Category Archives: Disinformation

The Art of Political Lying

A young Queen Anne  (Photo: Wikimedia)

With idle tales this fills our empty ears;
The next reports what from the first he hears;
The rolling fictions grow in strength and size,
Each author adding to the former lies.
Here vain credulity, with new desires,
Leads us astray, and groundless joy inspires;
The dubious whispers, tumults fresh designed,
And chilling fears astound the anxious mind.

From Ovid’s “Metamorphoses” XII. 56-61 (completed in 8 CE) as told in Jonathan Swift, “The Art of Political Lying” The Examiner

While the foundations of the USA tremble under the force of unprecedented vote fraud, color revolutionary operations, and the danger of a renewed fascist takeover of the Wall Street-Big Tech-NSA/FBI/CIA combine, certain facts must be separated from fiction.

  • Despite the corporate media announcements of Biden’s victory, the fact is that things are far from certain as President Trump has made the point that he will fight all cases of blatant vote fraud which have appeared across 8 states.
  • Despite corporate media assertions to the contrary, there are indeed growing mountains of evidence that vote fraud has occurred among democrat-controlled swing states which have either given tens of thousands of Trump votes to Biden via “glitches,” blocked republican observers, used rosters replete with dead voters, modified dates on ballots or hundreds of thousands of mystery ballots appearing out of thin air in the middle of the night tipping the scales for Biden.
  • Every opposing narrative to this political lie is being surgically shut down, such as the immense censoring of the President’s Twitter account and cancelling of the “Stop the Steal” Facebook group that garnered over 350 000 members in only 24 hours. Meanwhile MSNBC, CBS, NPR and NBC have decided to take the unprecedented action of censoring the President’s press conference of Nov. 5 which raised serious questions about the legitimacy of the fraudulent votes.

While more cases of fraud can be listed here, and here, and here, and here, and here, the political situation is so tumultuous that I think it is important to take another approach to the historic moment we are currently living through by reviewing a parallel moment of great potential which was squandered three centuries ago.

Jonathan Swift and the Battle for Britain’s Soul

On November 9, 1710, the Satirist and political organizer Jonathan Swift wrote a pamphlet called the Art of Political Lying providing a decisive blow against the proto-deep state of the 18th century which had only recently taken control of the Island (Britain) during the 1688 Glorious Revolution and 1694 creation of the Bank of England.

In 1702, a young Queen Anne took the throne of England, and it was here that a clash occurred which was nearly entirely written out of history. From the moment the Venetian Party of England orchestrated the 1688 coup: wars, speculation and usury became the driving force of Britain. The long-hoped for peace with France organized by the great Colbert and his mentor Cardinal Jules Mazarin years earlier was lost and a new epoch of forever wars began to dominate British Foreign policy and British spending. It was in this new war economy that the bill to charter the Bank of England was passed. Under this bank, monetary policy became tied to the creation of ever-growing debts without providing the means to pay them off.

While many informed citizens today may be aware of this fact, and even comprehend the parallels to the takeover of the United States by international financiers during the 1913 creation of the Federal Reserve, very few people have come to realize that there was a valiant fight in opposition to this 17-18th century coup from which could teach us much of what organises today’s world.

The Republican Resistance

In opposition to the City of London-based deep state, an anti-imperial faction had been organized around the Speaker of the House of Commons Robert Harley (1661-1724) who worked closely with an influential network of collaborators who did much to resist the empire which had not yet consolidated its migration from the swamps of Venice to more secure grounds in the City of London.

Harley had worked closely with his advisor Daniel Defoe (1) and other Tories to counter the monstrous Central Bank of England with a National Land Bank in 1696. The Land Bank was designed to serve as a tool to generate credit for manufacturing, internal improvements and centers of education across Britain with a focus on long term projects that generated real wealth. Harley’s group also worked tirelessly to establish peace treaties with France in order to create a climate of stability needed for investments into the real economic sector to occur rather than leak money into wars of death and destruction, and in many ways this form of political economy served as a precursor to the later system that arose under the guidance of Benjamin Franklin and Alexander Hamilton.

Sadly, Harley’s Land bank was soon taken over by speculators and run into the ground as the Venetian Party deep state continued to rise in power.

When William died in 1702, Princess Anne became Queen and the cabal of Britain’s Venetian Party (then operating under the banner of the Whig Junto) continued to exercise vast influence over affairs of state driving the nation into ever deeper unpayable debts and war.

As the late historian Graham Lowry brilliantly demonstrated in his book How the Nation Was Won, tides began to turn against the Venetian Party Whigs by 1710 as Queen Anne had come to realize how she had been deceived by her close confidante Sarah Churchill, who together with her husband John Churchill (aka: Lord Marlborough) had gained full control of the British armies, siphoned millions of pounds from war profiteering, and insider trading in the City of London while gaining castles more luxurious than those owned by the royal household itself. (2)

Queen Anne Drains the Swamp

After eight years of manipulation, the Queen had decided that she had enough and on September 20, 1710, she dissolved the Parliament and began draining the swamp under the guidance of Robert Harley whom she promptly made Prime Minister (then called “First Minister”), Chancellor of the Exchequer (1710-11) and Lord High Treasurer (1711-1714). Before the Parliament was reconvened, the majority of John Churchill’s Whig allies were forced to resign in disgrace while Sarah Churchill was removed from her position as “confidante”, having been replaced with Abigail Masham, a key figure in Harley’s republican network of court insiders.

As Lowry demonstrates, Harley’s co-conspirators centered in the Scriblerus Club led by the satirist and Irish statesman Jonathan Swift who arrived in London weeks before the humanist counter-coup was unleashed and remained Harley’s chief advisor and propagandist from August 1710 until 1713. Other members of the Scriblerus Club included Queen Anne’s physician John Aberthnot, poet Alexander Pope, playwright John Gay, philosopher/statesman Henry St. John and Thomas Parnell (to name a few). An important characteristic of all these figures was that they were cultural warriors of the highest level whose poetry, plays and music was inspired by the intention to uplift the minds and morals of the people.

Describing Harley’s efforts to finally end the forever wars with France that ultimately resulted in the 1713 Treaty of Ultrecht and revive his 1696 plans for a National Land Bank (though this time with an international colonial infrastructure development orientation under a government-run South Sea company to counteract both the Bank of England and also the British East India Company), Swift wrote in his 1714 Memoires: “Mr. Harley, to give credit to his administration, resolved upon two very important points: first, to secure unprovided debts of the nation and secondly to put an end to the war.”

Much like today’s easily bewildered world, press agencies of 1710 were too often used by the forces of evil to make black appear white, up appear down and right appear wrong. Slanders and mistruths were soon spread across the press of Harley’s corrupting influence on the Queen and the population was soon induced to riot and even burn effigies of both the Queen and Harley in public squares.

In the face of this battle over information, Swift wrote The Art of Political Lying which some historians have called “the most influential pamphlet in British political history.”

The Art of Political Lying

In this biting essay, the satirist lays bare the techniques of mass manipulation artfully stating:

Although the devil be the father of lies, he seems, like other great inventors, to have lost much of his reputation, by the continual improvements that have been made upon him. Who first reduced lying into an art, and adapted it to politics, is not so clear from history, although I have made some diligent inquiries. I shall therefore consider it only according to the modern system, as it has been cultivated these twenty years past in the southern part of our own island… the moderns have made great additions, applying this art to the gaining of power and preserving it, as well as revenging themselves after they have lost it; as the same instruments are made use of by animals to feed themselves when they are hungry, and to bite those that tread upon them… It can conquer kingdoms without fighting, and sometimes with the loss of a battle. It gives and resumes employments; can sink a mountain to a mole-hill, and raise a mole-hill to a mountain: hath presided for many years at committees of elections; can wash a black-a-moor white; make a saint of an atheist, and a patriot of a profligate; can furnish foreign ministers with intelligence, and raise or let fall the credit of the nation. This goddess flies with a huge looking-glass in her hands, to dazzle the crowd, and make them see, according as she turns it, their ruin in their interest, and their interest in their ruin.

Although weakened and bruised, the Venetian Party both in England and its French Jesuitical allies made every attempt to thwart Harley’s designs for peace with France from 1710-1713 beginning with a March 8, 1711 assassination attempt on Harley. Concerned over Harley’s slow recovery and doubting the loyalty of Harley’s physician whom many suspected of being an asset of Marlborough, Swift published a widely read poem:

To Mr. Harley’s surgeon
On Britain, Europe’s safety lies
And Britain’s lost if Harley dies;
Harley depends upon your skill
Think what you save or what you kill.

Luckily Harley recovered and peace negotiations recommenced after several months, but soon it became clear that the Duke of Marlborough, still controlling the British armies and working closely with Dutch mercenaries was not going to let peace win without a fight, announced that he would soon take Paris, and commenced a vicious attack on the French town of Bouchain causing the Queen to write to Harley saying:

The Duke of Marlborough shows plainer than ever by this new project his unwillingness for peace, but I hope our negotiations will succeed and there it will not be in his power to prevent it.

Here Swift’s razor-sharp pen was again deployed to expose the military industrial complex of London when he published the immensely popular book Conduct of the Allies on November 23, 1712. In this short work Swift wrote:

We are destroying many thousand lives, exhausting our substance, not for our own interest, which would be but common prudence; not for a thing indifferent which would be sufficient folly; but perhaps to our own destruction which is perfect madness.

Swift attacked that carnage caused by “that set of people who are called the monied men; such as had raised vast sums by trading with stocks and funds and lending upon great interest and premiums; whose perpetual harvest is war.”

Citing the 50 million pounds of unpayable debts incurred by Marlborough’s war with France Swift called out the “conspiracy on all sides to go on with those measures, which must perpetuate the war.”

This immensely popular pamphlet went through three editions in only three months and invoked such indignation among the population that the heroic image of the Duke of Marlborough portrayed by the media was torn to shreds and vast support was won for the peace process. In her December 6 speech opening of the Parliament, Queen Anne stated:

I am glad that I can now tell you that not withstanding the arts of those who delight in war, both place and time are appointed for opening the treaty of a general peace.

Not only did peace negotiations finally move forward, but the Queen convened a House inquiry into Marlborough’s siphoning of funds and war profiteering resulting in his being stripped of all offices on December 29, 1712 and replaced with Harley’s long time ally James Butler (2nd Duke of Ormonde) as Commander of the Army.

The next 18 months were some of the most intense in British political history with continuous battles waged to sabotage the peace process from oligarchical representatives within both England and France itself. Much like today, these oligarchs and their upper level managers were always more interested in keeping the world at constant war, underdeveloped and stupid in order to maintain a global hegemony above nations. While the Duke of Ormonde maintained a neutral position in France during the long drawn out peace negotiations, dark things were occurring in France.

The Venetian Party Strikes Back

From the first week of the treaty negotiations throughout the subsequent two months, over four consecutive heirs to the French throne died of the same mysterious symptoms leaving a Duke of Orleans and a Jesuitical cabal who controlled the ailing King Louis XIV in a strategic position of power never before seen in French history. When Harley’s lead peace negotiator the Duke of Hamilton was deployed to take his new position as Ambassador to France, a duel was arranged resulting in Hamilton’s successful killing of one of Marlborough’s chief henchmen General McCartney (3). However, when McCartney’s second then stabbed an unsuspecting Hamilton to death minutes later, Marlborough quickly demonstrated his guilt as he promptly packed his bags and fled to Holland, not to return until August 1, 1714… the day Queen Anne died.

Upon the queen’s death (most likely due to poisoning under the hand of her new physician Daniel Malthus – great grandfather of the misanthropic high priest of depopulation, Thomas Malthus), the Venetian Party took full control of Britain and never let go again.

With the ascension of George Ludwig to the throne in 1714, the satanic Hellfire Club rose in prominence, Marlborough was re-instated to all of his former positions, Robert Harley was imprisoned in the Tower of London and the economy was driven into a new epoch of colonial exploitation. Wars were unleashed abroad as the South Sea Company was turned into a speculative bubble that soon burst by 1720 tearing down the British people while enriching City of London insiders in the same way that Wall Street cleaned up bankrupt assets for pennies on the dollar in 1929. Under the control of the British Africa Company and Board of Trade, the poisonous slave trade came to dominate the 18th century and a newly enforced era of divide to conquer tactics was unleashed in full force.

Writing years later of the events of 1710-1714 after he had long returned to a new base of operations in Dublin, Jonathan Swift wrote a poem reminiscing of this period of hope and tragedy:

And oh! How short are human schemes!
Here ended all our golden dreams.
What St John’s skill in state affairs
What Ormonde’s valour, Oxford’s cares
To save their sinking country lent,
Was all destroyed by one event,
Too soon that precious life was ended
On which alone our weal depended.

Concluding Thoughts

It may not be clear why this history lesson is important for us today.

The reason is simple: You are living in history. And unless we come to terms with the longer waves of the past, we will forever be incapable of shaping our destiny in any meaningful way.

Donald Trump has made it clear that he will not be giving into the political liars who have conspired to steal the American election and return the republic to the status of imperial deep state war machine which the world knew over the course of the past 50 years and unless the president is successful in the coming battle in ways which Queen Anne, Robert Harley and Swift were not then there is good reason to presume that the future will be darker than you would care to imagine.

The post The Art of Political Lying first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Crisis, What Crisis? Hypocrisy and Public Health in the UK

On 12 March 2020, British PM Boris Johnson, referring to COVID-19, informed the public:

We’ve all got to be clear; this is the worst public health crisis for a generation.

Since that time, we have seen lockdowns, an ongoing government-backed fear campaign, fundamental rights being stripped away, dissent censored, inflated COVID-19 death numbers and the use of a flawed PCR test to label perfectly healthy individuals as COVID-19 ‘cases’ in order to fit the narrative of a ‘second wave’.

But, just for a moment, consider an alternative scenario.

The government is extremely worried about a substance that could be contributing to a spiralling public health crisis that has been decades in the making. It has been detected in food and in urine. The government has therefore decided to carry out mass urine testing. It has found millions of ‘cases’. The more it tests, the more ‘cases’ it finds. The government and the media promote the message we are all at risk and should get tested. Hundreds of millions of pounds have been spent to allow for the testing of the entire population.

All cafes, pubs, restaurants and food stores are locked down, aside from those designated to sell only food that is regarded as ‘safe’ by the government. All weddings, parties and get-togethers are banned because contaminated food might be passed around.

Severe restrictions are put in place because this ‘stuff’ is in the air, water, plants, animals, grains, vegetables and meats. And it is in beer and wine, children’s breakfast cereal and snack bars and even in our vaccines. Everyone is under virtual house arrest until this public health crisis is addressed.

Daily government briefings are held on TV with the PM and health officials in attendance. The PM tells everyone that this thing is linked to various conditions, including obesity, depression, Alzheimer’s, ADHD, autism, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, kidney disease, inflammatory bowel disease, brain, breast and prostate cancer, miscarriage, birth defects and declining sperm counts.

Imagine that scenario. But the substance being referred to is very real. It is heavily associated with all the conditions mentioned and is present in our urine and food. But the government does nothing. It does not just do nothing but actively facilitates the marketing of this substance and collude with its manufacturers.

And the name of this ‘stuff’? Glyphosate, the world’s most widely used herbicide. The main culprit — Monsanto’s Roundup. But it is not just glyphosate. It is the cocktail of agricultural chemicals that have been in use for decades.

The real public health crisis

Earlier this year, in a 29-page open letter to Fiona Godlee, editor-in-chief of the British Medical Journal, environmentalist Dr Rosemary Mason spent 11 pages documenting the spiralling rates of disease that she says (supported by numerous research studies cited) are largely the result of exposure to health-damaging agrochemicals, including glyphosate-based herbicides.

The amount of glyphosate-based herbicide sprayed by UK farmers on crops has gone from 226,762 kg in 1990 to 2,240,408 kg in 2016, a 10-fold increase. In her letter, Mason discussed links between multiple pesticide residues (including glyphosate) in food and steady increases in the number of cancers both in the UK as well as allergic diseases, chronic kidney disease, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, obesity and many other conditions.

Agrochemicals are a major contributory factor for the spikes in these diseases and conditions. This is the real public health crisis affecting the UK. Each year, there are steady increases in the numbers of new cancers in the UK and increases in deaths from the same cancers, with treatments not making any difference to the numbers.

While there is much talk of the coronavirus placing immense strain on an underfunded NHS, the health service is already creaking. And people’s immune systems are already strongly compromised due to what Mason outlines. But do we see a ‘lockdown’ on the activities of the global agrochemical conglomerates? Not at all.

We see governments and public health bodies working hand in glove with the agrochemicals manufacturers to ensure ‘business as usual’.

It might seem strange to many that the UK government is seemingly going out of its way (by stripping people of their freedoms) under the guise of a public health crisis but is all too willing to oversee a massive, ongoing one caused by the chemical pollution of our bodies.

Unlike COVID-19, this is a ‘silent’ crisis that actually does affect all sections of the population and causes immense widespread suffering. It is silent because the mainstream media and various official reports in the UK have consistently ignored or downplayed the role of pesticides in fueling this situation.

Hundreds of lawsuits are pending against Bayer in the US, filed by people alleging that exposure to Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide caused them or their loved ones to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma and that Monsanto covered up the risks (Roundup is linked to cancers of the bone, colon, kidney, liver, melanoma, pancreas and thyroid).

The WHO International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has declared glyphosate as a 2A carcinogen. In 2017, in a public hearing in Brussels, Dr Christopher Portier and Dr Kate Guyton defended IARC’s position. Portier drew attention to the significance of statistically significant tumour findings that had not been discussed in any of the existing reviews on glyphosate.

Portier concluded that as the regulatory bodies, the European Food Safety Authority and the European Chemicals Agency’s analyses were scientifically flawed. These organisations had also used industry studies that were not in the public domain for ‘reasons of commercial confidentiality’ to support their case that glyphosate was not carcinogenic.

Mason has written numerous open letters to officials citing reams of statistical data to support the contention that agrochemicals, especially Monsanto’s glyphosate-based Roundup, have devastated the natural environment and have also led to spiraling rates of illness and disease, not least among children.

Regulators around the world have falsely assumed that it is safe to use pesticides at industrial scales across landscapes and the effects of dosing whole regions with chemicals have been largely ignored.

A report delivered to the UN Human Rights Council says that pesticides have catastrophic impacts on the environment, human health and society as a whole.

Authored by Hilal Elver, UN special rapporteur on the right to food, and Baskut Tuncak, UN special rapporteur on toxics, the report states:

Chronic exposure to pesticides has been linked to cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, hormone disruption, developmental disorders and sterility.

The authors argue:

While scientific research confirms the adverse effects of pesticides, proving a definitive link between exposure and human diseases or conditions or harm to the ecosystem presents a considerable challenge. This challenge has been exacerbated by a systematic denial, fuelled by the pesticide and agro-industry, of the magnitude of the damage inflicted by these chemicals and aggressive, unethical marketing tactics.

Elver says:

The power of the corporations over governments and over the scientific community is extremely important. If you want to deal with pesticides, you have to deal with the companies.

Tuncak states:

Paediatricians have referred to childhood exposure to pesticides as creating a “silent pandemic” of disease and disability. Exposure in pregnancy and childhood is linked to birth defects, diabetes and cancer. Because a child’s developing body is more sensitive to exposure than adults and takes in more of everything – relative to their size, children eat, breathe and drink much more than adults – they are particularly vulnerable to these toxic chemicals.

According to Tuncak, increasing evidence shows that even at “low” doses of childhood exposure, irreversible health impacts can result. But most victims cannot prove the cause of their disability or disease, limiting our ability to hold those responsible to account.

He concludes:

The overwhelming reliance of regulators on industry-funded studies, the exclusion of independent science from assessments and the confidentiality of studies relied upon by authorities must change.

The authors were severely critical of the global corporations that manufacture pesticides, accusing them of the “systematic denial of harms”, “aggressive, unethical marketing tactics” and heavy lobbying of governments which has “obstructed reforms and paralysed global pesticide restrictions”.

Way back in 1962, Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring raised the red flag about the use of harmful synthetic pesticides; yet, despite the warnings, the agrochemical giants have ever since been poisoning humans and the planet, raking in enormous profits.

Michael McCarthy, writer and naturalist, says that three generations of industrialised farming with a vast tide of poisons pouring over the land year after year after year since the end of the Second World War is the true price of pesticide-based agriculture, which society has for so long blithely accepted.

Power is now increasingly concentrated in the hands of a handful of transnational agribusiness corporations which put profit and market control ahead of food security, health and nutrition and biodiversity. Due to their political influence and financial clout, these companies are waging a chemical warfare on nature and people, while seeking to convince us that their model of agriculture — based on proprietary seeds and chemicals — is essential for feeding a burgeoning global population.

Consider that none of the more than 400 pesticides that have been authorised in the UK have been tested for long-term actions on the brain: in the foetus, in children or in adults.

Theo Colborn’s crucial research in the early 1990s showed that endocrine disrupters (EDCs) were changing humans and the environment, but this research was ignored by officials. Glyphosate is an EDC and a nervous system disrupting chemical.

In the book published in 1996 Our Stolen Future: How Man-made Chemicals are Threatening our Fertility, Intelligence and Survival Colborn and colleagues revealed the full horror of what was happening to the world as a result of contamination with EDCs. There was emerging scientific research about how a wide range of these chemicals can disrupt delicate hormone systems in humans. These systems play a critical role in processes ranging from human sexual development to behaviour, intelligence and the functioning of the immune system.

In addition to glyphosate, EDCs include polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). DDT, chlordane, lindane, aldrin, dieldrin, endrin, toxaphene, heptachlor, dioxin, atrazine and dacthal.

In 2007, 25 experts in environmental health from 11 countries (including from the UK) met on the Faroes and contributed to this statement:

The periods of embryonic, foetal and infant development are remarkably susceptible to environmental hazards. Toxic exposures to chemical pollutants during these windows of increased susceptibility can cause disease and disability in infants, children and across the entire span of human life.

The Department of Health’s School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme (SFVS) has residues of 123 different pesticides that impact the gut microbiome. Obesity is associated with low diversity of bacteria in the microbiome and glyphosate adversely affects or destroys much of the beneficial bacteria. Roundup (and other biocides) is linked to gross obesity, neuropsychiatric disorders and other chronic diseases, which are all on the rise and adversely impact brain development in children and adolescents.

Moreover, type 2 diabetes is associated with being very overweight. According to NHS data, almost four in five of 715 children suffering from it were also obese.

Graham MacGregor, a professor of cardiovascular health at Queen Mary University of London who is also the chair of the campaign group Action on Sugar, says:

Type 2 diabetes is a disaster for the child and their family and for the NHS. If a child gets type 2 diabetes, it’s condemning them to a lot of complications of that condition, such as blindness, amputations and kidney disease.

He went on to explain that we are in a crisis and that the government does not seem to be taking action. UK obesity levels now exceed those of the US.

The human microbiome is of vital importance to human health yet it is under chemical attack. Glyphosate disrupts the shikimate pathway within these gut bacteria and is a strong chelator of essential minerals.

Many key neurotransmitters are located in the gut. Aside from affecting the functioning of major organs, these transmitters affect our moods and thinking. There is strong evidence that gut bacteria can have a direct physical impact on the brain.

Dr Michael Antoniou of King’s College London has found that Roundup herbicide and its active ingredient glyphosate cause a dramatic increase in the levels of two substances, shikimic acid and 3-dehydroshikimic acid, in the gut, which are a direct indication that the EPSPS enzyme of the shikimic acid pathway has been severely inhibited. Roundup and glyphosate affected the microbiome at all dose levels tested, causing shifts in bacterial populations.

A quarter of all food and over a third of fruit and vegetables consumed in the UK contain pesticide cocktails, with some items containing traces of up to 14 different pesticides. The industry (for it is the industry that does the testing, on behalf of regulators) only tests one pesticide at a time, whereas farmers spray a cocktail of pesticides.

Ian Boyd, the former Chief Scientific Adviser to Defra, says pesticides, once they have been authorised, are never reviewed.

Glyphosate is distributed to every organ of the body and has multiple actions: it is an herbicide, an antibiotic, a fungicide, an antiprotozoal, an organic phosphonate, a growth regulator, a toxicant, a virulence enhancer and is persistent in the soil. It chelates (captures) and washes out the following minerals: boron, calcium, cobalt, copper, iron, potassium, magnesium, manganese, nickel and zinc.

In a paper published in King’s Law Journal –  ‘The Chemical Anthropocene: Glyphosate as a Case Study of Pesticide Exposures’ – the authors Alessandra Arcuri and Yogi Hale Hendlin state:

As the science against glyphosate safety mounts and lawsuits threaten its chemical manufacture’s profits, the next generation of GMO crops are being keyed to the pesticide dicamba, sold commercially as XtendiMax® – and poised to be the next glyphosate. Regulatory agencies have historically been quick to approve products but slow to reconsider regulations after the decades of accumulated harms become apparent.

They add that the entrenched asymmetries between public and ecological health and fast-to-market new chemicals is exacerbated by the seeming lack of institutionalised precautionary policies.

Britain and the US are in the midst of a barely reported public health crisis. These countries are experiencing not merely a slowdown in life expectancy, which in many other rich countries is continuing to lengthen, but the start of an alarming increase in death rates across all our populations, men and women alike. People are needlessly dying early.

Research by US-based EWG found glyphosate residues on popular oat cereals, oatmeal, granola and snack bars. Almost 75% of the 45 samples tested had glyphosate levels higher than what EWG scientists consider protective of children’s health with an adequate margin of safety. Disturbing levels of such residues have been detected in the UK too.

There are shockingly high levels of weed killer in UK breakfast cereals. After testing these cereals at the Health Research Institute in Iowa, Dr Fagan, director of the centre, said:

These results are consistently concerning. The levels consumed in a single daily helping of any one of these cereals, even the one with the lowest level of contamination, is sufficient to put the person’s glyphosate levels above the levels that cause fatty liver disease in rats (and likely in people).

Glyphosate also causes epigenetic changes in humans and animals: diseases skip a generation. Washington State University researchers have found a variety of diseases and other health problems in the second- and third-generation offspring of rats exposed to glyphosate. In the first study of its kind, the researchers saw descendants of exposed rats developing prostate, kidney and ovarian diseases, obesity and birth abnormalities.

Writing in the journal Scientific Reports, the researchers say they saw “dramatic increases” in several pathologies affecting the second and third generations. The second generation had “significant increases” in testis, ovary and mammary gland diseases as well as obesity. In third-generation males, the researchers saw a 30% incidence of prostate disease — three times the rate of a control population. The third generation of females had a 40% incidence of kidney disease, or four times the rate of the controls.

More than one-third of the second-generation mothers had unsuccessful pregnancies, with most of those affected dying. Two out of five males and females in the third generation were obese.

Researchers call this phenomenon “generational toxicology” and they have seen it over the years in fungicides, pesticides, jet fuel, the plastics compound bisphenol A, the insect repellent DEET and the herbicide atrazine. At work are epigenetic changes that turn genes on and off, often because of environmental influences.

A study published in February 2019 found glyphosate increased the risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma by as much as 41%. A Washington State University study published in December 2019 found state residents living close to areas subject to treatments with the herbicide are one-third more likely to die an early death from Parkinson’s disease.

Robert F Kennedy Jr, one of the attorney’s fighting Bayer (which has bought Monsanto) in the US courts, has explained that for four decades Monsanto manoeuvred to conceal Roundup’s carcinogenicity by capturing regulatory agencies, corrupting public officials, bribing scientists and engaging in scientific fraud to delay its day of reckoning. He says that Monsanto also faces cascading scientific evidence linking glyphosate to a constellation of other injuries that have become prevalent since its introduction, including obesity, depression, Alzheimer’s, ADHD, autism, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, kidney disease, inflammatory bowel disease, brain, breast and prostate cancer, miscarriage, birth defects and declining sperm counts.

Moreover, strong science suggests glyphosate is the culprit in the exploding epidemics of celiac disease, colitis, gluten sensitivities, diabetes and non-alcoholic liver cancer which, for the first time, is attacking children as young as 10.

And yet, as Mason has described in her work, the UK government had colluded with Monsanto for many years.

Boris Johnson, in his first speech to parliament as PM, said:

Let’s start now to liberate the UK’s extraordinary bioscience sector from anti-genetic modification rules…

This could mean the irresponsible introduction of genetically modified Roundup Ready food crops to the UK, which would see the amount of glyphosate in British food reaching new levels (levels which are already disturbing).

So much for protecting public health.

Government collusion

David Cameron appointed Michael Pragnell, founder of Syngenta and former Chairman of CropLife International, to the board of Cancer Research UK (CRUK) in 2010. He became Chairman in 2011. At one time or another, CropLife International´s member list has included BASF, Bayer CropScience, Dow AgroSciences, DuPont, FMC Corp, Monsanto, Sumitomo and Syngenta. Many of these make their own formulated glyphosate.

Syngenta is a member of the European Glyphosate Task Force, which sought to renew (and succeeded in renewing) European glyphosate registration. Not surprisingly, the CRUK website denies that there is any link between pesticides and cancer.

In February 2019, at a Brexit meeting on the UK chemicals sector, UK regulators and senior officials from government departments listened to the priorities of the Bayer Crop Science Division. During the meeting (Westminster Energy, Environment & Transport Forum Keynote Seminar: Priorities for UK chemicals sector – challenges, opportunities and the future for regulation post-Brexit), Janet Williams, head of regulatory science at Bayer Crop Science Division, made her priorities for agricultural chemical manufacturers known.

Dave Bench was also a speaker. Bench is a senior scientist at the UK Chemicals, Health and Safety Executive and director of the agency’s EU exit plan and has previously stated that the regulatory system for pesticides is robust and balances the risks of pesticides against the benefits to society.

That statement was merely for public consumption and the benefit of the agrochemical industry. The industry (for it is the industry that does the testing, on behalf of regulators) only tests one pesticide at a time, whereas farmers spray a cocktail of pesticides.

But such is the British government’s willingness to protect pesticide companies that it is handing agrochemical giants BASF and Bayer enormous pay-outs of Covid-19 support cash. The announcement came just weeks after Bayer shareholders voted to pay £2.75 billion in dividends. The fact that Bayer then went on to receive £600 million from the government speaks volumes of where the government’s priorities lie.

In Mason’s report, ‘Why Does Bayer Crop Science Control Chemicals in Brexit Britain’, she states that Bayer is having secret meetings with the British government to determine which agrochemicals are to be used after Brexit once Britain is ‘free’ of EU restrictions and becomes as deregulated as the US.

Such collusion comes as little surprise as the government’s ‘strategy for UK life sciences’ is already dependent on funding from pharmaceutical corporations and the pesticides industry.

Syngenta’s parent company was in 2010 AstraZeneca. At that time, Syngenta and AstraZeneca were represented on the UK Advisory Committee on Pesticides and the Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Foods, Consumer Products and the Environment. The founder of Syngenta, Michael Pragnell, was the Chairman of Cancer Research UK (CRUK) from 2011-2017. CRUK started by giving money (£450 million a year) to the Government’s Strategy for UK Life Sciences and AstraZeneca provided 22 compounds to academic research to develop medicines. AstraZeneca manufactured six different anti-cancer drugs mainly aimed at breast and prostate cancer.

It seems like a highly profitable and cosy relationship between the agrochemical and pharmaceuticals sectors and the government at the expense of public health.

In finishing, let us take a brief look at the Washington-based International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI). Its members have occupied key positions on EU and UN regulatory panels. It is, however, an industry lobby group that masquerades as a scientific health charity.

The ILSI describes its mission as “pursuing objectivity, clarity and reproducibility” to “benefit the public good”. But researchers from the University of Cambridge, Bocconi University in Milan and the US Right to Know campaign assessed over 17,000 pages of documents under US freedom of information laws to present evidence of influence peddling.

ILSI Vice-President, Prof Alan Boobis, is currently the Chairman of the UK Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment (CoT).

He was directly responsible for authorising chemicals such as glyphosate, chlorothalonil, clothianidin and chlorpyrifos that are impacting human health and creating a crisis in biodiversity. His group and others have authorised glyphosate repeatedly. He and David Coggon, the previous Chairman of CoT (2008-2015), were appointed as experts on Science Advice for Policy by European Academies (SAPEA), a group allied with the agrochemical industry and is fighting for higher pesticide exposure.

The reality of the agrochemical industry is masked by well-funded public relations machinery. The industry subverts official agencies and regulatory bodies and supports prolific lobby organisations and (‘public scientists’) which masquerade as neutral institutions.

And for the record, it is possible to farm productively and profitably without the use of synthetic agrochemicals – and to achieve food security. For instance, see the article ‘A Skeptical Farmer’s Monster Message on Profitability’ based on one US farmer’s journey from chemical-dependent farming to organic on his 8,000-acre farm (discussed on the AgWeb site) or ‘The Untold Success Story of Agroecology in Africa’ in the journal Development (2015). From the Tigray region of Ethiopia to various high-level (UN) reports that have recommended agroecology there are many examples, too many to discuss here.

The UK government says it cares so much about the nation’s health (the infection mortality rate for COVID-19 appears to be similar to those of a bad seasonal flu) but has presided over and facilitated a genuine public health crisis for years. And it is now pumping billions of pounds of public money into a track, trace and test regime when it could have used it to boost overall NHS capacity; remember when the government stated that the initial lockdown was implemented to protect the NHS?

In fact, the government is spending the equivalent of 77% of the NHS annual revenue budget on an “unevaluated, underdesigned national programme leading to an insufficiently supported intervention – in many cases for the wrong people” says a recent editorial in the BMJ.

In the meantime, it is investing heavily in a (possibly mandatory) vaccine that based on the design of the trials – according to a recent article in the same journal – may have no discernible impact on saving lives or preventing serious outcomes or the transmission spread of infection.

Readers can access all Rosemary Mason’s reports on the academia.edu site

The post Crisis, What Crisis? Hypocrisy and Public Health in the UK first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Biden will fail to bring back “normal” politics

Analysts are still grappling with the fallout from the US election. Trumpism proved a far more enduring and alluring phenomenon than most media pundits expected. Defying predictions, Trump improved his share of the overall vote compared to his 2016 win, and he surprised even his own team by increasing his share of minority voters and women.

But most significantly, he almost held his own against Democratic challenger Joe Biden at a time when the US economy – the incumbent’s “trump” card – was in dire straits after eight months of a pandemic. Had it not been for Covid-19, Trump – not Biden – would most likely be preparing for the next four years in the White House.

Of course, much of Trump’s appeal was that he is not Biden. The Democratic party decided to run pretty much the worst candidate imaginable: an old-school machine politician, one emphatically beholden to the corporate donor class and unsuited to the new, more populist political climate. His campaigning – on the rare occasions he appeared – suggested significant cognitive decline. Biden often looked more suited to a luxury retirement home than heading the most powerful nation on earth.

But then again, if Trump could lead the world’s only superpower for four years, how hard can it really be? He showed that those tinfoil-hatted conspiracy theorists might be right after all: maybe the president is largely a figurehead, while a permanent bureaucracy runs much of the show from behind the curtain. Were Ronald Reagan and George W Bush not enough to persuade us that any halfwit who can string together a few cliches from a teleprompter will suffice?

No return to ‘normal’

The narrowly averted Trump second term has at least prompted liberal pundits to draw one significant lesson that is being endlessly repeated: Biden must avoid returning to the old “normal”, the one that existed before Trump, because that version of “normal” was exactly what delivered Trump in the first place. These commentators fear that, if Biden doesn’t play his cards wisely, we will end up in 2024 with a Trump 2.0, or even a rerun from Trump himself, reinvigorated after four years of tweet-sniping from the sidelines. They are right to be worried.

But their analysis does not properly explain the political drama that is unfolding, or where it heads next. There is a two-fold problem with the “no return to normal” argument.

The first is that the liberal media and political class making this argument are doing so in entirely bad-faith. For four years they have turned US politics and its coverage into a simple-minded, ratings-grabbing horror show. A vile, narcissist businessman, in collusion with an evil Russian mastermind, usurped the title of most powerful person on the planet that should have been bestowed on Hillary Clinton. As Krystal Ball has rightly mocked, even now the media are whipping up fears that the “Orange Mussolini” may stage some kind of back-handed coup to block the handover to Biden.

These stories have been narrated to us by much of the corporate media over and over again – and precisely so that we do not think too hard about why Trump beat Clinton in 2016. The reality, far too troubling for most liberals to admit, is that Trump proved popular because a lot of the problems he identified were true, even if he raised them in bad faith himself and had no intention of doing anything meaningful to fix them.

Trump was right about the need for the US to stop interfering in the affairs of the rest of the world under the pretence of humanitarian concern and a supposed desire to spread democracy at the end of the barrel of a gun. In practice, however, lumbered with that permanent bureaucracy, delegating his authority to the usual war hawks like John Bolton, and eager to please the Christian evangelical and Israel lobbies, Trump did little to stop such destructive meddling. But at least he was correct rhetorically.

Equally, Trump looked all too right in berating the establishment media for promoting “fake news”, especially as coverage of his presidency was dominated by an evidence-free narrative claiming he had colluded with Russia to steal the election. Those now bleating about how dangerous his current assertions of election fraud are should remember they were the ones who smashed that particular glass house with their own volley of stones back in 2016.

Yes, Trump has been equally culpable with his Twitter barrages of fake news. And yes, he cultivated rather than spurned support from one of those major corporate outlets: the reliably right wing Fox News. But what matters most is that swaths of the American public – unable to decide who to believe, or maybe not caring – preferred to side with a self-styled maverick, Washington outsider, the supposed “underdog”, against a class of self-satisfied, overpaid media professionals transparently prostituting themselves to the billionaire owners of the corporate media.

Once voters had decided the system was rigged – and it is rigged towards the maintenance of elite power – anyone decrying the system, whether honestly or duplicitously, was going to prove popular.

Indebted to donors

Trump’s appeal was further bolstered by styling himself a self-made man, as his campaign riffed on the long-standing myths of the American Dream. The US public was encouraged to see Trump as a rich man prepared to gamble part of his own fortune on a run for the presidency so he could bring his business acumen to USA Ltd. That contrasted starkly with Democratic party leaders like Clinton and Biden who gave every appearance of having abjectly sold their principles – and their souls – to the highest-bidding corporate “donors”.

And again, that perception – at least in relation to Clinton and Biden – wasn’t entirely wrong.

How can Biden not end up trying to resurrect the Obama years that he was so very much part of during his two terms as vice-president and that led directly to Trump? That was why corporate donors backed his campaign. They desire the kind of neoliberal “normal” that leaves them free to continue making lots more money and ensures the wealth gap grows.

It is why they and the media worked so hard to pave Biden’s path to the presidency, even doing their best to bury political stories embarrassing to the Biden campaign. Maintaining that “normal” is the very reason the modern Democratic party exists.

Even if Biden wanted to radically overhaul the existing, corporate-bonded US political system – and he doesn’t – he would be incapable of doing so. He operates within institutional, structural constraints – donors, Congress, the media, the supreme court – all there to ensure his room for manoeuvre is tightly delimited.

Had his main rival for the Democratic nomination, Bernie Sanders, been allowed to run instead and won the presidency, it would have been much the same. The important difference is that the existence of a President Sanders would have risked exposing the fact that the “world’s most powerful leader” is not really so powerful.

Sanders would have lost his battles trying to defy these structural constraints, but in the process he would have made those constraints far more visible. They would have been all too obvious had someone like Sanders been constantly hitting his head against them. That was precisely why the corporate class and the technocratic leadership of the Democratic party worked so strenuously to make sure Sanders got nowhere near the presidential race.

Resistance posturing

Biden will do his best to achieve what his donors want: a return to the neoliberal “normal” under Obama. He will offer a sprinkling of initiatives to ensure progressive liberals can put to rest their resistance posturing with a clear conscience. There will be some “woke” identity politics to prevent any focus on class politics and the struggle for real economic justice, as well as some weak, corporation-friendly Green New Deal projects, if Biden can sneak past them past a Republican-controlled Senate.

And if he can’t manage even that … well that’s the beauty of a system tailor-made to follow the path of least financial resistance, to uphold the corporate status quo, the “normal”.

But there is a second, bigger problem. A fly in the ointment. Whatever Biden and the Democratic party do to resurrect the neoliberal consensus, the old “normal”, it isn’t coming back. The smug, technocratic class that has dominated western politics for decades on behalf of the corporate elite is under serious threat. Biden looks more like a hiccough, a last burp provoked by the unexpected pandemic.

The neoliberal “normal” isn’t coming back because the economic circumstances that generated it – the post-war boom of seemingly endless growth – have disappeared.

Plutocracy entrenches

A quarter of a century ago, the Cassandras of their day – those dismissed as peddlers of false conspiracy theories – warned of “peak oil”. That was the idea that the fuel on which the global economy ran either had peaked or soon would do. As the oil ran out, or became more expensive to extract, economic growth would slow, wages would fall, and inequality between rich and poor would increase.

This was likely to have dramatic political consequences too: resource wars abroad (inevitably camouflaged as “humanitarian intervention”); more polarised domestic politics; greater popular dissatisfaction; the return of charismatic, even fascist, leaders; and a resort to violence to solve political problems.

The arguments about peak oil continue. Judged by some standards, the production peak arrived in the 1970s. Others say, with the aid of fracking and other harmful technologies, the turning-point is due about now. But the kind of world predicted by peak oil theory looks to have been unfolding since at least the 1980s. The crisis in neoliberal economics was underscored by the 2008 global economic crash, whose shockwaves are still with us.

On top of all this, there are looming ecological and climate catastrophes intimately tied to the fossil-fuel economy on which the global corporations have grown fat. This Gordian knot of globe-spanning self-harm urgently needs unpicking.

Biden has neither the temperament nor the political manoeuvre room to take on these mammoth challenges and solve them. Inequality is going to increase during his term. The technocrats are again going to be exposed once again as impotent – or complicit – as plutocracy entrenches. The ecological crisis is not going to be dealt with beyond largely empty promises and posturing.

There will be lots of talk in the media about the need to give Biden more time to show what he can do and demands that we keep quiet for fear of ushering back Trumpism. This will be designed to lose us yet more valuable months and years to address urgent problems that threaten the future of our species.

The age of populism

The ability of the technocratic class to manage growth – wealth accumulation for the rich, tempered by a little “trickle down” to stop the masses rising up – is coming to an end. Growth is over and the technocrat’s toolbox is empty.

We are now in the age of political populism – a natural response to burgeoning inequality.

On one side is the populism of the Trumpers. They are the small-minded nationalists who want to blame everyone but the real villains – the corporate elite – for the west’s declining fortunes. As ever, they will search out the easiest targets: foreigners and “immigrants”. In the US, the Republican party has been as good as taken over by the Tea party. The US right is not going to repudiate Trump for his defeat, they are going to totemise him because they understand his style of politics is the future.

There are now Trumps everywhere: Boris Johnson in the UK (and waiting in the wings, Nigel Farage); Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil; the Le Pen dynasty in France; Viktor Orban in Hungary. They are seeding the return of xenophobic, corporate fascism.

The corporate media would have us believe that this is the only kind of populism that exists. But there is a rival populism, that of the left, and one that espouses cooperation and solidarity within nations and between them.

Jeremy Corbyn in the UK and Sanders in the US are the first shoots of a global reawakening of class-conscious politics based on solidarity with the poor and oppressed; of renewed pressure for a social contract, in contrast to the worship of survival-of-the-fittest economics; of a reclaiming of the commons, communal resources that belong to us all, not just the strongmen who seized them for their own benefit; and, most importantly, of an understanding, lost sight of in our industrialised, consumption-obsessed societies, that we must find a sustainable accommodation with the rest of the living world.

This kind of left wing populism has a long pedigree that dates back nearly 150 years. It flourished in the inter-war years in Europe; it defined the political battle-lines in Iran immediately after the Second World War; and it has been a continual feature of Latin American politics.

Warped logic

As ever, the populism of the nationalists and bigots has the upper hand. And that is no accident.

Today’s globalised wealth elite prefer neoliberal, technocratic politics that keep borders open for trade; that treat the labouring poor as human chattel, to be moved around on a global chess board as a way to force wages down; and that ensure the elite can stash its ill-gotten gains away on island sanctuaries far from the tax man.

But when technocratic politics is on its death bed, as it is now, the corporate elite will always settle for the populism of a Trump or a Farage over the populism of the left. They will do so even if right wing populism risks constraining their financial empires, because left wing populism does much worse: it upends the warped logic on which the corporate elite’s entire hoarded wealth depends, threatening to wipe it out.

If the corporate elite can no longer find a way to foist a neoliberal technocrat like Biden on the public, they will choose the populism of a Trump over the populism of a Sanders every time. And as they own the media, they can craft the stories we hear: about who we are, what is possible and where we are heading. If we allow it, our imaginations will be twisted and deformed in the image of the deranged totem they choose.

We can reclaim politics – a politics that cares about the future, about our species, about our planet – but to do so we must first reclaim our minds.

The post Biden will fail to bring back "normal" politics first appeared on Dissident Voice.

It is the Equalities Commission, not Labour, carrying out Political Interference

I recently published in Middle East Eye a long analysis of last week’s report by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission into the question of whether the UK Labour party had an especial antisemitism problem. (You can read a slightly fuller version of that article on my website.) In the piece, I reached two main conclusions.

First, the commission’s headline verdict – though you would never know it from reading the media’s coverage – was that no case was found that Labour suffered from “institutional antisemitism”.

That, however, was precisely the claim that had been made by groups like the Jewish Labour Movement, the Campaign Against Antisemitism, the Board of Deputies and prominent rabbis such as Ephraim Mirvis. Their claims were amplified by Jewish media outlets such as the Jewish Chronicle and individual journalists such as Jonathan Freedland of the Guardian. All are now shown to have been wrong, to have maligned the Labour party and to have irresponsibly inflamed the concerns of Britain’s wider Jewish community.

Not that any of these organisations or individuals will have to apologise. The corporate media – from the Mail to the Guardian – are continuing to mislead and misdirect on this issue, as they have been doing for the best part of five years. Neither Jewish leadership groups such as the Board of Deputies nor the corporate media have an interest in highlighting the embarrassing fact that the commission’s findings exposed their campaign against Corbyn as misinformation.

Breaches of procedure

What the report found instead were mainly breaches of party protocol and procedure: that complaints about antisemitism were not handled promptly and transparently.

But even here the issue was not really about antisemitism, as the report indicates, even if obliquely. Delays in resolving complaints were chiefly the responsibility not of Corbyn and his staff but of a party bureaucracy that he inherited and was deeply and explicitly hostile to him.

Senior officials stalled antisemitism complaints not because they were especially antisemitic but because they knew the delays would embarrass Corbyn and weaken him inside the party, as the leaked report of an Labour internal inquiry revealed in the spring.

But again, neither the media nor Jewish leadership groups have any interest in exposing their own culpability in this false narrative. And the new Labour leadership, under Keir Starmer, has absolutely no incentive to challenge this narrative either, particularly as doing so would be certain to revive exactly the same kind of antisemitism smears, but this time directed against Starmer himself.

Too hasty and aggressive

The corporate media long ago styled Labour staff who delayed the complaints procedure to harm Corbyn as antisemitism “whistleblowers”. Many of them starred in last year’s BBC Panorama programme on Labour in which they claimed they had been hampered from carrying out their work.

The equalities commission’s report subtly contradicts their claims, conceding that progress on handling complaints improved after senior Labour staff hostile to Corbyn – the “whistleblowers” very much among them – were removed from their posts.

Indeed, the report suggests the very opposite of the established media narrative. Corbyn’s team, far from permitting or encouraging delays in resolving antisemitism complaints, too often tried to step in to speed up the process to placate the corporate media and Jewish organisations.

In an example of having your cake and eating it, the commission castigates Corbyn’s staff for doing this, labelling it “political interference” and terming these actions unfair and discriminatory. But the unfairness chiefly relates to those being complained against – those accused of antisemitism – not those doing the complaining.

If Labour had an identifiable problem in relation to antisemitism complaints, according to the report, it seems to have occurred mostly in terms of the party being too hasty and aggressive in tackling antisemitism, in response to relentless criticism from the media and Jewish organisations, rather than being indulgent of it.

Again, no one in the media, Jewish leadership organisations, or the new Labour leadership wants this finding to be highlighted. So it is being ignored.

Flawed approach

The second conclusion, which I lacked the space to deal with properly in my Middle East Eye piece, relates more specifically to the commission’s own flawed approach in compiling the report rather than the media’s misrepresentation of the report.

As I explained in my earlier piece, the commission itself is very much an establishment body. Even had it wanted to, which it most certainly did not, it was never going to stick its neck out and rubbish the narrative presented by the establishment media.

On procedural matters, such as how the party handled antisemitism complaints, the equalities commission kept the report as vague as possible, obfuscating who was responsible for those failings and who was supposed to benefit from Corbyn staff’s interference. Both issues had the potential to fatally undermine the established media narrative.

Instead, the commission’s imprecision has allowed the media and Jewish organisations to interpret the report in self-serving ways – ways convenient to their existing narrative about “institutional antisemitism” in Labour.

Scouring social media

But the report misleads not only in its evasion and ambiguity. It does so more overtly in its seemingly desperate effort to find examples of Labour party “agents” who were responsible for the “problem” of antisemitism.

It is worth pondering what it would have looked like had the commission admitted it was unable to find anyone to hold to account for antisemitism in Labour. That would have risked blowing a very large hole in the established media narrative indeed.

So there must have been a great deal of pressure on the commission to find some examples. But extraordinarily – after five years of relentless claims of “institutional antisemitism” in Labour, and of organisations like the Campaign Against Antisemitism and the Jewish Labour Movement scouring through Labour members’ social media accounts – the commission is able to muster sufficient evidence against only two individuals.

Two!

Both are found responsible for “illegal harassment” of Jewish people.

In those circumstances, therefore, it is important to critically examine just what evidence exists that these two individuals exhibited antisemitic attitudes or harassed Jews. Presumably, this pair’s behaviour was so egregious, their antisemitism so unmistakable, that the commission felt it had no choice but to single them out and hold the party responsible for failing to punish them summarily (without, of course, exhibiting at the same time any “political interference”).

I won’t test readers’ patience by examining both examples. In any case, I have dealt with one of them, Ken Livingstone, London’s former mayor, at length in previous blog posts. They can be read here and here, for example.

Outward appearances

Let us focus instead on the other person named: a minor Labour party figure named Pam Bromley, who was then a local councillor for the borough of Rossendale, near Bolton.

First, we should note that the “harassment” she was deemed to have carried out seems to have been limited to online comments posted to social media. The commission does not suggest she expressed any hatred of Jews, made threats against any Jews individually or collectively, or physically attacked anyone Jewish.

I don’t know anything about Bromley, apart from the handful of comments attributed to her in the report. I also don’t know what was going on inside her head when she wrote those posts. If the commission knows more, it does not care to share that information with us. We can only judge the outward appearance of what she says.

One social media post, it is true, does suggest a simplistic political outlook that may have indicated an openness to anti-Jewish conspiracy theories – or what the commission terms a “trope”. Bromley herself says she was making “general criticisms about capitalism”. Determining antisemitic conduct on the basis of that one post – let alone allowing an entire party of 500,000 members to be labelled “institutionally antisemitic” for it – might seem more than a little excessive.

But notably the problematic post was made in April 2018 – shortly after Corbyn’s staff wrestled back control of the complaints procedure from those hostile to his project. It was also the same month Bromley was suspended from the party. So if the post was indeed antisemitic, Corbyn’s Labour lost no time in dealing with it.

Did Bromley otherwise demonstrate a pattern of posting antisemitic material on social media that makes it hard to dispute that she harboured antisemitic motives? Were her comments so obviously antisemitic that the Labour party bureaucracy should have sanctioned her much sooner (even if at the time Corbyn’s staff had no control over the disciplinary process to do so)?

Let us examine the two comments highlighted by the commission in the main section of the report, which they deem to constitute the most clear-cut examples of Bromley’s antisemitism.

Raw emotions

The first was posted on Facebook, though strangely the commission appears not to know when:

Had Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party pulled up the drawbridge and nipped the bogus AS [antisemitism] accusations in the bud in the first place we would not be where we are now and the fifth column in the LP [Labour Party] would not have managed to get such a foothold … the Lobby has miscalculated … The witch hunt has created brand new fightback networks … The Lobby will then melt back into its own cesspit.

The strong language doubtless reflects the raw emotions the antisemitism claims against Corbyn’s supporters provoked. Many members understood only too well that the Labour party was riven by a civil war and that their socialist project was at stake. But where exactly is the antisemitism in Bromley’s tirade?

In the report, the commission says it considered the reference to a “fifth column” as code for Jews. But why? The equalities commission appears to have placed the worst possible interpretation on an ambiguous comment and then advanced it as an “antisemitic trope” – apparently a catch-all that needed no clarification.

But given what we now know – at least since the leaking of the internal Labour report in the spring – it seems far more likely Bromley, in referring to a “fifth column”, was talking about the party bureaucracy hostile to Corbyn. Most of those officials were not Jewish, but exploited the antisemitism claims because those claims were politically helpful.

Interpreted that way – and such an interpretation fits the facts presented in the leaked internal report – Bromley’s comment is better viewed as impolite, even hurtful, but probably not antisemitic.

Joan Ryan, an MP who was then head of Labour Friends of Israel – part of the lobby Bromley is presumably referring to – was not Jewish. But she was clearly very much part of the campaign to oust Corbyn using antisemitism as a stick to beat him and his supporters with, as an Al-Jazeera undercover documentary exposed in early 2017.

Ryan, we should remember, was instrumental in falsely accusing a Labour party member of an “antisemitic trope” – a deception that was only exposed because the exchange was secretly caught on film.

Internecine feud

Here is the second comment by Bromley highlighted by the commission. It was posted in late 2019, shortly after Labour had lost the general election:

My major criticism of him [Corbyn] – his failure to repel the fake accusations of antisemitism in the LP [Labour Party] – may not be repeated as the accusations may probably now magically disappear, now capitalism has got what it wanted.

Again, it seems clear that Bromley is referring to the party’s long-standing internecine feud, which would become public knowledge a few months later with the leaking of the internal report.

Here Bromley was suggesting that the media and anti-Corbyn wing of the party would ease up on the antisemitism allegations – as they indeed largely have done – because the threat of Corbyn’s socialist project had been ended by a dismal election result that saw the Tories gain a commanding parliamentary majority.

It could be argued that her assessment is wrong, but how is it antisemitic – unless the commission believes “capitalism” is also code for “Jews”?

But even if Bromley’s comments are treated as indisputably antisemitic, they are hardly evidence of Corbyn’s Labour party indulging antisemitism, or being “institutionally antisemitic”. As noted, she was suspended by the party in April 2018, almost as soon Corbyn’s team managed to gain control of the party bureaucracy from the old guard. She was expelled last February, while Corbyn was still leader.

Boris Johnson’s racism

It is instructive to compare the certainty with which the commission treats Bromley’s ambiguous remarks as irrefutable proof of antisemitism with its complete disregard for unmistakably antisemitic comments from Boris Johnson, the man actually running the country. That lack of concern is shared, of course, by the establishment media and Jewish leadership organisations.

The commission has repeatedly rejected parallel demands from Muslim groups for an investigation into the ruling Conservative party for well-documented examples of Islamophobia. But no one seems to be calling for an investigation of Johnson’s party for antisemitism.

Johnson himself has a long history of making overtly racist remarks, from calling black people “piccanninies” with “watermelon smiles” to labelling Muslim women “letterboxes”.

Jews have not avoided being stigmatised either. In his novel 72 Virgins, Johnson uses his authorial voice to suggest that Jewish oligarchs run the media and are able to fix an election result.

In a letter to the Guardian, a group of Jewish Corbyn supporters noted Johnson’s main Jewish character in the novel, Sammy Katz, was described as having a “proud nose and curly hair”, and he was painted “as a malevolent, stingy, snake-like Jewish businessman who exploits immigrant workers for profit”.

Nothing in the equalities commission’s report on Labour comes even close to suggesting this level of antisemitism. But then again, Johnson has never argued that antisemitism has been politically weaponised. And why would he? No one, from the corporate media to conservative Jewish leadership organisations, seems to be taking any serious interest in the overt racism demonstrated by either him or his party.

The post It is the Equalities Commission, not Labour, carrying out Political Interference first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Charter School Disinformation About “Choice”

Perhaps no other word is more central to charter school discourse than the word “choice.” “Choice” is not only a central concept in charter school discourse but a persistent source of disinformation. Disinformation refers to the deliberate hiding of the real context and relations of things so as to disorient people and cause them to act against their own interests while making them think that they are acting in their own interests. It is a form of false consciousness or anti-consciousness, and we all pay a heavy price for it.

Advocates of privately-operated non-profit and for-profit charter schools that siphon billions of dollars a year from public schools have long valorized “choice” and used the rhetoric of “choice” to distort thinking, mislead the public, and promote the private interests of owners of capital. Under the veneer of high ideals, “choice” has consistently been used by school-choice advocates and corporate school reformers to eliminate a modern conception of government, education, rights, and social responsibility, and to promote the outdated idea and practice of an education marketplace where education is seen as nothing more than a commodity and parents and students are treated as consumers, not humans or citizens with rights that belong to them by virtue of their being.

Confounding Two Different Notions of “Choice”

“Choice” in the most basic and straightforward sense of the word is simply the act of selecting something from a list of alternatives. It is something people have been doing every day for centuries. But “choice” also has philosophical, political, economic, and moral dimensions to it because, like any major concept and practice, “choice” is conditioned by a specific type of society at a particular time in history. “Choice” does not exist as an abstract freedom, it is rooted in real arrangements in a definite kind of society; its content, use, and meaning are derived from the social, economic, and political conditions that prevail at any given time. “Choice,” therefore, is best viewed contextually, as existing in specific material space-time relations.

The main use of the word “choice” in contemporary charter school discourse is in its narrow consumerist free market sense, which also happens to be closely related to the ideology of individualism, contract theory, and private property. This point cannot be overstated. “Choice” in this sense is at the core of the “free market” dogma underpinning a major justification for the creation and expansion of privately-operated charter schools. When promoters of privately-operated charter schools talk about “choice” they do not want people to think of “choice” in its narrow consumerist free market sense. They prefer to have people think of “choice” as the simple and straightforward act of selecting something from a list of alternatives; i.e., something decontextualized, something that has nothing to do with consumerism, individualism, and the “free market.” This is what makes it easy for people to support “choice,” because who after all thinks that people should not have “choices” as such? We all value having some “choices” in our lives. This is how charter school disinformation works.

Charter school promoters continually fetishize parents as consumers preoccupied with making “choices.” They place parents and “parent power” at the center of their discourse and frequently repeat the view that in the competitive marketplace of schools parents should be able to exercise their free will and voluntarily shop for and “choose” which school to send their child to, even though it is really the charter school that chooses the parents and students, and not the other way around. This anachronistic outlook imbues many publications found on the websites of many national organizations that promote charter schools (e.g., Center for Education Reform, Center on Reinventing Public Education, and National Alliance for Public Charter Schools), as well as most news articles promoting charter schools. Parents, especially poor and low-income minority parents in urban communities, are considered the supreme voluntary consumers, and charter schools, according to charter school supporters, exist to liberate them. “Choice,” in other words, is not rendered as a mechanism of privatization, it is instead portrayed as a virtue and a form of empowerment, as a way for students to transcend their zip code and escape “failing” urban schools. In this way, “choice” diverts attention away from the privatization of public education so as to diminish resistance to privatization.1

Only in a “free market” consumerist society that stresses individualism and the law of the jungle can “choice,” including “parental choice,” occupy such a central place. But what exactly is a consumer, and what is the relationship between consumerism, “choice,” and the “free market?”

A key thesis of the influential Austrian free market ideologue Ludwig Von Mises is that in capitalist societies the consumer is sovereign and the consumer makes “free markets” “work.” This central point, also made frequently by the prominent American “free market” economist and school-voucher supporter Milton Friedman, cannot be overstated. The consumer is considered the end-all and be-all in “free market” societies. The consumer is at the center of everything. He or she is the main point of reference because voluntary individual consumption is considered the main mode of living and identity in “free market” societies: “I consume, therefore I am.” But is this what people think should be the modern human personality in the 21st century?

In advanced commodity-producing societies, so-called informed consumers voluntarily choose the best good or service from a field of competing sellers and suppliers to satisfy their personal needs and desires. The individual consumer’s preferences and wants supposedly determine which goods and services are produced in society and in what quantity and quality. This means the “customer is always right” and that a merchant (e.g., an “entrepreneur” who starts a charter school) can perish if he or she does not serve customers better than his or her competitors. If merchants and entrepreneurs fail to provide consumers with the lowest-cost/highest-value goods and services, so-called informed consumers will voluntarily go elsewhere and spend their money there, that is, consumers will “vote with their feet.” This is sometimes called “dollar democracy.” For his part, Adam Smith, the father of capitalist economics, maintained that supply and demand in the “free market” are governed by “the invisible hand” of economic self-interest and that such a set-up purportedly gives rise to the best of all worlds.

It is also worth emphasizing that, culturally and psychologically, a main way to “hook the consumer” in a “free market” society is by creating new escalating desires on an uninterrupted basis, that is, by creating a psychological-emotional disposition that “desires desire” at all times but leaves the consumer only semi-satisfied at all times so that he or she is trapped in “consumer mode,” almost akin to a state of “no-war-no-peace.” The modern consumer is thus ever restless because he or she is always “chasing the next thing.” To be sure, consumerism produces a certain personality type and disposition.

What is needed at this time is a modern definition of the human personality and human rights, including the right to education. Parents would not have to “choose” which school to send their child to if society took up its responsibility and guaranteed fully-funded, publicly-governed, world-class schools available for free in every community. This is more than possible in the U.S. and many other societies.

Privately-operated nonprofit and for-profit charter schools have been great for owners of capital and their retinue, but bad for education, society, the economy, and the national interest. Treating education as a commodity and parents and students as consumers is not the way forward. A modern society based on mass industrial production cannot operate and develop well on such a basis.

  1. Privatization typically leads to corruption, higher costs, poorer services, and less inefficiency. It is no accident that corruption, fraud, and racketeering are widespread in the 30-year-old charter school sector. Every week someone in the charter school sector is being arrested.

The post Charter School Disinformation About "Choice" first appeared on Dissident Voice.

PBS and Other U.S. Media are spreading Disinformation about Nicaragua

In 36 years of living in Latin America I have learned that any time a country changes its conditions so that poverty decreases and the standard of living improves, the United States wages some kind of war on that country. It has waged unconventional warfare on Nicaragua since the Sandinistas returned to the presidency in 2007 providing millions of dollars to nongovernmental organizations, more than 25 different media, three “human rights” groups and many individuals whose job is to lie for their salaries.  Since 2017, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) has disbursed over $89 million with the primary focus on “governance” and promoting challenges to the Nicaraguan government. Another aspect of US aggression is the economic sanctions. The U.S. uses its influence to oppose any loan, financial or technical assistance to the government of Nicaragua from international banks and organizations.

In July this year, USAID contracted a US company to head up the current phase of their war through the November 2021 elections. The plan is titled RAIN – Responsive Action in Nicaragua. It is a thinly veiled plan to mount domestic and international pressure for “regime change” in Nicaragua. RAIN is a plan to undermine public order with actions [violent and otherwise] before, during and after the 2021 elections. The document suggests there is a crisis and “economic debacle” with potential to become a “humanitarian emergency” due to Covid-19. Since March the opposition focused most of their attention on telling lies in the media. This strategy had some success internationally but not much at home since Nicaragua has the lowest Covid mortality rate in the region.

The opposition is now on to new topics – like trying to spread the lie that some of the grass-fed beef that is exported to the US is from Indigenous land supposedly stolen in recent years. Although Nicaragua has had some problem with this, it has been much less under the Sandinista government than under the three previous US-supported governments.

One reason the government has a good relationship with much of the Indigenous is their commitment to granting title to the original territories. There are now autonomous indigenous governments elected according to their ancestral forms of organization. There are 23 original territories with 314 communities and 200,000 people. Nearly 38 thousand square kilometers have been titled to the indigenous groups.  They have non-transferrable titles, helping to curb illegal land sales and deforestation. The authorities that administer these lands are designated by the communities themselves.

This is 31% of the national territory and more than 55% of the territory of the Caribbean Coast where 61% have some type of forest. Nicaragua has gained great credibility in environmental issues and was just voted to be part of the World Bank’s Carbon Fund Board (Informe Pastran, 23 Oct. 2020).

There is now a special battalion patrolling these extremely large expanses of land in coordination with many of the Miskito and Mayagna communities.  Since 2007 special emphasis has been given to improving every aspect of life in the Autonomous Regions increasing dramatically health and school facilities, electricity, potable water, sanitation, good paved roads and decreasing every aspect of poverty.

There are internal disputes related to selling land among the 75 different communities of the Mayagna. Their communities elect their own authorities. But things aren’t perfect and the violence is sometimes internal. On January 29, Gustavo Sebastian, president of the Mayagna indigenous territory government, said that a group of Mayagnas shot at a group of community members in an act of revenge for a December 2019 action. Four men were killed, two hospitalized with injuries and 12 homes burned. Then on February 12 the police captured the leader of the group responsible for the January violence in Alal and Wakuruskasna. (Radio La Primerisima, 12 February 2020)

On October 22, Solón Guerrero, director of the Federation of Nicaraguan Cattlemen’s Association, stated that they will present documents that prove that their group signed agreements to protect the reserves held by the indigenous populations. The executive director of the Nicaraguan Chamber of the Meat Industry, Juan Bautista Velásquez, said that the cattle that are processed are identified with two tags, because the cattle come from farms certified by the Institute for Agricultural Protection and Health (IPSA). He said that if the North American market was cancelled, more than 600 thousand people would lose their jobs and 140 thousand producers would be affected.

This misleading story is being promoted by members of Nicaragua’s opposition who are paid with USAID or NED (National Endowment for Democracy) funds. It is a new attempt to interfere with and hurt Nicaragua. Now it is under the guise of protecting indigenous people. While it is true that things are not perfect in Nicaragua, the advances and protections for Indigenous people are much better than in most other countries. Certainly the U.S. treatment of indigenous people is no model to follow. While there are periodic incidents of friction or conflict in the vast expanse of the autonomous zones, this has little to do with the cattle raising and beef export industry where hundreds of thousands of Nicaraguans work.

The post PBS and Other U.S. Media are spreading Disinformation about Nicaragua first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Social Media’s Erasure of Palestinians is a Grim Warning for our Future

There is a growing unease that the decisions taken by social media corporations can have a harmful impact on our lives. These platforms, despite enjoying an effective monopoly over the virtual public square, have long avoided serious scrutiny or accountability.

In a new Netflix documentary, The Social Dilemma, former Silicon Valley executives warn of a dystopian future. Google, Facebook and Twitter have gathered vast quantities of data on us to better predict and manipulate our desires. Their products are gradually rewiring our brains to addict us to our screens and make us more pliable to advertisers. The result, as we are consigned to discrete ideological echo chambers, is ever greater social and political polarisation and turmoil.

As if to underline the ever-tightening grip these tech corporations exert on our lives, Facebook and Twitter decided this month to openly interfere in the most contentious US presidential election in living memory. They censored a story that could harm the electoral prospects of Joe Biden, the Democratic challenger to incumbent President Donald Trump.

Given that nearly half of Americans receive their news chiefly via Facebook, the ramifications of such a decision on our political life were not hard to interpret. In excising any debate about purported corruption and influence-peddling by Biden’s son, Hunter, carried out in his father’s name, these social media platforms stepped firmly into the role of authoritarian arbiter of what we are allowed to say and know.

‘Monopoly gatekeeper’

Western publics are waking up very belatedly to the undemocratic power social media wields over them. But if we wish to understand where this ultimately leads, there is no better case study than the very different ways Israelis and Palestinians have been treated by the tech giants.

The treatment of Palestinians online serves as a warning that it would be foolish indeed to regard these globe-spanning corporations as politically neutral platforms, and their decisions as straightforwardly commercial. This is to doubly misunderstand their role.

Social media firms are now effectively monopolistic communication grids – similar to the electricity and water grids, or the phone network of a quarter of a century ago. Their decisions are therefore no longer private matters, but instead have huge social, economic and political consequences. That is part of the reason why the US justice department launched a lawsuit last week against Google for acting as a “monopoly gatekeeper for the internet”.

Google, Facebook and Twitter have no more a right to arbitrarily decide who and what they host on their sites than telecoms companies once had a right to decide whether a customer should be allowed a phone line. But unlike the phone company, social media corporations control not just the means of communication, but the content too. They can decide, as the Hunter Biden story shows, whether their customers get to participate in vital public debates about who leads them.

The Hunter Biden decision is as if the phone company of old not only listened in to conversations, but was able to cut the line if it did not like the politics of any particular customer.

In fact, it is even worse than that. Social media now deliver the news to large sections of the population. Their censoring of a story is more akin to the electricity company turning off the power to everyone’s homes for the duration of a TV broadcast to ensure no one can see it.

Censorship by stealth

The tech giants are the wealthiest, most powerful corporations in human history, their riches measured in hundreds of billions, and now trillions, of dollars. But the argument that they are apolitical – aiming simply to maximise profits – was never true.

They have every reason to promote politicians who side with them by committing not to break up their monopolies or regulate their activities, or, better still, by promising to weaken controls that might prevent them from growing even more fabulously rich and powerful.

Conversely, the tech giants also have every incentive to use the digital space to penalise and marginalise political activists who urge greater regulation either of their activities, or of the marketplace more generally.

Unlike their explicit deletion of the Hunter Biden story, which incensed the Trump administration, social media corporations more usually censor by stealth. That power is wielded through algorithms, the secret codes that decide whether something or someone appears in a search result or on a social media feed. If they desire, these tech titans can cancel any one of us overnight.

This is not just political paranoia. The disproportionate impact of algorithm changes on “left-leaning” websites – those most critical of the neoliberal system that has enriched social media corporations – was highlighted this month by the Wall Street Journal.

Wrong kinds of speech

Politicians increasingly understand the power of social media, which is why they want to harness it as best they can for their own ends. Since the shock of Trump’s election victory in late 2016, Facebook, Google and Twitter executives have regularly found themselves dragged before legislative oversight committees in the US and UK.

There, they are ritually rebuked by politicians for creating a crisis of “fake news” – a crisis that, in fact, long predated social media, as the deceptions of US and UK officials in linking Saddam Hussein to 9/11 and claiming that Iraq had “weapons of mass destruction” testify to only too clearly.

Politicians have also begun holding internet corporations responsible for “foreign interference” in western elections – typically blamed on Russia – despite a dearth of serious evidence for most of their allegations.

Political pressure is being exerted not to make the corporations more transparent and accountable, but to steer them towards enforcing even more assiduously restrictions on the wrong kinds of speech – whether it be violent racists on the right or critics of capitalism and western government policy on the left.

For that reason, social media’s original image as a neutral arena of information sharing, or as a tool for widening public debate and increasing civic engagement, or as a discourse leveller between the rich and powerful and weak and marginalised, grows ever more hollow.

Separate digital rights

Nowhere are ties between tech and state officials more evident than in their dealings with Israel. This has led to starkly different treatment of digital rights for Israelis and Palestinians. The online fate of Palestinians points to a future in which the already-powerful will gain ever greater control over what we know and what we are allowed to think, and over who is visible and who is erased from public life.

Israel was well-positioned to exploit social media before most other states had recognised its importance in manipulating popular attitudes and perceptions. For decades, Israel had, in part, outsourced an official programme of hasbara – or state propaganda – to its own citizens and supporters abroad. As new digital platforms emerged, these partisans were only too willing to expand their role.

Israel had another advantage. After the 1967 occupation of the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza, Israel began crafting a narrative of state victimhood by redefining antisemitism to suggest it was now a particular affliction of the left, not the right. So-called “new antisemitism” did not target Jews, but related instead to criticism of Israel and support for Palestinian rights.

This highly dubious narrative proved easy to condense into social media-friendly soundbites.

Israel still routinely describes any Palestinian resistance to its belligerent occupation or its illegal settlements as “terrorism”, and any support from other Palestinians as “incitement”. International solidarity with Palestinians is characterised as “delegitimisation” and equated with antisemitism.

‘Flood the internet’

As far back as 2008, it emerged that a pro-Israel media lobby group, Camera, had been orchestrating covert efforts by Israel loyalists to infiltrate the online encyclopedia Wikipedia to edit entries and “rewrite history” in ways favourable to Israel. Soon afterwards, politician Naftali Bennett helped organise courses teaching “Zionist editing” of Wikipedia.

In 2011, the Israeli army declared social media a new “battleground” and assigned “cyber warriors” to wage combat online. In 2015, Israel’s foreign ministry set up an additional command centre to recruit young, tech-savvy former soldiers from 8200, the army’s cyber intelligence unit, to lead the battle online. Many have gone on to establish hi-tech firms whose spying software became integral to the functioning of social media.

An app launched in 2017, Act.IL, mobilised Israel partisans to “swarm” sites hosting either criticism of Israel or support for Palestinians. The initiative, supported by Israel’s ministry of strategic affairs, was headed by veterans of Israeli intelligence services.

According to the Forward, a US Jewish weekly, Israel’s intelligence services liaise closely with Act.IL and request help in getting content, including videos, removed by social media platforms. The Forward observed shortly after the app was rolled out: “Its work so far offers a startling glimpse of how it could shape the online conversations about Israel without ever showing its hand.”

Sima Vaknin-Gil, a former Israeli military censor who was then assigned to Israel’s strategic affairs ministry, said the goal was to “create a community of fighters” whose job was to “flood the internet” with Israeli propaganda.

Willing allies

With advantages measured in personnel numbers and ideological zeal, in tech and propaganda experience, and in high-level influence in Washington and Silicon Valley, Israel was soon able to turn social media platforms into willing allies in its struggle to marginalise Palestinians online.

In 2016, Israel’s justice ministry was boasting that Facebook, Google and YouTube were “complying with up to 95 percent of Israeli requests to delete content”, almost all of it Palestinian. The social media companies did not confirm this figure.

The Anti-Defamation League, a pro-Israel lobby group with a history of smearing Palestinian organisations and Jewish groups critical of Israel, established a “command centre” in Silicon Valley in 2017 to monitor what it termed “online hate speech”. That same year, it was appointed a “trusted flagger” organisation for YouTube, meaning its reporting of content for removal was prioritised.

At a 2018 conference in Ramallah hosted by 7amleh, a Palestinian online advocacy group, local Google and Facebook representatives barely hid their priorities. It was important to their bottom line to avoid upsetting governments with the power to constrain their commercial activities – even if those governments were systematically violating international law and human rights. In this battle, the Palestinian Authority carries no weight at all. Israel presides over Palestinians’ communications and internet infrastructure. It controls the Palestinian economy and its key resources.

Since 2016, Israel’s justice ministry has reportedly suppressed tens of thousands of Palestinian posts. In a completely opaque process, Israel’s own algorithms detect content it deems “extremist” and then requests its removal. Hundreds of Palestinians have been arrested by Israel over social media posts, chilling online activity.

Human Rights Watch warned late last year that Israel and Facebook were often blurring the distinction between legitimate criticism of Israel and incitement. Conversely, as Israel has shifted ever further rightwards, the Netanyahu government and social media platforms have not stemmed a surge of posts in Hebrew promoting anti-Palestinian incitement and calling for violence. 7amleh has noted that Israelis post racist or inciteful material against Palestinians roughly every minute.

News agencies shut down

As well as excising tens of thousands of Palestinian posts, Israel has persuaded Facebook to take down the accounts of major Palestinian news agencies and leading journalists.

By 2018, the Palestinian public had grown so incensed that a campaign of online protests and calls to boycott Facebook were led under the hashtag #FBcensorsPalestine. In Gaza, demonstrators accused the company of being “another face of occupation”.

Activism in solidarity with Palestinians in the US and Europe has been similarly targeted. Ads for films, as well as the films themselves, have been taken down and websites removed.

Last month, Zoom, a video conferencing site that has boomed during the Covid-19 pandemic, joined YouTube and Facebook in censoring a webinar organised by San Francisco State University because it included Leila Khaled, an icon of the Palestinian resistance movement now in her seventies.

On Friday, Zoom blocked a second scheduled appearance by Khaled – this time in a University of Hawaii webinar on censorship – as well as a spate of other events across the US to protest against her cancellation by the site. A statement concerning the day of action said campuses were “joining in the campaign to resist corporate and university silencing of Palestinian narratives and Palestinian voices”.

The decision, a flagrant attack on academic freedom, was reportedly taken after the social media groups were heavily pressured by the Israeli government and anti-Palestinian lobby groups, which labelled the webinar “antisemitic”.

Wiped off the map

The degree to which the tech giants’ discrimination against Palestinians is structural and entrenched has been underscored by the years-long struggle of activists both to include Palestinian villages on online maps and GPS services, and to name the Palestinian territories as “Palestine”, in accordance with Palestine’s recognition by the United Nations.

That campaign has largely floundered, even though more than a million people have signed a petition in protest. Both Google and Apple have proved highly resistant to these appeals; hundreds of Palestinian villages are missing from their maps of the occupied West Bank, while Israel’s illegal settlements are identified in detail, accorded the same status as the Palestinian communities that are shown.

The occupied Palestinian territories are subordinated under the name “Israel”, while Jerusalem is presented as Israel’s unified and undisputed capital, just as Israel claims – making the occupation of the Palestinian section of the city invisible.

These are far from politically neutral decisions. Israeli governments have long pursued a Greater Israel ideology that requires driving Palestinians off their lands. This year, that dispossession programme was formalised with plans, backed by the Trump administration, to annex swathes of the West Bank.

Google and Apple are effectively colluding in this policy by helping to erase Palestinians’ visible presence in their homeland. As two Palestinian scholars, George Zeidan and Haya Haddad, recently noted: “When Google and Apple erase Palestinian villages from their navigation, but proudly mark settlements, the effect is complicity in the Israeli nationalist narrative.”

Out of the shadows

Israel’s ever-tightening relationship with social media corporations has played out largely behind the scenes. But these ties moved decisively out of the shadows in May, when Facebook announced that its new oversight board would include Emi Palmor, one of the architects of Israel’s online repression policy towards Palestinians.

The board will issue precedent-setting rulings to help shape Facebook’s and Instagram’s censorship and free speech policies. But as the former director-general of the justice ministry, Palmor has shown no commitment to online free speech. Quite the reverse: she worked hand-in-hand with the tech giants to censor Palestinian posts and shut down Palestinian news websites. She oversaw the transformation of her department into what the human rights organisation Adalah has called the Orwellian “Ministry of Truth”.

Tech corporations are now the undeclared, profit-driven arbiters of our speech rights. But their commitment is not to open and vigorous public debate, online transparency or greater civic engagement. Their only commitment is to the maintenance of a business environment in which they avoid any regulation by major governments infringing on their right to make money.

The appointment of Palmor perfectly illustrates the corrupting relationship between government and social media. Palestinians know only too well how easy it is for technology to diminish and disappear the voices of the weak and oppressed, and to amplify the voices of the powerful.

Many more of us could soon find ourselves sharing the online fate of Palestinians.

• First published in Middle East Eye

The post Social Media’s Erasure of Palestinians is a Grim Warning for our Future first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Social Media’s Erasure of Palestinians is a Grim Warning for our Future

There is a growing unease that the decisions taken by social media corporations can have a harmful impact on our lives. These platforms, despite enjoying an effective monopoly over the virtual public square, have long avoided serious scrutiny or accountability.

In a new Netflix documentary, The Social Dilemma, former Silicon Valley executives warn of a dystopian future. Google, Facebook and Twitter have gathered vast quantities of data on us to better predict and manipulate our desires. Their products are gradually rewiring our brains to addict us to our screens and make us more pliable to advertisers. The result, as we are consigned to discrete ideological echo chambers, is ever greater social and political polarisation and turmoil.

As if to underline the ever-tightening grip these tech corporations exert on our lives, Facebook and Twitter decided this month to openly interfere in the most contentious US presidential election in living memory. They censored a story that could harm the electoral prospects of Joe Biden, the Democratic challenger to incumbent President Donald Trump.

Given that nearly half of Americans receive their news chiefly via Facebook, the ramifications of such a decision on our political life were not hard to interpret. In excising any debate about purported corruption and influence-peddling by Biden’s son, Hunter, carried out in his father’s name, these social media platforms stepped firmly into the role of authoritarian arbiter of what we are allowed to say and know.

‘Monopoly gatekeeper’

Western publics are waking up very belatedly to the undemocratic power social media wields over them. But if we wish to understand where this ultimately leads, there is no better case study than the very different ways Israelis and Palestinians have been treated by the tech giants.

The treatment of Palestinians online serves as a warning that it would be foolish indeed to regard these globe-spanning corporations as politically neutral platforms, and their decisions as straightforwardly commercial. This is to doubly misunderstand their role.

Social media firms are now effectively monopolistic communication grids – similar to the electricity and water grids, or the phone network of a quarter of a century ago. Their decisions are therefore no longer private matters, but instead have huge social, economic and political consequences. That is part of the reason why the US justice department launched a lawsuit last week against Google for acting as a “monopoly gatekeeper for the internet”.

Google, Facebook and Twitter have no more a right to arbitrarily decide who and what they host on their sites than telecoms companies once had a right to decide whether a customer should be allowed a phone line. But unlike the phone company, social media corporations control not just the means of communication, but the content too. They can decide, as the Hunter Biden story shows, whether their customers get to participate in vital public debates about who leads them.

The Hunter Biden decision is as if the phone company of old not only listened in to conversations, but was able to cut the line if it did not like the politics of any particular customer.

In fact, it is even worse than that. Social media now deliver the news to large sections of the population. Their censoring of a story is more akin to the electricity company turning off the power to everyone’s homes for the duration of a TV broadcast to ensure no one can see it.

Censorship by stealth

The tech giants are the wealthiest, most powerful corporations in human history, their riches measured in hundreds of billions, and now trillions, of dollars. But the argument that they are apolitical – aiming simply to maximise profits – was never true.

They have every reason to promote politicians who side with them by committing not to break up their monopolies or regulate their activities, or, better still, by promising to weaken controls that might prevent them from growing even more fabulously rich and powerful.

Conversely, the tech giants also have every incentive to use the digital space to penalise and marginalise political activists who urge greater regulation either of their activities, or of the marketplace more generally.

Unlike their explicit deletion of the Hunter Biden story, which incensed the Trump administration, social media corporations more usually censor by stealth. That power is wielded through algorithms, the secret codes that decide whether something or someone appears in a search result or on a social media feed. If they desire, these tech titans can cancel any one of us overnight.

This is not just political paranoia. The disproportionate impact of algorithm changes on “left-leaning” websites – those most critical of the neoliberal system that has enriched social media corporations – was highlighted this month by the Wall Street Journal.

Wrong kinds of speech

Politicians increasingly understand the power of social media, which is why they want to harness it as best they can for their own ends. Since the shock of Trump’s election victory in late 2016, Facebook, Google and Twitter executives have regularly found themselves dragged before legislative oversight committees in the US and UK.

There, they are ritually rebuked by politicians for creating a crisis of “fake news” – a crisis that, in fact, long predated social media, as the deceptions of US and UK officials in linking Saddam Hussein to 9/11 and claiming that Iraq had “weapons of mass destruction” testify to only too clearly.

Politicians have also begun holding internet corporations responsible for “foreign interference” in western elections – typically blamed on Russia – despite a dearth of serious evidence for most of their allegations.

Political pressure is being exerted not to make the corporations more transparent and accountable, but to steer them towards enforcing even more assiduously restrictions on the wrong kinds of speech – whether it be violent racists on the right or critics of capitalism and western government policy on the left.

For that reason, social media’s original image as a neutral arena of information sharing, or as a tool for widening public debate and increasing civic engagement, or as a discourse leveller between the rich and powerful and weak and marginalised, grows ever more hollow.

Separate digital rights

Nowhere are ties between tech and state officials more evident than in their dealings with Israel. This has led to starkly different treatment of digital rights for Israelis and Palestinians. The online fate of Palestinians points to a future in which the already-powerful will gain ever greater control over what we know and what we are allowed to think, and over who is visible and who is erased from public life.

Israel was well-positioned to exploit social media before most other states had recognised its importance in manipulating popular attitudes and perceptions. For decades, Israel had, in part, outsourced an official programme of hasbara – or state propaganda – to its own citizens and supporters abroad. As new digital platforms emerged, these partisans were only too willing to expand their role.

Israel had another advantage. After the 1967 occupation of the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza, Israel began crafting a narrative of state victimhood by redefining antisemitism to suggest it was now a particular affliction of the left, not the right. So-called “new antisemitism” did not target Jews, but related instead to criticism of Israel and support for Palestinian rights.

This highly dubious narrative proved easy to condense into social media-friendly soundbites.

Israel still routinely describes any Palestinian resistance to its belligerent occupation or its illegal settlements as “terrorism”, and any support from other Palestinians as “incitement”. International solidarity with Palestinians is characterised as “delegitimisation” and equated with antisemitism.

‘Flood the internet’

As far back as 2008, it emerged that a pro-Israel media lobby group, Camera, had been orchestrating covert efforts by Israel loyalists to infiltrate the online encyclopedia Wikipedia to edit entries and “rewrite history” in ways favourable to Israel. Soon afterwards, politician Naftali Bennett helped organise courses teaching “Zionist editing” of Wikipedia.

In 2011, the Israeli army declared social media a new “battleground” and assigned “cyber warriors” to wage combat online. In 2015, Israel’s foreign ministry set up an additional command centre to recruit young, tech-savvy former soldiers from 8200, the army’s cyber intelligence unit, to lead the battle online. Many have gone on to establish hi-tech firms whose spying software became integral to the functioning of social media.

An app launched in 2017, Act.IL, mobilised Israel partisans to “swarm” sites hosting either criticism of Israel or support for Palestinians. The initiative, supported by Israel’s ministry of strategic affairs, was headed by veterans of Israeli intelligence services.

According to the Forward, a US Jewish weekly, Israel’s intelligence services liaise closely with Act.IL and request help in getting content, including videos, removed by social media platforms. The Forward observed shortly after the app was rolled out: “Its work so far offers a startling glimpse of how it could shape the online conversations about Israel without ever showing its hand.”

Sima Vaknin-Gil, a former Israeli military censor who was then assigned to Israel’s strategic affairs ministry, said the goal was to “create a community of fighters” whose job was to “flood the internet” with Israeli propaganda.

Willing allies

With advantages measured in personnel numbers and ideological zeal, in tech and propaganda experience, and in high-level influence in Washington and Silicon Valley, Israel was soon able to turn social media platforms into willing allies in its struggle to marginalise Palestinians online.

In 2016, Israel’s justice ministry was boasting that Facebook, Google and YouTube were “complying with up to 95 percent of Israeli requests to delete content”, almost all of it Palestinian. The social media companies did not confirm this figure.

The Anti-Defamation League, a pro-Israel lobby group with a history of smearing Palestinian organisations and Jewish groups critical of Israel, established a “command centre” in Silicon Valley in 2017 to monitor what it termed “online hate speech”. That same year, it was appointed a “trusted flagger” organisation for YouTube, meaning its reporting of content for removal was prioritised.

At a 2018 conference in Ramallah hosted by 7amleh, a Palestinian online advocacy group, local Google and Facebook representatives barely hid their priorities. It was important to their bottom line to avoid upsetting governments with the power to constrain their commercial activities – even if those governments were systematically violating international law and human rights. In this battle, the Palestinian Authority carries no weight at all. Israel presides over Palestinians’ communications and internet infrastructure. It controls the Palestinian economy and its key resources.

Since 2016, Israel’s justice ministry has reportedly suppressed tens of thousands of Palestinian posts. In a completely opaque process, Israel’s own algorithms detect content it deems “extremist” and then requests its removal. Hundreds of Palestinians have been arrested by Israel over social media posts, chilling online activity.

Human Rights Watch warned late last year that Israel and Facebook were often blurring the distinction between legitimate criticism of Israel and incitement. Conversely, as Israel has shifted ever further rightwards, the Netanyahu government and social media platforms have not stemmed a surge of posts in Hebrew promoting anti-Palestinian incitement and calling for violence. 7amleh has noted that Israelis post racist or inciteful material against Palestinians roughly every minute.

News agencies shut down

As well as excising tens of thousands of Palestinian posts, Israel has persuaded Facebook to take down the accounts of major Palestinian news agencies and leading journalists.

By 2018, the Palestinian public had grown so incensed that a campaign of online protests and calls to boycott Facebook were led under the hashtag #FBcensorsPalestine. In Gaza, demonstrators accused the company of being “another face of occupation”.

Activism in solidarity with Palestinians in the US and Europe has been similarly targeted. Ads for films, as well as the films themselves, have been taken down and websites removed.

Last month, Zoom, a video conferencing site that has boomed during the Covid-19 pandemic, joined YouTube and Facebook in censoring a webinar organised by San Francisco State University because it included Leila Khaled, an icon of the Palestinian resistance movement now in her seventies.

On Friday, Zoom blocked a second scheduled appearance by Khaled – this time in a University of Hawaii webinar on censorship – as well as a spate of other events across the US to protest against her cancellation by the site. A statement concerning the day of action said campuses were “joining in the campaign to resist corporate and university silencing of Palestinian narratives and Palestinian voices”.

The decision, a flagrant attack on academic freedom, was reportedly taken after the social media groups were heavily pressured by the Israeli government and anti-Palestinian lobby groups, which labelled the webinar “antisemitic”.

Wiped off the map

The degree to which the tech giants’ discrimination against Palestinians is structural and entrenched has been underscored by the years-long struggle of activists both to include Palestinian villages on online maps and GPS services, and to name the Palestinian territories as “Palestine”, in accordance with Palestine’s recognition by the United Nations.

That campaign has largely floundered, even though more than a million people have signed a petition in protest. Both Google and Apple have proved highly resistant to these appeals; hundreds of Palestinian villages are missing from their maps of the occupied West Bank, while Israel’s illegal settlements are identified in detail, accorded the same status as the Palestinian communities that are shown.

The occupied Palestinian territories are subordinated under the name “Israel”, while Jerusalem is presented as Israel’s unified and undisputed capital, just as Israel claims – making the occupation of the Palestinian section of the city invisible.

These are far from politically neutral decisions. Israeli governments have long pursued a Greater Israel ideology that requires driving Palestinians off their lands. This year, that dispossession programme was formalised with plans, backed by the Trump administration, to annex swathes of the West Bank.

Google and Apple are effectively colluding in this policy by helping to erase Palestinians’ visible presence in their homeland. As two Palestinian scholars, George Zeidan and Haya Haddad, recently noted: “When Google and Apple erase Palestinian villages from their navigation, but proudly mark settlements, the effect is complicity in the Israeli nationalist narrative.”

Out of the shadows

Israel’s ever-tightening relationship with social media corporations has played out largely behind the scenes. But these ties moved decisively out of the shadows in May, when Facebook announced that its new oversight board would include Emi Palmor, one of the architects of Israel’s online repression policy towards Palestinians.

The board will issue precedent-setting rulings to help shape Facebook’s and Instagram’s censorship and free speech policies. But as the former director-general of the justice ministry, Palmor has shown no commitment to online free speech. Quite the reverse: she worked hand-in-hand with the tech giants to censor Palestinian posts and shut down Palestinian news websites. She oversaw the transformation of her department into what the human rights organisation Adalah has called the Orwellian “Ministry of Truth”.

Tech corporations are now the undeclared, profit-driven arbiters of our speech rights. But their commitment is not to open and vigorous public debate, online transparency or greater civic engagement. Their only commitment is to the maintenance of a business environment in which they avoid any regulation by major governments infringing on their right to make money.

The appointment of Palmor perfectly illustrates the corrupting relationship between government and social media. Palestinians know only too well how easy it is for technology to diminish and disappear the voices of the weak and oppressed, and to amplify the voices of the powerful.

Many more of us could soon find ourselves sharing the online fate of Palestinians.

• First published in Middle East Eye

The post Social Media’s Erasure of Palestinians is a Grim Warning for our Future first appeared on Dissident Voice.

“Dictatorship” and “Democracy” as Loaded Language: Anti-Communist Cold-War Propaganda

ORIENTATION

In my last article I showed how the word “totalitarian” was used as a loaded vice word to attack the Soviet Union after World War II and to red-bait communists around the world. The use of the word totalitarian began in the 1930s, but even before then in the 1920’s, the word “dictator” began to surface in order to explain another political response to the crisis in capitalism. We will study the use of this term from the 1920s to the end of World War II, although, of course, the word dictator is still used for propaganda purposes today against socialist governments.

If I were to ask 95% of the Yankee population, “Is Putin a dictator” almost all would say “yes”. If I were to ask “Is Maduro a dictator” I would get the same response. But if six months ago I were to ask “Is Trump a dictator” the answer would be mixed. This is because the CIA controlled political propaganda machine saves the word “dictator” for foreign countries, inevitably the head of socialist or communist states. But here in Yankeedom we don’t have dictators, not even Donald Trump.

Within the same time period, the 1920s, the word “democracy” was also manipulated to mean different things at different times but for the same anti-communist reasons. In the first half of this article I will discuss the propagandistic use of the word dictator and in the second half I will discuss the propagandistic use of democracy. For the section on dictatorship, I will be drawing mostly from Dictators, Democracy and Envisioning the Totalitarian Enemy 1920s-1950 by Benjamin Alpers. For the section on democracy I will be using mostly The Crisis in Democratic Theory by Edward Purcell Jr.

THE UNITED STATES FLIRTS WITH DICTATORSHIPS IN THE 1920S AND EARLY 1930S

In the 20s the U.S. press praised Mussolini for bringing political order to Italy. So relieved was the U.S. press at Mussolini’s seizure of power in 1922 that few journalists bothered to report his hostility to democracy or his radical left past. From Mussolini’s march on Rome in 1922 to mid-1930s, dictatorship was seen sympathetically on the left (Stalin’s dictatorship) as well as the right. The same praise was given to Stalin’s first 5-year plan. As Mussolini’s prestige rose in the U.S., Stalin was seen as accomplishing wonderful things by labor representatives, public health workers and engineers.

In a 1932 interview with Mussolini, the press packaged him as a model for the US as “what a real dictator would do”. Here is an excerpt from Barron’s editorial section: “Whether we are quite ready to admit it or not, sometimes openly and other times secretly, we have been longing to see the superman emerge… Of course, we all realize that dictatorships and even semi-dictatorships in peacetime are quite contrary to the spirit of American institutions and all that.”

Rather than rejecting the fear that “it can’t happen here” the sociologist Robert Lynd suggested that the capitalists secretly desired a dictatorship.

Dictatorship and the Great Depression 

The coming of the depression made dictatorships more attractive. Mussolini received a favorable reception by capitalists as a dictatorship seemed like an efficient way to deal with labor unions, economic depressions and a way to organize an economy along non-socialist lines. In the early years of the Great Depression, dictatorship was an important political fantasy. The image of a dictator was a great man, one who was able to lift himself to prominence despite humble beginnings.

Dictatorship was understood as a personality and not part of a political structure. The dictator was the ultimate “doer”. Liberals bent over backwards explaining why dictatorship did not make it the opposite of democracy. Dorothy Thompson argued that good dictators can save democracy; bad dictators can destroy it. In the middle of the 1930s, 33% of unemployed engineers agreed with the need for a dictator.

In 1932-33, the necessity for a dictator in the US spread to the movies, including two Hollywood films. In the documentary movie Mussolini Speaks, no reference is made to fascist brutality. The film celebrates Mussolini’s enormous control of the crowd. In its initial run at the New York Place Theatre, it received critical and popular success. In 1933, the New York Times gave it an enthusiastic review.

The film Gabriel over the White House advocated dictatorship in the US. In it, a dictator tells Congress it has turned its back on the people. The dictator solves the problems of unemployment and organized crime. The newspaper magnet, Randolph Hearst, collaborated with this film. It was a hit at the box office but encountered mixed reviews. The problem was that the film hit theaters just as the Yankee longing for dictators was coming to an end. Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia in 1935 ended Mussolini’s popularity in the US. During the social and economic crisis of the 30s, U.S. analysis had briefly hoped that dictatorship might offer a more efficient way to unify and organize capitalism. As the costs of dictatorship rose in the late 30s, sociologists and historians, instead of blaming capitalist chaotic economic relations for interest in dictators as forces of order, blamed the masses for the existence of their now demonized dictators.

Roosevelt, Hitler and the end of the romance with dictators

While there were a minority of conservative groups that greeted Hitler’s rise with an anti-communist sigh of relief, the arrival of Hitler to power in 1933 ended the flirtation with dictatorship as a virtue word. After 1935, business journals began to equate fascism and communism. By the 2nd half of the 30s, dictatorship became an evil word. In 1927 “dictator” had enough favorability to have a car named “dictator”. The name of the car was recalled after 1937. In the early 1930s dictators were seen as either heroic (Mussolini) or horrific (Hitler), but each was admired as a man who single-handedly tamed the unruly masses and restored honor to the nation. By the late 1930s dictators were thought of as one-sidedly negative. Dictatorship became a loaded vice word.  Dictators were subjected to pop psychological analysis or treated as buffoons, as in the movie of Charlie Chaplin or in the Three Stooges. In fact, Chaplin’s film on Hitler was the highest money-making film in the U.S. between 1933 and 1942.

In the United States the right-wing even accused Roosevelt of being a dictator throughout his term. There was a mocking phrase “Third Reich, Third International, Third Term” slogan for him.  Even in 1937, 37% feared Roosevelt was becoming a dictator. In 1938 the figure rose to 50%. So, in the 1920s and early 1930s, dictatorships were seen as a temporary solution to social problems; whereas in the late 1930s dictatorships appeared to be the cause of social problems and perpetuated by mass media and the masses.

The absence of fathers promotes desire for dictators (Roosevelt)

One theory had it that American family life was in trouble. The need for more than one income put women in the workforce and this undermined the role of the father. There had to be some authoritative figure to be looked up to. Roosevelt’s Fireside Chats provided this substitute. The dream of defeating Hitler through the patriarchal authority of Roosevelt backed by supportive women was present in a number of American films. In the novel, The President Vanishes, fascism comes to America, but it was overcome by a strong leader and the backing of a good woman.

Hollywood’s first attempt to deal with German politics was in the novel, Little Man, What Now? by Hans Fallada (1932). It contrasts the stable bonds of matrimony against chaotic political action. It presents dictators as produced by rifts in the social fabric. Improved family life offered the best opportunity to mend it. In Sinclair Lewis’s It can’t Happen Here a populist demagogue with fascist overtones, along with a core of “white-shirts”, win the election. Minutemen seized Congress and abolish political parties. A resistance formed, called “New Underground”, was led by a Yankee individualist who saves the day.

THE AUDIENCE ITSELF IS THE DRAMA: DICTATORSHIP, CROWDS AND MASSES 1936-1941

Up until now, dictatorship was focused in the individual dictator and had little to do with the masses. But by the late 1930s there was a shift from the personality of the dictator to a crowd-centered explanation of modern dictators. If in the early 30s Americans were fearful or hopeful of a single man asserting himself and ruling the country by his will, in the last half of the decade the personality of the dictator was dethroned as an explanation for the existence of dictators. It was the crowd or the masses that produced dictators.  In the early 1930s, dictatorships paid little attention to the political actual organization of the dictatorships except for a very few groups. By the late 1930s there was much more attention paid to the social situation dictatorships emerged out of.

Cynical Views of the Public

Dorothy Thompson suggested that public opinion, not any desire on the part of the president, was responsible for the danger posed to democracy. In the play by Archibald MacLeish, Fall of the City, with Orson Welles and Burgess Meredith, the message was that people invent their oppressors. Masses wish to believe in them; they wish to be free of their freedom. The leader is a projection of the masses wanting to be dominated. Dictatorships don’t end once the dictator has disappeared. What explains the dictator? In the early 1930s fascism was the tyranny of a minority. But by the late 1930s fascism was understood as the work of the crowd. In the early 1930s order was understood as a good thing, something that restored chaos. Order was understood in mechanical images such as the machines of Henry Ford and Fredrick Taylor. But by the 1930s, the order of a regimented crowd became a dangerous thing.  By the late 30s bad order existed because people desired regimentation, fanatical chanting and saluting in unison.

Just as the bomber squadron — powerful, ordered, cruel and devoid of autonomy — was the dominant representation of the dictatorial forces of Europeans in war, so the regimented crowd, standing or goose-stepping, became the prevailing image of European dictatorships in peace. The word “mob” had taken on new meaning with the rise of Al Capone. The FBI projected a view of Nazis and Communists that was similar to popular notions of organized crime: a vast secret network running a racket that was political as opposed to criminal. In real life, mobs are disorganized social bodies of individuals with no coordination. Fascist or communist crowds were hyper-coordinated and the opposite of mobs.

For extreme conservatives, the most obvious explanation for the rise of the regimented crowd was nationality. The American Legion’s response against communism was a call to cut European immigration quotas by 90%. In other words, Italians and Germans as ethnicities were believed to be more likely to produce crowd violence than the respectable English or Norwegians.

Crowds vs Masses

What did this new kind of crowd look like? In the 1930s, crowds were understood as a minority of the population, arising spontaneously, chaotic, but having a short-term lifetime. They had a diffused attention span and were not very efficient. Crowds in the early 30s were predominantly male and crowds had to be in the same place at the same time. Because of this, members of crowds could easily be dispersed, jailed or deported. However, once the individual left a crowd they returned to their normal behavior as individuals.

Modern communications technology, specifically the radio, allowed crowds to be called into existence even when people were not physically gathered together and when the speaker was at a great distance. This crowd was now a mass, focused and much more long-lasting. Further, an individual as a member of mass does not leave his mass mind when he leaves a crowd or turns off his radio. He maintains a crowd mind even when alone. Masses in the late 1930s constituted a majority of the population who voluntarily joined, were regimented, could move efficiently. Masses arose with the decline of all intermediate groups and voluntary associations. In the late 1930s masses were mostly male, but women were out and seen in public.

Sympathetic Views of the Public

Frank Capra found his own independent film production in 1939 which dealt with the regimentation of crowds. In both Mr. Deeds Goes to Town and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Capra makes the press responsible for creating public opinion. Capra was a conservative Republican, but it was not only conservatives who blamed mass media for the rise of mass men. In War of the Worlds, Orson Welles wants to spread democracy by exposing the hold mass media has on people. In Citizen Kane, Wells wants to turn the audience into investigators instead of relying on mass media.

Raymond Cantril studied the public reaction to War of the Worlds, but Cantril did not blame mass media. In his Invasion from Mars in 1938, it was not because of mass media that people were duped. It was their willingness to believe they were being invaded. Some people lacked the critical thinking ability to disbelieve what the radio was telling them. On a psychological level, formal education would discourage a willingness to believe. At the same time, the timing as to when they tuned into the broadcast was an important situational factor in explaining the masses’ reaction.

More importantly, Cantril concluded that social stress explains the rise of dictatorships. His conclusion was that economic hardship is the cause of the rise of dictatorships and makes people less rational. Unstable political and economic institutions are responsible for that and this results in the cultivation of ignorance, intolerance and abstention from democratic processes.DEMOCRACTIC THEORY

The Reality and the Fantasy of Democracy

A number of years ago, according to a UN conducted analysis of democratic processes, Yankees ranked 29th in the world. Something like 28% of the population does not vote and another 24% is ineligible to vote. The Yankee public is known around the world as not wanting to talk about politics.  When asked, roughly 2/3 of Americans say they want more than two parties. Yet, if you asked soldiers why they were fighting you would be told they are fighting for democracy. How can there be a democracy with only two parties from which to choose? If you ask the general public if they live in a democracy, they will say yes. How can this be? The answer is that the virtue-word “democracy” has been worked into the anti-communist propaganda machine whereas “totalitarian” and “dictatorship“ are used as vice words, which are counter to the virtue word “democracy”.

Traditional Jeffersonian Democracy

In the United States, the first theories of democracy, Jeffersonian, literally meant the rule of the people. Democratic processes supposedly took place in face-to-face town-hall meetings and discussions. The population was imagined to be intelligent and informed. Their decisions were based on conscious and rational thinking processes. Whatever the place of emotions, they were toned down. People were expected to know their self-interest and the way they made their political judgments were thought to be by weighing the pros and cons.

Skepticism of Democracy: Merriam, Lasswell, Wallas and Lippman

By the second decade of the 20th century, “the people” were not seen in such a favorable light. Charles Merriam and Harold Lasswell challenged the rationality of human nature and the practicality of a government where the people ruled. Both believed that politics should be the study of how small groups dominate. They thought that politics should be about the study of the influential minority. In the 1920s there was a great controversy over how to interpret the terrible scores of Yankee soldiers on IQ tests. The dominant schools of psychology such as Freud and the crowd psychology of Gustave Le Bon argued that people were driven by the irrational forces located in the unconscious. Graham Wallas and Walter Lippmann both argued that the ideal human society would be if a few intelligent leaders directed the majority. According to them, the public does not process political events as they happen objectively but though past experiences. Lippmann said in his book Public Opinion, that town-house democracy could no longer work. From the late 19th century, thanks to mass communication, people now have to rely on newspapers and political propaganda for their sources. For Lippmann, the best we can hope for is an elite democracy. He became even more right-wing as he aged, suggesting that people should not be taught to meddle in public affairs.

Lasswell suggested that deep hatreds within the families of Yankees were sublimated into public life. Individuals were thought to be a bad judge of their own self-interest. Free and open discussions obscured rather than clarified problems. Another indicator that the public was not trustworthy came from a study of Chicago politics in which it was found that half the public did not vote. As we saw in the first part of this article, Yankee elites flirted with dictatorship as their skepticism for democracy grew. It wasn’t until the rise of Hitler that they began to defend democracy ideologically, if only for propagandistic purposes.

Cowin and Eliot put a smiley face on public indifference. They argued that the reason people didn’t vote was because they were satisfied with the system! Some said the indifference of people to principles was a crucial factor in the success of popular government. Non-voting kept the public from being divided sharply into coalitions. Given the fickleness of public opinion, those who did vote ensured that no impassioned commitment (god forbid) would mobilize large numbers for a sustained confrontation. In other words, apathy is good because it keeps people from having ‘extreme” opinions. Besides, people are too busy to be bothered with politics.

It rarely occurred to any of these theorists that the reason that over half the people do not vote was that, at least for working class people, there was no one to vote for because both parties were controlled by the ruling class. Instead, they avoided this problem completely, by comparing it to the totalitarian system of the Nazis. John Dewey tried to make democracy akin to a scientific experiment which: a) denied absolute truths; b) remained intellectually flexible and critical; c) valued diversity, and; d) drew from competing subgroups as a base. Dewey tried to link democracy to science, not considering that masses of people do not apply scientific methodology to politics.  Dewey was setting the table for the political pluralism of the 1950s.

Schumpeter’s Competitive Elitism

In 1942 Joseph Schumpeter published Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy, which became one of the foundation stones for the pluralism of Robert Dahl over a decade or so later. For Schumpeter, power configurations are stable and in the long run, they do not change. What is democratic is not the extent that people are involved but rather the centrality and stability of political leadership. The state was not an expression of the people’s will but an independent and well-trained administration. The political culture is fractured. People not only have different wants but different values and methods of achieving them. This is why democracy must be concentrated in the leadership. Schumpeter agreed with Le Bon’s theory of crowds, so he thought people were easily influenced by demagogic leaders, advertising, fads and fashions. Politics is dominated by party politics which have little to do with the public. Schumpeter argues that the intermediate groups, the voluntary groups so dear to de Tocqueville, really were not significant. In reality, there was no significant mediation between the state and the individual. At this point, you might think “what does this have to do with democracy?” Schumpeter says that elites have different interests and the voters have the power to vote in or vote out elites.

The Tough-minded and Tender-hearted Politics

Competitive elitism is the bad conscience of the pluralists of the 1950s. Competitive elitism is based on the realism of Max Weber. Pluralist political science was based on the softer sociology of Emile Durkheim. The relationship between competitive elitism and pluralism is like the relationship between Freud and most of his followers. Anna Freud, Adler and Ernest Jones tended to soften Freud and dress him up in his Sunday best. The same can be said about the political relationship between Hobbes and Locke. Hobbes is the hard-core pessimist, while Locke preserves some parts of Hobbes but softens him into a respectable liberalism. In other words, Schumpeter, Weber, Freud and Hobbes were pessimistic realists. The pluralists with the aid of Durkheim were the tender- hearted liberals like Locke and orthodox psychoanalysts.

Pluralism of V.O. Key, Dahl, Truman and Lindholm

On the surface it appears that competitive elitists are the opposite of pluralists. After all, unlike the competitive elitists, according to David Reisman, power in Yankeedom is situational and mercurial rather than consisting of stable power blocks. V. O. Key, Jr., one of the most influential political scientists of the post-war era, says there is a wide dispersion of power in his book Politics, Parties and Pressure Groups.  The belief that American society was pluralistic led to a revival in the 50s of the group theory of politics, drawing from Arthur Bentley’s 1908 book The Process of Government. Unlike the competitive elitists, Dahl argues that there are overlapping interest groups with equal access to power, because power is always changing. The pluralists think that the public can mobilize itself to be a force to be reckoned with. Competitive elitists think this is naïve.

This third relativist democratic theory was essentially a defensive doctrine. It emphasized civil liberties, but minimized the problems of social and economic inequality. Another pluralist, David Truman, in his The Governmental Process:  Political Interests and Public Opinion, assumed that the US had already  succeeded in its democratic goal. Social scientists were more concerned with problems of conserving what already existed. They devoted more and more research to the problem of stability rather than change. For pluralists, the nation states do not have independent power as they do with the competitive elitists, but they are mediators of public demands. The public does not have a fractured set of wants, methods and values. Rather Yankees are united by the constitutional rules of a supportive, rather than combative political culture.

The most influential and persuasive advocate of realistic democratic theory was Dahl’s book, Preface to Democratic Theory in 1956. According to Dahl, in American government, majorities rule through pressure groups which were the empirical basis of democracy. Dahl and Lindblom argued that economic problems depend not upon our choice among mythical grand alternatives like socialism or communism, but by a gradual tinkering method. Being rational meant that all ideologies were mythical and have to be abandoned. Pluralists supported the “end of ideology” belief of the 1950s. The very concept of a realistic democratic theory implied that reality, not an ideal, was the primary criterion of both theoretical validity and legitimate political action. It deprived democratic theory of its traditional critical function.

Since ideal and empirical theory were conceptually and unconsciously fused, reality became the standard for both systematic analysis and ideal behavior. Reality became the standard to evaluate ideals rather than ideals being the standard by which to judge reality. The pluralists admit that there is a passive citizenry, but there is also an active citizenry which is sufficient for political stability. Lastly, for the pluralists, intermediate associations of neighborhoods, religious groups, clubs, trade associations, political clubs mediate between the individual and the state.

What draws the pluralists into the orbit of competitive elitists is that each has completely given up on Jeffersonian democracy. They have also given up on the idea that the electoral process is itself undemocratic. There is no talk about having candidates that actually represent the lower classes or that the electoral college is a damper on the popular vote. The system is acceptable as it is. It’s just a matter of convincing people to believe in it.

Pluralism did not fare well in the 1960s because it could not explain racism, poverty and war. With no hesitancy, it assumed that Yankeedom already was the democratic ideal. Pluralism imagined that only absolute, authoritarianism, and rationalism could be ideological. They couldn’t imagine that pluralism, empiricism, and pragmatism could themselves be ideological. But books like The End of Ideology can itself be an ideology for liberal anti-communism.

DID CAPITALISM PRODUCE DEMOCRACY? ARE THESE WORDS INTERCHANGEABLE?

Capitalist rulers never seem to tire in reminding us that capitalism is responsible for creating democracy and that socialist societies are never democratic. What this ignores is the 20th century examples of capitalist political economies that prospered without democracy including Hitler’s Germany, South Korea, Taiwan after World War II and Saudi Arabia and Egypt.  Secondly, there is no necessary relationship between prosperity and capitalism. Most of the countries on the periphery of the world-system today (mostly Africa) are capitalist run in an authoritarian manner that have low Gross National Products.

But what about the origins of capitalism? Weren’t capitalists responsible for the beginnings of democracy?  The short answer is no. According to Rueschemeyer, Stephens and Stephens, in their book Capitalist Development and  Democracy, the bourgeoisie wrested its share of political participation from the royal autocracy and aristocratic oligarchy, but it rarely fought for further extension to the classes below them once its own place was secured. When the bourgeoisie was fighting for power against the king and the aristocrats it recruited the lower classes. But once in power themselves, they did not support lower class inclusion. Their contribution was to establish parliamentary bodies between the king and the people rather than to accept the rule of a king alone. Parliamentary bodies are not necessarily democratic. As Marx once called them, they are the “talking shops of the bourgeoisie”. Even by World War I only a handful of countries had become democratic: Switzerland, 1848; France, 1877; Norway 1898 and Denmark 1915.

Historically it was the urban and rural petty bourgeoisie — merchants, craftsman, farmers — who were responsible for the movement towards democracy. Further, it was the industrialization process that transformed society in such a way that it empowered subordinate classes to make it difficult to politically exclude them.  It was capitalist development that transformed the class structure, strengthening the working and middle classes and weakening the landed upper class. It was not the capitalist market that made political life more democratic. Rather it was the contradictions of capitalism.  It was the growth of the working class and its capacity for self-organization that pushed for a breakthrough to suffrage, at least for white males. It was the rising militancy of the unions and the threat of socialism that pressured capitalists to include workers in the voting process and institute a semblance of formal democracy.

LIBERAL CONSPIRACY: MODERNIZATION THEORY AS ANTI-COMMUNIST DEMOCRACY

Our strategy must be …both global, embracing, every part of the world, and total, with political, psychological, economic and military considerations integrated into one whole.

— International Development Advisory Board Partners in Progress, 1951 (David Rockefeller: Head of International Development Advisory Board)

While American pluralism was the norm for domestic democratic theory, students of comparative politics were making pluralistic democracy the norm for their analysis of nation-states throughout the world. As the US became involved in a Cold War, they wanted research to help them understand what Gabriel Almond called political development of nations, through what Almond called “political culture”.

The major book I will be using to take us through this section is Nils Gilman’s Mandarins of the Future: Modernization Theory in Cold War America. Almond’s comparative politics was a significant aspect of modernization theory, part of a vast integrated anti-communist project that began after World War II. In fact, the very creation of the MIT Center for International Studies was the result of top-secret anti-Communist propaganda project in the fall of 1950. As Gilman says, modernization theory represents the most explicit and systematic blueprint ever created by intellectual elites for reshaping societies throughout the world to counter Soviet communism. Arthur Schlesinger said modernization theory represented an American effort to persuade what were then called “Third World” countries to base their revolutions on Locke, rather than Marx.

Many of the key figures in modernization theory were children of missionaries like Lucian Pye and David Apter. Their sense of wanting to save the world (from communism) no doubt impacted their study of comparative politics.  Almond and Rostow claimed that communism was a form of psychopathology and Rostow called it a “disease”. Rostow is considered the most hawkish anti-communist of the modernization theorists. He decided at 16 his life purpose was to construct a theory of economics and history capable of countering Marx.  During the war he first worked for the OSS, a predecessor to the CIA.

In the hands of Lucian Pye and Walt Rostow, modernization theory would represent liberalism’s attempt to enter the world of political ideology, as an alternative to both fascism and communism. An added twist was to dissolve their liberal ideology and pretend that it was neither liberal nor ideological. They made believe they had no ideology. It’s just what was reasonable, a “vital center” of the political spectrum. This masking of liberalism became part of the End of Ideology orientation of Daniel Bell.

Modernization theorists were elitist, liberal anti-communists, not populist, right-wing McCarthyites. In practice this project was part of a containment policy against the Soviet Union. They set a dominant social scientific paradigm, and found sponsors like Rockefeller, Carnegie and Ford and other foundations to set up think tanks and eliminate rivals in various academic disciplines. Please see Table B for all the tentacles of this anti-communist project.

Rostow’s theory of modernization was a unilinear theory of social evolution going through five stages: 1) traditional societies; 2) preconditions for take-off; 3) take-off; 4) drive to maturity, and; 5) age of mass high consumption. All other disciplines in Table B went along with Rostow’s theory.

What all these interdisciplinary projects had in common was either assumptions or assertions that:

  1. All premodern societies — hunter-gatherers, simple horticulture, complex horticultural, herding, maritime societies and agricultural states — can be lumped into one category of “traditional societies”.
  2. All nation-states are internally.  There is no influence (such as colonialism) on traditional societies by modern societies. They are premodern because they are superstitious and lack initiative.
  3. All societies are inevitably moving towards industrial capitalist societies (though they never named it as capitalist). The use of the term “transition” suggests that there are no crises, no reversals, no other roads possible.
  4. All “mature” modern societies are industrial capitalist.
  5. Fascism was not an expression of modern society but premodern “residues”.
  6. Communism was not a candidate or a road to be taken as a stage. It was premodern.
  7. The United States and western Europe already achieved maturity and they were not going back.
  8. Capitalism and democracy were used interchangeably.
  9. Capitalism as an economic system is never named. It is replaced by euphemisms such as “markets” or “business” or loaded virtue words like the “free market” or “free enterprise” if they are feeling defensive.

CONCLUSION

In order to justify its existence as an industrial capitalist society, capitalists in western Europe and the United States need propaganda to censor or demonize alternatives to its rule. In the realm of language, its job is to narrow the frame of political and economic reference to two choices. For this purpose, it deploys key loaded language words for the purpose of working people up. On one side are the socialists and communists who are demonized with words such as totalitarian or dictatorial. On the other side are the loaded virtue words like democracy, the free market or free enterprise. In order to break away from the narrowing of the political focus we need to neutralize and define key terms which open up rather than narrow our political and economic choices. 

• First published in Planning Beyond Capitalism

The post “Dictatorship” and “Democracy” as Loaded Language: Anti-Communist Cold-War Propaganda first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Adding More Dust onto a Threadbare Empire

Barbara Lee: I’m very terrified with regard to what we see taking place. And the signs are there. When you talk about shutting down the media, putting out their alternative facts, banning dissent and opposition, criticizing people who are exercising their First Amendment rights; trying to get people to believe, really, the distortions that they’re putting out there. That, to me, is very scary. It’s very dangerous. And you see also the corporate and military consolidation of the public sector. You see efforts to privatize schools. When you just look at the nominees, you see very few people with experience in the public sector. And so when you have the corporate sector merging with the military sectors, and when you have cabinet officials who have historically said they want to dismantle the cabinets and the agencies that they’re running, that I’m very terrified that we are beginning to see an erosion of our democratic values and an erosion of the public sector.

Hellraiser' cartoonist wants to offend, help others criticize government | CBC News

The new normal is of course abnormal, antithetical to being a human being, or at least a being that is Homo Sapiens before say, errr, the industrial revolution, or in the new parlance, before the Fourth  Industrial Revolution, or before the internet of all things . . . .

Schooling was bad, for decades, for sure, but redeemable in some sense. Things like educational systems are fixable, or they were before the Zoom Doom decade has begun to unfold. Face to face discourse was always discordant, yet the only way for some sort of consensus or arbitrated whole, but now, with Zoom Doom, etc., and especially now that many western (whites) people want to isolate, stay at home glued to this evil screen, as if glued to some sordid 6-hour daily soap opera, really  want to do things on line, do things sheltered, well, the new species of Western (white) Adam and Eve is, well, not the people I want in my trench if the revolution ever happens . . . .

Which will not unfold, this “revolution,” if this generation and the next one is bred to take a $1000 a month UBI, takes the pink and blue pills/vaccines, and continues to listen to the putridity that is commercialism-retail-PR-spin mixed in with the noise of the day, the propaganda of them all – 2,700 billionaires pointing their antennae in all the right directions for more and more control, overlording and alas gouging the economic and socio-economic and political power from the super majority, us.

So many people I talk with, gentrified with a bit of a retirement, or at-home income, plus the house paid off, more or less, and fairly good health, they are blaming the victims, blaming the poor, blaming the kids who got the wrong degrees and who are now in debt.

The divide and conquer is subtle with democratic voters, and overt with MAGA mutts.

This is the scam of capitalism – the people who have “made it” have done so on the backs of people, and many in capitalism make money on people who are struggling, who are lower income, who are not part of the 20 percent. Divide and conquer. Classify us. Put us on a spectrum. On a scale. Rate us. Give us a score, some detailed credit report, educational report, health report, activity report. Google and the other gulag thinkers, they have the tools to put us all on dashboards, even as I type out this screed, the data and the nanoseconds of my moves will be recorded.

Making money on fines, penalties, arrests, convictions, probation, and then all those middle-middle-middlemen making money on turning this financial screw or flipping this toggle or that investing switch to exact more and more economic pain, more and more generalized anxiety disorder pain. You can’t just do things without added-on layer after layer of people and systems taking a penny here, a dime there, a dollar over there, and a 20 percent or more cut there and there.

The reality is this country is threadbare, and county governments do not have the resources for that D-minus nationwide infrastructure that needs tending to. Counties and states do not have the money for sustaining public health, safety and well-being. We are in a system of money that banks have “loaned” communities putting them into bankruptcy. The loan sharks are large and sophisticated, repo experts of the highest order, foreclosure kings on a grand scale.

Imagine the concept of no clinics in communities, no diabetes clinics, public school nurses and counselors doled out like rare truffles (like one nurse per five schools, one counselor per 400 kids!). Imagine now in Oregon, the current college enrollment is down 20 percent. Think. Where does that go, where do we make up the work people have at community colleges? How do those worthy students move forward? Fulfillment centers? Two college degrees and working in a warehouse at $15 an hour (if you are lucky to be in a few states with that minimum wage) and praying for a universal basic/bumbling income?

And that discourse of a UBI is insane, no? No talk about public ownership of utilities, pharmaceuticals, medicine, hospitals, clinics, state banks, guaranteed housing, food security, and public transportation that can only be imagined by Phillip K. Dick. And I am not talking flying taxis, but clean trollies and constant schedules. Imagine, the end of the car for many people – that internal combustion disease maker, the thing that sits 90 percent of the time in a driveway or parking space. Imagine.

Nope. It’s the transfer of $1,200 a month basic income to the rich and the richest. A basic income in super predatory capitalism. Imagine. That is the paradigm. Sort of the same insanity of a Bill McKibben or Liz Warren saying a cleaner military – one running on biodiesel and one that recycles missile parts, on that repurposes medical waste and builds global bases at a net zero waste LEED Platinum level. Solar panel-wind turbine air force drone bases. All ships and carriers running on forever fuel, nuclear energy. Imagine that insanity. From the greenies.

The democrats and republicans are vicious, are psychopaths, and Americans on both sides of that manure pile who believe this is an exceptionalist society will believe anything to hold up their version of reality. They will wrap themselves up in the red, white and blue in varying ways. Voting is their emancipation from actually doing and acting.

Listen to this freak of a man, Trump, and watch the media just flatten down. Think about how impotent ” rel=”noopener nofollow ” target=”_blank”>mainline media is:

AMY GOODMAN: So, by April 2017, just three months into his presidency, Trump launched a Tomahawk missile attack on Syria in retaliation for an alleged chemical weapons attack on civilians. Jeremy, you say in your series, “Like Pavlov’s dogs, the bipartisan war machine responded accordingly.” Let’s go to some of the media coverage of Trump’s attack on Syria. This is MSNBC anchor Brian Williams referring to a Pentagon video of U.S. missiles fired at Syria as “beautiful” three times in 30 seconds.

BRIAN WILLIAMS: Go into greater detail. We see these beautiful pictures at night from the decks of these two U.S. Navy vessels in the eastern Mediterranean. I am tempted to quote the great Leonard Cohen: “I’m guided by the beauty of our weapons.” And they are beautiful pictures of fearsome armaments making what is for them a brief flight over to this airfield. What did they hit?

AMY GOODMAN: That was MSNBC’s Brian Williams. And this is CNN’s Fareed Zakaria.

FAREED ZAKARIA: I think Donald Trump became president of the United States. I think this was actually a big moment, because candidate Trump had said that he would never get involved in the Syrian civil war. He told President Obama, “You cannot do this without the authorization of Congress.” He seemed unconcerned with global norms. President Trump recognized that the president of the United States does have to act to enforce international norms, does have to have this broader moral and political purpose.

And yet, this country is waxing poetic about the “clear skies over our cities,” and how the lockdown has “given me space to think, to reflect, to evolve,” and “we are really getting closer to our roots” THANKS to Covid-19.

Dangerous-dangerous thinking. This is it, though … as more and more people (sic) who can work from home (not real work) accept permanent correspondence school-work-medicine-business. No big questioning of the motivations of the tech world, the billionaires, the pigs of AI and Surveillance. No bigger demands for this shit-hole country. No demands for holding all corporations accountable. No pitchforks and tar and feathers for the politicians, the cops, the multimillionaires, the billionaires and their evil seeds.

It is a passive culture, a giant joystick, operation, a couch potato citizenry. The Covid-19 plan-demic fit the narrative so-so well.

It is now rubber-necking to the tenth power. Almost everyone in the United Snakes of BlackRock and then those fleas on the tail of that US dog, Canada, UK, and Australia, is generally looking like a giant cast in a Jerry Springer outtake. The celebrity culture, the thugs of politics, the billionaire lizard class, the entire mauling media, the incompetence of the general population who self-identify as MAGA deplorables and/or middling liberals who believe in Manifest Destiny and Exceptionalism with a little bit of LGBTQA spin, it is the seeding of more and more weeks, months and years of stupidity. To mask or not to mask, to listen to this group of scientists, or that swath of virologists, that is the question.

No deep discussion about how broken the system(s) was/were way back when, and then this rewritten history covering up the bulldozing through the Regan years and up to now. Gutting rights, gutting checks and balances for Wall Street, Banking, Real Estate, oligarchs, polluters, thieves in suits, and the thuggery of cops and troops. Shock and awe, with this crappy media and amusing ourselves not to death but to neutering and spaying glee.

Imagine over 200 rural hospitals shut down just since 2006. Imagine simple compound fracture medical bill of $80,000. Just imagine, brand new aircraft carriers and supersonic jets, football stadiums filled with shiny bullets, and entire shipping ports filled with drones and bombs. This country has no checks and balances to demand human and township/city/state assistance during fires, hurricanes, floods and flu pandemics. No safety nets, no massive shut downs of the perpetrators of fire, poison, imprisonment, shock and awe on the streets by the murdering cops.

Then, we argue how much the thieves are hiding, ripping us off for, and on and on, the broken system.

Some of the most despicable people now are on mainstream media and in the odd-ball media, and the academicians are scurrying like the careerists they are, and then the homegrown extremists, the pussy Trump (not a man’s man or a woman’s man), the murder incorporated men and women on the thin blue line, and on and on. We make those old “banana republic” epithets against our brethren south of the border seem tame. We are a thug nation, a new gilded age society of 18-carrat 5,000 square foot bathrooms for the Botox, and a 1988 Chevy van for the fulfillment worker families parked in an alley.

It all seems like a giant mental anguish experiment.

Mr. Fish Toon- Trump's Yoda - Democratic Underground

The news-news-news is a constant drone of national and international frayed stories, and in the eye of the storm, we have community after community in the USA broken, breaking apart, sliding and of course it never was meant to be a system that is for, by, with, because of the people.

This all brings me to the deplorables, the across-the-street neighbors, whose boys decided my 12 by 14 inch sign that states we believe in a woman’s right to choose and black lives matter, etc., should not only be stolen, but that my car’s window bashed in because of that sign.

Yeah, two deputy sheriff calls, two citations, and then two separate no trespassing citations, and then more and more of my time spent on tracking these cases. So many moments of my mental state thrown into the criminal injustice system. How many phone calls from county courts folk and victims rights folk telling me in their 20 or 30 or 40 years they have never seen such a backlog, a cluster fuck.

Oregon’s lockdown measures, and now property crimes – this putrid 39-year-old boy-man, all 6’5” of him, caught by a neighbor throwing a 10 pound paving stone in my car window and then prancing around the street with hands up and juking as if he just made a dunk.

Then my spouse and I start digging into this “family,” this upstanding MAGA family, and lo and behold, the mother has been evicted from two homes, and she and her current husband filed for bankruptcy in CA more than five times. The perpetrator of the criminal mischievous also has a fine white boy, blued eye semi-man rap sheet – DUIs in CA, and felony charges for, err, animal abuse, AKA cock fighting. This guy’s CA record shows he failed to appear, failed to do court-mandate classes in animal abuse. Charges dropped.

As you peel back layer after layer in America – the blond mother, prancing around the neighborhood telling anyone who will listen how upstanding she and her breed are – the dirty laundry comes flying in your face.

So these anti-Chinese, pro-MAGA mutts, they have some ridiculous business of beach footwear (whatever that is) and they stamp a sea turtle on them, and on their web site, they say “from every purchase we support the sea turtles.” Imagine that, no sea turtle environmental group listed, and alas, these anti-Chinese/China MAGA get those loafers and flipflops from, well, you guessed it – China.

The court systems are super blogged. The property crimes are going unpunished. Cases are being tossed out. Retraining orders are not being followed up on. And this is just one small slice of the angle in America where things are falling apart. Under lockdown. Before lockdown. Beyond lockdown.

Too much on the American mindset’s bandwidth. Again, the mess of crap that comes into Facebook, on Twitter, on those hate channels, on MSNBC, Fox, et al. The paraded queens of stupidity, and the kings of crime, every minute of the day, dragging any attention span left in the American collective intellect/consciousness, pulled out.

This is America. I have former colleagues who are retired, who have their little house on the gentrified hill in this or that town. They believe in this shit-hole country. They think Trump is aberration. They think that all he’s done will go on in perpetuity (lifetime appointments of judges). They believe in this shit-hole system, just putting a few new lipstick shades on the predatory-parasitic-disaster pig that is capitalism left of center, center or right.

POSTS — Lifesigns

You get a chunk of cement thrown into your car window, and you are thrown into the morass that is/was/will be the dead pool of America. All systems no-go. All entertainment zones displaying all those sacrifice zones. All those Netflix documentaries, all those mini-series, all those years and years of drama and soap operas. It’s here, the lobotomy, the collective lobotomy.

A nation of 160 million and counting developing one or more  chronic diseases. One out of five (easily) with recurring depression. A middle manager class and intellectual class stuck in the inertia of cynicism. The gilded age that pushes more and more people into poverty and learned helplessness. This is the country of proud to be stupid . . . proud to be overweight, diabetic, hypertensive and yet, “lock them up . . . give ‘em a good beating . . . shoot them on Pennsylvania Avenue . . . give them a good dump into the east bay with a sack of cement.”

This wimp of a human (bully of that species), Trump, and his suits and ties that are warped (every single GOP before, during and after his death) and who  hold up the violence and extrajudicial beatings and murders this un-man Trump and his un-man Stephen Miller and his Sessions and Barr, putrid puffer fish in Florsheims, demand, we are there, man.

Chris Hedges: We’ve personalized the problem in Trump without realizing that Trump is the product of a failed democracy. Trump is what rises up from the bowels of a decayed and degenerate system. And you can get rid of Trump, but you’re not going to get rid of what the sociologist Émile Durkheim called that “anomie” that propels societies to engage in deeply self-destructive behavior.

Trump 2020 - Mr. Fish

Thanks to Mr. Fish and his incredible mind and drawings/art! Watch his documentary — https://www.mrfishmovie.com/

The post Adding More Dust onto a Threadbare Empire first appeared on Dissident Voice.