Category Archives: Espionage/"Intelligence"

Eisenhower’s Ghost Haunts Biden’s Foreign Policy Team

In his first words as President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee for Secretary of State, Antony  Blinken said, “we have to proceed with equal measures of humility and confidence.” Many around the world will welcome this promise of humility from the new administration, and Americans should too.

Biden’s foreign policy team will also need a special kind of confidence to confront the most serious challenge they face. That will not be a threat from a hostile foreign country, but the controlling and corrupting power of the Military-Industrial Complex, which President Eisenhower warned our grandparents about 60 years ago, but whose “unwarranted influence” has only grown ever since, as Eisenhower warned, and in spite of his warning.

The Covid pandemic is a tragic demonstration of why America’s new leaders should listen humbly to our neighbors around the world instead of trying to reassert American “leadership.” While the United States compromised with a deadly virus to protect corporate financial interests, abandoning Americans to both the pandemic and its economic effects, other countries put their people’s health first and contained, controlled or even eliminated the virus.

Many of those people have since returned to living normal, healthy lives. Biden and Blinken should listen humbly to their leaders and learn from them, instead of continuing to promote the U.S. neoliberal model that is failing us so badly.

As efforts to develop safe and effective vaccines begin to bear fruit, America is doubling down on its mistakes, relying on Big Pharma to produce expensive, profitable vaccines on an America First basis, even as China, Russia, the WHO’s Covax program and others are already starting to provide low-cost vaccines wherever they are needed around the world.

Chinese vaccines are already in use in Indonesia, Malaysia and the UAE, and China is making loans to poorer countries that can’t afford to pay for them up front. At the recent G20 summit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned her Western colleagues that they are being eclipsed by China’s vaccine diplomacy.

Russia has orders from 50 countries for 1.2 billion doses of its Sputnik V vaccine. President Putin told the G20 that vaccines should be “common public assets,” universally available to rich and poor countries alike, and that Russia will provide them wherever they are needed.

The U.K. and Sweden’s Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine is another non-profit venture that will cost about $3 per dose, a small fraction of the U.S.’s Pfizer and Moderna products.

From the beginning of the pandemic, it was predictable that U.S. failures and other countries’ successes would reshape global leadership. When the world finally recovers from this pandemic, people around the world will thank China, Russia, Cuba and other countries for saving their lives and helping them in their hour of need.

The Biden administration must also help our neighbors to defeat the pandemic, and it must do better than Trump and his corporate mafia in that respect, but it is already too late to speak of American leadership in this context.

The neoliberal roots of U.S. bad behavior

Decades of U.S. bad behavior in other areas have already led to a broader decline in American global leadership. The U.S. refusal to join the Kyoto Protocol or any binding agreement on climate change has led to an otherwise avoidable existential crisis for the entire human race, even as the United States is still producing record amounts of oil and natural gas. Biden’s climate czar John Kerry now says that the agreement he negotiated in Paris as Secretary of State “is not enough,” but he has only himself and Obama to blame for that.

Obama’s policy was to boost fracked natural gas as a “bridge fuel” for U.S. power plants, and to quash any possibility of a binding climate treaty in Copenhagen or Paris. U.S. climate policy, like the U.S. response to Covid, is a corrupt compromise between science and self-serving corporate interests that has predictably proved to be no solution at all. If Biden and Kerry bring more of that kind of American leadership to the Glasgow climate conference in 2021, humanity must reject it as a matter of survival.

America’s post-9/11 “Global War on Terror,” more accurately a “global war of terror,” has fueled war, chaos and terrorism across the world. The absurd notion that widespread U.S military violence could somehow put an end to terrorism quickly devolved into a cynical pretext for “regime change” wars against any country that resisted the imperial dictates of the wannabe “superpower.”

Secretary of State Colin Powell privately dubbed his colleagues the “fucking crazies,” even as he lied to the UN Security Council and the world to advance their plans for illegal aggression against Iraq. Joe Biden’s critical role as Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was to orchestrate hearings that promoted their lies and excluded dissident voices who would have challenged them.

The resulting spiral of violence has killed millions of people, from 7,037 American troop deaths to five assassinations of Iranian scientists (under Obama and now Trump). Most of the victims have been either innocent civilians or people just trying to defend themselves, their families or their countries from foreign invaders, U.S.-trained death squads or actual CIA-backed terrorists.

Former Nuremberg prosecutor Ben Ferencz told NPR only a week after the crimes of September 11th, “It can never be legitimate to punish people who are not responsible for the wrong done. We must make a distinction between punishing the guilty and punishing others.” Neither Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Pakistan, Palestine, Libya, Syria or Yemen was responsible for the crimes of September 11th, and yet U.S. and allied armed forces have filled miles upon miles of graveyards with the bodies of their innocent people.

Like the Covid pandemic and the climate crisis, the unimaginable horror of the “war on terror” is another calamitous case of corrupt U.S. policy-making leading to massive loss of life. The vested interests that dictate and pervert U.S. policy, in particular the supremely powerful Military-Industrial Complex, marginalized the inconvenient truths that none of these countries had attacked or even threatened to attack the United States, and that U.S. and allied attacks on them violated the most fundamental principles of international law.

If Biden and his team genuinely aspire for the United States to play a leading and constructive role in the world, they must find a way to turn the page on this ugly episode in the already bloody history of American foreign policy. Matt Duss, an advisor to Senator Bernie Sanders, has called for a formal commission to investigate how U.S. policymakers so deliberately and systematically violated and undermined the “rules-based international order” that their grandparents so carefully and wisely built after two world wars that killed a hundred million people.

Others have observed that the remedy provided for by that rules-based order would be to prosecute senior U.S. officials. That would probably include Biden and some of his team. Ben Ferencz has noted that the U.S. case for “preemptive” war is the same argument that the German defendants used to justify their crimes of aggression at Nuremberg.

“That argument was considered by three American judges at Nuremberg,” Ferencz explained, “and they sentenced Ohlendorf and twelve others to death by hanging. So it’s very disappointing to find that my government today is prepared to do something for which we hanged Germans as war criminals.”

Time to Break the Cross of Iron

Another critical problem facing the Biden team is the deterioration of U.S. relations with China and Russia. Both countries’ military forces are primarily defensive, and therefore cost a small fraction of what the U.S. spends on its global war machine – 9% in the case of Russia, and 36% for China. Russia, of all countries, has sound historical reasons to maintain strong defenses, and does so very cost-effectively.

As former President Carter reminded Trump, China has not been at war since a brief border war with Vietnam in 1979, and has instead focused on economic development and lifted 800 million people out of poverty, while the U.S. has been squandering its wealth on its lost wars. Is it any wonder that China’s economy is now healthier and more dynamic than ours?

For the United States to blame Russia and China for America’s unprecedented military spending and global militarism is a cynical reversal of cause and effect – as much of a nonsense and an injustice as using the crimes of September 11th as a pretext to attack countries and kill people who had nothing to do with the crimes committed.

So here too, Biden’s team face a stark choice between a policy based on objective reality and a deceptive one driven by the capture of U.S. policy by corrupt interests, in this case the most powerful of them all, Eisenhower’s infamous Military-Industrial Complex. Biden’s officials have spent their careers in a hall of mirrors and revolving doors that conflates and confuses defense with corrupt, self-serving militarism, but our future now depends on rescuing our country from that deal with the devil.

As the saying goes, the only tool the U.S. has invested in is a hammer, so every problem looks like a nail. The U.S. response to every dispute with another country is an expensive new weapons system, another U.S. military intervention, a coup, a covert operation, a proxy war, tighter sanctions or some other form of coercion, all based on the supposed power of the U.S. to impose its will on other countries, but all increasingly ineffective, destructive and impossible to undo once unleashed.

This has led to war without end in Afghanistan and Iraq; it has left Haiti, Honduras and Ukraine destabilized and mired in poverty as the result of U.S.-backed coups; it has destroyed Libya, Syria and Yemen with covert and proxy wars and resulting humanitarian crises; and to U.S. sanctions that affect a third of humanity.

So the first question for the first meeting of Biden’s foreign policy team should be whether they can sever their loyalties to the arms manufacturers, corporate-funded think tanks, lobbying and consultant firms, government contractors and corporations they have worked for or partnered with during their careers.

These conflicts of interest amount to a sickness at the roots of the most serious problems facing America and the world, and they will not be resolved without a clean break. Any member of Biden’s team who cannot make that commitment and mean it should resign now, before they do any more damage.

Long before his farewell speech in 1961, President Eisenhower made another speech, responding to the death of Joseph Stalin in 1953. He said, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed…This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.”

In his first year in office, Eisenhower ended the Korean War and cut military spending by 39% from its wartime peak. Then he resisted pressures to raise it again, despite his failure to end the Cold War.

Today, the Military-Industrial Complex is counting on a reversion to the Cold War against Russia and China as the key to its future power and profits, to keep us hanging from this rusty old cross of iron, squandering America’s wealth on trillion-dollar weapons programs as people go hungry, millions of Americans have no healthcare and our climate becomes unlivable.

Are Joe Biden, Tony Blinken and Jake Sullivan the kind of leaders to just say “No” to the Military-Industrial Complex and consign this cross of iron to the junkyard of history, where it belongs? We will find out very soon.

The post Eisenhower's Ghost Haunts Biden's Foreign Policy Team first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Planet Cannot Begin to Heal Until We Rip the Mask off the West’s War Machine

Making political sense of the world can be tricky unless one understands the role of the state in capitalist societies. The state is not primarily there to represent voters or uphold democratic rights and values; it is a vehicle for facilitating and legitimating the concentration of wealth and power into fewer and fewer hands.

In a recent post, I wrote about “externalities” – the ability of companies to offset the true costs inherent in the production process. The burden of these costs are covertly shifted on to wider society: that is, on to you and me. Or on to those far from view, in foreign lands. Or on to future generations. Externalising costs means that profits can be maximised for the wealth elite in the here and now.

Our own societies must deal with the externalised costs of industries ranging from tobacco and alcohol to chemicals and vehicles. Societies abroad must deal with the costs of the bombs dropped by our “defence” industries. And future generations will have to deal with the lethal costs incurred by corporations that for decades have been allowed to pump out their waste products into every corner of the globe.

Divine right to rule

In the past, the job of the corporate media was to shield those externalities from public view. More recently, as the costs have become impossible to ignore, especially with the climate crisis looming, the media’s role has changed. Its central task now is to obscure corporate responsibility for these externalities. That is hardly surprising. After all, the corporate media’s profits depend on externalising costs too, as well as hiding the externalised costs of their parent companies, their billionaire owners and their advertisers.

Once, monarchs rewarded the clerical class for persuading, through the doctrine of divine right, their subjects to passively submit to exploitation. Today, “mainstream” media are there to persuade us that capitalism, the profit motive, the accumulation of ever greater wealth by elites, and externalities destroying the planet are the natural order of things, that this is the best economic system imaginable.

Most of us are now so propagandised by the media that we can barely imagine a functioning world without capitalism. Our minds are primed to imagine, in the absence of capitalism, an immediate lurch back to Soviet-style bread queues or an evolutionary reversal to cave-dwelling. Those thoughts paralyse us, making us unable to contemplate what might be wrong or inherently unsustainable about how we live right now, or to imagine the suicidal future we are hurtling towards.

Lifeblood of empire

There is a reason that, as we rush lemming-like towards the cliff-edge, urged on by a capitalism that cannot operate at the level of sustainability or even of sanity, the push towards intensified war grows. Wars are the life blood of the corporate empire headquartered in the United States.

US imperialism is no different from earlier imperialisms in its aims or methods. But in late-stage capitalism, wealth and power are hugely concentrated. Technologies have reached a pinnacle of advancement. Disinformation and propaganda are sophisticated to an unprecedented degree. Surveillance is intrusive and aggressive, if well concealed. Capitalism’s destructive potential is unlimited. But even so, war’s appeal is not diminished.

As ever, wars allow for the capture and control of resources. Fossil fuels promise future growth, even if of the short-term, unsustainable kind.

Wars require the state to invest its money in the horrendously expensive and destructive products of the “defence” industries, from fighter planes to bombs, justifying the transfer of yet more public resources into private hands.

The lobbies associated with these “defence” industries have every incentive to push for aggressive foreign (and domestic) policies to justify more investment, greater expansion of “defensive” capabilities, and the use of weapons on the battlefield so that they need replenishing.

Whether public or covert, wars provide an opportunity to remake poorly defended, resistant societies – such as Iraq, Libya, Yemen and Syria – in ways that allow for resources to be seized, markets to be expanded and the reach of the corporate elite to be extended.

War is the ultimate growth industry, limited only by our ability to be persuaded of new enemies and new threats.

Fog of war

For the political class, the benefits of war are not simply economic. In a time of environmental collapse, war offers a temporary “Get out of jail” card. During wars, the public is encouraged to assent to new, ever greater sacrifices that allow public wealth to be transferred to the elite. War is the corporate world’s ultimate Ponzi scheme.

The “fog of war” does not just describe the difficulty of knowing what is happening in the immediate heat of battle. It is also the fear, generated by claims of an existential threat, that sets aside normal thinking, normal caution, normal scepticism. It is the invoking of a phantasmagorical enemy towards which public resentments can be directed, shielding from view the real culprits – the corporations and their political cronies at home.

The “fog of war” engineers the disruption of established systems of control and protocol to cope with the national emergency, shrouding and rationalising the accumulation by corporations of more wealth and power and the further capture of organs of the state. It is the licence provided for “exceptional” changes to the rules that quickly become normalised. It is the disinformation that passes for national responsibility and patriotism.

Permanent austerity

All of which explains why Boris Johnson, Britain’s prime minister, has just pledged an extra £16.5 billion in “defence” spending at a time when the UK is struggling to control a pandemic and when, faced by disease, Brexit and a new round of winter floods, the British economy is facing “systemic crisis”, according to a new Cabinet Office report. Figures released this week show the biggest economic contraction in the UK in three centuries.

If the British public is to stomach yet more cuts, to surrender to permanent austerity as the economy tanks, Johnson, ever the populist, knows he needs a good cover story. And that will involve further embellishment of existing, fearmongering narratives about Russia, Iran and China.

To make those narratives plausible, Johnson has to act as if the threats are real, which means massive spending on “defence”. Such expenditure, wholly counter-productive when the current challenge is sustainability, will line the pockets of the very corporations that help Johnson and his pals stay in power, not least by cheerleading him via their media arms.

New salesman needed

The cynical way this works was underscored in a classified 2010 CIA memorandum, known as “Red Cell”, leaked to Wikileaks, as the journalist Glenn Greenwald reminded us this week. The CIA memo addressed the fear in Washington that European publics were demonstrating little appetite for the US-led “war on terror” that followed 9/11. That, in turn, risked limiting the ability of European allies to support the US as it exercised its divine right to wage war.

The memo notes that European support for US wars after 9/11 had chiefly relied on “public apathy” – the fact that Europeans were kept largely ignorant by their own media of what those wars entailed. But with a rising tide of anti-war sentiment, the concern was that this might change. There was an urgent need to further manipulate public opinion more decisively in favour of war.

The US intelligence agency decided its wars needed a facelift. George W Bush, with his Texan, cowboy swagger, had proved a poor salesman. So the CIA turned to identity politics and faux “humanitarianism”, which they believed would play better with European publics.

Part of the solution was to accentuate the suffering of Afghan women to justify war. But the other part was to use President Barack Obama as the face of a new, “caring” approach to war. He had recently been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize – even though he had done nothing for peace, and would go on to expand US wars – very possibly as part of this same effort to reinvent the “war on terror”. Polls showed support for existing wars increased markedly among Europeans when they were reminded that Obama backed these wars.

As Greenwald observes:

Obama’s most important value was in prettifying, marketing and prolonging wars, not ending them. They saw him for what U.S. Presidents really are: instruments to create a brand and image about the U.S. role in the world that can be effectively peddled to both the domestic population in the US and then on the global stage, and specifically to pretend that endless barbaric US wars are really humanitarian projects benevolently designed to help people — the pretext used to justify every war by every country in history.

Obama-style facelift

Once the state is understood as a vehicle for entrenching elite power – and war its most trusted tool for concentrating power – the world becomes far more intelligible. Western economies never stopped being colonial economies, but they were given an Obama-style facelift. War and plunder – even when they masquerade as “defence” or peace – are still the core western mission.

That is why Britons, believing days of empire are long behind them, may have been shocked to learn this week that the UK still operates 145 military bases in 42 countries around the globe, meaning it runs the second largest network of such bases after the US.

Such information is not made available in the UK “mainstream” media, of course. It has to be provided by an “alternative” investigative site, Declassified UK. In that way the vast majority of the British public are left clueless about how their taxes are being used at a time when they are told further belt-tightening is essential.

The UK’s network of bases, many of them in the Middle East, close to the world’s largest oil reserves, are what the much-vaunted “special relationship” with the US amounts to. Those bases are the reason the UK – whoever is prime minister – is never going to say “no” to a demand that Britain join Washington in waging war, as it did in attacking Iraq in 2003, or in aiding attacks on Libya, Syria and Yemen. The UK is not only a satellite of the US empire, it is a lynchpin of the western imperial war economy.

Ideological alchemy

Once that point is appreciated, the need for external enemies – for our own Eurasias and Eastasias – becomes clearer.

Some of those enemies, the minor ones, come and go, as demand dictates. Iraq dominated western attention for two decades. Now it has served its purpose, its killing fields and “terrorist” recruiting grounds have reverted to a mere footnote in the daily news. Likewise, the Libyan bogeyman Muammar Gaddafi was constantly paraded across news pages until he was bayonetted to death. Now the horror story that is today’s chaotic Libya, a corridor for arms-running and people-trafficking, can be safely ignored. For a decade, the entirely unexceptional Arab dictator Bashar Assad, of Syria, has been elevated to the status of a new Hitler, and he will continue to serve in that role for as long as it suits the needs of the western war economy.

Notably, Israel, another lynchpin of the US empire and one that serves as a kind of offshored weapons testing laboratory for the military-industrial complex, has played a vital role in rationalising these wars. Just as saving Afghan women from Middle Eastern patriarchy makes killing Afghans – men, women and children – more palatable to Europeans, so destroying Arab states can be presented as a humanitarian gesture if at the same time it crushes Israel’s enemies, and by extension, through a strange, implied ideological alchemy, the enemies of all Jews.

Quite how opportunistic – and divorced from reality – the western discourse about Israel and the Middle East has become is obvious the moment the relentless concerns about Syria’s Assad are weighed against the casual indifference towards the head-chopping rulers of Saudi Arabia, who for decades have been financing terror groups across the Middle East, including the jihadists in Syria.

During that time, Israel has covertly allied with oil-rich Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, because all of them are safely ensconced within the US war machine. Now, with the Palestinians completely sidelined diplomatically, and with all international solidarity with Palestinians browbeaten into silence by antisemitism smears, Israel and the Saudis are gradually going public with their alliance, like a pair of shy lovers. That included the convenient leak this week of a secret meeting between Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Saudi ruler Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia.

The west also needs bigger, more menacing and more permanent enemies than Iraq or Syria. Helpfully one kind – nebulous “terrorism” – is the inevitable reaction to western war-making. The more brown people we kill, the more brown people we can justify killing because they carry out, or support, “terrorism” against us. Their hatred for our bombs is an irrationality, a primitivism we must keep stamping out with more bombs.

But concrete, identifiable enemies are needed too. Russia, Iran and China give superficial credence to the war machine’s presentation of itself as a “defence” industry. The UK’s bases around the globe and Boris Johnson’s £16 billion rise in spending on the UK’s war industries only make sense if Britain is under a constant, existential threat. Not just someone with a suspicious backpack on the London Tube, but a sophisticated, fiendish enemy that threatens to invade our lands, to steal resources to which we claim exclusive rights, to destroy our way of life through its masterful manipulation of the internet.

Crushed or tamed

Anyone of significance who questions these narratives that rationalise and perpetuate war is the enemy too. Current political and legal dramas in the US and UK reflect the perceived threat such actors pose to the war machine. They must either be crushed or tamed into subservience.

Trump was initially just such a figure that needed breaking in. The CIA and other intelligence agencies assisted in the organised opposition to Trump – helping to fuel the evidence-free Russiagate “scandal” – not because he was an awful human being or had authoritarian tendencies, but for two more specific reasons.

First, Trump’s political impulses, expressed in the early stages of his presidential campaign, were to withdraw from the very wars the US empire depends on. Despite open disdain for him from most of the media, he was criticised more often for failing to prosecute wars enthusiastically enough rather than for being too hawkish. And second, even as his isolationist impulses were largely subdued after the 2016 election by the permanent bureaucracy and his own officials, Trump proved to be an even more disastrous salesman for war than George W Bush. Trump made war look and sound exactly as it is, rather than packaging it as “intervention” intended to help women and people of colour.

But Trump’s amateurish isolationism paled in comparison to two far bigger threats to the war machine that emerged over the past decade. One was the danger – in our newly interconnected, digital world – of information leaks that risked stripping away the mask of US democracy, of the “shining city on the hill”, to reveal the tawdry reality underneath.

Julian Assange and his Wikileaks project proved just such a danger. The most memorable leak – at least as far as the general public was concerned – occurred in 2010, with publication of a classified video, titled Collateral Murder, showing a US air crew joking and celebrating as they murdered civilians far below in the streets of Baghdad. It gave a small taste of why western “humanitarianism” might prove so unpopular with those to whom we were busy supposedly bringing “democracy”.

The threat posed by Assange’s new transparency project was recognised instantly by US officials.

Exhibiting a carefully honed naivety, the political and media establishments have sought to uncouple the fact that Assange has spent most of the last decade in various forms of detention, and is currently locked up in a London high-security prison awaiting extradition to the US, from his success in exposing the war machine. Nonetheless, to ensure his incarceration till death in one of its super-max jails, the US empire has had to conflate the accepted definitions of “journalism” and “espionage”, and radically overhaul traditional understandings of the rights enshrined in the First Amendment.

Dress rehearsal for a coup

An equally grave threat to the war machine was posed by the emergence of Jeremy Corbyn as the leader of Britain’s Labour party. Corbyn presented as exceptional a problem as Assange.

Before Corbyn, Labour had never seriously challenged the UK’s dominant military-industrial complex, even if its support for war back in the 1960s and 1970s was often tempered by its then-social democratic politics. It was in this period, at the height of the Cold War, that Labour prime minister Harold Wilson was suspected by British elites of failing to share their anti-Communist and anti-Soviet paranoia, and was therefore viewed as a potential threat to their entrenched privileges.

As a BBC documentary from 2006 notes, Wilson faced the very real prospect of enforced “regime change”, coordinated by the military, the intelligence services and members of the royal family. It culminated in a show of force by the military as they briefly took over Heathrow airport without warning or coordination with Wilson’s government. Marcia Williams, his secretary, called it a “dress rehearsal” for a coup. Wilson resigned unexpectedly soon afterwards, apparently as the pressure started to take its toll.

‘Mutiny’ by the army

Subsequent Labour leaders, most notably Tony Blair, learnt the Wilson lesson: never, ever take on the “defence” establishment. The chief role of the UK is to serve as the US war machine’s attack dog. Defying that allotted role would be political suicide.

By contrast to Wilson, who posed a threat to the British establishment only in its overheated imagination, Corbyn was indeed a real danger to the militaristic status quo.

He was one of the founders of the Stop the War coalition that emerged specifically to challenge the premises of the “war on terror”. He explicitly demanded an end to Israel’s role as a forward base of the imperial war industries. In the face of massive opposition from his own party – and claims he was undermining “national security” – Corbyn urged a public debate about the deterrence claimed by the “defence” establishment for the UK’s Trident nuclear submarine programme, effectively under US control. It was also clear that Corbyn’s socialist agenda, were he ever to reach power, would require redirecting the many billions spent in maintaining the UK’s 145 military bases around the globe back into domestic social programmes.

In an age when the primacy of capitalism goes entirely unquestioned, Corbyn attracted even more immediate hostility from the power establishment than Wilson had. As soon as he was elected Labour leader, Corbyn’s own MPs – still loyal to Blairism – sought to oust him with a failed leadership challenge. If there was any doubt about how the power elite responded to Corbyn becoming head of the opposition, the Rupert Murdoch-owned Sunday Times newspaper soon offered a platform to an unnamed army general to make clear its concerns.

Weeks after Corbyn’s election as Labour leader, the general warned that the army would take “direct action” using “whatever means possible, fair or foul” to prevent Corbyn exercising power. There would be “mutiny”, he said. “The Army just wouldn’t stand for it.”

Such views about Corbyn were, of course, shared on the other side of the Atlantic. In a leaked recording of a conversation with American-Jewish organisations last year, Mike Pompeo, Trump’s secretary of state and a former CIA director, spoke of how Corbyn had been made to “run the gauntlet” as a way to ensure he would not be elected prime minister. The military metaphor was telling.

In relation to the danger of Corbyn winning the 2019 election, Pompeo added: “You should know, we won’t wait for him to do those things to begin to push back. We will do our level best. It’s too risky and too important and too hard once it’s already happened.”

This was from the man who said of his time heading the CIA: “We lied, we cheated, we stole. It’s – it was like – we had entire training courses.”

Smears and Brexit

After a 2017 election that Labour only narrowly lost, the Corbyn threat was decisively neutralised in the follow-up election two years later, after the Labour leader was floored by a mix of antisemitism slurs and a largely jingoistic Brexit campaign to leave Europe.

Claims that this prominent anti-racism campaigner had overseen a surge of antisemitism in Labour were unsupported by evidence, but the smears – amplified in the media – quickly gained a life of their own. The allegations often bled into broader – and more transparently weaponised – suggestions that Corbyn’s socialist platform and criticisms of capitalism were also antisemitic. (See here, here and here.) But the smears were nevertheless dramatically effective in removing the sheen of idealism that had propelled Corbyn on to the national stage.

By happy coincidence for the power establishment, Brexit also posed a deep political challenge to Corbyn. He was naturally antagonistic to keeping the UK trapped inside a neoliberal European project that, as a semi-detached ally of the US empire, would always eschew socialism. But Corbyn never had control over how the Brexit debate was framed. Helped by the corporate media, Dominic Cummings and Johnson centred that debate on simplistic claims that severing ties with Europe would liberate the UK socially, economically and culturally. But their concealed agenda was very different. An exit from Europe was not intended to liberate Britain but to incorporate it more fully into the US imperial war machine.

Which is one reason that Johnson’s cash-strapped Britain is now promising an extra £16bn on “defence”. The Tory government’s  priorities are to prove both its special usefulness to the imperial project and its ability to continue using war – as well as the unique circumstances of the pandemic – to channel billions from public coffers into the pockets of the establishment.

A Biden makeover

After four years of Trump, the war machine once again desperately needs a makeover. The once-confident, youthful Wikileaks is now less able to peek behind the curtain and listen in to the power establishment’s plans for a new administration under Joe Biden.

We can be sure nonetheless that its priorities are no different from those set out in the CIA memo of 2010. Biden’s cabinet, the media has been excitedly trumpeting, is the most “diverse” ever, with women especially prominent in the incoming foreign policy establishment.

There has been a huge investment by Pentagon officials and Congressional war hawks in pushing for Michèle Flournoy to be appointed as the first female defence secretary. Flournoy, like Biden’s pick for secretary of state, Tony Blinken, has played a central role in prosecuting every US war dating back to the Bill Clinton administration.

The other main contender for the spot is Jeh Johnson, who would become the first black defence secretary. As Biden dithers, his advisers’ assessment will focus on who will be best positioned to sell yet more war to a war-weary public.

The role of the imperial project is to use violence as a tool to capture and funnel ever greater wealth – whether it be resources seized in foreign lands or the communal wealth of domestic western populations – into the pockets of the power establishment, and to exercise that power covertly enough, or at a great enough distance, that no meaningful resistance is provoked.

A strong dose of identity politics may buy a little more time. But the war economy is as unsustainable as everything else our societies are currently founded on. Sooner or later the war machine is going to run out of fuel.

The post The Planet Cannot Begin to Heal Until We Rip the Mask off the West’s War Machine first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Not Adding Up: Australia, Iran and the Release of Kylie Moore-Gilbert

Australia’s ambassadorial offices and political leaders have a consistent record of ignoring their citizens in tight situations.  David Hicks, Mamdouh Habib and Julian Assange are but a few names that come to mind in this inglorious record of indifference.  In such cases, Australian public figures and officials have tacitly approved the use of abduction, torture and neglect, usually outsourced and employed by allies such as the United States.

Australian diplomacy, to that end, is nastily cheap.  It comes at heavily discounted prices, when it comes at all.  To then see the extent of interest and effort in seeking the release of Australian-British academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert from Iranian captivity, is as interesting as it is perplexing.  A work ethic in Canberra has come into being.  Nothing was spared securing the release of Moore-Gilbert, where she had been imprisoned for espionage charges and spent 804 days in detention.  Fears for her wellbeing spiked with her transfer to Qarchak women’s prison, not known for its salubrious facilities.  She had previously spent time at Tehran’s Evin prison.

Efforts were made by Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne, who raised Moore-Gilbert’s detention in four meetings with her Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif.  As she confirmed, the release “was achieved through diplomatic engagement with the Iranian government.”

Iranian authorities put it to the Australians that they wanted three of their covert operatives – Saeid Moradi, Mohammad Kharzei and Masoud Sedaghat Zadeh – released.  The three men in question had been held in Thailand for planting explosive devices in Bangkok in an effort to assassinate Israeli diplomats in 2012.  Whatever the skills of these operatives, bomb making was evidently low on the list.  An accidental explosion holed their rented Bangkok villa.  Moradi was sentenced to life for his attempt to kill a police officer.  The police officer survived; Moradi’s legs did not, lost when a grenade he tossed bounced back and detonated.  Kharzei received 15 years for possessing explosives.

With the list handy, the Australian government approached Thai contacts.  Moore-Gilbert’s release had, Payne claimed, become a matter of “absolute priority”.  Israeli government officials were also engaged. A secret agreement was reached, involving what was effectively a prisoner exchange.

Whatever else is said of her case, the issue of the effort and labour put in is significant.  Throw in the cliché of being an academic with Middle-Eastern expertise working in foreign climes, and you have a recipe rather richer than is advertised.

The heavily scripted nature of the affair is screamingly evident.  Media coverage of Moore-Gilbert’s release, and the circumstances of her detention, has avoided much in the way of analysis.  The tone is very much that of the official press release.  What we get, instead, are the anodyne statements from Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, supposedly “thrilled and relieved” by the outcome.  “The tone of her voice was very uplifting, particularly given what she has been through.”  We also get notes of worry.  Amber Schultz of Crikey expressed concern about the prolonged “ordeal” that would continue to face Moore-Gilbert upon her return to Australia.

That Moore-Gilbert’s release was, in fact, brokered as part of a broader prisoner release is not laboured over.  The prime minister is cryptic in his statement.  “If other people have been released in other places, they are the decisions of the sovereign governments.  There are no people who have been held in Australia who have been released.”  Skirted over, as well, is Moore-Gilbert’s relationship with an Israeli, which, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, led to “baseless claims that she was a spy for Israel.”

Iran’s Young Journalist Club has its own serve on the subject, making mention of the release.  Moore-Gilbert “was swapped for an Iranian businessman and two other nationals incarcerated abroad on delusional accusations, Iranian news agencies reported.”  It notes a report by the IRNA news agency claiming that the academic “had passed a two-year special training course for her spying mission.”  She attained fluency in Persian “and was prepared to perform espionage activities in Iran.”  What interested the IRNA was her second visit, when “she entered Iran on the recommendation of the Zionist regime [Israel] on the lunar calendar month of Muharram”.  Details are sketchy on what Moore-Gilbert supposedly did.  She “travelled to different cities as part of her mission and gathered information.”

For her part, Moore-Gilbert, in letters smuggled out of Evin prison, denies ever being a spy.  “I am not a spy.  I have never been a spy, and I have no interest to work for a spying organisation in any country.”

The standard concern by some in the media stable is that such exchanges are common instruments in Tehran’s foreign policy arsenal.  The Australian director of Human Rights Watch, Elaine Pearson, suggested “a clear pattern by Iran’s government to arbitrarily detain foreign and dual nationals and use them as bargaining chips in negotiations with other states.”  The executive director of the Australian Israel and Jewish Affairs Council Colin Rubenstein saw the practice of using hostages in exchanges “for terrorists is typical of the tyrannical Iranian regime.”  Karim Sadjadpour, senior fellow with the Middle Eastern program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, notes “hostage-taking as a tool of statecraft for four decades now.  The Revolutionary Guards are blatant about it and believe it delivers results.”

Such concerns are legitimate and consistent, though the circumstances for each situation varies.  Attention should be paid to the quarry being traded.  The Iranian Republic has a striking appetite for detaining academics and researchers.  French-Iranian academic Fariba Adelkhah, British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Iranian-Swedish academic Ahmadreza Djalali, have all been the subject of Tehran’s ire.  Djalali, also accused of spying for Israel, faces execution.

The question not being asked is why Moore-Gilbert was that valuable so as to warrant the release of three Iranian agents.  Afshon Ostovar, an academic based at the Naval Postgraduate School’s Department of National Security Affairs, sees little in the incongruence; Iran negotiation strategy, he more than implies, lacks proportion.  “It seems rather puzzling that Iran’s imprisonment of an innocent foreign grad student [sic] should lead to the release of three of its covert agents jailed for failed explosive attacks in Thailand but that’s how the Islamic Republic does business.”

One person not exactly cheering the prisoner swap is Israel’s former ambassador to Thailand, Itzhak Shoham.  On Israel’s Channel 12, he vented.  “I don’t know anything about this deal beyond what was published.  Of course it saddens me to see the pictures as [the Iranians] celebrate instead of rotting in prison, if they haven’t already been executed.”  Rather abstractedly, Shoham had one consolation: that the former chief of Iran’s Quds Force, General Qassem Soleimani, was killed in January in a US drone strike.

This prisoner exchange is also odd in another respect.  Such instances are usually occasions of much fanfare for Tehran. Iranian television anchors tend to be at hand, noting the names of the released figures and their return to families.  “The reason for Iran’s refusal to name those freed remains unclear,” states the cautious Times of Israel.  “However, Tehran has long denied being behind the bomb plot and likely hopes to leverage the incoming administration of US President-Joe Biden to ease American sanctions imposed by President Donald Trump.”

The nagging question remains: Why did the Australian government regard Moore-Gilbert’s case as exceptional?

The post Not Adding Up: Australia, Iran and the Release of Kylie Moore-Gilbert first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Why Do Presidents Break Their Promises?

Why does the state continue to act the same after elections?

It is unforgivable if there is even one apparently critical area of policy that cannot be overturned by an election, because this makes all so-called elections illegitimate mockeries and shallow rituals.

Why do elected leaders so often betray their campaign promises? Every time, even the simplest of promises are not honored by leaders, resulting in a failure to serve the people, no matter how obvious the people’s message was. An obvious example is that every US president promises to withdraw from the Middle East and subsequently fails to do so. The problem lies with processes devised to deliberately obfuscate the democratic will, in order for it to be consistently and deliberately disrespected, no matter how voters voted.

When campaigning for office, candidates often have quite idiosyncratic views about the world, just like you and I, before taking the top job. Somehow, even their sincerest and dearest views are quickly transplanted and replaced by those of the intelligence agencies as soon as they are in power. Things they seemingly would have died for are quickly replaced by a tedious continuity. We witness the same foreign wars, assassinations, human rights abuses, and endless expansion of the intelligence and military apparatus of the state, regardless of any level of popular opposition.

The essential functions of a state, which drive all its frontline interactions with its own population and other states, are not controlled by elected individuals but by unelected executives. Such key posts continue to be held by these experts, driving every arm of the state. They get the final say in anything concerning them, regardless of who is elected. They are the state’s eyes and ears, as well as its arms, able to convince the elected leader of whatever they want him or her to see. This is why every president is, effectively, the same person.

The revelation of mass spying by Edward Snowden not only showed the hypocrisy of supposedly democratic states, but showed this state model is not designed to carry out the people’s will at all. Why does any regime hold elections in which it asks its people what they want, if the same regime is actively spying on them all and reading their communication?

Clearly, technology exists to allow the state to filter information and ascertain the population’s political wishes efficiently, but no step has been taken to use it for this noble task. Instead, inefficient and archaic means are employed, such as the use of representatives and the practice of elections. This is the deliberate obfuscation of the democratic will, to allow it to be misunderstood and disrespected. The state does not share the wishes of the people, as it has its own wishes.

Intelligence agencies would have no need for politicians, if they are devoted to defending democracy as they claim. In reality, politicians are still needed to convince the public they are involved, to issue false promises, and to take the blame for the state’s failings. Likewise, electioneers do not campaign for a constitution in which elections are unneeded, as such a constitution would leave them powerless.

As well as their spying, we also know our intelligence agencies are capable of death threats and torture, including targeting their own citizens. The impunity they are given would allow them to use the same methods on elected individuals. In January of this year, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi even claimed the US forced him out using death threats as well as the country’s fake protest movement.

It is possible that every elected president of the US is subjected to death threats by intelligence agents, and the US president in turn sends death threats to the leaders of US-allied countries. A very large web of fake democracies could be built solely from death threats against elected individuals, backed by the capability to stoke violent protests in the targeted country or stage an assassination.

The then UK Opposition Leader Jeremy Corbyn, a radical, was spoken to by regime intelligence agency thugs in September 2018. The same month, he betrayed his previous positions and became a puppet in service to his lifelong ideological enemies. His previously skeptical voice joined a mindless choir of patriotic outrage against Russia, and fell in line with party rebels and opponents who wanted to insult and challenge the will of the people by accepting an second referendum on the issue of exiting the EU. Such failings do not speak badly of Corbyn’s character, as intelligence agents likely have methods that can break anyone.

If Corbyn had survived the relentless smear campaigns against him and became Prime Minister, he still would not have been safe. In 2015, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson himself was publishing views critical of UK foreign policy in the Middle East. As soon as he held the cabinet position of Foreign Secretary, such views vanished and he supported policies he had discredited. Not only did he accept the state’s policy of regime-change in Syria, but by 2017 he was more aggressive than all others and supported overriding the wishes of the UK Parliament in order to bomb the besieged nation.

Upon learning the will of the people, the intelligence agencies do not try to enforce that will but are in fact hostile, so it must be assumed that these agencies have a mission to counteract the wishes of the population. This can be observed in comments of intelligence agencies discrediting the result of the US 2016 election, likely because they believed Trump’s unstatesmanlike image undermined the US’s deteriorating international credibility. We can know, then, that denying the will of the people is one of their so-called national security goals. Their great resources and technology are not used to serve the people, as they use them instead against elected officials and in defiance of democracy.

Out-of-control intelligence agencies are potentially interfering in democracy heavily behind their veil of secrecy, spying on elected officials and issuing death threats to them regularly. Their hostile attitude to the population has been apparent ever since they invented programs allowing them to spy on and perceive the whole population’s wishes, but had no desire to fulfil such wishes. The state’s agents consistently view the will of the population as problematic, not sacrosanct, and that attitude exposes the vaunted democratic system as a complete fraud.

If ever you are elected to the highest office in the country, there will be no reason to think you have gained power over anything. It is more likely that others will gain power over you, and you will be enslaved to repeat the same policies you believed you could overturn. It is best to avoid being too affectionate or attached to a fallible political party, and be willing to accept analyses painfully critical of all present models of democracy.

The post Why Do Presidents Break Their Promises? 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.

“Democracy” vs. Covid:  A No-Go

Brussels (EU and European NATO Headquarters) – On 21 October 2020, the German Press Agency (dpa) reports that Germany pledges NATO soldiers for possible Covid-19 operations:

German soldiers could be sent on crisis missions to other NATO and partner countries during the second wave of the Corona pandemic. As a spokesman for the Ministry of Defense confirmed, the German government has promised NATO support for its “Allied Hand” emergency plan. According to this plan, medical personnel, pioneers and experts from the force would be made available for foreign missions to counter nuclear, biological or chemical hazards as required. The contingency plan is to be activated, for example, if a collapse of the health care system is imminent in allied or NATO partner countries due to very high infection rates and the affected state asks for support.

In clear text, this means that German soldiers may be deployed on covid-related “crisis missions” to other NATO partners. Covid-restrictions and related government oppression and tyranny may lead to massive civil unrest, and German soldiers, alias German NATO soldiers, along with soldiers from other NATO countries, could help the local governments suffocate such potential people upheavals, applying military force. Live bullets and killing, if “necessary”.

In some European countries, covid-unrests already clearly visible; i.e., Slovenia, Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Spain, and, of course, in the very Germany. Civil and societal unrest is also boiling hot in France, currently one of the most repressive regimes in the western world.

Worldwide people of these 15 countries staged this weekend a coordinated Global Resistance mass demonstration against their governments covid-related health tyranny: Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Uruguay, Italy, Germany, Poland, Belgium, Netherlands, UK, Ireland, Sweden, Denmark, France, Austria.

All these countries were told and brainwashed into believing they live in a “democracy”, and in a democracy what is happening to them could and should never happen. They were never asked. Their governments didn’t even bother telling them that these “measures” were for their own good. Now, they are even being told by people like Boris Johnson, British PM, not to hope to go back to “normal”. There will be no more normal as we knew it, he literally said. Instead, there will be a Great Reset.

Thereby he is aping the words of Klaus Schwab, the founder and CEO of the World Economic Forum (WEF), who just published (July 2020) a book, called “Covid-19 – The Great Reset”. The book is available on Amazon (where else!), and I highly recommend reading it, not for Schwab to get richer, but for you and us the people to know what “their” plan is. Only if we know what the plan is, we may stop it if we organize in solidarity and resist.

There is no “democracy”, there has never been. The EU is one of the least democratic institutions there is. But, yet, we are being indoctrinated with this huge lie, we are living in a democracy. It is covid that finally brings this abject global deceit to light.

And our lie-prone politicians and their bought mainstream media, continue to praise our western beautiful democracy, while deviating our attention from the truth, by bashing western-made enemies, like China, Russia, Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, Syria, North Korea, and others just so we are blinded at home, but are told with false-propaganda that all these other countries are evil. They are evil, because they do not believe in our western greed-economy. The media does a very successful firing up of “cognitive dissonance’.  We know something is not right, but our feverish want for remaining in our comfort zone makes us believe that we are well protected by our “elected” masters, and those, for example, in the east, who may follow another life philosophy than is ours which is made up of greed and violence, are evil.

An interesting Pew poll, made public today in Switzerland, shows that on average more than two-thirds of the EU population thinks negatively about China and Russia. Why? China and Russia have never done anything harmful to Europe, to the contrary.  They have offered truthful cooperation against coerced collaboration US-style. So, the question “Why?” is answered with the corporate paid brainwashed media.

Is this “democracy”?  Is this democratic thinking? Do these people realize that their brains have been captured years ago by a consumer-comfort propaganda and gradually converted into a submissive slave-behavior that still believes in “democracy”?

The German people have not been asked whether they agree to sending German troops to other countries, nor whether they should participate in NATO exercises. The truce that is in force for Germany since the end of WWII allows no foreign intervention by German military. In fact, no formal Peace Agreement has (yet) been signed between Germany and the winning powers. The armistice accord contains a clause that dictates that Germany ought to never undertake any actions that go against the interests of the United States. This would explain, at least in part, why the German Government bends over backwards  to please Washington.

But most of the Germans are oblivious to this fact.  On purpose. Because “democracy” would dictate the ethical: Let the public know. Get a public debate going about the autonomy and sovereignty that Germany currently has and that she – and her people – deserve.

The decision of using German troops as NATO soldiers in other countries has nothing to do with “democracy”. It goes against the grains of democracy. Is Germany under a “covid emergency law”, which would be similar to Martial Law? As is France, Switzerland, Spain, the UK? If so, have the people been properly informed?

Switzerland has just recently extended her Covid Emergency Law until the end of 2021 – and then what? It could easily be extended again, as it was now. The law was rammed through a right-wing congress, regardless of political parties, congress men and women largely agreed. No questions asked. The people were never consulted.

Now a People’s Referendum (a privilege the Swiss still have) that would ban this so-called “Notrecht” (emergency Law), is under way. But by the time enough signatures will be assembled and the referendum will be “allowed” by the Government to be presented to the public for a vote, it may be too late to change the drastic measures that were implemented under the quasi-Martial Law.

That’s “democracy”?  Or is it?

France, under Mr. Macron, a Rothschild gnome, has reimposed a State of Health Emergency and introduced curfews, a ban on weddings and being out in the streets is permitted only with special permits. This as the result of a “sudden and spectacular acceleration” in the spread of the coronavirus, Jean Castex, the Prime Minister said, justifying this audacious draconian measure. He added that the national COVID-19 incidence rate over the past ten days had jumped from 107 to 190 cases per 100,000 population with “particularly alarming levels” in some large cities. But who checks the figures, the statistics, how they are assembled? Nobody.

That’s “democracy”?  For disobedience fines are €135 for first offenders, rising to as much as €7,500 and a six-month prison term. Well, is this dictatorship or what?

It is far away from “democracy”, that’s for sure. Especially if we know what covid really is; namely, nothing more than closely similar to a regular flu. This is according to Anthony Fauci, chief of NIAID/NIH of the US, when he writes peer-reviewed articles in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), like “Covid-19 – Navigating the Uncharted”  …. “the overall clinical consequences of Covid-19 may ultimately be more akin to those of a severe seasonal influenza (which has a case fatality rate of approximately 0.1%) or a pandemic influenza (similar to those in 1957 and 1968) rather than a disease similar to SARS or MERS, which have had case fatality rates of 9 to 10% and 36%, respectively.

When Fauci speaks to the media in countless interviews to mainstream TV he uses the usual fear-mongering narrative of the deadliness of the corona virus.

This shows that there is clearly a different agenda behind covid than controlling the “Pandemic”, but rather controlling the people. We ought to wake up. It’s too late to talk about reinstating “democracy”. Truth is, we never had democracy. And now we have to fight for our sheer survival as human beings. Trust me.

“Democracy” is but a wishful slogan. Democracy in today’s world certainly doesn’t exist. It never did. Not even in ancient Greece it worked, where the term was invented some 2500 years ago by well-off, but admittedly well-thinking philosophers. Democracy was always for the educated, for the fortunate and wealthy, but it never played out in truth to all of the people to what the term in its original translation meant and means. As soon as the term “democracy” is given to politicians as a concept to be applied to ruling a nation, the meaning of “democracy” is vandalized into “the people choose, but the elite decides”. It is the same as of this day. Democracy is derived from the ancient Greek “demokratia,” literally meaning that power belongs to the people. It never did, and even less so today.

“The power belonging to the people” was and is conceded to the people, always to the extent that the controlling elite deems appropriate. If the people want to take over what’s theirs, the controlling elite brings out controlling forces and plays the propaganda game, misinformation, manipulated truth and outright lies. This was the case then and is practiced today in even more sophisticated ways.

Today, deceit is not just applied as the ruling elite sees fit and for personal gains, it is manufactured by algorithms, actually by Artificial Intelligence. Today’s elections, particularly in the west, are decided by oligarch or deep state-controlled algorithms. The voters play an alibi role. Not more. There is hardly any election in the (western) world which is not ultimately controlled and decided by the United States.

Back to the non-democratic European Union. It is using NATO troops for urban warfare, if you will. There is a not-much-talked about German/NATO military base in the small “Land” (State) of Saxony-Anhalt, not far from Hamburg. According to the German online journal “Pivot Area”, the urban warfare military base in Schnöggersburg is being built since 2012. It should be finished by the end of 2020. By then it will consist of more than 500 buildings stretched over 6.25 square kilometers. The so called “urban agglomeration“, as the Bundeswehr (German Armed Forces) labeled its training ground, has a whole city infrastructure; i.e., a canalization (water supply and sewerage), an underground (metro) line, a train station, an industrial park, as well as a sport stadium, slums, residential areas and a high-rise district. The German MoD (Ministry of Defense) planned to invest 140 million Euros into the project (by completion, it will likely be considerably more). According to lieutenant-general Frank Leidenberger, head of the land forces innovation-department, the last decade shows the clear trend, that “warfare moves from the field to the cities.“ Therefore Schnöggersburg should give the German armed forces a supreme training ground for state of the art operations in urban scenarios. Leidenberger says also that the Bundeswehr considers its new high training city as a strategic resource to push the framework of nation concept with partner armies.”

The key phrase is “the framework of nation concept with partner armies.”  That’s where NATO comes in.

How many Germans have been democratically informed about this Monster Project? It clearly indicates that urban social unrest, on massive scale, was already foreseen way before 2012 – probably around the time that the Global Great Reset started taking form, decades ago, in the criminal heads of the all-controlling Deep Dark State; those that started this new phase of societal digitization with 9/11 in 2001, curiously also the beginning of a new western calendar landmark, the Third Millennium. Starting with 9/11, the western empire and its minions went downhill. And the East started rising.

The downhill slide will undoubtedly mean the end of the empire. But on the way there, all the most mischievous powers will be used to enslave the population, digitally and with AI algorithms. Since this Deep Dark State has also eugenicists in its core, a massive population reduction is also part of the plan.

Monetary digitization is likewise part of the plan. In fact, it is already well under preparation, as an element of WEF’s Great Reset, or as the IMF calls it, “The Great Reformation”. The IMF (and the World Bank), both controlled by the US Treasury, are planning a so-called Bretton Woods 2.0, a Reset of the monetary system, where eventually the western dollar economy would be replaced by a digital crypto-currency, in which selected western currency may partake. The role of gold in it is not clear, nor is the role of the de facto strongest currency, the Chinese Yuan.

If this as of yet hypothetical new IMF-BIS controlled crypto-currency materializes, it would most likely wipe out all US debt and make lines of credit available – perhaps in the hundreds of trillions of dollars equivalent – to help bail-out small central banks of poorer, highly indebted countries. See:

Would these countries’ debt base just balloon out of proportion with the new IMF-BIS bail-outs, or would they simply (have to) concede their national asset base to the IMF-BIS managed Global monster fund to be able to limp along in “lockstep” and poverty, according to the Masters’ rules, is not clear.

In any case be prepared.  There is much to come, if, We, the People, allow the Covid-19 induced Great Reset to move forward. It is increasingly clear that covid is nothing more than an instrument for a much grander plan, The Great Reset. The Great Reset is the antidote to “democracy”. It is a further demolition of any hope towards a “democracy”.

Fortunately, there is China, also with a new digital (crypto?) currency, in test phase, under preparation, eventually to be rolled out for international payment use, as an alternative to the dollar economy, or the new IMF-BIS treacherous US Treasury controlled crypto-currency. In contrast, the digital yuan is meant as a peaceful means of trading among equals in view of a more balanced multi-polar world. Yes, this despite the negative wester thinking about China.  The Tao life philosophy that the west doesn’t want to know or understand, is not confrontational, not even when constantly confronted by the aggressive west.

In the meantime, to escape the new monetary tyranny (from fiat dollars to fiat-fiat crypto), countries could simply retake their sovereignty, take back their national central banks, their national currencies and start producing for local markets with local public banks and with local debt as much as possible towards a state of self-sufficiency, with cross-border trading in local currencies. If this happens, the IMF-BIS controlled crypto currency will bite the dust.

The post “Democracy” vs. Covid:  A No-Go first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Killing Unknown

It’s hard to talk about the myriad issues piled in our society in a cohesive way, and when we try, we often get the same response:  “What is your solution?”  People get frustrated and demand an instant solution to the structural problem they are very much a part of. The very insistence on a single, cure-for-all-answer betrays their unwillingness to see the structural and systematic nature of the problem. Meanwhile they allow themselves “solutions” which are concocted by those who have created the problems. Those “solutions” are bound to be strictly incremental and reformist, otherwise the self-serving nature of the overall trajectory becomes blatantly obvious.  Confrontation with the flaws of the “solutions” triggers an emotional response:  A clear indication that the criticism points to the obvious flaws of the system itself, which in turn resonates as a criticism against the self.  The emotional burst and the denial to recognize the system for what it is are indications of pathological adhesion to abusive power. This is the condition that forces many American people to prop up the capitalist hierarchy and continue to prove their allegiance to it.

The real solution must involve a structural change. The feudal hierarchy which structurally imposes extortion schemes of money and violence on people by domesticating their humanity, to be harvested over and over within the capitalist framework, is inhumane and destructive to our species.  Such an idea must not be brushed aside as untenable idealism if we are to live harmoniously with one another and with our environment.

Capitalist Cage

In the vastness of space and unimaginable span of geological time, our presence is small: smaller than a spec of dust on a whole planet.  As conscious beings, we have created narratives and theories to explain what it means to be in this mysterious sea of matter and time.  Such ideas are central to our social organization as well as how we relate ourselves to it.  They very much affect how we perceive things as individuals and as collectives.  Those ideas can take the shape of religion, history, ideology, tradition, myth and so on, constituting parts of the individual psyche as well as the collective psyche.

Those ideas are supposed to be promoted and perpetuated by the community members because they serve them by validating the given social order which serves their best interests. They are supposed to give us ways to reconcile with the unknown in collective manners, by which we find ways to accept the mystery of life with reverence and awe.

But do they?

As we are born into the social order, where those ideas are reinforced and physically manifest as social framework, we internalize those ideas, we become a part of the social mechanism and the ideas become “reality”.

But strictly speaking this “reality” is somewhat different from what is inherently real in a material sense.  What we perceive as “reality” is our interpretation of matter which has been shaped by the imperatives of the social order.

For example, in a capitalist society, a fact can deviate from material reality because an institution which specializes in the fact is influenced by the interests of the ruling class. For example, industrial waste material can be dumped as a harmless substance.  The effect of the lie increases progressively against the oppressed people since the profits are made with the expense of those who are exploited and subjugated by the lie.  People suffer from the erroneous information but to different degrees.  Those who suffer the most are subjected to the most strict measures, while those who exploit and subjugate can change the measures according to their needs while being well equipped to face material hardships.

Social institutions under capitalism always have the risk of failing since experts’ opinions are necessary to understand a complicated fact.  People with bigger platforms can simply dominate the fact because people don’t have the time and resources to examine the fact.  A louder opinion can simply get its way.  The economic hierarchy ensures that those who have dire interests in getting the fact right can not get it right.

Now, this mechanism also works vertically. Different institutions are affected differently by the false fact. A fact twisted by the special interests creates conflicts among institutions. This creates conflicts among the people.  However, the degree of the divisions gets narrower and narrower as it gets closer to the level of the ruling class, where the lie can create broader benefits to the already wealthy and powerful people as they have the ability to access all moneyed institutions in creating “reality” that serves them.  Dangerous policy, dangerous substance, dangerous practice and so on affect those who do not have the means to avoid them, while they can be part of enacting lucrative business schemes for the ruling class.  We are put against each other in artificially scarce material conditions where we compete and form hierarchy based on the imperatives imposed by the capitalist framework, instead of according to the material facts.

A few major things happen from the lie. First, the ruling class succeeds in profiting from the exploitation and subjugation and/or succeeds in preserving the capitalist hierarchy. Second, the lie creates divisions among the oppressed.  Third, the lie requires more lies to cover it up, depriving people’s ability to relate to themselves, to each other and to nature according to material reality.  The dynamic repeats itself in many ways, creating a false reality in which misinformation, disinformation and propaganda merge with facts as institutions are manipulated to serve the interests of the ruling class while the rest of the people are divided, confused and disempowered. The Founding Fathers of the US probably knew this mechanism very well when they installed “separation of powers” within the US government.  The separation would effectively institutionalize the mechanism, ensuring that the interests of the people are checked and balanced by the ruling class which can have access to all branches of the government.

Moneyed social institutions as well as some “dissidents” and “community activists” can function as a crucial part of the capitalist hierarchy, maintaining and perpetuating the system regardless of their intentions. First, those who neglect to reveal the aims of the ruling class by solely pointing out criminal acts and refusing to recognize the mechanism of exploitation distract the people from what is really happening.  Second, those who refuse to see the structural mechanism of exploitation within the capitalist hierarchy can end up protecting their own positions at the expense of the people at the bottom while serving the ruling class.  Third, those who fail to recognize the lies or actively repeat them help facts to be subordinated to the capitalist framework while destroying the credibility and integrity of the social institutions, leading to destabilization of social relations—making us more susceptible to lies and manipulations.  The paralyzed state can be utilized in further privatizing the institutions, resulting in more extensive domestication of humanity and nature.

These are only a few examples of how seemingly constructive social dynamics within the capitalist hierarchy can function to prop up the capitalist  hierarchy. The risk of people truly recognizing the nature of the capitalist hierarchy, armed with experts and unity, is real as we observe instances of socialist revolutions across the globe. Capitalist institutions carefully accommodate those people who do not pose fundamental threats to the capitalist framework in maintaining the social structure that serves them.

Parasitic Tendency of Capitalism

Some may wonder, if the system is so fascistic and draconian, why it would allow “dissidents” to play a role in the social structure at all.  It is because an authoritarian structure with commands, decrees, and rigid rules and their punitive consequences can not cultivate active social relations to prop itself up.  Human minds can not free the potential of creativity to do so under such conditions.  Just enough freedom to move within the cage is necessary for the capitalist hierarchy. Also, without allowing some degree of “freedom” within its framework, some people might establish communities with a true sense of freedom within the social structure, which can pose a threat to the system. For this reason, the illusion of safety and freedom are allowed within the capitalist framework.  Within this environment, people engage in creative activities, the exchange of ideas and products, and the rest of the daily routines.  These activities are guided by moneyed social institutions ensuring that the boundaries are set to perpetuate the capitalist framework.  Governmental organizations, media, culture organizations, NGOs and so on play significant roles in ensuring that the subject population are domesticated within the framework.

Those organizations’ roles center on a moment by moment maintenance of the capitalist hierarchy.  But they also curate acceptable “crises” within the structure in order to shift the direction of exploitation and subjugation in combatting unavoidable cyclical economic downturns (they are structurally unavoidable), and to continue deepening their colonization of humanity and nature.  A country defying the capitalist hegemony might be called “a deadly threat to humanity” before bombs rain on its people.  Population growth in certain countries might be termed “population bomb” before an assortment of colonial measures are implemented against them.  The issues that generate profits and help augment the capitalist framework are ignored, or normalized no matter how enormous they are—cancer epidemic, drug epidemic, mass incarceration and so on and so forth, until the momentum to fight them becomes useful in perpetuating the capitalist hierarchy.

However, despite the efforts by the ruling class to construct the invisible prison for all, our creative energy can occasionally escape the artificial boundaries set by the capitalist domination.  And some individuals could manage to garner the support of a broader population.  However, they would be smeared by media, be attacked by various social institutions, or even be killed by government agencies.  The element of fear is crucial in preventing our creative energy from going beyond the capitalist cage.

Fear of unknown must have been an essential perception of ours from the beginning of our species.  Our efforts in understanding ourselves and our surroundings stem from it. Our sense of reverence toward nature, spirituality and so on stems from its mystery and unimaginable depth.  The momentum to dominate by accumulation of wealth confronts fear of the unknown with its brute force.  When capitalists destroy a pristine forest filled with wild lives and their intricate system, they destroy and colonize the natural environment while stealing the fear of unknown. When capitalists destroy cultures and traditions and replace them with a capitalist market, they destroy what they can’t steal in order to play God of Money.

Cultivation of fear

A protection racket scheme works the best when the service provider appears to be capable of inflicting the very violence that you wish to avoid.  9/11 is an embodiment of such a shady marketing strategy.

We are told what happened. We are told to think accordingly.  But there are obvious inconsistencies— the failure of the Air Force to intercept the hijacked airplanes, suspicious lack of actions against the suspected hijackers prior to the attack by intelligence agencies, numerous testimonies indicating the presence of explosives in the 9/11 buildings, circumstantial evidence indicating that an event like 9/11 was necessary to embark on a series of colonial wars against the Middle East while curtailing the civil and legal rights of the people and so on.  The authority itself doesn’t deny those points, as if to say “what are you gonna do about it?”  And we are told “you are either with us, or against us”.

9/11 has become the go-to justification for colonialism, corporatism and militarism for the empire.  Countries that defy the western capitalist hegemony have been destroyed. People who defy it have been ridiculed, excluded, jailed or killed.

The obvious inconsistencies of the state policies simply turn into fear, which in turn strengthens the sale of the imperial protection racket. After all, the empire is armed with the sheer might of 800 military bases across the globe and numerous WMDs.

The absolute power of violence that defeats logic and humanity is the manifestation of wealth and power, which are the essence of the US empire:  a feudal hierarchy, inflicting countless structural extortions against its people 24/7.

There are many other examples of such events throughout the history of the US empire, which cultivate unspeakable fear among the people while giving the authority blank checks to impose repressive measures. The assassination of a prominent figure can be such an event.1 These and other events are always augmented by disclosures by intelligence agencies confirming that such events can actually take place.  These events continue to prevent the subject population from questioning their leap of faith into the destructive system—again, capitalism colonizes our fear of unknown as it establishes itself as God of Money.

Covid-19

It stands to reason that measures appropriate to the risk of the virus should be taken as legitimate medical precautions, just as occasional school closures during a flu season, basic sanitary precautions to avoid getting sick, the protection of vulnerable people, and so on can be considered necessary.  But an obvious restructuring of a society in ways which would inflict repressive measures of censorship, banning of free assembly, destruction of communities, restriction of human rights, and creation of lucrative business opportunities for the ruling class should raise serious questions.  Especially, as the “new virus” has turned out to be not so new 2 according to scientists, and it also turns out to be not so deadly.3

As we undergo Covid-19 lockdown measures, the rich and powerful are showered with bailouts, economic opportunities, political decisions to be “rescued”, making billions and billions, while the rest of us endure neoliberal restructuring—losing wages, losing workers’ rights, losing legal rights and losing human rights.4

The momentum for the Covid measures has been pushed through our society with the same momentum of a protection racket scheme. Just as 9/11 or JFK’s assassination have left numerous undeniable evidence indicating that the events are pivotal in forwarding economic projects, the Covid panic situates itself within the context of a web of financial interests.5 Misinformation and disinformation and crucial evidence indicating conflicts of interests on the part of large international institutions with strong corporate and military ties — the World Economic Forum, WHO, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, various prominent NGOs, government agencies, and giant corporate entities—signal to the people that this requires unconditional compliance.  Under such circumstances, facts about the virus, inconsistencies, and the rest of the questions become fuel for doubt.  The doubt opens the door for the possibility that those who claim to protect you are, in fact, the perpetrators of the pain and suffering.  The people face a catastrophic crisis of their identity:  they face a major cognitive dissonance.  No amount of facts would convert their positions.  In fact, the more they know, the more they become afraid and adamant in sticking to the state-sanctioned Covid rituals.

Germaphobia

Obsessive compulsive behavior manifests to gain a sense of control.  It forces physically healthy individuals to engage in ritual cleansing of their body parts and their surroundings, so much so that their actions interfere with their daily lives.  The action is purely psychological and ritualistic.  Germaphobes are not rational, sanitary or healthy.  Just as dirty masks are worn over and over.  Just as people wear masks on streets, and immediately take them off as soon as they sit down to eat at an enclosed restaurant.

Logic and reason don’t matter for those who engage in rituals of cleansing in order to escape from facing the ultimate truth about the system and their own positions in it.   The ritual behaviors are stipulated by the system —social distancing, wearing masks, no assembly.  Obedience and complacency are enforced even if the measures might not be effective in reducing the risk of virus and the detrimental effects of the measures can surpass the supposed lethality of the virus 6  As their behaviors become habitual in the daily repetitions, the accompanying slogans sink into the psyche of the population. The fear of abuse and pain are pushed under their consciousness as they engage in the rituals. Images of black people getting shot by police officers, whistleblowers mercilessly thrown in prisons, and so on fade as they make sure that their masks are on their faces.

Capitalism preys on the most vulnerable people as the subject population upholds the deadly tendency to protect their own positions in it . Seemingly bright people suddenly acquire a mental block and fail to see the structural mechanism of economic extortion and exclusion as soon as the system turns to them and whispers “what can you do about it?”. Yet, the very presence of the capitalist hierarchy becomes visible as the population shamelessly goes along with flimsy official narratives:  “WMDs in Iraq is the biggest threat against humanity”, “inner-city minority kids are super predators who need to be brought to heel” , “the Russians are coming”, or “a deadly plague is here”. Why not? After all, people seem to believe that a country founded by slave owning colonizers with 800 military bases across the globe, which, killing, raping and stealing in a culture of domination, is actually a defender of freedom. The fear of the God of Money is in full motion.

Meanwhile, those who refuse to conform are excluded and shamed.  The dynamic is actively encouraged to stay within the corporate political framework, invigorating the illusion of “democracy” dominated by two US imperial political parties.  Narratives are prepared by the party establishments.  Positions are stipulated.  If you are for this selected issue or that issue, or if you are against them, you are drawn into the mudslinging match within a state-sanctioned ring of acceptable ideas.  This culminates in a ritual fight called the US Presidential election.  Seemingly smart people are cornered into cheering for a gladiator battle between two imperialists who will perpetuate the feudal hierarchy of money and violence.   Their scream urging you to vote in order to save the oppressed people is firmly in line with the colonial vestige of manifest destiny. They vote for the very government that kills people in “enemy countries”.  They vote for the very government that cages children and incarcerates immigrants.  They vote for the government that locks up people who haven’t committed crimes.  They vote for the government that kills people for the color of their skin. All those people they claim to save cannot vote.  They don’t have to vote because the saviors—American people—will vote to determine their fate.  US corporate politics provides some of the main rituals for the God of Money.

Even those dissidents, activists and so on, who are generally insightful and aware have also contracted this condition, attacking their fellow comrades for questioning the lethality of the virus, effectiveness of mask wearing, validity of various lockdown measures and so on for the reasons already described above. However, it should also be noted that those who subscribe to various sorts of fascist ideologies actively align themselves with the restrictive measures of the state as well.  For those people, the structural consequences of the capitalist hierarchy and its deceptions do not pose any problem.  The momentum of fascism is always useful in eliminating the anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist momentum in times of “crisis”.

The mechanism of conformity and compliance is in place working with a full imperial force 24/7, creating an imperial gravity that lifts those who go along with the establishment, while putting weights on those who don’t. The people are forced to form groups gathered at various levels on the hierarchy, aimed to protect their own existences along with the structural layers of the caste order.  Their own values, beliefs and norms are formed to serve themselves but they are built within the capitalist framework.  They may oppose those who are above or below but ultimately their worst enemies are those who do not conform to the hierarchy itself.  Anti-capitalists and anti-imperialists are often eliminated by the authoritarian momentum within the social networks which must exist within each layer in order to float at the particular position—the imperial gravity permeates throughout the hierarchy at all times.

Pathological conditions have been cultivated among people to cope with the situation: addictive behaviors, obsessive compulsive behaviors, depression, anger, and suicidal ideation.  Mental health problems among minors are skyrocketing as well.  However, those are not the main concerns of the establishment.  Meanwhile, those who refuse to wear masks are openly called psychopaths, just as enslaved people who escaped were said to have a mental illness called drapetomania, or women who could not bear ruthless gender discrimination were said to have hysteria.

Meanwhile, the unconditional authoritarian hierarchy constantly turns minds under the spell of learned helplessness.  Some are wrapped up in acute cynicism refusing to consider any possible alternatives.  The pain of abuse and neglect force children to internalize abusiveness as a defense mechanism, forcing them to cultivate abusers in their psyche to overcome their traumas, turning them into good candidates for enforcers of pain within the capitalist hierarchy.  The God of Money destroys those who defy, while colonizing those who obey at psychological levels.

Organically grown communities that help to connect people harmoniously are forced into the framework of Covid measures to be divided, nullified and assimilated into the capitalist framework.  Covid measures alienate people by removing our tools of intimacy, communication, organizing, and etc., while digitizing them into commodifiable data. Those who can afford “the new normal” within their gated communities are blessed with the time to reflect, appreciate art and nature and embrace their fantasy world of a dystopic now, at the expense of the people who are domesticated within the strict measures of structural extortion regimes. Visits to the doctor become online chats based on profit incentives.  Education becomes digital indoctrination without the intricacy of sharing and depth of creative pursuit. Small businesses which can foster community values are replaced with global corporations with imperial values.  Oppressive measures continue to concentrate among those who are already oppressed.  The result of lacking healthcare, weakened immunity, and prevailing health issues manifest as justifications to entangle them with more lockdown measures and financialization of their sufferings.

Capitalism:  A Serial Arsonist by Night, A Brave Firefighter by Day.

The head of the World Economic Forum, Klaus Schwab, writes:

COVID-19 lockdowns may be gradually easing, but anxiety about the world’s social and economic prospects is only intensifying. There is good reason to worry: a sharp economic downturn has already begun, and we could be facing the worst depression since the 1930s. But, while this outcome is likely, it is not unavoidable. To achieve a better outcome, the world must act jointly and swiftly to revamp all aspects of our societies and economies, from education to social contracts and working conditions. Every country, from the United States to China, must participate, and every industry, from oil and gas to tech, must be transformed. In short, we need a “Great Reset” of capitalism.

Independent researcher Cory Morningstar writes:

Schwab refers to the COVID-19 crisis as a watershed moment for fourth industrial revolution technologies. And while people are distracted with masks and COVID-positive cases reported incessantly in order to sow anxiety and compliance, the global consolidation of power is happening in real time. In servitude to the power elite, World Economic Forum founder and CEO Klaus Schwab is advancing “a new global architecture”, upheld by a new “global governance”. May 18, 2018: the World Bank partners with the United Nations. June 13, 2019: the World Economic Forum partners with the United Nations. Oct 18, 2019: a high stimulation exercise, modeling a fictional coronavirus pandemic, was held by the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, [5] in partnership with the in partnership with the World Economic Forum and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  Approximately five months later, on  March 11, 2020: the World Economic Forum partners with the World Health Organization (a UN body) launching the COVID Action Platform, a coalition of 200+ of the world’s most powerful corporations. (By May 6, 2020 this number had swelled to over 1,106.) On this same day, March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization classified COVID-19 as a pandemic.

On March 26, 2020, with  87% of the world’s student population affected by COVID-19 school closures, the Global Education Coalition was announced as a means to accelerate the transition to a global forth industrial revolution digitalized education fueled by emerging markets (SDGs). Founding partnersinclude Microsoft, Google, and Facebook. Other partners include BBC, McKinsey, IBM, the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy, and the Global Business Coalition for Education. [Global Business Coalition for Education Advisory Board Members and Founding Members] This is the global commodification of children, as data commodities, a new class asset. An emerging market, under the guise of SDGs (presided over by the World Economic Forum), built on child data surveillance and human capital assets. [April 15, 2019: From Billions to Trillions: Investing in the Next Generation]

Winter Oak straightforwardly describes Kaus Schwab’s world view as “fascistic” and describes how Covid-19 can help realize “his great fascist reset”:

21st century fascism has found different political forms through which to continue its core project of reshaping humanity to suit capitalism through blatantly authoritarian means.

This new fascism is today being advanced in the guise of global governance, biosecurity, the “New Normal”, the “New Deal for Nature” and the “Fourth Industrial Revolution.

The global capitalist ruling elite have certainly been doing their best to “take advantage of the shock inflicted by the panic”, assuring us all since the very earliest days of the outbreak that, for some unfathomable reason, nothing in our lives could ever be the same again.

Schwab and Malleret are, inevitably, enthusiastic in their use of the New Normal framing, despite their admission that the virus was only ever “mild”.

“It is our defining moment”, they crow. “Many things will change forever”. “A new world will emerge”. “The societal upheaval unleashed by COVID-19 will last for years, and possibly generations”. “Many of us are pondering when things will return to normal. The short response is: never”. (97)”

Historian Luciana Bohne writes on her facebook wall:

Ominous words from the World Bank (see beow). They say post-Covid, we’ll have a “different economy.” By “different” they mean “new businesses and sectors.” They mean “the older are being driven to bankruptcy or absorbed into monopolies.” They mean, “You are going to lose your jobs and not many of you will find them in the new sectors because you won’t have the skills.” They blame Covid, but the old economy–that they’re shutting down– well before Covid was in growth ZERO (Germany for example) and most Western-style economies were well below the minimum tolerable 3%. So, Covid didn’t kill it. They drove it to the edge, And now it’s being “restructured,” and “downsized” — it’s NEOLIBERALISM ON STEROIDS. If that is possible, and they think it is.

In order to reverse this serious setback [Covid] to development progress and poverty reduction, countries will need to prepare for a different economy post-COVID, by allowing capital, labor, skills, and innovation to move into new businesses and sectors. — World Bank, October 2020 Reported

In the past, we’ve seen the US government engage in destruction of communities by cornering people into destitute poverty, violence, drug epidemic, only to introduce “solutions” which gentrify, incarcerate, murder and steal. We’ve seen western governments engage in destabilization of countries by sanctions, economic embargo, propaganda campaigns and proxy wars, only to declare “so and so must go”, “so and so is killing his own people” and unleash its military might in protecting the western capitalist hegemony. The events surrounding Covid-19 illustrates a text book pattern of events within the capitalist framework in which a concerted momentum of fear, crisis and economic assaults are orchestrated in order to introduce favorable conditions for more exploitation and subjugation.

It must be strongly noted that the urgency of virus measures and their repressive aspects can augment violent strategies against “enemy” in and out of the empire, corporate green schemes against nature, commodification of digitized social relations and financialization of oppressed populations. The human costs as well as environmental costs of plunderings will be enormous. The schemes described by various independent journalists reflect how dangerous those imaginations of domination, which are devoid of material reality, can be.

The active initiatives to replace humanity and nature with an artificial-scape of algorithm, machines, and artificial intelligence are in line with the colonization of humanity and nature by capitalism.  Ultimately, digitization of social relations and currency allow the capitalist establishment to put strings on people’s behaviors just as the capitalist hierarchy controls people’s behavior with economic structural extortions (I highly recommend research by Alison McDowell on it below).   People’s paths are further atomized and divided without organic social interactions within a rigid framework to be controlled, moderated, and harvested as commodified data.  Here are some good materials on the topic and more. Please do look into each materials:  7

“Good Americans”

American people are deeply domesticated people with a grand sense of narcissism as “Americans”.  The country has inflicted so much pain and suffering against the world with its colonial policies and wars, yet American people generally perceive themselves as citizens of freedom.  Ironically, the more they are cornered into enduring the consequences of their own complacency, the more they cling to the fact that they are at least “Americans”.   Because, as it was described above, rejecting their countryhood is a rejection of themselves—the biggest fear of all for the proud Americans.

Such a core value bursts out in the open when we see white people screaming “I’m white!” as they get beaten up by police officers.  It’s not that they don’t know the nature of the stratified structure of the caste system when they insist on “diversity“ without dismantling the exploitive system of subjugation.  Most of them do know it and they do know their positions in it and they want to keep it that way.

That’s why so many people buy the idea that Russians are messing with their “democracy”.  It is not that they actually believe that Russians do stuff to them, but they sense the position of Russia in the imperial framework.  “How dare Russians get in the way of the United States of America!”.  How ironic is it that those who are going through the economic shock therapy now at the hands of those who inflicted an economic shock therapy against the Russian people after the destruction of USSR fail to see what is happening to themselves.  Needless to say, imperial gravity is global.  Some western proxy powers, on the other hand, are eager to comply and do extra miles in order to hold better positions in the imperial hierarchy.  Neoliberal restructuring of their economies, compliance for military strategic necessities, and demonization of “enemy countries” and so on can be more prominent in those countries than the US itself.

China and Covid-19

Now, I feel compelled to discuss briefly why I think China has acted so drastically to the virus situation since this has been raised over and over to either validate western actions on the virus or to demonize the Chinese government for taking such strict measures.

First of all, it should be noted that there are drastic differences between fully for profit measures implemented by the western countries and measures implemented by China which include considerations for job security, wage compensation, viable treatment options and so on.  The measures were effective in keeping the fatality at the very minimum.  A recent poll shows the level of of happiness among the Chinese people to be extremely high compared to that of western countries.

China has been cornered by the imperial forces to realize what it sees as a Marxist Leninist society with a long term plan.  There have been a few major lessens for China. First, industrialized western powers have attempted to colonize China multiple times.  This has necessitated that China have its own industrialization through centralized planning in order to provide for its population while avoiding being exploited and subjugated by the western capitalist framework.

In order to do so, China has established its Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence: mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual non-aggression, non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence. Based on this idea of non-interference, China engages in economic activities with countries that do not share such principles—which include major imperialist powers and proxies.

As a result, China has indeed expanded its economic sphere, successfully pulling countless people out of poverty, while gaining its economic power against the imperial forces.  This has attracted criticism among those who see China as an anti-imperial force. “How come China is working with Israel, the US and so on in its economic projects?”, they would ask.  The answer to me is in its aim of economic development for its people as well as in its non interference policy.  As a sovereign country, China is deciding its own path by weighing a particular balance between pragmatism and moving toward its goal within the world in which imperial powers are dominant.

Now, there is another angle we must pay attention to.  The introduction of its market economy for China has been another necessity to avoid destruction of its economy, as well as its nationhood, by development of the black market as well as infiltration by the western colonial interests.  By allowing free market activities under the framework of the CPC, China ensures its emerging billionaires to follow Chinese agendas instead of the Western imperial framework.

This background helps us to understand China’s very active position in Covid-19 measures.  If indeed what the global economic powers term as the 4th industrial revolution is a determining factor for their future economic powers, not having a stake in it puts China in a secondary position to the Western imperial hegemony. The Covid situation needs to be seen in this dynamic of the economic struggle between the imperialist forces and the rest of the world since it is an introduction to the 4th industrial revolution in many regards.

China simply sees the medical measures against the virus as well as the 4th industrial revolution as a part of the economic phenomenon that needs to be under the guidance of the CPC.  This might be hard to swallow for those who recognize the grave danger of further digitizing our social relations under the corporate framework, as well as its financialization and its associated assortments of exploitation and subjugation.  This is understandable but such a judgment should not be made according to the western capitalist history and its contexts.

This point has been fully utilized by the western establishment in erroneously labeling China as leading online censorship and repressive measures associated with new technologies.  For one thing, regulations against western political infiltration can not be equated to “censorship” or “human rights abuse” when we look at the history of the western colonial destabilization schemes against subject countries.  The Chinese government gets more support from its own people than most western governments do for good reasons.  The income inequality as well as the poverty rate is lower in China than the US now.   Meanwhile, reality shows us that it has been the US police that kills three people on average everyday, and it is the US government interfering with human rights, imposing mass incarceration, violent police forces, institutional discrimination of various sorts, deprivation of social safety nets, and global surveillance and so on against the people.  Credit score, racial demography, and tools of oppression have been used to perpetuate exploitation and subjugation in the US for so long.

It just doesn’t make sense to target China when the US is clearly the leading force of exploitation globally, and China to the empire is the biggest obstacle in its path today.

And let’s say that the 4th Industrial Revolution is detrimental to the people in the west.  Would it make sense to demonize China and demand that it stop developing AI technology, online capabilities and so on? Isn’t it like destroying all nuclear weapons of Russia and China during the Cold War?

China has its own problems stemming from its introduction of the market economy, environmental issues and so on.  Although the structural issues have emerged from reactions against the imperial forces, needless to say, allowing imperial forces to “solve” them totally defeats the purpose.  Those problems are not the white man’s burden to be solved by the west. China has its own ways of solving them and it is simply not the business of the imperial west to decide the fate of the Chinese people.

Last but not the least, the imperial forces, including the pre-WW2 imperial Japan, have engaged in bio attacks against China, Korea, Cuba and so on.  The US military possesses numerous bioweapon facilities across the globe.8  The preparedness against such attacks is another determining factor in overcoming western imperialism as it is a deterrence against an imperial bio attack.  This matter is particularly urgent when the western media, government agencies, corporate entities, NGOs and other political, economic and military forces of the West have been orchestrating various destabilizing projects against China — Uyghur region 9, Hong Kong10  and blatant lies regarding the Tiananmen Square event11 to name a few.  The empire has been colonizing and co-opting those who defy, and when it fails, it has mercilessly destroyed them.

Understanding these dynamics between China as well as its allies and the Western capitalist hegemony should be a positive step toward our harmonious existence.

Lastly, I would like to sincerely express my gratitude to all of you who stand where imperial gravity is strong. Thank you.  Uncovering facts buried in the sea of capitalist propaganda and discerning dynamics rooted in our genuine circumstances and its historical context is important.  Because grasping the material reality is a key to remaining human when we are domesticated in the capitalist cage of lies and deceptions.

  1. TalkingStickTV.  Jim Douglass – MLK, JFK, RFK and the Unspeakable.
  2. Aylin Woodward.  Some T cells recognize the new coronavirus without having seen it before, Business Insider, August 6, 2020.
  3. Swiss Policy Research.  Studies on Covid-19 Lethality,  First published May 12, 2020; updated October 20, 2020.
  4. Nick Baker. In the Worst of Times, the Billionaire Elite Plunder Working Class America, Counterpunch, September 3, 2020.
  5. Cory Morningstar.  COVID-19 as a weapon.  The crushing of the disposable working class — by design, blog, April 13, 2020.
  6. The HighwireMask Whistleblowers Tell All; Patrick Corbett. “Covid-19: the war against the elderly in uncaring “care” homes“, UKColumn, May 2, 2020; Dennis Riches.  Fever, Famine and War… and SARS-Cov-2, Lit by Imagination, July 29, 2020;  Perspectives on the Pandemic/The (Undercover) Epicenter Nurse/Episode Nine, June 9, 2020; and Dr. Reiner Fuellmich. The Biggest Crime Against Humanity Ever Committed.
  7. Whitney Webb and Raul Diego.  All Roads Lead to Dark Winter, The Last American Vagabond,  April 1, 2020; Alison McDowell. Introduction to the Fourth Industrial Revolution & the Covid Economic Reset, Wrench in the Gears, July 24, 2020; and James Corbett. Covid 911: From Homeland Security to Biosecurity, The Corbett Report, Episode 383, September 11, 2020.
  8. Dilyana Gaytandzhieva.  The Pentagon Bio-weapons, April 29, 2018.
  9. Tony Cartalucci. The Biggest Lie About China’s Xinjiang “Internment Camps”, Land Destroyer Report, September 4, 2020.
  10. Laura Ru.  A web of Deceit: Amnesty International in Hong Kong, May 25, 2020.
  11. Max Parry. 30 years after Tiananmen Square, the U.S. is still trying to destabilize China, Dissident Voice, July 10, 2019.

The post Killing Unknown first appeared on Dissident Voice.

“Totalitarian” Anti-Communism: Loaded Language Straight Out of CIA, Neo-Con Playbook

ORIENTATION

Forms of language manipulation

As most of us know, verbal language is both a tool and a weapon. Verbal language allows our species to talk about the past and the future. It allows us to label mental and physical illnesses and provides us with diagnosis and prognosis. It allows us to communicate more precisely than we can with non-verbal language, whether about the world or our internal states. But language can also be used to control and manipulate. There are at least nine forms of language manipulation:

  • Loading the language with “virtue and vice” words which narrows thinking.
  • Euphemisms mask the emotional content of an experience by sanitizing the language. For example, the military specializes in this by calling prisoners of war “detainees” or murdered soldiers “collateral damage” .
  • “Weasel” words are commonly used in advertising and “slanting” is a regular staple in newsrooms.
  • Reification is common in economic analysis when we hear that “money talks” “money walks”, and “economies grow”.
  • Other forms of language manipulation are “equivocation,” “jargon”, “vagueness” and “ambiguity”.

Vice and Virtue Political Words

The subject of this article is the use of the word “totalitarian” as a loaded vice word.  It is used mostly in international political contexts by liberals and conservatives in Yankeedom to distinguish their political system from those of their perceived enemies. Totalitarianism has been used to describe Nazism and Communism, both separately or together.

“Totalitarian” is trotted out by neocons and the CIA when they are presenting to the public their views on Russia, China, North Korea or Venezuela. This continues despite the fact that the term has been criticized by social scientists in the 1960s and is 60 years out of date. In a 1948 article, Arthur Hill listed the following characteristics of totalitarianism:

  • Abolition of the right to freedom of speech, assembly and religious worship;
  • Elimination of all political parties other than the ruling party;
  • Subordination of all economic and social life to structural control of the single party bureaucracy;
  • Liquidation of free enterprise;
  • Destruction of all independent trade unions and creation of labor organizations servile to the totalitarian state;
  • Establishment of concentration camps and the use of slave labor;
  • Utter disregard for an independent judicial system;
  • Social demagogy around race and class;
  • Expansion of the military;
  • Reduction of parliamentary bodies to rubber stamp status;
  • Establishment of a system of nationwide espionage and secret police, censorship of the press and media;
  • Disregard for the rights of other nations and desregard of treaties; and,
  • Maintenance and encouragement of fifth columns abroad.

Another vice word is “dictatorship” which is regularly attributed to the heads of socialist governments, even when these socialist leaders have been elected by democratic processes. Both “totalitarian” and ‘dictatorship” are emotionally loaded “vice” words designed to narrow political thinking into an “either – or” choice between a vice word (dictatorship, totalitarian) and a virtue word “democracy”. A vice word is one in which it is impossible to think or act neutrally. So, no intelligent political person would say they are for totalitarian government or dictatorship.

On the other hand, these days everybody loves the word “democracy”. This has certainly not been the case historically. Democracy had been associated with “mob rule” and among conservatives, behind closed doors, it still is. Liberals were not much better. They were dragged kicking and screaming into using the word democracy at the end of the 19th century when working class white men got the vote. Nevertheless, the word democracy today is a virtue word. It is tantamount to committing political suicide by publicly stating you are against democracy. The CIA even names one of its international programs to overthrow socialist governments “National Endowment for Democracy”. In this article I will focus on the history of the use of the word “totalitarianism”. In my next article I will write about the history of the use of the words “dictatorship” and “democracy”.

Why should you care?

Using loaded language in politics supports narrowing the thinking process to heroes and villains, gods and devils, dictators or democrats. Working-class people do not initiate what these words mean, or in what contexts they are used. However, working class people circulate these words unconsciously when they talk about politics to others. Working-class people also internalize these words and this narrows the span of how they think about political processes. The purpose of this article and the next one is to challenge you to try purging from your vocabulary the words totalitarian dictatorship or democracy. Chances are very good that you are being played by the Yankee anti-communist campaign.

Overview of the history of the use of the word “totalitarian”

Most of this article will be based on a book Totalitarianism: The Inner History of the Cold War by Abbott Gleason (1995). He tells the story of the use of totalitarianism from its use in the 1930s to the 1980s. The early years of its use was limited to fascism. After Stalin’s pact with Hitler it was used to describe both fascism and communism. Then there was a hiatus in the use of the term totalitarian when the USSR became an ally. However, after World War II through the 1980s, the term totalitarian was used by Yankees and Europeans to refer to the Soviet Union and any other socialist countries.

THEORIES OF TOTALITARIANISM IN THE 1930s

Early theories of totalitarianism were economic in origin and only about fascism. For Franz Neumann, the totalitarian phase of Nazism was strictly confined to the first two years of rule. He used the term totalitarian to describe the all-powerful state that he believed to be one of the two central elements of fascism. Besides the state, the other element of fascism was monopoly capitalism. Fascism was understood as a development that came out of political liberalism and decaying capitalism, not primarily an attack on them. Neumann thought that capitalism rather than racism and romanticism explained the rise of Hitler. For Max Lerner, fascism and Nazism derived from inflation and middle-class fears of proletarianization. Roosevelt used the term totalitarianism infrequently and when he did, he usually referred to Germany and Italy. For the Soviet Union, fascism was understood as a manifestation of capitalist society in its imperialistic stage. Nazism and Soviet Communism appeared in these theories as the most extreme opposites. However, by 1937-1938 many academics came to regard the similarities between Nazism and Stalinism as more striking than their differences.

The United States itself was not immune to the charge of being called totalitarian by conservatives who were against FDR. Emil Lengyel, in his book, The New Deal in Europe, (1934), included US economic policies as similar to Russia, Germany and Italy. For conservatives such as Herbert Hoover, FDR was a totalitarian liberal. American isolationists argued Roosevelt’s domestically aggressive policies contained the real danger of totalitarianism

Following his committee’s vindication of Trotsky, John Dewey accepted the term totalitarian to describe Russia, and for this he was subjected to a sustained campaign of vilification by communists. He stressed totalitarianism in his book Freedom and Culture, (1939) less than two months after the signing of the Nazi-Soviet pact. With the signing of the pact in August 1939, all but a few far-left activists accepted the new terminology and called both Russia and Germany totalitarian.

TOTALITARIANISM IN EARLY WORLD WAR II

From the time the United States entered World War II until the end of the war, the United States backed off its characterization of the Soviet Union as totalitarian. Why? Because if the US was allied with the Soviet Union, the war could not be described as a war against totalitarianism. The events of 1941 — Germany’s attack on the USSR — halted a great deal of the talk of totalitarianism being of both the left and right. The imagined confrontation of totalitarian dictators with western capitalism (called democracies) would be shattered. Almost overnight the term greatly diminished as the United States and the Soviet Union fought on the same side. After the war, with Germany defeated, totalitarianism was used to characterize only the Soviet Union.

TOTALITARIANISM IN THE LATE 1940s

Hannah Arendt’s Origins of Totalitarianism, (1951)

Lack of specificity in what makes a totalitarian country

Hannah Arendt began to write Origins of Totalitarianism, in reaction to the realization of the scale of the death camps and the systemization of the killings of the Jews. Up until now, those writing on totalitarianism thought its roots were in the 20th century. There was some sense it was connected to nationalism, technology and racism. However, all these characteristics were also present in countries like the United States and Britain that were thought not to be totalitarian. Hannah Arendt’s book begins in 1945 and was the first book to suggest that the origins of totalitarianism originated in the 19th century.  Arendt’s own candidates for totalitarianism were the rise of mass society, psychological loneliness, Durkheim’s anomie and what she called the fanaticism of the marginalized. The “mob” for Arendt was a small section of the population, roughly equivalent to Marx’s lumpenproletariat. It consisted of declassed rootless, desperate individuals who could be recruited for criminal activity. This perception of masses was a conservative one, right out of the playbook of Le Bon and Tarde. Yet, all these conditions were also present in the US, England and France. There are no characteristics unique to Germany and Russia.

She also claimed there was a relationship between 19th century imperialism and racism. The problem was that countries that are considered non-totalitarian (US, Britain and to a lesser extent, France) were all imperialist or racist. Secondly, Russia at the time of the Tsar, was not an imperialist country, though anti-Semitism was very prevalent.

Arendt also thought that totalitarianism had a great deal to do with nationalism. The problem is she didn’t specify what kind of nationalism it was. Her attempt to link Pan Germanism with Pan Slavism breaks down because the 19th century Russian intelligentsia was not Pan-Slavic.  With a few exceptions, they were Western European modernizers. Even if Pan-Germanism and Pan-Slavism did provide the ideological roots of commonalities of Russia and Germany, it was a different kind of nationalism than in Western Europe. In Hans Kohn’s typology, Germany and Russia were ethnic, rather than civic nationalists. Arendt’s basic paradigm of the nation state was post-revolutionary France which qualifies as civic nationalism. When we consider that most of Europe, and particularly Germany and the Austro-Hungarian part of Germany (with which she is most concerned), had belonged to states that could not be thought of as civic nationalist.

Lastly, by 1948 she came to believe it was the systematic reliance of terror, institutionalized in the concentration camp that linked Russia to Germany. This ignores the concentration camps set up in United States for the Japanese.

The sloppiness of her study

There are many problems with Arendt’s study other than the fact she could name characteristics that were unique to Germany and Russia and not found in the West. In the first place, she had not studied Germany and Russia equally. This meant she was in no position to compare their similarities and differences systemically. She knew far more about Germany than Russia. She began her book with the Nazi’s and it was only three years into her writing that she tried to expand her book to include Russia. Secondly, her characterization of the Nazis and the USSR was confusing because it was not a strict comparison between fascism and communism. The term totalitarian did not even include other fascist countries such as Italy or Spain.

In addition, she failed to state the differences between Russia and Germany in terms of their politics and economic systems. Just because Hitler and Stalin were both heavy-handed leaders does not mean the political systems were the same. For one thing, Hitler was appointed whereas Stalin rose from within the Communist party. Furthermore, she failed to account for the differences in the economic system. Germany was a capitalist society; Russia was a state socialist society. Those differences are huge.

Lastly her definition of totalitarianism was too strident. Neither Germany or Russia came close to fulfilling all her criteria. Despite all these criticisms The  Origins of Totalitarianism is one of the first books that turns up in a search of the subject of totalitarianism. We can only wonder which Cold War critics keep this book in the educated public’s eye despite its many problems.

The Cold War Begins

In the summer of 1945, after the Allied victory in Europe, there was alarm over Soviet maneuvers in occupied Germany and Eastern Europe. It was then that the word totalitarianism resurfaced.  With the Communist coup of Czechoslovakia in 1948, there was a belief in a Communist blueprint or master plan for world conquest. The reinvigoration of totalitarian exclusively to the USSR served to switch powerful anti-German sentiments in the United States into the growing anti-communist movement. In 1950, the McCarran Internal Security Act barred totalitarians – Communists – from entering the United States.

Left-wing reaction

Burnham’s Managerial Revolution

Even before the end of World War II, left-wing criticism of the Soviet Union came from Trotskyist James Burnham’s The Managerial Revolution, (1941). In this book, Burnham claimed the Russian experience had demonstrated that the elimination of private property was not necessarily a step towards socialism. For Burnham, both the Soviet Union and the Western capitalists were both moving towards a managerial ruling class.

Orwell’s 1984, (1949)

As far back as 1943, Orwell realized that England was lacking in concentration camp literature, including secret police forces, censorship of opinion, torture and frame-up trials. He delivered all this in his book 1984. Orwell liked Burnham’s The Managerial Revolution and his depiction of permanent struggle between super states for world dominion. Orwell drew from and was influenced by the book We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, a soviet novelist, in his writing of 1984. Orwell argued that his book was not an attack on socialism. In fact, Orwell says his intention was to show that totalitarianism was possible since the setting for his book was England.

In the magazine The New Leader, writers such Max Nomad, Victor Serge, Paul Goodman, John Dewey, and Sidney Hook argued that the Soviet Union had so dishonored socialism that it could be compared to Germany. In 1947 there was a split on the American Left over the Soviet Union that continued to deepen and become increasingly bitter. The split between the Popular Front left and the emerging Cold War left occurred roughly in the same year. Sidney Hook became one of the most fanatical and relentless opponents of totalitarianism. This is documented in Mary Sperling McAuliffe’s book Crisis on the Left: Cold War Politics and American Liberals 1947-1954, (published 1978).

Conservative liberal reaction

Jacob Talmon’s Origins of Totalitarian Democracy, (1952)

Talmon takes aim at Soviet politics rather than Germany. He studied Jacobin dictatorships during the French Revolution at the same time the Moscow trials were reaching a climax in 1938. He then made a connection between the Jacobin and the Bolsheviks, taking the roots of totalitarianism to the end of the 18th century implicating the Enlightenment itself. Even Rousseau was seen as a precursor of totalitarianism. Talmon saw the French Revolution as a political, religious revival which covered Europe with its apostles, militants and martyrs. He was a supporter of de Tocqueville’s attempt to explain the threat of democratic despotism, as totalitarian liberalism. He contrasted that to his own pluralistic liberalism.

Right-wing reaction

Von Hayek, Lasky Niebuhr

The right-wingers were already moving towards demonizing the USSR before World War II ended. As far back as 1944, Hayek’s book The Road to Serfdom (1944) placed totalitarianism front and center. For Von Hayek, economic planning leads to totalitarianism. All collectivism was totalitarian. Von Hayek was very ambitious historically, tracing the roots of totalitarianism through Marx to Auguste Comte. The appearance of Von Hayek’s book was a great help to Yankee conservatives in setting the political agenda of postwar intellectual debates. Hayek helped support the publication of Karl Popper’s Cold War liberal book, Open Society and Its Enemies, (1945).

Conservatives wanted to use totalitarianism to paint with broad brush-strokes, attacking not only communism, but even socialism and liberalism. Some questioned the status of the New Deal itself. Neo-cons such as Melvin Lasky and Irving Kristol were part of this wave. Anti-communists organized themselves as the Americans for Democratic Action. Notice the use of virtue word “democratic” in this title. Historically, conservatives equated democracy with “mob rule.” This new wave of conservative anti-communism included the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr.

Irving Kristol

Irving Kristol, writing in the New Leader at the end of WWII was Involved in Cold War liberal journals such as Commentary, the Reporter and Encounter. Neo-conservatives began to speculate about the origins of totalitarianism to a larger public, by-passing the academic totalitarian theorists. Kristol produced a typology even grander than Jacob Talmon’s indictment of the Enlightenment. He aimed to explain the difference geographically, between Anglo-American pragmatic liberalism and the continental tendency of fanaticism and revolutions.

TOTALITARIANISM IN THE 1950s

Schlesinger’s the Vital Center

In 1948 Arthur Schlesinger Jr. began his book, The Vital Center, (1949), one of the manifestos of Cold War liberalism. The book’s chief concern is communism, not Nazism. He claims that sentimental progressives have been duped by totalitarianism. For Schlesinger, totalitarianism arises when anxious 20th century human beings seeks to escape their anxiety (referring to Fromm’s Escape from Freedom) by throwing themselves into a totalitarian whole, a night in which all cows are black. Unlike previous tyrannies, which left much of the social structure intact, totalitarianism pulverizes the social structure. He stresses the importance of keeping social forms of voluntary groups from being atomized. A rich associative life can be had away from politics. He accepts a very passive version of democracy, a lack of appeal to those irrational sentiments once mobilized by religion and now by totalitarianism.

Why such a weak democracy? The notion of a popular, meaningful political life is totally illusory. Schlesinger’s totalitarian masses are plunged into a deep trance-like political apathy which he calls bureaucratic collectivism. He claims “we” must give the lonely masses a sense of individual human function away from politics. He accepts the separation between those engaged in political life and the great mass of society. His book marked a new kind of pessimism about human nature. He excluded all communist sympathizers.

Congress for Cultural Freedom

In 1950 the Congress for Cultural Freedom was constituted in Berlin to provide further organization and inspiration for the anti-Communist left in Europe. Its principle organizer was Melvin Lasky. The CIA funded their original meeting in Berlin and within three years, through Lasky, was supporting the Congress itself. The purpose of the founders was to combat the idea that respected, serious writers could be neutral in the Cold War. James Burnham, Sidney Hook and Arthur Koestler, all former leftists, went to the most extreme in depicting their own commitment to the West.

The Sovietologists in the United States

After 1945, “Russian Studies” departments developed. They were aided by Ford, Carnegie and Rockefeller. The “sovietologists” had centers at Columbia University, Harvard, UC Berkeley and the University of Washington. There was both open and some secret collaboration among foundations, universities, the CIA, the FBI and the State Department to develop Soviet Studies and keep it free of pro-Soviet personnel.

Carl Friedrich — professor of government at Harvard — organized a conference on totalitarianism which included Adam Ulam, Erik Erikson, David Riesman, and former radicals like Bertram Wolfe. Following the conference, Friedrich recruited Zbigniew Brzezinski, a Soviet specialist from Harvard’s government department as a collaborator. One fruit of their collaboration was a book called Totalitarian Dictatorship and Autocracy, (1956). For a while it was the most influential and authoritative treatment of totalitarianism ever written, a careful scrutinization of Nazi and Soviet politics and economics. The concept of totalitarianism also became a staple of college textbooks and sometimes books for high school students, However, by the 1960s there began a rebellion in academia against the totalitarian model.

 TOTALITARIANISM IN THE 1960s

The tide began to change in 1960 when political scientist Robert Tucker pointed out three problems with the totalitarian model:

  • Cross-culturally the comparisons were too narrow. Besides Russia, Germany and Italy needed to be included.
  • Historically the comparisons were static. In the case of Russia, a distinction needs to be made between Russia under Stalin, Russia under Lenin and Russia under Khrushchev.
  • Brzezinski’s and Friedrich’s model could not explain change in the Soviet Union. Later, Chalmers Johnson edited a book called Change in Communist Systems which supported Tucker’s points.

Up until now political scientists were content to compare dictatorships with other dictatorships while treating industrial capitalist systems as if they were a different species. But political scientist Jerry Hough challenged the totalitarian model directly. Using a method he called “institutional pluralism” he provided a functional analysis of communist societies free from Cold War ideology. He asked what do communist and industrial capitalist societies have in common in terms of bureaucracies.

In summing up the attack on American sovietologists, comparative politics scholar Fainsod in his book How the Soviet Union is Governed (1979) he says:

The study of communism has become so pervaded with the values prevalent in the United States that we have not an objective and accurate knowledge of communism, but rather an ideologically distorted image. Not only our theories, but the concepts we employ – totalitarianism – are value laden. (p. 133)

TOTALITARIANISM IN THE 1970s

Leonard Shapiro

Meanwhile, on the right, neo-conservatives had been furious with what they felt was Nixon and Kissinger’s appeasement of the Soviet Union. Most neoconservatives hated Hough’s comparative politics because it neutralized the Soviet Union, presenting it as a state like any other state, instead of the demonical monster that it was imagined as being.

In his book The Origins of Soviet Autocracy British scholar, Leonard Shapiro argued that unlike Tucker’s claim, the origins of totalitarianism in Russia do not begin with Stalin, but with Lenin. Shapiro treated the Bolshevik seizure of power as a coup rather than a democratic revolution. He did not think that Trotsky or Bukharin offered any serious alternative.

Challenging Shapiro, based on his political biography of Bukharin, Steven Cohen argued that Bolshevism had a far greater evolutionary possibility that could have  been realized had Bukharin rather than Trotsky won the power struggle against Stalin after Lenin died, but whether one sided with Trotsky or Bukharin, Bolshevism and Stalinism were very different. The differences between Bukharin and Trotsky were minimal compared to their differences with Stalin. It was the fault of the totalitarian theorists that Bolshevism and Stalinism became blurred. The Bolshevik Party was more open and, in some ways, democratic than had been generally admitted. Cohen used the work of Alexander Rabinowitch’s Bolsheviks Come to Power (1976) to document his points.

Sheila Fitzpatrick

More conservative than Cohen, political scientist Sheila Fitzpatrick was not interested in saving Lenin from complicity in Stalin’s crimes. She thought that the Civil War gave the new regime a baptism by fire that the Bolsheviks wanted. She argued that what Cohen ignored is the terroristic aspect on the Russian population. Because of “The Terror” of Stalin’s reign, parents talked differently to their children, writers wrote differently, workers and managers talked to one another differently, and millions perished.

 Neocons

With the decline of the US economy after 1970, the ebbing of the left activism of the 1960s and the rise of religious fundamentalism in the late 70s, neo-conservatives saw their ship coming in. These neo-cons showed great respect for dissident intellectuals of Eastern Europe — Havel, Kolakowsky and Solzhenitsyn — and had significant ties to anti-Communist Western European intellectuals such as Karl Bracher, Jacob Talmon, and Raymond Aron. However, it wasn’t until the election of Reagan that the neoconservatives both inside and outside government began a sustained drive for hands-on political influence. It was these neo-cons who reintroduced “totalitarianism” into the US political vocabulary.

The Separation of “Authoritarian” from Totalitarianism as a way to justify cavorting with military dictatorships

The Soviet Union had to be understood as totalitarian for ideological purposes, but were all countries with centralized power, with limits on capitalists’ governments, “totalitarian”? That depends on the politics of the country. If the country has a victorious Leninist party in power, then the country is labeled totalitarian regardless of how democratic the political process was. But if the country has a right-wing military in power, no matter how many characteristics of totalitarian they have, they will be called something else, “authoritarian.”

Instrumental in the revised typology of totalitarianism was Jeanne Kirkpatrick. She accepted Friedrich and Brzezinski’s model and added Talmon’s stress on totalitarian liberalism. In her essay, Dictatorships and Double Standards, her most important innovation was to introduce a distinction between totalitarian and authoritarian regimes. Her attitude towards traditional nondemocratic regimes was Burkean. This means that traditional autocrats, unlike totalitarians, leave in place existing allocations of wealth, power and status. The religious system and traditions are left alone. They do not disturb habitual rhythms of work and leisure, where people live or family dynamics. The totalitarian regime, on the other hand, draws on resources of modern technology and wipes out these traditions.  The authoritarian regime stems from a lack of political or economic development, not the presence of modern transport and communications systems that totalitarians possess.

Why the distinction between authoritarian vs totalitarian rule? As much as neocons want to think of the political world of nations in black and white systems of rule, the reality of international relations makes this impossible. The political world consists of a spectrum of rule going from more liberal to more authoritarian. It is inevitable that countries of industrial capitalist governments must form alliances with countries who have more heavy-handed rulers because they do not have complete control over world affairs. If the political world today requires alliances, how would it look if geopolitical alliances were with countries that were classified as totalitarian?

“Authoritarian” was a way to distinguish between right-wing dictatorships that for reasons of convenience or necessity the United States should support. These must be distinguished from left-wing ones that were dangerous to western capitalist interests and so are classified as totalitarian. So, the United States could classify alliances with theocracies like Saudi Arabia or Egypt as “authoritarian”, even though they may have more characteristics that are totalitarian. Conversely, Venezuela will be classified as totalitarian, even though in practice it has one of the highest rated democratic processes in the world.

Modernization theory as propaganda to deny core countries’ creation of right-wing states

Among other claims, World-Systems theory claims that there is one single world-capitalist system with a core, periphery and semi-periphery, and these differences are based on technology, economic, political and military power. In addition to the invisible hand of capitalism there is also an invisible fist. In order to make sure the labor and land markets in the peripheral countries remain cheap, international capitalists cannot afford to have political rulers in the periphery of the system in power who have their own ideas of how to organize their economy. This is one reason why Lumumba and Qaddafi were murdered. Therefore, it pays for capitalists to throw guns and money at dictators who will keep foreign markets open, continue to develop commercial crops, keep unions from forming and assassinating any leftist troublemakers.  It is these countries that are called “emerging democracies” at best, and “authoritarian” at worst.

Modernization theory is the systematic repression and denial of the notion that military dictatorships are a creature of oppressive international power plays on the part of core-capitalist countries to keep peripheral countries dependent on the international institutions like the World Bank or the IMF. Peripheral countries are treated as isolated specimens that are undergoing internal development. Instead of these states being largely the creatures of neo-colonialism, they are treated as pre-modern authoritarian societies that only need to be exposed to western European political institutions in order to straighten up and fly right toward the path of democracy which is already happily charted by Western Europe and the United States.

•  First published in Planning Beyond Capitalism

The post “Totalitarian" Anti-Communism: Loaded Language Straight Out of CIA, Neo-Con Playbook first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Reflections on white elections

In less than four weeks a nation that loves nostalgia will be entertaining an election not unlike those a century ago. The election on 3 November 2020 will be fundamentally a “white man’s election”, the penumbra of protest notwithstanding.

Donald Trump captured the Republican nomination and the election four years ago by appealing to the populist elements that were opposed to what can actually be called the Bush-Clinton gang in the GOP. With the necessary money and a salesman’s astute sense of how to hawk, he overwhelmed the GOP establishment candidates and placed himself on the wave of those who rightly hated Clinton and certainly had no love for Obama.

Neither Hillary Clinton’s horrid personality nor her legacy could possibly appeal to anyone except party diehards, gravy train parasites and the academic faux gauche; i.e., those who bought the synthetic brand Obama in 2008 and became addicted to the product.

Mr Trump’s unexpected win — although not surprising for those who had a sober view of Clinton — caused considerable upset in the Establishment. As I have noted, but apparently few others have, while Donald Trump is unsurprisingly rich, he is, in fact, the first POTUS to be elected in at least a century who was not previously a senior civil servant, military officer or professional politician. That, of course, means that he was not “trained” how to behave or instructed as to who really makes decisions for the White House. Although the mass media have focused on his business career and his wealth, they conspicuously ignore the fact that he is also the first person in the White House since 1980 not controlled by the Bush family!1

Since in the US no one likes to talk about power as it is really exercised and by whom, four years have been spent attacking a mediocre New York real estate gangster for stage performances that were largely spoiled by the crew behind the curtains. Never mind any virtues or defects of Donald Trump’s ostensible program or policies since these are not really important. The most serious problem has been that there was a policy and program adopted prior to his election that Ms Clinton was supposed to represent and failure to elect her meant this policy and program had to be pushed without her– against Mr Trump, if necessary.

Donald Trump’s failure to cooperate with those who, in fact, make policy was manifest in the frequent changes to high office appointments. Since the only power Mr Trump actually has had — not unlike Jimmy Carter — is to appoint and dismiss cabinet officers and some other senior bureaucrats, this is what he did. Although his appointments did not give him more control over the relevant departments, they did cause considerable irritation throughout senior echelons of the federal bureaucracy. The most obvious disruption arises when people whose careers have advanced by following certain superiors in a given structure find that they have a new boss and perhaps even that they are transferred to some part of the organisation less favourable to their future promotion. For outsiders these changes are scarcely noticeable but for career civil servants at the higher management levels such disruption is taken very seriously. The programs that were dependent for their smooth implementation on continuity from the Obama-Clinton management were now subject to administrative delays or even budgetary obstacles. Thus layers of official Washington had reasons to aggravate the obstructions and contribute to the attack on Trump.

As the impeachment proceedings finally demonstrated, the principal objections to Donald Trump were nothing more than his frustration of the Establishment program to which the Bush-Clinton gang was committed. Every effort has been made to show that Donald Trump as POTUS is neither entitled nor competent to exercise executive authority. Nor is he allowed to change Establishment policy (in the form of initiatives under his predecessors). Yet the US Constitution does not name failure to adhere to the policies of a previous administration as a violation of the law or an impeachable offense. None of those who claim that Mr Trump is the “worst ever” POTUS seem to have any recollection of George W Bush, a semi-literate son of the ruling dynasty, re-elected by blatant election fraud with at least one illegal war to his credit, not to mention the demonstrable corruption in office. No matter how mediocre he may be, Donald Trump’s record is snow white compared to that of his predecessors.

Failing impeachment and removal from office, the immediate effects of the 2015 pandemic plan were then turned against Mr Trump in a last ditch attempt to show that he is incompetent, if not the cause of the faux pandemic.2  Clearly a project, which under Ms Clinton would have been launched earlier (no doubt to profile her “leadership”), was now implemented in the hope that it would foil Donald Trump’s re-election chances. However, that was not sticking either.

A serving POTUS rarely has to seek party re-nomination for a second term, the micro-convention held by the Republicans was therefore a formality. For years,  however, the Democratic Party has had to contend with its dissident left wing (in the US sense of the word). Again Bernie Sanders was let into the bullring to take a few stabs at a Trump effigy to keep the restless in their seats until a suitable nominee could be appointed.

The lockdown — apparently supported mainly by Establishment jurisdictions — was bound to create a variety of social tensions. Hence the situation was ripe for some creative counter-insurgency work. It is no secret that police officers, especially — but not only — in urban forces, perform contract murders frequently for those who run the drug business in the area. It takes little fantasy to imagine that Mr Floyd was assassinated for propaganda reasons. The rather unusual spread of simultaneous demonstrations following his murder was quicker than even the Ferguson or Charleston killings several years ago could trigger.3 Moreover careful attention to the locations and the composition of the demonstrations ought to have raised suspicions.

The demonstrations in predominantly white cities like Portland, while forty years ago perhaps sensible venues, were selected for media-effectiveness. White folks demonstrating in cities, where Blacks form an insignificant portion of the population, that “Black lives matter” also makes sense. It is comparable to the US motivation for dropping atomic bombs on cities that had not yet been attacked. These demonstration venues also have advantages: The absence of any other distracting activity made the demonstrations the easy focus of cameras. There were no embarrassing Black neighbourhoods to film and maybe raise questions that did not fit the script. The scope of Black issues could be carefully defined without any real Blacks involved.

One of the tactics of counter-insurgency developed and refined from the Phoenix Program is the creation of armed propaganda teams that appear and behave like the enemy. BLM is such an organisation, as is Antifa. Remarkable about the conduct of these two groups — exhibiting traits of CANVAS coaching — is that they perform a mirror of what whites thought they saw in the 60s.4 The propaganda team composed the language by borrowing heavily from “white” depictions of the Civil Rights movement protests. The point of the operations was not to mobilize Blacks — on the contrary. The primary aim of the operation is consolidation of white votes for the Democratic Party. Instead of dressing like the Klan to intimidate Blacks, they are costumed like Civil Rights protesters to intimidate Whites who might vote for Trump.

There is another aspect of this campaign that is even more provocative. As the escalation of sexual identity/ gender based politics has overwhelmed nearly all other opposition issues, the classical and wholly unresolved issues of economic justice, the plantation prison system, housing and education, not to mention the militarism that drives US foreign (and domestic policy) have been obscured. If one considers the positions taken by arguably the most radical Black American of his day, Malcolm X, there is nothing in any of his speeches that would justify or promote the conduct under the banners of BLM and Antifa.5 Ironically — but I believe intentionally — the excited attention given to Black Lives Matter and its allies actually serves to suppress the fundamental issues of white supremacy upon which the US is based and that people like Malcolm X and Martin Luther King consistently raised.

Historically elections have been fought for marginal shifts in the allegiance of white voters. Since the 50s these shifts were occasionally magnified by whether Blacks were able to vote or not. One could say that Black votes became the “swing” constituency in presidential elections. This was always a source of conflict within the historically racist Democratic Party. The mobilisation of Black voters was so contentious that it had even split the party.

Barack Obama conspicuously avoided mentioning King’s name in any of his speeches during the 2008 presidential campaign. Yet his speeches were saturated with subliminals that surely triggered the name in the heads of liberal listeners. (I frequently had to show people the speeches afterwards to prove that he had never said “King”.) This practice continued throughout his two-terms. Surely he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize so quickly to consecrate his election as if he were “Martin Luther King”, without being him. At the same time the “right Black man” was finally given the prize.

Black Lives Matter consortium was invented and funded to promote virtual Black protest with subliminal messages aimed at white voters in the same way the Obama campaign was contrived. In the view of the Establishment, real Black Americans are too offensive to whites and too unreliable politically. Moreover there is a standing policy in the Democratic Party not to mobilize Blacks except under the most controlled conditions. Ideally these are the conditions under which what Black Agenda Report calls the “Misleadership Class” can manipulate them. So what we have, in fact, is the product of a long-standing practice of the historical Democratic Party, a Black movement without any Blacks. The core of this armed propaganda has modernised the minstrel show in a violent and destructive manner.

These Democratic Party covert operations are designed to smear Donald Trump without staining the Democrats themselves. It is another strategy for capturing the “swing vote” without any obligation to serve the constituency whose ballots it needs. It aims — like in elections a century ago — to stuff the ballots for a Southern racist (Biden) against a carpetbagger (Trump) and, regardless of who wins, leave everything else just as the Establishment wants it.

  1. This author contends that essentially from the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 until 2016, the Bush family has directly or indirectly controlled the White House. GHW Bush exercised this control as vice president for two terms, as POTUS for one. Bill Clinton was essentially co-opted into the Bush gang while governor of Arkansas when the state was being used as a hub for drug running by CIA assets. GW Bush then served two terms and was relieved by Barack Obama, a person with a long and intimate relationship to the US intelligence services with which the Bush family also enjoys a historically strong connection. Hence “bipartisanship” in the US has been based upon domination of both major parties by an alliance of the Bush family and the Clinton couple. However, were the same configuration to be identified in another country; e.g., the Soviet Union/ Russia, the conclusion would be reached immediately that the intelligence agencies or even criminal syndicates have undue control over the executive. For example, it has been commonplace to identify Russian President Vladimir Putin as a former KGB officer. It was very rare that US President GHW Bush was introduced as a former head of the CIA. By treating the entire US system as sui generis there is virtually no analysis of power relationships and structures pertaining to the USA in categories or concepts that permit comparison with other regimes. This is deliberate and not accidental, another aspect of so-called “exceptionalism”.
  2. Although the extent to which prior planning exercises occurred and public statements were made by various prominent individuals suggest that the conditions for the so-called pandemic in 2020 could have been man-made, any culpability remains deniable.
  3. On 9 August 2014, Michael Brown was murdered by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, a town in Greater St. Louis. On 17 July 2015, nine parishioners were murdered in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC, including the senior pastor, by one Dylann Roof.
  4. CANVAS, the Center for Applied Non-Violent Action and Strategies, is the successor organisation to OTPOR, a Serbian consultancy specialised in training for revolutions. It played a major role during the NATO war against Yugoslavia, coaching civilian opposition to the Serbian government.  Also see The Revolution Business.
  5. Malcolm X delivered a speech at the Oxford Union, 3 December 1964.

The post Reflections on white elections first appeared on Dissident Voice.