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Suspending Chris Williamson: The Fury And The Fakery

On June 26, the Labour Party lifted the suspension of pro-Corbyn MP Chris Williamson, triggering a maximum effort propaganda blitz designed to reverse the decision.

Williamson had been suspended on February 27, after footage emerged of him responding to claims of institutionalised anti-semitism in the Labour Party. This is what Williamson said:

The party that’s done more to stand up to racism is now being demonised as a racist, bigoted party. I’ve got to say I think our party’s response has been partly responsible for that because in my opinion… we’ve backed off far too much, we’ve given too much ground, we’ve been too apologetic.

He added:

We’ve done more to actually address the scourge of anti-semitism than any other political party, any other political party. And yet we are being traduced.

Anyone watching the film can see that Williamson was passionate about combating the ‘scourge of anti-semitism’, was emphasising his pride in the Labour Party’s historical commitment to that cause and was frustrated by the failure of the Labour leadership to adequately defend that commitment. The blogger Jewish Dissident captured the reality exactly:

Whether one agrees with Chris or not, it’s hard to think of a single comparable instance where an innocuous comment of this sort has led to such a risible media circus, or to such a sustained campaign of personal and political vilification.

The treatment of good old Boris, our next Prime Minister, makes for an interesting contrast. The man who is apparently destined to lead our country has a clear track record of actual, as opposed to bogus, racism and bigotry. He’s the man who has talked about “watermelon smiles” and “piccaninnies”, described women as “hot totty”, professed his inability to distinguish between burka-clad women and letter boxes, and derided gay men as “bumboys”.

Jewish Dissident noted further:

Every single one of Johnson’s vile, bigoted comments has been allowed to pass by the media and the Westminster establishment. Because, after all, it’s just “good old Boris” talking.

And this really is the point – occasional comments and opinion pieces may express revulsion, but propaganda blitzes are not launched at Johnson, with half of his own party and all the opposition party, and all corporate media, shrieking for his head.

Johnson commented on Williamson that it was ‘shameful that Labour have reinstated this key Corbyn ally back into their party after his appalling remarks. We must never allow these apologists for anti-Semitism anywhere near government’.

This warning appeared in an ITV website article that also contained damning criticism from Labour MP Margaret Hodge, Labour MP Stella Creasy, Amanda Bowman, vice president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Gideon Falter, chief executive of Campaign Against Antisemitism, and anti-racism campaign group Hope Not Hate, with three pictured tweets highlighting and repeating their accusations. These six sources were not balanced by a single comment of any kind defending Williamson. This unarguably constitutes a form of extreme propaganda, rather than balanced journalism.

ITV could have turned for a comment to Jewish Voice for Labour, which said it welcomed the lifting of Williamson’s suspension, and criticised the media focus on the MP’s opponents:

There is huge support for Chris within and outside the party and this had not been reflected in the media coverage.

As we have previously noted, a key feature of a propaganda blitz is that accusations are accompanied by expressions of incandescent moral outrage:

The rationale is clear enough: insanity aside, in ordinary life outrage of this kind is usually a sign that someone has good reason to be angry. People generally do not get very angry in the presence of significant doubt. So, the message to the public is that there is no doubt.1

Thus, Labour MP Margaret Hodge, a key Corbyn opponent, said of the decision to lift Williamson’s suspension:

It is appalling, outrageous and unacceptable that he should be allowed back into the party. It’s a cynical move… and we will have Jew haters sitting as Labour MPs under Jeremy Corbyn.

Thus, also, columnist Rod Liddle, who wrote in the Sunday Times under this title:

Unless you’re anti‑semitic, walk away from Labour — it stinks from top to bottom

As we will show below, this is a completely fake claim. In true McCarthyite tradition, Liddle observed that Williamson, who is the democratically elected MP for Derby North, ‘looks, facially – to me at least – like a man called Reinhardt who has just been discovered hiding out in Argentina and might, if you shouted “Heil Hitler”, have great difficulty controlling the actions of his right arm’.

Liddle expressed his revulsion at ‘the fact that the Labour Party nowadays finds Jew-hating an agreeable and potentially vote-winning sideline and is riddled with it, from top to bottom’, concluding:

That Williamson is anti-semitic I have no doubt. But compared with Jeremy Corbyn he is an exemplar of anti-racist progressivism.

At the other end of the supposed media ‘spectrum’, in a piece titled, ‘Of all the hills to die on, why on earth has Labour chosen Chris Williamson?’, Guardian columnist Marina Hyde described Williamson as an ‘annoying prick in a black polo-neck’ who looks like a ‘boil-washed Terence Stamp’. Hyde lamented ‘Williamson’s long history of highly problematic statements’. Significantly, she did not cite from, or link to, any such long, ugly history. Apparently parroting Jon Lansman, Chair of Labour’s Momentum group, Hyde commented:

It’s notable that the returning Williamson didn’t even bother with a non-apology apology.

It’s unlikely that Hyde cared, or even knew, that Williamson had published a long, gracious message in February that began:

A personal message and sincere apology from me regarding my recent remarks on anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.

He added:

On a personal level, I have been an anti-racist all my life. As a former member of the Anti-Nazi League, I participated in direct action to confront foul anti-Semites in the streets… It pains me greatly, therefore, that anyone should believe that it is my intention to minimise the cancerous and pernicious nature of anti-Semitism.

These are not the words of a ‘Jew hater’. In addition to this apology, after he was briefly reinstated to the Labour Party, Williamson reaffirmed his commitment to fighting ‘racism in all its forms’, saying he would like to ‘work in tandem’ with the Board of Deputies of British Jews as ‘allies’.

Our July 4 ProQuest national newspaper search of articles appearing in 2019 found:

Chris Williamson’ and ‘anti-semitism’ = 608 hits

Chris Williamson’ and ‘anti-nazi’ = 5 hits

Examining the results more closely, it turns out that the fact that Williamson literally fought on the streets against anti-semites as part of the Anti-Nazi League has been mentioned twice in UK national newspapers this year.

More than 150 Labour MPs and peers – the infamously pro-war, Blairite section of the party – added to the propaganda blitz by protesting the decision to readmit Williamson in a statement led by the bitterly anti-Corbyn deputy leader Tom Watson.

Also in perfect accordance with our propaganda blitz theory, the propaganda coup de grace was supplied by leftists Owen Jones of the Guardian and Ash Sarkar of the ostensibly ‘alternative’ Novara Media. Williamson’s suspension was lifted on June 26. That day, Sarkar tweeted:

This outcome is indefensible.

On June 27, having presumably missed Williamson’s earlier apology, Jones wrote:

Chris Williamson could always show he’s learned why he’s caused distress and then acted on that: I’m yet to see evidence of it.

One day later, Williamson was suspended again. Jones recently claimed that Williamson ’causes relentless immense damage to the left’.

Asked if he would ‘stand with Chris Williamson’, leftist singer Billy Bragg responded this week:

Can’t do that Daniel. Labour needs to resolve the issue of anti-semitism within the party. Right now Williamson is part of the problem, not the solution.

We asked Bragg what specifically had led him to this conclusion; he did not reply.

Examining Williamson’s ‘Litany Of Unacceptable Behaviour’

Michael Segalov, who is Jewish and a contributing editor at Huck magazine, and who supported Williamson’s original suspension in February, wrote in the Guardian:

When I heard the reports in February about Labour MP Chris Williamson, and the offensive things he’d (once again) said, it was the final straw. The comments Williamson made to a meeting in Sheffield – that when it came to antisemitism, Labour had been “too apologetic” – made me despair. I looked back through each and every example of Williamson’s despicable behaviour: lending his support to a man who defends Holocaust deniers; sharing platforms with the likes of Ken Livingstone when MPs had been specifically asked not to; his support of controversial jazz musician Gilad Atzmon; his frankly disgraceful behaviour in the aftermath of the atrocious Pittsburgh shootings. It was a litany of unacceptable behaviour.

Let’s take a closer look at these apparently damning claims. The accusation that Williamson ‘lent his support to a man who defends Holocaust deniers’ refers to political writer and activist Miko Peled, who is the Jewish son of an Israeli general. Segalov linked to a Guardian article that quoted Peled:

This is about free speech, the freedom to criticise and to discuss every issue, whether it’s the Holocaust: yes or no, Palestine, the liberation, the whole spectrum. There should be no limits on the discussion.

As blogger Number 10 noted:

Peled didn’t actually defend Holocaust deniers, as much as defended the right to debate the issue, on free speech grounds (in the same way e.g. Noam Chomsky has).

In 1980, in a piece titled, ‘Some Elementary Comments on The Rights of Freedom of Expression,’ Chomsky commented that even when dealing with the views of a ‘rabid anti-Semite and fanatic pro-Nazi… this would have no bearing whatsoever on the legitimacy of the defense of his civil rights. On the contrary, it would make it all the more imperative to defend them since… it has been a truism for years, indeed centuries, that it is precisely in the case of horrendous ideas that the right of free expression must be most vigorously defended; it is easy enough to defend free expression for those who require no such defense’. (Our emphasis)

This is a highly principled and very sane position, because denying the right of free expression to genuinely ‘horrendous ideas’ runs the risk of Machiavellians manipulating and extending the definition of ‘horrendous’ to shut down free speech for political gain – exactly what is happening in Britain now. In other words, it lays the foundation for escalating censorship, witch-hunting, and in fact fascism.

As Number 10 commented:

Once again, you can disagree strongly with that notion. But it isn’t *inherently* antisemitic in and of itself.

Indeed, Segalov linked to a Guardian article quoting Peled:

The Holocaust was a terrible crime that we must study and from which we must all learn. I reject the idea that Holocaust deniers, foolish as they may be, should be treated as criminals… If we are to do justice to the memory of the millions of victims of the Holocaust, Jewish and Roma and many, many others, then we must engage in robust debate and education about the causes of current, ongoing violence and injustice.

Segalov also mentioned Williamson sharing a platform with former London mayor Ken Livingstone, who said:

When Hitler won his election in 1932 his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews.

Was this an anti-semitic statement? Jewish political analyst Professor Norman Finkelstein commented:

Livingstone maybe wasn’t precise enough, and lacked nuance. But he does know something about that dark chapter in history… The Nazis considered many “resettlement” schemes – the Jews wouldn’t have physically survived most of them in the long run – before they embarked on an outright exterminatory process. Livingstone is more or less accurate about this – or, as accurate as might be expected from a politician speaking off the cuff.

Former Guardian journalist Jonathan Cook, who is based in Israel, said:

Livingstone’s mistake was both to express himself slackly in the heat of the moment and to refer to a history that was supposed to have been disappeared down the memory hole. But what he is saying is, in essence, true.

Segalov then mentioned Williamson’s ‘support of controversial jazz musician Gilad Atzmon’. But Williamson had already responded on Atzmon last December:

Earlier today I tweeted a petition about an Islington Council ban against the Blockheads performing with their chosen line-up. The council has blocked jazz musician Gilad Atzmon from playing with the group.

Since then I’ve learned that Atzmon, a former Israeli soldier, is not confined to the jazz world. I am told that in various blogs and in speeches he has adopted anti-Semitic language.

I wasn’t aware of this until after I tweeted the petition. As soon as I was informed, I deleted the tweet. I’ve always condemned all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism, and strongly disassociate myself from Atzmon’s anti-Semitic views.

I therefore apologise for tweeting this petition and any distress or offence it may have caused.

Finally, Segalov mentioned Williamson’s ‘frankly disgraceful behaviour in the aftermath of the atrocious Pittsburgh shootings’. The ‘behaviour’ involved Williamson retweeting news that a Jewish organisation relentlessly smearing him and Corbyn as anti-semites had itself been accused of using an ‘anti-semitic trope’. Williamson commented:

Wow, well blow me down with a feather.

The tweet did not comment on the Pittsburgh massacre in any way – it was in reference to a different issue in a different country. British politicians regularly comment on – in fact, lie and dissemble about – countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria on the same days that terrible atrocities occur, which they actually caused by voting for illegal wars. Nobody even notices.

It could be that Williamson is secretly a vicious anti-semite, but this simply cannot be established on the basis of any of the claims currently made against him.

Finkelstein – ‘I Don’t Believe In Conspiracy Theories… But This Is A Conspiracy’

It is important to place the Williamson suspensions in context. This is described with rare honesty and courage by Norman Finkelstein, whose mother survived the Warsaw Ghetto, the Majdanek concentration camp and two slave labour camps. Finkelstein’s father was a survivor of both the Warsaw Ghetto and the Auschwitz concentration camp. In an interview with RT in May, Finkelstein commented:

Corbyn, he did not present a threat only to Israel and Israel’s supporters, he posed a threat to the whole British elite. Across the board, from the Guardian to the Daily Mail, they all joined in the new anti-semitism campaign. Now that’s unprecedented – the entire British elite, during this whole completely contrived, fabricated, absurd and obscene assault on this alleged Labour anti-semitism, of which there is exactly zero evidence, zero.

Indeed, an October 2016 report by the Commons home affairs committee found:

Despite significant press and public attention on the Labour Party, and a number of revelations regarding inappropriate social media content, there exists no reliable, empirical evidence to support the notion that there is a higher prevalence of antisemitic attitudes within the Labour Party than any other political party.

A September 2017 report by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research found:

Levels of antisemitism among those on the left-wing of the political spectrum, including the far-left, are indistinguishable from those found in the general population… The most antisemitic group on the political spectrum consists of those who identify as very right-wing: the presence of antisemitic attitudes in this group is 2 to 4 times higher compared to the general population.

The report noted that ‘the prevalence of antisemitism on the far right is considerably higher than on the left and in the political centre’.

Jonathan Cook described in February how a new Labour Party report had ‘decisively undercut’ the claims of Corbyn’s critics: allegations of anti-semitism had been made ‘against 0.08 percent of the 540,000-strong Labour membership. Hardly “endemic” or “institutional”, it seems.’

Finkelstein continued:

Yeah, there’s some fringe members of Labour who, you know, play the anti-semitic [interrupted by interviewer]… I read the polls, I read the data – it hovers between six and eight per cent are hardened anti-semites in British society. It’s nothing! Yeah, so there are a few crazies, but there’s no “institutionalised” anti-semitism in the British Labour Party. There’s no threat of anti-semitism in British society. I’ve read all the data, I’ve studied it closely. It just doesn’t exist. It’s all being designed and manipulated… I don’t believe in conspiracy theories, as you know, but this is a conspiracy.

Asked if there was a danger that false accusations might have a ‘cry wolf’ effect in undermining the credibility of genuine claims of anti-semitism, Finkelstein replied:

Well, there’s a bigger problem than that – there’s the boy who cried wolf, but I think there’s a bigger problem than that. If Corbyn loses, a lot of people in the Labour Party are going to blame it on those Jews who fabricated this whole anti-semitism witch-hunt hysteria. And that will be a problem, which… you know what the bigger problem there is? It’s true! Jews were the spearhead of this campaign to stop Corbyn. And so, there’s going to be a lot of anger within the Labour Party – that’s not anti-semitism, that’s factually based.

When reminded by his interviewer that Jews were hardly alone in promoting these accusations, Finkelstein responded:

Yes, but they play the most visible role and they play the most aggressive role. The British elites could not have gotten away with calling Corbyn an anti-semite unless they had the support, the visible support, of all the leading Jewish organisations. You have to remember that during the summer [of 2018. See here], all three major British publications, for the first time in British Jewish history, they all took out a common editorial denouncing Corbyn as an anti-semite and saying that we’re now standing on the verge of another Holocaust. They are the enablers of this concerted conspiracy by the whole of British elite society to destroy Jeremy Corbyn.

The point was made on July 2 when a small UK newspaper, Jewish News, chose to highlight a comment made in an interview with Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt published the previous day:

When I went to Auschwitz I rather complacently said to myself, “thank goodness we don’t have to worry about that kind of thing happening in the UK” and now I find myself faced with the leader of the Labour Party who has opened the door to antisemitism in a way that is truly frightening.

Hunt’s words represent a level of moral depravity that almost defies belief. To use the Holocaust for political gain in faking the claim that Corbyn could open the door to a second Holocaust, is to do nothing less than exploit the deaths of the 6 million Jews who died under Nazi tyranny. It is truly astonishing that a Jewish newspaper would be willing to publish such a comment. Writer Michael Rosen, a Professor at Goldsmiths, University of London, commented:

A possible future prime minister has said something about Auschwitz which the political editor of the Jewish Chronicle has said on twitter is “offensive”. None of this is – apparently – news. What is it then?

Hunt’s comment generated massive, widespread outrage on social media. And yet, our July 4 ProQuest newspaper database search found a single mention in the entire UK press (in the Daily Mail) – the comment has simply been buried, presumably to avoid damaging the anti-semitism smear campaign targeting Corbyn.

In 2018, Noam Chomsky commented on this campaign:

The charges of anti-Semitism against Corbyn are without merit, an underhanded contribution to the disgraceful efforts to fend off the threat that a political party might emerge that is led by an admirable and decent human being, a party that is actually committed to the interests and just demands of its popular constituency and the great majority of the population generally, while also authentically concerned with the rights of suffering and oppressed people throughout the world. Plainly an intolerable threat to order.2

The facts all fit with Finkelstein and Chomsky’s identification of a politically motivated smear campaign. Our July 4 ProQuest search of UK newspaper articles before and after Corbyn stood for the Labour leadership in May 2015 found these mentions:

‘Jeremy Corbyn’ and ‘anti-semitism’ before 1 May 2015 = 18 hits

‘Jeremy Corbyn’ and ‘anti-semitism’ after 1 May 2015 = 13,080 hits

None of the 18 articles accused Corbyn of anti-semitism. In his first 32 years as an MP, it was just not a theme. And not, as we have discussed, because Corbyn was not known or smeared – he was subjected to vile personal abuse by the press, just not in relation to any supposed anti-semitism.

Conclusion – Grounds For Expulsion

As Finkelstein noted, it is absurd and obscene to suggest that Jews in Britain are facing a second Holocaust under Corbyn; it is a monstrous fabrication. But if expressing anti-semitism merits expulsion from the Labour Party when there is no threat to Jewish people in British society, how are we to respond to the acts of politicians who personally vote to authorise illegal British and US wars in countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria? These acts are not merely examples of prejudice, they do not merely offend – they kill, maim and displace literally millions of people, bringing whole countries to their knees.

The ethical demerit of mere words suggesting that the Labour Party has been too apologetic in defending its record on racism cannot possibly compare to political actions that launched wars causing almost unimaginable levels of human suffering. The very suggestion that they can be compared, or that the words are worse, can itself be viewed as a form of mass murder denial, of a fascistic disregard for ‘our’ crimes destroying human life.

And here, finally, we can find credible grounds for suspending Williamson. He, after all, ‘Generally voted for use of UK military forces in combat operations overseas.’

Notably, Williamson shamed himself by voting for the illegal war of aggression, the oil grab, that reduced Libya to a smoking ruin in 2011. But the same, of course, is true of almost all his Labour and Tory critics, who could all be suspended and expelled for the same reason.

  1. David Edwards and David Cromwell, Propaganda Blitz, Pluto Press, 2018, p. 6.
  2. Chomsky, email to Media Lens, 9 September 2018.

The Shaving Kit: Manufacturing The Julian Assange Witch-Hunt

Last week, UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid signed the US extradition request to hand over Julian Assange, who is charged with 18 counts of violating the US Espionage Act. Assange’s immediate fate now lies in the hands of the British justice system.

Javid ‘consistently voted for use of UK military forces in combat operations overseas’, including war on Afghanistan, Syria and the catastrophic 2011 assault on Libya. In other words, he is a key figure in precisely the US-UK Republican-Democratic-Conservative-Labour war machine exposed by WikiLeaks.

John Pilger described Assange’s extradition hearing last week to The Real News Network:

I don’t think these initial extradition hearings will be fair at all, no… He’s not allowed to defend himself. He’s not given access to a computer so that he can access the documents and files that he needs.

I think where it will change is if the lower court – the magistrate’s court that is dealing with it now and will deal with it over the next almost nine, ten months – if they decide to extradite Julian Assange, his lawyers will appeal. And it will go up to the High Court. And I think it’s there in the High Court where he may well – I say “may” – get justice. That’s a cautiously optimistic view. But I think he’s most likely to get it there. He certainly won’t get it the United States. There’s no indication of that.

As we noted in a media alert last week, the groundwork for the persecution of Assange has been laid by a demonising state-corporate propaganda campaign. Nils Melzer, the UN special rapporteur on torture, who is also Professor of International Law at the University of Glasgow, has turned the accepted ‘mainstream’ view of Assange completely on its head:

First of all, we have to realize that we have all been deliberately misled about Mr Assange. The predominant image of the shady “hacker”, “sex offender” and selfish “narcissist” has been carefully constructed, disseminated and recycled in order to divert attention from the extremely powerful truths he exposed, including serious crimes and corruption on the part of multiple governments and corporations.

By making Mr Assange “unlikeable” and ridiculous in public opinion, an environment was created in which no one would feel empathy with him, very similar to the historic witch-hunts, or to modern situations of mobbing at the workplace or in school. (Our emphasis)

These are very significant, credible comments and, as we will discuss below, Melzer recently provided a stunning example on Twitter of how this ‘carefully constructed, disseminated and recycled’ image of Assange has been faked.

Melzer’s revelation concerns Assange’s long, dishevelled beard, which was a source of much ‘mainstream’ hilarity when Assange was arrested and dragged from the Ecuadorian embassy on April 11. First, let’s remind ourselves of some of the grim highlights of this media coverage. In the Daily Mail, Amanda Platell wrote:

How humiliating that as the alleged sexual predator Julian Assange emerged from Ecuador’s embassy, flourishing a wild beard, Australian scientists revealed a primordial link between “flamboyant accoutrements such as beards” and titchy testicles.

In the New Statesman, the Guardian‘s Suzanne Moore celebrated:

O frabjous day! We are all bored out of our minds with Brexit when a demented looking gnome is pulled out of the Ecuadorian embassy by the secret police of the deep state. Or “the met” as normal people call them.

In the Evening Standard, William Moore commented:

Julian Assange… looked like a sort of mad Lord of the Rings extra as he was hauled away from the Ecuadorian embassy last week.

Charlotte Edwardes wrote in the Evening Standard:

Julian Assange’s removal from the Ecuadorian embassy brought his straggly beard into the light. The Beard Liberation Front gets in touch to say he will not be considered for its annual shortlist of the best facial hair. “It is impossible to unequivocally state that his beard presents a positive public image,” it says.1

David Aaronovitch of The Times tweeted:

I see Tolstoy has just been arrested in central London.

Like so many journalists, Derek Momodu, the Daily Mirror‘s Associate Picture Editor, made a joke about a bearded character from the BBC comedy series ‘Only Fools And Horses’:

Unconfirmed reports that Wikileaks boss Julian Assange tried to pass as Uncle Albert to avoid arrest – but no-one was fooled.

The Daily Star devoted an entire article to the mockery:

Bearded Julian Assange compared to Uncle Albert as Twitter reacts to arrest

Pamela Anderson’s favourite fella has got a surprising new look.

Embedded in the piece was a Daily Star reader survey that attracted 234 votes:

Would you describe Julian Assange as…

A hero [36%]

A weirdo’ [64%]

Unsurprising results, given the context and the wider political-media campaign.

The Daily Express also devoted an article to comedy takes of this kind:

Hilarious Julian Assange memes have swept Twitter in the wake of the Wikileaks founder’s arrest including one he tried to pass himself off as Uncle Albert from Only Fools and Horses – here are the best ones.

In The Times, Ben Macintyre wrote a piece titled, ‘Julian Assange belongs with crackpots and despots’, observing that Assange had been ‘hauled out of the Ecuadorian embassy, wearing the same beard and outraged expression as Saddam Hussein on removal from his foxhole’. The caption accompanying the photos said it all:

Julian Assange revelled in holding court at the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Right, the Panamanian [dictator] General Manuel Noriega took refuge in the Vatican embassy in 1989

There are clear Stalinist and Big Brother echoes when one of the most important political dissidents of our time generates this headline (subsequently edited) in the Daily Mail:

A soaring ego. Vile personal habits. And after years in his squalid den, hardly a friend left: DOWNFALL OF A NARCISSIST

The title of a Guardian press review also headlined completely fake, Ecuadorian government claims that Assange had smeared the walls of the embassy with his own excrement as highlighted in The Sun:

“Whiffyleaks”: what the papers say about Julian Assange’s arrest

The assumption behind all these comments, of course, was that Assange’s beard was further confirmation that he was ‘a definite creep, a probable rapist, a conspiracist whackjob’, as ‘leftist’ media favourite Ash Sarkar of Novara Media tweeted. Or, as the Guardian‘s George Monbiot wrote in opposing Assange’s extradition:

Whether or not you like Assange’s politics (I don’t), or his character (ditto)…

As discussed, Nils Melzer argues that Assange has become ‘”unlikeable” and ridiculous in public opinion’, not because of who he is, but because of a state-sponsored propaganda campaign – the journalists listed above are either complicit or dupes. This media charade was exposed with great clarity by Melzer’s revelation on Twitter:

How public humiliation works: On 11 April, Julian Assange was mocked for his beard throughout the world. During my visit, he explained to us that his shaving kit had been deliberately taken away three months earlier.

It had simply never occurred to the great herd of journalists – which understood that Assange was someone to be smeared, mocked and abused – that his appearance might have something to do with Ecuador’s brutal treatment cutting off his communications, his visitors and even his medical care. Fidel Narvaez, former consul at the Ecuadorian embassy from the first day Assange arrived, on 19 June 2012, until 15 July 2018, said the Ecuadorian regime under president Lenin Moreno had tried to make life ‘unbearable’ for Assange.

As part of a Swedish project in support of Assange, a message containing an offer from Melzer to be interviewed was emailed to around 500 individuals, primarily Swedish journalists. Recipients were able to reply with a single click on an embedded link in the message. Not a single journalist did so. In an email copied to Media Lens, Melzer commented:

My impression is that, after my initial press release, most of the mainstream media have gone into something like a shock paralysis leaving them unable to process the enormous contradiction between their own misguided portraits of Assange and the terrifying truth of what has been going on in reality. The problem, of course, is that mainstream media bear a significant share of the responsibility for enabling this disgraceful witch-hunt and now have to muster up the strength to face their tragic failure to objectively inform and empower the people in this case.

One of my own nationalities being Swedish, I am quite familiar with what a certain obsession with political correctness can do to one’s capacity for critical thinking. But the fact that, of more than 500 solicited Swedish journalists, not a single one was interested in an in-depth interview with a Swiss-Swedish UN expert publicly accusing Sweden of judicial persecution and psychological torture, speaks to a level of denial and self-censorship that can hardly be reconciled with objective and informative reporting.2

It is indeed a dramatic example of denial and self-censorship. But, alas, there is no ‘shock paralysis’, for corporate media have been treating the best-informed, most courageous and most honest truth-tellers this way for years and decades.

When Denis Halliday, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, resigned in protest in September 1998, describing the UN sanctions regime he had set up and run as ‘genocidal’, his comments were mentioned in passing then forgotten. The same treatment was afforded his successor as UN Humanitarian Coordinator, Hans von Sponeck, who resigned in protest at the sanctions in February 2000. Since its publication in 2006, von Sponeck’s forensic, deeply rational and deeply damning account of his experiences, A Different Kind Of War – The UN Sanctions Regime In Iraq, (Berghahn Books, 2006), has been mentioned once across the entire US-UK press, in a single paragraph of 139 words in an article by Robert Fisk in the Independent, and never reviewed.3

At a time of maximum global media coverage of Iraq, Halliday was mentioned in 2 of the 12,366 Guardian and Observer articles mentioning Iraq in 2003; von Sponeck was mentioned 5 times. Halliday was mentioned in 2 of the 8,827 articles mentioning Iraq in 2004; von Sponeck was mentioned 5 times.

In 2002, Scott Ritter, former UN chief weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991-1998 declared that Iraq had been ‘fundamentally disarmed’ of 90-95% of its weapons of mass destruction by December 1998, signifying that the case for war was an audacious fraud.4  In the 12,366 articles mentioning Iraq in 2003, the Guardian and Observer mentioned Ritter a total of 17 times.

In February, we described how Alfred de Zayas, the first UN rapporteur to visit Venezuela for 21 years, had commented that US sanctions were illegal and could amount to ‘crimes against humanity’ under international law. Our ProQuest UK media database search for the last six months for corporate newspaper articles containing:

‘de Zayas’ and ‘Venezuela’ = 2 hits

One of these, bitterly critical, in The Times, was titled:

Radical Chic – The UN’s system of human rights reporting is a politicised travesty

There have been a couple of other mentions in the Independent online, but, once again, we find ourselves reaching for the same comment from Noam Chomsky that sums it up so well:

The basic principle, rarely violated, is that what conflicts with the requirements of power and privilege does not exist.5

  1. Edwardes, ‘Julian Assange’s removal’, Evening Standard, 12 April 2019.
  2. Melzer, email, 13 June 2019.
  3. Fisk, ‘Fear climate change, not our enemies’, The Independent, 20 Jan 2007.
  4. Ritter and William Rivers Pitt, War On Iraq, Profile Books, 2002, p. 23.
  5. Chomsky, ‘Deterring Democracy’, Hill and Wang, 1992, p. 79.

Buried In Broad Daylight: The “Free Press” And The Leaked OPCW Report On Douma

A defining feature of the propaganda system is that facts supporting the agenda of Western power are pushed to the forefront of the ‘mainstream’ media, while inconvenient facts are buried. A prime example is the shameful media silence in response to a devastating document leaked from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), discussed in a recent media alert. The document, an engineering assessment of two chlorine cylinders found at two separate locations after an attack on the Damascus suburb of Douma on April 7, 2018, casts serious doubt on the official narrative that Syrian government forces had dropped them from helicopters. The claim that Assad had used chemical weapons ‘against his own civilians’ was used by the US, UK and France to ‘justify’ missile strikes on ‘chemical weapons facilities’ on April 14, 2018.

One of the cylinders was found on top of a four-storey building with its front end lodged in a hole in the roof. The other cylinder was found lying on a bed in the top-floor room of an apartment with a crater-like opening in the roof. Engineering analysis – based on measurements, photographs and computer modelling – were conducted on the two cylinders and the scenes where they were found. The aim was to ‘evaluate the possible means by which these two cylinders arrived at their respective locations as observed.’ The leaked report, signed by Ian Henderson, a senior OPCW engineer with many years’ experience, 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. [Our emphasis.]

But this dissenting engineering analysis was excluded from the final OPCW Fact-Finding Mission report presented to the UN Security Council on March 1, 2019.

Theodore Postol, professor of science, technology, and international security at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, whose main expertise is in ballistic missiles, gave an initial assessment of the leaked OPCW report on May 21, and agreed with its conclusion. He summarised:

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.

In short:

Two analyzed chlorine cylinder attacks were staged in April 2018 in Douma. [Our emphasis.]

On June 4, Postol released a more in-depth assessment which completely rejected the propaganda claim that the cylinders could only have been dropped from Syrian government helicopters. This strengthens the conclusion that the April 2018 Douma attacks were indeed staged, presumably by Syrian rebels attempting to provoke a Western military response against Assad (and perhaps even with Western connivance).

Postol noted the glaring discrepancies between the OPWC report that was submitted to the UN (minus the dissenting analysis of the leaked document) and the facts on the ground:

The calculations produced as proof for the conclusions bear no relationship to what was observed at the scene and both the observed data from the scene and the calculations bear no relationship to the reported findings.

Postol expanded:

An important characteristic of concrete is that it is brittle. By definition, such a material is not flexible but will develop cracks and fail catastrophically when subjected to stresses that are sufficiently large. Concrete can be substantially strengthened [as in this case] by embedding reinforcing steel rebar or other strong but flexible materials within it. The rebar performs the function of maintaining the strength of the material when it is flexed rather than failing catastrophically as is the case with the surrounding brittle material.

He added:

A very important additional phenomenon associated with the impact of an object can be the creation of a hole due to a process that is generally referred to as “tunneling.” Because the breach created by the penetrating object results in the crushing and pushing of brittle concrete as the object moves forward, the diameter of the hole produced by the impact of the object will be very close to that of the penetrating object. This means that a hole created by a 40 cm diameter chlorine cylinder should be close to 40 cm in diameter…

But this was not the case:

The diameter of the hole is nearly twice that of the cylinder and the steel rebar that was supposed to stop the cylinder from penetrating through the roof is instead completely shattered and bent away from the forward direction by more than 60°… This photograph shows that the crater was produced by an explosion on the roof which had nothing to do with the impact of a chlorine cylinder. These discrepancies simply mean that the cylinder was placed on the roof after the hole was produced by the explosion of a mortar shell or artillery rocket.

Postol provided much more detail, but this was his summary:

There is absolutely no doubt that the OPCW finding that the chlorine cylinder found at what it identifies as Location 2 did not produce the hole in the roof that allegedly led to the killing of more than 30 people that the OPCW claims were trapped and poisoned in the building. The OPCW’s own science-based technical analysis does not come close to matching what was observed at Location 2.

The only possible conclusion is that ‘chemical weapons attacks’ at the two sites where the cylinders were found must have been staged.

Postol praised the high-quality analysis presented in the leaked OPCW document. But he was damning about senior OPCW management who had disregarded the dissenting engineering assessment and instead presented a deeply biased and misleading final report to the UN:

The OPCW has been compromised in terms of the content they are providing. The deception of the OPCW is quite blatant. Perhaps they are not used to people who are knowledgeable on these issues scrutinizing their material.

On June 3, Labour MP Chris Williamson submitted a parliamentary question:

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, with reference to investigations suggesting that reports of the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian Government in Douma in April 2018 were staged and with reference to reports that OPCW expert advice was redacted from its final report, whether he has made a reassessment of the decision to bomb targets in Syria in 2018.

In an interview with Afshin Rattansi on RT’s Going Underground, Williamson rightly pointed to the insidious part played by the ‘mainstream’ media:

The hysterical mainstream media at the time a year ago who seemed to be clamouring for military airstrikes have been incredibly silent about this [leaked OPCW report]. I remember having a very rough interview on Channel 4 about the whole issue. And yet they seem to, as far as I’m aware, have failed to follow up now with this quite damning revelation which has been brought to light by a whistle-blower.

He added:

What is very regrettable today is the tradition that we used to take for granted, that investigative journalists – serious journalists like John Pilger – seem to be sadly lacking these days.

Williamson also cited Robert Fisk – ‘a very unusual animal these days’ – who reported from Douma last April, after interviewing civilians in the vicinity of the alleged chemical weapon attacks. A senior Syrian doctor, Dr Assim Rahaibani, told him that the ‘gas’ video that had so horrified the world showed patients who had been overcome, not by gas, but by oxygen starvation:

I was with my family in the basement of my home three hundred metres from here on the night but all the doctors know what happened. There was a lot of shelling [by government forces] and aircraft were always over Douma at night – but on this night, there was wind and huge dust clouds began to come into the basements and cellars where people lived. People began to arrive here suffering from hypoxia, oxygen loss. Then someone at the door, a “White Helmet”, shouted “Gas!”, and a panic began. People started throwing water over each other. Yes, the video was filmed here, it is genuine, but what you see are people suffering from hypoxia – not gas poisoning.

BBC Syria producer Riam Dalati said earlier this year via Twitter that:

After almost six months of investigation, I can prove without a doubt that the Douma hospital scene was staged.

He subsequently set his Twitter status to ‘private’. Moreover, in a now deleted tweet, he stated two days after the Douma attack:

Sick and tired of activists and rebels using corpses of dead children to stage emotive scenes for Western consumption. Then they wonder why some serious journos are questioning part of the narrative.

As far as we know, BBC News has never given proper coverage to the serious doubts surrounding the alleged ‘chemical weapons’ attack on Douma, other than to ascribe such doubts to Syrian and Russian government claims of ‘fabrication’. As we saw with Iraq and Saddam’s ‘denials of WMD’, a powerful propaganda technique to dismiss facts, evidence and truth is to make them come out the mouths of Official Enemies.

The BBC Goes Quiet

That the OPCW may be so compromised as to present a misleading report to the UN Security Council that could be used as post-facto ‘justification’ for a Western military attack is, to say the least, an extremely grave matter. Indeed, it casts doubt on the whole integrity of an important international organisation. Ted Postol said in an interview with Sharmini Piries of The Real News Network that he believes the official OPCW report into an alleged chemical weapons attack in Khan Shaykhun on April 4, 2017 – almost exactly one year before the Douma attack – may also have been ‘severely compromised’.

As Tim Hayward, a member of the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media (WGSPM), the group of independent scholars and researchers that originally published the leaked OPWC document, noted:

While Western politicians and news media echo tropes about obstructive Russia & outlaw Syria, States of Non-Aligned Movement and China share their concerns about politicisation and polarising of OPCW.

Hayward added:

Suppressed OPCW document undermines the claimed justification for Western missile strikes on Syria in April 2018, and it reveals an organisation in need of radical reform.

Regardless of the findings of the official and leaked OPCW reports, the leaders of the US, UK and France, including Prime Minister Theresa May, were guilty of launching an unprovoked military attack on another country in violation of the UN Charter; the ‘supreme international crime’, in the words of the post-WW2 Nuremberg judgment. These are issues that would, in a sane media system, be extensively reported and debated.

However, as we wrote over three weeks ago in our earlier media alert, other than the small-circulation, left-wing Morning Star, the damning leaked document has been mentioned in just two articles in the national press: one by Peter Hitchens in the Mail on Sunday and one in the Independent by Robert Fisk. Remarkably, but unsurprisingly, this remains the case at the time of writing. Nor is there a single mention of it anywhere on the BBC News website. Hitchens has also submitted questions direct to the OPCW which appear to have been ignored by the body.

Our repeated challenges to senior BBC journalists, including Kamal Ahmed, the BBC’s head of news, have met with a stony silence, with one exception. Lyse Doucet, the BBC’s chief international correspondent, replied via Twitter on May 24:

Thanks for your message. I am in Geneva today, in Sarajevo and Riga last week, and heading to Gulf next week. It’s an important story. Will make sure programmes know about it. As you know, UK outlets focused on May & Brexit last few days. [Our emphasis.]

Let us set aside the implausible argument that ‘UK outlets focused on May & Brexit’ should preclude any coverage of a vital reappraisal of the West’s ‘justification’ of an attack on Syria; or the notion that senior editors at the BBC, with its vast monitoring resources, would have to be informed by Doucet of the leaked document. But, if we were to take Doucet’s words at face value, she would surely be happy to respond to our follow-up query, asking for an update. Seemingly not. She has now retreated behind the wider, blanketing BBC silence.

And yet, last week, evidence emerged that the BBC is well aware of the leaked document. In a live-streamed panel debate at the annual meeting of GLOBSEC, a global security thinktank, on June 6, the BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner asked OPCW director-general Fernando Arias about the Independent report ‘by someone called Robert Fisk’. Was this an example of fake news? In his evasive reply, Arias stated that:

All the information given by any inspectors is considered but sometimes it is not fit to the conclusion. [Our emphasis.]

This remarkable admission that serious evidence and analysis were disregarded because it does ‘not fit the conclusion’ went unchallenged by the BBC’s Gardner and everyone else in the room. It echoed the infamous statement in the 2002 Downing Street memo on plans to invade Iraq that ‘the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.’ The focus of Arias’s concern was to defend the OPCW and to identify the whistle-blower, stating that:

‘”actions had to be taken” following the leak…” I stand by the impartial and professional conclusions” of the full OPCW report.’

On June 12, Peter Hitchens, mentioned earlier for his excellent reporting on Syria, challenged Gardner on whether he had reported his exchange with the OPCW director-general. Later that day, Hitchens tweeted:

BBC this afternoon stated that @FrankRGardner has *not* reported on the exchange, indeed BBC as a whole, despite vast resources paid for by licence holders, has yet to report at all on this major development.

The only response to the leaked OPCW report by a Guardian journalist so far appears to have been this remarkable outburst from George Monbiot on Twitter:

The Assad apologists are out in force again, and baying for blood. It’s chilling to see how they latch onto one person’s contentious account of a single atrocity, while ignoring the vast weight of evidence for chemical weapons use and conventional massacres by the govt. #Syria

Monbiot added:

They seek to exonerate one of the bloodiest mass murderers on the planet, denying his crimes and whitewashing his record. In doing so, they share some of the blame for his ongoing mass killing of Syrian people.

As we, and many other people, pointed out, this was an inexplicably irrational response to an obviously important, indisputably authentic, highly credible, leaked document that was not at all ‘one person’s… account’. The leaked material simply has to be taken seriously and investigated, not dismissed out of hand. We are, after all, talking about possible war crimes under Trump, the famously dangerous, fascist US President every liberal journalist is supposed to be determined to excoriate at every possible turn. Why should we not, then, describe Monbiot as a ‘Trump apologist’?

Last year, during an exchange about Syria, Hitchens told Monbiot what we had already concluded about him:

This is important. I have until now regarded you as a fundamentally decent and honest person (and defended you against those who have argued otherwise). But your behaviour in this matter is causing me to reconsider this opinion. Please argue honestly.

The near-total ‘mainstream’ media blanking of the leaked OPCW document is a genuinely disturbing sign of growing corporate media conformity and totalitarian-style mendacity. In the age of social media – with netizens repeatedly challenging the likes of the BBC’s Lyse Doucet and the Guardian‘s George Monbiot – the stonewalling, and the denial of newsworthiness, is happening in plain sight. Corporate journalists know that it is important, they know that we know that it is important, they know that we are asking why they are ignoring it, and they are ignoring us anyway, with the whole act of censorship swathed in silence. As the Soviet dissident Yevgeny Yevtushenko once said:

When truth is replaced by silence, the silence is a lie.

“Mirthless Laugh”: The Persecution And Torture Of Julian Assange

For anyone persuaded by the state-corporate campaign of sneers and smears depicting Julian Assange as a shit-smearing narcissist and rapist, the comments made by Nils Melzer, the UN’s special rapporteur on torture, must be deeply shocking. The BBC headline:

Julian Assange subjected to psychological torture, UN expert says

Melzer is Professor of International Law at the University of Glasgow. He also holds the Human Rights Chair at the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights in Switzerland, where he has been teaching since 2009, including as the Swiss Chair of International Humanitarian Law (2011–2013). Melzer previously worked for 12 years with the International Committee of the Red Cross as Deputy Head of Delegation and Legal Adviser in various zones of conflict and violence. He commented:

I’ve worked in many areas of war in my life, in situations of violence, and I’ve talked to victims of persecution around the world and I’ve seen very serious atrocities.

But [what] I have never seen is that a single person has been deliberately isolated and, I would say, persecuted – not prosecuted, but persecuted – by several democratic states in a concerted effort to eventually break his will.

Melzer added that, because of his treatment, Assange’s health was at serious risk:

We could see that Assange showed all the symptoms that are typical for prolonged exposure to psychological torture.

Assange, he said, needs access to a psychiatrist who is ‘not part of the prison service – someone he can fully trust’ – to avoid his health deteriorating further.

In an interview with The Canary, Melzer described exactly how and by whom Assange has been ‘persecuted’:

The evidence made available to me strongly suggests that the primary responsibility for the sustained and concerted abuse inflicted on Mr Assange falls on the governments of the United Kingdom, Sweden, the United States and, more recently, also Ecuador…

The consistent and repeated failure of all involved states to protect Mr Assange’s fundamental right to fair judicial proceedings and due process makes the hypothesis of mere coincidence extremely unrealistic and gives a strong impression of bias and arbitrary manipulation. This starts with the secretive grand jury indictment in the United States, continues with the abusive manner in which Swedish prosecutors disseminated, re-cycled and perpetuated their “preliminary investigation” into alleged sexual offences, exacerbates with the termination by Ecuador of Mr Assange’s asylum status and citizenship without any form of due process, and culminates in overt bias against Mr Assange being shown by British judges since his arrest.

The only realistic explanation for this sustained systemic failure of the judiciary is that the United States, and probably also the other involved states, are trying to make an example of Mr Assange before the eyes of the world, not as much as a punishment for whatever real or perceived harm he is alleged to have caused, but as a measure of deterrence for others who might be tempted to imitate Wikileaks and Mr Assange in the future. In these circumstances, Mr Assange has absolutely no chance to get a fair judicial proceeding in any of these jurisdictions.

With admirable candour, Melzer explained to Democracy Now! how he had himself been influenced by the smear campaign:

[I] had been affected by the prejudice that I had absorbed through… public… narratives spread in the media over the years. And only when I scratched the surface a little bit, I saw how little foundation there was to back this up and how much fabrication and manipulation there is in this case.

He made the same point on Twitter:

For the record: I never said I considered #JulianAssange “a bad actor” but that, initially, I had been affected by the same misguided smear campaign as everybody else, and only saw the real facts once I investigated in detail

This comment instantly recalled the ‘mainstream’ commentators who have seemed so certain in their damning view of Assange. We thought, for example, of Guardian commentator Suzanne Moore, who said of Assange on Twitter in 2012:

He really is the most massive turd.

Tragicomically, Moore then commented to a colleague:

I never met him. Did you?

We tweeted Melzer’s thoughtful tweet to Moore and two other leading lights of the Guardian’s smear campaign below this message:

If one tweet might give Guardianistas like @MarinaHyde @HadleyFreeman and @suzanne_moore pause for thought, perhaps it’s this one from the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture.

Marina Hyde responded:

What a privilege for us ladies to be lectured on our incorrect response to a rape accusation by the men who have famously only read one book (Manufacturing Consent, and they didn’t even understand aspects of that)

Hyde was bluffing about her supposed insight into our misreading of Manufacturing Consent. The late Edward Herman, the book’s lead author, told us repeatedly, ‘Media Lens is doing an outstanding job’, often emailed us in support and regularly sent donations. The book’s co-author, Noam Chomsky, has said: ‘Am really impressed with what you are doing’1  and commented on our latest book, Propaganda Blitz (Pluto Press, 2018): ‘A great book. I’ve been recommending it.’ In response to earlier dismissive remarks on Twitter in 2015, former Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald commented to us, copying to Hyde:

Mocking you as conspiracists is how UK journalists demonstrate their in-group coolness to one another: adolescent herd behavior’2

Hyde was similarly bluffing in accusing us of lecturing (in effect, ‘mansplaining’) – we were simply highlighting credible, new expert testimony. And she was also bluffing in making an issue of our gender: obviously, Melzer’s comments stand or fall on their own merits, regardless of the gender of people recommending them. If Hyde imagines the opinion of the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture is skewed by sexist bias, then she should feel free to supply the evidence.

Sometimes, of course, gender does matter, and it is why we selected just these three Guardian commentators for inclusion in our tweet. As anyone who has been following the smear campaign knows, female journalists have been used by the Guardian and other media to lead attacks on a male political dissident facing accusations of rape; their gender helping to empower and protect the smears. Hyde’s tweet provided an excellent example – male critics can be instantly dismissed as ‘lecturing’ ‘mansplainers’, ‘misogynists’ and ‘rape apologists’. As Chomsky has pointed out, there is very little one can do to defend against these personal attacks:

There’s no way to respond. Slinging mud always works.

‘Poisoned Junk Food’ – Smirks, Giggles and Laughter

In 2013, Hyde responded to Assange’s plight inside the Ecuadorian embassy with a question:

Who in all seriousness can continue to suppress the odd smirk at the thought of Assange, holed up with his sunbed and his computer and his radioactive self-regard…?

And:

Many natural allies will recall the various moments at which they first realised they would have to work incredibly hard not to giggle at the WikiLeaks founder.

Why would one of the most important, courageous and effective truth-tellers of our time merit this kind of vicious mockery? Hyde speculated that the Ecuadorian ambassador might have insisted that Assange be allowed to leave for medical treatment, because ‘she had the terminal ministrations of an NHS geriatric ward in mind’. In other words, perhaps the ambassador wanted him out and even dead. Bitter comments indeed, now that Assange really has been moved to a prison hospital. His defence lawyer, Per Samuelson, said recently that Assange’s state of health was such ‘that it was not possible to conduct a normal conversation with him’.

Samuelson’s comments have been supported by testimony, as well as shocking photos and video, from a fellow inmate inside Belmarsh, London’s highest security prison. The photos were taken of Assange before he fell ill and was moved to the prison’s hospital wing last month. Nevertheless, he looks thin and much older than his actual age:

The photos reveal a thin blue mattress within a scarce and very small cell.

The photos of Assange himself reveal considerable weight loss since I last visited him in the Ecuadorian embassy in March.

Over many years, the abuse has poured from Hyde’s keyboard:

Assange… the very name seems a sledgehammer hybrid of ass and angel.

And:

Assange seems quite insufferable, certainly in any sort of long term.

Hyde never tires of smirking, giggling and laughing at Assange’s horrendous situation:

If one subscribes to the view that only an ultimately insufferable narcissist could have had the balls to do what he did, then it was always going to come to this. But when so very few come out of a story well, from star to supporters, perhaps a mirthless laugh is the only option left.

In 2016, Hyde wrote:

For my money he looks more and more like just another guy failing to face up to a rape allegation.

Now that the US is openly seeking Assange’s extradition, having charged him with violating the Espionage Act and computer hacking, it is clear that Hyde was just plain wrong – Assange was not motivated to avoid the Swedish allegations, he was genuinely and rightly acting in fear of US extradition. Melzer commented that he believes Assange ‘has a very strong case, and a very reasonable fear, that if he gets extradited to the Unites States he has no chance to get a fair trial with the level of public and official prejudice that exists there for him’.

Also in 2016, Hyde referred to the ‘latest flare-up of Knightsbridge’s Assange condition’, as if Assange was a disease.

Her gender has not protected the actress Pamela Anderson, a high-profile supporter of Assange, from Hyde’s poison pen. As part of her effort to present Assange as a ridiculous, sleazy figure, Hyde has repeatedly highlighted Anderson’s background in TV. She wrote in February 2017:

The Baywatch star and the Wikileaks founder are being coy about their closeness, stoked by vegan snacks in the confines of the Ecuadorian embassy.

In June 2017, Hyde commented:

The former Baywatch star is in amorous mode online as she extols the virtues of her WikiLeaks hunk.

And again in May 2018:

The ballad of Pammy and Julian Assange – her poor, mournful sea lion – The WikiLeaks emperor has been wrongly accused of so many things, says the former Baywatch star. But can their relationship survive now that the Ecuadorian embassy has cut his internet?

We asked John Pilger for comment. He replied:

I have known Julian Assange since he first landed in the UK. My respect for him as a journalist and free thinker and human being has grown with every landmark of his remarkable achievements and personal struggle. The arrival of WikiLeaks – as publisher and protector of whistleblowers – has revolutionised journalism while shaming those self-endowed with a divine prerogative to guard the boundaries of public knowledge; they include the lazy, the echoes, the agents of power, the over-paid poseurs.

The authenticity and accuracy of WikiLeaks’ disclosures have no equal and achieve what real journalists should aspire to, but rarely do any more. They tell the public what governments and their rapacious vested interests conceal from us. This makes the witch-hunting of Julian beyond contempt. I remember one of his media smearers, speaking to an audience of students, mocking the very idea that Julian could end up in an American Guantanamo. Today, Julian is within the grasp of a vengeful and largely lawless US system, his life at risk. Watch now how the faux-journalists have fallen silent or are writing their tweets and editorials that betray a fear that they may be next for Trump’s wild west justice.

When I visited Julian in Belmarsh prison I was astonished by his courage and resilience but I worried about his vulnerability. He is ill; there is only so much the man can take. Shame on his craven assassins. Let civilised people give him the support he deserves and to which he has every right. What he and Chelsea Manning are enduring is just the beginning of a subversion not only of journalism but of dissent and democracy itself, if we allow it.3

The Canary asked Melzer about the media’s role in the persecution of Assange. He discussed the immense influence of the corporate media:

This enormous power comes with an equally enormous ethical responsibility. Many media outlets and individual journalists have shown a remarkable lack of critical independence and have contributed significantly to spreading abusive and deliberately distorted narratives about Mr Assange.

When the media find it more appropriate to spread humiliating jokes about Mr Assange’s cat, his skateboard and his faeces, than to challenge governments consistently refusing to hold their officials accountable for wars of aggression, corruption and serious international crimes, they demonstrate a deplorable lack of responsibility, decency and respect not only towards Mr Assange, but also towards their own readers, hearers and viewers, whom they are supposed to inform and empower. It is a bit like being served poisoned junk food at a restaurant – a betrayal of trust with potentially serious consequences.

First of all, we have to realize that we have all been deliberately misled about Mr Assange. The predominant image of the shady ‘hacker’, ‘sex offender’ and selfish ‘narcissist’ has been carefully constructed, disseminated and recycled in order to divert attention from the extremely powerful truths he exposed, including serious crimes and corruption on the part of multiple governments and corporations.

By making Mr Assange “unlikeable” and ridiculous in public opinion, an environment was created in which no one would feel empathy with him, very similar to the historic witch-hunts, or to modern situations of mobbing at the workplace or in school.’ (Our emphasis)

According to the ProQuest media database, since Melzer reported on Assange’s condition on May 31, the Guardian has mentioned his name in one article.

As Melzer says, corporate media have an astonishing power to influence what we think. We are all vulnerable to the impact of numerous, apparently independent and impartial journalists all insisting that Assange is a vile narcissist, that Jeremy Corbyn is a dangerous anti-semite, that Nicolas Maduro is a brutal dictator, that Gaddafi is planning a vast massacre, that Saddam Hussein has hidden weapons of mass destruction that pose a genuine threat to the West, that Iran is working on a ‘nuclear trigger’, and so on.

We are always invited to suspend disbelief – these claims could be accurate. But when a massively hyped state-corporate narrative is ‘too good to be true’ from the perspective of power, then we are all well-advised to suspect the consensus and look much deeper, exactly as Melzer did.

  1. Chomsky, email to Media Lens, September 14, 2005.
  2. Greenwald, Twitter, 25 August 2015.
  3. Email to Media Lens, 10 June 2019.

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 London Climate Protests: Raising The Alarm

The feeling is often there at night, of course, in the wee small hours. But it can arise at almost any time – looking at someone we care about, listening to birdsong on an unusually warm spring morning, shopping.

It is like being trapped on a sinking ship, with the captain and crew refusing to admit that anything is wrong. The passengers are mostly oblivious, planning their journeys and lives ahead. Everything seems ‘normal’, but we know that everything will soon be at the bottom of the sea. Everything seems ordinary, familiar, permanent, but will soon be gone. It feels as if our happiness, our every moment spent with the people and places we love, is irradiated by the fear of impending climate collapse.

Last month, the Extinction Rebellion protests in London (and globally) finally challenged some aspects of this waking nightmare – at last, a sense that human beings are not completely insane, that we are capable of responding with some rationality and dignity. In the end, 1,100 people allowed themselves to be arrested, with 70 charged, for all our sakes.

While many people thrill to the prospect of pouring milkshake over political opponents, Extinction Rebellion proved, conclusively, once and for all, that non-violent protest is the superpower of democratic change. And this was not just non-violent protest; it was non-hating, rooted in love of the planet, love of people, love of life. The mystic Lao-Tzu wrote:

‘Nothing in the world
is as soft and yielding as water.
Yet for dissolving the hard and inflexible,
nothing can surpass it.

‘The soft overcomes the hard;
the gentle overcomes the rigid.’

The special forces in this compassionate revolution are the 83-year-old grandfather who spoke so eloquently atop a blocked train in Canary Wharf. They are the little children sitting quietly in the middle of Oxford Street, the mums with toddlers, and, of course, the extraordinary Greta Thunberg whose insight and intelligence have stunned many veteran climate activists. Where the adults have been cautioning for years that we should not be too ‘alarmist’, too ‘pessimistic’ for fear of upsetting a lily-livered public, Thunberg has said simply:

‘I want you to panic. I want you to act as if the house was on fire… To panic, unless you have to, is a terrible idea. But when your house is on fire and you want to keep your house from burning to the ground then that does require some level of panic.’

She is exactly right. In his recent BBC documentary, ‘Climate Change: The Facts’, 91-year-old David Attenborough missed 16-year-old Thunberg’s point. The first half of Attenborough’s film did an excellent job of drawing attention to the threats, but the second half was much too positive on the prospects for individual and collective action. It ended on a hopeful, reassuring note. It should have ended on a note of deep alarm and, yes, panic.

When governments seek to mobilise the public for action, they terrify us with tales of Huns bayonetting babies, of weapons of mass destruction ready to destroy us within 45 minutes. They do this because it works – people are willing to kill and be killed, if they think their own lives and those of the people they love are at stake.

We have always argued that climate scientists and activists should also emphasise the terrifying prospects – not in the dishonest, hyped way of state cynics, but honestly, sticking to the facts. When the science is punching great holes in the blind conceit of industrial ‘progress’ we should not pull our punches. Again, the Extinction Rebellion protests – the name makes the point – have powerfully vindicated this strategy. An opinion poll after the protests found:

‘Two-thirds of people in the UK recognise there is a climate emergency and 76% say that they would cast their vote differently to protect the planet.’

John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK, said the debate around environmentalism had been fundamentally altered:

‘Climate activists, young and old, have put the UK government under enormous pressure to officially recognise the climate emergency we are facing. There is a real feeling of hope in the air that after several decades of climate campaigning the message is beginning to sink in. What we need now is to translate that feeling into action.’

As a result of this pressure, the UK last week became the first parliament to declare a climate emergency – previously unthinkable. Leading climate scientist, Professor Michael Mann, tweeted of the declaration:

‘Yeah, there’s a lot going on in the current news cycle. But this is undoubtedly the most important development of all’

Light-years beyond his Conservative opponents on this issue, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn commented:

‘We have no time to waste. We are living in a climate crisis that will spiral dangerously out of control unless we take rapid and dramatic action now.

‘This is no longer about a distant future we’re talking about nothing less than the irreversible destruction of the environment within our lifetimes of members of this house. Young people know this. They have the most to lose.’

By contrast, the voting record of Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, indicates that he ‘Generally voted against measures to prevent climate change.’ Prime Minister Theresa May has maintained a studied, shameful silence, clearly hoping the issue and the protests will go away. Action is clearly not on her agenda.

As if the climate crisis was not bad enough, a new UN report reveals that one million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction. The world is experiencing a rate of destruction tens to hundreds of times higher than the average over the past 10 million years. Dr Kate Brauman, from the University of Minnesota, a lead author of the assessment, commented:

‘We have documented a really unprecedented decline in biodiversity and nature, this is completely different than anything we’ve seen in human history in terms of the rate of decline and the scale of the threat.’

The following day, only two UK newspapers, (Guardian and i) led with the UN report on species extinction, most preferring to focus on a royal birth. The BBC News website featured no less than six stories about the royal baby before the headline, ‘Humans “threaten 1m species with extinction”.’ This was a classic example of why Erich Fromm warned in his book ‘The Sane Society’, that it truly is possible for an entire society to be, in effect, insane.

Manufactured Dissent?

Without a sense of alarm, we will likely continue to be stifled by the huge campaign of corporate disinformation and outright lies designed to prevent profit-unfriendly actions. The key to the strategy to maintain public indifference was explained by Phil Lesley, author of a handbook on public relations:

‘People generally do not favour action on a non-alarming situation when arguments seem to be balanced on both sides and there is a clear doubt. The weight of impressions on the public must be balanced so people will have doubts and lack motivation to take action. Accordingly, means are needed to get balancing information into the stream from sources that the public will find credible. There is no need for a clear-cut “victory”. … Nurturing public doubts by demonstrating that this is not a clear-cut situation in support of the opponents usually is all that is necessary.’1

Given the need for a very clear alarm to counter this propaganda, it is disturbing, but not surprising, that critics on the left have joined with the likes of Lesly to attack the messengers trying to raise the alarm (unsurprising because the left has an extremely poor record on climate change. See our Cogitation.)

In her article, ‘The Manufacturing of Greta Thunberg – for Consent: The Political Economy of the Non-Profit Industrial Complex’ – which is intended to remind of Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky’s classic work, Manufacturing Consent – The Political Economy of the Mass Media – independent investigative journalist and environmental activist Cory Morningstar headlines a key claim at the top of the piece and throughout the very long, almost impenetrable mixture of text and screenshots that follows:

‘In ACT I, I disclose that Greta Thunberg, the current child prodigy and face of the youth movement to combat climate change, serves as special youth advisor and trustee to the burgeoning mainstream tech start-up We Don’t Have Time.’

The claim is that Thunberg was involved in launching new business opportunities to capitalise on green concerns. Morningstar mentions the ‘We Don’t Have Time’ organisation involved in ‘tech start-up’ dozens of times in Act I of her piece alone. And yet, as Thunberg responded on Facebook in February:

‘I was briefly a youth advisor for the board of the non profit foundation “We don’t have time”. It turns out they used my name as part of another branch of their organisation that is a start up business. They have admitted clearly that they did so without the knowledge of me or my family [Our emphasis]. I no longer have any connection to “We don’t have time”. Nor does anyone in my family. They have deeply apologised for what has happened and I have accepted their apology.’

Thunberg did not, in fact, ‘serve as a trustee’ for the start-up business branch; her name was added without her knowledge or permission and she no longer has any links to the organisation. Three months after they were published on Facebook, Morningstar has still not added an addendum to her article responding and linking to Thunberg’s comments.

Morningstar wrote:

‘Greta Thunberg and [teenage climate activist] Jamie Margolin who both have lucrative futures in the branding of “sustainable” industries and products, if they wish to pursue this path in utilizing their present celebrity for personal gain (a hallmark of the “grassroots” NGO movement).’

Thunberg again:

‘I am not part of any organization. I sometimes support and cooperate with several NGOs that work with the climate and environment. But I am absolutely independent and I only represent myself. And I do what I do completely for free, I have not received any money or any promise of future payments in any form at all. And nor has anyone linked to me or my family done so.

‘And of course it will stay this way. I have not met one single climate activist who is fighting for the climate for money. That idea is completely absurd.

‘Furthermore I only travel with permission from my school and my parents pay for tickets and accommodations.’

Everything we have seen suggests that Thunberg is completely sincere and not at all minded to exploit her celebrity for money. Considering her age, the suggestion, in the absence of evidence, is ugly indeed.

Morningstar’s basic theme is that climate activists are being exploited by the same old cynical interests who will decide who and what will ‘save the planet’ in a way that makes them rich. And who will these people be?

‘we know full well the answer: the same Western white male saviours and the capitalist economic system they have implemented globally that has been the cause of our planetary ecological nightmare. This crisis continues unabated as they appoint themselves (yet again) as the saviours for all humanity – a recurring problem for centuries’.

On Twitter, ‘polirealm’ commented on Morningstar’s piece:

‘It looks at the establishment bodies, NGOs, their main characters, their connections, their main influences, networks, but it doesn’t look at the actual people on the ground at all, except as defenseless victims of social engineering.’

And:

‘The truth is, many of the activists are 100% aware of the goal of their usurpation, they’re aware that capitalism has nothing to lose and will take no prisoners in this fight, in fact, many are remarkably well informed.’

Indeed, the protests are being joined and supported by literally millions of intelligent, motivated, frightened people around the world, who will absolutely not be content with yet more corporate dissembling, profiteering and greenwash. Not only that, as evidence continues to mount of approaching disaster – and it will increase, dramatically – corporate executives, journalists and political executives will themselves increasingly reject these cynical machinations. ‘Polirealm’s’ concluding point:

‘So whoever believes the agenda and outcome of the climate movement are predetermined today simply has no idea what they’re talking about. The organizational structures are still quite chaotic, but there are many very motivated people with very good ideas, who’ve only just started.’

Morningstar is clearly sincere and well-intentioned, and her argument, of course, has some merit. We have been documenting for decades, in media alerts, articles and books, how corporate interests have been working all-out to co-opt Green concern. The problem with Morningstar’s focus is that it plays into the hands of corporate climate deniers and delayers whose strategy we have already described:

‘The weight of impressions on the public must be balanced so people will have doubts and lack motivation to take action.’

After thirty years of mortifying indifference and inaction, now is not the time to promote the belief that the crucial alarm that is at last being raised by Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion has been cynically ‘manufactured’. It is our job to ring the alarm and ensure that something is done. But first we must ring the alarm!

Even if corporate interests were crazed enough to think they could promote mass public dissent on this scale in the cause of profit, they would have no way of controlling the outcome. In the spring of 1968, with more than half a million troops in Vietnam, with military leaders asking for 200,000 more, President Johnson was advised by a Pentagon study group not to escalate the war, making this comment:

‘The growing disaffection accompanied, as it certainly will be, by increased defiance of the draft and growing unrest in the cities because of the belief that we are neglecting domestic problems, runs great risks of provoking a domestic crisis of unprecedented proportions.’2

If that was true of mere anti-war sentiment based on concern for human rights, how much more is it true of sentiment based on concern for literal human survival – the prospect that we, and every last person we love, may soon be dead?

The Propaganda Model – Going Extinct?

Herman and Chomsky’s ‘propaganda model’ describes how state-corporate priorities – power and profit – tend to shape media performance in a way that supports the status quo. During the Extinction Rebellion protests, there was a clear sense that fewer and fewer commentators could think of good reasons for opposing what was happening. Even ‘mainstream’ politicians lined up to give their support; even ‘centrist’ liberal journalists, reflexively opposed to all progressive politics, applauded. Guardian columnist George Monbiot went much further than he ever has before in scorning the media:

‘If you asked me: “which industry presents the greatest environmental threat, oil or media?”, I would say “the media”. Every day it misdirects us. Every day it tells us that issues of mind-numbing irrelevance are more important than the collapse of our life support systems.’

If we like, we can interpret all of this as a sign that the protests are viewed as harmless, or as evidence that they have been captured by corporate interests pulling the strings behind the scenes. But there is an alternative interpretation, which we favour.

When famously sober, conservative, anti-alarmist climate scientists are warning that human beings will become extinct unless drastic action is taken within the next decade, so that even prime-time BBC TV features the venerable David Attenborough warning that ‘the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon’, then we have entered unknown territory. As Attenborough said:

‘The world’s people have spoken, their message is clear – time is running out. They want you, the decision-makers, to act now.’

Herman and Chomsky’s ‘propaganda model’ was not designed for this scenario. When individual corporate media editors, journalists, advertising and political executives realise that they and their families are genuinely facing death, it is not at all certain that they will continue to support the subordination of people and planet to profit to no purpose. At this point – the point where the mortally-threatened corporate lions lie down with the mortally-threatened activist lambs – the propaganda model may start to break down. Either way, it is our job to continue pressuring corporate media and, more importantly, replacing them with honest, non-corporate alternatives pushing for real change.

The protests must continue, must escalate, and governments must be made to adopt a kind of war-footing subordinating everything – especially profit – to the survival of our own and all other species.

  1. Lesly, ‘Coping with Opposition Groups’, Public Relations Review 18, 1992, p. 331.
  2. Howard Zinn, The Zinn Reader, Seven Stories Press, 1997, p. 401.

40,000 Dead Venezuelans Under US Sanctions: Corporate Media Turn A Blind Eye

A new report on April 25 by a respected think tank has estimated that US sanctions imposed on Venezuela in August 2017 have caused around 40,000 deaths. This atrocity has been almost entirely blanked by the British ‘mainstream’ media, including BBC News. Additional sanctions imposed in January 2019 are likely to lead to tens of thousands of further deaths.

The report was co-authored by Mark Weisbrot and Jeffrey Sachs for the US-based Center for Economic and Policy Research. CEPR was founded in 1999 ‘to promote democratic debate on the most important economic and social issues that affect people’s lives.’ Its advisory board includes Nobel Laureate economists Robert Solow and Joseph Stiglitz.

Weisbrot is Co-Director of CEPR and his expertise encompasses economic growth, trade, international financial institutions, development and Latin America. Sachs is a world-renowned economist and senior UN advisor with considerable knowledge of policies related to sustainable development and combatting poverty. Their credentials are impressive and the title of their report is damning: ‘U.S. Sanctions on Venezuela Are Responsible for Tens of Thousands of Deaths’.

The Trump administration imposed sanctions on Venezuela in August 2017. These prohibited the Venezuelan government from borrowing in US markets, thus preventing the country from restructuring its foreign debt. As the report made clear:

It is important to emphasize that nearly all of the foreign exchange that is needed to import medicine, food, medical equipment, spare parts and equipment needed for electricity generation, water systems, or transportation, is received by the Venezuelan economy through the government’s revenue from the export of oil. Thus, any sanctions that reduce export earnings, and therefore government revenue, thereby reduce the imports of these essential and, in many cases, life-saving goods.

The authors added:

The sanctions reduced the public’s caloric intake, increased disease and mortality (for both adults and infants), and displaced millions of Venezuelans who fled the country as a result of the worsening economic depression and hyperinflation. They exacerbated Venezuela’s economic crisis and made it nearly impossible to stabilize the economy, contributing further to excess deaths. All of these impacts disproportionately harmed the poorest and most vulnerable Venezuelans.

In January 2019, additional US sanctions cut Venezuela off from its largest oil market – the United States. Washington also intervened to pressure other countries, including India, not to buy Venezuelan oil that had been previously imported by the US. The consequences have been catastrophic. Amongst the report’s findings were:

• More than 40,000 deaths from 2017–18;
• Sanctions have reduced the availability of food and medicine, and increased disease and mortality;
• The August 2017 sanctions contributed to a sharp decline in oil production, causing great harm to the civilian population;
• If US sanctions implemented in January 2019 continue, they will almost certainly result in tens of thousands more avoidable deaths;
• This finding is based on an estimated 80,000 people with HIV who have not had antiretroviral treatment since 2017, 16,000 people who need dialysis, 16,000 people with cancer, and 4 million with diabetes and hypertension (many of whom cannot obtain insulin or cardiovascular medicine);
• Since the January 2019 sanctions, oil production has fallen by 431,000 barrels per day or 36.4 per cent. This will greatly accelerate the humanitarian crisis. But the projected 67 per cent decline in oil production for the year, if the sanctions continue, would cause vastly more loss of human life.

Weisbrot spelled out the enormity of punitive US policy towards Venezuela:

The sanctions are depriving Venezuelans of lifesaving medicines, medical equipment, food, and other essential imports. This is illegal under U.S. and international law, and treaties that the U.S. has signed. Congress should move to stop it.

Just as the corporate media blamed Saddam Hussein for the devastating impact of US-UK sanctions on Iraq which led to the deaths of over one million Iraqis between 1990 and 2003, ‘our free press’ are united in blaming Nicolás Maduro, the Venezuelan president, for the country’s economic and humanitarian crisis. The new CEPR report refutes that propaganda framework. Sachs emphasised:

Venezuela’s economic crisis is routinely blamed all on Venezuela. But it is much more than that. American sanctions are deliberately aiming to wreck Venezuela’s economy and thereby lead to regime change [our emphasis]. It’s a fruitless, heartless, illegal, and failed policy, causing grave harm to the Venezuelan people.

The report highlights that:

The pain and suffering being inflicted upon the civilian population may not be collateral damage but actually part of the strategy to topple the government.

Indeed, Weisbrot and Sachs make the devastating point that sanctions:

would fit the definition of collective punishment of the civilian population as described in both the Geneva and Hague international conventions, to which the US is a signatory.

In a sane political and media world, this would be headline news.

Media Response?

So, what has been the media response to such a damning report by two authoritative experts? In fact, with a single exception, US and UK ‘mainstream’ newspapers have simply turned a blind eye. This lack of coverage is especially ironic in the case of the Guardian. As journalist John McEvoy, a regular contributor to The Canary, pointed out:

In an editorial [in 2008] the @guardian praised CEPR as a “a professional thorn in the side of orthodoxy” & claimed “in a world of Goliaths, CEPR makes a rather effective David”. Yet it has said nothing of CEPR’s recent study holding US sanctions responsible for 40,000 deaths in Venezuela.

We challenged BBC News via Twitter to cover the important new CEPR report implicating US policy in the deaths of over 40,000 Venezuelans:

What are the odds that @BBCNews will push this as their lead story, with major coverage on #BBCNewsTen from one of their big-name reporters? #Venezuela

There has been no BBC coverage, as far as we can see. Online, we found a brief mention in an article by the ‘mainstream’ press agency, Agence France-Presse: it was buried in the final three paragraphs of a 25-paragraph piece. Exceptions to the ‘norm’ of shameful, power-friendly silence were found in media outlets that we are supposed to ignore or disparage in the West: RT, Sputnik International, TeleSur English, Venezuela Analysis, amongst others.

Imagine if Russian policy had been responsible for a similar number of deaths in another country, with tens of thousands more lives at risk in the months to come. The headlines and in-depth coverage here would be incessant. The Russian ambassador in London would be given a stern dressing-down by the UK Foreign Secretary. There would be calls at Westminster from all parties to condemn Putin in the strongest possible terms. There would be global demands for the UN to intervene. The ideological discipline required to ignore such a major crime under Western policy is remarkable, but entirely standard in the corporate media system; as Noam Chomsky has long observed.

The independent journalist Caitlin Johnstone summed up:

To be clear, this unforgivable atrocity rests predominantly on the shoulders of the Trump administration. […] Imagine if Trump deployed a barrage of Tomahawk missiles onto the most impoverished parts of a densely populated city in Venezuela, then hearing anyone say “Well Maduro actually exploded those people, because he wouldn’t do what we told him to do.” […] Sanctions are a slower and more gruelling weapon of war than bombs and missiles, but they’re vastly superior when it comes to the matter of keeping the public asleep through depraved acts of mass slaughter.

As ever, the corporate media is doing its required job of keeping the public in a state of ignorance, or acquiescence, regarding the crimes of the West. ‘When truth is replaced by silence,’ the Soviet dissident Yevgeny Yevtushenko once said, ‘the silence is a lie.’ As John Pilger noted in 2004, following the invasion and occupation of Iraq:

He might have been referring to the silence over the devastating effects of the embargo. It is a silence that casts journalists as accessories, just as their silence contributed to an illegal and unprovoked invasion of a defenceless country.

Assange Arrest: “A Definite Creep, a Probable Rapist”

In December 2010, Guardian columnist Suzanne Moore commented on Julian Assange in the Mail on Sunday:

‘Indeed it’s difficult to get a clear picture of the complaints by two women he had sex with in Sweden in August… The sex appears to have been consensual, though his refusal to use condoms was not. His behaviour looks bad rather than illegal but who really knows? The Swedish prosecutors themselves say they believe these women’s stories but don’t believe these are crimes.’

‘Who really knows?’ The answer, of course, was and is that, in the absence of a trial, nobody except the people directly involved knows what really happened.

If Moore was somewhat reasonable in 2010, her stance had changed by June 2012, when Assange sought political asylum in Ecuador’s London embassy – a time when, still, nobody really knew what had happened. She tweeted:

‘Seems like Assange’s supporters did not expect him to skip bail? Really? Who has this guy not let down?’

She added: ‘I bet Assange is stuffing himself full of flattened guinea pigs. He really is the most massive turd.’

As discussed in Part 1, the nub of this ‘mainstream’ scorn was the belief that Assange’s concerns about extradition were a cowardly excuse for fleeing possible sex crimes – fears of extradition were a nerdish, paranoid fantasy. Moore wrote in 2011:

‘The extradition hearing last week involved massive showboating on both sides. Assange supporters were gathered outside the courts dressed in orange Guantanamo Bay jumpsuits. Does anyone seriously believe this is what will happen to Assange?’

It is a bitter irony, then, that Assange is currently trapped in the high-security Belmarsh Prison, which has been described as ‘Britain’s Guantanamo Bay’.

The fact that Assange has now been arrested at the request of the US seeking his extradition over allegations that he conspired with Chelsea Manning, means that Assange’s claimed motive for seeking political asylum now appears very credible indeed – he was right about US intentions.

Assange can now be depicted as a cowardly fugitive from Swedish justice only by someone finding it outrageous that he should resist extradition by the Trump regime to spend the rest of his life in jail, or worse.

In other words, if corporate journalists are responding to the facts, rather than power-serving prejudice, recent events should have moderated their stance towards Assange. It is easy to check.

‘Everyone’s Least Favourite Squatter’

Suzanne Moore commented in the New Statesman after the arrest:

O frabjous day! We are all bored out of our minds with Brexit when a demented looking gnome is pulled out of the Ecuadorian embassy by the secret police of the deep state. Or “the met” as normal people call them.

In other words, Assange remains the same wretched, risible figure he was before Moore came to know he had been arrested on charges relating to US extradition. She added bizarrely on Twitter:

‘Assange supporters. Cunt soup babbling about on press freedom.’

In an article for the Sunday Times on April 14, James Ball claimed that:

‘Julian Assange is the architect of his own downfall. Bullish and grandiose yet plagued by paranoia, the WikiLeaks boss is his own worst enemy.’

Ball briefly worked for WikiLeaks, with Assange as his boss, between late 2010 and early 2011. His departure from the organisation was acrimonious. As we mentioned in Part 1, the Guardian has a shameful record in its treatment of Assange. Ball was always happy to act as chief attack dog for the paper. A piece in January 2018 was titled, ‘The only barrier to Julian Assange leaving Ecuador’s embassy is pride’. Below it were the words, ‘The WikiLeaks founder is unlikely to face prosecution in the US’; an assertion that has clearly not aged well. Ball even made the poisonous assertion that:

most of those who still support Assange are hard-right nationalists – with many seeing him as a supporter of the style of politics of both Trump and Vladimir Putin.

John Pilger described Ball as a ‘despicable journalist’; a ‘collaborator’ with those in power who have been attacking WikiLeaks and Assange. Ball has repeatedly stated that he opposes Assange’s extradition to the US. But for years he depicted him extremely unfavourably, and continues to disparage Assange as ‘a dangerous and duplicitous asshole’ after his arrest.

Writing in the Daily Mirror, ‘centrist’ Labour MP, Jess Phillips, commented:

‘Finally Julian Assange, everyone’s least favourite squatter, has been kicked out of the Ecuadorian embassy and into custody on charges of skipping bail after accusations of sexual violence in Sweden.

‘I am sure we will all miss his speeches from the balcony of the embassy as if he were about to launch into Don’t Cry For Me Argentina.

‘Assange, once beloved for leaking the secrets of global governments, has essentially been reduced to a grumpy, stroppy teenager.

‘He never left his room, thought he was the best thing since sliced bread and had his internet taken away when he was naughty.’

Phillips offered one serious assertion:

‘His arrest ended a seven-year stint in the embassy, which he chose. He didn’t have to stay there…’

The obvious fact that the US superpower really was, all the time, out to get him, strongly suggests he did have to stay there and wasn’t motivated to avoid facing the far less threatening Swedish accusations.

In 2015, Phillips told the Guardian:

The difference between me and some of my colleagues – not all of them – is that I protect myself by shooting things out. So if I see something that I don’t like I will say it. I won’t sit in some little cabal and whisper about it … I will go up to Seumas Milne and say: “Why on earth are you friends with George Galloway? Your personal friendships are fine but if I see you are moving in any way to get Galloway nearer to this party, I’m going to go for you.” I’ll just say that to him.

Phillips has certainly gone for Assange.

Other ‘mainstream’ reaction was a close copy of comments made when Assange first entered the embassy in 2012 (see our media alert, ‘Incinerating Assange’). Despite reports of an alarming decline in his health after seven years trapped in the embassy, journalists mercilessly mocked Assange’s appearance. Ashley Cowburn, political correspondent for the Independent tweeted (and then deleted after we noted them) two pictures before and after Assange entered the embassy, commenting:

‘Political journalists pre and post-Brexit.’

David Aaronovitch of the The Times‘ 101st Chairborne ‘Humanitarian Intervention’ Division, tweeted with the same compassion that guides his relentless warmongering:

‘I see Tolstoy has just been arrested in central London.’

Jessica Elgot, political editor of the Guardian, joined the fun:

‘Apparently Julian Assange’s internet access has been cut off since March so he probably thinks we’ve left the EU’

Journalist Chris Cook, formerly of BBC’s Newsnight and the Financial Times, referenced an elderly, bearded character from the BBC sitcom, Only Fools and Horses:

‘Justice for Uncle Albert.’

ITV Political Editor, Robert Peston, formerly BBC Business Editor, retweeted an image of Christ with his hand raised in blessing paired with a photograph of Assange making a ‘victory sign’ from inside a prison van. Side-on, Assange’s gesture bore a vague resemblance, but Christ was assuredly not signalling ‘V’ for victory. Like so much ‘mainstream’ humour, the tweet was embarrassingly unfunny, strangely callous.

The Daily Express devoted a whole article to comedy takes of this kind:

‘HILARIOUS Julian Assange memes have swept Twitter in the wake of the Wikileaks founder’s arrest including one he tried to pass himself off as Uncle Albert from Only Fools and Horses – here are the best ones.’

As noted in Part 1, in the real world beyond the media crèche, a medical doctor who examined Assange in the embassy, commented:

‘Assange does not leave behind the physical and psychological sequelae of his confinement at the embassy. The harms follow him; they are irreparable.’

The Scotsman supplied more evidence that journalists perceive enemies targeted for destruction by the state as the same ‘Bad Guy’ regenerating over and over again, like Doctor Who. Dani Garavelli wrote of Assange’s arrest:

‘For me, however, the scene brought back memories of Saddam Hussein emerging from his spider hole in Operation Red Dawn…’

No doubt based on impeccable sources, Garavelli added:

‘His dishevelment had more to do with his questionable personal hygiene than his living conditions.’

The Daily Mail published a deeply totalitarian article titled:

‘Assange inside his fetid lair: Revealed, the full squalid horror that drove embassy staff to finally kick him out

‘EXCLUSIVE: Photos of Julian Assange’s “dirty protests” have been revealed’

The ‘Exclusive’ featured pictures of a single unwashed plate, several mugs in a sink and a squeaky-clean toilet.

The BBC’s Jon Sopel North America Correspondent tweeted:

‘#Ecuador president #LeninMoreno tells me #JulianAssange smeared the walls of the embassy with feces and that is why they revoked his asylum. The #WikiLeaks leader exhausted their tolerance, the president told me @BBCBreaking’

Among others, the claim has also been reported by CNN, the Washington Post, The Atlantic, Vox, ABC News, Reuters, the Associated Press, Daily Mail, Fox News, NBC News,the Independent, the Daily Beast, the Wall Street Journal and Business Insider. Reporter Charles Glass described the surveillance he witnessed in the embassy:

‘He [Assange] made coffee, glancing up at surveillance cameras in the tiny kitchen and every other room in the embassy that recorded his every movement.’

Alexander Rubinstein of Mint Press News concluded:

‘Assange was under total surveillance while in the embassy. They didn’t release the footage of him smearing his poop on the walls because it simply doesn’t exist. It’s a crock of shit.’

Ostensibly ‘alternative’ Novara Media’s Ash Sarkar – who has published numerous opinion pieces in the Guardian and Independent, and who is a favoured guest on flagship BBC shows like Daily Politics, Question Time, the Andrew Marr Show and Newsnighttweeted:

‘Just sayin’ it’s possible to think that Julian Assange is a definite creep, a probable rapist, a conspiracist whackjob *and* that his arrest has incredibly worrying implications for the treatment of those who blow the whistle on gross abuses of state power.’

Sarkar revealed the depth of her knowledge when she wrote:

‘His arrest today came *after* the investigations into rape and the Swedish arrest warrant were dropped.

‘That doesn’t mean he’s innocent of those charges.’

Anyone who knows anything about Assange knows that he has never been charged. But Sarkar’s damning comments on a leading truth-teller facing the wrath of the US state, play extremely well with the ‘mainstream’ gatekeepers selecting BBC guests and Guardian contributors. Sarkar deleted the tweet smearing Assange, not because she regretted her appalling comments, but because ‘ugly stuff defending sexual assault itself has been turning up in my work inbox’ from ‘men’.

On April 11, we tweeted:

‘”Whatever you think of [Assange]…” means, “Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of *them*. I’m not rejecting the respectable, mainstream narrative.”‘

Synchronistically, one day later, Owen Jones wrote in the Guardian under the title:

‘Whatever you think of Julian Assange, his extradition to the US must be opposed’

The Guardian‘s George Monbiot tweeted:

‘Whether or not you like Assange’s politics (I don’t), or his character (ditto)…’

At the risk of being annoying, we responded:

‘George, how much time have you spent with Assange and his unpleasant character?’

We received no reply.

Before the arrest, Channel 4 News Chief Correspondent Alex Thomson commented on WikiLeaks’ complaints about police spying on Assange inside the embassy:

‘WikiLeaks – it all adds up to WikiLeaks whining about their privacy being invaded. Can’t quite see how this deserves airtime on @Channel4News Am I wrong?’

One day later, when Thomson found himself reporting Assange’s arrest, we asked: ‘Was he “whining”, Alex?’

Thomson replied:

‘Yes – clearly’

In fact, Assange was making a political protest, calling on the UK to resist Trump’s attempt at extradition that might see him spending the rest of his life in jail.

A select few journalists managed to retain their dignity in the face of this callous corporate herdthink. To his credit, Andrew Buncombe of the Independent tweeted:

‘There’s been an oddly mocking tone to much of the reporting about Assange, whose organisation has revealed more US state crimes than most journalists. Arrest sets an appalling precedent.’

Odd is the word. Buncombe’s tweet brought to mind a comment made by the BBC’s World Affairs Editor, John Cody Fidler-Simpson CBE, about ‘mainstream’ journalism:

‘There’s something slightly wrong with most of us, don’t you feel? We’re damaged goods, usually with slightly rumpled private lives and unconventional backgrounds. Outsiders, looking in at others from outside.’ (‘Travels with Auntie’, Lynn Barber interviewing John Simpson, Observer, 24 February 2002)

The Guardian‘s Ewen MacAskill commented:‏

‘US did not waste any time putting in extradition request for Assange. Terrible precedent if journalist/publisher ends up in US jail for Iraq war logs and state department cables.’

Remarkably, some supposedly independent, neutral corporate media openly identified with the state. The editorial board of the Wall Street Journal:

‘Julian Assange has done much harm to American interests over the last decade, and on Thursday the WikiLeaks founder moved a large step closer to accountability in a U.S. court.’

Rod Liddle in the Sunday Times:

‘Assange’s publishing of confidential data gravely harmed our interests. In the US he is seen as a terrorist. But a tranche of protesters still believe he is a guardian of truth — and that any wickedness in the world always emanates from the West.’

As Glenn Greenwald commented:

‘If you’re cheering Assange’s arrest based on a US extradition request, your allies in your celebration are the most extremist elements of the Trump administration, whose primary and explicit goal is to criminalize reporting on classified docs & punish WL for exposing war crimes.’

To add weight to the media campaign, more than 70 MPs and peers wrote to Home Secretary Sajid Javid and the shadow home secretary, Diane Abbott, urging them to focus attention on the Swedish investigations that Assange would face should the case be resumed at the alleged victim’s request. The letter was ‘coordinated’ by ‘centrist’, anti-Corbyn Labour MP Stella Creasy who, appropriately enough, ‘Generally voted for use of UK military forces in combat operations overseas.’ Jonathan Cook commented astutely:

‘The 70 MPs who signed the letter to Javid hope to kill two birds with one stone.

‘First, they are legitimising the discourse of the Trump administration. This is no longer about an illegitimate US extradition request on Assange we should all be loudly protesting. It is a competition between two legal claims, and a debate about which one should find legal remedy first.

‘It weighs a woman’s sexual assault allegation against Assange and Wikileaks’ exposure of war crimes committed by the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan. It suggests that both are in the same category, that they are similar potential crimes.

‘But there should only be one response to the US extradition claim on Assange. That it is entirely illegitimate. No debate. Anything less, any equivocation is to collude in the Trump administration’s narrative.’

As we have documented, Jeremy Corbyn has been subject to a similarly relentless, cross-‘spectrum’ political and media campaign attacking him for leading Labour towards electoral disaster, for being a serious threat to UK national security, for conspiring with Putin, and above all, of course, for being a menacing anti-semite.

And yet the facts speak for themselves: Corbyn has been a tremendous electoral success; the idea that Trump, let alone Corbyn, ‘colluded’ with Putin has proved laughable; and the idea that Corbyn and Labour have an anti-semite ‘crisis’ simply defies the known facts of racist prejudice in the leading political parties and wider society.

If the smears are fake, what is driving them? A clue is provided in a tweet by The Intercept‘s Glenn Greenwald:

‘The only 2 times I can remember establishment liberals like @HillaryClinton… uniting with and cheering Trump Admin is when (a) he bombed Syria and (b) they indicted Assange… That says a lot about their values.’

It does indeed. Beyond the relentless fake news, these same ‘values’ are driving the attempts to destroy both Corbyn and Assange.

Assange Arrest, Part 1: “So Now He’s Our Property”

If ‘journalism’ meant what it is supposed to mean– acting as the proverbial ‘fourth estate’ to challenge power and to keep the public informed – then Julian Assange and WikiLeaks would be universally lauded as paragons. So would Chelsea Manning, the brave former US Army whistleblower who passed on to WikiLeaks more than 700,000 confidential US State Department and Pentagon documents, videos and diplomatic cables about the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The most infamous example was ‘Collateral Murder’, a video clip filmed from a US helicopter gunship, showing the indiscriminate killing of a dozen or more Iraqi civilians, including two Reuters journalists, in 2007. Shockwaves reverberated around the world, to the deep embarrassment of the US government and military. Today, Manning is incarcerated in a Virginia jail, and Assange is locked up in the high-security HM Prison Belmarsh.

In 2013, Manning was given a 35-year prison sentence for daring to reveal brutal US abuses of power. This was commuted by President Barack Obama in 2017, two days before he left office, and Manning was able to go free. However, last month she was called to testify against WikiLeaks before a secret grand jury in Virginia. Recognising that this had clearly been set as a trap to incriminate both her and Assange, she refused to answer questions:

I will not participate in a secret process that I morally object to, particularly one that has been used to entrap and persecute activists for protected political speech.

And now Assange, after almost seven years of political asylum in cramped quarters in Ecuador’s embassy in London, and in fading health, has been literally dragged out of what should have been a safe refuge, contrary to international law, and placed at the mercy of UK and US power.

Sean Love, a medical doctor who examined Assange while he was in the embassy, was clear that the WikiLeaks co-founder had suffered badly while in asylum, and would carry that suffering with him for the rest of his life:

Assange does not leave behind the physical and psychological sequelae of his confinement at the embassy. The harms follow him; they are irreparable. The inhumanity of his treatment and the flagrant denials of his universal rights by Ecuador and the UK are unconscionable.

He also countered the scurrilous propaganda that Assange had behaved badly while in the embassy:

Never did I witness Assange having poor hygiene or discourteous behavior toward embassy staff. His suffering was readily apparent, yet he was always pleasant, professional; admirable characteristics under extreme and punitive circumstances.

Fidel Narvaez, former consul at the Ecuador embassy from the first day Assange arrived, on 19 June 2012, until 15 July 2018, said that the claims smearing Assange’s behaviour in the embassy were ‘absolutely false, or distorted, or exaggerated’. Narvaez added that:

Whenever I was in the room with Julian, there was always an attitude of respect, of mutal respect, always, from all the diplomatic and administrative staff towards Julian and from Julian towards them… I challenge any member of the embassy staff to cite an occasion when Julian ever – ever! – treated them with a lack of respect.

Narvaez says the atmosphere may well have changed after he left when, he believes, Moreno’s regime tried to make life ‘unbearable’ for Assange in the embassy.

Prime Minister Theresa May boasted of Assange’s arrest to Parliament:

This goes to show that in the United Kingdom, no one is above the law.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt opined:

Julian Assange is no hero.

Democratic Senator Joe Manchin on Thursday celebrated Assange’s arrest, arguing that it’s ‘great for the American people’:

We’re going to extradite him. It will be really good to get him back on United States soil. So now he’s our property and we can get the facts and truth from him.

But Rafael Correa, the former president of Ecuador who had granted Assange asylum in 2012, was scathing about the man who had succeeded him in 2017:

The greatest traitor in Ecuadorian and Latin American history, Lenin Moreno, allowed the British police to enter our embassy in London to arrest Assange. Moreno is a corrupt man, but what he has done is a crime that humanity will never forget.

Journalist John Pilger had strong words:

The action of the British police in literally dragging Julian Assange from the Ecuadorean embassy and the smashing of international law by the Ecuadorean regime in permitting this barbarity are crimes against the most basic natural justice. This is a warning to all journalists.

Former CIA whistleblower Edward Snowden warned:

Assange’s critics may cheer, but this is a dark moment for press freedom.

In an interview on Democracy Now!, Noam Chomsky called Assange’s arrest ‘scandalous in several respects’ and expanded:

One of them is just the effort of governments—and it’s not just the U.S. government. The British are cooperating. Ecuador, of course, is now cooperating. Sweden, before, had cooperated. The efforts to silence a journalist who was producing materials that people in power didn’t want the rascal multitude to know about […] that’s basically what happened. WikiLeaks was producing things that people ought to know about those in power. People in power don’t like that, so therefore we have to silence it. OK? This is the kind of thing, the kind of scandal, that takes place, unfortunately, over and over.

He added:

The other scandal is just the extraterritorial reach of the United States, which is shocking. I mean, why should the United States—why should any—no other state could possibly do it. But why should the United States have the power to control what others are doing elsewhere in the world? I mean, it’s an outlandish situation. It goes on all the time. We never even notice it. At least there’s no comment on it.

Assault On Press Freedom

Initial news reports had stated that Assange had been arrested merely on alleged breach of bail conditions. A terse update from the London Metropolitan police confirmed the real agenda: namely that the US is seeking his extradition. WikiLeaks expanded:

Assange has been arrested in relation to a US extradition request for “conspiracy with Chelsea Manning” for publishing Iraq War Logs, Cablegate, Afghan War Logs, precisely the persecution for which he was granted asylum under the 1951 Refugee Convention in 2012.

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald and co-author Micah Lee warned that the US government’s indictment of Julian Assange ‘poses grave threats to press freedom’. They explain:

The U.S. government has been determined to indict Julian Assange and WikiLeaks since at least 2010, when the group published hundreds of thousands of war logs and diplomatic cables revealing numerous war crimes and other acts of corruption by the U.S., the U.K., and other governments around the world. To achieve that goal, the Obama DOJ [Department of Justice] empaneled a grand jury in 2011 and conducted a sweeping investigation into WikiLeaks, Assange, and Manning.

But in 2013, the Obama DOJ concluded that it could not prosecute Assange in connection with the publication of those documents because there was no way to distinguish what WikiLeaks did from what the New York Times, The Guardian, and numerous media outlets around the world routinely do: namely, work with sources to publish classified documents.

However, the new indictment under Trump attempts to dissociate Assange and WikiLeaks from journalism. Greenwald and Lee observed that:

The indictment tries to cast itself as charging Assange not with journalistic activities but with criminal hacking. But it is a thinly disguised pretext for prosecuting Assange for publishing the U.S. government’s secret documents while pretending to make it about something else.

For those scoffing in the corporate media and elsewhere that Assange is ‘not a journalist’, Greenwald has a pertinent observation:

When you see professional media figures decreeing “Julian Assange is not a journalist,” compare how much corruption & criminality by the world’s most powerful factions they’ve exposed in their work to how much Assange has exposed. That contrast will tell you all you need to know.

Historian and foreign policy analyst Mark Curtis commented succinctly of the BBC’s continuing love affair with war criminal Tony Blair:

Committing crimes overseas gets you to the BBC; revealing them gets you to Belmarsh.

Daniel Ellsberg, who famously leaked the Pentagon Papers about the Vietnam War, told The Real News Network:

It’s a very serious assault on the First Amendment. A clear attempt to rescind the freedom of the press, essentially. […] This is the first indictment of a journalist and editor or publisher, Julian Assange. And if it’s successful it will not be the last. This is clearly a part of President Trump’s war on the press, what he calls the enemy of the state. And if he succeeds in putting Julian Assange in prison, where I think he’ll be for life, if he goes there at all, probably the first charge against him is only a few years. But that’s probably just the first of many.

Chris Hedges, formerly a reporter with the New York Times, gave an ominous warning:

The arrest [on April 11] of Julian Assange eviscerates all pretense of the rule of law and the rights of a free press. The illegalities, embraced by the Ecuadorian, British and U.S. governments, in the seizure of Assange are ominous. They presage a world where the internal workings, abuses, corruption, lies and crimes, especially war crimes, carried out by corporate states and the global ruling elite will be masked from the public. They presage a world where those with the courage and integrity to expose the misuse of power will be hunted down, tortured, subjected to sham trials and given lifetime prison terms in solitary confinement. They presage an Orwellian dystopia where news is replaced with propaganda, trivia and entertainment. The arrest of Assange, I fear, marks the official beginning of the corporate totalitarianism that will define our lives.

Former UK ambassador Craig Murray made a telling point:

If a Russian opposition politician were dragged out by armed police, and within three hours had been convicted on a political charge by a patently biased judge with no jury, with a lengthy jail sentence to follow, can you imagine the Western media reaction to that kind of kangaroo court? Yet that is exactly what just happened in London.

Former Guardian journalist Jonathan Cook observed:

For seven years, from the moment Julian Assange first sought refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy in London, they have been telling us we were wrong, that we were paranoid conspiracy theorists. We were told there was no real threat of Assange’s extradition to the United States, that it was all in our fevered imaginations.

They were wrong. As Assange relayed to the public via his lawyer last week:

I told you so.

Cook continued:

This was never about Sweden or bail violations, or even about the discredited Russiagate narrative, as anyone who was paying the vaguest attention should have been able to work out. It was about the US Deep State doing everything in its power to crush Wikileaks and make an example of its founder.

He added:

Still the media and political class is turning a blind eye. Where is the outrage at the lies we have been served up for these past seven years? Where is the contrition at having been gulled for so long? Where is the fury at the most basic press freedom – the right to publish – being trashed to silence Assange? Where is the willingness finally to speak up in Assange’s defence?

It’s not there. There will be no indignation at the BBC, or the Guardian, or CNN. Just curious, impassive – even gently mocking – reporting of Assange’s fate.

We take a look at both BBC News and the Guardian later in this alert.

Ecuador Bends To Washington’s Will

Why did Ecuador rescind Assange’s political asylum? According to Fidel Narvaez, the former Ecuador consul to London, whom we quoted earlier:

[President Lenin] Moreno is using the Assange crisis as a smokescreen to cover up a major corruption scandal that both he and his family are involved in. He claimed that, as a credible pretext to extradite Assange, the government is selling the idea that Assange has hacked President Moreno’s phone, despite Assange’s lack of internet access and with no evidence to substantiate the allegations, and no verification of the claims carried out.

The anonymous publication of the so-called ‘INA Papers’, implicating Moreno in corruption involving illicit payments to an offshore company, has been cynically exploited by Ecuador as a pretext to expel Assange from the embassy. As journalist Elizabeth Vos observed:

WikiLeaks had reported about the scandal allegedly involving Moreno and his family with INA Investments Corp, though WikiLeaks has not published any documents related to the case.

Another salient factor is that, following his electoral victory in 2017, Moreno, who had once been Correa’s vice-president, turned his back on his campaign promises. This is far from unusual in politics, of course. But this was a spectacular turnaround. As independent journalist Joe Emersberger commented:

Within three months of taking office, it was obvious that Moreno had been an impostor. He quickly devoted himself to stuffing the pockets and restoring the political dominance of the elites who hated Correa. Moreno has just signed a deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) which will further entrench his elite-friendly policies.

Emersberger added:

Imagine Jeremy Corbyn, the day after he takes office in the UK, announcing that the Conservative Party manifesto is what he had really supported all his life. That would approximate what Moreno pulled off in Ecuador.’

In short, Moreno is keen to bend over backwards to please Washington. Last December, the New York Times reported that:

President Lenín Moreno of Ecuador and his aides sought to rid themselves of Mr. Assange in exchange for concessions like debt relief from the United States.

Ecuador received $4.2 billion in a US-backed International Monetary Fund bailout on February 4. We are supposed to regard this as mere coincidence.

As recently as December 2018, UN human rights experts had repeated their call for Assange to be allowed to walk free. They noted that he feared arrest by British authorities if he left, followed by extradition to the US. The UK, said the UN experts, should abide by its international obligations and free the WikiLeaks founder. The UK government rejected the call. On Assange’s arrest, independent UN human rights experts warned again of the risk of ‘serious human rights violations’ to him. Agnes Callamard, UN Special Rapporteur on extra-judicial executions, tweeted that in ‘expelling Assange from the Embassy’ and allowing his arrest, Ecuador had placed him ‘one step closer to extradition’. She added that the UK had arbitrarily detained him, ‘possibly endangering his life’.

BBC And Guardian Fake News

The BBC was guilty of false framing throughout its coverage of Assange’s arrest on April 11. In particular, when Huw Edwards read from the BBC News at Ten script that night:

‘[Assange] took refuge originally to avoid extradition to Sweden over charges of sexual assault; charges that have since been dropped.’

There never were ‘charges’, as anyone familiar with the facts would be aware. A BBC News website article was later quietly updated, without any apology that we have seen, after we had challenged Nick Sutton, the editor of the website. As the Defend WikiLeaks website points out:

‘It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange is, or has ever been, charged with an offence by the United Kingdom or Sweden.’

Adding:

‘It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange applied for political asylum over “sex allegations” or “extradition to Sweden” or to “avoid questioning”.’

It is a ‘key myth’, says the Defend WikiLeaks website:

‘Despite numerous false media reports, Julian’s concern was never to avoid extradition to Sweden, but to avoid extradition to the United States – where he would be imprisoned, and, as Ecuador noted in granting asylum, could even face the death penalty [our emphasis]. Julian would have accepted extradition to Sweden had the UK provided an assurance against onward extradition to the US.’

Defend WikiLeaks adds:

‘Despite false media reporting, Julian has also always been willing to present himself to the British police over the bail issue from 2012, again provided that the UK authorities give assurances that he would not be extradited to the US.

‘Neither the UK nor Swedish governments have ever provided such assurances against extradition.’

Such vital information was glaring by its absence from ‘mainstream’ reporting; not least in BBC News coverage.

The night of Assange’s arrest, BBC Newsnight presenter Katie Razzell began in standard ‘impartial’ manner in describing his status:

Out of his hiding place and under arrest.

‘Hiding place’ is BBC newspeak for ‘political asylum’. The implication was that Julian Assange had hidden in an attempt to evade justice. This was fake news, repeated on the airwaves and across the BBC website.

One of the most notorious examples of Assange-related fake news was the front-page accusation in the Guardian last November that Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s former campaigns manager, had met Assange in the embassy three times. No shred of evidence has ever been produced for this claim, which WikiLeaks and Manafort have both vehemently denied, and the story has been widely regarded as fake from virtually the hour of its publication. Luke Harding, the lead journalist on the story, and his editors Paul Johnson and Katharine Viner, have never apologised or retracted the story; nor have they responded to the many challenges about it. As we have previously noted, the Guardian has a disreputable record in publishing nasty, abusive and derogatory pieces about Assange.

A Guardian editorial on the eve of Assange’s expulsion at least stated that Assange should not be extradited to the US:

[He] has shone a light on things that should never have been hidden.

However, John Pilger was scathing of the paper he called ‘Assange’s principal media tormentor [and] a collaborator with the secret state’, noting that its editorial had ‘scaled new weasel heights’. He continued:

The Guardian has exploited the work of Assange and WikiLeaks in what its previous editor called “the greatest scoop of the last 30 years.” The paper creamed off WikiLeaks’ revelations and claimed the accolades and riches that came with them.

With not a penny going to Julian Assange or to WikiLeaks, a hyped Guardian book led to a lucrative Hollywood movie. The book’s authors, Luke Harding and David Leigh, turned on their source, abused him and disclosed the secret password Assange had given the paper in confidence, which was designed to protect a digital file containing leaked US embassy cables.

The editorial misled its readers on why Assange had sought refuge:

When he first entered the Ecuadorian embassy he was trying to avoid extradition to Sweden over allegations of rape and molestation. That was wrong.

As we saw above, this is a grotesque twisting of the facts. Indeed, the Guardian editorial was steeped in sophistry:

The Assange case is a morally tangled web. He believes in publishing things that should not always be published – this has long been a difficult divide between the Guardian and him.

Pilger demolished the Guardian’s obfuscation:

These “things” are the truth about the homicidal way America conducts its colonial wars, the lies of the British Foreign Office in its denial of rights to vulnerable people, such as the Chagos Islanders, the exposé of Hillary Clinton as a backer and beneficiary of jihadism in the Middle East, the detailed description of American ambassadors of how the governments in Syria and Venezuela might be overthrown, and much more. It is all available on the WikiLeaks site.

On April 14, the Guardian website even ran an ‘exclusive’ that was essentially a disgraceful series of dishonest excuses by Ecuador president Lenin Moreno for kicking Julian Assange out of the London embassy. As Jonathan Cook rightly noted via Twitter:

Notice how the Guardian is now the go-to place for vassal state politicians – Ecuador’s Moreno, Venezuela’s Guaido – to convey propaganda on behalf of the US national security state. And the Guardian has the gall to call such stenography an “exclusive”.

In an interview with Afshin Rattansi on RT’s Going Underground, Pilger pointed out that Assange and WikiLeaks had angered Washington by exposing US crimes and deceptions to the global public:

What we are in the midst of is the world’s greatest superpower struggling to maintain its dominance. Its information dominance, its technological dominance, its cultural dominance. And WikiLeaks has presented an extreme hurdle to this.

He concluded:

We’ve handed a whole world of abandonment of basic democracy, which is based on dissent, on challenging, on holding power to account, on revelation, on the embarrassment of power. Not trivial embarrassment, the embarrassment of odd celebrity, but real embarrassment. And WikiLeaks provided that public service of journalism.

In Part 2, we will examine corporate media coverage and Twitter responses from ‘mainstream’ commentators.

Trump’s “Collusion” and Corbyn as “Dangerous Hero”

According to corporate journalism, a tidal wave of ‘fake news’ has long been threatening to swamp their wonderful work reporting real news. The ProQuest media database finds fully 805,669 hits for newspaper articles mentioning the term ‘fake news’. The key sources of such fakery are said to be social media, and above all, of course, Russia.

It is a perfect irony, then, that ‘the Mueller report‘, conducted by the US Department of Justice Special Counsel’s Office, headed by former FBI Director Robert Mueller, ‘did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities’.

Jeremy Scahill of The Intercept explains the significance:

‘This has been an utterly colossal media failure and it reveals how little things have actually changed with the broader press since the Iraq War lies. The overall tone of much of the reporting on this Trump-Russia story has started from the position that the intelligence community was being truthful about Trump and Russia. The reporting then sought to further confirm those assertions. It was confirmation bias to the nth degree…

‘Also, the fact that Trump is a cartoonish buffoonish villain contributed to an atmosphere where the attitude was that anything Trump was accused of—no matter how insane it sounded—was totally plausible, if not likely, if not certain to have happened. Trump was not supposed to win. It was Hillary Clinton’s turn.’

As we will discuss below, this should ring loud bells with British readers subjected to a very similar smear campaign targeting Jeremy Corbyn, who was also ‘not supposed to win’ the Labour Party election leadership.

In 2017, a Guardian leading article commented on Trump and Russia:

‘The Guardian view of Trump’s Russia links: a lot to go at.’

Another leader in 2017 went much further:

‘Meanwhile the grenades he [Trump] lobs via Twitter or interview cloud the issue that still lies at the heart of his presidency: Russian meddling in the US election, and the possible collusion of his own campaign. All other iniquities pale beside this.’

Also in the Guardian in 2017, columnist Paul Mason highlighted ‘Kremlin involvement in the Trump campaign’ as the key reason ‘Trump could be out of office within a year’.

The Telegraph agreed that the ‘russiagate’ claim ‘is the cloud hanging over the entire presidency’.

The press has been filled with numerous similar examples.

Strongly echoing UK experience, Scahill adds:

‘We have been subjected to more than two years of nonstop, fact-free assertions and wild theories masquerading as fact, masquerading as insightful analysis.’

A tsunami of ‘fake news’, in other words, supplied by the very same media who have supplied that other tsunami of warnings on the threat of ‘fake news’.

The key word, and the title of Guardian journalist Luke Harding’s best-selling book: Collusion. The rest of the book title, unfortunately for Harding: How Russia Helped Trump Win the White House (Guardian Faber Publishing; Main, 2017).

Harding was also lead author of a fake, front-page Guardian claim in November 2018 that Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, had met Julian Assange three times in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Both Harding and Guardian editor Kath Viner have refused to respond to challenges posed, for example, by former Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald. Needless to say, our questions were also ignored.
Tom Bower’s ‘Farrago of Falsehood and Insinuation’

As discussed, Scahill’s ‘years of nonstop, fact-free assertions and wild theories masquerading as fact’ also describes UK attacks on Corbyn. In an article for Middle East Eye, journalist Peter Oborne carefully examined a high-profile example supplied by investigative journalist Tom Bower’s book, Dangerous Hero – Corbyn’s Ruthless Plot For Power.

The title of Oborne’s piece:

‘Jeremy Corbyn and the truth about Tom Bower’s book – A biography about the Labour leader systematically distorts the truth, writes Peter Oborne.’

By contrast, the Amazon entry for Bower’s book features these impressive comments:

‘THE BOOK EVERY VOTER MUST READ’ Mail on Sunday

‘Meticulous and highly readable … Funny and devastating’ Daily Telegraph

‘The most compelling in-depth study so far’ Guardian

No surprise, then, that the book features in prominent, shop-front and multiple other in-store displays in bookshops like Waterstones and Foyles.

In the Independent, former editor Chris Blackhurst wrote:

‘Reading Tom Bower’s insightful new biography… I was reminded of his [Corbyn’s] isolation and single-mindedness.’

Blackhurst continued:

‘Reading Bower, you’re left in no doubt that Corbyn wants to turn the clock back, that his solution to those problematic examples and awkward developments that upset his path is merely to ignore them. This makes him very dangerous indeed, hard to reason with, oblivious to criticism and set in his ways. It’s a troubling account, one that should give every entrepreneur pause and anyone who works in business pause.’

Writing in the Telegraph, Tom Harris gave four out of five stars to Bower’s ‘devastating account of Corbyn’s rise to the top’. Harris wrote:

‘Bower’s meticulous and highly readable account must be absorbed from start to finish’ [and was] ‘Funny and devastating’.

In the Sunday Times, Dominic Sandbrook, praised ‘a forensically detailed portrait of a man with no inner life, a monomaniac suffused with an overwhelming sense of his own righteousness…’

ProQuest finds no less than 22 hits for articles mentioning Bower and his book in the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday. In the latter, historian Andrew Roberts welcomed the paper’s ‘serialisation of Tom Bower’s searing biography of Corbyn’. Roberts wrote:

‘Today’s extract from Bower’s book charts how anti-Zionism became a near-obsession for Corbyn since his early days as a trades union researcher, leading him to believe in what Bower describes as “the malign collective power of Jews”.’

The book ‘made clear’ that Corbyn ‘has adopted a Leninist blueprint for taking and controlling power at Westminster, while playing the “nice guy”.’

Oborne, on the other hand, took such a dim view of the book that he felt obliged to remind readers of the whole ethical basis of political journalism:

‘Those of us who report on politics are at liberty to express, within limits, whatever opinions we like. These limits include an obligation to observe standards. We should strive to be accurate. We can make strong arguments but ought not to distort the truth or suppress relevant information to make our point.

‘Writer Tom Bower fails catastrophically to meet these standards. It is not only that Dangerous Hero: Corbyn’s Ruthless Plot For Power, his new book on Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, contains numerous falsehoods. It systematically omits relevant facts in order to portray Corbyn as a ruthless Marxist and anti-semite hell-bent on destroying Western liberal values.’

Oborne continued:

‘The ugly truth is that Bower is not straight with his readers, let alone Corbyn.

‘Again and again he withholds relevant information, with the result that the Labour leader and his colleagues come over in the worst possible light.’

Oborne provided numerous examples in his long, careful analysis. For example:

‘Bower makes much of a confrontation between Labour activist Marc Wadsworth and Labour MP Ruth Smeeth at the launch for Shami Chakrabarti’s report on anti-semitism in June 2016. He writes that “Wadsworth snapped at her that not only was she ‘working hand-in-hand’ with the right-wing media by speaking to the journalist, but she was also a Jew”.

‘The brief incident is recorded on video. I have examined this video. Nowhere in the footage does Wadsworth say that Smeeth is Jewish. I spoke to two eyewitnesses to this event, both of whom confirmed to me that at no point did Wadsworth say that Smeeth was Jewish.’

Bower’s book contains a really extraordinary claim against Corbyn’s press officer, former Guardian comment editor Seumas Milne, describing his behaviour after the arrival of members of the Board of Deputies of British Jews in Corbyn’s office:

‘In the presence of Jews, his body language had visibly changed.’

Oborne noted that no evidence or source was provided to justify this accusation, which depicts Milne as an authentically Nazi-style Jew-hater. Oborne responded, to devastating effect, citing journalist David Hearst:

“‘I sat for a number of years opposite Seumas,’ he told me. ‘I am Jewish, as are a number of my former colleagues on The Guardian. At no time did any of us sense that Seumas’s body language changed in our presence.

“‘He was part of the team, held in high regard for his knowledge of the Middle East and often consulted on it, particularly by the person who sat next to him, fellow columnist Jonathan Freedland. That opinion of Seumas was shared by our editor at the time, Alan Rusbridger, who kept him as comment editor for six years.'”

Bower’s response to Oborne’s critique?

‘During the last 36 hours, I have made numerous attempts to make contact with Tom Bower in order to give him the chance to defend himself. I’ve contacted him by mobile phone, by text message and at his direct line at his London home. No answer. I also emailed a list of questions to Bower yesterday morning, both to his private email address and to his publicist at William Collins. He has not responded to me.’

Oborne has since told us that Bower never responded to his questions (Twitter, direct message, March 28). He continued:

‘Bower has made an astonishing number of factual errors – more than I have ever come across in a book from a mainstream publisher. While something has clearly gone horribly wrong with the editing process at William Collins, Bower is the author and must take full responsibility…

‘Time after time, Bower makes assertions that are not backed by any evidence. The problem is so bad that I resolved to carry out my own investigation into the truth of some of the assertions made in Bower’s book. This article is the result of my research. Again and again, I have been able to prove that his account of events is false, misleading and, in some cases, pure fabrication.’

Oborne added:

‘Bower’s book is not just intellectually dishonest, it is a farrago of falsehood and insinuation.

‘Yet it appears to have had no difficulty finding a mainstream publisher, while receiving a generous reception in the mainstream press. To their credit a handful of reviewers – above all Stephen Bush in the Observer – have exposed some of the errors in this book. But even the Bush review hardly touches on the extent of the collapse of journalistic standards in Bower’s account of Corbyn.’

To his credit, the Guardian‘s George Monbiot tweeted Oborne’s piece with high praise:

‘A brave and remarkable review’

A tweeter countered, noting that ‘similar nonsense comes from Guardian on a daily basis without regard to balance or fact’.

Monbiot replied:

‘Both the Guardian and the Observer slated the book.’

In fact, Guardian columnist and former political editor of the Observer, Gaby Hinsliff, concluded of Bower’s book in the Guardian:

‘This is the most compelling in-depth study so far of a man whose head is unusually difficult to get inside, given his suspicion of anyone who isn’t a fellow traveller. Just don’t expect it to change anyone’s mind.’

It is telling to compare Hinsliff’s most severe criticism with Oborne’s:

‘And that’s perhaps the biggest flaw in an otherwise damning book. Bower’s colours seem nailed to the mast…’

As Oborne says:

‘British journalists need to ask themselves a question. Is there something rotten in British media discourse which allows someone like Bower to get away with this?’

It is an important question. Celebrating ‘a farrago of falsehood’ titled Dangerous Hero can have dangerous consequences. Last month, Corbyn was punched in the head by a protestor holding an egg (dismissed as an ‘egging’ by journalists) who was subsequently jailed for 28 days for the attack. This week, we learned that soldiers of the 3rd Battalion of the British Paratroop Regiment filmed themselves shooting at a picture of Corbyn.

This recalls the revelation, in 2015, that a senior serving general had warned that a government led by Corbyn could face ‘a mutiny’ from the army. The unnamed general told the Sunday Times:

‘The Army just wouldn’t stand for it. The general staff would not allow a prime minister to jeopardise the security of this country and I think people would use whatever means possible, fair or foul to prevent that. You can’t put a maverick in charge of a country’s security.’

Political and press criticism of Corbyn has always far exceeded the usual fierce disagreement, presenting him as a treacherous threat to national security, an anti-semitic fool who is ‘unfit’ to lead the country. He has been relentlessly presented as fundamentally unacceptable. As this alert was being written, Conservative MP Caroline Johnson warned in parliament that mismanaging Brexit risked ‘letting down the country and ushering in a Marxist, anti-semite-led government’. It is, in fact, astonishing to see how, in less than four years, politicians and journalists have turned an honest, compassionate, decent politician into a hate figure.

If ‘acceptable’ political choices are ultimately determined by the media, the government, or even by the military, we are well on the way to fascism.