Category Archives: Media Bias

Changing the Washington Guard: What a Democratic Sweep in November Portends

At the risk of counting chickens before they hatch, what would the return of Team Blue portend?

As is patently obvious, the US is in trouble. Climate driven heat waves and fires grip the nation. An already faltering economy with deep contradictions could only tank given the shock of the pandemic that has necessitated varying degrees of sequestering. In fact, the downturn had already started before COVID-19 hit. An already largely privatized healthcare system run for profit and a social ethic that rejects “socialized” public health measures could only have proven inadequate. Added to this mix, an historically racist nation was ripe for the righteous protests against overt injustices. These conditions pre-dated Trump’s presidency and predetermined the current calamity.

The designated chump is Trump

Trump is screwing up royally, but the root causes were unavoidable. Rather than owning up to the inherent nature of capitalism, which puts profits before people as its operating principle, elite opinion needs to point a finger at an offending scapegoat. Someone must take a fall and the designated chump is Trump. Witness Republican establishment figures defecting to the Biden camp.

Trump, under normal circumstances, would have a formidable advantage as the incumbent president. Of the thirteen US presidents since 1933, all ran for re-election except JFK who tragically did not have that choice. All but three won. These exceptions prove the rule that bad economic times doom the incumbent: Ford and Bush the Elder were defeated by recessions and Carter by “stagflation.”

Today’s circumstances are not normal. Trump’s incumbency may be a fatal flaw with conditions worse in many respects than the Great Depression.

Added to a collapsing economy and a nation aflame with racial justice protests, Mr. Trump has not improved his prospects by his mishandling of the COVID-19 contagion. A US passport was once the most accepted in the world. Now that the US leads the world in total pandemic deaths and ranks a high eleventh in deaths/population, only eight countries in the world are fully open to US tourists: Albania, Belarus, Brazil, Mexico, Serbia, Turkey, Zambia, and that most sought after destination of North Macedonia, whose national flower is the opium poppy.

The delusional fear that Trump will stage a coup to stay in power begs the question of what army and security apparatus would back him. Not the US military, nor the security state agencies – FBI, NSA, CIA and other spooks. Those institutions of the permanent state are no more in favor of Mr. Trump than most of the active US electorate, who will likely give him a boot this fall.

The next act comes with perils

In the midst of the pandemic, when health insurance claims would be expected to be out of control, health insurers have been garnering obscene profits benefiting from the public health emergency. Amongst the superrich, Jeff Bezos of Amazon added $87.1 billion to his net worth since the beginning of the year and Elon Musk of Tesla accrued another $73.6 billion.

Thanks in large part to the habitual intervention by the Federal Reserve for the owners of finance capital, Market Insider predicts “2021 could be a boom year for stocks,” while prospects for working people look grim and ever grimmer. Yes, Bernie Sanders was right that the “system is rigged” for the capitalist class.

Will a Democratic victory in November change any of this? Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, the current highest ranking Democrat, said it all: “we’re capitalist and that’s just the way it is.” Her net worth is $120 million.

Even major “liberal” Democrats, such as Elizabeth Warren, are doctrinaire “capitalist to the bone.” When asked to explain herself, the senator said: “I believe in markets and the benefits they can produce…for people.” True enough. The “people” who benefit from capitalism are the capitalists.

How about Democratic Party progressives like the “The Squad,” you ask? In the “graveyard of social movements” that is the Democratic Party, they are relegated to diversity window dressing with AOC getting only 90 seconds of fame at the Democratic National Convention.

Nominal independent Bernie Sanders tried an end-run for the presidential nomination but ran into the DNC’s “no progressives rule.” And if Biden wins in 2020 and Harris in 2024 and 2028, 2032 would be the first chance for a progressive Democrat to even try to run.

Speaking of the Democratic National Convention, Bernie Sanders praised Uncle Joe for – of all things – his health care policies. Michelle Obama carried chutzpah to new heights, criticizing Trump for immigration practices inherited from her husband. Can’t the best speech writers that money can buy come up with more convincing mendacities?

The enduring neoliberal project will continue with a likely change of guard from one party of capital to the other in January, though with a kinder face. We won’t have to contend with Prince of Darkness Pence and his buddy anymore.

The new feel-good Democratic couple will be spreading the love. And no one is feeling the “good” more than the capitalist class, rewarding the Democrats with donations of $48 million in the 48 hours after the announcement of Kamala Harris as the vice-presidential candidate. Just about every mainstream media article gushed about her amazing “qualifications,” the foremost being fund-raising. In plain English, her biggest asset is she is understood as serving the capitalist class.

The record of Democratic presidencies

It may be too soon to exhale with a Biden White House. If past performance is any indicator of future outcomes, a brief look at recently past Democratic presidencies is advised.

Under the watch of New Democrat Bill Clinton, the Glass-Steagall Act was repealed, which was a factor leading to the Great Recession. NAFTA exported US union jobs while destroying small-scale Mexican agriculture. He dismantled Yugoslavia and bombed Iraq, contributing to the now perpetual destabilization of that part of the world. “Welfare as we know it” was abolished and mass incarceration instituted. Clinton was on a roll, with Social Security next on the chopping block, only to be stopped by the Monica Lewinski scandal.

While these were pet projects of the Republican wing of the US two-party duopoly, it took a Democrat to foist it on the populace. Notably, no major progressive legislation came out of Mr. Clinton’s watch. He adroitly felt “your pain” while inflicting it on the Democrat’s captured working class and minority constituencies, much to the pleasure of the class he served.

The next Democratic president, Barack Obama, had not even completed a term in the Senate before his meteoric rise to the Oval Office. Mr. Obama had the wiring, but part of his remarkable upward mobility came from being groomed and vetted by the ruling class to carry their water. He came out of the Brookings Institute’s Hamilton Project, which successfully sought to make the Democrats the favored party of Wall Street.

After promising peace, Obama led the US into wars in at least seven countries. Although no major progressive legislation came out of the Obama presidency, his many handouts to the ruling elites include bailing out the banks with no one prosecuted for wrongdoing. He gifted Obamacare to the insurance industry while killing single-payer. He more than doubled fossil fuel production for which he proudly took credit.

The lesson is that it is often more difficult to mount an organized resistance to regressive policies when promoted by Democrats than Republicans. Recall the massive resistance to Bush’s war in Iraq that instantly vanished the moment Obama inherited that war and brazenly took Bush’s Secretary of Defense Robert Gates into his cabinet. Similarly, we have seen Democrats sabotaging Medicare for All, with Biden already pledging to veto it if it came before him.

Campaign promises Biden will keep

The only thing preventing Trump from self-destructing come November 3 is none other than the Democratic Party. Of all the potential candidates that could have walked over Trump – particularly Sanders with universal healthcare in a time of pandemic or even Warren with taxing corporations in a time of  record profits amidst a recession – they chose the one candidate who could lose.

The former senator from Mastercard has already assured Wall Street that their privileged position will be protected on his watch. The war mongers have been assuaged with the promise that the military budget can only go up. The insurance parasites know that government imposed private health policies are set in stone. The Zionists needn’t fret about the US recognizing Palestinian rights or of reversing recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Worse than the climate deniers, Biden believes in the science of global warming and knows its catastrophic consequences. Yet he will do little about it and has already opposed a fracking ban. Fossil fuel subsidies will continue under the Democrats.

Note that these dubious promises were made on the campaign trail, while trying to attract votes.

A Biden presidency – austerity at home and imperialism abroad

Pelosi set the stage for a Biden presidency. The first thing the Democrats pushed through after “taking back” the House in 2018 was the “pay-go rule,” a fiscally conservative measure virtually guaranteeing that no progressive legislation can be funded. Then in March of this year the Democrats unanimously and without any debate helped pass the CARES Act, the largest single transfer of wealth from the workers to the wealthy in the history of the world.

Democrats, with the Obama/Biden administration and since, have leap-frogged the Republicans to the right on foreign policy issues in important respects regarding Afghanistan, North Korea, Russia, Syria, Venezuela, etc. Democrats even oppose drawing down US troops abroad.

Trump has been all over the map, ineptly and inconsistently pursuing détente with Putin and while threatening Xi Jinping. With a Democratic administration, we can be assured of a more consistent, skillful, and lethal US imperialism, pursuing “full spectrum dominance” over the rest of the world.

Those who complain about Trump’s bungling should understand that the Biden alternative will be a more deadly and efficient rule of capital. We should be careful about what we wish for.

The post Changing the Washington Guard: What a Democratic Sweep in November Portends first appeared on Dissident Voice.

How USA and Turkey Plunder and Loot Syria with Impunity

While President Trump lashes out at rioting and looting in Portland and Kenosha, half way around the world, the USA and Turkey are plundering and looting Syria on a vastly greater scale with impunity and little publicity.

Turkey Loots Syria, then Disrupts Safe Water Supply  

Turkey has been plundering the Syrian infrastructure for years.  Beginning in late 2012 and continuing through 2013 some 300 industrial factories were dismantled and taken to Turkey from Aleppo, the industrial capital of Syria. “Machinery and goods were loaded on trucks and carried off to Turkey through the Cilvegozu and Ceylanpinar crossings. Unfortunately, ‘plundering’ and ‘terror’ have become permanent parts of the Syrian lexicon when explaining their saga.”

In October 2019 Turkish forces invaded Syria and now occupy a strip of land in north east Syria. The area is controlled by the Turkish military and pro Turkish militia forces misnamed the “Syrian National Army”. Turkish President Erdogan dubbed the invasion “Peace Spring” and said the goal was to create a “safe zone”. The reality was that 200 thousand Syrians fled the invasion and over 100 thousand have been permanently displaced from their homes, farms, workplaces and livelihoods.

The industrial scale looting continues. As reported recently in the story headlined Turkish-backed factions take apart power pylons in rural Ras Al-Ain: “Reliable sources have informed SOHR that Turkish-backed factions steal electricity power towers and pylons in ‘Peace Spring’ areas in Ras Al-Ain countryside.”

Turkey now controls the border city of Ras al-Ain and the nearby Allouk water treatment and pumping station.  This is the water station supplying safe water to the city Hasaka and entire region. The Turkish forces are using water as a weapon of war, shutting down the station to pressure the population to be compliant.  For over two weeks in August, with daily temperatures of 100 F,  there was no running water for nearly one million people.

With no tap water, civilians were forced to queue up for hours to receive small amounts from water trucks. Unable to buy the water, other civilians took their chances by drinking water from unsafe wells. According to Judy Jacoub, a Syrian journalist originally from Hasaka, “The residents of Hasaka and its countryside have been pushed to rely on unsafe water sources ….Many residents have been suffering from the spread of fungi, germs and dirt in their hair and bodies as a result of using well water that is not suitable for drinking and personal hygiene. The people of Hasaka remain vulnerable to diseases and epidemics because of the high temperatures and spread of infectious diseases. If the situation is not controlled as soon as possible, the spread of Corona virus will undoubtedly be devastating.”  A hospital medical director says many people are getting sick from the contaminated water.

Judy Jacoub explains what has happened most recently: “After Syrian and international efforts exerted pressure on the Turkish regime, 17 wells and three pumps were started . The main reservoirs were filled and pumping was started toward the city neighborhoods.  However, despite the Turkish militia’s resumption of pumping water again, there is great fear among the citizens.”

USA Loots Syrian Oil and Plunders the Economy

The USA also has occupying troops and proxy/puppet military force in north east Syria. The proxy army is misnamed the “Syrian Democratic Forces” (SDF). How they got that name is revealing. They took on this name as they came under the funding and control of the US military. As documented here, US Army General Ray Thomas told their leadership, “You have got to change your brand. What do you want to call yourselves besides the YPG?’  Then, he explained what happened: “With about a day’s notice they declared that they are the Syrian Democratic Forces. I thought it was a stroke of brilliance to put democracy in there somewhere.”

There are numerous parties and trends within the Syrian Kurdish community. The US has been funding and promoting the secessionist element, pushing them to ally with Turkish backed  jihadists against the Damascus government.  The violation of Syrian sovereignty is extreme and grotesque.

Prior to the war, Syria was self-sufficient in oil and had enough to export and earn some foreign revenues. The primary oil sources are in eastern Syria, where the US troops and proxy forces have established bases. It is desert terrain with little population.

To finance their proxy army, the US has seized control of the major Syrian oil pumping wells. It is likely that President Trump thinks this is brilliant bold move – financing the invasion of Syria with Syrian oil.

In November 2019 President Trump said, “We’re keeping the oil… The oil is secure. We left troops behind only for the oil.”  Recently, it was revealed that a “Little known US firm secures deal for Syrian oil“. Delta Crescent Energy will manage and escalate the theft of Syrian oil.

What would Americans think if another country invaded the US via Mexico, set up bases in Texas, sponsored a secessionist militia, then seized Texas oil wells to finance it?  That is comparable to what the US is doing in Syria.

In addition to stealing Syria’s oil, the US is trying to prevent Syria from developing alternate sources. The “Caesar sanctions” on Syria threatens to punish any individual, company or country that invests or assists Syria to rebuild their war damaged country and especially in the oil and gas sector.

The US establishment seems to be doing everything it can to undermine the Syrian economy and damage the Syrian currency. Due to pressure on Lebanese banks, plus the Caesar sanctions, the Syrian pound has plummeted in value from 650 to 2150 to the US dollar in the past 10 months.

North east Syria is the breadbasket of the country with the richest wheat and grain fields. There are reports of US pressuring farmers to not sell their wheat crops to the Syrian government. One year ago, Nicholas Heras of the influential Center for New American Security argued “Assad needs access to cereal crops in northeast Syria to prevent a bread crisis in the areas of western Syria that he controls….Wheat is a weapon of great power in this next phase of the Syrian conflict.”   Now, it appears the US is following this strategy. Four months ago, in May 2020,  Syrian journalist Stephen Sahiounie reported, “Apache helicopters of the US occupation forces flew low Sunday morning, according to residents of the Adla village, in the Shaddadi countryside, south of Hasaka, as they dropped ‘thermal balloons, an incendiary weapon, causing the wheat fields to explode into flames while the hot dry winds fanned the raging fire.

After delivering their fiery pay-load, the helicopters flew close to homes in an aggressive manner, which caused residents and especially small children to fear for their lives.  The military maneuver was delivering a clear message: don’t sell your wheat to the Syrian government.”

To better loot the oil and plunder the Syria economy, in the past weeks the US is sending more heavy equipment and military hardware through the Kurdish region of Iraq.

In the south of Syria, the US has another base and occupation zone at the strategic Al Tanf border crossing. This is at the intersection of the borders of Syria, Iraq and Jordan. This is also the border crossing for the highway from Baghdad to Damascus. The US controls this border area to prevent Syrian reconstruction projects from Iraq or Iran. When Syrian troops have tried to get near there, they have been attacked on their own soil.

Meanwhile, international funds donated for “Syrian relief” are disproportionally sent to support and assist the last strong-hold of Al Qaeda terrorists in Idlib on the north west border with Turkey.  The US and its partners evidently want to sustain the armed opposition and prevent the Syrian government from reclaiming their territory.

Flouting International Law and the UN Charter

The USA and Turkey have shown how easy it is to violate international law. The occupation of Syrian land and attacks on its sovereignty are being done in broad daylight. But this is not just a legal issue. Stopping the supply of safe drinking water and burning wheat fields to create more hunger violate the most basic tenets of decency and morality.

With supreme hypocrisy, the US foreign policy establishment often complains about the decline in the “rule of law”. In actuality, there is no greater violator than the US itself.

In his speech to the UN Security Council,  Syrian Ambassador Ja’afari decried this situation saying “international law has become like the gentle lamb whose care is entrusted to a herd of wolves.”

• Author’s note: To see good political and military maps of Syria,  go to southfront.org

The post How USA and Turkey Plunder and Loot Syria with Impunity first appeared on Dissident Voice.

For Years, Journalists cheered Assange’s Abuse: Now They’ve Paved his Path to a US Gulag

Court hearings in Britain over the US administration’s extradition case against Julian Assange begin in earnest next week. The decade-long saga that brought us to this point should appall anyone who cares about our increasingly fragile freedoms.

A journalist and publisher has been deprived of his liberty for 10 years. According to UN experts, he has been arbitrarily detained and tortured for much of that time through intense physical confinement and endless psychological pressure. He has been bugged and spied on by the CIA during his time in political asylum, in Ecuador’s London embassy, in ways that violated his most fundamental legal rights. The judge overseeing his hearings has a serious conflict of interest – with her family embedded in the UK security services – that she did not declare and which should have required her to recuse herself from the case.

 

All indicators are that Assange will be extradited to the US to face a rigged grand jury trial meant to ensure he sees out his days in a maximum-security prison, serving a sentence of up to 175 years.

None of this happened in some Third-World, tinpot dictatorship. It happened right under our noses, in a major western capital, and in a state that claims to protect the rights of a free press. It happened not in the blink of an eye but in slow motion – day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year.

And once we strip out a sophisticated campaign of character assassination against Assange by western governments and a compliant media, the sole justification for this relentless attack on press freedom is that a 49-year-old man published documents exposing US war crimes. That is the reason – and the only reason – that the US is seeking his extradition and why he has been languishing in what amounts to solitary confinement in Belmarsh high-security prison during the Covid-19 pandemic. His lawyers’ appeals for bail have been refused.

Severed head on a pike

While the press corps abandoned Assange a decade ago, echoing official talking points that pilloried him over toilet hygiene and his treatment of his cat, Assange is today exactly where he originally predicted he would be if western governments got their way. What awaits him is rendition to the US so he can be locked out of sight for the rest of his life.

There were two goals the US and UK set out to achieve through the visible persecution, confinement and torture of Assange.

First, he and Wikileaks, the transparency organisation he co-founded, needed to be disabled. Engaging with Wikileaks had to be made too risky to contemplate for potential whistleblowers. That is why Chelsea Manning – the US soldier who passed on documents relating to US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan for which Assange now faces extradition – was similarly subjected to harsh imprisonment. She later faced punitive daily fines while in jail to pressure her into testifying against Assange.

The aim has been to discredit Wikileaks and similar organisations and stop them from being able to publish more revelatory documents – of the kind that show western governments are not the “good guys” managing world affairs for the benefit of mankind, but are, in fact, highly militarised, global bullies advancing the same ruthless colonial policies of war, destruction and pillage they always pursued.

And second, Assange had to be made to suffer horribly and in public – to be made an example of – to deter other journalists from ever considering following in his footsteps. He is the modern equivalent of a severed head on a pike displayed at the city gates.

The very obvious fact – confirmed by the media coverage of his case – is that this strategy, advanced chiefly by the US and UK (with Sweden playing a lesser role), has been wildly successful. Most corporate media journalists are still enthusiastically colluding in the vilification of Assange – mainly at this stage by ignoring his awful plight.

Story hiding in plain sight

When he hurried into Ecuador’s embassy back in 2012, seeking political asylum, journalists from every corporate media outlet ridiculed his claim – now, of course, fully vindicated – that he was evading US efforts to extradite him and lock him away for good. The media continued with their mockery even as evidence mounted that a grand jury had been secretly convened to draw up espionage charges against him and that it was located in the eastern district of Virginia, where the major US security and intelligence services are headquartered. Any jury there is dominated by US security personnel and their families. His hope of a fair trial was non-existent.

Instead we have endured eight years of misdirection by the corporate media and its willing complicity in his character assassination, which has laid the ground for the current public indifference to Assange’s extradition and widespread ignorance of its horrendous implications.

Corporate journalists have accepted, entirely at face value, a series of rationalisations for why the interests of justice have been served by locking Assange away indefinitely – even before his extradition – and trampling his most basic legal rights. The other side of the story – Assange’s, the story hiding in plain sight – has invariably been missing from the coverage, whether it has been CNN, the New York Times, the BBC or the Guardian.

From Sweden to Clinton

First, it was claimed that Assange had fled questioning over sexual assault allegations in Sweden, even though it was the Swedish authorities who allowed him to leave; even though the original Swedish prosecutor, Eva Finne, dismissed the investigation against him, saying “There is no suspicion of any crime whatsoever”, before it was picked up by a different prosecutor for barely concealed, politicised reasons; and even though Assange later invited Swedish prosectors to question him where he was (in the embassy), an option they regularly agreed to in other cases but resolutely refused in his.

It was not just that none of these points was ever provided as context for the Sweden story by the corporate media. Or that much else in Assange’s favour was simply ignored, such as tampered evidence in the case of one of the two women who alleged sexual assault and the refusal of the other to sign the rape statement drawn up for her by police.

The story was also grossly and continuously misreported as relating to “rape charges” when Assange was wanted simply for questioning. No charges were ever laid against him because the second Swedish prosecutor, Marianne Ny – and her British counterparts, including Sir Keir Starmer, then head of the prosecution service and now leader of the Labour party – seemingly wished to avoid testing the credibility of their allegations by actually questioning Assange. Leaving him to rot in a small room in the embassy served their purposes much better.

When the Sweden case fizzled out – when it became clear that the original prosecutor had been right to conclude that there was no evidence to justify further questioning, let alone charges – the political and media class shifted tack.

Suddenly Assange’s confinement was implicitly justified for entirely different, political reasons – because he had supposedly aided Donald Trump’s presidential election campaign in 2016 by publishing emails, allegedly “hacked” by Russia, from the Democratic party’s servers. The content of those emails, obscured in the coverage at the time and largely forgotten now, revealed corruption by Hillary Clinton’s camp and efforts to sabotage the party’s primaries to undermine her rival for the presidential nomination, Bernie Sanders.

Guardian fabricates a smear

Those on the authoritarian right have shown little concern over Assange’s lengthy confinement in the embassy, and later jailing in Belmarsh, for his exposure of US war crimes, which is why little effort has been expended on winning them over. The demonisation campaign against Assange has focused instead on issues that are likely to trigger liberals and the left, who might otherwise have qualms about jettisoning the First Amendment and locking people up for doing journalism.

Just as the Swedish allegations, despite their non-investigation, tapped into the worst kind of kneejerk identity politics on the left, the “hacked” emails story was designed to alienate the Democratic party base. Extraordinarily, the claim of Russian hacking persists even though years later – and after a major “Russiagate” inquiry by Robert Mueller – it still cannot be stood up with any actual evidence. In fact, some of those closest to the matter, such as former UK ambassador Craig Murray, have insisted all along that the emails were not hacked by Russia but were leaked by a disenchanted Democratic party insider.

An even more important point, however, is that a transparency organisation like Wikileaks had no choice, after it was handed those documents, but to expose abuses by the Democratic party – whoever was the source.

The reason that Assange and Wikileaks became entwined in the Russiagate fiasco – which wasted the energies of Democratic party supporters on a campaign against Trump that actually strengthened rather than weakened him – was because of the credulous coverage, once again, of the issue by almost the entire corporate media. Liberal outlets like the Guardian newspaper even went so far as to openly fabricate a story – in which it falsely reported that a Trump aide, Paul Manafort, and unnamed “Russians” secretly visited Assange in the embassy – without repercussion or retraction.

Assange’s torture ignored

All of this made possible what has happened since. After the Swedish case evaporated and there were no reasonable grounds left for not letting Assange walk free from the embassy, the media suddenly decided in chorus that a technical bail violation was grounds enough for his continuing confinement in the embassy – or, better still, his arrest and jailing. That breach of bail, of course, related to Assange’s decision to seek asylum in the embassy, based on a correct assessment that the US planned to demand his extradition and imprisonment.

None of these well-paid journalists seemed to remember that, in British law, failure to meet bail conditions is permitted if there is “reasonable cause” – and fleeing political persecution is very obviously just such a reasonable cause.

 

Similarly, the media wilfully ignored the conclusions of a report by Nils Melzer, a Swiss scholar of international law and the United Nations’ expert on torture, that the UK, US and Sweden had not only denied Assange his basic legal rights but had colluded in subjecting him to years of psychological torture – a form of torture, Melzer has pointed out, that was refined by the Nazis because it was found to be crueller and more effective at breaking victims than physical torture.

Assange has been blighted by deteriorating health and cognitive decline as a result, and has lost significant weight. None of that has been deemed worthy by the corporate media of more than a passing mention – specifically when Assange’s poor health made him incapable of attending a court hearing. Instead Melzer’s repeated warnings about Assange’s abusive treatment and its effects on him have fallen on deaf ears. The media has simply ignored Melzer’s findings, as though they were never published, that Assange has been, and is being, tortured. We need only pause and imagine how much coverage Melzer’s report would have received had it concerned the treatment of a dissident in an official enemy state like Russia or China.

 

A power-worshipping media

Last year British police, in coordination with an Ecuador now led by a president, Lenin Moreno, who craved closer ties with Washington, stormed the embassy to drag Assange out and lock him up in Belmarsh prison. In their coverage of these events, journalists again played dumb.

They had spent years first professing the need to “believe women” in the Assange case, even if it meant ignoring evidence, and then proclaiming the sanctity of bail conditions, even if they were used simply as a pretext for political persecution. Now that was all swept aside in an instant. Suddenly Assange’s nine years of confinement over a non-existent sexual assault investigation and a minor bail infraction were narratively replaced by an espionage case. And the media lined up against him once again.

A decade ago the idea that Assange could be extradited to the US and locked up for the rest of his life, his journalism recast as “espionage”, was mocked as so improbable, so outrageously unlawful that no “mainstream” journalist was prepared to countenance it as the genuine reason for his seeking asylum in the embassy. It was derided as a figment of the fevered, paranoid imaginations of Assange and his supporters, and as a self-serving cover for him to avoid facing the investigation in Sweden.

But when British police invaded the embassy in April last year and arrested him for extradition to the US on precisely the espionage charges Assange had always warned were going to be used against him, journalists reported these developments as though they were oblivious to this backstory. The media erased this context not least because it would have made them look like willing dupes of US propaganda, like apologists for US exceptionalism, and because it would have proved Assange right once more. It would have demonstrated that he is the real journalist, in contrast to their pacified, complacent, power-worshipping corporate journalism.

The death of journalism 

Right now every journalist in the world ought to be up in arms, protesting at the abuses Assange is suffering, and has suffered, and the fate he will endure if extradition is approved. They should be protesting on front pages and in TV news shows the endless and blatant abuses of legal process at Assange’s hearings in the British courts, including the gross conflict of interest of Lady Emma Arbuthnot, the judge presiding over his case.

They should be in uproar at the surveillance the CIA illegally arranged inside the Ecuadorian embassy while Assange was confined there, nullifying the already dishonest US case against him by violating his client-lawyer privilege. They should be expressing outrage at Washington’s manoeuvres, accorded a thin veneer of due process by the British courts, designed to extradite him on espionage charges for doing work that lies at the very heart of what journalism claims to be – holding the powerful to account.

Journalists do not need to care about Assange or like him. They have to speak out in protest because approval of his extradition will mark the official death of journalism. It will mean that any journalist in the world who unearths embarrassing truths about the US, who discovers its darkest secrets, will need to keep quiet or risk being jailed for the rest of their lives.

That ought to terrify every journalist. But it has had no such effect.

Careers and status, not truth

The vast majority of western journalists, of course, never uncover one significant secret from the centres of power in their entire professional careers – even those ostensibly monitoring those power centres. These journalists repackage press releases and lobby briefings, they tap sources inside government who use them as a conduit to the large audiences they command, and they relay gossip and sniping from inside the corridors of power.

That is the reality of access journalism that constitutes 99 per cent of what we call political news.

Nonetheless, Assange’s abandonment by journalists – the complete lack of solidarity as one of their number is persecuted as flagrantly as dissidents once sent to the gulags – should depress us. It means not only that journalists have abandoned any pretence that they do real journalism, but that they have also renounced the aspiration that it be done by anyone at all.

It means that corporate journalists are ready to be viewed with even greater disdain by their audiences than is already the case. Because through their complicity and silence, they have sided with governments to ensure that anyone who truly holds power to account, like Assange, will end up behind bars. Their own freedom brands them as a captured elite – irrefutable evidence that they serve power, they do not confront it.

The only conclusion to be drawn is that corporate journalists care less about the truth than they do about their careers, their salaries, their status, and their access to the rich and powerful. As Ed Herman and Noam Chomsky explained long ago in their book Manufacturing Consent, journalists join a media class after lengthy education and training processes designed to weed out those not reliably in sympathy with the ideological interests of their corporate employers.

A sacrificial offering

Briefly, Assange raised the stakes for all journalists by renouncing their god – “access” – and their modus operandi of revealing occasional glimpses of very partial truths offered up by “friendly”, and invariably anonymous, sources who use the media to settle scores with rivals in the centres of power.

Instead, through whistleblowers, Assange rooted out the unguarded, unvarnished, full-spectrum truth whose exposure helped no one in power – only us, the public, as we tried to understand what was being done, and had been done, in our names. For the first time, we could see just how ugly, and often criminal, the behaviour of our leaders was.

Assange did not just expose the political class, he exposed the media class too – for their feebleness, for their hypocrisy, for their dependence on the centres of power, for their inability to criticise a corporate system in which they were embedded.

Few of them can forgive Assange that crime. Which is why they will be there cheering on his extradition, if only through their silence.  A few liberal writers will wait till it is too late for Assange, till he has been packaged up for rendition, to voice half-hearted, mealy-mouthed or agonised columns arguing that, unpleasant as Assange supposedly is, he did not deserve the treatment the US has in store for him.

But that will be far too little, far too late. Assange needed solidarity from journalists and their media organisations long ago, as well as full-throated denunciations of his oppressors. He and Wikileaks were on the front line of a war to remake journalism, to rebuild it as a true check on the runaway power of our governments. Journalists had a chance to join him in that struggle. Instead they fled the battlefield, leaving him as a sacrificial offering to their corporate masters.

The post For Years, Journalists cheered Assange’s Abuse: Now They’ve Paved his Path to a US Gulag first appeared on Dissident Voice.

What Can We Learn from Cuba? Medicare-for-All Is a Beginning, Not the End Point

As a coup de grâce to the Bernie Sanders campaign Joe Biden declared that he would veto Medicare-for-All.  This could drive a dedicated health care advocate to relentlessly pursue Med-4-All as a final goal.  However, it is not the final goal. It should be the first step in a complete transformation of medicine which includes combining community medicine with natural medicine and health-care-for-the-world.

Contrasting Cuban changes in medicine during the last 60 years with the US non-system of medical care gives a clear picture of why changes must be all-encompassing.  The concept of Medicare-for-All is deeply intertwined with attacks on Cuba’s global medical “missions” and the opposite responses to Covid-19 in the two countries.

Going Forward or Going Backward?

Immediately after the 1959 revolution Cubans began the task of spreading medical care to those without it.  This included a flurry of building medical clinics and sending doctors to poor parts of cities and to rural areas, both of which were predominantly black.

As the revolution spread medicine from cities to the country, it realized the need to expand medical care across the world.  This included both sending medical staff overseas and bringing others to Cuba for treatment.  Cuba spent 30 years redesigning its health care system, which resulted in the most comprehensive community-based medicine in the world.

Throughout the expansion of health care, both inside the country and internationally, Cuban doctors used “allopathic” medicine (based largely on drugging and cutting, which is the focus of US medical schools).  But they simultaneously incorporated traditional healing and preventive medicine as well as respecting practices of other cultures.

Today, the most critical parts of the Cuban health care system include (1) everyone receives health care as a human right, (2) all parts are fully integrated into a single whole which can quickly respond to crises, (3) everyone in the country has input into the system so that it enjoys their collective experiences and (4) health care is global.

In contrast, the call for Medicare-for-All by the left in Democratic Party is a demand for Allopathy-for-US-Citizens.  It would extend corporate-driven health care, but with no fundamental change towards holistic and community medicine.  Though a necessary beginning, it is a conservative demand which does not recognize that a failure to go forward will inevitably result in market forces pushing health care backward.

There is already a right-wing effort to destroy Medicare and Medicaid in any form and leave people to only receive medical treatment they can pay for.  It is part of the same movement to destroy the US Post Office and eliminate Social Security.  It is funded by the same sources trying to get rid of public education except for a few schools that will prepare the poor to go to prison or be unemployed.  These are neoliberals who believe that Black-Lives-Do-Not-Really-Matter.  They hate all the gains won during the last century-and-a-half and want to overturn any form of environmental protection, any workers’ rights, the eight-hour work day, child labor laws, and civil rights, including voting rights.

Destroying Health Care Advances of the Cuban Revolution

What does the Cuban health care have to do with Medicare-for-All in the US?  Cuba has a lower infant mortality rate and longer life expectancy than the US while spending less than 10% per person annually on health care.  It has provided medical education to so many from other countries that in 1999 it opened the Latin American School of Medicine to bring students from impoverished countries to study and become doctors.  By 2020 it had trained over 30,000 doctors.  It had also trained huge numbers of other health professionals from beyond its shores.

Even before Cuba brought in students, it sent its own professionals on “missions” to help those in other countries.  Over the past six decades more than 400,000 Cuban medical professionals have worked in 164 countries and improved the lives of hundreds of millions of people.

The US response to this incredible international medical revolution documents that it is not satisfied to stop medical care from improving but has an irresistable urge to reverse gains across the globe.  The US government glommed onto complaints from physicians in multipe countries who whined because Cuban doctors would go to jungles and other dangerous areas where the rich urban doctors refused to venture.  Of course, the US had its own reasons to despise Cuban medical assistance.

Cuba has long done humanitarian work in education as well as medicine which puts its northerm behemoth to shame.  Its actions expose that health care can be done vastly cheaper with better outcomes than corportate medicine, which traumatizes financiers of the sickness industry.

Republicans and Democrats are firmly united with corporate media in hiding Cuban medical accomplishments from the US population.  They defnitely do not want other poor countries to replicate Cuba’s system.  Horrifed at the prospect that Cuban health care would shine as an example, the US went to work to undermine and destroy Cuban medical internationalism in any way it could.

In August 2006 the George W. Bush administration began the “Cuban Medical Professional Parole” program to encourage Cuban medical staff on international missions to desert and move to the US, with no questions asked. Only 2-3% did so; but their departure left those poor countries with less care.

This is in line with any corporate goals to destroy local health care and replace it with profit-based health care across the globe.  Driven by the same market factors that compel extraction, transportation and food production industries to go international, the US sickness industry likely feels the urge to create and control a global market of “health care providers.”  One of its main obstacles will be community health systems, which actually work much better for poor people.

As the knowledge of the success of Cuba’s medical information spread, its detractors flew into a frenzy and clutched onto wild hallucinations.  As accurately explained by Vijay Prashad, they fantasized that Cuba was engaging in “human trafficking” by forcing its doctors to work internationally.  The accusation is blatantly absurd since Cuban doctors always have the choice of whether to broaden their medical knowledge by going abroad and treating diseases that have been eradicated in Cuba or to stay at home.

It is true that its doctors have incredibly low wages (as do all working people in Cuba) due to the destructive effects of the US embargo.  In one of the great ironies of propaganda machines, the US seeks to criminalize Cuba in the eyes of the world by screeching that medical wages are low while itself being the cause of meager pay.

Results of this attacking Cuba during Covid-19 have been murderous.  After Lenín Moreno became president of Ecuador in 2017 he abruptly veered from what he promised and ordered Cuban doctors to leave.  At the same time Venezuela and Cuba had a total of 27 Covid-19 deaths, Ecuador’s largest city, Guayaquil, had an estimated death toll of 7,600.  Similarly, when the neoliberal Jair Bolsonaro took power in Brazil in 2019, he threw out Cuban doctors.  This left the country with rising infant mortality and so unprepared for Covid that even inviting them back was unable to undo the damage.  Following the 2019 anti-democratic coup in Bolivia, the ultra right-wing Jeanine Áñez had herself anointed as president and expelled Cuban doctors, which devastated that country’s health care system.  Although Bolivia is a physically isolated country with a population of only 8.7 million it had 2200 deaths by June 2020.

Who Coped with Covid-19?

The fact that Cuba had gone far, far beyond Medicare-for-All is what allowed it to have such spectacular control over Covid.  Its politicians unified behind the ministry of health which developed a national strategy.  That strategy was in effect before the island’s first victim had succumbed to the disease.  Social distancing, masks and contact tracing were universally accepted.  According to Susana Hurlich, medical students went door-to-door collecting data, distributing homeopathic medication (PrevengHo-Vir), and, most important, finding out what problems people needed help with.

Neighborhood doctors collected data to send to polyclinics and helped make certain that residents’ medical and other needs were met.  Clinic staff met needs that neighborhood doctors could not provide and sent patients they could not care for to hospitals.  Hospital doctors slept at hospitals for 14 day shifts before being quarantined for another 14 days so they would not infect their families or communities.

On July 18, deaths from Covid-19 numbered 140,300 in the US and 87 in Cuba.   Though its population is only 30 times that of Cuba, the US had 1,612 times as many deaths.

As US politicians conspired with corporations to see how much profit could be made from the pandemic, Cuban health care went international.  When northern Italy became the epicenter of Covid-19 cases, one of its hardest hit cities was Crema. On March 26, 2020 Cuba sent 52 doctors and nurses. A smaller and poorer Caribbean nation was one of the few aiding a major European power.

On March 12, 2020 nearly 50 crew members and passengers on the British cruise ship Braemar either had Covid-19 or were showing symptoms as the ship approached the Bahamas, a British Commonwealth nation. During the next five days, the US, the Bahamas, and several other Caribbean countries turned it away.  On March 18, Cuba became the only country to allow the Braemar’s over 1000 crew members and passengers to dock.

The incidents of Crema and the Braemar were hardly without precedent.  They resulted from 60 years of medical internationalism by Cuba.  Just as Cuba’s actions during Covid-19 reflected its development, so the horrible expansion of the disease in the US, Brazil and India showed the lack of concern under reactionary rule.

Capitalism has exterminated hundreds of millions, if not billions, of people in order to consolidate growth and power.  Whether enslaving Africans, or slaughtering native Americans to steal land, or experimenting with nuclear bombs during WWII, or destroying health systems that would prevent mass death during a pandemic, these are merely “costs of doing business” to capitalism.  Driving native peoples off of land is not unique to US in the past, but continues today throughout Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Pacific Islands.

Trump has terribly bungled coping with Covid-19, but the approach of Democrats is not essentially different.  Neither corporate party has any intention of providing Cuban-type care within the US. And they certainly do not even imagine putting protection of the world’s poor from Covid above profit potentials for US corporations.  They never had any intention of telling US public that 72 countries had requested Cuba’s Interferon Alpha 2B for treating Covid-19.  They wanted people to believe that only an American or European country could discover treatment.

Is Thinking Beyond Medicare-for-All Part of the Real World?

Is the idea of a radical health care transformation even worth talking about as right-wingers seem to be on the move across much of the world?  Let’s remember our past.  During the time the reactionary Richard Nixon was president (1969-1974), despite an overwhelming pro-war victory, the following were accomplished under his reign: declaration of an end to the Vietnam War, start of the Food Stamp program, decriminalization of abortion, recognition of China, creation of Environmental Protection Agency, passage of Freedom of Information Act, formal dismantling of FBI’s COINTEL program, creation of Earned Income Tax Credits, formal ban on biological weapons, and passage of the Clean Water Act.

We have never won as many gains since then, even when there was a Democratic House, Senate and president.  The essential difference between then and now was the existence of mass movements.  Perhaps it is the time for today’s movements to ask if a fair and just payment of reparations by the US and western Europe for the pain and suffering they have caused throughout the world should include providing medical care for those billions of people who Cuba cannot afford to help.  Health care is not genuine health care if it fails to be health-care-for-the-world.

Anti-racist Uprising in Minneapolis infiltrated by Extreme-right Holligans

Reportage from Minneapolis — The city of Minneapolis is where it all began. It is where the last drop fell on the surface of a proverbial overflowing lake, causing the dam to burst, consequently starting to destroy the foundations of the empire.

A death of just one single man can, under certain dreadful circumstances, put into motion the entire avalanche of events. It can smash the whole regime into pieces. It can fully rewrite history, and even change the identity of a nation. It can… although it not always does.

George Floyd’s death became a spark. The city of Minneapolis is where the murder occurred, and where the ethnic minorities rose in rage.

But it is also where white extreme right-wing criminals, and some even say, entire regime, perpetrated the uprising, kidnapped what could have become a true revolution and began choking legitimate rebellion by a stained duvet of nihilism and confusion.

Here, we will not speculate. We will not point fingers at “deep state” or some multi-billionaire families, and to what extent they have been involved. Let others do this if they know details. But this time, I simply came to listen. And to pass to the world what I discovered first hand and what I was told.

This time I simply went to Franklin Avenue and Lake Street, both in Minneapolis.

I spoke to Native American people there. To those who joined forces with the African-American community during those dangerous days after May 25, 2020. To people who dared to defend their neighborhoods against brutality, against  white gangs, which came to loot, infiltrate, and derail the most powerful uprising in the United States in modern history.

*****

Bob Rice is a Native American owner of Pow Wow Grounds, a local entrepreneur, and a ‘community protection organizer.’ His legendary café is located on Franklin Avenue. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been reduced, for the time being, to a takeaway business, but even as such, it is enormously popular among the Native Americans, as well as others.

At the back of the cafe is huge storage, full of food. Everyone hungry, in need of help, can simply come here and take whatever he or she needs.

We grab some freshly brewed coffee from the shop and take it to the public benches outside.

Author with Bob Rice on Franklin Avenue

Bob Rice then begins his story:

There has been police brutality for a very long time, against people of color. Not only talking about Minneapolis but in all these other places, since the 1991 Rodney King incident. Things were boiling and building up – leading to a big blow up.

And all this discrimination did not start here; it came centuries ago from Europe.

After the George Floyd murder, I wanted to show solidarity. Native Americans were experiencing an even higher degree of persecution than Black people. We had to stand together. I went down to the site of the murder of George Floyd, in order to support protests.

For a while, we talked about the mass media in the United States, an official and even some ‘independent one,’ and how it quickly and violently turned against the left, as well as against those who have been daring to expose endemic racism in the United States.

But soon, we returned to the events that took place here, in May and June.

I noticed the presence of strange elements right from the start. I was watching guys breaking windows. At about 6 am, the morning after, I traveled down to South Minneapolis.  There were piles of rocks in front of the rioters.  Flash hand grenades.  I kept on moving around the areas and kept on seeing rocks. I noticed the Minneapolis Umbrella Man, dressed all in black, with mask and black umbrella and black hammer smashing things – at the end being stopped by black guys. People were walking out of the store with car parts, and I thought, “why stealing those things”? These guys didn’t seem to be as part of the protest. I started moving and going away from the area, thinking that these guys would burn down stores and places soon. I even called up my insurance company the following morning to see if my policy covers civil unrest. That night they burned a lot of stores – auto stores, liquor stores, all types of businesses. I thought that if we do not do something ourselves to protect our neighborhoods, they will burn down all of our areas, too.

From what I saw, I couldn’t tell you who these guys were, but they were not from here.

So, we put up our protection zone calling out people on Facebook. We became the Headquarters of protection of Native American businesses and nonprofit organizations, as well as banks, shops, investment properties, etc. all belonging to the Native American community around here.

I noticed there were Caucasian people, driving cars very slowly with no license plates, yelling racial slurs out of the windows. We formed a human shield, chain, along Franklin Avenue, to protect ourselves and our people.

At a high point, about 300 people were protecting the area all night long for about eight days in a row. It had to be done, because here we had people from all over, including Wisconsin, descending on us — we had white supremacist group Proud Boys here. They arrived wearing masks. We had young white kids – 16 and 17 years old — coming from Wisconsin, looting liquor stores.  We caught them. Obviously, they came out here because they thought it was an exciting thing to do.  They didn’t even know where they were – this area is very dangerous with drug dealing and gang violence at night. Lucky, they got caught by us.

And the coverage? I wanted to know whether these events, in the heart of Native American neighborhoods, were described in depth by media reports.

Bob Rice replied readily:

There was no media reporting on these matters – mass media blamed everything on the Black Lives Matter movement.  When liquor stores and tobacco shops were on fire, no police or fire trucks were around. Then the National Guard took over – using tear gas.

 Mr. Rice sighed, still in disbelief:

 Just incredible how our so-called President has done all the mess going and even made it worse!

*****

Robert Pilot, Native Roots Radio host, drove me for days all around the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, explaining what really took place on both Franklin Avenue and Lake Street.

George Floyd Murder Site

But before, we visited an provisory, impromptu monument where the murder of George Floyd took place. There were flowers, graffiti, works of art; there was grief, and there was solidarity. Native American people clearly supported the plight of the African-Americans.

The area was safe; it was well organized. People of all races came here to pay tribute to the murdered man, and centuries of atrocious history of the United States.

As we drove, Robert Pilot explained:

Native American neighborhoods armed themselves after the Floyd murder. But not only that: economic hardships ensued after the murder; food banks have come up.  The Pow Wow Grounds used to be a food distribution deport but ended up becoming a food bank for anyone to donate and get what they need.

Protesters were everywhere; the young generation got fed up.  So different from other murders. The last straw was the murder of George Floyd. Four years earlier, in 2016, Philando Castile, an African American man, got murdered by police. He had worked in a school cafeteria. His murder was broadcast live on Facebook. It was a buildup. 10,000 people protested on 38th Street and Chicago in Minneapolis – the site of the murder of George Floyd. Combination of racial and overall frustration.

 We drove by burned stores, services, gas stations. Everything was resembling a war zone, and in a way, it was.

If you are there, things are extremely raw, emotional. It is not like analyzing things from a distance from the comfort of one’s home.

Robert continued explaining, as we drove by block after block of the Middle East-style combat destruction:

There is a small percentage of African American people as compared to White Americans.  We need allies, too. We have to support each other. Signs everywhere in my neighborhood, ‘Black Lives Matter.’

Some young white people have woken up. They see the truth. The opinion of the masses is moving to the left; they are feeling fed up with what is happening around them and what it is that the country is doing to the world because of oil.

What is interesting is that there is a protest every single day, which is something new and mind-blowing. The media is misreporting, minimizing the enormity and magnitude of protests, CNN, MSNBC, etc.

Robert Pilot is not only a radio host, but he is also a teacher:

White teachers are still teaching history; they are teaching it to black and Native American kids! Political standing of my students – a few are engaged, but definitely not all. Perhaps 10 percent of people are engaged and doing the work for 90 percent.

The white guilt now and then… But many of us feel: You should stand behind us and with us but not in front of us. Revolution is happening in that sense. Everything is changing since protests are happening.

Not everyone likes the changes; definitely not everyone. The establishment is fighting back, trying to survive, in its existing, horrid form.

Robert Pilot concludes:

Generally, Black and Native Americans are together, supportive of each other.

It is symbolic that the Native American movement started on Franklin Avenue, where protests began in 1968. We would never burn down our own stores like grocery stores and hospitals. Why should we?

But we had to mobilize and stop members of the KKK and Proud Boys type of guys.

 *****

We drive some 100 miles north, in order to meet Ms. Emma Needham – a young Native American activist. Emma was kind enough to bring traditional medicine from her area. We met halfway at the Sand Prairie Wildlife Management Area.

Before our encounter, along the highway, we are surrounded by true ‘Americana’: endless open spaces, half-empty highways, more than 100 car-long cargo train pulled by two monstrous engines, while pushed by yet another one. We pass by St. Cloud Correctional Facility – an ancient-looking prison that bears the resemblance of some massive medieval English mansion surrounded by an elaborate system of barbed wires and watchtowers.

Trump Shop in the sticks

In one of the towns along the road, there is a big makeshift market selling posters, T-shirts, and other memorabilia, all related to the current President. It is called Trump Shop. Big banners are shouting at passing cars: “Trump, Make America Great Again,” “Trump 2020 – No More Bullshit,” and “God, Guns & Guts Made America. Let’s Keep All Three”.

Ms Emma Needham, young activist and write

Emma is a storyteller, a writer. She is an intelligent, outspoken, sincere, and passionate person:

Where we were, we did not see a lot of white men with masks attacking, but what we did see were two young white kids, around 16, from Wisconsin, looting a liquor store which was run by Native Americans.

I stayed over Friday and Saturday nights around the Indian American Cultural Center in Minneapolis. On Friday night, within half a mile to a mile in all directors, we could see and hear the riots and looting. There were gunshots, helicopters hovering all around us. But nobody came to rescue us.

On Saturday night, we could see white people on Jeeps, waving flags, cruising around the neighborhood. “The white kids from Wisconsin were there, it appeared to me, opportunistic grabbing whatever was available.

Majority of those who came to protest and loot were outsiders, not from the neighborhoods. It does not make sense for people in Minneapolis to burn down and loot stores they rely on.

I wanted to know whether the Native Americans and African-Americans were helping each other in that difficult hour?

Emma did not hesitate:

There was big solidarity between Black people and Native American people; there was empathy.

It has been lifelong degradation for many of us growing up poor and severely marginalized in reservations, but we had never seen anything like this, so close to what resembled a war.

Those of us who were down in North Minneapolis those nights – Friday and Saturday – could not find words to describe what was happening. But we had a strong sense that what has been happening to us Native Americans was happening to Black Americans, too – 400 years of surviving in a system of oppression. Enough is enough! Shared horrors – same for both groups!

I asked whether everything changed, and this is a new beginning for the nation? As many, Emma did not sound overly optimistic:

A black American female artist once said, ‘I love my white friends, but I don’t trust you because I know when the time comes, you need to choose your skin color. You count on the freedom and safety which you have. Whether you make that conscious decision or not, it will be there for you.

*****

On my behalf, Robert Pilot asked Brett Buckner, his fellow radio host, and an African American activist, whether he could confirm that the majority of rioters were whites and not from the community. He replied:

I would say so. Based on police reports and accounts from the community members, most of the damage was done by outsiders. Unfortunately, their actions will cause our community pain for years and even decades to come.

*****

Before I finished writing this report, “Umbrella man” got ‘identified.’

On July 29, 2020, Daily Mail wrote:

Masked “Umbrella Man” who was seen smashing windows of Minneapolis AutoZone that was later burned to the ground during George Floyd protests is identified as ‘Hells Angels gang member with ties to white supremacist group’… The Star Tribune reported the 32-year-old man has links to Aryan Cowboy Brotherhood, a white supremacist gang based in Minnesota and Kentucky.

He was one of many, but the most notorious one. Looking at his photos when in action, he was bearing a striking resemblance to ‘ninja’ looking rioters — right-wing hooligans – who were unleashed in order to bring chaos to Hong Kong, people who have been supported and financed by Western governments. I know, because I work in Hong Kong, since the beginning of the riots. Coincidence? And if not: who really ‘inspired’ whom?

*****

Before I left Minneapolis, Robert Pilot and his wife Wendy interviewed me on their Native Roots Radio. What was supposed to be just 30 minutes appearance ended up being a one-hour event.

They showed me their city and their state, sharing sincere feelings and hopes, unveiling suffering of both African American and Native American communities.

This time, I traveled to the United States in order to listen. But I was also asked to talk, and so I did.

During the interview, I took them to several parts of the world, where black people still suffer enormously, due to Western imperialism and corporate greed. The world where Native people of Latin America, Canada, as well as other parts of the Planet, are brutally humiliated, robbed of everything, even murdered by millions.

We were complimenting each other. Our knowledge was.

I am glad I came to Minnesota. I am thankful that I could witness history in the making.

I am also delighted that I observed solidarity between the African American and Native American people. For centuries, both went through hell, through agony. Now, they were awakening.

Minnesota is where the latest and very important chapter of American history began. But I also went to Washington, D.C., Baltimore, New York City, Massachusetts. I witnessed protests, anger, despair. But there was also hope. Hope, despite tear gas and riot police, lockdowns, despite mismanaged COVID-19 and increasing poverty rates. Something was ending, something unsavory and brutal. Whether this could be considered a new beginning was still too early to tell.

In Minnesota, I chose to see events through the eyes of Native Americans, people who were here ‘forever,’ to whom this land used to belong. People who were exterminated by the “new America,” by European migrants, in a genocide that claimed roughly 90% of the native lives. These were people who were robbed of their culture and their riches. I am glad; I am proud that I chose this angle.

True peace, true reconciliation can only come after history as well as reality are fully understood, never through denial.

Now, both African Americans and Native Americans are speaking, and the world is listening. It has to listen. At least this is already progress. These two groups are forming a powerful alliance of victims. But also, an alliance of those who are determined to make sure that history never repeats itself.

• First published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook (a journal of the Russian Academy of Sciences)

• All photos by Andre Vltchek

Hong Kong Elections Postponed: And where aren’t they?

Today, the Western press went absolutely mental again, radically schizophrenic.

Hong Kong leader, Carrie Lam, declared that the September 6 elections in SAR would be postponed by one year. Right away, she offered a rational explanation:

“We have 3 million voters going out in one day across Hong Kong, such flow of people would cause a high risk of infection.”

Fair enough. But while COVID-19 can justify just about any action taken by the West and also by countries that are closely associated with the West, it is constantly used against Mainland China and SAR.

Irrational double standards are continually used.

*****

Whether elections were to be held or not, attacks against Ms. Lam and Beijing were planned to continue. They were clearly ordered by the Western establishment, “no matter what happens.”

We will return later to ‘criticism of postponement of the elections,’ but first, let us see what was written just a few hours earlier when all major Western media outlets still thought that the elections would take place as scheduled.

On July 31, 2020, CNN published bizarre comments:

Under Hong Kong’s Basic Law, the city’s de facto constitution, prospective legislators must swear to “uphold” the constitution, a declaration that has been largely procedural in the past. 

But citing a court case in 2016 barring a pro-independence candidate, the government said in a statement that vowing to “uphold” Basic Law “denotes not just compliance with it, but also an intention to support, promote, and embrace it.

First of all, “upholding the constitution” is a fundamental and essential condition for any prospective legislator in any democracy in the world. And not only  a legislator.  As we all know, in the United States, the president of the nation, when sworn in, puts his hand on the Bible (isn’t that “a bit too extreme” and “exclusive,” especially for those citizens who are not Christian?) and solemnly swears that he will be upholding and defending the Constitution of his country.

Second: some readers can probably overlook certain parts of the text, but this time they should come back to them and read carefully: “barring a pro-independence candidate.” CNN is obviously criticizing SAR for not allowing participation of separatists in the elections! It is hard to believe, difficult not to call it hypocrisy, given the fact that almost anywhere in North America and Europe, separatism is not tolerated, and, in fact, harshly punishable. Just think about Spain (Catalunya) or France (Corsica). Strive for separatism, which is ignited, and then supported and financed by foreign interests and foreign powers, would be considered treason and punished extremely harshly. As, let us not forget, each Western country has its own national security law.

But bashing China and its territories, by all means available, became such a norm in Western mass media, that almost nobody is scrutinizing details of such “analyses,” anymore. Baseless or thoroughly exaggerated criticism of everything Chinese became synonymous with a fast-track to career advancement, at least in the fields of journalism and academia. Thousands of scribes are now involved. It is a career. There is something ‘religious,’ even ‘fundamentalist’ in the anti-Beijing writing style. Logic is not required anymore. It is actually discouraged.

The title of the CNN article, which I am quoting, is, actually: “Hong Kong is setting up an election without a real opposition.” Real means what? In the new Western propaganda lexicon, ‘real’ means hard-core separatism, fundamentalist anti-Communism, and radical anti-Mainland stand.

*****

Now back to the postponement of the elections.

Even The New York Times, known for (at least stylistically) more ‘elegant coverage,’ produced a hawkish headline on July 31, 2020: “Hong Kong Delays Election, Citing Coronavirus. The Opposition Isn’t Buying It.”

 So, first, the way elections were to be conducted was wrong; and now postponement of them became wicked. Western “analysts” reacted very, very fast.

Nothing new, of course. Suspicion is omnipresent when it comes to news coverage of SAR and Mainland China by Western media outlets. Nothing short of total surrender would be accepted or praised.

It is essential to confront Western propaganda with the facts, again and again. It is a tiring, monotonous process, but there is no other way around it. Otherwise, all rationale will collapse. Therefore, let us continue with our labor:

This essay is written and sent from the Western Hemisphere, part of the world which is most damaged by COVID-19. Elections here are either outrightly postponed, or postponement is at least discussed, considered as an option. Even Donald Trump, ‘arch hero’ of the Hong Kong rioters, is going back and forth on the issue. Chilean referendum on Constitution changes was postponed, without much debate, due to COVID-19. Elections in Bolivia have been delayed again and again. And there, actually, the elections are crucial, as last year there was a U.S.-backed coup which out-seated enormously popular and successful indigenous President Evo Morales. Of course, you would not read much about all this in the West.

Western mass media takes COVID-19 ‘argument’ for postponing elections in the Americas as something fundamentally legitimate. Because this fits the interests of Washington. There, yes, but what is taken as a norm elsewhere is never acceptable when it happens in China.

Why it is this way,is clear: again, it is not at all about logic or rationale. China has to be wrong, no matter what it does. Even when what it does is in line with the rest of the world. It is Kafkaesque, it is unfair, but it is part of a new normal constructed by the U.S. leaders like Trump, Rubio, Pompeo, Bolton, and Navarro.

Ms. Carrie Lam and Beijing know perfectly well how to govern their territory and the entire country. They do not need Western boys and girls to tell them. China is doing well, much better than the West, and it is clear and obvious. Everyone who “commutes” between PRC and U.S. is well aware of it. And China, including SAR, would be doing even better if it would be left alone, stop being antagonized every day and night, and allowed to concentrate on what it is doing best: which is improving the lives of its people and the world.

• Originally published by China Daily Hong Kong

Our Planet’s Missed Opportunity to unite and fight Side by Side against the Pandemic

It is time to stop irresponsible finger-pointing.

All over the world, as this essay is being written, well over 17 million COVID-19 cases have been reported, and 676,000 people died. And instead of concentrating on serious research, trying to save human lives and attempting to stop the global calamity, ‘residents’ of the White House are spending all their energy on their own political survival, as well as on the survival of the regime.

In the U.S., both the establishment and opposition are buzzing with phantasmagoric conspiracy theories. Everyone is shouting, and no one is listening.

COVID-19 has been dangerously politicized. In order to ‘save its skin,’ the White House has been relentlessly blaming China for the origin and handling of the pandemic. Various U.S. government officials have been pointing fingers, irresponsibly, at Beijing. Some have been going as far as claiming that the pandemic was manufactured in one of the laboratories in the city of Wuhan. A bit like a ‘Frankenstein theory,’ fit for a comic book or a horror movie, but not for any serious analysis.

Serious analyses are, however, often neglected by mainstream media. Although they do get picked up by those who are interested and unbiased.

The Telegraph reported on 5 July 2020:

Senior CEBM tutor Dr. Tom Jefferson believes many viruses lie dormant throughout the globe and emerge when conditions are favourable.

Coronavirus may have lain dormant across the world and emerged when the environmental conditions were right for it to thrive rather than starting in China, an Oxford University expert believes.

Dr. Tom Jefferson, senior associate tutor at the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine (CEBM), at Oxford and a visiting professor at Newcastle University, argues there is growing evidence that the virus was elsewhere before it emerged in Asia.

Last week, Spanish virologists announced that they had found traces of the disease in samples of waste water collected in March 2019, nine months before coronavirus was seen in China.

Italian scientists have also found evidence of coronavirus in sewage samples in Milan and Turin in mid-December, many weeks before the first case was detected, while experts have found evidence of traces in Brazil in November 2019.

It appears that several countries in Europe had actually been suffering from the novel coronavirus cases long before they emerged in China. Europeans just did not know that they were dealing with ‘the new and deadly type of flu.’ Or they did not have the capacity or willingness to detect and define the new pandemic as fast as the Chinese doctors and scientists did.

On 20 June 2020, The Independent addressed precisely this issue:

The novel coronavirus – Sars-Cov-2 – may have been in Europe for longer than previously thought. Recent studies have suggested that it was circulating in Italy as early as December 2019. More surprisingly, researchers at the University of Barcelona found traces of the virus when testing untreated wastewater samples dated 12 March 2019.

The study was recently published on a preprint server, medRxiv. The paper is currently being subject to critical review by outside experts in preparation for publication in a scientific journal. Until this process of peer review has been completed, though, the evidence needs to be treated with caution.

So, how was the experiment conducted and what exactly did the scientists find?

One of the early findings about Sars-Cov-2 is that it is found in the faeces of infected people. As the virus makes its way through the gut – where it can cause gastrointestinal symptoms – it loses its outer protein layer, but bits of genetic material called RNA survive the journey intact and are “shed” in faeces. At this oint, it is no longer infectious – as far as current evidence tells us.

In May 2020, the BBC simply reported, without drawing any ‘political conclusions’:

A patient treated in a hospital near Paris on 27 December for suspected pneumonia actually had the coronavirus, his doctor has said.

This means the virus may have arrived in Europe almost a month earlier than previously thought.

Dr. Yves Cohen said a swab taken at the time was recently tested, and came back positive for Covid-19.

The patient, who has since recovered, said he had no idea where he caught the virus as he had not travelled abroad.

Knowing who was the first case is key to understanding how the virus spread.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says it is possible more early cases will come to light, and spokesman Christian Lindmeier urged countries to check records for similar cases in order to gain a clearer picture of the outbreak.

France is not the only country where subsequent testing points to earlier cases. Two weeks ago, a post-mortem examination carried out in California revealed that the first coronavirus-related death in the U.S. was almost a month earlier than previously thought.

These are only three examples, carried by three separate reports.

There is more and more evidence suggesting that China was actually not the country where the COVID-19 originated, but the country where novel coronavirus was first and decisively identified, confronted, and to a great extent, defeated. Quite amazing, considering that China, at least for some time, stood totally alone against this dangerous pandemic, which since then managed to, fundamentally, change the world!

But the more all this appears to be the case, the louder is cacophony coming from Washington; more vitriolic becomes the anti-Chinese propaganda.

It is clearly done in order to cover up the ineptness of the U.S. government’s response to the calamity. If the system in a grotesquely turbo-capitalist country like the United States collapses, just blame it hypocritically on the Communists, or go racist and start insulting Asians. Or if you run out of earthly enemies, just blame it on extra-terrestrials.

*****

Predictably, President Trump does not enjoy much support from the ranks of the scientific community. Some even poke fun, openly, at him and his deputies. Others are trying to argue with him, presenting facts.

After Washington’s COVID-19-related anti-Chinese attacks intensified in April 2020, Professor Edward Holmes, an Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow, a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science and a Fellow of the Royal Society in London, decided to speak up, disputing with scientific arguments the propaganda theories:

There is no evidence that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans, originated in a laboratory in Wuhan, China.

Coronaviruses like SARS-CoV-2 are commonly found in wildlife species and frequently jump to new hosts. This is also the most likely explanation for the origin of SARS-CoV-2.

But Washington is brutal and vindictive. When it is caught lying, when the simple, even primitive plans and designs get confronted, it retaliates disproportionally and swiftly. That is precisely what happened to the World Health Organization (WHO) and its Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. WHO was seen by Trump and his hawkish lieutenants as being “too close to China,” and that is an arch ‘crime’ in this time and age! On top of it, Mr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was pressing for global cooperation instead of confrontation. But the United States is simply unable to cooperate anymore. It only knows how to dictate.

Rapidly and wickedly, the U.S. ejected itself from the WHO, right in the middle of the global pandemic, leaving huge unpaid bills. This, most likely, cost tens of thousands of human lives, particularly in the poorest parts of the world. Not that Washington cares!

*****

Attacks against China by Trump, Rubio, Bannon, Pompeo, Navarro, and others in the U.S. government and establishment, are thoroughly ludicrous and get regularly strongly rebutted in the United States itself, but also its satellites.

White House accusations regularly degenerate to extremely low levels of discourse.

As mentioned above, U.S. officials, including President Trump, himself, frequently insinuate that the pandemic originated, or was even manufactured, in one of Wuhan’s labs.

Such insults get confronted by counter-insults, like those shot by Peter Davidson, who recently declared that: “Covid19 originated in CIA Fort Detrick lab, brought to Wuhan to blame it on China!”

 *****

Once again, the United States refused to cooperate with the rest of the world. Instead, it is spoiling all efforts to create a united front against the pandemic, which is frightening the Planet, killing tens of thousands of human beings, and destroying the lives of billions.

Since the beginning of this unpredictable and still largely unresearched virus, I have been monitoring, first hand, all fears and frustration of the people: in Asia, North and South Americas, as well as Europe. I have been observing how COVID-19 brought the Planet to a standstill. This fear is real. The consequences of the pandemic are awful, and they include misery, unemployment, even hunger, and homelessness.

This terrible attack of new illness was an opportunity for our civilization to unite, to show that we, as human beings, are able to cooperate, fight for the survival of all, and smash this dreadful enemy. Together, all of us, side by side, regardless of race, nationality, or culture.

The opportunity was missed. And the result is not only bitterness. The result is counted in hundreds of millions of newly poor.

China actually tried to forge a global alliance against COVID-19, and so did Russia. Also, Cuba, as always. Hundreds of heavy lift aircrafts were heading from Moscow, Beijing, and Havana, to help people who were in dire need, in all corners of the world. Hands were extended.

We all know how these efforts ended: with insults, and unprecedented propaganda coming from Washington. Not one heartfelt “Thank you!”. Not one. And then, even foreign aid directed towards dozens of countries, coming from China, got literally stolen from the tarmacs, by the United States government.

The countries which were suffering the most, from embargos and sanctions and needed resources to manage the COVID-19, countries such as Iran and Venezuela, got brutalized even further, sadistically and shamelessly.

This does not look like a good world. And the ‘mightiest country on earth’ does not look like a good leader, either. In fact, it does not look like a leader at all. And with this attitude towards the Planet, it should never again be allowed to lead.

COVID-19 ruined countless lives. But at least now it is clear, who is who, what is the gangrenous essence of corporatism and imperialism.

While China, Russia, Cuba, Vietnam, Venezuela, Iran, and others are fighting for human lives, Washington is struggling to preserve the global status quo for its own unsavory purposes. It does not want to save or improve the world. It wants to control it. And it wants to own it. Nothing else. Full stop.

• First published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook (a journal of the Russian Academy of Sciences)

Has the left been gulled into believing its small right to speech is already too much?

My post earlier this month on the so-called “cancel culture” letter proved to be the most polarising I have written – matched only by another recent post on the pulling down of a statue in the UK to a slave trader. The ferocity of the reactions to both, I believe, is related. It derives from a similar refusal, even on the left, to factor in power – and how it is best confronted – when assessing issues of speech and oppression.But first, I want to briefly address the concerns of those who think that my and others’ focus on the open letter, published this month in Harper’s magazine and signed by 150 prominent writers and thinkers, has been excessive, and that there are more important things going on in the world that need highlighting instead.The discussion on the left about the letter is not simple navel-gazing. Speech rights and how they are exercised are the arena in which our thoughts, narratives and ideologies are shaped. Nothing is more important than how we talk to each other, and what we are allowed to say and think. That is why I am revisiting the issue.

The illiberal climate identified in the letter is a real thing, but the discussion promoted by the letter has been ahistorical, lacked proper political context, and the purpose it is being put to, in my view, is dangerously antithetical to improved free speech. The problem with the letter is not what it says – which few of us would disagree with – but what it doesn’t.

Refusal to sign

What is missing is highlighted by two revelations about the letter’s provenance that have emerged since I wrote my post. They help to shed light on my original concerns.

In a column on the letter in the New York Times, Michelle Goldberg, one of the more progressive voices among the signatories, reported that she refused to sign the initial draft because it was explicitly about the threat to free speech posed by “cancel culture”.

Goldberg was rightly wary of adding her name because “cancel culture”, as I explained in my first post, is a term that has been increasingly appropriated by the right to attack the speech rights of the left. It is meant to skew public discourse in the same way as “fake news”, “Bernie Bros”, “antisemitism” and “Russian trolls”. Like cancel culture, these things exist but they have been malevolently repurposed by the right as a stick with which to beat the left. Donald Trump recently equated “cancel culture” with “far-left fascism”, for example.

After her initial reluctance, Goldberg signed a second draft chiefly, it seems, because the phrase “cancel culture” was removed – even though the letter’s original intent was barely concealed. Those sentiments were so obvious that everyone immediately dubbed it the “cancel culture letter”. That was also, of course, the reason why a bunch of warmongers, Israel fanatics and left-baiters were so eager to sign the letter.

Greenwald ‘cancelled’

A second revelation came from Thomas Chatterton Williams, one of the main drafters of the letter. In an interview last week, he noted that the original intention was have it signed by Glenn Greenwald, the civil rights lawyer turned journalist who is a well-known champion of free speech. But ultimately Greenwald was not approached because others behind the letter objected. In other words, free speech advocate Greenwald was cancelled from signing a letter about the threat posed by cancel culture.

This admission about Greenwald underscores the main point I made in my original post. One can be a free speech absolutist – as indeed I am – and still recognise that the issues around free speech are complex, and that pretending they are not is actually harmful to free speech. It is not as simple as being for or against free speech. After all, the vast majority of us are for free speech in the abstract.

“Free speech” is rather like “equality of opportunity”. It’s hard to disagree with the principle, but very few are actually committed to achieving it in practice – and for similar reasons.

In the case of “equality of opportunity”, no meaningful efforts have ever been made to achieve it. None of the main parties in the US or UK are pushing to end all inheritance entitlements, for example, which would require everyone to start their adult lives with a cleaner slate. But even with an end to inheritance rights, more fundamental change would still be needed, otherwise children raised in wealthy, privileged homes would still have a big head-start over those from deprived backgrounds.

Part of the reason most of us accept inequality of opportunity as inevitable is because we struggle to imagine how such inequality could ever be redressed without making structural changes to our societies along socialist lines. But the corporate elite – which is deeply opposed to making those kinds of changes – has persuaded us through its media that structural reform would be Stalinist and unfair.

Speech rights in conflict

There are similar problems with the idea of free speech, as Greenwald’s “cancelling” highlights. Rather than use the term “free speech”, we would be better off talking in terms of speech rights. Because then it would be clear that, as with other rights, there can sometimes be conflicts between my speech rights and your speech rights. Once this point is conceded, things begin to look a whole lot messier.

The “cancel culture” letter is not just in favour of free speech. It prioritises certain speech rights over other speech rights. It promotes the speech rights of prominent writers and thinkers who dominate the public square against the speech rights of a supposed “Twitter mob” – those who had no significant speech rights until they were able to amass them through force of numbers and force of will on social media.

Again, that is not to say cancel culture is not a problem. Mobs who try to impose their speech rights on others always were, and still are, a threat to free speech. It is simply to point out that the letter and similar initiatives are not about defending some pure, untainted idea of free speech. Rather, they assume that the existing power structures should continue unreformed, even though those structures are designed to ensure some people enjoy privileged speech rights – including the right to define who belongs to the “mob” and who constitutes a threat to speech.

Who is the real ‘mob’?

The reason we are talking about cancel culture in the first place is that social media has given ordinary, politically and socially invested individuals, who until recently had no voice, the chance to exercise their speech rights more aggressively (and sometimes irresponsibly) by uniting with other like-minded individuals. Their collective voice can partially challenge and disrupt the narratives crafted by those who have long dominated public discourse – and done it from platforms, let’s remember, paid for and controlled by billionaires or the state.

As a result of social media, public discourse has grown more complex and treacherous.

But the cancel culture letter does not help us to navigate through this discursive minefield. It is intended to waylay us. That should be obvious if we pause and consider who is characterised by the letter as a “threat” and as the “mob”. In fact, the “Twitter mob” is overshadowed by a far bigger, more powerful, more insidious mob represented by most of the 150 signatories. They act as little more than media stenographers for a corporate elite who have amassed enormous wealth and power in our societies and who are almost never held to account.

The letter ignores the full spectrum of threats to free speech – including the biggest – because it does not recognise that its own signatories constitute a mob too, and a far more dangerous mob than the Twitter one.

Evil Russian mastermind

It may help if we again compare “free speech” with “equality of opportunity”. Most conservatives and liberals support equality of opportunity in principle even as they defend society being organised in ways designed to uphold the privileges of their class. It is not just that they are hypocrites. It is that the discourse they promote is meant to deceive and disempower.

What is needed to guarantee equality of opportunity is the reorganisation of our societies in ways that threaten elite power. For this reason alone, such restructuring is something the elite could never countenance. So their strategy has been to espouse equality of opportunity while actually doing everything they can to undermine those who try either to challenge their power or to bring about a little more equality.

The most effective route to blocking equality of opportunity has been to develop a dominant discourse that presents true egalitarians as secret authoritarians. So democratic socialists – whether Jeremy Corbyn in the UK, or Bernie Sanders in the US – are condemned by the corporate media for supposedly advancing the interests, not of the publics they represent, but of an evil Russian mastermind. The equality they seek is more specifically recast – exploiting the fashion for identity politics – as racism (antisemitism in Corbyn’s case) and as bullying misogyny (sexism in Sanders’ case).

Social media power

Similarly, the majority of the letter’s signatories pay lip service to the principle of free speech but wish to avoid any of the structural changes needed to ensure that free speech is meaningful for everyone, not just for themselves. They want to maintain speech relations that prioritise their speech rights by characterising those who challenge their speech privileges as a “mob” intent on “cancelling” them and those like them.

True, a cancel culture exists, but it is not just to be found on the left, as the letter implies. It exists everywhere, as interest and identity groups find new ways to become empowered through social media. Social and political actors on the right, such as Donald Trump and Boris Johnson, have proved particularly adept at harnessing this power for their own ends.

But, of course, cancel culture on the left has the potential – and at this stage, only the potential – to impel a discussion about how our societies might need to be reorganised to make them more equal, including by improving access to speech rights for all. That is why left speech is viewed as an especial threat and why the left’s version of cancel culture is being vilified.

Making one’s voice heard

In fact, we can probe deeper still into the nature of cancel culture. It has always been a feature of societies that are unequally structured. Cancel culture existed long before social media. It was exercised chiefly through the dominant, corporate media and was one of the main ways power protected and veiled itself.

The greater visibility of cancel culture today is not because there is more of it. It is because the public space is more contested, and acts of cancelling noisier. That visibility of cancel culture is the inevitable outcome of offering speech rights – through the anarchic platform of social media – to those who were formerly voiceless. Cancel culture is a feature of speech, made more visible by the greater democratisation of speech rights through social media. It is not a peculiar feature either of social media or of left discourse.

To make one’s voice heard above the general and often trivial drone of social media, the best strategy is to make alliances with the like-minded, forging a strong collective identity, and then act aggressively. The alternative is a return to powerlessness and irrelevance, even at the symbolic level.

The “mob” is an in-built feature of speech relations that are unequal and designed to be that way. The problem isn’t really the “mob” or “cancel culture”, it is a society where one set of values and interests are given pre-eminence – those that uphold the power of a wealth elite. When state-corporate platforms – the New York Times, CNN, the BBC, the Guardian – dominate the public square, the only way to be heard is to join a mob and shout as loudly as one can.

Bread and circuses

Social media is not designed to channel the frustrations and anger of the voiceless into useful, constructive debate that could effect real change – change that might truly threaten the plutocratic class that runs our societies. It is designed to create gladiatorial contests that keep us weak because all we can do is shout. It is the new bread and circuses.

The solution is not to erase popular “cancel culture” so that the dominant, corporate “cancel culture” can once again rule supreme. It is to meaningfully address the inequality of speech rights and, more generally, the way power is structured in our societies. It is to democratise the media, taking it and our politics out of the hands of plutocrats and making both genuinely pluralistic.

That means guarding the rights of everyone to have a say, even those who are noisy and vulgar, by ensuring that corporate-owned social media doesn’t gradually disappear dissenters and trouble-makers either through the skewing of algorithms or by allowing them to be dismissively labelled as “fake news”, “Russian trolls”, “amtisemites” or Bernie Bros”.

A fairer, more honest, less captured media environment would lead to a calmer, more reasonable, more considered public discourse.

None of this will be easy. Speech is tricky terrain because it is tied to the way power is expressed. In our profit-driven societies, money buys speech, as it does everything else. It is time to recognise that and the urgent need for fundamental change, not get gulled into a debate whose premises are that the small speech rights we enjoy are already too much.

Why is China Painted as “Capitalist” by Western  Propaganda?

Let us start with the punchline: “Mass media in the United States, Europe, Canada, and Australia is depicting the People’s Republic of China as ‘capitalist’ because ‘capitalist’ is now a dirty word. Even people in the West see ‘market economy’ as some sort of filth.”

To call China ‘capitalist’ is to smear China. It is as if to say: “Chinese people are precisely like us. China is doing to the world the same injustice, committing the same crimes as we have been doing for 500+ years.”

Western, but particularly the British and the U.S. demagogy, have managed to reach ‘heights’ of nothing lesser than deadly perfection. They already conditioned billions of brains, in all corners of the world, forced them into the uniformed, servile way of thinking. All this is not just propaganda anymore; it is the true art of indoctrination. It hardly ever misses its target. And even if it fails to convince some strong individuals completely, it always leaves a mark on the psyche of even those who are struggling to be different and ‘independent.’

In short: Western propaganda is perfect. It is deadly. Until now, it is bulletproof.

All those terms like “capitalist China,” “Chinese state capitalism,” are violating the truth, and they are repeated over and over again until no one dares to contradict them anymore.

The same goes for the lies about Uyghurs, Hong Kong, the Sino-Indian border, as well as various historical events.

But why really to lie about China ‘not being socialist’?

The answer is simple: it is because most people associate words like ‘socialism’ and ‘Communism’ with hope. Yes, they do! At least subconsciously. Even after decades of brainwashing and smear campaigns! “Socialist China” means “China which brings optimism to its own people and humanity.” On the other hand, people on all continents associate ‘capitalism’ with something depressing, stale, and regressive. Therefore, call China ‘capitalist’, and it evokes feelings of gloominess and slump.

Imperialist, capitalist West cannot compete with socialism, anymore. Therefore, it tries to drag it through filth, tries to destroy it. Either indirectly, by sanctions and attempts to orchestrate coups in places like Iran, DPRK, Bolivia, Cuba, and Venezuela, or directly, like in the Middle East. China is being attacked on ‘all fronts,’ from economic ones to ideological, although not yet militarily. The most powerful and repulsive weapon, so far, has been constant injections of lies, contradictions, and nihilism. Just look at Hong Kong!

Nihilism is deadly. It destroys enthusiasm, and it robs countries of confidence and courage.

And that is precisely what the West is trying to achieve: to derail progressive socialist countries from marching forward and prevent nations oppressed by neo-colonialism from dreaming, hoping, resisting. (I described this destructive process in my book Revolutionary Optimism, Western Nihilism).

The Western demagogues know: China robbed of its essence – and the essence is “the Socialism with Chinese characteristics” – is China which cannot inspire, cannot offer alternatives to the world. The most effective way to smear China, to silence it, is precisely to convince the world that it is ‘capitalist.’

Such techniques were used, for instance, by German Nazis who claimed that resistance against their occupation actually consisted of a bunch of terrorists. The U.S. is known to do the same. Or the British Empire, which christened rebellious local people in its colonies as “hordes of savages.” Just reverse the truth and win!

Twist things shamelessly, turn them upside-down, repeat your lies thousands of times, print them in all your mass media outlets. Chances are, your fabrications would be eventually accepted by billions of people.

In the case of China, West is trying to convince the world that PRC is the same type of gangster states like the United States or Great Britain, France, or Canada. It is doing it by calling China capitalist, by calling it even imperialist. By ridiculously equating China’s behavior to the behavior of the Western colonialist powers. By declaring that China is oppressing its own minorities, as the West has been doing for centuries.

*****

But China is not a capitalist country, as it is not an imperialist one. It is the least expansionist major country on the planet.

It does not kill millions of human beings worldwide, it does not overthrow governments in foreign countries, and it is not robbing already destitute nations of all they have left.

It is not governed by bankers and oligarchs. Instead, it is directed by the socialist 5-year plans. Its private and state companies have to obey the government and the people. They have to produce goods and services in order to improve the standard of living of the nation and the world. Companies are precisely told what to do by the government, which represents the people, not the other way around, as happens in the West. Because in the West, it is companies that are selecting the governments!

That is socialism. “Socialism with Chinese characteristics.” The socialism which managed to get rid of all extreme poverty in the country with almost 1.4 billion inhabitants. The socialism which is building “Ecological civilization”. The socialism which is connecting the world, including, until now, the destitute countries on Earth, through the “Belt and Road Initiative”.

In China, democracy is not about sticking pieces of paper into a box. It is literally the ‘rule of the people’; it is all about the country which is developing in a socialist way, consistently making lives of its men, women, and children better and better, year after year.

It is a fresh, optimistic, constantly improving, and evolving system. Ask people in the Chinese cities and the countryside, and they will tell you. The vast majority of them are happy; they are hopeful and optimistic.

Ask people in the North American cities or countryside, and… you know what they will tell you. That increasingly, life is s**t!

*****

The big problem is that majority of North Americans and Europeans know China only from the hardly strategic position of their couch commonly facing the television set or from the heavily censored Yahoo or Google ‘front’ news pages.

Many of those who go to, or who “do China” are traveling in groups, visiting major tourist destinations only. Even that is, of course, much better than nothing. China is impressive everywhere.

But only a small fraction of the Westerners, those who dare to pass judgments, know China in depth. This includes even such ‘top White House advisors,’ like Peter Kent Navarro, Assistant to President Donald Trump and Director of Trade and Manufacturing Policy, who knows close to nothing about China, speaks no Chinese, but writes anti-Chinese books. Or such as senior Republican Senator Marco Antonio Rubio.

And the propagandists in London, Paris, and New York are well aware of the lack of knowledge about China, at least in the West. They feel free to declare and to publish the most outrageous lies and fabrications because they know they’d not be confronted. And if confronted, they’d easily manage to censure those individuals who’d dare to contradict them.

How many times have you seen on a British television channel, a Chinese Communist man or a woman, speaking about his or her country? Never! It is forbidden. Truth is not allowed, at least in the West. Only those Chinese people who are tugging the Western propaganda line can speak freely on Western channels. Never thought about it? Then think! Or, how many Russians, pro-President Putin or pro-Communist, have you ever heard on the British or U.S. radio stations?

The Western firewall is complete.

Media is digging out the filthiest chapters of Western history, and without blinking an eye, turns things around and attributes them to China. Australians, North Americans have been sterilizing native, Roma, Aborigines, or other women. So, they invent, say that China is doing it now. For centuries, West has been locking people in its colonies and even in Europe, in the concentration camps. In a twisted way, propaganda gurus in London and Washington are attributing such behavior to China.

No proof is needed. Let your imagination run wild. People are used to lies. They are obedient, brainwashed. And they like it when other, non-Western nations are smeared, especially when they are accused of the same crimes which Europe and the United States have been committing for centuries. It makes them feel less guilty. They can then say: “The entire world is disgusting. We are all equally terrible!”

Perhaps, after these propaganda assaults, there is no more hope left. But at least, in the West, there is no rush to shed those complexes of superiority, and to get rid of the privileges.

*****

And so, ‘China is capitalist!’ While baobabs are actually bougainvillea. Western-imposed global dictatorship is, believe it or not, democratic. And Western advisors have a full moral mandate to lecture the world.

Some Chinese Communist Party officials are now banned [by the West] from traveling to the United States. In contrast, the U.S. officials, who are responsible for ordering mass killings in all parts of the world, can travel virtually anywhere.

The Communist Party of China is responsible for building a prosperous, highly educated, and increasingly ecologically sound nation of almost 1.4 billion. While the Imperialist apparatchiks of the United States are responsible for overthrowing countless progressive governments, bombing millions of people, ruining the environment in the colonies, and starving hundreds of millions through sanctions. But they are not sanctioned themselves and can go almost anywhere they desire. Strange world? Go figure…

The better China is doing, the more it gets smeared. If it manages to do even better in the future, it may get attacked directly, perhaps even militarily.

And rest assured that socialist China will be doing better and better. Yes, you are guessing correctly: Under the banner of the Communist Party!

So, what should we prepare ourselves for? World War III? Annihilation of the human race? Just because the West doesn’t know how to lose? Just because capitalism and imperialism would not let go of their global grip on power, even if it means the end for all of us?

Just because North America and Europe are notorious liars, suffering from pathological complexes of superiority, as well as genocidal instincts?

I don’t think this is a good prospect for our Planet.

I’d much rather bet on optimistic, socialist China, instead of on the Western system which in the last 500+ years has already murdered hundreds of millions of people and which is, until now, covering up its crimes and its undeniable mental illness.

And not only ‘bet’; I’d rather join China, which is building a much better and ethical world. As we all should do! As some of us are already doing.

• First published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook (a journal of the Russian Academy of Sciences)

A Mass Uprising Is Here: Protect It From The Ruling Class

Demonstrators on Wednesday, June 3, 2020 in downtown Los Angeles (AP Photo:  Ringo H.W. Chiu)

The breadth of the uprising is astounding with antiracism protests in all 50 states and more than 500 cities plus more than 13,500 arrests in 43 cities. This weekend there were larger numbers of protesters in the streets including cities and towns of all sizes. In Washington, DC, where we were, the crowds were multi-racial and crossed all ages but were dominated by black youth. People were united in their opposition to racism and police abuse and their calls for systemic change.

While the crowds were notable in the nation’s capital, across the country, and around the world, what stood out this week is the palpable fear emanating from the White House. President Trump, who has blown racist dog whistles from his first-day campaigning in 2016, is afraid. His fear is demonstrated by ten-foot-tall black metal fences, fortified by concrete Jersey blocks surrounding not just the White House but all of Lafayette Park to the bottom of the Ellipse, and from 15th Street to 17th Street. Inside this fence are rows of smaller fences, mobile searchlights, and scores of police and military. Dump trucks block every entrance. The White House fence, which was built higher during the Trump-era, is covered in a white shroud to hide what is behind it. Comedian Sarah Cooper mocked Trump’s comments describing his visits to the secure bunker under the White House when the protests were at an angry peak. The failures of the US government to fulfill basic tasks of protecting and empowering people have reached a tipping point.

White House in the distance. Taken from Constitution Ave.  (Margaret Flowers)

This is a Take Off Moment for Ending Structural Racism

Racism in the United States did not start with Trump and it won’t end if he is defeated in November. The people at protests understand Trump is a symptom of deeper problems. While there were some anti-Trump signs outside the White House, the crowd was more focused on broader changes that are needed. The United States suffers from deep structural racism that creates economic inequality and an unfair criminal injustice system.

A national consensus is developing in favor of the protests. Polls indicate the public supports the uprising, sees the anger as justified, and even supported burning down the police precinct in Minneapolis. Three out of four say racial and ethnic discrimination are big problems with 87% of black people believing they are more likely than whites to experience excessive force. Multiple polls show sympathy for the protests and support for their goals. There has been a shift in views on racism with the biggest change in acknowledging racism coming in the managerial class where many used to believe the US had evolved into a ‘post-racial society’.

The persistent protest movement — which has been strengthening since there was a take-off after the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO six years ago and with the thousands of murders since then — has built national consensus for change. Now, there are opportunities for change but also challenges for the movement. Ajamu Baraka, of the Black Alliance for Peace, describes some of them in Black Agenda Report:

The enemy knows how to quickly adapt in the ideological struggle: 1) undermine the emerging unity with white agitator propaganda, 2) follow up with declaration against something called Antifa as a terrorist group, 3) instruct the police to join demos and express solidarity, 4) release statements from police chiefs and others pushing the bad apples theme, and most important, 5) keep the focus on the individual and call for ‘justice’ for that individual to avoid attention on the systemic and enduring elements of Black and Brown colonized oppression.

March in Washington, DC on June 6 2020 (By Patricio Zamorano)

The Movement can Overcome the Challenges We Face and Win

Here are some of the ways we can overcome the challenges the power structure is putting in our way.

Divide and Rule – Unite and Build Power:  When the power structure sees white and black people uniting to work for common goals, it gets worried. It will do all it can overtly and covertly to divide the movement. For example, despite the FBI saying there is no evidence, the Trump administration accused Antifa (short for Anti-Fascist) of being an organization (it isn’t) committing violence at protests. In fact, a report found that a far-right group masquerading as Antifa was promoting violence. There is evidence that provocateurs, including officers in uniform, have been destroying property, and police have brutalized thousands of protesters over the past two weeks. Any attempts to denigrate one group or sow division, such as the ‘good protester/bad protester’ myth, must be met with skepticism.

We must strive for greater unity in the movement by linking our struggles and promoting a common vision of the society we wish to create. Just prior to the police murdering George Floyd, a movement was building for a general strike. That campaign is ongoing and is being manifested in various ways. Payday report cites more than 220 wildcat strikes, many involving working-class people of color, that have occurred in the United States since early March. Rent strikes are taking place and millions more are ready to rent strike. Black Lives Matter is calling for a statewide general strike in Washington state on June 12. The general strike campaign calls for nationwide actions on the first of each month.

The National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression is calling for a national day of action on Saturday, June 13 calling for the transformational change of democratic community control of the police.

Offer Weak Reforms – Demand Systemic Changes: People exercising their First Amendment rights are calling for transformational changes such as abolishing the institution of police, ending the militarization of our communities, and investing in black and brown communities. Already, a few groups are working to shift the demands to a weaker platform such as spending less money on police and banning the knee-on-neck technique that officer Chauvin used to kill George Floyd. Banning techniques such as chokeholds have failed. Police still use them and they get away with it. While there must be justice for George Floyd and others killed by police, this is not only about convicting police who terrorize communities, but about stopping police terror and the entire racist system in the United States that is repressing people at home and abroad. Police serve as enforcers of the racism that pervades education, healthcare, housing, employment, the legal system, and foreign policy. The movement may celebrate minor victories along the way, but we must build power to win systemic changes that end the institutions and policies that perpetuate structural racism and inequality.

Diversion to Elections – Escalate Street Heat: There are already efforts to distract the movement to focus on President Trump and divert people’s attention to the upcoming presidential election. The Democratic mayor of Washington DC took performative action when she had “Black Lives Matter” painted on 16th Street in front of the White House, but DC residents weren’t having it and called her out for increasing the police budget while cutting social programs. In a recent essay, Obama urged reforms enacted through elections as have other black misleaders, as Margaret Kimberley describes.  The always-opportunist Rev. Al Sharpton, a longtime Democratic operative, has called for a March on Washington on August 28. This will likely be a Democratic Party anti-Trump rally to kick off the final months of “get out the vote” for the presidential election. People know the record of Joe Biden – opposing integration of schools, escalating the war on drugs, being an architect of mass incarceration, and supporting the interests of his corporate donors over the necessities of the people. We will not elect our way out of these crises. We must continue to build our capacity to stay in the streets, even if it is once a week, and our pressure through tactics like strikes and other forms of non-cooperation to build enough power to overcome the ruling class.

Unleash the Counter-Revolution – Defy It:  If the movement is not defeated by these tactics, but instead grows larger by unifying fronts of struggle and escalating our demands, there will be more efforts to suppress us. In Occupy, the Obama administration, through the FBI and Homeland Security working with local police, escalated their tactics, sending infiltrators into the movement to create divisions and throw the movement off course. It entrapped participants in crimes with serious consequences and used the media to create opposition. We know this is coming, so we can be prepared. Our goal must be solidarity, protecting each other, and remaining persistent with unwavering demands. When the power structure escalates their tactics, it is a sign we are winning. It is a show of weakness, not strength on their part and that means it’s time for protests to escalate.

These are all some of the common tactics used against popular movements. In our web-based free school “How Social Transformation Occurs“, we review these and other strategies used by the power structure and how movements can respond. People involved in the vibrant movements of our times need to be well informed so we are a movement of leaders who are prepared to win.

Marchers in Washington, DC on June 6, 2020 (Patricio Zamorano)

The Movement Is Already Defeating The Ruling Class’ Tactics

The media described the uprising as a “riot” involved in violence and property destruction but the movement responded by using videos to show black organizers trying to stop people, some of whom seemed to be undercover police or white supremacists. When mayors put in place curfews, people came out in larger numbers to ignore the curfew. When police assaulted people with batons, rubber bullets, and chemical weapons, they were caught on camera and shown to be the instigators of violence. In response to thousands of complaints about police actions, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and Police Chief Carmen Best announced a 30-day ban on the use of tear gas and a review of police actions with an emphasis on de-escalation.

As the result of a class-action suit in Colorado, federal Judge R. Brooke Jackson ordered the police to stop using tear gas, rubber bullets, and other “less-than-lethal” forces like flash grenades and ordered body cameras to be used at all times. The judge noted videos of police injuring people, including journalists, without giving any warnings.

When President Trump threatened to use the military against people, there was a rapid response opposing him. Some GI’s and National Guard troops have refused to follow orders against the people. Courage to Resist has set up a fund to defend them. And, a lawsuit was filed against the police’s actions.

The movement for change in the United States has grown and matured in recent decades. We must continue to protest, be non-compliant with the power structure, defy the opposition’s tactics, support each other’s needs, and build alternative structures. This is how we will transform our society in a way that respects human rights and protects the planet. The time is now. Let’s keep doing the work.