Category Archives: Narrative

Caught in Their Fun House

America… just a nation of two hundred million used car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns and no qualms about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable.

Hunter S. Thompson

Now I think poetry will save nothing from oblivion, but I keep writing about the ordinary because for me it’s the home of the extraordinary, the only home.

— Phillip Levine

I’m digging the DV piece, “The Idiot” by Jason Holland, since in a critical mass sort of black hole kind of way, his main thesis is reflective of the experiences many of us in the bloody trenches of dying capitalism see/feel/believe minute by minute.

And after all our idiotic overcomplicated plots and schemes, they are but to mask simple truths the idiot facade tries so desperately to avoid; the inner torments of being afraid of not being good enough, not measuring up to our peers, not meeting arbitrary expectations we either accept from others or set for ourselves, or quite simply feeling like we are not worthy of love. So we play these pointless high stakes games which have a rewards as meaningless and worthless as a plastic trophy just to prove our worth. The idiot is a temporal state of being, although many are finer long term examples of displaying the behaviors of the idiot; however none of us are the perfect idiot. To avoid the affectations of being in an idiotic state it takes conscious effort to live our lives moment to moment with authenticity, to be in a state of awareness of our actions, to always be willing to suffer for something worthwhile and to be consistently well reasoned examiners of what constitutes something worthwhile.

That authenticity, moment to moment existence —  and it should be a reveling of life — is good, but there is a bifurcating of sorts when many of us are still subject to the masters of Big Brother and Big Business. We are suffering the dualism of the Century, and the more we know, the more we seek and the more we grapple, well, the more emancipated we are, but in that freedom comes some pretty harsh treatment by the masters and their sub-masters and all the Little Eichmann’s that keep the Capitalist’s trains moving like clockwork toward the global demise set in their plastic worlds!

And some of us think Dachau and Auschwitz were bad! We have already seen a hundred of them since 1945.

For me, I have the benefit of being a writer, and at this time, I have this new gig I created myself to bring to the Oregon Coast a sense of the people who are here living or who come here to set down their own stories . . . people who do things to make this world better and themselves better. Something in the draw that brings my subjects for my pieces here to the coast of Oregon. These are people, and they are not perfections or cut-outs or pulverized remnants of humanity that Capitalism mostly demands in it shark tank of inane media manipulation and marketing.

I crack open humanity and get people’s contexts — entire stories upon stories laid down, strata by strata, and cover their own formula for the art of living in harmony in a world of disharmony. Reading my stuff, I hope, will allow readers of this rag, Oregon Coast Today,  and its on-line version a better sense of authenticity via people they may or may not even run across in their own lives of being the consummate busy tourist and consumer.

A few of the pieces will be worthy of DV display, and I hope that my attempt at drilling down and “getting people” for who they are and how they got here will better the world, in some small shape. Really small, but small wonders sometimes are the ionic glue of a bettering world.

What is more compelling than the average person captured in a truthful narrative, as counterpoint to a society that delves into the celebrity, the spectacle, the idiocy as Jason puts forth in his piece, “The Idiot.”

In many ways, talking to people who have lived authentic (albeit struggle-prone) lives, or who are just embarking on a nascent stage of multiple iterations of living, I get my sense of grounding in a very flummoxed world of inanity and crass disassociation, as in the disease of pushing away humanity and pushing away the natural world to hitch oneself to the perversions of the billionaire class.

Time and time again, daily, my friends who are still in struggle — still trying to make sense of the perverted world of idiots controlling the message, the economy, the environment, the culture, and the mental-physical-spiritual health of the world, as if this is it, Trump 2.0 — give me news feed after news feed of the quickening of not only idiocy that capitalism and consumerism and war engender in our species, but also examples of the inhumanity driving the agendas of the Fortune 500 Class, the Davos crowd, the Aspen Institute gatherings, et al.

Yet, my friend, Joe the Farmer from Merced, hits the nail on the head by providing his own retort to example after example of the cruelty of capitalism and the US of I — United States of Idiots?

If this doesn’t slap the Hell out of you and rub your nose into the proverbial dog shit of what a criminally insane, inhumane, cruel and thuggish enterprise our government has become, then there is absolutely no hope for your soul. The truth tellers like Manning, Assange, Snowden and others, the brave young guys like Tim DeChristopher that monkey wrenched the sale of oil leases to public lands to try and protect the environment, this fellow that is showing his human side by providing water and aid for those dying in the desert sun, are all facing prison terms or maybe even the death penalty. Their crime? Being a compassionate human being.

What in the fuck is wrong with this country? The republicans enact cruel legislation to protect criminal enterprises, slash taxes for the obscenely rich, while removing any social or environmental protections for the population, (the Flint Michigan water system for example).

The republicans are ruthlessly attacking the environment and endangered species, turning their backs on infrastructure that is endangering peoples lives, while the spineless democrats sit idly by, wringing their hands. The democrats won’t take action against the most openly corrupt president we have ever had, that is daily destroying everything in this country as well as the rest of the world with his insane military budgets, trade wars and climate policies. The democrats response to Trump is to promote Joe Biden, a compilation of Bill and Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Strom Thurman and just about every other corporate whore they could steal parts off of to make their democratic very own version of Donald Trump.

Both the republicans and the democrats promote austerity for the working people and the poor, while stuffing the oligarchs pockets with gold. Both political Parties support endless war and war profiteers but slash budgets for schools, infrastructure, health care and the elderly. Both political Parties shower money on the police state and a corrupt system of justice and private prisons. Both political Parties are turning their heads to what the oil industry is doing to our water and air with fracking and are in fact have promoted legislation to let the oil industry off the hook when it causes unbelievable environmental damage. Both political Parties are doing nothing to check the nuclear industry that is a environmental time bomb waiting to go off and have promoted legislation to limit the industries liability when it does.

What is wrong with the American people that they sit on their collective asses and do nothing while all this is happening? Are they that fucking stupid? Are they that lacking in human decency? Are they that politically dumbed-down that they won’t even fight for their own interests?

The fact that this government corruption has been allowed to go on for years evidently proves that Americans are that stupid and lacking of compassion and politically dumbed-down. Thank God for guys like Dr. Warren the others that are trying to slap some sense into the American public to show us what courage and being humane is all about. Dr. Warren and company shouldn’t be put in jail but our so called leaders sure as Hell should be for their crimes against humanity.

He’s talking about a desert saint of sorts, Scott Warren, who has the power of his call to duty to give water in milk cartons to anyone crossing the Arizona desert. Now that is a hero, yet, he is facing decades in prison. America!

The charges against Warren “are an unjust criminalization of direct humanitarian assistance” and “appear to constitute a politically motivated violation of his protected rights as a Human Rights Defender,” states Amnesty International’s Americas regional director Erika Guevara-Rosas.

“Providing humanitarian aid is never a crime,” Guevara-Rosas added in a statement last week. “If Dr. Warren were convicted and imprisoned on these absurd charges, he would be a prisoner of conscience, detained for his volunteer activities motivated by humanitarian principles and his religious beliefs.”

Yet how many humans in this crime country even give a rat’s ass about one man who is doing the good that all men and women should be doing?

AJO, ARIZONA - MAY 10: Scott Warren, a volunteer for the humanitarian aid organization No More Deaths speaks with local residents during a community meeting to discuss federal charges against him for aiding undocumented immigrants on May 10, 2019 in Ajo, Arizona. Warren is scheduled to appear in court for felony charges on May 29 in Tucson, accused by the U.S. government on two counts of harboring and one count of conspiracy for providing food, water, and beds to two Central American immigrants in January, 2018. If found guilty Warren could face up to 20 years in prison. The trial is seen as a watershed case by the Trump Administration, as it pressures humanitarian organizations working to reduce suffering and deaths of immigrants along the border. The government says the aid encourages human smuggling. In a separate misdemeanor case, federal prosecutors have charged Warren with public littering, for distributing food and water along migrant trails. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Read the great piece about these water bearers on the border at the Intercept by Ryan Devereaux.

flood-the-desert-1556916141

So, here, whatever will come of my new column, “Deep Dive: Go Below the Surface with Paul Haeder,” starting June 7, well, I hope people reading this rag — 18,000 and counting and as they are compelled to hit each longer version of each of my profiles on line, Oregon Coast Today — will understand that life is the sum total of one’s search for meaning and worthy work and community involvement.

Maybe this compulsion toward narrative has always been inside me during my early root setting  living in Canada, Maryland, Paris, Edinburgh, Arizona . . . then on that walkabout throughout Latin America, Europe, Vietnam, USA, Central America!

When times get tough, the storyteller gets writing. Ha. Believe you me, the stories we all have collected in this Marquis de Sade world of capital and artery-clogging entertainment and constant death spiral the elites have banked as their Appian Way to Complete Dominance, they make for so much more validation of humanity than anything Hollywood could make.

Point of fact — I attempted to watch the film, Vice, about Dick Cheney, his perverse family, the perversity of neocons fornicating with neoliberalism. It was one of Hollywood’s “cutting edge” dramas. Written and directed by a Saturday Night Live writer. All the usual suspects with Hollywood multi-millions stuffed in their jowls — Christian Bale, Amy Adams, et al.

It wasn’t that good, but I sensed that the filmmakers were all about trying to make something that was “different.” I didn’t nod off during the viewing. But, I unfortunately had the DVD so I went to the extras section, and then, the behind-the-scenes of the making of Vice. This is when things went south real quickly with neoliberal, Democrat-leaning Hollywood creeps. We get every goofy platitude about each and every department’s genius in making this film. Every actor fawns the other actor for his or her amazing performance.

Then the Limey, Christian Bale, yammers on and on about he was all about making Dick Cheney human, going into his good side, being cognizant of Cheney, the human. Rubbish and this is the quality of men, adults, in our society — multimillionaires with gobs of limelight and credit and awards and houses and yachts thrown at them, and they can’t even begin to attack the cause — capitalism, rampant competitiveness, droll I-got-mine-too-bad-you-can’t-get-yours thinking. Hollywood is the anti-culture, the flagging bumbling money changers, the money makers, the money grubbers, and well, everything is about the pockets and the suits and the “executive producers,” i.e. Bankers.

Oh god, what a trip going into these Hollywood people’s hot yoga, macrobiotic diet, four-hour-a-day workout minds. The director, McKay, actually thinks this drama — make-believe — has given the world new stuff, new insights, new news about the Cheney-Rumsfeld-Bush-Reagan-Bush world of prostitute politics.

As if there were no real journalists working on all the pre-September 11 illegalities of the republican party and then the post-September 11 evisceration of the few rights the people of the world and USA had before full spectrum war on our planet.

As if journalists hadn’t cracked open the Koch brothers, the fake think tanks, all the pre-Truman/post-Truman lies of empire, from Roy Cohen, through to the rigged systems of oppression. Way before any trivial Hollywood wannabe open her eyes.

Entertainment and a few laughs at the expense of millions of bombed-dead people, millions more suffering-a-lingering-death daily because of Hollywood and USA policies and the evangelicals and the Crypto-Christo-Zionists bombing “the other” back to the stone age. The movie, Vice.

Racists, misogynists, misanthropes, one and all. Yet, we gotta love these democrat-leaning guys and gals making films, having millions stuffed up every possible orifice until their brains gel.

Insight into the flippancy that is Hollywood the Power Broker! Watching people like Amy Adams and Steve Carell and Sam Rockwell play this soft-shoe goofball show, and then in the little “Making of the Movie Vice” documentary (sic-infomercial) blathering on and on about the greatness of the script and every cog of the machine that churns out this pabulum, well, it steels me to continue my small-time, no-fame, big-effing-deal gig writing people profiles to bring some sense to a world captured by capital . . . idiocy!

Oh, how we fall in line. Over at Counterpunch, that cloistered world of writers has the countdown for 2018 — Best Films of the Year, as in the most conscious, socially (give me a effing break!) that is. Nothing in American society once it floats on the offal barrel is sacred, socialist, communist.

Peak TV is creating more opportunities for independent film directors, and for new stories to be told. More films from around the world are released on streaming every day, and Netflix spent an estimated 13 billion dollars on content just this year. More cash available can sometimes mean more stories by and about communities of color, women, transgender and gender nonconforming people, and other communities Hollywood has long ignored. But the movie industry is still primarily about making profit, and it’s main business is reinforcing the status quo, including churning out films that glorify capitalism, war, and policing.

Below are 2018’s top ten conscious films that made it through these barriers, plus twenty more released this year that you may want to check out.

[…]

Hollywood doesn’t have a great record in covering presidential politics (remember Kevin Costner in Swing Vote?). Vice, comedy director Adam McKay’s follow up to The Big Short, explores the Bush/Cheney presidency, attempting to make history and polemic accessible to a wide audience. It’s not as effective as his previous film, but it’s a good history, especially for those less familiar with the ins and outs of the early 2000s corporate power grab.

Lighten up already, many a friend and acquaintance tell me. “You are going to burn out like one of the bulbs you use underwater to do your night dives. Way too much shining the hoary light onto the more hoary caverns of American society. Let things go.”

Ha, well, how can we? We are entertained to death, as Neil Postman states:

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy.

As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.” In 1984, Orwell added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we desire will ruin us.

This book [Amusing Ourselves to Death] is about the possibility that Huxley, not Orwell, was right.

And so it goes, as I trail the acrid dust devil of injustice — my own and the veterans’ and families’ I helped just months ago in Portland as a social worker for, drum roll, homeless veterans (and some came with families, including babies and service dogs).

I’ve written about it here and elsewhere — the Starvation Army. The deceitful, unethical, possibly murderous Starvation Army. You see, where I worked, I had these insane Nurse Ratched’s lording over grown men and women treating them like criminals, and infantiles, and the constant berating and recriminations. It was anything but social work 101. Anything but trauma-informed care. Anything  but caring people, enlightened helpers; instead, think mean, warped people who within their own broken self’s, do all the wrong things for veterans.

I decided to jump ship, and, alas, a few lawyers advised me I couldn’t get far with a hostile workplace complaint until I went through the state of Oregon’s, Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) quasi-judicial pathway.

There was great harm put upon the veterans, great harm put upon the staff, because a director was all into herself and her self-described Jesus Saves bullshit, yammering on about her former  cocaine addiction and booze abuse and 350 pounds of flesh, as well as her own failings as a mother. This place has 100 people living in it temporarily, while Starvation Army receives taxpayer money, all part of the poverty pimping Starvation/Salvation Army’s SOP.

In the end, relying on idiots in any state bureaucracy to carry forth an investigation was not my idea of justice. I did my due diligence and filed grievances, first with the Starvation Army, and, then with BOLI. I contacted VA officials, state politicians, and the media. To no avail. They too are accomplices!

To make a long and stupid Byzantine story short, my prediction of zero assistance and zero admonishing from the state to the executive director and the higher ups of the Starvation Army played out. BOLI is a toothless and empty-hearted agency, staffed by soulless Little Eichmann’s counting their paychecks and amassing points to their state sourced pension fund.

I have moved on, as usual, and the injustice perpetrated upon me is minor in the scheme of things. The veterans, however, already foisted with trauma, PTSD, administrative rape, etc., are still vulnerable to the Nurse Ratched’s of the inhumane social services that serves (sic) non-profits and religious crime syndicates like the Starvation Army.

Here, “How the Salvation Army Lives Off (and thrives with) a Special Brand of Poverty Pimping”

Here, “Alcohol, Atheism, Anarchy: The Triple A Threat to the Pro-Capitalist Salvation Army”

Here, “Insanity of Social Work as Human Control”

I have since my departure been in contact with a few veterans, and talked a few off the proverbial ledge — several that wanted to off themselves because of the Nurse Ratched’s they encounter at the Starvation Army, in the VA, and in non-profits.  This is the reality, and it’s sick, in real perverted American time —  “Hundreds witness veteran shoot and kill himself in VA waiting room”

In December, Marine Col. Jim Turner, 55, put his service uniform on, drove to the Bay Pines Department of Veterans Affairs, and shot himself outside the medical center, leaving a note next to his body.

This is Trump, this is Biden, this is Clinton, this is the lot of them, callous and broken capitalists, who have sold their souls to the devil and brains to Jeff Bezos, et al.
And it ain’t going to get fixed until we cut away the cancer. Really cut away, daily, in small acts of defiance, great collective acts of beating the system.
Not sure what that great director Ava Duvernay says about more and more movies like her 13th or this new Netflix mini-series on the Central Park FiveWhen They See Us will do to eventually get enough Americans (70 percent are racist to the core) to demand change in the criminal injustice system of private prisons, Incarceration Complex, Profitable Prosecutions. That all those cops, dailies, elites, deplorables, Trumpies, and Trump said terrible terrible things about these 5 juveniles, calling them animals, or super predators like the Clinton Klan, well, imagine, an insane 2016 runner for the highest crime lord position of the land, POTUS, Donald Trump, after these five men were released after all the evidence found them innocent, sputtering with his big fat billionaire’s fourth grader’s words that the Central Park Five are guilty, guilty, guilty.

The press coverage was biased. There was a study done by Natalie Byfield, one of the journalists at the time for the New York papers who later wrote a book about covering the case, and it saw that a little more than 89 percent of the press coverage at the time didn’t use the word “alleged,” that we had irresponsibility in the press corps at the time not to ask second questions and literally take police and prosecutor talking points and turn those into articles that people read as fact, and proceeded to shape their opinions about this case that essentially spoils the jury pool, so that these boys were never given a chance.

Trump’s comments in his ads that he took out in 1989 were taken out just two weeks after the crime was announced—they hadn’t even gone to trial, so it was impossible for them to have an impartial jury pool. The printing of their names in the papers for minors, and where they lived, was a jaw-dropper. All of this was done by “reputable” papers in New York that we still read, so I’m curious how these papers take responsibility for their part in this, and also possibly use this to review the part they play in other cases that may not be as famous as this.

Thus, she makes my case — the callous and racist and sexist and xenophobic US Press, and here we are today, 2019, enter Amusing Ourselves to Death and a Brave New World.

The greatest triumphs of propaganda have been accomplished, not by doing something, but by refraining from doing. Great is truth, but still greater, from a practical point of view, is silence about truth.

— Aldous Huxley, Brave New World, “Preface”

Alas, though, we have to keep those words coming, even sent to the great gray hearts and souls populating those state agencies whose workers are supposed to investigate the workplace safety concerns of workers, and are supposed to prevent workplace harassment.

I write to break through the fog, and to envelop a new way of seeing my world, for me and for the few readers that dabble in even attempting to start, let alone finish, these missives.

Huxley was right — ” Words can be like X-rays if you use them properly — they’ll go through anything. You read and you’re pierced.” Brave New World, “Chapter 4”

Venezuela: A Risk to Dollar Hegemony

After the new coup attempt – or propaganda coup – Venezuela lives in a state of foreign imposed insecurity. The failed coup was executed on 30 April by Juan Guaidó, the self-proclaimed and Washington-trained and endorsed “interim President”, and the opposition leader, Leopoldo López, who was hurriedly freed from house arrest by Guaidó with a couple of dozens of armed-to-the-teeth defecting military, who apparently didn’t quite know what they were up to. Because, when all was over after a few hours, most of them asked to be re-integrated into their military units – and, as far as I know, they were readmitted.

These are Washington’s puppets and “coup-makers”. When one sees that the so-called coup was defeated in a mere few hours, without any Venezuelan military interference, one wonders whether this was really planned as a coup, or merely as a “public relations” coup, for the media to ‘recharge’ their narrative of Maduro dictatorship, of a suffering people, of famine, of lack of medication and medical supplies all due to the Maduro government’s mismanagement of Venezuela’s natural riches, the lie-slander we have been used to for the last several years.

For sure, the Venezuelan people are suffering. According to a CEPR report sanctions have killed some 40,000 Venezuelans. And this, not because of President Maduro’s squandering of Venezuelan resources, but because of a brutal, merciless outside interference, principally from the United States and to a lesser degree from Washington’s European vassals. If you listen to the ceaseless drumbeat for war against Venezuela and her democratically elected President Nicolas Maduro, by Pompeo, Bolton, Pence and Trump, you can only wonder and shake your head.  What pathological and schizophrenic world are we living in? And are we all sick to the bone, that we tolerate it, that nobody of and in power – other than Russia and China – say ‘Halt’ to this deadly fiasco?

This article by Eric Zuesse, including leaked documents from Pentagon’s southern command, SOUTHCOM, will give the non-believers plenty of reasons to change their minds.

Western humanity has reached an abject state of mental disease. We allow the slaughter of tens of millions of people by the United States and its NATO allies in US-provoked wars and conflicts around the world, indiscriminate killing for resources and monetary dominion. But we follow the same killer nation in accusing a quiet, peace-loving, fully democratic country, like Venezuela, to be utterly trampled on and punished with the most horrific monetary and economic sanctions – all illegal, by any standards of law – and our western “leaders” know it all.

These western heads of state and their chosen minions do not have the guts or political courage to say ‘STOP’. They could, if they had any conscience left. These so-called leaders (sic) of vassal states, they have it all in their sovereign power. They could together decide that enough is enough, separate themselves from the Washington horrors and form a real European Union, a union to say no to the tyrant, a union that is capable of calling its own sovereign shots, decide its own destiny, a destiny of alliance with peaceful countries like Venezuela, Cuba, Russia, China, Iran and more, basically all those that have decided not to bend to the dictate of Washington.

Why don’t they? Have they been bought, or received death threats if they dare to deviate? All is possible, even likely, because it is unfathomable that the leaders, the political heads of all those 28 EU countries are hell-bent to believe the lies being propagated day-in and day-out, drip-by-miserable drip. It is not possible.

Back to Venezuela.

The western public at large must never be too long without devastating smear-news about a regime the empire wants to “change”. It is clear that the nefarious pair in Venezuela, Guaidó-López, followed strict Washington instructions. Guaidó would never dare do anything without prior approval and directives from his masters in Washington.

Despite threats after pompous threats and false accusations and failed coup attempts, President Maduro holds on to a solid backing of six million voters who supported him, more than two thirds of those who went to the ballots, on 20 May 2018. He also has the solid support of the military, who have a revolutionary integrity and conscience unknown to the west. And not least, he has the support of Venezuela’s solid allies, Russia and China.

Nevertheless, the United States will not let go. Why do they risk everything – even a devastating war?

Well, there are several reasons. First you may think, “It’s the Oil, stupid!”, and second, the turbo-capitalist, neoliberal turning-to-neofascist US will not tolerate a socialist state in what they still consider their ‘backyard’.  Well, all of this is true. Venezuela has indeed the world’s largest hydrocarbon reserves, and it is conveniently close to The US’s Texas refineries.

However, the key reason for Washington forcing ‘regime change’ is that Venezuela has stopped selling her hydrocarbon in US dollars, and, may therefore become a risk for the US-dollar hegemony around the globe. That is a punishable violation for the empire. At least two heads of state were assassinated because they dared abandoning the unwritten and unlawful, but nevertheless US-imposed rule to sell their oil and gas in US-dollars, Saddam Hussein of Iraq and Muammar Gaddafi. Both had started trading their oil in other than US-dollar currencies and were strong advocates for others to do likewise.

Some three years ago, Venezuela started selling her oil and gas in other currencies than the US-dollar, a cardinal sin.

Global dollar hegemony, meaning the full control of economies throughout the globe – a control that is rapidly fading – can only be maintained by a world flooded by dollars and with a monetary system that is entirely controlled by the FED and its associated American banks, by an international transfer system, SWIFT, that channels every dollar to be moved between countries, whether it is the US or any other country – through a US bank, in either New York or London. That still being the case, the US dollar remains the key reserve currency in the world, though rapidly fading. And second, through the obligatory trading of a commodities – like hydrocarbon energy – ONLY in US-dollars. The latter also allows the empire to print as many dollars as it needs to keep the world economy under control – and punish those that do not want to bend to Washington’s rule, with sanctions and confiscation of assets abroad, because — all transactions are controlled by the US banking system.

First, the dollar as a reserve currency, is fading rapidly, as ever fewer countries entrust their reserves to a largely recognized ‘fake’, fiat and debt-based currency, the US-dollar. They convert their dollar reserve holdings gradually into other assets; i.e. gold, or the Chinese Yuan which has become high in demand over the last few years. Logically, because China is already known as the undisputable strongest economy in the world, hence, the Chinese currency has a special reserve standing. However, the mainstream media do not report on this.

Second, with a growing number of countries that do no longer respect the Washington imposed US-dollar rule for hydrocarbon trading – the demand for dollars decreases rapidly – a direct confrontation to the United States’ dollar hegemony over the world. Russia and China have years ago stopped trading in US dollars, not only hydrocarbons, but everything. India and Iran have started doing the same. Other countries will follow – and Venezuela, one of the vanguards with the world’s largest oil reserves – should, therefore, not be allowed to become a model for other nations. The Trump Administration and its Wall Street masters will do what it takes to stop Venezuela from abandoning the dollar.

Hence, regime change and taking over the vast oil assets is of the order – with war, if necessary – “all options are on the table” – all under the blatantly fakest pretexts of “humanitarian intervention” and bringing back democracy – when the world knows that anywhere the US intervenes, democracy is abolished. In fact, what the US has managed – and wantonly so – is kill any democracy that ever existed.

Under these circumstances, Venezuela’s transgression in shedding the dollar for oil trading – and for trading in general – amounts to a serious threat to the dollar hegemony and must be suffocated. That’s what these coup attempts are all about. If they succeed, the dollar-currency collapse could be postponed for a bit, and taking possession of the oil reserves would be the icing on the cake.

What’s left after the dollar dominance over the world is gone, once the key tool, economic sanctions, for manipulating nations into doing the bidding of the emperor is no longer effective?  A broken US economy, one that already today depends heavily on the war and weapons industry – in fact, for over 50% of US GDP, when all associated manufacturing and services are counted. What’s left is the overwhelming firepower of that belligerent warmongering and war-dependent nation, with which the US and NATO could pull the rest of the world into oblivion.

That’s what’s at stake with any nation that wants to kick the petro-dollar. Also, Iran, of course. But both Iran and Venezuela have strong protection from Russia and China – two countries that freed themselves from the fangs of the dollar system years ago. And they are offering a bright future with viable Eastern monetary alternatives, mostly based on the Chinese Yuan and other currencies linked to SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) members.

Venezuela – Venceremos!

From Brexit to Trump, it’s Death by 1,000 Cuts

Has anyone else noticed how over the past few years the corporate media has been dedicating ever more space to articles on how to deal with loneliness, anxiety and insomnia, as well as ways to immerse ourselves in escapist new technology?

Our attention is being diverted away from the political to the cultural, medical and technical. When our elites have no solutions to the most pressing problems of the day, when all the objective evidence indicates that the political system they oversee and have designed to enrich themselves is driving us over a cliff edge, with our economies going bankrupt and our planet dying, they desperately need to rechannel our energies. Instead of blaming them, we are told to fix ourselves – or at least to pacify ourselves with entertainment.

That, of course, all sounds a lot more plausible when we clearly do need to fix ourselves. We are more anxious, more isolated, more confused than ever before. And for very good reason.

A new poll finds that 83 per cent of Britons are exhausted by hearing blow-by-blow news of Brexit, Britain’s interminable struggle to find a credible way to leave the European Union. Two-thirds believe that the anxiety provoked by this slow-motion plunge into the unknown is bad for people’s – presumably including their own – mental health. They are not wrong.

Heavy emotional toll

Meanwhile, Russiagate – the establishment-promoted conspiracy theory that Donald Trump stole the 2016 presidential election by colluding with Russia – has similarly sucked out all oxygen from the US political arena. For more than two years pundits there have spoken and thought about little else.

I suspect surveys of US public opinion would find a similar ennui among most Americans about these wildly improbable, and now disproven, claims against Trump. American friends who consider themselves part of the so-called #resistance to Trump tell me they wish they could just shut their eyes and the whole mess go away. It’s clearly not helping their mental health either.

A heavy emotional and psychic toll is being inflicted even on those fronting these establishment narratives, as was evident when Rachel Maddow, TV cheerleader-in-chief for the Russiagate conspiracy theory, had to announce on air that the Mueller investigation she had so excitedly played up for two years was a dud. Robert Mueller had found zero evidence of collusion.

Maddow’s pained facial contortions, her manic laughter as she tried to prop up the last vestiges of a narrative that had just been discredited by the very establishment she is a key pillar of was distressing to watch. Here was a woman who looked more in need of therapy than a major TV show.

Boring us to death

But maybe it’s too simple to see this as nothing more than an example of mass cognitive dissonance. Maybe the emotional, mental and spiritual breakdown is actually the point. Maybe the goal is to frustrate and bore us quite literally to death.

Politically and ideologically we are stuck. Capitalism has failed – and not marginally but ignominiously. Any ideology premised on an outcome that burns the planet to a crisp, or grows the world’s population until the resources to support it are exhausted, or both, is not only mistaken but dangerously deluded. Insanity, in fact.

But for decades we have all been caught up in that spell. Think of the Thatcher and Reagan years, of how most of us lapped up the idea that there was no such thing as society, that each of us was an island as our governments sold off public infrastructure and the common good. And at some level we all absorbed those mantras, even those of us in the UK who railed against Thatcher’s poll tax and supported the miners.

We all watched “serious” debates on TV in which eminent intellectuals told us that history had ended and that free-market capitalism had triumphed. We were on our journey to nirvana. Even when some of us wondered whether such arguments might be wrong or too simplistic, we rarely greeted them with the derision they so obviously deserved.

Now the delusion, the insanity cultivated in us over those past decades, is coming home to roost. We have so deeply imbibed the ideology of those who exploit us that we cannot imagine – we even fear – the possibility of being liberated from it.

Distracted by baubles

The elites whose power and wealth derives from the current system have absolutely no interest in changing course, in allowing new ideas, new paradigms to emerge. They are no more likely to provide a platform for radical or experimental thinking either in the establishment media or in our legislative echo-chambers than they are to fund Extinction Rebellion or shut down the offshore tax havens where they hoard their gargantuan wealth.

Even efforts to return us to the order that predated Thatcher and Reagan – one that placed some value in the collective – is being aggressively snuffed out by our elites, whether it’s Jeremy Corbyn in the UK or Bernie Sanders and the Congress’s insurgency lawmakers in the US.

The self-destruction of capitalism – the signs of its internal contradictions, its need for endless economic growth on a resource-finite planet – has been evident for some time. Once we could be distracted with baubles, with new iPhones and home entertainment systems, and by politics as fun-filled spectacle. Trump in the US and Boris Johnson in the UK may be the logical endpoints of that political process.

Political paralysis

Now we are moving from spectacle, from politics as entertainment, to politics as death by a thousand cuts.

Britain cannot leave the EU, but also it cannot stay. The UK cannot move forward, and it has no possibility to move back. It is trapped, politically paralysed. A decision either way will tear the fabric of the social contract to shreds.

Does Brexit not offer us a parable for our times? It is in miniature our predicament as a species. We cannot move forward with capitalism because it is killing us and most life on the planet, but the capitalist class will not allow us the space or resources to find another way out of the mess they created. And brainwashed for so long, we fear even a modest diversion from our current suicidal path.

So we aimlessly watch TV unfold as if we have no power over either our individual fates or our collective fate. We stare into the abyss, a mixture of boredom and creeping anxiety our only responses to our own imminent demise.

We feel lonely, anxious and confused. We medicate ourselves with trivia, with entertainment, and we allow ourselves to be briefly distracted with establishment shadow plays that invert reality, from Corbyn’s supposed anti-semitism to US war criminals assigning themselves the right to pick Venezuela’s president.

No time for boredom

We have been on this path to collective insanity for a while, as the renowned psychologist Erich Fromm warned decades ago. It is at least a sign of hope that it is finally dawning on many of us that we are immersed in delusion, that we are mentally, emotionally and spiritually at a dead end.

That requires understanding that Trump isn’t the enemy, he is a symptom of our collective illness. Similarly, Brexit isn’t really the end of the world, it is grand displacement activity – our effort to distract ourselves from much deeper questions. Whether the UK stays in Europe or leaves, capitalism will still be herding us towards extinction. Brexit is unlikely even to affect how quickly we bring about such end-times.

The deeper questions we have been evading force us to address who we are as individuals and as a society, and whether we wish to have a future, to belong to a planet that possibly uniquely in our small corner of the universe can sustain higher life forms and the supreme achievement of our evolutionary branch-line, human beings.

Only in facing those questions can we rid ourselves of our political confusion and our individual anxiety. Standing on the edge of an abyss should be no time for boredom. It is time for deep reflection, and rapid personal and collective growth.

More Than Bad Faith Behind Anti-semitism Slurs

John Harris, a columnist who by the Guardian’s current dismal standards is considered on the newspaper’s left, has added his voice to the paper’s endless contributions on Labour’s supposed “anti-semitism crisis”. Sadly, his is typical of the paper’s misrepresentations of the issue.

It is easy – and lazy – to accuse those who peddle these distortions of acting solely in bad faith. But speaking as someone who was himself once deeply immersed as a journalist in the corporate culture of the Guardian, I know how simple it is from within that culture to fail to scrutinise one’s most fundamental and cherished assumptions. In fact, it’s often a requirement for remaining employed.

Nonetheless, Harris is such a good journalist by conventional standards and his work here is so lamentable, so lacking in awareness of even basic human psychology, that it cries out for some deeper analysis.

A lot has been written about how we now live in information silos. But that was true even before the arrival of social media for those like Harris whose job in the corporate media is to shore up a largely consensual view of the world, if only out of fear of the consequences should that consensus break down. In the wake of Brexit, we have heard liberal journalists grow louder in their suggestions that there is now “too much democracy”. As the consensus crumbles, their authoritarian instincts are becoming ever clearer.

No one from the Daily Mail to the Guardian departs from the “Labour is institutionally anti-semitic” narrative. That in itself is quite extraordinary. But the dearth of evidence for this narrative offers an opportunity to shake us out of our complacent belief that a state-corporate media, one reliant on profits from advertising corporations, can ever represent more than a narrow spectrum of thought – thought that helps those in power to maintain their power.

Moral panics and self-delusions

‘Harris begins his article by noting a Jewish woman’s experience of what she sees as an increasingly “abusive relationship” with the Labour party after 40 years as a member. Reporting her concerns, Harris lists a few recent incidents witnessed by this woman that she cites as proof of a rising tide of anti-semitism in Labour.

Absolutely no details are provided beyond her interpretations of what took place. (One should note that this lack of evidence is a staple of the media’s narrative about “institutional anti-semitism” in Labour.) So let us weigh as best we can the interpretations put forward by Harris’s anonymous interviewee as our gateway into examining the “institutional anti-semitism” narrative itself.

First some background. Most liberal journalists are aware of the problem of what are called “moral panics”. Harris’s Guardian colleague Nick Davies wrote an influential book, Flat Earth News, whose first chapter was dedicated to the way the media and public can end up in a narrative tailspin, entering a world of mutually reinforcing self-delusions.

When such delusions serve an establishment agenda, they can be particularly pernicious and difficult to root out. And beating Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn into submission – or into the dust – before he can reach No 10 is definitely high on the political and media establishments’ agenda.

Moral panics work this way: Journalists stoke up emotions or fears over an issue that then runs rampant through public discourse to the point at which it no longer bears any resemblance to the real problem.

A famous example cited by Davies is the outpouring of concern, as the millennium approached, with a supposed Year 2000 computer bug. Through 1999, the media stoked an apocalyptic mood about the imminent meltdown of our newly computerised world, leaving us without basic goods, medicines and transport because computers would not be able to cope with a numerical change in the date. (For those too young to remember those events, the doomsday scenarios around Brexit pale in comparison.) The bug, of course, never materialised.

Once you are persuaded that something is true, however implausible it is, everything is likely to be filtered through that lens. And when everyone says Labour is institutionally anti-semitic, everything – from real hatred of Jews to vague or clumsy phrasing about anti-semitism, or criticism of Israel – will seem anti-semitic to you.

Two sides to every story

So when Harris’s interviewee says she was “jeered” by her Labour constituency general committee for raising the issue of anti-semitism, we cannot be sure that she actually was “jeered” rather than that she faced objections from committee members, possibly valid ones, about what she was claiming.

Similarly, we cannot know – beyond her claim – that she raised the issue of anti-semitism rather than that she labelled members of her constituency anti-semites for matters that had nothing to do with anti-semitism, such as their being highly critical of Israel or disagreeing with the claim that the Labour party is institutionally anti-semitic.

All of this is necessarily speculative on my part because Harris has allowed his interviewee to pass on her (possibly self-serving) interpretation of these events as the only one. And as we all know, life tends not to work like that. There are usually two sides to any story.

If it sounds like I’m being unfair to Harris’s interviewee, let’s remember that she would be very far from alone in perpetrating such misrepresentations, consciously or otherwise.

‘Too apologetic’ on anti-semitism?

In fact, Harris himself, a well-trained journalist of impeccable liberal credentials, makes precisely this kind of misrepresentation a few paragraphs later on in his article, when he discusses the case of MP Chris Williamson.

Williamson, an ally of Corbyn’s, was suspended by Labour last week after the media reported that he had told a group of Labour members that the party had been “too apologetic” about anti-semitism. The media, as well as “moderate” Labour MPs opposed to Corbyn, were outraged that Williamson thought it was possible to be “too apologetic” about bigotry towards Jews.

For them, the incident also usefully proved the “institutional anti-semitism” narrative they are so invested in because Williamson’s racism was warmly applauded by all those present.

Except none of that is true. You don’t even need to take my word for it. It is all recorded on video. You can listen to what Williamson said yourself and see why the audience cheered.

What Williamson actually said makes no sense to the corporate media or the Labour rightwing because it conflicts with their narrative, with a worldview that presupposes Labour is “institutionally anti-semitic”. They cannot conceive of any interpretation of his speech that might undermine that narrative.

Defending Labour from smears

Williamson wasn’t telling Labour members to stop apologising about anti-semitism in Labour, and that wasn’t why they applauded him. He was telling them that there is no evidence to justify calling Labour institutionally anti-semitic, or even especially anti-semitic.

He was also saying that the endless focus on anti-semitism in Labour, and the apologies for incidents that were misunderstandings or smears rather than examples of Jew hatred, had painted a false picture of the Labour party. He was calling for Labour to stop being in default apologetic mode and start defending Labour’s reputation for anti-racism.

The members applauded because it was the the first time a Labour leader had stood up for them. Every day they hear the Guardian and Tom Watson, the party’s deputy leader, who is angling for Corbyn’s job, conducting a conversation over their heads that assumes they are either racists or that they turn a blind eye to racism. They are fed up with it. They know the narrative is nonsense and they are angry. When Williamson defended them, rather than those who smear them, they were delighted.

So how did Harris manage to cite this clip as further proof of Labour “institutional anti-semitism”, as he does here:

Just watch the video that eventually led to Derby North MP Chris Williamson being suspended from the party, and consider not what he said about Labour’s approach to antisemitism (“We’ve given too much ground – we’ve been too apologetic”), but the loud applause that followed.

How is it possible that everything I’ve just summarised of Williamson’s speech, and the audience’s response, passed so far above Harris’s head that he failed even to acknowledge it? He doesn’t have to agree with Williamson or those applauding him, but he has to be fair to them about how they viewed the meeting. To simply erase from the record what Williamson meant and what his audience’s applause meant is to perpetrate a deception. It’s to assist in promoting a moral panic.

Unlike many of those commenting, Harris is supposed to be a close observer of the Labour rank and file. He spends a lot of time, it appears, travelling the UK meeting ordinary people. How could he have missed this groundswell of anger among party members at being endlessly defamed – and not only missed it, but joined in the defamation himself?

Blind to other narratives

This isn’t just about Labour and anti-semitism. The Guardian, the paper of the liberal-left, has missed or misunderstood all the major political shifts of the last five years. It couldn’t imagine Corbyn being elected leader or understand the significance of the membership’s vote after it had happened. The Guardian also didn’t foresee the massive surge in support for a Corbyn-led Labour party at the last election. Instead it has led the media pack trying to undermine Corbyn, typically by promoting gross misrepresentations like this latest one echoed by Harris.

The Guardian’s incomprehension at Brexit is starkly on show too. Its commentaries rarely rise above denunciations of anti-immigrant racism. Its singleminded cheerleading of Hillary Clinton against Bernie Sanders was as boneheaded as its continuing bafflement at the victory of Donald Trump.

The Guardian is a huge media outfit, employing many hundreds of journalists. And yet online pundits have regularly produced much more insightful analyses than the paper.

Harris’s article is yet more confirmation that even the best corporate journalists end up being blinded by media groupthink, leaving them unable to make sense of the world around them. They literally can’t see or hear what is staring them in the face. Harris is so immersed in a “consensus” anti-semitism narrative that he interprets the blinding dazzle of the sun as darkness, he perceives white as a diabolical black.

Filming an anti-semitism smear

This problem isn’t restricted to the media, of course. Politicians are equally blinkered about events that cannot be fitted into their worldview.

Take the case of Joan Ryan, a non-Jewish Labour MP who chairs Labour Friends of Israel and recently defected to the Independent Group over the anti-semitism issue. Perhaps not surprisingly given her emotional investment in defending Israel, apparently at all costs and whatever the evidence of its oppression of Palestinians, she is deeply opposed to Labour being led by Corbyn, a champion of the Palestinian cause.

To what terrible misdeeds that might lead her was laid bare when she made up an accusation of anti-semitism out of whole cloth against a Labour party member. Remember that accusing someone falsely of anti-semitism is as bad as making an anti-semitic statement. It has the same power to do terrible emotional damage to its victim, it can isolate them from friends and family, and it can result in them losing their job.

In 2016, Jean Fitzpatrick privately challenged Ryan on the margins of the party conference over the MP’s lack of support for the Palestinians. Ryan immediately accused Fitzpatrick of using anti-semitic tropes about Jews and bankers.

Fitzpatrick would have found herself one of those “anti-semites” hounded out of the party had she not been very lucky. Al Jazeera was making an undercover documentary about the collusion between the Israeli embassy and groups like Labour Friends of Israel, both of them intent on ousting Corbyn from the leadership. Unknown to Ryan, the exchange with Fitzpatrick was caught on film and shows that there was nothing about Jews or bankers, or anything anti-semitic, in what she said.

Ignoring the statistics

Unlike those smearing the Labour party as institutionally anti-semitic, I’m happy to put the most charitable interpretation possible on Ryan’s behaviour.

The fact is that, once people are invested strongly in a worldview, evidence that threatens to undermine it is usually ignored. Such evidence, if it dangerously challenges their inner narrative, can even be reinterpreted and distorted by the proponent to shore up their crumbling perception of right and wrong. The truth of the evidence simply doesn’t register, or it is turned upside down.

And that is an important part of what is happening in the crafting of the Labour anti-semitism narrative.

The statistics simply don’t bear out the accusation that Labour is “institutionally anti-semitic”, or even that it has what might loosely be termed an “anti-semitism problem” – beyond a problem of racism on its margins of the kind that can be found in all organisations and communities, including the Jewish community.

Labour has found 0.08% of its members responsible either for unthinking prejudice towards Jews or conscious bigotry. The evidence suggests this is much, much lower than in the general population.

What has been happening in Labour under Corbyn, however, is that for the first time party members have been able to articulate critical views of Israel, as well as their support for Palestinians suffering under Israeli oppression. That is a new and important freedom and to ignore the part it is playing in the anti-semitism narrative is to be wilfully blind – to cling on to a narrative that refuses to deal with the world as it really is.

Berger and her constituency

Harris quotes another colleague, Rachel Shabi, to bolster his argument. Referring to Luciana Berger, a Jewish Labour MP who also recently defected to the Independent Group, Shabi writes:

A Jewish MP left Labour because of the tide of antisemitism directed at her and I don’t think the terrible significance of this has sunk in for chunks of the left.

There are all sorts of assumptions in this short statement that need unpacking. True, Berger claims that anti-semitism is the reason she left the party. It may well be that she really believes that she is facing a tide of anti-semitism from Labour members. But the evidence needs to be produced, not simply taken for granted.

The examples of anti-semitism invariably cited in Berger’s case refer to undoubtedly anti-semitic attacks from the far-right, not from Labour members; or to online abuse whose provenance is rarely identifiable; or to the opposition she faced from her local constituency party in Liverpool.

There are lots of reasons why Berger is disliked by a significant section of her constituency party, and the wider Labour membership, that have nothing to do with anti-semitism. One is that she was parachuted into the constituency by Tony Blair (she once dated his son Euan), even though her Blairite politics do not fit with many of the people she supposedly represents. Another is that her constant and generalised complaints about anti-semitism in Labour are seen as an insult to party members. They have taken against her because she openly defames Corbyn – and them for supporting him. Yet others are unhappy that she emphasises her support for Israel over the rights of Palestinians.

A battle of political values

Some British Jews like Berger (as well as non-Jews like Ryan) identify strongly with Israel, even as it swings ever further to the ultra-nationalist right. Some, the Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland among them, appear to believe that criticism of Israel is equivalent to anti-semitism. Some make this conflation wilfully and maliciously, some do it out of ignorance. Either way, those making this conflation do so to prevent Israel being criticised because they genuinely cannot bear to hear such criticism. They feel it as a personal attack.

That is regrettable. In an ideal world where politics did not involve having to make tough choices, it might even be avoidable. But politics in the real world isn’t actually like that.

And so allowing hard-line Zionist Jews in Labour the right to make support for Israel a priority is one political value that must compete with the right of other Jews in Labour and the right of non-Jewish members to oppose Israel’s oppression of Palestinians. For most of Labour’s history, Zionist Jews had the upper hand in this struggle between political values. Now, under Corbyn, they don’t.

That may make hard-line Zionist Jews in Labour like Berger, and hardline Zionist non-Jews like Ryan, angry and upset, but it very obviously doesn’t make their opponents in the party anti-semites.

The reality is that those who adopt a Zionist identity – one enmeshed in a belligerent, highly militarised state oppressing Palestinians for many decades – should not deserve any kind of special protection for their political views, least of all in the Labour party.

These supporters of Israel are asking for the impossible: demanding silence from everyone else as they defend a state whose policies require not just racism but daily structural violence towards Palestinians. Whatever the anti-semitism narrative hopes to achieve, there isn’t an exemption for anti-Palestinian racism just because it is being promoted by a section of the Jewish community.

It is deeply immoral of Israel’s supporters – Jews and non-Jews alike – to try to win a political argument, about Israel, by silencing their opponents with a deceit about racism: that criticism of Israel is tantamount to anti-semitism. The fact that harsh criticism of Israel wounds Zionist Jews does not give Zionist Jews a right to wound others by conflating their criticism of Israel with hatred of Jews.

Low point in public discourse

These points ought to be so obvious that they do not need stating. And yet we have reached such a low point in public discourse – made far worse by the “institutional anti-semitism” narrative – that just saying this makes one vulnerable to accusations of anti-semitism.

Here is Harris again privileging a Zionist Jewish narrative:

A few days ago I spoke to another Jewish Labour member, who talked about a sundered bond between the party and British Jews, and how Labour had once nurtured a precious Jewish political tradition that was now close to breathing its last.

For Harris, it seems, it is inconceivable that any other Jewish narrative might exist. Insultingly, he erases non-Zionist Jews. And, of course, he makes no allowance at all for other Labour political traditions in which an anti-racism struggle, on behalf of Palestinians, might conflict with Zionism.

That Harris, like all his colleagues, has bought unquestioningly into the “institutionally anti-semitic” Labour narrative and the equally ridiculous “anti-Zionism equals anti-semitism” narrative is highlighted by this passage about Corbyn:

He has talked in the past about ‘the hand of Israel’ subtly and secretly acting from a distance. And from there it is only a short hop to two ideas which seem to have spread from a small hard core rooted in the anti-imperialist far left out into the wider party. First, that Israel – and by extension Jewish people – must have something do with many of the “smears”. And second, that accusations of antisemitism usually have a concealed agenda.

No, only Harris and those talking of a supposed “institutional anti-semitism” crisis in Labour are generalising about Jews and claiming that they all speak with one voice.

On the other hand, those highlighting the “anti-semitism smears” recognise that we are talking only about Zionists, Jews and non-Jews alike, who have a self-confessed emotional investment in shielding Israel from criticism, as I have outlined above. Many Labour members concerned about these smears are themselves Jewish. They even have their own organisation, Jewish Voice for Labour, a group the Guardian largely ignores because it undermines the “institutional anti-semitism” narrative.

Further, the idea that only the tinfoil brigade could believe Israel has had any hand in framing this debate, or in reshaping the definition of anti-semitism to include Israel, is rich indeed coming from a newspaper that has dedicated acres of newsprint to impute a supposedly secret campaign by the Kremlin to undermine the west and its electoral processes.

Unlike many of the claims made against Russia, there is very well documented evidence that Israel, or more specifically Israel’s ministry of strategic affairs, has been working behind the scenes both to bolster the “anti-semitism problem under Corbyn” narrative (that was precisely what the Al-Jazeera documentary proved) and to change the definition of anti-semitism to conflate it with anti-Zionism (I’ve written about that here).

That Harris doesn’t know about this evidence is the mark both of his failure to understand the larger picture and of the lack of coverage of these issues in the corporate media – not proof of conspiracy theories or anti-semitism.

Driving to the edge of the cliff

Finally, let me note yet again (I’ve been doing this for the past year) that the anti-semitism narrative is readily morphing into an attack on all left wing politics. Harris is no exception in this regard:

At the heart of the various strands of populism that have taken root in many countries over the past five years, you will find not just a supposed divide between ‘the people’ and an elite, but a deep conviction that the latter is mired in corruption and globe-spanning skulduggery that is never made public. …

It [the Labour party] now tends to present the very real failings of modern capitalism not as a matter of anything systemic, but the work of a small group of people who are ruining things for the rest: what Corbyn calls a ‘self-serving elite’, who ‘monopolise the wealth that should be shared by each and every one of us’. …

Here is where the anti-semitism smears ultimately lead. The “moderate” left degrades political discourse, as it has since the Blair era, by refusing to countenance any criticism of capitalism that is prepared to get down and dirty with it, that descends from the lofty heights of the abstract to grapple with why ordinary people have been failed by the political and economic system.

Harris and so many other “moderates” want to treat neoliberalism as though it is some kind of immutable, if unfortunate, force of nature. As if those people forced to use food banks, those being deported, those suffering under an asymmetrical austerity forced on us by the bankers who played the economy as though it were a giant Ponzi scheme are simply victims of a natural disaster, needing only humanitarian aid.

But this is political evasion. The problems of capitalism may be systemic, but the people who rule our lives are flesh and blood. Those politicians devising austerity policies and bailing out the banks are people. Those well-paid journalists manipulating the way we see the world to benefit the 1% are people. Those CEOs despoiling the planet as they plunder its riches and heat up our climate are people. They are an elite and they need to be exposed and fought as a tiny group looking out only for their own interests, not ours.

In the guise of slaying a conspiracy theory, Harris promotes the biggest one imaginable: that the left doesn’t really care about the poor when it speaks of elites and a lack of accountability for the powerful, but is instead trying to revive the Protocols of the Elders of Zion for the modern age.

Only in the imagination of Harris and purveyors of the Labour “anti-semitism crisis” narrative are the elites Jews. The reality is that this elite are not united by a religion or an ethnicity but by two things: their greed for wealth and power, and their indifference to the future.

While we waste our political energies flaying each other over marginal examples of anti-semitism in Labour, that elite will get on with the business of driving us all over the edge of an economic and environmental cliff.

UPDATE:

I had just pressed the “Publish” button when I was sent another example from within Labour of the argument that being anti-capitalism is the same as being anti-semitic. This one is from “moderate” Labour MP Siobhain McDonough, who made these remarks during an interview with John Humphrys on Radio 4:

McDonough: It’s very much part of their politics, of hard left politics, to be against capitalists and to see Jewish people as the financiers of capital. Ergo you are anti-Jewish people.

Humphrys: In other words, to be anti-capitalist you have to be antisemitic?

McDonough: Yes. Not everybody, but there is a certain… there’s a certain strand of it. These people are not Labour, have never been Labour, but we now find them in our party.

More Than Bad Faith Behind Anti-semitism Slurs

John Harris, a columnist who by the Guardian’s current dismal standards is considered on the newspaper’s left, has added his voice to the paper’s endless contributions on Labour’s supposed “anti-semitism crisis”. Sadly, his is typical of the paper’s misrepresentations of the issue.

It is easy – and lazy – to accuse those who peddle these distortions of acting solely in bad faith. But speaking as someone who was himself once deeply immersed as a journalist in the corporate culture of the Guardian, I know how simple it is from within that culture to fail to scrutinise one’s most fundamental and cherished assumptions. In fact, it’s often a requirement for remaining employed.

Nonetheless, Harris is such a good journalist by conventional standards and his work here is so lamentable, so lacking in awareness of even basic human psychology, that it cries out for some deeper analysis.

A lot has been written about how we now live in information silos. But that was true even before the arrival of social media for those like Harris whose job in the corporate media is to shore up a largely consensual view of the world, if only out of fear of the consequences should that consensus break down. In the wake of Brexit, we have heard liberal journalists grow louder in their suggestions that there is now “too much democracy”. As the consensus crumbles, their authoritarian instincts are becoming ever clearer.

No one from the Daily Mail to the Guardian departs from the “Labour is institutionally anti-semitic” narrative. That in itself is quite extraordinary. But the dearth of evidence for this narrative offers an opportunity to shake us out of our complacent belief that a state-corporate media, one reliant on profits from advertising corporations, can ever represent more than a narrow spectrum of thought – thought that helps those in power to maintain their power.

Moral panics and self-delusions

‘Harris begins his article by noting a Jewish woman’s experience of what she sees as an increasingly “abusive relationship” with the Labour party after 40 years as a member. Reporting her concerns, Harris lists a few recent incidents witnessed by this woman that she cites as proof of a rising tide of anti-semitism in Labour.

Absolutely no details are provided beyond her interpretations of what took place. (One should note that this lack of evidence is a staple of the media’s narrative about “institutional anti-semitism” in Labour.) So let us weigh as best we can the interpretations put forward by Harris’s anonymous interviewee as our gateway into examining the “institutional anti-semitism” narrative itself.

First some background. Most liberal journalists are aware of the problem of what are called “moral panics”. Harris’s Guardian colleague Nick Davies wrote an influential book, Flat Earth News, whose first chapter was dedicated to the way the media and public can end up in a narrative tailspin, entering a world of mutually reinforcing self-delusions.

When such delusions serve an establishment agenda, they can be particularly pernicious and difficult to root out. And beating Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn into submission – or into the dust – before he can reach No 10 is definitely high on the political and media establishments’ agenda.

Moral panics work this way: Journalists stoke up emotions or fears over an issue that then runs rampant through public discourse to the point at which it no longer bears any resemblance to the real problem.

A famous example cited by Davies is the outpouring of concern, as the millennium approached, with a supposed Year 2000 computer bug. Through 1999, the media stoked an apocalyptic mood about the imminent meltdown of our newly computerised world, leaving us without basic goods, medicines and transport because computers would not be able to cope with a numerical change in the date. (For those too young to remember those events, the doomsday scenarios around Brexit pale in comparison.) The bug, of course, never materialised.

Once you are persuaded that something is true, however implausible it is, everything is likely to be filtered through that lens. And when everyone says Labour is institutionally anti-semitic, everything – from real hatred of Jews to vague or clumsy phrasing about anti-semitism, or criticism of Israel – will seem anti-semitic to you.

Two sides to every story

So when Harris’s interviewee says she was “jeered” by her Labour constituency general committee for raising the issue of anti-semitism, we cannot be sure that she actually was “jeered” rather than that she faced objections from committee members, possibly valid ones, about what she was claiming.

Similarly, we cannot know – beyond her claim – that she raised the issue of anti-semitism rather than that she labelled members of her constituency anti-semites for matters that had nothing to do with anti-semitism, such as their being highly critical of Israel or disagreeing with the claim that the Labour party is institutionally anti-semitic.

All of this is necessarily speculative on my part because Harris has allowed his interviewee to pass on her (possibly self-serving) interpretation of these events as the only one. And as we all know, life tends not to work like that. There are usually two sides to any story.

If it sounds like I’m being unfair to Harris’s interviewee, let’s remember that she would be very far from alone in perpetrating such misrepresentations, consciously or otherwise.

‘Too apologetic’ on anti-semitism?

In fact, Harris himself, a well-trained journalist of impeccable liberal credentials, makes precisely this kind of misrepresentation a few paragraphs later on in his article, when he discusses the case of MP Chris Williamson.

Williamson, an ally of Corbyn’s, was suspended by Labour last week after the media reported that he had told a group of Labour members that the party had been “too apologetic” about anti-semitism. The media, as well as “moderate” Labour MPs opposed to Corbyn, were outraged that Williamson thought it was possible to be “too apologetic” about bigotry towards Jews.

For them, the incident also usefully proved the “institutional anti-semitism” narrative they are so invested in because Williamson’s racism was warmly applauded by all those present.

Except none of that is true. You don’t even need to take my word for it. It is all recorded on video. You can listen to what Williamson said yourself and see why the audience cheered.

What Williamson actually said makes no sense to the corporate media or the Labour rightwing because it conflicts with their narrative, with a worldview that presupposes Labour is “institutionally anti-semitic”. They cannot conceive of any interpretation of his speech that might undermine that narrative.

Defending Labour from smears

Williamson wasn’t telling Labour members to stop apologising about anti-semitism in Labour, and that wasn’t why they applauded him. He was telling them that there is no evidence to justify calling Labour institutionally anti-semitic, or even especially anti-semitic.

He was also saying that the endless focus on anti-semitism in Labour, and the apologies for incidents that were misunderstandings or smears rather than examples of Jew hatred, had painted a false picture of the Labour party. He was calling for Labour to stop being in default apologetic mode and start defending Labour’s reputation for anti-racism.

The members applauded because it was the the first time a Labour leader had stood up for them. Every day they hear the Guardian and Tom Watson, the party’s deputy leader, who is angling for Corbyn’s job, conducting a conversation over their heads that assumes they are either racists or that they turn a blind eye to racism. They are fed up with it. They know the narrative is nonsense and they are angry. When Williamson defended them, rather than those who smear them, they were delighted.

So how did Harris manage to cite this clip as further proof of Labour “institutional anti-semitism”, as he does here:

Just watch the video that eventually led to Derby North MP Chris Williamson being suspended from the party, and consider not what he said about Labour’s approach to antisemitism (“We’ve given too much ground – we’ve been too apologetic”), but the loud applause that followed.

How is it possible that everything I’ve just summarised of Williamson’s speech, and the audience’s response, passed so far above Harris’s head that he failed even to acknowledge it? He doesn’t have to agree with Williamson or those applauding him, but he has to be fair to them about how they viewed the meeting. To simply erase from the record what Williamson meant and what his audience’s applause meant is to perpetrate a deception. It’s to assist in promoting a moral panic.

Unlike many of those commenting, Harris is supposed to be a close observer of the Labour rank and file. He spends a lot of time, it appears, travelling the UK meeting ordinary people. How could he have missed this groundswell of anger among party members at being endlessly defamed – and not only missed it, but joined in the defamation himself?

Blind to other narratives

This isn’t just about Labour and anti-semitism. The Guardian, the paper of the liberal-left, has missed or misunderstood all the major political shifts of the last five years. It couldn’t imagine Corbyn being elected leader or understand the significance of the membership’s vote after it had happened. The Guardian also didn’t foresee the massive surge in support for a Corbyn-led Labour party at the last election. Instead it has led the media pack trying to undermine Corbyn, typically by promoting gross misrepresentations like this latest one echoed by Harris.

The Guardian’s incomprehension at Brexit is starkly on show too. Its commentaries rarely rise above denunciations of anti-immigrant racism. Its singleminded cheerleading of Hillary Clinton against Bernie Sanders was as boneheaded as its continuing bafflement at the victory of Donald Trump.

The Guardian is a huge media outfit, employing many hundreds of journalists. And yet online pundits have regularly produced much more insightful analyses than the paper.

Harris’s article is yet more confirmation that even the best corporate journalists end up being blinded by media groupthink, leaving them unable to make sense of the world around them. They literally can’t see or hear what is staring them in the face. Harris is so immersed in a “consensus” anti-semitism narrative that he interprets the blinding dazzle of the sun as darkness, he perceives white as a diabolical black.

Filming an anti-semitism smear

This problem isn’t restricted to the media, of course. Politicians are equally blinkered about events that cannot be fitted into their worldview.

Take the case of Joan Ryan, a non-Jewish Labour MP who chairs Labour Friends of Israel and recently defected to the Independent Group over the anti-semitism issue. Perhaps not surprisingly given her emotional investment in defending Israel, apparently at all costs and whatever the evidence of its oppression of Palestinians, she is deeply opposed to Labour being led by Corbyn, a champion of the Palestinian cause.

To what terrible misdeeds that might lead her was laid bare when she made up an accusation of anti-semitism out of whole cloth against a Labour party member. Remember that accusing someone falsely of anti-semitism is as bad as making an anti-semitic statement. It has the same power to do terrible emotional damage to its victim, it can isolate them from friends and family, and it can result in them losing their job.

In 2016, Jean Fitzpatrick privately challenged Ryan on the margins of the party conference over the MP’s lack of support for the Palestinians. Ryan immediately accused Fitzpatrick of using anti-semitic tropes about Jews and bankers.

Fitzpatrick would have found herself one of those “anti-semites” hounded out of the party had she not been very lucky. Al Jazeera was making an undercover documentary about the collusion between the Israeli embassy and groups like Labour Friends of Israel, both of them intent on ousting Corbyn from the leadership. Unknown to Ryan, the exchange with Fitzpatrick was caught on film and shows that there was nothing about Jews or bankers, or anything anti-semitic, in what she said.

Ignoring the statistics

Unlike those smearing the Labour party as institutionally anti-semitic, I’m happy to put the most charitable interpretation possible on Ryan’s behaviour.

The fact is that, once people are invested strongly in a worldview, evidence that threatens to undermine it is usually ignored. Such evidence, if it dangerously challenges their inner narrative, can even be reinterpreted and distorted by the proponent to shore up their crumbling perception of right and wrong. The truth of the evidence simply doesn’t register, or it is turned upside down.

And that is an important part of what is happening in the crafting of the Labour anti-semitism narrative.

The statistics simply don’t bear out the accusation that Labour is “institutionally anti-semitic”, or even that it has what might loosely be termed an “anti-semitism problem” – beyond a problem of racism on its margins of the kind that can be found in all organisations and communities, including the Jewish community.

Labour has found 0.08% of its members responsible either for unthinking prejudice towards Jews or conscious bigotry. The evidence suggests this is much, much lower than in the general population.

What has been happening in Labour under Corbyn, however, is that for the first time party members have been able to articulate critical views of Israel, as well as their support for Palestinians suffering under Israeli oppression. That is a new and important freedom and to ignore the part it is playing in the anti-semitism narrative is to be wilfully blind – to cling on to a narrative that refuses to deal with the world as it really is.

Berger and her constituency

Harris quotes another colleague, Rachel Shabi, to bolster his argument. Referring to Luciana Berger, a Jewish Labour MP who also recently defected to the Independent Group, Shabi writes:

A Jewish MP left Labour because of the tide of antisemitism directed at her and I don’t think the terrible significance of this has sunk in for chunks of the left.

There are all sorts of assumptions in this short statement that need unpacking. True, Berger claims that anti-semitism is the reason she left the party. It may well be that she really believes that she is facing a tide of anti-semitism from Labour members. But the evidence needs to be produced, not simply taken for granted.

The examples of anti-semitism invariably cited in Berger’s case refer to undoubtedly anti-semitic attacks from the far-right, not from Labour members; or to online abuse whose provenance is rarely identifiable; or to the opposition she faced from her local constituency party in Liverpool.

There are lots of reasons why Berger is disliked by a significant section of her constituency party, and the wider Labour membership, that have nothing to do with anti-semitism. One is that she was parachuted into the constituency by Tony Blair (she once dated his son Euan), even though her Blairite politics do not fit with many of the people she supposedly represents. Another is that her constant and generalised complaints about anti-semitism in Labour are seen as an insult to party members. They have taken against her because she openly defames Corbyn – and them for supporting him. Yet others are unhappy that she emphasises her support for Israel over the rights of Palestinians.

A battle of political values

Some British Jews like Berger (as well as non-Jews like Ryan) identify strongly with Israel, even as it swings ever further to the ultra-nationalist right. Some, the Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland among them, appear to believe that criticism of Israel is equivalent to anti-semitism. Some make this conflation wilfully and maliciously, some do it out of ignorance. Either way, those making this conflation do so to prevent Israel being criticised because they genuinely cannot bear to hear such criticism. They feel it as a personal attack.

That is regrettable. In an ideal world where politics did not involve having to make tough choices, it might even be avoidable. But politics in the real world isn’t actually like that.

And so allowing hard-line Zionist Jews in Labour the right to make support for Israel a priority is one political value that must compete with the right of other Jews in Labour and the right of non-Jewish members to oppose Israel’s oppression of Palestinians. For most of Labour’s history, Zionist Jews had the upper hand in this struggle between political values. Now, under Corbyn, they don’t.

That may make hard-line Zionist Jews in Labour like Berger, and hardline Zionist non-Jews like Ryan, angry and upset, but it very obviously doesn’t make their opponents in the party anti-semites.

The reality is that those who adopt a Zionist identity – one enmeshed in a belligerent, highly militarised state oppressing Palestinians for many decades – should not deserve any kind of special protection for their political views, least of all in the Labour party.

These supporters of Israel are asking for the impossible: demanding silence from everyone else as they defend a state whose policies require not just racism but daily structural violence towards Palestinians. Whatever the anti-semitism narrative hopes to achieve, there isn’t an exemption for anti-Palestinian racism just because it is being promoted by a section of the Jewish community.

It is deeply immoral of Israel’s supporters – Jews and non-Jews alike – to try to win a political argument, about Israel, by silencing their opponents with a deceit about racism: that criticism of Israel is tantamount to anti-semitism. The fact that harsh criticism of Israel wounds Zionist Jews does not give Zionist Jews a right to wound others by conflating their criticism of Israel with hatred of Jews.

Low point in public discourse

These points ought to be so obvious that they do not need stating. And yet we have reached such a low point in public discourse – made far worse by the “institutional anti-semitism” narrative – that just saying this makes one vulnerable to accusations of anti-semitism.

Here is Harris again privileging a Zionist Jewish narrative:

A few days ago I spoke to another Jewish Labour member, who talked about a sundered bond between the party and British Jews, and how Labour had once nurtured a precious Jewish political tradition that was now close to breathing its last.

For Harris, it seems, it is inconceivable that any other Jewish narrative might exist. Insultingly, he erases non-Zionist Jews. And, of course, he makes no allowance at all for other Labour political traditions in which an anti-racism struggle, on behalf of Palestinians, might conflict with Zionism.

That Harris, like all his colleagues, has bought unquestioningly into the “institutionally anti-semitic” Labour narrative and the equally ridiculous “anti-Zionism equals anti-semitism” narrative is highlighted by this passage about Corbyn:

He has talked in the past about ‘the hand of Israel’ subtly and secretly acting from a distance. And from there it is only a short hop to two ideas which seem to have spread from a small hard core rooted in the anti-imperialist far left out into the wider party. First, that Israel – and by extension Jewish people – must have something do with many of the “smears”. And second, that accusations of antisemitism usually have a concealed agenda.

No, only Harris and those talking of a supposed “institutional anti-semitism” crisis in Labour are generalising about Jews and claiming that they all speak with one voice.

On the other hand, those highlighting the “anti-semitism smears” recognise that we are talking only about Zionists, Jews and non-Jews alike, who have a self-confessed emotional investment in shielding Israel from criticism, as I have outlined above. Many Labour members concerned about these smears are themselves Jewish. They even have their own organisation, Jewish Voice for Labour, a group the Guardian largely ignores because it undermines the “institutional anti-semitism” narrative.

Further, the idea that only the tinfoil brigade could believe Israel has had any hand in framing this debate, or in reshaping the definition of anti-semitism to include Israel, is rich indeed coming from a newspaper that has dedicated acres of newsprint to impute a supposedly secret campaign by the Kremlin to undermine the west and its electoral processes.

Unlike many of the claims made against Russia, there is very well documented evidence that Israel, or more specifically Israel’s ministry of strategic affairs, has been working behind the scenes both to bolster the “anti-semitism problem under Corbyn” narrative (that was precisely what the Al-Jazeera documentary proved) and to change the definition of anti-semitism to conflate it with anti-Zionism (I’ve written about that here).

That Harris doesn’t know about this evidence is the mark both of his failure to understand the larger picture and of the lack of coverage of these issues in the corporate media – not proof of conspiracy theories or anti-semitism.

Driving to the edge of the cliff

Finally, let me note yet again (I’ve been doing this for the past year) that the anti-semitism narrative is readily morphing into an attack on all left wing politics. Harris is no exception in this regard:

At the heart of the various strands of populism that have taken root in many countries over the past five years, you will find not just a supposed divide between ‘the people’ and an elite, but a deep conviction that the latter is mired in corruption and globe-spanning skulduggery that is never made public. …

It [the Labour party] now tends to present the very real failings of modern capitalism not as a matter of anything systemic, but the work of a small group of people who are ruining things for the rest: what Corbyn calls a ‘self-serving elite’, who ‘monopolise the wealth that should be shared by each and every one of us’. …

Here is where the anti-semitism smears ultimately lead. The “moderate” left degrades political discourse, as it has since the Blair era, by refusing to countenance any criticism of capitalism that is prepared to get down and dirty with it, that descends from the lofty heights of the abstract to grapple with why ordinary people have been failed by the political and economic system.

Harris and so many other “moderates” want to treat neoliberalism as though it is some kind of immutable, if unfortunate, force of nature. As if those people forced to use food banks, those being deported, those suffering under an asymmetrical austerity forced on us by the bankers who played the economy as though it were a giant Ponzi scheme are simply victims of a natural disaster, needing only humanitarian aid.

But this is political evasion. The problems of capitalism may be systemic, but the people who rule our lives are flesh and blood. Those politicians devising austerity policies and bailing out the banks are people. Those well-paid journalists manipulating the way we see the world to benefit the 1% are people. Those CEOs despoiling the planet as they plunder its riches and heat up our climate are people. They are an elite and they need to be exposed and fought as a tiny group looking out only for their own interests, not ours.

In the guise of slaying a conspiracy theory, Harris promotes the biggest one imaginable: that the left doesn’t really care about the poor when it speaks of elites and a lack of accountability for the powerful, but is instead trying to revive the Protocols of the Elders of Zion for the modern age.

Only in the imagination of Harris and purveyors of the Labour “anti-semitism crisis” narrative are the elites Jews. The reality is that this elite are not united by a religion or an ethnicity but by two things: their greed for wealth and power, and their indifference to the future.

While we waste our political energies flaying each other over marginal examples of anti-semitism in Labour, that elite will get on with the business of driving us all over the edge of an economic and environmental cliff.

UPDATE:

I had just pressed the “Publish” button when I was sent another example from within Labour of the argument that being anti-capitalism is the same as being anti-semitic. This one is from “moderate” Labour MP Siobhain McDonough, who made these remarks during an interview with John Humphrys on Radio 4:

McDonough: It’s very much part of their politics, of hard left politics, to be against capitalists and to see Jewish people as the financiers of capital. Ergo you are anti-Jewish people.

Humphrys: In other words, to be anti-capitalist you have to be antisemitic?

McDonough: Yes. Not everybody, but there is a certain… there’s a certain strand of it. These people are not Labour, have never been Labour, but we now find them in our party.

The Orientalism of Western Russophobia

Last year marked the 40th anniversary of the publication of Edward W. Said’s pioneering book, Orientalism, as well as fifteen years since the Palestinian-American intellectual’s passing. To bid farewell to such an important scholar shortly after the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, which Said fiercely criticized until his dying breath before succumbing to leukemia, made an already tremendous loss that much more impactful. His seminal text forever reoriented political discourse by painstakingly examining the overlooked cultural imperialism of colonial history in the West’s construction of the so-called Orient. Said meticulously interrogated the Other-ing of the non-Western world in the humanities, arts, and anthropology down to its minutiae. As a result, the West was forced to confront not just its economic and political plunder but the long-established cultural biases filtering the lens through which it viewed the East which shaped its dominion over it.

His writings proved to be so influential that they laid the foundations for what is now known as post-colonial theory. This became an ironic category as the author himself would strongly reject any implication that the subjugation of developing countries is a thing of the past. How apropos that the Mandatory Palestine-born writer’s death came in the midst of the early stages of the ‘War on Terror’ that made clear Western imperialism is very much alive. Despite its history of ethnic cleansing, slavery, and war, the United States had distinguished itself from Britain and France in that it had never established its own major colonies within the Middle East, Asia or North Africa in the heart of the Orient. According to Said, it was now undergoing this venture as the world’s sole remaining superpower following the end of the Cold War with the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Today’s political atmosphere makes the Bush era seem like eons ago. Thanks to the shameful rehabilitation of neoconservatism by centrist extremists, Americans fail to understand how Trumpism emerged from the pandora’s box of destructiveness of Bush policies that destabilized the Middle East and only increased international terrorism. Since then, another American enemy has been manufactured in the form of the Russian Federation and its President, Vladimir Putin, who drew the ire of the West after a resurgent Moscow under his leadership began to contain U.S. hegemony. This reached a crescendo during the 2016 U.S. Presidential election with the dubious accusations of election interference made by the same intelligence agencies that sold the pack of lies that Iraq possessed Weapons of Mass Destruction. The establishment has even likened the alleged intrusion by Moscow to 9/11.

If a comparison between the 2001 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 Americans and the still unproven allegations of Russian meddling seems outrageous, it is precisely such an analogy that has been made by Russiagate’s own biggest proponents, from neoconservative columnist Max Boot to Hillary Clinton herself. Truthfully, it is the climate of hysteria and dumbing down of discourse to such rigid dichotomies following both events where a real similarity can be drawn. The ‘with us or against us’ chasm that followed 9/11 has reemerged in the ‘either/or’ post-election polarity of the Trump era whereby all debate within the Overton window is pigeonholed into a ‘pro vs. anti-Trump’ or ‘pro vs. anti-Russia’ false dilemma. It is even perpetrated by some on the far left; e.g., if one critiques corporate media or Russiagate, they are grouped as ‘pro-Trump’ or ‘pro-Putin’ no matter their political orientation. This dangerous atmosphere is feeding an unprecedented wave of censorship of dissenting voices across the spectrum.

In his final years, not only did Edward Said condemn the Bush administration but highlighted how corporate media was using bigoted tropes in its representations of Arabs and Muslims to justify U.S. foreign policy. Even though it has gone mostly undetected, the neo-McCarthyist frenzy following the election has produced a similar travesty of caricatures depicting Russia and Vladimir Putin. One such egregious example was a July 2018 article in the Wall Street Journal entitled “Russia’s Turn to Its Asian Past” featuring an illustration portraying Vladimir Putin as Genghis Khan. The racist image and headline suggested that Russia is somehow inherently autocratic because of its past occupation under the Mongol Empire during its conquest of Eastern Europe and the Kievan Rus state in the 13th century. In a conceptual revival of the Eurocentric trope of Asiatic or Oriental despotism, the hint is that past race-mixing is where Russia inherited this tyrannical trait. When the cover story appeared, there was virtually no outcry due to the post-election delirium and everyday fear-mongering about Russia that is now commonplace in the media.

The overlooked casual racism used to demonize Russia in the new Cold War’s propaganda doesn’t stop there. One of the main architects of Russiagate, former Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper, in an interview with NBC‘s Meet the Press on the reported meddling stated:

And just the historical practices of the Russians, who typically, almost genetically driven to co-opt, penetrate, gain favor, which is a typical Russian technique. So we were concerned.

Clapper, whose Office of the DNI published the Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA) “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections”, has been widely praised and cited by corporate media as a trustworthy source despite his previous history of making intentionally false statements at a public hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee denying that the National Security Agency (NSA) was unconstitutionally spying on U.S. citizens.

The disclosures of NSA activities by whistleblower Edward Snowden that shocked the world should have discredited Clapper’s status as a reliable figure, but not for mainstream media which has continuously colluded with the deep state during the entire Russia investigation. In fact, the scandal has been an opportunity to rehabilitate figures like the ex-spymaster complicit in past U.S. crimes from surveillance to torture. Shortly after the interview with NBC, Clapper repeated his prejudiced sentiments against Russians in a speech at the National Press Club in Australia:

But as far as our being intimate allies, trusting buds with the Russians that is just not going to happen. It is in their genes to be opposed, diametrically opposed, to the United States and to Western democracies.

The post-election mass Trump derangement has not only enabled wild accusations of treason to be made without sufficient evidence to support them, but such uninhibited xenophobic remarks to go without notice or disapproval.

In fact, liberals have seemingly abandoned their supposed progressive credence across the board while suffering from their anti-Russia neurological disorder. In an exemplar of yellow journalism, outlets like NBC News published sensational articles alleging that because of the perceived ingratiation between Trump and Putin, there was an increase in Russian ‘birth tourism’ in the United States. More commonly known by the pejorative ‘anchor babies’, birth tourism is the false claim that many immigrants travel to countries for the purpose of having children in order to obtain citizenship. While there may be individual cases, the idea that it is an epidemic is a complete myth — the vast majority of immigration is motivated by labor demands and changes in political or socio-economic factors in their native countries, whether it is from the global south or Eastern Europe. Trump has been rightfully criticized for promoting this falsehood regarding undocumented immigrants and his executive orders targeting birthright citizenship, but it appears liberals are willing to unfairly apply this same fallacy toward Russians for political reasons.

In order to make sense of the current groupthink hysteria towards Moscow, it must be understood in its context as an extension of the ongoing doctoring of history regarding U.S.-Russia relations since the Cold War. Americans living within the empire are proselytized into a glorified and nationalist version of their entire background, beginning with merchants and explorers ‘discovering’ the continent and the whitewashing of indigenous genocide. This imaginary narrative includes the version of WWII taught in U.S. schools and the arms race with the Soviet Union that followed. The West presents an entirely Anglospheric perspective of the war starting with its very chronology. For example, it is said that the conflict ‘officially’ began with the September 1st, 1939 invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany. This mythology immediately frames the war from an Eurocentric viewpoint by separating the Sino-Japanese war that was already underway as the Pacific Ocean theater began long before the ‘surprise’ Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 and U.S. entry into the conflict.

The truth is that nearly everything Americans are taught about U.S. participation in the war is either a mischaracterization or a lie, with its role in the Allied victory inflated exponentially. The widely held misconception that the 1944 Normandy landings in the Allied invasion of France was the decisive turning point in Europe is a fairy tale. The ‘D’ in D-Day does not stand for ‘decision’ as many Westerners assume, and when the Allied forces converged on Germany from East and West it was the Soviets who captured Berlin. Although Operation Overlord may have been the largest invasion transported by sea in history, the real watershed in the Great Patriotic War was the Soviet victory in the Battle of Stalingrad the previous year, the biggest defeat ever suffered by the German army. The U.S. only took on the Wehrmacht once it was exhausted by the Red Army which bore the real burden of overcoming Germany.

Just three years earlier, the British army had been completely vanquished by the Nazi armed forces. Omitted from Hollywood folklore like Christopher Nolan’s film Dunkirk is that the Germans were entirely capable of pressing on with an invasion of the British isles but abruptly halted their advance — what stopped them? Quite simply, Hitler’s fanatical desire to conquer the Soviet Union and eradicate communism which he regarded as a greater threat to the Third Reich than Western capitalism. It is not surprising that the Eastern Front became a higher priority considering that the ruling classes in Britain, France and the U.S. had previously financed the German rearmament in violation of the Treaty of Versailles.

The Germans did not hold the same hatred for the West that it reserved for the Russians. In fact, the Führer personally admired the U.S. so much for the extermination of its natives that he named his armored private train ‘Amerika’, a mobile version of the Wolf’s Lair. The Nuremberg race statutes were partly inspired by Jim Crow segregation laws in the U.S. and many of the defendants at the Nuremberg trials tried to excuse their atrocities by arguing the similarity between Nazi race theories and the eugenicist movement which actually originated in the United States. Auschwitz physician Josef Mengele was even previously employed as an assistant to the head of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Anthropology, Human Heredity, and Eugenics Institute that was funded by the Rockefeller Foundation.

Hitler also preferred an attack on the Soviets over an invasion of Britain because of the eugenics of Lebensraum. Nazi Germany, like Britain and France, was really an imperial settler colonialist state and Hitler viewed the Slav inhabitants of the USSR as ethnically inferior to the ‘master race.’ The Molotov-Ribbentrop pact had been a strategic move to buy time for the Soviets in preparation for a German onslaught, at the time the most powerful military power in the world. Britain and France had rebuffed Stalin’s efforts to form an alliance in 1938, leaving the USSR no choice but to sign a non-aggression pact with Germany, knowing full well it was only a matter of time until Hitler would eventually embark on his Masterplan for the East. Operation Barbarossa in June 1941 broke the agreement and the German dictator ultimately sealed his own fate. Although the Soviets were victorious, the slaughter that proceeded it had no parallel in human history as 27 million citizens would lose their lives in the fight compared to less than half a million Americans. Even worse, the West has made a mockery of this sacrifice with their refusal to fully acknowledge the USSR’s contribution despite the fact that they did the vast majority of the fighting and dying while 80% of all German casualties were on the Eastern Front.

Meanwhile, the Cold War had already begun before the Second World War even ended. Whether or not Stalin was fully aware of either the U.S. capability or plans to use the atomic bomb against Japan is still a matter of debate, as U.S. President Harry S. Truman changed his story numerous times over the years. Nevertheless, their use is incorrectly attributed by the West to have brought the war’s end and very few Americans realize this tale was told entirely for political reasons. The purported rationale was to allegedly save the lives of American soldiers that would be lost in a future Allied invasion of Japan planned for the Autumn of 1945. Controlling the narrative became crucial in ‘justifying’ the use of such deadly weapons which held the secret motivation to begin an arms race with the Soviets.

Stalin and U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt had agreed at the Yalta Conference in February 1945 that the USSR would eventually break its neutrality treaty with Japan and enter the Pacific theater later in the year. That was until Roosevelt died of a massive cerebral hemorrhage just a few months later while American nuclear physicists were busy at work enriching uranium in Los Alamos, New Mexico. Then, just a day prior to newly inaugurated President Truman’s meeting with Stalin at the Potsdam Conference in July, the U.S. army and Project Y successfully detonated a nuclear weapon for the first time with the Trinity test as part of the expensive Manhattan Project. After his face-to-face with Truman at Potsdam, whom everyone agrees at least hinted to Stalin of the new U.S. weaponry, the Soviet premier suspected the new U.S. leader would go back on the previous agreement at Yalta with Roosevelt that included compromises with the USSR in the Pacific.

The ugly truth is that the U.S. was well aware that the Japanese were willing to conditionally surrender on the basis of immunity for Emperor Hirohito. However, the U.S. secretly wanted to achieve an Allied victory ideally without Soviet participation so it could demonstrate its exclusive nuclear capability in order to dominate the post-war order. Japan didn’t relinquish following the first bombing of Hiroshima but the second, Nagasaki, three days later — both of which mostly impacted civilians, not its military. What else happened on August 9th, 1945? The Soviet Union declared war on Japan upon realizing that the U.S. was backtracking on its pledge with the underhanded use of ‘Fat Man and Little Boy’ that instantly killed more than 200,000 civilians. The timing gave the appearance that the bomb resulted in the surrender when it was the Soviet invasion of occupied Manchuria in the north against Japan’s military stronghold that was the real tipping point which led to an unconditional acceptance of defeat.

According to the Western narrative, the Cold War only began following Winston Churchill’s invitation to the U.S. by Truman after being surprisingly voted out of office in 1946. At Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, hegave a speech entitled “Sinews of Peace”, widely known as the Iron Curtain speech, where he condemned Soviet policies in Europe and popularized the moniker for the boundary dividing the continent after the war:

From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an “iron curtain” has descended across the continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia; all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere, and all are subject, in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and in some cases increasing measure of control from Moscow.

Although the term ‘iron curtain’ predates Cold War usage to describe various barriers political or otherwise, what is not commonly known is that Churchill likely appropriated the term from its originator, none other than the German Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels himself, who used it in reference to the Soviet Union. In February 1945, he wrote in Das Reich newspaper:

If the German people lay down their weapons, the Soviets, according to the agreement between Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin, would occupy all of East and Southeast Europe along with the greater part of the Reich. An iron curtain would fall over this enormous territory controlled by the Soviet Union, behind which nations would be slaughtered.

The ‘Nazi megaphone’ himself may have gotten the term from the Wehrmacht propaganda publication Signal which in 1943 published an article entitled “Behind the Iron Curtain” that described:

He who has listened in on the interrogation of a Soviet prisoner of war knows that once the dam is broken, a flood of words begins as he tries to make clear what he experienced behind the mysterious iron curtain, which more than ever separates the world from the Soviet Union.

Is it any wonder that British newspaper The Guardian is now illustrating cartoons in its anti-Russia propaganda today that imitate Goebbels’ anti-Soviet posters during WWII?  Although Stalin was unaware of Churchill’s lifting of Nazi phraseology, he still detected the resemblance between Western and Third Reich policies toward the Soviet Union in the Fulton speech during an interview with Pravda:

A point to be noted is that in this respect Mr. Churchill and his friends bear a striking resemblance to Hitler and his friends. Hitler began his work of unleashing war by proclaiming a race theory, declaring that only German-speaking people constituted a superior nation. Mr. Churchill sets out to unleash war with a race theory, asserting that only English-speaking nations are superior nations, who are called upon to decide the destinies of the entire world. The German race theory led Hitler and his friends to the conclusion that the Germans, as the only superior nation, should rule over other nations. The English race theory leads Mr. Churchill and his friends to the conclusion that the English-speaking nations, as the only superior nations, should rule over the rest of the nations of the world. Actually, Mr. Churchill, and his friends in Britain and the United States, present to the non-English speaking nations something in the nature of an ultimatum: “Accept our rule voluntarily, and then all will be well; otherwise war is inevitable.” But the nations shed their blood in the course of five years’ fierce war for the sake of the liberty and independence of their countries, and not in order to exchange the domination of the Hitlers for the domination of the Churchills. It is quite probable, accordingly, that the non-English-speaking nations, which constitute the vast majority of the population of the world, will not agree to submit to a new slavery.

It is easy to see the parallels between Stalin’s explanation for the geopolitical tensions underlying the Cold War and Edward Said’s postcolonial theory. From a Marxist perspective, one of Said’s shortcomings was a reductionism in understanding empire to cultural supremacy, one of the reasons he unfortunately conflated Marxism with Orientalism as well. When it came to the Cold War, Said also demonstrated a lack of understanding of internationalism. He wrote:

By the time of the Bandung Conference in 1955, the entire Orient had gained its independence from the Western empires and gained a new configuration of imperial powers, the United States and the Soviet Union. Unable to recognize “its” Orient in the new Third World, Orientalism now faced a challenging and politically armed Orient.

Yet who foremost ‘armed’ the movements of national liberation? The USSR, including support for the Palestinians during most of its history. Nevertheless, Stalin’s description of the West’s prerogative for post-war hegemony based on the belief in its primacy has many overlaps with the idea that the Occident exercised patronizing dominance over the East. Today, even though the Berlin Wall has long since fallen and Eastern Europe is under free enterprise, the political establishment in the West is still clinging to this attitude and misunderstanding of Moscow to fulfill its need for an permanent global nemesis with a desire to eventually colonize Russia with foreign capital as it did under Boris Yeltsin.

Russia has historically possessed a unique and ambivalent identity located between the East and West, having been invaded by both European and Asian empires in previous centuries. Said included Russia in Orientalism in his analysis of European countries and their attitude toward the East, but did not note that Russia is in many respects the Orient within the Occident, as more than 75% of its territory as the largest nation in the world is actually located in Asia while three quarters of its population live on the European side. Russia may be partly European, but it is certainly not Western. Then again, Europe is not a continent unto itself but geographically connected to Asia with the arbitrary division between them based on cultural differences, not landmass, where Russia is an intermediate. Expansionism under Peter the Great may have brought Western European ‘cultural values’ and modernization to Russia, but the majority of its territory itself remains in Asia.

Even after the presumed end of the Cold War, Russia has been excluded from the European Union and instead joined the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), while developing strong ties with China. As recently disclosed documents from the National Security Archive prove, NATO has broken its promise to Mikhail Gorbachev during the George H.W. Bush administration that it not expand eastward following Germany’s enrollment. It has since added 13 countries since 1999, 10 of which were former Warsaw Pact states. Russia’s alliance with China has been solidified precisely because it is still not treated in the same regard as other European nations even after the adoption of a private sector economy. In order to justify its continued armament and avoid obsolescence, NATO has manufactured an adversarial relationship with Moscow.

Contrary to the widespread perception of his rhetoric, in terms of policy-making President Trump has been equally as hostile to Moscow as his predecessors, if not more so in light of the U.S. withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF). What the usual suspects behind the attempted soft-coup against him fail to understand is that Trump’s tact toward Putin is more likely an inverted version of the ‘only Nixon could go to China’ strategy, an unexpected style of diplomacy based on the pragmatic objective of containing Beijing by dividing America’s two primary foes. The liberals still in denial about their election defeat continue to underestimate Trump, but the Chinese are not fooled. The architect behind Nixon’s détente with Mao, Henry Kissinger, is even believed to have encouraged Trump to ease tensions with Moscow in order to quarantine China and don’t think they haven’t noticed. Ultimately, the divide between Trump and his enemies in the establishment is really a disagreement over strategy in how to surround China and prevent the inevitable downfall of the U.S. empire.

The ongoing demonization of Moscow is ultimately about China as well. It was only a matter of time until the uncertain allegations of election interference were also leveled against Beijing without proof as a Joint Statement from the U.S. intelligence agencies recently showed. Make no mistake — underneath the West’s Russophobia lies Sinophobia and as Washington’s real geopolitical challenger, China will in due course emerge as the preferred bogeyman. The bipartisan hawkishness has created an environment where rapprochement and diplomacy of any kind is seen as weakness and even a sign of treason, making the prospect of peace seemingly impossible. As China continues to grow, it will find itself more squarely in the cross-hairs of imperialism, regardless of whether Trump’s strategy to renew relations with Moscow against Beijing is successful. Until then cooler heads at the highest levels of government must prevail as they thankfully did at the height of the first Cold War for the sake of peace between Russia, the U.S. and the entire world.

Venezuela Blitz: Press Freedom, Sanctions And Oil

Press Freedom – Taking A Glance At A Newspaper Stand

In support of their claim that Maduro is a ‘tyrant’ who does not allow free elections, corporate media consistently point to a lack of press freedom. When British academic Alan MacLeod of Glasgow Media Group reviewed 166 Western media articles evaluating the state of press freedom between 1998-2014, he found that all depicted Venezuelan media as ‘caged’, or unfree. Last week, Canadian political analyst Joe Emersberger commented in The Canary:

The idea that Venezuela has a “caged” media has to be one of the most unforgivable pieces of Western propaganda about the country. And a simple analysis shows just how ignorant that allegation is. Indeed, just a few days ago, one of Venezuela’s most widely read newspapers, El Universal, published an op-ed enthusiastically applauding the efforts of the US-backed opposition to bring about President Nicolás Maduro’s ouster by recognizing opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the country’s new president. The op-ed said Guaidó was managing his US-backed strategy “perfectly”. And it joyously stated that the US and its allies had Maduro surrounded, and almost ready to be ousted.

In 2016, Emersberger wrote of earlier protests:

In fact, the protests and the leading opposition leaders’ take on the protests are being extensively covered on the largest private networks: Venevision, Televen, Globovision. If people abroad sampled Venezuela’s TV media directly, as opposed to judging it by what is said about it by the international media and some big NGOs, they’d be shocked to find the opposition constantly denouncing the government and even making very thinly veiled appeals to the military to oust Maduro.

The Venezuela Analysis website tweeted:

A cursory glance at any newspaper stand in Caracas will reveal that vast majority of Vzlan papers are anti-govt. Opposition also has massive social media presence – just search Twitter for “Venezuela” w/ Spanish filter. Intl journalists been lying re lack of media freedom for yrs

Independent journalist Abby Martin did exactly as suggested and visited a Venezuelan newspaper stand. She offered this summary:

So, out of the seven papers, four are anti-government, two are pro-government, and one is neutral, can go either way. So, it looks like the press is not as controlled as we think.

This is the kind of research even corporate journalists should be able to conduct for themselves.

Economic Warfare – Blocking Recovery

Just as they blamed Saddam Hussein for the devastating impact of US-UK sanctions on Iraq (1990-2003), corporate media are united in laying the blame for Venezuela’s economic and humanitarian crisis at Maduro’s door. In fact, Venezuela has long been subject to severe US sanctions. In 2017, political analyst Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) commented:

At the end of August, the Trump administration imposed harsh sanctions on Venezuela that prevent the country from borrowing or selling assets in the US financial system. The new embargo will exacerbate shortages of food, medicine, and other essential goods, while severely limiting the policy options available to pull the country out of a deep depression.

Trump’s order ‘makes a sustained recovery nearly impossible without outside help—or a new government that is approved by the Trump administration’.

This week, Alexander Campbell, also of CEPR, reported:

Last week, the US formally adopted sanctions on Venezuelan national oil company PDVSA, as well as on CITGO, its US-based distribution arm, as part of its press for regime change in Caracas. National Security Advisor John Bolton estimated the actions would affect some $7 billion in assets and would block $11 billion in revenue to the Venezuelan government over the next year.

Campbell summarised Venezuelan economist Francisco Rodríguez’s 2018 analysis of the impact of sanctions:

Rodríguez’s basic story: the oil industry is critical to the Venezuelan government; underinvestment and the rapid decline in oil prices caused a significant drop in revenue; then, as oil prices began increasing, Trump imposed sanctions making any international financial transaction extremely difficult and potentially “toxic.” Rodríguez explains… how Venezuelan and Colombian oil production both declined at the same rate, until the Trump financial embargo was implemented in August 2017. Then, Venezuela’s oil production collapsed…

The US media watch website, FAIR, placed all of this in context:

Trump ramped up the Obama administration’s sanctions, an action that caused Venezuelan oil production to plummet (FAIR.org, 12/17/18) and the economy to nosedive. Furthermore, US economic warfare against the country has cut Venezuela off from global capital markets—with the Trump administration threatening bankers with 30 years in prison if they negotiate with Caracas a standard restructuring of its debt (AlterNet, 11/13/17). The UN Human Rights Council formally condemned the US, noting that the sanctions target “the poor and most vulnerable classes,” called on all member states to break them, and even began discussing reparations the US should pay to Venezuela.

Last month, Alfred de Zayas, the first UN rapporteur to visit Venezuela for 21 years, told the Independent that US sanctions are illegal and could amount to ‘crimes against humanity’ under international law:

Former special rapporteur Alfred de Zayas, who finished his term at the UN in March, has criticized the US for engaging in “economic warfare” against Venezuela which he said is hurting the economy and killing Venezuelans.

The Independent continued:

“Sanctions kill,” he told The Independent, adding that they fall most heavily on the poorest people in society, demonstrably cause death through food and medicine shortages, lead to violations of human rights and are aimed at coercing economic change in a “sister democracy”.

On his fact-finding mission to the country in late 2017, he found internal overdependence on oil, poor governance and corruption had hit the Venezuelan economy hard, but said “economic warfare” practised by the US, EU and Canada are significant factors in the economic crisis.

And:

Despite being the first UN official to visit and report from Venezuela in 21 years, Mr de Zayas said his research into the causes of the country’s economic crisis has so far largely been ignored by the UN and the media, and caused little debate within the Human Rights Council.

Our ProQuest UK national newspaper database search for the last 30 days for articles mentioning:

‘de Zayas’ and ‘Venezuela’ = 1 hit

That is, one mention in the entire UK press, the Independent article cited above.

An idea of the extent of Western economic warfare against Venezuela can be gained from this thread of examples sent by tweeter Francisco Nunes.

In 2015, a minimum wage comparison across Latin America by Mexico’s Financialred.com.mx found:

Costa Rica has the second highest minimum wage in Central America and third in Latin America, US$516 monthly. Venezuela tops the list at US$885 and Panama US$667.

The average monthly minimum wage across Latin America is US$354.

The study reported:

The lowest in purchasing power is Colombia, where the minimum salary covers only 49.57% of the Canasta Basica; in other words Colombians need more than 2 minimum wages to cover their basic needs. Colombia’s minimum wage is COP644.350 Colombian Pesos, while the cost of the Canasta Basica is COP1,300,000.

A similar situation is lived in Paraguay, Peru and Ecuador.

Deep poverty is a problem across the region, but these crises never make the news. Even worse disasters are raging elsewhere, of course.

Since March 2015, a ‘coalition’ of Sunni Arab states led by Saudi Arabia, and supported by the US, Britain and France, has been dropping bombs on neighbouring Yemen. In 2016, the independent journalist Felicity Arbuthnot reported that in one year, 330,000 homes, 648 mosques, 630 schools and institutes and 250 health facilities had been destroyed or damaged. In December 2016, it was reported that more than 10,000 people had died and three million had been displaced in the conflict. According to Patrick Cockburn in the Independent, the death toll now likely exceeds 60,000.

In August 2016, Oxfam reported that in excess of 21 million people in Yemen, out of a total population of around 27 million, needed humanitarian aid, more than in any other country. In December 2016, a new study by UNICEF, the UN children’s agency, reported that at least one child was dying every 10 minutes in Yemen.

As far as we are aware, nobody in the UK parliament or press has called for the overthrow of the Saudi regime, nor indeed of the UK government, for creating poverty and suffering that far exceeds anything seen in Venezuela.

Indeed, in October 2016, Labour shadow foreign secretary, Emily Thornberry, placed a motion before the House of Commons that merely sought ‘to bring about a cessation of hostilities and provide humanitarian relief in Yemen’ and ‘to suspend [UK government] support for the Saudi Arabia-led coalition forces in Yemen’ pending an investigation of human rights violations. More than 100 Labour MPs – almost half the Labour Party – failed to support the motion. As a result, it was defeated by 283 votes to 193.

Similar indifference greeted the UN’s finding, in 1999, that the US-UK sanctions regime in Iraq had caused the deaths of 500,000 children under five. Senior UN diplomats who set up and ran the sanctions programme – and who later resigned in protest, describing it as ‘genocidal’ – were almost completely ignored by the UK press. One such senior diplomat, Hans von Sponeck, wrote a superb, forensic book detailing US-UK responsibility for this mass death, ‘A Different Kind of War – The UN Sanctions Regime in Iraq’ (Berghahn Books, 2006). The book has been mentioned once in the entire UK press and never been reviewed.

US Green Party Presidential candidate Jill Stein made the point:

The same blowhard politicians talking about “bringing democracy” to Venezuela have aided & abetted the Saudi dictators executing dissidents, murdering journalists & starving millions of kids in Yemen. They don’t give a damn about democracy or poor people’s lives. It’s about OIL.

As Adam Johnson notes wryly, it is as if US liberals ‘keep a real-time report card on these Official Bad Regimes, and if these regimes—due to an ill-defined rubric of un-democraticness and human rights—fall below a score of say, “60,” they become illegitimate and unworthy of defense as such’.

Of course, no ‘real-time reports’ are kept on ‘us’ and ‘our’ allies. The result is propaganda, not journalism.

Oil – ‘We Could Have Had Anything We Wanted’

If Maduro is not, in fact, a tyrant, if Venezuela does in fact have a comparatively free press and fair elections; if the US-UK corporate press is not in fact concerned about the fairness of elections, press freedom, poverty and mass death, even when caused by their own governments – then what is their problem with the Maduro government?

A vague gesture in the direction of Truth was made by Channel 4’s Alex Thomson, who asked on January 27:

Curious how much Venezuela suddenly matters to the EU when the recent notorious election in Bangladesh didn’t register like this…nor the Catalan question… nor the host of murderous dictators it supports across the Gulf. Why Caracas guys?

As we replied, the reason is hardly in doubt. We linked to a WikiLeaked US document:

‘US GOALS, OBJECTIVES AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT… VENEZUELA…
‘OUR FUNDAMENTAL INTERESTS IN VENEZUELA ARE:
‘THAT VENEZUELA CONTINUE TO SUPPLY A SIGNIFICANT PORTION OF OUR PETROLEUM IMPORTS AND CONTINUE TO FOLLOW A MODERATE AND RESPONSIBLE OIL PRICE POSITION IN OPEC’

RT’s Going Underground tweeted a list of the ‘Largest proven oil reserves in the world’:

1. Venezuela
2. Saudi Arabia
4. Iran
5. Iraq
9. Libya

The US is pursuing regime change/executed regime change against 4 of these countries in 16 years.

On Twitter, redfish provided some detail on quantities of oil, showing that Venezuela is top of the list.

In an interview with Sky News, Peter Watt, lecturer in Hispanic Studies at the University of Sheffield, noted that ’90 per cent of Venezuela’s oil exports are destined for the United States, it’s about 700,000 barrels of oil every day’.

Marco Rubio, the US Senator for Florida, tweeted:

Biggest buyers of Venezuelan oil are @ValeroEnergy & @Chevron. Refining heavy crude from #Venezuela supports great jobs in Gulf Coast.

For the sake of these U.S. workers I hope they will begin working with administration of President Guaido & cut off illegitimate Maduro regime.

A few days later, apparently with complete unawareness, Rubio tweeted again:

Blessed the man who sets his security in the LORD, who turns not to the arrogant or to those who stray after falsehood.

Psalms 40:5

In 2011, before becoming President, Donald Trump lamented the outcome of the US ‘intervention’ in oil-rich Libya:

The fact is, what we should’ve done is, we should have asked the rebels when they came to us. We should’ve said, “We’ll help you, but we want 50% of the oil.” They would have absolutely said, “Okay!”, one hundred per cent. In fact, they would have said, “How about 75%?”… Isn’t it sad, we could have had anything we wanted. We could’ve had 50% of those oil fields. You know, in the old days when you had a war, it’s “To the victor belong the spoils.” So, we could have had some something special.

Who cared that the oil belonged to Libya? Anyone who doubts that this same ‘compassion’ informs US concern for the people of Venezuela now, should reflect on the naming of Elliott Abrams as America’s special envoy for Venezuela. Abrams has a simply appalling record of brutalising Latin America and other regions as part of the Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush administrations. In 2002, the Observer reported of the coup that temporarily overthrow Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez that ‘the crucial figure around the coup was Abrams’ and that he ‘gave a nod’ to the plotters.

US national security adviser, John Bolton, has urged the Venezuelan military to overthrow the democratically elected government:

We also today call on the Venezuelan military and security forces to accept the peaceful, democratic and constitutional transfer of power.

Bolton has also said:

It’ll make a big difference to the United States economically, if we could have American oil companies really invest in and produce the oil capabilities in Venezuela.

The Independent reports:

Venezuela’s government-in-waiting will allow foreign private oil companies a greater stake in joint ventures with its state-owned oil giant, Juan Guaido’s envoy to the US has said.

Conclusion – What We Are Supposed To Think

On January 26, the BBC reported:

Maduro given ultimatum by European leaders

We tweeted in response:

An ultimatum? By what right?

Our question was retweeted 369 times and liked 649 times.

Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Gaddafi in Libya also received ‘ultimatums’ from the self-designated ‘Rulers of the World’, who then went on to destroy both countries. Lessons learned by corporate journalists on ‘our’ right to act as moral arbiters? None.

Consider, for example, the moment on February 4, when Channel 4’s Jon Snow gave Labour MP Chris Williamson a piece of his mind:

Look, Mr. Williamson, you and Mr. Corbyn are in a very nasty corner now. You’ve got a country that is in terrible, terrible condition, and that is down to the people who ran it and the people you supported. Isn’t it time you changed sides and got behind what is happening now?

As noted above, many countries are in ‘terrible, terrible condition’, often thanks to Western ‘intervention’, without journalists being the least bit concerned. And notice a key point: Snow was asking Williamson to get behind Trump’s policy in Venezuela. Yes, that Trump – the monster that ‘mainstream’ media have endlessly depicted as an out and out fascist. Snow’s comment was a perfect example of a journalist being swept up by the mindless conformity of a propaganda blitz – everyone always, always has to get behind ‘what is happening now’ when power is targeting Serbia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Venezuela. To do anything less is irresponsible, shameful, is siding with ‘the Bad Guy’.

And what do the people of Venezuela – the people who have suffered so much under US-backed, right-wing tyrannies in the past – actually want? The Canary reports that ‘the vast majority of Venezuelan people oppose military intervention and US sanctions’:

The poll, conducted by Hinterlaces in early January 2019, found that “86 percent of Venezuelans would disagree with international military intervention”. More than eight out of ten Venezuelans also oppose US sanctions on the country.

Corporate politicians and journalists are playing a very familiar game. We, the public, are supposed to think:

– Yes, there’s lots of oil, but maybe they really do know that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction. Maybe they genuinely are worried that he might use them or give them to terrorists. Bush looks totally convinced, Blair seems honest and sincere.

In fact, Saddam Hussein did not have any WMD – it was fake news. In 2007, economist Alan Greenspan, former Chairman of the US Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve, wrote in his memoir:

I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil.1

We are supposed to think:

– Yes, there’s lots of oil, but maybe they are worried that Gaddafi is going to commit a terrible massacre in Benghazi. Obama seems deeply concerned, so does Cameron.

In fact, Gaddafi was not planning a massacre – the claim was a fraud. In 2011, Real News interviewed Kevin G. Hall, the national economics correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers, who had studied the WikiLeaked material on Libya. Hall said:

As a matter of fact, we went through 251,000 [leaked] documents… Of those, a full 10 percent of them, a full 10 percent of those documents, reference in some way, shape, or form oil.’2

Hall concluded:

It is all about oil.

We are supposed to think:

– Yes, there’s lots of oil, but maybe they really are worried that Venezuelans are suffering terribly, maybe they really do believe they would be better off under a new leader. Trump seems deranged, but maybe he has a heart after all.

Time and again, we are asked to give the benefit of the doubt to famously cynical, greed-driven Western political leaders and parties. We can’t believe they can be simply lying to us, making it up – week after week, month after month – so that they and their powerful corporate allies can get their hands on oil. Time and again, too many of us defer to authority and whole countries are destroyed.

The final pages of human history before climate collapse may show that the climate-denying Trump regime trashed one more country in its determination to control and burn yet more oil, thereby guaranteeing its own destruction and the destruction of the entire human race, and most of life on earth. With all this the work of a groping, orange-haired, reality-denying reality TV billionaire selling himself as a ‘man of the people’.

A tale told by an idiot, signifying nothing, indeed.

  1. Leader, ‘Power, not oil, Mr Greenspan,’ Sunday Times, 16 September 2007.
  2. ‘WikiLeaks reveals US wanted to keep Russia out of Libyan oil, The Real News, 11 May 2011.

Can Our Civilization Survive?

Lately, I have been asked this question on several occasions. “Can our humanity really survive?” “Am I an optimist or a pessimist?”

My replies vary, as I don’t think there can ever be one single answer to this most urgent, the most important query.

Sometimes my answer gets influenced by location: where I am at that moment, or where I have been recently? In a Taliban-controlled village in Afghanistan, on a rooftop of a whorehouse in Okinawa while filming deadly US air force bases, or perhaps in an elegant café after visiting an opera performance with my mom, in Stuttgart or in Paris.

Whether I have been injured on a battlefield or in a slum, or have been applauded (most of the time, hypocritically) at some event where I was invited to speak? Have I been doing something ‘forbidden’, insane and dangerous, or merely processing my visual or written materials in Japan or in Bangkok?

Depending on the circumstances, I can sound negative or cautiously optimistic.

But the truth, the honest truth is: I am scared.

Not scared for my own life, or my health or even my well-being. My work and my struggle: nobody forced me into it; all that I do is my own choice. I want to do it and therefore I do it. And while I do it, as it is often not safe, I have to understand that my life may end, prematurely, or that something else, very unpleasant, could happen. I have to understand, and I do understand. Shit happens! Unfortunately, it happens often. But that’s not what makes me scared.

What truly frightens me is something else, something much more essential: this beautiful ‘project’, this incredible, gigantic experiment called humanity, could very soon end in ruins and up in smoke.

What scares me even more is that, perhaps, it is already ending although I sincerely hope that it is not.

I have no religion, and I have absolutely no idea whether there is some sort of afterlife or not. Afterlife, God: what I am absolutely certain of is that no one on this planet really knows any answers to these so-called big questions, and those who claim that they do, know even much less than me.

This world and this damn humanity of ours is all that I know, and it is all that I have and care about. And I love it, because I have no other choice but loving it, despite all of its brutality and foolishness, recklessness and short-sightedness. But this planet, which used to be so brilliantly beautiful and pleasing, to all of our human senses, is now frightened, humiliated and plundered. It is getting raped, savagely, in front of our own eyes. And we are just watching, ruminating like cattle, shitting, and amusing ourselves in increasingly brainless ways.

That’s what we are actually supposed to do, according to those bastards who are ‘in charge’.

Our humanity had been derailed from its natural aims, goals and dreams. Goals like egalitarianism, social justice, beauty and harmony, used to be on everyone’s lips, no matter where they were living; just so recently, just one century ago.

The brightest minds, bravely and determinedly, worked on finishing with all forms of inequality, exploitation, racism and colonialism. Crimes against humanity committed by Western imperialism, racism, slavery and capitalism were being exposed, defined, condemned and confronted.

Unfortunately, it was one century ago that we were just about reaching the peak of enlightenment, and as humanity we were much closer to harmony and peaceful co-existence, than we are now.

Our grand-grandparents had no doubts whatsoever, that reason and logic would soon be able to triumph, everywhere on earth, and that those who had been ruling so unjustly all over this world, would either “see the light” and voluntarily step down, or would be once and for all defeated.

Great revolutions erupted on all continents. Human lives were declared to be well above profit. Capitalism seemed to be finished. Imperialism and capitalism were discredited, spat at and stepped on with millions of feet. It was clearly just a matter of years, before all people of all races would unite, before there would be no more dictatorship of greedy and degenerate businesspeople, of crooked religious demagogues, of perverse monarchs and their serfs.

In those days, humanity was full of optimism, of ground-breaking ideas, inventions, intellectual, as well as emotional courage and artistic creativity.

A new era was beginning. The epoch of serfdom and capitalism was ending.

But then, the dark revanchist forces of oppression, of greed, regrouped. They had money and therefore could pay to buy the best psychologists, propagandists, mass-murderers, scholars, and artists.

*****

A hundred years later, look where we are! Look at us now.

There is nothing to celebrate, and plenty to puke about.

Gangsters and moral degenerates, who ruled during all previous centuries, are still in full control of the planet. As before, oppressed people form majority: they inhabit Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, Sub-Continent and Southeast Asia.

Actually, things have gone much further than before: the majority of people on our planet lost their ability to think logically. They have been brainwashed by the propagandist mass media, by mass-produced movies and pop music, by bizarre ‘trends’ in fashion and by aggressive consumerism.

Education and media outlets have lost all their independence and become subservient to the interests of the regime.

Western ‘democracy’ (not much of a project to begin with), has kicked the bucket quietly and discretely, and its advocates again began taking direct dictates from big business, multi-billionaires and their multi-national corporations. The system has evolved from turbo-capitalism into turbo-kleptocracy.

I work all over the world, on all continents, and what terrifies me is how ‘complete’, or call it ‘bulletproof’ the system has become.

With advanced computerization, with the ability of the regime to monitor and analyze basically all corners of our planet, there seems to be no place on earth that can escape the advances and attacks of Western imperialism and neo-colonialism.

Just imagine: some country decides to resist and to work for the well-being of its own people, and immediately the Western propaganda, its NGO’s, academia, media outlets, and potentially its mercenaries and military, get to work, systematically smearing the rebellious government, and potentially ruining entire countries. This is how Argentina collapsed, and then Brazil. This is how Syria was first destabilized and later almost destroyed.

It appears that nothing can withstand the global dictatorship.

And the global dictatorship has no mercy; it lost all rationale.

Greed, the maximization of profits, knows no boundaries. Sacrificing human lives is now commonly perpetrated. Thousands of human lives, or a few millions, it does not seem to matter. In the Democratic Republic of Congo or in West Papua, who cares, as long as coltan, uranium, gold and oil are flowing.

I witnessed entire nations ‘sinking’, becoming uninhabitable, due to global-warming: Kiribati, Tuvalu, Marshall Islands. I see tremendous islands like Borneo (known as Kalimantan in Indonesia) being thoroughly and irreversibly ruined. And nobody gives a damn. Corrupted (by the West and their own servile governments) scientists in places such as Indonesia, are still arguing that global warning and deforestation, as well as the palm oil plantations, are actually not threatening the world and its survival.

Some fifty years ago, there would have been powerful books written on these subjects. Wonderful art films were made, songs written and sang by brave bards, and the masses in both the oppressed world, but also in the West itself, bought revolutionary novels by the millions of copies. Multitudes of people stood in line, to watch films that were depicting their life, their struggle and their suffering.

Now? The destroyed masses are conditioned to forget about their nightmares and instead watch brainless horror films, some Star Wars ‘epic’, ‘romantic comedies’ depicting sweet suffering or the rich and famous. After saving for months, poor families in the devastated world are dragging their children to Disney Worlds; to those factories of plastic, emotionless dreams, to those Burger Kings of fairytales!

Mobile phones have replaced paper books, newspapers and magazines. For centuries, paper books were symbols of knowledge. No computer or telephone screen can ever replace the printed word. A scholar, a man or a woman of letters has always been surrounded by books, by notes, by documents.

All this is not happening by chance. Electronic offering is much easier to control, divert and choke, than materials that are printed on paper. The de-intellectualization of the world is clearly being done by design, step by step, in an organized fashion. Forget about ‘renaissance men and women’ in the 21st Century: even educated Western anti-capitalist thinkers are now ‘specialized’. They ‘don’t read fiction’. They are collecting ‘facts’, producing non-fiction essays and books, as well as documentary films and videos, but fully neglecting the point that all successful revolutions were always based on emotions, creativity and art; inspiring the masses, making people laugh and cry, dream and hope.

The world has become full of ‘data’, of digits. ‘Facts’ are widely available, but they do not inspire or move anybody. They do not call people to action; to the barricades. Everything is standardized. Western propaganda has managed to regulate human desire, dictating how the ‘perfect’ female or male body should look and behave. Or what the ‘correct’ perception of ‘democracy’ should be, or what is trendy and what should be considered boring and outdated.

The life of both the victims and victimizers appears to be ‘de-politicized’. But it is not! The acceptance of Western propaganda and collaboration with the regime is actually an extremely political act!

*****

I am scared because it appears that a great majority of the people have accepted what the twisted regime has ordered them to accept.

They have accepted surveillance, trends, de-humanized ‘desires’, ‘political correctness’, global imperialist fascism, pop, grotesque capitalism and grey uniformity.

Like parrots, they repeat anti-Communist slogans, as well as propaganda barks against all the countries and governments that are still resisting this monstrous Western dictatorship brought to its most bizarre extreme.

I am scared, and at the same time, I am increasingly furious. If this is the future for humanity, do we, as human beings, really have right to exist; to survive as a species? Are we so submissive, so uninventive that we always end up begging for crumbs, praying to some invented superior forces, and prostrating ourselves in front of evil greedy monarchs and morally-corrupt individuals and systems?

Fortunately, not everyone is blind, and not everyone is on his or her knees. Not all of us have lost the ability to resist, to dream, and to fight for a world that appeared to be so possible just one century ago.

Those who are still alive and standing on their feet, know perfectly well: Revolution is possible and morally justifiable. Capitalism and imperialism are totally inhuman. A Socialist or Communist system is the only way forward: not in some ‘conservative’, dogmatic form, but in an ‘internationalist’, enlightened and tolerant way. (As clarified in my latest book Revolutionary Optimism, Western Nihilism. ).

It is the beginning of the year; 2019. Let us try to recap some basics:

Destroying entire parts of the world, and ransacking their natural resources for cold, selfish profit, is wrong.

Brainwashing countries, overthrowing their progressive governments, and derailing their natural development, is damn wrong, too.

Turning populations of the entire planet into idiots and zombies, making them consume violent and brainless movies, listen to crap music and eat junk food, dreaming about making love to shop window figurines and their human equivalent, is evil.

Using the media, education and entertainment for indoctrination purposes is barbaric.

And so is turning the entire planet into some primitive consumer market.

To fight such a system is glorious. And it is by definition ‘trendy’ and fun.

To use the terminology of the empire: collaboration and uniformity can never be ‘cool’. Listening and watching the same garbage cannot be ‘fashionable’. Banging into the same mobile phone screens can hardly be defined as ‘advanced’, and broad-minded.

Licking the boots of some old fart who owns banks or destructive corporations, is far from a modern, elegant and refined way of living.

Watching how our beloved planet is going up in flames, due to neo-imperialism and turbo-capitalism, while not doing anything to stop it, is nothing else other than stupid.

*****

I began 2019 by writing the first chapter of my 1000-page novel “One Year of Life”. This novel began in 2019 and it will finish at the end of the same year. At the very end of it. Enough of non-fiction only!

As a novelist and playwright, I believe in human emotions. I have also witnessed enough uprisings and revolutions to finally realize that naked facts and data will never bring people to the barricades.

Time to un-dust the old banners, to bring back poetry, art, literature, films, theatre, and music. They are our best allies.

The West tries to silence emotions, ‘burn’ books and hit us all with ugly, meaningless noise and images, because it knows perfectly well that beauty is creative and inspiring. Beauty and creativity are also ‘dangerous’, in fact, fatal to the regime’s dark and depressing designs.

I may be scared, but I am also cautiously hopeful. We can still win. Actually, it is our obligation to win. This Planet has to survive. If we win, it will. If we lose, it will go to hell.

It will be an extremely tough struggle that lies ahead of us. And no one will fight just in the name of facts and data. People are known to fight only in the name of a beautiful future. For us to win, all great muses are expected to march by the side of brave and determined revolutionaries!

• First published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook

Marie Colvin, Homs and Media Falsehoods about Syria

Introduction

In April 2014 I was part of an international delegation which visited Syria for five days. The delegates came from many different countries. Among the notables were the Irish Nobel Laureate Mairead Maguire, a Syrian-British heart surgeon and Julian Assange’s father. We spent time in Damascus, then traveled by bus to Latakia and then Homs. In each city we had meetings with political, religious and social leaders but also had time to wander about and talk with people on the streets.

In Latakia, I met Lilly Martin, an American woman who married a Syrian and has lived there, raising a family for the past twenty-five years. She told me how wrong the western media coverage was. Contrary to media claims, she said protests in Latakia were violent from the start. After the first outbreak of violence, Syrian police and military were ordered to not carry weapons. Protesters continued to burn and destroy government offices with incidents of knifing and shooting unarmed police.

Peaceful Homs Street (Photo:  Rick Sterling)

When we visited Homs I was struck by how normal it looked. The streets were full of people and the city looked fine. It was dramatically different than the images portrayed in western media. It was only when we were driving out of Homs that we passed an area where there was widespread destruction and battle damage. There was a sharp contrast between most of the city and the few neighborhoods where battle had raged.

Homs (Photo: Rick Sterling)

The American journalist Marie Colvin died in February 2012 in one of those neighborhoods. It was called Baba Amr. Ten days after her death, the militants and remaining civilians had all departed Baba Amr. It’s unfortunate that Marie Colvin did not talk with Lilly Martin or visit the majority of Homs where the war was not raging. It could have provided much needed balance to her perspective.

Marie Colvin and Homs

According to many of her colleagues, Marie Colvin was charming and courageous, ambitious and fun to be with. She had a knack for including personal details, descriptions and emotions that engaged the reader. Unfortunately, Colvin’s reports and interviews from Syria were inaccurate and a huge distortion of the situation.

It is useful to examine Colvin’s reporting now, seven years later, because there is a wave of new articles, books and movies about her and how she died in Syria.

Colvin and photographer Paul Conroy were smuggled into Syria from Lebanon in February 2012. They spent some days in the town of Al Buwaydah and then were taken into the city of Homs using a drainage culvert to avoid Syrian Army checkpoints. Their guides and minders for the trip were from the Farouq Battalion associated with the Free Syrian Army (FSA).

Beginning in the Fall 2011, militants from the Farouq Battalion set up checkpoints, killed security and soldiers and gradually took control of the Homs neighborhood called Baba Amr. They called it a “liberated zone”. By the time Marie Colvin and other journalists arrived, most of the civilians had fled the fighting to stay with friends and family in other parts of the city.

Colvin and Conroy spent a few days in Baba Amr but then left through the tunnel when it was rumored that Syrian forces were going to attack. After learning that the attack did not take place, the journalists made the difficult journey back into Baba Amr. The second morning after returning, Marie Colvin and French photographer Remi Olchik died as the Syrian forces launched mortar and missile attacks.

Biased and Inaccurate Reporting from Syria

Marie Colvin’s reports and interviews from Syria were broadcast widely in the UK and USA. She wrote an article titled “A vet is only hope for Syrian wounded“. The article begins “Wounded civilians arriving at a makeshift clinic in the Syrian city of Homs are relying on a vet to save their lives because there is no doctor to treat them.” As documented in Conroy’s book, they were not in Homs; they were in the town Buwaydah when they observed a vet working as a medic. Actually, there were hundreds of doctors performing medical duties and treating civilians and soldiers injured in the conflict in Homs.

Colvin’s major story for the Sunday Times was titled “Final dispatch from Homs, the battered city“.  It begins  by describing a “widows basement” with 300 “frightened women and children trapped in the horror of Homs”.  The report of 300 women and children is an exaggeration. Another journalist estimated half that number which is likely an exaggeration itself, since the photos and video show fewer than 50 women and children.

Colvin continued her report saying, “The widows’ basement reflects the ordeal of 28,000 men, women and children clinging to existence in Baba Amr.” This is a huge falsehood; there was a tiny fraction of that number of civilians remaining in the neighborhood. Paul Conroy wrote as follows: “It became increasingly unbelievable that there were an estimated 28,000 people still living in Baba Amr. I hadn’t seen a single one.” (page 188, “Under the Wire”)

The night before her death, Marie Colvin did live interviews on BBC, Channel 4 and CNN. The CNN interview began by showing video of a baby dying from a shrapnel wound. CNN believed Marie Colvin was an eye-witness to the baby’s death. Anderson Cooper asked Colvin what it was like to be in the room. Marie Colvin replied that the room was chaotic and the baby’s death heartbreaking. She dramatized the situation by speaking about the baby’s grandmother being a volunteer in the room when the baby arrived. However, Colvin was not in the room at all. Marie Colvin and the media activists were shown the video on a laptop computer by their FSA guide. (page 155, “Under the Wire”).

In her CNN interview Colvin described Baba Amr as “28,000 civilians, men, women and children, hiding, being shelled, defenseless…. There are no military targets here…. So it’s a complete and utter lie that they (Syrian military) are only going after terrorists…. The Syrian Army is simply shelling a city of cold, starving civilians.” In reality, Baba Amr was the primary base for militants of the Farouq Battalion. If there was an “utter lie”, it was pretending that this was primarily a civilian neighborhood.

The Syrian Reality Which Colvin Did Not Report

Like most western coverage of Syria, Colvin’s reporting did not provide important context such as the following:

* How the conflict began in Homs. An eyewitness reported “From the start, the protest movements were not purely peaceful. From the start I saw armed demonstrators marching along in the protests, who began to shoot at the police first. Very often the violence of the security forces has been a reaction to the brutal violence of the armed rebels.”

* How Baba Amr was taken over. In October 2011 militants from the Farouq Battalion set up checkpoints within Baba Amr, attacked and killed Syrian Army soldiers and other security forces, and killed or expelled government supporters. The process was similar to what was documented by a civilian in Aleppo: “Nine days from my window in Aleppo“.

* Attacks on infrastructure. In December 2011, militants blew up the pipeline to Homs’ oil refinery, a major source of oil for the country.

In mid January, an Arab League report documented the results of their investigation. They said:

The Observer Mission witnessed acts of violence being committed against Government forces and civilians that resulted in several deaths and injuries. Examples of these acts include the bombing of a civilian bus, killing eight persons and injuring others, including women and children, and the bombing of a train carrying diesel oil. In another incident in Homs, a police bus was blown up, killing two police officers. A fuel pipeline and some small bridges were also bombed.

Militants in Baba Amr destroyed government tanks and used their own tank to attack government forces.

Abu Sa’eed, Free Syrian Army Unit Commander

On 2 February 2012, FSA militants attacked a government checkpoint, killing ten soldiers and taking another 19 as prisoners. That was evidently the last straw for the government. The next day, February 3, the intense bombardment of Baba Amr began.

Promoting External Intervention

Marie Colvin’s reports from Baba Amr had a political goal of spurring Western intervention. This is made clear in emails to her Sunday Times editor. “It is sickening that the Syrian regime is allowed to keep doing this …. I think again to focus on Baba Amr, 28,000 defenceless under shelling….” (pp 196-197, “Under the Wire”).

Her reports were missing crucial facts, sensationalized the suffering on one side, ignored the suffering on the other side and demonized the government which was the target for overthrow.

Amateur Video Homs

In her interview with CNN, Colvin used the video of the dying little baby to urge western intervention. “That baby probably will move more people to think, ‘What is going on, and why is no one stopping this murder in Homs that is happening every day?”

In her final article for the Sunday Times Colvin says, “In Baba Amr, the Free Syrian Army (FSA)…. have virtually unanimous support from civilians who see them as their defenders.” This claim is highly dubious. The vast majority of civilians had left Baba Amr. All that were left were family members of FSA militants and others who had nowhere to go.

The bias in Marie Colvin’s reports and interviews was not unique. On the contrary, nearly all NATO and Gulf state reporting on Syria has been biased. Stephen Kinzer would later write “The media are misleading the public on Syria.” Patrick Cockburn would later write that “Nearly everything you have read about Syria and Iraq could be wrong“.

How Marie Colvin Died

It is claimed that Marie Colvin was intentionally targeted by the Syrian government. This is unlikely. Her death brought opprobrium on Damascus and helped the militant opposition. A few months after Marie Colvin’s death, a prominent British journalist reported that the same Syrian rebels tried to get him and his team killed. “I’m quite clear the rebels deliberately set us up to be shot by the Syrian Army. Dead journos are bad for Damascus.”

It is also claimed that Syrian intelligence determined the location of Marie Colvin by identifying a satellite phone signal used in her interviews. This is false. Colvin told her editor at the Sunday Times that the Thuraya satellite phones did not work. For her Skype interviews she used the same antenna uplink used night and day by media activists in Baba Amr.

Marie and Remi were working in a battle zone, guided and effectively embedded with armed insurgents. Their deaths were another tragic consequence of the war.

Ten days after Colvin’s death, the militants and remaining civilians withdrew from Baba Amr. There was no massacre, just a street parade and celebration in other parts of Homs.

Syrian Journalists Killed (Photo: Rick Sterling)

The deaths of Marie Colvin and Remi Olchik sparked many tributes and widespread publicity. Largely unknown in the West, hundreds of Syrian journalists have also died in the conflict. In a sense, they are all victims of the proxy war on Syria. In another sense, the equivalence is not fair. The war has been encouraged by some and imposed on others.

Israel wages a New War of Attrition in Jerusalem

Czech president Milos Zeman offered Benjamin Netanyahu’s ultra-nationalist government a fillip during his visit to Israel last week. He inaugurated a cultural and trade centre, Czech House, just outside Jerusalem’s Old City walls.

At the opening, he expressed hope it would serve as a precursor to his country relocating its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. If so, the Czech Republic would become the first European state to follow US President Donald Trump’s lead in moving the US embassy in May.

It is this kind of endorsement that, of late, has emboldened Mr Netanyahu’s government, the Israeli courts, Jerusalem officials and settler organisations to step up their combined assault on Palestinians in the Old City and its surrounding neighbourhoods.

Israel has never hidden its ambition to seize control of East Jerusalem, Palestinian territory it occupied in 1967 and then annexed, as a way of preventing a viable Palestinian state from emerging.

Israel immediately began building an arc of Jewish settlements on Jerusalem’s eastern flank to seal off its Palestinian residents from their political hinterland, the West Bank.

More than a decade ago, it consolidated its domination with a mammoth concrete wall that cut through East Jerusalem. The aim was to seal off densely populated Palestinian neighbourhoods on the far side, ensuring the most prized and vulnerable areas – the Old City and its environs – could be more easily colonised, or “Judaised”, as Israel terms it.

This area, the heart of Jerusalem, is where magnificent holy places such as the Al Aqsa mosque and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre are to be found.

Under cover of the 1967 war, Israel ethnically cleansed many hundreds of Palestinians living near the Western Wall, a retaining wall of the elevated Al Aqsa compound that is venerated in Judaism. Since then, Israeli leaders have grown ever hungrier for control of the compound itself, which they believe is built over two long-lost Jewish temples.

Israel has forced the compound’s Muslim authorities to allow Jews to visit in record numbers, even though most wish to see the mosque replaced with a third Jewish temple. Meanwhile, Israel has severely limited the numbers of Palestinians who can reach the holy site.

Until now, Israel had mostly moved with stealth, making changes gradually so they rarely risked inflaming the Arab world or provoking western reaction. But after Mr Trump’s embassy move, a new Israeli confidence is tangible.

On four fronts, Israel has demonstrated its assertive new mood. First, with the help of ever-more compliant Israeli courts, it has intensified efforts to evict Palestinians from their homes in the Old City and just outside its historic walls.

Last month, the supreme court handed down a ruling that sanctions the eviction of 700 Palestinians from Silwan, a dense neighbourhood on a hillside below Al Aqsa. Ateret Cohanim, a settler organisation backed by government-subsidised armed guards, is now poised to take over the centre of Silwan.

It will mean more Israeli security and police protecting the settler population and more city officials enforcing prejudicial planning rules against Palestinians. The inevitable protests will justify more arrests of Palestinians, including children. This is how bureacratic ethnic cleansing works.

The supreme court also rejected an appeal against a Palestinian family’s eviction from Sheikh Jarrah, another key neighbourhood near the Old City. The decision opens the way to expelling dozens more families.

B’Tselem, an Israeli rights group, characterised these rulings as “sanctioning the broadest move to dispossess Palestinians since 1967”.

At the same time, Israel’s parliament approved a law to accelerate the settler takeover.

Over many years, Israel created a series of national parks around the Old City on the pretext of preserving “green areas”. Some hem in Palestinian neighbourhoods to stop their expansion while others were declared on the land of existing Palestinian homes to justify expelling the occupants.

Now the parliament has reversed course. The new law, drafted by another settler group, Elad, will allow house-building in national parks, but only for Jews.

Elad’s immediate aim is to bolster the settler presence in Silwan, where it has overseen a national park next to Al Aqsa. Archaeology has been co-opted to supposedly prove the area was once ruled by King David while thousands of years of subsequent history, most especially the current Palestinian presence, are erased.

Elad’s activities include excavating under Palestinian homes, weakening their foundations.

A massive new Jewish history-themed visitor centre will dominate Silwan’s entrance. Completing the project is a $55 million cable car, designed to carry thousands of tourists an hour over Silwan and other neighbourhoods, rendering the Palestinian inhabitants invisible as visitors are delivered effortlessly to the Western Wall without ever having to encounter them.

The settlers have their own underhand methods. With the authorities’ connivance, they have forged documents to seize Palestinian homes closest to Al Aqsa. In other cases, the settlers have recruited Arab collaborators to dupe other Palestinians into selling their homes.

Once they gain a foothold, the settlers typically turn the appropriated home into an armed compound. Noise blares out into the early hours, Palestinian neighbours are subjected to regular police raids and excrement is left in their doorways.

After the recent sale to settlers of a home strategically located in the Old City’s Muslim quarter, the Palestinian Authority set up a commission of inquiry to investigate. But the PA is near-powerless to stop this looting after Israel passed a law in 1995 denying it any role in Jerusalem.

The same measure is now being vigorously enforced against the few residents trying to stop the settler banditry.

Adnan Ghaith, Jerusalem’s governor and a Silwan resident, was arrested last week for a second time and banned from entering the West Bank and meeting PA officials. Adnan Husseini, the Palestinian minister for Jerusalem, is under a six-month travel ban by Israel.

Last week dozens of Palestinians were arrested in Jerusalem, accused of working for the PA to stop house sales to the settlers.

It is a quiet campaign of attrition, designed to wear down Jerusalem’s Palestinian residents. The hope is that they will eventually despair and relocate to the city’s distant suburbs outside the wall or into the West Bank.

What Palestinians in Jerusalem urgently need is a reason for hope – and a clear signal that other countries will not join the US in abandoning them.

• First published in the National