Life Or Death: Corporate Media or Honest Media?

Relying on the corporate media, including BBC News, to provide a reliable account of the world is literally a matter of life or death, on many levels.

Imagine, for example, a Russian dissident living in the UK who had published copious evidence of Russian war crimes, and who had then sought political asylum in an embassy in London. Imagine if that dissident were then expelled from the embassy, under pressure from Russia, immediately imprisoned in a high-security prison here and faced with the prospect of extradition to Russia to face life imprisonment or the death sentence. There would be a massive uproar in the Western media. Western political leaders would issue strong statements of disapproval and demand the freedom of a brave dissident. The case of Julian Assange, co-founder of WikiLeaks, is much worse. He is being pursued relentlessly by a powerful country, the United States, of which he is not even a citizen.

US prosecutors are now reportedly helping themselves to Assange’s possessions, including medical records and two manuscripts. Baltasar Garzon, international legal co-ordinator for the defence of Assange and WikiLeaks, urged international bodies to intervene in what he called: “an unprecedented attack on the rights of the defence, freedom of expression and access to information.”

He added:

It is extremely worrying that Ecuador has proceeded with the search and seizure of property, documents, information and other material belonging to the defence of Julian Assange, which Ecuador arbitrarily confiscated, so that these can be handed over to the agent of political persecution against him, the United States.

The US is undoubtedly looking for evidence to build a bogus case against Assange to lock him away for life for alleged crimes against the world’s number one rogue state. As Noam Chomsky has long observed, the US behaves like the Mafia writ large. You go against their power at your peril.

The incentives for Ecuador, under a Washington-friendly government led by Lenín Moreno since 2017, to behave in this appalling manner are obvious. A report in The Canary spelled it out: “Ecuador is raking in new [trade] deals with the UK and US after handing over Julian Assange.”

In Sweden, surely under US pressure, prosecutors have now applied for a warrant for Assange’s arrest. Craig Murray provided the vital background to this latest disgraceful development, pointing to the: “incredible and open bias of the courts against Assange […] since day 1.”

The former British diplomat is clear about the crucial importance of the work of WikiLeaks and Assange:

Julian Assange revolutionised publishing by bringing the public direct access to massive amounts of raw material showing secrets the government wished to hide. By giving the public this direct access he cut out the filtering and mediating role of the journalistic and political classes.

Murray pointed out the contrast with the Panama Papers, detailing how the super-rich hide their money, covered by the Guardian and other ‘mainstream media’ outlets with great fanfare. However, contrary to media promises, such coverage:

only ever saw less than 2% of the raw material published and where major western companies and individuals were completely protected from revelation because of the use of MSM [“mainstream” media] intermediaries.

He continued:

Or compare Wikileaks to the Snowden files, the vast majority of which have now been buried and will never be revealed, after foolishly being entrusted to the Guardian and the Intercept. Assange cut out the intermediary role of the mediating journalist and, by allowing the people to see the truth about how they are governed, played a major role in undercutting public confidence in the political establishment that exploits them.

John Pilger, a staunch defender of Assange and WikiLeaks source Chelsea Manning, as all journalists should be, said via Twitter:

The filthy war on Julian #Assange and Chelsea Manning, whose heresy is to have revealed the crimes of great power, intensifies. Craven Sweden plays to its theatre of darkness while Assange the prisoner is denied even his glasses.

Manning is yet again back in prison, following a brief spell of freedom. She has steadfastly refused to testify to a secret grand jury in Virginia that is attempting to entrap her into revealing incriminating evidence about her past communications with WikiLeaks. The reluctance of corporate journalists, and even human rights groups, to support Manning, Assange and WikiLeaks is symptomatic of a broken political system still masquerading as ‘democracy’.

Missing Headlines on Douma

The freedom of the Western media, then, is a cruel deception. In reality, the corporate media has paved the way for war after war: Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen; and possible future wars in Venezuela and Iran. On and on it goes. Last week, a leaked document from the headquarters of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), directly contradicted the concocted ‘consensus’ that Syrian President Assad’s forces dropped canisters containing poison gas from helicopters over Douma on April 7, 2018, killing dozens of civilians. The claim was crucial to the justification given by Western governments for launching air strikes on Syria one week later, relayed dutifully by the Guardian in its headline: “Syria: US, UK and France launch strikes in response to chemical attack.”

The leaked report was published by the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media (WGSPM), a group of independent scholars and researchers, and signed by Ian Henderson, an engineering expert who, as independent journalist Caitlin Johnstone noted, has been listed in leadership positions on OPCW documents as far back as 1998 and as recently as 2018. The report concluded:

In summary, observations at the scene of the two locations, together with subsequent analysis, suggest that there is a higher probability that both cylinders were manually placed at those two locations rather than being delivered from aircraft.

WGSPM concluded in their analysis of the leaked engineering report that it is: “beyond reasonable doubt that the alleged chemical attack in Douma on 7 April 2018 was staged.”

Theodore Postol, professor of science, technology, and international security at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, gave his initial assessment of the leaked report and concurred that the alleged chemical attack was staged:

The OPCW engineering assessment unambiguously describes evidence collected by the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) that indicates two analyzed chlorine cylinder attacks were staged in April 2018 in Douma. The holes in the reinforced concrete roofs that were supposedly produced by high-speed impacts (impact at speeds of perhaps 100 m/s or more, 250 mph) of industrial chlorine canisters dropped from helicopters were instead created by earlier explosions of either artillery rockets or mortar shells. In one event a chlorine canister that was damaged on another occasion was placed on the roof with its head inserted into an existing crater hole, and in the other case a damaged chlorine cylinder was placed on a bed supposedly after it penetrated the building roof and bounced from its original trajectory into a bed. In both cases the damage to the chlorine cylinders was incompatible with the damage to the surroundings that was allegedly caused by the cylinder impacts.

Shockingly: “35 deaths that were originally attributed to these staged chlorine events cannot be explained and it cannot be ruled out that these people were murdered as part of the staging effort.”

Postol emphasised: “the voices that come through the engineering report are those of highly knowledgeable and sophisticated experts.”

But the dissenting engineering analysis was ‘entirely unmentioned in the report that went to the UN Security Council’. Postol concluded:

This omission is very serious, as the findings of that report are critical to the process of determining attribution. There is absolutely no reason to justify the omission of the engineering report in the OPCW account to the UN Security Council as its policy implications are of extreme importance.

Caitlin Johnstone commented:

This should be a major news headline all around the world, but of course it is not. As of this writing the mass media have remained deathly silent about the document despite its enormous relevance to an international headline story last year which occupied many days of air time. It not only debunks a major news story that had military consequences, it casts doubt on a most esteemed international independent investigative body and undermines the fundamental assumptions behind many years of western reporting in the area.

The OPCW confirmed that the document is genuine. However, rather than address the serious questions about its omission in its official report to the UN, the OPCW merely said that they would now be ‘conducting an internal investigation about the unauthorised release of the document in question.’ They added that they would not be commenting further ‘at this time’.

Journalist Peter Hitchens asked:

What is going on at the OPCW? It is a valuable organisation, containing many fine people, with a noble purpose, but has it been placed under pressure, or even hijacked, by political forces which seek a justification for military intervention in Syria? Given that a decision between war or peace, affecting the whole world, could one day hang on its judgements, I think the whole world is entitled to an inquiry into what is happening behind its closed doors.

Our searches of the ProQuest newspaper database confirm that there has not been a single mention of this devastating document in any ‘mainstream’ US or UK national newspaper except in an opinion column by Hitchens in the Mail on Sunday. It is truly remarkable, but predictable, that corporate media journalists have ignored an expert assessment that casts serious doubt on the official narrative on Douma and, therefore, the West’s ‘justification’ for bombing Syria.

There is no mention on the BBC News website of the leaked OPCW report. This is consistent with the ‘public’ broadcaster’s central role in maintaining and supporting the case for UK state policies. As Caitlin Johnstone astutely observed, the BBC’s preferred mode when it comes to foreign policy is fact-free war propaganda. Even when the press reported fresh US claims of a ‘possible Assad chemical attack in Syria’ – likely a propaganda effort intended to deflect attention from the leak – journalists managed to avoid mentioning the newly published OPCW report.

A news article in the small-circulation Morning Star is the only other exception to the craven silence in the national press. The overwhelming media acquiescence for Western foreign policy is surely a performance that the old Soviet press of Pravda, Izvestia, et al. could only have dreamt of.

Human Extinction

But the greatest calamity resulting from the myth of a free and fair media is the inexorable rush towards climate breakdown. In 1982, Exxon scientists predicted that atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide would reach 415 parts per million (ppm) by around this year; which is exactly what has happened. In pre-industrial times, the concentration was much lower; around 280 ppm. The last time it was this high was 2.5 to 5 million years ago, during the Pliocene epoch, well before modern humans evolved. Global sea level was 25m higher than now and global temperatures were 2-3 degrees Celsius higher.

As Kyla Mandel noted in an article for ThinkProgress:

Despite this knowledge, the company chose not to change or adapt its business model. Instead, it chose to invest heavily in disinformation campaigns that promoted climate science denial, failing to disclose its knowledge that the majority of the world’s fossil fuel reserves must remain untapped in order to avert catastrophic climate change.

Over ten years ago, in January 2009, New Scientist reported that: “Billions could go hungry from global warming by 2100.”

As we have documented in media alerts and books since then, there has been warning after warning from reputable scientists, and things are worse now than they were in 2009. Governments have not merely ‘done nothing’; they have promoted and perpetuated corporate policies that are destroying the planet’s ecosystems and unleashing climate instability.

The World Health Organisation states that climate change is already leading to 150,000 deaths annually around the world. Researchers fear that the number may well double by 2030, even if serious emissions reductions begin today. Relevant factors include malnutrition, heat stress and increased incidence of diseases such as malaria. Death rates will likely worsen even further because of population displacement, reductions in labour productivity from farmers trying to work in hotter conditions, and disruptions to health services because of destructive weather and climate. Climate change could also force more than 100 million people into extreme poverty by 2030, increasing their vulnerability to ill health and disease.

The corporate disinformation campaign to block or slow action to tackle climate breakdown has therefore already led to huge numbers of people dying and suffering from illness. It will only get worse, potentially leading to a mass extinction of species, including humans.

When will senior BBC News editors and journalists, funded by the public licence fee, make the climate emergency central to their reporting? How long before economics and business correspondents notice the utter absurdity of ignoring climate breakdown in their reports, day after day? Last December, we asked BBC News business editor Simon Jack when he would address the climate crisis. He had never responded to us before. He replied this time: “Very soon.”

Over four months later, he published a piece on his blog titled, ‘UK’s biggest money manager warns on climate catastrophe’.

It began:

The world is facing a climate catastrophe and businesses around the world must address it urgently or face the ultimate sanction for a public company, shareholders who refuse to back them any more.

That is not a message from an environmental action group but from the largest money manager in the UK, Legal & General Investment Management, which manages £1 trillion worth of UK pension fund investments.

Its climate warning was the top of a list of concerns about the way companies are run.

A serious message indeed; surely there could be nothing more pressing. ‘Climate catastrophe’; ‘top of a list of concerns’, ‘ultimate sanction’. Would this mark a sea change in the business editor’s reporting? Seemingly not. Simon Jack’s reporting since then has been business as usual.

Our previous media alert highlighted the valiant campaigning and protests by Extinction Rebellion, and at least some degree of serious media coverage has been generated recently. But peaceful protests need to proliferate, intensify and seriously disrupt government policies and industry practices that are continuing to pump up dangerous global levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

Bill McKibben and Elizabeth Kolbert, two well-respected writers on climate, believe that although ‘the political tide could be turning on climate change’, they are both deeply concerned that it is too little, too late.

McKibben, whose book The End of Nature was published thirty years ago, told journalist David Remnick in a New Yorker interview:

The argument about climate change was over by the early nineteen-nineties, when scientists had reached a very robust consensus. We’d won the argument. We were just losing the fight, because the fight was not about data and reason and evidence. It was about the thing that fights are always about: money and power.

Kolbert, author of The Sixth Extinction about the human-driven mass loss of species, warned in the same interview:

We have not yet experienced the full impact of the greenhouse gases we have already put up there. And once we do [in] a decade or so, there’s a sort of a long tail to that, we will have put up that much more. So we’re always chasing this problem […] Once we decide, “Oh, we really don’t like this climate,” you don’t get the old climate back for […] many, many, many generations. So we are fighting a very very, very uphill battle. […] maybe we can avoid the worst possible future. But I don’t think at this point we can avoid a lot, a lot, a lot of damage.

The outlook is so pessimistic that the best McKibben can hope for is that global warming is slowed down ‘to the point where it doesn’t make civilizations impossible.’ But it is ‘an open question’ as to whether even that is attainable.

McKibben added:

There are scientists who tell you we’re already past that point. The consensus, at least for the moment, is that we’ve got a narrow and closing window, but that if we move with everything we have, then, perhaps, we’ll be able to squeeze a fair amount of our legacy through it.

This is terrifying, and it should drive media coverage of the problem with huge urgency and scope. The real prospect that all of humanity’s achievements – in art, science, music, literature, philosophy – might be wiped out of existence, should compel dramatic action.

Journalist Jonathan Cook, freed from the need to kowtow to state or corporate interests in his reporting, states our predicament clearly and honestly:

‘Climate collapse is so close at hand, the window to avert our fate so narrow, that only the insane, the deeply propagandised and those so alienated from the natural world that they have lost all sense of themselves and what matters can still ignore the reality. We are teetering over the precipice.’

Now is the time, says Cook, for ‘genuine populism’: a widespread, grassroots struggle to overturn ‘turbo-charged neoliberal capitalism’, including the corporate media, before it destroys us all.

The Constitutional Crisis, Impeachment and Russophobia

I think this is what you call a constitutional crisis.

The president says the Mueller Report exonerates him of Russian collusion and obstruction of justice. Democrats in Congress insist it does show evidence for obstruction, that needs further investigation through hearings. Trump has ordered his officials, lawyers and aides to refuse to testify, citing executive privilege, obliging the seven House committees investigating Trump to subpoena witnesses, who may still refuse to appear. Such people, if cited by Congress, with contempt could be forced by courts to pay fines or even be imprisoned. But it is not clear what will happen; hence, a crisis.

Trump now indicates that he will not cooperate with the Democratic majority in the House on key issues such as infrastructure until they conclude their annoying investigations of his alleged obstruction, as well as his finances. His puerile tantrum at the Wednesday White House meeting with the Democratic leadership was occasioned by a remark by the Democratic Speaker of the House that Trump was guilty of a “cover-up.” He essentially told Nancy Pelosi that if she was going to speak rudely of him, he would takes his toys and go home.

One can understand his feelings, of course. Why work with people who are (falsely, in your own mind) accusing you of misbehavior? Pundits are noting that Nixon and Clinton during their impeachment proceedings could stay focused on government business and compartmentalize their minds. But Trump may be unable or unwilling to do that. And it may well be that he is positively courting impeachment, assuming the Republican-dominated Senate would acquit him and that the proceedings might actually consolidate his base for the 2020 election.

The constitutional crisis pits Congressional oversight against executive privilege. The parliament against the king. It’s an exciting spectacle to watch, but there are no heroes in it. The Democrats hoped to bring Trump down (and discredit the result of the 2016 election) by using Cold War-type Russophobia. They are bitterly disappointed they could not wed their effort to drive Trump from office to that Russophobia, and that the Mueller probe found no evidence for Russian collusion with the Trump campaign much less the full-fledged conspiracy imagined by many. Now the goal is to bring him down through the investigation of his finances. (Of course, allegations of a mysteriously cordial relationship between Trump and Putin will also continue, and nascent plans for a Trump Tower in Moscow, where Trump hosted a Miss Universe pageant in 2013, will be adduced as evidence for somehow inappropriate ties with an “adversary” nation.)

Documents subpoenaed by the Congress from Deutsche Bank and Capital One might well show illicit financial transactions. Trump has called the investigation of his finances a red line; in his view they are none of the people’s business. One reason (we now know, thanks to New York Times reporting) Trump lost billions in the 1990s; he is not a very good businessman after all, and it’s embarrassing to him for the world to know it. But soon we know much more about his finances, and may discover scandals sufficient to turn more Republicans against the president and allow for impeachment in both houses. Who knows, we may even discover evidence for illegal Russian loans to Trump, which would make the Democrats’ dream come true.

Pelosi has been cautious about seeking impeachment, pending more investigations that could produce a bipartisan effort. To see that, as many Dems do, as excessively careful would be a mistake, since the move would allow the Democrats to vent but fail in the end. And any move towards impeachment now would dwell on alleged obstruction of a probe into his Russian ties, and necessarily center around the premise that Russia is an adversary with whom all contact is suspicious. More promotion of Russophobia, just as Trump and Putin are finally talking, would be unfortunate.

Now that a federal judge has ruled against Trump’s effort to prevent the Congress from obtaining his bank records, we can expect some details about the two billion loans made to him by Deutsche Bank before the 2016 election. But can he be impeached for white-collar crimes committed before taking office? There are a number of constitutional issues here. But more important than these, and the fate of this particularly odious president, are the problem of corporate control over the political process in this country, and the problem of capitalist imperialism which requires the positing of adversaries, chief among them Russia.

The Winnipeg General Strike

In these troubled times, around the world people seem to be asking each other, how do we fight back against this madness?  In May, 1919 in Winnipeg, the working class answered this question by shutting down the city and running it themselves.

I was born in 1967, and for many people my age, who turned 13 in 1980 or so, I felt like I was growing up in the shadow of a massive, exciting, really earth-changing social movement that I had missed out on — what we have come to refer to as “the Sixties” in shorthand.  But as I grew up and became more and more interested in history, I increasingly came to realize that the most significant period of earth-shattering social movement activity around the world that I missed, at least as far as the twentieth century goes, took place a half century before I was born, one hundred years ago, with this month, the month of May, of 1919, being an especially iconic moment of the period.

In many circles, particularly among labor history buffs, one-word place names are all that are needed to evoke historical battles in the ongoing, thousands-year-long struggle on planet Earth between the haves and the have-nots, also known as the class war or the class struggle.  Refer to cities like San Francisco or Seattle and people think of many things, but in certain circles, say the name of these cities and “General Strike” will be the first thought that comes to mind, the moment in the history of these cities when the class struggle was on, and most clearly defined, and the workers were, briefly, in complete control.  By the same token, in the annals of the global class struggle in the industrial era, if anyone outside of Canada knows anything about Canadian history it can be summed up in a word and a number:  Winnipeg, 1919.

Being born and raised in the US, there is an ingrained tendency to assume that the US and Canada, both being former British colonies in North America with a whole lot else in common, that history and the development of the societies in the two countries happened along similar lines.  This assumption is sometimes not at all accurate, but when it comes to the first two decades of the twentieth century there was a lot of parallel stuff going on.

Westward expansion in both countries with the building of the railroads had seen the rapid development of cities and towns throughout the west of North America.  As usual, it was often those who had the least to lose who were the most itinerant, so a huge number of the people moving out west were immigrants and refugees from across Europe.

With widespread poverty, brutal exploitation of workers, massive unemployment as well as a huge influx of immigrants, conditions were extreme in so many ways, across both the US and Canada.  Extreme conditions tend to invite more robust responses, and this was very evident at the time, in the form, on the one hand, of a visionary, hugely popular, radical labor movement, and on the other, a very violent, often obviously corrupt, openly racist, actively xenophobic, and “pro-business” police state.

This was the sociopolitical context in both the US and Canada for World War 1.  Afraid of the potential consequences, there was much disagreement within the ranks of the militant labor movement of the day over whether to openly oppose this war that would pit the working classes of Canada, the US, Britain, France, Russia and so many other countries against the working class youth of Germany, Austria-Hungary and elsewhere.  Ultimately, both the Industrial Workers of the World in the US and the organization’s Canadian rendition, the One Big Union, denounced the war as a bosses’ war.  They said “a bayonet was a weapon with a working man at either end.”

One half of Canadian draft-age men got medical exemptions to avoid military service.  In many cases this was evidence of the unhealthy state of the Canadian working class of the day, so many of whom were suffering from black-lung or had other chronic health problems related to working in dangerous mines, factories, logging camps, lumber mills, and so on.  But it’s more likely that this statistic was also evidence of the widespread opposition to the war.

In the months after the imperial bloodbath in Europe ended, the class war in Canada came to a head in Winnipeg.  Both national and local authorities were actively promoting nationalism and xenophobia in their dual effort to garner support for Canada’s participation in the war and defeat the organizing efforts of the One Big Union.  Their claims that the union was led entirely by immigrants and that the veterans of the war opposed the union were bald lies, which were countered by huge rallies of immigrants together with Canadian-born Canadians, including large numbers of returning veterans.

When the ruling class in both Canada and the US decided it was time to initiate their deadly, nationally-coordinated efforts to defeat radical unionism and divide the working class along immigrant and non-immigrant lines and to whip up anti-union, nationalist hysteria in the wake of the terrible sacrifices made by so many hapless members of the Canadian working class during the so-called Great War, in the midst of unrelenting, ongoing repression and a continent-wide backdrop of racism, xenophobia and nationalism, backed into a corner, with the only real alternative being to roll over and play dead, the working class, led by the One Big Union, responded.

In Winnipeg, this response meant unionized and non-unionized workers walking off their jobs throughout the city, and staying off their jobs for over five weeks.  By the end, they had no food.  The labor movement of the day was very militant and well-organized, but terribly under-resourced and constantly under siege.  There was nothing close to the kind of strike fund that would have been needed, but the strike happened anyway, because there was no real alternative.  In the end, the forces of capitalism and repression won, killing strikers, starving them out, and forcing them back to work — if they were lucky enough to get their jobs back.

Many of the basic demands of the working class in Winnipeg in 1919 were later won by future labor struggles, and by political reformers elected to parliament from the ranks of strike leaders in the years after the Winnipeg General Strike.  But far more than those substantial victories that came later, it is the total solidarity of basically the entire working class of the city of Winnipeg in the very physical form of the shutdown and takeover of the entire city by the workers, that will long be remembered as the moment when the working class truly stood up.

The Curious Malaise of the Middle Class

Passing through the vestibules of airports, one experiences the quotidian toil of modern neoliberal life. Even as one’s spirits rise at the thought of a fresh destination, or perhaps a familiar one, the vast task force of transit works fastidiously about you. The TSA army bark irritated orders to lethargic queues of travelers; everywhere badged employees swipe cards and pass through nondescript doors; a lone, lank youth brushes the carpeted floor with a broom, sweeping miniscule dust mites into his empty dust pan; the cashier issues her rote boilerplate: “Is that all?”, said with a faintly accusatory air, as though you were not spending enough into the economy, a consumer-citizen’s first duty; and “Have a pleasant flight”, a casual aside uttered as she is half-turned away from you, her thoughts already involved in some internal calculus. A mixture of slow- and fleet-footed travelers course through this infantry of minor taskmasters, seeking their all-important departure gates. The entire mis-en-scene happens like clockwork, a cast of somnambulents sleepwalking through lives of endless routine, the class character of the setting muted beneath the wholesale price points of the duty free.

It is strange to watch the sleepy drama of airports, in which a bourgeoisie and a working class effortlessly intermingle, both seemingly inured to the routines of capitalist life. Something soulless inhabits the pace of capitalist life. One observes it here in the deadened gaze of the wage workers, watching their lives tick away in terminal jobs; but also in the ceaseless arrivals and departures of businessmen charging off to another sales conference; and in the harried rush of families to make it on their annual holiday junket. One wonders if any of these classes, more the workers than the professional caste, might ever revolt against the system that keeps them ensnared in their drudgery.

The Haves Revolt

In his 2001 novel Millennium People, British author JG Ballard contemplates not a proletarian revolution but a middle-class one, launched in a small bourgeois London neighborhood called Chelsea-Marina. The revolt is led in part by charismatic dissident Kay Churchill, a film studies lecturer at a local college. Her goal is to unsettle the middle-class, awaken them from their dogmatic slumbers, the normalized routines of work, family, and travel. She and the narrator, David Markham, conduct various half-comic, half-subversive activities in posh City bedroom communities. They go door-to-door conducting fake surveys designed to discomfort bourgeois households, asking probing questions about personal hygiene, sexual infidelity, and beastiality that disturb settled social codes. They put exploding cassettes on shelves of video stores, creating havoc in one of the favorite hobby shops of the middle-class. Throughout, Churchill and Markham have a curious back-and-forth in which Markham questions whether the middle-class is actually happy with their mindless routines. “Maybe they’re happy being conned.” Chuchill is unconvinced, “The prisoners polish their chains? I won’t accept that.” She adds that the rebellion needs to, “Stir things up. Make them realize they’re victims.” She sees the brainwashed bourgeoisie languishing in “cultural prisons” of safe and surveilled mediocrity. She holds the travel industry with especial contempt:

Today’s tourist goes nowhere…All the upgrades in existence lead to the same airports and resort hotels, the same pina colada bullshit. The tourists smile at their tans and their shiny teeth and think they’re happy. But the suntans hide who they really are—salary slaves, with heads full of American rubbish. Travel is the last fantasy the 20th Century left us, the delusion that going somewhere helps you reinvent yourself.

As for the supposed benefits that accrue to emerging economies, “‘The Third World!’ Her voice rose to a derisive hoot. ‘Gangs of coolies who mix the cement and lay the runways. A select few get to mix the cocktails and lay the tourists.’”

But the rebels understand the larger threats that neoliberal capitalism poses to middle-class life. Their novel’s tragicomic revolution is sparked by “declining fortunes”, a situation mirrored in today’s middle-class suburbs around the capitalist West. Rather than sitting atop a building mountain of home equity, spacious housing, and a one-income lifestyle, like their parents, the contemporary middle-class is saddled with extravagant debt burdens, underwater mortgages, and an increasingly crude and abrasive culture industry that thrives on political conflict, manufactured terrorist threats, and reality TV centered on the thriftless, alcohol-fueled Tlives of the accidentally rich. Americans owe the mortgage, credit card, auto, and student loan industries in America more than a trillion dollars each, with mortgage debt leading the way, at close to nine trillion.

The Great Unbanked

And yet we have nothing quite approximating the rebellion in Chelsea-Marina. Set in a Middle Earth of creature comforts and crumbling fortunes, the middle class finds itself placated through the instruments of debt finance, the political establishment’s endless hectoring about personal responsibility, and the media’s numberless features on the lifestyles of celebrities and the rich. This last circulates through our heads, a pastiche dream of social media fame, grand galas, and cosmopolitan jet-setting (cooly aping the transnationalism of elite executives, a parody of actual power).

The instability of middle-class life is a product of neoliberal economics implemented in the early Seventies, but it seems that this has only lately come to be more generally understood, thanks to the Great Recession and a river of alternative media dialogues that contradict the mainstream narrative. Of course, the mainstream media focuses on ruling class extravagance, occasionally the crises of the floundering middle-class, and very occasionally it pauses to celebrate the perseverance of the disenfranchised in the face of deeply insulting economic fortunes. (Journalist Adam Johnson calls this, “perseverance porn,” which might include, for instance, an article congratulating a worker who walks twenty miles a day to his job, or who has to work five jobs to raise three kids, etc. A recent beer ad featured the headline, “A 12-hour workday is just a prelude to a 12-ounce beer” as though the latter were anything more than a bleary consolation for being overworked.)

Yet the mainstream deliberately ignores the underlying causal catastrophe of neoliberalism. Fortunately, alternative and some academic media does mainstream journalism’s job on its behalf. Author Peter Phillips, for instance, details a number of telling figures in his recent book Giants: The Global Power Elite. As Phillips points out, when you argue for the current system, particularly in the US, you’re arguing for a capitalist oligarchy in which 1 percent of humanity controls more than half the world’s wealth, and in which 30 percent control 95 percent of the world’s wealth, leaving 70 percent of the world’s population to support itself on 5 percent of the world’s resources. Second, Thomas Piketty’s monumental study of capitalism demonstrated that it produces ever-widening inequality, which sociology has long found to be correlated with social and political conflict. Third, recent studies have shown marked rises in suicides as neoliberal austerity takes hold in the metropole itself, while hundreds of thousands of Indian farmers have already taken their own lives in an ongoing epidemic that provoked meager interest in western capitals. Fourth, it’s been conclusively argued that we are heading into the sixth mass extinction event in history, one produced by capitalist industrialization.

One would think this would all be enough to launch a society on a different path of social organization. Yet we are not shifting gears, save for a few outnumbered socialists in Washington, whose Cassandra warnings are washed away beneath a tide of media coverage of celebrity centrists declaring their candidacies for office. And then there is the teeming horde of  hidebound conservatives, rehearsing underlined passages from their university textbooks and declaring, generally with affected weariness over watery tumblers of Kentucky mash, that capitalism is not a zero sum game. They argue that there is ever more growth available to us, and it will soon trickle down to even the laziest among us. This argument ignores the finitude of planetary resources, the dangers of financialization as a path to non-material growth, and the obvious refutation that more growth is pointless when it continues to be unequally divided, thanks to institutional fetters designed to ensure the upward flow of accumulation. All this as corporate largesse to the fossil fuel industry now exceeds the Pentagon budget.

The Decline of Dreams

Despite these realities, the collective hope for escape to an alternative tomorrow is quietly reeled back, from heady dreams of communal democracy to more mundane daydreams of mini-breaks and tourism junkets to overdeveloped tropical venues. Capitalism’s bourgeoisie humbly accept this diminution of possibility in their lives, the very notion of class erased from their memories, leaving them to credit or blame themselves for their successes and failures—the ultimate form of alienation.

They accept too the acquisition of a few creature comforts, enough to cobble together a shambling quasi middle-class lifestyle, debt-fueled and marked by stress, obesity, and quotidian drudgery. Not to mention the high-decibal media cant reminding them of the frontier dangers of radical Islam, authoritarian socialist dictators, and more proximate perils of urban violence and auto-wrecks. They accept their lot. The intellectual dissidents, finding one avenue of resistance after another foreclosed, ideologically worn down, find themselves acting out the society of spectacle described by French philosopher Guy Debord. Acts of resistance become merely performative, rebellions normalized and incorporated within the horizons of neoliberal life, little more than a venting system for consumer frustration that, maddeningly, is said to represent the robust health of the democratic state. Once-ruddy rebels, enflamed by a raft of injustices, resolve into a tableaux of bored travelers, waiting for a call to board, hoping they will soon be ferried to the worlds of their imagination.

The liberal class thus divides into two breakaway clans, those who limit themselves to lip-service monologues with which they publicize their sense of injustice over comfortable meals, wine glasses brandished as weapons to punctuate their outrage. Then there are the true thespians, who take to the streets, wielding placards filled with exclamations and chanting songs of resistance as their throngs progress clumsily down the avenue, thoughtfully cleared of traffic in advance by local authorities. On the one hand, gestural politics; on the other, theater.

A Process of Incorporation

In Ballard’s Chelsea-Marina, the rebellion is finally defused as the municipality accedes to several of their material demands, revealing the superficial commitments of the angry but easily pacified professionals. Their class pretensions confirmed, discomforts assuaged, they melt back into the bland triptych of sensible consumer behaviors: earn, buy, consume. Kay Churchill gains some noteriety, which she parlays into regular television appearances and a commission to produce a documentary and companion book on the aims of the revolution.

Here, we see the subtle mechanics of capitalist incorporation almost invisibly at work, defusing the prospects of revolution. First, the ideological is divided from the material; the ideological aims of the rebellion are ignored while some of the material demands are addressed, creating the illusion of concession while stabilizing the status quo. Next, the insurgents and suburban mutineers are individually bought off, separated like a street gang divides a flock of pedestrians, slicing them off from one another for individual exploitation. Assigned roles within the establishment, they are permitted a patina of defiance while in actuality performing a counterrevolutionary role.

Lastly, they are encouraged to memorialize their insurrection. Now that it is past, it can be safely reevaluated, like the retrospective of a deceased artist’s body of work. The uprising is recontexualized and assimilated, redefined in the sunny optimism of neoliberal kultura as a successful, even necessary, outburst of civil disobedience. As the narrative travels through time, the real character of the uprising is mystified until it can be finally commoditized as a salable cultural artifact for the edification of the masses, sold as a tee-shirt or a fashion statement. Firmly established in the media of myth, it is one more item on the menu on your seatback screen, an entertainment to alleviate the boredom on the flight of capitalism to a future that appears to resemble a disappointing past, only more so. Spike Lee was wrong: the revolution will be televised, and we’ll all pay a fee to watch it, another profitable revenue stream for the transnational merchants sitting in business class.

(Is this not the revisionist history of Martin Luther King, Jr., his outsized vision truncated to a voting rights act, his broader narrative of triplicate evils swept aside, finally repackaged as a holiday and a video on-demand?)

Back in the realm of nonfiction, the plane taxies onto the early morning airstrip, and one can peer out the double-paned porthole window into the dawn light. The tarmac offers a straightaway of golden footlights on either side, strings of glancing jewels beckoning the rumbling jet forward. The straightaway runs into the near distance, eventually terminating into a pinpoint enveloped in a sheath of gray fog eclipsing the sky. The jet engines hum to a high whine and the vessel surges forward. You can feel the human and steel freight being pulled ahead, the first class passengers in the vanguard, shifting irritably in their leather lounges, as though anxious to shed the rear of the plane and all the unwanted cargo holding them back.

View the Frontline Documentary on Gaza that PBS Pulled

PBS stations around the U.S. were scheduled to show a riveting new Frontline documentary, “One Day in Gaza,” but at the last minute PBS pulled it.

The film is missing important context about the issue, but it includes footage that Americans, as Israel’s top funders, should see – including a young, unarmed teen being shot in her head.

BBC, the coproducer of the film, broadcast it to British viewers. We are posting it below so that Americans can also view it.

Recently, hundreds of PBS stations around the United States were scheduled to broadcast a powerful new Frontline documentary: “One Day in Gaza.” But viewers tuning in found that it had been replaced by a slightly updated Frontline report on Robert Mueller that had been broadcast two months before and had been streaming online ever since.

PBS no longer has the Gaza film listed on its schedule.

The documentary was to be aired on the one-year anniversary of events that took place on May 14, 2018, when tens of thousands of men, women, and children in Gaza gathered with the intention of deploying the tactics Gandhi had used in freeing India from British control.

The demonstration that day was the 8th march in what Gazans named the Great March of Return.

Palestinians months earlier had announced their plan for a mass, peaceful demonstration in which Gazans would march for an end to Israel’s crippling 12-year blockade and, especially, for  their right to return to homes stolen by Israel in order to create a Jewish state. Palestinians’ right to return to their homes and ancestral land is well established in international law. This fundamental right, affirmed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is at the center of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel had responded by immediately deploying a hundred snipers.

In the first seven weekly marches, Israeli forces killed about 50 of the marchers and injured over 7,000.

During the 8th march on May 14, the day depicted in the film, Israeli forces killed 60 more and shot 1,000 – an average of one person every 30 seconds.

While this was going on, a glittering Israeli celebration was taking place as a new, transplanted U.S. Embassy opened in Jerusalem, a city that Israel illegally annexed following the Six-Day War that Israel launched in 1967.

Who were the protesters?

Over 70 percent of Gazans are from families that Israel forced out in its founding war to establish “the Jewish state.” Israel confiscated their homes and land and has prevented them from returning ever since. This violates international law.

For 12 years Israel has perpetrated a strangling blockade of Gaza, causing 52 percent unemployment, hunger, the kind of malnutrition that causes growth stunting in children, and increasing hopelessness.

And this blockade is just the most recent one.

On April 15, 2002 the UN Food and Agriculture Organization reported, “The total blockade has paralysed the Palestinian economy… it is now in a deep recession, with millions of people severely impoverished and extremely food insecure.”

For many years it has been tremendously difficult, sometimes impossible, for Gazans to leave Gaza, and for others to enter it. As a result, many people describe Gaza as the largest open-air prison on earth.

While U.S. news coverage in general, and the Frontline documentary in particular, emphasize the rockets fired by Gaza’s diverse resistance groups, the fact is that Israeli violence preceded the rockets and has greatly exceeded their impact.

In the past year alone, Israeli forces have killed at least 293 Gazans, while Gazans have killed 6 Israelis. Palestinian rockets from Gaza, which are largely homemade, have killed a total of about 40 Israelis in the whole time they’ve been being shot, while during the same time period Israeli forces have killed over 6,000 Gazans. (See this Timeline of deaths and this Israeli source for more info.)

The film says that Israel “fought three major conflicts with Hamas,” but doesn’t mention that during these, Israeli forces killed about 3,600 Gazans (many of them women and children), while Gazan fighters killed approximately 80 Israelis, the large majority of them soldiers.

Powerful but flawed

The Frontline documentary One Day in Gaza is an extremely powerful, if flawed, record of the events of May 14, 2018.

It provides Israeli views, Palestinian views, and riveting, often tragic footage of the day’s events. However, perhaps because of its striving to be “balanced,” or due to constraints imposed by Israel’s powerful lobbies in England and the U.S., the film often leans toward the Israeli narrative and obscures some important points.

The Israeli interviewees in the film are calm, articulate, and seem well-trained in presenting their talking points. Perhaps this is not surprising given that one is an army spokesman, a second is a high-ranking officer, and two are Americans who immigrated to Israel (although this fact is not revealed in the film).

Not interviewed in the film are any of the members of the Israeli group, Breaking the Silence, composed of former Israeli soldiers who describe widespread military practices of gratuitous violence and cruelty.

Below is some background on two of the Israelis featured in the film:

Col. Kobi Heller

Perhaps because of time constraints, Col. Heller’s, background and political persuasion are left out of the film.

While Heller comes across as reasonable, professional, and reluctant to commit the murders we see from his troops, his resumé suggests that there is more to his story.

Heller is a member of Israel’s Religious Zionist movement, a group that has become known for its zealotry and sometimes extremist views of Jewish supremacy. He is called a “kippa shruga,” a term for the type of Jewish fundamentalist known for believing that Arabs should be expelled from Israel and for opposition to any Palestinian state, no matter how small.

It turns out that he has a previous connection to Gaza. Heller is a settler who studied at a religious Zionist yeshiva in a Gaza settlement that combined religious studies with military training. In 2005 the yeshiva was moved to Israel when the Israeli government forcibly expelled the settlers. This caused fierce objections in the settler movement. Many in the army were outraged at this action.

Heller is from Israel’s notorious Golani brigade, increasingly a bastion of the Israeli far right. An Israeli professor states:  “The officer corps of the elite Golani Brigade is now heavily populated by religious right-wing graduates of the preparatory academies.” The New York Times reports that many Israelis are concerned at this development, particularly since a booklet was handed out to soldiers during Israel’s 2009 assault on Gaza that contained a rabbinical edict against showing the enemy mercy.

The Times reports: “The rabbinate brought in a lot of booklets and articles and their message was very clear: We are the Jewish people, we came to this land by a miracle, God brought us back to this land and now we need to fight to expel the non-Jews who are interfering with our conquest of this holy land.”

Adele Raemer

An Israeli woman featured in the film is Adele Raemer. She is described as an “Israeli grandmother” who lives two kilometers from the Gaza fence.

In the film she describes her fear of Gazans who wish to return to their homes in Israel. The film does not mention that Raemer is originally an American from the Bronx.

In 1975 she immigrated to Israel and took up residency in the Nirim kibbutz on the border with Gaza. Since the area had originally possessed no history of Jewish habitation, the Zionist movement had established it in 1946 to create a Jewish presence in the Negev in order to claim it as part of a future Jewish state.

Raemer has written that her life in the kibbutz is “95 percent heaven.” Despite being located in a desert, it has green grass and a swimming pool. A little over a mile away, Gazans are enduring a water crisis that has caused Gazan children to suffer from diarrhea, kidney disease, and impaired IQ.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders

The film shows the the flaws and sometimes fatal logistical failures of Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders during the Great March and says that Hamas has “refused to recognize Israel.”

However, the film doesn’t include the fact that Hamas has offered Israel a decade-long truce, that it is Israel that breaks the truces, and that Hamas has said it was willing to accept a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders.

In reporting these leaders’ flaws and mistakes, the film fails to mention the extreme difficulties Gaza’s leaders face, including the fact that by assuming this role they face very possible assassination by Israel. Many resistance members have been blown to pieces by Israeli drones.

Those who survive are trying to run a resistance movement, deploy efficient logistical support, and make wise decisions during chaotic conditions in one of the world’s most isolated and longest-besieged enclaves.

Most important, the Palestinian journalist and peace activist who originated the march and is interviewed in the film, Ahmed Abu Artema, says that the film attributed far too much significance to Hamas, and neglected the “primary role played by civil society activists in Gaza.”

In a detailed critique of the film, he writes: “The documentary did not show the reality of the prison that Gaza has become. One shot of the cattle market that exists at the Erez crossing would have been enough to convey the reality of this cage, where there is no freedom of movement, no economic growth, no future prospects – no hope.”

The U.S. connection

The film also fails to inform American viewers of our connection to Israeli actions – that the U.S. gives Israel over $10 million per day. (The U.S. has given Israel on average 7,000 times more per capita than it has given other people around the world.)

And in its framing, the film neglects the fact that a prime driver of Trump’s decision to move the U.S. embassy is billionaire campaign donor Sheldon Adelson, who attended the celebration with his Israeli wife Miriam. (Adelson once said that he regretted serving in the U.S. army rather than the Israeli one – video here.)

Despite its flaws, Americans should see it

But the film cannot do everything, and it does some things extremely well. Overall, it’s not difficult to see why Israel partisans would not wish it broadcast to Americans.

It shows footage that the American public almost never sees. It was this kind of footage that eventually led to Americans ending the Vietnam war.

One of the main take-aways from the film is the extreme ruthlessness of Israeli forces.

Fully armed Israeli soldiers from one of the most powerful armies on earth are seen targeting multitudes of thin, unarmed men, women, and children. The film shows Israeli snipers shooting people in the head, in the back, in the legs.

It shows a youth whose leg was amputated and reports that many of the demonstrators lost limbs that day. (The UN recently reported that 1,700 Gazans shot by Israeli snipers are currently at risk of amputations.)

While U.S. news reports often downplay these actions, the film shows them in all their tragic and horrific reality.

The film shows people who are just standing there suddenly being picked off by snipers. It shows a 14-year-old girl chatting with a friend, then suddenly being shot in the head. And it shows her little brother, who had been with her, later describing how his sister had been killed. This is not footage that Israeli hawks wish American audiences to view.

Another takeaway from the film is the poverty of Gaza’s imprisoned population, particularly compared to the gathering in Israel to celebrate the U.S. Embassy move to Jerusalem.

Amid the expensive suits and fashionable dresses, American-born Israeli official Michael Oren bemoans the fact that the situation in Gaza has blemished his enjoyment of the festive occasion.

This contrast with Gaza is stark.

With no powerful lobby to represent them and little clout in U.S. media, Palestinians are at the mercy of Israel. The film shows that many in Gaza feel they have little to lose after years of escalating oppression. Some voice impossible dreams that had motivated them, that they could recover their lost homes. Some simply hoped to see them. A few voice the fury that results from dispossession, imprisonment, and brutalization.

While this goes unremarked in the film, there are indications that the “tear gas” Israeli drones poured on people may have been particularly virulent. In the film we see some people convulsing, and one man is delirious. This seems reminiscent of a mysterious gas used in Gaza in early 2001 that caused similar symptoms (reported in the James Longley documentary Gaza Strip).

Courage

While Israeli soldiers shelter behind diverse barriers, armed with advanced weaponry and guided by female soldiers watching it all on TV screens in a remote bunker, it is the Palestinians who demonstrate incredible, sometimes tragic courage.

We see them without weapons, without body armor, without helmets, without uniforms. Old and young, men and women, strong and disabled, they wield slingshots, wave flags.

They’re out in an open field, Israeli forces in front of them, drones overhead. When yet another demonstrator is shot, the blood pouring out, they run to rescue him or her, and then sometimes they, too, are shot. Yet they continue.

The contrast between the Israeli and Palestinian women taking part in the day’s hostilities is acute. Israeli female soldiers are far away, watching the action on computer monitors, telling soldiers when and where to shoot. Their faces are blurred to keep their identities secret. One seems to question what she’s doing, but there’s no indication that she stops.

Gazan women join the mass gathering. They’re out are in the open field, marching, carrying flags, helping the injured… and getting shot.

Theft of a nation

For over 70 years, Israel has gotten away with its astoundingly massive theft of the land and homes of the non-Jews it dispossessed to create an ethnically defined nation, and its decades of violence to maintain this ethnic cleansing. A Palestinian historian has validly termed this the Palestinian Holocaust.

One Day in Gaza shows some of Israel’s millions of victims, their attempt to be free, and what’s being done to them. Americans are not supposed to see that.

While Artema’s biting critique of the film is valid and necessary, it is useful to be aware that for many Americans much of the film will be revelatory.

PBS’s action

PBS’s cancellation, however, has prevented Frontline‘s more than 4.6 million viewers from seeing it.

While PBS calls itself “a trusted window to the world,” someone at PBS shuttered the window on One Day in Gaza.

PBS spokespeople state that Gaza will be broadcast at some point in the coming months, but say they don’t know when. Since the film’s scheduled broadcast date was specifically focused on the one-year anniversary of the day it depicts, it seems odd for PBS to be so unconcerned about broadcasting it in a timely manner. BBC, on the other hand, aired the film on May 13.

According to a Frontline statement, One Day In Gaza was pulled because Frontline “decided to air a timely update to our documentary on the Mueller investigation.” The Mueller investigation report had been broadcast on March 16 and 17 and has been available online ever since. It can be viewed here.

The updated version that bumped One Day in Gaza can be seen here. The update consists of a few minutes added at the end of the report. This new information had already been reported widely in U.S. media, including PBS’s own primetime news program News Hour.

PBS vs local stations

PBS wields considerable power. A national study rated PBS “the most-trusted institution in America.”

Its Frontline program claims to be “American television’s top long-form news and current affairs series.”

According to its website, PBS is a “near-universal media service, available in 9-of-10 U.S. television households. For many Americans, public television is their connection to the world.”

PBS emphasizes the alleged independence of its nearly 350 television and radio stations, stating they are among “the last locally owned media organizations in the country.”

However, in reality it appears that local stations have less control than this implies. When someone at PBS prevented the broadcast of Gaza, that decision prevented all the local stations around the country from airing it.

The fact is that local PBS stations do not have independent access to the film – even though it received funding from the stations.

While most Americans may think that PBS is a public institution, given its name – Public Broadcasting Service” – it is not. It is, in its own words, “a private, nonprofit media enterprise.” One that is, however, largely funded by American taxpayers.

Its ownership is a bit convoluted and multi-layered. While it says it is “owned by its 350 member stations,” its funding comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. CPB is another private nonprofit, but 95 percent of CPB’s funding comes from the federal government. Most of this money is then given to the member stations.

Phone calls to a PBS station, KQED in San Francisco, revealed that KQED had received many calls complaining about the cancellation and asking when Gaza would be shown. KQED’s customer service representative explained that none of this is in KQED’s hands.

“We Answer to You”

Frontline has refused to divulge who was involved in the decision to pull Gaza. It seems likely that its Senior Editorial Team – consisting of Raney Aronson-Rath, Executive Producer; David Fanning, Founder and Executive Producer at Large; and Andrew Metz, Managing Editor – would have been involved. Fanning has previously been accused of censoring content regarding Israel/Palestine, a charge he denies.

Frontline‘s website announces: “We answer to no one but you.”

It’s unclear who the “you” is. It does not appear to be the member stations who fund it, or the many people whose federal dollars financed the film and wish to see it.

While PBS holds on to the film and fails to release it, people in Gaza continue their David against Goliath struggle.

On May 15th, Gazan men, women, and children again protested, and Israel again unleashed its heavily armed military, injuring 144, including 49 children. The same day, Israeli soldiers also fired at fishermen who were fishing off the coast of Gaza, injuring one of them – a frequent occurrence that Americans rarely, if ever, see on the News Hour.

And so it goes.

Perhaps at some point PBS/Frontline management will decide that the massacre of 60 people and the shooting of a thousand others in a single day is important enough to merit scheduling the film – particularly when the perpetrator has received more U.S. tax money than any other nation in the world.

This post will be updated if PBS schedules a new broadcast date.

It will be updated again if PBS actually shows it.

WATCH: One Day in Gaza    Download: Torrent | Magnet Link

High Fives to Jimmy Dore for Laughing Russiagaters out of the Room

Jimmy Dore is a comic who has taken on Russiagate, a deadly serious matter.  He is one of those brave souls who count themselves as progressives but dared to call into question Russiagate.

There are those who will tell you that Trump is a despicable human; and so if Russiagate tarnished Trump, the argument goes, what did it matter whether it was true.  (The proposition that Trump is more monstrous than his predecessors, Obama, W or the Clintons is highly dubious to say the least – but that is a different topic.). There is, however, a very good reason why it does matter whether the charges making up Russiagate are true; for opposing Trump over his tax policies or stance on health care is quite a different matter from labeling him a Manchurian Candidate who colluded with Vlad Putin in 2016.  Russiagate put a US President in a position where he was unable to negotiate crucial issues with the other nuclear superpower.  To do so invited charges of being a Putin puppet, as evidenced by the howls that went up from the Establishment and most progressives over the Helsinki Summit.

What if the tensions between the US and Russia were to spin out of control in hot spots like Syria, where troops from the two nuclear superpowers pass within a whisker of one another, or Ukraine or even Venezuela?  To extract us from such a predicament, Putin and Trump would need to make concessions to one another, as Kennedy and Krushchev did successfully in the Cuban Missile Crisis.  But with the cloud of Russiagate hanging over his head Trump could make no such concession without being labelled a treasonous Putin puppet.  So Russiagate took away from Trump the ability to negotiate his way out of an existential threat should one emerge.  As such it should have been based on the highest levels of evidence.  In fact, it was not based on any hard evidence at all – there was none for the central charge of collusion.  And the Mueller investigation finally admitted this.  Given this, those who knowingly concocted Russiagate owe us all a great apology, for they committed the most serious of crimes by creating a situation that potentially threatened the existence of the American and Russian peoples – and perhaps all of humanity.

The absurdity of Russiagate and the absence of evidence for it was evident from the start.  But very few on the progressive side broke with the mainstream media and the Democratic Party political herd to say so.  That carried the risk of being shunned in progressive circles.  Or as one brave Russiagate dissident said under his breath, “I don’t have much social life any longer.”  That fact, in itself, is a sad commentary on what is called “progressivism” in the U.S.

Nevertheless, a handful of Russiagate debunkers emerged on the left, including Robert Parry and others at Consortium News, Aaron Maté now at The Nation, Pulitzer Prize winner Glenn Greenwald at the Intercept, Michael Tracey, Stephen F. Cohen of EastWestAccord.com, Ray McGovern of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, Matt Taibi of Rolling Stone, Craig Murray and others. They deserve enormous credit for poring over the detritus that the media dumped on us 24/7 for over two years and refuting it, one noxious bit at a time.

A standout among these dissidents is Jimmy Dore, a nightclub comic with a YouTube show run out of his garage in Pasadena. Dore took on Russiagate just as he took on the Dem Establishment and backed Bernie in 2016, and as he now offers high praise for Tulsi Gabbard, the peace candidate for 2020.  Jimmy Dore made the exposure of Russiagate fun.

Dore enjoys raising a simple question in the wake of the Mueller report:  How did a “jagoff comedian,” as he calls himself, who claims on occasion to smoke marijuana when he gets out of bed in the morning, get Russiagate right when grads of the Columbia School of Journalism and pundits like Rhodes Scholar Rachel Maddow and David Corn got it so wrong?

Dore has the answer, taking Maddow as an example who earns $30,000 for every single show.  For that and the celebrity career that goes with it, she lies – simple as that.   Dore even allows that he might be willing to lie at $30,000 an hour. But, he laments, the invitation has not been forthcoming.  And what is true of Maddow and the other Cable “News” talking heads is just as true of the upscale propagandists who dump their extrusions into gilded receptacles like the NYT, WaPo, New Yorker, NPR.  In contrast to be a Jimmy Dore or any of the other truth tellers requires a considerable dose of courage, because swimming against the mainstream can be a career terminator as Chris Hedges once of the NYT and a number of others can testify.

One of Dore’s approaches is especially powerful.  He provides a quote from the mainstream media, an establishment journalist or a faux progressive, reads it and then tears it apart.  Dore likes to play down his intellect – a good comic shtick – but the precision of his takedowns tells another story.  The takedown is followed by invective that is as accurate as it is impassioned.  Dore’s invective for which he has considerable talent would turn Jeremiah green with envy. In this task he is usually aided by his fellow comic, the insightful Ron Placone and Dore’s wife Stefane Zamorano, who styles herself The Miserable Liberal.

It is very satisfying to watch Dore in action – and funny.  In fact, at the gym I watch Jimmy on my iPad to save me from looking up at the omnipresent fake news on CNN.  My cardiac health, as well as my mental health, over the past two years has depended on his show.  If Dore were a physician, he could bill me.

You can best appreciate the Jimmy Dore show by going to YouTube and watching an episode.  I recommend this one, “Mueller Report Drops! Aaron Maté Explains.”  Here Maté also names the names of the fake progressives who caved to the Establishment narrative and some of the heroes who did not.  Dore expresses his usual sympathy for Mate’ for having to live among journalists most of whom compromise themselves whereas Dore gets to dwell among comics.

For a dose of truth, sanity and fun – catch the Jimmy Dore Show.  Russiagate is behind us but Dore already has the bogus basis for war on Venezuela and Iran clearly in his sites – along with the 2020 election and its rich veins of hypocrisy to mine.

Democracy vs. The Putin-Nazis

Back in January 2018, I wrote this piece about The War on Dissent, which, in case you haven’t noticed, is going gangbusters. As predicted, the global capitalist ruling classes have been using every weapon in their arsenal to marginalize, stigmatize, delegitimize, and otherwise eliminate any and all forms of dissent from neoliberal ideology, and in particular from their new official narrative … “Democracy versus The Putin-Nazis.”

For over two years, the corporate media have been pounding out an endless series of variations on this major theme, namely, that “democracy is under attack” by a conspiracy of Russians and neo-Nazis that magically materialized out of the ether during the Summer of 2016. The intelligence agencies, political elites, academia, celebrities, social media personalities, and other organs of the culture industry have been systematically reifying this official narrative through constant repetition. The Western masses have been inundated with innumerable articles, editorials, television news and talk show segments, books, social media posts, and various other forms of messaging whipping up hysteria over “Russians” and “fascists.” At this point, it is no longer just propaganda. It has become the new “truth.” It has become “reality.”

Becoming “reality” is, of course, the ultimate goal of every ideology. An ideology is just a system of ideas, and is thus fair game for critique and dissent. “Reality” is not fair game for dissent. It is not up for debate or challenge, not by “serious,” “legitimate” people. “Reality” is simply “the way it is.” It is axiomatic. It is apothegmatic. It’s not a belief or an interpretation. It is not subject to change or revision. It is the immortal, immutable Word of God … or whatever deity or deity-like concept the ruling classes and the masses they rule accept as the Final Arbiter of Truth. In our case, this would be Science, or Reason, rather than some supernatural being, but in terms of ideology there isn’t much difference. Every system of belief, regardless of its nature, ultimately depends on political power and power relations to enforce its beliefs, which is to say, to make them “real.”

OK, whenever I write about “reality” and “truth,” I get a few rather angry responses from folks who appear to think I’m denying the existence of objective reality. I’m not … for example, this chair I’m sitting on is absolutely part of objective reality, a physical object that actually exists. The screen you’re probably reading these words on is also part of objective reality. I am not saying there is no reality. What I’m saying is, “reality” is a concept, a concept invented and developed by people … a concept that serves a variety of purposes, some philosophical, some political. It’s the political purposes I’m interested in.

Think of “reality” as an ideological tool … a tool in the hands of those with the power to designate what is “real” and what isn’t. Doctors, teachers, politicians, police, scientists, priests, pundits, experts, parents — these are the enforcers of “reality.” The powerless do not get to decide what is “real.” Ask someone suffering from schizophrenia. Or … I’m sorry, is it bipolar disorder? Or oppositional defiant disorder? I can’t keep all these new disorders psychiatrists keep “discovering” straight.

Or ask a Palestinian living in Gaza. Or the mother of a Black kid the cops shot for no reason. Ask Julian Assange. Ask the families of all those “enemy combatants” Obama droned. Ask the “conspiracy theorists” on Twitter digitally screaming at anyone who will listen about what is and isn’t “the truth.” Each of them will give you their version of “reality,” and you and I may agree with some of them, and some of their beliefs may be supported with facts, but that will not make what they believe “reality.”

Power is what makes “reality” “reality.” Not facts. Not evidence. Not knowledge. Power.

Those in power, or aligned with those in power, or parroting the narratives of those in power, understand this (whether consciously or not). Those without power mostly do not, and thus we continue to “speak truth to power,” as if those in power gave a shit. They don’t. The powerful are not arguing with us. They are not attempting to win a debate about what is and isn’t “true,” or what did or didn’t “really” happen. They are declaring what did or didn’t happen. They are telling us what is and is not “reality,” and demonstrating what happens to those who disagree.

The “Democracy versus The Putin-Nazis” narrative is our new “reality,” whether we like it or not. It does not matter one iota that there is zero evidence to support this narrative, other than the claims of intelligence agencies, politicians, the corporate media, and other servants of the ruling classes. The Russians are “attacking democracy” because the ruling classes tell us they are. “Fascism is on the march again” because the ruling classes say it is. Anyone who disagrees is a “Putin-sympathizer,” a “Putin-apologist,” or “linked to Russia,” or “favored by Russia,” or an “anti-Semite,” or a “fascist apologist.”

Question the official narrative about the Gratuitously Baby Gassing Monster of Syria and you’re an Assad apologist, a Russian bot network, or a plagiarizing Red-Brown infiltrator. Criticize the corporate media for disseminating cheap McCarthyite smears, and you’re a Tulsi-stanning Hindu Nazi-apologist. God help you if you should appear on FOX, in which case you are a Nazi-legitimizer! A cursory check of the Internet today revealed that “far-right Facebook groups are spreading hate to millions in Europe” by means of some sort of hypnogenic content that just looking at it turns you into a Nazi. Our democracy-loving friends at The Atlantic Council are disappointed by Trump’s refusal to sign the “Christchurch Call,” a multilateral statement encouraging corporations to censor the Internet … and fascism is fashionable in Italy again!”

This post-Orwellian, neo-McCarthyite mass hysteria is not going to stop … not until the global capitalist ruling classes have suppressed the current “populist” insurgency and restored “normality” throughout the Western world. Until then, it’s going to be pretty much non-stop “Democracy versus the Putin-Nazis.”

So, unless you’re enjoying our new “reality,” or are willing to conform to it for some other reason, prepare to be smeared as “a Russia-loving, Putin-apologizing conspiracy theorist,” or a “fascism-enabling, Trump-loving Nazi,” or some other type of insidiously Slavic, white supremacist, mass-murder enthusiast. Things are only going to get uglier as the American election season ramps up. I mean, come on … you don’t really believe that the global capitalist ruling classes are going to let Trump serve a second term, do you?

Canada’s Five Year Campaign to Oust Venezuela’s Government

Why does the dominant media pay so much attention to Russian “meddling” in other countries, but little to Canada’s longstanding interference in the political affairs of nations thousands of kilometres from our borders?

The case of Ben Rowswell illustrates the double standard well.

The current Canadian International Council President has been the leading non-governmental advocate of Ottawa’s quest to overthrow Venezuela’s government. In dozens of interviews, op-eds, tweets and ongoing speaking tour the former ambassador has put a liberal gloss on four months of naked imperialism. But, Rowswell has been involved in efforts to oust Nicolas Maduro since 2014 despite repeatedly claiming the president’s violation of the constitution two years ago provoked Ottawa’s recent campaign.

A March 2014 Venezuela Analysis story suggested the early adopter of digital communications was dispatched to Caracas in the hopes of boosting opposition to a government weakened by an economic downturn, the death of its leader and violent protests. Titled “New Ambassador Modernizes Canada’s Hidden Agenda in Venezuela”, the story pointed out that Rowswell immediately set up a new embassy Twitter account, soon followed by another titled SeHablaDDHH (Let’s Talk Human Rights), to rally “the angry middle classes on Twitter.” The article noted that “Rowswell is the best man to encourage such a ‘democratic’ counterrevolution, given his pedigree” in digital and hotspot diplomacy. According to a March 2014 Embassy story titled “Canada dispatches digital diplomacy devotee to Caracas”, just before the Venezuela assignment “Ottawa’s top digital diplomat … helped to establish a communications platform for Iranians and Iranian emigrants to communicate with each other, and occasionally the Canadian government, beyond the reach of that country’s censors.” Previously, Rowswell was chargé d’affaires in Iraq after the 2003 US invasion and headed the NATO Provincial Reconstruction Team in Kandahar during the war there. An international strategy advisor in the Privy Council Office during Stephen Harper and Jean Chrétien’s tenure, Rowswell created Global Affairs Canada’ Democracy Unit. Rowswell also worked with the Washington based Center for Strategic and International Studies, whose board of trustees includes Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski, and the National Democratic Institute, which is part of the US National Endowment for Democracy that performs work the CIA previously did covertly.

Believing he was sent to conspire with the opposition, Caracas refused to confirm Rowswell’s appointment as ambassador. Former vice president and foreign minister José Vicente Rangel twice accused Rowswell of seeking to overthrow the government. On a July 2014 episode of his weekly television program José Vicente Hoy Rangel said, “the Embassy of Canada appears more and more involved in weird activities against the Venezuelan constitutional government.” The former Vice President claimed Canada’s diplomatic mission helped more than two dozen individuals of an “important intelligence organization” enter the country. Three months later Rangel accused Canadian officials of trying to destabilize the country by making unfounded claims Maduro supported drug trafficking and gave passports to terrorists.

In early 2015 then president of the National Assembly (not to be confused with Venezuela’s president) Diosdado Cabello accused the Canadian embassy of complicity in a failed coup. According to Cabello, an RCMP official attached to the embassy, Nancy Birbeck, visited an airport in Valencia with a member of the UK diplomatic corps to investigate its capabilities as part of the plot.

The president of the National Assembly also criticized Rowswell for presenting a human rights award to anti-government groups. Cabello said the ambassador “offered these distinctions to people of proven conspiratorial activity and who violate the fundamental rights to life of all Venezuelans.” At the embassy during the award ceremony were the lawyers and wife (Lilian Tintori) of Leopoldo López who endorsed the military’s 2002 coup against President Hugo Chavez and was convicted of inciting violence during the 2014 “guarimbas” protests that sought to oust Maduro. Forty-three Venezuelans died, hundreds were hurt and a great deal of property was damaged during the “guarimbas” protests. Lopez was a key organizer of the recent plan to anoint Juan Guaidó interim president and Tintori met Donald Trump and other international officials, including the prime minister and many others in Ottawa, to build international support for the recent coup efforts.

Rowswell appears to have had significant contact with López and Guaidó’s Voluntad Popular party. He was photographed with Voluntad Popular’s leader in Yaracuy state, Gabriel Gallo, at the embassy’s 2017 human rights award ceremony. Gallo was a coordinator of NGO Foro Penal, which was runner-up for the embassy’s 2015 Human Rights Award. (The runner-up for the 2012 award, Tamara Adrián represents Voluntad Popular in the national assembly.)

The embassy’s “Human Rights Prize” is co-sponsored with the Centro para la Paz y los Derechos Humanos. The director of that organization, Raúl Herrera, repeatedly denounced the Venezuelan government, saying, “the Venezuelan state systematically and repeatedly violates the Human Rights of Venezuelans.”

The “Human Rights Prize” is designed to amplify and bestow legitimacy on anti-government voices. The winner gets a “tour of several cities in Venezuela to share his or her experiences with other organizations promoting of human rights” and a trip to Canada to meet with “human rights authorities and organizations.” They generally present to Canadian Parliamentary Committees and garner media attention. The Venezuelan NGOs most quoted in the Canadian media in recent months criticizing the country’s human rights situation — Provea, Foro Penal, CODEVIDA, Observatorio Venezolano de la Conflictividad, Observatorio Venezolano de Prisiones, etc. — have been formally recognized by the Canadian embassy.

During Rowswell’s tenure at the embassy Canada financed NGOs with the expressed objective of embarrassing the government internationally. According to the government’s response to a July 2017 Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade report on Venezuela, “CFLI [Canadian Funding to Local Initiatives] programming includes support for a local NGO documenting the risks to journalists and freedom of expression in Venezuela, in order to provide important statistical evidence to the national and international community on the worsening condition of basic freedoms in the country.” Another CFLI initiative funded during Rowswell’s tenure in Caracas “enabled Venezuelan citizens to anonymously register and denounce corruption abuses by government officials and police through a mobile phone application.”

Just after resigning as ambassador, Rowswell told the Ottawa Citizen:

We established quite a significant internet presence inside Venezuela, so that we could then engage tens of thousands of Venezuelan citizens in a conversation on human rights. We became one of the most vocal embassies in speaking out on human rights issues and encouraging Venezuelans to speak out.

Can you imagine the hue and cry if a Venezuelan ambassador said something similar about Canada? In recent months there have been a number of parliamentary committee and intelligence reports about Russian interference in Canada based on far less. Last month Justin Trudeau claimed, “countries like Russia are behind a lot of the divisive campaigns … that have turned our politics even more divisive and more anger-filled than they have been in the past.” That statement is 100 times more relevant to Canada/Rowswell’s interference in Venezuela than Russia’s role here.

Recently Rowswell has been speaking across the country on “How Democracy Dies: Lessons from Venezuela and the U.S.”

I wonder if the talk includes any discussion of Canadian diplomats deployed to interfere in other country’s political affairs?

The Espionage Act and Julian Assange: The US Justice Department Expands Its Case

It seemed flimsy from the start, but the US Department of Justice is keen to get their man.  What has certainly transpired of late is that Mike Pompeo was being unusually faithful to the truth when director of the CIA: every means would be found to prosecute the case against WikiLeaks and Julian Assange.  His assessment of the publishing outfit in 2017 as a “non-state hostile intelligence service” finds its way into the latest Justice Department’s indictment, which adds a further 18 counts.

The prosecution effort was initially focused on a charge of computer intrusion, with a stress on conspiracy.  It was feeble but intentionally narrow, fit for extradition purpose.  Now, a few more eggs have been added to the basket in a broader effort to capture the entire field of national security publishing.  The Espionage Act of 1917, that ghoulish reminder of police state nervousness, has been brought into play.  Drafted to combat spies as the United States made its way into the First World War, the act has become a blunt instrument against journalists and whistleblowers.  But Assange, being no US citizen, is essentially being sought out for not abiding by the legislation.  The counts range from the first, “conspiracy to receive national defense information” (s. 793(g) of the Espionage Act) to “obtaining national defense information,” to the disclosures of such information.

The first part is problematic, as prosecutors are arguing that Assange does not have to release the said “national defence” information to an unauthorised recipient. In short, as a publisher to the world at large of such material, he can be punished.  The second round of charges, drawn from section 793(b) of the Act, makes the prosecution purpose even clearer.  The provision, dealing with the copying, taking, making, obtaining, or attempting to do so, material connected with national defence, would suggest the punishment of the source itself.  Not so, claim the prosecutors: the publisher or journalist can be caught in its web.

Section 793(c), upon which four counts rest, is intended to capture instances of soliciting the leaks in question or the recipient of that information, one who “agrees or attempts to receive or obtain it, that it has been or will be obtained, taken, made or disposed of by any person contrary to the provisions of this chapter.”

If there was any doubt about what the indictment does to media organisations who facilitate the means to receive confidential material or leaks, the following should allay it: “WikiLeaks’s website explicitly solicited, otherwise restricted, and until September 2010, ‘classified materials’.  As the website then-stated, ‘WikiLeaks accepts classified, censored, or otherwise restricted material of political, diplomatic or ethical significance.”  From the perspective of prosecutors, “Assange and WikiLeaks have repeatedly sought, obtained, and disseminated information that the United States classified due to the serious risk that unauthorized disclosure could harm the national security of the United States.”

Seething with venom, the indictment also takes issue with instances where Assange sought to popularise the effort to obtain leaks.  Assange “intended the ‘Most Wanted Leaks’ list to encourage and cause individuals to illegally obtain and disclose protected information, including classified information, to WikiLeaks contrary to law.”

The standout feature of this angle is that Chelsea Manning, the key source for WikiLeaks as former intelligence analyst for the US Army, is less important than Assange the mesmerising Svengali.  It was the WikiLeaks’s publisher who convinced Manning to respond to his seductive call, a point the prosecutors insist is proved by search terms plugged into the classified network search engine, Intelink.

The response from the scribbling fraternity, and anybody who might wish to write about national security matters, has been one of bracing alarm, tinged by characteristic apologias.  On the latter point, Assange the principle, and Assange the man, have proven confusing to fence sitters and traditional Fourth Estate sell outs.

Sam Vinograd shines in this regard as CNN national security analyst, an important point because such hacks previously served as advisors or agents to political masters.  They can be trusted to toe the line.  In Vinograd’s case, it was as senior advisor in the Obama administration.  Triumphantly, she claims, Assange “knowingly endangered the lives of journalists, religious leaders, human rights advocates, and political dissidents and did incredible harm to our national security.”  No evidence is supplied for any of these assertions – the claims in the indictment will do.  Obscenely, we are to take at face value that the US Justice Department is doing us, not to mention journalists, a favour.  Wither analysis.

The mistake often made is that such previous experience as a national security advisor or some such will enable in-stable media figures to speak openly about topics when the opposite is true.  Their goggles remain permanently blurred to the broader implications of punishing media outlets: they, after all, speak power to truth.

Those like John Pilger, one of Assange’s more tireless defenders, have been unequivocal and, thus far, accurate.  “The war on Julian Assange is now a war on all,” he tweeted.  “Eighteen absurd charges including espionage send a burning message to every journalist, every publisher.”  WikiLeaks’s current publisher-in-chief, Kristinn Hrafnsson expressed “no satisfaction in saying ‘I told you so’ to those who for 9 years scorned us for warning this moment would come.”

The ACLU has also made the pertinent point that the charges against Assange are easily replicable across the board: do it to Assange and you might give the nod of approval to other states to do the same.  They “are equally dangerous for US journalists who uncover the secrets of other nations. If the US can prosecute a foreign publisher for violating our secrecy laws, there’s nothing preventing China, or Russia, from doing the same.”  Fairly precise, that.

Trevor Timm, Freedom of the Press Foundation executive director, did not mince his words. “Put simply,” came his statement, “these unprecedented charges against Julian Assange and WikiLeaks are the most significant and terrifying threat to the First Amendment in the 21st century.”

The silver lining – for even in this charred landscape of desperation, there is one – is the overzealous nature of this effort.  For one thing, proving espionage requires the necessary mental state, namely the “intent or reason to believe that the [leaked] information is to be used to the injury of the United States, or to the advantage of any foreign nation.” It was precisely such grounds that failed to convince Colonel Denise Lind in Manning’s trial, who found that the analyst was not “aiding the enemy” in supplying material to WikiLeaks.

By larding the charge folder against Assange so heavily, the political intention of the prosecutors is clear.  It reeks of overreach, an attempt to get ahead of the queue of Sweden.  A sensible reading of any extradition effort now must conclude that Assange is as much a target of political interest as anything else. Not a hacker, nor a figure so personalised as to be reviled, but a symbol of publishing itself, persecuted by the only superpower on the planet.  The case, surmises Edward Snowden, “will decide the future of media.”

Was that the Next Palestinian President You Just Banned, Mr Trump?

Hanan Ashrawi, Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee Member, speaks to journalists at UN Headquarters. (UN Photo/Evan Schneider)

Grandma Ashrawi is more than a match for Israel’s stooges in the White House and whatever ‘deal of the century’ they have cooked up for the Holy Land

So the Trump administration will no longer allow Hanan Ashrawi into the US even though she’s a top diplomat, has family there and visits regularly. Why?

A US State Department spokesperson told Haaretz that “visa records are confidential under US law; therefore, we cannot discuss the details of individual visa cases”, adding that the law “does not authorize the refusal of visas based solely on political statements or views if those statements or views would be lawful in the United States.”

Ashrawi is reported as saying, in her forthright way, that refusal to let her in was a political act and full of “pettiness and vindictiveness.”

Ashrawi, a Palestinian Christian, is something of a hot potato. She was elected to the Palestinian Legislative Council representing Jerusalem in 1996 and again in 2006. She has been a member of the Executive Committee of the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) for 20 years, becoming the first woman to hold a seat in the highest executive body in Palestine. It is recognised as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people by the 137 states with which it has diplomatic relations. Ashrawi’s father, a physician, was a founder of the PLO.

She has a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Literature from the Department of English at the American University of Beirut and completed her education with a PhD in Medieval and Comparative Literature from the University of Virginia. She is also an Honorary Fellow of St Antony’s College, Oxford.

Ashrawi has been an official spokes of the Palestinian delegation to the Middle East peace process starting with the Madrid Peace Conference of 1991. In 1996, she was appointed as the Palestinian Authority Minister of Higher Education and Research. Before that she was Dean of the Faculty of Arts at Birzeit University.

In 2003 Ashrawi received the Sydney Peace Prize, an award praised by, among others, Madeleine Albright, former US Secretary of State. Albright called Ashrawi “a brilliant spokeswoman for her cause”.

Ashrawi, now 72, is a grandmother, and several of her grandchildren live in the United States. So why is America hostile towards her?

Israeli occupation “a most pervasive form of oppression, dispossession and denial”

In a recent article in Al Jazeera, Marwan Bishara reminds us that for the past year and a half Trump and his administration have been showering Benjamin Netanyahu and his apartheid regime with anti-Palestinian ‘gifts’…. like recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv, ending US assistance to UNRWA (the agency that supports millions of Palestinian refugees), quitting the UN Human Rights Council and shutting down the PLO’s office in Washington.

As if that wasn’t enough the Trump administration has stopped describing the West Bank and East Jerusalem (which are Palestinian) as “occupied” and instead calls them “Israeli-controlled”. This gives Netanyahu all the encouragement he needs for expanding Israel’s illegal settlements and pledging to annex them. To cap it all Trump then delivered Netanyahu a splendid election present in recognising Israel’s illegal annexation of Syria’s Golan Heights. Of course, whatever Trump says that territory is still Syria’s.

Western media, when providing ‘balance’ to news on the Israel/Palestine conflict, usually wheel in a Palestinian spokesperson who is unintelligible. Israeli spokespeople on the other hand are media trained and sound very British/American, giving them a huge advantage. Ashrawi has perfect English and is a highly articulate and persuasive woman – an unrivaled expert in Middle East affairs — and capable of reducing Trump and his entourage to mincemeat in any broadcast encounter. Therefore she poses a clear and present danger to their hopes of putting across and maintaining the false narrative that sustains Israel’s rogue dominance in the Middle East.

Haaretz reproduces some of Hanan Ashrawi’s recent tweets. In one she says:

I despise hypocrisy, misogyny, absolutist fundamentalism, populism, racism of all kinds, exclusivity, arrogance & condescension, power politics & militarism, cruelty in any form, & any sense of entitlement & exceptionalism…

In another:

Most of all, I have no tolerance for the Israeli occupation in all its manifestations as a most pervasive form of oppression, dispossession & denial; I have no respect for the enablers of this inhuman condition nor for its apologists…

She tells it straight. And in her tweets she adds:

I’ve met (and even negotiated with) every Sec. of State since Shultz, and every President since George H. W. Bush (present administration excluded); I’ve been a vocal critic of this administration and its underlings; I believe in freedom of speech.

This is one formidable lady! I have her down as the next Palestinian president, head and shoulders above any male candidates. But will the good people of Palestine have a say in the matter? The presidency of Mahmoud Abbas, the quisling loser, should have ended in 2009. But the corrupt system he presides over has allowed him to cling to power indefinitely, to his people’s great detriment.