"A credibility trap is when the regulatory, political and/or informational functions of a society have been so compromised by a long term, generalcorruption that they cannot address any meaningful reform without implicating, at least incidentally, themselves.  The status quo has at least tolerated the corruption and fraud, if not profited directly from it, and most likely continues to do so.  The power brokers have become susceptible to various forms of blackmail.  And so a failed policy is sustained long after it is seen to have failed, because admitting failure is not an option for those in power."


"One of the primary characteristics of narcissists is their exaggerated sense of entitlement.  It's hardly surprising then that so many politicians somehow think they deserve to game the system.  After all, from their self-interested perspective, isn't that what the system is for?  In their heavily self-biased opinion, if they want something, by rights it should be their's.  So, nothing if not opportunistic, they take from public and private coffers alike whatever they think they can get away with. And given their grandiose sense of self, they're inclined to believe they can get away with most anything."

Leon F. Seltzer

"Representative institutions no longer represent voters. Instead, they have been short-circuited, steadily corrupted by an institutionalized system of bribery that renders them responsive to powerful interest groups whose constituencies are the major corporations and wealthiest Americans. The courts, in turn, when they are not increasingly handmaidens of corporate power, are consistently deferential to the claims of national security."

Sheldon Wolin, Inverted Totalitarianism

"On Wall Street he and a few others—how many?— three hundred, four hundred, five hundred?—had become precisely that—  Masters of the Universe."

Tom Wolfe, Bonfire of the Vanities

How does the status quo deal with an erosion of confidence in their actions in the late stage of a cycle of looting and abuse, caught as they may be in a credibility trap?

This is the point where we seem to be, when the facade of benevolent justice starts slipping away, and the looting and self-dealing becomes all too visible, on brazen display in scandal after scandal,  special privileges and bailouts, and historic inequality.

And if there is an erosion of confidence, it surely cannot be due to anything that the best among us have done.  They are wise and benevolent, heavily burdened by the task of guiding the public.

So there must be some foreign enemy or internal dissidents, actively trying to  cause people to lose confidence in their rule.

When you run out of credible answers, one solution is to stop people from asking the questions.   An offer of the bullet or the bribe is often effective for those with significant profiles and platforms.  It is being used now more than you may know.   The pressure on the well-informed to be silent is presently palpable.  The quiet sacrifice of many people of conscience is under-appreciated.

A broader and more general use of censorship is sufficient for the rest.   Concentration of mainstream media ownership in a few powerful hands is soon followed by increased and unilateral censorship powers over the wider variety of remaining independent sources.

There is a case to be made for restricting certain types of public speech, especially that which incites the public to violent prejudice. But that case must be narrow, highly transparent, and exceptional and infrequent. Unfortunately in times of general corruption measured restraint becomes abusive, widely and secretly used to silence any form of truth-telling and dissent from the established narratives and powers.

The Intercept
First France, Now Brazil Plan to Empower the Government to Censor the Internet
By Glenn Greenwald

Yesterday afternoon, the official Twitter account of Brazil’s Federal Police (its FBI equivalent) posted an extraordinary announcement. The bureaucratically nonchalant tone it used belied its significance. The tweet, at its core, purports to vest in the federal police and the federal government that oversees it the power to regulate, control and outright censor political content on the internet that is assessed to be “false,” and to “punish” those who disseminate it. The new power would cover both social media posts and entire websites devoted to politics...

Tellingly, these police officials vow that they will proceed to implement the censorship program even if no new law is enacted. They insist that no new laws are necessary by pointing to a pre-internet censorship law enacted in 1983 – during the time Brazil was ruled by a brutal military dictatorship that severely limited free expression and routinely imprisoned dissidents...

The move to obtain new censorship authority over the internet by Brazilian police officials would be disturbing enough standing alone given Brazil’s status as the world’s fifth most populous country and second-largest in the hemisphere. But that Brazil’s announcement closely follows very similar efforts unveiled last week by French President Emmanuel Macron strongly suggests a trend in which government are now exploiting concerns over “Fake News” to justify state control over the internet...

Beyond having one’s political content forcibly suppressed by the state, disseminators of “Fake News” could face fines of many millions of dollars. Given Macron’s legislature majority, “there is little doubt about its ability to pass,” the Atlantic reports.

Both Brazil and France cited the same purported justification for obtaining censorship powers over the internet: namely, the dangers posed by alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election. But no matter how significant one views Russian involvement in the U.S. election, it is extremely difficult to see how – beyond rank fear-mongering – that could justify these types of draconian censorship powers by Brasília and Paris...

So for those who are comfortable with the current French leader overseeing a censorship program in conjunction with courts to censor “Fake News” from the internet, do you trust the Trump administration to make those determinations? Do you trust Marine Le Pen?...

Read the entire essay at The Intercept here.