Category Archives: President Emmanuel Macron

The Anglo Unilateralists Strike

When President Joe Biden won the White House, he promised, with a facility of unceasing boredom, that diplomacy was back.  “Diplomacy is back at the centre of our foreign policy,” he stated on February 4.  “As I said in my inaugural address, we will repair our alliances and engage with the world once again, not to meet yesterday’s challenges, but today’s and tomorrow’s.”

The fact that such diplomacy had never gone away seemed to escape him.  In the simpleton’s view of politics, his predecessor had abandoned the jaw jaw approach to international relations for muscular and mindless US unilateralism.  Allies had been belittled, ignored and mocked.  Strongmen had been feted, admired and praised.  It was now incumbent upon the United States, urged Biden, that “American leadership” confront “this new moment of advancing authoritarianism, including the growing ambitions of China to rival the United States and the determination of Russia to damage and disrupt our democracy.”

It would have been more accurate to say that President Donald Trump’s coarse, business board room model was simply too much of a shock for those familiarly comfortable with guile, deception and dissimulation.  But Biden’s return to acceptable hypocrisy did not mask the “America First” note in his temper.  Since then, that temper has seen a dramatic, ahead-of-schedule exit from Afghanistan, building on Trump’s undertakings to conclude open-ended wars and commitments.  US allies began to wonder whether the Biden model was that different from Trump’s cruder original.

With the announcement on September 15 of the trilateral security pact AUKUS, an agreement between the United States, United Kingdom and Australia to deepen military ties in an effort to contain China, the “diplomacy is back” cart was soiled and upended.  The European Union had not been consulted.  A furious France only received a few hours’ notice that the agreement they had made through the Naval Group with Australia to construct the next generation of attack class submarines had been dissolved.  Countries in the Indo-Pacific were also left in the dark.

France, in some ways even more than China, the primary target of AUKUS, is incandescent with rage.  On Franceinfo radio, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian was unsparing in his remarks.  “This brutal, unilateral and unpredictable decision reminds me a lot of what Mr Trump used to do.” He confessed to feeling anger and bitterness. “This isn’t done between allies.”

As recently as July, Le Drian had visited Washington, where he pointedly stated that France was “an Indo-Pacific nation with territories that give [it] the world’s second-largest exclusive economic zone” with a permanent military presence of 8,500 personnel in the region.  Paris, along with EU member states, was in the process of formulating a clear Indo-Pacific strategy.  Efforts were being made in creating “strategic partnerships” with Japan, Australia and India.  Regional organisations such as ASEAN were being brought into the fold.  Any “transatlantic pivot toward the Indo-Pacific” had to be taken “together”.

At the end of August, Australia and France held their inaugural Foreign and Defence (2+2) Ministerial Consultations. No hint was given that something was brewing.  As the joint statement outlined, “Ministers underscored the importance of the strong and enduring commitment of other partners, including the United States, and Indo-Pacific partners in upholding an open, inclusive and resilient Indo-Pacific in accordance with international law.”

With notions of sham togetherness shaken, retaliation in the old diplomatic tradition has followed.  President Emmanuel Macron has recalled the French ambassadors to the United States and Australia.  Britain was rebuked somewhat differently, being spared the same harsh treatment; being underhanded was the very sort of thing Paris expected from their historical enemy. In Le Drian’s words, its conduct had been “opportunistic”, with London being little more than “the fifth wheel of the wagon”.

In a joint statement, Le Drian and French Minister for the Army Florence Parly emphasised that this new security arrangement had been arrived at to the “exclusion of a European ally and partner … at a time when we are facing unprecedented challenges in the Indo-Pacific region.”  The move signalled “a lack of consistency which France can only notice and regret.”

Special words were reserved for Australia, a country now wooed by an unconvincing promise of eight nuclear-powered submarines that are only promised to enter service sometime in the 2040s.  The decision was “contrary to the letter and the spirit of the cooperation which prevailed between France and Australia, based on a relationship of political trust.”  Le Drian, in a separate observation, weighed on the theme of infidelity, calling the decision, “A knife in the back.”

None of this takes away from the fact that the original Franco-Australian contract, reached in 2016, was an ill-thought out undertaking to build 12 conventional Barracuda class submarines in imitation of the nuclear powered Suffren design.  It was vain, costly and promised obsolescence before viable performance. Then again, the French argument goes, the Australians wanted it.

The justifications for this episode of Anglophonic mischief have varied in their insolence and disingenuousness.  US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was all shine and floss in claiming that France remained “a vital partner” in ensuring security in the Indo-Pacific “and we want to find every opportunity to deepen our transatlantic cooperation” in the area.  To a question suggesting that France had been stabbed in the back, Blinken mechanically repeated the vital importance of a “transatlantic” association.

Australia’s simply disposed Defence Minister Peter Dutton preferred fantasy by way of explanation, claiming that his government had been “upfront, open and honest”.  “We can understand of course, the French are upset at the cancellation of a contract but in the end, our job is to act in our national interest.”  Britain’s Defence Minister Ben Wallace was of like mind, promising that, “Nothing was done by sneaking behind anyone’s back.”  But sneaking there was, and it was the Anglosphere, led by the United States, doing the sneaking.

AUKUS is less a trio than a hefty, bullying chief accompanied by a willing assistant and an enthusiastic supplicant.  It is a declaration of hostile intent in a region of the world that promises to be the Europe of 1914.  It has also encouraged the EU to formulate its own Indo-Pacific policy with haste and independence. “The regrettable decision which has just been announced on the FSP [Future Submarine Program] only reinforces the need to raise the issue of European strategic autonomy loud and clear,” observed Le Drian and Parley.  Policy makers in Beijing will be struggling to stifle their amusement.

The post The Anglo Unilateralists Strike first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Following Afghanistan Defeat: Can EU Win Own ‘Independence’ from the US?

Suddenly, the idea put forth by French President, Emmanuel Macron, late last year does not seem so far-fetched or untenable after all. Following the US-NATO hurried withdrawal from Afghanistan, European countries are now forced to consider the once unthinkable:  a gradual dismantling from US dominance.

When, on September 29, 2020, Macron uttered these words: “We, some countries more than others, gave up on our strategic independence by depending too much on American weapons systems”, the context of this statement had little to do with Afghanistan. Instead, Europe was angry at the bullying tactics used by former US President Donald Trump and sought alternatives to US leadership. The latter has treated NATO – actually, all of Europe – with such disdain, that it has forced America’s closest allies to rethink their foreign policy outlook and global military strategy altogether.

Even the advent of US President Joe Biden and his assurances to Europe that “America is back” did little to reassure European countries, which fear, justifiably, that US political instability may exist long after Biden’s term in office expires.

The chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan – without NATO members even being consulted or considered as the US signed and enacted a withdrawal agreement with the Taliban starting in July 2020 – has convinced Europe that, despite the defeat of Trump, Washington has essentially remained the same: a self-centered ‘ally’.

Now that the US and NATO have officially left Afghanistan, a political debate in Europe is raging on many political platforms. The strongest indicators that Europe is ready to proceed with an independent foreign policy agenda and European-centered military strategy became evident in the EU Defense Ministers’ meeting in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

In a position that is increasingly representing a wider EU stance, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell Fontelles, articulated the Bloc’s prevailing sentiment: “The experience from Afghanistan has shown that our inability to respond comes at a price. The EU must therefore strengthen its strategic autonomy by creating the first entry force capable of ensuring stability in the EU’s neighborhood.”

Despite assurances that this ‘first entry force’ will not represent an alternative to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), but rather ‘complement’ its role, chances are this new army will serve as a stepping stone for Europe’s coveted independence from the US foreign policy agenda.

Just marvel at these statements by top European, including British, officials and analysts to appreciate the crisis underway in NATO. Remember that 51 NATO members and partner countries had rushed to aid the US invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001, following the invocation of the common-defense clause, Article 5.

“Nobody asked us whether it was a good idea to leave that country in such … a way,” Johann Wadephul, a deputy caucus leader for German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats, said, with reference to the US withdrawal from Afghanistan and the absence of any coordination with Washington’s NATO allies.

Former British Prime Minister, Theresa May, questioned everything, including Europe’s blind allegiance to the US: “Was our intelligence really so poor? Was our understanding of the Afghan government so weak? Was our knowledge on the ground so inadequate? Or did we just think we had to follow the United States and on a wing and a prayer it would be all right on the night?”

Katharina Emschermann, the deputy director of the reputable Berlin-based Center for International Security at the Hertie School, seemed to speak for many European analysts when she said: “Part of the discord that we’re seeing now is probably also rooted in the sense of unease about how things are going to go on in the future.”

This ‘unease’ refers to Europe’s traditional foreign policy, which has been hostage to post-WWII Trans-Atlantic European American partnership. However, Europe itself is changing, together with the world around it. Moreover, the Chinese economy has grown tremendously in recent years. As of last year, it was Beijing, not Washington, that served the critical role of being the EU’s largest trade partner.

Not only has Chinese economic – thus, political and military – clout grown exponentially, Europe’s share of the global economy has shrunk significantly, and not only because of the Brexit ordeal. According to NBC news, citing the British accounting firm PwC, “in 1960, the countries that would form the E.U. made up a third of the global economy. By 2050, the bloc is projected to account for just 9 percent”.

The growing realization among European countries that they must engineer an eventual break-up from the US is rooted in legitimate fears that the EU’s interest is hardly a top American priority. Hence, many European countries continue to resist Washington’s ultimatums regarding China.

It was also Macron, while elaborating on the concept of the European army, who rejected the US China agenda. “We cannot accept to live in a bipolar world made up of the US and China,” he said.

Macron’s once ‘controversial’ view is now mainstream thinking in Europe, especially as many EU policy-makers feel disowned, if not betrayed, by the US in Afghanistan. If this trajectory of mistrust continues, the first step towards the establishment of a European army could, in the near future, become an actuality.

The post Following Afghanistan Defeat: Can EU Win Own ‘Independence’ from the US? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Covid Fear Management Policies: Distractions from and Tests for Looming Climate Collapse

Photo by Jarr1520;

Strategy of reward and punishment

In the newly coined so-called War on Covid, the arsenal is eclectic. There is not only science, in the form of experimental RNA vaccines hastily developed by giants of the pharmaceutical industry, but also semi-authoritarian or full-blown authoritarian government measures imposed and legally validated by declarations of states of emergencies. The panoply of edicts include mandatory face masks indoor and sometime outdoor, depending on the country; enforced or unenforced social distancing recommendations; limitation of public or even private gatherings; and more drastic measures like lock-downs and curfews.

The crescendo of assaults on personal liberties eased up for a few months, but governments are now using, because of the spread of the Delta variant, the threats of reinstating their coercion as an insidious blackmail to force people to get vaccinated. In other words, if one has the temerity to refuse the salvation brought by Big Pharma’s vaccines, life shall be so extremely problematic and isolated as almost to make one a social pariah. In France President Macron is defining a new ideology that could be called semi-authoritarian neoliberalism, while in the Philippines neofascist Duarte is entirely blunt in his approach. Regardless, both politicians have the same goal: to get their entire population vaccinated. They use a strategy of psychological warfare based on reward and punishment, a bit similar to that used on lab mice.

Photo by Robert Muller

In the case of Macron, the reward for the good and fully vaccinated French citizens is that they will carry, as a badge of honor, a Pass Sanitaire. The misfits, refuseniks, pesky bad citizens who still refuse to see the light and comply, will receive punishments. These bad French apples will be deprived from travel except in their own vehicles, and from cultural events like concerts, movies and museum exhibits.

Duarte’s fascist approach, if more brutal, is in a sense a bit more honest. It is still about manipulating his population with the rewards versus punishments principle, but there are many sticks and basically no carrots. Case in point: Duarte is seriously considering locking up in their homes those Filipinos who refuse to be vaccinated. One can only wonder what will happen to the vast homeless population in the Philippines.

Photo by Grey Area

Vaccines, the universal silver bullet

Covid management styles and policies have been diverse in tone and strategies, but it seems that governments worldwide are all watching, then mimicking, at times, each other’s minor achievements to avoid major failures. Only one question is on their minds, which seems to be the universal governmental panacea, independently of ideology: how do we get the entire population vaccinated?

In the more sophisticated media manipulation of Western democracies, the secondary questions are as follows. How do we convince the citizenry that the coercive measures put in place nearly 18 months ago, in a quasi entirely undemocratic fashion by decrees etc., were gently forced on people for their own good rather than in an attempt to avoid a global economic collapse? And further, how do we persuade them that these measures will be entirely lifted one day to go back to an almost mythological happy pre-Covid world?

Jonathan

In other words, how can leaders, with varying degrees of incompetence and undisclosed ties to giant global corporate interests, make people believe that they are acting for the common good rather than to avoid a global stock market crash? Altruism and the collective social good rarely guide the paths of politicians anywhere, and citizens in large numbers have finally caught on to this reality.

People have become more doubtful about what they are told, either directly by their elected officials, or through mainstream media outlets via so-called experts charged with propagating — yes, like propaganda — the government narrative with powerful bullhorns, and sort of carpet-bombing people’s brains with a relentless coverage of the immense danger of Covid, especially the brand new Delta variant, and the great virtue of vaccines as being almost 92 percent accurate silver bullets against the pandemic.

Unfortunately, a one-note intrusive narrative eventually has an undesired effect on a fragment of the population. This is precisely what is going on in France since Macron made the choice, which could be fatal to his political future, to jam through parliament, in the middle of the summer holidays, a law infamously called Pass Sanitaire, to blackmail French people into mandatory vaccination. Many opponents perceive it as a pass to submission, and they have decided to make their voices heard, loud and clear, in the streets. Will this movement of dissent be long lived, contagious to other countries, or ultimately twisted and hijacked for a political purpose? This is so far a question in limbo.  The large scale protests, however, were unexpected.

Illustration by Mike Finn

A smoke screen to mask climate collapse

A year ago the Covid-19 pandemic accounted for about 75 percent of the media coverage across the board worldwide. This alone, if a virus could have been granted the Person of the Year award from Time Magazine, would have assured it the coveted price. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won person of the year in 2020, but if it had been Creature of the Year, SARS-CoV-2 would have won. As matter of fact, one can easily argue that without the Covid crisis, Donald Trump would have likely been reelected. In political, sociological, and economic affairs, the microorganism has been a game changer.

So far, Covid has not been a seed of much needed social change but instead has been used as a nasty new tool for disaster capitalism to thrive by changing some fundamental economic parameters, as well as serve as a powerful device to concentrate wealth. What could be better for capitalism than to convince taxpayers that their money needs to be injected by the trillions into corporate conglomerates? Across the world, in all the COVID-19 stimulus funding schemes, the lion share went to corporations while private citizens got the crumbs. Wall Street should have crashed but didn’t, because vast amounts of public funds were pumped into the global financial markets. Airlines that were saved from bankruptcy by a Covid bail out should have been nationalized; instead Air France, for example, remained a private company with an overpaid CEO while France’s government became a bigger share holder.

Photo by Jeanne Menjoulet

The bait and switch worked on a global scale. It worked with the financial aspect, just like it worked in the semantic of fear. For the media, it’s all about key words. Some might have noticed that at first it was COVID-19, then it became simply Covid, but now, probably because the word’s traction is wearing off, governments or corporate-controlled outlets have switched to Delta variant. It is today’s winner in the fear factor department, and it is repeated ad nauseam. This element of constant fear has established a nice level of docility in a majority of the global population, as well as a numbing anxiety focused on the narrow topic of the pandemic, and the easy vaccine fix proposed by governments.

The cloud of anxiety has obstructed from many the clarity that WE, as a species, face a threat much greater than a virus. How gullible many of us might be to believe that a pandemic, which so far has killed a quarter of the number of victims of the Spanish flu 100 years ago, is more of an existential threat than the unfolding climate collapse? It is pathetic and ironic for governments and their media servants to use a pandemic as a smoke screen for a much bigger problem, especially when a substantial potion of Earth is currently being consumed by fires.

Photo by Glenn Lewis

Last time I checked, 800 wild fires were burning in Italy, Turkey was scorched, the US northwest was still burning, Greece was baking with a 45 degree Celsius temperature, Siberia had been burning for months, and there were killer floods in Germany and China. Meanwhile, the so-called climate experts on mainstream media hardly connected these climate crisis events. They barely connected the dots between extreme weather events and catastrophic climate change by softly saying “isolated extreme weather events could be a manifestation of global climate change.” It shouldn’t be “could be” but are; it shouldn’t be “climate change” but climate crisis. The global fear of Covid is highly lucrative. By contrast a fear of climate collapse — or actually a recognition of its imminence — would lead people to reject the global capitalist system that is driving our species into the abyss. It would lead human societies away from consumption and toward zero-growth economies and population models that would deal capitalism a fatal blow.

Photo by Ian Sanderson

We have more or less collectively experienced, since March 2020, a life of fear and a sort of lingering collective anxiety. Fear is usually correlated with a reduction of critical thinking and greatly diminished opposition against the abuse of authority.

The protests in France show that fear can lose ground. Citizens do not have to surrender their fundamental rights of freedom and liberty to the whim of governmental authority based on semi-valid cognitive notions, or purely arbitrary ones, at times absurd, which appear to serve an agenda foreign to the common good. Popular resistance, whatever forms it may take in France and elsewhere, is always a viable option. At critical times in history it even becomes a civic duty.

The post Covid Fear Management Policies: Distractions from and Tests for Looming Climate Collapse first appeared on Dissident Voice.

France Neoliberal Macron: Vanguard of a Covid Global Corporate Dictatorship?

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Liberte-Egalite-Fraternite: under Macron’s pass sanitaire guillotine?

For the few of us who are students of history, and its aficionado travelers, meaning those who muse and wonder at times about how significant figures of the past would view our often dire predicament, it is rather obvious that, for example, the founding fathers of the French Revolution such as Danton, Mirabeau, St Just, and Robespierre would be shocked and angry by what has recently happened to their Republic. Even France’s last great statesman General de Gaulle, if alive today, would have likely been deeply enraged by the state of affairs in a country he loved and fought for with his heart and soul.

In the era of President Emmanuel Macron, who is merely a cynical actor, figurehead, and France’s public relation person-in-chief passing for a statesman, but who truly is a loyal servant of global corporatism, our revolution’s founders, as well as the subsequent republics’ principles, like the one of the Fifth Republic of de Gaulle, have been insulted, slapped in the face, and assaulted by some sort of insidious and limp dictatorship, under the cover of a health crisis. A complex authoritarian strategy using the pretense of shielding French citizens, often against their will, in this new lucrative conceptual war.

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This war on a virus is even more advantageous than the previous conceptual one: the war on terror. In General Macron’s war, syringes are the weapons delivery system of choice, needles like billions of little worker bees at the ready to jab you for an invitation to control freedom, and a moderate slice of happiness: the joy once you have obtained the French COVID pass Sanitaire to go to museums, movie theaters, inside restaurants, and avoid wearing masks outdoors.

French citizens should be aware that the very motto of our dear Republic, Liberte-Egalite-Fraternite is under the assault of king Ubu Macron and could, without a strong popular resistance, be decapitated by the cold blade of Macron’s virtual guillotine. In a form of dictatorial grab of power for the benefit of big biotech and big pharmaceutical companies. Macron’s pernicious pass sanitaire, just approved by France Assemblee Nationale, is a power grab by global corporate imperialism. Of course, all of it done with a wink, a tan and a smile! All of it done for the greater good of ungrateful “Gaullois refractaire” French citizens, in the continuity of the pesky Gilets Jaunes. Science lover poseur Macron, an enlightened modern day Julius Caesar, is bent on defeating obscurantism armed only with syringes to deliver his brand of salvation through vaccines. Those who have been in the forefront of the street protest in France to resist this hybrid neoliberal dictatorship personified by Macron are the still active Gilets Jaunes.

Photo Credit by Marco Verch

From war on terror to war on virus: maximum profit for big tech and pharma

Forget about the good old so-called war-on-terror, fading slightly since its start in September 2001 but still a nice little threat in the background, big enough to keep the military-industrial complex flush with cash. A new conceptual global war was needed: the global war on COVID virus came at the right time. This one is even more promising, as it potentially concern the entire world population or 7.5 billion people. The COVID war has also been an easy sell for the general population, as it can be viewed as a war of necessity with humans “all in it together.” It can also provide an astronomical stream of revenue by making vaccination mandatory. In terms of profit from pandemics, vaccine companies have not been the only beneficiaries of this COVID gold rush.

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Big tech companies have racked up billions of dollars at a furious pace since March 2020 and the various restrictive measures of lock-downs and curfews. The likes of Amazon, Zoom and streaming media have handsomely benefited from the imposed partial move to a virtual world. As matter of fact, worldwide stock markets have become junkies to this trend: addicted to the war on COVID benefits.

Needless to say, this vast stream of income is also potentially endless because of the virus mutation into different variants. One loses track of this Greek alphabet catalogue. It was Alpha first or the English variant, then Beta or the Brazilian one, more contagious than the rhythm of Samba, and now it is the Delta variant originally called Indian mutation. As the virus mutates, as they all do, it could potentially take us all the way to Omega, the last letter of the Greek alphabet. The side effect of the Delta variant’s rapid spread has been to allow Macron, and soon many others, head-of-states or figureheads, to tighten back the screw on fundamental liberties.

Rule by decree, states of emergency, arbitrary measures, absurd,or not, are a form of abuse of power that neoliberals like Macron are really enjoying. It is an insidious form of dictatorship under a benevolent disguise of the enlightened rulers forcing their citizenry’s behavior. In France a law is about to pass, in parliament, to make vaccine for healthcare workers across board mandatory. If they do not comply by September 15, 2021, they will be fired. In the case of France, this should be viewed as a prelude to mandatory vaccination for the entire population.

Photo Credit by Roger Jones.

Killing personal freedom and liberties

In France, government controlled mainstream media critiques rightly calling the Macron administration’s sweeping COVID policies a “dictature sanitaire” or healthcare dictatorship have been labeled conspiracy theorists. This is pure disinformation, as what defines a dictatorship, semantically speaking, is a government, elected or not, forcing policies on its citizens. It is done under the premise that it is an action for the benefit of the common good, but nonetheless it is the exercise of authoritarian power on a population.

Through the COVID-19 pandemics, governments have learned that, if fear and paranoia were prevalent enough, and they run a lot of polls in their respective population, any dictatorial measures could be implemented without risking much social turmoil. A great majority of people did, and would likely comply again to other lock-downs, wearing masks outdoors, curfews, but without much protest. Now the final frontier is mandatory vaccination from 12 years-old on, which will give you some sort of health passport. If approved. this pass would give people the right to live almost free. This new type of passport, given to you as a reward to your obedience, will give you access to a mythical promised land often called by Macron “the return of the happy days!”

Photo Credit by Marco Verch

COVID fear mongering: subterfuge to hide climate collapse threat

There is no doubt, for any rational minds, that contesting the reality of the COVID pandemic is pure conspiracy theory. More than that, it is full blown lunacy! There are two radical anti-vaxers thought processes here: firstly, deny the existence of the pandemic entirely; secondly, which might be even more disturbing, an unshakable belief that the virus was man made, and released on purpose by the like of Fauci, Bill Gates, and a hand full of mad scientists. And, of course, here’s the icing on the cake: they’re all acting on behalf of a cabal of globalist pedophiles. These are the kinds of conspiracy theories that currently get you banned on social media.

As much as they are colorfully insane, this type of COVID-19 conspiracy theory denials are not, in essence, any worse than climate change crisis denial. The difference being that your average run of the mill climate change denier won’t get banned on social media. The nature of the capitalist global corporatism system, where neoliberals like Macron are leading figures, is not to create a crisis from scratch, which is either an impossible or very challenging task, but instead to take advantage of crisis either to further general policy goals, or in most cases benefit punctually from them like an opportunistic predator. This predatory aspect is after all the very nature of capitalism.

Photo Credit by Jeanne Menjoulet

Besides the numerous advantages that Macron, his political colleagues and their patrons from the billionaire class have found in the COVID crisis, as explained above, not only huge financial gains for pharmaceutical companies, but also for tech companies involved in this sort of forced quantum leap to the virtual world. In brief, this has been a chance to brutally shock the global economy. Not to make it more equal or sustainable, but quite exactly the opposite: COVID has been an opportunity to concentrate wealth even more in fewer hands with a net result of more social inequality.

Because in today’s press one story is always used to hide another, the pandemic has been also a blessed opportunity to hide, not the proverbial 800-pound gorilla in the room, but instead the 10,000-ton Godzilla wrecking the planet: Godzilla, in this case, being the growing certainty of an upcoming global climate collapse.

Photo Credit by Jeanne Menjoulet

Of the “Liberte-Egalite-Fraternite motto of the French revolution, all the great values have been trampled and gutted. With lock-downs, curfews, mandatory masks and vaccine, Liberte is now gone. In the era of Macron, a former investment banker, nobody can talk about Egalite in a country which is on its way to become almost as unequal as the United States; and last but not least, how could anyone see any Fraternite left? The community sense of brotherhood died quite some time ago in France. There is no brotherhood left, no deep sense of connection within the nation, we are not “all in this together”.

In reality, there is only all of us, common men and women worldwide, against the billionaire class that controls the levers of the global corporate imperialist machines, with their political servant facilitators acting as heads of state. The specific names within the political class are of little significance since they represent the identical interests. It’s a bit like the names given to the COVID variants. The Delta variant, portrayed as the top threat right now, started more modestly as India’s mutation. Who knows, perhaps in some billionaire class circles, Emmanuel Macron is just called factor X, LV or MANU.

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The post France Neoliberal Macron: Vanguard of a Covid Global Corporate Dictatorship? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Charlie Hebdo and His Neighbours

French Secular State, Judiciary and Education on Trial

The October 16, 2020, slaying of French civics teacher, Samuel Paty, drew intensely impassioned responses from the French state, members of the society and, specifically, the Muslim immigrant community, the teacher having shown a naked caricature of the Prophet.  Displaying this image from the infamous Charlie Hebdo magazine crossed a “red line” for faithful Muslims. Therefore, the conflict between the Muslim community (3.3% of the population) and the dominant French society invoking the firmly held principle of secularism and separation of church (religion) and state mushroomed.  However, such a heated conflict elicits many questions.

  • Does the principle of secularism, laïcité, an apparent absolute in French society, serve the interests of all people equally whom it purports to benefit? Is laïcité applied with justice and consistency?
  • How did the state handle the murder? How should the state handle the murder?
  • What is the role of the state Ministry of Education and the role of the teacher? Do they create a positive learning environment that will lead to full, productive inclusion of all students equally in French society?
  • For what reasons are minority, ghettoized students being humiliated in schools? Who benefits?

Chronology

On October 16, 2020, M. Samuel Paty, a civics teacher in a middle school in France, fell victim to a brutal murder caught in a conflict between the French practice of secularism and the rage of fundamentalist vengeance. For his having shown Charlie Hebdo cartoons, one being a depiction of the Prophet with genital exposure, religious Muslims were outraged for their children attending that school.  Abdoullakh Anzorov, a Chechen youth from outside that school, exacted the ultimate vengeance with Paty’s beheading.  This act being not an isolated incident, it is important to trace the escalation.

  • In November 2011, the magazine Charlie Hebdo was firebombed for printing satirical material targeting Sharia and the Prophet.
  • On January 7, 2015, following the display of the image later used by Samuel Paty from the magazine Charlie Hebdo, two attackers killed and wounded 23 people in the offices of that magazine, thereby exacting a horrifying revenge for the publication.
  • On May 3, 2015, a Draw Mohammed contest drew gunfire from two shooters, leaving a security guard wounded and the two attackers dead in Garland, Texas.
  • In early October 2020, Samuel Paty showed Charlie Hebdo cartoons in a mixed class wherein Muslim students are registered.
  • There was a strong community reaction: parents lodge complaints; one mosque produces a video condemning the actions of the teacher, soon to be closed down for six months for criticising Paty.
  • On October 16, 2020, M. Samuel Paty was savagely beheaded in the street with a cleaver by a Chechen immigrant, Abdoullakh Anzarov, 18, not a student in the school.
  • Community citizens were arrested following the murder for alleged complicity in the act after social media postings.
  • French citizens rallied in support of Paty and the government position.
  • Samuel Paty, the “quiet hero” according to Macron, was awarded posthumously the Légion d’honneur, France’s highest award, for “representing the face of the Republic” within days in patriotic fervour. “We will not give up cartoons,” he said.
  • The Muslim community complains that Islamophobic affronts increase. On October 22, 2020, two Muslim women are stabbed publicly in the tension after the incidents, ascribed to the friction following M. Paty’s murder.
  • The escalation continued: The Muslim organisation Baraka City and the Collective Against Islamophobia in France (CCIF), a charity and a community organisation which compiles information on alleged acts of anti-Muslim hatred in the country, both came under attack by the French Interior minister, M Gérald Darmanin, who threatened to shut them down.
  • Macron began implementing policies to acculturate Muslims to a more “French Islam” with cooperation from some clerics.
  • In early February, Macron’s government debated and passed articles on a bill entrenching republican values supported by the French Communist Party (PCF) and the socialist Unsubmissive France (LFI) to challenge “separatism” in the wake of Muslim “radicalism.” Associations, guaranteed in prior laws of laïcité, can be dissolved and amendments can be made by government decree to uphold these republican principles.
  • National Rally leader Marine Le Pen, Macron’s most threatening opposition, called for “war legislation,” thereby using the crisis to ramp up the competition.

Secularism

The principle and practice of laïcité, a social model in law for France since 1905, guarantees the rights of religious freedom for religions and individuals thereof, while maintaining the secular state’s distinct separation from religious influence and the power of any clergy.  Not to be defined by atheism, it advocates secularity, a view based on “this-world” terms, entrenching the right of freedom of speech. Thus, the law, dating from 1905, allowed, even encouraged, the naked caricature as a teaching aid in support of the lesson directed at all students, including Muslim. For most, laïcité is to be an absolute principle.

However, Dr. Alain Gabon, professor at Virginian Wesleyan University, has called Macron on his response by itemising the president’s abrogation of the entrenched law which he purports to be protecting. In fact, Gabon accuses him of enhancing separatism by treating Islam as a distinct threat beyond other religions, hence, separately. However, officials of the French Council of Muslim Faith have signed a “Charter of Principles” outlining terms and conditions that would pacify Islam according to the ideals of the Republic.  He writes:

…besides the extreme violations of freedom of religion and the brutalisation of Islam, the charter is also a glaring violation of French laïcité – a principle the Macron government nonetheless claims to uphold. Based on the 1905 law on the separation of church and state, French laïcité includes three sacred principles that are not open to interpretation: freedom of conscience and religion, the separation of church and state, and equal treatment by the state of all religions. Macron is trampling on all three pillars.

Islam will be a special case before the law.

Inclusion is necessary

What is the message to the youth? With this, they may sup at the trough of a statist hegemony as re-educated Muslims, their practice dictated not from the authority of their community leaders but of a government department, as marginalisation becomes official – hardly a prescription for peace and harmony, or laïcité.  Neo-colonialism is not dead. As Khalid Hajji, a recognized professor of humanities, has written:

My long experience of working with Muslim youth in Europe has shown me that violence among them is largely due to the fact that they cannot recognise themselves in the values of the countries where they live, rather than because of religious fervour… Religion is often only a demarcation line in their attempts to negotiate their sense of identity in today’s difficult European context…. A criminal or a terrorist is not only the product of Islamic culture, but also of the French republic – of its schools, its migration policies and its social fabric.

His warning must be heeded. However, the conflict continued after the firebombing, after the Charlie Hebdo massacre, after the attack in Garland, Texas, after the execution of Samuel Paty, after the restrictions on Muslim organisations, after the assault on Muslim women, and promises of “war legislation.” Now, after the state’s intervention creating separateness of the Muslim community, the state must give protection as it flaunts its own law that should protect the community.  It’s a conundrum. This unfolding narrative has become a meme, a continuing stand-off between ideological republicanism vs. the principles of a minority community.

Political utility

“Never let a good crisis go to waste,” Churchill said.  In an outpouring of nationalism inspired by grief, horror and indignation, Macron rose magnificently to the occasion conferring posthumous honours on the victim of the execution. The nation rallied.  The enemy was named: radical Islam, terrorist, separatism.  While Macron never used the term, Islamo-gauchisme became a meme in the press lumping “leftism” with Islam as a threat, timely in the era of Yellow Vests. Contradicting the secularist laws of the first decade of the twentieth century, laws were drafted and passed even to the extent that any association may be punished for an act of one of its members in contradiction to individual human rights.  The government assumed powers of decree in the fight against the common enemy taking a step to the right.  Surprisingly, the Communist Party of France and the socialist LFI of Mélonchon supported Macron in the nationalist frenzy.  Macron was the warrior supreme for all republicans, a strong role with an election coming in 2022.

Of course, his opposition was not silent.  Calling radical Islam a “warlike ideology,” National Rally leader, Marine Le Pen has called for “war legislation” to compete with her rival, for her battle is not only with Islam but with Macron whom she would best.

A common enemy unifies people. While the Yellow Vest protests have underscored the economic and financial crises of capitalism as they rally against austerity and privilege, a gasoline tax and inequities, the traumatised French population gathered en masse in unified nationalism.  They confronted the Muslim enemy, alleged radical separatism which, in some aspersions, is somehow leftist Islamo gauchisme.  What, then, is left of solidarity of the Arab working class with the general population? They have been dismissed with a word in the current rightward trend. The religious rights of Muslims need to be included. This is not limited just to Muslim students but to Arab workers who compose 3.3% of the French population.

One must empathize with the young, for this is the troubled ground on which they are to be nurtured.  While they may not be victims in this fury, these innocents, it all began with a lesson designed for them.  They deserve more respect.

My teaching experience

Having taught many Muslim youths in middle-class Ontario schools, I see them as I see all students – a wonderful mix of characters engaged in school life.  They were not separate, but engaging and respectful, even with an unusual role I played.

Following 1987, upon the Ontario government’s having included sexual orientation in the Bill of Rights, I became program director and implementer of the Anti-Homophobia Action Committee for my board. Because my home school was strongly composed of Muslim students, I was warned by colleagues, “You can’t do that with these kids.”  I did.  Furthermore, as the teacher in charge, I was uncompromisingly “out,” presenting the students with assemblies on human rights and hate crimes.  Happily, as the “out” gay teacher, I had never a sideways glance, rude remark, snigger or any slight from any of those Muslim youths.  They deserved the respect they gave. No, the Charlie Hebdo image would not have been welcome in my classroom.

It’s universal: no student must be humiliated and marginalised.  The consequences may be catastrophic.  As Ontario’s Ministry of Education prescribed as my career began, the teacher must act as a “kind, firm, judicious parent.”

What must teachers do?

A “kind, firm and judicious parent”?  I cannot find one of those qualities in those cartoons, for school must become a locus of learning and growth to prepare the productive citizen. Admittedly, a middle-class Ontario school is some distance from a Parisian banlieue; however, the universal mandate is that all students must be safe, welcome and secure in the educational establishment. Alienation must be avoided, for that will bring disaster for these kids of whose perilous journeys to the West I have only hints.  The singular function of the school must be graduation, a source of dignity and pride in their new country.

The far, far better lesson must be grounded on Martin Luther King’s admonition in his speech in the Riverside Community Church on April 4, 1967, a year to the day before he was assassinated.  “Be neighbourly.”

Compare the two, Charlie vs. Martin. Who benefits?  Cui Bono?

Laïcité has value

While this short work may be thought to be an attack on the original principles of French secularism, it is not.  Of course, ideas must be discussed openly on freedom of speech in class – with sensitivity to create civil dialogue, mandated from ministries of education.  I maintain that the cartoons did not have to be shown, perhaps mentioned. Who in France would not have known about them? Such images are the red line for that already marginalised community which must not be used as a political tool. Reasonable accommodation with respect for the young must be for any teacher the fundamental moral principle.

Need a lesson on freedom of speech? How about Julian Assange to whom France will not give asylum?

Furthermore, I applaud the separation of religion and state when it is done fairly and equitably, in the spirit of Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité when applied with respect, especially to youth who are so easily alienated from authority. They are our future, and we can’t afford not to.  I recommend the policy in more countries and jurisdictions, East and West, even my own Province of Ontario where the Roman Catholic Schools, and only that religious group’s schools, are funded publicly.  I say remove it.

• First published in Planning Beyond Capitalism

The post Charlie Hebdo and His Neighbours first appeared on Dissident Voice.

COVID-19 Behavior Policing: Rehearsal for Crackdown on Dissent Ahead of Climate Collapse?

Newspeak, Trumpism and conspiracy theories

News Junkie Post has a policy of zero tolerance for conspiracy theories. With a story as big and global as the COVID-19 pandemic, alternative narratives from conspiracy theorists were bound to happen. Like most news outlets, big or small, News Junkie Post‘s main focus in 2020 was the pandemic. Our Co-Editor-in-Chief, Haitian born microbiologist Dr. Dady Chery, superbly focused on and explained the science; our Indian Editor Imtiaz Akhtar gave us a heart felt testimony from Calcutta under lockdown. For my part, I handled the sociological, political and economical implications of a grossly mismanaged global crisis. As opposed to many, we covered the pandemic in a clinical and analytical way, without falling into the macabre body counts or the assumption that vaccines would be perfect silver bullets. We tried, with humility, to keep our eyes on the unpredictable shifts of a constantly moving target.

In the Trump era, soon to fade away in our rear view mirror, catering to border line conspiracy theory narratives has become rampant. This phenomenon has deeply impacted people’s perception of reality, not only in the United States, but worldwide. Dismissal of information, valid or not, as fake news is commonplace. This notion has become so insidious that it has even entered, ad verbatim in English, France’s news outlets lexicons. Needless to say, and in accordance with Orwell newspeak, depending on the location or ideological orientation, the fake news for some are the real news for others.

In our Orwellian kaleidoscope, figments of the imagination’s fictional mirages claim to be anchored in reality. In brief, the soon to be defunct Trump era has taught us that reality is a lot stranger than fiction; that propagandists of all stripes can be duly amplified to the dubious status of global influencers; and the scattered thought processes they promote through social media are a lot more contagious that the nastiest Influenza.

In the surreal context of the US election aftermath circus, the startup network NewsMax has become Trumpism’s Newspeak vehicle of choice: a Trump propaganda echo chamber where Trump’s die hard supporters, independently of any rationality or moral decency, are told exactly what they want to hear, and therefore are given talking points and ammunition to fuel their simmering anger even more. Needless to say, this crescendo in the realm of the imaginary from their leader, where the elections were rigged and stolen, put into jeopardy the legitimacy of the entire US electoral process. It will be extremely tricky to ensure that the baseless grievances of Trump-hypnotized followers do, in time, heal rather than become festering maggot-infested open social wounds. In a time when the dark forces of the imaginary tromp rationality, the upcoming Biden-Harris administration faces this as its hardest challenge.

Conspiracy theories such as “the 2020 elections were stolen from Trump by the US Deep State in cahoots with a globalist elite cabal” are a paranoid version of a narrative that contains factual elements. Like any mythology, religion, of course, included, some of the far-fetched assumptions are anchored in the cultural reality of a group’s collective psyche. For example, the toxic notions of purity of blood and Aryan master race were the foundations of the Nazi dogma. In the religious realm, the same can be said of the concept of being the chosen people, invented by the Jewish faith. In both cases, we are dealing with mythologies based on exclusion: the racist and elitist notion that a specific group of humans are above all others, as if humanity has an explicit pecking order, not based on personal merit but linked to almost tribal origins.

In most conspiracy theories, the imaginary is perceived, almost through some sort of epiphany, as a hard unquestionable truth. Once rationality has ceased to be sociologically and psychologically relevant to enough members of a group, then propaganda, disinformation or religious fundamentalism can convince them that magical thinking is reality. Therefore, the Earth can be flat, a circle can be square, and the love of Jesus can be the best shield against COVID-19. Deep in the QAnon paranoia, a Chinese plague was created by the globalist elite, which is composed of blood sucking elderly pedophiles who might secretly be communists, to depopulate the planet, enslave everyone, and last but not least, make sure the proud patriot crusader against this new world order, Donald Trump, loses his reelection bid.


A Trumpism myth, which curiously has some international appeal, is that Donald Trump was the champion of sovereign nations fighting against an evil globalist world order. But, as matter of fact, this is completely fabricated, as Trump is, and always was, entirely at the service of global corporate imperialism. Donald Trump attempted to run the United States not as a nationalist, like he claimed in his empty slogans with US citizens’ interests in mind, but as the CEO of America Empire Inc., a subdivision of capitalism global empire. Trumpism, and other brands of populism/neo-fascism are, in essence, disingenuous as they mislead their supporters into believing they are anti-globalist. How could they be when such politicians are, in reality, the obedient servants of mega-corporate interests?

COVID-19: bonanza for disaster capitalism

Capitalism, either using the bogus cover of populism or the pseudo humanitarian narrative of neoliberalism of someone like President Macron in France, always operates the same way. The beast is ruthless and has no mercy for the people it exploits, breaks and ultimately destroys. Capitalism‘s gargantuan appetite feeds on people’s miseries. For its engine to stay lubricated and fueled, it needs a colossal amount of human sacrifices. The COVID-19 crisis is no exception. If wars always end up translating into a financial boom, the same can be said about natural disasters like a nice little global pandemic. When you are morally depraved enough to put profit over people, your mindset is always: how could I and my investors make huge benefits from this crisis?

For COVID, the financial bonanza that has driven world wide stock markets to record highs, while the real economy experiences a depression, has the following factors. Firstly, huge injections of cash were made using a mechanism known as quantitative easing, a euphemism for printing money. This practice, to mitigate an initial crash of the markets, was applied world wide, but considerably more in the US and the EU. Secondly, because of various lockdown measures established in almost all countries since March 2020, there has been a huge boost for online one-stop shopping providers such as Amazon, as well as corporations such as Zoom that facilitate teleconference work. Thirdly, and this is the most important one as it is becoming Wall Street’s Holy Grail, we have, of course, the vaccines!

Who knows if the vaccine candidates in question will be efficient or have any side effects, but Wall Street and all the financial markets could care less. Moderna might not be a pandemic panacea, but one thing is obvious: it is the new El Dorado! How can you possibly go wrong with a stock that traded at around $20 in January and now trades at more than $130! Now, this is the shot in the arm that global capitalism has longed for. While millions starve, the vaccine boon is a great Christmas bonus for Wall Street!

While capitalist junkies are getting their fix, and the likes of Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos are becoming trillionaires, millions of ordinary people have died and are dying, millions more have lost their jobs, millions of small businesses worldwide are in dire straights. Countless people all over the world, included in the rich nations, rely on food banks to eat. The obscenity of it all is in our faces, defiantly staring at us. In brief, the COVID-19 crisis has been used by global capitalism and its political surrogates as a giant wealth-concentration machine. One of the stupid empty slogans of the pandemic was “We’re all in this together.” With the unbearable mismanagement of COVID from the get go, what an insult to people’s basic intelligence. No. There is no “together” at all in all this, but just a dog-eat-dog social construct.

COVID and social inequality fatigue: dissent against police states?

As more people are becoming aware, at least intuitively, that their governments have failed them or are trying to impose on them drastic measures such as lock-downs, curfews and other arbitrary behavioral rules that have varied throughout the pandemic, a general sense of fear, a collective depression triggered by anxiety and isolation seems to be turning into anger for many. Fear and anger are powerful primal emotions. Unlike fear, which paralyzes, properly channeled anger can be a positive force. Especially collective anger towards incompetent governments that are either not making decisions at all, like Trump did in the US, or are dictating authoritarian measures, like Macron in France, which seem to be based on medical science, but are, in fact, a form of political navigation in a stormy sea, without a compass.

To add insult to injury, Macron thought it was a good idea to give a little more muscle to his repressive tool kit by passing an extremely police friendly law in France called Loi de Securite Globale. Fortunately, dissent and protest in France are not dead yet, and 10 days after the infamous police-state friendly law was passed, 500,000 people took to the streets despite the pandemic rules curtailing freedom of movements and assembly.

The COVID-19 crisis will give many governments an opportunity to push some authoritarian policing strategies. After about 20 years under the cover of supposed terrorist threats, the police have become meaner and more omnipresent in most countries’ social landscapes. As most countries ruling classes largely use their police forces as a tool of repression against their own citizens, police brutalities have blossomed almost universally. In fact, the Robocops of global corporate imperialism wear pretty much the same gear and adopt the same brutal techniques. Police forces are in the advance process to become the Praetorian Guard of the global capitalist empire and its billionaire ruling class as well as political surrogates.

This must be stopped at any cost, the Loi de Securite Globale is a prime example. If the world citizenry do not forcefully and diligently oppose it, hybrid police states could be maintained in place for the much bigger challenges humanity will face once the climate crisis builds its unstoppable momentum. Only a global movement can tackle the enormity of the task at hand, collectively make a stand “by any means necessary,” to quote Malcom X, and get from governments drastic systemic changes, to avoid humanity’s looming collapse.

Photographs two, three, five, seven and eight by Gilbert Mercier; photograph six from the archives of Backbone Campaign; photograph nine by Daily Chalkupy; and photograph eleven by Johnny Silvercloud.

The post COVID-19 Behavior Policing: Rehearsal for Crackdown on Dissent Ahead of Climate Collapse? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

COVID-19 Behavior Policing: Rehearsal for Crackdown on Dissent Ahead of Climate Collapse?

Newspeak, Trumpism and conspiracy theories

News Junkie Post has a policy of zero tolerance for conspiracy theories. With a story as big and global as the COVID-19 pandemic, alternative narratives from conspiracy theorists were bound to happen. Like most news outlets, big or small, News Junkie Post‘s main focus in 2020 was the pandemic. Our Co-Editor-in-Chief, Haitian born microbiologist Dr. Dady Chery, superbly focused on and explained the science; our Indian Editor Imtiaz Akhtar gave us a heart felt testimony from Calcutta under lockdown. For my part, I handled the sociological, political and economical implications of a grossly mismanaged global crisis. As opposed to many, we covered the pandemic in a clinical and analytical way, without falling into the macabre body counts or the assumption that vaccines would be perfect silver bullets. We tried, with humility, to keep our eyes on the unpredictable shifts of a constantly moving target.

In the Trump era, soon to fade away in our rear view mirror, catering to border line conspiracy theory narratives has become rampant. This phenomenon has deeply impacted people’s perception of reality, not only in the United States, but worldwide. Dismissal of information, valid or not, as fake news is commonplace. This notion has become so insidious that it has even entered, ad verbatim in English, France’s news outlets lexicons. Needless to say, and in accordance with Orwell newspeak, depending on the location or ideological orientation, the fake news for some are the real news for others.

In our Orwellian kaleidoscope, figments of the imagination’s fictional mirages claim to be anchored in reality. In brief, the soon to be defunct Trump era has taught us that reality is a lot stranger than fiction; that propagandists of all stripes can be duly amplified to the dubious status of global influencers; and the scattered thought processes they promote through social media are a lot more contagious that the nastiest Influenza.

In the surreal context of the US election aftermath circus, the startup network NewsMax has become Trumpism’s Newspeak vehicle of choice: a Trump propaganda echo chamber where Trump’s die hard supporters, independently of any rationality or moral decency, are told exactly what they want to hear, and therefore are given talking points and ammunition to fuel their simmering anger even more. Needless to say, this crescendo in the realm of the imaginary from their leader, where the elections were rigged and stolen, put into jeopardy the legitimacy of the entire US electoral process. It will be extremely tricky to ensure that the baseless grievances of Trump-hypnotized followers do, in time, heal rather than become festering maggot-infested open social wounds. In a time when the dark forces of the imaginary tromp rationality, the upcoming Biden-Harris administration faces this as its hardest challenge.

Conspiracy theories such as “the 2020 elections were stolen from Trump by the US Deep State in cahoots with a globalist elite cabal” are a paranoid version of a narrative that contains factual elements. Like any mythology, religion, of course, included, some of the far-fetched assumptions are anchored in the cultural reality of a group’s collective psyche. For example, the toxic notions of purity of blood and Aryan master race were the foundations of the Nazi dogma. In the religious realm, the same can be said of the concept of being the chosen people, invented by the Jewish faith. In both cases, we are dealing with mythologies based on exclusion: the racist and elitist notion that a specific group of humans are above all others, as if humanity has an explicit pecking order, not based on personal merit but linked to almost tribal origins.

In most conspiracy theories, the imaginary is perceived, almost through some sort of epiphany, as a hard unquestionable truth. Once rationality has ceased to be sociologically and psychologically relevant to enough members of a group, then propaganda, disinformation or religious fundamentalism can convince them that magical thinking is reality. Therefore, the Earth can be flat, a circle can be square, and the love of Jesus can be the best shield against COVID-19. Deep in the QAnon paranoia, a Chinese plague was created by the globalist elite, which is composed of blood sucking elderly pedophiles who might secretly be communists, to depopulate the planet, enslave everyone, and last but not least, make sure the proud patriot crusader against this new world order, Donald Trump, loses his reelection bid.


A Trumpism myth, which curiously has some international appeal, is that Donald Trump was the champion of sovereign nations fighting against an evil globalist world order. But, as matter of fact, this is completely fabricated, as Trump is, and always was, entirely at the service of global corporate imperialism. Donald Trump attempted to run the United States not as a nationalist, like he claimed in his empty slogans with US citizens’ interests in mind, but as the CEO of America Empire Inc., a subdivision of capitalism global empire. Trumpism, and other brands of populism/neo-fascism are, in essence, disingenuous as they mislead their supporters into believing they are anti-globalist. How could they be when such politicians are, in reality, the obedient servants of mega-corporate interests?

COVID-19: bonanza for disaster capitalism

Capitalism, either using the bogus cover of populism or the pseudo humanitarian narrative of neoliberalism of someone like President Macron in France, always operates the same way. The beast is ruthless and has no mercy for the people it exploits, breaks and ultimately destroys. Capitalism‘s gargantuan appetite feeds on people’s miseries. For its engine to stay lubricated and fueled, it needs a colossal amount of human sacrifices. The COVID-19 crisis is no exception. If wars always end up translating into a financial boom, the same can be said about natural disasters like a nice little global pandemic. When you are morally depraved enough to put profit over people, your mindset is always: how could I and my investors make huge benefits from this crisis?

For COVID, the financial bonanza that has driven world wide stock markets to record highs, while the real economy experiences a depression, has the following factors. Firstly, huge injections of cash were made using a mechanism known as quantitative easing, a euphemism for printing money. This practice, to mitigate an initial crash of the markets, was applied world wide, but considerably more in the US and the EU. Secondly, because of various lockdown measures established in almost all countries since March 2020, there has been a huge boost for online one-stop shopping providers such as Amazon, as well as corporations such as Zoom that facilitate teleconference work. Thirdly, and this is the most important one as it is becoming Wall Street’s Holy Grail, we have, of course, the vaccines!

Who knows if the vaccine candidates in question will be efficient or have any side effects, but Wall Street and all the financial markets could care less. Moderna might not be a pandemic panacea, but one thing is obvious: it is the new El Dorado! How can you possibly go wrong with a stock that traded at around $20 in January and now trades at more than $130! Now, this is the shot in the arm that global capitalism has longed for. While millions starve, the vaccine boon is a great Christmas bonus for Wall Street!

While capitalist junkies are getting their fix, and the likes of Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos are becoming trillionaires, millions of ordinary people have died and are dying, millions more have lost their jobs, millions of small businesses worldwide are in dire straights. Countless people all over the world, included in the rich nations, rely on food banks to eat. The obscenity of it all is in our faces, defiantly staring at us. In brief, the COVID-19 crisis has been used by global capitalism and its political surrogates as a giant wealth-concentration machine. One of the stupid empty slogans of the pandemic was “We’re all in this together.” With the unbearable mismanagement of COVID from the get go, what an insult to people’s basic intelligence. No. There is no “together” at all in all this, but just a dog-eat-dog social construct.

COVID and social inequality fatigue: dissent against police states?

As more people are becoming aware, at least intuitively, that their governments have failed them or are trying to impose on them drastic measures such as lock-downs, curfews and other arbitrary behavioral rules that have varied throughout the pandemic, a general sense of fear, a collective depression triggered by anxiety and isolation seems to be turning into anger for many. Fear and anger are powerful primal emotions. Unlike fear, which paralyzes, properly channeled anger can be a positive force. Especially collective anger towards incompetent governments that are either not making decisions at all, like Trump did in the US, or are dictating authoritarian measures, like Macron in France, which seem to be based on medical science, but are, in fact, a form of political navigation in a stormy sea, without a compass.

To add insult to injury, Macron thought it was a good idea to give a little more muscle to his repressive tool kit by passing an extremely police friendly law in France called Loi de Securite Globale. Fortunately, dissent and protest in France are not dead yet, and 10 days after the infamous police-state friendly law was passed, 500,000 people took to the streets despite the pandemic rules curtailing freedom of movements and assembly.

The COVID-19 crisis will give many governments an opportunity to push some authoritarian policing strategies. After about 20 years under the cover of supposed terrorist threats, the police have become meaner and more omnipresent in most countries’ social landscapes. As most countries ruling classes largely use their police forces as a tool of repression against their own citizens, police brutalities have blossomed almost universally. In fact, the Robocops of global corporate imperialism wear pretty much the same gear and adopt the same brutal techniques. Police forces are in the advance process to become the Praetorian Guard of the global capitalist empire and its billionaire ruling class as well as political surrogates.

This must be stopped at any cost, the Loi de Securite Globale is a prime example. If the world citizenry do not forcefully and diligently oppose it, hybrid police states could be maintained in place for the much bigger challenges humanity will face once the climate crisis builds its unstoppable momentum. Only a global movement can tackle the enormity of the task at hand, collectively make a stand “by any means necessary,” to quote Malcom X, and get from governments drastic systemic changes, to avoid humanity’s looming collapse.

Photographs two, three, five, seven and eight by Gilbert Mercier; photograph six from the archives of Backbone Campaign; photograph nine by Daily Chalkupy; and photograph eleven by Johnny Silvercloud.

The post COVID-19 Behavior Policing: Rehearsal for Crackdown on Dissent Ahead of Climate Collapse? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Macron’s Incitement: “Crisis in Islam” or French Politics? 

There is no moral or ethical justification for the killing of innocent people, anywhere. Therefore, the murder of three people in the French city of Nice on October 29 must be wholly and unconditionally rejected as a hate crime, especially as it was carried out in a holy place, the Notre Dame Basilica.

However, we would be remiss to ignore the political context that led a 21-year-old Tunisian refugee to allegedly stage a knife attack against peaceful worshippers in Nice. While it is fairly easy to recognize the individual culprit behind such a violent event, it takes much introspection, let alone honesty, to identify the true culprits, who, often for political reasons, fan the flames of hate and violence.

Since his advent to the Elysée Palace, in May 2017, French President Emmanuel Macron, has led an aggressive foreign policy abroad and an equally contentious domestic agenda. These choices were not random, as Macron was dogged by numerous domestic challenges: rising inequality and unemployment, mass protests led largely by the ‘Gilets Jaunes’ – Yellow Vests –  Movement and the unhindered rise of right-wing, anti-immigrant populist movements, such as the National Front (FN) of Marine Le Pen.

It is important that we recall the political atmosphere through which Macron was elected, for the man was meant to be the sensible choice propelled forward by the once-ruling Union for a Popular Movement (UMP).

The latter’s candidate, François Fillon, failed to acquire the necessary votes to decisively win the elections on April 23, 2017. Instead, it was Macron, a relative political ‘outsider’ from the one-year-old En Marche (EM) Party that had the chance to stop the progress of Marine Le Pen’s racist and chauvinistic FN. Indeed, Macron won the second runoff elections on May 7. His victory was decisive.

Judging by the mass protests that soon followed Macron’s election, later exacerbated by the economic crisis that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic (which, thus far, has killed over 36,000 people in France alone), Macron is no longer popular among his people.

With new elections scheduled for early 2022, Macron and France’s ruling elites are quite nervous. The French economy is unlikely to recover anytime soon, not only because of the coronavirus pandemic – the destructive impact of which is expected to persist over the coming months and years – but also because, in the last three years, there has been no serious structural overhauling of the French economy with the stated aim of sting the pandemics of inequality, unemployment, racism, and political corruption.

As is often the case with inept leaders, Macron has invested in creating political distractions at home and abroad, manufacturing crises and provoking unnecessary confrontations.

The French leader has seized on the opportunity presented to him as a result of the American retreat from various Mediterranean conflicts, namely Libya, Syria, Lebanon, and the East Mediterranean gas dispute. The shift in US foreign policy priorities, coupled with the British abandonment of the European Union – scheduled to go into full effect at the end of this year – led Macron to behave as if the de facto leader of Europe.

Racism in France is rife, and the electoral successes of the various right-wing nationalistic parties are a testament to this assertion. Instead of confronting this protracted disease which has afflicted the French body politic for far too long, Macron has labored to find some kind of a balance, where he continues to appeal to the liberal forces in his country without fully alienating the right-wing chauvinistic constituency. To achieve this delicate balance, Macron has opted for the most politically – and, to state bluntly,  cowardly –  convenient option: targeting France’s most marginalized and impoverished French Arab and African communities in the name of fighting for the ‘values’ of the Republic against ‘Islamic terrorism’ and the dark forces that are lurking within his country.

This is not to argue that domestic terrorism is not a major problem deserving attention and counter-strategies. However, judging by recurring statements made by French officials and media – which tend to demonize entire groups of mostly immigrant populations and their religious values – it seems as if the French government is leading a crusade of sorts against its own Muslim population. It appears as if Macron, himself, is leading a populist march against Islam and Muslims in France and elsewhere. This pathetic display of bad, opportunistic leadership was the true catalyst of today’s crisis.

This brief timeline is sufficient to link Macron to France’s latest violence:

On October 2, Macron assumed the role of the scholarly theologian lecturing his countrymen on Islam. “Islam is a religion which is experiencing a crisis today, all over the world,” he said, laying out a plan to combat Islamic “separatism” in France. This provocative statement had an international dimension which, expectedly, raised the ire of Muslim governments and populations the world over. The domestic component of his comments was even more dangerous, as he practically declared French Muslims a fifth column, whose ultimate aim is to destabilize and to break up the French Republic.

More provocations followed, once more the berating of Islam and the mocking of Prophet Mohammed, African and Arab immigrants and so on, in the name of French values, democracy and freedom of expression. Judging by the bloody attack on the Charlie Hebdo’s magazine in January 2015 and the violence and mosque burning of over 30 mosques in its wake (though the latter received little or no media attention), it should have taken no particular genius to deduce that the latest government-led provocations and anti-Muslim incitement were also doomed to result in violence and counter-violence.

Indeed, on October 16, a French teacher, who displayed images that mocked Prophet Mohammed, was reportedly killed by an 18-year-old Chechen Muslim refugee. The teacher was later declared a French hero and celebrated for his supposed sacrifice for French values.

More mockery and insults of Islam and Muslims continued, this time on a much larger scale. The anti-Muslim incitement was accompanied by acts of violence against French Muslims, particularly women. Again, this kind of violence received little attention in the international media and was hardly seen in France as an expression of a mass movement reflecting religious or nationalistic ideas.

With Turkey, Pakistan and political movements representing every Muslim-majority country in the world jumping into the fray, Macron has managed to make himself the center of international attention as the indefatigable fighter for Western values and democratic ideals – with a subtle emphasis on being the champion of Christianity, as well.

The true crisis is not a crisis in Islam, but in French politics. If anyone deserves mockery, it is not Prophet Mohammed – whose message of nearly 1,500 years ago was that of peace, justice and equality – but, rather, Macron himself, who continues to distract from his unmitigated failure as a politician by pitting the French people, religious or otherwise, against each other. Hopefully, Charlie Hebdo will be satirizing that reality sometime soon.

The post Macron’s Incitement: "Crisis in Islam" or French Politics?  first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Fight over the Mediterranean: France’s Proxy War and the Budding Turkish-Russian Alliance

Overwhelmed by uncontrollable circumstances, the Greek government is bracing for another financial crisis that promises to be as terrible as the last one in 2015.

Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, announced on September 12 that Athens has made a “robust” arms deal that will “reinforce the armed forces” and create a “national shield”.

However, beyond Mitsotakis’ mask of confidence, there is a nightmare brewing that is likely to haunt Greece for years to come. Five years ago, when Athens defaulted on its debt,  largely to European countries and institutions, France and Germany rushed to further strangle the humbled country by selling it yet more military hardware.

History is repeating itself; this time, the crisis involves the country’s enduring dispute with Turkey over territorial waters. Invoking European solidarity, the French are, once again, pushing their military hardware on embattled and economically weak Greece. Consequently, the latter is set to purchase 18 French-made Rafale warplanes, four navy helicopters, new anti-tank weapons, navy torpedoes and air force missiles.

While the Greek government is presenting the move as a show of force in case of a future military conflict with neighboring Turkey, the French arms will intensify Greece’s vulnerability to French political diktats, now and in the future.

This is part of a larger pattern for France. French President, Emmanuel Macron, is, again, assuming the role of savior. Lately, he has taken on the role of rebuilding devastated Beirut following the massive explosion in August. In return, he expects — in fact, demands — political acquiescence from all of Lebanon’s political forces.

The crisis in Greece, however, is different. The Turkish-Greek East Mediterranean conflict is multifaceted as it involves many regional players, all vying for the same prize: some dividends in the massive deposits of newly discovered natural gas. While the conflict is presented as a continuation of the protracted hostilities between Turkey and Greece, in actuality the latter is but a small facet of a new great game, the outcome of which could change the dynamics in the Mediterranean altogether.

While NATO is falling apart at the seams, due partly to the current US administration’s isolationist policies, European countries, like France and Italy, are acting independently from the once-unified Western military alliance.

Europe is losing its once strategically dominant position in the Mediterranean region. After years of investing in the decade-long Libyan conflict, European countries are likely to go home empty-handed.

For years, France has backed the Eastern-based forces of Libyan General, Khalifa Haftar, while Italy supported the Government of National Accord (GNA) in the West. The two NATO members, openly clashing politically, had hoped that the outcome of the Libyan war would provide them with much military, political and economic leverage.

Nevertheless, the news emerging from the region is clearly contrary, in that Turkey and Russia, which staked their claims over Libya only recently, are the ones who are now controlling the fate of this country. Not only are Ankara and Moscow the main power brokers in Libya – Russia supporting Haftar, while Istanbul backing the GNA – it is likely that they will shape Libya’s future, as well.  In their second rounds of negotiations in Ankara on September 16, the two countries have endorsed a ceasefire in Libya as part of a political process that should eventually stabilize the warring country.

The irony is that, until fairly recent, there was discord between Turkey and Russia. The conflict in Syria had reached a point where war in 2015 seemed imminent. This has changed as both countries saw an unprecedented opportunity arising from the relative absence of Washington as a direct player in the region’s conflicts, coupled with European/NATO disunity and internal conflict.

With time, more opportunities arose in Libya and, eventually, in the Eastern Mediterranean. When France and Italy showed enthusiasm in an emerging alliance between Israel, Greece and Cyprus around the EastMed gas pipeline project, Turkey swooped in to counter-balance this with an alliance of its own. In November 2019, Turkey and Libya’s GNA signed a Memorandum of Understanding that expanded Turkey’s areas of influence in the Mediterranean and forced France to contend with yet another challenge to its leadership in the region.

Moreover, emboldened Turkey widened its search for natural gas in the Mediterranean to cover a massive area that extends from the Turkish southern coast to Libya’s north-east coast. With NATO being unable to present a unified front, France advanced alone, hoping to sustain a geopolitical status quo that has governed the Mediterranean for decades.

That status quo is no longer sustainable as a new political contract is sure to be written, especially as the nature of the Turkish-Russian alliance is becoming clearer and promises to be a lasting one.

The mutual interests between Turkey and Russia are likely to culminate into an actual alliance should their ongoing negotiations pay lasting dividends. On the other side of that possible coalition, there are reluctant and fractious European powers, led by self-serving France, whose strategic vision has suffered a major blow in Libya as it did in Syria, years earlier.

Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, is now leading Russian diplomacy to find a non-military resolution to the Turkish-Greek conflict. This, in itself, is an indication of Russia’s growing prowess in a region that, until very recently, was dominated solely by NATO.

The post Fight over the Mediterranean: France’s Proxy War and the Budding Turkish-Russian Alliance first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Hands off Lebanon: Macron’s Self-serving ‘New Pact’ Must Be Shunned  

French President, Emmanuel Macron, is in no position to pontificate to Lebanon about the need for political and economic reforms. Just as thousands of Lebanese took to the streets of Beirut demanding “revenge” against the ruling classes, the French people have relentlessly been doing the same; both peoples have been met with police violence and arrests.

Following the August 4 blast which killed over 200 people and wounded thousands more, the irony was inescapable when Macron showed up in a bizarre display of “solidarity” on the streets of Beirut. Macron should have taken his roadshow to the streets of Paris, not Beirut, to reassure his own people, burdened by growing inequality, rising unemployment and socio-economic hardship.

However, the French show went on, but in the Middle East. It was a perfectly choreographed scene, engineered to be reminiscent of France’s bygone colonial grandeur. On August 6, Macron stood imperiously amidst the ruins of a massive Beirut explosion, promising aid, accountability and vowing to never abandon France’s former colony.

A young Lebanese woman approached the French President, tearfully imploring him “Mr. President, you’re on General Gouraud Street; he freed us from the Ottomans. Free us from the current authorities.”

It is unconvincing that all of this: the sudden visit, the pleas for help, the emotional crowd surrounding Macron, were all impromptu events to reflect Lebanon’s undying love and unconditional trust of France.

Macron could have easily assessed the damage caused by the devastating explosion at the Beirut port. If the thousands of images and endless video streams were insufficient to convey the unprecedented ruin created by the Hiroshima-like blast, satellite and aerial footage certainly would have.

But Macron did not come to Lebanon to offer sincere solidarity. He came, like a ‘good’ French politician would to exploit the shock, panic and fear of a dumbstruck nation, while it is feeling betrayed by its own government, bewildered and alone.

I will talk to all political forces to ask them for a new pact. I am here today to propose a new political pact to them,” Macron said.

Certainly, Lebanon is in urgent need of a new pact, but not one that is engineered by France. Indeed, France was never a source of stability in Lebanon. Even the end of the formal French colonialism in 1946 did not truly liberate Lebanon from Paris’ toxic influence and constant meddling.

Alas, devastated Lebanon is now receptive to another bout of ‘disaster capitalism’:  the notion that a country must be on its knees as a prerequisite to foreign economic takeover, political and, if necessary, military intervention.

If the words of the woman who beseeched Macron to ‘liberate’ Lebanon from its current leadership were not scripted by some clever French writer, they would represent one of the saddest displays of Lebanon’s modern politics — this woman, representing a nation, calling on its former colonizer to subjugate it once more, in order to save it from itself.

This is the crux of ‘disaster capitalism’.

“In moments of crisis, people are willing to hand over a great deal of power to anyone who claims to have a magic cure – whether the crisis is a financial meltdown or … a terrorist attack,” wrote the acclaimed Canadian author, Naomi Klein, in her seminal book “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism”.

The political fallout of the explosion — whatever its causes — were triggered perfectly from the perspective of those who want to ensure Lebanon never achieves its coveted moment of stability and sectarian harmony. Unprecedented in modern history, the country’s current economic crisis has dragged on interminably, while the ruling classes either seem to have no answers or are, largely, not keen on finding any.

On August 7, a United Nations-backed tribunal was scheduled to issue its final verdict regarding the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister, Rafic Hariri. Hariri’s killing, also by a massive blast in Beirut on February 14, 2005, has torn the country apart and somewhat placed Lebanon at the hands of foreign entities.

Whether the now postponed verdict was going to further divide Lebanese society or help it achieve closure, is moot. The port explosion will surely renew the French-led Western mandate over the country.

On August 6, four former Lebanese prime ministers called for an ‘international investigation’ into the causes of the blast, hoping to win political leverage against their political opponents, setting the stage for another sectarian and political crisis.

Local forces are quickly scrambling to position themselves behind a winning political strategy. “We have no trust at all in this ruling gang,” leading Lebanese Druze politician, Walid Jumblatt, said. He, too, is demanding an international investigation.

Times of national crisis often lead to unity, however temporary, among various communities, since mass tragedies often harm all sectors of society. In Lebanon, however, unity remains elusive, as most political camps have allegiances that transcend the people and nation. People often hold onto their clans and sects due to their lack of trust in the central government. Politicians, instead, are beholden to regional and international powers — as in Macron’s France.

But France should not be the last lifeline for the Lebanese people, despite their desperation, anger and betrayal. France is currently involved in two of the ugliest and protracted conflicts in the Middle East and West Africa: Libya and Mali. Predictably, in both cases, Paris had also promised to be a force for good. While Libya has essentially been turned into a failed state, Mali persists under total French subjugation. It is no exaggeration to argue that France is currently involved in an active military occupation of Mali, one of the poorest countries in the world.

Lebanon should be aware that its current tragedy is the perfect opportunity for its former colonial masters to stage a comeback, which would hardly save Lebanon and her people from their persisting calamity.

Macron’s bizarre and dangerous political act in the streets of Beirut should worry all Lebanese, at least those who truly care about their country.