Una Marson (celebrated war-time broadcaster in the ministry of information, and a noted poet), published in 1933, can be found in the British Library:

Source: The Keys, Una. M. Marson, The League of Coloured Peoples, July 1933. Copyright: By permission of the British Library Board

She warns very conclusively, a full decade before Gibson so wrongly named his dog, that without any doubt the N-word was considered racist and harmful. Gibson chose the name in spite of these public protests against. Even worse, he chose to use a racist slur as a codeword in spite of known harm to the “RAF ethos” then and into the future.

Have you heard of Una Marson?

Every time someone falsely claims the N-word was somehow accepted, or normal for 1943 in the RAF, they actively are erasing her from history despite her very prominent role and the black community opposition to the term during that exact time.

Infotagion Episode 22: Inrupt

Infotagion has been created in response to the information contagion about COVID-19. In a public health crisis the disinformation we see everyday about this deadly virus can spread just as far and fast as the real thing.

I was interviewed by Damian Collins, member of UK Parliament, for the Infotagion Podcast

When Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the web, it was intended for everyone. Now it is dominated by a few tech companies who have accumulated huge amounts of data on its users. So Tim decided to make a change. He launched Solid, an open source platform, built to decentralise the web and give citizens more power over their data. Alongside this, a new business called Inrupt was created to design and deliver new services from this technology. VP for Trust and Digital Ethics at Inrupt, Davi Ottenheimer, joins Damian Collins this week. Dr Charles Kriel unpacks the new Twitter-like platform for conservatives, Parler.