Category Archives: Internet

We Tried: Kind Of

I read an article a while ago somewhere on the web entitled something like “What Happened to My Country?” (referring to the US, but the same question could be asked by pretty much anyone anywhere the US has managed to colonise in one way or another) and while I agreed that there might be more than a few others asking themselves that same question, I had to admit that any reasonable appraisal of what our country might have been has been answered by any number of researchers and historical figures who have pointed out that the United States, in spite of its rhetoric, has never been a place of which one could be proud.

For most of its history, from the moment the first Europeans stepped ashore on what is now known as North America, it has represented the absolute worst tendencies of the human race. There is nothing revolutionary about genocide. Every empire, since time immemorial, has used this barbaric means of theft. You can give it any label you want, discuss the various “-isms” that may or may not have justified outright murder and theft, but it comes down to, in my opinion, something very simple: The Few against The Rest. And that isn’t very profound, nor should it be news to anyone.

The situation in the US, and ever more so in The West (or its vassal states, wherever they may be) in general, has become so toxic (in every sense of the word), and dangerous to The Few, that they no longer even attempt to hide their disdain for the rabble. Major crimes of all sorts go unpunished. They simply do what they want to. Right out in the open, as if to say, “Whatcha gonna do about it, huh?”

They’ve managed to divide what could be an international coalition of peace-loving people into distinct socio-political straight- jackets, fighting amongst themselves for the right to lead what’s left of The Left or The Right (there’s little difference these days), an exclusionary and divisive tactic that has largely succeeded.

A lot of people (most people, probably) think that the internet, and social media in general, have been a boon to society. I tend to disagree for a number of reasons.

(1) Speed kills. Whether you drive too fast or indulge in the chemical known under that name, there’s a good chance you’ll end up dead or physically or mentally handicapped.

With optic fibre and constant increases in the speed of wireless communications, we are inundated (overloaded?) with information. And I would reckon that most of it is pretty much useless. How many updates do we need, for example, on the lives of celebrities, on Trump’s latest mood, or even the suffering of the Palestinians or Yemenis?

In the first case, who cares what celebrities are up to? They don’t care what you think.

In the second case, it’s just The Donald being The Donald, even though now he’s President.

In the third case, we’ve known about the plight of the Palestinians since 1948 and no one seems to care. At least not enough people to inculpate/stop the Israeli slow genocide.

So what good has all this instantaneousness provided? I’d say not much. Since the inception of the internet, aside from an initial buzz in the public sphere, its monetisation has pretty much destroyed any hopes the same public had for the Net, and has gone the way of most “technological miracles”. Into the hands of a tiny elite, and their acolytes, their “good little Eichmanns”, whose only goal is to become rich.

If you think about “speed” in the mechanical sense, it’s the result of the compression of molecules which creates heat which creates “work”. It’s a desireable outcome if it eliminates arduous tasks. Or so they say. But at what price? Or cost, if you prefer. Economists refer to these costs as “externalities”. I refer to them as “collateral damage”. Neither the bankers nor the bombers give a rat’s ass about these externalities, the peripheral damage done by their choices. See Nick Davies about the bombers, Michael Hudson (or Paul Craig Roberts, the Galbraiths, Bill Black, or any other not bought, honest economist) about the bankers.

If you consider the idea of the compression of molecules relative to the number of people on the planet, you might get the idea that too many people in a finite place might cause the same kind of combustion that occurs when molecules are compressed in the cylinder of an automobile motor. It’s called an explosion. I don’t particularly want to be part of something like that. At least in the physical sense. Which leads to a second point.

(2) Continual or constant growth. The idea behind Ponzi schemes and a core tenet of capitalism.

Ponzi schemes are pretty simple. Promise investors above average returns, and as long as you attract a continued increase in investors, you can pay the previous investors the promised returns with the money coming from the new investors. Until the number of new investors declines or, in the vernacular, until the shit hits the fan. Ask Bernie Madoff.

Capitalism is a big subject, to say the least. The Canadian film, The Corporation, gives a pretty good idea of the psychopathic nature of capitalism, its total disregard for anything resembling a humane way of looking at, and participating in, the world. And it, too, is based on continual/constant growth: the very characteristics of a cancer.

*****

One of the reasons I’m writing this is that I’m finally coming to realise that I really no longer believe that all this speed, all this “stuff”, all this screen gazing is going anywhere good. I have the privilege, being retired and able to spend rather quite a bit of time in this hamlet, without TV, of having to face myself and the small things that affect my daily life.

For example, there are days when I don’t speak with anyone, except for an occasional word with the lizards who inhabit the cracks and crannies of the stone walls of this two hundred year old house and become less and less timorous as the season progresses. Or several kinds of birds who frequent the place, flying in and out of the open windows (mostly swallows), or the plants in the vegetable garden. Of course, there are no replies, except in the form of a strange complicity, or so I imagine. The lizards quickly gather at the stone sink on the terrace when I fill the slight depression with water. The birds nest and sing. The garden grows, the flowers bloom, the bees provide a humming background to it all.

The other day, as I sat in the shade of the open shed roof after lunch, I came across a passage in the book I was reading, Ma Provence d’heureuse rencontre, by Pierre Magnan, that struck me as being pretty appropriate in these times. I’ll cite the original, in French, then attempt a translation.

Venez respirer Forcalquier quand la nuit tombe. Vous y gagnerez à ses terrasses la vacuité de l’âme qui convient au repos et je crois qu’à partir d’ici vous serez à même de comprendre pourquoi ce pays me convient et pourquoi, y étant admis, je peux en toute quiétude être atteint d’incuriosité totale pour le reste du monde.

Come breathe Forcalquier at nightfall. Its terraces offer a sense of existential peace and quiet and I believe that from here you might be able to understand why this place appeals to me and why, once accepted, I can easily become infected by a total lack of curiosity for the rest of the world.
— Pierre Magnan, Ma Provence d’heureuse rencontre, Denoël, 2005

Now, if I could just convince Odette to lend me a couple of sheep to trim the grass.

*****

13 September 2018

That was three months ago, and Odette never agreed to lend me the sheep. Our veering out of control, make believe world had left me pretty much speechless until I came across the Beattie piece cited below, along with other stuff by Paul Haeder, John Steppling, Robert Hunziker, and Ed Curtin.

So as a post-scriptum, I added the following.

10 September 2018

Jeux

Missy Beattie had a piece this weekend about the frustration involved in writing just about anything having to do with the US these days, using the refrain “words get in the way”. And while I’m just another old guy with a need to scribble, I think I get what she means.

The opportunity for changing things has come and gone. Raised in a world divorced from reality, it took us way too long to realise that we’d been had, that too many of us were too comfortable to go beyond our feeble, non-threatening protests and demonstrations, or to join those who did put their lives on the line for a chance at change.

In other words, we blew it. Thus our frustration and anguish at what could have been had we been more courageous.

We can still send a message, however late it might be. We can create a huge BDS movement against the media and retail giants who are taking control of pretty much everything simply to let them know that we’re on to their game. But I sincerely wonder how many screen-gazers are inclined to go into detox. On the other hand, if Robert Hunziker isn’t crazy, we probably don’t have enough time remaining to do much of anything since our Planet is just about ready to get rid of us.

Thus our frustration and anguish at our own stupidity and cowardice. And yet here I sit in this fifty person hamlet, tapping away at this ecocidal device, trying to make sense of it all. It would probably be better to simply find a piece of paper and a pen or pencil and put a message in a bottle: “We tried. Kind of.”

The Bourgeois Conception of “Free Speech” in the U$

In Part 1, I talked about the power of social media giants and claims of “free speech” on their platforms. Again, I am referring just to the U$, as I am most familiar with the debate on “free speech” there. In the future I may expand this analysis to other capitalist countries. The bourgeois conception of “free speech” is so ingrained that Nadine Strossen, a former president of the ACLU, can spout on The Real News about a “we the people” government in the U$, while declaring that government regulation through net neutrality and antitrust laws, along with consumer pressure, and “free speech” (or counter speech) can stop the bigots in their tracks. This is a laughable notion from a person who says porn should be tolerated (not restricted or banned), is currently a contributor for the Federalist Society, criticized campus speech restrictions, and was a friend and fan of Antonin Scalia! She also, infamously, defended the actions of former ACLU president Anthony Romero, who had agreed to “screen the organization’s employees against terrorist “watch lists”…in order to qualify as an officially approved charity for federal employees,” advising the “Ford Foundation to “parrot” the Patriot Act in formulating controversial new restrictions on the speech of its grantees,” and trying to impose “very broad confidentiality agreement and technology rules on ACLU employees,” as argued by former ACLU board member Wendy Kaminer, who also harshly criticized the organization for its policies on civil liberty. As The Onion joked in one article, when Strossen was president, the ACLU declared that it would “”vigorously and passionately defend” the Georgia chapter of the American Nazi Party’s First Amendment right to freely express its hatred of the ACLU by setting its New York office ablaze on Nov. 25.” That’s how ridiculous the ACLU is, without a doubt.

Last year, the Supreme Court held in Packingham v. North Carolina that a North Carolinian law that restricted access of sex offenders to social media violated the First Amendment. More than that, this case, which was the first major case on the topic since the Reno v. ACLU case in 1997, opens the floodgates for “free speech” to apply to the internet as the latter is considered analogous to a public forum, perhaps leading to further jurisprudence. But more than being a supposed victory for “free expression,” which was likely cheered on by the ACLU, Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion raises the question of what parts of the internet would fall under First Amendment protection. In this opinion, followed by a blistering dissent from Samuel Alito, Kennedy, clearly a tech optimist, wrote that the First Amendment is a “fundamental principle” meaning that “all persons have access to places where they can speak and listen, and then, after reflection, speak and listen once more,” adding that this now applies to cyberspace, including social media, with users engaging in a “wide array” of “First Amendment activity” that is “legitimate” and “protected.”

He added that the digital age has a “vast potential to alter how we think, express ourselves, and define who we want to be” which can quickly change, while implying that the First Amendment may offer some protection for access to social media and the internet. As for social media, he argued that it not only allows “users to gain access to information and communicate with one another about it on any subject that might come to mind” but that it is the “modern public square” that, in his view, allows for people to explore “the vast realms of human thought and knowledge…mak[ing] his or her voice heard.” This is clearly an optimistic view of social media which often is filled with utter and mundane garbage. I think social media includes many more pictures of people showing off their dogs, newborn babies, and silly cat videos, than those who engage in discussion that opens “human thought and knowledge.” What is Kennedy smoking here?

With this decision, the arguments of those like the ACLU that want “an uncensored Internet, a vast free-speech zone,” the EFF that wants “sufficient legal protections for users and innovators,” and Strossen, are clearly boosted. Still, this does not mean there will be “free speech” on the internet anytime soon. While the general conception is that “anyone can say anything online,” this is not only changing but it is inaccurate because intimidation is not protected speech on the internet, along with inciting violence, making threats of violence, privacy invasion, defamation, copyright infringement, inciting a riot or inducing lawbreaking, “fighting words,” false advertising, and disrupting school activities, to name a few. While some say that the First Amendment asserts that one can express themselves “without interference or constraint by the government,” the fact is that a government can “place reasonable restrictions on free speech, such as those that restrict the time, place, and manner of the speech.”

Some have tried to use the Packingham decision to declare that there should be “free speech” on the internet. Others, like White nationalists and Neo-Nazis, have gone even further to draw a parallel between private shopping centers and social media platforms! If this connection was to be made, which is a remote and absurd possibility, those on social media would not be able to “unreasonably intrude” on the private property rights of these platforms, having to “reasonably exercise” their rights while their ideas would not be allowed to have “free rein.” Additionally, their words and actions would have to be deemed peaceful, orderly, and not disturbing the functioning of these platforms, with the latter allowed to restrain the “time, place, and manner” of user’s speech. They could be prohibited from imposing “blanket and total prohibition on the exercise of First Amendment activities” of users but they would also be allowed to restrict those engaging such speech so they did not obstruct or unduly interfere with “normal business operations” or does not impede, distract, or interfere with the business itself.

Furthermore, anyone who engaged in substantial damage or physical obstruction of social media could be restricted or banned, along with being prohibited from annoying and harassing individuals. At the same time, while users could have the right to “freedoms of speech and religion” they could also be restricted if there was a public space where they could use their rights apart from social media, and by the fact that the U$ Constitution provides no protection or redress from a private person or corporation, with the 1st and 14th Amendment not applying to action “by the owner of private property used only for private purposes.” This is not what the bigots would want! Even with these interpretations, Twitter could still say it is a private sector company, which requires users to abide by their rules. Additionally, it is worth noting that these social media platforms are not public since the “supposed public square is actually a small group of digital platforms owned by an even smaller group of giant transnational corporations,” a fact that should be obvious.1. Even Mozilla, which says that “the principle of free speech is a foundation of Western democracy” admits that “free speech gets more complicated in private spaces – that is, spaces not owned by the government…private businesses have every right, legally, to refuse service to individuals who don’t adhere to their stated policies.”

Jimmy Dore and others have said the First Amendment should be applied to Facebook (and other social media) because they see it as a public space and have also said that such outlets should be public utilities. Now, in order to be a public utility, these social media companies would have to be classified the same as other companies providing “a service to the public such as transport, energy, telecommunications, waste disposal, or water and any other public goods and services.” The question arises: are companies like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, to give a few examples, public service corporations that engage in operations that “serve the needs of the general public or conduce to the comfort and convenience of an entire community,” which currently includes “railroads, gas, water, and electric light companies”? Well, we know they are clearly private companies with operations which are “executed by private individuals,” comprising some of those in the corporate (or private) sector which is “responsible for the allocation of the majority of resources” within a capitalist economy.

Now, to be a public service company, they would have to “provide a service to the public” which includes “transport, communications and the like.” These social media platforms likely would fall into the category of public service company rather than a public service corporation because they do not necessarily serve the needs of the general public or conduce convenience or comfort of an entire community. Instead they gather private information and make it public, selling it for profit, having great power over people’s lives. Likely such efforts to make social media a public utility will fall flat because the U$ government is legally obligated to “preserve the vibrant and competitive free market that presently exists for the Internet and other interactive computer services, unfettered by Federal or State regulation” even with other provisions on civil liability.

The bourgeois conception of “free speech” is broadly held across the Western World. Even the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that recognizes the “right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion” (Article 18) and “right to freedom of opinion and expression” (Article 19) is limited by the fact that everyone can be subject to legal limitations to secure respect and recognition for freedom and rights of others, along with meeting “the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society” (Article 29).

There are many laws across the world when it comes to speech, with some countries trying to experiment different levels of censorship online, irking those who defend the bourgeois conception of “freedom of speech,” with some even bringing in anti-communist rhetoric to complain about “the lack of transparency found in Soviet-style governance structures” disappearing in Eastern Europe. Some, like the horrid organization, FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) have declared that “the best antidote to tyranny is free and spirited debate, not suppression of speech,” which Jimmy Dore basically expressed on his show, while others like HRW or The Guardian complain about the “Great Chinese Firewall” and challenges “journalists, bloggers and dissidents” have to undertake. This has led to a list of “enemies” of the internet and efforts to break through claimed “closed societies” (one organization gives the examples of Iran and China), believing that making these societies “open” will bring goodness to the world. This id despite the fact that the internet has “been a revolution for censorship as much as for free speech” as The Guardian admitted back in 2008, which anyone with sense would recognize.

Clearly, the majority of those in the Western Left are indoctrinated to think they are free, leading them attack other leftists across the world who holding power as noted by Andre Vltchek. However, his analysis is faulty since he incorrectly describes China, part of the revisionist triad (the other two countries in this triad are Laos and Vietnam), as communist when it has actually been on the capitalist road since 1976, with a form of state-supported form of capitalism which is different from that of the West, and saying that Russia’s policy is “clearly anti-imperialist” when it is actually just nationalistic.

Clearly, some individuals have more of an ability for speech than others. As the subreddit of /r/communism puts it rightly, which I still agree with even though I was ousted as a mod after I began criticizing China as capitalist rather than saying it is socialist (consensus of the subreddit’s mods), “speech, like everything else, has a class character, and that some speech can be oppressive.” This is something those who believe in the bourgeois conception of “free speech” cannot and will not acknowledge. As one person put on Twitter, after responding to a story that the court system in the U$ repealed a law forcing porn companies to “prove that their performers are of age,” that the principle of “free speech” in the U$ almost seems that it is “inherently bourgeois.”

In the capitalist society of the U$ this bourgeois conception of free speech manifests itself by capitalists like Robert Mercer, the Koch Brothers, George Soros, Pierre Omidyar, Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, and many others, having the ability to publish and project their speech more than those on meager budgets. Basically, this means that ordinary people, the proletariat, have no influence (or power in) on the decision-making and politics of the U$ despite all rhetoric claiming they have such influence. How this manifests itself in the world of “free speech” is it means that those capitalists who are hatemongers can spread their horrid message far and wide while those who try to counter them get less exposure.2

We do not have to give such speech “respect” as some have declared we should, since there is the idea of the heckler’s veto, where a public event is canceled or suppressed due to “interruptions, protests, or violence” or the threat of such actions, one of the many tools, apart from de-platforming (not by social media outlets, but literally in person or by organizing against them online) which can be used to fight against bigoted or otherwise detestable individuals. In the end, there should be criticism (and efforts to counter) corporate control over information but this does not mean we have to defend hateful speech. Instead, those who speak truth to power, especially on the political Left, should be vigorously defended. As Michael Parenti once put it, “democratic victories, however small and partial they be, must be embraced…We need to strive in every way possible for the revolutionary unraveling, a revolution of organized consciousness striking at the empire’s heart with the full force of democracy, the kind of irresistible upsurge that seems to come from nowhere while carrying everything before it.” Victory to the proletariat! A socialist world is possible!

  1. Paul Blumenthal, “The Problem Isn’t Alex Jones’ Free Speech, It’s Digital Platform Monopolies,” HuffPost, August 11, 2018.
  2. The U$ is standing against principles outlined in many international agreements like the UN’s Millennium Declaration (in its section about equality between men and women and “participatory governance), the Vienna Declaration (has a section saying that the international community should comprehensively and speedily elimination all forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and other intolerance), the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) (which says that all states have to pursue a policy of eliminating all forms of racial discrimination, promoting racial understanding, condemn racist propaganda, eradicate all incitement to discrimination, and declare those organizations that engage in racist propaganda illegal), and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) (with a section about how freedom of religion and beliefs is protected by subject to certain limitations, and that “propaganda of war” along with any “advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred” has to be prohibited).

A “Sudden Bout of Atypical Decency”?

Recently, there has been much talk about “free speech” in light of Alex Jones’s Infowars being cast out in a seemingly organized campaign of censorship by social media platforms, such as YouTube, Spotify, Pinterest, Facebook, and Apple, which some called “the great de-platforming of Alex Jones.” Unsurprisingly, Jones has decried it as “censorship” and abridging his “free speech.” Those who support such actions of these platforms include liberal Amanda Marcotte of Salon who said that it was a “sudden bout of atypical decency and common sense” in fighting against “disinformation” and Mike Snider of USA Today noting that “free speech is a principle that businesses often choose to follow, but aren’t bound to.”1

Similarly, Christine Emba blares in the Washington (Amazon) Post that the social media companies were within their rights and did “nothing wrong,” as they are not obliged to “host your speech on their platforms…[or] promote your content” and The Economist, a magazine that represents the interests of the British bourgeoisie, declared that these companies are “not the state,” meaning they are able to “write their terms of service as they wish and police posts as they choose.” Following in suit was Hartford University Professor Adam Chiara, who declared that “tech companies are private…they have the right to decide what content goes on their platforms…social media platforms own the access to his [Jones’s] audience, and they have every legal and moral right to cancel it.” T.C. Sottek of The Verge write that InfoWars was hypocritical because it still claims the right to purge “objectionable” content from their website while Kevin Drum of Mother Jones wrote that “…if no one else on the planet feels like giving him [Alex Jones] a soapbox to extract money from gullible conspiracy theorists, that’s fine with me.”

Furthest in this viewpoint was David Zurawik, an oft media critic for the Baltimore Sun, who openly applauded the action against Jones: “Finally, the giants of digital media are showing some social responsibility…It is long overdue…it is a step in the right direction…Here’s hoping the crackdowns continue.” Even the libertarians of Reason.com jumped on board.  While they expressed some reservations about selectively “policing” harmful speech and claimed that conservatives “need to worry,” arguing that “private companies are under no obligation to provide a platform” to those like Jones and that “Facebook, YouTube, and other media…have a right to dictate the contours of permissible speech on their sites and to enforce those standards…No one seriously disputes this…There’s no God-given right to be on Facebook or Twitter.” Even some in the ACLU seemed to accept the power of these social media platforms, only asking for transparency and “protections…against misuse” with nothing much more.

On the other side was Cory Doctrow, co-editor of Boing Boing, who argued that the “online world has almost no public spaces…and a tiny handful of incredibly large, powerful companies control the vast majority of our civic discourse online,” with Harvey Silvergate of NY Daily News adding that “when the haters are allowed to expose themselves through their words, we are all safer for knowing who they are and who, over time, they morph into,” saying the current debate over the actions against Jones is really “about what it means for our society if a few tech companies should be able to decide for everyone what information is available.” At the same time, Black Agenda Report’s Margaret Kimberley quipped that “there is no reason for anyone on the left to cheer Jones being censored. The move against him will be used to defend further censoring of left wing voices…His absence helps no one except the intelligence apparatus.”

Even, Matt Taibbi, a piece of bourgeois trash for other reasons (like not supporting reproductive rights while smearing Venezuela and Karl Marx), wrote in Rolling Stone that there is a “union of Internet platforms and would-be government censors” and that “the sheer market power of these companies over information flow has always been the real threat. This is why breaking them up should have long ago become an urgent national priority”, admitting that “there was no First Amendment issue with the Jones ban.” Beyond the views of The Economist, Reason.com, some ACLU members, Marcotte, Snider, Emba, Chiara, Sottek, Drum, Sottek, Zurawik, Doctrow, Silvergate, Kimberley, and Taibbi, many others expressed their views on the actions against Jones, a number of whom worried about “free speech” and the power of these social media platforms over people’s lives.2

Taking all the views mentioned in the last paragraph into consideration, we don’t need a number of Loyola University academics or David Pozen of Columbia Law School to tell us that social media has become an important “one stop shop” for many, allowing the internal rules, a form of private regulations of these platforms, to shape the existing public discourse. Undoubtedly, huge social media giants, such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Spotify, Pinterest, Instagram (owned by Facebook), and Tumblr (owned by Yahoo), have control of vast amounts of information.3 Amazon has a related role with its web services controlling “roughly 40 percent of the cloud market, running the backend for Netflix, Pinterest, Slack and dozens of other services with no visible connection to the company,” showing the reach of their “server empire.”

Additionally, a recent study by Gallup showed that the populace of the U$ not only opposes news personalized toward them, but the role of the companies as gatekeepers of content, with companies having to disclose why they have selected certain content for users. However, these companies, legally, have the right to determine the speech that is allowed on their sites. As such, Ron Jacobs, a  writer for CounterPunch, is right: while the action against Jones “may effect the ability of leftist and anarchist groups and individuals to provide content and share events on these corporate platforms” it isn’t right to support “those liberals and leftists who think they need to defend Alex Jones” since the latter should not “have unfettered access to spout his outright lies and hate,” and, I might add, those on the Left are under no obligation to protect the speech of bigots, war criminals, or otherwise detestable people. Jacobs concludes, correctly, by saying that “free speech will be further limited to those who can afford to pay for it…[with] propagandists funded by wealthy…millionaires and billionaires…strengthen[ing] their control over the so-called free press,” meaning that we should let “Alex Jones fight his battles without our help.” Such societal dynamics mean that certain people have more privilege to speak than others.

Without a doubt the Left is on the chopping block, but this is due to Russiagate and efforts by social media giants to pander to the Right, which dominates the political scene in the U$.  After all, when Twitter was in “hot water” since it had not fallen in line with other social media giants on efforts against Jones, its CEO, Jack Dorsey, did his first interview on the subject with  Sean Hannity, who can accurately be described as a right-wing loud-mouth.4  While the social media network temporarily suspended Infowars for seven days, Alex Jones still continues to spout unflinching support for the current sitting US President including anti-immigrant racism, anti-socialism, anti-vax nonsense, and harping on the “censorship” card, even tweeting cartoons drawn by Ben Garrison, whose drawings notoriously smear the Left, to support his “case.”

According to news reports, Jones made direct appeals to the current sitting US President to make “censorship” a big issue in the upcoming election and deal with purported (by him) “Chinese infiltration” of the Democratic Party and tech industry. Such claims of censorship by Jones and others ring a bit hollow as the right-wing in the U$ has their ready propaganda network of video platforms, social media sites, and even dating apps!5 Alex Jones can be promoted there, apart from his Twitter account which still has over 895,000 followers. So, he isn’t going anywhere.

Recently, Senator Chris Murphy infamously wrote on Twitter that “Infowars is the tip of a giant iceberg of hate and lies that uses sites like Facebook and YouTube to tear our nation apart. These companies must do more than take down one website. The survival of our democracy depends on it.” Despite Don Trump, Jr complaining about “Big Tech’s censorship campaign” is about “purging all conservative media,” and conspiracist David Icke decrying censorship, conservatives are not really the target of these proposed measures.

Sure, some fascists, apart from Jones, have been removed from social media, like the hideous Proud Boys or Milo Yiannopoulos (for harassing Black actress Leslie Jones), while some liberal groups like Media Matters, Share Blue, and American Bridge have called for social media platforms to take more action against the right-wing.6  The conservative narrative of themselves as victims of social media censorship is only strengthened when those like Marcotte of Salon, quoted earlier in this article, say that journalists (and social media outlets) should serve as “gatekeepers” against conservatives!

Instead, it is the Left that is under attack by these outlets. Just look at the permanent removal of the Haiti Analysis on Facebook, the temporary de-publishing of TeleSur English‘s page on the same site, with the same happening to Venezuela Analysis, the takedown of an Occupy London page which had “pro-Palestinian posts,” censoring the alternative media outlet SouthFront out of existence, and Facebook’s deletion of pages which had up to 40 million followers, including a number of alternative media outlets. Yet another example is when an episode of Abby Martin’s The Empire Files (currently targeted by U$ sanctions on Venezuela) on YouTube, which highlighted military violence of Zionists, was “blocked…in 28 countries for supposedly violating “local laws,”” possibly due to the participation of the stalwart Zionist group, the Anti-Defamation League, in “YouTube’s flagging system” since the group “considers actions tied to Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment…and opposition to Israeli occupation as racism.” Also YouTube banned a video showing a boy murdered by Zionist soldiers, Google downranked and alternative website named Dandelion Salad, Facebook began ranking news sources by their “truthworthiness” with the help of establishment organizations, and social media giants meeting about “information operations” for the upcoming midterm elections in the U$.

Most recently, Google, Facebook, and Twitter have begun going after Iranians whom they declare (and claim) are “government trolls,” another clear act of censorship. This isn’t surprising since Facebook is, as one should note, letting the Digital Forensics Lab of the Atlantic Council sort through content, leading to a further crackdown on the left. Even the changing of YouTube’s algorithm which turns the site into a  “censored, walled garden which gives you search results from a tiny cadre of establishment media outlets,” will not “hurt” conservatives as some declare, but will undoubtedly hurt those on the Left even more, as there is so much propagandistic content about left-leaning ideas out there!

Such an attack on the Left could possibly intensify for a number of reasons: if these social media companies adopt the Chinese or European models of net regulation, the former being easily accepted by more tech companies every day, and if the U$ government is successful in forcing Facebook to help break the end-to-end encryption of their voice calls in messenger in order to supposedly fight the MS-13 gang.7 Twitter’s policy of ranking tweets and search results in an effort to downgrade those they deem “bad faith actors,” like the Russians perhaps, “who intend to manipulate or detract from healthy conversation,” and the uneven moderating on Facebook doesn’t help matters. The same applies to the removal of accounts by Twitter following the indictments of 12 Russians by Robert Mueller and an effort to target so-called “fake” accounts, and Reddit removing 944 “suspicious” accounts which they claimed were tied to the Russians even though they had little impact.

Most worrisome is YouTube working with establishment media organizations to promote “quality journalism” with breaking news highlighting videos from CBS, Fox News, the New York Times, and CNN, to go by their examples, while YouTube is also showing information from “third parties” (so-called “information cues”) from sites such as Encyclopaedia Brittanica and Wikipedia on “a small number of well-established historical and scientific topics that have often been subject to misinformation” or those that are the “center of debate.” The latter effort by YouTube to link to Wikipedia, which wasn’t informed about the initiative beforehand and expressed their concerns about content scraping, to counter “misinformation” and define certain media outlets is uneven. Looking at Wikipedia links on the videos of the Channel News Asia, TeleSur, TeleSur English, RT, SABC Digital News, and Al Jazeera, they are all described as “funded” by specific governments. However, for BBC, it is only called a “British broadcast service,” not that it is directly funded by the British government! Additionally, videos on the CNN, Bloomberg, ABC News, Vice News, Vox, Fox News, MSNBC, Washington Post, National Geographic, and The Guardian channels have no links to third-party websites even though they are funded and owned by corporate entities! Hence, this effort by YouTube will, without a doubt, disadvantage outlets like TeleSur and RT, which buck the general narrative of the corporate media, as it will assist in imperialist propaganda about those outlets.

And no, YouTube, TeleSur is not funded by “the Latin American government” as it says below every single video from their two channels (TeleSur and TeleSur English), a racist conception that denies the reality in the region, as this news organization is funded jointly by the Cuban, Bolivian, Venezuelan, Nicaraguan, and Uruguayan governments. Such actions by YouTube and many other major social media platforms are led in part by what Hiroyuki Hamada rightly called the “Putin panic, an epidemic spewing hatred against anything Russian” while ignoring that “Russia was subjected to political and economic intervention by the US in the 90s” with the U$ backing Boris Yeltsin who helped rip apart the country’s social fabric. Currently, the U$ is waiting for “Russia to jump on its Pearl Harbor or a 9/11,” with such a panic being an “obvious scheme of imperialism” leading to war. As such, as he rightly notes, “we must not be a voice for the capitalist lords nor for the hitmen…we must reach out to people like us in Russia, China, Syria, Iran, and other peoples of the planet, and people like us in our communities, with messages of peace, sharing and mutual respect.” As such, not only should there should be support for those on the Left who have been censored on these social media platforms but there should be local and international connections in the way that Hamada describes in order to counter the general narrative spread in capitalist societies.

  1. There were many articles on this subject, so it is hard to pick just a few, but I would say that the articles on Boing Boing, Washington Post, The Verge, New York Times, Washington ExaminerReason.com, The American Conservative, and Rolling Stone were most informative on this subject. For those that want he full list of sources I used to make this determination, you are free to email me, and I will send you the list of sources I’m talking about here.
  2. At the same time, left-leaning comedian, Jimmy Dore, posted many YouTube videos on the topic, with him and his guests rightly criticizing corporate control of social media, arguing that social media should be public utility, and defending (especially by Jimmy himself) the right of Alex Jones to speak, sticking to the free speech absolutist line, even defending the ACLU’s stance of defending the speech of horrid bigots. To the credit of Jimmy and his guests, they are right that Russiagate can be used to silence the Left, while criticizing U$ wars and the corporate press.
  3. Some, like Reuters, define social media giants as only encompassing Facebook, YouTube (owned by Google), Twitter and Microsoft. But there are many more, as noted by LifeWire and DreamGrow, like LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram (owned by Facebook), Pinterest, Tumblr (owned by Yahoo!), Snapchat, Reddit (mainly owned by Advance Publications), Flickr (owned by SmugMug), Swarm (owned by Foursquare), Kik (owned by Kik interactive), Periscope (owned by Twitter), Medium (owned by A Medium Corporation), Soundcloud (owned by SoundCloud Limited), Tinder (owned by IAC (InterActiveCorp), WhatsApp (owned by WhatsApp Inc.), Slack (owned by Slack Technologies), Musical.ly (owned by Tik Tok, Chinese company), Meetup (owned by WeWork), and Peach (“a tiny journaling service of Byte, Inc” according to their terms of use). Others, most of which are not for English speakers but for those of other languages, include Weibo (owned by Sina Corp), Ask.Fm (owned by Noosphere Ventures), VK (owned by Mail.Ru Group), Odnoklassniki (owned by Mail.Ru Group), and Qzone (owned by Tencent Holdings Limited). For more about Amazon’s Web Services, see Russell Brandom, “Using the internet without the Amazon Cloud,” The Verge, July 28, 2018.
  4. Also consider a recent post by the Twitter company saying that “while we welcome everyone to express themselves on our service, we prohibit targeted behavior that harasses, threatens, or uses fear to silence the voices of others” saying they have certain rules, policies and enforcement options in place for a safe environment, while working to “Twitter better for everyone” admitting they have a role to play in society and a “wider responsibility to foster and better serve a healthy public conversation.” As for Apple, it still offers the InfoWars mobile app in its App Store even after removing many of Jones’s podcasts, saying they support “all points of view being represented” in their online marketplace. Additionally, the App is still in the Google Play store! The above information is extracted from Daisuke Wakabayashi, “Gatekeepers or Censors? How Tech Manages Online Speech,” New York Times, August 7, 2018, Casey Newton, “Twitter’s fear of making hard decisions is killing it,” The Verge, August 17, 2018, and Avery Anapol, “Twitter CEO on decision not to ban Alex Jones: ‘He hasn’t violated our rules’,” The Hill, August 7, 2018.
  5. Brandy Zadrozny, “Right-wing platforms provide refuge to digital outcasts — and Alex Jones,” NBC News, August 9, 2018. This article lists Mike Adams’s Real.Video (like YouTube), Andrew Torba’s Gab.ai (like Twitter), Codias (like Facebook), Conservapedia (like Wikipedia), Hatreon (like Patreon), TrumpSingles (like Tinder), and Rebel Media (like YouTube) as examples. And that’s not counting right-wing media sites like The Daily Caller, Drudge Report, Fox News, Newsmax, The Blaze, One America News Network, National Review, The American Conservative (more critical of U$ imperialism than other outlets), The American Spectator, The Weekly Standard, The Washington Examiner, American Thinker, The Daily Wire, Gateway Pundit, The Federalist, TownHall, Breitbart, Hot Air, Instapundit, and Red State, along with talk radio shows and various others!
  6. Jim Hoft, “Top Far Left Organizations Bragged About Working with Facebook and Twitter to Censor and Eliminate Conservative Content,” The Gateway Pundit, August 20, 2018; Rob Shimshock, “Twitter Suspends Libertarian Commentator Gavin McInnes And His Activist Group,” The Daily Caller, August 11, 2018; Keith Wagstaff, “Twitter suspends Proud Boys and Gavin McInnes,” Mashable, August 10, 2018. And, no, these are NOT “far left” organizations. That’s what Jim Hoft gets wrong, like many people on the Right, who think that liberal organizations are more left-leaning than they actually are in reality!
  7. Daniel Taylor, “Free Speech Under Fire: Globalists Bet On Chinese Dominating the Internet’s Future,” Old Thinker News, Aug 13, 2018; Xeni Jardin, “Feds ask court to force Facebook to break Messenger’s end-to-end voice encryption for MS-13 gang probe,” Boing Boing, Aug 17, 2018; Sam Haysom, “Undercover footage exposes Facebook moderators’ disturbing policies,” Mashable, July 18, 2018; Bruce Haring, “Twitter Account Purges Continue As Service Cuts Guccifer 2.0 And DCLeaks,” Deadline, July 14, 2018; April Glaser, “YouTube Is Adding Fact-Check Links for Videos on Topics That Inspire Conspiracy Theories,” Slate, August 14, 2018; Lucas Matney, “Reddit has banned 944 accounts linked to the IRA Russian troll farm,” TechCrunch, April 11, 2018.

Banning Alex Jones and Infowars

He is treated as the bogeyman of conspiracy entertainment, and Alex Jones has become a prominent figure for advancing a host of unsavoury views. High on his list of incendiaries is the claim that the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary shooting never took place and was the work of paid fantasists, with the victims’ parents being “crisis actors”. “Sandy Hook,” went Jones in a January 2015 broadcast, “is a synthetic, completely fake, with actors, in my view, manufactured.”  The parents of two children killed at the school massacre are suing.

There are seemingly few limits to the Jones armoury of hyper-scepticism.  But Jones has been in the business of such production for years.  Now, a campaign for banishing him from various platforms, including Infowars, has been enacted with a degree of censorious ferocity.  Summary bans have been made, ranging from the giants such as Apple, Twitter and Spotify, to Pinterest and MailChimp.

Apple took the lead in this competitive banning binge, removing five of the six Infowars podcasts available via iTunes this week, including “The Alex Jones Show” and “War Room”, while Facebook removed four Infowars pages for violating the company’s guidelines.

An Apple spokesperson explained the company’s position in a statement: “Apple does not tolerate hate speech, and we have clear guidelines that creators and developers must follow to ensure we provide a safe environment for all our users.”  Accordingly, “Podcasts that violate these guidelines are removed from our directory making them no longer searchable or available for download or streaming.  We believe in representing a wide range of views, so long as people are respectful to those with differing opinions.”

Spotify has also added its name to the list.  “We take reports of hate content seriously,” went a statement, “and review any podcast episode or song that is flagged by our community.  Due to repeated violations of Spotify’s prohibited content policies, The Alex Jones Show has lost access to the Spotify platform.”

Who is guarding whom, and who should decide which ideas are significantly safe, less discomforting or otherwise?  Contraries are, by definition, discomforting; the contrarian, by definition, dangerously disruptive.  The idea of social media platforms becoming a constabulary for the controlling of opinion – located in the vague economy of “hate” – is ominous.  Nor have these technology mammoths articulated “a clear standard,” as Ben Shapiro notes, “by which the conspiracy theorist should be banned”.

Twitter prefers a different approach.  “We didn’t suspend Alex Jones or Infowars yesterday,” came Jack Dorsey’s announcement on the medium he helped found. “We know it’s hard for many but the reason is simple: he hasn’t violated our rules.  We’ll enforce if he does.”

For Dorsey, the role of policing Jones is not for Twitter and such platforms, but the media proper, an estate that has been somewhat remiss in recent years.  He did not want to take “one-off actions to make us feel good in the short term, and adding fuel to new conspiracy theories.”

This in, and of, itself sensible view has drawn the predictable moralising and indignation.  Aja Romano of Vox is particularly riled.  “This response is breathtakingly amoral, as well as regressive, terrible decision-making – for Twitter, for the internet, for all of us.  It should be a moment of reckoning for everyone who uses Twitter.”

Words do move and change worlds, and care should, at select times, be taken, but who polices their dissemination and exchange remains key.  Dorsey has simply diagnosed an inherent problem in the information ecosystem about rage and counter-rage: who controls the participants, bars or muzzles the competition, should not, by default, fall to the giants.  For the market place of ideas to function with a fair degree of effect, it is participants who dictate their value, oiled by intermittent legal interventions to test the limits of free speech.

Free speech scholars have been sceptical about whether Jones can avail himself of the First Amendment protections. “False speech,” goes a submission by four jurists in an amicus brief in the Brennan Gilmore case, “does not serve the public interest the way that true speech does.” (Gilmore, a Democratic Party activist and former State Department official was in Charlottesville on August 12, 2017 attending a violent rally that subsequently saw the death of Heather Heyer, killed by a car driven by James Alex Fields, Jr.) Furthermore, the jurists insist that “there is no constitutional value in false statements of fact.”

Jones, for his part, has submitted in court papers that his rubbishing of Gilmore (a CIA plant hired to foment disorder, he suggested) were opinions, rather than statements of fact while Infowars was a “freewheeling” website where “hyperbole and diatribe reign as the preferred tools of discourse.”

The other issue in such summary bans is how they are challenged.  Tech platforms acting as righteous disciplinarians seems an odd thing, appropriating a degree of power they simply should not have.  And foolishly, the campaign against Jones has given him a sense of dangerous frisson.  His information and views will not necessarily disappear so much as migrate to other forums and mutate with aggression. The conspiracy theorist will ride again, even as the various tech giants bask in the ethical afterglow spurred on by anger and undefined standards of hate.

Israel Is The Real Problem

Elite power cannot abide a serious challenge to its established position. And that is what Labour under Jeremy Corbyn represents to the Tory government, the corporate, financial and banking sectors, and the ‘mainstream’ media. The manufactured ‘antisemitism crisis’ is the last throw of the dice for those desperate to prevent a progressive politician taking power in the UK: someone who supports Palestinians and genuine peace in the Middle East, a strong National Health Service and a secure Welfare State, a properly-funded education system, and an economy in which people matter; someone who rejects endless war and complicity with oppressive, war criminal ‘allies’, such as the United States, Saudi Arabia and Israel.

In a thoroughly-researched article, writer and academic Gavin Lewis has mapped a deliberate pro-Israel campaign to create a ‘moral panic’ around the issue of antisemitism. The strategy can be traced all the way back to the horrendous Israeli bombardment of Gaza in the summer of 2014. A UN report estimated that 2,252 Palestinians were killed, around 65 per cent of them civilians. The death toll included 551 children. There was global public revulsion at Israel’s war crimes and empathy with their Palestinian victims. Support rose for the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement (BDS) which campaigns ‘to end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with international law’.

As Lewis observes, BDS came to be regarded more and more as a ‘strategic threat’ by Israel, and a campaign was initiated in which Israel and its supporters would be presented as the world’s real victims. In the UK, the Campaign Against Antisemitism was established during the final month of Israel’s 2014 bombardment of Gaza. Pro-Israel pressure groups began to bombard media organisations with supposed statistics about an ‘antisemitism crisis’, with few news organisations scrutinising the claims.

In particular, as we noted in a media alert in April, antisemitism has been ‘weaponised’ to attack Corbyn and any prospect of a progressive UK government critical of Israel. Around this time in Gaza, there were weekly ‘Great March of Return’ protests, with people demanding the right to reclaim ancestral homes in Israel. Many were mown down by Israeli snipers on the border firing into Gaza, with several victims shot in the back as they tried to flee. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, a total of 155 Palestinians were killed in the protests, including 23 children and 3 women. This is part of the brutal ongoing reality for Palestinians.

Recently, much media attention has focused laser-like on the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, including 11 associated examples. Labour adopted 7 of these examples, but dropped 4 because of their implication that criticism of Israel was antisemitic. As George Wilmers noted in a piece for Jewish Voice for Labour, Kenneth Stern, the US Attorney who drafted the IHRA wording, has spoken out about the misuse of the definition. It had:

originally been designed as a “working definition” for the purpose of trying to standardise data collection about the incidence of antisemitic hate crime in different countries. It had never been intended that it be used as legal or regulatory device to curb academic or political free speech. Yet that is how it has now come to be used.

Examples of the curbing of free speech cited by Stern in written testimony to the US Congress include Manchester and Bristol universities.

In an interview on Sky News last weekend, one pro-Israeli commentator stated openly that the aim is to push Corbyn out of public life. As The Canary observed, Jonathan Sacerdoti, a former spokesperson for the Campaign Against Antisemitism (mentioned above) was:

clear that his motivation for wanting Corbyn gone is, in part, opposition to his position on Israel.

Lindsey German, national convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, reminds us of something crucial that the corporate media has been happy to downplay or bury:

We should not forget either that the Israeli embassy was implicated in interfering in British politics last year when one of its diplomats was recorded as saying that he wanted to “bring down” a pro-Palestine Tory MP, Alan Duncan. While he was sent back to Israel in disgrace, the matter went no further – disgracefully given that this was blatant interference in the British political system.

In 2017, an Al Jazeera undercover sting operation on key members of the Israel lobby in Britain had revealed a £1,000,000 plot by the Israeli government to undermine Corbyn.

German continued:

Are we seriously supposed to imagine that this was a maverick operation, or that there is no other attempt to influence British politics, especially when both Labour and Conservative Friends of Israel organisations have strong links with the embassy? The present ambassador is Mark Regev, the man who was press spokesman in 2009 when he defended the killing of Palestinians through Operation Cast Lead, and who has defended the recent killings of Gazan Palestinians by Israeli forces.

For shared elite interests in Israel and the UK, there is much at stake. Historian and foreign policy analyst Mark Curtis highlights ‘the raw truth’ rarely touched by the corporate news media:

The UK’s relationship with Israel is special in at least nine areas, including arms sales, air force, nuclear deployment, navy, intelligence and trade, to name but a few.

Indeed, arms exports and trade are increasingly profitable to British corporations doing business with Israel. Moreover, senior government ministers have emphasised that the UK-Israel relationship is the ‘cornerstone of so much of what we do in the Middle East’ and that ‘Israel is an important strategic partner for the UK’. As Curtis notes:

The Palestinians are the expendable unpeople in this deepening special relationship.

A Shameful Outburst

Unsurprisingly, then, the Israeli lobby have been trawling through Corbyn’s life, trying to find past incidents they can highlight as ‘support’ for the ludicrous and cynical claim that he is ‘soft’ on antisemitism or even himself antisemitic. Hence the manufactured controversy of Corbyn hosting an event in 2010 during which Auschwitz survivor Hajo Meyer compared Israel’s behaviour to that of Nazi Germany.

An Independent editorial, titled ‘Corbyn has been found wanting on antisemitism – now he must act’, asserted that he was ‘a fool to lend his name to this stunt’. It was:
such an egregious error of judgement that Jeremy Corbyn, an extraordinarily stubborn man, has had to apologise for it.’

Under a photograph of Corbyn sitting at the 2010 meeting with Meyer, Times political correspondent Henry Zeffman said that:

Corbyn has led Labour into a nightmare of his own making. The veteran left-winger will never recant the views on Israel that he formed over decades in the political wilderness.

In the Daily Mail, the caption to the same 2010 photograph of Corbyn sitting with Meyer led with the word, ‘Offensive’.

And on and on it went in the ‘mainstream’ media.

Adri Nieuwhof, a Netherlands-based human rights advocate and former anti-apartheid activist, was a friend of Meyer, who died in 2014. In an article for Electronic Intifada, she wrote:

The 2010 Holocaust Memorial Day event took place the year after an Israeli assault on Gaza [Operation Cast Lead] that killed more than 1,400 Palestinians and injured thousands more.

Meyer was very upset by the assault because Palestinians were trapped in Gaza due to the blockade on the territory that Israel imposed starting in 2007.

He could not help but compare the situation of Palestinians trapped under Israeli occupation and bombardment with Jews caged by the Nazis in ghettos like the Warsaw Ghetto.’

She added:

Those attacking Corbyn today have no restraint and no shame. They will even call a man who survived Auschwitz and lost his parents in the Holocaust an anti-Semite if they believe that is what it takes to shield Israel from consequences for its crimes.

Nasty abuse flung at the Labour leader has even come from supposed colleagues. Last month, right wing Labour MP Margaret Hodge called Jeremy Corbyn ‘a fucking anti-Semite and a racist’. The corporate media gleefully lapped up her outburst – the Guardian moved swiftly to grant her space to declare Labour ‘a hostile environment for Jews’ – and stoked the ‘Labour antisemitism row‘  for weeks afterwards, with over 500 articles to date according to our ProQuest newspaper database search.

Two days ago, Jewish Voice for Labour delivered a letter of complaint to the BBC, condemning a ‘lack of impartiality and inaccuracies’ in its reporting of Hodge’s allegations against Corbyn. Her accusations were ‘repeated numerous times without denial or opposing views’ by BBC News. Moreover, Hodge’s assertion that she represents the entire ‘Jewish community’ has been allowed to pass unchallenged.

Trashing a Dedicated Anti-Racist

Last month, the UK’s leading Jewish papers – Jewish News, Jewish Chronicle and Jewish Telegraph – all carried the same front page on ‘the community’s anger over Labour’s anti-Semitism row’. They had taken this unprecedented step because of:

the existential threat to Jewish life in this country that would be posed by a Jeremy Corbyn-led government. We do so because the party that was, until recently, the natural home for our community has seen its values and integrity eroded by Corbynite contempt for Jews and Israel.

These outrageous claims were rejected by Stephen Oryszczuk, foreign editor of Jewish News. He told The Canary:

It’s repulsive. This is a dedicated anti-racist we’re trashing. I just don’t buy into it at all.

He made three vital points:

1) Jeremy Corbyn is not an antisemite, and the Labour Party does not represent an ‘existential threat’ to Jewish people
2) The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism threatens free speech, and Labour was right to make amendments
3) The ‘mainstream’ Jewish media is failing to represent the diversity of Jewish opinion

The corporate news media itself is undoubtedly ‘failing to represent the diversity of Jewish opinion’. Worse, it has, in fact, been a willing accomplice in promoting and amplifying the pro-Israel narrative of a ‘Labour antisemitism crisis’. Consider a recent powerful piece by Manchester Jewish Action for Palestine, published in Mondoweiss:

As Jewish people in Manchester, England, we resent the despicable racism shown towards the Palestinians by Guardian stalwarts such as Jonathan Freedland, Polly Toynbee, Jessica Elgott, Eddie Izzard, Nick Cohen, Marina Hyde and Gaby Hinsliff among others, all saturating comment sections on mainstream news websites with attacks designed to bring down the UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, and to protect Israel from accountability.

They added:

UK commentators take the morally defunct option of backing right wing mainstream Zionist organisations’ outrageous cries of “anti-Semitism” the moment Corbyn’s Labour get ahead in the polls, or the moment there is a risk of serious public condemnation of Israel’s horrific crimes against the Palestinians.

The article continued:

Why were Palestinians not consulted on the whole debate about Israel and anti-Semitism, when they are the people being slowly squeezed out of existence by Israel? Where are the Palestinian voices in the Guardian?

Where indeed?

We, as Jews, will not mindlessly pretend that protecting the Jewish people and protecting Israel are the same thing, on the hopeless say-so of a crew of establishment hacks at the Guardian.

The Manchester-based Jewish group singled out one prominent Guardian columnist, and former comment editor, for particularly heavy criticism:

‘Jonathan Freedland, one of the UK’s most effective propagandists for Israel, while giving Palestinians occasional lip service so he and the other liberal elitists can make doubtful claims to “impartiality”, has been the most relentless in his attacks on Corbyn. Freedland routinely uses his opinion editorial position in the Guardian to do more than most to “strong-arm” the Labour Party into backing the whole IHRA definition, flawed examples and all. It is unsurprising that he would push for the guideline, “claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour” to be included as anti-Semitic trope, given he is on record excusing the crime against humanity that was Israel’s foundational act – the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian population in 1947/1948.

One of Freedland’s Guardian articles that the group must have had in mind was published last month under the title, ‘Yes, Jews are angry – because Labour hasn’t listened or shown any empathy’. Leon Rosselson, a children’s author and singer-songwriter whose Jewish parents were refugees from Tsarist Russia, argued that the article:

is a devious, dissembling, dishonest piece of special pleading that shames both Freedland and the Guardian.

Earlier this month, Corbyn himself had a piece in the Guardian in which he wrote:

I do acknowledge there is a real problem [of antisemitism] that Labour is working to overcome. […] We were too slow in processing disciplinary cases of antisemitic abuse, mostly online, by party members. And we haven’t done enough to foster deeper understanding of antisemitism among members.

A Telegraph editorial typified the corporate media’s reaction to Corbyn’s article:

he respond[ed] with Soviet-esque institutional lethargy… just the latest in a long line of obfuscations that betray a central fact: Labour’s leader is unhealthily obsessed with Israel, and tainted by association with fanatics.

Corbyn cannot do anything right in the eyes of the corporate media. As Rosselson said:

Corbyn concedes and Corbyn apologises and the more he concedes and the more he apologises the weaker his position becomes and still the pressure grows and the attacks continue because this is not really about antisemitism and definitions but about getting rid of Corbyn or undermining him to the point where he is powerless.

Sadly, the Labour leader has failed to properly address this relentless and vicious campaign, focusing instead on trying to fend off accusations of antisemitism. By sticking within this narrative framework set up by the powerful Israeli lobby, a twisted framework that can only be maintained with corporate media connivance, he and his colleagues have made a serious mistake. Asa Winstanley put it bluntly back in March:

Jeremy Corbyn must stop pandering to Labour’s Israel lobby.

Winstanley pointed out that the campaign has been going on for years, and he expanded:

Too many on the left seem to think: if we throw them a bone by sacrificing a few token “extremists,” the anti-Semitism story will die down and we can move on to the real business of electing a Labour government.

But years later, Labour is still being beaten with the same stick.

Any close observer of Israel and its lobby groups knows this: they cannot be appeased.

Other commentators have made the same point. An OffGuardian article in April, titled ‘Corbyn should learn his lesson: compromise with the devil is not an option’, observed:

Corbyn seems to think a few little compromises will get him accepted in the mainstream media. It pains me to say it, but this is fundamentally untrue. You can’t compromise with someone who wants nothing but your total destruction. Hopefully Corbyn has learned this lesson by now.

Sadly not, it appears. A Morning Star editorial correctly observes that Corbyn and his advisers:

fail to appreciate the ruthlessness of his opponents or the unrelenting nature of their goals.

Earlier this week, Winstanley published an article revealing yet another element of Israel’s intense campaign against Corbyn: the use of an app to promote propaganda messages via social media accusing Corbyn of antisemitism. The app is a product of Israel’s strategic affairs ministry which ‘directs Israel’s covert efforts to sabotage the Palestine solidarity movement around the world.’

As Jonathan Cook cogently explains on his website:

Labour is not suffering from an “anti-semitism crisis”; it is mired in an “Israel crisis”.

To those who bemoan that Corbyn and his team are not sufficiently ‘media-savvy’, that he has not done enough to present himself as ‘PM material’ via the press and television, David Traynier has written a strong rebuttal. Two essential facts need to be understood, he says: first, the corporate media ‘filter’ and distort the news as described by Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky in their ‘propaganda model‘ of the media, introduced in Manufacturing Consent. Second, journalists and editors are themselves subjected to a ‘filtering’ process as they rise up the career ladder. They are selected for positions of ever-increasing responsibility only if they have demonstrated to corporate media owners, managers and senior editors that they can be trusted to say and do the ‘right’ things; even think the ‘right thoughts’. As Chomsky famously said to Andrew Marr, then the young political editor of the Independent and now with the BBC:

I’m sure you believe everything you’re saying. But what I’m saying is that if you believed something different, you wouldn’t be sitting where you’re sitting.

In short, says Traynier:

the idea that a socialist party simply needs to manage the press better is a nonsense. The corporate media is not there to be won over, it can’t be “managed” into giving Corbyn a fair hearing. In fact, once one understands how the media works, the burden of proof would rest with anyone those who claimed that it wouldn’t be biased against Corbyn.

Despite the intense campaign against Corbyn – and perhaps, in part, because of its obviously cynical and manipulative nature – many people are perceptive enough to see what is going on. Israel is the real problem.

Drawing Straws: It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for an American to understand the truth

In a sense, blowback is simply another way of saying that a nation reaps what it sows. Although people usually know what they have sown, our national experience of blowback is seldom imagined in such terms because so much of what the managers of the American empire have sown has been kept secret.

It is time to realize, however, that the real dangers to America today come not from the newly rich people of East Asia but from our own ideological rigidity, our deep-seated belief in our own propaganda.

― Chalmers Johnson, Blowback, Second Edition: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire

There are no more leaps of faith, or get out of jail cards left anymore.

The first casualty of war is truth.

Lofty heights of defining the first amendment are just overlooks onto the crumbling mythology of a democracy, where the people – citizens — vote for laws directly. We have a republic, a faulty one, the source of which is the power derived from billionaires, financiers, arms merchants, K-Streeters and the attendant moles allowing the government to break every charter of human concern.

So, in that regard, we in this corptocracy have the right to be fooled every minute, suckered to not know a goddamned thing about democracy in big quotes.

The very concept of manufactured consent and a controlled opposition destroys much of the power of agency and so-called freedom of assembly, association and travel.

The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum.

― Noam Chomsky, The Common Good

The best way to control the opposition is to lead it ourselves.

― Vladimir Lenin

But, alas, we have blokes who see the world not as a black and white dichotomous illusion of the for v. against bifurcation, but a world of flowing back to what words should mean, a world that allows the filters to be smashed like high polished glass and instead deploying a magnifying glass to point toward the very source of the blasphemies and strong arm robberies that have been occurring in the Republic the very first moment the beaver hat was put on and the first treaty scripted by the powdered wigs of Washingtonian Fathers and broken, ripped to shreds, seeded with the dark force that is the white race.

Here comes Tools for Transparency into the mix of triage to uphold the declaration of independence, and the few tenets of the constitution that are supremely directed to we-by-for-because of the people, AND not the corporation, monopoly, Military-Retail-Finance-Ag-Energy-Pharma-Prison-Medical-Toxins-IT-Surveillance-Legal Complex. This project is the brainchild of a former Marine who “came to life late in the world” of pure skepticism about the powers that be and his own questioning of the motivations and machinations of his government and political representatives. Sometimes it’s hard to don and doff the uniform of a trained/manipulated/choregraphed killer and make any sense of the orders belted out and campaigns designed with no benefit to the invaded peoples other than the demented good (bad) for that gluttonous octopus parasite called capitalism as it entangles its tentacles on each invaded country’s birthright, history, natural resources, land and people through the power of the high explosives bomb and the usury bond.

“Heck, before starting this project, I didn’t even know we had 535 representatives in Congress,” states Brian Hanson.

So goes the beginning of this start up, Tools for Transparency, an on-line clearing house for what Hanson hopes will be a light shed onto all the backroom dealings we as consumers of news just aren’t privy to. Or that’s at least what Brian Hanson is shooting for in this atmosphere of “fake” news, “really fake” news, “non” news, “no” news, “distracting” news “manufactured” news, “rabbit hole” news, “lies are truths” news, or newspeak.

The Beaverton, Oregon, resident is the father of this platform which is still in its infancy, as the former Marine throws his all into the project.

The 37-year-old Hanson is a Pacific Northwest product, having dropped out of traditional high school and landing up in an alternative high school where the instructors were outside the box. He recalls reading Shakespeare, doing two weeks of study on the Nez Perce peoples, and a class report on the Battle of Wounded Knee. With gusto, he told me that his class made a video of the trail of tears and presented it to the local Shriners.

For this father of a special needs daughter, he easily lets roll off his tongue, “black sheep,” both an emblematic moniker and symbolic of his travails, having stuck with him throughout his life, from high school, to the Marines (“where I learned to get responsible”) to today: divorced, single dad, precarious income stream. On top of that, he’s living in his elderly parents’ garage/converted small studio apartment.

After the Marines, where he specialized in communications, and field wiring, he worked on a community college degree, eventually ending up with a BA from Portland State University in psychology.

The disciplines of cognitive behavior therapy and behavior analysis “got to me” first in college, initially through the inspiring teaching of a San Bernardino community college instructor who helped the young Hanson stick it out after Hanson smashed up bones in a motorcycle accident: a spill that caused him to miss half the classes. This faculty member went the extra mile, Hanson says, allowing him to do outside work and test make-ups.

I was fresh out of the military and had no idea what I was doing. This professor missed dinners with his family, missed his kids’ recitals, to allow me to make up tests. . . . I’ve been a lifelong feminist because of this man, who instructed me on his own philosophy tied to feminism. I never had a male role model like that before.

Hanson kicked around, came back to Beaverton, worked with developmental disabled youth and then foster youth, where I met him when we were both case managers for 16-to 21-year-old foster youth.

We talk a lot about consumable information, as Hanson explains his gambit with his new information web company. It’s an age-old conundrum, what George Lakoff puts down as narrative framing. That was a big issue in the Bush Junior (W) election cycle, how born-with-a-silver-spoon George W had snookered Joe Six-Pack and NASCAR country with his Yale education, dicey National Air Guard record and Bush’s rich charmed life, getting a professional baseball team (Texas Rangers) as part of the family bargain.

The illustration is dramatic to both Hanson and myself, as we talked about Mad Men, the Edward Bernays and Milton Friedman schools of propaganda, framing stories (lies) and setting out to paint good people as bad, heroic politicians like Salvador Allende of Chile as Commie Baby Killers. Even now, Bush, the instigator of chaos in the Middle East, with all the cooked up lies and distractions of his own stupidity (like Trump), and, bam, W is reclaimed (in the mainstream mush media) as something of a good president, and especially by the likes of the Democratic Party misleadership. Bush, millionaire, entitled, crude, racist, and, bam again, we have dirt poor kids from Appalachia or Akron joining up through the economic draft of standing down the armies of burger flippers to fight illegal wars, and then to come home creaking decrepit shells of their old young selves to fight for oil and geopolitical checkmate brinkmanship of the World Bank and Goldman Sachs order. Here we have an old Connecticut political family, from Prescott Bush, putting the grandson out on tens of thousands of acres of scrub brush near Waco, Texas, with 4×4 hefty pick-up trucks and chainsaws (George is deathly afraid of horses), and we’re all good to call him a man’s man, roughing it West Texas.

Honest George or Rough-rider Teddy or Ahh Shucks Reagan, Yes We Can/Si Se Puede Obama, One Thousand Points of Light Bush Sr., Make America Great Again Trump — the news isn’t the news, and patriotism is the graveyard of scoundrels and their bromides.

A huge turning point for Brian was this last election cycle, with Trump getting guffaws and trounced in the court of public opinion as a wimp, liar, cheat, misogamist, racist, buffoon, narcissist, from people all over the political spectrum, during the beginning of the election cycle. But then once Trump got in, family feuds and friendship breaks occurred: “How was it that this relationship I had with a male buddy, a true friend, going on 27 years, just gets dumped because I was questioning Trump as a viable candidate and questioning his integrity?”

The age-old battle – turning blue in the face trying to explain to a friend, or anyone, that candidate x is this and that, based on the historical record. In Trump’s case, there is a long written, legal, quotable/citable record of this guy’s dirty dealings, bad business decisions, his lechery, racism, sexism, blatant unmitigated arrogance, criminality. For Hanson, it’s a no-brainer that anyone in their right mind might question Trump’s validity and viable character when he threw his toupee into the ring.

A great friend just dropped Brian. Took him off social media, stopped socializing, screen to black, and this broken friendship was racing through Hanson’s mind because of the new normal: the targeted toxicity of social media feeds, and the social and psychological conditioning which this huge chasm between red state/blue state ideology has meted out to an already bifurcated flagging American consumerist society.

Even having a respectable, clean and thorough debate about Trump is almost impossible, Hanson said while we talked over beers at the Yukon Bar in Sellwood. This huge cultural divide exists as far as individuals’ skills sets and critical thinking skills. The more technical the stuff like climate change or the deep state military industrial complex, people’s world views get challenged. They just don’t have the tools to dig deep into a bill passed (and endorsed) by their local representatives.

Again, “consumable” as a tool to enlightenment or at least knowledge comes up in our conversation, and Hanson has done the following thought experiment literally hundreds of times – “I hear an opinion in the news – FOX, MSNBC, the Young Turks – and I can spend four hours digging up truths, and how that opinion got to us.” What he’s found is the consumable stuff the typical news consumer gets is absolutely counter to the reality of that news’ origins, facts and context.

His Tools for Transparency cuts through the opinion, and as he proposes, makes the world news and the even more Byzantine and elaborate proposed legislation and lobbying groups behind “the news” approachable, again, consumable.

He taps into his college days taking courses in industrial organizational psychology, seemingly benign when the American Psychological Association gets to mash the term into a three-fold brochure by defining it for prospective students as business as usual for corporations, and humanity is better because of this sort of manipulative psychology, but . . .

In reality, it’s the science of behavior in the workplace, organizational development, attitudes, career development, decision theory, human performance, human factors, consumer behavior, small group theory and process, criterion theory and development and job and task analysis and individual assessment. It’s a set of tools to keep workers down spiritually and organizationally, disconnected, fearful, confused and ineffectual as thinkers and resisters, and inept at countering the abuse of power companies or bureaucracies wield over a misinformed workforce.

The shape of corporations’ unethical behavior, their sociopathic and the draconian workplace conditions today are largely sculpted and defined by these behavior shapers to include the marketers and the Edward Bernays-inspired manipulators of facts and brain functioning. This begs the question for Hanson, just what are today’s hierarchy of needs for the average American? Physiological; Safety; Love/Belonging; Esteem; Self-Actualization.

Of course, Maslow added human’s innate drive toward curiosity. Ironically, the lower scaffolds of the pyramid are deemed primitive – eating, sleeping, drinking, as are the safety needs and social needs such as friendship and sexual intimacy. In one sense, we see it played out – one cannot philosophize on an empty stomach and for Aristotle, his observation is prescient – ‘all paid work absorbs and degrades the mind.’

Hanson and I talk about the existential threats of climate change, terrorists, war, and our own mortality. We are in that hyper-speed moment in history when technology changes at breakneck speed, and disruptive technologies’ create disruptive economies which in turn give us disruptive communities.

We are avoiding the inevitability of collapse, peak oil, peak everything, so we construct comforting (read: dopamine-triggering and sedating) realities, tied to bourgeois values, consumeristic habits, customs, degraded culture, moral codes that are antithetical to our own agency, and, then, religious fervor.

Hanson states:

How do they get us to take actions against our beliefs? This conditioning now is based on not just ‘buy my product’ to attain unattainable standards. Today, we, as a society, are terrified if we can’t attain that level of status or standard,

Hanson’s singular (one of several) bottom lines is that his Tools for Transparency has to find a way to be consumable, and a second one Hanson repeats posits the solutions to our problems have to be profitable: “How can he create a market for alternative information profitable?”

Tools for Transparency uses the platform Patreon, founded five years ago as a platform that allows patrons to pay a set amount of money every time an artist creates a work of art. Hanson’s web site and service, then depends on loyalty, fee-paying patrons.

The result thus far for Hanson is nascent, but growing. I asked him how his daily routine tied to this dream can be synthesized in a nutshell:

My daily routine is actually starting to wrap up at this point, it has never been very consistent as a single start-up founder anyways. For the most part my site is not sophisticated enough to continue in perpetuity yet. Too many requirements for data and input that cannot be done on a static basis. So I am mostly working on a static prototype I can display, build an audience with.

For the most part I have been diving headfirst into legislative bulk data sets. Making connections between publications, finding creative ways to link (intentionally I think) differently formatted data together. Working to construct cohesive and understandable information. When I get tired of staring at data sheets, I will work to develop relationships with business people, work on marketing techniques, reaching out to colleges and programs, learning about business development, corporate securities, federal regulations pertaining to my business, or some general outreach (mostly family right now, you’re the first real contact outside my main family I am working with). There really isn’t anything routine about what I am doing, because it is mostly just me and a single developer friend working on the site.

We talked about other issues tied the militarization of society, and I posed some long-winded questions cut and pasted below:

1. What makes what you are doing relevant to the click bait/screen addicted generation?

2. You say you were terrified for the lives of the family members, the country. Blacks and Hispanics tell me that finally, the whites get what we have been experiencing for decades, since the beginning of the country. Speak to that reality. This has been and is a white supremacist country, and with that operating procedure/system, poor people, disenfranchised people, people of color especially, are on the chopping block for those white elitists and the militarized mentality of law enforcement and even our daily lives as a renter class.

He and I talk much about Black Lives Matter, and why this new movement is relevant in 2018 as it would have been in 1950 USA or 1850 America.

And I do not for a second believe it has ever not been exactly this way. Every regime has to have a solider class that it uses to enforce the social hierarchy. And the solider class is always expected to use violence to enforce ideology. The threats are always transient, ever shifting, but the response is doggedly the same. Authoritarianism flourishes in this environment, we sacrifice freedoms for security, and our world shrinks a little more.

Brian believes there is an awakening today in this country, and that the examples of movements such as those in Portland where youth are out yelling against the police state, and then how we are seeing individual officers returning firing with violence against those youth:

The viral video of an officer drawing his pistol on a group of school age children is terrifying.

We talk a lot about the devaluing of language and intentional discourse which includes the abilities of a society to engage in lively and cogent debate. For me, I know the forces of propaganda are multi-headed, multi-variant, with so much of American life seeded with lies, half-truths, duplicitous and twisted concepts, as well as inaccurate and spin-doctored history, which has contaminated a large portion of our society, up and down the economic ladder, with mind control.

Unfortunately, our language now is inextricably tied to emotions, as we see leftists (what’s that?) and so-called progressives screaming at the top of their lungs how Trump is the worst president ever. Black so-called activists, journalists, stating how the empire (sky) is falling because Trump talked with Putin. Imagine, imagine, all those millions upon millions of people killed because of all the other presidents’ and their thugs’ policies eviscerating societies, all those elections smeared, all those democracies mauled, all those citizens in the other part of the world hobbled by America’s policies, read “wars, occupations, embargoes, structural violence.” It is a daily reminder for us all that today, as was true yesterday, that we are ruled by masters of self-deception and our collective society having a feel good party every day while we plunder the world. Doublethink. Here:

Orwell’s point:

To tell deliberate lives while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality one denies – all this is indispensably necessary. Even in using the word doublethink it is necessary to exercise doublethink. For by using the word one admits one is tampering with reality; by a fresh act of doublethink one erases this knowledge; and so on indefinitely, with the lie always one leap ahead of the truth.

Herein lies the problem – vaunting past presidents on pedestals while attacking this current deplorable, Donald Trump. The reality is the US has been run by an elite group of militarists, and by no means is Trump the worst of the worst, which is both illogical and unsupported by facts:

Yet, we have to mark the words and wisdom of those of us who have been marking this empire’s crimes, both internal and external, for years. Here, Paul Edwards over at Counterpunch hits a bulls-eye on the heart of the matter:

After decades of proven bald-faced crime, deceit and the dirtiest pool at home and abroad, the CIA, FBI, NSA, the Justice Department and the whole fetid nomenklatura of sociopathic rats, are portrayed as white knights of virtue dispensing verity as holy writ. And “progressives” buy it.

These are the vermin that gave us Vietnam, the Bay of Pigs, Chile, the Contras, Iraq’s WMD, and along the way managed to miss the falls of the Shah and Communism.

Truly an Orwellian clusterfuck, this. War Party Dems misleading naive liberal souls sickened by Trump into embracing the dirty, vicious lunacy Hillary peddled to her fans, the bankers, brokers, and CEOs of the War Machine.

Trump is a fool who may yet blunder us into war; the Dems and the Deep State cabal would give us war by design.

In an innocent way, Brian Hanson is hoping to dig into that “objective reality,” with his Tools for Transparency. He might be unconsciously adhering to Mark Twain’s admonition: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” Maybe Tools for Transparency will get under the onion peels of deceit, a consumeristic and kleptocratic debt-ridden society to expose those culprits’ origins – where or where and how and why did something like the Flint, Michigan, poisoning of people’s water happen? Who signed off? How did it, the deceit (felonies), weave its way through a supposedly checked and triple-checked “democracy”?

As we parted from a free jazz concert in Portland, he has some pointed words for me: “I will keep working on you Paul to get some hope about society, about the world. I’m going to keep on you.”

In Nicaragua, is Operation “Contra bis” failing?

Thrown under the spotlight since mid-April, the homeland of Sandino is still facing an intense political crisis. From now on, the crisis seems to be approaching its final resolution. On the one hand, the Nicaraguan people are mobilizing more and more alongside the authorities to help them dismantle barricades in insurgent spots. And on the other hand, in one week two big demonstrations for peace took place. Against the wishes of an opposition camp and spokespersons of the US administration, the message of Daniel Ortega during the march for peace of July 7 in Managua was crystal clear: “Here it is the people who set the rules in the Constitution of the Republic. They will not change overnight by the will of some coup leaders. If the putschists want to come to the government, let them seek the people’s vote in the next elections. With all the destruction they have provoked, we will see what support they will have.” But these facts are minimized by the private media and major news agencies, which continue to hide the evolution on the ground and blow on the embers of the dispute. Which side will tip the scales?

*****

A dreadful propaganda scheme

In a recent article, I examined a number of contradictions in the treatment by international media of Nicaragua. Notably, one can recognize one of the principles of war propaganda which is to reverse the aggressor and the victim. The scheme works as follows: first, an opposition sector, one that refuses dialogue with the government, plans to control some parts of the capital and other cities by means of barricades. These areas are then considered “liberated from tyranny”, and thus represent the hearth of insurgency that must recur throughout the country, to defeat the operations of “repression” of police forces. This tactic of deploying barricades has been theorized as an effective means of preventing the authorities from gaining control over the national territory, because it is “impossible for the government to have enough personnel to control every inch of the country”. The first obvious thing to emphasize is that this is not a completely spontaneous crisis that emerges from a massive popular mobilization, but that there is indeed an insurrectional plan in place capable of standing up to the authorities for months. We are witnessing the first phase in the development of an unconventional war to overthrow a democratically elected government.

Then, a number of clashes take place in these areas “liberated” by the opposition. At this point, it is not trivial to note that the activists who defend these barricades are no longer peaceful protesters that the mainstream media has portrayed. Images of hooded youths handling homemade mortars and other explosive devices are impossible to conceal. In fact, they even contribute to the creation of a “romantic” dimension of popular resistance in the context of face-to-face contact with the professional police corps. This is where the second phase of the unconventional war comes in, namely, the decisive role of media corporations that contribute to the production of a dominant and one-sided narrative of the crisis. It is easier to identify with a young demonstrator who is rebelling than a young police officer compelled to use force to enforce the law. Thus, when there have been deaths around the barricades, it becomes complicated for an outside observer to know the truth.

Who is not concerned with these victims?

A simple and quick tour of private media news will make anyone realize that the idealized dimension mentioned above serves only to delegitimize government action. No one is asking themselves this simple question: “Was the victim a pro-government Sandinista helping the police dismantle the barricades, or an opponent who defended them?” Many testimonies in favor of the first version have been systematically dismissed! Indeed, the role of the private media is fundamental in order to give maximum credibility to the opposition’s side of the story. Would the latter be manipulating the victims’ memory with the complicity of some private media in Nicaragua? This is quite a strong point for us: what about the many cases of victims whose membership in the pro-government camp has been proven?

In the framework of the peace talks, the Nicaraguan government first accepted that the IACHR (Note: Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, organ of the Organization of American States (OAS)) lead a human rights observation mission. But it went on to denounce that its report does not include the description of many cases of attacks against civilian victims, including public officials, as a result of the violence unleashed by the opposition. Are the dice loaded? Here are some recent examples that illustrate a much more nuanced situation than that described by some media:

– On June 19, the authorities launch an operation in Masaya to release the Deputy Director of the National Police Ramon Avellan and his agents, who were entrenched in the police station, surrounded by barricades since June 2. Every night, protesters fired mortar at the police station, accompanied by threats: “What do you think? That there were only “güevones” (rascals) in this fight? Here again, here is my little sister… ” Then, the mortar fire would start again near the police station… Under the pretext of playful action, a video shows how protesters positioned behind a barricade sing menacing songs against General Avellan, accompanied by shots. According to the Pro-Human Rights Nicaraguan Association ANPDH organization, as a result of the police rescue operation, six people – including three whose identity remains to be verified – were murdered in several surrounding neighborhoods.

– On June 30, in the context of an opposition march, a protester was shot dead. Recorded a few minutes before the tragedy by a journalist who was there, a video shows how opposition members surround a private security officer and ask him to hand over his weapon, simulating a hostage situation in order to justify their action. Then, the images show a person who stands behind the agent, points a pistol at his temple and steals his rifle. Later, the protesters will attribute the death to government repression.

– On July 3, two people were kidnapped in Jinotepe by a group of armed hooded men: police major Erlin García Cortez and Enacal worker Erasmo Palacios. Three days later, Bismarck de Jesús Martínez Sánchez, a worker from the Managua City Hall, was also kidnapped. A week later, relatives had still not received any sign of life from them.

– On July 5, the lifeless body of National Police officer Yadira Ramos was found in Jinotepe. She had been kidnapped, raped and tortured. She had been forced to get off her vehicle and her husband had been killed on the spot.

– On July 6, FSLN member Roberto Castillo Cruz was killed by opposition hoodlums who held barricades in Jinotepe. His son, Christopher Castillo Rosales had been killed just a week before him. In a video published shortly before his own murder, Castillo Cruz denounced the murderers: “This criminal gang of the right has killed my son, I only ask for justice and that peace prevails so that our children do not lose their lives!”

– On July 8, during a nighttime clash in Matagalpa, a 55-year-old man named Aran Molina was killed while rescuing Lalo Soza, a Sandinista activist who was under attack. The following day, Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional (FSLN) paid tribute to him through a procession. The same day, two other people were killed: social worker Tirzo Ramón Mendoza, executed by hooded people after being kidnapped, and a third victim whose identity remains unknown.

– On 9 July, the authorities dismantled the barricades that prevented free movement in the towns of Diriamba and Jinotepe. Many residents then testified about the many violent actions of the opposition, including torture against the Sandinistas. At the same time, representatives of the Episcopal Conference arrived. Citizens of Jinotepe then entered the church, where they found opposition members disguised as members of the clergy. Residents accused church officials of protecting them and not saying anything or doing anything to stop the violence unleashed in the last two months. In Diriamba, the inhabitants also discovered an arsenal of mortars hidden in the church of San Sebastian.

– On July 12, a criminal gang attacked the Morrito Town Hall in Rio San Juan. A historical Sandinista fighter, Carlos Hernandez, was kidnapped there. Seriously wounded and unable to escape, a youth Sandinista activist, two police officers and their superiors are murdered. A Sandinista activist received a bullet in the abdomen. Later, schoolmaster Marvin Ugarte Campos would succumb to his injuries. The version of the opposition? It says the massacre was … a “self-attack by paramilitaries”!

It seems that some deaths and violent acts have no value, while others are erected as martyrs for a sacred cause. In the end, does everything depend on the prism through which we look at reality? Are we already placed in a camp in a conflict without knowing it or even suspecting it? In this case, would it be a waste of time to try to form one’s own opinion from fact analysis? The search for peace and truth prevents us from succumbing to such resignation.

In a remarkable 46-page work entitled “The monopoly of death – how to inflate figures to assign them to the government”, Enrique Hendrix identified the numerous inconsistencies in the various reports presented by the three main human rights organizations, the CENIDH (Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights), the IACHR and the ANPDH. Comparing the various reports from the beginning of the crisis to the date of the last reports presented (from April 18 to June 25), he concluded that the three organizations recorded a total of 293 deaths. In 26% of cases (77 citizens), information on the deaths is incomplete and remains to be verified. In 21% of cases (60 citizens), the dead are persons murdered by the opposition, either public officials or Sandinista militants who were murdered for helping the authorities dismantle the barricades. In 20% of the cases (59 citizens), the dead were protesters, opposition members or people who erected barricades. In 17% of cases (51 citizens), the dead do not have a direct relationship with the demonstrations. Finally in 16% of the cases (46 citizens), the dead were passers-by who did not take part in the clashes.

As can be seen in this study, the balance sheets of these organizations are sorely lacking in rigor and mix all sorts of victims (fights between gangs, road accidents, murders in the context of vehicle theft, conflict between land owners, police officers, a pregnant woman in an ambulance blocked by barricades …). Conclusion: if we take into account the exact circumstances of each death, it is obvious that we cannot attribute the responsibility to the government alone. In light of these elements, we have the right to challenge the international media about their lack of objectivity. Why such an alignment with a sector of the opposition who has declared itself fiercely hostile to any dialogue?

Who is not interested in dialogue?

This propaganda mechanism is completed by the “blackout” of other information that is not considered relevant. However, while the media focuses on the clashes, other sectors of the opposition continue to participate in the various sessions of the “dialogue tables for truth, peace and justice”, organized to listen to different points of view and seek to establish responsibility in the wave of violence ravaging the country. Moreover, the final conclusions of the various human rights observation missions in the country had not yet been made. They were to be discussed and include new elements. But what can we expect from the dialogue between the two parties, when a number of observers have already decided in advance that the government alone is responsible for the violence?

All over the world, the role of the police is to repress in case of “disturbance of public order”. But we struggle to understand why the authorities would order it to attack civilians wildly and arbitrarily at the same time as the peace dialogue is taking place. On the other hand, one could expect such an attitude from those who, refusing to participate in the dialogues, would seek to sabotage it, having an interest in the derailment of this process. In this case, it is not unlikely that hooded thugs have been posing as police forces on several occasions.

In any case, it is no less credible than the version of these same hooded thugs, who say that the government of Daniel Ortega would have given the green light to disguised civilians to destroy infrastructure and kill other civilians! Still, the government did not deny that at the beginning of the crisis some police officers sometimes acted using disproportionate violence, and it responded that justice will have to determine their responsibility in actions punishable by law. The National Assembly, for its part, has launched an initiative to create a “Commission for Truth, Justice and Peace” with the aim of reporting on the responsibilities of human rights violations within three months.

But in the fairy tale that the mainstream media is manufacturing from dawn to dusk, and on the internet 24 hours a day, it is not even conceivable that the government of Nicaragua is facing difficulties whose causes would be complex and numerous. The media hype and the positions of foreign political figures serve as irrefutable proof! As has been the case in Venezuela in recent years, taking the public hostage in this way is an insult to its intelligence. Of course, not everything is explained by the tentacles of the imperialist octopus. But for those who are interested in the history of inter-American relations for the last two centuries, it is not serious to forget about its weight and consider that this influence is a thing of the past.

How to export democracy in dollars

It seems that few observers are really shocked by the rapid progression of these events, which are shaped like a breadcrumb trail towards a single objective: condemning the Ortega government and demanding early elections. That’s where the hiccup is: Latin American countries where assassinations of trade unionists, peasants and social leaders have been a common thing for years, where the peace efforts of governments are considered, at best, as totally ineffective, and at worst as non-existent, such as Colombia, Honduras or Mexico, are not at all worried about the image of their “democracies”. There is something wrong, isn’t it? To shed some light on this mystery, a reminder of the history of the twentieth century is worth the detour.

The coups and destabilizations fomented from abroad, such as in the Dominican Republic or in Guatemala, show that in the second half of the 20th century the Latin-American context was still marked by the military interventionism of the Monroe Doctrine and the “manifest destiny” of the United States. It was nothing more than an imperialist policy of controlling the resources and raw materials of Latin America, now presented as an anticommunist “crusade” in the context of the Cold War. On the other hand, the dominance of the United States would not be limited to a demonstration of force based on the “regime change” and the sending of troops on the ground, but it would also take forms of cultural domination, in particular through the so-called “development aid” policies.

In his speech in January 1949, US President Harry Truman described non-industrialized countries as “underdeveloped” countries. Thus, in 1950, the American Congress passed an Act for International Development (AID). On September 4, 1961, a US Congress law replaced the AID by USAID, which was to implement a new, more comprehensive vision of “development assistance” directed anywhere in the planet. As can be seen in the coup against Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala in 1954, the anti-communist struggle was only a pretext. The main concern of the US government was to prevent the development of national consciousness within the armies and police of “underdeveloped countries”. That is why, from 1950 to 1967, “the United States government spent more than $1,500 million on military aid to Latin American countries.”1

After the victory of the Cuban Revolution in 1959, John Kennedy announced the Alliance for Progress in 1961. It was a similar initiative to the Marshall Plan in Europe. Between 1961 and 1970, the Alliance for Progress provided $20 billion in economic assistance to Latin America. One of the objectives was the stabilization of the regimes that fought against communism and the influence of Cuba.

John F. Kennedy and his advisers are developing an action plan for the region, the Alliance for Progress, consisting of a $ 20 billion investments for economic development and massive military assistance. The decade of the sixties is marked by the formation of a new generation of Latin American military and the transfer of capital and technology from the US military to Latin America. The Pentagon and the CIA draw their strategy to halt the advance of socialism: the US Army-run Panama School trains the cadres of the Latin American armed forces.2

Under the fallacious concept of “development aid policies”, the “creation of strong armies and police” and “military aid to reactionary and pro-imperialist regimes” served to offer to the monopolies “the most favorable conditions of exploitation of underdeveloped countries “.3 In other words, this “aid” represented above all a political weapon in favor of the economic interests of the countries of the Global North. These were represented in the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development), founded in 1961 and also known as the “Rich Country Club”. It consisted of 27 countries, mostly those of North America, Western Europe and Japan.

Resistance emerges sooner or later

But the new reality resulting from decolonization in Asia and Africa also represented an awareness: the strength of the liberated countries now resided in their unity. This would enable them to exercise some orientation on the agenda of the United Nations General Assembly, and to defend the autonomous “right to development”. Thus, in the 1970s, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) would play an important role in defending the interests of the Group 77. Created in 1964, UNCTAD was characterized by the Common Declaration of the 77 countries as a “historic turning point”.

The invasion and the military occupation of Nicaragua by the United States makes it possible to better appreciate the historical value of the Sandinista Popular Revolution and the resistance to the interferences which it showed in the 1980s. The scandal of the financing of Contras by the CIA through the drug trade in Central America was proof that these plans are not infallible. Despite the many interferences and destabilizations suffered throughout history, the peoples of the South have an advantage over the powerful: collective memory and intelligence.

After the dictatorships’ repression, the debt crisis and the rule of the IMF in the 1970s and 1980s, Latin America was to experience many social revolts in the 1990s, paving the way for the arrival of new progressive governments in Brazil, Ecuador, Venezuela or Bolivia. The next step was to launch the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), a regional cooperation body created in 2004 to defeat the proposed Free Trade Area of ​​the Americas (ALCA in Spanish) by the United States.

What remains today of yesterday’s meddling?

Since the 1990s, at the end of the Cold War, US aid no longer had the pretext of restraining communism. It then took the form of “counter-terrorism” or “security and anti-drug policies”. Here are the main recipients of US aid in Latin America: $9.5 billion for Colombia; $2.9 billion for Mexico; and since 2016, aid to all countries in the Northern Triangle of Central America (El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras) has exceeded that of the first two. Which explains why we systematically condemn some countries and not others… regardless of reality and the degree of violence.

Yet the Cold War is not over in the minds of some. Thus, OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro believes it is necessary in 2018 to comply with White House requirements, and to harass night and day countries such as Nicaragua or Venezuela at the risk of being ridiculed. Indeed, when in a special session of the OAS the US spokesperson has just criticized the violence in Nicaragua and attributed it exclusively to the government, can we take his word for it? It would be better to remind him that his country does not have the slightest legitimacy to talk about Nicaragua, because it invaded and occupied it militarily for 21 years, then went on to support the clan of the dictator Somoza for another 43 years!

The “conservative restoration” of recent years, with the “soft coups” to overthrow Lugo in Paraguay, Zelaya in Honduras, Rousseff in Brazil; the failure of the peace process in Colombia, the judicial persecution against Jorge Glas, Lula Da Silva and now Rafael Correa, is the ideal context for the OAS, this obsolete organization, to try to put an end to the memory of the social achievements of recent years.

Since the US did not invent hot water, to reach their ends they must use the means at hand. Unsurprisingly, Freedom House, funded among others by USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), decided to create a special task force to fight the FSLN in Nicaragua in 1988. It is always opportune to hear NED Co-Founder Allen Weinstein: “A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA. The biggest difference is that when such activities are done overtly, the flap potential is close to zero. Openness is its own protection.”4

Today, the interference keeps going through the financing of opposition movements, framed by training programs for “young leaders” ready to defend tooth and nail the values ​​of the sacrosanct “democracy” and to overthrow “dictatorships” from their countries of origin. From 2014 to 2017, the NED has dedicated up to $4.2 million to Nicaraguan organizations such as IEEPP (Institute for Strategic Studies and Public Policy), CPDHN (Human Rights Permanent Commission in Nicaragua), Invermedia, Hagamos Democracia and Fundacion Nicaraguense para el Desarrollo Economico y Social. When we remind this to young opponents and their sympathisers, they pretend not to understand…

While it may have been extremely effective in some countries like Ukraine in 2014, the pattern we have described must be confronted with the reality and political traditions of each country. In Nicaragua, the FSLN is the dominant political force that has won democratically in the last three elections. It is significant that opposition sectors that rely on the support of the US, the right wing, and local employers are forced to use references to Sandinismo in an attempt to gain credibility. However, this practice goes too far when it tries to compare the Sandinista government and the dictatorship of Somoza, thus demonizing Daniel Ortega.

The march for peace convened by the FSLN on July 13, in tribute to the 39th anniversary of the historic “tactical retreat” of Sandinism in Masaya, was a new show of strength of the Nicaraguan people and its willingness to defeat the violent strategy of the opposition. Will the peoples of the world live up to the solidarity that this moment demands?

• First published at Investig’Action

  1. Yves Fuchs; La coopération. Aide ou néo-colonialisme ? Editions Sociales. Paris, 1973, pp. 55 (Cooperation. Help or neo-colonialism?).
  2. Claude Lacaille; En Mission dans la Tourmente des Dictatures. Haïti, Equateur, Chili : 1965-1986. Novalis, Montreal, 2014. p 23. (In Mission in the Torment of Dictators. Haiti, Ecuador, Chile: 1965-1986).
  3. Gustavo Esteva, “Desarrollo” in SachsWolfgang (coord.) Diccionario del Desarrollo, Lima, PRATEC, 1996. p. 52.
  4. Washington Post, 22 September 1991.

Tribute to Robert Parry: Investigative Journalist and Patriot

Robert (Bob) Parry was born in 1949 and died suddenly from pancreatic cancer in January 2018. An enthusiastic tribute to him and his work was recently held in Berkeley California. A video of the event is online here.

Although Robert Parry never became personally famous, many readers will recall news stories he played a key role in bringing to public consciousness. He uncovered the “Iran-Contra scandal” where the US secretly sold weapons to Iran via Israel with profits supporting mercenary “Contras” attacking the Nicaraguan government. He uncovered Lt. Col. Oliver North secretly working at the Reagan White House to supervise support for the Contras. He exposed CIA collusion with criminals sending weapons to the Contras and receiving tons of cocaine on return flights from Colombia and Central America.

In 1988, Parry co-authored an article which documented CIA and State Department activities to misinform the public to promote the desired public policy.

Next, Parry worked with the television documentary “Frontline” to uncover the “October Surprise”. That story involved Ronald Reagan’s election team clandestinely negotiating to delay the release of American hostages held in Iran. These stories appeared in mainstream media but were ultimately swept under the carpet.

The CIA-Contra-Cocaine Connection

The story about CIA complicity with drug-dealers was especially explosive because of the impact of drugs in poor communities across the US. There was an epidemic of cheap crack cocaine flooding poor and especially African American communities.

Robert Parry originally reported the CIA-Contra-Cocaine story in the mid 1980’s. Ten years later, in 1996,  investigative journalist Gary Webb uncovered what happened after the cocaine arrived in the U.S.: crack cocaine had flooded poor and African American communities, especially in California. The negative consequences were huge. The San Jose Mercury News published Gary Webb’s investigation as an explosive front page 3-day series titled “Dark Alliance“.

The story was initially ignored by the foreign policy and media establishment. But after two months of rising attention and outrage, especially in the African American community, a counter-attack was launched in the New York Times, Washington Post and LA Times. The LA Times alone assigned 17 reporters to what one reporter dubbed the “Get Gary Webb team“. They picked apart the story, picked apart Gary Webb’s personal life and distorted what he wrote. The attack succeeded. The Mercury News editors published a partial “correction” which was taken to apply to the whole story. Gary Webb was demoted and then “let go”. His reputation was destroyed and he ultimately committed suicide. An 2014 movie titled “Kill the Messenger” made in consultation with Gary’s family and Bob Parry, depicts the events.

When the establishment media was going after Gary Webb, with the quiet encouragement of the CIA, many journalists were silent or joined the pack attack. Later, when an internal CIA investigation confirmed the veracity of Webb’s research and writing, they mostly ignored it. Robert Parry was one of the few national journalists to defend Gary Webb and his reporting from beginning to end.

At the Berkeley tribute, journalist Dennis Bernstein recalled being with Bob Parry and Gary Webb:

I remember the power that those guys had with audiences. It was easy to understand why people would be afraid of them. They were truth tellers.

The Birth of Consortiumnews

As other western journalists were being pressured into compliance or driven out of the profession, Robert Parry chose a different path. Together with his oldest son Sam Parry, he launched the first investigative magazine on the internet: Consortiumnews. In his last article Bob Parry explained:

The point of Consortiumnews, which I founded in 1995, was to use the new medium of the modern internet to allow the old principles of journalism to have a new home, i.e., a place to pursue important facts and giving everyone a fair shake.

For the past 23 years, Consortia has published consistently high quality research and analysis on international issues. To give just a few examples: In March 1999, Bob Parry surveyed the dangers of the Russian economic collapse cheered on by Western neoconservatives while Mark Ames exposed the reality of Russian economic gangsters. In February 2003, Consortia published the First Memorandum to the President by Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) after Colin Powell addressed the UN Security Council. VIPS presciently warned of “catastrophic” consequences if the US attacked Iraq.

In 2005, Bob Parry exposed the bias and deception behind the rush to blame the Syrian government after Lebanese leader Rafik Hariri was assassinated. In April 2011, as the US was pushing to overthrow Gadaffi in Libya, Parry drew parallels to the disastrous consequences of overthrowing the socialist leaning Afghan government three decades earlier.

Beginning in 2014, Bob Parry exposed the dubious accusations regarding the downing of Malaysian Airlines MH-17 in Ukraine. Over the past two years, Bob Parry wrote and edited dozens of articles exposing the bias and lack of evidence behind “Russiagate”. A few examples can be seen here.

Commitment to Facts and Objectivity

Sam and several other speakers at the Berkeley Tribute noted that Robert Parry was not ideological. He believed in following the leads and facts wherever they led.  The new editor of Consortia, Joe Lauria, said:

Bob was not a lefty radical… He was just reporting the facts and where they led. That turned out to be kind of a left wing position in the end because that’s what happens when you follow the facts wherever they go. But he didn’t start out from an ideological position or have a preconceived notion of what the story should be.

Bob Parry’s investigations in the 1980’s revealed the U.S. administration plans and propaganda aiming to “glue black hats” on the Nicaraguan government and “white hats” on the Contra opposition. Thus he was well prepared to critically examine the disinformation campaigns accompanying “regime change” campaigns over the past decades: from Yugoslavia to Iraq, Libya, Syria, Ukraine and others.

Under Bob Parry’s leadership, Consortia has exposed “fake news” at the highest levels. As journalist Norman Solomon said at the tribute:

It’s important to remember that the most dangerous fake news in the last few decades has come from the likes of the front page of the New York Times and Washington Post. There are a million dead Iraqis and many dead Americans to prove it.

Bob Parry wrote several books including Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, The Press and Project Truth (1999), Fooling America: How Washington Insiders Twist the Truth and Manufacture the Conventional Wisdom (1992), and America’s Stolen Narrative: From Washington and Madison to Nixon, Reagan and the Bushes to Barack Obama (2012).

Challenging the New McCarthyism

In his last article, published just two weeks before his death, Parry informed Consortia readers about his health issue. He speculated on possible contributing factors including “the unrelenting ugliness that has become Official Washington and national journalism.”

Parry described the decline in journalistic standards and objectivity:

This perversion of principles – twisting information to fit a desired conclusion – became the modus vivendi of American politics and journalism. And those of us who insisted on defending journalistic principles of skepticism and even-handedness were increasingly shunned by our colleagues, a hostility that first emerged on the Right and among neoconservatives but eventually sucked in the progressive world as well…. The demonization of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russia is just the most dangerous feature of this propaganda process – and this is where the neocons and the liberal interventionists most significantly come together. The US media approach to Russia is now virtually 100 percent propaganda.

At the Berkeley event, writer Natylie Baldwin addressed this issue. In her presentation she said:

Robert Parry referred to the phenomena of careerism and group think. He argued that it was ruining journalism …When our most experienced academic expert on Russia, Stephen Cohen, can hardly get an interview on CNN and cannot get an op-ed published by the New York Times or the Washington Post, but a neo-con ideolog like Michael Weiss, who has no on the ground experience or educational credentials about Russia can be hired as a commentator by CNN on the subject, it’s dangerous. When someone like Rachel Maddow, who from her past investigative reporting knows better, has allowed herself to be used as a cartoonish purveyor of anti Russia propaganda, virtually ignoring coverage of more immediate issues facing average Americans and distracting them away from confronting the Democratic Party’s failures and dishonesty, it’s dangerous.

Natylie Baldwin elaborated on the current critical situation and need for honest and objective journalism, stating:

Our media, like our political system, is in crisis. Indeed, these two crises reinforce each other as both our media and our political system are corrupted by money and have been largely reduced to a cheap spectacle. According to polls, large majorities of millennials have contempt for these establishment institutions. They’re open to and looking for alternatives to these broken systems. This makes Robert Parry’s legacy and the space for genuine investigative journalism that he fostered at Consortia more important than ever.

Reflections on Bob Parry

Joe Lauria said:

Bob was a skeptic but not a cynic – there’s a big difference.

Sam Parry said:

Dad was a patriot. I think that he really loved America. He loved our ideals, he loved the people, he loved the idea of holding the institutions that govern us accountable. That was his passion. That was what he was all about and what really drove him and propelled him through his life.

Australian journalist John Pilger wrote about Robert Parry:

His founding of Consortia was a landmark. He was saying in effect, ‘We must not lie down in the face of media monoliths, the Murdochs, the liberal pretenders, censors and collaborators.’

Bob Parry exposed the double standards and bias of mainstream media but maintained connections there. At the east coast Celebration of the life of Robert Parry, former neighbor, family friend and executive editor of the NY Times, Jill Abramson, made the understated but accurate summary:

Bob Parry certainly did his part to challenge the established order.

Robert Parry’s website continues; his work and life continue to inspire.

The Next Step: The Campaign for Julian Assange

The modern detainee in a political sense has to be understood in the abstract.  Those who take to feats of hacking, publishing and articulating positions on the issue of institutional secrets have become something of a species, not as rare as they once were, but no less remarkable for that fact.  And what a hounded species at that.

Across the globe prisons are now peopled by traditional, and in some instances, unconventional journalists, who have found themselves in the possession of classified material.  In one specific instance, Julian Assange of WikiLeaks stands tall, albeit in limited space, within the Ecuadorean embassy in London.

Unlawful imprisonment and arbitrary detention are treated by black letter lawyers with a crystal clarity that would disturb novelists and lay people; lawyers, in turn, are sometimes disturbed by the inventive ways a novelist, or litterateur type, might interpret detention.  The case of Assange, shacked and hemmed in a small space at the mercy of his hosts who did grant him asylum, then citizenship, has never been an easy one to explain to either.  Ever murky, and ever nebulous, his background and circumstances inspires polarity rather than accord.

What matters on the record is that Assange has been deemed by the United Nations Working Group in Arbitrary Detention to be living under conditions that amount to arbitrary detention.  He is not, as the then foreign secretary of the UK, Philip Hammond claimed in 2016, “a fugitive from justice, voluntarily hiding in the Ecuadorean embassy.”  To claim such volition is tantamount to telling a person overlooking the precipice that he has a choice on whether to step out and encounter it.

The whole issue with his existence revolves, with no small amount of precariousness, on his political publishing activity.  He is no mere ordinary fugitive, but a muckracker extraordinaire who must tolerate the hospitality of another state even as he breathes air into a moribund fourth estate.  He is the helmsman of a publishing outfit that has blended the nature of journalism with the biting effect of politics, and duly condemned for doing so.

Given such behaviour, it was bound to irk those who have been good enough to accept his tenancy. The tenancy of the political asylum seeker is ever finite, vulnerable to mutability and abridgment.  Assange’s Ecuadorean hosts have made no secret that they would rather wish him to keep quiet in his not so gilded cage, restraining himself from what they consider undue meddling.  To do so entails targeting his lifeblood: communications through the Internet itself, and those treasured discussions he shares with visitors of various standings in the order of celebrity.

On March 27, his hosts decided to cut off internet access to the WikiLeaks publisher-in-chief. Jamming devices were also put in place in case Assange got any other ideas.  Till that point, Assange had been busy defending Catalan separatist politician Carles Puigdemont against Germany’s detention of him, in the process decrying the European Arrest Warrant, while also questioning the decisions made by several European states to expel Russian diplomats in the wake of the poisoning of double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter.  It was just that sort of business that irked the new guard in Ecuador, keen on reining in such enthusiastic interventions.

What seems to be at play here is a breaking of spirit, a battle of attrition that may well push Assange into the arms of the British authorities who insist that he will be prosecuted for violating his bail conditions the moment he steps out of the embassy.  This, notwithstanding that the original violation touched upon extradition matters to Sweden that have run their course.

Former Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa had denounced his country’s recent treatment of Assange.  In May, Correa told The Intercept how preventing Assange from receiving visitors at the embassy constituted a form of torture. Ecuador was no longer maintaining “normal sovereign relations with the American government – just submission.”

Times, and the fashion, has certainly changed at the London embassy.  Current President Lenín Moreno announced in May that his country had “recently signed an agreement focused on security cooperation [with the US] which implies sharing information, intelligence topics and experiences in the fight against illegal drug trafficking and fighting transnational organized crime.”  Tectonic plates, and alliances, are shifting, and activist publishers are not de rigueur.

The recent round of lamentations reflect upon the complicity and collusion not just amongst the authorities but within a defanged media establishment keen to make Assange disappear. “This quest to silence free speech and neuter a free press,” suggests Teodrose Fikre, “is a bipartisan campaign and a bilateral initiative.”

There has been little or no uproar in media circles over the 6-year period of Assange’s Ecuadorean stay, surmises Paul Craig Roberts, because the media itself has changed.  The doddering Gray Lady (The New York Times for others), had greyed so significantly under the Bush administration it had lost its teeth, “allowing Bush to be re-elected without controversy and allowing the government time to legalize the spying on an ex post facto basis.”

Both President Donald J. Trump and Russia provide the current twin pillars of journalistic escapism and paranoia.  Be it Democrat or Republican in the US, the WikiLeaks figure remains very wanted personifying the bridge that links current political behemoths.  For the veteran Australian journalist John Pilger, “The fakery of Russia-gate, the collusion of a corrupt media and the shame of a legal system that pursues truth-tellers have not been able to hold back the raw truth of WikiLeaks revelations.”  Such rawness persists, as does the near fanatical attempt to break the will of a man who has every entitlement to feel that he is losing his mind.

Big Brother Facebook: Drawing Down The Iron Curtain on Yankeedom

Leading a double life

When my partner, Barbara, first opened an account on Facebook, she used it in a way that most people in Yankeedom use it. Her network was an eclectic assortment of family, current and former workmates, new and old friends, neighbors and relatives living in other parts of the country. Most of what was posted on this account were pictures of kids, dogs and kitty cats, vacations, dinner outings, jokes – nothing too controversial. Like most members of Yankeedom, religion and politics were off limits. However, there was a kind of politically unconscious assumption operating that liberal values prevailed and that somehow the Democratic Party embodied those values. I nicknamed her Facebook account the “Suzy Cream Cheese” account after the Mothers of Invention’s album because it only dealt with surface preoccupations.

As the most recent US presidential primaries heated up and people took sides about Hillary, Bernie and Jill Stein, the Suzy Cream Cheese page started to be “not nice”. The political unconscious became conscious. The assumption was that all women – in the name of feminism – should vote for Hillary. My partner thought this was a very shallow understanding of feminism and posted an article she wrote that was published in a number of online radical newsletters titled, “Feminism is Bigger Than Gender: Why I’ll Be Happy in Hell Without Hillary.” Oh dear. After she posted that article on Facebook, she got the cold shoulder and lost a couple of friends. Around that time she opened up a second “political” Facebook account and started adding to it a whole new group of far-left friends and acquaintances. She continued posting “suitable for family viewing” comments with her Suzy Cream Cheese account while posting and responding to socialist and communist posts on her political account.

The Two Faces of Facebook

Neither Barbara nor I are sociologists of social media or specifically of Facebook, so what follows is experiential. However, we do know a thing or two about how capitalist institutions operate in general and Facebook is no exception.

The primary purpose of Facebook is to sell ad space to marketers. But how do you reach the Yankee public? You make it easy for Yankees to set up individual accounts so that Yankees can do what we do best—talk about the micro world of family, dogs and friends. In the process, hopefully people will purchase some of the products or services touted in the ads. Facebook has also made it possible for individuals to join groups and set up pages that then allow them to place ads to publicize their group or organization. For Facebook, reading groups, hobbies and support groups are fine.

But Facebook has encountered a problem that many other capitalist institutions have. The problem is that you can set up the conditions for selling your products, but you can’t control people’s motivation for buying the product, (joining a group or setting up a political page) or what they will do with the product (what kind of group they will form). Facebook could even tolerate political groups. But the political imagination of Facebook consists of Republicans and Democrats. What Facebook had not counted on is the proliferation of political groups that exist outside both parties. As most of you know, there are many anarchist groups, Leninist groups, social democrats and even council communist groups. On the right there are all sorts of nationalist and fascists groups. It is safe to say that Facebook, as a capitalist institution, does not want to host these groups but until recently has not been able to do anything about it.

Planning Beyond Capitalism Meets Suzy Cream Cheese Facebook

Six years ago Barbara and I co-founded an organization called Planning Beyond Capitalism. The name pretty much says what we are up to. As an anti-establishment organization our main problem was, and still is, outreach. We stumbled and bumbled our way with the help of some anti-establishment social media whizzes who convinced us we could reach a lot more people through placing ads on Facebook. Facebook calls it “boosting”. At first, we were skeptical because the language used in placing an ad on Facebook seemed to have nothing to do with politics. They were ads for businesses. They encouraged us to “pick the right brand” and “target our audience” for best “market return”. We weren’t a business and we weren’t a non-profit. The best category we could find was “community organization”.

One of the things we do on Planning Beyond Capitalism is to select one article from a left-wing news source and write one post and commentary each day. We call this “Capitalist News Interpreted”. We publish these posts daily on Facebook, but don’t “boost” them. But every couple of months or so we write a longer article, in which we make an analysis of world events, mostly in the United States, from the perspective of our organization. We put these in the category of Perspectives. Over the course of two or three years we found four or five political newsletters in which to publish our perspectives. In addition, we decided to “boost” those perspectives on Facebook.

Our pattern was to boost our perspective for one week for the cost of $30.00 to run for one week. This money came out of our own pockets. We were able to select our demographics – age, gender, interests – and we could post it to almost any country in the world. In selecting our audiences when we first started boosting our posts, the choices of “anarchism” and “socialism” were available for us to select. Typically, in a single week we reached about ten thousand people – with a ratio of people in that audience of people who “liked” our perspective from about 20% to 33%. The number of “shares” in a week ranged from 75 to about 250 depending on the article. In the process of doing this, we began hearing from people in other parts of the world. Some of those people then began to write for us.

We were pretty amazed that Facebook approved of virtually all our perspectives in 2016 and 2017 despite our anti Democratic Party, anti-capitalist slant. Here are some of our titles:

No Pink Wooly Caps for Me

Open Letter to the Sandernistas: The Political Revolution Continues – Hearts, Bodies and Souls

Planning Beyond Capitalism meets Big Brother Facebook

Things began to change for us on Facebook when I published an article on April 1st of this year claiming the Democratic Party was worse than the Republican Party for 90% of the population. After we posted a link to it on our Facebook page we tried to boost it.

Greater of Two Evils: Why the Democratic Party is Worse than the Republican Party for 85% of the U.S. Population

Facebook rejected our ad and we contested that rejection. They said it was sensationalistic, involved hate speech and promoted violence. We contested this rejection and after two arguments from us, won our appeal. We ran the ad for two weeks because of its popularity. It reached 38,000 people, had many hundreds of shares and we gained about 100 new followers.

The next article we published was written by an Iraqi comrade of ours living as a citizen in Russia. The article was about why Russians are upset with Americans.

Why Russians are Upset With Americans – Seen Through the Eyes of an Iraqi

This ad was again disapproved by Facebook but for different reasons: it was “political”. We contested this as well. Below is our argument:

We have been boosting posts on FB for 2 years. Every single one of them has political content. Why is this particular one being singled out? However, this is the first article that we’ve published about Russia, written by someone living in Russia. We believe that you are not authorizing this ad because it is a favorable account of the Russian people, which does not conform to the Democratic Party’s anti-Russian ideology. This article was written by a Russian citizen and is written from his own observations and viewpoint. Furthermore, his sources are documented and it is neither sensationalistic nor violent. We are not advocating for Russian foreign policy. We are talking about average Russian citizens. If you read the article, you would see that your response is exactly the reasons Russians are upset with Americans. Their experiences are suppressed, while we maintain the stereotypes of them as in the cartoon image that leads the article. This, to us, constitutes blatant discrimination. 

Facebook’s response was a boilerplate line about what constitutes a political post. Their policy about political ads had changed as of May 7th, 2018. It implied that their disapproval had nothing to do with its content. It was because the category was “political”. We were told that in order to consider having our ad approved, we had to register as a political organization. In order to do this we needed to:

  1. Be citizens of the United States
  2. Provide proof of citizenship
  3. Provide a residential address
  4. Provide a drivers license number
  5. Provide a Social Security number

All this – simply to place a political ad. Doesn’t this sound like we are registering to be investigated by the FBI or CIA? Oh, no that’s just left wing paranoia.

Further, they said it would take up to six weeks to verify this and to approve our ad. But not to worry, they would delete all our information once it checked out.

As the author of the article on Russia, Jamal pointed out his other two articles that had been accepted by Facebook were far more political than the one they just rejected. But that was before their change of policy. Jamal rightfully pointed out that the rejected article was more historical, sociological and cultural than political. However, the upper middle class honchos of Facebook, having taken one class in political science in the United States, cannot tell the difference between sociology, political economy, and culture. Their formula is:

Russia = political = bad

America = Democratic Party = good

To paraphrase an old country tune, “Take this job and shove it”, we told Facebook to “take your political registration and shove it”.

No, there is no “Iron Curtain” in the US. That is for Russians.

Our Analysis of Facebook

We think it is reasonable to suspect that Facebook wants to get rid of its “political underground”, the groups that exist beyond the two party system. Why? For one thing people at both extremes of the political spectrum are likely to buy the products that are advertised on their pages. The second reason is that our ads are chump change for them. Getting rid of us will cost them close to nothing in revenue. The third reason is political. Facebook, like most media institutions, is committed to the Democratic Party. Cleaning its house of “Fake News” (the news and opinions of the socialist or fascist sides of the spectrum) will steer people back to reasonable choices like the Democratic Party. It is our belief that this change in policy requiring organizations like ours to register as political groups has occurred in 2018, in part, because this is an election year.

There are other indicators Facebook is closing ranks. In selecting an audience for our article, we noticed the choices given under political interests on the left, the furthest left available to choose was “very liberal”. There was no socialist choice even though a self-proclaimed socialist ran as a Democratic in the 2016 primaries.

If anyone reading this has recommendations for alternatives to Facebook that would allow us to place political ads to broaden our reach, please contact us. It’s time for those of us on the far left to find an alternative to Big Brother Facebook.

• First published at Planning Beyond Capitalism