Category Archives: Media Censorship

Methanol for the CoV2 Hypodermic Chemical Experiment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Propaganda By Omission: Libya, Syria, Venezuela And The UK

We live in a war-like society; one that supports, and is in league with, the world’s number one terrorist threat: the United States of America. Corporate media propaganda plays a key role in keeping things that way.

Ten years ago this month, the US, UK and France attacked oil-rich Libya under the fictitious cover of ‘humanitarian intervention’. The bombing was ‘justified’ by Barack Obama, David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy by the supposed imminent massacre of civilians in Benghazi by forces under Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. As we have documented previously, the propaganda claims were fraudulent.

Libya, previously a wealthy state with free health care and education, was essentially destroyed. An estimated 600,000 Libyans were killed. Many more were displaced from their homes. In the barbarous conditions of the failed state, black people have been ethnically ‘cleansed’, lynched and auctioned off as slaves, illicit arms transfers and terrorism have become rife, and many Libyans have attempted to flee to better lives across the Mediterranean, thousands of them drowning en route.

As Jeremy Kuzmarov, managing editor of CovertAction Magazine and author of four books on US foreign policy, pointed out recently, the powerful Western perpetrators of this human calamity have never been brought to justice. He added:

In hindsight, it is clear that the U.S. was completing a 40-year regime change operation targeting Colonel Qaddafi for which media disinformation was pivotal.

It is important today as such to revisit the 2011 war so that U.S. citizens can learn from the history and not be duped again into supporting an intervention of this kind.

The Stunning Silences Over Syria And Venezuela

But, when it came to Syria several years later, media disinformation was once again pivotal in unleashing Western firepower. As we have described in numerous media alerts, the corporate media declared with instant unanimity and certainty that Syria’s President Bashar Assad was responsible for a chemical weapons attack on the Damascus suburb of Douma on 7 April, 2018. One week later, the US, UK and France attacked Syria in response to the unproven allegations. Since then, there has been a mounting deluge of evidence that the UN’s Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has perpetrated a massive cover-up to preserve the Western narrative that Assad gassed civilians in Douma.

Earlier this month, five former OPCW officials joined a group of prominent signatories to urge the UN chemical weapons watchdog to address the controversy. Aaron Maté, an independent journalist with The Grayzone website, has been following developments closely since the beginning (see his in-depth article, ‘Did Trump Bomb Syria on False Grounds?’).

He noted that:

Leaks from inside the OPCW show that key scientific findings that cast doubt on claims of Syrian government guilt were censored, and that the original investigators were removed from the probe. Since the cover-up became public, the OPCW has shunned accountability and publicly attacked the two whistleblowers who challenged it from inside.

In an interview, Maté pointed out the remarkable silence from the corporate media:

The western media, across the spectrum, has buried this story – which is pretty incredible. You have extraordinary allegations of a cover-up, you have whistleblowers; and not only…do you have allegations, you have documents – a trove of documents released by WikiLeaks.

We have observed a similar shameful silence in the UK, including BBC News; even after initial interest in the ‘important story’ had been expressed by Lyse Doucet, the BBC’s chief international correspondent.

But Western violence against other nations, and the ‘justifications’ trotted out to defend ‘our’ crimes, or simply ignoring them, has become normalised in ‘mainstream’ journalism.

Consider the case of Venezuela, harbouring one of the largest oil reserves on the planet, and which, as a left-leaning democracy, has long been targeted by the US for regime change. This was seen very clearly when the late Hugo Chávez was the Venezuelan president – temporarily deposed in a failed US-supported coup in 2002, and who was often wrongly described by corporate media as a ‘dictator’ – and continues today under Chávez’s successor, Nicolás Maduro.

As John McEvoy observed in a piece for Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting, a recent UN rebuke of crippling US and European sanctions on Venezuela has been met with ‘stunning silence’.

McEvoy wrote:

The report laid bare how a years-long campaign of economic warfare has asphyxiated Venezuela’s economy, crushing the government’s ability to provide basic services both before and during the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to Alena Douhan, the UN special rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights, the Venezuelan government’s revenue was reported to have shrunk enormously, ‘with the country currently living on 1% of its pre-sanctions income,’ impeding ‘the ability of Venezuela to respond to the Covid-19 emergency.’

Douhan urged US and European governments:

to unfreeze assets of the Venezuela Central Bank to purchase medicine, vaccines, food, medical and other equipment.

The US-led campaign to overthrow the Venezuelan government, Douhan added, ‘violates the principle of sovereign equality of states and constitutes an intervention in domestic affairs of Venezuela that also affects its regional relations’.

Almost exactly two years ago, we noted in a media alert that the US-based Center for Economic and Policy Research, a respected think-tank, had published a study showing that US sanctions imposed on Venezuela in August 2017 had since caused around 40,000 deaths. With the exception of a single piece in the Independent, there was zero coverage in the national UK press, and no BBC News coverage at all, as far as we could ascertain.

McEvoy wrote:

By omitting the devastating impact of sanctions, corporate media attribute sole responsibility for economic and humanitarian conditions to the Venezuelan government, thereby using the misery provoked by sanctions to validate the infliction of even more misery.

He continued:

Loath to abandon belief in the fundamentally benign nature of Western foreign policy, corporate scribes have typically presented the devastating effects of sanctions as a mere accusation of Nicolás Maduro.

This is a pattern of deception seen over and over again. For example, in 2002-2003, the ‘mainstream’ media repeatedly attributed claims that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction to Saddam Hussein. Doing so buried the evidence-backed testimony of senior UN weapons inspectors concluding that Iraq had been ‘fundamentally disarmed’ of 90-95 per cent of its weapons of mass destruction by December 1998.1

McEvoy noted that the Guardian’s reporting of Venezuela sticks to the Washington script:

Often, they fail to mention sanctions at all. In June 2019, for instance, the Guardian’s Tom Phillips reported that “more than 4 million Venezuelans have now fled economic and humanitarian chaos,” citing would-be coup leader Juan Guaidó’s claim that the country’s economic collapse “was caused by the corruption of this regime,” without making any reference to Washington’s campaign of economic warfare.

Keeping with tradition, Douhan’s damning report has been met with stunning silence by establishment media outlets. Neither the Guardian, New York Times, Washington Post nor BBC reported on Douhan’s findings.

Imagine if Russia had been responsible for imposing sanctions on another country, violating that country’s sovereignty, with tens of thousands dead and many more lives at risk in the months to come. Imagine, moreover, that Russia had been condemned in a hard-hitting UN report for engaging in economic warfare, described as ‘a violation of international law’ that was causing a serious ‘growth of malnourishment in the past 6 years with more than 2.5 million people being severely food insecure.’ Imagine that such a report pointed to the ‘devastating effect of unilateral sanctions on the broad scope of human rights, especially the right to food, right to health, right to life, right to education and right to development.’ The headlines and in-depth coverage in the West would be incessant. The Russian ambassador in London would be given a stern dressing-down by the UK Foreign Secretary. MPs would address Parliament, condemning Putin in the strongest possible terms. There would be global demands for the UN to intervene.

The ideological discipline required to ignore such crimes under Western policy is remarkable, but it is standard in the corporate media system. Propaganda by omission, routinely carried out by BBC News and the rest of the ‘mainstream’ news media, is a crucial tool enabling Washington and London to pursue their aims; whether that be ‘regime change’, exploitation of oil and other natural resources, and geopolitical domination.

‘Grand Wizards’ And Client Journalism

Occasionally, the strict enforcement of ideological purity imposed on corporate journalists is laid bare when they step out of line by the merest millimeter. Thus, for example, BBC television presenter Naga Munchetty had to issue an apology on Twitter for ‘liking’ tweets that mocked Tory government minister Robert Jenrick for appearing on a BBC Breakfast interview with a Union Jack prominently displayed behind him.

She tweeted:

I “liked” tweets today that were offensive in nature about the use of the British flag as a backdrop in a government interview this morning. I have since removed these “likes”. This do [sic] not represent the views of me or the BBC. I apologise for any offence taken. Naga

This read like a statement that had been dictated from lofty levels within the BBC hierarchy. When you are a high-profile BBC figure, you are obliged to tweet out an apology for daring to question the trappings of ‘patriotism’. But when have BBC journalists ever apologised for catastrophically platforming government propaganda on Iraq, Libya, Syria, the NHS, ‘austerity’, militarism, the royal family? The list is endless.

On Twitter, tweets from the broadcaster RT are flagged with the warning, ‘Russia state-affiliated media.’ Rather than apologise for broadcasting Western propaganda, it is far more likely that a senior client journalist working for the UK state-affiliated media known as ‘BBC News’ will send out whitewashing tweets to minimise or deflect any challenges to the government. Take BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg, a prime example of this key propaganda function. On the National Day of Reflection on 23 March, the anniversary of the start of the first UK Covid-19 lockdown, Boris Johnson had boasted during a private meeting of Tory MPs:

The reason we have the vaccine success is because of capitalism, because of greed, my friends.

There was a huge outcry on social media. Rachel Clarke, a palliative care doctor who has been outspoken in her criticism of the government during the pandemic, tweeted in response to Johnson’s crassly insensitive and smug comment:

But he’s wrong.

‘Human nature is bigger & better & bursting with more grace & decency than he’ll ever know.

Wise and compassionate words.

By contrast, Kuenssberg went into full damage-limitation mode, tweeting:

More on PM’s “greed” comments – one of those present says Johnson was having a crack at Chief Whip, Mark Spencer, who was gobbling a cheese + pickle sandwich while he was talking about the vaccine, “it was hardly Gordon Gekko”, “it was banter” directed at the Chief, it’s said

It is a fair point: probably not even Gordon Gekko would have joked about the virtue of capitalism and greed on a day when his very clear responsibility for the deaths of 149,000 people was at the forefront of many people’s minds.

Newspaper cartoonist Dave Brown depicted brilliantly what the day of reflection should have meant: Johnson reflected in the mirror as the Grim Reaper carrying a scythe with the number 149,000 engraved on it.

Kam Sandhu, head of advocacy at the independent think tank Autonomy, reminded her Twitter followers that, in 2019, Kuenssberg had brushed off the revelation that Brexiteer MPs visiting Chequers, the prime minister’s 16th century manor house, had called themselves  “the Grand Wizards“. The BBC political editor had tweeted:

just catching up on timeline, for avoidance of doubt, couple of insiders told me using the nickname informally, no intended connection to anything else

Presumably the use of an infamous Ku Klux Klan term of white supremacy was to be considered mere ‘banter’. There are countless other examples of Kuenssberg deflecting criticism of Tories, while echoing and amplifying their propaganda. You may recall that she acted to defend the government when it belatedly went into the first lockdown one year ago. She misled the public, as Richard Horton, editor of the prestigious medical journal The Lancet noted last March:

Laura Kuenssberg says (BBC) that, “The science has changed.” This is not true. The science has been the same since January. What has changed is that govt advisors have at last understood what really took place in China and what is now taking place in Italy. It was there to see.

Her insidious role in endlessly propping up the government narrative on any given topic is a ‘courtesy’ conspicuous by its absence when it came to the ‘impartial’ BBC political editor’s reporting of Jeremy Corbyn and, in particular, the manufactured crisis of supposedly institutional antisemitism in the Labour party.

On 26 November 2019, just prior to the general election on 12 December, Kuenssberg tweeted about Tory-supporting chief rabbi Ephraim Mirvis’ suggestion that Corbyn should be ‘considered unfit for office’, 23 times in 24 hours. This at a time when journalistic impartiality was obviously never more essential.

Kuenssberg is not an exception within BBC News, although given her very high-profile position, it is not always as blatant with other BBC journalists. Take BBC diplomatic correspondent James Landale, for instance: another serial offender. An item that he presented on BBC News at Ten on 16 March added to the ever-rising steaming pile of ‘impartial’ journalism scaremongering about Official Enemies that must be countered by the peace-loving West.

In line with a new UK government report on ‘defence’, Landale depicted China and Russia as threats that required this country to ‘show Britain can project force overseas’. As part of the strategy, the new £6.1 billion aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, will hold joint operations with allies in the Indo-Pacific later this year. ‘But will it be enough?’, intoned Landale, ‘impartially’ cheerleading the UK’s ‘projection of force’ across the globe.

Continuing his virtually government spokesperson role, Landale added:

And the cap on Britain’s stockpile of nuclear warheads will be lifted because of what the report says is “the evolving security environment”.

The likely increase in the UK’s nuclear weapons was just slipped out, almost as an after-thought. There was no mention that nuclear weapons are now prohibited under international law after the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was ratified earlier this year. The Treaty includes:

A comprehensive set of prohibitions on participating in any nuclear weapon activities. These include undertakings not to develop, test, produce, acquire, possess, stockpile, use or threaten to use nuclear weapons.

In July 2017, over 120 countries voted to adopt the Treaty. In October 2020, the 50th country ratified the Treaty which meant it became international law on 22 January, 2021. Where were the BBC News headlines?

As Double Down News observed:

Boris Johnson set to expand Nuclear Warheads by 40%

No money for Nurses but money for Armageddon.

But all this must have slipped Landale’s mind. Or perhaps there was no time to include information deemed unimportant by him or his editors. There was, however, ample room for a major item on that evening’s BBC News at Ten titled, “Duke leaves hospital“. This covered Prince Philip’s return to Buckingham Palace after one month in hospital for heart treatment. And why was this a major ‘news’ headline on the BBC? Because BBC News is staunchly royalist, fervently establishment and an upholder of the unjust UK class system.

All of this just goes to show that BBC News really is the world’s most refined state propaganda service. As BBC founder John Reith confided in his diary during the 1926 General Strike:

They [the government] know they can trust us not to be really impartial.2

The same holds true today.

In this era of Permanent War, potential nuclear Armageddon and climate breakdown, the enormous cost to victims of UK and Western state-corporate policy around the world is incalculable.

  1. Scott Ritter and William Rivers Pitt, War On Iraq, Profile Books, 2002, p. 23.
  2. The Reith Diaries, edited by Charles Stewart, Collins, 1975; entry for 11 May, 1926.
The post Propaganda By Omission: Libya, Syria, Venezuela And The UK first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Former Israeli army spy recruited by Labour should feel right at home

The revelation this week that the British Labour Party recently appointed a former Israeli military spy to work in its headquarters, reporting to the office of leader Keir Starmer, is truly extraordinary in many different regards.

It is hard to believe the Labour leadership did not know who Assaf Kaplan was or appreciate the likely backlash to placing someone with his background in charge of the party’s social media work. That may explain the continuing reluctance from the Labour leadership to comment.

In his online CV, Kaplan had drawn attention to his years spent in the notorious Israeli military intelligence unit 8200, which has a long and ugly record of surveilling Palestinians.

One of the unit’s main tasks, highlighted by a group of whistleblowers in 2014 and widely publicised in the British media, is to gain damaging information to blackmail individual Palestinians. They are then threatened into collaborating with Israel’s military authorities against fellow Palestinians.

Unit 8200 is the lynchpin of Israel’s success in maintaining its 54-year occupation, by engineering a policy of divide-and-rule among Palestinians and foiling any efforts they make to liberate themselves from Israeli oppression.

Tone deaf

If Labour officials did not know the significance of Unit 8200, or how the invitation of a former Israeli “military intelligence officer” into Labour headquarters would look to swaths of party members, that in itself is an indictment.

A near-civil war has been raging for some time in Labour over the suspension and expulsion of party members whose social media accounts have been scoured for anti-Israel sentiment by pro-Israel groups. To now put a former Israeli officer trained by a cyberwarfare unit in charge of monitoring social media for Labour is, on the best interpretation, completely tone deaf.

It simply highlights how indifferent Labour under Starmer is to the sensitivities of many of its members – and, of course, Palestinians – in stark contrast to the party’s strenuous and divisive efforts to placate each and every demand from the pro-Israel lobby.

Meddling in politics

If Kaplan’s work in Unit 8200 did not raise a red flag, other details lurking in his social media accounts should have rung alarm bells. Not only was he once an operative for Israel’s military spying machine, but he was also an online “friend” of the disgraced Shai Masot, a far more prominent Israeli spy.

Four years ago, an undercover investigation by Al Jazeera exposed Masot, who worked at the time in the Israeli embassy in London, interfering at the highest levels of British politics. Masot was filmed in clandestine talks with Conservative Party staff about how to “take down” a British foreign minister, Alan Duncan, who was seen by Israel as too sympathetic to the Palestinian cause.

More damagingly for Starmer, Masot was also exposed working closely with pro-Israel activists inside the Labour Party to bring down his predecessor, Jeremy Corbyn. That included efforts by Masot to set up “youth movements” intended to operate as a front for the Israeli government.

Transcripts from sections of undercover filming not aired by Al Jazeera reportedly show the then director of the Jewish Labour Movement, Ella Rose, who had previously worked at the Israeli embassy, speaking of the JLM’s close relations with Masot.

The goal of these Israeli-organised groups was to undermine Corbyn from within, because of his public role in the Palestinian solidarity movement and his trenchant criticisms of Israel.

Dirty tricks

After the four-part investigation was aired, Israel had to carry out a damage-limitation operation, quickly returning Masot to Israel and portraying him – unconvincingly – as a rogue operator.

In fact, Masot’s work was entirely in line with the remit of Israel’s strategic affairs ministry to use dirty tricks to sabotage prominent individuals and movements abroad that criticise Israel, including the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

A few months before Masot’s exposure, the Israeli media had reported a feud at the embassy in London. The Israeli foreign ministry had complained that the strategic affairs ministry was carrying out potentially illegal activities in the UK and jeopardising the diplomatic mission.

So why, before he took up his new UK post, was Kaplan moving in the same social or professional circles in Israel as the disgraced Masot? In a sign of just how embarrassing this information is for the Labour Party, Kaplan appears to have hurriedly erased his military intelligence past after it was exposed by the Electronic Intifada website.

The decision to appoint Kaplan is all the more remarkable given that Starmer has been extolling his efforts to move past the legacy of his predecessor, Corbyn. For five years, Labour was mired in endless controversy around Israel, Zionism and Jews.

Corbyn had to endure relentless, evidence-free claims from pro-Israel lobby groups, echoed by the mainstream media, that Labour had become institutionally antisemitic on his watch. These smears were chiefly designed to stop Corbyn from winning power.

Rope to hang Corbyn

Starmer’s own campaign to win the leadership included a pledge that he was a Zionist supporter of Israel “without qualification” and a commitment to those same lobby groups that they would get to oversee, and even dictate, Labour policy on Israel-related matters.

It emerged after his election that Starmer had accepted – and concealed – a large, £50,000 ($68,000) donation to his campaign from Trevor Chinn, a member of a leading Israel lobby group, Bicom. The organisation was founded by Poju Zabludowicz, whose Israeli father made his wealth from the arms trade.

In the past, Chinn has donated to several Labour MPs who worked to undermine Corbyn: Joan Ryan, a former chair of Labour Friends of Israel; Tom Watson, who served as Corbyn’s highly antagonistic deputy; and Owen Smith, who led an early challenge to unseat Corbyn as leader.

Starmer’s campaign to distance the party from Corbyn reached its climax in October, when the UK government’s Equalities and Human Rights Commission issued a report after its investigation into Labour antisemitism claims. The report quietly exonerated Labour of any charge of institutional antisemitism, but the watchdog’s inconsistent findings offered Starmer and the UK media just enough rope to hang Corbyn.

Starmer incensed much of the membership by taking the unprecedented step, in the wake of the report, of stripping Corbyn of his place in the parliamentary Labour Party, forcing him to sit as an independent.

Deliberate provocation

It is hard not to view Kaplan’s appointment as either an astounding and entirely unnecessary self-inflicted wound, or as a deliberate provocation. Most of Starmer’s critics will regard it squarely as the latter.

It fits too neatly with Starmer’s behaviour since he was elected leader last April. Since then, he has been working overtime to cosy up to pro-Israel lobby groups that were not only deeply opposed to Corbyn, but actively worked to oust him.

In addition to expelling Corbyn as a Labour MP, Starmer has purged the party of members critical of Israel, including Jewish members, and silenced by diktat all support for Corbyn in constituency parties.

Why, after what amounts to a mini-reign of terror within Labour to get matters related to Israel off the party’s radar – and out of media headlines – would Starmer now plunge Labour into a new potential row about Israel?

Gagging orders

The answer is that the recruitment of a former Israeli spy into the inner sanctums of Labour headquarters will ultimately prove a minor and temporary controversy for him.

It will antagonise only the swath of members who supported Corbyn, for whom he has shown utter contempt and who have been battered into silence by what are effectively gagging orders from his new general secretary, David Evans.

It will not likely cause controversy with the Jewish Labour Movement, which was reportedly revived by political allies of Israel as a weapon against Corbyn” in 2015. Rather, they will be further enthused by Starmer.

It will raise barely a flicker of interest from most Labour MPs, who were desperate for Corbyn to be gone, and many of whom belong to another pro-Israel lobby, Labour Friends of Israel.

And it will be largely ignored by the British mainstream media, which has been giving the establishment-friendly Starmer a far easier ride than they ever gave Corbyn.

Ugly Labour politics

If anyone doubts this, just recall the hasty hushing up by the media of, and indifference of most Labour MPs towards, Al Jazeera’s expose four years ago.

After brief indignation over Masot’s efforts to oust Duncan, the documentary series was quickly forgotten by the media. It was certainly not brought back into the spotlight in relation to the campaign of antisemitism smears against Corbyn, despite its very obvious and pressing relevance.

The Masot affair, as well as this new one, reveal something very ugly about Labour – and British – politics.

Corbyn was widely criticised, mostly over activities that predated his becoming leader, for bringing the issue of Israel onto Labour’s agenda. His opponents argued that his foreign policy concerns overshadowed Labour’s more important domestic agenda. Could he not just forget about Israel?

Anti-Palestinian stance

But the decision of Starmer’s Labour to now invite a former Israeli spy into party headquarters – after a previous one, Masot, failed to gain a foothold – shows that the problem was never about getting Israel out of Labour politics. It was about getting the issue of Palestinian suffering, one of the most enduring legacies of British imperialism, out of Labour politics.

The antisemitism controversy was never really about supposed anti-Jewish racism from Corbyn’s supporters. It was about fighting anti-Zionists in the Labour Party, and in so doing, making support for the Palestinian cause harder to express – which has indeed been the result.

The current party leadership wants any discussion of the Palestinian issue, and Britain’s continuing colonial role, cleansed from the party.

Skewed values

In Kaplan’s job description, under a category titled “values/behaviours”, it says that applicants must show a “commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion” and “to the Labour Party’s goals, values, policies and codes of conduct”.

What Starmer has made clear is that Labour’s values give no weight at all to the injustices still being suffered by Palestinians because of Britain’s historic meddling in the Middle East.

Labour has also demonstrated that it has no commitment to “equality, diversity and inclusion” when it comes to Palestinian and Jewish members critical of Israel. Indifferent to the optics, Starmer’s Labour sacked its only senior Palestinian party official this month, reportedly over his support for Corbyn.

Imagine the outcry if Labour had sacked its only senior Jewish official. Rather, Labour’s vision of “equality, diversity and inclusion” springs from the same ideological worldview as its sister party in Israel – an Israeli Labor party that decades ago established a single political framework governing the lives of Israelis and Palestinians that B’Tselem, Israel’s leading human rights group, described this week as “apartheid”.

In the racist context of British politics, including Labour politics, there is no cost to screwing over Palestinians time and again. This is why Starmer will happily ride out the short-lived controversy – one restricted to ordinary party members – over appointing a former Israeli spy to his party headquarters.

Lucrative laboratory

For Palestinians, this decision cannot but be deeply offensive. For many years, scholars have been noting how Israel has turned the occupied Palestinian territories into a giant and lucrative laboratory in which it battle-tests weapons and military equipment for export.

But equally importantly for Israel, it turns ordinary Palestinians into guinea pigs for experiments in how to surveil, control, divide and exploit them. Unit 8200, in which Kaplan worked for many years, is at the heart of that infrastructure of terror that keeps Palestinians afraid and oppressed.

Israeli academics, such as Jeff Halper, have pointed out that Israel parlays this expertise into political and diplomatic power. Other states are queueing up to mine the lessons learned by Israel from surveilling Palestinians so that they can use similar techniques on their own populations back home. The need for these military and intelligence skills – learned from oppressing Palestinians – is reflected in Israel’s wide diplomatic backing by other states.

Starmer’s Labour Party is showing it is no different. It will profit directly from the skills of one of the graduates of Unit 8200, benefiting from the lessons Kaplan learned in a military organisation that spies on and extorts Palestinians.

That should not sit well with anyone in a party that claims to be left-wing, anti-racist and progressive, and to care about social justice. And yet, there are unlikely to be any meaningful repercussions for either Kaplan or Starmer from this ugly alliance.

The post Former Israeli army spy recruited by Labour should feel right at home first appeared on Dissident Voice.

UK Parliamentarians, the British Press and Julian Assange

The number of figures extolling the merits of Britain’s Westminster system and how it supposedly embodies a glorious model of democracy are too numerous to mention.  This is despite exploits by the government of Boris Johnson, marked by the appointment of unelected advisers with enviable, unaccountable powers and a record of assault on Parliament’s scrutineering functions.  “As the government blunders from one disaster to the next,” wrote a resigned George Monbiot in June, “there seem to be no effective ways of holding it to account.”

Press freedoms supposedly axiomatic in holding government to account have been regarded with increasing suspicion by Johnson and his coterie.  When the prime minister’s chief adviser, Dominic Cummings, was found breaking the very lockdown rules that the government had imposed, a statement from Downing Street was coolly dismissive of the “stream of false allegations about Mr Cummings from campaigning newspapers.”

With the Britannic press increasingly clipped in holding power to account, it is little wonder that coverage of the most significant, contemporary threat to press freedom remains a small affair, rarely rising above yellow press murmurings.  The Julian Assange case, through the good offices of the US Department of Justice, has already laid a few bombs in the bedcovers of the Fourth Estate, but its members continue to suffer an apathetic torpor, indifferent and oblivious to the dangers his extradition trial poses.

A few fire-cracking exceptions abound, among them the consistent Peter Oborne in a slew of publications, the prickly Peter Hitchens of the Mail on Sunday, and the ferociously reliable Patrick Cockburn in The Independent.  All have expressed constructive, detailed outrage at the treatment of Julian Assange by authorities on both sides of the Atlantic.  Organisations such as Media Lens and Bridges for Media Freedom have also done their bit to stir interest in the gravity of the case.

This month Oborne, in a co-authored piece with Millie Cooke for the British Journalism Review, urged readers to appreciate that the consequences of Assange’s extradition would be “grim” for investigative journalism.  “Any story which depends on obtaining documents from US government sources will become impossibly dangerous. No British journalists would dare to handle it, let alone publish it.”

As Media Lens found, looking at various programmes such as BBC News at Ten, “there was not a single substantive item (there may have been a passing mention on the first day).”  When BBC home affairs correspondent Daniel Sandford was asked about why his reporting on the extradition hearing was conspicuously absent, he passed the parcel and gave an insight profound in its shallowness.  “The case is being covered by our World Affairs unit.  I have been in a few hearings and it is slightly repetitive. It will return as a news story.”  A flagging attention span, perhaps.

The lamentable coverage of Assange’s trial was instructive.  The conservative Spectator refused to take of the draught, keeping references to the extradition trial to a minimum.  The pro-extradition outlet, The Economist, went one better in ignoring the trial altogether, having already decided in April 2019 that the “central charge – computer hacking – is an indefensible violation of the law.”   The Sunday Telegraph was asleep to it since April last year.  Tetchy Richard Littejohn of the Daily Mail was awake to Assange, if only because, on being evicted from the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, “he stank the place to high heaven”.

When the left-leaning New Statesman, a forum for periodic Assange bashing, was asked why it did not take an interest in the trial, it responded tartly that it had, in fact, covered the trial and would continue doing so. “We are a magazine mostly of essays, long reads and cultural criticism, not a breaking new site or a newspaper.  And we don’t publish court reports.”

Oborne and Cooke pondered the thesis long advanced by Noam Chomksy that the media tycoon dominated stable of hacks are all too happy to play gatekeepers, defending corporate and state interests.  “The Assange case suggests that this analysis is plausible.  At best, the London media reported Assange dutifully.  At worst, not at all.”

While the British press remains reliably despicable for the most part in dealing with the implications of USA v Assange, UK parliamentarians have had a shot of inspiration.  Leading a pack of seventeen figures, Richard Burgon, Labour MP for East Leeds, has requested Robert Buckland, the Secretary of State for Justice, “that provision be made to hold an online video discussion between Julian Assange and a cross-party group of UK parliamentarians.”

What stands out in the letter is an acknowledgment of Assange’s “journalistic work with WikiLeaks including information exposing US war atrocities in Afghanistan and Iraq” for which he risks facing prison “of up to 175 years”.  The parliamentarians also note the case’s “important implications for press and publishing freedoms in the UK, for the US-UK Extradition Treaty including its ban on extradition for political offense and for wider human rights.”

Amnesty International’s concerns that “prosecuting Julian Assange on these charges could have a chilling effect on the right to freedom of expression” and the views of Nils Melzer, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, also feature.  Expressing deep concern “by the implications of this unprecedented extradition case,” the parliamentarians are hoping to discuss the matter with Assange prior to the January 4, 2021 extradition decision.

While this surge of sentience can only be welcomed, Buckland is not likely to wish MPs to be airing such views with the publisher.  There is a relationship – namely, that of the US-UK alliance – to preserve.  Having previously refused to grant Assange compassionate release from prison for posing a flight risk (this, even during the pandemic), there is a good chance he will be stubborn again.  British injustice, when it chooses to be, can be both implacable and illogical.

The post UK Parliamentarians, the British Press and Julian Assange first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Social Media’s Erasure of Palestinians is a Grim Warning for our Future

There is a growing unease that the decisions taken by social media corporations can have a harmful impact on our lives. These platforms, despite enjoying an effective monopoly over the virtual public square, have long avoided serious scrutiny or accountability.

In a new Netflix documentary, The Social Dilemma, former Silicon Valley executives warn of a dystopian future. Google, Facebook and Twitter have gathered vast quantities of data on us to better predict and manipulate our desires. Their products are gradually rewiring our brains to addict us to our screens and make us more pliable to advertisers. The result, as we are consigned to discrete ideological echo chambers, is ever greater social and political polarisation and turmoil.

As if to underline the ever-tightening grip these tech corporations exert on our lives, Facebook and Twitter decided this month to openly interfere in the most contentious US presidential election in living memory. They censored a story that could harm the electoral prospects of Joe Biden, the Democratic challenger to incumbent President Donald Trump.

Given that nearly half of Americans receive their news chiefly via Facebook, the ramifications of such a decision on our political life were not hard to interpret. In excising any debate about purported corruption and influence-peddling by Biden’s son, Hunter, carried out in his father’s name, these social media platforms stepped firmly into the role of authoritarian arbiter of what we are allowed to say and know.

‘Monopoly gatekeeper’

Western publics are waking up very belatedly to the undemocratic power social media wields over them. But if we wish to understand where this ultimately leads, there is no better case study than the very different ways Israelis and Palestinians have been treated by the tech giants.

The treatment of Palestinians online serves as a warning that it would be foolish indeed to regard these globe-spanning corporations as politically neutral platforms, and their decisions as straightforwardly commercial. This is to doubly misunderstand their role.

Social media firms are now effectively monopolistic communication grids – similar to the electricity and water grids, or the phone network of a quarter of a century ago. Their decisions are therefore no longer private matters, but instead have huge social, economic and political consequences. That is part of the reason why the US justice department launched a lawsuit last week against Google for acting as a “monopoly gatekeeper for the internet”.

Google, Facebook and Twitter have no more a right to arbitrarily decide who and what they host on their sites than telecoms companies once had a right to decide whether a customer should be allowed a phone line. But unlike the phone company, social media corporations control not just the means of communication, but the content too. They can decide, as the Hunter Biden story shows, whether their customers get to participate in vital public debates about who leads them.

The Hunter Biden decision is as if the phone company of old not only listened in to conversations, but was able to cut the line if it did not like the politics of any particular customer.

In fact, it is even worse than that. Social media now deliver the news to large sections of the population. Their censoring of a story is more akin to the electricity company turning off the power to everyone’s homes for the duration of a TV broadcast to ensure no one can see it.

Censorship by stealth

The tech giants are the wealthiest, most powerful corporations in human history, their riches measured in hundreds of billions, and now trillions, of dollars. But the argument that they are apolitical – aiming simply to maximise profits – was never true.

They have every reason to promote politicians who side with them by committing not to break up their monopolies or regulate their activities, or, better still, by promising to weaken controls that might prevent them from growing even more fabulously rich and powerful.

Conversely, the tech giants also have every incentive to use the digital space to penalise and marginalise political activists who urge greater regulation either of their activities, or of the marketplace more generally.

Unlike their explicit deletion of the Hunter Biden story, which incensed the Trump administration, social media corporations more usually censor by stealth. That power is wielded through algorithms, the secret codes that decide whether something or someone appears in a search result or on a social media feed. If they desire, these tech titans can cancel any one of us overnight.

This is not just political paranoia. The disproportionate impact of algorithm changes on “left-leaning” websites – those most critical of the neoliberal system that has enriched social media corporations – was highlighted this month by the Wall Street Journal.

Wrong kinds of speech

Politicians increasingly understand the power of social media, which is why they want to harness it as best they can for their own ends. Since the shock of Trump’s election victory in late 2016, Facebook, Google and Twitter executives have regularly found themselves dragged before legislative oversight committees in the US and UK.

There, they are ritually rebuked by politicians for creating a crisis of “fake news” – a crisis that, in fact, long predated social media, as the deceptions of US and UK officials in linking Saddam Hussein to 9/11 and claiming that Iraq had “weapons of mass destruction” testify to only too clearly.

Politicians have also begun holding internet corporations responsible for “foreign interference” in western elections – typically blamed on Russia – despite a dearth of serious evidence for most of their allegations.

Political pressure is being exerted not to make the corporations more transparent and accountable, but to steer them towards enforcing even more assiduously restrictions on the wrong kinds of speech – whether it be violent racists on the right or critics of capitalism and western government policy on the left.

For that reason, social media’s original image as a neutral arena of information sharing, or as a tool for widening public debate and increasing civic engagement, or as a discourse leveller between the rich and powerful and weak and marginalised, grows ever more hollow.

Separate digital rights

Nowhere are ties between tech and state officials more evident than in their dealings with Israel. This has led to starkly different treatment of digital rights for Israelis and Palestinians. The online fate of Palestinians points to a future in which the already-powerful will gain ever greater control over what we know and what we are allowed to think, and over who is visible and who is erased from public life.

Israel was well-positioned to exploit social media before most other states had recognised its importance in manipulating popular attitudes and perceptions. For decades, Israel had, in part, outsourced an official programme of hasbara – or state propaganda – to its own citizens and supporters abroad. As new digital platforms emerged, these partisans were only too willing to expand their role.

Israel had another advantage. After the 1967 occupation of the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza, Israel began crafting a narrative of state victimhood by redefining antisemitism to suggest it was now a particular affliction of the left, not the right. So-called “new antisemitism” did not target Jews, but related instead to criticism of Israel and support for Palestinian rights.

This highly dubious narrative proved easy to condense into social media-friendly soundbites.

Israel still routinely describes any Palestinian resistance to its belligerent occupation or its illegal settlements as “terrorism”, and any support from other Palestinians as “incitement”. International solidarity with Palestinians is characterised as “delegitimisation” and equated with antisemitism.

‘Flood the internet’

As far back as 2008, it emerged that a pro-Israel media lobby group, Camera, had been orchestrating covert efforts by Israel loyalists to infiltrate the online encyclopedia Wikipedia to edit entries and “rewrite history” in ways favourable to Israel. Soon afterwards, politician Naftali Bennett helped organise courses teaching “Zionist editing” of Wikipedia.

In 2011, the Israeli army declared social media a new “battleground” and assigned “cyber warriors” to wage combat online. In 2015, Israel’s foreign ministry set up an additional command centre to recruit young, tech-savvy former soldiers from 8200, the army’s cyber intelligence unit, to lead the battle online. Many have gone on to establish hi-tech firms whose spying software became integral to the functioning of social media.

An app launched in 2017, Act.IL, mobilised Israel partisans to “swarm” sites hosting either criticism of Israel or support for Palestinians. The initiative, supported by Israel’s ministry of strategic affairs, was headed by veterans of Israeli intelligence services.

According to the Forward, a US Jewish weekly, Israel’s intelligence services liaise closely with Act.IL and request help in getting content, including videos, removed by social media platforms. The Forward observed shortly after the app was rolled out: “Its work so far offers a startling glimpse of how it could shape the online conversations about Israel without ever showing its hand.”

Sima Vaknin-Gil, a former Israeli military censor who was then assigned to Israel’s strategic affairs ministry, said the goal was to “create a community of fighters” whose job was to “flood the internet” with Israeli propaganda.

Willing allies

With advantages measured in personnel numbers and ideological zeal, in tech and propaganda experience, and in high-level influence in Washington and Silicon Valley, Israel was soon able to turn social media platforms into willing allies in its struggle to marginalise Palestinians online.

In 2016, Israel’s justice ministry was boasting that Facebook, Google and YouTube were “complying with up to 95 percent of Israeli requests to delete content”, almost all of it Palestinian. The social media companies did not confirm this figure.

The Anti-Defamation League, a pro-Israel lobby group with a history of smearing Palestinian organisations and Jewish groups critical of Israel, established a “command centre” in Silicon Valley in 2017 to monitor what it termed “online hate speech”. That same year, it was appointed a “trusted flagger” organisation for YouTube, meaning its reporting of content for removal was prioritised.

At a 2018 conference in Ramallah hosted by 7amleh, a Palestinian online advocacy group, local Google and Facebook representatives barely hid their priorities. It was important to their bottom line to avoid upsetting governments with the power to constrain their commercial activities – even if those governments were systematically violating international law and human rights. In this battle, the Palestinian Authority carries no weight at all. Israel presides over Palestinians’ communications and internet infrastructure. It controls the Palestinian economy and its key resources.

Since 2016, Israel’s justice ministry has reportedly suppressed tens of thousands of Palestinian posts. In a completely opaque process, Israel’s own algorithms detect content it deems “extremist” and then requests its removal. Hundreds of Palestinians have been arrested by Israel over social media posts, chilling online activity.

Human Rights Watch warned late last year that Israel and Facebook were often blurring the distinction between legitimate criticism of Israel and incitement. Conversely, as Israel has shifted ever further rightwards, the Netanyahu government and social media platforms have not stemmed a surge of posts in Hebrew promoting anti-Palestinian incitement and calling for violence. 7amleh has noted that Israelis post racist or inciteful material against Palestinians roughly every minute.

News agencies shut down

As well as excising tens of thousands of Palestinian posts, Israel has persuaded Facebook to take down the accounts of major Palestinian news agencies and leading journalists.

By 2018, the Palestinian public had grown so incensed that a campaign of online protests and calls to boycott Facebook were led under the hashtag #FBcensorsPalestine. In Gaza, demonstrators accused the company of being “another face of occupation”.

Activism in solidarity with Palestinians in the US and Europe has been similarly targeted. Ads for films, as well as the films themselves, have been taken down and websites removed.

Last month, Zoom, a video conferencing site that has boomed during the Covid-19 pandemic, joined YouTube and Facebook in censoring a webinar organised by San Francisco State University because it included Leila Khaled, an icon of the Palestinian resistance movement now in her seventies.

On Friday, Zoom blocked a second scheduled appearance by Khaled – this time in a University of Hawaii webinar on censorship – as well as a spate of other events across the US to protest against her cancellation by the site. A statement concerning the day of action said campuses were “joining in the campaign to resist corporate and university silencing of Palestinian narratives and Palestinian voices”.

The decision, a flagrant attack on academic freedom, was reportedly taken after the social media groups were heavily pressured by the Israeli government and anti-Palestinian lobby groups, which labelled the webinar “antisemitic”.

Wiped off the map

The degree to which the tech giants’ discrimination against Palestinians is structural and entrenched has been underscored by the years-long struggle of activists both to include Palestinian villages on online maps and GPS services, and to name the Palestinian territories as “Palestine”, in accordance with Palestine’s recognition by the United Nations.

That campaign has largely floundered, even though more than a million people have signed a petition in protest. Both Google and Apple have proved highly resistant to these appeals; hundreds of Palestinian villages are missing from their maps of the occupied West Bank, while Israel’s illegal settlements are identified in detail, accorded the same status as the Palestinian communities that are shown.

The occupied Palestinian territories are subordinated under the name “Israel”, while Jerusalem is presented as Israel’s unified and undisputed capital, just as Israel claims – making the occupation of the Palestinian section of the city invisible.

These are far from politically neutral decisions. Israeli governments have long pursued a Greater Israel ideology that requires driving Palestinians off their lands. This year, that dispossession programme was formalised with plans, backed by the Trump administration, to annex swathes of the West Bank.

Google and Apple are effectively colluding in this policy by helping to erase Palestinians’ visible presence in their homeland. As two Palestinian scholars, George Zeidan and Haya Haddad, recently noted: “When Google and Apple erase Palestinian villages from their navigation, but proudly mark settlements, the effect is complicity in the Israeli nationalist narrative.”

Out of the shadows

Israel’s ever-tightening relationship with social media corporations has played out largely behind the scenes. But these ties moved decisively out of the shadows in May, when Facebook announced that its new oversight board would include Emi Palmor, one of the architects of Israel’s online repression policy towards Palestinians.

The board will issue precedent-setting rulings to help shape Facebook’s and Instagram’s censorship and free speech policies. But as the former director-general of the justice ministry, Palmor has shown no commitment to online free speech. Quite the reverse: she worked hand-in-hand with the tech giants to censor Palestinian posts and shut down Palestinian news websites. She oversaw the transformation of her department into what the human rights organisation Adalah has called the Orwellian “Ministry of Truth”.

Tech corporations are now the undeclared, profit-driven arbiters of our speech rights. But their commitment is not to open and vigorous public debate, online transparency or greater civic engagement. Their only commitment is to the maintenance of a business environment in which they avoid any regulation by major governments infringing on their right to make money.

The appointment of Palmor perfectly illustrates the corrupting relationship between government and social media. Palestinians know only too well how easy it is for technology to diminish and disappear the voices of the weak and oppressed, and to amplify the voices of the powerful.

Many more of us could soon find ourselves sharing the online fate of Palestinians.

• First published in Middle East Eye

The post Social Media’s Erasure of Palestinians is a Grim Warning for our Future first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Social Media’s Erasure of Palestinians is a Grim Warning for our Future

There is a growing unease that the decisions taken by social media corporations can have a harmful impact on our lives. These platforms, despite enjoying an effective monopoly over the virtual public square, have long avoided serious scrutiny or accountability.

In a new Netflix documentary, The Social Dilemma, former Silicon Valley executives warn of a dystopian future. Google, Facebook and Twitter have gathered vast quantities of data on us to better predict and manipulate our desires. Their products are gradually rewiring our brains to addict us to our screens and make us more pliable to advertisers. The result, as we are consigned to discrete ideological echo chambers, is ever greater social and political polarisation and turmoil.

As if to underline the ever-tightening grip these tech corporations exert on our lives, Facebook and Twitter decided this month to openly interfere in the most contentious US presidential election in living memory. They censored a story that could harm the electoral prospects of Joe Biden, the Democratic challenger to incumbent President Donald Trump.

Given that nearly half of Americans receive their news chiefly via Facebook, the ramifications of such a decision on our political life were not hard to interpret. In excising any debate about purported corruption and influence-peddling by Biden’s son, Hunter, carried out in his father’s name, these social media platforms stepped firmly into the role of authoritarian arbiter of what we are allowed to say and know.

‘Monopoly gatekeeper’

Western publics are waking up very belatedly to the undemocratic power social media wields over them. But if we wish to understand where this ultimately leads, there is no better case study than the very different ways Israelis and Palestinians have been treated by the tech giants.

The treatment of Palestinians online serves as a warning that it would be foolish indeed to regard these globe-spanning corporations as politically neutral platforms, and their decisions as straightforwardly commercial. This is to doubly misunderstand their role.

Social media firms are now effectively monopolistic communication grids – similar to the electricity and water grids, or the phone network of a quarter of a century ago. Their decisions are therefore no longer private matters, but instead have huge social, economic and political consequences. That is part of the reason why the US justice department launched a lawsuit last week against Google for acting as a “monopoly gatekeeper for the internet”.

Google, Facebook and Twitter have no more a right to arbitrarily decide who and what they host on their sites than telecoms companies once had a right to decide whether a customer should be allowed a phone line. But unlike the phone company, social media corporations control not just the means of communication, but the content too. They can decide, as the Hunter Biden story shows, whether their customers get to participate in vital public debates about who leads them.

The Hunter Biden decision is as if the phone company of old not only listened in to conversations, but was able to cut the line if it did not like the politics of any particular customer.

In fact, it is even worse than that. Social media now deliver the news to large sections of the population. Their censoring of a story is more akin to the electricity company turning off the power to everyone’s homes for the duration of a TV broadcast to ensure no one can see it.

Censorship by stealth

The tech giants are the wealthiest, most powerful corporations in human history, their riches measured in hundreds of billions, and now trillions, of dollars. But the argument that they are apolitical – aiming simply to maximise profits – was never true.

They have every reason to promote politicians who side with them by committing not to break up their monopolies or regulate their activities, or, better still, by promising to weaken controls that might prevent them from growing even more fabulously rich and powerful.

Conversely, the tech giants also have every incentive to use the digital space to penalise and marginalise political activists who urge greater regulation either of their activities, or of the marketplace more generally.

Unlike their explicit deletion of the Hunter Biden story, which incensed the Trump administration, social media corporations more usually censor by stealth. That power is wielded through algorithms, the secret codes that decide whether something or someone appears in a search result or on a social media feed. If they desire, these tech titans can cancel any one of us overnight.

This is not just political paranoia. The disproportionate impact of algorithm changes on “left-leaning” websites – those most critical of the neoliberal system that has enriched social media corporations – was highlighted this month by the Wall Street Journal.

Wrong kinds of speech

Politicians increasingly understand the power of social media, which is why they want to harness it as best they can for their own ends. Since the shock of Trump’s election victory in late 2016, Facebook, Google and Twitter executives have regularly found themselves dragged before legislative oversight committees in the US and UK.

There, they are ritually rebuked by politicians for creating a crisis of “fake news” – a crisis that, in fact, long predated social media, as the deceptions of US and UK officials in linking Saddam Hussein to 9/11 and claiming that Iraq had “weapons of mass destruction” testify to only too clearly.

Politicians have also begun holding internet corporations responsible for “foreign interference” in western elections – typically blamed on Russia – despite a dearth of serious evidence for most of their allegations.

Political pressure is being exerted not to make the corporations more transparent and accountable, but to steer them towards enforcing even more assiduously restrictions on the wrong kinds of speech – whether it be violent racists on the right or critics of capitalism and western government policy on the left.

For that reason, social media’s original image as a neutral arena of information sharing, or as a tool for widening public debate and increasing civic engagement, or as a discourse leveller between the rich and powerful and weak and marginalised, grows ever more hollow.

Separate digital rights

Nowhere are ties between tech and state officials more evident than in their dealings with Israel. This has led to starkly different treatment of digital rights for Israelis and Palestinians. The online fate of Palestinians points to a future in which the already-powerful will gain ever greater control over what we know and what we are allowed to think, and over who is visible and who is erased from public life.

Israel was well-positioned to exploit social media before most other states had recognised its importance in manipulating popular attitudes and perceptions. For decades, Israel had, in part, outsourced an official programme of hasbara – or state propaganda – to its own citizens and supporters abroad. As new digital platforms emerged, these partisans were only too willing to expand their role.

Israel had another advantage. After the 1967 occupation of the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza, Israel began crafting a narrative of state victimhood by redefining antisemitism to suggest it was now a particular affliction of the left, not the right. So-called “new antisemitism” did not target Jews, but related instead to criticism of Israel and support for Palestinian rights.

This highly dubious narrative proved easy to condense into social media-friendly soundbites.

Israel still routinely describes any Palestinian resistance to its belligerent occupation or its illegal settlements as “terrorism”, and any support from other Palestinians as “incitement”. International solidarity with Palestinians is characterised as “delegitimisation” and equated with antisemitism.

‘Flood the internet’

As far back as 2008, it emerged that a pro-Israel media lobby group, Camera, had been orchestrating covert efforts by Israel loyalists to infiltrate the online encyclopedia Wikipedia to edit entries and “rewrite history” in ways favourable to Israel. Soon afterwards, politician Naftali Bennett helped organise courses teaching “Zionist editing” of Wikipedia.

In 2011, the Israeli army declared social media a new “battleground” and assigned “cyber warriors” to wage combat online. In 2015, Israel’s foreign ministry set up an additional command centre to recruit young, tech-savvy former soldiers from 8200, the army’s cyber intelligence unit, to lead the battle online. Many have gone on to establish hi-tech firms whose spying software became integral to the functioning of social media.

An app launched in 2017, Act.IL, mobilised Israel partisans to “swarm” sites hosting either criticism of Israel or support for Palestinians. The initiative, supported by Israel’s ministry of strategic affairs, was headed by veterans of Israeli intelligence services.

According to the Forward, a US Jewish weekly, Israel’s intelligence services liaise closely with Act.IL and request help in getting content, including videos, removed by social media platforms. The Forward observed shortly after the app was rolled out: “Its work so far offers a startling glimpse of how it could shape the online conversations about Israel without ever showing its hand.”

Sima Vaknin-Gil, a former Israeli military censor who was then assigned to Israel’s strategic affairs ministry, said the goal was to “create a community of fighters” whose job was to “flood the internet” with Israeli propaganda.

Willing allies

With advantages measured in personnel numbers and ideological zeal, in tech and propaganda experience, and in high-level influence in Washington and Silicon Valley, Israel was soon able to turn social media platforms into willing allies in its struggle to marginalise Palestinians online.

In 2016, Israel’s justice ministry was boasting that Facebook, Google and YouTube were “complying with up to 95 percent of Israeli requests to delete content”, almost all of it Palestinian. The social media companies did not confirm this figure.

The Anti-Defamation League, a pro-Israel lobby group with a history of smearing Palestinian organisations and Jewish groups critical of Israel, established a “command centre” in Silicon Valley in 2017 to monitor what it termed “online hate speech”. That same year, it was appointed a “trusted flagger” organisation for YouTube, meaning its reporting of content for removal was prioritised.

At a 2018 conference in Ramallah hosted by 7amleh, a Palestinian online advocacy group, local Google and Facebook representatives barely hid their priorities. It was important to their bottom line to avoid upsetting governments with the power to constrain their commercial activities – even if those governments were systematically violating international law and human rights. In this battle, the Palestinian Authority carries no weight at all. Israel presides over Palestinians’ communications and internet infrastructure. It controls the Palestinian economy and its key resources.

Since 2016, Israel’s justice ministry has reportedly suppressed tens of thousands of Palestinian posts. In a completely opaque process, Israel’s own algorithms detect content it deems “extremist” and then requests its removal. Hundreds of Palestinians have been arrested by Israel over social media posts, chilling online activity.

Human Rights Watch warned late last year that Israel and Facebook were often blurring the distinction between legitimate criticism of Israel and incitement. Conversely, as Israel has shifted ever further rightwards, the Netanyahu government and social media platforms have not stemmed a surge of posts in Hebrew promoting anti-Palestinian incitement and calling for violence. 7amleh has noted that Israelis post racist or inciteful material against Palestinians roughly every minute.

News agencies shut down

As well as excising tens of thousands of Palestinian posts, Israel has persuaded Facebook to take down the accounts of major Palestinian news agencies and leading journalists.

By 2018, the Palestinian public had grown so incensed that a campaign of online protests and calls to boycott Facebook were led under the hashtag #FBcensorsPalestine. In Gaza, demonstrators accused the company of being “another face of occupation”.

Activism in solidarity with Palestinians in the US and Europe has been similarly targeted. Ads for films, as well as the films themselves, have been taken down and websites removed.

Last month, Zoom, a video conferencing site that has boomed during the Covid-19 pandemic, joined YouTube and Facebook in censoring a webinar organised by San Francisco State University because it included Leila Khaled, an icon of the Palestinian resistance movement now in her seventies.

On Friday, Zoom blocked a second scheduled appearance by Khaled – this time in a University of Hawaii webinar on censorship – as well as a spate of other events across the US to protest against her cancellation by the site. A statement concerning the day of action said campuses were “joining in the campaign to resist corporate and university silencing of Palestinian narratives and Palestinian voices”.

The decision, a flagrant attack on academic freedom, was reportedly taken after the social media groups were heavily pressured by the Israeli government and anti-Palestinian lobby groups, which labelled the webinar “antisemitic”.

Wiped off the map

The degree to which the tech giants’ discrimination against Palestinians is structural and entrenched has been underscored by the years-long struggle of activists both to include Palestinian villages on online maps and GPS services, and to name the Palestinian territories as “Palestine”, in accordance with Palestine’s recognition by the United Nations.

That campaign has largely floundered, even though more than a million people have signed a petition in protest. Both Google and Apple have proved highly resistant to these appeals; hundreds of Palestinian villages are missing from their maps of the occupied West Bank, while Israel’s illegal settlements are identified in detail, accorded the same status as the Palestinian communities that are shown.

The occupied Palestinian territories are subordinated under the name “Israel”, while Jerusalem is presented as Israel’s unified and undisputed capital, just as Israel claims – making the occupation of the Palestinian section of the city invisible.

These are far from politically neutral decisions. Israeli governments have long pursued a Greater Israel ideology that requires driving Palestinians off their lands. This year, that dispossession programme was formalised with plans, backed by the Trump administration, to annex swathes of the West Bank.

Google and Apple are effectively colluding in this policy by helping to erase Palestinians’ visible presence in their homeland. As two Palestinian scholars, George Zeidan and Haya Haddad, recently noted: “When Google and Apple erase Palestinian villages from their navigation, but proudly mark settlements, the effect is complicity in the Israeli nationalist narrative.”

Out of the shadows

Israel’s ever-tightening relationship with social media corporations has played out largely behind the scenes. But these ties moved decisively out of the shadows in May, when Facebook announced that its new oversight board would include Emi Palmor, one of the architects of Israel’s online repression policy towards Palestinians.

The board will issue precedent-setting rulings to help shape Facebook’s and Instagram’s censorship and free speech policies. But as the former director-general of the justice ministry, Palmor has shown no commitment to online free speech. Quite the reverse: she worked hand-in-hand with the tech giants to censor Palestinian posts and shut down Palestinian news websites. She oversaw the transformation of her department into what the human rights organisation Adalah has called the Orwellian “Ministry of Truth”.

Tech corporations are now the undeclared, profit-driven arbiters of our speech rights. But their commitment is not to open and vigorous public debate, online transparency or greater civic engagement. Their only commitment is to the maintenance of a business environment in which they avoid any regulation by major governments infringing on their right to make money.

The appointment of Palmor perfectly illustrates the corrupting relationship between government and social media. Palestinians know only too well how easy it is for technology to diminish and disappear the voices of the weak and oppressed, and to amplify the voices of the powerful.

Many more of us could soon find ourselves sharing the online fate of Palestinians.

• First published in Middle East Eye

The post Social Media’s Erasure of Palestinians is a Grim Warning for our Future first appeared on Dissident Voice.

“Totalitarian” Anti-Communism: Loaded Language Straight Out of CIA, Neo-Con Playbook

ORIENTATION

Forms of language manipulation

As most of us know, verbal language is both a tool and a weapon. Verbal language allows our species to talk about the past and the future. It allows us to label mental and physical illnesses and provides us with diagnosis and prognosis. It allows us to communicate more precisely than we can with non-verbal language, whether about the world or our internal states. But language can also be used to control and manipulate. There are at least nine forms of language manipulation:

  • Loading the language with “virtue and vice” words which narrows thinking.
  • Euphemisms mask the emotional content of an experience by sanitizing the language. For example, the military specializes in this by calling prisoners of war “detainees” or murdered soldiers “collateral damage” .
  • “Weasel” words are commonly used in advertising and “slanting” is a regular staple in newsrooms.
  • Reification is common in economic analysis when we hear that “money talks” “money walks”, and “economies grow”.
  • Other forms of language manipulation are “equivocation,” “jargon”, “vagueness” and “ambiguity”.

Vice and Virtue Political Words

The subject of this article is the use of the word “totalitarian” as a loaded vice word.  It is used mostly in international political contexts by liberals and conservatives in Yankeedom to distinguish their political system from those of their perceived enemies. Totalitarianism has been used to describe Nazism and Communism, both separately or together.

“Totalitarian” is trotted out by neocons and the CIA when they are presenting to the public their views on Russia, China, North Korea or Venezuela. This continues despite the fact that the term has been criticized by social scientists in the 1960s and is 60 years out of date. In a 1948 article, Arthur Hill listed the following characteristics of totalitarianism:

  • Abolition of the right to freedom of speech, assembly and religious worship;
  • Elimination of all political parties other than the ruling party;
  • Subordination of all economic and social life to structural control of the single party bureaucracy;
  • Liquidation of free enterprise;
  • Destruction of all independent trade unions and creation of labor organizations servile to the totalitarian state;
  • Establishment of concentration camps and the use of slave labor;
  • Utter disregard for an independent judicial system;
  • Social demagogy around race and class;
  • Expansion of the military;
  • Reduction of parliamentary bodies to rubber stamp status;
  • Establishment of a system of nationwide espionage and secret police, censorship of the press and media;
  • Disregard for the rights of other nations and desregard of treaties; and,
  • Maintenance and encouragement of fifth columns abroad.

Another vice word is “dictatorship” which is regularly attributed to the heads of socialist governments, even when these socialist leaders have been elected by democratic processes. Both “totalitarian” and ‘dictatorship” are emotionally loaded “vice” words designed to narrow political thinking into an “either – or” choice between a vice word (dictatorship, totalitarian) and a virtue word “democracy”. A vice word is one in which it is impossible to think or act neutrally. So, no intelligent political person would say they are for totalitarian government or dictatorship.

On the other hand, these days everybody loves the word “democracy”. This has certainly not been the case historically. Democracy had been associated with “mob rule” and among conservatives, behind closed doors, it still is. Liberals were not much better. They were dragged kicking and screaming into using the word democracy at the end of the 19th century when working class white men got the vote. Nevertheless, the word democracy today is a virtue word. It is tantamount to committing political suicide by publicly stating you are against democracy. The CIA even names one of its international programs to overthrow socialist governments “National Endowment for Democracy”. In this article I will focus on the history of the use of the word “totalitarianism”. In my next article I will write about the history of the use of the words “dictatorship” and “democracy”.

Why should you care?

Using loaded language in politics supports narrowing the thinking process to heroes and villains, gods and devils, dictators or democrats. Working-class people do not initiate what these words mean, or in what contexts they are used. However, working class people circulate these words unconsciously when they talk about politics to others. Working-class people also internalize these words and this narrows the span of how they think about political processes. The purpose of this article and the next one is to challenge you to try purging from your vocabulary the words totalitarian dictatorship or democracy. Chances are very good that you are being played by the Yankee anti-communist campaign.

Overview of the history of the use of the word “totalitarian”

Most of this article will be based on a book Totalitarianism: The Inner History of the Cold War by Abbott Gleason (1995). He tells the story of the use of totalitarianism from its use in the 1930s to the 1980s. The early years of its use was limited to fascism. After Stalin’s pact with Hitler it was used to describe both fascism and communism. Then there was a hiatus in the use of the term totalitarian when the USSR became an ally. However, after World War II through the 1980s, the term totalitarian was used by Yankees and Europeans to refer to the Soviet Union and any other socialist countries.

THEORIES OF TOTALITARIANISM IN THE 1930s

Early theories of totalitarianism were economic in origin and only about fascism. For Franz Neumann, the totalitarian phase of Nazism was strictly confined to the first two years of rule. He used the term totalitarian to describe the all-powerful state that he believed to be one of the two central elements of fascism. Besides the state, the other element of fascism was monopoly capitalism. Fascism was understood as a development that came out of political liberalism and decaying capitalism, not primarily an attack on them. Neumann thought that capitalism rather than racism and romanticism explained the rise of Hitler. For Max Lerner, fascism and Nazism derived from inflation and middle-class fears of proletarianization. Roosevelt used the term totalitarianism infrequently and when he did, he usually referred to Germany and Italy. For the Soviet Union, fascism was understood as a manifestation of capitalist society in its imperialistic stage. Nazism and Soviet Communism appeared in these theories as the most extreme opposites. However, by 1937-1938 many academics came to regard the similarities between Nazism and Stalinism as more striking than their differences.

The United States itself was not immune to the charge of being called totalitarian by conservatives who were against FDR. Emil Lengyel, in his book, The New Deal in Europe, (1934), included US economic policies as similar to Russia, Germany and Italy. For conservatives such as Herbert Hoover, FDR was a totalitarian liberal. American isolationists argued Roosevelt’s domestically aggressive policies contained the real danger of totalitarianism

Following his committee’s vindication of Trotsky, John Dewey accepted the term totalitarian to describe Russia, and for this he was subjected to a sustained campaign of vilification by communists. He stressed totalitarianism in his book Freedom and Culture, (1939) less than two months after the signing of the Nazi-Soviet pact. With the signing of the pact in August 1939, all but a few far-left activists accepted the new terminology and called both Russia and Germany totalitarian.

TOTALITARIANISM IN EARLY WORLD WAR II

From the time the United States entered World War II until the end of the war, the United States backed off its characterization of the Soviet Union as totalitarian. Why? Because if the US was allied with the Soviet Union, the war could not be described as a war against totalitarianism. The events of 1941 — Germany’s attack on the USSR — halted a great deal of the talk of totalitarianism being of both the left and right. The imagined confrontation of totalitarian dictators with western capitalism (called democracies) would be shattered. Almost overnight the term greatly diminished as the United States and the Soviet Union fought on the same side. After the war, with Germany defeated, totalitarianism was used to characterize only the Soviet Union.

TOTALITARIANISM IN THE LATE 1940s

Hannah Arendt’s Origins of Totalitarianism, (1951)

Lack of specificity in what makes a totalitarian country

Hannah Arendt began to write Origins of Totalitarianism, in reaction to the realization of the scale of the death camps and the systemization of the killings of the Jews. Up until now, those writing on totalitarianism thought its roots were in the 20th century. There was some sense it was connected to nationalism, technology and racism. However, all these characteristics were also present in countries like the United States and Britain that were thought not to be totalitarian. Hannah Arendt’s book begins in 1945 and was the first book to suggest that the origins of totalitarianism originated in the 19th century.  Arendt’s own candidates for totalitarianism were the rise of mass society, psychological loneliness, Durkheim’s anomie and what she called the fanaticism of the marginalized. The “mob” for Arendt was a small section of the population, roughly equivalent to Marx’s lumpenproletariat. It consisted of declassed rootless, desperate individuals who could be recruited for criminal activity. This perception of masses was a conservative one, right out of the playbook of Le Bon and Tarde. Yet, all these conditions were also present in the US, England and France. There are no characteristics unique to Germany and Russia.

She also claimed there was a relationship between 19th century imperialism and racism. The problem was that countries that are considered non-totalitarian (US, Britain and to a lesser extent, France) were all imperialist or racist. Secondly, Russia at the time of the Tsar, was not an imperialist country, though anti-Semitism was very prevalent.

Arendt also thought that totalitarianism had a great deal to do with nationalism. The problem is she didn’t specify what kind of nationalism it was. Her attempt to link Pan Germanism with Pan Slavism breaks down because the 19th century Russian intelligentsia was not Pan-Slavic.  With a few exceptions, they were Western European modernizers. Even if Pan-Germanism and Pan-Slavism did provide the ideological roots of commonalities of Russia and Germany, it was a different kind of nationalism than in Western Europe. In Hans Kohn’s typology, Germany and Russia were ethnic, rather than civic nationalists. Arendt’s basic paradigm of the nation state was post-revolutionary France which qualifies as civic nationalism. When we consider that most of Europe, and particularly Germany and the Austro-Hungarian part of Germany (with which she is most concerned), had belonged to states that could not be thought of as civic nationalist.

Lastly, by 1948 she came to believe it was the systematic reliance of terror, institutionalized in the concentration camp that linked Russia to Germany. This ignores the concentration camps set up in United States for the Japanese.

The sloppiness of her study

There are many problems with Arendt’s study other than the fact she could name characteristics that were unique to Germany and Russia and not found in the West. In the first place, she had not studied Germany and Russia equally. This meant she was in no position to compare their similarities and differences systemically. She knew far more about Germany than Russia. She began her book with the Nazi’s and it was only three years into her writing that she tried to expand her book to include Russia. Secondly, her characterization of the Nazis and the USSR was confusing because it was not a strict comparison between fascism and communism. The term totalitarian did not even include other fascist countries such as Italy or Spain.

In addition, she failed to state the differences between Russia and Germany in terms of their politics and economic systems. Just because Hitler and Stalin were both heavy-handed leaders does not mean the political systems were the same. For one thing, Hitler was appointed whereas Stalin rose from within the Communist party. Furthermore, she failed to account for the differences in the economic system. Germany was a capitalist society; Russia was a state socialist society. Those differences are huge.

Lastly her definition of totalitarianism was too strident. Neither Germany or Russia came close to fulfilling all her criteria. Despite all these criticisms The  Origins of Totalitarianism is one of the first books that turns up in a search of the subject of totalitarianism. We can only wonder which Cold War critics keep this book in the educated public’s eye despite its many problems.

The Cold War Begins

In the summer of 1945, after the Allied victory in Europe, there was alarm over Soviet maneuvers in occupied Germany and Eastern Europe. It was then that the word totalitarianism resurfaced.  With the Communist coup of Czechoslovakia in 1948, there was a belief in a Communist blueprint or master plan for world conquest. The reinvigoration of totalitarian exclusively to the USSR served to switch powerful anti-German sentiments in the United States into the growing anti-communist movement. In 1950, the McCarran Internal Security Act barred totalitarians – Communists – from entering the United States.

Left-wing reaction

Burnham’s Managerial Revolution

Even before the end of World War II, left-wing criticism of the Soviet Union came from Trotskyist James Burnham’s The Managerial Revolution, (1941). In this book, Burnham claimed the Russian experience had demonstrated that the elimination of private property was not necessarily a step towards socialism. For Burnham, both the Soviet Union and the Western capitalists were both moving towards a managerial ruling class.

Orwell’s 1984, (1949)

As far back as 1943, Orwell realized that England was lacking in concentration camp literature, including secret police forces, censorship of opinion, torture and frame-up trials. He delivered all this in his book 1984. Orwell liked Burnham’s The Managerial Revolution and his depiction of permanent struggle between super states for world dominion. Orwell drew from and was influenced by the book We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, a soviet novelist, in his writing of 1984. Orwell argued that his book was not an attack on socialism. In fact, Orwell says his intention was to show that totalitarianism was possible since the setting for his book was England.

In the magazine The New Leader, writers such Max Nomad, Victor Serge, Paul Goodman, John Dewey, and Sidney Hook argued that the Soviet Union had so dishonored socialism that it could be compared to Germany. In 1947 there was a split on the American Left over the Soviet Union that continued to deepen and become increasingly bitter. The split between the Popular Front left and the emerging Cold War left occurred roughly in the same year. Sidney Hook became one of the most fanatical and relentless opponents of totalitarianism. This is documented in Mary Sperling McAuliffe’s book Crisis on the Left: Cold War Politics and American Liberals 1947-1954, (published 1978).

Conservative liberal reaction

Jacob Talmon’s Origins of Totalitarian Democracy, (1952)

Talmon takes aim at Soviet politics rather than Germany. He studied Jacobin dictatorships during the French Revolution at the same time the Moscow trials were reaching a climax in 1938. He then made a connection between the Jacobin and the Bolsheviks, taking the roots of totalitarianism to the end of the 18th century implicating the Enlightenment itself. Even Rousseau was seen as a precursor of totalitarianism. Talmon saw the French Revolution as a political, religious revival which covered Europe with its apostles, militants and martyrs. He was a supporter of de Tocqueville’s attempt to explain the threat of democratic despotism, as totalitarian liberalism. He contrasted that to his own pluralistic liberalism.

Right-wing reaction

Von Hayek, Lasky Niebuhr

The right-wingers were already moving towards demonizing the USSR before World War II ended. As far back as 1944, Hayek’s book The Road to Serfdom (1944) placed totalitarianism front and center. For Von Hayek, economic planning leads to totalitarianism. All collectivism was totalitarian. Von Hayek was very ambitious historically, tracing the roots of totalitarianism through Marx to Auguste Comte. The appearance of Von Hayek’s book was a great help to Yankee conservatives in setting the political agenda of postwar intellectual debates. Hayek helped support the publication of Karl Popper’s Cold War liberal book, Open Society and Its Enemies, (1945).

Conservatives wanted to use totalitarianism to paint with broad brush-strokes, attacking not only communism, but even socialism and liberalism. Some questioned the status of the New Deal itself. Neo-cons such as Melvin Lasky and Irving Kristol were part of this wave. Anti-communists organized themselves as the Americans for Democratic Action. Notice the use of virtue word “democratic” in this title. Historically, conservatives equated democracy with “mob rule.” This new wave of conservative anti-communism included the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr.

Irving Kristol

Irving Kristol, writing in the New Leader at the end of WWII was Involved in Cold War liberal journals such as Commentary, the Reporter and Encounter. Neo-conservatives began to speculate about the origins of totalitarianism to a larger public, by-passing the academic totalitarian theorists. Kristol produced a typology even grander than Jacob Talmon’s indictment of the Enlightenment. He aimed to explain the difference geographically, between Anglo-American pragmatic liberalism and the continental tendency of fanaticism and revolutions.

TOTALITARIANISM IN THE 1950s

Schlesinger’s the Vital Center

In 1948 Arthur Schlesinger Jr. began his book, The Vital Center, (1949), one of the manifestos of Cold War liberalism. The book’s chief concern is communism, not Nazism. He claims that sentimental progressives have been duped by totalitarianism. For Schlesinger, totalitarianism arises when anxious 20th century human beings seeks to escape their anxiety (referring to Fromm’s Escape from Freedom) by throwing themselves into a totalitarian whole, a night in which all cows are black. Unlike previous tyrannies, which left much of the social structure intact, totalitarianism pulverizes the social structure. He stresses the importance of keeping social forms of voluntary groups from being atomized. A rich associative life can be had away from politics. He accepts a very passive version of democracy, a lack of appeal to those irrational sentiments once mobilized by religion and now by totalitarianism.

Why such a weak democracy? The notion of a popular, meaningful political life is totally illusory. Schlesinger’s totalitarian masses are plunged into a deep trance-like political apathy which he calls bureaucratic collectivism. He claims “we” must give the lonely masses a sense of individual human function away from politics. He accepts the separation between those engaged in political life and the great mass of society. His book marked a new kind of pessimism about human nature. He excluded all communist sympathizers.

Congress for Cultural Freedom

In 1950 the Congress for Cultural Freedom was constituted in Berlin to provide further organization and inspiration for the anti-Communist left in Europe. Its principle organizer was Melvin Lasky. The CIA funded their original meeting in Berlin and within three years, through Lasky, was supporting the Congress itself. The purpose of the founders was to combat the idea that respected, serious writers could be neutral in the Cold War. James Burnham, Sidney Hook and Arthur Koestler, all former leftists, went to the most extreme in depicting their own commitment to the West.

The Sovietologists in the United States

After 1945, “Russian Studies” departments developed. They were aided by Ford, Carnegie and Rockefeller. The “sovietologists” had centers at Columbia University, Harvard, UC Berkeley and the University of Washington. There was both open and some secret collaboration among foundations, universities, the CIA, the FBI and the State Department to develop Soviet Studies and keep it free of pro-Soviet personnel.

Carl Friedrich — professor of government at Harvard — organized a conference on totalitarianism which included Adam Ulam, Erik Erikson, David Riesman, and former radicals like Bertram Wolfe. Following the conference, Friedrich recruited Zbigniew Brzezinski, a Soviet specialist from Harvard’s government department as a collaborator. One fruit of their collaboration was a book called Totalitarian Dictatorship and Autocracy, (1956). For a while it was the most influential and authoritative treatment of totalitarianism ever written, a careful scrutinization of Nazi and Soviet politics and economics. The concept of totalitarianism also became a staple of college textbooks and sometimes books for high school students, However, by the 1960s there began a rebellion in academia against the totalitarian model.

 TOTALITARIANISM IN THE 1960s

The tide began to change in 1960 when political scientist Robert Tucker pointed out three problems with the totalitarian model:

  • Cross-culturally the comparisons were too narrow. Besides Russia, Germany and Italy needed to be included.
  • Historically the comparisons were static. In the case of Russia, a distinction needs to be made between Russia under Stalin, Russia under Lenin and Russia under Khrushchev.
  • Brzezinski’s and Friedrich’s model could not explain change in the Soviet Union. Later, Chalmers Johnson edited a book called Change in Communist Systems which supported Tucker’s points.

Up until now political scientists were content to compare dictatorships with other dictatorships while treating industrial capitalist systems as if they were a different species. But political scientist Jerry Hough challenged the totalitarian model directly. Using a method he called “institutional pluralism” he provided a functional analysis of communist societies free from Cold War ideology. He asked what do communist and industrial capitalist societies have in common in terms of bureaucracies.

In summing up the attack on American sovietologists, comparative politics scholar Fainsod in his book How the Soviet Union is Governed (1979) he says:

The study of communism has become so pervaded with the values prevalent in the United States that we have not an objective and accurate knowledge of communism, but rather an ideologically distorted image. Not only our theories, but the concepts we employ – totalitarianism – are value laden. (p. 133)

TOTALITARIANISM IN THE 1970s

Leonard Shapiro

Meanwhile, on the right, neo-conservatives had been furious with what they felt was Nixon and Kissinger’s appeasement of the Soviet Union. Most neoconservatives hated Hough’s comparative politics because it neutralized the Soviet Union, presenting it as a state like any other state, instead of the demonical monster that it was imagined as being.

In his book The Origins of Soviet Autocracy British scholar, Leonard Shapiro argued that unlike Tucker’s claim, the origins of totalitarianism in Russia do not begin with Stalin, but with Lenin. Shapiro treated the Bolshevik seizure of power as a coup rather than a democratic revolution. He did not think that Trotsky or Bukharin offered any serious alternative.

Challenging Shapiro, based on his political biography of Bukharin, Steven Cohen argued that Bolshevism had a far greater evolutionary possibility that could have  been realized had Bukharin rather than Trotsky won the power struggle against Stalin after Lenin died, but whether one sided with Trotsky or Bukharin, Bolshevism and Stalinism were very different. The differences between Bukharin and Trotsky were minimal compared to their differences with Stalin. It was the fault of the totalitarian theorists that Bolshevism and Stalinism became blurred. The Bolshevik Party was more open and, in some ways, democratic than had been generally admitted. Cohen used the work of Alexander Rabinowitch’s Bolsheviks Come to Power (1976) to document his points.

Sheila Fitzpatrick

More conservative than Cohen, political scientist Sheila Fitzpatrick was not interested in saving Lenin from complicity in Stalin’s crimes. She thought that the Civil War gave the new regime a baptism by fire that the Bolsheviks wanted. She argued that what Cohen ignored is the terroristic aspect on the Russian population. Because of “The Terror” of Stalin’s reign, parents talked differently to their children, writers wrote differently, workers and managers talked to one another differently, and millions perished.

 Neocons

With the decline of the US economy after 1970, the ebbing of the left activism of the 1960s and the rise of religious fundamentalism in the late 70s, neo-conservatives saw their ship coming in. These neo-cons showed great respect for dissident intellectuals of Eastern Europe — Havel, Kolakowsky and Solzhenitsyn — and had significant ties to anti-Communist Western European intellectuals such as Karl Bracher, Jacob Talmon, and Raymond Aron. However, it wasn’t until the election of Reagan that the neoconservatives both inside and outside government began a sustained drive for hands-on political influence. It was these neo-cons who reintroduced “totalitarianism” into the US political vocabulary.

The Separation of “Authoritarian” from Totalitarianism as a way to justify cavorting with military dictatorships

The Soviet Union had to be understood as totalitarian for ideological purposes, but were all countries with centralized power, with limits on capitalists’ governments, “totalitarian”? That depends on the politics of the country. If the country has a victorious Leninist party in power, then the country is labeled totalitarian regardless of how democratic the political process was. But if the country has a right-wing military in power, no matter how many characteristics of totalitarian they have, they will be called something else, “authoritarian.”

Instrumental in the revised typology of totalitarianism was Jeanne Kirkpatrick. She accepted Friedrich and Brzezinski’s model and added Talmon’s stress on totalitarian liberalism. In her essay, Dictatorships and Double Standards, her most important innovation was to introduce a distinction between totalitarian and authoritarian regimes. Her attitude towards traditional nondemocratic regimes was Burkean. This means that traditional autocrats, unlike totalitarians, leave in place existing allocations of wealth, power and status. The religious system and traditions are left alone. They do not disturb habitual rhythms of work and leisure, where people live or family dynamics. The totalitarian regime, on the other hand, draws on resources of modern technology and wipes out these traditions.  The authoritarian regime stems from a lack of political or economic development, not the presence of modern transport and communications systems that totalitarians possess.

Why the distinction between authoritarian vs totalitarian rule? As much as neocons want to think of the political world of nations in black and white systems of rule, the reality of international relations makes this impossible. The political world consists of a spectrum of rule going from more liberal to more authoritarian. It is inevitable that countries of industrial capitalist governments must form alliances with countries who have more heavy-handed rulers because they do not have complete control over world affairs. If the political world today requires alliances, how would it look if geopolitical alliances were with countries that were classified as totalitarian?

“Authoritarian” was a way to distinguish between right-wing dictatorships that for reasons of convenience or necessity the United States should support. These must be distinguished from left-wing ones that were dangerous to western capitalist interests and so are classified as totalitarian. So, the United States could classify alliances with theocracies like Saudi Arabia or Egypt as “authoritarian”, even though they may have more characteristics that are totalitarian. Conversely, Venezuela will be classified as totalitarian, even though in practice it has one of the highest rated democratic processes in the world.

Modernization theory as propaganda to deny core countries’ creation of right-wing states

Among other claims, World-Systems theory claims that there is one single world-capitalist system with a core, periphery and semi-periphery, and these differences are based on technology, economic, political and military power. In addition to the invisible hand of capitalism there is also an invisible fist. In order to make sure the labor and land markets in the peripheral countries remain cheap, international capitalists cannot afford to have political rulers in the periphery of the system in power who have their own ideas of how to organize their economy. This is one reason why Lumumba and Qaddafi were murdered. Therefore, it pays for capitalists to throw guns and money at dictators who will keep foreign markets open, continue to develop commercial crops, keep unions from forming and assassinating any leftist troublemakers.  It is these countries that are called “emerging democracies” at best, and “authoritarian” at worst.

Modernization theory is the systematic repression and denial of the notion that military dictatorships are a creature of oppressive international power plays on the part of core-capitalist countries to keep peripheral countries dependent on the international institutions like the World Bank or the IMF. Peripheral countries are treated as isolated specimens that are undergoing internal development. Instead of these states being largely the creatures of neo-colonialism, they are treated as pre-modern authoritarian societies that only need to be exposed to western European political institutions in order to straighten up and fly right toward the path of democracy which is already happily charted by Western Europe and the United States.

•  First published in Planning Beyond Capitalism

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“Absolute And Arbitrary Power”: Killing Extinction Rebellion And Julian Assange

The use and misuse of George Orwell’s truth-telling is so widespread that we can easily miss his intended meaning. For example, with perfect (Orwellian) irony, the BBC has a statue of Orwell outside Broadcasting House, bearing the inscription:

‘If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.’

Fine words, but suitably ambiguous: the BBC might argue that it is merely exercising its ‘liberty’ in endlessly channelling the worldview of powerful interests – crass propaganda that many people certainly ‘do not want to hear’.

Orwell’s real intention is made clearer in this second comment:

‘Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations.’

In this line attributed to him (although there is some debate about where it originated), Orwell was talking about power – real journalism challenges the powerful. And this is the essential difference between the vital work of WikiLeaks and the propaganda role performed by state-corporate media like the BBC every day on virtually every issue.

On September 6, the Mail on Sunday ran two editorials, side by side. The first was titled, ‘A sinister, shameful attack on free speech’. It decried the Extinction Rebellion action last Friday to blockade three newspaper printing presses owned by Rupert Murdoch’s UK News. The second editorial, as we will see below, was a feeble call not to send Julian Assange to the US, on the eve of his crucial extradition hearing in London.

Extinction Rebellion’s protest, lasting just a few hours, temporarily prevented the distribution of Murdoch newspapers, such as the Sun and The Times, as well as other titles printed by Murdoch’s presses, including the Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday and the Daily Telegraph.

The Mail on Sunday editorial predictably condemned the protesters’ supposed attempt at ‘censorship’, declaring it:

‘a throwback to the very worst years of trade union militancy, which came close to strangling a free press and which was only defeated by the determined action of Rupert Murdoch.’

The paper fumed:

‘The newspaper blockade was a shameful and dangerous attempt to crush free speech, and it should never be repeated.’

This was the propaganda message that was repeated across much of the ‘mainstream media’, epitomised by the empty rhetoric of Prime Minister Boris Johnson:

‘A free press is vital in holding the government and other powerful institutions to account on issues critical for the future of our country, including the fight against climate change. It is completely unacceptable to seek to limit the public’s access to news in this way.’

Johnson’s comments could have been pure satire penned by Chris Morris, Mark Steel or the late Jeremy Hardy. Closer to the grubby truth, a different Johnson – Samuel – described the ‘free press’ as ‘Scribbling on the backs of advertisements’.

As Media Lens has repeatedly demonstrated over the past 20 years, it is the state-corporate media, including BBC News, that has endlessly ‘limited the public’s access to news’ by denying the public the full truth about climate breakdown, UK/US warmongering, including wars on Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, the arming of Saudi Arabia and complicity in that brutal regime’s destruction of Yemen, UK government support for the apartheid state of Israel even as it crushes the Palestinian people, the insidious prising open of the NHS to private interests, and numerous other issues of public importance.

When has the mythical ‘free press’ ever fully and properly held to account Boris Johnson or any of his predecessors in 10 Downing Street? Who can forget that Tony Blair, steeped in the blood of so many Iraqis, is still held in esteem as an elder statesman whose views are sought out by ‘mainstream’ news outlets, including BBC News and the Guardian? As John Pilger said recently:

‘Always contrast Julian Assange with Tony Blair. One will be fighting for his life in court on 7 Sept for the “crime” of exposing war crimes while the other evades justice for the paramount crime of Iraq.’

Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who has presided over a national public health disaster with soaring rates of mortality during the coronavirus pandemic, had the affront to tweet a photograph of himself with a clutch of right-wing papers under his arm, declaring:

‘Totally outrageous that Extinction Rebellion are trying to suppress free speech by blockading newspapers. They must be dealt with by the full force of the law.’

It is Hancock himself, together with government colleagues and advisers – not least Johnson and his protector, Dominic Cummings – who should ‘be dealt with by the full force of the law’. As Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet medical journal, said of Boris Johnson in May:

‘you dropped the ball, Prime Minister. That was criminal. And you know it.’

Extinction Rebellion (XR) explained succinctly via Twitter their reason for their ‘totally outrageous’ action:

‘Dear Newsagents, we are sorry for disruption caused to your business this morning. Dear Mr. Murdoch, we are absolutely not sorry for continuing to disrupt your agenda this morning.  @rupertmurdoch #FreeTheTruth #ExtinctionRebellion #TellTheTruth

An article on the XR website, simply titled, ‘We do not have a free press’, said:

‘We are in an emergency of unprecedented scale and the papers we have targeted are not reflecting the scale and urgency of what is happening to our planet.’

One of the XR protesters was ‘Steve’, a former journalist for 25 years who had worked for the Sun, Daily Mail, the Telegraph and The Times. He was filmed on location during the protest. He explained that he was participating, in part, because he is worried about the lack of a future for his children. And a major reason for how we got to this point is that journalists are:

‘stuck inside a toxic system where they don’t have any choice but to tell the stories that these newspapers want to be told.’

He continued:

‘Every person who works on News International or a Mail newspaper knows what story is or isn’t acceptable for their bosses. And their bosses know that because they know what’s acceptable to Murdoch or Rothermere or the other billionaires that run 70 per cent of our media’.

Steve said he left that system because he ‘couldn’t bear the way it worked’.

The most recent report by the independent Media Reform Coalition on UK media ownership, published in 2019, revealed the scale of the problem of extremely concentrated media ownership. Just three companies – Rupert Murdoch’s News UK, Daily Mail Group and Reach (publisher of the Mirror titles) dominate 83 per cent of the national newspaper market (up from 71 per cent in 2015). When online readers are included, just five companies – News UK, Daily Mail Group, Reach, Guardian and Telegraph – dominate nearly 80 per cent of the market.

As we noted of XR’s worthy action:

‘Before anyone denounces this as an attack on the “free press” – there is no free press. There is a billionaire-owned, profit-maximising, ad-dependent corporate press that has knowingly suppressed the truth of climate collapse and the need for action to protect corporate profits.’

Zarah Sultana, Labour MP for Coventry South, indicated her support too:

‘A tiny number of billionaires own vast swathes of our press. Their papers relentlessly campaign for right-wing politics, promoting the interests of the ruling class and scapegoating minorities. A free press is vital to democracy, but too much of our press isn’t free at all.’

By contrast, Labour leader Keir Starmer once again demonstrated his establishment credentials as ‘a safe pair of hands’ by condemning XR’s protest. Craig Murray commented:

‘At a time when the government is mooting designating Extinction Rebellion as Serious Organised Crime, right wing bequiffed muppet Keir Starmer was piously condemning the group, stating: “The free press is the cornerstone of democracy and we must do all we can to protect it.”’

Starmer had also commented:

‘Denying people the chance to read what they choose is wrong and does nothing to tackle climate change.’

But denying people the chance to read what they would choose – the corporate-unfriendly truth – on climate change is exactly what the corporate media, misleadingly termed ‘mainstream media’, is all about.

Media activist and lecturer Justin Schlosberg made a number of cogent observations on ‘press freedom’ in a Twitter thread (beginning here):

‘9 times out of 10 when people in Britain talk about protecting press freedom what they really mean is protecting press power’.

He pointed out the ‘giant myth’ promulgated by corporate media, forever trying to resist any attempt to curb their power; namely that:

‘Britain’s mainstream [sic] press is a vital pillar of our democracy, covering a diversity of perspectives and upholding professional standards of journalism…the reality is closer to the exact inverse of such claims. More than 10 million people voted for a socialist party at the last election (13 million in 2017) and polls have consistently shown that majority of British public oppose austerity’.

Schlosberg continued:

‘The “diversity” of our national press [… ] covers the political spectrum from liberal/centre to hard right and has overwhelmingly backed austerity economics for the best part of the last 4 decades… [moreover] the UK press enjoys an unrivalled international reputation for producing a diatribe of fake, racist and misogynistic hate speech over anything that can be called journalism’.

He rightly concluded:

‘ironically one of the greatest threats to democracy is a press that continues to weave myths in support of its vested interests, and a BBC that continues to uncritically absorb them.’

Assange In The US Crosshairs

Alongside the Mail on Sunday’s billionaire-owned, extremist right-wing attack on climate activists highlighting a non-existent ‘free press’, the paper had an editorial that touched briefly on the danger to all journalists should WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange be extradited from the UK to the US:

‘the charges against Mr Assange, using the American Espionage Act, might be used against legitimate journalists in this country’.

The implication was that Assange is not to be regarded as a ‘legitimate journalist’. Indeed, the billionaire Rothermere-owned viewspaper – a more accurate description than ‘newspaper’ – made clear its antipathy towards him:

‘Mr Assange’s revelations of leaked material caused grave embarrassment to Washington and are alleged to have done material damage too.’

The term ‘embarrassment’ refers to the exposure of US criminal actions threatening the great rogue state’s ability to commit similar crimes in future: not embarrassing (Washington is without shame), but potentially limiting.

The Mail on Sunday continued:

‘Mr Assange has been a spectacular nuisance during his time in this country, lawlessly jumping bail and wasting police time by taking refuge in embassy of Ecuador. The Mail on Sunday disapproves of much of what he has done, but we must also ask if his current treatment is fair, right or just.’

The insinuations and subtle smears embedded in these few lines have been repeatedly demolished (see this extensive analysis, for example). And there was no mention that Nils Melzer, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, as well as numerous doctors, health experts and human rights organisations, have strongly condemned the UK’s appalling abuse of Assange and demanded his immediate release.

Melzer has accused the British government of torturing Assange:

‘the primary purpose of torture is not necessarily interrogation, but very often torture is used to intimidate others, as a show to the public what happens if you don’t comply with the government. That is the purpose of what has been done to Julian Assange. It is not to punish or coerce him, but to silence him and to do so in broad daylight, making visible to the entire world that those who expose the misconduct of the powerful no longer enjoy the protection of the law, but essentially will be annihilated. It is a show of absolute and arbitrary power’.

Melzer also spoke about the price he will pay for challenging the powerful:

‘I am under no illusions that my UN career is probably over. Having openly confronted two P5-States (UN security council members) the way I have, I am very unlikely to be approved by them for another high-level position. I have been told, that my uncompromising engagement in this case comes at a political price.’

This is the reality of the increasingly authoritarian world we are living in.

The weak defence of Assange now being seen in even right-wing media, such as the Mail on Sunday, indicates a real fear that any journalist could in future be targeted by the US government for publishing material that might anger Washington.

In an interview this week, Barry Pollack, Julian Assange’s US lawyer, warned of the ‘very dangerous’ precedent that could be set in motion with Assange’s extradition to the US:

‘The position that the U.S. is taking is a very dangerous one. The position the U.S. is taking is that they have jurisdiction all over the world and can pursue criminal charges against any journalist anywhere on the planet, whether they’re a U.S. citizen or not. But if they’re not a U.S. citizen, not only can the U.S. pursue charges against them but that person has no defense under the First Amendment.’

In stark contrast to the weak protestations of the Mail on Sunday and the rest of the establishment media, Noam Chomsky pointed out the simple truth in a recent interview on RT (note the dearth of Chomsky interviews on BBC News, and consider why his views are not sought after):

‘Julian Assange committed the crime of letting the general population know things that they have a right to know and that powerful states don’t want them to know.’

Likewise, John Pilger issued a strong warning:

‘This week, one of the most important struggles for freedom in my lifetime nears its end. Julian Assange who exposed the crimes of great power faces burial alive in Trump’s America unless he wins his extradition case. Whose side are you on?’

Pilger recommended an excellent in-depth piece by Jonathan Cook, a former Guardian/Observer journalist, in which Cook observed:

‘For years, journalists cheered Assange’s abuse. Now they’ve paved his path to a US gulag.’

Peter Oborne is a rare example of a right-leaning journalist who has spoken out strongly in defence of Assange. Oborne wrote last week in Press Gazette that:

‘Future generations of journalists will not forgive us if we do not fight extradition.’

He set out the following scenario:

‘Let’s imagine a foreign dissident was being held in London’s Belmarsh Prison charged with supposed espionage offences by the Chinese authorities.

‘And that his real offence was revealing crimes committed by the Chinese Communist Party – including publishing video footage of atrocities carried out by Chinese troops.

‘To put it another way, that his real offence was committing the crime of journalism.

‘Let us further suppose the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture said this dissident showed “all the symptoms typical for prolonged exposure to psychological torture” and that the Chinese were putting pressure on the UK authorities to extradite this individual where he could face up to 175 years in prison.

‘The outrage from the British press would be deafening.’

Oborne continued:

‘There is one crucial difference. It is the US trying to extradite the co-founder of Wikileaks.

‘Yet there has been scarcely a word in the mainstream British media in his defence.’

In fact, as we have repeatedly highlighted, Assange has been the subject of a propaganda blitz by the UK media, attacking and smearing him, over and over again, often in the pages of the ‘liberal’ Guardian.

At the time of writing, neither ITV political editor Robert Peston nor BBC News political editor Laura Kuenssberg appear to have reported the Assange extradition case. They have not even tweeted about it once, even though they are both very active on Twitter. In fact, the last time Peston so much as mentioned Assange on his Twitter feed was 2017. Kuenssberg’s record is even worse; her Twitter silence extends all the way back to 2014. These high-profile journalists are supposedly prime exemplars of the very best ‘high-quality’ UK news broadcasters, maintaining the values of a ‘free press’, holding politicians to account and keeping the public informed.

On September 7, John Pilger gave an address outside the Old Bailey in London, just before Julian Assange’s extradition hearing began there. His words were a powerful rebuke to those so-called ‘journalists’ that have maintained a cowardly silence, or worse. The ‘official truth-tellers’ of the media – the stenographers who collaborate with those in power, helping to sell their wars – are, Pilger says, ‘Vichy journalists’.

He continued:

‘It is said that whatever happens to Julian Assange in the next three weeks will diminish if not destroy freedom of the press in the West. But which press? The Guardian? The BBC, The New York Times, the Jeff Bezos Washington Post?

‘No, the journalists in these organizations can breathe freely. The Judases on the Guardian who flirted with Julian, exploited his landmark work, made their pile then betrayed him, have nothing to fear. They are safe because they are needed.

‘Freedom of the press now rests with the honorable few: the exceptions, the dissidents on the internet who belong to no club, who are neither rich nor laden with Pulitzers, but produce fine, disobedient, moral journalism – those like Julian Assange.’

The post "Absolute And Arbitrary Power": Killing Extinction Rebellion And Julian Assange first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Writers’ Open Letter Against “Cancel Culture” is About Stifling Free Speech, Not Protecting It

Updated below

An open letter published by Harper’s magazine, and signed by dozens of prominent writers and public figures, has focused attention on the apparent dangers of what has been termed a new “cancel culture”.

The letter brings together an unlikely alliance of genuine leftists, such as Noam Chomsky and Matt Karp, centrists such as J K Rowling and Ian Buruma, and neoconservatives such as David Frum and Bari Weiss, all speaking out in defence of free speech.

Although the letter doesn’t explicitly use the term “cancel culture”, it is clearly what is meant in the complaint about a “stifling” cultural climate that is resulting in “ideological conformity” and weakening “norms of open debate and toleration of differences”.

It is easy to agree with the letter’s generalised argument for tolerance and free and fair debate, but the reality is that many of those who signed are utter hypocrites, who have shown precisely zero commitment to free speech, either in their words or in their deeds.

Further, the intent of many of them in signing the letter is the very reverse of their professed goal: they want to stifle free speech, not protect it.

To understand what is really going on with this letter, we first need to scrutinise the motives, rather than the substance, of the letter.

A new ‘illiberalism’

“Cancel culture” started as the shaming, often on social media, of people who were seen to have said offensive things. But of late, cancel culture has on occasion become more tangible, as the letter notes, with individuals fired or denied the chance to speak at a public venue or to publish their work.

The letter denounces this supposedly new type of “illiberalism”:

We uphold the value of robust and even caustic counter-speech from all quarters. But it is now all too common to hear calls for swift and severe retribution in response to perceived transgressions of speech and thought. …

Editors are fired for running controversial pieces; books are withdrawn for alleged inauthenticity; journalists are barred from writing on certain topics; professors are investigated for quoting works of literature in class; … The result has been to steadily narrow the boundaries of what can be said without the threat of reprisal. We are already paying the price in greater risk aversion among writers, artists, and journalists who fear for their livelihoods if they depart from the consensus, or even lack sufficient zeal in agreement.

Tricky identity politics

The array of signatures is actually more troubling than reassuring. If we lived in a more just world, some of those signing – like Frum, a former speechwriter for President George W Bush, and Anne-Marie Slaughter, a former US State Department official – would be facing a reckoning before a Hague war crimes tribunal for their roles in promoting “interventions” in Iraq and Libya respectively, not being held up as champions of free speech.

That is one clue that these various individuals have signed the letter for very different reasons.

Chomsky signed because he has been a lifelong and consistent defender of the right to free speech, even for those with appalling opinions such as Holocaust denial.

Frum, who coined the term “axis of evil” that rationalised the invasion of Iraq, and Weiss, a New York Times columnist, signed because they have found their lives getting tougher. True, it is easy for them to dominate platforms in the corporate media while advocating for criminal wars abroad, and they have paid no career price when their analyses and predictions have turned out to be so much dangerous hokum. But they are now feeling the backlash on university campuses and social media.

Meanwhile, centrists like Buruma and Rowling have discovered that it is getting ever harder to navigate the tricky terrain of identity politics without tripping up. The reputational damage can have serious consequences.

Buruma famously lost his job as editor of the New York Review of Books two years ago after he published and defended an article that violated the new spirit of the #MeToo movement. And Rowling made the mistake of thinking her followers would be as fascinated by her traditional views on transgender issues as they are by her Harry Potter books.

‘Fake news, Russian trolls’

But the fact that all of these writers and intellectuals agree that there is a price to be paid in the new, more culturally sensitive climate does not mean that they are all equally interested in protecting the right to be controversial or outspoken.

Chomsky, importantly, is defending free speech for all, because he correctly understands that the powerful are only too keen to find justifications to silence those who challenge their power. Elites protect free speech only in so far as it serves their interests in dominating the public space.

If those on the progressive left do not defend the speech rights of everyone, even their political opponents, then any restrictions will soon be turned against them. The establishment will always tolerate the hate speech of a Trump or a Bolsonaro over the justice speech of a Sanders or a Corbyn.

By contrast, most of the rest of those who signed – the rightwingers and the centrists – are interested in free speech for themselves and those like them. They care about protecting free speech only in so far as it allows them to continue dominating the public space with their views – something they were only too used to until a few years ago, before social media started to level the playing field a little.

The centre and the right have been fighting back ever since with claims that anyone who seriously challenges the neoliberal status quo at home and the neoconservative one abroad is promoting “fake news” or is a “Russian troll”. This updating of the charge of being “un-American” embodies cancel culture at its very worst.

Social media accountability

In other words, apart from in the case of a few progressives, the letter is simply special pleading – for a return to the status quo. And for that reason, as we shall see, Chomsky might have been better advised not to add his name, however much he agrees with the letter’s vague, ostensibly pro-free speech sentiments.

What is striking about a significant proportion of those who signed is their self-identification as ardent supporters of Israel. And as Israel’s critics know only too well, advocates for Israel have been at the forefront of the cancel culture – from long before the term was even coined.

For decades, pro-Israel activists have sought to silence anyone seen to be seriously critiquing this small, highly militarised state, sponsored by the colonial powers, that was implanted in a region rich with a natural resource, oil, needed to lubricate the global economy, and at a terrible cost to its native, Palestinian population.

Nothing should encourage us to believe that zealous defenders of Israel among those signing the letter have now seen the error of their ways. Their newfound concern for free speech is simply evidence that they have begun to suffer from the very same cancel culture they have always promoted in relation to Israel.

They have lost control of the “cancel culture” because of two recent developments: a rapid growth in identity politics among liberals and leftists, and a new popular demand for “accountability” spawned by the rise of social media.

Cancelling Israel’s critics

In fact, despite their professions of concern, the evidence suggests that some of those signing the letter have been intensifying their own contribution to cancel culture in relation to Israel, rather than contesting it.

That is hardly surprising. The need to counter criticism of Israel has grown more pressing as Israel has more obviously become a pariah state. Israel has refused to countenance peace talks with the Palestinians and it has intensified its efforts to realise long-harboured plans to annex swaths of the West Bank in violation of international law.

Rather than allow “robust and even caustic counter-speech from all quarters” on Israel, Israel’s supporters have preferred the tactics of those identified in the letter as enemies of free speech: “swift and severe retribution in response to perceived transgressions of speech and thought”.

Just ask Jeremy Corbyn, the former leader of the Labour party who was reviled, along with his supporters, as an antisemite – one of the worst smears imaginable – by several people on the Harper’s list, including Rowling and Weiss. Such claims were promoted even though his critics could produce no actual evidence of an antisemitism problem in the Labour party.

Similarly, think of the treatment of Palestinian solidarity activists who support a boycott of Israel (BDS), modelled on the one that helped push South Africa’s leaders into renouncing apartheid. BDS activists too have been smeared as antisemites – and Weiss again has been a prime offender.

The incidents highlighted in the Harper’s letter in which individuals have supposedly been cancelled is trivial compared to the cancelling of a major political party and of a movement that stands in solidarity with a people who have been oppressed for decades.

And yet how many of these free speech warriors have come forward to denounce the fact that leftists – including many Jewish anti-Zionists – have been pilloried as antisemites to prevent them from engaging in debates about Israel’s behaviour and its abuses of Palestinian rights?

How many of them have decried the imposition of a new definition of antisemitism, by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, that has been rapidly gaining ground in western countries?

That definition is designed to silence a large section of the left by prioritising the safety of Israel from being criticised before the safety of Jews from being vilified and attacked – something that even the lawyer who authored the definition has come to regret.

Why has none of this “cancel culture” provoked an open letter to Harper’s from these champions of free speech?

Double-edge sword

The truth is that many of those who signed the letter are defending not free speech but their right to continue dominating the public square – and their right to do so without being held accountable.

Bari Weiss, before she landed a job at the Wall Street Journal and then the New York Times, spent her student years trying to get Muslim professors fired from her university – cancelling them – because of their criticism of Israel. And she explicitly did so under the banner of “academic freedom”, claiming pro-Israel students felt intimidated in the classroom.

The New York Civil Liberties Union concluded that it was Weiss, not the professors, who was the real threat to academic freedom. This was not some youthful indiscretion. In a book last year Weiss cited her efforts to rid Columbia university of these professors as a formative experience on which she still draws.

Weiss and many of the others listed under the letter are angry that the rhetorical tools they used for so long to stifle the free speech of others have now been turned against them. Those who lived for so long by the sword of identity politics – on Israel, for example – are worried that their reputations may die by that very same sword – on issues of race, sex and gender.

Narcissistic concern

To understand how the cancel culture is central to the worldview of many of these writers and intellectuals, and how blind they are to their own complicity in that culture, consider the case of Jonathan Freedland, a columnist with the supposedly liberal-left British newspaper the Guardian. Although Freedland is not among those signing the letter, he is very much aligned with the centrists among them.

Freedland, we should note, led the cancel culture against the Labour party referenced above. He was one of the key figures in Britain’s Jewish community who breathed life into the antisemitism smears against Corbyn and his supporters.

But note the brief clip below. In it, Freedland’s voice can be heard cracking as he explains how he has been a victim of the cancel culture himself: he confesses that he has suffered verbal and emotional abuse at the hands of Israel’s most extreme apologists – those who are even more unapologetically pro-Israel than he is.

He reports that he has been called a “kapo”, the term for Jewish collaborators in the Nazi concentration camps, and a “sonderkommando”, the Jews who disposed of the bodies of fellow Jews killed in the gas chambers. He admits such abuse “burrows under your skin” and “hurts tremendously”.

And yet, despite the personal pain he has experienced of being unfairly accused, of being cancelled by a section of his own community, Freedland has been at the forefront of the campaign to tar critics of Israel, including anti-Zionist Jews, as antisemites on the flimsiest of evidence.

He is entirely oblivious to the ugly nature of the cancel culture – unless it applies to himself. His concern is purely narcissistic. And so it is with the majority of those who signed the letter.

Conducting a monologue

The letter’s main conceit is the pretence that “illiberalism” is a new phenomenon, that free speech is under threat, and that the cancel culture only arrived at the moment it was given a name.

That is simply nonsense. Anyone over the age of 35 can easily remember a time when newspapers and websites did not have a talk-back section, when blogs were few in number and rarely read, and when there was no social media on which to challenge or hold to account “the great and the good”.

Writers and columnists like those who signed the letter were then able to conduct a monologue in which they revealed their opinions to the rest of us as if they were Moses bringing down the tablets from the mountaintop.

In those days, no one noticed the cancel culture – or was allowed to remark on it. And that was because only those who held approved opinions were ever given a media platform from which to present those opinions.

Before the digital revolution, if you dissented from the narrow consensus imposed by the billionaire owners of the corporate media, all you could do was print your own primitive newsletter and send it by post to the handful of people who had heard of you.

That was the real cancel culture. And the proof is in the fact that many of those formerly obscure writers quickly found they could amass tens of thousands of followers – with no help from the traditional corporate media – when they had access to blogs and social media.

Silencing the left

Which brings us to the most troubling aspect of the open letter in Harper’s. Under cover of calls for tolerance, given credibility by Chomsky’s name, a proportion of those signing actually want to restrict the free speech of one section of the population – the part influenced by Chomsky.

They are not against the big cancel culture from which they have benefited for so long. They are against the small cancel culture – the new more chaotic, and more democratic, media environment we currently enjoy – in which they are for the first time being held to account for their views, on a range of issues including Israel.

Just as Weiss tried to get professors fired under the claim of academic freedom, many of these writers and public figures are using the banner of free speech to discredit speech they don’t like, speech that exposes the hollowness of their own positions.

Their criticisms of “cancel culture” are really about prioritising “responsible” speech, defined as speech shared by centrists and the right that shores up the status quo. They want a return to a time when the progressive left – those who seek to disrupt a manufactured consensus, who challenge the presumed verities of neoliberal and neoconservative orthodoxy – had no real voice.

The new attacks on “cancel culture” echo the attacks on Bernie Sanders’ supporters, who were framed as “Bernie Bros” – the evidence-free implication that he attracted a rabble of aggressive, women-hating men who tried to bully others into silence on social media.

Just as this claim was used to discredit Sanders’ policies, so the centre and the right now want to discredit the left more generally by implying that, without curbs, they too will bully everyone else into silence and submission through their “cancel culture”.

If this conclusion sounds unconvincing, consider that President Donald Trump could easily have added his name to the letter alongside Chomsky’s. Trump used his recent Independence Day speech at Mount Rushmore to make similar points to the Harper’s letter. He at least was explicit in equating “cancel culture” with what he called “far-left fascism”:

One of [the left’s] political weapons is “Cancel Culture” — driving people from their jobs, shaming dissenters, and demanding total submission from anyone who disagrees. This is the very definition of totalitarianism … This attack on our liberty, our magnificent liberty, must be stopped, and it will be stopped very quickly.

Trump, in all his vulgarity, makes plain what the Harper’s letter, in all its cultural finery, obscures. That attacks on the new “cancel culture” are simply another front – alongside supposed concerns about “fake news” and “Russian trolls” – in the establishment’s efforts to limit speech by the left.

Attention redirected

This is not to deny that there is fake news on social media or that there are trolls, some of them even Russian. Rather, it is to point out that our attention is being redirected, and our concerns manipulated by a political agenda.

Despite the way it has been presented in the corporate media, fake news on social media has been mostly a problem of the right. And the worst examples of fake news – and the most influential – are found not on social media at all, but on the front pages of the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.

What genuinely fake news on Facebook has ever rivalled the lies justifying the invasion of Iraq in 2003 that were knowingly peddled by a political elite and their stenographers in the corporate media. Those lies led directly to more than a million Iraqi deaths, turned millions more into refugees, destroyed an entire country, and fuelled a new type of nihilistic Islamic extremism whose effects we are still feeling.

Most of the worst lies from the current period – those that have obscured or justified US interference in Syria and Venezuela, or rationalised war crimes against Iran, or approved the continuing imprisonment of Julian Assange for exposing war crimes – can only be understood by turning our backs on the corporate media and looking to experts who can rarely find a platform outside of social media.

I say this as someone who has concerns about the fashionable focus on identity politics rather than class politics. I say it also as someone who rejects all forms of cancel culture – whether it is the old-style, “liberal” cancel culture that imposes on us a narrow “consensus” politics (the Overton window), or the new “leftwing” cancel culture that too often prefers to focus on easy cultural targets like Rowling than the structural corruption of western political systems.

But those who are impressed by the letter simply because Chomsky’s name is attached should beware. Just as “fake news” has provided the pretext for Google and social media platforms to change their algorithms to vanish leftwingers from searches and threads, just as “antisemitism” has been redefined to demonise the left, so too the supposed threat of “cancel culture” will be exploited to silence the left.

Protecting Bari Weiss and J K Rowling from a baying leftwing “mob” – a mob that that claims a right to challenge their views on Israel or trans issues – will become the new rallying cry from the establishment for action against “irresponsible” or “intimidating” speech.

Progressive leftists who join these calls out of irritation with the current focus on identity politics, or because they fear being labelled an antisemite, or because they mistakenly assume that the issue really is about free speech, will quickly find that they are the main targets.

In defending free speech, they will end up being the very ones who are silenced.

UPDATE:

You don’t criticise Chomsky however respectfully – at least not from a left perspective – without expecting a whirlwind of opposition from those who believe he can never do any wrong.

But one issue that keeps being raised on my social media feeds in his defence is just plain wrong-headed, so I want to quickly address it. Here’s one of my followers expressing the point succinctly:

The sentiments in the letter stand or fall on their own merits, not on the characters or histories of some of the signatories, nor their future plans.

The problem, as I’m sure Chomsky would explain in any other context, is that this letter fails not just because of the other people who signed it but on its merit too. And that’s because, as I explain above, it ignores the most oppressive and most established forms of cancel culture, as Chomsky should have been the first to notice.

Highlighting the small cancel culture, while ignoring the much larger, establishment-backed cancel culture, distorts our understanding of what is at stake and who wields power.

Chomsky unwittingly just helped a group of mostly establishment stooges skew our perceptions of the problem so that we side with them against ourselves. There’s no way that can be a good thing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

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

The Western firewall is complete.

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

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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