While the President set off another shit-storm in his tweets about Google –for once he wasn’t alone–just the most visible critic.

In a previous post I looked at growing concerns around social media platforms

and this week find various Media entities are also wondering about Freedom on Speech online.

According to a New York Times article earlier this week,  a 100 Facebook employees lead by a senior engineer formed their own page called FB’ers for Political Diversity after raising concerns about  the company’s overly left-leaning bias. They want to create a space for “ideological diversity” to combat the “political monoculture” they feel Facebook has created.

Elsewhere at least three major magazines–The Week, The Economist and MIT Technology Review–came out this week with articles examining similar themes concerning the degree of control Google and the other social media platforms have.

The Week’s editorial wonders if Google is ditching it’s original mission statement by looking at a return to China–and following that State’s directives around censorship of online activities–the very thing that Google refused to do when they pulled out of China on 2010.

And while The Economist article largely focuses on the competition Google will now have from China’s own homegrown search engines–it does wonder how Google squares their new desire to go back there –with their former stance of not cooperating with the Chinese State requirements around the banning and blocking of specific sites (like The Economists’ )

It doesn’t look like it’ll be any different in light of what Apple had to do earlier this year–provide all it’s I-Cloud data for Chinese citizens to a central state data center so the government has the same info.

The MIT article, Who needs Democracy when you have data?,  makes it clear China’s developing a Minority Report-styled future for it’s citizens. From the way it’s developing thus far you think all they need to do is add the DNA profiles and they can start sorting out undesirables before they’re out of the womb.

Basically China and social media platforms like Facebook that work with them–because you have to play to stay–are creating a huge demerit based system to rate its citizens on their trustworthiness and reputation–what the hell that’s supposed to mean.

But the State knows it when it sees it. They’re already using a system to collect as much data as it can about each citizen. We’re talking about everything they can possibly find–from unpaid parking tickets to arguments with a store owner, participation in a demonstration, arrests for disorderly conduct, what church or mosque you attend…everything.

It’s a system of values and–like school–demerits. You get too many of the latter and you might not be able to board a train or leave the country–even be allowed to enter Beijing –as recent protestors from the outlying areas found out when they came to do a traditional protest in the capital.

The fact that a Blacklist composed of citizens who have a negative profile according to the state– is the first “product” of this new system–tells you everything about its intentions.

The MIT article is the most comprehensive discussion I’ve seen of the Chinese approach but I was surprised by the attitude of the writer. She opened her piece by denigrating the democratic electoral process we have in the west. She blamed…Brexit and Trump on it’s failings…before in my opinion doing her best to put a happy face on the Chinese efforts as being something all countries will be looking to in the future.

Whoa I thought. We’re talking about the Chinese State. We’re talking about one in five people on the planet being affected.

And we’re talking about companies that work with them–like Facebook. Last week a report came out discussing Facebook’s new strategy for evaluating how much weight to give individual’s voice online. For instance if you object to a site on Facebook–the company reserves the right  to look at thing like your network of contacts among other things in order to gauge your…trustworthiness…echoing what China’s doing.

Did Facebook come up with this all on their own? Or is it a by-product of their work in China–a bleed so to speak?

What happens when Facebook can assemble a better dossier than sanctioned spies and the agencies they work for?

When  their trove of data allows them to craft a more complete profile of you than your own government?

Does it then become another player in the worlds intelligence game…buying and selling secrets with the others in the darker recesses of the Simulation?

Maybe we don’t have take up arms but we sure might want to raise our voices when it comes to making sure our freedom of speech is used to enshrine not silence our rights to think as we want online.

In the end I’ll  take our process, as sloppy and …human as it is…over  technocratic enslavement any day.

Dean Balsamo


The End of the Americans–My Russian Stories

The End of the Americans — My Russian Stories

The Americans TV series was an emotional experience for me—especially the finale. I teared up. Had a flood of memories. I too had contact with Russians during 80’s, the same period as the show.

They were artists mostly. I was an art dealer in San Francisco when I first met them. Later in the decade we were in New York City where I worked for their Russian dealer for a while.

We’ve been so wrapped involved with the Russians over the last 70 years that we might as well call each other “cousin.” We’re like family– we can’t seem to live with or without each other.

As a child in the late 50’s/early 60’s it was impossible to avoid having the Ruskies on your mind. You thought of them when you took your Pavlovian dive under a desk when the air raid siren sounded.

The nuns had you pray for Russia’s “conversion” in their quest to satisfy some Dan Brown-like thread they subscribed too—connecting Russia, Our Lady of Fatima’s prophecies and some report about the Pope turning ashen when he read them. Hey what did we know? We were kids.

You lay this on the Cuban Missile Crisis and you got some first class angst—guaranteed to keep your dreams and nightmares on fire. While Dr. Strangelove– Boris and Natasha blazed new cultural paths.

And my favorite: the Russian Spies. They could be anywhere. I was fascinated with their infilltratration of our country’s P.T.A’s and civic organizations.

When we got our first home—transitioning from our artist lifestyle—to one which now had two children and a house in a “nice” neighborhood– I drew upon my Russian spy lore to craft an avatar for myself during our shift in lifestyles. I dubbed myself “the subversive suburbanite,” in order to convince myself this was just an “assignment” not really me. I was doing it for a large cause.

In schools of the late 60’s—Russian influence was everywhere. Teachers talked the language of Marx and Marcuse. Those crazy Trotskyites (ANTIFA ancestors?) were doing their thing.

But it wasn’t until the 80’s that something akin to infatuation with Russian culture happened. I found the Russians warm, cold, gracious, suspicious, intellectual, primitive, idiosyncratic and great. Pretty much like everyone else in the world—the same but different—Russian.

One of the Russian souls I met towered above the others—above most people I’ve met. Ernst Neizvestny—sculptor and visionary. He died last year. Here’s the link to The Economist Obit on him:

This was the man who argued with Khrushchev about ARTISTIC expression after he called Neizvestny’s work “dog shit,” at an exhibit on the early 60’s.

From my conversations with him there’s no doubt he treated the Russian Premier —with his Stalin-era baggage about the purpose of art –like a Philistine.

Ernst lost the battle. Blackballed for years. Then won the war when Khrushchev –on his deathbed–asked him to do the piece for his tomb.

He was never sent to a camp just forced to be innovative securing materials and creating his works. Secret striving.

John Berger, the revolutionary-minded art critic, wrote a book on him. Pictured below. He traces the artist’s place within the Avant Garde linage established by the early Bolshevik artist-heroes.

I first met Ernst in the early 80’s when we had an opening for him at the gallery in San Francisco. Like many charismatic individuals he had something of a uniform—all black, leather vest, thick platinum ID bracelet. Stocky. A brutalist edge– just like his sculptures. He could have easily been an elder in Sons of Anarchy.

After the opening a bunch of us drank Russian style with him –shouts of “Nostrovia” and shots of Vodka. He embodied the heroic ideal of the artiste. I didn’t see him again until we moved to New York City a few years later.

Another person did a book him. I believe he’s connected with a museum dedicated to the artist’s work somewhere in Sweden.

Here in the States Ernst worked in relative obscurity out of his old studio on Grand Street at the edge of Soho. His twisted sculptor—often with forms of a cross—in the windows—made it look something like one of those old places of worship you could still find downtown then.

He had a huge vision for a monumental sculpture celebrating the unity of the world’s people. And said that Americans and Russians were alike when it came to appreciation for grand– larger than life projects. He thought that appreciation was baked into the large expanses of space both countries possess and the mentality that grew from them.

He inspired me enough to write a Docudrama about his life in Russia. Some how I found a draft—from ’87 I believe. Don’t know which version it might be—hasn’t had much of polish or much revising. I offer it as a product of the times. Can’t believe I did this all on a typewriter.

More Russian stories in another post.

Here’s the link to docudrama:

deans centaur (1)

Dean Balsamo





Freedom of Speech: Redskin-Filters-the Echo

Redskin-Filters-The Echo

Professor and civil rights activist Jerry Farber’s rant “Student as Nigger” galvanized Cali campuses in the late 60’s.

Like any great logline– as soon as we heard it—we got it.Saw the big picture—tasted the details—loved the concept.

Would it work like it did then in today’s online world?

The Totem of Diversity by Dean Balsamo

Jesus I doubt it. Charges and revolts over appropriation— and everyone’s favorite “racism” – would be everywhere.

Including all those friggin TV’s broadcasting the same channel in those lazy airports who take the money and abandon their clientele to the mind-numbing Media bullshit— which now instigates instead of reports.

Until the recent Purge of Alex Jones –the censorship by our internet giants appeared…piecemeal…they took out the fringe things and those damn Russians. 

The censorship sort of slipped under the radar. But Alex Jones? What’s the play here? Are the social media platforms banning him now—in order to a BUILD his audience …make him a martyr So when he comes back on …stronger than ever…they can monetize the hell out of him?

Okay so it’s a little conspiratorial. But we have a serious dilemma. Do we want the dominant companies framing the online world–to determine our rights to freedom of speech on the internet?

I don’t.

At least two of the largest are working hand in hand with the Chinese government to build a massive surveillance state by blocking, censoring and eliminating undesirable sites—undesirable people—that government has designated.   

And while the Purge is being presented as something all about “good intentions” … we all know– what that shit hole country called Hell is paved with.

Sorry. I don’t believe in “good intentions.” What I see doesn’t look good from the point of view of Freedom of Speech.

Ironically along with their censorship, employees at the company whose name means “search” to most people–has a movement to stop the company from working with our own defense/military agencies while willingly cooperating with the Chinese state. Hmm….

This is what I’d like to see happen:

Since these companies didn’t invent the internet –why don’t we take the decision-making process for safe guarding Freedom of Speech away from them and put it under our own Constitution. I don’t care what it takes—an amendment, executive action etc. let’s apply the same rights and protections we enjoy enshrined in our Constitution –online

Make our rights Vertical 

From heaven to hell.

The rest of the world can deal with this space however they want too. But it seems to me real “Resistance” in this country should be directed to a win all sides can enjoy—the freedom to say and think what we want.

I came to this decision in a personal way when Alexa decided –Post Purge—that I now had an objectionable song in my music library….one that only weeks before she added at my request without a problem.

Redskin Rhumba’s a big band tune from the 1940’s by Charlie Barnett’s band. It says everything about America at the time—infectious, you can’t sit still when it’s playing kinda music.

But when I asked Alexa to play it last week she claimed she couldn’t find it. I did a work around with the app and cued it up. But when she announced the song..

She said, “Blip (electronic sound) Rhumba.” Does this mean I now have to say “blip” or do I have to mimic the electronic sound she makes now? Is our music now going to be purged if doesn’t satisfy some algorithm invented in Palo Alto?

So who’s making these calls? And why? We’ve got a mash-up of a country—one whose culture I’ve always felt we should be free to draw from.

Objectionable words, ideas and people come with the territory …hasn’t that always been a given?

In my opinion the time has come to make the US Constitution the chief guide for online activity when it comes to Freedom of Speech. Take it out of the hands of the corporatocracy and put it in the hands of the people.

Dean Balsamo

***excerpt from Jerry Farber’s rant:

(note from this author: “Ah yes the 60’s. I always think – I’ve killed my hippie heart—and than something like this comes along”


The general timidity which causes teachers to make niggers of their students usually included a more specific fear — fear of the students themselves. After all, students are different, just like black people. You stand exposed in front of them, knowing that their interest, their values and their language are different from yours. To make matters worse, you may suspect that you yourself are not the most engaging of persons. What then can protect you from their ridicule and scorn? Respect for authority. That’s what. It’s the policeman’s gun again. The white bwana’s pith helmet. So you flaunt that authority. You wither whispers with a murderous glance. You crush objectors with erudition and heavy irony. And worst of all, you make your own attainments seem not accessible but awesomely remote. You conceal your massive ignorance — and parade a slender learning.