Global Britain Slashes International Aid

Decisions on aid are eroding trust and eroding relationships between the UK and developing countries.

— Abby Baldoumas, Financial Times, July 15, 2021

Politics is not merely the art of the possible but the pursuit of concerted hypocrisy.  When it comes to that matter of funding good causes – foreign aid, for instance – wealthy states are often happy to claim they open their wallets willingly.  As good international citizens, they fork out money for such causes as education, healthcare, sanitation.  The goals are always seen as bigger than the cash, a measure of self-enlightened interest.

The United Kingdom is certainly such a case. For years, governments of different stripes praised the political importance of the aid programme.  “Development has never just been about aid or money, but I am proud that Britain is a country that keeps its promises to the poorest in the world,” British Prime Minister David Cameron told the United Nations General Assembly in a 2012 speech.

This all started changing in 2020.  The merging of the Department of International Development with the Foreign Office was a signal that pennies would be in shorter supply.  On November 25, 2020, UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak announced that the government would not spend 0.7% of gross national income on official development assistance in 2022.  The allocation would fall to 0.5% of GNI – £10 billion in monetary terms.  Relative to the 2019 budget, this would amount to an effective cut of around £4 to 5 billion.  Aid had very much become a matter of money.

The 0.7% allocation has been part of British policy since 2013.  Two years after that, it became part of legislation.  Up till September 2020, it was even assumed that it would also be part of Tory policy, given its mention in the Conservative Party manifesto.

Sunak did not shy away from populist justification in delivering his spending review for the 2021-22 financial year.  “During a domestic fiscal emergency, when we need to prioritise our limited resources on jobs and public services, sticking rigidly to spending 0.7% of our national income on overseas aid is difficult to justify to the British people.”

The Chancellor tried assuring his fellow parliamentarians that he had “listened with great respect to those who have argued passionately to retain this target, but at a time of unprecedented crisis, government must make tough choices.”  Such a tough choice seemed to put Sunak in breach of the law, not something alien to members of the Johnson government, including the prime minister himself.  But do not expect legal writs or the constabulary to be pursuing the matter: all that’s seemingly required is a statement to Parliament explaining why the aim was not achieved.

On July 13, Parliament passed a motion confirming the reduction in the aid budget, with 333 votes cast in favour of it.  298 opposed it.  Despite being billed as a compromise, the former international development secretary Andrew Mitchell was wiser.  “There is an unpleasant odour leaking from my party’s front door,” he ruefully admitted.  The motion had been “a fiscal trap for the unwary.”

The consequences of these slashing initiatives have laid waste to the charity and humanitarian landscape.  The list of casualties mentioned by Devex is grim and extensive.  A few unfortunates are worth mentioning.  On July 7, South Sudan country director of Christian Aid reflected upon the closure of peace-building efforts led by various churches in South Sudan given the 59% cut in UK aid.  “These cuts risk having a lethal effect on the chances of a lasting peace here,” James Wani lamented.

On June 14, support was cancelled for the Strategic Partnership Arrangement with Bangladesh.  In the view of the NGO BRAC, this would see a halt to educating 360,000 girls, stop the funding of 725,000 school places, and cut nutritional support for 12 million infants, not to mention access to family planning services for 14.6 million women and girls.

Whole initiatives will cease outright, such as the Malawi Violence Against Women and Girls Prevention and Response Programme or the Green Economic Growth for Papua programme, which focuses on preventing deforestation.  In some cases, existing budget allocations have been reduced by staggering amounts.  The UN Sexual and Reproductive Health Agency (UNFPA), for example, has seen its funding allotment from the UK for its family planning programme reduced by 85% – from £154 million to £23 million.

With all this devastation taking place, Prime Minister Boris Johnson could still breezily announce at the G7 summit that his government would be providing an extra £430 million of extra funding from UK coffers for girls’ education in 90 developing countries.  The timing of this was exquisite: only some weeks prior, cuts had been made amounting to over £200 million for the same cause, down from the £600 million offered in 2019.

In April 2021, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab sounded every bit the stingy economic rationalist.  “Throughout the business planning process, we strived to ensure that every penny of the FCDO’s (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office’s) ODA (Official Development Assistance) spent brings maximum strategic coherence, impact and value for taxpayers’ money.”

At the Global Education Summit this July, the bleak and razored approach Johnson had taken to aid was concealed by a mask of colourful praise for his own moneyed initiatives.  He called the Global Partnership for Education “the universal cure”, “the Swiss Army knife, complete with Allen key and screwdriver and everything else that can solve virtually every problem that afflicts humanity.”

Without blushing at any point, he spoke about educating the world properly and fairly to “end a great natural injustice.”  In giving “every girl in the world the same education as every boy, 12 years of quality education, then you perform the most fantastic benefits for humanity – you lift life expectancy, you lift per capita GDP, you deal with infant mortality”.

The aid cuts have not only aggrieved those in the charity and development sector.  Baroness Liz Sugg resigned as minister for overseas territories and sustainable development in response to the cuts.  “Cutting UK aid risks,” she wrote to the prime minister last November, “risks undermining your efforts to promote a Global Britain and will diminish your power to influence and other nations to do what is right.”

From the levels of local government, Shropshire councillor Andy Boddington also expressed his dismay.  “Our local MPs and Boris Johnson should bow their heads in shame and recognise how this unnecessary cut has diminished Britain on the world stage just as we prepare to host the international climate summit COP26.”  The good councillor would surely be aware that the allocation of shame, for Johnson, is much like Britain’s current aid budget: diminished in supply.

The post Global Britain Slashes International Aid first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Nature’s Own Fuel Could Save Us From the Greenhouse Effect and Electric Grid Failure

Hemp fuel and other biofuels could reduce carbon emissions while saving the electric grid, but they’re often overlooked for more expensive, high-tech climate solutions.

On July 14, the European Union unveiled sweeping climate change and emissions targets that would, according to Gulf News, mean “the end of the internal combustion engine”:

The commission’s draft would reduce permitted emissions from new passenger cars and light commercial vehicles to zero from 2035 – effectively obliging the industry to move on to battery-electric models.

While biofuels are a less high-tech, cheaper and in many ways more effective solution to our dependence on petroleum, the United States and other countries are discussing similar plans to the EU’s and California is already on board. But in a recent article in the Los Angeles Times and related video, Evan Halper argues that we may be trading one environmental crisis for another:

 

The sprint to supply automakers with heavy-duty lithium batteries is propelled by climate-conscious countries like the United States that aspire to abandon gas-powered cars and SUVs. They are racing to secure the materials needed to go electric, and the Biden administration is under pressure to fast-track mammoth extraction projects that threaten to unleash their own environmental fallout.

Extraction proposals include vacuuming the ocean floor, disturbing marine ecosystems; and mining Native American ancestral sites and pristine federal lands. Proponents of these proposals argue that China controls most of the market for the raw material refining needed for the batteries, posing economic and security threats. But opponents say the negative environmental impact will be worse than the oil fracking that electric vehicles are projected to replace.

Not just the batteries but the electricity needed to run electric vehicles (EVs) poses environmental concerns. Currently, generating electric fuel depends heavily on non-renewable sources. And  according to a March 2021 report from the Government Accountability Office, electric vehicles are making the electrical grid more vulnerable to cyber attacks, threatening the portions of the grid that deliver electricity to homes and businesses. If that is true at current use levels, the grid could clearly not sustain the load if all the cars on the road were EVs.

Not just tribal land residents but poor households everywhere will bear the cost if the proposed emissions targets and EV mandates are implemented. According to one European think tank, “average expenses of the poorest households could increase by 44 percent for transport and by 50 percent for residential heating.” As noted in Agence France-Presse, “The recent ‘yellow vest’ protests in France demonstrated the kind of populist fury that environmental controls on motoring can provoke.”

People who can barely make ends meet cannot afford new electric vehicles (EVs), and buying a used EV is risky. If the lithium battery fails, replacing it could cost as much as the car itself; and repairs must be done by pricey dealers. No more doing it yourself with instructions off the Internet, and even your friendly auto repair shop probably won’t have the tools. Except for the high-end Tesla, auto manufacturers themselves are largely losing money on EVs, due to the high cost of the batteries and low consumer demand.

Off the Electric Grid with Clean Biofuel

Whether carbon dioxide emissions are the cause of climate change is still debated, but gasoline-fueled vehicles do pose environmental hazards. There is an alternative to gasoline that does not require sending all our combustion engine vehicles to the junkyard. This is alcohol fuel (bioethanol). Not only are greenhouse gas emissions from ethanol substantially lower than from gasoline, but as detailed in a biofuel “explainer” on the website of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology:

As we search for fuels that won’t contribute to the greenhouse effect and climate change, biofuels are a promising option because the carbon dioxide (CO2) they emit is recycled through the atmosphere. When the plants used to make biofuels grow, they absorb CO2 from the air, and it’s that same CO2 that goes back into the atmosphere when the fuels are burned. In theory, biofuels can be a “carbon neutral” or even “carbon negative” way to power cars, trucks and planes, meaning they take at least as much CO2 out of the atmosphere as they put back in.

A major promise of biofuels is that they can lower overall CO2 emissions without changing a lot of our infrastructure. They can work with existing vehicles, and they can be mass-produced from biomass in the same way as other biotechnology products, like chemicals and pharmaceuticals, which are already made on a large scale.… Most gasoline sold in the U.S. is mixed with 10% ethanol.

Biofuels can be created from any sort of organic commercial waste that is high in carbohydrates, which can be fermented into alcohol locally. Unlike the waste fryer oil and grease used to generate biodiesel, carbohydrates are supplied by plants in abundance. Methanol, the simplest form of alcohol, can be made from any biomass – anything that is or once was a plant (wood chips, agricultural waste of all kinds, animal waste, etc.). In the US, 160 million tons of trash ends up in landfills annually. Estimates are that this landfill waste could be converted to 15-16 million gallons of methanol.

In the third in a series of national assessments calculating the potential supply of biomass in the United States, the US Energy Department concluded in 2016 that the country has the future potential to produce at least one billion dry tons of biomass resources annually without adversely affecting the environment. This amount of biomass could be used to produce enough biofuel, biopower, and  bioproducts to displace approximately 30% of 2005 U.S. petroleum consumption, said the report, without negatively affecting the production of food or other agricultural products.

Energy Independence

A documentary film called Pump tells the tale of the monopolization of the auto fuel industry by the petroleum cartel, and how that monopoly can be ended with a choice of biofuels at the pump.

Henry Ford’s first car, built in 1896, ran 100% on alcohol fuel, produced by farmers using beets, apples, corn and other starchy crops in their own stills. He envisioned the family piling into the car and driving through the countryside, fueling up along the road at independent farms. But alcohol was burdened with a liquor tax, and John D. Rockefeller saw a use for the gasoline fuel that was being discarded as a toxic waste product of the kerosene market he had cornered. In 1908, Ford accommodated Rockefeller’s gasoline fuel by building America’s first “flex-fuel” car, the Model T or “Tin Lizzie.” It could be made to run on either gasoline or ethanol by adjusting the ignition timing and air fuel mixture. Rockefeller then blocked competition from Ford’s ethanol fuel by using his power and influence to help pass Prohibition, a Constitutional amendment banning the sale and transport of alcohol.

The petroleum monopoly was first broken in Brazil, where most cars are adapted to run on bioethanol made from sugar cane. Existing combustion engines can be converted to use this “flex fuel” with simple, inexpensive kits. The Brazilian biofuel market dates back to the oil crisis of the 1970s, when gas had to be imported and was quite expensive. With the conversion to biofuels, Pres. Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva achieved national energy independence, giving a major boost to the struggling Brazilian economy.

The U.S. push for biofuels was begun in California in the 1980s, when Ford Motor Company was enlisted to design a flex fuel car to help reduce the state’s smog problem. But again the oil industry lobbied against it. They argued that bioethanol, which in the U.S. is chiefly made from corn, was competing for corn as a foodstuff at a time when food shortages were a major concern.

David Blume  counters that it is not a question of “food or fuel” but “food and fuel.” Most U.S. corn is grown as livestock feed, and the “distillers grains” left after the alcohol is removed are more easily digested by cows than unprocessed grain. Distillers grains have another advantage over hay as a livestock feed: its easier digestion reduces the noxious cow emissions said to be a significant source of greenhouse gases.

Fuel from a Weed: The Wide-ranging Virtues of Hemp

Opponents, however, continue to raise the “food versus fuel” objection,  and they claim that biofuels from corn are not “carbon neutral” when the steps used to create them are factored in. Even the fertilizers needed to grow them may emit CO2 and other greenhouse gases.  But corn is not the only biofuel option. There are plants that can grow like weeds on poor soil without fertilizers.

Industrial hemp – the non-intoxicating form of cannabis grown for fiber, cloth, oil, and many other purposes – is a prime candidate not just for fuel but to help save the environment. Hemp has been proven to absorb more CO2 per hectare than any forest or commercial crop, making it the ideal carbon sink. It can be grown on a wide scale on nutrient poor soils; it grows remarkably fast with almost no fertilizer or irrigation; and it returns around 70% of the nutrients used in the growth cycle back to the soil. Biofuels usually require substantially more water than fossil fuels, but hemp needs roughly half the amount needed for corn. Hemp can also be used for “bioremediation” – the restoration of soil from toxic pollution. It helps remove toxins and has been used by farmers to “cure” their fields, even from radioactive agents, metals, pesticides, crude oil, and toxins in landfills.

An analysis published in the journal Science in 2019 concluded that a worldwide tree planting program could remove two-thirds of all the CO2 emissions that have been pumped into the atmosphere by human activities. As reported in The Guardian in 2019, one trillion trees could be restored for as little as $300 billion – “by far the cheapest solution that has ever been proposed.” The chief drawback to that solution is that trees grow slowly, requiring 50 to 100 years to reach their full carbon sequestering potential. Hemp, on the other hand, is one of the fastest CO2-to-biomass conversion tools available, growing to 13 feet in 100 days. It also requires much less space per plant than trees, and it can be grown on nearly any type of soil without fertilizers.

In a 2015 book titled Cannabis Vs. Climate Change Paul von Hartmann notes that hemp is also one of the richest available sources of aromatic terpenes, which are known to slow climate change. When emitted by pine forests, terpenes help to cool the planet by bouncing energy from the sun back into space. In a mature hemp field, the temperature on a hot day can be 20 degrees cooler than in surrounding areas.

Reviving an American Staple

Hemp has many uses besides fuel. Long an American staple, its cultivation was mandated in colonial America. It has been used for centuries in pharmaceuticals, clothing and textiles; it is an excellent construction material; its fiber can be used to make paper, saving the forests; and hemp seeds are providing protein equivalent by weight to beef or lamb.

The value of industrial hemp has long been known by the U.S. government, which produced an informational film in 1942 called “Hemp for Victory” to encourage farmers to grow it for the war effort. Besides its many industrial uses, including for cloth and cordage, the film detailed the history of the plant’s use and best growing practices.

Henry Ford used hemp as a construction material for his Model T, and Porsche is now using hemp-based material in the body of its 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport track car to reduce its weight while maintaining rigidity and safety. “Hempcrete” (concrete made from hemp mixed with lime) is a “green” building material used for construction and insulation, including for building “tiny homes.”

Hemp can replace so many environmentally damaging industries that an April 2019 article in Forbes claimed that “Industrial Hemp Is the Answer to Petrochemical Dependency.” The authors wrote:

[O]ur dependency on petrochemicals has proven hard to overcome, largely because these materials are as versatile as they are volatile. From fuel to plastics to textiles to paper to packaging to construction materials to cleaning supplies, petroleum-based products are critical to our industrial infrastructure and way of life.

… Interestingly, however, there is a naturally-occurring and increasingly-popular material that can be used to manufacture many of the same products we now make from petroleum-derived materials …. That material is hemp.

… The crop can be used to make everything from biodegradable plastic to construction materials like flooring, siding, drywall and insulation to paper to clothing to soap to biofuels made from hemp seeds and stalks.

The authors note that while hemp was widely grown until a century ago, the knowledge, facilities and equipment required to produce it efficiently are no longer commonly available, since hemp farming was banned for decades due to its association with the psychoactive version of the plant.

Fueling a Rural Renaissance

In an effort to fill that vacuum, a recent initiative in California is exploring different hemp varieties and growing techniques, in the first extensive growing trials for hemp fiber and grain in the state since the 1990s. The project is a joint effort among the World Cannabis Foundation, hemp wholesaler Hemp Traders, and Oklahoma-based processor Western Fiber. The Pennsylvania-based Rodale Institute, a nonprofit that supports research into organic farming, has also partnered on a USDA-supported research project on the use of hemp in the development of biochar (charcoal produced by firing biomass in the absence of oxygen). On July 31, the World Cannabis Foundation will host a field day and factory tour in Riverdale, California, where an old cotton gin has been converted to hemp textile manufacture. The event will also feature presentations by a panel of hemp experts.

How to decarbonize 51 billion tons of greenhouse gases annually with hemp technology and regenerative farming will also be the focus of a COP26 “fringe festival” called “Beyond the Green,” to be held in Glasgow, Scotland, in November along with COP26, the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference.

A 2018 article summarizing research from the University of Connecticut concluded that hemp farming could “set a great example of a self-sustainable mini ‘ecosystem’ with minimal environmental footprint.” Henry Ford’s vision was to decentralize industry, with “small [factory] plants … on every stream,” a rural renaissance fueled not with oil but with alcohol. Hemp fuel and other forms of bioethanol are renewable energy sources that can be produced anywhere, contributing to energy independence not just for families but for local communities and even for the country. And it doesn’t place the burden of addressing climate change on the middle or working classes.

• This article was first posted on ScheerPost.

The post Nature’s Own Fuel Could Save Us From the Greenhouse Effect and Electric Grid Failure first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Why Is No One Talking About Whistleblower Daniel Hale?

Daniel Hale, a former US air force intelligence analyst, leaked information about how trigger happy the US military was when it came to drones and innocent civilians in Afghanistan. Aaaaaand for having a conscience, he’s been slapped with a 4 year prison sentence! As RT’s Polly Boiko explains.

The post Why Is No One Talking About Whistleblower Daniel Hale? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Craig Murray’s jailing is the latest move in a battle to snuff out independent journalism

Craig Murray, a former ambassador to Uzbekistan, the father of a newborn child, a man in very poor health and one who has no prior convictions, will have to hand himself over to the Scottish police on Sunday morning. He becomes the first person ever to be imprisoned on the obscure and vaguely defined charge of “jigsaw identification”.

Murray is also the first person to be jailed in Britain for contempt of court in half a century – a period when such different legal and moral values prevailed that the British establishment had only just ended the prosecution of “homosexuals” and the jailing of women for having abortions.

Murray’s imprisonment for eight months by Lady Dorrian, Scotland’s second most senior judge, is, of course, based entirely on a keen reading of Scottish law rather than evidence of the Scottish and London political establishments seeking revenge on the former diplomat. And the UK supreme court’s refusal on Thursday to hear Murray’s appeal despite many glaring legal anomalies in the case, thereby paving his path to jail, is equally rooted in a strict application of the law, and not influenced in any way by political considerations.

Murray’s jailing has nothing to do with the fact that he embarrassed the British state in the early 2000s by becoming that rarest of things: a whistleblowing diplomat. He exposed the British government’s collusion, along with the US, in Uzbekistan’s torture regime.

His jailing also has nothing to do with the fact that Murray has embarrassed the British state more recently by reporting the woeful and continuing legal abuses in a London courtroom as Washington seeks to extradite Wikileaks’ founder, Julian Assange, and lock him away for life in a maximum security prison. The US wants to make an example of Assange for exposing its war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan and for publishing leaked diplomatic cables that pulled the mask off Washington’s ugly foreign policy.

Murray’s jailing has nothing to do with the fact that the contempt proceedings against him allowed the Scottish court to deprive him of his passport so that he could not travel to Spain and testify in a related Assange case that is severely embarrassing Britain and the US. The Spanish hearing has been presented with reams of evidence that the US illegally spied on Assange inside the Ecuadorean embassy in London, where he sought political asylum to avoid extradition. Murray was due to testify that his own confidential conversations with Assange were filmed, as were Assange’s privileged meetings with his own lawyers. Such spying should have seen the case against Assange thrown out, had the judge in London actually been applying the law.

Similarly, Murray’s jailing has nothing to do with his embarrassing the Scottish political and legal establishments by reporting, almost single-handedly, the defence case in the trial of Scotland’s former First Minister, Alex Salmond. Unreported by the corporate media, the evidence submitted by Salmond’s lawyers led a jury dominated by women to acquit him of a raft of sexual assault charges. It is Murray’s reporting of Salmond’s defence that has been the source of his current troubles.

And most assuredly, Murray’s jailing has precisely nothing to do with his argument – one that might explain why the jury was so unconvinced by the prosecution case – that Salmond was actually the victim of a high-level plot by senior politicians at Holyrood to discredit him and prevent his return to the forefront of Scottish politics. The intention, says Murray, was to deny Salmond the chance to take on London and make a serious case for independence, and thereby expose the SNP’s increasing lip service to that cause.

Relentless attack

Murray has been a thorn in the side of the British establishment for nearly two decades. Now they have found a way to lock him up just as they have Assange, as well as tie Murray up potentially for years in legal battles that risk bankrupting him as he seeks to clear his name.

And given his extremely precarious health – documented in detail to the court – his imprisonment further risks turning eight months into a life sentence. Murray nearly died from a pulmonary embolism 17 years ago when he was last under such relentless attack from the British establishment. His health has not improved since.

At that time, in the early 2000s, in the run-up to, and early stages of, the invasion of Iraq, Murray effectively exposed the complicity of fellow British diplomats – their preference to turn a blind eye to the abuses sanctioned by their own government and its corrupt and corrupting alliance with the US.

Later, when Washington’s “extraordinary rendition” – state kidnapping – programme came to light, as well as its torture regime at places like Abu Ghraib, the spotlight should have turned to the failure of diplomats to speak out. Unlike Murray, they refused to turn whistleblower. They provided cover to the illegality and barbarism.

For his pains, Murray was smeared by Tony Blair’s government as, among other things, a sexual predator – charges a Foreign Office investigation eventually cleared him of. But the damage was done, with Murray forced out. A commitment to moral and legal probity was clearly incompatible with British foreign policy objectives.

Murray had to reinvent his career, and he did so through a popular blog. He has applied the same dedication to truth-telling and commitment to the protection of human rights in his journalism – and has again run up against equally fierce opposition from the British establishment.

Two-tier journalism

The most glaring, and disturbing, legal innovation in Lady Dorrian’s ruling against Murray – and the main reason he is heading to prison – is her decision to divide journalists into two classes: those who work for approved corporate media outlets, and those like Murray who are independent, often funded by readers rather than paid big salaries by billionaires or the state.

According to Lady Dorrian, licensed, corporate journalists are entitled to legal protections she denied to unofficial and independent journalists like Murray – the very journalists who are most likely to take on governments, criticise the legal system, and expose the hypocrisy and lies of the corporate media.

In finding Murray guilty of so-called “jigsaw identification”, Lady Dorrian did not make a distinction between what Murray wrote about the Salmond case and what approved, corporate journalists wrote.

That is for good reason. Two surveys have shown that most of those following the Salmond trial who believe they identified one or more of his accusers did so from the coverage of the corporate media, especially the BBC. Murray’s writings appear to have had very little impact on the identification of any of the accusers. Among named individual journalists, Dani Garavelli, who wrote about the trial for Scotland on Sunday and the London Review of Books, was cited 15 times more often by respondents than Murray as helping them to identify Salmond’s accusers.

Rather, Lady Dorrian’s distinction was between who gets protected when identification occurs. Write for the Times or the Guardian, or broadcast on the BBC, where the audience reach is enormous, and the courts will protect you from prosecution. Write about the same issues for a blog, and you risk being hounded into prison.

In fact, the legal basis of “jigsaw identification” – one could argue the whole point of it – is that it accrues dangerous powers to the state. It gives permission for the legal establishment to arbitrarily decide which piece of the supposed jigsaw is to be counted as identification. If the BBC’s Kirsty Wark includes a piece of the jigsaw, it does not count as identification in the eyes of the court. If Murray or another independent journalist offers a different piece of the jigsaw, it does count. The obvious ease with which this principle can be abused by the establishment to oppress and silence dissident journalists should not need underscoring.

And yet this is no longer Lady Dorrian’s ruling alone. In refusing to hear Murray’s appeal, the UK supreme court has offered its blessing to this same dangerous, two-tiered classification.

Credentialed by the state

What Lady Dorrian has done is to overturn traditional views of what constitutes journalism: that it is a practice that at its very best is designed to hold the powerful to account, and that anyone who engages in such work is doing journalism, whether or not they are typically thought of as a journalist.

That idea was obvious until quite recently. When social media took off, one of the gains trumpeted even by the corporate media was the emergence of a new kind of “citizen journalist”. At that stage, corporate media believed that these citizen journalists would become cheap fodder, providing on-the-ground, local stories they alone would have access to and that only the establishment media would be in a position to monetise. This was precisely the impetus for the Guardian’s “Comment is Free” section, which in its early incarnation allowed a varied selection of people with specialist knowledge or information to provide the paper with articles for free to increase the paper’s sales and advertising rates.

The establishment’s attitude to citizen journalists, and the Guardian’s to the “Comment is Free” model, only changed when these new journalists started to prove hard to control, and their work often highlighted, inadvertently or otherwise, the inadequacies, deceptions and double standards of the corporate media.

Now, Lady Dorrian has put the final nail in the coffin of citizen journalism. She has declared through her ruling that she and other judges will be the ones to decide who is considered a journalist and thereby who receives legal protections for their work. This is a barely concealed way for the state to license or “credentialise” journalists. It turns journalism into a professional guild with only official, corporate journalists safe from legal retribution by the state.

If you are an unapproved, uncredentialed journalist, you can be jailed, as Murray is being, on a similar legal basis to the imprisonment of someone who carries out a surgical operation without the necessary qualifications. But whereas the law against charlatan surgeons is there to protect the public, to stop unnecessary harm being inflicted on the sick, Lady Dorrian’s ruling will serve a very different purpose: to protect the state from the harm caused by the exposure of its secret or most malign practices by trouble-making, sceptical – and now largely independent – journalists.

Journalism is being corralled back into the exclusive control of the state and billionaire-owned corporations. It may not be surprising that corporate journalists, keen to hold on to their jobs, are consenting through their silence to this all-out assault on journalism and free speech. After all, this is a kind of protectionism – additional job security – for journalists employed by a corporate media that has no real intention to challenge the powerful.

But what is genuinely shocking is that this dangerous accretion of further power to the state and its allied corporate class is being backed implicitly by the journalists’ union, the NUJ. It has kept quiet over the many months of attacks on Murray and the widespread efforts to discredit him for his reporting. The NUJ has made no significant noise about Lady Dorrian’s creation of two classes of journalists – state-approved and unapproved – or about her jailing of Murray on these grounds.

But the NUJ has gone further. Its leaders have publicly washed their  hands of Murray by excluding him from membership of the union, even while its officials have conceded that he should qualify. The NUJ has become as complicit in the hounding of a journalist as Murray’s fellow diplomats once were for his hounding as an ambassador. This is a truly shameful episode in the NUJ’s history.

Free speech criminalised

But more dangerous still, Lady Dorrian’s ruling is part of a pattern in which the political, judicial and media establishments have colluded to narrow the definition of what counts as journalism, to exclude anything beyond the pap that usually passes for journalism in the corporate media.

Murray has been one of the few journalists to report in detail the arguments made by Assange’s legal team in his extradition hearings. Noticeably in both the Assange and Murray cases, the presiding judge has limited the free speech protections traditionally afforded to journalism and has done so by restricting who qualifies as a journalist. Both cases have been frontal assaults on the ability of certain kinds of journalists – those who are free from corporate or state pressure – to cover important political stories, effectively criminalising independent journalism. And all this has been achieved by sleight of hand.

In Assange’s case, Judge Vanessa Baraitser largely assented to US claims that what the Wikileaks founder had done was espionage rather than journalism. The Obama administration had held off prosecuting Assange because it could not find a distinction in law between his legal right to publish evidence of US war crimes and the New York Times and the Guardian’s right to publish the same evidence, provided to them by Wikileaks. If the US administration prosecuted Assange, it would also need to prosecute the editors of those papers.

Donald Trump’s officials bypassed that problem by creating a distinction between “proper” journalists, employed by corporate outlets that oversee and control what is published, and “bogus” journalists, those independents not subject to such oversight and pressures.

Trump’s officials denied Assange the status of journalist and publisher and instead treated him as a spy who colluded with and assisted whistleblowers. That supposedly voided the free speech protections he constitutionally enjoyed. But, of course, the US case against Assange was patent nonsense. It is central to the work of investigative journalists to “collude” with and assist whistleblowers. And spies squirrel away the information provided to them by such whistleblowers, they do not publicise it to the world, as Assange did.

Notice the parallels with Murray’s case.

Judge Baraitser’s approach to Assange echoed the US one: that only approved, credentialed journalists enjoy the protection of the law from prosecution; only approved, credentialed journalists have the right to free speech (should they choose to exercise it in newsrooms beholden to state or corporate interests). Free speech and the protection of the law, Baraitser implied, no longer chiefly relate to the legality of what is said, but to the legal status of who says it.

A similar methodology has been adopted by Lady Dorrian in Murray’s case. She has denied him the status of a journalist, and instead classified him as some kind of “improper” journalist, or blogger. As with Assange, there is an implication that “improper” or “bogus” journalists are such an exceptional threat to society that they must be stripped of the normal legal protections of free speech.

“Jigsaw identification” – especially when allied to sexual assault allegations, involving women’s rights and playing into the wider, current obsession with identity politics – is the perfect vehicle for winning widespread consent for the criminalisation of the free speech of critical journalists.

Corporate media shackles

There is an even bigger picture that should be hard to miss for any honest journalist, corporate or otherwise. What Lady Dorrian and Judge Baraitser – and the establishment behind them – are trying to do is put the genie back in the bottle. They are trying to reverse a trend that over more than a decade has seen a small but growing number of journalists use new technology and social media to liberate themselves from the shackles of the corporate media and tell truths audiences were never supposed to hear.

Don’t believe me? Consider the case of Guardian and Observer journalist Ed Vulliamy. In his book Flat Earth News, Vulliamy’s colleague at the Guardian, Nick Davies, tells the story of how Roger Alton, editor of the Observer at the time of the Iraq war, and a credentialed, licensed journalist if ever there was one, sat on one of the biggest stories in the paper’s history for months on end.

In late 2002, Vulliamy, a veteran and much trusted reporter, persuaded Mel Goodman, a former senior CIA official who still had security clearance at the agency, to go on record that the CIA knew there were no WMD in Iraq – the pretext for an imminent and illegal invasion of that country. As many suspected, the US and British governments had been telling lies to justify a coming war of aggression against Iraq, and Vulliamy had a key source to prove it.

But Alton spiked this earth-shattering story and then refused to publish another six versions written by an increasingly exasperated Vulliamy over the next few months, as war loomed. Alton was determined to keep the story out of the news. Back in 2002 it only took a handful of editors – all of whom had risen through the ranks for their discretion, nuance and careful “judgment” – to make sure some kinds of news never reached their readers.

Social media has changed such calculations. Vulliamy’s story could not be quashed so easily today. It would leak out, precisely through a high-profile independent journalist like Assange or Murray. Which is why such figures are so critically important to a healthy and informed society – and why they, and a few others like them, are gradually being disappeared. The cost of allowing independent journalists to operate freely, the establishment has understood, is far too high.

First, all independent, unlicensed journalism was lumped in as “fake news”. With that as the background, social media corporations were able to collude with so-called legacy media corporations to algorithm independent journalists into oblivion. And now independent journalists are being educated about what fate is likely to befall them should they try to emulate Assange or Murray.

Asleep at the wheel

In fact, while corporate journalists have been asleep at the wheel, the British establishment has been preparing to widen the net to criminalise all journalism that seeks to seriously hold power to account. A recent government consultation document calling for a more draconian crackdown on what is being deceptively termed “onward disclosure” – code for journalism – has won the backing of Home Secretary Priti Patel. The document implicitly categorises journalism as little different from espionage and whistleblowing.

In the wake of the consultation paper, the Home Office has called on parliament to consider “increased maximum sentences” for offenders – that is, journalists – and ending the distinction “between espionage and the most serious unauthorised disclosures”. The government’s argument is that “onward disclosures” can create “far more serious damage” than espionage and so should be treated similarly. If accepted, any public interest defence – the traditional safeguard for journalists – will be muted.

Anyone who followed the Assange hearings last summer – which excludes most journalists in the corporate media – will notice strong echoes of the arguments made by the US for extraditing Assange, arguments conflating journalism with espionage that were largely accepted by Judge Baraitser.

None of this has come out of the blue. As the online technology publication The Register noted back in 2017, the Law Commission was at the time considering “proposals in the UK for a swingeing new Espionage Act that could jail journalists as spies”. It said such an act was being “developed in haste by legal advisers”.

It is quite extraordinary that two investigative journalists – one a long-term, former member of staff at the Guardian – managed to write an entire article in that paper this month on the government consultation paper and not mention Assange once. The warning signs have been there for the best part of a decade but corporate journalists have refused to notice them. Similarly, it is no coincidence that Murray’s plight has also not registered on the corporate media’s radar.

Assange and Murray are the canaries in the coal mine for the growing crackdown on investigative journalism and on efforts to hold executive power to account. There is, of course, ever less of that being done by the corporate media, which may explain why corporate outlets appear not only relaxed about the mounting political and legal climate against free speech and transparency but have been all but cheering it on.

In the Assange and Murray cases, the British state is carving out for itself a space to define what counts as legitimate, authorised journalism – and journalists are colluding in this dangerous development, if only through their silence. That collusion tells us a great deal about the mutual interests of the corporate political and legal establishments, on the one hand, and the corporate media establishment on the other.

Assange and Murray are not only telling us troubling truths we are not supposed to hear. The fact that they are being denied solidarity by those who are their colleagues, those who may be next in the firing line, tells us everything we need to know about the so-called mainstream media: that the role of corporate journalists is to serve establishment interests, not challenge them.

The post Craig Murray’s jailing is the latest move in a battle to snuff out independent journalism first appeared on Dissident Voice.

When Questioning Popular Opinion is Prohibited

Once upon a time a new class of people emerged. They were scholars and elitists, ‘special people,’ well ensconced in academia, politics, economics and military intelligence. They righteously demanded eradication of current norms and established ways of being. They insisted that prevailing antiquated inferior practices be replaced with new better ways of living. This required a purging of the old system by any means necessary. Accordingly, those who dissented were either re-indoctrinated, thrown in jail, exiled to other lands or done away with.

These notable visionaries pontificated a whole new outlook on life. Society will prosper! The masses will flourish! There will be no class! We are one!

Eventually, with reluctance or zeal everyone got on board with all the life affirming rhetoric. Well, except for those few unsavory stragglers who were always throwing in a wrench by daring to question the ruling thought system. To adequately manage these problematic skeptics a committee of the purest of the pure, the moral gatekeepers if you will, devised a game plan.

Appealing to the collective quest for power and belonging, the committee ventured forth with teasing out who was aligned and who deviated from partisan loyalty. Some good old fashioned spying would do the trick! Most important, they had to concoct a strategy to nullify those pesky beliefs that sullied right thinking.

To diminish ideological impurities the committee established an auxiliary sub-committee. In charge of assembling and broadcasting interesting and distracting stuff that would encourage agreement amongst the multitudes, the sub-committee culled and re-culled all sorts of stories! With unified intent they agreed that by playing to the collective instinctual need for tribal belonging and highlighting the ethos of upward mobility while simultaneously igniting fear, all-encompassing compliance would be ensured.

Harking back to unconscious reminders of the ‘primal horde’ and raising hopes and fears, proved to be a revolutionary form of thought control. The committee and sub-committee were very pleased. The campaign was so persuasive that without a hitch, it incited the common folk to evince an onslaught of aggression towards those who persisted in thinking for themselves. In fact, it was recognized as their moral and civic duty!

Indeed, this ‘us versus them’ strategy worked beautifully, but there was still more to be done to guarantee complacency. To offset the irritating concerns with the recent unavoidable interruption of economic activity, needs had to be gratified. Hence, with the sanction of Executive Order everyone in the land received monetary incentives. These social safety nets allowed folks to stay home, insulated from the dangers in the world while being entertained in the comfort of their living rooms!

Naturally just in case, a contingency plan was devised.

“Should all else fail,” the committee members concurred, “we will simply raise taxes or go to war to pillage the resources of some unsuspecting nation… for the purpose of humanitarian intervention of course!”

Hence, with the populace sufficiently dutiful and distracted, the rulers in charge got to the important work of brainstorming and changing the world.

Of course, this Kafkaesque allegory is a simplified account of historical trends. It is a repetitive reality that all forms of government irrespective of ideology, are ultimately reducible to the rule of a few global elitists. Likewise, the mass dissemination of a collectively revered ideology accompanied by the manipulation of information has always been standard procedure whenever power has been transferred from one elite class to another.

For instance, when we examine the French revolution, and the Bolshevik’s Russian revolution it’s clear how goals of reform formulated by select elites, drove the movements. These elitist intellectuals introduced a new doctrine that appealed to the people and catalyzed rebellion against the monarchy and the aristocracy.

Revisiting the onset of the French Revolution (1789), reveals the emergence of a new class which had great wealth but no political power. This new class wanted wealth and power, but the monarch class (royalty) refused to share power because of the historic notion that it was their inherent Divine right to rule. This dilemma ignited mutiny.

The monarchy was brought down and a new ruling class known as the Bourgeoisie (middle class) was established. We see a similar trajectory (1917) during the first World War when the Russian Monarch was also brought down by the elite class known as the Bolsheviks.

In both revolutions the violent seizure of power required the support, or at the very least the compliance of the citizenry. Naturally this meant that the throngs were seduced with proclamations of unbridled freedoms. Eventually however, public opinion was policed and injurious speech became a criminal offense subject to execution. Traitors were to be exposed and annihilated.

Accordingly, the Reign of Terror, under the leadership of Maximilien Robespierre, achieved their political goals through executing enemies of the revolution. Euphemistically referred to as the Committee of Public Safety, this powerful war council leveled extreme measures to protect the security of the new regime.

Similarly, the Bolshevik’s Red Terror emulated the Reign of Terror. The removal of state enemies entailed the imprisonment of hundreds of thousands of suspected subversives, many who were tortured and executed. Any hint of opposition signified guilt.

Like their predecessors, contemporary elites who possess comparatively greater power and influence within institutions, organizations, and movements engineer decisive political outcomes. In this age of advanced technology, these architects of group indoctrination are members of a powerful superclass. They determine foreign policy, run the government, industry, and the worlds of finance and media. How they mobilize their influence has tremendous bearing not just on the collective mindset, but also on morality.

Charismatic leaders and celebrities are enlisted by these global elitists to promote prescriptive beliefs and agendas. Our susceptibility to aggrandizing and mythologizing of high-ranking people and eminent personalities, who by the way are no more capable than the average person of assuming a political role or declaring scientific expertise, sways us to adapt and conform.

Social psychologist Gustave Le Bon (1895 / The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind) explained how the collective group mind yields to instincts, resulting in a singular mindset. This phenomenon eradicates individual critical thought and makes ‘subordinate’ members of the group malleable to indoctrination and suggestion by powerful leaders.

Sigmund Freud’s nephew Edward Bernays, who achieved acclaim as the “father of public relations” due to his masterful understanding of the psychological workings of propaganda, expanded on Le Bon’s ideas. His writings about how collective collusion with a dominant ideology encapsulated the principle, “if you are not for us, then you must be against us.”

Le Bon and Bernays analysis of the mob mentality is evidenced in the aggressive posturing of political correctness and cancel culture. Through the daily utilization of identification with race, class, gender, religion, nationality and political ideology, special interest groups and the elite corporate media shape the group mind. Carefully crafted campaigns uphold imperialist values, state sponsored violence and incontestable lockdowns.

By championing shaming and cruelty, under the guise of moral superiority, folks submit to the will of the group. This incites boycotts, marred reputations, social ostracism and destroyed livelihoods. In the spirit of moral relativism, it’s all chalked up to ‘the greater good’.

Consequently, we are distracted by what we are instructed to align with, oblivious to the machinations of corporate interests and motives disguised as humanitarian intervention.

Attempts to think for oneself in accordance with a personal moral code, or even factual information is met with an onslaught of aggression.

Still, there will always be those few non-conformists who oppose the ruling thought system. They are the subversives, the whistle-blowers, the conspiracy theorists. (Julian Assange, Martin Luther King, Karen Silkwood, Frank Serpico, Kathryn Bolkovac, Edward Snowden, Gary Webb, Berta Cáceres. The list goes on.) As freedom of expression is restricted to the overriding popular opinion, their controversial views are squelched and the Orwellian corruption of language and thought ensues.

As Edward Snowden endeavored to reveal, the National Security Agency (NSA) in direct violation of the 4th amendment, engages in warrantless surveillance of large volumes of Americans’ phone content and e-mail messages. Agents within the National Security Agency (NSA), have anonymously told the New York Times that the spy agency monitors millions of e-mail communications and telephone calls made by Americans.

This infringement on private communication continues to take on new meaning as government officials are working directly with Facebook to limit the spread of “misinformation.” The escalation of censorship under another name (i.e., managing domestic terrorism and disinformation) appears virtuous. Even while the Biden administration recently moved to shut down the websites of 33 foreign media outlets, it was spun as security protection, not an obvious attack on the 1st amendment.

Nevertheless, being spoon fed questionable narratives through mass deception campaigns dubbed as journalism is nothing new. Instituted in the early 1950s, the Mockingbird Project revealed the CIA’s involvement with major US news media. Through bribing journalists and publishers, propaganda was peddled to the masses. Acclaimed Watergate Reporter Carl Bernstein wrote a piece in 1977 for Rolling Stone magazine, “The CIA and the Media” in which he imparted, that since the early 1950’s the CIA “secretly bankrolled numerous foreign press services, periodicals and newspapers, both English and foreign language which provided excellent cover for CIA operatives.”

Now with six corporations controlling 90 per cent of media outlets in the U.S. (AT&T, CBS, Comcast, Disney, News Corp and Viacom) it’s not a huge surprise that the press has acclimated to the expectations of these corporatized media giants.

In fact, a survey by the Pew Research Center and the Columbia Journalism Review in 2000 found, “Self-censorship is commonplace in the news media today…. About one-quarter of the local and national journalists say they have purposely avoided newsworthy stories, while nearly as many acknowledge they have softened the tone of stories to benefit the interests of their news organizations. Fully four in ten (41%) admit they have engaged in either or both of these practices.”

Capitalizing on survival fears the government sponsored corporatized media bans, persecutes and censors those who deviate from popular opinion. Oppositional views are vilified, in effect muzzling those who question popular narratives. Regrettably many take the bait and participate in random emotionally charged exchanges that culminate in a mob mentality and a snitch culture. Aggressive social norms quickly take hold as hateful communication infiltrates a throng of followers. Competitive rancor and righteous indignation usurps the possibility of rational discourse when group shaming is exalted as a noble feat.

Ironically the proverbial silver lining is that eventually it all self destructs. Elitists and the masses end up fighting amongst themselves, maligning each other for not measuring up to fanatical purity tests.

As Plato conveyed in The Republic, mediocrity is our hubris and our demise. It is what brings down all systems.

Plato also imparted that those who know how to govern, ‘The Philosopher Kings’, are the wise, just elders who through debating and resolving with dialogue and intellect, contribute to mankind’s evolution. They are capable of upholding George Orwell’s interpretation of liberty as “the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”

Indeed it is only when we have the freedom to choose and think for oneself that true morality can flourish. Until then forbidden perspectives will continue to go underground. Regrettably, that which could benefit from examination will not only remain hidden, it is destined to quietly foment into backlash and dissent waiting to erupt.

  • First published at Dialogue & Discourse.
  • The post When Questioning Popular Opinion is Prohibited first appeared on Dissident Voice.

    The Crisis in Tunisia

    On July 25, 2021, Tunisian President Kais Saied dismissed Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi, froze the parliament, suspended the legal immunity of parliament members and took control of the general prosecutor’s office. He warned against any armed response to his actions: “Whoever shoots a bullet, the armed forces will respond with bullets.” In the hours after Saied’s announcement, huge crowds gathered in his support in Tunis and other cities, while the military blocked off the parliament and state television station.

    The popularity of Saied’s decisions stems from the legitimate anger of Tunisians against their country’s parliament, which has become very unpopular. When the president sacked the health minister after a botched handling of vaccine walk-in centres and ordered the army to take control of the pandemic response, popular protests took place against the government, culminating in the present-day power shifts. These conjunctural changes are embedded in a structural framework which has permanently characterized Tunisia after 2011.

    Neoliberalism

    On December 17, 2010, Mohamed Bouazizi – a Tunisian street vendor – set himself on fire following yet another instance of harassment and humiliation at the hands of local police and municipal officials.  Within hours of his self-immolation, protests began erupting across the town, rapidly gathering pace and spreading outwards to other urban centres. Bouazizi’s death was long and agonizing; when he finally died on January 4, 2011, the conflagration sparked by his act roared into the national capital. In a matter of days, dictator Ben Ali was forced into exile.

    Tunisia’s people did not only oppose the political authoritarianism of the Ali administration, but also the neoliberal policies under his rule which created massive inequality, unemployment and widespread misery. The ruling elites completely ignored the latter dimension, choosing to impose further neoliberalism in the aftermath of the revolution. Tunisia’s current ruling party, the Islamist Ennahda, garnered votes as it had been outlawed under the Ali regime. Many people perceived it as revolutionary.

    However, governments led by Ennahda implemented free market reforms in return for loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Fuel subsidy cuts, price rises and the dismantlement of public sector hiring synchronized with the enrichment of the bourgeoisie. Now, 10 years after the revolution, the rate of unemployment in Tunisia is nearly 18%. Max Ajl, Bassam Haddad, and Zeinab Abul-Magd note:

    The state has absorbed the political effects of mass immiseration, distributing subsidies to popular classes to absorb social unease. Its primary role has been to contain the discontent by the carrot of subsidies and the stick of state violence while serving as a mechanism for increasing integration of Tunisia into the international division of labor: by increasing subjugation to the global law of value through currency devaluation, deepening trade agreements with the EU [European Union], and opening agriculture for foreign investment…Unrest has intensified. The government has become almost entirely a mechanism for ever-continuing accumulation.

    Caesarism

    Tunisian society – like any other society – is a totality structured in dominance. Among the various structural instances, one instance will have the dominant role: contradictions at other levels will find themselves displaced to this instance (thereby averting a revolutionary rupture) or many contradictions may become condensed in this instance (producing the possibility of a revolutionary rupture). The dominant instance will vary according to the social formation, but in all cases its role is determined – in the last instance – by the economy. In other words, the economy often exercises its effects indirectly by determining the specific efficacy of other instances.

    Saied’s victory in the October 2019 presidential election displaced the economic limits of Tunisia’s post-revolutionary system to the level of politics. Disillusioned with the dysfunctional rules of status quo, Tunisians elected someone who sought to portray himself as an anti-politician. Running as an independent and nicknamed “Robocop” for his stern, monotonous character, Saied promised to crack down on corruption among the political class. His anti-corruption discourse steadily morphed into a wide-ranging narrative of anti-systemic populism; a desire for greater power soon made itself felt.

    In April 2021, Saied declared, “The president is the supreme commander of the military and civilian armed forces. Let this matter be clear to all Tunisians”. A month later, Middle East Eye revealed the existence of a secret document, in which the president’s advisers invited him to carry out a “constitutional coup”. Thus, from the beginning, Saied’s presidency had the character of what Antonio Gramsci called “Caesarism” – a phenomenon in which an individual breaks the stasis in a socio-economic system by operating as an equilibrating factor between classes, demagogically representing the interests of the subaltern masses. Gramsci elaborates:

    [T]he content is the crisis of the ruling class’s hegemony, which occurs either because the ruling class has failed in some major political undertaking for which it has requested, or forcibly extracted, the consent of the broad masses (war, for example), or because huge masses (especially of peasants and petit-bourgeois intellectuals) have passed suddenly from a state of political passivity to a certain activity, and put forward demands which taken together, albeit not organically formulated, add up to a revolution…The traditional ruling class, which has numerous trained cadres, changes men and programmes and, with greater speed than is achieved by the subordinate classes, reabsorbs the control that was slipping from its grasp. Perhaps it may make sacrifices, and expose itself to an uncertain future by demagogic promises; but it retains power, reinforces it for the time being, and uses it to crush its adversary and disperse his leading cadres, who cannot be very numerous or highly trained … When the crisis does not find this organic solution, but that of the charismatic leader, it means that a static equilibrium exists (whose factors may be disparate, but in which the decisive one is the immaturity of the progressive forces); it means that no group, neither the conservatives nor the progressives, has the strength for victory, and that even the conservative group needs a master.

    In Tunisia, the hegemonic capacities of the post-2011 historical bloc gradually weakened as a neoliberal orientation came to be eagerly embraced by both Islamist and secularist political forces. The sporadic and inorganic nature of popular movements proved incapable in radically superseding this moribund conjuncture. Hence, Tunisians were gifted with Saied, who overcame the impasse by unleashing the Caesarist logic of delegation to a strongman. His ideological project has ended up with the current events, wherein Tunisians have been demobilized through a reconfiguration of the political arena. What should be the attitude of progressive sectors toward these transformations?

    The leftist Workers’ Party of Tunisia (PCT) released a statement on July 26, 2021, condemning Saied’s moves and calling them a violation of the constitution. While acknowledging that the government has led the country into a deep economic crisis, PCT stated that Saied’s actions are not a solution to the problems facing the people as they threaten the country’s young democracy and have “launched a path towards re-establishing the system of absolute autocracy again.” The party has asserted that the way out of the crisis is “the work of the Tunisian people to establish a popular democracy based on the civil state, the power in the hands of the people, with sovereignty over the country’s capacities, resources and independent political decisions, and social justice and equality among all men and women.”

    The post The Crisis in Tunisia first appeared on Dissident Voice.

    The CDC revokes PCR testing. What does that say about the Covid count?

    Please allow me to introduce a brief recap before I get to the latest news. I’ve already told you how and why the Covid rules make no sense and should not be trusted. Click here to read more. I also explained how Covid deaths are counted using vague criteria like “may have been caused by” or “was likely a result of COVID-19 or COVID-19-like symptoms.” Click here to read more. 

    More recently, I highlighted a study (pre-published in the journal, Hospital Pediatrics) that reported hospitalization rates “greatly overestimate the true burden of COVID-19 disease in children.” Summing up, the study’s authors logically noted that their findings clearly illustrate the need to perform similar retrospective chart reviews for COVID-19-coded adult hospitalizations and overall mortality. Click here to read about that. 

    Then came the very recent news that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) will “withdraw the request to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) of the CDC 2019-Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Real-Time RT-PCR Diagnostic Panel, the assay first introduced in February 2020 for detection of SARS-CoV-2 only” as of December 31, 2021.

    PCR (polymerase chain reaction) has been the official test of choice for Covid. Its failings as a test have become the source of the outrageous statistics that continue to scare us into submission. This includes dramatically over-counting Covid cases and dramatically undercounting flu cases. According to the World Health Organization, the flu seems to have magically disappeared. There were about 38,000,000 reported cases during the 2019-2020 flu season. In 2020-21, the number was 1,822. Sure, a small dip might be expected due to Covid mitigation tactics. But virtually every single case? Is it not rational to wonder how many flu cases and deaths have been incorrectly added to the Covid lists? (For context, there were 34,200 flu-related deaths in the U.S. in 2019-20 but the yearly flu-death average ranges from 12,000 to 61,000 deaths.)

    Skeptics questioned the validity of the PCR (in the context of Covid) from day one. More importantly, the creator of the test — the late Kary B. Mullis, who won a Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his PCR work — was quite outspoken on the topic: “This man thinks you can take a blood sample and stick it in an electron microscope and if it’s got a virus in there, you will know it. He doesn’t understand electron microscopy and he doesn’t understand medicine. He should not be in a position like he’s in.”

    The man Mullis was talking about is a five-decades-and-running unelected technocrat who is the highest paid out of all four million federal employees (earning $417,608 — an annual salary higher than that of the president) and runs a government department with a budget over $6 billion.

    Yep, you guessed it. Mullis was talking about Tony Fauci. Fauci holds no advanced degrees in molecular biology or biochemistry. He is not a virologist. The highly decorated and celebrated Mullis was hip to Fauci and would frequently challenge him to public debates. Fauci never accepted. Sadly, Mullis died shortly before this latest pandemic. We could’ve used his voice of reason amidst the political pandering and science-as-religion fervor. 

    According to Mullis, bureaucrats like Fauci have a “personal kind of agenda. They make up their own rules as they go. They change them when they want to.” Furthermore, “Tony Fauci does not mind going on television in front of the people, face out, and lie directly into the camera.” 

    He doesn’t understand electron microscopy and he doesn’t understand medicine.”

    Please allow me to introduce another recap. False numbers — like the Covid deaths and cases count — have been used to impose deadly lockdowns upon us. They have also been the driving force behind a massive campaign to vaccinate billions with experimental gene therapy. For 16 months and counting, we’ve been conditioned to fear a virus based on numbers: cases and deaths.

    You may think knowing the exact numbers doesn’t matter. You may think it’s heinous or “anti-science” for anyone to even question the official count. If that’s what you’re feeling right now, I invite you to explain your perspective to some of the humans impacted by the lockdowns, e.g.

    • 72 million children pushed into illiteracy
    • The famine-stricken residents of Yemen, South Sudan, Burkina Faso, and northeastern Nigeria
    • 9.3 million wasted and 2.6 million stunted children
    • 15 million girls and women now dealing with unintended pregnancies
    • 13 million girls who might be forced into child marriages
    • 2 million girls enduring genital mutilation without campaigns in place to protect them
    • All the Japanese women caught up in an 83 percent increase in suicide
    • 10,000 additional children dying each month from hunger

    The numbers matter immensely but very few people seem to want to hear anything that challenges their acceptance of the “official” narrative (or their beloved Dr. Fauci). Every time you mock or ignore well-documented writing on this topic, you are showing ZERO concern for the tens of millions whose lives have been devastated thanks to lies and propaganda. 

    If you’re going to mourn those who died from Covid, you must also grieve for the tens of millions more who have been callously left to suffer and die by the disproportionate lockdowns based on woefully flawed data. Perhaps the best way you can honor such horrific, ongoing, and unnecessary losses would be to finally start questioning everything you are being told — especially if it comes from the mouth of Tony Fauci. I strongly suggest you give it a try…

    The post The CDC revokes PCR testing. What does that say about the Covid count? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

    “New Form” of Ice Cream “Terrorism”: How Ben & Jerry’s has Exposed Israel’s anti-BDS Strategy

    Ben & Jerry’s decision to suspend its operations in the occupied Palestinian West Bank is an event that is proving critical to Palestinian efforts, which ultimately aim at holding Israel accountable for its military occupation, apartheid and war crimes.

    By responding to the Palestinian call for boycotting apartheid Israel, the ice cream giant has delivered a blow to Israel’s attempts at criminalizing and, ultimately, ending the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.

    What differentiates Ben & Jerry’s decision to abandon the ever-growing market of illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank from previous decisions by other international corporations is the fact that the ice cream company has made it clear that its move was morally motivated. Indeed, Ben & Jerry’s did not attempt to mask or delude their decision in any way. “We believe it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” a statement by the Vermont, US-based company read on July 19.

    Expectedly, the Israeli government was infuriated by the decision, especially as it comes after years of a well-funded, state-sponsored, global campaign to discredit, demonize and altogether outlaw the BDS movement and any similar initiatives that aimed at boycotting Israel.

    For years, the Israeli government has viewed the boycott movement as a real, tangible threat. Some Israeli officials went as far as perceiving the ‘delegitimization’ resulting from the boycott campaign as the primary threat faced by Israel at the present time. Well attended conferences were held in Las Vegas, Brussels, Jerusalem and elsewhere, hundreds of millions of dollars raised, fiery speeches delivered, while politicians and ‘philanthropists’ lined up at many occasions, vowing their undying allegiance to Israel and accusing anyone who dare criticize the ‘Jewish State’ as ‘antisemitic’.

    However, Israel’s biggest challenge was, and remains, its near complete reliance on the support of self-serving politicians. True, those ‘friends of Israel’ can be quite helpful in formulating laws that, for example, falsely equate between criticizing Israel and antisemitism, or render the act of boycott illegal, and so on. In fact, many US states and European parliaments have bowed down to Israeli pressure to criminalize the BDS movement and its supporters, whether in the realm of business or even at the level of civil society and individuals. All of this is amounting to very little.

    Additionally, Israel doubled down on its attempts to control the narrative in mainstream media, in academia and wherever the anti-Israeli occupation debate proved to be consequential. Through a Kafkaesque, and often bizarre logic, Israel and its supporters deliberately misinterpreted the IHRA definition of antisemitism, applying it at every platform where criticism of Israel or its Zionist ideology is found. The reckless Israeli dialectics was, sadly – albeit predictably – embraced by many of Israel’s Western benefactors, including US, Canada and Italy, among others.

    Yet, none of this has ended or even slowed down the momentum of the Palestinian boycott movement. This fact should hardly come as a surprise, for boycott movements are fundamentally designed to circumvent governmental control and to place pressure on politicians, state and corporate apparatuses, so that they may heed the calls of civil society. Thus, the more Israel attempts to use its allies to illegalize, delegitimize and suppress dissent, the more it actually fuels it.

    The above is the secret of the BDS success and Israel’s very Achilles’ heel. By ignoring the boycott campaign, the movement grows exponentially; and by fighting it, using traditional means and predictable language, it grows even faster.

    In order to appreciate Tel Aviv’s unsolvable quandary, just marvel at this odd response, which was offered by top Israeli officials in response to Ben & Jerry’s decision. Israeli Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett, warned the British company that acquired Ben & Jerry’s in 2000, of “severe consequences”, threatening that Israel will take “strong action”, most likely referring to legal action.

    But what was truly strange was the language used by Israeli President, Isaac Herzog, who accused Ben & Jerry’s of participating in “a new form of terrorism”, namely, “economic terrorism”. On July 21, Herzog vowed to fight “this boycott and terrorism in any form”.

    Note how the Israeli response to the continued success of the Palestinian boycott movement remains confined in terms of options and language. Yet on the legal front, most attempts at indicting BDS activists have repeatedly failed, as the recent court rulings in Washington demonstrate. On the other hand, the act of accusing an ice cream company of ‘terrorism’ deserves some serious examination.

    Historically, Israel has situated its anti-Palestinian propaganda war within a handful of redundant terminology, predicated on the claim that Israel is a Jewish and democratic State, the security and very existence of which is constantly being threatened by terrorists and undermined by anti-Semites.

    The above mantra may have succeeded in shielding Israel from criticism and tarnishing Israel’s victims, the Palestinians. However, it is no longer a guarantor of international sympathy and solidarity. Not only is the Palestinian struggle for freedom gaining global traction, but the pro-Israeli discourse is finally discovering its limitations. By calling an ice cream company ‘terrorist’ for simply adhering to international law, Herzog has revealed the growing lack of credibility and absurdity of the official Israeli language.

    But this is not the end of Israel’s problems. Regardless of whether they are branded successful or unsuccessful, all BDS campaigns are equally beneficial in the sense that each campaign kickstarts a conversation that often goes global, as we have seen repeatedly in the past. Airbnb, G4S, and SodaStream, are but a few of many such examples. Any global debate on Israel’s military occupation and apartheid is a BDS success story.

    That said, there is one strategy that will surely end the BDS campaign, and that is ending the Israeli occupation, dismantling the racial system of apartheid and giving Palestinians their freedom as enshrined and protected by international law. Alas, this is the only strategy that Israeli officials are yet to consider.

    The post “New Form” of Ice Cream “Terrorism”: How Ben & Jerry’s has Exposed Israel’s anti-BDS Strategy first appeared on Dissident Voice.