Category Archives: Media Bias

A Remarkable Silence: Media Blackout After Key Witness Against Assange Admits Lying

As we have pointed out since Media Lens began in 2001, a fundamental feature of corporate media is propaganda by omission. Over the past week, a stunning example has highlighted this core property once again.

A major witness in the US case against Julian Assange has just admitted fabricat­ing key accusati­ons in the indictment against the Wikileaks founder. These dramatic revelations emerged in an extensive article published on 26 June in Stundin, an Icelandic newspaper. The paper interviewed the witness, Sigurdur Ingi Thordarson, a former WikiLeaks volunteer, who admitted that he had made false allegations against Assange after being recruited by US authorities. Thordarson, who has several convictions for sexual abuse of minors and financial fraud, began working with the US Department of Justice and the FBI after receiving a promise of immunity from prosecution. He even admitted to continuing his crime spree while working with the US authorities.

Last summer, US officials had presented an updated version of their indictment against Assange to Magistrate Court Judge Vanessa Baraitser at the Old Bailey in London. Key to this update was the assertion that Assange had instructed Thordarson to commit computer intrusions or hacking in Iceland.

As the Stundin article reported:

‘The aim of this addition to the indictment was apparently to shore up and support the conspiracy charge against Assange in relation to his interactions with Chelsea Manning. Those occurred around the same time he resided in Iceland and the authors of the indictment felt they could strengthen their case by alleging he was involved in illegal activity there as well. This activity was said to include attempts to hack into the computers of members of [the Icelandic] parliament and record their conversations.

‘In fact, Thordarson now admits to Stundin that Assange never asked him to hack or access phone recordings of MPs.’

Judge Baraitser’s ruling on 4 January, 2021 was against extradition to the US. But she did so purely on humanitarian grounds concerning Assange’s health, suicide risk and the extreme conditions he would face in confinement in US prisons.

The Stundin article continued:

‘With regards to the actual accusations made in the indictment Baraitser sided with the arguments of the American legal team, including citing the specific samples from Iceland which are now seriously called into question.

‘Other misleading elements can be found in the indictment, and later reflected in the Magistrate’s judgement, based on Thordarson’s now admitted lies.’

The Stundin article further details Thordarson’s lies and deceptions, including mispresenting himself as an official representative of WikiLeaks while a volunteer in 2010-2011, even impersonating Assange, and embezzling more than $50,000 from the organisation.

By August 2011, Thordarson was being pursued by WikiLeaks staff trying to locate the missing funds. In fact, Thordarson had arranged for the money to be sent to his private bank account by forging an email in Assange’s name. That month, Thordarson sought a way out by contacting the US Embassy in Iceland, offering to be an informant in the case against Assange.

Stundin noted:

‘within 48 hrs a private jet landed in Reykjavik with around eight [US] agents who quickly set up meetings with Thordarson and with people from the Icelandic State Prosecutors office and the State Police Commissioner.’

But it turned out that the US officers did not have permission from the Icelandic government to operate in the country and Ögmundur Jónasson, then Iceland’s minister of interior, ordered them to leave. Meanwhile, the FBI were allegedly complicit in DDoS (distributed denial-of-service) attacks on the websites of several Iceland government institutions. The FBI had then approached Icelandic authorities, promising to assist them in preventing any future such attacks. In reality, the approach was a ruse to fool Iceland into cooperation in an attempt to entrap Assange.

Jónasson said that the Americans:

‘were trying to use things here [in Iceland] and use people in our country to spin a web, a cobweb that would catch Julian Assange.’

The US officials left Iceland, flying to Denmark, but taking with them their new informant and ‘star witness’, Thordarson.

Stundin reported:

The meeting in Denmark was the first of a few where the FBI enthusiastically embraced the idea of co-operation with Thordarson. He says they wanted to know everything about WikiLeaks, including physical security of staff. They took material he had gathered, including data he had stolen from WikiLeaks employees and even planned to send him to England with a wire. Thordarson claimed in interviews he had refused that particular request. It was probably because he was not welcomed anymore as he knew WikiLeaks people had found out, or were about to firmly establish, that he had embezzled funds from the organization.’

However:

‘After months of collaboration the FBI seem to have lost interest. At about the same time charges were piling up against Thordarson with the Icelandic authorities for massive fraud, forgeries and theft on the one hand and for sexual violations against underage boys he had tricked or forced into sexual acts on the other.

‘After long investigations Thordarson was sentenced in 2013 and 2014 and received relatively lenient sentences as the judge took into account that he changed his plea at court and pleaded guilty to all counts.’

The article continued:

‘Incarceration did not seem to have an intended effect of stopping Thordarson from continuing his life of crime. It actually took off and expanded in extent and scope in 2019 when the Trump-era DoJ [Department of Justice] decided to revisit him, giving him a formal status as witness in the prosecution against Julian Assange and granting him immunity in return from any prosecution.’

A ‘Sociopath’ Who ‘Lied To Get Immunity’

Under President Obama, the US Department of Justice had decided against indicting Assange, despite devoting huge resources to building a case against him. The stumbling block was ‘The New York Times Problem’: the difficulty in distinguishing between WikiLeaks publications and NYT publications of the same material. In other words, prosecuting WikiLeaks would pose grave First Amendment risks for even ‘respectable’ media such as the NYT.

But this changed after Trump took office. Stundin explained:

‘President Donald Trump’s appointed Attorney general William Barr did not share these concerns, and neither did his Trump-appointed deputy Kellen S. Dwyer. Barr, who faced severe criticism for politicizing the DoJ on behalf of the president, got the ball rolling on the Assange case once again. Their argument was that if they could prove he was a criminal rather than a journalist the charges would stick, and that was where Thordarson’s testimony would be key.

‘In May 2019 Thordarson was offered an immunity deal, signed by Dwyer, that granted him immunity from prosecution based on any information on wrong doing they had on him. The deal, seen in writing by Stundin, also guarantees that the DoJ would not share any such information to other prosecutorial or law enforcement agencies. That would include Icelandic ones, meaning that the Americans will not share information on crimes he might have committed threatening Icelandic security interests – and the Americans apparently had plenty of those but had over the years failed to share them with their Icelandic counterparts.’

Thordarson’s offer of an immunity deal came the month following Assange’s forced removal from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, most likely with US connivance, and subsequent incarceration in the high-security Belmarsh prison.

It is not clear from the Stundin article why Thordarson has now decided to come clean. But the Stundin journalists noted that a psychiatric assessment that had been submitted to an Icelandic court before he was sentenced diagnosed him as a sociopath:

‘incapable of remorse but still criminally culpable for his actions. He was assessed to be able to understand the basic difference between right and wrong. He just did not seem to care.’

In a new blog piece discussing these revelations, Craig Murray, who had reported from the Old Bailey during the Assange extradition hearing, referred back to the final day of proceedings. Magistrate Baraitser had refused to accept an affidavit from Assange’s solicitor Gareth Peirce addressing the updated indictment on the grounds it was out of time:

‘The affidavit explained that the defence had been unable to respond to the new accusations in the United States government’s second superseding indictment, because these wholly new matters had been sprung on them just six weeks before the hearing resumed on 8 September 2020.

‘The defence had not only to gather evidence from Iceland, but had virtually no access to Assange to take his evidence and instructions, as he was effectively in solitary confinement in Belmarsh. The defence had requested an adjournment to give them time to address the new accusations, but this adjournment had been refused by Baraitser.

‘She now refused to accept Gareth Peirce’s affidavit setting out these facts.’

Even before the Stundin article was published five days ago, Thordarson’s testimony should have already been recognised as suspect, to say the least. As WikiLeaks noted last year:

‘The “Star Witness” of the new superseding indictment is a diagnosed sociopath/ convicted conman/ child abuser/ FBI informant who was found guilty in Iceland of impersonating #Assange

The recent Stundin revelations that the updated US indictment against Assange rests on now-admitted lies means that the FBI case is demonstrably a travesty.

US policy analyst Gareth Porter noted:

‘It’s now clearer than ever before that the U.S. indictment of #Assange is based on fraud. A key accuser admits he lied to the help set up Assange. How much evidence does the Justice Department need stop this criminal abuse of power?’

As the famous US whistleblower Edward Snowden tweeted:

‘This is the end of the case against Julian Assange.’

Or, as journalist Glenn Greenwald followed up, more realistically:

‘It should be.’

Jennifer Robinson, a human rights attorney who has been advising Assange and WikiLeaks since 2010, told Democracy Now:

‘The factual basis for this case has completely fallen apart.’

Robinson pointed out:

‘the evidence from Thordarson that was given to the United States and formed the basis of the second, superseding indictment, including allegations of hacking, has now been, on his own admission, demonstrated to have been fabricated [our emphasis]. Not only did he misrepresent his access to Julian Assange and to WikiLeaks and his association with Julian Assange, he has now admitted that he made up and falsely misrepresented to the United States that there was any association with WikiLeaks and any association with hacking.

‘So, this is just the latest revelation to demonstrate why the U.S. case should be dropped.’

Robinson expanded:

‘it’s significant that the initial indictment for Julian Assange related only to the publications back in 2010, 2011, the Chelsea Manning publications. It was a second, superseding indictment, introduced by the Trump administration, which was based upon Thordarson’s evidence [our emphasis]. Now, any lawyer and even any layperson would be looking at evidence from a convicted felon, who had been convicted of forgery, fraud and sexual abuse allegations associated with minors. That is a problematic source. Now we have him admitting that he lied to the FBI about that evidence. This raises serious concerns about the integrity of this investigation and the integrity of this criminal prosecution, and serious questions ought to be being asked within the Department of Justice about this prosecution and the fact that it is continuing at all.’

The headline of the article accompanying Robinson’s interview put it succinctly:

‘U.S. Case Against Julian Assange Falls Apart, as Key Witness Says He Lied to Get Immunity’

Tumbleweed In The ‘MSM’

But all of this is seemingly of no interest to the ‘mainstream’ media. We have not found a single report by any ‘serious’ UK broadcaster or newspaper. Journalist Matt Kennard, head of investigations at Declassified UK, observed fully two days after the story broke:

‘I don’t think one US or UK newspaper has reported this. The free press is incredible.’

Several days on, the ‘mainstream’ media silence is truly remarkable. As we remarked via Twitter:

‘The discipline, or blindness, to ignore awkward facts is a reliable feature of corporate “journalism”’

Of course, it is possible that we have missed something, somewhere in the ‘MSM’; perhaps a brief item at 3am on the BBC World Service. But in a sane world, Stundin’s revelations about a key Assange witness – that Thordarson lied in exchange for immunity from prosecution – would have been headline news everywhere, with extensive media coverage on BBC News at Six and Ten, ITV News, Channel 4 News, front-page stories in the Times, Telegraph, the Guardian and more. The silence is quite extraordinary; and disturbing. Caitlin Johnstone described it as a ‘weird, creepy media blackout’:

‘not one major western media outlet outside of Iceland has reported on this massive and entirely legitimate news story. A search brings up coverage by Icelandic media, by Russian media, and by smaller western outlets like Democracy NowWorld Socialist WebsiteConsortium NewsZero Hedge and some others, but as of this writing this story has been completely ignored by all major outlets who are ostensibly responsible for informing the public in the western world.’

Johnstone continued:

‘It’s not that those outlets have been ignoring Assange altogether these last few days either. Reuters recently published an interview with Assange’s fiance Stella Moris. Evening Standard has a recent article out on Assange’s plans to marry Moris in Belmarsh, as does Deutsche Welle. It’s just this one story in particular that they’ve been blacking out completely.’

She offered an explanation for the silence across the media:

‘they’re all generally following the lead of just a handful of top-tier publications like The New York TimesThe Washington PostThe Wall Street Journal and The Guardian. If just those few outlets decide to ignore a major news story that’s inconvenient for the powerful (either by persuasion, infiltration or by their own initiative), then no one else will either. As far as the media-consuming public is concerned, it’s like the major news story never happened at all.’

More fundamentally:

‘Western mass media outlets are propaganda. They are owned and controlled by wealthy people in coordination with the secretive government agencies tasked with preserving the world order upon which the media-owning plutocrats have built their kingdoms, and their purpose is to manipulate the way the mainstream public thinks, acts and votes into alignment with the agendas of the ruling class.

‘You see this propaganda in the way things are reported, but you also see it in the way things are not reported. Entire news stories can be completely redacted from mainstream attention if they are sufficiently inconvenient for the mechanisms of empire, or only allowed in via platforms like Tucker Carlson Tonight and thereby tainted and spun as ridiculous right-wing conspiracy theories.’

Our polite challenges to Paul Royall, editor of BBC News at Six and Ten, and Katharine Viner, editor of the Guardian, went unanswered, despite multiple retweets and follow-up queries by other Twitter users. Of course, this is the standard non-response of even the ‘best’ state-corporate media to uncomfortable questions.

As we have often observed, the establishment media relentlessly warn of the insidious nature of ‘fake news’: a claim that does have a seed of validity. But it is the state-corporate media themselves who are the primary purveyors of fake news. As Tim Coles, author of ‘Real Fake News’, commented:

‘Whenever people in power tell you that fake news is undermining democracy, they really mean that alternative sources of information are challenging their grip on power.’

In fact, the most dangerous component of ‘MSM’ fake news is arguably propaganda by omission. In ostensible ‘democracies’, the public cannot make informed decisions, and take appropriate action, when the crimes of ruling elites are kept hidden by a complicit media.

The post A Remarkable Silence: Media Blackout After Key Witness Against Assange Admits Lying first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Words Alone will not End Anti-Muslim Terror in Canada 

The killing of a Muslim family on June 6 in Ontario, Canada, again presented an opportunity for Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, to brand himself as a voice of reason and communal harmony. However, Trudeau’s amiable and reassuring language is designed to veil a sinister reality which has, for many years, hidden the true face of Canadian politics.

“This was a terrorist attack, motivated by hatred, in the heart of one of our communities,” Trudeau told Parliament, two days after a Canadian terrorist, Nathaniel Veltman, deliberately struck a Canadian Muslim family at an intersection in London, Ontario. Only a young boy survived the attack which killed his parents, sister and grandmother. The 9-year-old boy remains in critical condition.

The Prime Minister, whose brand of friendly and progressive liberal facade is often juxtaposed with the rise of conservative, populist politics in much of the Western hemisphere, went on speaking as if an activist advocating human rights and equality for all. “If anyone thinks racism and hatred don’t exist in this country, I want to say this: How do we explain such violence to a child in a hospital? How can we look families in the eye and say ‘Islamophobia isn’t real’?”, Trudeau said.

Ironically, it took years of pressure and concerted lobbying from many civil society organizations, progressive and Muslim groups to finally convince Trudeau to designate January 29 as the ‘National Day of Remembrance and Action on Islamophobia’. This specific date was chosen to commemorate the terrorist attack by a Canadian citizen on a Quebec City mosque in 2017. Six Canadian Muslims were killed and 19 others were injured in the hate crime in the Grand Mosque.

That attack, too, was an opportunity for Trudeau to rail against terrorism and hate.  Ultimately, it was all empty rhetoric, as the Canadian government has done little to rectify the dangerous phenomenon. This lack of meaningful action makes the government complicit in the rising Islamophobia and hate crimes in Canada.

By way of explaining his rejection of recognizing January 29 as the day of ‘action on Islamophobia’, Trudeau told Radio-Canada that, while it is “important to underline intolerance directed at people of faith,” he wished to “avoid that type of backlash that we’ve seen when we take these kinds of actions,” since the perpetrators of hate crimes are “still a small intolerant minority”. Jingoism aside, Trudeau was essentially arguing that recognition and action against Islamophobia were unnecessary as they may give too much attention to a small and hateful ‘minority’.

Trudeau is utterly wrong. A report submitted by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief in November last year showed that a majority of Canadians – 52% – believe that Muslims cannot be trusted, while 42% feel that discrimination against Muslims – read: racism – is mainly the fault of Muslims themselves.

The UN findings are part of a long trajectory of violence and racism targeting Canadian Muslims. A Gallup Poll published in 2011 has already debunked the ‘small minority’ claim. Canadian Muslims – 48% – along with American Muslims – 52 % – feel disrespected within their societies. This ‘disrespect’ manifests itself in numerous ways, much of it unreported, occasionally making news when it translates into outright violence. Indeed, there is plenty of that too.

Official Canadian police reports demonstrate that hate crimes against Canada’s Muslims are on the rise, with 166 such incidents reported in 2018, 181 in 2019 and so on, with violent crimes becoming more intense and bloodier with time.

Sadly, anti-Muslim terrorism in Canada is likely to increase in the future, not only because hate crime statistics show an upward trajectory, but because anti-Muslim sentiments often take center stage in government and media as well.

Negative depictions of Islam and Muslims in Canadian media must not be grouped under the designation of ‘mainstream Western media bias’, as media fear-mongering is penetrating the very psyche of large sections of Canadian society. Many Canadian politicians, even in Trudeau’s own party, often exploit this alarming phenomenon to feed their political ambitions.

Various Canadian provinces have either passed or drafted laws that specifically target Canada’s Muslim minorities, for example, Quebec’s Bill 62, which restricts the wearing of the niqab in public buildings. Outrageously, the Bill, which was passed by Quebec’s Liberal government in October 2017, followed the bloody attack on the Grand Mosque in Quebec City. Instead of fighting Islamophobia, Quebec’s officials provided it with a legal and moral justification.

While feeding Islamophobia at home, Trudeau persistently rages against human rights violators in China, the Middle East and around the world. As Chinese columnist Mu Lu rightly argued in Global Times, Canada uses “human rights as a stick to beat others.” While the same claim can also be made regarding the misuse of human rights as a foreign policy tool by other Western leaders, Trudeau is often successful in presenting his human rights concerns as genuine.

If Trudeau is, indeed, genuine in his desire to root out anti-Muslim terrorism from Canada, he should start by cleansing his own party of hate speech, end all attempts at criminalizing Islam and Muslims and ban hate speech against Muslims in the media.

Terrorism will not end as a result of pomposity but through real action. Trudeau seems to have much of the former and none of the latter.

The post Words Alone will not End Anti-Muslim Terror in Canada  first appeared on Dissident Voice.

What happened to Glenn Greenwald? Trump happened and put the left’s priorities to the test

There’s been a new public fracturing of the intellectual left, typified by an essay last week from Nathan J Robinson, editor of the small, independent, socialist magazine Current Affairs, accusing Glenn Greenwald and Matt Taibbi of bolstering the right’s arguments. He is the more reasonable face of what seems to be a new industry arguing that Greenwald is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, setting the right’s agenda for it.

Under the title “How to end up serving the right”, Robinson claims that Greenwald and Taibbi, once his intellectual heroes, are – inadvertently or otherwise – shoring up the right’s positions and weakening the left. He accuses them of reckless indifference to the consequences of criticising a “liberal” establishment and making common cause with the right’s similar agenda. Both writers, argues Robinson, have ignored the fact that the right wields the greatest power in our societies.

This appears to be a continuation of a fight Robinson picked last year with Krystal Ball, the leftwing, former co-host of a popular online politics show called The Rising. Robinson attacked her for sharing her platform with the conservative pundit Saagar Enjeti. Ball and Enjeti have since struck out on their own, recently launching a show called Breaking Points.

Notably, Greenwald invited Robinson on to his own YouTube channel to discuss these criticisms of Ball when Robinson first made them. In my opinion, Robinson emerged from that exchange looking more than a little bruised.

As with his clash with Ball, there are problems with Robinson’s fuzzy political definitions.

Somewhat ludicrously in his earlier tussle, he lumped together Enjeti, a thoughtful right wing populist, with figures like Donald Trump and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, both of them narcissists and authoritarians (of varying degrees of competence) that have donned the garb of populism, as authoritarians tend to do.

Similarly, Robinson’s current disagreements with Greenwald and Taibbi stem in part from a vague formulation – one he seems partially to concede – of what constitutes the “left”. Greenwald has always struck me more as a progressive libertarian than a clearcut socialist like Robinson. Differences of political emphasis and priorities are inevitable. They are also healthy.

And much of Robinson’s essay is dedicated to cherrypicking a handful of tweets from Greenwald and Taibbi to make his case. Greenwald, in particular, is a prolific tweeter. And given the combative and polarising arena of Twitter, it would be quite astonishing had he not occasionally advanced his arguments without the nuance demanded by Robinson.

Overall, Robinson’s case against both Greenwald and Taibbi is far less persuasive than he appears to imagine.

Stifling coverage

But the reason I think it worth examining his essay is because it demonstrates a more fundamental split on what – for the sake of convenience – I shall treat as a broader intellectual left that includes Robinson, Greenwald and Taibbi.

Robinson tries to prop up his argument that Greenwald, in particular, is betraying the left and legitimising the right with an argument from authority, citing some of the left’s biggest icons.

Two, Naomi Klein and Jeremy Scahill, are former journalist colleagues of Greenwald’s at the Intercept, the billionaire-financed online news publication that he co-founded and eventually split from after it broke an editorial promise not to censor his articles.

Greenwald fell out with the editors in spectacularly public fashion late last year after they stifled his attempts to write about the way Silicon Valley and liberal corporate media outlets – not unlike the Intercept – were colluding to stifle negative coverage of Joe Biden in the run-up to the presidential election, in a desperate bid to ensure he beat Trump.

Greenwald’s public statements about his reasons for leaving the Intercept exposed what were effectively institutional failings there – and implicated those like Scahill and Klein who had actively or passively colluded in the editorial censorship of its co-founder. Klein and Scahill are hardly dispassionate commentators on Greenwald when they accuse him of “losing the plot” and “promoting smears”. They have skin in the game.

But Robinson may think his trump (sic) card is an even bigger left icon, Noam Chomsky, who is quoted saying of Greenwald: “He’s a friend, has done wonderful things, I don’t understand what is happening now… I hope it will pass.”

The problem with this way of presenting Greenwald is that the tables can be easily turned. Over the past few years, my feeds – and I am sure others’ – have been filled with followers asking versions of “What happened to Chomsky?” or “What happened to Amy Goodman and Democracy Now?”

The answer to these very reductive questions – what happened to Greenwald and what happened to Chomsky – is the same. Trump happened. And their different responses are illustrative of the way the left polarised during the Trump presidency and how it continues to divide in the post-Trump era.

Authoritarian thinking

Robinson treats the Trump factor – what we might term Post-Traumatic Trump Disorder – as though it is irrelevant to his analysis of Greenwald and Taibbi. And yet it lies at the heart of the current tensions on the left. In its simplest terms, the split boils down to the question of how dangerous Trump really was and is, and what that means for the left in terms of its political responses.

Unlike Robinson, I don’t think it is helpful to personalise this. Instead, we should try to understand what has happened to left politics more generally in the Trump and post-Trump era.

Parts of the left joined liberals in becoming fixated on Trump as a uniquely evil and dangerous presence in US politics. Robinson notes that Trump posed an especial and immediate threat to our species’ survival through his denial of climate change, and on these grounds alone every effort had to be made to remove him.

Others on the left recoil from this approach. They warn that, by fixating on Trump, elements of the left have drifted into worryingly authoritarian ways of thinking – sometimes openly, more often implicitly – as a bulwark against the return of Trump or anyone like him.

The apotheosis of such tendencies was the obsession, shared alike by liberals and some on the left, with Russiagate. This supposed scandal highlighted in stark fashion the extreme dangers of focusing on a single figure, in Trump, rather than addressing the wider, corrupt political structures that produced him.

It was not just the massive waste of time and energy that went into trying to prove the unprovable claims of Trump’s collusion with the Kremlin – resources that would have been far better invested in addressing Trump’s real crimes, which were being committed out in the open.

It was that the politically tribal Trump-Russia narrative engulfed and subverted a meaningful politics of resistance. It snared those like Wikileaks founder Julian Assange who had been trying to break open the black box of western politics. It fortified the US security services after they had been exposed by Edward Snowden’s revelations as secretly and illegally conducting mass spying on the public’s communications. It breathed a dangerous credibility into the corrupt Democratic party machine after its embarrassment over engineering Hillary Clinton’s presidential candidacy. And it revived the fortunes of an increasingly discredited liberal media that quickly won large ratings by promoting fabulists like Rachel Maddow.

Those on the left who tried to challenge Russiagate in order to focus on real political issues were stigmatised as Putin’s puppets, their arguments were labelled “fake news”, and they were gradually algorithmed into social media purdah.

Under the Russiagate banner, parts of the left were soon rallying, however reluctantly, behind corporate champions of the planet-destroying status quo.

But it was even worse than that. The fixation on the obviously hollow Russiagate narrative by the Democratic Party, the corporate media, Silicon Valley, and the US intelligence agencies served to prove to wide swaths of conservative America that Trump was right when he berated a “liberal” establishment for being invested only in its own self-preservation and not caring about ordinary Americans.

Russiagate did not just divide the left, it dramatically strengthened the right.

Free speech dangers

Robinson knows all this, at least intellectually, but perhaps because Trump looms so large in his thinking he does not weigh the significance in the same terms as Greenwald and Taibbi.

The problem with characterising Trump as a supremely evil figure is that all sorts of authoritarian political conclusions flow from that characterisation – precisely the political conclusions we have seen parts of the left adopting. Robinson may not expressly share these conclusions but, unlike Greenwald and Taibbi, he has largely ignored or downplayed the threat they present.

If Trump poses a unique danger to democracy, then to avoid any recurrence:

  • We are obligated to rally uncritically, or at least very much less critically, behind whoever was selected to be his opponent. Following Trump’s defeat, we are dutybound to restrain our criticisms of the winner, Joe Biden, however poor his performance, in case it opens the door to Trump, or someone like Trump, standing for the presidency in four years’ time.
  • We must curb free speech and limit the free-for-all of social media in case it contributed to the original surge of support for Trump, or created the more febrile political environment in which Trump flourished.
  • We must eradicate all signs of populism, whether on the right or the left, because we cannot be sure that in a battle of populisms the left will defeat the right, or that left wing populism cannot be easily flipped into right wing populism.
  • And most importantly, we must learn to distrust “the masses” – those who elected Trump – because they have demonstrated that they are too easily swayed by emotion, prejudice and charisma. Instead, we must think in more traditional liberal terms, of rule by technocrats and “experts” who can be trusted to run our societies largely in secret but provide a stability that should keep any Trumps out of power.

Greenwald and Taibbi have been focusing precisely on this kind of political fallout from the Trump presidency. And it looks suspiciously like this, as much as anything else, is what is antagonising Robinson and others.

Greenwald’s own experiences at the Intercept underline his concerns. It was not just that Greenwald was forced out over his efforts late last year to talk about the documents found on Hunter Biden’s laptop and the questions they raised about his father, the man who was about to become US president. It was that the Intercept stopped Greenwald from talking about how the entire liberal corporate media and all of Silicon Valley were actively conspiring to crush any attempt to talk about those documents and their significance – and not on the basis of whether they were genuine or not.

Greenwald walked away from what amounted to a very well-paid sinecure at the Intercept to highlight this all-out assault on democratic discourse and the election process – an assault whose purpose was not the search for truth but to prevent any danger of Trump being re-elected. By contrast, in a tweet thread that has not aged well, Robinson along with many others quibbled about the specifics of Greenwald’s case and whether it amounted to censorship, very much ignoring the wood for the trees.

Greenwald and Taibbi talk so much about the role of the traditional media and Silicon Valley because they understand that the media’s professed liberalism – claims to be protecting the rights of women, ethnic minorities and the trans community – is a very effective way of prettifying corporate authoritarianism, an authoritarianism the left claims to be fighting but has readily endorsed once it has been given a liberal makeover.

It is not that the “liberal” establishment – the corporate media, Silicon Valley, the intelligence services – is actually liberal. It is that liberals have come increasingly to identify with that establishment as sharing their values.

For this reason, Robinson obscures the real nature of the divide on the left when he discusses the power of the Supreme Court. He criticises Greenwald and Taibbi for ignoring the fact that the right exercises absolute power through its packing of the court with rightwing judges. He accuses them of instead unfairly emphasising the power exercised by this “liberal” establishment.

But despite Robinson’s claims, the Supreme Court very obviously doesn’t wield “all the power”, even with its veto over legislation and actions of the administration. Because an even greater power is invested in those institutions that can control the public’s ability to access and interpret information; to find out what is being done in the shadows; and to make choices based on that information, including about who should represent them.

Information control and narrative management are the deepest forms of power because they shape our ability to think critically, to resist propaganda, to engage in dialogue and to forge alliances that might turn the tide against a profoundly corrupt establishment that includes both the Supreme Court and Silicon Valley. Robinson ignores this point in his essay, even though it is fundamental to assessing “What happened to Greenwald and Taibbi?”. A commitment to keeping channels of information open and ensuring dialogue continues, even in the post-Trump era, is what happened to them.

Hard drives smashed

The crux of Robinson’s argument is that Greenwald and Taibbi have made a pact with the devil, gradually chaining their more progressive credentials to a Trumpian rightwing populism to defeat the “liberal” establishment. That, Robinson suggests, will only strengthen and embolden the right, and ensure the return of a Trump.

The evidence Robinson and others adduce for Greenwald’s betrayal, in particular, are his now regular appearances on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show, where Greenwald and Carlson often find common ground against the authoritarian excesses of that same “liberal” establishment.

That should not surprise us. Carlson and the right have an interest in the break-up of Silicon Valley’s tech monopolies that favour a Democratic Party authoritarianism over their own Republican Party authoritarianism. Greenwald has an interest in the break-up of Silicon Valley’s tech monopolies too but for a very different reason: because he is against monopolies designed to keep the public propagandised and manipulated.

Opposing them both is an authoritarian “liberal” establishment – the Democratic Party, traditional corporate media, Silicon Valley, the intelligence services – that have every interest in perpetuating their control over the tech monopolies.

Robinson contrasts Greenwald’s behaviour to his own clean hands as the editor of the small socialist magazine, Current Affairs.

But we should note that Robinson has compromised himself far more than he cares to admit. For several years he used the liberal corporate outlet of the Guardian as a platform from which to present a watered-down version of his own socialist politics. To do so, he had to ignore the paper’s appalling record of warmongering abroad and of subverting socialists like Jeremy Corbyn at home.

Robinson finally came unstuck when a Guardian editor effectively fired him for writing a satirical tweet about the huge sums of aid given by the US to Israel each year to kill and maim Palestinians under occupation and destroy their infrastructure.

One can debate whether it is wise for the left to use essentially hostile corporate platforms – liberal or conservative – to advance its arguments. But that is not the debate Robinson is trying to provoke. And for obvious reasons: because in piggybacking on the Guardian, Robinson did what Greenwald has done in piggybacking on Tucker Carlson. Both have used the reach of a larger corporate outlet to build their audience and expand the number of people exposed to their more progressive ideas.

There is an apparent difference, though. In Robinson’s case, he has admitted with impressive frankness that he would have been willing to self-censor on Israel had he been told by the Guardian beforehand that speaking out was likely to cost him his job. That sets his own position apart from Greenwald, who decided to walk from the Intercept rather than allow his work to be censored.

Nonetheless, it is far from clear, as Robinson assumes, that liberal corporate outlets are a safer bet for the left to ally with than rightwing corporate outlets.

Greenwald, remember, was eased out of the “liberal” Guardian many years before Robinson’s sacking after he brought the paper the glory associated with the Snowden revelations while also incurring the intelligence services’ wrath. Those revelations exposed the dark underbelly of the US national security state under the “liberal” presidency of Barack Obama, not Trump. And years later, Greenwald was again pushed out, this time from the supposedly even more “liberal” Intercept as part of its efforts to protect Biden, Obama’s Democratic party successor.

Greenwald wasn’t dispatched from these publications for being too righ-twing. Tensions escalated at the Guardian over the security service backlash to Greenwald’s unwavering commitment to free speech and transparency – just as the Guardian earlier fell out with Assange faced with the security services’ retaliation for Wikileaks’ exposure of western war crimes.

The Guardian’s own commitment to transparency was surrendered with its agreement to carry out the UK security services’ demand that it smash hard drives packed with Snowden’s secrets. The destruction of those files may have been largely symbolic (there were copies in the possession of the New York Times) but the message it sent to the left and to the UK intelligence agencies was clear enough: from now on, the Guardian was resolutely going to be a team player.

What these experiences with the Guardian and the Intercept doubtless demonstrated to Greenwald was that his most fundamental political principles were essentially incompatible with those of the “liberal” media – and all the more so in the Trump era. The priority for liberal publications was not truth-telling or hosting all sides of the debate but frantically shoring up the authority of a “moderate” technocratic elite, one that would ensure a stable neoliberal environment in which it could continue its wealth extraction and accumulation.

Robinson implies that Greenwald has been embittered by these experiences, and is petulantly hitting back against the “liberal” establishment without regard to the consequences. But a fairer reading would be that Greenwald is fighting against kneejerk, authoritarian instincts wherever they are found in our societies – on the right, the centre and the left.

The irony is that he appears to be getting a better hearing on Tucker Carlson than he does at the Guardian or the Intercept. Contrary to Robinson’s claim, that says more about the Guardian and the so-called liberal media than it does about Greenwald.

Captured by wokeness

Robinson also misrepresents what Greenwald and Taibbi are trying to do when they appear on rightwing media.

First, he gives every impression of arguing that, by appearing on the Tucker Carlson show, Greenwald naively hopes to persuade Carlson to switch allegiance from a right wing to left wing populism. But Greenwald doesn’t go on the Tucker Carlson show to turn its host into a leftist. He appears on the show to reach and influence Carlson’s millions of viewers, who do not have the same investment in neoliberalism’s continuing success as the multi-millionaire Carlson does.

Is Greenwald’s calculation any more unreasonable than Robinson’s belief while writing for the Guardian that he might succeed in turning the Guardian’s liberal readers into socialists? Is Robinson right to assume that liberals are any less committed to their selfish political worldview than the right? Or that – when their side is losing – liberal readers of the Guardian are any less susceptible to authoritarianism than rightwing viewers of Fox News?

Robinson also wrongly accuses Greenwald and Taibbi of suggesting that the CIA and major corporations have, in Robinson’s words, “become captured by culturally left ‘woke’ ideology”. But neither writer appears to believe that Black Lives Matter or #MeToo is dictating policy to the establishment. The pair are arguing instead that the CIA and the corporations are exploiting and manipulating “woke” ideology to advance their own authoritarian agendas.

Their point is not that the establishment is liberal but rather that it can more credibly market itself as liberal or progressive when a Trump is in power or when it is feared that a Trump might return to power. And that perception weakens truly progressive politics. By donning the garb of liberalism, elites are able to twist the values and objectives of social movements in ways designed to damage them and foster greater social divisions.

A feminism that celebrates women taking all the top jobs at the big arms manufacturers – the corporations whose business is the murder of men, women and children – is not really feminism. It is a perversion of feminism. Similarly, establishment claims to “wokeness” provide cover as western elites internally divide their own societies and dominate or destroy foreign ones.

“Woke authoritarianism”, as Robinson mockingly terms it, is not an attribute of wokeness. It is a description of one specific incarnation of authoritarianism that is currently favoured by an establishment that, in the post-Trump era, has managed more successfully to cast itself as liberal.

Mask turn-off

The central issue here – the one Robinson raises but avoids discussing – is what political conditions are most likely to foster authoritarianism in the US and other western states, and what can be done to reverse those conditions.

For Robinson, the answer is reassuringly straightforward. Trump and his rightwing populism pose the biggest threat, and the Democratic party – however dismal its leaders – is the only available vehicle for countering that menace. Therefore, left journalists have a duty to steer clear of arguments or associations that might confer legitimacy on the right.

For Greenwald and Taibbi, the picture looks far more complicated, treacherous and potentially bleak.

Trump fundamentally divided the US. For a significant section of the public, he answered their deep-seated and intensifying disenchantment with a political system that appears to be rigged against their interests after its wholesale takeover by corporate elites decades ago. He offered hope, however false.

For others, Trump threatened to topple the liberal facade the corporate elites had erected to sanctify their rule. He dispensed with the liberal pieties that had so effectively served to conceal US imperialism abroad and to maintain the fiction of democracy at home. His election tore the mask off everything that was already deeply ugly about the US political system.

Did that glimpse into the abyss fuel the sense of urgency among liberals and parts of the left to be rid of Trump at all costs – and the current desperation to prevent him or someone like him from returning to the Oval Office, even if it means further trashing free speech and transparency?

In essence, the dilemma the left now faces is this:

To work with the Democrats, with liberals, who are desperate to put the mask back on the system, to shore up its deceptions, so that political stability can be restored – a stability that is waging war around the globe, that is escalating the threat of super-power tensions and nuclear annihilation, and that is destroying the planet.

Or to keep the mask off, and work with those elements of the populist left and right that share a commitment to free speech and transparency, in the hope that through open debate we can expose the current rule by an unaccountable, authoritarian technocratic class and its corporate patrons masquerading as “liberals”.

The truth is we may be caught between a rock and hard place. Even as the warning signs mount, liberals may stick with the comfort blanket of rule by self-professed experts to the bitter end, to the point of economic and ecological collapse. And conservatives may, at the end of the day, prove that their commitment to free speech and disdain for corporate elites is far weaker than their susceptibility to narcissist strongmen.

Robinson no more has a crystal ball to see the future than Greenwald. Both are making decisions in the dark. For that reason, Robinson and his allies on the left would be better advised to stop claiming they hold the moral high ground.

The post What happened to Glenn Greenwald? Trump happened and put the left’s priorities to the test first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Ruling Class Fears of The Day of Reckoning: Historical Causes for the Biases Against Crowds

Image from Imgur @i.imgur.com

Orientation

As I was looking at images to place at the beginning of this article, I was struck by how many images and quotes there were of Le Bon. It is pretty amazing for someone whose first work was published in 1895 and whose last works are still around 100 years old. It is especially strange given how unscientific his methods were and how recent empirical studies of crowds like David Miller’s Introduction to Collective Behavior and Collective Action contradicts virtually everything Le Bon claimed. Why is Le Bon’s work still circulating despite lack of scientific rigor? Why have the last fifty years of research on crowds that have a solid scientific basis been ignored?

Purpose of this article

The purpose of this article is to:

  • Expose the propagandist roots and branches of our biases against crowds while showing some of the scientific evidence that supports the actual behavior of crowds.
  • To outline what historical events occurred that supported the prejudice against crowds.
  • Propose that it is ruling-class fears of crowds that fuels the perpetuation of unscientific theories about crowds.
  • Propose that ruling class fears that working-class people mobilized into crowds will seize their resources, destroy their property and enslave them.

Crowds vs Masses

Crowds are large collections of people who meet at the same place at the same time and are large enough that it is difficult to have a central conversation. A loudspeaker, microphone or some external device is necessary to have a single central discussion.  There are different kinds of crowds. There are casual crowds like those that meet by chance at the scene of an accident or a fire. They may congregate to watch a building go up or be torn down. A second kind of crowd are long lines that form to buy tickets to ball games or musical concerts.

An audience is a more formal crowd with a more deliberate focus. Examples are attending a musical concert or a sporting event. Lasty, there are unconventional crowds which can lead to riots, lynchings, protests and demonstrations. Mass behavior involves large numbers of people who are spatially dispersed but participate in common activities like fads or fashions.  Mass behavior involves the use of radio (Orson Wells, War of the Worlds) television, movies which often lead to rumors or urban legends.

Questionnaire on Crowds

In order to understand the purposes of this article, I ask that you spend about 25 to 30 minutes answering the following true-false questions. For the answer to be true, it simply means most of the time, not all the time.  For the answer to be false, it just means it rarely happens, not never happens. Follow your answer with a one sentence justification. Feel free to draw from your experience as well as what you’ve read. It is important to answer quickly and spontaneously and not dwell on the answers. One purpose of the questionnaire is to see if you think there are any significant differences between how people in crowds behave (collective behavior) as opposed to how small groups or individuals behave.

Here are the True – False questions:

  • Most crowds consist of strangers, rather than family, friends or acquaintances.
  • The percentage of violent behavior is higher in crowds than in small groups such as a musical band or a baseball team.
  • The behavior of crowds is more likely to be unanimous than the behavior of small groups.
  • Crowds of people are more likely to engage in unusual or extraordinary behaviors than either groups or individuals.
  • The behavior of individuals and small groups is more likely to be rational than the behavior of a crowd, which is more likely to be irrational.
  • There are certain kinds of personalities that are drawn to crowds that you could predict would join a crowd if you knew enough about their personalities.
  • There is a disproportionately higher number of working-class people in crowds compared to other social classes.
  • Compared to people without legal convictions, there is a higher percentage of criminals in crowds.
  • Individuals and small groups that are more likely to deliberate and plan their actions are less likely to be spontaneous.
  • You could predict that most individuals are more likely to lose their personal identity in a crowd rather than alone or in small groups.
  • Emotions are more likely to spread by contagions in a crowd rather than in a small group.
  • Groups are easier to disperse than crowds because people in crowds want to linger longer.
  • There has been more research done on crowds than on groups because the behavior in crowds has greater social impact.
  • People conform less to norms in crowds than they do in groups or as individuals.
  • Most violence in crowds is caused by the participants in the crowd rather than the police.
  • There is a higher degree of unpredictability of behavior in crowds than there is in small groups or within an individual.
  • The goals of a crowd are more extreme and unconventional than the goals of groups or individuals.
  • Riots are equally likely to happen regardless of the season of the year.
  • The most typical reaction to a natural disaster or emotional shock is panic – that is, uncontrolled individualistic flight as opposed to a rational, deliberate response.
  • There is a correlation between which people will engage in a protest and their political beliefs before the protests.
  • The most likely group to join a movement is the group who has absolute deprivation of resources as opposed to relative deprivation or no deprivation.

 The last three questions are about mass behavior, not crowd behavior:

  • Fads are less predictable than fashions.
  • Rumors begin mostly because people lose their ability to investigate before coming to a conclusion.
  • Fashions exist in all societies, tribal as well as industrial.

Myths vs Facts About Crowds

In their book, Social Psychology, Delamater Myers and Collett, citing the research of Carl Couch, Clark McPhail, David Schweingruber and Ronald Wohlstein argued that there are seven basic myths about crowds. They are:

  • Irrationality
  • Emotionality
  • Suggestibility – mindless behavior
  • Destructiveness
  • Spontaneity
  • Anonymity
  • Unanimity of purpose

Through these seven myths we are likely to see why all the answers in relation to crowds to the True-False questions are false. The only true answers are the first two questions about masses. Rather than explaining why every single question on crowds is false, I will speak generally and then answer a few questions specifically.

Are crowds wholes that are less than the sum of their parts?

One of the great underlying beliefs about crowds is that terrible things happen in a crowd that somehow would not happen in a small group and especially at an individual level.  Individuals are seen as rational, non-violent and prudent, but once the individual is surrounded by enough other individuals, things turn sour. The belief is that while individuals and groups may have differences with each other, those differences melt away in a crowd as individual members turn into a group hive. In fact, differences between individuals and small groups are maintained in crowds. To cite one example, in riots, crowds rarely act in unison. Some throw rocks and break windows. Others climb telephone poles and smash statues. Others disapprove and try to talk the others out of armed conflict. Still others are altruistic and help protesters who have been injured by cops.

Who is orderly and disorderly in crowds?

Speaking of cops, research on mass psychology has shown that most of the time, contrary to Le Bon, riots are started by the police, not the crowd. Furthermore, crowds assemble and disassemble at ballgames and concerts without any police necessary. Once gathered crowds do not stick together like honey. They easily disperse and really do not need the police to do so. I have been to many a Yankee and Knicks game in which the crowd, anywhere from 15 thousand to 30 thousand people leave the game, peacefully get on the train and talk about the ballgame. There is no need for police because nothing controversial happens. For conservatives like Le Bon, they cannot imagine that crowds regulate themselves. For them crowds are filled with animalistic, hedonistic barbarians who need the police to whip them into order.

Are working-class people more likely to be disorderly?

There is some truth to the fact that a higher percentage of working-class people will be in crowds. This has more to do with the reality that middle-class or upper-middle class people can afford to take a taxi to a ball game or a concert instead of taking the train. But this has little to do with the behavior of working-class crowds. Furthermore, plenty of protests are filled with upper-middle class anarchists who torch police cars and topple monuments. There is no clear relationship between social class and crowd violence.

How unpredictable are crowds?

Another one of Le Bon’s mistaken generalizations about crowds is that people in crowds act without rhyme or reason. This demonstrates, as an upper middle-class doctor, Le Bon has no understanding of all the deliberation and planning that goes into protests on the part of the organizers. This planning goes on weeks before the event. It is true that unpredictable things happen in protects, but they are exceptions to the rule. Furthermore, individuals act in unpredictable ways, as in the case of mass shootings. Individuals get caught up in cults and act in unpredictable and astonishing ways. Cults are large groups, not crowds.

Are emotions in crowds contagious?

People are every bit as emotional in small groups as they are in crowds. There is nothing contagious about emotions in crowds. People maintain emotional judgement while in the crowd. In fact, the leaders of protests harangue people to sing and chant as a way to unify the group. Just being in a crowd does not automatically unify the individuals. It takes work to do so. When faced with members of a crowd who become hysterical, rather than mindlessly joining in, other members of the crowd will distance themselves and exercise the same prudence that individuals or people in small groups will.

Is the crowd to social life what Freud’s id is to individual life?

Le Bon, Freud, Bion and the rest of the crowd psychologists we will soon meet think that at the social level the crowd is like the id, lurking on the margins of society waiting for a chance to jump out and wreak havoc. This is exemplified in the movie Lord of the Flies, by William Golding. In natural disasters these crowd psychologists imagine that the socialized ego is swarmed by the individualistic dictum, “every person for himself”. They imagine the results are pillaging and raping. The trouble is that research on behavior in natural disasters shows that people are consistently heroic and cooperative.

One hundred years of neglect of scientific research on crowds

Lastly, unlike individual psychology and group psychology the scientific study of crowds and masses lags way behind. It wasn’t until the late 1960s that the first research was done. Why is this? On the one hand, studying crowds is far more difficult because crowds are so large and their life-times short. But something else was going on. Why were Le Bon’s, Tarde’s and Sighele’s, speculations allowed to stand unchallenged and repeated mindlessly in social psychology textbooks for almost 100 years? In large part it was because their theories served the interests of the ruling class.

Historical Reasons for the Biases Against Crowds

Growth of cities

One of major changes in European history and geography was the gradual reversal of numbers of people living in cities compared to those of people living on farms.  People move to cities in part because there is more work, but also, as the saying goes, “city air makes you free”.  Some people felt trapped by the nosiness and stifling customs of rural life. Non-conformists to religious traditions, artists and hustlers with big dreams were drawn to cities for a chance to start fresh. Living on a farm, the general expectations was that you would engage in the same occupation as your parents. Moving to the city broke that tradition and it raised expectations. Especially those living in coastal cities who were exposed not only to people coming from different cities within Yankeedom, but people from other countries were also looking for work. Different languages, different religions, and different political traditions converged.

There are rarely, if ever, crowds in rural areas. While farmers may get together on holidays, everyone knows everyone else and rarely are strangers invited.  Even when farmers would go to town to get supplies, the overwhelming number of people knew each other and greeted each other. There were no stadiums or concert halls in which large numbers of people could congregate to watch professional sports or music. Long before the Industrial Revolution, crowds in cities would gather to hear political speeches. So, what we have in pre-industrial cities are relatively rootless people with raised expectations, surrounded by strangers from different cultures for whom being in a crowd is becoming normal.

The Great French revolutions

As most of you know, the French Revolution of 1789 overthrew both the king and the aristocrats as the merchants rose to power on the backs of artisans and peasants. The revolution was also anti-clerical. Churches and chateaux were burned to the ground. The aristocrats never forgot this. As if your memory needed any jogging, there were more revolutions in Paris in 1830 and 1848. In all these revolutions, crowds are violent and know where the upper classes live. Doesn’t it start to make sense that the study of crowds would never be objective so long as the upper classes were threatened by them and therefore controlled the research on crowds? In this case they made sure no research was done.

Industrialization

At the end of the 18th century and throughout the 19th century, cities became industrialized.  People were forced off the middle of streets to make way for wheeled vehicles accompanied by horses and later, trolley cars. Grid systems of streets were built which sped up transportation and the circulation of goods. Industrial capitalists built factories in cities as opposed to artisan shops in the countryside (the putting out system). The emergence of factories had enormous revolutionary potential because it brought large numbers of people working under horrible conditions together. For 12-15 hours a day, at least six days a week, people have a common experience while all in the same place and the same time.

Formation of unions

It is no accident that unions first formed in factories. When common experience is concentrated at the same place and same time, people are likely to compare experiences and accumulate grievances. Some workers begin to recognize that they have collective power if they can organize themselves. They can strike for better working conditions and better wages. Unions made crowds more dangerous because crowds can, in an extremely chilling way, stop and start the work process itself. This is like cutting off the blood supply for vampiric capitalists.

Emergence of socialism

The first socialists were theoretical. William Godwin was the first theoretical anarchist, writing Enquiry Concerning Political Justice. In the early 19th century, there were utopian communities set up by Robert Owen, Charles Fourier and others but none of these communities were connected to unions or workers movements. It wasn’t until the writings of Marx and Engels that socialism was really connected to worker’s struggles. The socialism of Marx and Engels or the anarchism of Bakunin both said to workers, “it is not enough to have tiny little pieces of pie. You create all the wealth; you deserve the whole pie.”

In order to gain the whole pie, workers in crowds had to move in a mass, take over factories and run them for themselves, while confiscating the private property of the upper classes. For the upper classes, socialism and the prospects of crowds burning down their houses, and peasants taking over their land was their worst nightmare. The Paris Commune of 1871 was the first revolutionary situation that was inspired by socialism as a movement.

Stock Market instabilities

Crowd instabilities also came from the capitalist side, between 1873 to 1896 when the stock market was very unstable creating panics and depressions. This meant stock market traders were wheeling and dealing on the floor of the stock market at the same time that people who had money in banks were worried about their savings and, in some cases, making runs on the bank.

Crowd Psychologists

Origins of Crowd Theory

Crowd theorists were social Darwinists whose ideas of a liberal society were of individuals who took care of only themselves. Beginning about 1870, crowd psychologists claimed that Darwinian evolution demonstrated that progress was a slow process, and any sudden changes based on violence were throwbacks to premodern times. Crowds were looked upon as akin to Herbert Spencer’s undifferentiated matter.

According to H. Stuart Hughes, (Consciousness and Society), beginning in the 1890s intellectuals became obsessed with the prospect that unconscious, primitive, and emotional forces were driving things. Crowd psychologists were united in rejecting sociological theorists such as Durkheim and Marx because they ignored emotions and unconscious motivation. What was really driving crowds, they thought, was below the level of consciousness. For crowd psychologists, individuals were both more than and less than the sum of their parts. The four major crowd theorists were Hippolyte Taine, Scipio Sighele, Gabriel Tarde, and Gustave Le Bon.

Crowd Theorists

Taine

Taine’s Origins of Contemporary France (written between 1876 and 1894) was a conservative attack on the Enlightenment. Taine blamed the Enlightenment ideas, including Rousseau’s, for what he considered the bloodbath of the French Revolution. Taine believed that the line between normal cognition and hallucinations, dreams and delusions, was closer than we might suspect. He cited evidence from research on organic lesions of the brain, hypnotism, and split personalities. He determined that the dramatic transformation of humans into savages is caused by what he called “the laws of mental contagion.” With the exception of the hypnosis model, Taine’s book embodies all the rudiments of French crowd psychology. For Taine, all leaders were the crazed dregs of society.

According to Taine, the Enlightenment failed to factor in the amount of time it took for humans to develop from barbarity to civility. Enlighteners weren’t interested in how people really were, but only as they could be measured by an abstract, ideal humanity. Taine thought the French Revolution was a relapse into primitive barbarism. Like Hume, Taine thought that reason was the passive servant of the passions. Bodily needs, animal instinct, prejudices which Taine thought were hereditary, were really driving people.

Criminalization of crowds (Sighele) 

Theories of hypnosis were split in two directions. Followers of Charcot claimed that being suggestible was a sign of psychopathology and only certain types of people could be hypnotized. The Nancy school of Bergheim argued that anyone could be hypnotized. The criminal school of Sighele sided with Charcot, arguing that crowds were composed of criminal individuals who were naturally suggestible. He followed the work of Lombroso who was a medical scholar of deviants in the military. Lombroso measured the skulls and anatomical characteristics of 3,000 soldiers.

According to Serge Moscovici (The Age of the Crowd), mass psychology was treated simply as part of criminal anthropology. Crowds were seen as mobs, scum, and made up of men who were out of control and would destroy anything in their path. Sighele claimed that hypnotism can explain the process by which individual minds become susceptible to outside forces, leading to actions that are carried out automatically, unconsciously, and then spread to others by contagion. The conservative hand Sighele played was transparent in his labeling of social revolutionaries such as socialists, anarchists, or even striking workers as part of the criminal crowd. The hysteria of stock market traders was never seen as criminal.

Tarde

More than Taine or Sighele, Gabriel Tarde placed the crowd on a broader social spectrum. All social life, according to Tarde, is based on imitation, and the process of crowd formation and reproduction simply comes from the laws of imitation sped up. He described the crowd as the first stage of association—rudimentary, fleeting, and undifferentiated. From this foundation, more stable and ongoing groups form, including corporations, political parties, and religious bodies such as churches or monasteries. Unlike other crowd psychologists, Tarde thought that literacy, newspapers, and mass communication would replace the crowd with what he called “the public.”

Tarde also thought that the extremes of behavior demonstrated in crowds are unique to cities. Unlike his right-wing crowd theorists, Tarde thought the madness of crowds is a product of civilization. He argued that crowd madness was uncommon in rural areas and among pre-state societies. Both Tarde and Le Bon supported the Nancy school, which suggested that there were social-psychological processes that any individual could fall prey to, if exposed to them. They believed that the solitary individual was superior to the group in all ways.

Le Bon

Le Bon concocted a mix of anthropological, social Darwinist, and psychological theories, which were in the same family as Taine and the racist Joseph Gobineau. He thought that cranial size could be used as an accurate measure of intelligence and he believed that people in primitive societies had small skulls. Le Bon thought the European race was superior, and only Caucasian males could transcend the constraints of biology.

Like Sighele and Tarde, Le Bon thought that what happens to an individual when in a crowd was analogous to what happens in hypnosis. All crowd theorists up to Le Bon agreed that the crowd was no more than what was already inside the psychology of individuals. They also believed that whatever destructive behavior transpired in a crowd was due to the lower-class origins of its members. Le Bon was the first to say that all personalities, regardless of class and intelligence, are susceptible to the pull of the crowd.

According to Serge Moscovici, Le Bon directly challenged Locke’s theory of the mind. As was par for the course in the Enlightenment, Locke believed that as the mind of humanity was gradually ridding itself of religious terrors, there would be fewer and fewer secrets. Le Bon, in contrast, said that revolutions shake the mind from its perch, sending it tumbling and howling into the abyss of the primitive world, which is driven by heredity, instinct, custom, and race. For Locke, visions and dreams were overridden by simple and complex reasoning. For Le Bon, crowds could not follow reason but instead learned by association, just as individuals do in dreams.

Furthermore, crowd theorists claimed that people in crowds do not deliberate, but are mesmerized by leaders through the power of hypnotic suggestion. When Locke argued that the truth can be seen with open eyes, he neglected to note that crowds are driven by unconscious primitive animalism, which takes over and spreads by what Le Bon called “contagion.” This contagion does not lead to prudent, rational judgment but instead can lead to cruelty or heroism. These extreme reactions are amplified by the feeling of anonymity that grips individuals, allowing a sense of individual responsibility to evaporate.

Le Bon belonged to a liberal middle-class tradition that argued against both revolution and the weakness of liberal parliamentary systems. Despite his argument’s mediocre quality, rhetorically flattering the reader and lacking depth, Le Bon must have struck a nerve. According to Moscovici, no French thinker other than Georges Sorel and Alexander de Tocqueville has had an influence as great as Le Bon. Le Bon published The Crowd in 1890 and it was a best seller. Why was this? He mixed the disciplines of politics and psychology in an age of growing disciplinary specialization. Le Bon probably tapped into the fears that the middle and upper class and upper classes had about what would happen eventually if the new “democracy” was to expand.

Distorting the work of Alfred Espinas

It is worth noting that crowd psychologists distorted the work of Alfred Espinas on wasps and hornets to create an analogy between human crowds and insect societies. Espinas argued that societies were more than an aggregate of individuals and pointed out that alarm and danger were transmitted by visual contagion. Far from viewing this intensely social life of insects as a liability, he saw it as a strength in building bonds through cooperation.

Crowd psychologists seized on his discussion of the invisible communication of wasps and hornets when confronted with an enemy to draw an analogy to crowds. Just as insects communicate collectively when faced with danger, so crowd behavior becomes contagious among spectators in a theater or when aroused by a great orator. Unlike Espinas, they saw very little, if anything, constructive in this. Crowd psychologists thought the communicability of emotions beyond the individual was proof of the primitive mentality of the crowd.

Crowd Psychologist Distortions

Here are Susanna Barrows’ (Distorting Mirrors) damning conclusions about crowd-psychologist theories:

  • Taine, Sighele and Le Bon did not do any empirical research (Tarde was a possible exception).
  • Taine’s work contains grave errors in the scientific method. The idea of empirical investigation was wholly alien to him.
  • What evidence they collected was extremely selective to support their case (again, with the possible exception of Tarde).
  • Statistics indicate that women committed many fewer crimes than men, yet women were blamed for a disproportionate amount of the violence that occurred.
  • Le Bon indiscriminately lumped together socialists and anarchists with common criminals.
  • Crowd psychologists distorted the work of Espinas on wasps and hornets to make an analogy between human crowds and insect societies.

The Legacy of the 20th Century

The events of the 20th century hardly provided a break for poor conservatives hoping for a return to religion, God, kings and aristocrats. The Russian revolution, the stock market crash in 1929, Fascism in Germany and Italy and Spain, the Spanish revolution, the Chinese Revolution and the Cuban Revolution vanquished those hopes. This does not even count the Zoot Suit race riots in 1943, Watts in 1967 or the Rodney King riots in 1992.

Mass Media Propaganda Towards Crowds and Riots Carries Forward Obsolete Crowd Psychology

Check any newspaper or TV news program in Yankeedom and watch how the crowd and the rioters are treated when they describe a protest or a natural disaster. If it is a riot, does the paper ever show the variety of responses that go on during the riot? No, they focus only on the rioters and assume everyone in the crowd was complicit. When they describe the origin of the riot, do they consider the research which says the police are usually the perpetuators of the riot? Not on your life! The police are depicted as restoring order rather than as being the perpetuators of disorder. Lastly, in a natural disaster do the newscasters show the overwhelming instances of cooperation, compared to natural disaster participants helping themselves in supermarkets and sporting goods stores? No, they don’t. Rather the echo chamber of capitalist media blares out “looting, looting, looting” just like they declared “weapons of mass destruction” in the lead-up to the attack on Iraq twenty years ago.

Conclusion

I began this article with a questionnaire designed to expose your prejudices against crowds. I contrasted these biases against what research on mass psychology actually shows about crowd behavior. The heart of my article is to show why these biases continue in spite of scientific research to the contrary. I identified the growth of cities, the revolutions in France in the 19th century, the process of industrialization, the formation of unions, the rise of socialism and stock market instabilities in the 19th century. What do these events have to do with biases against crowds?

The answer can be found in the theories of mostly right-wing crowd theorists who wrote in the 2nd half of the 19th century. These theorists and their ruling class masters were terrified that crowds of working-class people would take their land, confiscate their resources and burn their chateaux to the ground. There was a great deal at stake for them. To call the people in crowds enraged, childish, criminal, beastly, stampeding, savage, irrational, impulsive, uncivilized, primitive, bloodthirsty, cruel and fickle is to dismiss, embarrass and mock anyone who participates. It is also a warning to future workers to stay away from crowds.

We socialists have been the victims of a 150-year propaganda campaign that was started by crowd psychologists in the 1860s and has been perpetuated by all sources of media throughout the 20th century. Amazingly, social psychologists who pride themselves on filling their textbooks with empirical evidence, have given this discredited crowd theory a pass. There is so much money for research on what sells products and little or no money is available to study what moves crowds and masses. It is vitally important for the ruling classes to forestall the great day of reckoning by scaring people away from joining crowds that will be one of many vehicles for overthrowing them.

• First published at Socialist Planning Beyond Capitalism

The post Ruling Class Fears of The Day of Reckoning: Historical Causes for the Biases Against Crowds first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Thomas Friedman’s last gasp

Thomas Friedman’s recent column in the New York Times reflecting on Israel’s 11-day destruction of Gaza is a showcase for the delusions of liberal Zionism: a constellation of thought that has never looked so threadbare. It seems that every liberal newspaper needs a Thomas Friedman – the UK’s Guardian has Jonathan Freedland – whose role is to keep readers from considering realistic strategies for Israel-Palestine, however often and catastrophically the established ones have failed. In this case, Friedman’s plea for Joe Biden to preserve the ‘potential of a two-state solution’ barely conceals his real goal: resuscitating the discourse of an illusory ‘peace process’ from which everyone except liberal Zionists has moved on. His fear is that the debate is quietly shifting outside this framework – towards the recognition that Israel is a belligerent apartheid regime, and the conclusion that one democratic state for Palestinians and Jews is now the only viable solution.

For more than five decades, the two-state solution – of a large, ultra-militarized state for Israel, and a much smaller, demilitarized one for Palestinians – has been the sole paradigm of the Western political and media class. During these years, a Palestinian state failed to materialize despite (or more likely because of) various US-backed ‘peace processes’. While Americans and Europeans have consoled themselves with such fantasies, Israel has only paid them lip-service, enforcing a de facto one-state solution premised on Jewish supremacy over Palestinians, and consolidating its control over the entire territory.

But in recent years, Israel’s naked settler-colonial actions have imperiled that Western paradigm. It has become increasingly evident that Israel is incapable of making peace with the Palestinians because its state ideology – Zionism – is based on their removal or eradication. What history has taught us is that the only just and lasting way to end a ‘conflict’ between a native population and a settler-colonial movement is decolonization, plus the establishment of a single, shared, democratic state. Otherwise, the settlers continue to pursue their replacement strategies – which invariably include ethnic cleansing, communal segregation and genocide. These were precisely the tactics adopted by European colonists in the Americas, Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Friedman’s function in the Western media – conscious or not – is to obfuscate these historical lessons, tapping into a long legacy of unthinking colonial racism.

One of the central pillars of that legacy is an abiding fear of the native and his supposedly natural savagery. This has always been the unspoken assumption behind the interminable two-state ‘peace process’. A civilized and civilizing West tries to broker a ‘peace deal’ to protect Israel from the Palestinian hordes next door. But the Palestinians continuously ‘reject’ these peace overtures because of their savage nature – which is in turn presented as the reason why Israel must ethnically cleanse them and herd them into reservations, or Bantustans, away from Jewish settlers. Occasionally, Israel is forced to ‘retaliate’ – or defend itself from this savagery – in what becomes an endless ‘cycle of violence’. The West supports Israel with military aid and preferential trade, while watching with exasperation as the Palestinian leadership fails to discipline its people.

Friedman is an expert at exploiting this colonial mentality. He often avoids taking direct responsibility for his racist assumptions, attributing them to ‘centrist Democrats’ or other right-minded observers. Coded language is his stock in trade, serving to heighten the unease felt by western audiences as the natives try to regain a measure of control over their future. In some cases the prejudicial framing is overt, as with his concern about the threat of an ascendant Hamas to women’s and LGBTQ rights, couched in an identity politics he knows will resonate with NYT readers. But more often his framing is insidious, with terms like ‘decimate’ and ‘blow up’ deployed to cast Palestinians’ desire for self-determination as violent and menacing.

Friedman’s promotion of the two-state model offers a three-layered deception. First, he writes that the two-state solution would bring ‘peace’, without acknowledging that the condition for that peace is the Palestinians’ permanent ghettoization and subjugation. Second, he blames the Palestinians for rejecting just such ‘peace plans’, even though they have never been seriously offered by Israel. And finally, he has the chutzpah to imply that it was the Palestinians’ failure to negotiate a two-state solution that ‘decimated’ the Israeli ‘peace camp’.

Such arguments are not only based on Friedman’s dehumanizing view of Arabs. They are also tied to his domestic political concerns. He fears that if Joe Biden were to acknowledge the reality that Israel has sabotaged the two-state solution, then the President might disengage once and for all from the ‘peace process’. Of course, most Palestinians would welcome such an end to US interference: the billions of dollars funnelled annually to the Israeli military, the US diplomatic cover for Israel, and the arm-twisting of other states to silently accept its atrocities. But, Friedman argues, this withdrawal would carry a heavy price at home, setting off a civil war within Biden’s own party and within Jewish organizations across the US. God forbid, it might ‘even lead to bans on arms sales’ to Israel.

Friedman reminds us of Israeli businessman Gidi Grinstein’s warning that in the absence of a ‘potential’ two-state solution, US support for Israel could morph ‘from a bipartisan issue to a wedge issue’. The columnist writes that preserving the two-state ‘peace process’, however endless and hopeless, is ‘about our national security interests in the Middle East’. How does Friedman define these interests? They are reducible, he says, to ‘the political future of the centrist faction of the Democratic Party.’ A ‘peace process’ once designed to salve the consciences of Americans while enabling the dispossession of Palestinians has now been redefined as a vital US national security issue – because, for Friedman, its survival is necessary to preserve the dominance of foreign policy hawks in the Democratic machine. The argument echoes Biden’s extraordinarily frank admission made back in 1986 that ‘were there not an Israel the United States of America would have to invent an Israel to protect her interests in the region’.

Friedman then concludes his article with a set of proposals that unwittingly expose the true consequences of a two-state settlement. He insists that Biden build on his predecessor’s much ridiculed ‘peace plan’, which gave US blessing to Israel’s illegal settlements on vast swaths of the occupied West Bank, penning Palestinians into their Bantustans indefinitely. Trump’s plan also sought to entrench Israel’s control over occupied East Jerusalem, remake Gaza as a permanent battlefield on which rivalries between Fatah and Hamas would intensify, and turn the wealth of the theocratic Gulf states into a weapon, fully integrating Israel into the region’s economy while making the Palestinians even more dependent on foreign aid. Polite NYT opinionators now want Biden to sell these measures as a re-engagement with the ‘peace process’.

The US, writes Friedman, should follow Trump in stripping the Palestinians of a capital in East Jerusalem – the economic, religious and historic heart of Palestine. Arab states should reinforce this dispossession by moving their embassies from Tel Aviv to West Jerusalem. Neighbouring countries are encouraged to pressure the Palestinian Authority, via aid payments, to accede even more cravenly to Israel’s demands. (Of course, Friedman does not think it worth mentioning that Palestine is aid-dependent because Israel has either stolen or seized control of all its major resources.)

Once this subordinate position is guaranteed, divisions within the Palestinian national movement can be inflamed by making Hamas – plus the two million Palestinians in Gaza – dependent on the PA’s patronage. Friedman wants the Fatah-led PA to decide whether to send aid to the Gaza Strip or join Israel in besieging the enclave to weaken Hamas. For good measure, he also urges the Gulf states to cut off support to the United Nations aid agencies, like UNRWA, which have kept millions of Palestinian refugees fed and cared for since 1948. The international community’s already feeble commitment to the rights of Palestinian refugees will thus be broken, and the diaspora will be forcibly absorbed into their host countries.

Such proposals are the last gasp of a discredited liberal Zionism. Friedman visibly flounders as he tries to put the emperor’s clothes back on a two-state solution which stands before us in all its ugliness. The Western model of ‘peace-making’ was always about preserving Jewish supremacy. Now, at least, the illusions are gone.

• First published in New Left Review

The post Thomas Friedman’s last gasp first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Rural Teacher Pedro Castillo Poised to Write a New Chapter in Peru’s History

Pedro Castillo speaking at a campaign event (AP Photo)

With his wide-brimmed peasant hat and oversized teacher’s pencil held high, Peru’s Pedro Castillo has been traveling the country exhorting voters to get behind a call that has been particularly urgent during this devastating pandemic: “No más pobres en un país rico” – No more poor people in a rich country. In a cliffhanger of an election with a huge urban-rural and class divide, it appears that the rural teacher, farmer and union leader is about to make history by defeating — by less than one percent — powerful far-right candidate Keiko Fujimori, scion of the country’s political “Fujimori dynasty.”

Fujimori is challenging the election’s results, alleging widespread fraud. Her campaign has only presented evidence of isolated irregularities, and so far there is nothing to suggest a tainted vote. However, she can challenge some of the votes to delay the final results, and much like in the U.S., even an allegation of fraud by the losing candidate will cause uncertainty and raise tensions in the country.

Castillo’s victory will be remarkable not only because he is a leftist teacher who is the son of illiterate peasants and his campaign was grossly outspent by Fujimori, but there was a relentless propaganda attack against him that touched on historical fears of Peru’s middle class and elites. It was similar to what happened recently to progressive candidate Andrés Arauz who narrowly lost Ecuador’s elections, but even more intense. Grupo El Comercio, a media conglomerate that controls 80% of Peru’s newspapers, led the charge against Castillo. They accused him of being a terrorist with links to the Shining Path, a guerrilla group whose conflict with the state between 1980 and 2002 led to tens of thousands of deaths and left the population traumatized. Castillo’s link to the Shining Path link is flimsy: While a leader with Sutep, an education worker’s union, Castillo is said to have been friendly with Movadef, the Movement for Amnesty and Fundamental Rights, a group alleged to have been the political wing of the Shining Path. In reality, Castillo himself was a rondero when the insurgency was most active. Ronderos were peasant self-defense groups that protected their communities from the guerrillas and continue to provide security against crime and violence.

Two weeks before the elections, on May 23, 18 people were massacred in the rural Peruvian town of San Miguel del Ene. The government immediately attributed the attack to the remnants of the Shining Path involved in drug trafficking, although no group has taken responsibility yet. The media linked the attack to Castillo and his campaign, whipping up fear of more violence should he win the presidency. Castillo denounced the attack and reminded Peruvians that similar massacres had occurred in the run-up to the 2011 and 2016 elections. For her part, Fujimori suggested Castillo was linked to the killing.

Peruvian newspapers spreading fear about Castillo. Photos by Marco Teruggi, @Marco_Teruggi

On the economic front, Castillo has been accused of being a communist who wants to nationalize key industries, and would turn Peru into a “cruel dictatorship” like Venezuela. Billboards along Lima’s main highway asked the population: “Would you like to live in Cuba or Venezuela?” referring to a Castillo win. As seen in the photos above, newspapers linked Castillo’s campaign to the devaluation of the Peruvian currency and warned that a Castillo victory would hurt low-income Peruvians the most because businesses would shutter or move overseas. Time and time again, the Castillo campaign has clarified that he is not a communist and that his aim is not to nationalize industries but to renegotiate contracts with multinationals so that more of the profits stay with the local communities.

Meanwhile, Fujimori was treated with kid gloves by the media during the campaign, with one of the newspapers in the above pictures claiming that “Keiko guarantees work, food, health and an immediate reactivation of the economy.” Her past as a first lady during her father Alberto Fujimori’s brutal rule is largely ignored by corporate media. She is able to claim that “fujimorismo defeated terrorism” without being challenged on the horrors that fujimorismo inflicted on the country, including the forced sterilization of over 270,000 women and 22,000 men for which her father is on trial. He is currently in jail over other human rights abuses and corruption, though Keiko promised to free him if she won. Also ignored was the fact that Keiko herself is out on bail as of last year, pending a money-laundering investigation, and without presidential immunity, she will probably end up in prison.

The international media was no different in its unbalanced coverage of Castillo and Fujimori, with Bloomberg warning that “elites tremble” at the thought of Castillo as president and The Financial Times headline screaming “Peru’s elite in panic at prospect of hard-left victory in presidential election.”

Peru’s economy has grown impressively over the past 20 years, but that growth did not raise all boats.  Millions of Peruvians in the countryside have been left abandoned by the state. On top of that, like many of its neighbors (including Colombia, Chile and Ecuador), Peru has underinvested in health care, education and other social programs. Such choices so decimated the health care system that Peru now has the shameful distinction of leading the entire world in per capita Covid-19 deaths.

In addition to the public health disaster, Peruvians have been living through political turmoil marked by an extraordinary number of high-profile cases of corruption and four presidents in three years. Five of its last seven presidents faced corruption accusations. In 2020, President Martín Vizcarra (himself accused of corruption) was impeached, unseated and replaced by Manuel Merino. The maneuver was denounced as a parliamentary coup, leading to several days of massive street protests. Just five days into his tenure, Merino resigned and was replaced by current President Francisco Sagasti.

One of Castillo’s key campaign platforms is to convoke a constitutional referendum to let the people decide whether they want a new constitution or wish to keep the current one written in 1993 under the regime of Alberto Fujimori, which entrenched neoliberalism into its framework.

“The current constitution prioritizes private interests over public interests, profit over life and dignity,” reads his plan of government. Castillo proposes that a new constitution include the following: recognition and guarantees for the rights to health, education, food, housing and internet access; recognition for indigenous peoples and Peru’s cultural diversity; recognition of the rights of nature; redesign of the State to focus on transparency and citizens’ participation; and a key role for the state in strategic planning to ensure that the public interest takes precedence.

On the foreign policy front, Castillo’s victory will represent a huge blow to U.S. interests in the region and an important step towards reactivating Latin American integration. He has promised to withdraw Peru from the Lima Group, an ad hoc committee of countries dedicated to regime change in Venezuela.

In addition, the Peru Libre party has called for expelling USAID and for the closure of U.S. military bases in the country. Castillo has also expressed support for countering the OAS and strengthening both the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR). The victory is also a good omen for the left in Chile, Colombia and Brazil, each of which will have presidential elections over the next year and a half.

Castillo will face a daunting task, with a hostile congress, a hostile business class, a hostile press and most likely, a hostile Biden administration. The support of millions of angry and mobilized Peruvians demanding change, along with international solidarity, will be key to fulfilling his campaign promise of addressing the needs of the most poor and abandoned sectors of Peruvian society..

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Taking a Trip Through the Magical Mania Tour

Current State of Modern Biotechnological-Based Aeromonas hydrophila Vaccines for Aquaculture: A Systematic Review

Oh, the time I have, putting in application after application, for a job. A job, that’s a double-edged word. What is that job without a jab. Now, one year-plus, perfectly accepted that the restaurant or retail outlet or any manner of “job” can require you to submit to the jab. Make that jabs. This is the continuing criminality of a rigged system.

Unfortunately, the entire globe has sucked that mRNA potion. That mRNA cleanser was only possible after how many years? The atomic bomb, splitting of the atom, orbital flight. It hasn’t been long, civilization wise, but so long evolution wise, since that lovely scientific lovely was born. Make no bones about it — science was bad before that, but the atomic era heralded in the complete prostration to the “experts,” or to the “MD,” or “engineer.” With all that education, all those cohorts, the amazing jet-jetting of these virologists and hard rock geologists, the entire crew, popping off into orbit, space station and undersea world station, it doesn’t matter.

The PhD’s and post docs (along with drop-outs like Gates) have it.

GLOFISH

Regulatory agencies not keeping pace

Scientists and companies keep tweaking our plants and animals and even our pets but our regulatory agencies are not keeping pace. We don’t have adequate rules about how to release genetically engineered plants and animals into the environment. Businesses still introduce new plants, seeds and animals without making adequate information available to the public about what they are or where they are. And no single federal agency has responsibility for assuring the safety of genetically engineered plants and animals.

The glowing fish are shedding some light on an important problem. We don’t have sufficient oversight in place to make sure that the new animals and plants that result from genetic engineering are really safe for us and the environment. We need Congress to assign clear responsibility for genetically engineered plants and animals to one federal agency. And that agency needs to make sure that the rules for release and standards of safety glow brightly for both business and the public.

Arthur Caplan is director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania.

Please note that this Caplan is a capitalist, one of those dangerous scientists, all-knowing types, and this site, is anything but ethics and pushback. This place pushes mandatory vaccine passports, pushes these jabs for children, pushes the idea that youth 15 or older do not need parental consent to get jabbed.

These are the masters, the controllers — another site of madness dressed up as science and open-discourse —

by Brian M Cummings M.D. and John J. Paris S.J.

Vaccine passports are likely to become a necessary part of our lives until we achieve herd immunity and no longer need worry about contracting a potentially life-threatening virus from strangers. Such ‘passports’ might not be the first item on our wish list. But the arguments for their use are basic and compelling. As Gostin and colleagues’ recent article notes, vaccine passports encourage people to be vaccinated and allow a reopening of the economy. For those who want—as much as possible– to recover life as it was prior to the pandemic, they will become a necessity.

Vaccination is not a risk-free action; it involves an assessment of both risks and benefits. Individuals whose position does not significantly impact public safety are free to decline to be vaccinated. With the adoption of a vaccine passport requirement, such declinations may cost people opportunities for social interaction and economic engagement. Such is their choice. The benefit calculation of vaccination increases the prospect going to a restaurant, sporting events and to other unrestricted activities. Vaccine passports simultaneously encourage vaccination and provide a quick way to assure a public concerned about Covid they can safely enter public venues. (source)

They control the narrative frames, the entire mix of thought. They are the shamans, the arbiters of good sense, future knowledge, and interpretations of human and non-human kind, throughout the ages.

There is no debate, really around how dictatorial and patronizing the entire project is in Capitalism, from book writing/publishing, to how you get your prostate analyzed, to how you are supposed to take those classes and lift off with a degree. Until we have reached, 2021, the massive unethical, illogical, and propagandistic level of forced jabs.

It is amazing, really, that we have let this happen — no choice, no pushback (real pushback). Those who are putting their lives at risk, who have fought the jab, have submitted. You can’t get a cappuccino or rental car without the jab passport. This is the most amazing time for the flagging masses. Even communist Cuba is into this Genetic Engineered jab. Imagine that, dark age thinking with high-tech manipulation.

So, the body can’t fight this off, or, well, 92 percent can, without major issues, or, well, we mostly can fight it off to the point of no hospitalization, incubation, but in the end, we are living caldrons for this SARS-2 to set off on variant after variant, attacking heart, lungs, liver, more, until we might be permanently damaged by the virus.

A novel virus, indeed. Those novels I have piled up as manuscripts were inventions of my own, time honored hard work, crafting, editing, cutting, and adding. Building characters, detailing settings, regulating pitch in language. All that hard work of imagination put to crafting.

Here, bio(unethical) — their Covid page:

Source They call it a toolkit, and yep, no contrarian, no pushback.

Bioethics.net and the American Journal of Bioethics have assembled a bioethics toolkit for people dealing with COVID-19.

We have a collection of important blogs from around the internet that you can find here. We also highly recommending our growing catalog of our original blog posts by leading scholars writing on bioethics in pandemics.

Other compendium resources

  • The Hastings Center has assembled a number of reports and resources.Thomas Cunningham at Kaiser-Permanent has put together a comprehensive resource of academic articles, government plans, and allocation frameworks.AMA COVID-19 Ethics Resource Center

  • For the best scientific information:

  • For policies, protocols, and practices:

  • For ethical guidelines on vaccines & allocation:

  • For ethical guidelines for responding to crisis:

  • For plans on triage:

  • For clinical algorithms for making allocation decisions

  • For CPR/DNR with COVID protocols

  • For communicating with patients and others

  • VitalTalk: Communication skills and sample scripts

  • Communicating in a crisis

  • Special journal issues/articles

The coronavirus particle has a crown of spikes on its surface.

Oh those scientists, working on gain of function, tweaking viruses, super-charging them, creating chimeric madness, testing a bat virus by bulking it up and putting it to the test on humanized mice. Working the spiked proteins and the messenger genes to go for the heart, lungs, vital organs.

For Christ’s sake, we get ad nauseum articles on research into coffee — too much bad for you, or a few cups a day, amazing? Cures for cancer, or cancer causing? We have every manner of deep research into whether dairy is good or bad, whether sugar is good or bad. Yet, this sticky wicket, well, we can’t even dare ask the questions around how/why/who/when/what/where have these experiments been conducted. Instant open records for the background on all the military involvement with virus research, all the 13,000 USA researchers on gain of function, all those other countries’ researchers and facilities. And, what are the effects of the mRNA and recombinant DNA molecules mucking about. Imagine, these recombinant DNA molecules are formed by laboratory methods of genetic recombination that bring together genetic material from multiple sources, creating sequences that would not otherwise be found in the genome.

Not found in nature, that is.

There are no questions, no challenges, and so we get forced jabs, globally, and no other forms of dealing with, a, this zoonotic jump of a bat virus to human (there are not bats found yet to have this SARS-2 virus; or, b, that this is man-lab made, hands down, and all of that crafting of novelty has created an out-of-control genetically engineers virus that does double, triple and quadruple duty to various humans.

To the point that St. Fauci isn’t sure about a booster, or when, but the three big Pharma Boys, already have their boosters manufactured and at the ready, in a few months.

This is not questioned — how it was anticipated, that SARS-CoV2 is now in need of double or yearly boosters.

In all manner of thinking this through, we have no agency, no collective group of people to count on who might question the narrative. We just get plowed over by history and move forward — no questions asked, or too many questions to ask.

Recombinant DNA and Biotechnology

Ahh, try finding articles and debates within mainstream journals, etc., on anyone questioning mandatory vaccine passports, and the very idea of it being wrong for this philosophy (sic) of “no jab, no job.” It is utterly disgusting how the internet has shaped up. Good luck looking for deep discussion on why mandatory vaccination programs are wrong in this day and age, and exactly, what sort of vaccine (sic) is being mandated, that is never a question in the mainstream. Of course, we have other sources that question the entire narrative, the entire issue of this novel virus, and, alas, what the chemicals they are delivering through the needle really are and what they really do. But again, passports are digital, a multi-billion-dollar boondoggle for the master race — the rich, the elite, the (point).zero-zero-zero-One percent. Oh, the war criminal, Tony Blair. This mumbo-jumbo is doublespeak, marketing emptiness, and a huge campaign for a deeper and darker agenda:

Meanwhile the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change – headed up by former UK Prime Minister Blair, a strong proponent of passport tech – lays out a five point plan for how to design an equitable scheme, arguing they need to be:

Equitable. Health passes should be available to all citizens, including people who have not been vaccinated – for reasons of not being eligible yet, for medical reasons or through personal conviction – and not forgetting the needs of non smartphone-users.

Adaptable. A pass should be able to be updated as understanding of the virus changes and as wider circumstances alter.

Seamless. It needs to be easy and quick to use to encourage adoption and be as frictionless as possible in terms of the administrative burdens on businesses or health organizations.

Transparent. Data collection and retention policies and parameters need to be strictly defined and completely open to users.

Reliable. Passports must be designed with security and privacy at their core. (Source)

These are monsters, and yet, in capitalism, in this totalitarian, or inverted totalitarian state, this is it —

Salesforce’s long game –The pandemic response has also seen cross-industry alliances between tech firms and this is continuing around the concept of health credentials. Salesforce, for example, has committed to integrating the IBM Digital Health Pass into its work.com safe return to the workplace platform offering. The cloud leader is also a founding member of the Vaccination Credential Initiative (VCI), alongside arch-rival Oracle and a host of healthcare organizations. The VCI aims to develop a standard model for organizations administering COVID-19 vaccines to make the immunization data available in an accessible, interoperable, digital format.

For its own part, Salesforce’s internal Office of Ethical and Humane Use of Technology has been heavily involved in the specifics of work.com and in considering the wider complexities of Vaccine Passports, although this last is a term that Yoav Schlesinger, Principal of Ethical AI Practice, doesn’t use, preferring to talk about the broader idea of digital health credentials:

“From our perspective, one of the most critical elements of this safe return back to ‘normal’ is that digital health credentials incorporate much more than just vaccine status. Digital health credentials need, from an equity standpoint, to allow people to demonstrate their health status through a negative COVID test, through proof of recovery and antibody tests etc, so there needs to be multiple ways to present that information, so that we can all be assured of a safe return to whatever locale and location we’re talking about, whether for travel or returning to work or attending a concert, etc.”

He adds that proof of vaccination is not the only way to establish that a workplace is safe:

“Relying exclusively on proof of vaccination status may or may not be the strategy that an employer wants to employ. I think it’s critical that employees, and anyone else, are able to also establish that we can return to work through a negative COVID test or proof of recovery as well. There will certainly be circumstances and situations where people can’t be vaccinated, because of health conditions or because of a religious conviction. We want to ensure for the sake of equity that people are able to present their health credentials and their health status in multiple formats and through multiple avenues.”

tonyprophet
[Chief Equality Officer Tony Prophet and April Oliver, Associate General Counsel, Office of Ethics & Integrity at Salesforce]

Human scum. Whitney Webb reported about the plans for expansive data collection through Vaccine Passports. Webb wrote about the Vaccine Credential Initiative’s SMART Health Cards, which were developed by governments working alongside Microsoft, Oracle and MITRE. According to Webb the developer of the cards, Josh C. Mandel, listed ‘Name, gender, birth date, mobile phone number, and email address in addition to vaccination information’, specifically as a ‘Starting point.’ (Source)

Here, the January 2021 article 

“Silicon Valley and WEF-Backed Foundation Announce Global Initiative for COVID-19 Vaccine Records” — Silicon Valley’s most influential companies, alongside healthcare companies, US intelligence contractors and the Commons Project Foundation, recently launched the Vaccination Credential Initiative. The initiative’s ambitions reach far beyond vaccines and will have major implications for civil liberties. BY WHITNEY WEBB

We can’t have these ethical discussions with philosophers, gurus, all those groups spewing “we are medical and biological ethicists.” This is contradictory, and they are in no way acting as oversight folk, or ombudsmen. They are part of the colonized, and any discourse outside their frame is labeled, mostly, unworthy, uninformed, out of place, radical for radical sakes, contrarian, reckless, dangerous, and to be ignored. “We have toolkits for stopping this mindset. We have our ways. We know how to extract and inject.”

The agenda is not hidden, in the shadows, but for most in the world, they have no bandwidth or willingness to question.

The effort to manufacture consent for an all-encompassing digital identification system is notable given that its main selling point thus far has been coercion. We have been told that without such a system we will never be able to return to work or school, never be able to travel, or never be allowed to participate normally in the economy. While this system is being introduced in this way, it is essential to point out that coercion is a built-in part of this infrastructure and, if implemented, will be used to modify human behavior to great effect, reaching far beyond just the issue of COVID-19 vaccines. — Whitney Webb

What got me onto the computer was reading Max Forte’s blog piece, ‘Race,’ ‘Diversity,’ and the University‘. He’s writing, Zero Anthropology.

Through a continual succession of fear campaigns, Canadian universities are being intellectually sanitized to suppress, marginalize, and ideally to banish contrary thought. It is all done under the banner of familiar “good intentions”. In 2018, the panic was about “rape culture”. In 2019, it was about the “climate emergency”. In 2020, it was of course about “the pandemic”. In 2021, it is about “systemic racism”. What will it be next year? An outbreak of neo-fascist cannibalism?

At least in a formal way, since 2007 (when ZA was launched as “Open Anthropology”) I have been studying the history and political-economy of academic knowledge production. When turning to the Canadian university, one learns of the “Canadianization” movement that gathered steam and strength in the 1970s and 1980s, which emphasized Canadian content in research and teaching, and Canadian hiring. At that time, Canadians were very aware of the country’s status as a dependent appendage of the US. It is a dependency that is enforced, from the top down, and where the dependency turns into cultural and political forms it can be most acutely observed in Anglophone Canada. That dependency has in fact increased: the law requiring that qualified Canadian applicants should get first preference, is routinely skirted by university departments and administrations. Our content is directly imported from the US: we are mere retail sales staff; we are spectators to knowledge production; we are, essentially, just an audience. To be deemed a serious and respectable academic in Canada, one must show advanced imitation skills in knowing how to synthesize and combine pieces of work produced by this or that prominent American/British/French scholar. Preparing a “literature review” is our favourite sport. We excel as consumers—much like regular Starbucks customers who invent complex and convoluted demands for how their “coffee” (i.e., liquid dessert) should be mixed. Our “signature” contribution involves the creative mixing of elements we had no hand in creating in the first place.

Living in an officially approved “Monkey See, Monkey Do” culture, I would inevitably become attuned to patterns of importation and imitation sweeping “Canadian academia”. It is a determined mimesis; just as it banishes integrity and originality, it now silences dissent…where what one would expect academics to do as part of their job (doubt, question, debate) is what now constitutes “dissent”. We are meant to act as bobbleheads, perpetually nodding to uphold this virtual reality of uniformity, to pretend unanimity lest the spectre of “disagreement” should rear its ugly head.

He’s spot on in so many ways, but in the end, he is parsing about diversity programs/training/ brainwashing. Absolutely, much of the diversity training is infantilized, and retrograde. I think in many ways, though, Max misses the point of academia — or the way it is set up, and has been. It is a training camp, mostly, for the colonized, the believes in Western Civilization, in discourse and knowledge in a most empirical way, and also, it is a place of disgusting hierarchies, and lock-step. Yes, the new in thing, the new normal, is diversity training, and LGBTQAI+ work. This stuff is fluff, window dressing, and alas, the corporation, THE CORPORATION(s) have colonized higher education, and K12 is a boot camp for compliance, follow the crowd, believe in authority, go the way, not against any grain.

I’ve been on many mandatory diversity trainings, and yes, some content is childish, touchy feely, pop psychology, and, to be honest, yes, we need to tear down the entire system, and having LGBTQAI+ and BIPOC in the chambers of power, that is it, no, the Black Misleadership Class, as Glen Ford calls this reality.

By 1970, the Black Radical Tradition lay mostly in the graveyard, and the way was clear for the Black Misleadership Class to monopolize Black politics on behalf of their corporate overseers. The first act of the first big city Black mayor, Cleveland’s Carl Stokes, was to put the police under the command of a Black retired general, whose first act was to issue the cops flesh- and bone-destroying hollow point bullets.

The rise of the almost entirely Democrat-allied Black Misleadership Class is perfectly coterminous with construction of the Black Mass Incarceration State. The “New Jim Crow” was a bipartisan project, initiated under Democrat Lyndon Johnson’s Law Enforcement Assistance Administration, which vastly increased the manpower and funding for local police departments, and was put on hyper-drive by Republican President Richard Nixon’s “War on Drugs”–a War on Blacks that never ended but was re-declared by Republican President Reagan and reinforced by Democrat President Bill Clinton. At the local level, the exponential growth of the Mass Black Incarceration regime was administered by increasingly Black city governments, which oversaw and processed the deportation of millions of Black men, women and children to the Prison Gulag. Virtually all of these Black operatives of race and class oppression are Democrats. And all of them are celebrating their own political ascension as the wondrous outcome of Dr. King’s “dream.”

By 2014, 80 percent of the Congressional Black Caucus was voting to continue the Pentagon 1033 program that funnels billions of dollars in military weapons and gear to local police departments. Four years later, 75 percent of the Black Caucus voted to make police a “protected class” and assault on cops a federal crime. (See BAR, “Black Caucus Sells Out Its Constituents Again–to the Cops.”)

The Black misleaders are as silly as they are shameless, but they are not ineffectual. No white man could eviscerate Dr. King’s radical legacy, or make Malcolm X appear harmless to the imperial order–that’s a job for the Black Misleadershsip Class. While Dr. King rejected an alliance with the “triple evils,” Black Democratic misleaders describe their deal with the Devil as smart, “strategic” politics. They whip up war fever against small, non-white nations that seek only the right to govern themselves, behaving no differently on the world scene–and sometimes worse–than Donald Trump.

They shame and weaken Black America, and have joined the enemies of life on Earth. King would shake his head, mournfully. Malcolm would keep his tight smile, doggedly. Then both would organize to expose and depose the Black Misleadership Class.

MLK and the Black Misleadership Class

Interesting, how one guy’s blog precipitates this loose ends response. There are corollaries, to the Forced Jab, the Forced Digital Gulag, the Forced Surveillance State up our asses, to what happened to MLK and Malcolm X. They were outliers in this country, but not worldwide, not surprisingly. Not sure what the Canadian Max Forte has to say, but in the end, I believe the white race, even those believing in good intentions, are flawed, to the max. Now, white race means European whites, Catholic Church white, Jewish white, so-so many (most all) billionaire white, millionaire white.

The Life and Times of Hubert Harrison: A Forgotten Synthesis of African-American Socialism and Black Nationalism, Review of Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918 by Jeffrey B. Perry (Columbia University Press, 2009). In the first quarter of the 20th century, the major, competing trends of Black American political thought were already in vivid evidence: Black nationalist and socialist tendencies vied with corporate-backed accommodation. In Harlem, an extraordinary St. Croix-born activist-thinker named Hubert Harrison emerged on the scene, described as “more race conscious than [A. Philip] Randolph and more class conscious than [Marcus] Garvey.”

In the following presidential election year of 1912, Perry explores the evolving political thought of Harrison in a discussion of a new set of articles by Harrison which appeared in the Chicago based International Socialist Review amid a growing, but not fully manifest tension between Harrison and the Socialist Party, which masked his simmering disillusionment with the party. In an article taking off on Rudyard Kipling’s 1899 poem, “The White Man’s Burden,” Harrison’s “Black Man’s Burden” depicted the suffering of African-Americans under white over-lordship. Over eight million African-Americans were disfranchised in sixteen Southern states by fraud and force, lacking political rights to protect their economic rights (i.e. property and jobs). Part two of the “Black Man’s Burden” demonstrated how the southern state school segregation laws contributed to the underfunding, creation of industrial education or “labor-caste schools” and miseducation of African-Americans. In these two articles, Harrison aimed a devastating critique at the accommodationist philosophy of Booker T. Washington, which publicly eschewed voting rights and a liberal arts college/​university education. Washington’s lieutenants had successfully conspired to obtain the removal of Harrison from his $1,000 a year job at the post office for two anti-Washington articles in the New York Sun newspaper, thus causing great economic hardship to Harrison’s family. Harrison’s final article in the International Socialist Review, “Socialism and the Negro,” was based on an earlier pro-IWW speech, in which he asserted African-Americans rather than constituting a reactionary hindrance to socialism, as some socialist theorists like Algie Simmons and Charles Vail claimed, were indeed the key component in the struggle by the American proletariat without which socialism in America stood little chance. (Source)

Hubert Harrison

I have a deep suspicion that we dissenters, dissidents, oppositional types, questioners, doubters of the official histories/narratives/sciences, and those of us who have a compunction to not trust the bloody intercourse of brute capitalism-militarism-government, that we are in one way or another, in the process of being exterminated. We are the brutes to heads of those Fortune 5000 Corp./LLC/Wall Street devils. We represent everything wrong with free-thought.

[Still from Exterminate All the Brutes, 2021. (HBO)]

Raoul Peck’s HBO docuseries Exterminate All the Brutes isn’t easy to watch — but it’s important popular education on the 600-year development of the concept and system of white supremacy associated with colonialism, slavery, and genocide.

Within the film, Peck addresses the complexity of his own project, including its rhetorical implications for an intended audience, in a risky but interesting way. After providing a four-hour alternative history — alternative to the traditional mainstream education provided in America, at least — Peck concludes that it’s not really education that’s needed:

“The educated general public has always largely known what atrocities have been committed and are being committed in the name of progress, civilization, socialism, democracy, and the market.”

Mike Hale of the New York Times found this conclusion maddening:

“He closes with a reproving phrase that echoes through the film: “It’s not knowledge we lack.” But he declines to say what it is we lack — compassion? Willpower? If there is something we possess that could have made history different, either he doesn’t know or he’s not telling.”

But Peck’s conclusion is the most interesting aspect of the film. The implication seems clear: the majority knows the history, but doesn’t care, at least not enough. Peck’s jarring effects, in keeping with the groundwork laid by liberation cinema, seem designed to make us feel so sick of the history we’re part of and the system we’re in, we’ll actually lash out and try to destroy it.

One docuseries isn’t nearly enough, obviously. It’s going to take a lot of furious filmmaking, and organizing, and speechmaking, and protesting, and marching, and fighting, to get a revolt going. Peck’s doing his part. (Source)

That is the maddening aspect of today, that for most, they do not know the history of the USA and the White Race and Civilization and what they have all done to imprison, poison, indenture, shackle, co-opt, colonize, erase, flood with fear our own ability to see through the madness. This culture and capitalism have always been a punishing thing, and a giant psychological operation, way before Edward Bernays or PT Barnum . . . way back to the plagiarists and fabulists of those Abrahamic religions.

Between 2011 and 2020, Amazon, Facebook, Alphabet (the owner of Google), Netflix, Apple, and Microsoft — known as the “Silicon Six” — paid roughly $219 billion in income taxes, which amounts to just 3.6% of their more than $6 trillion in total revenue, according to the Fair Tax Foundation. Income tax is paid on profits, not total revenue, and researchers said these tech giants are adept at reducing their tax liabilities by shifting profits to offshore tax havens.  (Source)
 Oh, those tax dodgers — We know how they roll!
Show us the Benjamins — 
Big Pharma model is serious obstacle to wiping out Covid-19, new report suggests - Global Justice Now Global Justice Now
It all come downs to war, baby, war!
The U.S. war industry sells to capitalist regimes around the world through direct commercial sales and foreign military sales (FMS). FMS tend to deal with big-ticket items or goods and services of a sensitive nature. Through FMS, the U.S. government procures and transfers industry goods and services to allied governments and international organizations.
So, customers of the U.S. war industry typically affirm that they’re using the goods and services in self-defense, and the U.S. government doesn’t press them on the matter. After all, there is a lot of cash at stake. In fiscal year 2020 alone, the war industry sold $50.8 billion through FMS and $124.3 billion through direct commercial sales.  (Source)
The post Taking a Trip Through the Magical Mania Tour first appeared on Dissident Voice.

From BLM to Palestine: Only a Marriage of Movements can Counter a Marriage of Empires

On this one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder, I’m thinking about settler colonial nations who routinely spend great amounts of capital to militarily and politically repress indigenous and popular uprisings led by the most historically oppressed peoples of the world.

The United States and Israel—two settler-colonial nation states whose drive to exterminate and replace indigenous peoples with settler colonists has led to unending repression and brutality for decades (in the case of Israel) and centuries (in the case of the United States). These two inherently genocidal projects also happen to be financially, materially, logistically and geopolitically intertwined. They depend on each other.

As President Biden so aptly put it in his Congressional speech in 1986, “We look at the Middle East. I think it’s about time we stop, those of us who support, as most of us do, Israel in this body, for apologizing for our support for Israel. There’s no apology to be made. None. It is the best $3 billion investment we make. Were there not an Israel, the United States of America would have to invent an Israel to protect her interest in the region. The United States would have to go out and invent an Israel.”

Israel is described as “the most militarized nation in the world” by the Global Militarization Index. The US provides Israel $3.8 billion a year in cash and weapons, to make sure it is so. The marriage of these two settler empires makes it such that any US Congressional attempts to thwart Israel’s ongoing brutality against Palestinians are probably about as likely to be effective as Hamas’ rockets launched at Israel’s Iron Dome.

The US also provides Israel massive state-sponsored propaganda, backed by incredibly powerful Israeli lobbying groups like AIPAC, to make sure this funding stays in place and is not ever ideologically challenged inside the United States or Israel. These lobbying groups picked up steam and recruited more right-wing backers during Trump’s tenure, enhanced by his extreme support of Zionism, Netanyahu, the relocation of the US Embassy to Jerusalem, and further funding for Israel’s settler colonial projects. But to be clear, US support for Israel is a bipartisan project, and it has been for decades. Even so-called progressive Democrats like Rep. Mondaire Jones of New York and Rep. Ro Khanna of California, have just signed onto an AIPAC letter, whose aim is to prevent any cuts in funding to Israel, in response to Minnesota Democratic Rep. Betty McCollum’s new bill, HR2590, designed to “block Israel from using U.S. military aid to demolish Palestinian homes, arrest Palestinian children, and annex Palestinian land.”

AIPAC and its bipartisan allies have also, for decades, functioned to make sure that anyone who dares question “Israel’s right to self-defense” loses all political credibility, career opportunity, and is unilaterally smeared by Democrats and Republicans alike. From AP Press writers who get fired because they used to support Palestine in college, to US Congress members who joke about “the Benjamins,” criticizing Israel in any form has become a form of political suicide inside the United States. Recent attempts to criminalize anyone who supports the BDS movement have become clear violations of the First Amendment according to the ACLU, and yet, US states are moving ahead with these measures, despite legal challenges in the courts. Now that is one powerful international propaganda apparatus.

So it is against this David-and-Goliath-style backdrop that we see the beginnings of the US-Israeli-military-public-relations façade beginning to crumble inside the realm of US public opinion, as decades of organizing work on behalf of Palestinian human rights begin to slowly trickle up into the halls of Congress. According to a new Gallup poll, there’s a “53 percent majority of Democrats favor pressuring Israel—a 10-point jump since 2018—and progressive figures are clearly betting that the broader electorate is more willing to hear critics out than ever before.

This is a significant shift, especially inside a country where both major parties’ unilateral support for Israel has gone unquestioned for decades. And in the last few weeks, we’ve also seen some of the most progressive US Congressional members take courageous stances on Palestinian human rights: Rashida Tlaib’s impassioned speech on the House floor, AOC’s reference to Israel as an “apartheid state,” Bernie’s “resolution of disapproval” and other attempts to block an increased $735 million in additional weapons package.

These rhetorical shifts are tremendous acts of resistance inside the proverbial belly of the beast. And they certainly represent a broader shift in US public opinion, which we also see shifting internationally, given the massive Palestine solidarity protests throughout the United States, Europe and Australia, over the last few weeks. But make no mistake—these rhetorical shifts inside the US halls of power are not the same thing as fundamentally shifting US policy, which is deeply invested in maintaining and supporting its own economic, geo-political and military interests inside what UC Barbara Sociologist William I. Robinson calls the “global police state.” The following is an excerpt from Robinson’s book, Global Police State:

The Occupied Palestinian Territory has been transformed into probably the most monitored, controlled, and militarized place on earth. It epitomizes the dream of every general, security expert and police officer to be able to exercise total bio-political control. In a situation where the local population enjoys no effective legal protections or privacy, they and their lands become a laboratory where the latest technologies of surveillance, control, and suppression are perfected and showcased, giving Israel an edge in the highly competitive global market. Labels such as ‘Combat Proven,’ ‘Tested in Gaza,’ and ‘Approved by the IDF’ (Israeli Defense Forces) on Israeli or foreign products greatly improves their marketability.

These methods of control and repression fine tuned against the Palestinians have been exported by Israel to racist police in US inner cities, Brazilian security forces that patrol the impoverished residents of the Rio favelas, Colombian and Guatemalan military and paramilitary forces in their battles against social movements, Central Asian intelligence officers monitoring human rights activists and journalists, Chinese Army agents developing domestic systems of social control, and corporate clients and repressive states and police agencies the world over.

Indeed, many Palestinian activists who have found solidarity with indigenous rights activists in the United States have noted, as recently as Standing Rock in 2016:

Many of the law enforcement officers at Standing Rock have been trained in Israel. The weapons and tactics are identical. The use of high pressure water cannons, rubber bullets, rubber coated steel bullets, the use of attack dogs, and sound grenades are the same in both places.

And over the last few years, Amnesty International and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), have published reports detailing how Israeli training of US police officers has resulted in systematic brutality. Amnesty International’s report cites “widespread constitutional violations, discriminatory enforcement and a culture of retaliation” within the Baltimore Police Department. JVP’s report went on to say, “Police brutality of the kind that led to the death of George Floyd is both deeply embedded in American policing and also reinforced by the exchange of the ‘best practices’ and expertise in counter-terrorism techniques taught to US law enforcement officials during their training in Israel. Thousands of these officials from across the US have been sent to Israel for training, and thousands more have participated in conferences and workshops with Israeli personnel.”

The Middle East Monitor writes:

George Floyd’s killing is the latest, but probably not the last, example of classic American policing to mirror Israel’s ‘best law enforcement practice.’ It is being put to deadly use on the streets of America. If black lives really do matter in 21st century America, then the ‘deadly exchange programmes’ with Israel should be brought to an end without delay.

So this is the fundamental barrier for our movements trying to stop US aid to Israel. For decades, we’ve watched US Presidents offer Israel and Palestine peace deal after peace deal. We’ve seen an inordinate number of trips from Washington to Israel to host diplomatic talks about “two-state solutions.” Throughout all of these duplicitous negotiations, the US government has pretended to be an honest broker in the Israel-Palestine conflict. It is not. It never has been. It never will be. And while there may be much-welcomed symbolic efforts coming down the pike to pass resolutions condemning Israeli violence as a sort of symbolic offering to human rights groups, the United States will not cut off aid to Israel any time soon. Nor will it ever be able to broker an honest peace deal, as long as its geopolitical, economic and military interests are fundamentally tied to those of Israel.

Both Israel and the United States are settler-colonial projects whose very existence is based on oppressing and replacing its indigenous peoples, as well as repressing popular resistance movements that emerge within their national borders. Both states now exist within a new global context described by Bill Robinson — a transnational capitalist project of building a global police state against ever-increasing popular uprisings. This is the current political moment in which we find ourselves. These well-intentioned measures from even the most progressive US Congress members are definitely worth celebrating for their rhetorical and symbolic progress. They are not, however, likely to become law, nor result in any fundamental reduction in military aid or support to Israel. We are going to need a lot more to break up the geopolitical marriage of these two capitalist, settler empires. Only relentless, intersectional and international solidarity movements against white supremacy, transnational capitalism, and settler colonialism have the power to do that.

The post From BLM to Palestine: Only a Marriage of Movements can Counter a Marriage of Empires first appeared on Dissident Voice.

“The Savage Punishment Of Gaza”: Israel’s Latest Assault On Palestine’s Open Prison

Recent media coverage of Israel and Palestine, not least by BBC News, has been full of the usual deceptive propaganda tropes: Israel is ‘responding’ or ‘reacting’ to Palestinian ‘provocation’ and ‘escalation’; Palestinian rockets ‘killed’ Israelis, but Palestinians ‘have died’ from unnamed causes; Israel has ‘armed forces’ and ‘security forces’, but Hamas has ‘militants’. And, as ever, Palestinians were killed in far greater numbers than Israelis. At least 248 Palestinians were killed by Israeli bombardment in Gaza, including 66 children. Palestinian rocket fire killed 12 in Israel, including one child.

Imagine if the BBC reported:

Palestinian security forces responded after Israeli militants enforcing the apartheid occupation attacked and injured Palestinian worshippers.

BBC Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen referred night after night on BBC News at Ten to ‘a war between Israel and Hamas’, a version of events pushed hard by Israel. As John Pilger said in a recent interview, ‘Bowen knows that’s wrong’. This is no war. In fact, the world has witnessed a massive attack by one of the world’s most powerful, lethal militaries, armed and supported to the hilt by the US (which sends $3.8 billion in military aid to Israel each year) and western allies, imposing a brutal occupation and deliberately subjecting the Palestinian civilian population to death, violence, terror and appalling hardship.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) warned early on that heavy Israeli bombing was pushing Gaza to the edge of catastrophe:

‘The Israeli bombing is incredibly heavy and stronger than previous bombing campaigns. Relentless bombing has destroyed many homes and buildings all around us. It’s not safe to go outside, and no one is safe inside, people are trapped. Emergency health workers are taking incredible but necessary risks to move around.’

On 19 May, the 10th day of intense Israeli bombardment of Gaza, the BBC News website carried headlines:

‘Israel targets Hamas chiefs’

And:

‘Israel targets Gaza militants’

So, why was Israel killing so many noncombatants, including children? Why were residences being flattened? The United Nations estimated that Israel had demolished 94 buildings in Gaza, comprising 461 housing and commercial units. Why were hospitals and clinics suffering so much damage? And buildings where media organisations were based?

Why were there Israeli airstrikes in the area of the MSF clinic in Gaza City, killing at least 42 people including 10 children? An orphanage was also destroyed.

The massacre was ‘one of the most horrific crimes’ Israel has committed during its ongoing war against the people of Gaza, according to Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor who added that:

‘the attack was not an isolated incident, but another example of Israel’s systematic policy that we have witnessed over the past six days.’

As Tamara Nasser observed in a piece on the Electronic Intifada website, Israel was unable to substantiate its claim that ‘Hamas military intelligence were using the building’ when pressed to do so by US public radio network NPR.

Nasser added:

‘Even if that Israeli claim were true, under the laws of war, Israel’s destruction of entire buildings would be wholly disproportionate.

‘Rather, Israel’s mass destruction of buildings and infrastructure appears to fit the pattern of the Dahiya Doctrine – named after its 2006 destruction of the southern suburb of Beirut.

‘The goal is to deliberately inflict such pain and suffering on the civilian population and society at large as to deter anyone from resisting against Israel’s occupation. This can be prosecuted as a war crime.’

It also serves as a useful definition of terrorism.

Christophe Deloire, Secretary General of Reporters Without Borders (RSF), said via Twitter:

‘What the Israeli army asserts, namely that the alleged presence of Hamas in the buildings would make them legitimate military objectives is absolutely false from a legal point of view, since they also house civilians, such as the media.’

He added:

‘Even assuming that the Israeli fire was necessary (which is absolutely not proven), the total destruction of the buildings demonstrates that the principles of distinction and proportionality have been flagrantly violated.’

Indeed, RSF sent a letter to Fatou Bensouda, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, urging an investigation of Israel’s targeting of the offices of 23 media organizations in Gaza during Israel’s bombardment.

‘False Equivalence Between Occupier And Occupied’

Gregory Shupak wrote in a piece for Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting, the US-based media watchdog, that corporate media coverage presented a ‘false equivalence between occupier and occupied’. He continued:

‘The fatal flaw in the “both sides” narrative is that only the Israeli side has ethnically cleansed and turned millions on the Palestinians’ side into refugees by preventing them from exercising their right to return to their homes. Israel is the only side subjecting anyone to apartheid and military occupation. It is only the Palestinian side—including those living inside of what is presently called Israel—that has been made to live as second-class citizens in their own land. That’s to say nothing of the lopsided scale of the death, injury and damage to infrastructure that Palestinians have experienced as compared to Israelis, both during the present offensive and in the longer term.’

When last week’s truce ‘between Israel and Hamas’ was imminent, Jeremy Bowen told BBC viewers:

‘Now, the essentials of that conflict are not going to change. Until they do, there will be more trouble in the future.’

But Israeli settler-colonialism, ethnic cleansing, lethal sanctions maintained by a brutal military occupation, apartheid, the killing and imprisonment of Palestinian children, Israel’s constant trampling of international law, and the daily humiliation of Palestinians constitute ‘trouble’ right now regardless of what happens ‘in the future’. These essential truths are regularly unmentioned or glossed over by Bowen, the BBC and the rest of a ‘mainstream’ media trying to ‘normalise the unthinkable’, by presenting violent occupation as a ‘clash’ between two sides competing for legitimacy.

As Abby Martin noted in a video powerfully rebutting the Israeli claim that Hamas uses ‘human shields’ in Gaza:

‘Israel has intentionally made Gaza unliveable. The only way Gaza is able to exert pressure on Israel is by firing rockets. If they peacefully protest their conditions, they’re massacred just the same. If they do nothing, Israel continues to blockade them, erode their living conditions while ethnically cleansing the rest of their land.’

This perspective – the Palestinian perspective – is almost entirely absent from news coverage. Moreover, WikiLeaks has revealed that when Israel’s forces invaded Gaza in 2009’s ‘Operation Cast Lead’, they  – Israel – did actually use Gazans as human shields. A classified US cable reported that Israeli soldiers:

‘testified to instances where Gazans were used as human shields, incendiary phosphorous shells were fired over civilian population areas, and other examples of excessive firepower that caused unnecessary fatalities and destruction of property.’

During the latest phase of Israeli aggression, Israel’s Minister of Defence Benny Gantz warned:

‘No person, neighbourhood or area in Gaza is immune [from airstrikes]’

This is a grotesque justification for war crimes. Where was the headlined outrage in response from ‘mainstream’ media that regularly cite defence of human rights as justification for war on countries like Iraq, Syria and Libya?

Hamas: A ‘Convenient Monster’

Hamas is regularly presented by corporate media as some kind of monster, a terrorist organisation with a declared intention of destroying Israel. This is a ‘convenient’ misrepresentation, as explained cogently in a recent interview with Frank Barat by Imad Alsoos, a research fellow at the Max Planck Institute, who is an expert on Hamas.

Likewise, in an interview with Afshin Rattansi on RT’s ‘Going Underground’, John Pilger commented:

‘There’s been a whole attempt to make Hamas the centre of the reporting. And that’s nonsense. As if Hamas is a peculiar demon. In fact, Hamas and its military wing are part of a resistance; a resistance that was provoked by the Israelis. The real demon in this is Israel. But it’s not simply Israel. I mean, this is as much a British and American war against Palestine, as it is an Israeli one.’

Pilger added that this is a war:

‘against the people of Palestine who are doing one thing – and that is exercising their moral and legal right to resist a brutal occupation.’

It is rarely mentioned in the ‘mainstream’ media that Hamas is, as Pilger pointed out, the legitimately elected government of Gaza. Moreover, Hamas has repeatedly declared its readiness to negotiate a long-term ceasefire with the Jewish state within its pre-1967 borders. But Israel has always rejected the offer, just as it rejected the Arab League peace plan of 2002; and just as it has always rejected the international consensus for a peaceful solution in the Middle East. Why? Because the threat of such ‘peace offensives’ would involve unacceptable concessions and compromises. Israeli writer Amos Elon has written of the ‘panic and unease among our political leadership’ caused by Arab peace proposals.1

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

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

And, as Chomsky noted:

‘The key feature of the occupation has always been humiliation: they [the Palestinians] must not be allowed to raise their heads. The basic principle, often openly expressed, is that the “Araboushim” – a term that belongs with “nigger” or “kike” – must understand who rules this land and who walks in it with head lowered and eyes averted.”2

In 2018, when Palestinians were being shot dead by Israeli soldiers in peaceful weekly ‘Great March of Return’ protests near Gaza’s border, Israeli journalist Gideon Levy observed that:

‘the killing of Palestinians is accepted in Israel more lightly than the killing of mosquitoes’.

Given all of the above context, it is criminal that, day after day, BBC News presented a false balance between a powerful Israeli state-occupier and a brutalised, ethnically cleansed, apartheid-suffering Palestinian people. This systematic misrepresentation of reality amounts to complicity in Israel’s vast PR campaign to ‘justify’ its war crimes, brutality and repression of Palestinian people.

As well as Bowen’s wilfully distorted reporting for BBC News, and the biased coverage by corporate media generally, Pilger pointed to the lack of dissent in the UK Parliament in the face of atrocities being committed once again by Israel. He focused particular attention on:

‘Starmer’s Labour party which allowed pro-Israel groups to direct the policies of the Labour party, that, in effect, support this attack. When you have the Shadow Foreign Secretary saying that to criticise Israeli atrocities is antisemitic, then we’re in Lewis Carroll world, really.’

Concluding Remarks

Chomsky once wrote of an elderly Palestinian man demonstrating in Gaza with a placard that read:

‘You take my water, burn my olive trees, destroy my house, take my job, steal my land, imprison my father, kill my mother, bombard my country, starve us all, humiliate us all but I am to blame: I shot a rocket back.’

This simple but devastating message, said Chomsky, is ‘the proper context’ for ‘the savage punishment of Gaza.’

It is a context that is almost entirely missing from corporate media coverage of Israel and Palestine, not least by BBC News.

  1. Noam Chomsky, Fateful Triangle, Pluto Press, London, 1999, p. 75.
  2. Chomsky, op. cit., p. 489.
The post “The Savage Punishment Of Gaza”: Israel’s Latest Assault On Palestine’s Open Prison first appeared on Dissident Voice.

How Billionaire Foundations Fund NGOs to Advance US Foreign Policy Goals

US foreign policy is increasingly promoted by billionaire funded foundations.  The neoliberal era has created individuals with incredible wealth and through “philanthropy”, they flex their influence and feel good at the same time. While these philanthropists can be liberal on some issues, they universally support U.S. foreign policy and the “free market”.  Because many of these super-rich individuals made their wealth through investments and speculation, most do not like a planned economy, socialized services beyond the private sector or greater government control.

These mega wealthy individuals, and the people who run their foundations, are often intricately connected to the U.S. foreign policy establishment. Grants are given to projects, campaigns and organizations which align with their long-term goals.  In this direct way, supposedly independent ThinkTanks and NGOs are influenced if not controlled.  There is much truth in the old saying, “He who pays the piper, calls the tune.”

Independent Nicaragua

Nicaragua is a good example.  For historical and contemporary reasons, Washington is hostile to the Nicaraguan government.  The Sandinista Front ousted the US supported dictator in 1979 and governed until 1990. Then, following a decade of US sponsored “Contra” war and economic sanctions, the Sandinistas were voted out of office. Next, after 16 years of neoliberal governments, the Nicaraguan people voted to return the Sandinistas to power in 2006. Since then, the Sandinista Front (FSLN) won the election with more support in 2011 and more again, 73%, in 2016.

Nicaragua has a capitalist economy, but the government provides many social services, including health care and education, along with community-based policing and an impressive 90% food self-sufficiency. Nicaragua maintains an independent foreign policy which sometimes aligns with Cuba, Venezuela and other independent movements in Latin America.

Nicaragua has made plans for a trans-oceanic canal.  Because this would compete with the Panama Canal and be independent of heavy U.S. influence, the United States does not approve. With the financial collapse of the canal’s Chinese investor, the plans have been suspended if not cancelled.  Regardless of whether the plan is implemented, the US foreign policy establishment and associated media is hostile to the Nicaraguan government for daring to plan this project.

US Targets Nicaragua

US meddling in Nicaragua is thinly veiled behind the US funded “civil society”, a “new generation of democratic leaders” and an “ecosystem of independent media”.  In September 2016, a high USAID official told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that 2,200 youth had received leadership training.

U.S. governmental hypocrisy is quite astounding.  Imagine if Nicaragua (or Russia or any other country) trained thousands of US activists to “promote democracy” in the USA.

In December 2018, the US ratified the “Nicaragua Human Rights and Anticorruption Act” which imposes sanctions and commits the US to preventing Nicaragua receiving a loan, financial or technical assistance from US dominated financial institutions.

In August 2020, journalist Ben Norton at the Grayzone reported details of a new US AID “task order” called Responsive Assistance in Nicaragua (RAIN). The document “outlines plans for a US regime-change scheme against Nicaragua’s elected leftist government”.  In short, Washington is not just hostile but actively trying to undermine, destabilize and replace the Sandinista administration.

The Foreign Policy Establishment, Nicaragua and Elliott Abrams

A key institution of the foreign policy establishment is the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).  Its role and importance are analyzed in the book Wall Street’s Thinktank. CFR events and publications, including “Foreign Affairs” magazine, give a good picture of key foreign policy priorities and debates.

Hostility to the Nicaragua government is reflected in CFR reports and publications.

One important example is an article by Elliott Abrams. Abrams has been a major foreign policy official for forty years.  He was convicted of lying to Congress yet he is a Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).  In September 2015 he wrote an article published at CFR titled “The Sandinistas Attack the Miskito Indians – Again“.  He ends the article with an appeal to environmental or human rights groups:

“The open question is whether anyone – groups defending the environment, or defending Indian rights or human rights more generally, or fighting against Sandinista repression – will help them.”

Seemingly in response to Elliott Abrams’ suggestion, several major foundations have financed reporting on Nicaragua emphasizing conflict and tensions in the indigenous Miskitu zone.

In March 2017 a Guardian article funded by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation described “Lush Heartlands of Nicaragua’s Miskito people spark deadly land disputes.

In the fall of 2018, the Oakland Institute received a grant of $237,294 for “Land Dispute Project – Nicaragua” from the Howard G Buffet Foundation.  This year Oakland Institute published “Nicaragua’s Failed Revolution“. The subtitle of the report is “The Indigenous Struggle for Saneamiento”, with “saneamiento” being the final step of the process toward regaining indigenous rights.

The funding for these reports came from foundations where the key players are interconnected with the foreign policy establishment. For example, Howard W. Buffet,  the former Executive Director at the Howard G Buffet Foundation, is a member of CFR.  Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), is a writer for CFR publications and speaker at CFR events.

We do not know if they were influenced by Elliott Abrams’ appeal, but the anti-Sandinista message was likely heard one way or another.  Land disputes involving indigenous groups are widespread in the Americas, including North America.  Research and reports could be done regarding almost every country. But instead of researching and reporting on indigenous land conflict in Colombia or Honduras or British Columbia, the billionaire foundations funded reports on Nicaragua.

The Miskitu indigenous in Nicaragua are not new to conflict. During the 1980’s the CIA manipulated them to advance their proxy Contra army.  Many Nicaraguans died as a result.  Now, 35 years later, people such as Elliott Abrams are trying to use the Miskitu all over again. The Miskitu may have valid issues and complaints. But are the advocates seeking a solution or are they seeking to exacerbate the conflict? There is a big difference.

Economic warfare and “Conflict Beef” 

The United States is increasingly using sanctions and economic warfare to hurt those governments deemed to be “adversaries”.  Some right wing foreign policy advisors would like to amplify the economic damage to Nicaragua. Some would like to prevent the US from importing beef from Nicaragua.

Cattle ranching is a major part of the economy in Nicaragua. Previously Nicaragua exported lots of beef to Venezuela. But with the extreme economic hardships, exports have declined.  Nicaragua has helped fill the gap by exporting larger quantities of high-quality beef to the USA.

On 21 October PBS Newshour showed a 9 minute video about “Conflict Beef”. The documentary said the increase in Nicaraguan exports is “coming at a high cost for indigenous communities that are being run off their land to make way for cattle ranches”. This accusation, and the suggestion that perhaps Nicaraguan beef should not be imported,  was a core message of the video which merged journalism with activism.

Subsequent research including interviews with indigenous leaders from the area reveal that the PBS Newshour  report is fundamentally inaccurate.  Journalist John Perry, based in Nicaragua, gives details in the article “Progressive Media Promoted a False Story of Conflict Beef from Nicaragua” published by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting. Some of the reported violence was made up; some was exaggerated. The claims of “genocide” are not credible.

The exaggerated and untrue accusations in the PBS report are based on four sources. Lottie Cunningham is an indigenous attorney who heads up the Center for Justice and Human Rights on the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua (CEJUDHCAN).

Her organization is a US AID recipient and she is close to the US Ambassador to Nicaragua. The United Nations Human Rights Commission has issued press releases based soley on her accusations. Judging by this “Conflict Beef” report, her accusations are sometimes exaggerated and sometimes untrue.

Another source for this report is Anuradha Mittal of the Oakland Institute. The Institute received a grant of nearly one quarter million dollars for their research on Nicaraguan “land conflict”.

Much of their information came from the Oakland Institute report and the claims of Lottie Cunningham, a USAID grant recipient and recipient of the Lush Spring Prize sponsored by Lush Cosmetics. Recently published interviews with numerous elected indigenous leaders from Nicaragua’s autonomous zones indicate that Lottie Cunningham is viewed with skepticism if not hostility.  The leaders believe that her organization, Center for Justice and Human Rights in the Atlantic District of Nicaragua (CEJUDHCAN), does not represent the interests of indigenous communities and is actually promoting violence and publicity for personal gain.

The lead journalist was Nate Halverson for REVEAL at the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR). CIR is well funded, with a budget around $10M, and large grants from dozens of individual foundations:  Hearst ($625K), Soros ($325K), Gates ($247k), Ford ($250K), Pierre Omidyar ($900K), etc.

Another journalist, Camilo de Castro Belli, appeared in the video.  He is the son of author and Sandinista critic Giacondo Belli and a “Central America Fellow” at the neoliberal Aspen Institute.  The Aspen Institute is funded by grants from the Rockefeller, Ford, Gates and other US philanthropy foundations.

Key allegations in the “Conflict Beef” story are untrue.  The beef for export comes from cattle that are NOT from the indigenous zones.  The cattle are individually tagged and regulated by the national IPSA (Institute for Agricultural Protection and Health) which is in turn audited by the US Dept of Agriculture. Nicaraguans are currently in discussion with European regulators in preparation for export there. This video, from one of the Nicaraguan beef producers,  gives a sense of the professionalism.

Even the introduction of the PBS video is untrue. They sensationally claim that a young Miskitu girl was shot in the face by someone “sending a message” to the community.  The girl was accidentally shot while playing with another youth who had his father’s gun.  This version is confirmed by the president of the local indigenous community who knows the family of the girl victim. The girl survived the incident, and the family accepted a bribe to fabricate the false story.

Another claim that “dozens of armed men attacked another Indigenous village in northeast Nicaragua, killing four people in the Mayangna community” is false.  A version of this same story was repeated twice in the Oakland Institute report and sent by Lottie Cunningham (CEJUDHCAN) to the United Nations Human Rights Council who dutifully issued a press release. This despite the fact the claims had been quickly exposed as false be the president of the Mayangna indigenous community.  But media quickly jumped on the story, reportedly after two phone calls from people and no verification.

When a government is targeted by Washington, as the Sandinista government clearly is, the media attitude seems to be “guilty until proven innocent”.

This story about “conflict beef” reveals how big foundations influence reports which promote the US foreign policy goals on Nicaragua:  to defame and economically punish those who are too independent.

The post How Billionaire Foundations Fund NGOs to Advance US Foreign Policy Goals first appeared on Dissident Voice.