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Jacques Ellul: Controversies in the Rise of Propaganda

Orientation

Controversies within propaganda theory

When I was preparing for a course I had created, “Brainwashing, Propaganda and Rhetoric: Dark Psychology in the 20th Century” I came across the name Jacques Ellul over and over again. Many of the quotes from his book Propaganda amazed me, considering the book was written almost 60 years ago. Still, when I decided to read the book, I had some reservations, thinking it would be dated in many places. In this article I hope to show that not only is it not dated, but it is still among the top theories in propaganda today.

Before we can begin to compare the propaganda theory of Jacques Ellul to other theories, we must address issues within propaganda theory. After doing that we will be able to see how the seven theories of propaganda (including Ellul’s) line up in relation to the controversies. How do we define propaganda? Is propaganda always bad?  What is not propaganda? Most people think propaganda is fundamentally irrational. But can propaganda be rational too?

How far does it reach? Does propaganda exist in all countries or are some more likely to use it than others?  Does propaganda try to change society, or does it reinforce what is already there? Is propaganda limited to the printed word and to images, or can it include monuments, music, coins, postage stamps or billboards? Does propaganda’s intent to change attitudes or behavior, or both? Are some social classes more susceptible to propaganda than others? Are people more vulnerable to propaganda in collectivist societies than individualists’ societies or is it the reverse?

Is all propaganda covert or is some of it out in the open? Is propaganda about facts, interpretations or evaluations? Can propaganda be truthful in fact or is it all lies?  How do propagandists treat their audience? What is propaganda’s relationship to political ideology? In other worlds do liberals, conservatives, fascists and socialists all use propaganda or do some use it more than others? Are propagandists Machiavellian, cynical manipulators behind the scenes or do they really believe in their propaganda? How fast does propaganda work? Is it a gradual process or does it impact its audience suddenly, like a conversion experience? Typically, propaganda is thought to exist in “authoritarian” states. But what about bourgeois representational “democracies”.

My sources for this article are Jacques Ellul’s great book, Propaganda, two terrific books by J. Michael Sproule Channels of Propaganda and Propaganda and Democracy and Jowett and O’Donnell’s textbook Propaganda and Persuasion.

The seven schools of propaganda

Moving from the right wing of the political spectrum to the left there are at least seven schools of propaganda:

  • Reactionary conservative political:

In the 1930s and 1940s this would include Thurman Arnold, Huey Long, Father Charles Edward Coughlin, the Radio priest. In the 1950s there was Joseph McCarthy and William F. Buckley. Contemporary examples might be Bill O’Reilly and the shock jocks like Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage and Glenn Beck. They are also consistent with neoconservatives or religious fundamentalists.

  • Commercial practitioners:

In the 1920s there was Ivy Lee, and George Creel and most famously, Edward Bernays, who for propaganda reasons changed his advertising campaigns from “propaganda” to “public relations”. These are typically advertisers.

  • Mass communication scientists:

These are the liberal institutions that do polling, most famously the Gallup Poll. Theorists include Paul Lazarsfeld, Elton Mayo, the later Walter Lippmann and Harold Lasswell. Often these are mass media academics who accepted grants from the state or from capitalists such as the Harvard Business School or the Carnegie Corporation.

  • Critical thinking movement:

In the center-left of the political spectrum is the critical thinking movement. Unlike all other schools, this movement says that the issue is less the presence of propaganda than it is the lack of critical thinking schools that can see through the propaganda. Theorists include the later John Dewey, Monroe Beardsley and Robert Ennis. Most often these theorists are college instructors.

  • Reform oriented liberals:

These are the writers and journalists that back in the day were called “muckrakers”. They think that all that is needed is for propaganda to be exposed. After that the critical thinking skills of the masses would take over. The first theorists included Upton Sinclair, the early work of Walter Lippmann, Alfred Lee (the director of the short-lived organization that conducted propaganda analysis), Robert Staughton Lynd and Vance Packard.

  • Sociological school:

This is the school of Jacques Ellul that I shall highlight in this article. Ellul thought that propaganda is the inevitable byproduct of a division of labor in society. He believed it is due to modernization and mass technology. Others with a sociological orientation included Charles Merriam and Graham Wallas.

  • Radical left:

These folks, like the extreme right-wing, think propaganda is the result of class warfare driven by capitalists. The anarchist, communist left was slow to develop theories of propaganda. One of the first was Start Ewing. Noam Chomsky is the most famous example, but his theory was developed in 1988, too late for the research referred to in this article. Besides college instructors, the radical left includes self-educated anarchists and feminists as well as others from different social movements.

The time span for this article is from World War I through the early 1970s. My focus is on mass media and does not include interactive technological breakthroughs such as the internet and various social media such Facebook and Twitter. The forms of media propaganda referred to here will be soapboxes, newspapers, magazines, radio, television, polls, books and film. I think you will find that mass media is a foundation for whatever additional forms of electronic media propagandizing that follow.

Most Provocative Points of Ellul’s Propaganda Theory

  • Unlike other theorists, Ellul argued that propaganda served both the upper classes and the lower classes for different reasons.
  • Unlike other theorists, he understood propaganda as inevitable in modern societies. There is no getting around it.
  • Unlike most other theorists, he saw masses of people as complicit in their own subordination. He saw them neither as victims of circumstance nor heroic masses.
  • He distinguished between hard, fast, political propaganda and soft, slow sociological. He called political propaganda “agitation”. Education is not outside propaganda. It is sociological propaganda.
  • He identified two techniques of propagandizing the masses. First kind is mithridatization which acts like a sedative and sensibilization which is about riling people up.
  • Unlike most other theorists of propaganda, Ellul followed Joseph Goebbels and said that the best propaganda is based on facts. It becomes propaganda with the interpretation of facts. Propaganda based on lies is a sign of weakness.
  • Most propaganda theorists thought the working class was most impacted by propaganda. Ellul argued that it is the upper-middle classes that create the propaganda and that is most likely to believe it.
  • Ellul distinguished horizontal propaganda, which was made inside the group, from vertical propaganda, which uses centralized power. An example of horizontal propaganda was the educational groups of Yankee soldiers organized by the Chinese communists.
  • For Ellul, propaganda does not come from the ruling class, but from the upper-middle class.
  • Industrialist capitalist “democracies” need propaganda because they depend on public opinion, which is disorganized. It requires propaganda to compete with socialist societies.
  • Unlike other theorists, Ellul makes a distinction between ideology and myth and argues that myth is more powerful.
  • His concept of crystallization claims that the individual has latent drives and stereotypes which are vague (based on the work of Karen Horney), and they then become the foundation of propaganda.
  • Unlike other schools of propaganda, Ellul argues that quantitative study of propaganda isn’t effective. One cannot tell how many people are reached and how effective white vs black propaganda is. At what point do you say it failed? At what point does the payoff justify the cost?
  • According to Ellul, psychological propaganda in foreign countries does not work. Propagandists are too ignorant of the attitudes, centers of interest, presuppositions and suspicions of the foreign population.

Definition, Purposes, Fields of Operation and Pervasiveness

Definition

As might be expected, there are considerable differences among the schools over whether propaganda is sinister or benign. Both the reactionary conservatives and the radical left sees propaganda as a product of primarily economic forces. The radical left sees the use of propaganda by capitalists to maintain control of their wealth. The radical right thinks propaganda is necessary to fight against the forces of communism. Both consider propaganda as immoral as the message, source and means are used by either communists or capitalists to perpetuate their power.

The muckrakers are critical of propaganda and see it as used in a wider span of areas, such as advertising, religion and sports, not just in the service of economics. They believe propaganda is immoral because its message, source and means are used to protect the status quo as it pollutes public opinion and undermines democratic thinking. The critical thinking movement agrees with the muckrakers.

Both the commercial practitioners and the mass communications theorists see propaganda as benign and moral. Bernays sees “public relations” as an outgrowth of more successfully circulation of commercial products to a larger audience. They think there is nothing wrong with that. For people like Bernays, propaganda is only immoral when it fails to disclose the source of information.

Mass communications theorists see propaganda as a benign alternative to force and for this reason, they believe it is moral. They think the polls are designed so political leaders can better control their population in order for the population not to resort to violence. The critical thinking movement interestingly points to the collusion of masses of people in propaganda. If the average person had good critical thinking skills, no one would pay attention to propaganda. Surprisingly, Ellul, as a sociologist, does not see propaganda as a product of class forces. He thinks, as I said above, propaganda is inevitable in any mass society just because people need to know what is going on politically and economically, and they can no longer find out through face-to-face contact. For him, propaganda might not be very moral, but it is necessary.

Manipulable use of the word “propaganda”

There are six forms of information control. On a spectrum they can be lined up according to the extent to which they have control over people. On the extreme right, we have brainwashing. Moving towards the left we have propaganda, then rhetoric (or persuasion), then mass and public entertainment. On the extreme left, and the least controlling, is “dialectic”. I will not define these words here except to say that most of them have negative connotations and so all propaganda theorists have a stake in mixing them together.

For reactionary conservatives, propaganda is mixed with brainwashing on the right and dialectic on the left, Since the CIA used the term “brainwashing” to describe what the Chinese did with Yankee soldiers during the Korean War, communist propaganda is mixed up with brainwashing techniques. At the same time, reactionary conservatives lump in the dialectical view of history as some vast mechanical system used by the communists to explain the world. For them dialectic is a vast, controlling philosophy.

Commercial practitioners like Bernays wanted no part of the word propaganda and turned it into “public relations” which was presented as a form of persuasion, or mass entertainment. Mass communication theories also avoid the term propaganda and suggest that news is simply “information” and movies are entertainment. The critical thinking movement also avoids the word “propaganda” by using the social psychological terms “mass persuasion” or “coercive persuasion”. All three propaganda theories on the left are not bashful about using the term propaganda to describe dominant power. The radical left uses the term dialectic as an alternative to propaganda. The muckrakers and the critical thinking advocates are more sensitive about distinguishing propaganda from what they advocate, which is rhetoric and dialectic. Both rhetoric and dialectic are used by journalists and in argumentation and critical thinking classes.

Purpose

The purpose of propaganda also has a wide variation of stances. The purpose for both the extreme left and extreme right is to unmask either the communist or capitalist threat. For the commercial practitioners the purpose of propaganda is to sell products. For the Mass Communication theorists, propaganda is to act as a safety valve to let the leaders know what the public wants or doesn’t want. For critical thinking theorists, their purpose is to expose the informal logical fallacies that typically go with interpreting propaganda. This might include ad hominem arguments, “either or thinking”, bandwagon and conflict of interests within the authorities. For the muckrakers, exposure is the name of the game whether it be the corporations or the state. Ellul has something interesting to say about this. He says the purpose of propaganda is a) to support existing elites in their competition with other elites and b) it is used by the masses that need propaganda to help them understand the complexities of large-scale social life.

Fields of operation

All three theories on the right of the political spectrum in the fields of operation argue that propaganda is only political. Bernays and his followers would sinisterly deny that propaganda is political, even though Bernays himself used propaganda to convince the American public to go to war (World War I) and to support the United Fruit Company against the Guatemalan government in the early 1950s. Mass communication theorists did not really focus on the impact of propaganda outside of politics. All four of the other theories argue that propaganda is present in advertising, television, and movies.

Discontinuous vs pervasive

How well can propaganda be combatted? Not surprisingly, reactionary conservatives, commercial practitioners and mass communication scientists think that propaganda is discontinuous rather than pervasive. The reactionary conservatives think propaganda is limited to the competition between left and right political wings. All other social institutions are neutral. For the commercial practitioners, propaganda is used by advertising companies and in the competition between them, there is no single message that is communicated. In other words, propaganda cancels itself out and the consumer wins! The mass communications theorists think that science is an island immune from the impact of propaganda. The critical thinking movement argues that educational institutions are less likely to be impacted by propaganda. All left wing propaganda theorists think propaganda is pervasive, but it can be combated by political agitation.

Orchestrated or competitive

How systematic are the propaganda mechanisms? As might be expected, right-wing reactionaries think that communist propaganda is seamless and all-controlling. The commercial practitioners think propaganda is very systemic in communist countries, grinding down the population into mindless robots. But in capitalist “democracies” the competition between Republicans and Democrats cancels each other out and the voter is free to decide. In advertising, commercial practitioners deny any orchestration. Advertising techniques are a set of gimmicks and recipes. For mass communication theorists, competition between fields of science allows no overall propaganda that crosses fields. Critical thinking theorists, muckrakers and radical leftists think that propaganda is systematic and orchestrated. Ellul’s sociologist theory has the most to say about this. For him, propaganda is carefully drawn from sociology and psychological research about the needs and psychological mechanisms of the public. There is knowledge about groups and its laws of formation and dissolution. Propaganda is also based on the Pavlov’s laws of association.

Is mass media a tool of control or is it neutral?

Reactionary conservatives say mass media is a passive tool used by liberals and communists. It accuses mass media of a “liberal bias”. Both commercial practitioners and mass media communications theories see mass media as a pure clearing house for finding out either what consumers want economically or what they want politically (through polling). For critical thinking advocates, all forms of mass media are designed to make people take cognitive shortcuts. Muckrakers think that mass media owners have their own self-interests in making money and they are not completely beholden to the ruling class. As left liberals they might point at neoconservative media like Fox News as controlling mass media. Like reactionary conservatives, radical leftists think of mass media as having no independent power and are the tools of ruling class or conservative forces.

Epistemology, Irrationality and Psychological Mechanisms

Is propaganda about lying?

Both the right-wing reactionaries and the left-wing socialists naively think that propaganda is about lies and that truth has no element of propaganda in it. For commercial practitioners’ propaganda is white propaganda – white lies, tall stories, euphemisms and cliches. Mass communications theorists say propaganda is lies about facts. They agree that propaganda could never be based on the truth. Muckrakers also tend to believe propaganda is usually about incorrect facts. Critical thinking theorists think that propaganda can be about lies or about the truth. Ellul’s understanding was the most sophisticated. He followed what Goebbels said about propaganda. The best propaganda is based on facts. Where the propaganda enters is in how the facts are interpreted. Like stereotypes, no propaganda could stick in people’s minds if there wasn’t more than a grain of truth to them.

Is propaganda about rationality or irrationality?

So, is propaganda rational or irrational? Right-wing reactionaries think that communist propaganda is super-rational and fail to take into consideration the emotional side of humanity. Left-wing socialists think that the appeal of reactionary conservatives, whether religious fundamentalists or fascists, is emotional and irrational. Appeals to God and country, blood and soil have no rational basis. Commercial practitioners and mass communication theorists both agree that propaganda is irrational. Commercial practitioners argue their techniques are to appeal to infantile fantasies, as we will see. Mass communication theorists think that anything outside their realm of science is potentially irrational. They think that privately people are more likely to be rational than as a mass. Both critical thinking theorists and muckrakers understand that propaganda can be both rational and irrational. Ellul agrees, adding that propaganda is mostly rational and that irrational propaganda (citing his book written in 1960) is a thing of the past.

What is the relationship between message, source and medium?

Reactionary conservatives are old-fashioned. They focus on the message and who the source is (is the source a front group for communists?) but they don’t’ take a stand as to whether the propaganda is from books, radio or television, or movies. Radical leftists are in the same boat except that they seek out which capitalist corporations might be behind the message. Commercial practitioners think the message, source and medium are not problematic. All are neutral and individuals are free to make up their own minds. Mass communications theorists are not critical of the message or the medium. They think of mediums as interchangeable. However, they do care about the source of the message and how well the message was received by the masses.

Critical thinking advocates are critical of messages and the political leanings of the sources. They are sensitive to which medium the message comes through because fast mass media will not allow people to digest the information and take it apart critically.  It is the muckrakers who are the most critical of all three. As journalists, they are very aware that movies have enormous propaganda potential for storytelling. Television and radio communicate more quickly and there is little time to think. Books, newspapers and magazines have less propaganda potential because the audience can regulate the information at their own pace. The sociological school of Ellul is more critical of the message and the medium but pays less attention to the source.

Does propaganda want to change attitudes or change actions?

Commercial practitioners were among the first theorists to understand that it is much too difficult to try to change people’s attitudes. It was only later that the reasons came out. Attitudes are based on long-standing socialization processes involving family, friends, religious training and elementary education. These socialization processes are too deeply ingrained to change with any short-term propaganda. Therefore, these practitioners target reinforcing existing attitudes but with a slight twist that might provide an impetus to buy something.

Reactionary fascists like Goebbels also understood this and simply reinforced what the German masses seemed to believe. Ellul agrees that propaganda is not about changing attitudes but rather about strengthening what is already there. Mass communications theorists were not really interested in getting people to act, but they hoped that by studying attitudes of masses in polling, leaders could better match the wants of the masses so that they did not lead to destructive collective behavior. The radical left has been historically the most naïve about this, thinking that working class people’s attitudes could be changed towards socialism. 

Propaganda mechanisms used

As far as the precise mechanisms used to propagandize people, only three of the seven theories have mechanisms identified. Commercial practitioners largely depend on both Pavlov in his laws of association and also Skinner’s rewards and punishment scheduling. Lastly, they used an early version of Bandura’s social modeling, having models who are attractive, powerful and seem to have expertise in the products they are advertising. This social modeling will cue the shortcuts of peripheral brain routes. Mass communications theorist Herbert Lasswell had a lot to say about techniques. In addition to working in mass communication he was also involved with the State Department. Lasswell identified three kinds of symbols:

  • Symbols of demand – the aspirations of the group seeking to produce events
  • Symbols of identification – defining the needs of the protagonist and the antagonist
  • Symbols of expectation – presenting facts as immediate or future objectives

Mass communication theorists also used Festinger’s cognitive dissonance theory, which involved manipulating the desire for cognitive consistency.

Ellul also relied on conditioned reflexes but then added two other processes:

  • Mithridatization which acted like a sedative
  • Sensibilization which acted like a stimulant

To paraphrase, Ellul (183) mithridatization (the sedative part) is a toxin antitoxin process whereby a person is rendered immune to a poison by tolerating gradually increased doses of it. Closing up, he becomes insensitive to propaganda as a result of past shocks. He no longer looks at posters. He no longer reads the newspaper, but skims distractedly over it. Yet he continues to obey the catchwords of propaganda.

In a mass communication society, the individual no longer has either the independence or the choice of activities sufficient to release his tensions in an appropriate way. He is forced to keep them inside. Goebbels writes that propaganda should reduce frustrations and artificially resolve real problems and anticipate the frustrations to come when they cannot avoid them. Propaganda is like a cure that would numb the liver of an alcoholic in such a way that he could continue to get drunk without feeling pain in his liver, even though it would still kill him. Propaganda suppresses the warning signals that his anxieties, maladjustments, rebellions and demands once supplied. Now he is no more himself than he is when he reacts biologically to a tranquilizer. Propaganda will appear to be a true remedy, but for a sickness deliberately provoked to fit the remedy. Propaganda will intervene as the fake instrument for reducing these tensions by external action. They will flee contradictions by escape through the contemporary ideology of happiness.

If mithridatization is cooling people out, sensibilization is riling people up. Sensibilization is the increase of sensitivity or susceptibility to stimulation. Ellul says the individualist is more sensitive, not to the content but to the impetus it gives him for the excitement it makes him feel. He needs refreshment, a booster shot. When he goes to political movies it gives an outlet.  Propaganda offers release on a grand scale. Just like in Orwell’s 1984 two-minute hate rants, it will permit hatred and provides an object of hatred. It points out enemies to be slain – Jews, bourgeoisie, or communists. Authoritarian governments allow satirical journals attacking the authorities or a wild holiday paid for by the dictator (The Friday of Sorrows in Guatemala). The bureaucrat becomes the scapegoat, while the party remains above reproach. Letters to the editor by the public serve a similar function in Yankeedom. The sensibilization process has a freshness and novelty which correspond to new situations and gives the individualist the impression of having invented new ideals. It provides humanity with a high ideal and permits him to give into his passions while seeming to accomplish a great mission.

How quickly does propaganda work?

All schools of propaganda agree that propaganda works slowly. However, reactionary conservatives imagine that propaganda can also work suddenly as in a religious conversion. Commercial advertisers know that success is not getting someone to buy a new product but to influence an audience to change brands within a product the person buys regularly. They well understand that their propaganda does not stay with the masses for long. Mass communications theorists agree. Speaking politically, muckrakers understand that propaganda cannot dictate what a person thinks. However, through censorship, they can limit the parameters of what an audience can think about. In other words, political propaganda in Yankeedom cannot convince you to vote Republican or Democrat. However, by their refusal to allow third parties into debates they can define the parameters of what audiences think about. The viability of the capitalist system, the imperialist wars overseas and the prison industrial complex are issues outside the Republican-Democrat parameters, so they get no airtime.

For its time, the most sophisticated dynamical version of the relationship between the speed at which propaganda works is Ellul’s distinction between sociological propaganda and political propaganda. Political propaganda works quickly, attempting to spread a doctrine, dividing and excluding people, as in wars and revolutions. The language is emotional loaded with virtue and vice words. Political propaganda works best in public settings where people are at the same place and the same time. People are swept out of everyday life into a kind of adventure. Political propaganda may be overt at the culmination of a campaign, but much of political propaganda is covert beforehand.

At the other extreme, sociological propaganda attempts to unify rather than divide people. It works slowly and methodically. No crisis is at hand and society is moving along at a normal pace. Whereas political propaganda spreads a political doctrine, sociological propaganda spreads a way of life. While political propaganda works best in public, sociological propaganda does not require being in the same place and the same time. Masses take in sociological propaganda over months and even years. Sociological propaganda such as advertising, movies, sports and education is overt in part because it is not perceived as propaganda. The language of sociological propaganda is not inflammatory. It acts as a sedative, using euphemisms, clichés or vague terminology. The purpose is to support the existing system rather than overturn it. Please see Table A for a full comparison.

How Are the Dominant Institutions and the Public Perceived?

Dominant institutions: Controlling or neutral?

Reactionary conservatives are paranoid, thinking that dominant institutions have been taken over by socialists or communists. The radical left-wingers of propaganda theory think that the state, mass media, the educational system and religious institutions are all determined by capitalists’ drive for profits. They follow a version of Marx’s dominant ideology theory where the ideas of the ruling class became the predominant ideology of the workers.

Both the commercial practitioners and mass communications theorists think these dominant institutions are just fine. Commercial practitioners think these institutions are simply quantitative outgrowths of free speech. Mass communication scientists think state, media, education and religious forces all compete and so there is no central control. Critical thinking theorists will be moderately skeptical of these social institutions, but they say the main problem is people’s emotionalism and suggestibility. Muckrakers are cynical about these institutions because they organize themselves to influence the public in a certain direction before the public can formulate and articulate its own needs. This takes place through think tanks, lobbyists and foundations.

Ellul argues that all the dominant institutions are there to perpetuate their own existence and this applies to both capitalist and socialist societies. Surprisingly, Ellul says that it is not the ruling class that is responsible for mass propaganda. They are too remote to understand how to influence the lower classes. Instead, it turns the job over to the upper-middle class. But as Ellul points out, the upper-middle class does not do a good job with it. The lower classes do not read newspapers or magazines. The lower classes are more susceptible to TV, especially to shows depicting upper-middle class life. The lower classes have their own music and sports which the upper-middle class does not understand or belittles.

Masses: passive, active, neutral?

Up to now, we haven’t clarified how well or badly propaganda works with the masses. Are masses passive, active, neutral or passive and active together? Reactionary conservatives do not trust masses because they are distrustful of mass society. For them, masses are dupes of communist ideology. They believe they are also dangerous when manipulated by communists. It is only at the individual level that the average person thinks more clearly, so they follow a version of Gustav LeBon’s crowd theory.  The commercial practitioners look at the targets of their advertising campaigns as passive and hedonistic. They also agree with Veblen’s emulation theory that masses want to “keep up with the Joneses”. But at the same time, they cynically present the masses as freely choosing consumers. Ellul is rather hopeless about the masses, seeing them as disorganized and passive.

Mass communications theorists are more hopeful about the masses. They are passive but can become active once the facts are given to them by the polls. For critical theorists, there is a big difference between publics and masses. Publics have more potential because they meet in face-to-face gatherings. Masses cannot see each other face-to-face and can be active only if they have overcome the reasoning fallacies. Muckrakers think of the masses as temporarily foolish but as potentially active, capable of cooperation, but simply lack information about how dominant organizations obstruct their judgment. The job of muckrakers is to expose dominant institutions. The radical left understands the public most dialectically. They see the masses as victims of capitalist institutions. But they can become active and revolutionary when not oppressed by capitalist forces.

Dynamics between dominant institutions and masses: mechanical or dialectical?

There are two ways to imagine how the relationship between the dominant order and the masses can be conceived: either mechanically or dialectically. Both the radical right and the radical left have a mechanical understanding of the relationship. Both have what is called a hypodermic needle picture. The reactionary conservatives think that people are helplessly injected with communist propaganda unless combated by the forces of anti-communism. With the exception of mass psychologist Wilhelm Reich, leftist until the 1970s saw masses of people brainwashed by capitalist institutions which could only be overcome by the agitation of socialist organizers.

The commercial practitioners talk out of both sides of their mouths. They present the masses of people as being in control of their desires (the consumer is king) while the advertising agencies are simply doing the bidding of the public. So, the masses are the ones injecting the passive advertisers. But behind closed doors, advertisers think the masses are stupid. However, in practice they are always surprised that their advertising campaigns often fail. Mass communication scientists, critical thinking advocates and muckrakers all agree that the dominant institutions have the power, but the power is not so extreme that it can be called a hypodermic needle. Mass communications theorists understand the people in polls do not always go along with these institutions. The critical thinking movement argues that by utilizing more critical thinking tools masses can resist propaganda. Muckrakers also see people banding together and forming alternative media sources. Ellul sees the relationship between propagandists and masses as mutually constitutive. Masses need propagandists in order to understand more simply the complexity of the world. Propagandists need the masses to fight wars and produce profit.

Who is Most Susceptible?

Which social classes are most susceptible?

Earlier I said that reactionary conservatives had a rather cynical attitude towards the lower classes, dismissing them as dupes. However, they also think that it is the middle-class and upper-middle class intellectuals who promote communism, get carried away with the ideology they create and spin unrealistic prospects for a utopian future. Ellul agrees. He also says the social class most susceptible to propaganda is the upper-middle class for they are the ones who are creating the symbol systems and they are the most enthralled with them. He believes that they are more interested in the social issues that the propagandists target and because they are convinced of their own superiority in understanding them. They are more vulnerable to propaganda because they think they are beyond it.

The commercial practitioners also think the middle and upper middle classes are better targets because they have the money to buy the products. Advertisers spend much less of their money targeting the lower classes because the profit margins are too low. Mass communication theorists think the lower classes are more vulnerable because they are not interested in science and are irrational. Critical theorists think working-class, and especially poor, people fall for propaganda because they are less likely to have gone to college and been more likely to learn critical thinking skills. Radical leftists think working-class people are most vulnerable because they do not have the leisure time to understand precisely how they are being manipulated.

Are collectivists or individualists more vulnerable to propaganda?

Reactionary conservatives think that the individualism of industrial capitalist societies make people more vulnerable to propaganda because city living creates rootless individuals who are alienated from the religions that once gave them comfort. Conservatives don’t think that religion in itself is a form of propaganda. Ellul agrees, saying masses of people are more vulnerable to propaganda than the face-to-face public relations of people living in collectivist societies.

Commercial practitioners agree that the lack of mass media in agricultural or tribal societies make them less vulnerable. People in pre-industrial societies do not seem to have the “infinite needs” of individualists in industrial capitalist societies, most of which is created by advertisers in the first place. Mass media communications theorists, on the other hand, think propaganda is more prevalent in collectivist societies (religious beliefs, superstition) and that democratic processes in industrial capitalist societies would train them to be less vulnerable. Critical thinking theorists think collectivists’ lack of training in critical thinking would make them more vulnerable to propaganda.  Both the muckrakers and the radical left think the individualists of industrial capitalist societies are more vulnerable because they think they are too smart to be propagandized.

Who is easiest to mobilize: the committed, the indifferent or the undecided?

All seven propaganda theorists agree that people who are already committed to a position cannot be propagandized. They have too much of a stake in what they already believe to change. At the other extreme, it is too difficult to move people out of a position of indifference. When people don’t care, something dramatic has to happen like a natural disaster, a stock market crash or a revolution to make them care. Propaganda is not strong enough by itself. The people who are most likely to be moved to change propaganda are those who are mobilized but haven’t made up their minds. This is one reason why politicians in Yankeedom work harder to appeal to voters in swing states. They don’t bother with people who have demographically been shown not to vote, nor with states that have a history of voting consistently for Republican or Democratic candidates.

What is the Relationship Between Democracy and Propaganda?

Superficially it would seem that democracy and propaganda are at opposite points on the spectrum. Societies that were democratic would not have propaganda and those who had propaganda were in some ways not democratic. But the problem is that the seven theories of propaganda do not agree about what democracy is.

Most agree that democracy is defined politically as the right to vote. However, both commercial practitioners and the radical left think of democracy as economic, rather than political. Commercial practitioners think democracy is about consumption, having infinite choices in commodities is what democracy is all about. The radical left think democracy is about controlling the workplaces and deciding economically what is produced, how it is produced and where it goes. Mass communication theorists are the most middle of the road, thinking that democracy is having two political parties and voting for them. Critical thinking advocates think that democracy is less about parties and more about issues. Thus, critical thinking texts often have a section with perhaps, ten or twelve of the typical issues Republicans and Democrats argue about in Congress. The job of a critical thinker is to use critical thinking skills to write about or debate the issues. Muckrakers go further and argue that party debate or examining the issues are both done by individuals. For them democracy is about learning how to participate in small groups, coming to group decisions. An example of that is something called “participatory budgeting” where at city council meetings citizens come together to decide on the priorities of a city budget.

Both Ellul and reactionary conservatives think that democracy doesn’t work, but for different reasons. Ellul simply thinks democracy is impossible in a modern society and the word itself is used for propagandistic purposes to give people the illusion of choice. For the reactionary conservatives, democracy is looked upon as an unfavorable turn of events at the end of the 19th century. For political conservatives there is a natural hierarchy, placing people with superior talent and good breeding at the top and their inferiors at the bottom.  Democracy is understood as the rule of a mob that should never rule. Ortega Y Gasset would be the appropriate theoretician for this view.

Please see Table B for a summary of the seven propaganda theorists and their books spanning from the 1920s to the 1960s.

* First published in Socialist Planning After Capitalism

The post Jacques Ellul: Controversies in the Rise of Propaganda first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Methanol for the CoV2 Hypodermic Chemical Experiment

“There you have it — At-will, AKA at the beckon call, beckon abuse, beckon exploitation, beckon denigration, beckon injurious behavior and workplace environment. These employers are thugs, and from the top down, with their lawyers and MBAs and institutional misleadership yahoos at the executive level, the worker is doomed by this sick system. Forced vaccinations for schools, colleges, workplaces. The systems need to burn!”

Of course, I am asked not to identify the person who wrote this to me. We all are being surveilled by these Stasi folk, whether we work for a governmental agency, school systems, private college, for-profit business, mom and pop lowbrow joint, nonprofit, you name it.

They (bosses, agencies, pre-employment interviewers) sign up for Google search notifications — any time their company is named in the media or on digital platforms, they get notifications. They track what’s said about their business, corporation, nonprofit, agency, school. That is also for anyone they want to put into the Google-Palantir search engine, for a price, monthly rate, be it a person’s name. Like mine, hmm.

This is what these Stasi Americans want in their lives — complete control. Damage control against the truth-sayers speaking truth to power. Damage the messenger, or kill him or her with constant threats of litigation, fines, subpoenas, more. Imagine one writer, me, getting hooked into the Google Gulag, but then, what about anyone with my name? Hmm, children, siblings, spouses? This is how they play their mole game.

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Below, an example of the blithe and dangerous bullshit fake journalism of the mainstream imbeciles. That the State of Oregon can force vaccinations onto people really is the issue: the state just pushes that onto the overlords running businesses or nonprofits. That’s it, no argument, hands down the policy of the land, man.

The news (sic) story below will not contain push back,  and it will be vacant of civil rights thinkers/libertarians cited, will allude to no one pushing back on these Draconian measures. In fact, the story will not frame these measures as Draconian. The journalist from the Oregon paper of record (Oregonian) is already colonized and co-opted. Then you get some “law” professor (sic) from a for-profit private university pulled into the article, to come on board to yammer on. This is the new normal that’s been pretty old normal — mainstream media faking it, looking like it’s in the hunt for balance, when it’s all false balance, false and manufactured consent. The goal is to question the prevailing party-bureaucratic-company line, and question all governments’ actions. Read here:

“I think ultimately most employers would be able to require it,” said Henry Drummonds, a Lewis & Clark Law School professor specializing in labor and employment law. “But I think most employers probably wouldn’t want to require it. I think employers could first encourage and educate employees about the safety of the vaccine and the desirability of it in terms of protecting yourself and your coworkers.”

Drummonds said that at-will employment standards allow private businesses to dictate and change the terms of employment at any time and fire employees for any reason, as long as they don’t discriminate on the basis of race, gender, age or any other protected category.

In practice, this means that employers probably could require employees to receive the vaccine to remain employed or return to the office. Both the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Oregon Bureau of Labor & Industries have released guidance stating that employers can mandate that employees get vaccinated.

 

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Already, idiocy prevails: just recently, I witnessed a manager of a nonprofit ask her employee in front of another employee in a public place within lots of people’s earshot: “Well, Rick, got his vaccination. So did I. Most everyone in the company has. But John hasn’t.”

See the source image

I knew this was a nonprofit this manager was a member of because I was within earshot. I offered an unsolicited response, trying to equate calling someone out in public for not having this experimental and not FDA-approved chemical shot. “How’s your BMI? You looking overweight? How’s your hypertension? You looking pink in the face? How’s your probable lung cancer? You just finished off a cigarette. Come on, shaming people for not agreeing to an untested chemical compound with that jab in the arm is unethical, and in public so I can hear your conversation?” She just clammed up and scooted her two employees away.

Imagine, fewer and fewer tough guys and gals can actually make it in USA (elsewhere too) with the power of what they can and cannot decide upon, that is, what they either want to and do not want to be injected into their bodies. Mind you, the jury is far from out on these chemical shots —

On February 27, 2021, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it had “issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for the third vaccine for the prevention of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19),” the Janssen (Johnson&Johnson) Covid-19 vaccine.

This announcement is virtually identical to the EUAs previously issued for Covid-19 vaccines produced by Pfizer-Biontech and Moderna.

In each of the EUAs, the FDA has been careful to avoid any claim that the vaccines provide protection against infection or transmission of the virus. Similarly, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have each publicly stated that the vaccines have NOT been shown to prevent infection or transmission.

All of their regulatory documents and commentary addressing the issue state clearly that there is no evidence that the vaccines affect either infection with or transmission of the virus, nor do they prevent symptoms of Covid-19 from appearing.

— Source:  “Covid Vaccine Nonsense” [US-based human rights lawyer breaks down the contradictory claims of “effectiveness”, the incomplete studies and legal minefield of forced use of experimental vaccines] JP Jerome

 

Let’s shift to some compare and contrast between vaccine makers and cigarette makers. I  just read a short but cogent article on the menthol marketing, how 45,000 black Americans die each year from tobacco related illnesses (mostly throat, tongue, and lung cancer). Talk about cool — mentholated cigarettes’ make the poisons go down easier. Everything goes down smoother with a little bit of throat deadening. And this is legal stuff. No massive “take all the cigarettes’ and Juul’s and pipes and cigars and chew cans away.”  “Menthol Marketing Exposes Institutional Racism” by Michael Schwalbe, Counterpunch.

But forced vaccinations, and then this pact with  the devil — at-will, zero protection: screw up and you get the pink slip bullshit about American capitalism. Sort of buyer beware, user beware, consumer beware, worker beware.

In the long run, the solution to the ongoing global pandemic of tobacco-related disease is to abolish tobacco companies. Short of that, we now have an opportunity to significantly curtail the industry’s ability to profit from the destruction of Black lives. If Black lives matter, we must not let the opportunity pass.

— Michael Schwalbe, professor of sociology at North Carolina State University Source.

Low income, lots of working class people, workers in the developing world. Slick multimillion dollar a year ad campaigns: Slick, and Scientific (sic). Data driven.  Imagine, tobacco kills more than 8 million people each year. Of these deaths, 1.2 million are caused by secondhand smoke exposure. Talk about an epidemic, pandemic. You know that every rotting Southern pol and every single tobacco lobbyist and every grower and CEO, they pooh-pooh these stats. “Prove it. If it’s that deadly, then why’s it legal?”

The internet seems great at scrubbing information, but the reality is that when Ray-Gun left his criminal enterprise throne, he did some hucksterism stuff for the tobacco industry. He and Edwin Meese did a talking tour overseas to push cancer sticks.

Talk about killing people from his cold-ass grave, Reagan and the long arm of his contra mentality, still with us:

But the industry did not launch its campaign for new overseas markets alone. The Reagan and Bush administrations used their economic and political clout to pry open markets in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and China for American cigarettes. At a time when one arm of the government was warning Americans about the dangers of smoking, another was helping the industry recruit a new generation of smokers abroad.

Asia is where tobacco’s search for new horizons began and where the industry came to rely most on Washington’s help. U.S. officials in effect became the industry’s lawyers, agents and collaborators. Prominent politicians such as Robert J. Dole, Jesse Helms, Dan Quayle and Al Gore played a role. “No matter how this process spins itself out,” George Griffin, commercial counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, told Matthew N. Winokur, public affairs manager of Philip Morris Asia, in a “Dear Matt” letter in January 1986, “I want to emphasize that the embassy and the various U.S. government agencies in Washington will keep the interests of Philip Morris and the other American cigarette manufacturers in the forefront of our daily concerns.”  Source.

Why the harangue by yours truly against tobacco in a piece about how rotting the at-will mentality of big, small and loser companies run by bigger losers than anyone following the Peter Principle 2.0 [well, Peter Principle update: the worse you are as a human, with no ethics, no character, well, you go up the ladder, food chain, corporate manure pile!] can imagine forcing vaccines onto workers?

Think hard about an experimental mRNA chemical put into a syringe and then forcefully delivered to the global population. Hmm, would this have been acceptable in 2019? 2001? 1990? The year I was born, 1957?

Of course not, and yet, this is it, with people being shamed or called out for reluctance on an experimental, emergency authorized, untested chemical and DNA morphing drug being forcefully put into one’s body. Not once, but with a booster, and then, now, as the world burns, yearly or bi-yearly boosters for the “new” variants of a corona cold virus.

Here, this is science and capitalism, science/capitalism/politics, like leprosery and it’s host —

One way the tobacco industry has manipulated cigarettes to increase addictiveness is by loading cigarettes with chemical compounds. Bronchodilators were added so that tobacco smoke can more easily enter the lungs. Sugars, flavors and menthol were increased to dull the harshness of smoke and make it easier to inhale. Ammonia was added so that nicotine travels to the brain faster.

Specifically, increasing the amount of nicotine was of paramount importance to tobacco company executives. Experts found that Big Tobacco companies genetically engineered their tobacco crops to contain two times the amount of nicotine and adjusted their cigarette design so that the nicotine delivered to smokers increased by 14.5 percent. As Phillip Morris Principal Scientist W.L. Dunn said in 1972, “No one has ever become a cigarette smoker by smoking cigarettes without nicotine.”  — Source

Bronchodilators and ammonia added? Come on, my students at UTEP were finding more dirt on big tobacco and the collusion with the FDA, keeping secret under governmental lock and key all the ingredients they sprayed on tobacco before becoming the stuff of rolled cigs, cigars, pipe filler and chew. Think of secret doses of anti-convulsant drugs, since the higher nicotine content and the other burning chemicals cause many people to get ticks, minor tremors; i.e., seizures. Best keep the seizures down and the sales up.

Shoot, this is just the minor list of smoke by-products — Nicotine (the addictive drug that produces the effects in the brain that people are looking for), Hydrogen cyanide, Formaldehyde, Lead, Arsenic, Ammonia, Radioactive elements, such as polonium-210, Benzene, Carbon monoxide, Tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNAs), Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).

These Satan’s, these big and little Eichmann types, these Mad Men, these PR spinners, these profiteers and cancer mercenaries, come on, the story is bigger — 600 ingredients can be used in cigarettes, but the actual combustion of the cig produces over 4,000 chemical compounds. And, when burned, these cigarette ingredients mix together and create deadly substances, 69 of which are carcinogenic.

Yeah, how’s that pandemic and pandemic and pandemic on the horizon. SARS-CoV2, 3, 5? Remember, there is no outright statement that declares cigarette smoking causes cancers or any number of other co-occurring diseases or terminal cancers.

So, if Big Tobacco and Gore and Reagan and Clinton and Trump, et al can stump just for this singular felonious Mafia outfit, what do you think might be happening behind closed doors and inside labs and at the top of the heap tied to exactly what this experimental vaccine’s (sic) side effects might do today, next month, a year from now, etc.?

For the good of the world? The economies? For life saving ethos? You got the memo yet? You want life saving? Shit, one product, tobacco, done with, hmm, what’s that life saving factor? Banned from planet earth, more or less. And how much for all the lost labor of huffing and puffing cig smokers . . .  all the flagging physiologies, all the damage, slow and fast, caused by cigs, et al? Ya think there will be a ban tomorrow?

Hmm, NEVER. Now, multiply that a million fold with all the deadly chemicals and toxins and fumigants and fungicides and off-gassing crap in all manner of clothes, combustible materials, food, drinks, drugs. Then multiple one times two, and then factor up. How do these work, hmm, twelve together, the impossibility of really studying the synergistic effects of one chemical interacting with another, or a dozen or 4,000? Hmm, those 4,000 chemicals in one good Marlboro man drag, what’s the toll?

You think there are governmental and private financed studies on that? Think.

According to comments from vaccine scientists in September 2020 (prior to the Covid-19 EUA issuances), no vaccine had ever before been distributed on an EUA basis.

“We don’t do EUAs for vaccines,” [Dr. Peter] Hotez said, “It’s a lesser review, it’s a lower-quality review, and when you’re talking about vaccinating a large chunk of the American population, that’s not acceptable.”

Three months later, the FDA issued EUAs for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, but with explicit guidance that the vaccine “has not undergone the same type of review as an FDA- approved or cleared product.”

The idea is that if there are injuries and deaths because of the experimental and untested drugs-chemicals in these shots, well, who foots the bill? Who is responsible? Hmm, in the USA, it’s the US taxpayer.

I have a friend whose niece would not take “death by any other means” as the last answer. She is pushing for an investigation into her father’s death after the vaccine was given to him. He was 74, healthy, but he did have aging issues, like we all do. Blood clots occurred rapidly, hmm, and, then he checked out in a stroke like manner. This is after, right after, vaccination. The county coroner will not do an autopsy, and alas, there are no watchdog agencies in our corner. A simple autopsy would be $6,000. This is a suspicious vaccine-related death, and she has now gone on-line and gotten more people to email her about similar deaths after vaccination. She can’t put it on Facebook, too long or too detailed like, so she is getting contacted through GoFundMe. She’s doing this surreptitiously.  There will be no Ralph Nader’s or RFK, Jr.’s coming to her family’s aid.

Just like you can’t sue successfully the big tobacco and their technicians and chemists and MD’s and lawyers and CEO’s and the politicians and marketers for selling a dangerous product to a billion people, let alone the second and third hand smoke of these cancer sticks.

The post Methanol for the CoV2 Hypodermic Chemical Experiment first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Charlie Hebdo and His Neighbours

French Secular State, Judiciary and Education on Trial

The October 16, 2020, slaying of French civics teacher, Samuel Paty, drew intensely impassioned responses from the French state, members of the society and, specifically, the Muslim immigrant community, the teacher having shown a naked caricature of the Prophet.  Displaying this image from the infamous Charlie Hebdo magazine crossed a “red line” for faithful Muslims. Therefore, the conflict between the Muslim community (3.3% of the population) and the dominant French society invoking the firmly held principle of secularism and separation of church (religion) and state mushroomed.  However, such a heated conflict elicits many questions.

  • Does the principle of secularism, laïcité, an apparent absolute in French society, serve the interests of all people equally whom it purports to benefit? Is laïcité applied with justice and consistency?
  • How did the state handle the murder? How should the state handle the murder?
  • What is the role of the state Ministry of Education and the role of the teacher? Do they create a positive learning environment that will lead to full, productive inclusion of all students equally in French society?
  • For what reasons are minority, ghettoized students being humiliated in schools? Who benefits?

Chronology

On October 16, 2020, M. Samuel Paty, a civics teacher in a middle school in France, fell victim to a brutal murder caught in a conflict between the French practice of secularism and the rage of fundamentalist vengeance. For his having shown Charlie Hebdo cartoons, one being a depiction of the Prophet with genital exposure, religious Muslims were outraged for their children attending that school.  Abdoullakh Anzorov, a Chechen youth from outside that school, exacted the ultimate vengeance with Paty’s beheading.  This act being not an isolated incident, it is important to trace the escalation.

  • In November 2011, the magazine Charlie Hebdo was firebombed for printing satirical material targeting Sharia and the Prophet.
  • On January 7, 2015, following the display of the image later used by Samuel Paty from the magazine Charlie Hebdo, two attackers killed and wounded 23 people in the offices of that magazine, thereby exacting a horrifying revenge for the publication.
  • On May 3, 2015, a Draw Mohammed contest drew gunfire from two shooters, leaving a security guard wounded and the two attackers dead in Garland, Texas.
  • In early October 2020, Samuel Paty showed Charlie Hebdo cartoons in a mixed class wherein Muslim students are registered.
  • There was a strong community reaction: parents lodge complaints; one mosque produces a video condemning the actions of the teacher, soon to be closed down for six months for criticising Paty.
  • On October 16, 2020, M. Samuel Paty was savagely beheaded in the street with a cleaver by a Chechen immigrant, Abdoullakh Anzarov, 18, not a student in the school.
  • Community citizens were arrested following the murder for alleged complicity in the act after social media postings.
  • French citizens rallied in support of Paty and the government position.
  • Samuel Paty, the “quiet hero” according to Macron, was awarded posthumously the Légion d’honneur, France’s highest award, for “representing the face of the Republic” within days in patriotic fervour. “We will not give up cartoons,” he said.
  • The Muslim community complains that Islamophobic affronts increase. On October 22, 2020, two Muslim women are stabbed publicly in the tension after the incidents, ascribed to the friction following M. Paty’s murder.
  • The escalation continued: The Muslim organisation Baraka City and the Collective Against Islamophobia in France (CCIF), a charity and a community organisation which compiles information on alleged acts of anti-Muslim hatred in the country, both came under attack by the French Interior minister, M Gérald Darmanin, who threatened to shut them down.
  • Macron began implementing policies to acculturate Muslims to a more “French Islam” with cooperation from some clerics.
  • In early February, Macron’s government debated and passed articles on a bill entrenching republican values supported by the French Communist Party (PCF) and the socialist Unsubmissive France (LFI) to challenge “separatism” in the wake of Muslim “radicalism.” Associations, guaranteed in prior laws of laïcité, can be dissolved and amendments can be made by government decree to uphold these republican principles.
  • National Rally leader Marine Le Pen, Macron’s most threatening opposition, called for “war legislation,” thereby using the crisis to ramp up the competition.

Secularism

The principle and practice of laïcité, a social model in law for France since 1905, guarantees the rights of religious freedom for religions and individuals thereof, while maintaining the secular state’s distinct separation from religious influence and the power of any clergy.  Not to be defined by atheism, it advocates secularity, a view based on “this-world” terms, entrenching the right of freedom of speech. Thus, the law, dating from 1905, allowed, even encouraged, the naked caricature as a teaching aid in support of the lesson directed at all students, including Muslim. For most, laïcité is to be an absolute principle.

However, Dr. Alain Gabon, professor at Virginian Wesleyan University, has called Macron on his response by itemising the president’s abrogation of the entrenched law which he purports to be protecting. In fact, Gabon accuses him of enhancing separatism by treating Islam as a distinct threat beyond other religions, hence, separately. However, officials of the French Council of Muslim Faith have signed a “Charter of Principles” outlining terms and conditions that would pacify Islam according to the ideals of the Republic.  He writes:

…besides the extreme violations of freedom of religion and the brutalisation of Islam, the charter is also a glaring violation of French laïcité – a principle the Macron government nonetheless claims to uphold. Based on the 1905 law on the separation of church and state, French laïcité includes three sacred principles that are not open to interpretation: freedom of conscience and religion, the separation of church and state, and equal treatment by the state of all religions. Macron is trampling on all three pillars.

Islam will be a special case before the law.

Inclusion is necessary

What is the message to the youth? With this, they may sup at the trough of a statist hegemony as re-educated Muslims, their practice dictated not from the authority of their community leaders but of a government department, as marginalisation becomes official – hardly a prescription for peace and harmony, or laïcité.  Neo-colonialism is not dead. As Khalid Hajji, a recognized professor of humanities, has written:

My long experience of working with Muslim youth in Europe has shown me that violence among them is largely due to the fact that they cannot recognise themselves in the values of the countries where they live, rather than because of religious fervour… Religion is often only a demarcation line in their attempts to negotiate their sense of identity in today’s difficult European context…. A criminal or a terrorist is not only the product of Islamic culture, but also of the French republic – of its schools, its migration policies and its social fabric.

His warning must be heeded. However, the conflict continued after the firebombing, after the Charlie Hebdo massacre, after the attack in Garland, Texas, after the execution of Samuel Paty, after the restrictions on Muslim organisations, after the assault on Muslim women, and promises of “war legislation.” Now, after the state’s intervention creating separateness of the Muslim community, the state must give protection as it flaunts its own law that should protect the community.  It’s a conundrum. This unfolding narrative has become a meme, a continuing stand-off between ideological republicanism vs. the principles of a minority community.

Political utility

“Never let a good crisis go to waste,” Churchill said.  In an outpouring of nationalism inspired by grief, horror and indignation, Macron rose magnificently to the occasion conferring posthumous honours on the victim of the execution. The nation rallied.  The enemy was named: radical Islam, terrorist, separatism.  While Macron never used the term, Islamo-gauchisme became a meme in the press lumping “leftism” with Islam as a threat, timely in the era of Yellow Vests. Contradicting the secularist laws of the first decade of the twentieth century, laws were drafted and passed even to the extent that any association may be punished for an act of one of its members in contradiction to individual human rights.  The government assumed powers of decree in the fight against the common enemy taking a step to the right.  Surprisingly, the Communist Party of France and the socialist LFI of Mélonchon supported Macron in the nationalist frenzy.  Macron was the warrior supreme for all republicans, a strong role with an election coming in 2022.

Of course, his opposition was not silent.  Calling radical Islam a “warlike ideology,” National Rally leader, Marine Le Pen has called for “war legislation” to compete with her rival, for her battle is not only with Islam but with Macron whom she would best.

A common enemy unifies people. While the Yellow Vest protests have underscored the economic and financial crises of capitalism as they rally against austerity and privilege, a gasoline tax and inequities, the traumatised French population gathered en masse in unified nationalism.  They confronted the Muslim enemy, alleged radical separatism which, in some aspersions, is somehow leftist Islamo gauchisme.  What, then, is left of solidarity of the Arab working class with the general population? They have been dismissed with a word in the current rightward trend. The religious rights of Muslims need to be included. This is not limited just to Muslim students but to Arab workers who compose 3.3% of the French population.

One must empathize with the young, for this is the troubled ground on which they are to be nurtured.  While they may not be victims in this fury, these innocents, it all began with a lesson designed for them.  They deserve more respect.

My teaching experience

Having taught many Muslim youths in middle-class Ontario schools, I see them as I see all students – a wonderful mix of characters engaged in school life.  They were not separate, but engaging and respectful, even with an unusual role I played.

Following 1987, upon the Ontario government’s having included sexual orientation in the Bill of Rights, I became program director and implementer of the Anti-Homophobia Action Committee for my board. Because my home school was strongly composed of Muslim students, I was warned by colleagues, “You can’t do that with these kids.”  I did.  Furthermore, as the teacher in charge, I was uncompromisingly “out,” presenting the students with assemblies on human rights and hate crimes.  Happily, as the “out” gay teacher, I had never a sideways glance, rude remark, snigger or any slight from any of those Muslim youths.  They deserved the respect they gave. No, the Charlie Hebdo image would not have been welcome in my classroom.

It’s universal: no student must be humiliated and marginalised.  The consequences may be catastrophic.  As Ontario’s Ministry of Education prescribed as my career began, the teacher must act as a “kind, firm, judicious parent.”

What must teachers do?

A “kind, firm and judicious parent”?  I cannot find one of those qualities in those cartoons, for school must become a locus of learning and growth to prepare the productive citizen. Admittedly, a middle-class Ontario school is some distance from a Parisian banlieue; however, the universal mandate is that all students must be safe, welcome and secure in the educational establishment. Alienation must be avoided, for that will bring disaster for these kids of whose perilous journeys to the West I have only hints.  The singular function of the school must be graduation, a source of dignity and pride in their new country.

The far, far better lesson must be grounded on Martin Luther King’s admonition in his speech in the Riverside Community Church on April 4, 1967, a year to the day before he was assassinated.  “Be neighbourly.”

Compare the two, Charlie vs. Martin. Who benefits?  Cui Bono?

Laïcité has value

While this short work may be thought to be an attack on the original principles of French secularism, it is not.  Of course, ideas must be discussed openly on freedom of speech in class – with sensitivity to create civil dialogue, mandated from ministries of education.  I maintain that the cartoons did not have to be shown, perhaps mentioned. Who in France would not have known about them? Such images are the red line for that already marginalised community which must not be used as a political tool. Reasonable accommodation with respect for the young must be for any teacher the fundamental moral principle.

Need a lesson on freedom of speech? How about Julian Assange to whom France will not give asylum?

Furthermore, I applaud the separation of religion and state when it is done fairly and equitably, in the spirit of Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité when applied with respect, especially to youth who are so easily alienated from authority. They are our future, and we can’t afford not to.  I recommend the policy in more countries and jurisdictions, East and West, even my own Province of Ontario where the Roman Catholic Schools, and only that religious group’s schools, are funded publicly.  I say remove it.

• First published in Planning Beyond Capitalism

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The Eye of the Wolf: Measuring Myself through Death

If I were asked what I want to accomplish as a writer, I would say it’s to contribute to the literature of hope.

— Barry Lopez, About This Life

A passing. A death. Moving on. Back to earth. A new journey.

Image result for Barry Lopez Oregon

He filled the air with lyrical words and ideas grafted to our role as writers and people living inside and with our natural world. He was steadfast in his role as a naturalist of sorts, but through and through he was a word conjurer.

He came to me when I was young, inside his book about wolves. I was in Arizona jumping the skeletons of saguaros with my 360cc Bultaco and learning the art of passage: working with ministers and laypersons helping Central Americans cross that political line between USA and Mexico.

Barry Lopez’s written words were in my heart.

The wolf exerts a powerful influence on the human imagination. It takes your stare and turns it back on you. … from Of Wolves and Men

Luckily for me, I heard wolves in 2002 along the Clearwater in Idaho, being let free on Nez Perce land.  Now, 42 years later, the tributes to his life, his writing, and how he touched soil and words come trickling in.  But the Lopez I also know is the young man who went to Norte Dame and considered being a Trappist monk, while a deep scar from his youth galvanized into his very being and turned him away from much man’s ways.

He is a writer who helped humanity understand their stories are valuable. I remember the television interview of him years ago, with Bill Moyers. Again, Lopez stressed he may be considered a nature writer but, in reality, he is writing about humanity.

Every story is an act of trust between a writer and a reader; each story, in the end, is social. Whatever a writer sets down can harm or help the community of which he or she is a part.

He was a gifted wordsmith. And like Winona LaDuke, he wanted to “recover the sacred.” The land shapes us all, and for Lopez, he spent time in that land – five years in the arctic as a biologist. His own biography is compelling in that odd American way.

Barry with his wife, Debra Gwartney, and his daughters Amanda, Stephanie, Mary and Mollie. Finn Rock Oregon, 2016
RIP — 1945-2020

Nascent Dreams

He was born Barry Holstun Brennan in Port Chester, New York. His family moved to Reseda, California, after the birth of his brother, Dennis. He was raised in a low-income single-parent family for a while, and his mother married Adrian Lopez, a businessman, in 1955. Adrian adopted Barry and his brother, and they both took his surname.

He died with laurels, awards, and 20 books to his name. Years fighting prostate cancer didn’t lessen his ferocity for wanting to be a “writer of help.”

For me, Walt Whitman says it in a nutshell, what it was to be Barry Lopez: “Happiness, not in another place but this place…not for another hour, but this hour.”

Part of Barry’s call to duty is acting as a bridge, a translator, an intermediary for humanity (Western Civilization) which has in general lost that language of animals. We have forgotten to talk to our brothers and sisters.

He stated in an interview with Nick O’Connell.  “I’ve always been deeply interested in animals, in what they were doing and where they lived. They are for me parallel cultures. I think about them a lot and spend a certain amount of time with them. Natural history is the metaphor I feel most comfortable with as a writer—a kind of natural history that includes geography.”

When Lopez was 11, his family relocated to Manhattan, where he attended the Loyola School, graduating in 1962. He attended the University of Notre Dame, earning undergraduate and graduate degrees there in 1966 and 1968.

He also attended the University of Oregon in Eugene.

Conquest’s Lesson

He ended up planting his field of muses to grow into an Oregonian. In this process of tending his writing and spirituality in this adopted land, he always spoke of this amazing place that for thousands of years was home of people with a real land ethic. People who planned to live here generations into the future. Who planned their lives, habits and culture around the fact they would not be leaving, or engaging in some Diaspora.

That manifest destiny, that interloper mentality of settlers, Lopez also discussed with me and my students, since I had spent much of my life in land conquered by Spain – Mexico and Central America. And others who knew Barry personally also write about this root in his own intellectual life.

An amazing journey in time, space, and history, “The Passing Wisdom of Birds,” from Crossing Open Ground still drills into my core.  Lopez writes about Hernan Cortez’s destruction of Tenochtitlan, the Aztec Capital known today as Mexico City. Not surprisingly, Charles V called this Aztec jewel “the most beautiful city in the world.”

We know the story – after being driven out of the city a year earlier by Montezuma, Cortez then returns with a larger army and with vengeance in his heart and vindictive violence as his tool of domination. Lopez writes, Cortez’s army “laid siege to the city. Canal by canal, garden by garden, home by home.”

This is the barbarity of the Old World launching its systematic destruction of a people, culture and their own praxis by gestating in a new land as conquistadores with guns, the holy cross and racism. Cortez set fire to the great aviaries and nests of wild birds found throughout the city. Lopez writes,

The image I carry of Cortez setting fire to the aviaries in Mexico City that June day in 1521 is an image I cannot rid myself of. It stands, in my mind, for a fundamental lapse of wisdom … an underlying trouble in which political conquest, personal greed, revenge, and national pride outweigh what is innocent, beautiful, serene and defenseless — the birds. … Indeed, one could argue, the same oblivious irreverence is still with us, among those who would ravage and poison the earth to sustain the economic growth of Western societies.

I spoke with Barry when he addressed classes at Eastern Washington University and the two Spokane community colleges where I taught. I brought up the chaos of the country when we spoke. That was  in 2006. It was easy to rebuke much of America then as it was clear to pundits, academicians and writers this country was adrift (some déjà vu now, uh?). Easy to blame media, computers, celebrity culture and political impotence, for sure, but Lopez stressed to me and the students that we were widening the cultural disconnect with the land.

He actually posed this very question in the end of that essay, “The Passing Wisdom of Birds.” Is it possible to move beyond a moment in the Valley of Mexico when we behaved as though we were insane? Lopez’s answer can be found in Arctic Dreams:

Staring down pecatta mundi that day on the tundra, my image of God was this effort to love in spite of everything that contradicts that impulse. When I think of the phrase ‘the love of God,’ I think of this great and beautiful complexity we hold within us, this pattern of light and emotion we call God, and that the rare, pure ferocity of our love sent anywhere in that direction is worth all the mistakes we endure to practice it.

Think Like a Mountain

He hitched his entire life to the land, and the mental manifestation of what land language and biotic ethics mean to people who hold land as more than “just” sacred.

The land is the very essence of our own DNA, as many of us attempt to mine lost narratives in order to understand people who know the land and its inhabitants and geological prominence like the backs of their hands.

Sure, I met Barry Lopez several times – in bookstores and classrooms: Missoula, Seattle, Spokane, Portland. His Arctic Dreams and Of Wolves and Men I read early in my own writing career.

I am part of the geology connected to Lopez. I live on the Central Oregon Coast, and the fires we had in 2020 tore through his and his wife Deborah’s property. The land will heal, but his 50-year personal archive of all his writings went up in flames.

Here on the Alsea River along the Pacific, I smelled the drifting ashes of those fires for weeks.

During the fires, Debra and Barry ended up in Eugene, and many have stated Lopez repeated these universal healing words we know from nature when asked what was next: “rebuilding, repairing, and replanting.”

I remember another appearance, at Spokane’s Auntie’s Bookstore, 15 years ago when he was reading from a new collection for which he choreographed, along with his wife, Debra Gwartney – Home Ground.

More than 45 writers, including Barbara Kingsolver, Charles Frazier, William Kittredge and Terry Tempest Williams, riffing with words found at the intersection of human culture and physical geography:  examples include just these — “portage” and “outcrop,” “windbreak” and “dry fall.”

What distinguishes American literature — especially from European literature — is this deep attachment to place [Lopez told Ann Colford of the Pacific Northwest Inlander].  And it’s not just in the usual suspects, like Cather and Steinbeck and Melville and Thoreau; it’s there in everybody’s work. Truman Capote. Updike. One of the impetuses in choosing the marginalia was this sense of, ‘Look at all these people and how they think about the landscape.’

ACE – Adverse Childhood Experiences

I have to end this remembrance of Barry Lopez with another path he crossed in his life, at a very young age, an adverse childhood experience for which I ended up also intersecting as a social worker for homeless, veterans, youth and those living with a developmental disability.

Lopez and I talked about the precarity of my own work as a part-time adjunct, part-time journalist, failed novelist with a New York agent and other gigs tied to social services. When I last spoke with him, I had not yet launched into working with the disenfranchised:  substance addicted humans, or the just-released prisoners, homeless and those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The impact of Lopez’s childhood trauma and repressed PTSD hit me hard. I read his 2013 article in Harpers because someone who had remembered my reviews of two of his books when I was a reporter and Sunday book editor for the El Paso Times contacted me on Facebook.

“Did you see that amazingly open, truthful and sad article he wrote about his own abuse? Wow?”

Lopez was nearing seventy when he wrote this piece in Harper’s Magazine – “Sliver of Sky — Confronting the trauma of sexual abuse” (January 2013).

He was seven when his family was introduced to this man, who ran a sanatorium and was known in California for his ability to help alcoholics kick the habit. Lopez’s story of shame, packing away trauma, sublimating that five years of abuse he experienced into a life — on the surface and deeper within through his own passages with nature, writing and teaching (he visited over 80 countries) – wallops any empathetic reader hard. While Lopez is compared to Henry David Thoreau and William Faulkner, he was in one sense carrying a shattered child inside.

Here, one of the less graphic passages from the Harper’s memoir –

From what I have read over the years in newspapers and magazines about scandals involving serial pedophiles, I have gathered that people seem to think that what victims most desire in the way of retribution is money and justice, apparently in that order. My own guess would be that what they most want is something quite different: they want to be believed, to have a foundation on which they can rebuild a sense of dignity. Reclaiming self-respect is more important than winning money, more important than exacting vengeance.

Victims do not want someone else’s public wrath, the umbrage of an attorney or an editorial writer or a politician, to stand in for the articulation of their own anger. When a pedophile is exposed by a grand-jury indictment today, the tenor of public indignation often seems ephemeral to me, a response generated by ‘civic’ emotion. Considering the number of children who continue to be abused in America — something like one in seven boys and one in three girls — these expressions of condemnation seem naïve. Without a deeper commitment to vigilance, society’s outrage begins to take on the look of another broken promise.

Sitting at the Table of Greats

Sure, my own life in the wild, inside nature, communing with manatees, hornbills, hammerheads or what-have-you has also been tied to not just the “land ethic” that Aldo Leopold wrote about, but also to recovering the sacred, which to me are the people who are in, by, because and for the land.

There is no climate change mitigation for vanishing forests, coral reefs and rivers unless there are holistic and deep green relationships we build within the biotic community as we work with the community of Homo Sapiens.

Interestingly, the work I have done with sexually-abused veterans, people living as homeless, and even those who are deemed “people with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” as well as the work as a community college and K12 teacher, all tied into the threads that Barry Lopez gifted me to understand that connection – or in most cases, disconnection – we as a society have lost to the land.

Image result for Arctic Dreams

Yet Barry Lopez’s message, even among all the dire calls to action to stop the polluting, the razing, the clearcutting, the harvesting, the burning, the damming, the killing, comes to me in one of the last things he published – a forward to a biography of Richard K. Nelson,  Raven’s Witness: The Alaska Life of Richard K. Nelson by Hank Lentfer (July 2020, Mountaineers Books).

This is an elegant and amazing connection to his own life writing in an old chair that Lopez had to mess with to keep viable as the place he found the fortitude and the ferocity of spirit from which to write and keep connected to Nelson man who was a real person of the people and land.

It seems appropriate for me to reflect first on the undistinguished chair I’m sitting in as I try to put together a few words to introduce you to this biography of Richard Nelson. I bought the chair long ago in a second-hand store, in Springfield, Oregon. I’ve had to repair it occasionally, to ensure its sturdiness. Two worn-out seat cushions, one atop the other, make it easier to occupy for hours at a time. Two newel posts brace a tapered backrest of wooden spindles. The caps of the newel posts gleam from the rub of human hands over the decades.

I’ve written seventeen books sitting in this chair, and I hope to complete a couple more in the years ahead. In the early 1980s, because I sensed that resting my back against a pair of cured blacktail deer hides from Richard’s hunts would put me in a more respectful frame of mind when I wrote, and that they might induce in me the proper perspectives about life, I wrote him and asked for his help. Would he honor our friendship by sending me a couple of blacktail deer hides? These were from deer he’d been given as a subsistence hunter (as he understood that relationship with them) in the woods near his home.

In my experience, no other non-native hunter’s ethical approach to this archetypal form of fatal encounter was as honorable as Richard’s. He hunted to feed his family, imitating the way his Iñupiaq, Koyukon, and Kwich’in teachers had taught him to, through the example of their own behavior in engagements with wild animals—humble, grateful, respectful. I felt the hides might care for me as I stumbled my way through life, in the same way that our friendship with each other would take care of both of us in the years ahead.

Even without the deer hides stitched to my own office chair, or the close camaraderie and corresponding with Lopez, I too feel the words of poets and writers like Lopez will “take care of me in the years ahead, wherever that passage way Mother Earth leads me.”

Image result for Raven’s Witness: The Alaska Life of Richard K. Nelson

I am reminded that Lopez believed a writer’s job is “to be of service.” Again, Lopez stated many times that we as writers are not placed in this role to tell people what to think. Our job is to help people frame their own thoughts. And to know their own stories and be able to tell those stories to themselves, their circle of family, or in the case of Lopez, to the world.

cover of Of Wolves and Men by Barry lopez

See Thank you, Barry Lopez from Orion Magazine Staff!

Barry, forty years ago you taught me that all stories are about relationship: who I am to all creatures where I am . . . who I am to who you are . . . who we are to who we will become. So goes, now and always, my story with you.

— Kim Stafford, Oregon Poet Laurette

The post The Eye of the Wolf: Measuring Myself through Death first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Dreams Outside the Hopes of the Neuronormal

The legacy of a society is, well, how it treats its young, old, frail, infirm, sick, poor and those hobbled by structural and environmental injustice.

Some in urban planning circles also allude to how safe a community is based on the popsicle test – can a child or two walking from home to a store, get a popsicle without having to cross high speed roads or highways, without having to walk along long stretches of ugly dangerous buildings, and who can find a multitude of stores that sell good food and desserts like Popsicles. How easy it is for the child to walk there? Are the homes-apartments-duplexes-offices looking out toward the sidewalks? Are there porches out front where people linger and lounge? Are there trees for shade? Are there mail boxes? Are there stores and eateries on the ground floor of a stretch of businesses with apartments and housing one and two floors above? Are there people bicycling? Are the stores and businesses set toward the streets and their parking lots pushed to the back of the establishments? Are there scalable hardware stores with windows and many doorways? Are there neighborhood groups that patrol the neighborhoods? Are there mixed neighborhoods with lower economic mixed in with middle class? What are the officers of the peace doing? Are they walking and bicycling their beats, where they live? Are they battened down in huge bulletproof SUV’s with three computers, five assault weapons, and the A/C blaring?

The children, walk or bicycle from their home, and within a few minutes, they get to a place of business, without running through or dodging a gauntlet of racing trucks and autos. Are there elderly and families and business owners and customers there, doing their thing, on a scalable level?

We know that in capitalism, in this free (sic) market society, with the bottom dollar and the bottom line of more and more profits without work or building something as the drivers, we the people – those two children walking to get a fudge bar or organic apple – are not the drivers of the society, the communities, the neighborhoods.

Life in Capitalism is designed for speed, rot, decay, throwaway buildings and throwaway humanity. We have those massive systems of oppression run by real estate, insurance, finance, banks, building and paving, all those entities guarded by the US Chamber of Commerce whose job is to maximize the profits (gouging’s) of the large and medium-sized businesses that have run rough shod over us, the “regular people.”

Now, those old industries are being retrofitted for the next level of exploitation and enslavement vis-à-vis the economies of scale vaunted by the monopolies, the investor class and billionaires. And that scaling up is facilitated by the masters of logarithms and Artificial Intelligence and digital dictators.

Mom and pops – that is, the small family-owned businesses and the mini-chains of this or that service or consumer item – they are now on the cutting block in an amped up destruction of people’s lives, on a scale that would make a steroid using wrestler look like Mother Teresa on bread and water. Any chance of having a small business community have a say in how their communities and neighborhoods and census tracks are developed alongside with how their neighboring communities connect to this urban and rural planning, all of that inclusive and participatory democracy and governance are  dwindling ten-fold yearly.

Who makes the decisions? Who puts the brakes on suburban sprawl and rampant car-centric cities? Ahh, the masters of money and masters of stocks and the AI and Digital Dictators will have more and more say in the design (or miss-design) of both the built environment as well as the financial environments. Add to that educational environments, the healthcare environments, the food system environments, the housing environments. We the people do not have control!

Examples by Design

I’m putting in this opening above to help segue into the reality of my work now – one of many hats, but now, it’s social work and case management for adults living with developmental and intellectual disabilities. And some who have had traumatic brain injuries.

If the reader doesn’t have a bead on what the ID/DD community is, well, look it up. In a Western culture with more and more pre-newborns gestating into a slurry of forever chemicals, cortisol loads, heavy metals, stress hormones from mother, and a combination of all of this as a synergetic roulette wheel, coupled with DNA markers from mother and father, well, you can image that young boys and girls with disabilities like Autism Spectrum Disorder or mental retardation or any number of other aspects of life dealt from a genetic and poison deck of cards will be a huge burden on families, medical services, schools, society in general.

Go back to the Popsicle analogy, but this time look at how our cultures deal with the less fortunate – a child born is innocent, no matter what sort of spirituality or religiosity you hold or do not hold. Cases in point for me after more than two decades working with poisoned souls – the children of the storms: fetal alcohol-affected or drug-addicted or hugely malnourished inside the womb – we are barbaric in terms of how we “deal” with the afflicted or the people born into a life of one or multiple deficits.

Here, a composite – Drew was born to a mother who “experienced” drug and alcohol addiction. He was 5 pounds and four ounces at birth. He tested positive for cocaine and opiates at birth. He was in a nursery until moved to foster care in 10 days. His birth mother had several children “taken away or removed from her” because of her addictions.

He was adopted by an old woman, who loved him but died of cancer when Drew was 7. Neighbors reported to the child protective agencies in California that Drew was being neglected and the dying mother was not caring for him properly.

This is a common story in my line of work – multiple foster home placements per individual, lots of behavior issues arising by first year of school, from aggression, to defiance, to tantrums. Quickly he was put under a special education label – independent education plan. His ADHD, Tourette’s Syndrome, and anxiety, depression, aggression, isolating behavior, and poor stick-to-it-ness, all of that and more channeled him into special classes and into the special education network. Hearing voices and magical thinking and fantastical thoughts and paranoia, well, Drew is sort of a ward of the state. His foster/adoptive parents are his financial guardians, and he has county case workers and state ones lined up, along with nonprofit case workers.

I work with a nonprofit, again, as a case worker-employment specialist. My job is to get people like Drew jobs, but that process is holistic, systematic and definitely tied to the whole suite of getting young and not so old people ready to face competitive employment, integrated, no longer stuck in some sheltered workshop.

Those “sheltered workshops” included Goodwill clothing tagging rooms where all workers were those living with developmental disabilities; or even roaming crews of cleaners of office buildings who are all labeled ID-DD. That is a type of cloistering, sheltering from mainstream society.

My nonprofit, of course, is a middleman of sorts, replacing the services states, counties and cities should be providing by taking over the contracts to do the work of providing developmental disabilities safety nets.

Nutshells are the Only Teachable Moments

So, getting someone a job at a hotel to do towel folding or room cleaning, or helping someone land a job as a custodian at a school, and for those with more skills and with more confidence, a place in retail sales, that’s part of my work. Sure, in Portland I worked with lawyers who have cerebral palsy, and true, that type of person deserves an equal shot at being a lawyer or working at the level somewhere. These advocates have their hearts in the right place, to be sure, and no Five F’s for them – filth, factory, food, foliage, fur – because they have graduate degrees.

The reality is, though, someone with a lack of reading skills, with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and all the attending issues tied to the autism in that individual, well, working a cash register is tough (impossible for most), and doing public customer service at any level is tough. Behind the scenes jobs are the norm, and, unfortunately, the filth, food, foliage, fur and factory are the only choices sometimes. Life on the Central Oregon Coast where people retire or vacation, and where a fishing industry thrives, well, those job opportunities dwindle big time.

Aspirational:  all people deserve home, health, education, food, work, public transportation choices. Aspirational: sure, we need communities designed for that Popsicle test. Most of my clients, of course, do not drive, or can’t. Most clients have issues with navigating the absurd on-line employment applications. Many clients need me there in the actual job interview.

Many clients need a coach on the job, sometimes for life. Many clients work minimum wage for 20 hours a week to keep a bit of the SSI (social security insurance coming in). We are such a penury and usury society that my clients, even at minimum wage, get a dollar taken away from every two dollars made. This is how the system kills hope, advancement — the state gobbles up shekels after their first $85 is earned.

All the studies and anecdotal evidence show that a job for a person with a developmental disability or a physical disability, or even a psychological disability like schizophrenia, THRIVE with employment for obvious reasons: a sense of belonging, team work, doing something as a member of society, extra money, socialization, using the brain. But here we are again, failing the other Popsicle test – we penalize and penalize and penalize until people are stripped bare.

A few clients have to take urine tests for many jobs, and if they come back positive for cannabis, well, some outfits disqualify the person automatically from a minimum wage job. Even if that person has a medical marijuana card, in a state where pot is legal (it is in OR). Imagine that, all those politicians, those weak-spine things in DC and around state Capitols, and this is what they have legislated and this is how weak they are when it comes to day to day, people to people life-and-death decisions.

Study after study, and again, a million anectodical stories show THC and CBD actually pull patients off prescriptions and actually keep anxiety at bay and amp up focus.

The law enforcers and the bureaucracies and the policymakers are Neanderthals, really (no attack on those people, Neanderthals, but it’s a term of describing how behind the times and backward they are).

My job is to do workarounds, to do magic, and while mom and pop’s along the coast are shuttering daily, the small hotels are now owned by investment groups, and managed by the big daddies of hotel and motel management corporations. Having workarounds with national organizations, sometimes multinationals, well, those conversations never happen, let alone an email gets returned. They are not of, for and by the community. They are in business for the investors and profits.

The chances of having an offspring with one or a number of chronic illnesses or who might end up on the spectrum or might have brain anomalies because of gestational issues, or who are genetically programmed to come out a “certain way,” well, those odds increase monthly.

Yet the systems of oppression and the cops and the legal systems, they still incarcerate, batter and murder people with autism. People in mental health crises are tased and murdered by pigs. The systems of oppression are buttressed by the prejudices of Holly-dirt and the bullies of the world. It can be an overt Trump making fun of a disabled reporter at a press conference when he was first running in 2016, or it could be a Biden who pushed the crime bill, putting untold numbers of people with mental, emotional and situational abuse in chambers of hell – prison.

The spectrum of people who still do not understand why I work in “that field,” under all the pressures of emotionally traumatized and psychologically depleted people and their families, well, they might think of themselves as the beautiful people, the anti-Trumpistas, the LGBTQ folk, the African-American-in-the-VP-office loving folk, but again, they fail the Popsicle test.

Dream hoarders and Not in My Backyard vacillators, and all sorts of other liberal/neoliberal types, they are no friends of the Popsicle Test of a Sustainable, Fair, Resilient Community. They love their first and second homes. They covet a Stock Market hovering around 31,000 points. They love the Netflix mental diabetes junk they consume, and they have no idea why Biden is as bad as Bush or Trump.

And then I have to convince people to shed their prejudices against people that are not appearing “like themselves.” We do not use terms like “neuronormal” to contrast my clients with the mainstream, but in the end, what is normal in a society that shifts baselines almost weekly?

With the new normal full of paranoia, unapproved vaccines, and misleading diseased minds like Fauci and Gates leading the charge for a global forced vaccination program, one can image how paranoid my clients are who live in group homes or in small one-room apartments. TV and few friends ramify their fears. Lockdown is a locking up of the mind!

Some clients do not even want to meet me face to face on a beach with masks on. They are paranoid because of the mass polluting media. One disability on top of another and another. Welcome to America.

What is a disability? I suppose Helen Keller might figure in here:

When she was sixteen, in 1896, she was catapulted to national fame, writes Keith Rosenthal for the International Socialist Review. By 1904, when she graduated from Radcliffe College, she was internationally famous. She joined the Socialist Party of America a few years later and began advocating for revolutionary change. “She noticed the close relationship between disability and poverty, and blamed capitalism and poor industrial conditions for both,” writes Sascha Cohen for Time.

But even though she had strong politics and a national voice, nobody took her opinions seriously. “Newspaper editors would use her disability as a means to dismiss her politics and to dissuade people from taking her seriously,” writes Rosenthal. “Her radicalism, conservative writers would aver, was a product of the political ‘mistakes [which] spring out of the manifest limitations of her development.’”

Despite this, she was a leading light of the American socialist movement, Rosenthal writes. Among many other causes, she championed pacifism and the U.S. staying out of World War I. Source: Smithsonian Magazine

keller.jpg

Eventually, in dog-eat-dog, kill your competition capitalism, we all become each other’s competitor, enemy. A few billion dollars here and there for hundreds of millions of struggling people is birdseed, yet the systems of oppression and suppression, along with the mass murdering media, cull agency, gumption, and the ability of people to stand up to the oppressors and the authorities and multiple graduate degree certificate holders.

What do the people I serve and the so-called “normal majority” have in common? There are variations on a Dystopian theme, whether it’s Blade Runner or Minority Report or Brave New World or 1984. Almost everyone in this country is confused, shattered, see-hear-speak no evil tied to their specific coalitions and ways of thinking. My amazing clients are enmeshed in fear and the outside world, thanks to the conflation of SARS-CoV2 to a body-eating zombie virus, eating them alive and culling them all eventually. No more hide and seek — it’s all duck and cover and mask and hide and isolate.

What that gives me as a worker are many people who deserve integrated employment but who are hobbled and shackled to the gestalt of a warped society. Do they have other ways of thinking and seeing and hearing? Of course. Do they have their own methods of surviving paranoia, depression, anxiety, hypervigilance, magical thinking, shattered executive functions, functional or complete illiteracy?

Of course. Of course. But again, the Popsicle test fails each time. Imagine, a job, 4 pm to 8 pm, in a town 15 miles from where they live. Can you see the public transportation system beautiful and timely and regular? Nope. Can you see all these taxi and shuttle services for free getting people to work and from work who can’t-won’t-never will drive? Where is that dreamland in Capitalism?

Yet every minute and every second of a 24-hour news cycle or 24 hours of a million channels broadcasting thousands of novellas, soap operas or series and movies, all are occupied with the stories and travails of the rich and famous, the idiotic heroes or pig crime dramas or Marvel Comic Book drivel. Rarely do Americans see what they live out personally, or view what they struggle with daily, or get to watch people like themselves in this battle to get the oppressors and Eichmann’s to bend to their/our will and begin to apply the tenants of the Popsicle Theory.

Otto Zehm

I can end with story after story of humanity hog-tied or knee-butted to death by the cops. Add to that demographic people living with psychological-intellectual-developmental disabilities.

You do not have to surf the internet long to find a few cases of autistic men and women or boys and girls getting pepper sprayed and handcuffed and body slammed by the pigs.

There is that case of Otto Zehm, and then Alien Boy which I wrote about here at DV. “Watching Brian Lindstrom’s Alien Boy: The Life and Death of James Chasse, I am reminded of my forty plus years in and around cops, with mentally distressed clients, as a social worker with homeless and re-entry and veteran clients, and as a teacher in many alternative high school programs, community college, prisons, with military students, and with adults living with developmental disabilities.”

I think that most of us instinctively avoid people with mental illness.

I think in many ways what my films are about is that search for my grandpa’s dentures: for that humanizing narrative that bridges the gap between “us” and “them” to arrive at a “we.”
—Brian Lindstrom, documentarian

Zehm was 32 years old when the Spokane cops killed him by putting him on the ground and forcing a cop’s weight onto his back while Otto’s diaphragm collapsed. He was a custodian, and back in 2006, the Spokesman Review deemed him as a mentally disabled custodian.

He went into a mini-mart for soda. It took almost a decade to find the pig guilty of murder. And this is how the DA and cops think of “mentally disabled custodians” —

Zehm either “attacked” the officers or at least refused to comply with their commands. Police Chief Jim Nicks said Tuesday that Zehm “immediately engaged” the first officer.

“Whether he lunged or turned quickly on him, whatever the case may be, the officer clearly felt there was a risk there,” Nicks said. “The suspect had a large two-liter bottle of pop. The officer had to take all those things into consideration as far as what level of threat this might be.

“But the bottom line is they had a duty and an obligation to detain and control him.” — Spokesman Review

I’ve been down this road many times over the years. My first police encounter as a newspaper reporter was in Ajo, Arizona. A very long time ago. Pima County Sheriff responds to a mother’s call about her Vietnam War veteran son having a mental crisis out front in the desert front yard. Fenced in. He needed some meds. The cops show up. And, while the veteran was on his mother’s property, which essentially was being paid for through the vet’s job and benefits, the deputy pulled his gun on the other side of the property line. He tells the 38 year old to drop the small knife.

A knife brandished by a shirtless and barefoot fellow in his OWN front yard.

Justified-six-shots-to-the-torso homicide. I was 19, and back then, I had  this gig as a newspaper reporter, the so-called “sexy” cop beat, and, while I pushed my editors to allow some of my secondary interviews into the piece (interviews I did from a USC criminal justice reforming professor, another from a police chief in Akron) well, those were cut from the published article. Those two sources discussed how police are ripe for this sort of homicide, and how the system is rigged to defend civilian killing cops. That was 43 years ago.

I spent time with the vet’s mother and his ex-wife, and in reality, this guy was pretty cool, a great rock hound, three years at the university in hard rock geology, but his PTSD was way too much. PTSD wasn’t even the terminology back then in 1976.

I think of Otto Zehm all the time now. I knew of him and said hello to him a few times while I lived and taught in Spokane. He cleaned at the Community Building where I did a lot of gigs as a poet and teacher. I had my radio show in that building, and I ran into Otto a lot.

There is no way in hell Otto could have done harm to a cop.

The irony is that in 2006 I wasn’t working yet directly in the field of developmental disabilities. Sure, I had students who had psychological disabilities, and some students with accommodations. Many students who came back from the killing mountains of the Middle East.

I ended up working with adults with developmental disabilities in Portland and the three-county area 8 years later.

Now I am back at it, and, I think about some of my very verbal and far-thinking men and women with autism disorders. I think of their defiance and their questioning and their inability “to get” that cops or pigs or sheriff deputies just are itching for a bruising. They expect instant compliance. That is compliance from a disabled person, or from a three star black general or a Mexican American female attorney.

You can read about the extrajudicial killings this country’s allows. And that, again, is the Popsicle Test failure Number 999,999.

All those promises for reform. With the Portland Police Bureau. Seattle PD. Spokane PD. A thousand other PD’s blemished overtly with police brutality, police coverups, police maleficence.

No Popsicles for the People. Including the Developmentally Disabled.

Amid coronavirus, parents want ice cream vendors to return - Los Angeles Times

The post Dreams Outside the Hopes of the Neuronormal first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Establishment Journalists are Piling On to Smear Robert Fisk Now He Cannot Answer Back

Something remarkable even by the usually dismal standards of the stenographic media blue-tick brigade has been happening in the past few days. Leading journalists in the corporate media have suddenly felt the urgent need not only to criticise the late, much-respected foreign correspondent Robert Fisk, but to pile in against him, using the most outrageous smears imaginable. He is suddenly a fraud, a fabulist, a fantasist, a liar.

What is most ironic is that the journalists doing this are some of the biggest frauds themselves, journalists who have made a career out of deceiving their readers. In fact, many of the crowd attacking Fisk when he can no longer defend himself are precisely the journalists who have the worst record of journalistic malpractice and on some of the biggest issues of our times.

At least I have the courage to criticise them while they are alive. They know dead men can’t sue. It is complete and utter cowardice to attack Fisk when they could have made their comments earlier, to his face. In fact, if they truly believed any of the things they are so keen to tell us now, they had an absolute duty to say them when Fisk was alive rather than allowing the public to be deceived by someone they regarded as a liar and fantasist. They didn’t make public these serious allegations – they didn’t air their concerns about the supposedly fabricated facts in Fisk’s stories – when he was alive because they know he would have made mincemeat of them.

Most preposterous of all is the fact that the actual trigger for this sudden, very belated outpouring of concern about Fisk is a hit-piece written by Oz Katerji. I’m not sure whether I can find the generosity to call Katerji a journalist. Like Elliot Higgins of the US government-funded Bellingcat, he’s more like an attack dog beloved by establishment blue-ticks: he is there to enforce accepted western imperial narratives, disguising his lock-step support for the establishment line as edgy, power-to-the-people radicalism.

Anyone who challenges Katerji’s establishment-serving agenda gets called names – sometimes very rude ones. Fisk is just the latest target of a Katerji hatchet job against any journalist (myself, of course, included) who dares to step outside of the Overton Window. That these “serious” journalists think they can hang their defamation of Fisk on to anything said by Katerji, most especially the thin gruel he produces in his latest article, is truly shameful. If their concerns really relate to journalistic integrity and reliability, Katerji would be the very last person to cite.

Katerji’s prime area of western narrative enforcement is the Middle East – perhaps not surprisingly, as it is the place where there is an awful lot of oil that western states and corporations are desperate to control. But one should not ignore his wide-ranging efforts to boot-lick wherever he is needed on behalf of western establishment narratives.

Here he is desperately trying to breathe life into two fairy tales: that the election of the leftwing Evo Morales as Bolivia’s president was fraudulent, and that Morales was forced to resign last year rather than that he was ousted in a CIA-backed military coup. Notably, Katerji was clinging to these discredited story lines as late as last month, long after even the liberal corporate media had abandoned them as no longer tenable.

Katerji was also, of course, an enthusiastic recruit to evidence-free establishment smears that Labour was overrun with antisemitism under the leadership of the leftwing Jeremy Corbyn, the very same anecdotal claims promoted by the entire corporate media.

Not only that, but he even had the gall to argue that he was speaking on behalf of Palestinians in smearing Corbyn, the only leader of a major European party ever to champion their cause. Labour’s new leader Keir Starmer, like most other politicians in the wake of the Corbyn episode, has all but disappeared the Palestinians from the political agenda. Katerji must be delighted – on behalf of Palestinians, of course.

But Katerji’s beef with Fisk derives chiefly from the fact that the Independent’s foreign correspondent broke ranks with the rest of the western press corps over an alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria.

Katerji is part of what – if we were being more brutally honest about these things – would be called the west’s al-Qaeda lobby. These are a motley crew of journalists and academics using their self-publicised “Arabhood” to justify the intimidation and silencing of anyone not entirely convinced that ordinary Syrians might prefer, however reluctantly, their standard-issue dictator, Bashar al-Assad, over the head-chopping, women-stoning, Saudi-financed jihadists of Islamic State and al-Nusra, the al-Qaeda franchise in Syria; or who question whether the western powers ought to be covertly funding and backing these extremists.

Exercise any doubt at all on either of these points and Katerji will lose no time in calling you an “Assadist”, “war crimes denier”, “antisemite”, “9/11 truther” and worse. Then in yet more evidence of a circle jerk, those establishment blue ticks, even ones beloved by much of the left, will cite his smears as proof that you are indeed an Assadist, war crimes denier, and so on.

Here are just a few examples of Katerji engaging with those critical of the imperial western narrative on Syria, so you get the idea:

Back in 2011 and 2012, in what looked like the possible eruption of an Arab Spring in Syria, the arguments of Katerji and Co. at least had an air of plausibility. But their real agenda – one that accorded with western imperialism rather than an Arab awakening – became much clearer once local protests against Assad were subsumed by an influx of jihadi fighters of the very kind that had been labelled “terrorists” by the western media everywhere else they appeared in the Middle East.

Inevitably, anyone like Fisk who adopted a position of caution or scepticism about whether the majority of Syrians actually wanted a return to some kind of Islamic Dark Age incurred the wrath of Katerji and his cohorts.

But Fisk infuriated these western al-Nusra lobbyists even further when he visited the town of Douma in 2018 and raised serious questions about claims made by the jihadists who had been ruling the town that, just before Assad’s forces drove them out, the Syrian military had bombed it with chemical gas, killing many civilians. The story, which at that stage was based exclusively on the claims of these head-chopping jihadists, was instantly reported as verified fact by the credulous western media.

Based solely on claims made by the al-Qaeda franchise in Douma, President Donald Trump hurriedly fired off missiles at Syria, in flagrant violation of international law and to cheers from the western media.

Fisk, of course, knew that in discrediting the evidence-free narrative being promoted by the western press corps (who had never been in Douma) he was doing himself no favours at all. They would resent him all the more. Most of his peers preferred to ignore his revelations, even though they were earth-shattering in their implications. But once the official watchdog body the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) issued its report into Douma many months later, implicitly backing the jihadists’ version of events, Fisk’s earlier coverage was snidely dismissed by fellow journalists.

Sadly for them, however, the story did not end there. Following publication of the OPCW’s Douma report, a number of its senior experts started coming forward as whistleblowers to say that, under pressure from the US, the OPCW bureaucracy tampered with their research and misrepresented their findings in the final report. The evidence they had found indicated that Assad had not carried out a chemical attack in Douma. More likely the jihadists, who were about to be expelled by Assad’s forces, had staged the scene to make it look like a chemical attack and draw the US deeper into Syria.

Of course, just as the corporate media ignored Fisk’s original reporting from Douma that would have made their own accounts sound like journalistic malpractice, they resolutely ignored the whistleblowers too. You can scour the corporate media and you will be lucky to find even an allusion to the months-long row over the OPCW report, which gained enough real-world prominence to erupt into a major row at the United Nations, including denunciations of the OPCW’s behaviour from the organisation’s former head, Jose Bustani.

This is the way frauds like Katerji are able to ply their own misinformation. They sound credible only because the counter-evidence that would show they are writing nonsense is entirely absent from the mainstream. Only those active on social media and open-minded enough to listen to voices not employed by a major corporate platform (with, in this case, the notable exception of Peter Hitchens of the Daily Mail) are able to find any of this counter-information. It is as if we are living in parallel universes.

The reason why Fisk was so cherished by readers, and why there was a real sense of loss when he died a month ago, was that he was one of the very few journalists who belonged to the mainstream but reported as though he were not beholden to the agenda of his corporate platform.

There were specific reasons for that. Like a handful of others – John Pilger, Seymour Hersh, Chris Hedges among them – Fisk made his name in the corporate media at a time when it reluctantly indulged the odd maverick foreign correspondent because they had a habit of exposing war crimes everyone else missed, exclusives that then garnered their publications prestigious journalism awards. Ownership of the media was then far less concentrated, so there was a greater commercial incentive for risk-taking and breaking stories. And these journalists emerged in a period when power was briefly more contested, with the labour movement trying to assert its muscle in the post-war decades, and before western societies were forced by the corporate elite to submit to neoliberal orthodoxy on all matters.

Notably, Pilger, Hersh and Hedges all found themselves struggling to keep a place in the corporate media. Fisk alone managed to cling on. That was more by luck. After being forced out of Rupert Murdoch’s Times newspaper for breaking a disturbing story in 1989 on the US shooting down of an Iranian passenger plane, he found a new home at Britain’s Independent newspaper, which had been recently founded. As a late-comer to the British media scene, the paper struggled not only to make money but to create a proper, distinctive identity or gain any real visibility. Fisk survived, it seems, because he quickly established himself as one of the very few reasons to buy the paper. He was a rare example of a journalist who was bigger than the outlet he served.

Readers trusted him because he not only refused to submit to his peers’ herd-think but endlessly called them out as journalistically and intellectually lazy.

Those now trying to tarnish his good name are actually inverting the truth. They want to suggest that support for Fisk was cultish and he was hero-worshipped by those incapable of thinking critically. They will say as much about this piece. So let me point out that I am not without my own criticisms of Fisk. I wrote, for example, an article criticising some unsubstantiated claims he made during Israel’s massive bombardment of Lebanon in 2006.

But my criticism was precisely the opposite of the blue-tick crowd now traducing him. I questioned Fisk for striving to find an implausible middle ground with those establishment blue ticks (before we knew what blue ticks were) by hedging his bets about who was responsible for the destruction of Lebanon. It was a rare, if understandable, example of journalistic timidity from Fisk – a desire to maintain credibility with his peers, and a reluctance to follow through on where the evidence appeared to lead. Maybe this was a run-in with the pro-Israel crowd and the corporate journalists who echo them that, on this occasion, he did not think worth fighting.

The discomfort Fisk aroused in his peers was all too obvious to anyone working in the corporate media, even in its liberal outlets, as I was during the 1990s. I never heard a good word said about Fisk at the Guardian or the Observer. His death has allowed an outpouring of resentment towards him that built up over decades from journalists jealous of the fact that no readers will mourn or remember their own passing. Fisk’s journalism spoke up for the downtrodden and spoke directly to the reader rather than, as with his colleagues, pandering to editors in the hope of career advancement. In the immediate wake of his death, his colleagues’ disdain for Fisk was veiled in weaselly language. As Media Lens have noted, the favourite term used to describe him in obituaries, even in his own newspaper, was “controversial”.

It turns out that the term ‘controversial’ is only applied in corporate media to political writers and leaders deemed ‘controversial’ by elite interests.

This was unwittingly made clear by the big brains at the BBC who noted that Fisk ‘drew controversy for his sharp criticism of the US and Israel, and of Western foreign policy’. If Fisk had drawn ‘controversy’ from China, Iran or North Korea, the ‘weasel word’ would not have appeared in the Beeb’s analysis…

In corporate media newspeak, ‘controversial’ can actually be translated as ‘offensive to power’. The term is intended as a scare word to warn readers that the labelled person is ‘dodgy’, ‘suspect’: ‘Handle with care!’ The journalist is also signalling to his or her editors and other colleagues: ‘I’m not one of “them”!’

The journalists who now claim Fisk was a fraud and fantasist are many of those who happily worked for papers that readily promoted the gravest lies imaginable to rationalise an illegal attack on Iraq in 2003 and its subsequent occupation. Those publications eagerly supported lies supplied by the US and British governments that Iraq had WMD and that its leader, Saddam Hussein, was colluding with al-Qaeda – claims that were easily disprovable at the time.

Journalists now attacking Fisk include ones, like the Guardian’s Jessica Elgot, who have been at the forefront of advancing the evidence-free antisemitism smears against Corbyn. Or, like the Guardian’s Hannah Jane Parkinson, have engaged in another favourite corporate journalist pastime, ridiculing the plight of Julian Assange, a fellow journalist who puts their craven stenography to shame and who is facing a lifetime in a US super-max jail for revealing US war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Even the Guardian’s Jason Burke, who claims to have experienced Fisk’s lying first-hand while working for the Observer newspaper in 2001 (as was I at that time), has been unable to come up with the goods when challenged, as the pitiable Twitter thread retweeted here confirms:

Noticeably, there is a pattern to the claims of those now maligning Fisk: they hurry to tell us that he was an inspiration in their student days. They presumably think that mentioning this will suggest their disillusionment was hard-earned and therefore make it sound more plausible. But actually it suggests something different.

It indicates instead that in their youthful idealism they aspired to become a journalist who would dig out the truth, who would monitor centres of power, who would comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. To do, in fact, exactly what Fisk did.

But once they got a footing on the corporate career ladder, they slowly learnt that they would need to adopt a more “nuanced” approach to journalism – certainly if they hoped to progress up that ladder, earning the right to their blue tick, and gaining a big enough salary to cover the mortgage in London or New York.

In other words, they became everything they despised in their student days. Fisk was the constant reminder of just how much they had sold out. His very existence shamed them for what they were too cowardly to do themselves. And now in death, when he cannot answer back, they are feasting on his corpse like the vultures that they are, until there is nothing left to remind us that, unlike them, Robert Fisk told uncomfortable truths to the very end.

UPDATE:

As a reader service, I will do my best to update you on the blue ticks, especially the Guardian’s, so keen to “just add their voice” in defaming Fisk. If you see any more, please send them my way via Facebook or Twitter.

Notice how confidently these journalists join the denunciations of their dead colleague, even though the biggest “adventure” most of them have ever experienced is an all-expenses lunch at El Vino’s.

Adam Parsons, Sky’s Europe correspondent:

Tim Shipman, political editor of the Sunday Times, formerly of the Sunday Telegraph, Daily Mail and Express:

Oliver Kamm, columnist and leader writer for The Times, formerly a City banker:

The post Establishment Journalists are Piling On to Smear Robert Fisk Now He Cannot Answer Back first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Where is Canadian Media on the Assange File?

After 10 years of restricted freedom, political exile and incarceration, Julian Assange finally came face-to-face with his accusers at the Old Bailey Criminal Court in London. For three weeks in September, a team of English lawyers argued on behalf of their client, the U.S. Department of Justice, that the beleaguered WikiLeaks founder and publisher should be handed over to a U.S. national security court to face 17 counts under the 1917 Espionage Act.

If convicted by the District Court of Eastern Virginia, where the indictments originated, Assange will spend the rest of his life in an American supermax facility for having published evidence of United States war crimes, torture and a host of other government wrongdoing.

“The decade-long saga that brought us to this point should appall anyone who cares about our increasingly fragile freedoms,” blogged former Guardian reporter and Martha Gellhorn prize winner Jonathan Cook on the eve of Assange’s extradition hearings.

“Right now, every journalist in the world ought to be up in arms, protesting at the abuses Assange is suffering, and has suffered, and the fate he will endure if extradition is approved.”

If you go by years of Canadian reporting on Assange and WikiLeaks, Canadian journalists don’t share Cook’s sentiment. When asked in the summer if advocacy group Canadian Journalists for Free Expression has plans to advocate for Assange’s freedom, CJFE president Philip Tunley responded, “I am not seeing any consensus at CJFE to weigh in on behalf of Mr. Assange, though some clearly still support him and wish him well.”

The premise that it takes an informed citizenry to run a true democracy is being seriously subverted by the Canadian fourth estate itself. By distracting attention away from the press freedom principles of Assange’s extradition case and obsessing over his character, Canadian mainstream press have undermined the public’s right to know while ignoring the significance of WikiLeaks releases themselves. That needs to change.

As a Canadian freelancer, enduring 10 years of biased and inaccurate reporting in the Canadian press about Assange has been a source of dismay and frustration. Petitioning and complaining to senior editors and broadcast gatekeepers was clearly naïve given the paucity of responses.

One response that did come back signposted a troubling predicament in Canadian Assange and WikiLeaks coverage.

CBC had posted a Thomson Reuters story in August about a U.S. Senate Committee report that claimed WikiLeaks worked with Russian Intelligence to release the Democratic National Committee  emails in 2016.

When I suggested in my complaint that the report provides no evidence for this classic claim against WikiLeaks and that repeating official unsubstantiated narratives does not make them true, CBC director of journalistic standards Paul Hambleton emailed back:

“I fully understand that you may hold a different view than that of the Senate committee.

It is not the CBC’s obligation to determine what is ‘truth’ (a truly dangerous notion for any broadcaster), but only to present differing views fairly and accurately affording Canadians the opportunity and the information they need to make up their own minds about the nature or quality of the views expressed.”

I argued back: “The predicament here is that journalism is not principally about ‘the nature or quality of views.’ Journalism is foremost about presenting facts, checked and verified.”

What’s seriously worrying in the Assange and WikiLeaks coverage I complained about to CBC and other news outlets is that for the public, the repetition of established narratives — including unsubstantiated claims and assertions —eventually becomes a substitute for fact or truth.

I haven’t heard back from Mr. Hambleton.

When I wasn’t writing complaint emails to news outlets, I was busy pitching Assange stories and opinion pieces of my own. Except for two queries, most were politely (but outright) rejected, citing issues with space and timing.

Canadaland published one submission that called out Canadian Assange coverage for ignoring the United States’  attempt to criminalize whistleblower journalism.

The National Observer posted my opinion letter after negotiating with the editor who asserted one of the classic positions held by many in the legacy press. “Assange is a programmer and a hacker, but never worked as a journalist. You’re framing the issue as a journalism freedom issue. For me this is still a problem in your framing.”

The problem with my “framing” was resolved when I pointed out that Assange and WikiLeaks won a string of journalism awards over the years including the 2011 Martha Gellhorn Award for Journalism awarded annually to a journalist “whose work has penetrated the established version of events and told an unpalatable truth that exposes establishment propaganda, or ‘official drivel’, as Martha Gellhorn called it.”

We find ourselves in a time when unauthorized ideas are no longer guaranteed to make it into the mainstream, even when those ideas have been fact-checked and proven to be true.

The crisis in Canadian journalism isn’t underfunding and it isn’t the concentration of media ownership. The plight of Canadian journalism, if reportage on Assange is the yardstick, are the signposts that fearless independent reporting that holds governments and institutions to account has all but vanished from the mainstream, which is where most Canadians get their news.

In 2010, WikiLeaks released 750,000 pages of the Manning leaks, “the largest leak of classified documents in U.S history” declared the Pentagon  – State Department cables, Guantanamo secrets, Afghan war diaries and Iraq war logs which included collateral murder, the helicopter gunsight video that shows unprovoked slayings of civilians by U.S. troops in the streets of Baghdad.

Australian journalist John Pilger said Assange and WikiLeaks were in the crosshairs of United States authorities years before the publicity around the war logs releases made WikiLeaks a household name.

“The aim was to silence and criminalize WikiLeaks and its editor and publisher. It was as if they planned a war on a single human being and on the very principle of freedom of speech,” Pilger told a crowd of Assange supporters in front of the Old Bailey.

Pilger described in detail the campaign to discredit Assange led by the Cyber Counter-Intelligence Assessments Branch of the U.S. Defense Department after a 2007 WikiLeaks post of a U.S. Army manual of standard operating procedures for soldiers overseeing al-Qaida suspects held in Guantanamo military prison.

Pilger refers to the extradition hearings as “the final act to bury Julian Assange. It’s not due process, it’s due revenge.”

According to independent observers, the structural inequalities of the extradition proceedings alone, as overseen by Westminster District Judge Vanessa Baraitser, provide plenty of cause to have the U.S. extradition request dismissed outright.

During his incarceration at maximum security Belmarsh facility, Assange had only restricted access to his legal team and was only permitted to hold on to case files for a limited time. In court Assange sat in the back of the room behind a glass partition and wasn’t permitted confidential communications with his lawyers.

Two protected defence witnesses, former employees of Spanish security firm UC Global, confirmed that they recorded conversations in the Ecuadorian embassy between Assange and his lawyers and gave the information to U.S. intelligence officials.

Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, also a witness for the defence, had his case thrown out for less, after president Richard Nixon operatives broke into Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office to steal mental health information that might discredit him.

Former UK diplomat and independent journalist Craig Murray, who reported in his daily blog from Courtroom 10 at the Central Criminal Court of England, wrote in his Day 6 report from the hearings: “What came over most strongly was the desire of both judge and prosecution to railroad through the extradition with as little of the case against it getting a public airing as possible.”

None of the abuses of process were reported by establishment reporters. The only Canadian report from inside the courtroom, by the Globe and Mail, validated Murray’s observations and helped ensure judge and prosecution had their way.

Globe and Mail Europe correspondent Paul Waldie concludes in his Sept. 16 report about Daniel Ellsberg’s testimony, “At one point he (Assange) started heckling Judge Vanessa Baraitser who threatened to kick him out.”

However, according to Court News UK reporter Charlie Jones, what actually happened was that when U.S. prosecutors objected to the live testimony of German-Lebanese citizen Khaled El-Masri  — a survivor of CIA kidnapping, torture, and rendition —, Assange stood up and “heckled” from behind the glass partition at the back of the courtroom, saying “Madame, I will not accept you censoring a torture victim’s statement to this court.”

Waldie made no mention of defence witness El-Masri’s testimony, which confirmed what WikiLeaks’ publication of U.S. diplomatic cables had revealed in 2010, that significant U.S. pressure was brought on German authorities not to arrest and prosecute CIA actors.

Waldie also didn’t bring up that lawyers for the U.S. prosecution argued vehemently to keep all references to U.S. torture and wrong doing out of the proceeding’s transcripts.

Noam Chomsky was one of the defence witnesses whose full testimony Baraitser and the prosecution didn’t want to hear. His live testimony was replaced by a four-minute summary read into the court records.

An excerpt from Chomsky’s written submission: “In my view, Julian Assange, in courageously upholding political beliefs that most of us profess to share, has performed an enormous service to all the people in the world who treasure the values of freedom and democracy and who therefore demand the right to know what their elected representatives are doing. His actions in turn have led him to be pursued in a cruel and intolerable manner.”

Canadian coverage of Assange’s extradition consists almost entirely of the same Thomson-Reuters and Associated Press dispatches posted on various Canadian news sites. If you held them up against independent accounts, you’d think indie journos and wire service reporters attended different events.

Fidel Narváez, the Ecuadorian diplomat who granted Julian Assange political asylum, was one of only a handful of observers permitted into the courtroom. Narváez reports that on the first day, Baraitser cut access to the video stream in Courtroom 9 that had been previously authorized for nearly 40 human rights organizations and international observers, including Amnesty International, Reporters Without Borders and PEN International.

“If the case in London were decided solely on justice, as it should in a state based on law, this battle would have been won by Assange,” writes Narváez in one of his daily dispatches.

Narváez and other independent observers suggest that what was adjudicated was not whether Assange should be extradited for violating the Espionage Act, but rather the criminality of the American state itself.

The chilling claim put forward by U.S. prosecutors that the United States has jurisdiction over any journalist, any publication, anywhere in the world to prosecute under the Espionage Act for publishing classified U.S. information hasn’t gone unnoticed by the Canadian Association of Journalists.

“I can assure you that I, as president, as well as the CAJ’s advocacy committee, are keeping a very close eye on the Assange case,” said Brent Jolly. “The CAJ still believes the United States should immediately drop its attempts to extradite Mr. Assange.”

“Encouraging sources to leak information that is in the public interest to the media is a basic practice of journalism which must be defended. Journalists and whistleblowers have a role to play in protecting citizens in a democracy,” Jolly’s predecessor, Karyn Pugliese, told me after Assange was arrested and imprisoned at Belmarsh in 2019.

The CAJ’s position has yet to translate into accurate and unbiased reporting on the Assange-WikiLeaks file by Canadian journalists and news organizations. However, coverage of domestic occurrences of the ‘Assange effect’ — attempts to criminalize journalism, such as Justin Brake’s and Karl Dockstader’s arrest for covering Indigenous land disputes —  have been diligently reported.

“There is a vague but widely held notion among the Canadian press that Assange’s troubles are not terribly important and not particularly newsworthy,” Canadaland publisher Jesse Brown told me in October after the hearings.  “To actually engage with the facts invariably means accepting that Julian Assange is being persecuted for telling the public things about the American government that they did not want known, and that means accepting that Julian Assange’s cause is every journalist’s cause.”

The hearings wrapped up three weeks of witness testimonies in September. Assange’s lawyers submitted their closing arguments to the court on Nov. 6 arguing that the request for Assange’s extradition is the result of U.S. President Donald Trump’s political agenda.

“It is politically motivated, it is an abuse of the process of this court, and it is a clear violation of the Anglo-U.S. treaty that governs this extradition.”

Prosecutors will submit their closing arguments on Nov. 20. Baraitser is expected to hand down her judgement on Jan. 4.

The post Where is Canadian Media on the Assange File? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Robert Fisk: Death Of A “Controversial” Journalist

Robert Fisk, the Independent’s Middle East correspondent, died on 30 October aged 74. In reviewing his life and career, the newspaper for which he worked for more than two decades wrote of their star reporter:

‘Much of what Fisk wrote was controversial…’

As John Pilger noted, in describing Fisk’s journalism as ‘controversial’ the Independent was using a ‘weasel word’.

The Washington Post published a piece titled:

‘Robert Fisk, daring but controversial British war correspondent and author, dies at 74’

Al Jazeera’s piece was subtitled:

‘The Independent newspaper confirms its acclaimed and controversial journalist died following a short illness.’

A piece in Le Monde Diplomatique was titled:

‘La mort de Robert Fisk, grand reporter au Moyen-Orient et personnage controversé’ (Christophe Ayad, Le Monde Diplomatique Online, 4 November 2020)

The trend is clear. When The Times subjected Fisk to one of its full-on hit pieces in April 2018, it wrote: ‘Fisk is no stranger to controversy.’

So why do ‘mainstream’ commentators feel obliged to red-flag Fisk’s journalism with ‘controversial’ in this way, and why is it a ‘weasel word’?

Consider that the likes of the BBC’s Andrew Marr, the Guardian’s Martin Chulov and The Times’ David Aaronovitch, and numerous others, will never be described as ‘controversial’, despite their highly controversial, in fact, outrageous, warmongering bias.

Marr is not labelled ‘controversial’ for supporting a ground invasion of Serbia in 1999:

I want to put the Macbeth option: which is that we’re so steeped in blood we should go further. If we really believe Milosevic is this bad, dangerous and destabilising figure we must ratchet this up much further. We should now be saying that we intend to put in ground troops. (Marr, ‘Do we give war a chance?1

Was that ‘controversial’? How about this?

Was it ‘controversial’ for the Guardian to write this of the country that has relentlessly waged war and supported tyranny around the world since 1945:

‘Joe Biden looks to have done enough to win the White House… He will have to reassert America’s role as the global problem-solver.’ (Our emphasis)?

Was it ‘controversial’ for the supposedly impartial global news agency, Associated Press, to write this of the United States:

‘For decades, the U.S. has been an advocate for democracy abroad, using diplomatic pressure and even direct military intervention in the name of spreading the principles of a pluralistic system with a free and fair vote for political leaders’?

An awesome level of gullibility is required to believe that the direct military ‘interventions’ (wars) in oil-rich Iraq and Libya were about spreading pluralistic principles. Whether or not Iraqis have had ‘a free and fair vote’ since 2003 is a matter of complete indifference to Western politics and journalism.

It turns out that the term ‘controversial’ is only applied in corporate media to political writers and leaders deemed ‘controversial’ by elite interests.

This was unwittingly made clear by the big brains at the BBC who noted that Fisk ‘drew controversy for his sharp criticism of the US and Israel, and of Western foreign policy’. If Fisk had drawn ‘controversy’ from China, Iran or North Korea, the ‘weasel word’ would not have appeared in the Beeb’s analysis.

A second piece in the Independent also allowed us to read between the letters that make up ‘controversial’:

‘Often writing and speaking of his pity for the people he saw being killed at the same time as becoming a forthright critic of the US and Israel. His writing could be controversial – such as his later reporting on Syria…’ (Our emphasis)

Fisk is not alone, of course. The BBC controversially echoed numerous other media in describing Hugo Chavez as ‘Venezuela’s… controversial president’.

If Chavez was ‘controversial’, which national leader is not? Should they all be described as ‘controversial’? By the way, Biden very controversially described Chavez’ successor Nicolas Maduro as a ‘tyrant’, adding:

‘I was among the first Democratic foreign policy voices to recognize Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s legitimate leader and to call for Maduro to resign.’ (See here for more on Biden’s grim record.)

As we have discussed, these were deeply embarrassing propaganda claims in pursuit of regime change. Even the BBC was eventually forced to give up the pretence that Guaidó was ‘interim leader’, reverting to the title ‘opposition leader’.

Although Obama bombed seven Muslim countries from 2009 to 2017, all but destroying Libya, the BBC would, of course, never refer to ‘America’s controversial president, Barack Obama’, or even to ‘America’s controversial president, George W. Bush’. Specific Bush policies might be described as ‘controversial’, but the term would never be applied as a broad brush description of who he is.

In corporate media newspeak, ‘controversial’ can actually be translated as ‘offensive to power’. The term is intended as a scare word to warn readers that the labelled person is ‘dodgy’, ‘suspect’: ‘Handle with care!’ The journalist is also signalling to his or her editors and other colleagues: ‘I’m not one of “them”!’

The same effect can be achieved by praising establishment figures. Peter Oborne did not cover himself in glory by tweeting:

‘Tony Blair has emerged as probably the most authoritative and persuasive voice during the Covid crisis.’

As we noted:

‘If it was some other leader of some other country who had waged an illegal war of aggression killing one million people, Oborne might not have sent this.’

Journalists and leaders who serve power, including ‘Teflon Tony’, somehow retain fundamental ‘respectability’, are welcomed by elite media and the powers that be. (For completists interested in this subliminal misuse of language, the same use is made of the term ‘narcissist’: Julian Assange, Russell Brand, George Galloway, Glenn Greenwald, Seumas Milne, John Pilger, Edward Snowden, Hugo Chavez, and – alas! – us at Media Lens, have all been repeatedly accused of ‘narcissism’. Recently, Andrew Rawnsley wrote of the almost comically humble and selfless Jeremy Corbyn:

‘Many things have been said about his character over the years, but one thing has not been said enough: he is a narcissist.’

An unwitting, backhanded compliment from the Observer’s great warmonger. (See our book Propaganda Blitz for more discussion on ‘narcissism’, Pluto Press, 2018, pp.54-55)

‘How Do They Get Away With These Lies?

In 2004, at a time when all of US-UK journalism was celebrating the ‘transfer of sovereignty’ from the forces still occupying Iraq and stealing its oil, Fisk was a rare voice mocking the charade:

‘Alice in Wonderland could not have improved on this. The looking-glass reflects all the way from Baghdad to Washington… Those of us who put quotation marks around “liberation” in 2003 should now put quotation marks around “sovereignty”.’2

In 2014, after Tony Blair made one of his frequent attempts to exonerate himself in relation to Iraq while calling for more violence to bomb Syria better, the Guardian editors performed painful contortions in declaring Blair’s analysis ‘thoughtful’ if ‘wrong-headed’. Fisk’s response to Blair was different:

‘How do they get away with these lies?’

Fisk was also a virtual lone ‘mainstream’ voice contesting the US-UK’s audacious, well-funded attempts to re-run their Iraq ‘weapons of mass destruction’ scam in Syria:

‘Washington’s excuse for its new Middle East adventure – that it must arm Assad’s enemies because the Damascus regime has used sarin gas against them – convinces no-one in the Middle East. Final proof of the use of gas by either side in Syria remains almost as nebulous as President George W. Bush’s claim that Saddam’s Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.’

For this, as the obituaries make unsubtly clear, Fisk was never forgiven.

An obituary in The Times commented on Fisk:

‘While he was an outstandingly poetic writer, he developed an emotional obsession with the plight of the Palestinian people and a visceral dislike of the Israeli government and its allies, especially America. In the jargon of news reporting he “went native”, unable to provide a dispassionate account of events and their context.’3

Given the appalling racism and ethnic cleansing faced by the Palestinian people, the reference to Fisk ‘going native’ was a grotesque observation.

The Times’ noted, of course, that Fisk ‘remained no stranger to controversy’. It asked us to believe that ‘critics poured cold water on Fisk’s writing’, although ‘awards committees did not’. In translation: Fisk was subjected to exactly the kind of ugly propaganda smears from ‘critics’ contained in The Times’ obituary.

The comments are no great surprise, given the honesty with which Fisk described his departure from The Times to join the Independent in 1989:

‘The end came for me when I flew to Dubai in 1988 after the USS Vincennes [a US Navy guided missile cruiser] had shot down an Iranian passenger airliner over the Gulf. Within 24 hours, I had spoken to the British air traffic controllers at Dubai, discovered that US ships had routinely been threatening British Airways airliners, and that the crew of the Vincennes appeared to have panicked. The foreign desk told me the report was up for the page-one splash. I warned them that American “leaks” that the IranAir pilot was trying to suicide-crash his aircraft on to the Vincennes were rubbish. They agreed.

‘Next day, my report appeared with all criticism of the Americans deleted, with all my sources ignored. The Times even carried an editorial suggesting the pilot was indeed a suicider. A subsequent US official report and accounts by US naval officers subsequently proved my dispatch correct. Except that Times readers were not allowed to see it.’

Fisk said that he believed Murdoch did not personally intervene. However:

‘He didn’t need to. He had turned The Times into a tame, pro-Tory, pro-Israeli paper shorn of all editorial independence.’

Echoing virtually every other obituary, the Guardian commented that Fisk ‘tended to absolve the Assad regime of some of the worst crimes credited to it’, which had ‘provoked a backlash, even among his anti-imperialist acolytes’.

It is ironic that the Guardian should highlight Fisk’s supposed tendency to ‘absolve’ Syria of ‘the worst crimes credited to it’. Whistleblowing revelations relating to OPCW and the alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma, Syria, while almost completely ignored by the ‘mainstream’, have overwhelmingly vindicated Fisk and made a nonsense of official claims. See recent comments here from Noam Chomsky, and excellent in-depth analysis here.

The Guardian naturally deployed the ‘weasel word’ in noting ‘all the controversy generated by his later commentary on the evils of western, and specifically US, involvement in the Middle East’. This was followed by a distorted version of ‘balance’:

‘Some of Fisk’s most ardent admirers have suggested that to describe his journalism as controversial is a vulgar slight.’

Some people might think so, but only ‘ardent admirers’, ‘acolytes’ – themselves controversial narcissists.

Who knows where this unsubtle red-flagging of Fisk’s journalism as ‘controversial’ would have ended? The intent behind ‘mainstream’ propaganda, particularly on Fisk’s Syria reporting, has increasingly been to suggest that Fisk was morally tainted; that he got it badly, shamefully wrong. Flitting like barely-glimpsed bats at the back of the readers mind are supposed to be terms like ‘Assad apologist’, ‘genocide denial’. Not Holocaust denial exactly, but a shameful mutation of the same moral blindness.

Another rare, excellent ‘mainstream’ journalist, Patrick Cockburn, dispensed with the herdthink, copycat smears, and captured the truth of a journalist who was ‘a meticulous and highly-informed reporter, one who responded sceptically – and rigorously investigated – the partisan claims of all parties, be they gunmen, army officers or government officials’. Cockburn added:

‘He took nothing for granted and was often openly contemptuous of those who did. He did not invent the old journalist saying “never believe anything until it is officially denied” but he was inclined to agree with its sceptical message. He was suspicious of journalists who cultivated diplomats and “official sources” that could not be named and whose veracity we are invited to take on trust.’

This explains exactly why Fisk was and is viewed as ‘controversial’; a word that did not appear in Cockburn’s summing up.

The Invisible Tweets

A storm had been made to brew around Fisk’s reputation in recent years. But it had not yet reached the Category 5 propaganda hurricane that engulfed Jeremy Corbyn who, like Fisk, ‘drew controversy for his sharp criticism of the US and Israel, and of Western foreign policy’.

Corbyn was not just accused of anti-semitism and Holocaust denial; he was accused of being a de facto Nazi who ‘wants to reopen Auschwitz’. These claims were baseless and insane, but not ‘controversial’.

By contrast, we discovered what is deemed ‘controversial’ on Twitter on November 3. That day, we tried three times to tweet a link to a Red Pepper article by Lynne Segal as she ‘looks back on her experience of 40 years as a party member in [Corbyn’s] constituency’. We tweeted a screenshot of this important passage from Segal’s excellent piece:

‘Right now, along with the many other Jewish activists I know in Islington North, I am simply devastated that this process has climaxed in the suspension of our cherished MP, and former leader. It’s so hard to accept that I must repeat again what every Jewish member I know in Islington North has frequently confirmed and it is we who actually know and regularly meet with Jeremy Corbyn – unlike most of critics. What we can confirm is that as Jews in North Islington we have always felt more than safe, more than welcome, unfailingly supported, in everything we do in the borough, and the Party. As it happens, we often feel this all the more strongly as Jews, knowing that ­– unlike Corbyn – so many who choose to speak in our name completely disrespect our commitment to antisemitism and racism of all kinds in struggles for a better world, including the vital struggle for Palestinian rights.’

We also tweeted a screenshot of this passage:

‘So, let me provide a few pertinent facts. Over the years, Corbyn has had mutually supportive relations with the practising Jewish community in Islington, attending Shabbat dinners with the orthodox Chabad Rabbi, Mendy Korer, and attending numerous other official Jewish events in North London. Against some local resistance, Corbyn promoted the installation of a plaque on a demolished synagogue site in 2015 to celebrate Jewish life in the borough. Unlike most of his critics in Westminster, Corbyn unfailingly turned up to vote for motions addressing anti-Semitism in Parliament, just as he worked tirelessly against racism on every front.’

This is extremely powerful, credible evidence exposing the claims against Corbyn, not just as a sham, but as a monstrous reversal of the truth.

We know what our readers like and we know how they will likely react to our tweets, so we were surprised that the two tweeted screenshots did not immediately pick up a few likes and retweets. In fact, after four hours, they had not been liked or retweeted by anyone. We tried tweeting the screenshots again, and again they received no likes or retweets. We checked with friends and it became clear that while these tweets were visible to us, they had been secretly rendered invisible to everyone else by Twitter without us knowing. Unlike the smears unleashed on Corbyn for five years, our words had been banished because they were deemed ‘controversial’ by a giant, profit-maximising tech corporation. And we are not alone; we discovered that independent journalist Glenn Greenwald had earlier tweeted:

‘I posted this tweet 3 times and all 3 times it just won’t appear in my time-line, allowing nobody to see it. Genuinely confused. Is anyone else experiencing this problem?’

No surprise, Greenwald is also ‘controversial’, having, like Fisk, Corbyn and us, attracted ‘controversy’ ‘for his sharp criticism of the US and Israel, and of Western foreign policy’.

On Twitter, in response to corporate media censoring Donald Trump, science writer Marcus Chown commented:

‘This is what we DESPERATELY need in the UK. We need our media to interrupt speeches by Johnson and others and point out to viewers their lies. Retweet if you would like to seee [sic] this happen.’

If giant, profit-maximising, advertiser-dependent corporate media decide it is their job and right to censor political leaders like Trump and Johnson, they will have no qualms at all about censoring you, us, and everyone else. Is that what we want? What on earth qualifies Big Business as an arbiter of Truth?

  1. The Observer, 18 April 1999.
  2. Fisk, ‘The handover: Restoration of Iraqi sovereignty – or Alice in Wonderland?’ The Independent, 29 June 2004.
  3. Robert Fisk: Obituaries – Trenchant yet lyrical foreign correspondent who interviewed Osama bin Laden three times and was often accused of “going native”, The Times, 3 November 2020.

The post Robert Fisk: Death Of A "Controversial" Journalist first appeared on Dissident Voice.