Category Archives: Journalism

The Media’s Brazen Dishonesty About North Korean Nuclear Violations

President Trump and North Korean President Kim Jong Un shake hands in summit room, June 12, 2018. (Office of the President of the United States/Public Domain)

In late June and early July, NBC News, CNN, and The Wall Street Journal published stories that appeared at first glance to shed a lurid light on Donald Trump’s flirtation with Kim Jong-un. They contained satellite imagery showing that North Korea was making rapid upgrades to its nuclear weapons complex at Yongbyon and expanding its missile production program just as Trump and Kim were getting chummy at their Singapore summit.

In fact, those media outlets were selling journalistic snake oil. By misrepresenting the diplomatic context of the images they were hyping, the press launched a false narrative around the Trump-Kim summit and the negotiations therein.

The headline of the June 27 NBC News story revealed the network’s political agenda on the Trump-Kim negotiations. “If North Korea is denuclearizing,” it asked, “why is it expanding a nuclear research center?” The piece warned that North Korea “continues to make improvements to a major nuclear facility, raising questions about President Donald Trump’s claim that Kim Jong Un has agreed to disarm, independent experts tell NBC News.”

CNN’s coverage of the same story was even more sensationalist, declaring that there were “troubling signs” that North Korea was making “improvements” to its nuclear facilities, some of which it said had been carried out after the Trump-Kim summit. It pointed to a facility that had produced plutonium in the past and recently undergone an upgrade, despite Kim’s alleged promise to Trump to draw down his nuclear arsenal. CNN commentator Max Boot cleverly spelled out the supposed implication: “If you were about to demolish your house, would you be remodeling the kitchen?”

But in their determination to push hardline opposition to the negotiations, these stories either ignored or sought to discredit the careful caveat accompanying the original source on which they were based—the analysis of satellite images published on the website 38 North on June 21. The three analysts who had written that the satellite images “indicated that improvements to the infrastructure at North Korea’s Yongbyon Nuclear Research Center are continuing at a rapid pace” also cautioned that this work “should not be seen as having any relationship to North Korea’s pledge to denuclearize.”

If the authors’ point was not clear enough, Joel Wit, the founder of 38 North, who helped negotiate the 1994 Agreed Framework with North Korea and then worked on its implementation for several years, explained to NBC News: “What you have is a commitment to denuclearize—we don’t have the deal yet, we just have a general commitment.” Wit added that he didn’t “find it surprising at all” that work at Yongbyon was continuing.

In a briefing for journalists by telephone on Monday, Wit was even more vigorous in denouncing the stories that had hyped the article on 38 North. “I really disagree with the media narrative,” Wit said. “The Singapore summit declaration didn’t mean North Korea would stop its activities in the nuclear and missile area right away.” He recalled the fact that, during negotiations between the U.S. and the Soviets over arms control, “both sides continued to build weapons until the agreement was completed.”

Determined to salvage its political line on the Trump-Kim talks, NBC News turned to Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, who has insisted all along that North Korea won’t give up its nuclear weapons. “We have never had a deal,” Lewis said. “The North Koreans never offered to give up their nuclear weapons. Never. Not once.” Lewis had apparently forgotten that the October 2005 Six Party joint statement included language that the DPRK had “committed to abandoning all nuclear weapons….”

Another witness NBC found to support its view was James Acton, co-director of the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, who declared, “If [the North Koreans] were serious about unilaterally disarming, of course they would have stopped work at Yongbyon.” That was true but misleading, because North Korea has always been unambiguously clear that its offer of denuclearization is conditional on reciprocal steps by the United States.

On July 1, a few days after those stories appeared, the Wall Street Journal headlined, “New satellite imagery indicates Pyongyang is pushing ahead with weapons programs even as it pursues dialogue with Washington.” The lead paragraph called it a “major expansion of a key missile-manufacturing plant.”

But the shock effect of the story itself was hardly seismic. It turns out that the images of a North Korean solid-fuel missile manufacturing facility at Hamhung showed that new buildings had been added beginning in the early spring, after Kim Jong-un had called for more production of solid-fuel rocket engines and warhead tips last August. The construction of the exterior of some buildings was completed “around the time” of the Trump-Kim summit meeting, according to the analysts at the James Martin Center of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies.

So the most Pyongyang could be accused of was going ahead with a previously planned expansion while it was just beginning to hold talks with the United States.

The satellite images were analyzed by Jeffrey Lewis, the director whom had just been quoted by NBC in support of its viewpoint that North Korea had no intention of giving up its nuclear weapons. So it is no surprise that the Martin Center’s David Schmerler, who also participated in the analysis of the images, told the Journal, “The expansion of production infrastructure for North Korea’s solid missile infrastructure probably suggests that Kim Jong Un does not intend to abandon his nuclear and missile programs.”

But when this writer spoke with Schmerler last week, he admitted that the evidence of Kim’s intentions regarding nuclear and missile programs is much less clear. I asked him if he was sure that North Korea would refuse to give up its ICBM program as part of a broader agreement with the Trump administration. “I’m not sure,” Schmerler responded, adding, “They haven’t really said they’re willing to give up ICBM program.” That is true, but they haven’t rejected that possibility either—presumably because the answer will depend on what commitments Trump is willing to make to the DPRK.

These stories of supposed North Korean betrayal by NBC, CNN, and the Wall Street Journal are egregious cases of distorting news by pushing a predetermined policy line. But those news outlets, far from being outliers, are merely reflecting the norms of the entire corporate news system.

The stories of how North Korea is now violating an imaginary pledge by Kim to Trump in Singapore are even more outrageous, because big media had previously peddled the opposite line: that Kim at the Singapore Summit made no firm commitment to give up his nuclear weapons and that the “agreement” in Singapore was the weakest of any thus far.

That claim, which blithely ignored the fundamental distinction between a brief summit meeting statement and past formal agreements with North Korea that took months to reach, was a media maneuver of unparalleled brazenness. And big media have since topped that feat of journalistic legerdemain by claiming that North Korea has demonstrated bad faith by failing to halt all nuclear and missile-related activities.

A media complex so determined to discredit negotiations with North Korea and so unfettered by political-diplomatic reality seriously threatens the ability of the United States to deliver on any agreement with Pyongyang. That means alternative media must make more aggressive efforts to challenge the corporate press’s coverage.

• First published in The American Conservative

Tribute to Robert Parry: Investigative Journalist and Patriot

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

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

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

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

The CIA-Contra-Cocaine Connection

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Birth of Consortiumnews

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

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

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

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

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

Commitment to Facts and Objectivity

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

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

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

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

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

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

Challenging the New McCarthyism

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

Parry described the decline in journalistic standards and objectivity:

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

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

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

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

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

Reflections on Bob Parry

Joe Lauria said:

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

Sam Parry said:

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

Australian journalist John Pilger wrote about Robert Parry:

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

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

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

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

The Next Step: The Campaign for Julian Assange

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tribute to Robert Parry, Founder and Editor of Consortium News, May 19, Berkeley, CA

On Saturday afternoon, May 19, at 2pm, a Tribute to Robert Parry, Founder and Editor of Consortium News will be held at Berkeley Fellowship Hall, 1924 Cedar St. in Berkeley, CA.  Open to the public. Tickets at Brownpapertickets.com or at the door ($10, $15, $20 – sliding scale).

It is no exaggeration to say that Bob Parry who died last January at the age of 68 was an exemplar of journalistic independence and integrity, and a very talented one. Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) had this to say of him:

Journalism lost one of its most valuable investigators when Robert Parry died from pancreatic cancer on January 27, at the age of 68. He was the first reporter to reveal Oliver North’s operation in the White House basement (AP, 6/10/1985), and the co-author of the first report on Contra drug-smuggling (AP12/21/1985). He did some of the most important work investigating the 1980 Reagan campaign’s efforts to delay the return of US hostages held in Iran, a scandal known as the October Surprise.

After breaking his first big stories with the Associated Press, Bob moved on to Newsweek and then later PBS‘s Frontline. Frustrated with the limits and compromises of corporate media—he was once told that a story on Contra financial skullduggery had to be watered down because Newsweek owner Katharine Graham was having Henry Kissinger as a weekend guest (Media Beat4/23/98)—Bob launched his own online outlet, Consortium News.

“He was a pioneer in bringing maverick journalism to the Internet,” FAIR founder Jeff Cohen wrote after Bob’s death. “Bob was a refugee from mainstream media who, like Izzy Stone, went on to build an uncensored and uncensorable outlet.”

Robert Parry himself wrote this about present day media which led him to found Consortium News:

We looked at the underlying problems of modern democracy, particularly the insidious manipulation of citizens by government propaganda and the accomplice role played by mainstream media. Rather than encouraging diversity in analyses especially on topics of war and peace, today’s mainstream media takes a perverse pride in excluding responsible, alternative views.

It’s as if The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN and the others have learned nothing from the disaster of the Iraq War when they pushed the groupthink about WMD and betrayed their responsibilities to the American people and the people of the world. Despite all the death, destruction and destabilization caused by the Iraq invasion, there was almost no accountability in the U.S. press corps, with many of the worst offenders still holding down prominent jobs and still engaging in the same terrible journalism.

When I was a young reporter, I was taught that there were almost always two sides to a story and often more. I was expected to seek out those alternative views, not dismiss them or pretend they didn’t exist. I also realized that finding the truth often required digging beneath the surface and not just picking up the convenient explanation sitting out in the open.

But the major Western news outlets began to see journalism differently. It became their strange duty to shut down questioning of the Official Story, even when the Official Story had major holes and made little sense, even when the evidence went in a different direction and serious analysts were disputing the groupthink.

Looking back over the past two decades, I wish I could say that the media trend that we detected in the mid-1990s had been reversed. But, if anything, it’s grown worse. The major Western news outlets now conflate the discrete difficulties from made-up ‘fake news’ and baseless ‘conspiracy theories’ with responsible dissenting analyses. All get thrown into the same pot and subjected to disdain and ridicule.

A detailed account of Parry’s contributions over the decades is given by his son Nat Parry here. It is well worth reading not only as a summary of Bob Parry’s work but as a chronicle of the debasement of journalism over the decades.  In it Nat Parry includes the following anecdote which gives one an idea of the sort of man Bob was:

With my dad, professional work has always been deeply personal, and his career as a journalist was thoroughly intertwined with his family life. I can recall kitchen table conversations in my early childhood that focused on the U.S.-backed wars in Central America and complaints about how his editors at The Associated Press were too timid to run articles of his that – no matter how well-documented – cast the Reagan administration in a bad light.

One of my earliest memories in fact was of my dad about to leave on assignment in the early 1980s to the war zones of El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala, and the heartfelt good-bye that he wished to me and my siblings. He warned us that he was going to a very dangerous place and that there was a possibility that he might not come back.

I remember asking him why he had to go, why he couldn’t just stay at home with us. He replied that it was important to go to these places and tell the truth about what was happening there. He mentioned that children my age were being killed in these wars and that somebody had to tell their stories. I remember asking, ‘Kids like me?’ He replied, ‘Yes, kids just like you.’

The tribute to Bob Parry on Saturday, May 19, will include talks by Norman Solomon, Joe Lauria (the new editor of Consortium News), Ann Wright, Natylie Baldwin, Sam Parry and Dennis Bernstein plus comments by Eric Garris, Bruce Dixon and Alicia Jrapko.   It promises to be not only a tribute to the Parry the man but a stunning commentary on the state of journalism today.

Syria Imposes New Rules of Engagement on Israel

On Thursday 10 May 2018, an unprecedented exchange of strikes happened between Israel and Syria. The monopoly media, as well as some “alternative” media like Russia Today, were quick to relay the Israeli army version, according to which the Zionist entity “retaliated” to an “Iranian attack by Revolutionary Guards’ Al-Quds Force” consisting of “twenty rockets” fired at Israeli positions in the occupied Golan, four of which were “intercepted by the Iron Dome” and the others “crashed into Syrian territory”, no damage being recorded in Israel. Israel has reportedly responded to this unprecedented “act of aggression” by a “large-scale operation” that would have destroyed “the entire Iranian infrastructure in Syria”, in order to deter the Islamic Republic from any stray impulse of future strikes.

This narrative takes for granted the postulates, data and myths of the Zionist entity’s propaganda – which imposes permanent military censorship on the Israeli media, exposing any offender to a prison sentence; and reading the international media, one might get the idea that, like American economic sanctions, this censorship is extraterritorial – but none of them can withstand scrutiny.

The aggressor is undoubtedly Israel, who carried out more than a hundred strikes against Syria since the beginning of the conflict. After Duma’s chemical stage attacks, this aggresion intensified with attacks on the Syrian T-4 base on April 9, which killed 7 Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Following the US announcement of withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, new Israeli strikes targeted Syrian positions on Tuesday (May 8) in the southern suburbs of Damascus, and Wednesday (May 9) in Quneitra, in the south of the country. Undeniably, Syria has only responded to yet another aggression, with a firmness that has shaken Israel and forced it out of the muteness to which it usually confines itself.

The Syrian – and not Iranian – response consisted of more than fifty – and not twenty – rockets against four sensitive Israeli military bases in the occupied Golan, which caused material damage and even casualties according to Al-Manar, Hezbollah’s media. These were not reported by the Israeli press because of the draconian military censorship forbidding mentioning Israel’s initial aggression, more than twenty rockets fired on Israel, the identification of their targets and any hint to the damage inflicted, in order to reassure the population inside and allow the vassal Western capitals to shout their sickening refrain of the sacrosanct-right-of-Israel-to-defend-itself. The Lebanese channel Al-Mayadeen specifically identified the military posts struck: 1) a military technical and electronic reconnaissance center; 2) border security and intelligence station 9900; 3) a military center for electronic jamming; 4) a military spy center for wireless and wired networks; 5) a transmission station; 6) an observatory of precision weapons unit ; 7) a combat heliport; 8) the headquarters of the Regional Military Command of Brigade 810; 9) the command center of the military battalion at Hermon; 10) winter headquarters of a special alpine unit. And as this channel has reported, even Israeli journalists and analysts have expressed doubts about this unconvincing version according to which these massive strikes, unprecedented since 1974 and therefore unexpected, would have proved harmless. Moreover, as Norman Finkelstein pointed out, nothing has changed for Israel’s wars in Gaza from 2008 to 2014 despite the deployment of the “Iron Dome”, only 5% of the – largely primitive – Hamas rockets being intercepted during “Protective Edge”; and one of the best missile defense specialists, Theodore Postol of MIT, has already revealed the chronic deficiencies of this system. It is unlikely that it was able to cope better with the much more sophisticated Russian, Chinese, and Iranian rocket launchers that Syria has.

The success of the Israeli strikes, which, according to Israeli War Minister Avigdor Lieberman, almost destroyed “all of Iran’s infrastructure in Syria”, is largely exaggerated: Russian military officials, whose radars have followed this fight in real time, announced that more than half of the 60 missiles fired by 28 Israeli F-15s and F-16s – as well as 10 ground-to-ground missiles – were intercepted. The Syrian army records 3 dead and 2 wounded, a radar station and ammunition depot destroyed and material damage to Syrian anti-aircraft defense units. The latter have already demonstrated their effectiveness against strikes from Tel Aviv, Washington, London and Paris, unlike the mythical “Iron Dome” whose main role is to reassure the Israeli population.

The very presence of Iranian military bases and/or large Iranian contingents in Syria is a fable. Iran has only a modest presence (essentially composed of military advisers, indeed from the body of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards), unlike Hezbollah or Russia. Robert Fisk points out that “an Israeli statement that the Iranians had missiles in Syria was surely made in concert with the Trump administration”, that the Iranian forces in Syria are “far fewer than the West imagines” and that all Israeli statements should be reported with the utmost circumspection. Any objective reporting on these events should resemble that of Robert Fisk: “The latest overnight Israeli air strikes, supposedly at Iranian forces in Syria after a supposed Iranian rocket attack on Israeli forces in Golan – and it’s important to use the “supposed” and not take all this at face value – must have been known to the Americans in advance.” Indeed, these so-called unexpected attacks had been announced for days by the Israeli army, which had already conducted a so-called “preemptive strike” – rather a provocation – on May 8.

The “red line” that this alleged Iranian presence would pose to Israel is belied by the fact that Tel Aviv has, since the beginning of the conflict, been steadily slowing the progress of the Syrian Arab Army and, using various pretexts (delivery of arms to Hezbollah, response to actual or suspected gunfire from the Golan Heights, etc.), assisting armed terrorist groups in any way possible: weapons, intelligence, airstrikes coordinated with ground offensives, medical care, etc. Israel, the only country in the world that officially does not fear anything (and indeed has nothing to fear) from ISIS, Al-Qaeda and the like, has seen the situation in Syria turn from a dream – see a myriad of terrorist groups tear down the only anti-Israeli Arab regime, back of the Resistance Axis, and bleed Hezbollah – into a nightmare – to face Hezbollah, Syrian and Iran forces more battle-hardened and powerful than ever, and allied with the Palestinian Resistance, Iraq and Yemen, as well as Russia –, is only continuing its destabilizing work under new pretexts, and more directly: Hassan Nasrallah, the Secretary General of Hezbollah, had announced that after the defeat of proxies in Syria, their sponsors could either give up or intervene more and more openly.

Iran, whose opposition to the racist and colonialist project of Israel has been a principle and even a dogma since the triumph of the Islamic Revolution in 1979, is not easily provoked into an ill-thought reaction, and has always preferred to act with patience for long-term objectives – let us remember its restraint after the massacre of Iranian diplomats in Afghanistan in 1998. The goal of Iran is not to carry out a simple reprisal operation to avenge his officers and soldiers deliberately (or accidentally, as was the case in Quneitra in January 2015) killed by Israel, but to work for the complete liberation of Palestine by putting an end to the illegitimate “Zionist regime”, just like the Apartheid regime in South Africa, which, by the way, collapsed after its military defeat in Angola and Namibia against Cuban mulattoes, then viewed with as much racism as Israeli Jewish supremacism considers Arabushim. As Hassan Nasrallah pointed out, Israel’s direct aggression against Iranian forces in Syria is a major turning point in the history of the Israeli-Arab – or rather, Israeli-Arab-Persian – conflict, and Israel must now get ready to confront the Iranian forces directly – whether in Syria, occupied Palestine or even elsewhere. Moreover, when the Iranian missiles enter the scene, they are launched from the territory of the Islamic Republic and with undeniable success, as shown by the strikes against ISIS at Deir-Ez-Zor on June 18, 2017, in retaliation for terrorist attacks in Tehran.

As we can see, the reality cannot be more different from the fable that has been propagated by the majority of the media. “Journalists” who tamely take over Israel’s talking points turn into IDF propaganda outlets and mere agents of Netanyahu’s “diplomacy of lies”. Israel is indeed constantly lying to the world – and, increasingly, to its own people. And when its reckless actions have disastrous repercussions, it publishes hasty and contradictory communiqués in which it presents itself both as a victim and as a hawkish punisher, while also claiming, through Lieberman and via Russia, to have no intention of stepping into an escalation and hoping things will stop there – proclaiming the success of its retaliatory strikes is also a way to say it does not want/need to go any further. The international media contented itself with repeating these statements immediately after the first attacks, without any critical distance. Rational actors like Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah – or Russia – are not in such a hurry to speak out and confirm or deny other’s claims, leaving their opponents getting entangled in their lies, and trusting in the primacy of the battlefield that becomes more favorable to them day by day. Moreover, the fact that a bitter setback for Israel, which literally reverses the strategic situation, is transformed into a military success by Zionist and Atlanticist propaganda, and combined with Israeli protests of non-belligerency, can only confirm the Resistance Axis in its choices.

Yoav Kish, a member of the Knesset quoted by Al-Manar, stressed that regardless of the author of the strikes and their results – that censorship forbade from mentioning –, it was a major shift in the history of the wars of Israel, which is being attacked from Syria. Indeed, the Golan military installations are now directly targeted as a result of Israeli aggressions, and not just the Israeli air force, which has already seen its finest – the F-16 – be shot down on February 10, 2018. The journalists and Israeli analysts also pointed out the psychological and economic repercussions of this incident, with more than 20,000 Golan settlers having had to hastily find their way back to the shelters in the middle of the night (how much will they be at the next escalation?), and the beginning of the summer period having been ushered in by a wave of hotel reservation deletions due to fears of a war between Israel and Iran. The Zionist entity, which unabashedly inflicts the greatest loss and damage to the Palestinians and its neighbors, is severely shaken by the slightest losses, unbearable for Israeli society.

The accusation against Iran is explained by essential factors (the inherent racism of Israeli society and its Prime Minister, who more willingly believe in a dangerousness of Persian Iran than in that of Arab Syria) and circumstantial – a refusal to assume the consequences of the suicidal policy of the Netanyahu government, which led him to a direct confrontation with the entire Resistance Axis, not to mention with Russia. And most importantly, Israel wants to capitalize on Trump’s withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal to advance its main obsession, much older than the Syrian crisis, namely Tehran’s ballistic program, which it wants the West to end with, exploiting the perennial nuclear pretext – let us remind that the manufacture, possession and use of nuclear weapons are unlawful in Islam according to Imam Khomeini and Ali Khamenei, supreme authorities in Iran. Netanyahu has made it clear that a war with Iran is inevitable, and that it would be better to happen now than later. Since 2005, he vainly strives for the United States to launch it for him, but no negotiation, sanction or aggression will ever deter Iran from its course. And just as the Israeli strikes on April 9, which were supposed to encourage Washington, London and Paris to conduct severe strikes on Syria, ended in a bitter failure, Israel only worsened its own situation yet again and finds itself alone in the face of the disastrous consequences of its actions, to the extent of the blind arrogance that triggered them.

What about Russia? Netanyahu’s presence in Moscow for the commemoration of the 73rd anniversary of the USSR’s victory against Nazism, and reports that Russia would not deliver the S-300s to Syria, must not mislead us. Russia has invested far too much in Syria to allow anyone – be it Washington, Tel Aviv, Riyadh, or Ankara – to reduce its efforts to nothing. Moscow said it would no longer tolerate Western strikes against Syria in case of a new chemical weapons masquerade, and that it is ready to provide Damascus not necessarily with the S-300 anti-aircraft system, but, according to Sergei Lavrov, with “whatever is required to help the Syrian army to deter aggression.” The current Syrian defense systems have already proven their worth – including the Pantsir, which is much more suited to the needs of the Syrian army – and allow us to envision the day when Israel loses its only advantage, namely air supremacy. That already was to no avail in 2006 against Hezbollah or 2014 against Gaza, without which its supposedly “invincible” ragtag army would literally crumble. Israel’s use of ground-to-ground missiles for the first time, and the concentration of attacks on Syrian anti-aircraft defenses – IDF released the video of the destruction of a Pantsir S-1 system, probably inactive – proves that it is well aware of its limitations.

It is obvious that Israeli aggressions against Syria will be increasingly costly, both for the Israeli air force and for its internal military bases and population, because of the determination of Syria and its allies (Hezbollah and Iran) to respond to any aggression, of their experience and new capabilities, and of their successes on the ground. The Resistance Axis – of which Russia is not a part – is now able to face Israel directly on its own, with a united front and without fear of escalation. As for Israel, already overwhelmed by the peaceful demonstrations in Gaza that must culminate on May 15, it is not ready for war against a single member of the Resistance Axis, let alone against several of them simultaneously. The new equation imposed by the Syrian army on May 10 is more fearsome for Israel than the prospect of the loss of another F-16, as Damascus has shown its determination to wage war on enemy territory, and to strike the Zionist entity in its depth.

The Resistance Axis will soon have its eyes fixed on the occupied Golan, that Syria has never given up liberating by armed struggle – a right conferred by international law itself, this territory being recognized as Syrian by all the international community: any Syrian operation there is a legal and legitimate act of resistance against Israel’s 1967 aggression in and subsequent occupation, even without further provocation. As early as May 2013, Hassan Nasrallah announced Hezbollah’s participation in the opening of a new frontline in Golan. In March 2017, the Golan Liberation Brigade was formed by Iraqi Hezbollah, Harakat al-Nujaba, a movement backed by Iran and involved in the liberation of Iraq and Syria from ISIS. Today, Syrian strikes in the occupied Golan unquestionably open up a new chapter in the history of the Israeli-Arab wars, in which Israel will increasingly be forced into a defensive position. Are we going to see the IDF building a wall on the border of the occupied Golan to hinder any future invasion, as is already the case on the Lebanese-Israeli border to prevent Hezbollah’s promised incursion into the Galilee? Anyway, the next war against Israel will drastically change the map of the Middle East.

Killing Mosquitoes: The Latest Gaza Massacres, Pro-Israel Media Bias and The Weapon of “Antisemitism”

The Palestinians have long been seen as an obstacle by Israel’s leaders; an irritant to be subjugated. Noam Chomsky commented:

Traditionally over the years, Israel has sought to crush any resistance to its programs of takeover of the parts of Palestine it regards as valuable, while eliminating any hope for the indigenous population to have a decent existence enjoying national rights.

He also noted:

The key feature of the occupation has always been humiliation: they [the Palestinians] must not be allowed to raise their heads. The basic principle, often openly expressed, is that the “Araboushim” – a term that belongs with “nigger” or “kike” – must understand who rules this land and who walks in it with head lowered and eyes averted.1

Recent events encapsulate this all too well. On Friday, March 30, Israeli soldiers shot dead 14 Palestinians and wounded 1400, including 800 hit by live ammunition. By April 5, the death toll had risen to 21. During a second protest, one week later on Friday, April 7, the Israelis shot dead a further 10 Palestinians, including a 16-year-old boy, and more than 1300 were injured. Among those killed was Yasser Murtaja, a journalist who had been filming the protest. He had been wearing a distinctive blue protective vest marked ‘PRESS’ in large capital letters. The brutality, and utter brazenness with which the killings were carried out is yet another demonstration of the apartheid state’s contempt for the people it tried to ethnically cleanse in 1948, the year of Israel’s founding.

On the first day of the protest, on March 30, many Palestinians had gathered in Gaza, close to the border with Israel, as part of a peaceful ‘Great March of Return’ protest demanding the right to reclaim ancestral homes in Israel.  One hundred Israeli snipers lay in wait, shooting at protesters, including an 18-year-old shot in the back while running away from the border. The Israel army boasted in a quickly-deleted tweet that the massacre had been planned, deliberate and premeditated:

Nothing was carried out uncontrolled; everything was accurate and measured, and we know where every bullet landed.

BBC News and other ‘mainstream’ news outlets, including the Guardian, carried headlines about ‘clashes’ at the Gaza-Israel border ‘leaving’ Palestinians dead and injured. As we noted via Twitter, an honest headline would have read:

Israeli troops kill 16 Palestinians and injure hundreds

When the Israelis shot dead yet more Palestinians on the second Friday of protests, the BBC reported, ‘Deadly unrest on Gaza-Israel border as Palestinians resume protest’. BBC ‘impartiality’ meant not headlining Israeli troops as the agency responsible for the ‘deadly unrest’.

Adam Johnson, writing for Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting, observed of news reports carrying inappropriate headlines about ‘clashes’:

We do not have one party’s snipers opening fire on another, unarmed party; we have “violent clashes”—a term, as FAIR has noted before, that implies symmetry of forces and is often used to launder responsibility.

Later, the Guardian quietly removed the word ‘clashes’ from its headlines, while adding Israeli military spin: that the protest was a Hamas ploy to ‘carry out terror attacks’; compare this early version with a later version.

On the first Friday of mass killing, we noted that the Israeli newspaper Haaretz had reported the presence of Israeli snipers. We asked the public to look for any mention of this on BBC News. Around the time we made the request, the Newssniffer website picked up the first reference to ‘snipers’ on the BBC News website (albeit buried in a tiny mention at the bottom of a news article). Coincidence? Or were BBC editors aware that their output was under public scrutiny?

Within just one day, the BBC had relegated the news of the mass shootings in Gaza to a minor slot on its website. It considered ‘news’ about television personality Dec presenting Saturday Night Takeaway without Ant, and royal couple Harry and Meghan choosing wedding flowers, more important than Israel killing and wounding many hundreds of Palestinians.

When BBC News finally turned to Gaza, with a piece buried at the bottom of its World news page, it was from Israel’s perspective:

Israel warns it could strike inside Gaza

and:

Palestinian groups using protests as a cover to launch attacks on Israel

This disgraceful coverage strongly suggested that Israel was the victim. As political analyst Charles Shoebridge observed:

Editors especially at the BBC aren’t stupid, they know exactly what they’re doing, and the use of very many devices such as this isn’t somehow repeatedly accidental. Indeed, it’s a good example of how the BBC is perhaps history’s most sophisticated and successful propaganda tool.

By contrast, a powerful article in Haaretz from veteran Israeli journalist Gideon Levy pointed to the reality that the mass shooting by Israeli ‘Defence’ Forces:

shows once again that the killing of Palestinians is accepted in Israel more lightly than the killing of mosquitoes.

The Silence of Liberal ‘Interventionists’

Last year, Jeremy Corbyn was hounded by ‘mainstream’ media journalists, demanding that he condemn acts of violence by the socialist government in Venezuela. But there was no corporate media campaign calling upon Theresa May to denounce much worse Israeli violence. The same media that devoted sustained, in-depth coverage of Spanish police brutality during the Catalan independence referendum swiftly relegated Israel’s mass murder to ‘other news’.

Imagine if Russian or Syrian troops had shot dead almost 30 civilians, and injured well over 1000, during peaceful protests. ‘MSM’ headlines and airwaves would be filled with condemnations from senior UK politicians and prominent commentators. But not so when it is Israel doing the killing.

We tweeted:

twitter task for today: think of any of the famously impassioned, outraged “humanitarian interventionists” in the Guardian, The Times, the Observer and so on, and check how much they’ve tweeted about the mass killings and woundings in Gaza. Go ahead, try it.

Examples were glaring by their absence.

Writing for The Intercept, journalist Mehdi Hasan asked rhetorically:

Where is the moral outrage from former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, the famously pro-intervention, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of a “A Problem From Hell,” which lamented U.S. inaction in Rwanda […]?

Where is the demand from Canadian academic-turned-politician Michael Ignatieff, who was once one of the loudest voices in favor of the so-called responsibility to protect doctrine, for peacekeeping troops to be deployed to the Occupied Territories?

Where are the righteously angry op-eds from Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times, or Richard Cohen of the Washington Post, or David Aaronovitch of The Times of London, demanding concrete action against the human rights abusers of the IDF?’

Hasan concluded:

The ongoing and glaring refusal of liberal interventionists in the West to say even a word about the need to protect occupied Palestinians from state-sponsored violence is a reminder of just how morally bankrupt and cynically hypocritical the whole “liberal intervention” shtick is.

Global realpolitik was highlighted yet again when the US government blocked a vote at an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council calling for an international investigation into the mass shooting of civilians by Israeli troops on March 30. The US repeated its block a week later after the second wave of Israeli killing. We have found no coverage in the UK ‘mainstream’ media of the US blocking a UN investigation. In other words, Israel can act with impunity when committing grievous crimes against humanity, backed to the hilt by its biggest sponsor in Washington.

Weaponising ‘Antisemitism’ Against Corbyn

Meanwhile, the ‘MSM’ was continuing to deploy charges of alleged antisemitism against Corbyn-led Labour; and, seen in a wider political context, against realistic hopes of even moderately progressive changes to UK government policy.

A Facebook comment made in 2012 by Corbyn about a mural depicting Jewish and non-Jewish bankers was unearthed and used to mount a remarkable barrage of vehement media attacks. BBC News took its lead from the obviously right-wing, anti-Corbyn agenda across the ‘spectrum’ of the country’s ‘free press’.

The attacks continued with a vicious front-page ‘exclusive’ in the extreme right-wing Sunday Times:

Exposed: Corbyn’s hate factory

The article, based on a trawl of Facebook posts, painted a hugely exaggerated picture of ’racism, violent threats and abuse by leader’s fan base’. Alex Nunns, author of The Candidate, a book about Corbyn’s ‘improbable path to power’, pointed out the absurdly cynical nature of this Murdoch ‘journalism’. Nunns undertook his own Facebook search for posts by Conservatives and quickly discovered examples of misogyny, abuse, an implied threat of violence and implicit racism. The Tory Facebook page he found:

Appears to have links to The Bruges Group, which in turn has links to leading Conservative politicians including Iain Duncan Smith. Headline: “EXPOSED: Iain Duncan Smith’s hate factory.” See how this is done?

Guardian columnist Owen Jones picked up Nunns’ tweets and pointed out in a live BBC interview:

Why has there been no coverage of the despicable racism and abuse found in Conservative Facebook groups?

The BBC news presenter replied:

Because Labour is the story at the moment.

That the ‘MSM’, including the BBC, had made Labour ‘the story at the moment’ was simply not worthy of comment by corporate journalists or, perhaps, permissible thought.

Shamefully, the BBC published a big splash based on the Sunday Times article on ‘Jeremy Corbyn’s hate factory’. The BBC piece was almost gleeful in saying that there was ‘no let up for Labour’:

With negative stories on the front pages of at least four newspapers, this is not a happy Easter Sunday for Labour.

In other words, as it so often does, the BBC was following the lead of the right-wing, anti-Corbyn ‘mainstream’ press. The onslaught of ‘news’ linking Corbyn to ‘antisemitism’ continued with an account of how Corbyn had attended a ‘left wing Jewish event’ organised by Jewdas. The BBC stated:

Jewdas, which describes itself as a “radical” and “alternative” Jewish collective, is at odds with mainstream Jewish groups over allegations of anti-Semitism in Labour.

Three of the principal pro-Israel bodies in the UK, the Jewish Board of Deputies, Jewish Leadership Council and Jewish Labour Movement, criticised Corbyn for attending the event. The BBC reported:

Jonathan Arkush, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said: “If Jeremy Corbyn goes to their event, how can we take his stated commitment to be an ally against anti-Semitism seriously?”

The BBC not only ran with this latest ‘story’ linking Corbyn to antisemitism, but promoted it as the lead item on the BBC News website.

However, there is nothing that says we must allow BBC News to determine what is ‘mainstream’ and what is not. And, in particular, when it comes to the Jewish Board of Deputies, Jewish Leadership Council and Jewish Labour Movement, journalist Asa Winstanley of Electronic Intifada notes:

Their primary function is to lobby for Israel, an institutionally racist, apartheid state.

A measure of the Jewish Board of Deputies’ staunch pro-Israel stance can be seen from the tweet they sent in the wake of the brutal Israeli killings in the first Friday border protest:

Alarming developments at Gaza border as Hamas once again using its civilians – inc children – as pawns.

The lack of condemnation from ‘mainstream’ voices in politics and the media to such a disgraceful message reveals widespread deep fear of being accused of antisemitism. This fear, used to constrain reasoned debate, needs to be seen in a broader historical context. In 2002, former Israeli minister Shulamit Aloni explained the rationale behind the charge of antisemitism:

Well, it’s a trick – we always use it. When from Europe somebody’s criticising Israel then we bring up the Holocaust.

And it works. Professor Greg Philo of the Glasgow Media Group related that he was once told by a senior BBC News editor:

The BBC waits in fear for the telephone call from the Israelis.

None of the above is to deny that there is a significant problem of antisemitism in British politics, or in wider British society. But, as the group Jews for Justice for Palestinians notes, the facts are that:

Levels of antisemitism among those on the left-wing of the political spectrum, including the far-left, are indistinguishable from those found in the general population.

Moreover, antisemitism has decreased in Labour under Corbyn, and public polling indicates that it is more prevalent among Conservative and UKIP members than among Labour and Liberal members. Indeed, there is ample evidence of an extraordinary scale of Tory racism and abuse.

In summary, then, here is the horrible irony of recent coverage on Israel and antisemitism: the corporate media continued to headline Corbyn’s ‘antisemitism crisis’ – supposedly triggered by a comment about a mural in 2012 – while quickly relegating Israel’s massacres of civilian Palestinians to ‘other news’ at the bottom of the page and running order.

The truth is that the deadliest racism today is indicated by the casual way in which the West and its allies rain violence down on countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen. Although human rights are typically used as a pretext, the real goal is control of natural resources and the global economy; the tears of compassion evaporate the instant that an Official Enemy obstructing Western control has been overthrown. As Chomsky has noted, this is actually closer to a kind of speciesism than racism:

Namely, knowing that you are massacring them but not doing so intentionally because you don’t regard them as worthy of concern. That is, you don’t even care enough about them to intend to kill them. Thus when I walk down the street, if I stop to think about it I know I’ll probably kill lots of ants, but I don’t intend to kill them, because in my mind they do not even rise to the level where it matters. There are many such examples. To take one of the very minor ones, when [President Bill] Clinton bombed the al-Shifa pharmaceutical facility in Sudan, he and the other perpetrators surely knew that the bombing would kill civilians (tens of thousands, apparently). But Clinton and associates did not intend to kill them, because by the standards of Western liberal humanitarian racism, they are no more significant than ants. Same in the case of tens of millions of others.

A further example, as we have seen, are the yawns of indifference from the corporate media as hundreds of civilian protestors – Palestinian ‘mosquitoes’ – are gunned down by Israeli snipers.

  1. Noam Chomsky, Fateful Triangle, Pluto Press, 1999, p.489.

“Follow Your Bliss”: The Tweet That Brought Corporate Journalism To The Brink Of A Nervous Breakthrough

‘I have tried trade, but I found that it would take ten years to get under way in that, and that then I should probably be on my way to the devil.’1

Noam Chomsky once emailed us:

Am really impressed with what you are doing, though it’s like trying to move a ten-ton truck with a toothpick. They’re not going to allow themselves to be exposed.2

These were kind words from Chomsky. But, in fact, ‘they’ – corporate journalists – often do an excellent job of exposing themselves.

Consider that, last week, one of us happened to notice this on Twitter:

Under 27? Want to spend a year writing about politics for The Observer, @NewStatesman and @thetimes? Anthony Howard Award 2018 is now open: http://anthonyhowardaward.org.uk . It gave @LOS_Fisher @ashcowburn @patrickkmaguire @Dulcie_Lee and me our starts in Westminster. Apply!

We responded:

Forget it. Don’t write for the “mainstream”. Don’t write for money. Don’t write for prestige. Just “follow your bliss” by writing what you absolutely love to write to inspire and enlighten other people. Write what seems interesting, important and true, and give it away for free.

The tweet quickly picked up 15 retweets and 40 likes. At first, nobody expressed strong feelings about it. But then, a clutch of corporate journalists and writers decided to scandalise what we had sent, generating a kind of ‘mainstream’ feeding frenzy. Emma Kennedy, actress, author of ten books, tweeted graciously:

This is total bollocks. If you want to be a writer know this: you have a value and you ALWAYS deserve to be paid. Go fuck yourself Media Lens.

Stephen Buranyi, who writes longreads for the Guardian, mimed:

**does the jackoff motion so hard I glide across the floor like an unbalanced washing machine**

Patrick Sawer, senior reporter at The Telegraph:

Tell that to anyone trying to stage a play, paint a canvas, put together a film, get a book published. What arrant nonsense to pretend, for the sake of “purity” that the market economy doesn’t exist.

Kate Hind, Mail on Sunday Showbiz Editor, chipped in:

I think this lot are in on the wind up

Pressgirl wrote:

I’ve worked as a journo for more than 30 years and only those with wealthy partners can afford to potter about doing what they fancy. Most have to do the grunt work of covering courts, sports, disasters and getting their hands dirty.

Everyone seemed to find their own meaning, and outrage, in the tweet. Editor Wendy Rosenfield:

This is literally the worst advice for writers. Write for yourself, on your own blog, or to promote your own work for free. Charge everyone else. It’s work. It has value and deserves compensation.

Ian Craig, a politics reporter:

Abhorrent. I hope you apologise for this.

Helen Black, a novelist, foresaw dark consequences:

Have you got any idea how unattainable a career in the media/arts feels to millions of working class people? A tweet like this only serves to feed class division.

Before long, the outrage went global. From New York:

This is awful advice. Truly, truly awful.

From Spain:

Snobismo moralista de pacotilla…

We got the gist from the first two words.

Even Owen Jones of the Guardian, normally a stickler for ignoring us, replied:

The corporate media needs to be relentlessly critiqued. And that includes its dependence on unpaid/underpaid labour which is a) exploitative and b) turns journalism into a closed shop for the privileged. Which you helped justify.

He added:

And yes, sure, there’ll be those using your stupid statement opportunistically because you more generally critique corporate media practices. That doesn’t mean you’re vindicated in giving pseudo radical cover to unpaid media labour.

We replied:

It’s not possible for us to have “helped justify” corporate media exploitation and privilege when the first line of our tweet read: “Forget it. Don’t write for the “mainstream”.

Jones has previously revealed that he is ‘barred‘ from criticising his colleagues. With this in mind, we added:

There’s also a problem with corporate media requiring that young journalists refrain from criticising their colleagues, their company, their advertisers, their owners, “the industry”. But that’s not something you’re willing or able to talk about, is it?

Jones resumed his policy of ignoring us.

The New Statesman published an entire article on our tweet, titled:

Telling journalists to “follow your bliss” by writing for free is as anti-socialist as you can get

Abuse poured in liberally:

You sound like a privileged twat here. Just saying.

Fucking new age wanky twaddle. Fuck off’

Go stuff your bliss up your arse

Fuck you. Pay people.

You sound retarded.

And so on, with the above representing only a small sample…

‘The Call to Adventure’

By any standards, this was a fascinating response to a single tweet of just 279 characters. In his excellent response to the furore, former Guardian journalist Jonathan Cook wrote that ‘the outpouring of indignation from these journalists at a little bit of advice from Media Lens must be unprecedented’.

So what did Joseph Campbell, a comparative mythologist, actually mean when he talked of ‘following your bliss’? In a series of discussions on The Power of Myth with journalist Bill Moyers, Campbell explained:

The way to find out about your happiness is to keep your mind on those moments when you feel most happy, when you really are happy – not excited, not just thrilled, but deeply happy. This requires a little bit of self-analysis. What is it that makes you happy? Stay with it, no matter what people tell you. This is what I call “following your bliss”.3

Having found out what really inspires us, the key is to not be distracted or tempted by lesser motivations – ‘lesser’, not because they are ‘bad’ or ‘evil’, but because they are not, in fact, despite what many people think, sources of real satisfaction:

You may have a success in life, but then just think of it – what kind of life was it? What good was it – you’ve never done the thing you wanted to do in all your life. I always tell my students, go where your body and soul want to go. When you have the feeling, then stay with it, and don’t let anyone throw you off. (p.118)

Campbell was not dispensing self-help twaddle here. His comments were rooted in more than half a century spent studying myths, legends and folk tales from every corner of the globe. He was particularly interested in a remarkable, recurring ‘monomyth’ featuring a ‘hero’ – not a tedious, Marvel-style superhero, but simply someone sensitive to his or her extreme frustration with egotistical pursuits based around money, respect and fame.

This stubborn, otherwise very ordinary, soul responds to a ‘call to adventure’, stepping beyond the boundaries of everyday life to search for some deeper, more satisfying answer to life. In doing so, the hero inevitably takes a challenging journey away from the familiar and secure along a ‘road of trials’, which eventually delivers him or her to a ‘wasteland’. This is an abysmal moment of crisis that, if faced and endured, results in a tremendous ‘boon’; an experience that leaves the hero utterly transformed.

Campbell’s specific advice to writers answering this ‘call to adventure’ was to read everything by the authors they love. And to then read everything loved by this first set of authors, and so on. He suggested we keep journeying, investigating ever more deeply into whatever it is we find most enthralling and enlivening. Simultaneously, we should write whatever it is we find most interesting – just write and write, practice, experiment and enjoy.

In this way, he claimed, we can develop a depth of enthusiasm, knowledge and skill that may very well result in our work being noticed, appreciated and supported. But this positive reception should not be the motivation, not even a concern. Does it need saying that the hero of the ‘monomyth’ – Christ, Buddha, Bodhidharma, Saraha, Kabir, Lao-Tse – is not seeking fame and financial gain?

Campbell warned that a writer might need to follow this path for ten years before receiving any acknowledgement at all, much less payment. But this was not a problem because the delight of the adventure more than compensates for any financial loss. Campbell’s key point:

And if you stay in the centre and don’t get any money, you still have your bliss.

But, of course, questions remain; urgent issues that explain the bile expressed at our tweet:

1: How on earth are we to live?

Guardian columnist Dawn Foster garnered 524 ‘likes’ on Twitter with this comment:

Emailing my landlord, bank, and utilities company to explain I’m “following my bliss”.

Someone else wrote:

How the fuck are we going to afford rent and bills and food by writing for bliss.

2: Why on earth would a young writer give his or her work away for free? Why would payment not be an aspiration?

Writer Emma Kennedy again:

It is utterly disgusting that you are advocating for writers not to be paid. Go tell that to a plumber. You’re a disgrace.

A freelance photographer agreed:

Dear “Work For Free” cheerleader: Just Fuck Off, there’s a poppet.

To reiterate, Campbell argued that a creative writer must first build a foundation of enthusiasm, knowledge and skill. This can take years, and means following our interest wherever it leads.

What matters in these early years is that we love what we’re doing and keep doing it. What does not matter is whether we are achieving some external reward: getting attention, getting paid. These are completely secondary. In fact, they are not even secondary; they are a trap. Schopenhauer wrote:

Only he who writes entirely for the sake of what he has to say writes anything worth writing. It is as if there were a curse on money: every writer writes badly as soon as he starts writing for gain.4

The 11th century Buddhist master, Ksemendra, made a similar point:

The thoughts of wealth and glory that arise first are like poison ivy: they harm merely by a touch, enchanting and paralysing the mind.5

But how can a concern for payment be actually poisonous?

As young writers very consciously following our bliss in the 1990s, we also felt the temptation to stop reading and writing the material we found most interesting; to start thinking ‘maturely’ and ‘responsibly’ about ‘market demands’. As knowledge and ability increase with practice, the possibility and temptation arise to turn to issues, perhaps related, that pay. Taking this turn, we can quickly come to feel exactly as we do when stuck in standard corporate office work – we are now writing from the head rather than the heart, which is clearly felt as a dull, joyless, mechanical task.

But what is really alarming about straying from the ‘call to adventure’ in this way, is that we can end up spending a huge amount of time and energy on this paid work. Writing consumes a lot of mental energy – anyone who writes for three or four hours a day will not have much energy left for real writing. It is far better for young writers to avoid paid writing of this kind and support themselves through paid, non-writing work – part-time teaching, for example.

Rather than worrying about toxic money issues, young writers can write what they believe in and send it, completely free, completely uncompromised, to people they admire, friends, small magazines, and so on. In our case, we sent our work to people like Harold Pinter, John Pilger, Noam Chomsky, Edward Herman, Howard Zinn and Edward Goldsmith; to magazines like Resurgence, The Ecologist, New Internationalist, Red Pepper and Z Magazine. Because they valued our work, they began helping us – in Pilger’s case, to a degree that was beyond anything we could have imagined and that continues to this day.

This is why our tweet suggested young writers should write and ‘give it away for free’. Doing so allows them to stay true to what they believe, and may well result in support that, crucially, is not conditional on corporate conformity and compromise.

Incidentally, Campbell followed his own path by disappearing into the hills to read for ten years at the height of the Great Depression. As he said:

I came back from Europe as a student in 1929, just three weeks before the Wall Street crash, so I didn’t have a job for five years. There just wasn’t a job. That was a great time for me. I didn’t feel poor, I just felt that I didn’t have any money.

Bridges Burning Brightly – Media Lens

Consider the creation of Media Lens in July 2001. We both loathed trying to jump through tiny corporate media hoops to publish small articles and book reviews, and never considered charging for our media alerts and cogitations.

The goal was to enjoy ourselves, writing whatever we felt was important, interesting and true about corporate media without giving a hoot about upsetting newspaper editors, commissioning editors and the like – the people young writers are normally terrified of alienating. We felt it was vital to not give a hoot.

It never occurred to us that we might be able to make any money out of what we were doing. After all, which of the many corporations, great and small, that dominate the mass media would dream of publishing material undermining their credibility? We also didn’t imagine that readers would send donations to a tiny website run by two virtually unknown writers. Nevertheless, we set about burning our few, rickety media bridges.

Just eighteen months later, with donations flowing, Edwards was able to abandon his ten-year, Tefl teaching career to work full-time on Media Lens. Cromwell, who has a family and who was then working as a scientist, was eventually able to resign and work full-time from 2010. The public response has always been astonishing.

Last year, in lieu of the usual coffee-makers and cutlery, a couple wrote to their entire list of wedding guests asking them to send donations to Media Lens. As a birthday present for her husband, the wife of an avid reader in Switzerland sent us €1,000, asking only that we send him an email on the day. Ignoring our protests, another reader set up a standing order donating £2 a month, despite sometimes not having enough money to put food on the table. Another supporter paid for 100 copies of our book Newspeak to be sent to senior journalists, editors and managers at the BBC (we only ever received two replies).

We have many humbling stories of this kind that we can hardly believe ourselves. The public has immense power to support honest writing, which is why we have imagined a collective of principled writers and journalists detaching themselves completely from corporate media, and placing themselves entirely at the mercy of the public.

Of course, we have also made a small amount of money from our two Pluto Press books; from a tiny, short-lived monthly ‘box’ column in the New Statesman (2003-2005), and from a bi-monthly column in Gulf Today recycling media alerts (2004-2009). We are not at all against being paid; the point is that it has never been our motivation and does not determine what we write. And yes, we accept that this is not in any way a secure career path. In fact, donations have been falling for a while and we may have to return to part-time work in the next couple of years.

We are keenly aware that the reflexive response from our many critics, wobbling like washing machines across the floor, will be:

Well, you say you follow your bliss, but your writing is tedious, turgid, ineffectual crap. So why don’t you…?

Which is why we responded to many tweeters with a comment that appeared on the front of our second Media Lens book, Newspeak (Pluto Press, 2009), taken from the foreword by John Pilger:

Not since Orwell and Chomsky has perceived reality been so skillfully revealed in the cause of truth.

The quality and impact of any writing is always a matter of personal opinion, of course. But we think responses of this kind from the people we respect most indicate that Media Lens has been a tremendous success, considering that we really are just two writers who really have given our media alerts and cogitations away for free, exactly as proposed in our tweet.

The Bigger Reality

But there is another crucial issue mentioned in the tweet, ‘Don’t write for the corporate media’, that was completely unaddressed by our Twitter critics. This concerns the utterly disastrous impact of young writers meekly conforming to the demands of the corporate system. For these media truly are an integral part of a ‘mainstream’ monster that is devastating the planet. As Jonathan Cook wrote:

It’s almost as if these critics are desperately trying to deflect their thoughts from the consequences of this bigger reality. Media Lens and I have committed a crime of honesty: about what kind of world we not only need to live in but must live in right now if we and our children are to survive impending climate breakdown and economic collapse.

The “realists”, it seems, would prefer that Media Lens and I tell young journalists that they should forget all that, keep their heads down and carry on like their predecessors in the media, who smoothed the path to the environmental and economic crises we now face.

It is impossible to write in a genuinely unconstrained way about the crucial issues of our time from within corporate media. This becomes immediately clear when we glance at just a few of the major topics that ‘mainstream’ writers cannot discuss:

They cannot criticise their newspapers, magazines or other media companies: their media owners, parent companies, editors, colleagues, products and advertisers. They cannot discuss the toxic nature of the corporate media system as a whole. For example, they cannot point even to the absurdity of profit-seeking, billionaire-owned, advert-dependent, corporate journalism reporting ‘impartially’ on a world dominated by profit-seeking mega-corporations.

They cannot discuss the very reasonable claim advanced by the Canadian lawyer, Joel Bakan, that the corporate system – the most powerful economic and political force on the planet – is, in essence, a giant psychopath subordinating human and animal life to short-term profit. This cannot be debated even in the context of irrefutable evidence that vast corporate interests are, still now, fighting tooth and nail to obstruct action on climate change that is threatening global catastrophe.

Because the government is a major supplier of high-level sources and other subsidised news (from central government and various departments, like defence), writers cannot discuss the fact that party politics is essentially owned by corporate power. They cannot expose the role of the US as a de facto global Godfather deploying high-tech violence and terror to ensure Third World countries serve US corporate interests, with obstructive independent nationalists attacked and overthrown in the name of ‘human rights’ and ‘self-defence’.

Because the corporate press is about selling products and services to billions of consumers, it is loath to discuss the claim that an authentic, incomparable bliss is located within the human heart, and can be experienced by directing some attention away from external sources of ‘happiness’ to internal feelings in meditation. And yet this has been the assertion of every great spiritual master for thousands of years. Kabir, for example, said:

Don’t go outside your house to see flowers, my friend, don’t bother with that excursion. Inside your body there are flowers. One flower has a thousand petals.

These ‘flowers’ are waiting for us when we follow our bliss. The flower with ‘a thousand petals’ found by ‘the hero with a thousand faces’ is Enlightenment, deemed a quaint, poetic notion by head-trapped journalism. It is a truth so completely at odds with the whole purpose of corporate power that, beyond a trivial, lifestyle concern with de-stressing ‘mindfulness’, it cannot be considered.

A spider’s web of ‘red lines’ awaits anyone who tries to write openly and honestly inside this system.

Finally, why did so many corporate journalists feel so compelled to vent their spleen at this one tiny tweet among thousands? A tweet from a website that has no conceivable ability to influence or harm their financial prospects in any way. Why did they bother?

The answer can only be that corporate journalists felt drawn to Campbell’s advice. He wrote of such people:

Walled in boredom, hard work, or “culture”, the subject loses the power of affirmative action and becomes a victim to be saved. His flowering world becomes a wasteland of dry stones and his life feels meaningless – even though, like King Minos, he may through titanic effort succeed in building an empire of renown.6

What journalist stuck in the confines of profit-maximisation and ‘market demands’ could fail to feel the attraction of ‘writing what you absolutely love to write to inspire and enlighten other people. Write what seems interesting, important and true’?

But what journalist lumbered with a mortgage, prestige, kids’ university debts – after decades spent clambering up a career ladder – can dare to think in terms of following their bliss? The idea seems hateful because it triggers a conflict that is immediate and obvious, and full of pain.

How, then, to safely dismiss the whole issue? By raging at the final advice: ‘give it away for free’. Impossible! Absurd! It sows class division! Thus can they reject all such ‘nonsense’ and trudge back to conformity.

The tell, the clue, lies in the very passion of the rejection – in the hundreds of angry tweets. After all, mere nonsense is ignored, or coolly dismissed. But when something stirs an inner conflict, the energy must out: ‘The lady doth protest too much.’ The gentleman, also.

To all our corporate critics languishing in the fetid bowels of the corporate media Moloch, we say:

Don’t go to your corporate offices to see flowers, my friend, don’t bother with that excursion. Inside your body there are flowers. One flower has a thousand petals.

  1. Thoreau, Walden
  2. Chomsky, email to Media Lens, September 14, 2005.
  3. Joseph Campbell with Bill Moyers, The Power of Myth, Doubleday, 1988, p.155.
  4. Schopenhauer, Essays and Aphorisms, Penguin Books, 1981, p.199.
  5. Ksemendra, Leaves of the Heaven Tree, Dharma Publishing, 1997, p.421.
  6. Campbell, The Hero With A Thousand Faces, Fontana Press, 1949, p.59.

Monbiot Is a Hypocrite and a Bully

It is time for George Monbiot’s legion of supporters to call him out. Not only is he a hypocrite, but he is becoming an increasingly dangerous one.

Turning a blind eye to his behaviour, or worse excusing it, as too often happens, has only encouraged him to intensify his attacks on dissident writers, those who – whether right or wrong on any specific issue – are slowly helping us all to develop more critical perspectives on western foreign policy goals than has ever been possible before.

I do not lightly use such strong language against Monbiot, someone I once admired. But his column this week drips with hypocrisy as he accuses the right wing media of being the real villains when it comes to “no-platforming”. Monbiot writes:

But perhaps the real discomfort is that the worst no-platforming of all takes place within our newspapers. In the publications most obsessed with student silliness, there is no platform for socialism, no platform for environmentalism, no platform for those who might offend the interests of the proprietors. …

I believe that a healthy media organisation, like a healthy university, should admit a diversity of opinion. I want the other newspapers to keep publishing views with which I fiercely disagree. But they – and we – should also seek opposing views and publish them too, however uncomfortable this might be.

What free speech advocate would disagree with that? Except it is Monbiot himself who has been using his prominent platforms, at the Guardian and on social media, to discredit critical thinkers on the left – not with reasoned arguments, but by impugning their integrity.

Denied a platform

It started with his unsubstantiated claim that scholars like Noam Chomsky and the late Ed Herman, as well as the acclaimed journalist John Pilger, were “genocide deniers and belittlers”. It now focuses on childish insinuations that those who question the corporate media’s simplistic narrative on Syria are Assad apologists or in Vladimir Putin’s pay.

But worse than this, Monbiot is also conspiring – either actively or through his silence – to deny critics of his and the Guardian’s position on Syria the chance to set out their evidence in its pages.

The Guardian’s anti-democratic stance does not surprise me, as someone who worked there for many years. I found myself repeatedly no-platformed by the paper – even while on its staff – after I started taking an interest in the Israel-Palestine conflict and writing about the discomforting issue of what a Jewish state entails. My treatment is far from unique.

Now the paper is denying a platform to those who question simplistic and self-serving western narratives on Syria. And Monbiot is backing his employer to the hilt, even as he professes his commitment to the publication of views he fiercely disagrees with. That’s the dictionary definition of hypocrisy.

‘Selfless’ White Helmets?

The latest instalment of the Guardian and Monbiot’s long-running battle to silence Syria dissidents arrived last month when Olivia Solon, the paper’s technology writer living in San Francisco, developed a sudden and unexpected expertise in a controversial Syrian group called the White Helmets.

In the western corporate media narrative, the White Helmets are a group of dedicated and selfless rescue workers. They are supposedly the humanitarians on whose behalf a western intervention in Syria would have been justified – before, that is, Syrian leader Bashar Assad queered their pitch by inviting in Russia.

However, there are problems with the White Helmets. They operate only in rebel – read: mainly al-Qaeda and ISIS-held – areas of Syria, and plenty of evidence shows that they are funded by the UK and US to advance both countries’ far-from-humanitarian policy objectives in Syria.

There are also strong indications that members of the White Helmets have been involved in war crimes, and that they have staged rescue operations as a part of a propaganda offensive designed to assist Islamic extremists trying to oust Assad. (Solon discounts this last claim. In doing so, she ignores several examples of such behaviour, concentrating instead on an improbable “mannequin challenge”, when the White Helmets supposedly froze their emergency operations, in the midst of rescue efforts, apparently as part of a peculiar publicity campaign.)

Guardian hatchet job

Whatever side one takes in this debate, one would imagine that Monbiot should have a clear agenda in support of hearing evidence from all sides. One might also imagine that he would want to distance himself from Solon’s efforts to tie criticism of the White Helmets to a supposed “fake news” crisis and paint those critical of the group as Putin-bots. According to Solon:

The way the Russian propaganda machine has targeted the White Helmets is a neat case study in the prevailing information wars. It exposes just how rumours, conspiracy theories and half-truths bubble to the top of YouTube, Google and Twitter search algorithms.

Those are the same algorithms that have been changed in recent months to make sure that prominent leftist websites are increasingly difficult to find on internet searches and their writers’ views effectively disappeared.

Yet Monbiot has been using social media to promote Solon’s cheerleading of the White Helmets and her hatchet job against on-the-ground journalists who have taken a far more critical view of the group.

As set out by Prof Tim Hayward, the Guardian’s response to criticism of Solon’s piece has been typical. The comments section below the article was hastily closed after many criticisms were voiced by readers. The journalists who were singled out for attack by Solon were denied a right of reply. A group of concerned academics led by Hayward who submitted their own article, which detailed publicly available evidence to counter Solon’s simplistic account of the White Helmets, were ignored. Meanwhile, the Guardian’s editors and the reader’s editor have ignored all efforts by these parties to contact them.

Given his claim to be an uncompromising defender of free speech and a fierce advocate of providing platforms to those who can back up their arguments with evidence, however discomforting, one might have assumed that Monbiot would at the very least have lobbied on behalf of Hayward and his fellow scholars. But not a bit of it. Yet again he has joined the dogs of the corporate media baying for blood. Instead he turned to Twitter to claim Hayward and Piers Robinson, an expert on propaganda, had “disgraced” themselves.

Undermining climate concerns

The many tens of thousands of leftists who defend Monbiot, or turn a blind eye to his hypocrisy, largely do so because of his record on the environment. But in practice they are enabling not only his increasingly overt incitement against critical thinkers, but also undermining the very cause his supporters believe he champions.

Climate breakdown is a global concern. Rewilding, bike-riding, protecting bees and polar bears, and developing new sustainable technologies are all vitally important. But such actions will amount to little if we fail to turn a highly sceptical eye on the activities of a western military-industrial complex ravaging the planet’s poorest regions.

These war industries fill their coffers by using weapons indiscriminately on “enemy” populations, spawning new and fiercer enemies – while often propping them up too – to generate endless wars. The consequences include massive displacements of these populations who then destabilise other regions, spreading the effect and creating new opportunities for the arms manufacturers, homeland security industries, and the financial industries that feed off them.

A true environmentalist has to look as critically at western policies in Iraq, Libya, Syria, Ukraine, Venezuela and many other areas of the globe as he does at UK policy in the Welsh hills and the Lake District.

All indications are that Monbiot lacks the experience, knowledge and skills to unravel the deceptions being perpetrated in the west’s proxy and not-so-proxy wars overseas. That is fair enough. What is not reasonable is that he should use his platforms to smear precisely those who can speak with a degree of authority and independence – and then conspire in denying them a platform to respond. That is the behaviour not only of a hypocrite, but of a bully too.

There is No Sheltered Rear: So Stand Up, Get Angry, and Don’t Take it Anymore!

Every artist, every scientist, must decide now where he stands. He has no alternative. There is no standing above the conflict on Olympian heights. There are no impartial observers. Through the destruction, in certain countries, of the greatest of man’s literary heritage, through the propagation of false ideas of racial and national superiority, the artist, the scientist, the writer is challenged. The struggle invades the formerly cloistered halls of our universities and other seats of learning. The battlefront is everywhere. There is no sheltered rear.

— Paul Robeson, Here I Stand, p. 52.

The struggle for us common folk daily is a battle on many fronts, with the sirocco of plague-coal gritty winds chasing us into poverty, into incarceration, into structural violence and penury with the jaws of the dogs of usury rabidly biting at our young and old.

There is no dignity in the grapes of wrath and no heaven inside the gates of religion.

When we end up working for the poverty pimps, social services, in the public sector, or those non-profits and NGOs, or for those purveyors of a fake capitalist green environmentalism, or in the same league of neoliberals or even patsy identity politics liberals, our stories end up frayed and sent into the abyss in a culture that kneels at the altar of celebrity-wealth-military might-superficiality.

Most of us can’t get the gumption up to face down power, even in this junk society where our collective powerlessness could be vital to standing down this tragedy called Americanism, Consumerism, Militarism, Capitalism.

Some of us are tilting at windmills and screaming,

I don’t have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It’s a depression. Everybody’s out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel’s worth, banks are going bust, shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter.

So, I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window, open it, and stick your head out, and yell, ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!’

— Howard Beale, Network

More poignant in Peter Finch’s portrayal of a disenchanted newscaster is his call to our humanity:

Well, I’m not gonna leave you alone. I want you to get MAD! I don’t want you to protest. I don’t want you to riot — I don’t want you to write to your congressman, because I wouldn’t know what to tell you to write. I don’t know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street. All I know is that first you’ve got to get mad. [shouting] You’ve got to say: ‘I’m a human being, god-dammit! My life has value!’

So, I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell: I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!

It’s an easy life gig, really, showing, being, acting mad as hell, and standing down in that glorious moment of realizing that the powers that be, the fascists in boardrooms, the militant bankers and financial devils, all those militarists and digital demigods, the lot of them, are only in the driver’s seat because the consumer half-citizens we have become in the US of A have not taken the first two steps – being mad as hell and not taking it anymore.

I mean really, not some deplorable bullshit under the mantel of the madman Trump, or the faux anger of the liberals and Hillary lovers, none of that is even in the same league as true anger and standing down. Enough of us in the USA are done with this experiment, but not enough of us have the balls or ovaries to stand down and make a bolt away from their prisons, both symbolic ones and those literals ones.

Bolt and stop taking it. Engage in real dirt-smeared arguments, debates, and stop letting the purveyors of neutering and spaying control our lives. If it’s one poor sop doing it, then that’s one poor schmuck left to hang and dry. In so many ways, my life has been my soul and my intellect splayed by the legions of small men and small women, Little Eichmanns and Compliancy Bureaucrats, Admin Class, Deanlets, Chair Persons, HR Midgets, Diversity Officers, Punishment Officers, Pay Masters, Incrementalists, and Violators of All Good Things About Creativity.

Splayed in the sense that it’s easy to sack people who go against the grain, against the vanguard, against the status quo. Each and every time I have been sacked, it seems like the first time, and my own naïve exasperation is almost overcoming, but in the end, my stands are more than righteous. They are demonstrative, chillingly expressive, and others in my circle can judge and pooh-pooh, and point to my spiraling out of any power or fame or thumbs near or on the levers of power.

In the end, you can die on your principles and feel the incredible lightness of being a human being, and feel emancipated even near the gates of endless poverty, waning sanity and extreme disenfranchisement from this capitalist franchise called America.

I’ve cataloged here and other places my struggle with/in/because of the “work place” in America – it started with newspapers where I had drag-out fights with editors about my attitude – going too strong against the powers, in several cases, the policing agencies I was reporting on. Sacked. Struggle as a union organizer a decade ago fighting the middle of the road bosses who thought compliancy and lock-step (to the Democratic Party) were necessary formulations for working there. Sacked. Fighting for part-time faculty and for students at several community colleges . . . terminated. Working with homeless and drug-addicted adults as a social worker . . . encouraged to resign.

Unbelievable that it may seem, but some of us can be up against the vast majority, and be right most of the time, and the fact that the majority can be wrong almost one hundred percent of the time when it comes to false beliefs in patriotism, loyalty, god-country-hierarchy. So many people I have come across in my 60 years, a good 45 of which involved work and work places, have only been able to go-think-believe-philosophize-contemplate-act so far. Halfway is half-assed, and going nine-tenths of the way is still an incomplete journey, flawed, dangerous and retrograde.

Fired for fighting administrators and college-university presidents. Fired for writing too loudly. Hell, I even went up against the ameliorators in so-called progressive alternative radio and newspaper circles for being too radical, too left, too outspoken, too in your face.

Perception is not reality, but their reality is not mine.

Now this fleeting battle line as I am hitting my Sixties is taking even more bizarre turns with my most recent end of the line work in social services. Sort of takes on an entire multi-layered Orwellian, Kafkaesque, Brave New World ugliness only capitalism can refine to a really disturbing level.

Fired because three insignificant trainers and two of their supervisors in a Planned Parenthood two-day class determined after eight hours that my simple and non-disruptive questioning of Planned Parenthood’s policy of believing — one hundred percent — the efficacy of everything Western medicine shoves down our throats and my doubting some of the mumbo-jumbo propaganda of Big Pharma would somehow weigh negatively on my work at a completely unrelated-to-Planned Parenthood non-profit as a non-medical social worker with my foster youth clients.

Imagine — in a training, with that progressive blathering of “this is a safe space” and “anything said here stays here” — and my livelihood is ripped from me by three narc trainers who outright lied about me being a disruptive element. Imagine the level of punk in these people, these urbanites, these Seattlites, these people who are working in the shadow of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which is shoving Big Pharma and Big GMO and Big Contraception and Big Sterilization and Big Family Planning and Big Vaccinations and Big Agra down the throats of the so-called developing world. I questioned one vaccine, tied to the human papilloma virus. Planned Parenthood gets tens of millions from Big Pharma and Big Philanthropy.

This shit brings tears of absurdity to a grown adult’s eyes. These people, these Little Eichmann’s working for Seattle’s Planned Parenthood, with a flick of their wrists, and a punch of their index fingers on their smart phones sending messages to my boss that I was somehow a disruption to the training. Read here part of my story and my lightly political question about Gardasil-Merck.

In their world, they believe they hold the power ingrained in their Hillary Clinton stupidity and Uber Alles Planned Parenthood. These people determined from a really light-hearted and anonymous forum that I would be a chigger in their sides for a second day of training. Really, so, this “ich liebe dich Planned Parenthood uber alles in der Welt … I love you Planned Parenthood above anything else in the world” bullshit went as far as influencing my former employer – a social services non-profit in Portland for more than 45 years – to put me on paid leave and then processed through the ringer of an unfair and incomplete investigation that ended with my termination.

Talking to these people in the non-profit sector is like talking to emptied-out moth chrysalises. This mostly female-run and female-staffed organization had the gall to not talk to my two co-workers who were at the training. They had the gall to pointedly show me that I was being investigated and then canned for barely challenging Planned Parenthood’s take on Gardasil, the Bill Gates/Genetically-Engineered/CDC Fast-tracked Approved/Massive PR campaign vaccine for the sexually transmitted virus, HPV.

In the echo chamber of these female-run/female-staffed social services agencies, the people do not resist the malfeasance and poor treatment. The people do not speak out as if social justice is the key to assisting people as social workers and mental health practitioners. These people do not want any rocking of the boat. These female-staffed/managed outfits want to embrace the superficiality of LGBTQ-ism and faux multiculturalism, yet, when push comes to shove, they are middling humans, who have reached their own ceilings of compassion/knowledge/ radical social work that pale in comparison to the real work that has to be done.

Every step of my administrative leave and then bullshit investigation and then dismissal reeks of unethical and wrongful termination. This non-profit, Lifeworks Northwest, is colluding with Planned Parenthood, because tens of thousands of dollars comes from PP’s coffers, and that grant money is really taxpayers’ money.

The power of my simple anonymous comments on unsigned notepaper got my ass hung out to dry, and the bitterness is magnified since I had youth on my caseload in major iterations of crisis, and because I had no opportunity to challenge my accusers, and because I wasn’t able to cut through stupidity and illogical thinking.

Simple stuff, a social worker anticipating what my young clients might also ask: “IS the Gardasil HPV vaccine safe since when I go onto the Internet and Google ‘Gardasil Dangers’ or put in ‘Is the HPV virus safe?’ I get all sorts of incriminating information about the dangers herein.”

Or, I could have posited at the training something more concrete: “I get all sorts of stories from parents and young women who are outraged by the dangers of the vaccine, and I see many documentaries cataloging the dangers and the chronic pain and deaths attributed to the Merck-made Gardasil, and I can download all these scientific journal articles and browse all these advocacy blogs and web sites that point-blank catalog all the issues tied to the three-shot vaccine”: Here!

The highly controversial HPV vaccine “Gardasil,” given to young girls to defend against early onset of the only form of contagious cancer, has been responsible for over thirty deaths (from blood clots in the heart and lungs) and more than 10,000 adverse events (anaphylactic shock, loss of muscle use, and seizures) being reported. Certain forms of HPV are known to cause cervical cancer by fueling the development of precancerous lesions in epithelial tissues of the vagina, vulva, oropharynx, anus and cervix. Most infections however, are benign and cleared rapidly by the human immune system, and never progress to cervical cancer. A valid reason for giving CHILDREN the HPV vaccine has NEVER been established.

Plus, the supposed “benefits” of the two known HPV vaccines, Gardasil (made by Merck) and Cervarix (made by GSK-GlaxoSmithKline), wear off after a few years, meaning that even if they do work, the cancer only lasts a few years anyway before a normal immune system beats it, so why bother with the vaccines, which are known to be loaded with neurotoxins, carcinogens, synthetic emulsifyers and genetically modified organisms.  Worst yet, there are at least 120 known human papillomaviruses, so, worse than the flu shot, the HPV vaccine is a complete “shot in the dark.” On top of that, only a third of those viruses are the ones typically transmitted through sexual contact. At least 15 types of HPV are CARCINOGENIC.

Just days after given the intramuscular injection Cervarix, Stacey Jones, 17 (at the time), suffered her FIRST EVER SEIZURE and was left brain-damaged from it. The Cervarix inoculation contains recombinant proteins and for those unfamiliar, recombinant means DNA molecules are brought together from multiple sources in a laboratory to create genetic material with DNA sequences that would NOT OTHERWISE EXIST in the genome. That means the culture is chemically altered and then mixed with sodium chloride and “residual” amounts of insect cells. If that itself is not bad enough, according to the Rx list itself, the “tip caps” may contain rubber latex.

By the way, sodium chloride when injected raises blood pressure and inhibits muscle contraction and growth. All of this sends the immune system into hyper-panic mode when injected, and explains the seizures and anaphylactic shock these girls are experiencing just hours or days after the HPV jab.

In the case of Stacey Jones, her parents said that during the few weeks after her getting the cervical jab, Stacey had MORE fits, causing such severe swelling in the brain and brain injury that Stacey had to go to a rehabilitation unit to relearn simple tasks. GSK called it all a coincidence.

Eleven deaths occurred less than one week after receiving the vaccine, seven of which died in less than two days. Three of the deaths were boys. Guess what the most common diagnosis was for the CAUSE of DEATH–BLOOD CLOTTING. Where is the CDC in all of this? One of the girls died within 3 hours of getting the jab. Her echocardiogram revealed a blood clot within the right atrium and the right ventricle.

Other reports include girls coming down with the sudden onset of Guillain-Barre syndrome, where the immune system attacks itself. With Rick Perry as a sponsor, Merck’s Gardasil was causing permanent injuries and death all in the name of Rick Perry’s political need for monetary backing.

Judicial Watch public interest group investigated this government level corruption and released a report based on FDA documents about adverse reactions to the vaccine and found over 100 DEATHS and spontaneous abortions CAUSED BY GARDASIL. Even JAMA (the Journal of the American Medical Association) went so far as to publish over 12,000 reports of vaccine injury.

You see, when I work with youth, and talk about student debt, about drone murders by the USA, or about Trump’s felonious business deals, or talk about the power of media to manufacture consent, or what the real history of the United States is about, or how we bombed the hell out of Korea in the 1950s and Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s, or when I talk about what the real Thanksgiving means, the real Israel means, the real NATO means I expect my youth to go on their own Smart (sic) phones and start double checking my facts and theses.

So, what are these people thinking, sacking me, because I shaped a question around maybe Planned Parenthood anticipating some resistance from some percentage of our youth on all our caseloads, and resistance from their foster and biological parents, or their siblings and friends about this unproven vaccine?

Clenched-teeth trainers, and this room of 40 women and three men, and I was the only one raising what some portion of all of our client loads might ask – is this shot safe? I raised the eyebrows of the Planned Parenthood trainers when I supposed that maybe practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine, naturopathic treatments, shamanism, Native American healing, and other non-Western Medical beliefs should also be included in their amazing rainbow flag of diversity. These people are lock-step, neo-fascists, for sure, of the liberal kind, and I was not prepared for the absolute party-line around Gardasil.

It took very little to time to research how Planned Parenthood gets massive funding from Big Pharma and Big Industrial Medicine . . . that Planned Parenthood is part of the big PR push to get as many young women and boys globally vaccinated with this toxic brew. Right now, over 270 million doses have been distributed. Mark that as $30 billion or more for Merk.

Yet, these Uber Alles Planned Parenthood punks and then my own former employers – punks with master’s degrees in social work and taught in reduced harm techniques and trauma informed care  – find it impossible for me to continue taking a mandatory class and then I get my ass unfairly and wrongfully sacked?

I am in the process of writing Part Three to the series I was asked to work on over at Hormones Matter (and here at DV it’s here and here and here). This entire episode dealing with the cahoots of Planned Parenthood and the drug makers, including the Gardasil manufacturer, Merck, and my own puny job and possibly my future in social services – oh, my next interviews for new jobs will most certainly involve HR folk Googling me and Googling my writings, and, bam, another illicit and unethical determination of my qualities based on my writing – stinks of what’s really rotten to the core in America: the careerism and the death of a real liberal class, and this entitled stupidity and perceived aggrieved neoliberal class.

The formula is clear – if you are a scientist or researcher or expert or legitimate journalist questioning your government, your paymaster, your employer, your school, your non-profit, your NGO, your media, your Fortune 1000 companies, your millionaire and billionaire miscreants, you get harassed, de-funded, shunted into a corner, threatened with lawsuits, threatened with termination, sacked, and in some cases, murdered by these economic and patriotic hit men and hit women. Chris Hedges on careerism!

The greatest crimes of human history are made possible by the most colorless human beings. They are the careerists. The bureaucrats. The cynics. They do the little chores that make vast, complicated systems of exploitation and death a reality. They collect and read the personal data gathered on tens of millions of us by the security and surveillance state. They keep the accounts of ExxonMobil, BP and Goldman Sachs. They build or pilot aerial drones. They work in corporate advertising and public relations. They issue the forms. They process the papers. They deny food stamps to some and unemployment benefits or medical coverage to others. They enforce the laws and the regulations. And they do not ask questions.

These systems managers believe nothing. They have no loyalty. They are rootless. They do not think beyond their tiny, insignificant roles. They are blind and deaf. They are, at least regarding the great ideas and patterns of human civilization and history, utterly illiterate. And we churn them out of universities. Lawyers. Technocrats. Business majors. Financial managers. IT specialists. Consultants. Petroleum engineers. “Positive Psychologists.” Communications majors. Cadets. Sales representatives. Computer programmers. Men and women who know no history, know no ideas. They live and think in an intellectual vacuum, a world of stultifying minutia.

They are T.S. Eliot’s “the hollow men,” “the stuffed men.” “Shape without form, shade without colour,” the poet wrote. “Paralysed force, gesture without motion.”

Even the HR people at that non-profit wouldn’t get it right about why I was terminated, and the little letter I received from Oregon Employment Department belies the non-profit’s absurdity and confusion:

You ARE allowed benefits on this claim . . . .

Findings: You were employed by Lifeworks NW until Oct. 26, 2017 when you were fired because you received too many complaints about being unprofessional, confrontational and argumentative. This was not a willful or wantonly negligent disregard of the employer’s interest because there was no policy or rule violation. You deny the accusations of being a disruption to a training that occurred on October 16, 2017. Employer failed to respond to additional attempts to retrieve information.

Legal Conclusion: You were fired but not for misconduct connected with work.

This short piece can end with those concepts, these people Chris Hedges likens to docile and compliant followers who obey for whatever prestige they can garner. Notice my former employers use words like “unprofessional” and “confrontational” and “argumentative.” This is how these people running social services agencies work the mental muscles in their heads.

My entire work with foster youth, connected to the department of human services case managers and foster parents and a plethora of agencies and businesses, was deemed both “professional” and wise and compassionate. I have written testaments to that fact. What does it mean to have this pejorative thrown at me after the fact, stated to the unemployment adjudicator without my ability to answer this lie? This is a case of so called social services providers putting in the dull knife in my already opened torso.

Then, this all-female staff and supervisory and management team throw out the term, “confrontational,” in the double-speak of these fake positive psychological beratings. What in the world does this mean, “confrontational”? I did confront abusive parents, abusive bureaucrats, abusive psychologists and employers and teachers, and a few case workers. That was my job to be advocate and mentor for 16-to-21-year-old youth – foster youth. I confronted abuse and lies and mismanagement and maligning and prejudice and pre-judgments and structural violence. I confronted the school to prison pipeline mentality of officials and confronted the lackadaisical attitudes about my youth becoming homeless.

Finally, “argumentative”? You know, I got along with everyone, except a couple of officials at public gatherings who made fun of addiction, who made fun of youth caught by cops for pot smoking or carrying booze in the car. I argued with people who laughed at mental challenges, and who somehow thought addiction was just a fad, a choice. I fought prejudice and stupidity, and did it with aplomb and respect. I never was “argumentative” with supervisors or co-workers, yet, these women social workers dare tell a state official – unemployment adjudicator – that the reason for my termination is my “argumentative” disposition? As if I am getting graded as a third grader for my class demeanor, decorum, participation and citizenship?

This is the coda of our social services gone amok and awry, and with these fake diversity-chanting female workers and these social workers who fall over themselves to help gay young men and women, while arguing their point that anyone else who is not a pushover or who is defiant, or who disagrees with their spin on the world, well, even a 60-year-old seasoned teacher with training, skills, experiences and education they could only read about or dream about, is deemed “argumentative” and “confrontational.” This syllogistic thinking (non-thinking) then puts an icing on their canards with the terminology, “unprofessional.”

We are not in good hands, fellow readers. We have a society that is far removed from the reality of being one emergency room visit from the poor house or one paycheck away from being homeless. This is a society that fines homeless people for loitering, that fines panhandling for a meal or a beer, that fines people camping in alleys or kipping in their perfectly legal and running vans and motor homes. This is the society of people who lets the world know how “powerful” they are – proof is in the gouged-out cultures and ecosystems, perpetual war, the illegalities of every ounce of investment, retirement, consumption schemed up in America, and endorsed by twenty or thirty percent of the population. This is a country that has no history because it forgets and forestalls and fabricates. This is a country of teary-eyed infants, raised on Marvel Comics’ narratives and Disneyland philosophy and computer mush and Hallmark moments, and violence and junk goo for the brain and junk food for the soul.

These people, who are tied to the lies of the most powerful collective organization on earth – Big Pharma (twice the lobbying bucks paid to politicians than even the militarists) – and they give shit about the lives of young women and men forcefully vaccinated.

These are the crimes of the weak, the so-called do-gooders. And their crimes go unchallenged, unnoticed, and under-discussed. Because this country is one giant criminal project — Continuing Criminal Enterprise.

These armies of bureaucrats serve a corporate system that will quite literally kill us. They are as cold and disconnected as Mengele. They carry out minute tasks. They are docile. Compliant. They obey. They find their self-worth in the prestige and power of the corporation, in the status of their positions and in their career promotions. They assure themselves of their own goodness through their private acts as husbands, wives, mothers and fathers. They sit on school boards. They go to Rotary. They attend church. It is moral schizophrenia. They erect walls to create an isolated consciousness. They make the lethal goals of ExxonMobil or Goldman Sachs or Raytheon or insurance companies possible. They destroy the ecosystem, the economy and the body politic and turn workingmen and -women into impoverished serfs. They feel nothing. Metaphysical naiveté always ends in murder. It fragments the world. Little acts of kindness and charity mask the monstrous evil they abet. And the system rolls forward. The polar ice caps melt. The droughts rage over cropland. The drones deliver death from the sky. The state moves inexorably forward to place us in chains. The sick die. The poor starve. The prisons fill. And the careerist, plodding forward, does his or her job.

— Chris Hedges

Monbiot Still Burying his Head in Sands of Syria

Investigative journalist Gareth Porter has published two exclusives whose import is far greater than may be immediately apparent. They concern Israel’s bombing in 2007 of a supposed nuclear plant secretly built, according to a self-serving US and Israeli narrative, by Syrian leader Bashar Assad.

Although the attack on the “nuclear reactor” occurred a decade ago, there are pressing lessons to be learnt for those analysing current events in Syria.

Porter’s research indicates very strongly that the building that was bombed could not have been a nuclear reactor – and that was clear to experts at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) even as the story was being promoted uncritically across the western media.

But – and this is the critical information Porter conveys – the IAEA failed to disclose the fact that it was certain the building was not a nuclear plant, allowing the fabricated narrative to be spread unchallenged. It abandoned science to bow instead to political expediency.

The promotion of the bogus story of a nuclear reactor by Israel and key figures in the Bush administration was designed to provide the pretext for an attack on Assad. That, it was hoped, would bring an end to his presidency and drag into the fray the main target – Iran. The Syrian “nuclear reactor” was supposed to be a re-run of the WMD deception, used in 2003 to oust another enemy of the US and Israel’s – Saddam Hussein of Iraq.

It is noteworthy that the fabricated evidence for a nuclear reactor occurred in 2007, a year after Israel’s failure to defeat Hizbullah in Lebanon. The 2006 Lebanon war was itself intended to spread to Syria and lead to Assad’s overthrow, as I explained in my book Israel and the Clash of Civilisations.

It is important to remember that this Israeli-neocon plot against Syria long predated – in fact, in many ways prefigured – the civil war in 2011 that quickly morphed into a proxy war in which the US became a key, if mostly covert, actor.

The left’s Witchfinder General

The relevance of the nuclear reactor deception can be understood in relation to the latest efforts by Guardian columnist George Monbiot (and many others) to discredit prominent figures on the left, including Noam Chomsky and John Pilger, for their caution in making assessments of much more recent events in Syria. Monbiot has attacked them for not joining him in simply assuming that Assad was responsible for a sarin gas attack last April on Khan Sheikhoun, an al-Qaeda stronghold in Idlib province.

Understandably, many on the left have been instinctively wary of rushing to judgment about individual incidents in the Syrian war, and the narratives presented in the western media. The claim that Assad’s government used chemical weapons in Khan Sheikhoun, and earlier in Ghouta, was an obvious boon to those who have spent more than a decade trying to achieve regime change in Syria.

In what has become an ugly habit with Monbiot, and one I have noted before, he has enthusiastically adopted the role of Witchfinder General. Any questioning of evidence, scepticism or simply signs of open-mindedness are enough apparently to justify accusations that one is an Assadist or conspiracy theorist. Giving house room to the doubts of a ballistics expert like Ted Postol of MIT, or an experienced international arms expert like Scott Ritter, or a famous investigative journalist like Seymour Hersh, or a former CIA analyst like Ray McGovern, is apparently proof that one is an atrocity denier or worse.

Inconvenient facts buried

Monbiot’s latest attack was launched at a moment when he obviously felt he was on solid ground. A UN agency, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), issued a report last month concluding that the 100 people killed and 200 injured in Khan Sheikhoun last April were exposed to sarin. Monbiot argues that the proof is now incontrovertible that Assad was responsible – a position that he, of course, adopted at the outset – and that all other theories have now been decisively discounted by the OPCW.

There are reasons to think that Monbiot is seriously misrepresenting the strength of the OPCW’s findings, as several commentators have observed. Most notably, Robert Parry, another leading investigative journalist, points out that evidence in the report’s annex – the place where inconvenient facts are often buried – appears to blow a large hole in the official story.

Parry notes that the time recorded by the UN of the photo of the chemical weapons attack is more than half an hour *after* some 100 victims had already been admitted to five different hospitals, some of them lengthy drives from the alleged impact site.

But potentially more significant than such troubling inconsistencies are the conclusions of Gareth Porter’s separate investigation into Israel’s bombing of the non-existent Syrian nuclear reactor. That gets to the heart of where Monbiot and many others have gone badly wrong in their certainty about events in Syria.

Extreme naivety

Monbiot has been only too willing to promote as indisputable fact claims made both by highly compromised and unreliable western sources and by supposedly reputable and independent organisations, such as international human rights groups and UN agencies. He, like many others, assumes that the latter can always be relied upon to stand apart from western interests and can therefore be implicitly trusted.

That indicates an extreme naivety or possibly the lack of any experience covering on the ground highly charged conflicts in which western interests are paramount.

I have been based in Israel for nearly two decades and have on several occasions taken to task Human Rights Watch (HRW), one of the world’s most esteemed human rights organisations. I have shown that assessments it has made were patently not rooted in evidence or even credible interpretations of international law but in geopolitical considerations. That was especially true in the case of the month-long fighting between Israel and Hizbullah in 2006. (See here and here.) My concerns about HRW’s work, I later learnt from insiders, were shared in its New York head office, but were silenced by the organisation’s most senior staff.

Nuclear plant deception

But Porter helps shine a light on how even the most reputable international agencies can end up similarly following a script written in Washington and one that rides roughshod over evidence, especially when the interests of the world’s only superpower are at stake. In this case, the deceptions were perpetuated by one of the world’s leading scientific organisations: the International Atomic Energy Agency, which monitors states’ nuclear activities.

Porter reveals that Yousry Abushady, the IAEA’s foremost expert on North Korean nuclear reactors, was able immediately to discount the aerial photographic evidence that the building Israel bombed in 2007 was a nuclear reactor. (Most likely it was a disused missile storage depot.)

The Syrian “nuclear plant”, he noted, could not have been built using North Korean know-how, as was claimed by the US. It lacked all the main features of a North Korean gas-cooled reactor. The photos produced by the Israelis showed a building that, among other things, covered too small an area and was not anywhere near high enough, it had none of the necessary supporting structures, and there was no cooling tower.

Abushady’s assessment was buried by the IAEA, which preferred to let the CIA and the Israelis promote their narrative unchallenged.

Atomic agency’s silence

This was not a one-off failure. In summer 2008, the IAEA visited the area to collect samples. Had the site been a nuclear plant, they could have expected to find nuclear-grade graphite particles everywhere. They found none.

Nonetheless, the IAEA again perpetrated a deception to try to prop up the fictitious US-Israeli narrative.

As was routine, they sent the samples to a variety of laboratories for analysis. None found evidence of any nuclear contamination – apart from one. It identified particles of man-made uranium. The IAEA issued a report giving prominence to this anomalous sample, even though in doing so it violated its own protocols, reports Parry. It could draw such a conclusion only if the results of all the samples matched.

In fact, as one of the three IAEA inspectors who had been present at the site later reported, the sample of uranium did not come from the plant itself, which was clean, but from a changing room nearby. A former IAEA senior inspector, Robert Kelley, told Parry that a “very likely explanation” was that the uranium particles derived from “cross contamination” from clothing worn by the inspectors. This is a problem that had been previously noted by the IAEA in other contexts.

Meanwhile, the IAEA remained silent about its failure to find nuclear-grade graphite in a further nine reports over two years. It referred to this critical issue for the first time in 2011.

Chance for war with Iran

In other words, the IAEA knowingly conspired in a fictitious, entirely non-scientific assessment of the Syrian “nuclear reactor” story, one that neatly served US-Israeli geopolitical interests.

Porter notes that vice-president Dick Cheney “hoped to use the alleged reactor to get President George W Bush to initiate US airstrikes in Syria in the hope of shaking the Syrian-Iranian alliance”.

In fact, Cheney wanted far more sites in Syria hit than the bogus nuclear plant. In his memoirs, the then-secretary of defence, Robert Gates, observed that Cheney was “looking for an opportunity to provoke a war with Iran”.

The Bush administration wanted to find a way to unseat Assad, crush Hizbullah in Lebanon, and isolate and weaken Iran as a way to destroy the so-called “Shia crescent”.

That goal is being actively pursued again by the US today, with Israel and Saudi Arabia leading the way. A former US ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, recently warned that, after their failure to bring down Assad, the Saudis have been trying to switch battlefields to Lebanon, hoping to foment a confrontation between Israel and Hizbullah that would drag in Iran.

Abandoning science

Back in 2007, the IAEA, an agency of scientists, did its bit to assist – or at least not obstruct – US efforts to foster a political case, an entirely unjustified one, for military action against Syria and, very possibly by extension, Iran.

If the IAEA could so abandon its remit and the cause of science to help play politics on behalf of the US, what leads Monbiot to assume that the OPCW, an even more politicised body, is doing any better today?

That is not to say Assad, or at least sections of the Syrian government, could not have carried out the attack on Khan Sheikhoun. But it is to argue that in a matter like this one, where so much is at stake, the evidence must be subjected to rigorous scrutiny, and that critics, especially experts who offer counter-evidence, must be given a fair hearing by the left. It is to argue that, when the case against Assad fits so neatly a long-standing and self-serving western narrative, a default position of scepticism is fully justified. It is to argue that facts, strong as they may seem, can be manipulated even by expert bodies, and therefore due weight needs also to be given to context – including an assessment of motives.

This is not “denialism”, as Monbiot claims. It is a rational strategy adopted by those who object to being railroaded once again – as they were in Iraq and Libya – into catastrophic regime change operations.

Meanwhile, the decision by Monbiot and others to bury their heads in the sands of an official narrative, all the while denouncing anyone who seeks to lift theirs out for a better view, should be understood for what it is: an abnegation of intellectual and moral responsibility for those around the globe who continue to be the victims of western military supremacism.