Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Libya's 'deliverance'

What price the 'liberation' of Libya? 

Unknown thousands of deaths, mostly civilians?  A country's infrastructure decimated, including hospitals, electricity stations and oxygen plants?  The spectre of a growing humanitarian catastrophe?

One is reminded here of Madeleine Albright's now infamous comment on the over half a million deaths from Western-imposed sanctions on Iraq: "the price is worth it."

And so it is for Western leaders and their media apologists over the 'necessary sacrifice' of so many Libyans and their society.     

Many atrocities have been carried out by both pro and anti-Gaddafi forces.  Alex Thomson of Channel 4 News has witnessed the horror scenes at Abu Salim hospital, finding stomach-churning evidence of patients murdered and left to die.  One lucky survivor was a small boy, the son of Gaddafi supporters, shot in the back and saved only through the intervention of the Red Cross.  Admirably, coming across another terrifying situation, Thomson and his crew managed to talk 'rebel' forces out of killing nine Nigerian men falsely assumed to be Gaddafi-hired mercenaries.

Rare moments of journalistic honesty and compassion amid so much carnage and propaganda.

Yet, where, elsewhere, is the big headline reportage on the West's own principal part in all this murder and despair?    

One cannot presume to claim here that many deaths and much suffering would not have arisen from the war of opposition on Gaddafi.

But we can reasonably suggest that most of the deaths and terror would much more likely not have occurred had Nato and the West kept its militarist, profit-driven nose out of the conflict.

As one can see from every BBC report, to date, we have the predictable highlighting of Gaddafi killings, while rebel atrocities go either unreported or treated as war-situation 'reprisals'.  

But even that discrepancy is secondary in scale to the more blatant omission of Nato atrocities, or the fact that Western bombing is in itself a gross war crime.

Craig Murray notes the core truth of Nato's violated mandate:
"It is worth reminding everyone something never mentioned, that UNSCR 1973 which established the no fly zone and mandate to protect civilians had “the aim of facilitating dialogue to lead to the political reforms necessary to find a peaceful and sustainable solution”.
Was that "aim" ever remotely part of the West's agenda? Has Nato's real strategy - to bomb Gaddafi into submission in order to implement a newer, better Western-serving regime - ever been on our 'critical' media's radar?   How was such a duplicitous distortion of the term 'humanitarian intervention' ever allowed to go unheeded?

Here's just a small sample of liberal editorials rationalising Nato's murderous actions.

"Nato was right to take limited action to avert a bloodbath five months ago, and we are duty bound to help the Libyans rebuild their country now. Liberal intervention is not perfect but, as we said when the uprising began, it is, on balance, better than doing nothing."
From the Scottish Sunday Herald
"Although the fighting is now almost over, challenges lie ahead and the NTC will need huge international support to overcome them. There will still be setbacks and disappointments but one important point has emerged. Unlike the West’s interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq, which exacerbated existing problems this Nato-led operation in Libya was handled with a light touch and perhaps it will provide a blueprint for the future eradication of dictators like Gaddafi."
"But it can now reasonably be said that in narrow military terms it worked, and that politically there was some retrospective justification for its advocates as the crowds poured into the streets of Tripoli to welcome the rebel convoys earlier this week."
From the Sunday Observer
"The motives of Cameron and Sarkozy, as they first ordered their planes into action, seemed more humanitarian and emotional than cynically calculated. There was no urgent reason in realpolitik to oust Gaddafi as winter passed. His last 10 years in power had been quieter than his first berserk three decades. Labour home secretaries spooned his soup and drank his wine. Tony Blair embraced him. Libya's oil contracts were not at issue (just as they aren't today). The survival of Gaddafi's regime may have been a moral affront, but it was one among many. No: what sent British jets across the Mediterranean was a perceived need to save lives.
Again, not a solitary word in any of these missives about Nato's actual crimes, their indiscriminate killing of civilians or their true, expedient motives to secure Libya as a regional prize.  

Besides the spurious case for 'humanitarian intervention' by 'pragmatic leftists' like Juan Cole, some on the more activist left have also engaged in a seemingly misguided calculus on how the 'new regime' will, despite heavy Western imperialist involvement, be 'moderately better' than the old one.
"The government that now follows will be less oppressive and more democratic than the one it ousted, and it will probably be less sectional than the Qadhafi regime.  It would be hard for the coming government to do worse than Qadhafi." 
One wonders.   While denouncing Nato, Seymour's 'no tears for Gaddafi' argument is based on a realpolitik-type analysis of how the National Transitional Council (NTC) will now work with its Western sponsors to cultivate populist legitimacy.  On the surface, it's a sober assessment of how Gaddafi's ouster, albeit effected and overseen by the West, provides encouraging opportunities for a more proto-democratic order.   

The situaton in Libya is, of course, still highly fluid and subject to genuine demands for revolutionary outcomes.  Yet, are we really to assume that, 'humanitarian mission achieved', this Western-rebel assembly will now courteously stand aside, leaving ordinary Libyans to build any kind of progressive constitution, resource-owning economy or socialistic society? 

Without holding any brief for Gaddafi, the incoming NTC - led by ex-CIA-linked and royalist figures, installed by Nato's warmongers and instructed by the usual coterie of neoliberal/IMF carpetbaggers - promises no serious improvement for most Libyans.

The West's key positioning in Libya, now entrenched in NTC understandings of how it should govern,  not only provides a bulwark to the promises of a spreading Arab Spring, it locks Libya, politically, economically and militarily into a stranglehold dependency on the West.  It's a de facto occupation.

And, again, that occupation has come at a terrible human price

With Nato now pledging an unflinching turkey-shoot finale against the city of Sirte, we see how Western 'interventionists', from hawk right to an assorted liberal left, seem either indifferent to, or only remotely concerned by, the actual, bloody loss of lives involved.  

Such is the cold, rational message of how the 'dictators we abhor' must be removed, even if that results in regrettable numbers of dead, injured and traumatised people.          

In response to Richard Seymour, this Media Lens (message board) comment returns us to that key issue:
You wrote: 'It would be hard for the coming government to do worse than Qadhafi.'

"Our point is that the actions of the forces that are trying to create the 'coming government' have surely resulted in many more deaths than would have occured without the Western attack. The death toll from violence is surely in the thousands - the death toll from all causes as a result of the war will of course be even higher...We hold no candle for Gaddafi's dictatorship. Our point is that it is hard 'to do worse' than war, especially one imposed by foreign powers driven by greed."
Like Iraq, like Afghanistan, Libya and its 'liberated' people have already paid the highest of all prices for their 'deliverance' from Gaddafi. Now, as a broken, indentured, client state, beholden to their political-military-corporate masters, they are about to feel the harsh effects of what our media dutifully call 'Western-led reconstruction'.

As with all the other neutralised language of Western aggression and exploitation, such jargon hides a multitude of 'liberal interventionist' sins.  Which, as ever, proves the vital role of our default-line media, particularly its liberal variant, in conditioning the public for more 'necessary' wars and 'humanitarian' regime change.


Thursday, 25 August 2011

Guardian in its true war-rationalising colours

Another Western-inflicted regime change against another Arab or Muslim nation, another Guardian editorial serving, in its usual tortuous liberal way, to rationalise another corporate-rewarding aggression.

As the Guardian leader, Foreign policy: intervention after Libya, puts it:
"But it can now reasonably be said that in narrow military terms it worked..."
It's never delivered in Daily Mail or Sun-gloating style, but the Guardian's approval for Nato's annihilation of Libya is no less potent in its effect.

Citing Tony Blair as the defining figure of 'liberal interventionism', the Guardian explains that: 

"this was the idea that stronger states could and should use the means at their disposal, including, as a last resort, their military means, to protect the populations of failing, weak, or oppressive states."
The actual process, of course, isn't liberal intervention at all, but military-corporate intervention, legitimised by this kind of liberal-Guardian assent.

The very term 'liberal interventionism' serves a key agenda-defining purpose in setting the debate about whether and how 'we', the 'obvious good guys', should flex our 'our moral muscle'.

With that narrative comes all the liberal agonising necessary to help reach the end conclusion that, while murky issues remain, the bombing and overthrow of states 'we' dislike can be justified:   
"That does not mean that there will not be a case for intervention in the future, nor that we should stop trying to think these ideas through. Liberal intervention is neither discredited nor fully validated. Too many very different things were bundled together under its rubric. They need sorting out and Libya may help us to do so."
Yes, just like 'the lessons we learned' from Iraq; the idea that, with 'a little tweaking here and there', a little reflection on 'our mistakes', 'we' can get this invasion thing right. And, of course, Libya is just there to help us along in that noble task.

All of which helps pave the way for the next round of Western-directed bloodshed.

This piece should be preserved and cited as a precious example of liberal-Guardian apologetics.

Thankfully, beyond its hand-wringing editorial line, we find, from the Guardian's Seumas Milne, this more central truth about the West's real motives in Libya:
"If stopping the killing had been the real aim, Nato states would have backed a ceasefire and a negotiated settlement, rather than repeatedly vetoing both. Instead, after having lost serious strategic ground in the Arab revolutions, the Libyan war offered the US, Britain and France a chance to put themselves at the heart of the process while bringing to heel an unreliable state with the largest oil reserves in Africa."


Shocking conviction of Paul Donnachie

A truly disturbing guilty verdict has just been handed down in a Scottish court to a student whose only 'crime' was to mock an Israeli flag and vent his opposition to the state of Israel.

Paul Donnachie now awaits sentence for 'racially aggravated conduct'.

A statement condemning Sheriff MacNair's findings has been issued alongside a call to support Donnachie's appeal which is now underway.


Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Megrahi's evidence - awkward potential

With the current volatile situation in Libya, speculation is mounting over the future of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi.

On Monday night (22 August 2011), Newsnight Scotland (which breaks off from the main Newsnight at around 11pm) included an interesting interview with John Ashton who has been engaged in co-authoring a book with Megrahi called You are my Jury.

Ashton was asked if he'd spoken recently with Megrahi and answered that, no, he hadn't made contact for about a year.  Noting his anxiety over what may happen to him, Ashton said that Megrahi is still adamant that all the facts around the case should come out.

Ashton says that Megrahi remains determined to have the truth made public given the sacrifice he had to make in dropping his right to appeal.   Ashton is firmly of the view that neither Megrahi or Libya had anything to do with the Lockerbie bombing.  He promises that all Megrahi's evidence and "an awful lot more" will come out in the forthcoming book. 

All of which suggests very awkward questions for some elites and intelligence agencies in the West.  Watch this space.


Email to Jeremy Paxman and Newsnight on their coverage of Libya.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Poor people getting high

The four-year jail sentences handed-down to two teenagers convicted of trying to 'incite' a riot via their Facebook pages has been denounced by worried lawyers and human rights groups as a deeply disturbing turn to effective summary justice.

With that kind of growing concern, one might expect a strong liberal defence of commensurate sentencing from the Guardian's chief political editor Michael White.  Instead, he blogs:
"[F]our years in prison for trying to organise a riot in Northwich or Warrington (no one turned up) is a bit excessive. You normally have to kidnap someone or run them over while drunk to attract that sort of attention. Yet I'm not sorry at the thought that Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan (we must blame the parents for that name, but a non-custodial sentence is appropriate) and Jordan Blackshaw woke up in the slammer on Thursday remembering that, no, it's not all a bad dream. It could be like this for the next 18 months, lads. And what if that big bloke on the next floor takes a shine to you?
Mean? No. People write all sorts of really ugly and stupid things on Facebook, Twitter, email and other anti-social media platforms (including this one), and it's time they realised that they matter."
The "Facebook generation", as the condemning judge lumps them, may, indeed, have an inclination towards posting irresponsible content - and do beware, social networkers, what loose talk and hazardous sites one can stumble into on those pages.

Yet, here's White, supposedly more aware of those hazards, and the need for 'temperate Guardian language', apparently revelling in these draconian sentences while noting the prospect of illicit jail-place advances.

We should, perhaps, offer the same compassionate concern for White over such utterings.  It appears, from his response to the substantial criticism over these remarks, that he wasn't actually advocating prison "rape", just sounding-off a little on a serious point - a bit like those on Facebook might resort to.  So, a little understanding towards White, even if his dark musings reveal a more punitive 'departure' from the 'liberal balance' we might 'expect' from such quarters.

Much more importantly, it would never occur to Michael White that the countless rationalising columns he and his fellow Guardanista have produced in defence of warmongering politicians like Blair and Cameron has, in contrast to the 'Facebook 2', had an actual, complicit effect in promoting murder and mayhem.

To his credit, Channel 4's Jon Snow, writing in his blog - witness, again, the less-guarded keyboard at work - sees the more obvious crass-class discrepancies in the sentencing agenda:
"There is a sense in Britain too of a widening gap in both wealth and law – that there is one law for the elite and one for the poor. Take the MPs’ and Peers’ expenses scandal. A tiny handful of the expenses abusers have gone to jail. The vast majority have been allowed to pay stuff back or retreat to the political undergrowth. How many of the looters will be allowed to bring their plasma screens and running shoes back in return for their freedom? And yet it is the very unpunished abuse of the state by its elected and unelected elite which many argue is part of the landscape that the recent riots played out across...No British banker is in jail for what happened in 2008. And as financial upheaval cascades before us all over again, almost no serious measures have been taken to stop the same people from doing it to the people all over again." 
Well said.  If only Jon was able or willing to speak the fuller truth of these vast imbalances and their causes, including media responsibility for such, much more specifically on Channel 4 News.  

Reflecting on the daily grind for many in Britain's bleak inner-city pockets, John Pilger puts it, as ever, in perfectly clearer context:
"For the young at the bottom of the pyramid of wealth and patronage and poverty that is modern Britain - mostly the black, the marginalised and resentful, the envious and hopeless - there is never surprise. Their relationship with authority is integral to their obsolescence as young adults. Half of all black British youth between the ages of 18 and 24 are unemployed, the result of deliberate policies since Margaret Thatcher oversaw the greatest transfer of wealth from the bottom to the top in British history. Forget plasma TVs; this was pano­ramic looting.
Such is the truth of David Cameron's "sick society", notably its sickest, most criminal, most feral "pocket": the square mile of the City of London where, with political approval, the banks and the super-rich have trashed the British economy and the lives of millions....
This is not in any way to excuse the violence of the rioters, many of whom were opportunistic, mean, cruel, nihilistic and often vicious in their glee: an authentic reflection of a system of greed and self-interest to which scores of parasitic money-movers, "entrepreneurs", Murdochites, corrupt MPs and bent coppers have devoted themselves."
From a visceral media to draconian courts, from sanctimonious politicians to a vengeful public, we're now witnessing levels of outright hatred against the poorest sections of our society.

And it's not just a reaction to the riots. It comes as part of a deeper, encouraged animosity against the 'feckless' poor, the parodying of their 'Shameless-style' existence, their 'greedy-grasping' desire for things in shops that they 'won't do anything to earn', their 'workshyness', their 'plasma-screen culture', their 'refusal to better themselves', their 'frivolous' inability to manage the 'generous welfare' the state gives them.

Inflamed by Daily Mail diatribe and liberal 'firmness' alike - as in Michael White's outpourings - this shrill, small-minded denunciation is lacking in the most basic compassion or understanding of the real criminality happening in the high worlds of finance and warmongering politics.

It should be an automatically-known fact for such 'informed' commentators, that areas with the highest levels of unemployment and deprivation are also those with the highest risk of violence.

That's just one of the core conclusions in multiple studies of poverty highlighted by Epidemiology Professor Richard Wilkinson, co-author of The Spirit Level - a text which David Cameron once cited in his election 'appeals' for a 'fairer society', but which now, like any other 'concern' for the actual causes of societal breakdown, has been conveniently buried.

But there's something more basic, perhaps more prosaic, to say here about the motivations behind the riots and wider issues of poverty.

Besides all the well-documented links between unemployment, deprivation, alienation and violence, people in general, and poor people in particular, struggling under this insatiably-competitive, irrational system, will always try, just for that brief moment, to seize an illicit opportunity, to grab something, something they feel might bring a sense of attainment, even a modicum of happiness.  It's a desire for momentary gratification, unbound elation, social escape, anarchic hedonism, the 'live to be high' flight from mundane reality.

It's also, more generally, why people in poverty, like poor mothers, go and splash-out on their kids, running up unrepayable credit, busting the family 'budget', behaving 'irresponsibly', living 'beyond their means'.  And when they turn up at 'the social' asking for help, or plead hardship to those more comfortably-off, they're usually chastised for their 'indolence' and 'stupidity'.

How easily we turn on the poorest.  How readily the 'upwardly-mobile', usually from once-poorer homes themselves, cast righteous judgement on those who 'won't pull themselves up'.  How selectively we dispense our compassion.    

Meanwhile, when elite bankers turn up at their version of 'the social', namely, The Treasury - having lined their pockets with vast bonuses, engaged in 'irresponsible' spending, speculated with greedy abandonment and taken entire economies down in the process - we shrug, maybe mount a little protest and go on with our insecure lives while dutiful politicians bail them out again.

Unlike the warped sentences now being handed-down to the opportunistic poor, few from that select estate will ever do community service, never mind go to jail.  And, again, in a cruel reminder of how efficiently the propaganda of blame works, the greatest call for public retribution is directed at the poorest end of the spectrum rather than those guilty of the highest crimes.

With all the current evidence of more financial looting by the wealthy, is it any wonder the poor and scapegoated are now turning, as Pilger puts it, to social "insurrection"?

Perhaps I better end it there, in case this lowly blogger gets hauled-off for instigating feelings of compassion, empathy, solidarity or other kinds of thought crime.


Monday, 15 August 2011

Imprison, evict, impoverish - Victorian punishments for the looters

First the disorder, now the purge. 

Those caught rioting and looting face not just punitive jail sentences but the prospect of withdrawn benefits and house eviction of their entire families. 

The message: you will pay the heaviest possible price for violations against commercial property. 

Depressingly, a large majority of the public strongly support such retributive actions.

Which all goes to prove the power of political rhetoric and media propaganda in serving to hide the real causes and culprits. There's nothing quite like a reactionary assault on the 'underclass' and 'feral youth' to help disguise the elite's own crimes and responsibilities.   

The tough sentencing includes five months imprisonment for a 24-year-old mother who slept through the riots, but was jailed for accepting a set of stolen shorts from a friend.

Now comes the assault on looters' benefits, a move defended by ConDem minister Iain Duncan Smith as a reasonable sanction against those 'who have shown no regard' for their community or society.  Much of the public applaud, seeing no apparent contradiction in such messages from a government that's ravaged communities with spending cuts.     

The  plans to remove benefits also comes with all the rational agonising one might expect of Liberal Democrats and their 'intellectual' associates.

As the Financial Times reports:
"Ministers are drawing up controversial plans to remove benefits from those convicted of taking part in the riots that engulfed England last week, in a move Liberal Democrats and independent experts have condemned as counter-productive and overly expensive."
 So very Lib Dem. So very liberal think tank. One might wish to commend such concerns as a check on Tory excesses. Yet, there's not a single syllable of compassion in their 'cost-effective', utilitarian calculus.

A more enlightened version of that concern might have read:
"... in a move Liberal Democrats and independent experts have condemned as hateful vengeance against the poorest and proof of the government's cost-priority protection of the wealthy."
Meanwhile, various English councils have initiated eviction orders against the families of those involved.  In one such case, a mother is to be removed from her home after her 12-year-old son was arrested and charged with looting:
"A spokesman for Wandsworth Council said it wanted to "get the ball rolling" rather than wait to see if the tenant would be convicted."
No need for due process of the law, then, or consideration of the destructive effect on that family.  (It's the kind of collective punishment meted out by the Israeli state when they demolish a family's home in reprisal for attacks made by just one of the family members.)

The councils concerned are taking political cover from Cameron's great "social fighback".  As reported by the Independent:
"The Prime Minister, David Cameron, gave his backing yesterday to councils seeking to evict tenants over the violence, saying that people who "loot and pillage their own community should be shown the door".  Mr Cameron said he thought evictions were a way of "enforcing responsibility in our society". He told the BBC that people who could face difficulties as a result of their eviction "should have thought of that before they started burgling"."
Again, it's all fine for Cameron and his banking friends to loot and pillage communities - whether ours or those in Afghanistan and Libya.  If he ever comes to "face [the] difficulties" of "responsibility" for those crimes might we be entitled to say, well, "he should have thought of that before he started cutting and bombing"?

Another key feature of the Victorian-mood punishment is the government's own e-petition process, a mock consultation that, alongside all the standard media encouragements to hateful resentment, has now seen 200,000 signatures calling for severe action against the looters. 

If only we heard the same political, media and public calls for elite robber bankers and war-rioting politicians to have their homes and other proceeds of crime repossessed. Again, it's proof-positive that the propaganda system works.

As previously stated, nothing useful ever comes from violence and destruction. The riots and looting have left families bereaved and communities fearful.  But the punitive, vindictive purge we're now seeing against the poorest and weakest parts of society help reveal the deeper poverty of justice, compassion and caring intervention at the heart of our economically cruel and morally bankrupt system.


Thursday, 11 August 2011

Britain's riots - looting the truth

The spectre of riots, theft and burning buildings across English cities is the latest indication of what happens when large sections of the population are abandoned to the profit-driven imperatives of capitalist society. 

As England's streets erupt in violence, the language of condemnation has its own destructive intent, a looting of the truth by politicians and an accomplice media. 

They’re all just “criminal thugs”, cry government ministers, “feral rats”, says one angry London shop owner.  And many will readily agree watching the pictures of rampaging mobs seemingly intent on nothing but wanton destruction and personal gain.

Yet, in a society where accomplishment gets measured by consumer acquisition, is it any wonder that such people, impoverished or not, seize the opportunity to smash and grab?

David Cameron points to "pockets of our society that are not just broken but, frankly, sick."  There needs to be "personal responsibility" he and others claim.  But where is the political responsibility for the breakdown of that society?  Is it just coincidence that the riots happened in mainly poor areas where unemployment is highest and black people suffer the greatest harassment from police? 

And what of the many additional millions, mass sections of society, who suffer more passively from the effects of austerity and poverty while the rich become ever-richer.  How did all that breakdown occur?  Did it happen independently of decades-old neoliberal policies and political subservience to them? Many people in our society are, indeed, sick, suffering from the daily pressures and effects of a sick, profit-driven system. 

Public denunciation of the rioters is understandable.  People are living in fear of escalating violence.  Besides the fallout from the police killing of Mark Duggan in London, the further tragic deaths of three men in Birmingham has raised the prospect of new inter-ethnic conflict, while pumped-up vigilantes and assorted forces of the right seek to exploit the situation on the streets.

Responding to standard media cues, people reach for easy explanations, dismissing, like the Daily Mail, the 'heresy' of blaming any part of the violence on cuts, raging unemployment or other social deprivation. It's the same old abrogating calls for the “greedy, criminal thugs” to be locked up.   

Try offering an alternative view to that in mainstream company.  Try saying that while you don’t condone the violence (any violence) you also have some understanding of why it’s happening.

Try airing that kind of measured analysis on the BBC and you may, like the noted black community figure Darcus Howe, get castigated and insulted as a criminal accessory to the violence.  

BBC 'balance', it seems, doesn't like people saying that the riots were both expected and the consequence of more malign forces.   

And don’t expect any media analogies either on the financial looting of the public purse, or similar condemnation of the feral bankers who, in business suits rather than hoodies, have caused such economic crisis and social dislocation.

Much is being made by media liberals of the seemingly ‘non-political’ nature of the riots – they’re motivated, it's claimed, by plain “greed” rather than, as in the Middle East and Europe, the desire for democracy and economic justice.

Yet, isn’t the very prevalence of that “greed” an indictment of the corporate-seducing system in itself, a system which idealises fast-track consumer gratification and ultra-competitiveness?   

Why is that core issue – and the media’s own key part in it - almost never up for discussion?  

Newsnight may permit ‘earnest liberals’ space to speculate on the motivations of rioting youth.   Yet, rarely are we allowed similar exchanges on the destructive motivations of our political leaders and their corporate friends who conspire in mass bank bailouts and continued executive bonuses while millions live in fear of redundancy, eviction and apprehension over how to feed their kids.  

That’s the real greed; the insatiable greed of an elite few, rather than the opportunistic grabbing of a laptop or trainers from a high street store.
The psychology of market resentment is also apparent here.  Look, many onlookers say, how easy it is for them just to walk into looted shops and take a plasma TV while we struggle to pay for such things.  Again, it’s an illustration of the consumer ‘values’ and competitive priorities we’re encouraged to internalise.    

The related political-media buzz-word is “lawlessness”, a much-repeated synonym, again with selective applications.   Thus, while a whole assembly of young people, whether aggrieved at police provocation or just street opportunists, are lumped and demonised as 'outlaws', the lawless action of high financiers and political warmongers is treated as ‘errant’ behaviour.
Again, this is not to condone the violence and destruction. (It’s somehow symptomatic of the dominant media narrative that one feels further compelled to make that caveat.)  Many pictures do tell a disturbing story of by-standing victims and despair, such as the dramatic image of a woman leaping from her fire-engulfed flat and the young, injured Malaysian student apparently being assisted by rioting youths while others ransack his backpack.   

Yet, can the responsibility for such social chaos and lack of compassion be simply attributed to a relatively small number of rioters?  Shouldn’t these pictures invite serious examination in our media about why young people resort to such actions. 

Why are those particular images constantly highlighted and replayed by the media?  Most simply, because it helps stamp the big headline label "criminality" on such actions, permitting avoidance of any political responsibility. 

Again, Cameron condemns the "disgusting sight" of the robbed student, warning that "things...are badly wrong in our society."  Many will agree.  Yet, no media outlet seems willing to link Cameron with the disgusting sights that he's helped create, both in the home society or abroad.   

Masking the lines of criminality between the rioters and our corporate-political vandals serves a double propaganda function in hiding the elite’s own culpable actions while encouraging the public to turn ruthlessly on the ‘feral’ youth.  It’s a classic example of how the blame narrative works as a default line media reaction.  

Mass social exclusion, another jobless generation and, most particularly, an encouraged culture of rampant greed has brought even greater levels of hopelessness, alienation, resentment, dislocation and the inevitable turn to violence. 

Might there, at some rare, searching moment, come a real questioning of the actual greed society, its corporate sponsors, its political protectors and its media managers?   


Friday, 5 August 2011

Monbiot's smears - and a small appeal

This latest piece from Media Lens alerts us to the false claims and castigations being made by writer and Guardian columnist George Monbiot

A small appeal to reason and 'mind-balance':

Dear George 

I've been thinking about the detrimental effects that acrimonious exchanges can have on one's inner well being. 

Personally, I often find such engagement pretty dispiriting. There's the initial rush to prove a point, to defend one's corner, to 'win the argument' - all valid endeavours, particularly when there's a high-octane issue at stake, such as the move to war, climate change or Palestine-Israel. 

But it should always be followed by some semblance of critical self-reflection and careful reappraisal of one's position. 

Sometimes, in the extreme heat of an argument, we may also lapse into less reverential language. All of which is both understandable and regrettable. 

Other language, however, carries much more serious weight. 

You have charged Chomsky, Herman, Peterson, Pilger and Media Lens with being 'genocide deniers/belittlers/apologists'. 

For what it's worth, I think you've made a profound intellectual mistake here and what may prove to be a disastrous error of judgement. 

In continuing to smear people so far removed from the possibility of ever denying, belittling or apologising for genocide, you've placed the rearguard defence of your own status above that of rational evidence. 

Is the pursuit, at all costs, of that indefensible position really more important than the need for intellectual accuracy and honest admission? 

Kind regards 

John Hilley