Friday, 11 January 2019

Brexit is not the central issue for leftists, socialist opportunities are

As the the parliamentary Brexit vote approaches, and its implications unfold, people on the left should be reflecting carefully on what kind of political projects truly matter.

And they should understand that, whatever the outcome and ramifications, Brexit is not the critical issue we've been conditioned into believing. Instead, meaningful socialist change, and any serious openings towards it, should be the key focus of leftist attentions.

Many left-liberal Remainers insist that they are only interested in protecting the poorest of society, workers' rights and the status of migrants. But they should really be asking whether a deeply-neoliberal, business-protecting, fortress-minded EU has ever shown any genuine interest in advancing the lot of the poor, workers or immigrants.

Beyond nominal liberal sensibilities, one suspects here a more insular set of middle class Brexit concerns, rather than serious class empathy: for example, how exiting the EU might inconvenience middle class education, travel, and rights of abode in Europe, concerns not immediately exercising a mass part of the population simply struggling to get by.

A recent UN report has revealed the scandalous extent of multiple deprivation in the UK. Foodbanks abound. Homeless souls lie cold and withering on our streets. One in eight people in work are now living in poverty. Government austerity is now responsible for over 120,000 excess deaths. And, as the brilliant I Daniel Blake film has so accurately shown - despite ugly Tory dismissals - many thousands of people are dying after being hounded by a cruel and callous 'benefits' system.

This is the face of brutal Britain, generations of wicked neglect, capitalist ordained, both Tory and Labour inflicted.

But this misery also prevails despite the supposed 'protections' of the EU. For all its 'social guarantees', the EU acts primarily at the behest of a banker class intent on prohibiting the very state-led economic interventions required to break structural poverty and inequality.

Just look at the rocketing death rate and other grim statistics for Greece, where the EU has imposed its harsh austerity 'medicine' just as ruthlessly as the UK, if not more so. Look also at the painful experiences of Spain, Ireland, Portugal and other 'errant' states which felt the EU's wrath for trying to deviate from its punitive neoliberal rules.

As Yanis Varoufakis, a political victim of Greece's 'transgression', so acutely understands, this is a doctrine that the EU's technocracy and banker class will brook no discussion with.

And, despite Varoufakis's own DiEM 25 stay-and-reform agenda, there appears no plausible prospect of turning this institutional autocracy around. Even sympathetic voices for a new pan-European left now harbour "serious doubts about the extent to which such a system of supranational democracy could be made truly representative and respectful of the needs of the weaker states of the Union."

There's also a fundamental difference between 'improved' EU parliamentary representation and true popular control, given the even greater potential for elite lobbies and "oligarchic capture" of the parliamentary process at the supranational level.

With extremely limited prospects for any progressive overhaul of the EU monolith, why would already impoverished and marginalised people in Britain rally to such a detached, elitist and uncaring Union?

With hopes of real alternative policies, it is long-standing hostility to this rigid EU orthodoxy that's exercising Jeremy Corbyn. It also informs his legitimate reticence over any second EU referendum, something that won't resolve public division, would only alienate much of his base, and, despite heightened liberal media claims to the contrary, augurs no good electoral benefit for Corbyn and the left. 

In supportive spirit, leftists should be primarily concerned with projects and movements which show real progressive worth. The EU isn't remotely in that category. We're living in an age of rapid climate calamity, rampant militarism, mass death and human dislocation from Western-made wars, and stratospheric wealth for the greedy few, all driven by psychopathic corporate interests. These are the big issues, the vital forces to be resisted, domestically and globally. Against this emergency backdrop, liberal protesters wrapped in EU flags is really a descent into the absurd, a kind of Brexit bathos.

The mass political hype and media frenzy over Brexit should be a clue in itself as to the elite narrative we're being fed. From big City bankers to Blair and his co-war criminals, an entire establishment and its liberal managers are now on emergency footing trying to reverse an outcome they smugly assumed could never happen. 

In desperate mitigation, much of the Guardian commentariat are also crying foul over Vote Leave's campaign shenanigans. Yet, much less is being said by the Guardian class about the corporate elites and political associates behind 'People's Vote'. As the Morning Star reveals, this exclusive, big business-led cash-cow is not only determined to stop Brexit, but any prospect of a socialist government.

Meanwhile, British deep-state-funded groups Integrity Initiative and Institute of Statecraft are conducting a systematic smear campaign, reminiscent of A Very British Coup, against Corbyn and the official opposition, again with barely a word from the 'mainstream' media.   

If the stakes are high here for the corporate and political establishment, it also shows how important critical questioning of its deeper Remain agenda must be.

Membership of an unaccountable and privileged EU club is no 'hill to die on' for leftists. Indeed, the vote for Brexit - in large part an instinctive backlash against system-safe liberals, the same liberal crisis that's delivered Trump - should be viewed as a useful upheaval, a welcome impasse, and set of opportunities for real radical change.

Instead of Remain and a top-down EU, two real political causes are worthy of our foremost attention and support: independence for Scotland, and a Corbyn victory at Westminster. And, yes, we most certainly can have both.

People on the left should be focused on the need for a radical independent Scotland, and a Corbyn-left government for the rest of the UK. That's a realisable set of progressive outcomes worth pushing for, rather than any constitutional-stifling or market-first unions. 

Those liberal centrists calling for a second EU referendum - spun in specious Blairite fashion as a 'People's Vote' - have no true interest in either of those socialist projects. For them, Corbyn and Scottish indy are dire threats to the same UK-EU neoliberal, liberal-protecting status quo.

A seething cabal of parliamentary pro-EU Labourites are still determined to bring Corbyn down. A similar ragtag of Labourite centrists in Scotland have also been playing the Remain card to shrill effect, warning that the electorate 'just couldn't face' another indy ref - but could, of course, handle another on the EU. In short, Brexit is being pitched as 'the crisis of our age', and used as a political diversion to contain real leftist change.

Alas, an SNP hierarchy seem to be acting in effective unison. If the SNP leadership actually want independence, they really should be talking about it, instead of spending so much time agonising over Brexit - as well as lauding Nato and bashing Russia - in apparent collusion with the establishment, Unionist order.

Nicola Sturgeon has now intimated that a decision on indy ref 2 may be pending, once the Westminster fallout from Brexit is finally clearer. This may yet prove to be smart political holding. But, in its Brexit obsession, the SNP has lost much valuable time and energy in failing to prioritise and advance the indy case, risking alienating a mass and growing Yes street in the process. 

Many Remainers are naturally repulsed by the array of shire Tories, narrow British nationalists and plain xenophobes among Leave. The 62 per cent Remain vote in Scotland is clearly a legitimate refutation of that mindset. A younger demographic also, understandably, incline towards notions of a 'more open European identity'.

Leave does, of course, have its far-right and reactionary elements, brooding over immigration and 'foreigner rule'. But this shouldn't blind progressive-thinking people, at large, to the much deeper discontent afoot, the right to question all elite rule, and the need for citizens to take greater control over their own affairs.

We face a propaganda system that works to limit our very political horizons, to manage the boundaries of discussion, in this case by crafting the very narrative of Brexit as, essentially, 'our collective problem', rather than an internecine establishment conflict.

The parameters of that 'debate', thus, become narrow 'choices' about 'who we trade with', or whether we adopt 'EU or WTO rules'. Note the persistent use here of 'we'. It's a false context. In effect, these are all neoliberal rules, all from the same elite playbook, all to be resisted whether 'we're' inside or outside the EU.

Instead of their rules, we need to build our own equitable rules, ones that place greater value on democratic participation, economic justice and fair, sustainable trade.

That would include a truly compassionate set of immigration and asylum policies, not least in recognition of the plunder, war and suffering visited on the world by an imperialist British state, past and present. We need no more Empires, British, European or other.

We should also be resistant, in this regard, to rising EU militarism. Invoking Putin and 'looming Russian threats to our borders', leading EU figure Guy Verhofstadt has now been joined by Macron and Merkel in calling for a European Army, disturbing ultra-liberal, drum-beating for more threatening Nato escalations across Eastern Europe.

The real question here is about how people take meaningful command of decisions in their own situations; positions and aims that are not founded on corporate rules, fortress mentalities and market imperatives.

That, in essence, means bringing political decision-making down to the most 'localised' levels possible, not obediently handing them up to supranational entities underwritten by corporate sovereignty.

It means securing safe distance from an EU that's now economically unyielding, politically autocratic and worryingly militaristic. That doesn't negate our exposure to wider neoliberal, corporate and oppressive forces. But it certainly suggests a more progressive and promising direction of travel.


Thursday, 4 October 2018

Propaganda Blitz - a review

Propaganda Blitz, the latest book from Media Lens editors David Edwards and David Cromwell, offers penetrating insights and radical new perspectives for those increasingly distrustful of 'mainstream' media.

It should also be required reading for many liberal-minded journalists still deeply conditioned and compromised by institutional notions of 'impartiality' and 'media freedom'.

The authors' special dedication to John Pilger provides immediate notice about the kind of truly independent, fearless and power-challenging journalism Media Lens have spent the last two decades trying to promote.

Pilger, in turn, offers a glowing foreword, praising ML's "remarkable" efforts: "My impression is that they have shattered a silence about corporate journalism."

In an excellent context-setting chapter, "Anatomy of a Propaganda Blitz", the authors consider the formation, timing, intensity, and outright vehemence of such "fast moving attacks", waged not only by the usual right-wing platforms, but, crucially, by those we might look to for more 'rational authentication' of a story or cause - the Guardian, BBC, Independent, Channel 4 News, and other 'dependable' left-liberal media.

Usefully, the authors list six key components of such propaganda assaults, typically based on: "allegations of dramatic new evidence"; "communicated with high emotional intensity and moral outrage"; "apparently supported by an informed corporate media/academic/expert consensus"; "reinforced by damning condemnation of anyone daring to question the apparent consensus"; "often generated with fortuitous timing"; and "characterised by tragicomic dissonance".

From Iraq and Afghanistan to Libya, Syria and Yemen, our corporate-establishment media has provided a mask for high state criminality, while launching indignant tirades against those 'guilty' of no higher 'crime' than resisting such wicked wars and mass deception. For Media Lens:   
"It is astonishing but true that, time and again, in the pages ahead, you will see corporate journalism judging the mere words of the likes of [Russell] Brand and [Jeremy] Corbyn as far more morally despicable than the actions of 'mainstream' politicians that result in mass death. How can words that offend be worse than action that kill?"
In effect, they ask, "why are the US and UK - authors of truly historic crimes - forever depicted as ethical agencies with a moral 'responsibility to protect' suffering people in other countries?"

This "illusion of informed consensus" is vital in serving to normalise the abnormal - the calamities of neoliberal economics and corporate-driven climate change; in helping people to think the unthinkable - that 'intervention', perpetual war and mass killing of 'others' is morally justifiable; and in keeping the most bounded of society even more safely boundaried - 'listen to higher reason', to an 'all-knowing us', there can be 'no realistic change' under radical left leaders.   

Much of what purports to be authentic news, analysis and comment would be rejected outright by an increasingly suspicious public were it not for that all-important liberal consensus, not only serving to normalise the establishment line, but in relentlessly demonising and caricaturing serious dissenters like Chomsky, Pilger and, of course, Media Lens themselves.

Indeed, the virulent responses of many liberal journalists towards ML's consistently rational writing and courteous challenges helps illustrate the increasingly threatened 'status' of the entire liberal media estate.

Having set out their contextual stall, the authors proceed with detailed case studies of the propaganda blitz.

In "Killing Corbyn", we see how a Guardian and wider liberal elite went from indulging Corbyn as 'token left muse' in 2015, to casting him as dangerous, toxic liability. Never, as ML show, has there been a more vociferous campaign to tarnish, undermine and break a prospective British prime minister.

At one point, senior correspondents "virtually queued up to smear Corbyn", acting like "trophy hunters" in their quest to hunt down the damning story of his unsuitability.

Readers will also appreciate here ML's reminders of the tortured u-turns Guardian-styled leftists like Owen Jones and George Monbiot were forced to perform in recognition of Corbyn's astonishing performance at the 2017 general election. 

Ugly attacks by the same "intellectual herd" have been launched against other 'dangerously outspoken' figures, like Julian Assange, Hugo Chavez and even Russell Brand. This chapter tracks the gloating amusement of lofty Guardianista like Luke Harding, Jonathan Freedland and Suzanne Moore over Assange's painful incarceration, their petty sneering at Brand's 'cranky' radicalism, and superior soundings on  Chavez's 'narcissism' - the latter, a much-used totem, note ML, for smearing other 'out-of-the-box' dissidents.

Here we see the "staggering toxicity and irrationality of the 'mainstream' press". Would "all-knowing" Guardian 'stars' like Martin Kettle and Hadley Freeman ever use such terms in describing Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton or Tony Blair? 

In one of a series of 'intermissions', the authors ask us to contrast the visceral hatred reserved for people like Assange, a true journalist who exposed mass Western crimes, with that of historic war criminal George W Bush, recently celebrated by the Guardian as a "paragon of virtue".

And the dissonance only continues. "For the BBC, it simply does not register as in any way controversial that Obama bombed seven Muslim countries. That's just what US presidents do." This is just simple understanding that 'our' states and leaders are still the default 'good guys'.

Dutiful media silence over 'our' crimes is, likewise, riddled with complicit omission over the crimes of murderous allies. A searing chapter, thus, asks why so much of the public still knows so little about the basics of Palestinian suffering.

Where, the authors ask, is the core context noting the historic removal of 750,000 people in 1948, "the continuation of Plan Dalet's ethnic cleansing", and the multiple violations of international law being imposed on an occupied, bombed and brutalised people by a colonial, apartheid state?

"All such truth is absent from BBC reporting, despite [Jeremy] Bowen's claim that it is being repeatedly reported." The "taboo fact" rarely discussed here is the "intense pressure...brought to bear on the media by the powerful pro-Israel lobby", and the ease with which such media fail to resist.

Also included here are ML's telling exchanges with ITN's Bill Neely in which he wavers in calling Israel's mass assaults on Gaza terror attacks.

Another example of cautious liberal service was the Guardian's removal of investigative journalist Nafeez Ahmed after writing an impressively detailed piece on Israel's appropriation of Gaza' off-shore gas resources.

One of the central strengths of this book is its efforts to connect the interacting forces of imperialist geopolitics, rampant militarism and corporate appropriation, showing how a timely propaganda blitz serves to 'validate' invasion, conquest and resource theft.

The ensuing chapter on Libya, thus, draws on the prior subterfuge of Iraqi 'WMD' as the pretext for invasion and control of oil, with the repeated willingness of a liberal interventionist media helping to legitimate the same terror, larceny and anarchy visited by Nato upon Libya.

Were no lessons learned here from Iraq? It seems not. The same mass media blitz, by then well exposed, was, shamelessly, re-launched, with Guardian stalwarts like Simon Tisdall and Andrew Rawnsley leading the way for interventionist duty in 2011.

As with Obama, Cameron and Sarkozy, no journalist has ever been called to account for propagating this media blitz, this assistance in mass killing, civil destruction and human upheaval.

Even after a 2016 Commons Report, concluding that there was no actual evidence of Gaddafi's 'mass rape orders', or 'genocidal intent', and thus not even any pretext 'case' for invading, a supplicant media can still make coy references to 'Hillary's war' as some kind of noble cause, and without the slightest pause for critical self-reflection. 

And so it has been with Syria. From the outset of this conflict, the same liberal circle have feigned outrage over 'our interventionist failings'. All this, note the authors, while the US and UK, joined by proxy Gulf allies, have poured billions into arming jihadi 'rebels' and running clandestine campaigns to effect regime change.

No part of the media has played the instant blame game more zealously than the liberal press. The authors cite three key cases - Houla, Ghouta and Khan Sheikoun - where liberal journalists moved into "classic propaganda blitz mode", refusing to await corroboration, or countenance the idea that jihadi forces may well have produced/used chemical weapons or/and staged such 'attacks' for propaganda purposes. It's here we find particular value in the earlier noted 'six key features of a propaganda blitz'.

ML also chart a notable BBC 'Today' discussion where World Affairs Editor John Simpson and presenter Nick Robinson joined former State Department official Dr Karen von Hippel in lamenting Obama's 'failure to intervene', a key mythical line in how this particular blitz has played out.

It's also useful to consider how this fits the wider propaganda blitz on Putin and 'our growing weakness' against Russia, a McCarthyite narrative helping to inhibit critical questioning and disguise the vast extent of Western crimes.

Which brings us to Yemen. Here, the authors lay out the whole sinister scale of Britain's arms supplies and political support for a Saudi regime waging genocidal terror and starvation on Yemeni civilians. "Is there any clearer sign of the corrupt nature of UK foreign policy?" 

The continued flow of UK cluster bombs, killing Yemeni children, is but one example of a state determined to put military profit before human suffering.

Across The Times, Telegraph and Guardian, "armchair warriors" like David Aaronovitch, Nick Cohen, Oliver Kamm and John Rentoul scorn 'misty-eyed leftists' who 'fail to live in the real world' of such 'necessary intervention'. The very prevalence of such apologists says so much about the reactionary state of the British press.

But it's the stark silence of the BBC that's been most vital in keeping UK crimes in Yemen safely shielded from the public. While government ministers squirm and deceive to keep British-Saudi links protected, the BBC has failed to provide any serious or consistent coverage of Britain's dark role. Such are the specious claims to BBC 'impartiality'.

Citing research by historian Mark Curtis, ML also point to the 'revolving door' between the BBC and major arms companies. For example, Sir Roger Carr, Chairman of BAE Systems was Vice Chair of the (recently discontinued) BBC Trust. How, they ask, could this not suggest a major conflict of interest?

As both Curtis and ML note, the number of BBC reports on Yemen has been risible, in contrast to Syria, an official enemy. And where Yemen is 'reported', the issue of UK arms exports is studiously avoided.

It's truly remarkable to think that the UK is deeply engaged in this savage conflict without most of the population even knowing. Britain is, effectively, at war in Yemen, murdering civilians and starving children, and its not even major daily news. This is the real service of British state media.

These damning indictments lead neatly into a more detailed review of the BBC as a propaganda machine. The authors relate here how BBC directors have become evermore wary of ML's own probing work. 

Long-standing ML readers will, of course, be familiar with the ludicrous dismissals, Kafkaesque complaints system, and almost farcical BBC-speak described here. Proclaiming noble purpose, ex-Head of News Helen Boaden, thus, memorably claimed: "I always think that impartiality is in our DNA - it's part of the BBC's genetic make-up." 

Yet, as consistently shown, the BBC's true purpose is to support power, most notably Western foreign policy. Indeed, as noted here, there's no essential difference between the BBC and Murdoch's Sky News, in terms of editorial values and the hierarchy of news.

BBC directors, senior editors and like-minded appointees ensure continuity of an entrenched establishment network, upholding the military, monarchy and a resolute class system. As one insider at BBC News comments, "when you walk into a BBC newsroom you can see and hear the privilege."

Hailing the same lofty 'BBC values', North America Correspondents Jon Sopel and Nick Bryant also help reinforce accepted notions of US exceptionalism in their gushing reports. John Simpson, likewise, believes that the US is the 'consensually accepted global policeman'.

British militarism itself has no greater advocate than the BBC. One highly revealing example here describes how a report by Defence Correspondent Jonathan Beale virtually echoed British Army Chief of Staff, General Sir Nick Carter's 'fears' of a looming 'Russian threat', and amplifying Carter's calls for increased resources.

Beale's "raw propaganda" doesn't even bother to note "an 'alleged threat posed by Russia'; simply the 'threat posed by Russia.' This subtly insidious use of language occurs daily on 'impartial' BBC News."

The corruption of BBC language is matched only by routine omission of public information. In a further case study, we see how the media failed to convey the dark implications of The Health and Social Care Act (2012), Tory legislation which paved the way for systematic dismantling of the National Health Service in England.

Denounced by 27 leading medical organisations, as complex, costly and a serious threat to life, the government, nonetheless, 'opened the market' for profit-driven companies like Virgin Care. Many corporate-connected Lords and MPs also stood to benefit financially. Yet, where did the BBC do its public duty in covering the calamity, the multiple protests, or exposing this network of vested interests?

Here, ML reveal some interesting interconnections between top BBC executives and the private healthcare system. A more prosaic reason for the BBC's apparent indifference to the story may be that "many senior BBC staff do not themselves depend on the NHS", such is the extent of private healthcare perks. It's also likely that the BBC, in answering to government ministers and fearing the repercussions of cuts, carefully refrained from making this the leading story it should have been. Whatever the case, suggest ML, the country's main broadcaster failed in its supposed remit to inform the public on a critical issue.

The BBC also played its full establishment part in a propaganda blitz to halt Scottish independence in 2014. "Centralised power hates uncertainty, especially any threat to its grip on the political, economic and financial levers that control society." 

Thus, as the 'alarming prospect' of a Yes victory in the 18 September referendum became clear, an entire UK media, including the Guardian, went on emergency alert, lamenting the possibility of a broken Union. In the course of this media 'blitzkrieg', Scotland's voters were, both, 'love-bombed' with appeals to stay, and bombarded with headline 'warnings' about the 'dire consequences' of leaving.

An academic study by Professor John Robertson, demonstrating the extent of the bias, was, likewise, "subjected to a concerted BBC attempt to rubbish both the work and its author." ML provide an insightful account here of the BBC's intimidation of Robertson, as aired during a subsequent Scottish Parliamentary Committee hearing over media coverage of the events.

Many pro-indy readers will also appreciate ML's efforts to record the squalid political-media moves to buy-off voters with a late 'promise' of 'enhanced powers': "This was establishment sophistry and a deeply cynical attempt at manipulation of the voting public."

The lamentable 'journalism' of the BBC's Nick Robinson, including his disgraceful misreporting of a press conference exchange with Alex Salmond, is also neatly dissected here. 

Amid all these examples of establishment-media service, there is no greater problem for corporate-compliant journalism than the "inconvenient emergency" of climate collapse.

In a truly alarming chapter, ML lay out the brutal realities of gathering climate chaos: the record temperatures, rapid melting and increasingly catastrophic weather events.

There is no room for doubt. The science is now emphatically in. Emergency action is required. And yet, the very organs of information that should be leading in this momentous task have been found hopelessly wanting:
"To put this in stark perspective, Professor John Schellnhuber, one of the world's leading climate scientists, observes that 'the difference between two degrees and four degrees' of warming is human civilisation'. We are literally talking about the end of human life as we know it. And the corporate media, politicians, business and modern society carry on regardless. If this doesn't equate to madness, we don't know what does."
And the madness driving this apocalypse, the specific two words our mighty media consistently fails to mention? Neoliberal capitalism, the most rampant system of planetary and human destruction in recorded history.

With the Doomsday Clock sitting at two minutes to midnight, now signifying not only nuclear but climate catastrophe, warn ML, this should be dominant, daily news.

Yet, beyond token mentions, the BBC has failed to give climate change "the prominent coverage it deserves." Again, the public interest has been subverted in dutiful deference to higher power: "In effect, the BBC is firmly on the side of the state and corporate forces that have been fighting a decades-long, heavily funded prevent the radical measures needed to avoid climate chaos."   

ML also question the BBC's prioritised coverage of climate events, such as Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Louisiana, while much greater flood devastation swept South Asia, leaving 1400 dead and 41 million displaced. 

And this relegation of the world's poorest as a news item reflects the much more systematic issue of how climate chaos must be framed: "Tackling climate change means tackling global inequality. This means a deep-rooted commitment not just to 'a redistribution of wealth, but also a recalibration of global power'."

That's not an option for big business. Humanity must be sacrificed for profit. Neoliberal 'realities' must prevail. So, corporate elites go on burning the planet. And a powerful US-centred propaganda lobby ensures that little changes.

Here the authors highlight a rare, bravura speech by US Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, describing a "carefully built apparatus of lies" peddled by sleek public relations firms spouting phoney-fronted climate denial 'science'. ML also note evidence of increased "dark money" lobby funding, as traditional conservative donors seek to avoid negative publicity.

How, in an age of such technological 'know-how' and assumed 'progress', could the human race find itself so humbled by nature and facing literal extinction? This existential question posed by ML takes us to another more basic query: why, with a now 97 percent scientific consensus on climate change, is there an actual decrease in the level of climate change reporting?

Again, the authors point to strong evidence of 'mainstream' suppression of the climate issue. While the actual science may be reasonably covered by some of the 'better' media, the systematic causes of climate failure - neoliberal-driven 'growth' and consumption - remain a taboo area for critical media attention.

How likely are many journalists even ready to think about how the media employing them form part of the very same corporate system that's killing the planet? "The media are, in effect, the public relations wing of a planetary-wide network of exploitation, abuse and destruction."

And the liberal wing of that media network are playing a particularly vital part in keeping the core causes and modes of resistance safely contained. Until organs like the Guardian dispense with hypocritical green-washing, and abandon their own structural links to big business, such 'eco crusaders' will only continue fuelling climate collapse.                 

This sobering illustration of liberal complicity takes readers to a final chapter on the backlash against citizen journalism, hyped claims of 'fake news', the disturbing pretext this all provides for the purging of progressive sites by social media corporations, and the case for a truly independent media.

As the authors point out, 'fake news' is really a propaganda meme, a promoted construct, a means of reinforcing the 'mainstream's own 'status' and clamping down on alternative 'pretenders'.

More often, and much more dangerously, fake news is really power-fed and elite-serving 'news', essentially spoon-fed "talking points" from "controlled sources" which corporate media routinely pass off as 'credible' information.

Another neat 'intermission' here shows how "salaried corporate dissidents" like Owen Jones, George Monbiot and Mehdi Hasan still stand up for the 'mainstream'. So often, such writers are more ready to castigate honest campaigning outfits like Media Lens than challenge their own culpable employers. 

Where, ML ask, is their critical questioning of the corporate media system, most notably its liberal-management front? "By using their very real media corporate power to undermine our credibility, corporate dissidents protect their own reputations and that of their employers - it is good for their standing and sits extremely well with their editors."

Are Media Lens, some may ask, being unrealistic here? Wouldn't a 'more pragmatic', 'play the game', work 'with and within' approach yield better results? Commendably, the authors "strongly disagree."

Yes, with resolute attempts to expose dominant media comes the likelihood of greater counter-attacks. Yet: 
"this is no bad thing. In the process of attacking, supposedly liberal corporate media like the Guardian, the Independent and the BBC are forced to drop the pretence that they are independent, impartial and progressive. They reflexively leap to the defence of the establishment and thus reveal their true role as powerful supporters of the status quo."
This is what such media really mean by "objectivity." Thus, note ML, if asked to describe the Iraq war as a 'mistake' or a 'crime', the BBC's Andrew Marr can't say the latter, "but he can say", after the fall of Baghdad, "that Tony Blair 'stands as a stronger prime minister as a result'....Journalists are allowed to lose their 'objectivity' this way, but not that way - not in the way that offends the powerful." 

As damning other examples of power-serving bias in this brimming book show, we are, ultimately, faced with this crucial reality: that "the corporate media system is the key obstacle to progressive change.

Liberal notions of 'insider reform' are not only an illusion, but a vital hegemonic conceit. The prevailing corporate system is incapable of delivering real human progress. And its liberal media arm is only helping to maintain the delusion.

Indeed, the current #BoycottTheGuardian campaign, encouraged by ML, is one manifestation of that growing realisation.   

What's required, ML conclude, is a media rooted in a real politics of compassion, a media that doesn't place 'our' lives, interests and well-being above 'theirs'. In that pursuit, as the authors have admirably demonstrated, the primary motivation should not be about career, reward, ego, status, approval or even 'duty', it should be about "joy in itself", an activism "genuinely rooted in a desire to share with others, to support others, to increase their happiness and relieve their suffering."  

In reading this absorbing text, it's hard to understate the contribution Medial Lens, a small two person operation, has made in raising the bar of critical media enquiry, and in providing an example to others in this field. John Pilger's fine words at the start of this book should be read, thus, not only as a prized commendation of their work, but as an illustration of their invaluable stimulus to a greater, caring, sharing and truly independent media. 

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Time for Corbyn to stand up to his detractors and the manufactured media 'crisis'

As the media manufactured 'crisis' of antisemitism within Labour reaches 'fever pitch', it really is time for Jeremy Corbyn to end the futile appeasement and confront those determined to break him.

An entire herd media have now converted what should be a manageable 'problem' for Labour into a 'major issue', turned it into a 'political furore', and helped elevate it to an 'existential crisis'. 

In typical 'concerned' pose, Toby Helm at the Observer/Guardian 'laments' Labour's 'failure to be getting on with the important issues': 
Instead, the past week has seen Labour monopolise the headlines for all the wrong reasons. The only issue on which it has made waves is the interminable and increasingly tortuous row over antisemitism in its own ranks, and the resulting near-total breakdown in its relations with the British Jewish community.
In effect, the media create, generate and hype the headlines, then blame Corbyn for 'monopolising' them.

This, in turn, encourages even more shrill headlines, readily fed by the coup-makers, such as Tom Watson with his fatuous claim that the party is about to “disappear into a vortex of eternal shame and embarrassment.” All too dutifully, the Guardian continue reporting this cringing hyperbole without question.
Lamentably, much of the media onslaught against Corbyn has been given added impetus by a 'woke left' supposedly there to defend him. Leading this element is Owen Jones. Following Corbyn's deeply-mistaken Guardian article, apparently intended to reassure his detractors, Jones rushed to laud him: 
Corbyn telling the anti-Semitic fringe where to go. And as he says: “Anyone who denies that this has surfaced within our party is clearly actually wrong and contributing to the problem.
In truth, it's people like Jones who are contributing to the problem for Corbyn, by giving the charges against him and Labour even more undue airing and 'significance'. All of which only helps in distracting attention from the associated aim of the Corbyn-destroying lobby: protecting Israel and negating Palestinian rights.  

As Ali Abunimah responds to Jones: 
Everyone can agree that racist “fringe” is not welcome in party like . But target of Israel lobby’s fake anti-Semitism smear is not a fringe that was always already marginal but rather mainstream support for Palestinian rights/opposition to Israeli racism and apartheid
Echoing Jones, Aaron Bastani and others, Barnaby Raine employs similar seemingly well meaning, yet deeply problematic, language in talking-up the "battle" and "war" against antisemitism inside Labour and the wider society. We can, Raine insists, criticize Israel/support Palestine, while 'tackling the scourge' of antisemitism. 

In a searing response (39:19 into video), Norman Finkelstein dismisses Raine's 'walking and chewing gum at the same time' line. And Finkelstein is, indeed, correct here in refusing to accept the very premise of Labour's 'deep problem' with antisemitism, and the language of 'battle' and 'war' being used to 'eradicate' and 'stamp it out'. 

This kind of vocabulary only gives added weight and encouragement to those making such contrived claims of an 'endemic problem' and 'crisis' within Labour. And it's all to no avail in helping to protect Corbyn. As Finkelstein knows all too well, these pro-Israel organisations and lobby groups will never be satisfied. They want nothing less than Corbyn's political scalp. For Finkelstein, Corbyn should simply tell the truth, say what's right, and face them down, rather than engage in the utterly mistaken appeasement he turned to in his Guardian piece.

The immediate wave of hostility to Corbyn's article is proof positive that nothing will get in the way of the lobby's determination to remove him. As the Jewish Labour Movement declared
Today, other than another article bemoaning a situation of the party’s own making, nothing has changed. There is no trust left. We find ourselves asking once again for action, not words.
Stephen Pollard, editor of the Jewish Chronicle, also joined the immediate condemnation:
So Corbyn’s great move is a piece in the Guardian saying our worries are overheated rhetoric and all would be well if only we could just talk. And not a word of contrition about anything except process. He really is shameless
As Iain Macwhirter concluded, in response to Pollard's brutal dismissal:
This confirms that there is nothing that Corbyn could conceivably say that would satisfy his pro-Israeli critics. Any concession will be seen as a confirmation of anti-semitic perfidy. [You] can’t appease a smear campaign.
Likewise, the party's mistaken capitulation to 'sacred figures' like Margaret Hodge only serves to embolden the entire Friends of Israel lobby.  

Rather than the kind of useless political 'triangulation' urged by Jones and the Momentum playmakers, and in assertive resistance to the unforgiving plotters around the Jewish Labour Movement, Corbyn should adopt the more direct and progressive guidance of Jewish Voice for Labour.     

In a brilliant stand-your-ground article, taking apart the entire liberal-posturing narrative and craven media compliance, Manchester Jewish Action for Palestine also articulate the central issues here:
As Jewish people in Manchester, England, we resent the despicable racism shown towards the Palestinians by Guardian stalwarts such as Jonathan Freedland, Polly Toynbee, Jessica Elgott, Eddie Izzard, Nick Cohen, Marina Hyde and Gaby Hinsliff among others, all saturating comment sections on mainstream news websites with attacks designed to bring down the UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, and to protect Israel from accountability. The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Anti-Semitism definition guidelines the Labour Party are correctly omitting, are designed by Israeli propagandists to aid their many mass lobby attempts to stop international solidarity with the Palestinians and to deny Palestinians the right to express the nature of Israel’s 70 years of violence and racism towards them. We call on everyone to see that creating a largely-mythical anti-Semitism ‘crisis’ in the Labour Party is one of the few tools left to ailing and desperate establishment hacks wanting to smear Corbyn and maintain UK support for Israel, no matter how many Palestinians the Israeli army slaughters, or how many houses, schools, and hospitals Israeli jets destroy in Gaza. In the face of this, Zionist groups with a history of uncritical support for Israel claim that Corbyn presents an existential threat to British Jews? This is obscene, hypocritical scaremongering.
I urge everyone to read this full, exemplary piece. In similar vein, I commend the superb, and timely-titled, article by Lindsey GermanThere’s only one way to stop the witch-hunt against Jeremy Corbyn – stand up to it.  

Thursday, 12 July 2018

World Cup window on Russian realities and British hypocrisy

With an outstandingly successful World Cup in Russia now drawing to a close, the praise and enjoyment of so many global visitors contrasts with the awkward and hypocritical absence of British dignitaries.

Despite the England team lasting out till the semi-finals, neither Theresa May, her ministers or any member of the royal family attended the event.

Lamentably, nor did any member of the opposition - a perhaps more understandable avoidance by Jeremy Corbyn given the hateful media and political backlash he would have inevitably faced.

The official government reason for the boycott, we're reminded, was the 'Novichok attacks'.

May and Home Secretary Sajid Javid have placed Russia directly responsible for the poisoning of five individuals in and around Salisbury, including, now, the sad death of Dawn Sturgess.

With the police now treating this as a murder inquiry, linked to the original poisoningsDefence Secretary Gavin Williamson wasted no time in raising the political stakes, again pointing the finger at Russia“The simple reality is that Russia has committed an attack on British soil which has seen the death of a British citizen. That is something that I think the world will unite with us in actually condemning.”

Yet, to date, not a single piece of substantive evidence has been provided to the public proving any such "simple reality".

The actual truth behind this whole murky affair may be a long time emerging, But it doesn't take Sherlock Holmes to see the propaganda opportunity for Britain in its efforts to vilify Putin and Russia. And what could have been more 'timely' than this latest tragic development right in the middle of Russia's showcase World Cup?

Whatever one's view of Putin, is there anyone in this situation less likely to order such 'attacks', or wish for such adverse publicity? One can only imagine Putin's displeasure in discovering that some 'in-house' or errant element had carried out such actions 'on his behalf' or for 'Russia's benefit'. 

One of the more facile variations put forward here is that Putin does these kind of things just to 'sow confusion', or to encourage 'multi-conflicting' narratives to keep the Western public 'fixated on Russia'. All part of the 'Putin playbook', all-knowing liberals tell us. Again, the resort to slogan charges rather than evidence-based proof.

Beyond such limp conjecture, any half-savvy member of the public could come up with half-a-dozen more plausible scenarios and set of motivations. 

Alongside the UK state's unproven story of Russian culpability sits the vacuous conformity of British journalism. Any 'quality' media would be all over this story, seeking to mine the deeper truths. Instead, an effective silence prevails. Where are all the Pulitzer-spirited investigations?

This should be a golden moment for investigative journalism. Yet, there's been little more than sheep-like repetition of government statements and, shamefully, obedient adherence to government D-Notice-type prohibitions on reporting about the Skripals. 

It also now transpires that Newsnight's senior diplomatic correspondent Mark Urban met with Sergei Skripal on several occasions in 2017, before he was poisoned. What, we may reasonably wonder, as Craig Murray does, was the 'scope' of Urban's 'research', and why does his 'understanding' of the Salisbury events seem to fit so closely with the official line?

It's remarkable how readily the BBC accept and amplify the standard narrative. Even while security correspondents like Frank Gardner mention competing explanations, there's no serious scrutiny of the UK's deeply suspect claims, silences and omissions.

British deceit and subterfuge over Salisbury is matched only by the hypocrisy of its selective support for other brutal states. Imagine if the World Cup finals, with English or other UK participants, were being played in Saudi Arabia or Israel. Would we be seeing such 'moral' non-attendance?

Unlike the unverified claims against Russia over Salisbury, here are two states with decisively proven records of murdering innocent civilians in Yemen and Gaza. Yet there's been no major condemnation of the slaughter carried out by these regimes. Nor will our lofty media pursue and expose the dark part the UK plays in such killing, through arming, training and placating them.

Britain condemns Russia's human rights record, but would never employ the same language or punishments against Israel or Saudi Arabia. What's the likelihood of UK/Western sanctions being placed on these serial violators of international law?

In similar vein, Britain castigates leaders like Assad for 'killing his own people'. Yet, why is the ill-treatment of one's 'own' populace deemed so much more heinous than the bombing and killing of foreign 'others'? Does this not count as abuse of human rights? Is this not part of any country's human rights record?

Continuing its imperialist crimes, Britain has recently helped murder a million souls in Iraq, left Afghanistan in chaos, bombed Libya back to the dark ages, and fueled regime change catastrophe in Syria.

It's not only the UK's backing of sundry despots, it's Britain's own murderous conduct around the globe that renders it unfit to lecture anyone on human rights. And it's a measure of the ever-assumed 'but we're the good guys' mantra in the West that you will almost never see or hear that description of Britain as a criminally active rogue state even suggested by our deeply-conditioned media.

Citing the shrill UK media commentary and coy insinuations over Russia's rights to host the event, Media Lens noted: "It would never occur to a Daily Mail/Guardian journalist that Britain and its leading allies might be considered 'less enlightened corners of the world', given their staggering record of selecting, installing, arming and otherwise supporting dictators in 'less enlightened corners', including Saudi Arabia as it devastates famine-stricken Yemen."

While Russia is being isolated and boycotted, the perpetrators of vast Western war crimes are approved and celebrated.

The BBC's Jeremy Vine and the Guardian's Andrew Rawnsley have just conducted expansive interviews with Madeleine Albright, in which she warned about the dark forces of fascism, Putin and the 'threat to Nato'. Yet, neither found time to challenge 'Maddy' on Nato's own aggressive build up across the Baltic and Balkan states, or its criminality in places like Libya. 

Nor did Vine or Rawnsley  think it appropriate to mention Albright's own high criminal part in the elimination of half a million Iraqi children.

While such villains are feted, anyone questioning the prevailing anti-Russia narrative is deemed a 'Putin apologist'. Such is the darkening climate of liberal McCarthyism. For Media Lensthe Guardian's own gushing editorials on Nato suggests "a corporate newspaper that has now fallen under a kind of ideological military occupation." 

Following Russia's elimination from the World Cup, Nato tweeted its own approval that the four remaining sides were all from Nato states.

In this 'Manichean World Cup', it's 'our' team of 'benign Nato protectors' up against the 'malign Russian menace'.

Inconveniently, while a posturing British establishment and Nato-friendly media have snubbed and demonised Russia, the World Cup has offered fans and observers much more positive insights on Russian life and society. 

England manager Gareth Southgate also seemed averse to the pre-contest scaremongering, offering high praise to Russia over its well organised tournament and hospitable treatment of his team.  

Bringing commendably balanced comment and illuminating images from Russia, Alex Thomson
offered this further key reminder over the poisoning story back home: "Worth noting at this point that the British Govt has yet to provide any evidence connecting Novichok poisoning of Skripals to the Russian Govt, still less the latest contamination."

Thomson also tweeted a moving image of Volgograd (once Stalingrad), in commemoration of the millions of Russians sacrificed in the heroic battle against Nazi Germany: "And at the setting of the sun we might pause and remember Stalingrad. To no other place on earth does humanity owe such a debt."

Here, at least, was a welcome window on the real complexities of Russia, past and present, rather than the 'looming threat' posed in David Dimbleby's pre-World Cup propaganda piece, Putin's Russia, in which he warned: "these are dangerous times for Russia, and dangerous times for Russia are dangerous times for us." 

As England prepared for their semi-final match against Croatia, a jingoistic Independent pondered the 'diplomatic problem' for the English players having to shake hands with Putin if they made it to the final.

Imagine the same media writing about the dilemma for those players having to meet with Theresa May on their return, a leader currently assisting in the annihilation of Yemen.

With England, rather than 'football', coming home, media-hyped 'English expectation' and 'English entitlement' has now given way to more reflective 'English valiance'. England at play, it seems, is England at war, all part of the same metanarrative of an imperious, mystical and righteous nation, even in defeat: 'our game', 'our bravery on foreign fields', 'our right' to decide who is friend or foe.      

Again, though, it's worth remembering just how much a grandstanding elite and toxic media help feed such notions of 'English exceptionalism'.  

It's good, and all too human, to get caught up in the passion of the 'beautiful game'. Nor should we be in any doubt about the obvious connections between sport and politics, notably the ways in which they are most often used to serve powerful interests and ideas. The point is to understand how we are being played.

In a welcome tweet, Gary Lineker has taken Boris Johnson to task for jumping on the political bandwagon by hailing England as returning heroes, reminding us that, as Foreign Secretary, he had actually pushed for England's withdrawal from the contest. 

As this most memorable World Cup reaches its exciting end game, the 'noble absence' of the British establishment will have been no loss to the wider-watching world. Hopefully, it will have helped highlight their gross hypocrisy and the enduring crimes of the British state.