Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Serious solidarity must resist the Israel lobby and its front campaigns

Israel is becoming increasingly isolated, as worldwide opinion intensifies over its illegal Occupation, siege of Gaza and apartheid crimes against Palestinians.

This, in turn, has seen an even more furious backlash from Israel and its global support network.

In particular, rising support for Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) and other direct civil action has prompted new reactionary responses from the Israeli state, matched by an increasingly strident lobby.

Donald Trump's incendiary speech endorsing Jerusalem as Israel's capital has only added to the sequence of global opposition, Israeli belligerence and lobby hubris.

This is a lobby now turning on 'moderate' public figures like Gary Lineker for daring to question Israel's brutal treatment of children.

Some Palestinian minors are now receiving longer sentences for throwing stones at their weapons-loaded occupiers than the token tariffs handed down to the same soldiers for killing Palestinians.

Yet, as damning evidence grows of the shooting, detention and torture of children, Israel and its lobby are lambasting human rights groups like B'Tselem for helping to record and highlight such abuses, including harsh interrogation and coerced confessions.

Australian film Stone Cold Justice, revealing the scandalous extent of Israel's detention and illegal treatment of children, has, likewise, been attacked, with the lobby group CAMERA repeating army slurs that the film's reporter was "travelling the world spreading ignorance, propaganda and lies."

Ahed Tamimi
With continuing disregard for truth or justice, the same lobby has also now denounced Palestinian child Ahed Tamimi as a 'terrorist' for slapping a soldier.

Ahed and her mother, imprisoned just for filming the incident, have seen their trial, before a closed door military court, continuously delayed, as Israel weighs up how to impose its harshest punishment, while handling global disgust over their treatment.

Muhammad Tamimi
The fact that the Israeli army had just shot Ahed's 15-year-old cousin Muhammad, wasting his skull and disfiguring him for life, seems of no proportionate concern to Israel's lobby apologists.

The maiming and killing of Palestinian kids is, of course, a routine part of daily existence across the West Bank and Gaza.

In an act of vindictive revenge on the Tamimi family, Muhammad, still awaiting vital surgery, was arrested, along with five other children, in another night raid on their village of Nabi Saleh.

Devoid of compassionate response, the violence being perpetrated on Ahed and her family has only further inflamed Israel's supporters.

US comedian Sarah Silverman was also roundly denounced by the lobby for calling on fellow Jews to stand up for Ahed.

It's all part of a relentless hasbara, seeking to control the Israel-Palestine narrative, manage international opinion, frame media coverage, maintain pressure on editors, and intimidate anyone inclined to criticise Israel's actions.

With Netanyahu approving a new $75 million "public relations commando unit" to counter BDS, the lobby is now using every form of intimidation, smear and diversion to protect and advocate for Israel.

With further menacing intent, Gilad Erdan, Israel's minister of strategic affairs, is reported to be leading a "black-ops" campaign against BDS.

In heading-up a growing list of artists challenging Israel and endorsing BDS, noted musician Roger Waters has felt the lobby's fiercest wrath, with pressure calls on sponsors and sustained legal attempts to close down his stadium shows. Admirably, Waters remains resilient in his stand against the lobby and Israeli apartheid.

The decision by New Zealand singer Lorde not to play Israel is a further key encouragement to artists. Lorde has also been subjected to intense lobby intimidation, while the two young New  Zealander women, one Jewish, one Palestinian, who wrote to Lorde urging her to “join the artistic boycott of Israel” are now being sued by pro-Israel legal group, Shurat HaDin. 

This all comes on top of a 'Brand Israel' PR campaign, and major government drive to pay students for hasbara trolling.

A growing purge on pro-Palestinian online activity is also now evident, part of the pretext corporate clampdown on 'fake news'. 

Glenn Greenwald notes how, backed by powerful US politicians, Israel "summoned Facebook executives in October of last year to a meeting and directed them to delete the accounts of a huge number of Palestinian activists, journalists, commentators. And Facebook obeyed in almost every one of the cases.

Unlike the raging hysteria over 'Russiagate' and 'Putin trolls', most Western media have little to say about Israel's own dark efforts to influence other states' politics.

In the US, escalating fears over BDS and Israel's declining image has now placed the lobby on heightened political alert. Led by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a wide array of pro-Israel groups - such as the Israel Project, Fuel For Truth, Israel on Campus Coalition, and Foundation for the Defense of Democracies - are seeking to break BDS through promotion of The Israel Anti-Boycott Act

The proposed legislation is opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) as a violation of First Amendment rights. 

Stand With Us (also known as the Israel Emergency Alliance), another relentless right-wing US-based advocate, with close ties to the Israeli government, has backed the bill, even trying to 'reassure' liberals of the Act's 'benign' intent. 

Contrary to such posturing, the real face of Stand With Us was exposed after one of its media advisers wrote a virulently racist article disparaging common support between oppressed Palestinians and black protesters in Ferguson, St Louis. The article's author was defended by Hen Mazzig, another Stand With Us official with rabid right-wing views. 

Stand With Us is engaged in multiple forms of pro-Israel advocacy, including teaching programmes on college campuses, media spinning on Israel's harsh treatment of African migrants, and opposing the annual Israel Anti-Apartheid Week. It has also been "accused of anti-Muslim propaganda and encouraging a militant Israeli and U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East." 

Closely integrated with other conservative forces, much of the US lobby has long enjoyed protected status. As Jonathan Cook adds: "What is special about the Israel lobby in the US – an amalgam of hawkish Jewish leadership organisations and messianic Christian evangelicals – is the fear it exploits to silence critics. No one wants to be labelled an anti-Semite.

However, for Cook, the whole lobby is now being increasingly scrutinised: "as recent events illustrate, the lobby is struggling to stay in the shadows. Social media and Palestinians with camera phones have exposed a global audience to systematic abuses by the Israeli army the western media largely ignored. For the first time, Israel supporters sound evasive and dissembling."

In one key rearguard response, the same pro-Israel nexus has launched a vociferous attack on Al Jazeera's forthcoming exposé of the lobby itself. 

There are strong indications here of lobby pressure on Qatar to block the film, and suspicions of compliance, largely motivated by Doha's efforts to win back the support of Trump. AIPAC's many powerful friends in Congress are also trying to undermine the film by making Al Jazeera register as a 'foreign agent.'

Growing lobby activity is evident, too, in the UK. With the true purpose of Priti Patel's recent 'family holiday' in Israel, facilitated by Israel lobbyist Lord Stuart Polak, duly exposed, lobby activity has been sustained by other key parliamentary movers around the Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI). This includes Michael Gove's warnings on pro-Palestine activists' "dark and furious energy", a speech duly commended by Christian Friends of Israel.

Another key aspect of CFI's real dark energy can be seen in its secretive relations with major arms firms like Elbit, all serving to keep Israel armed to the teeth, and specially protected by Britain's state-military establishment. 

The enduringly Blairite Labour Friends of Israel has also been lobbying hard. With Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry openly expressing her disdain for BDS in a speech to LFI "that could have been written by a pro-Israel lobbyist", LFI have been working to mute other senior figures, such as Kate Osamor, after she declared her support for BDS.

Labour's Ruth Smeeth is another notable pro-Israel party figure, with close connections to leading PR body the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM), and 'watchdog' group Community Security Trust (CST).

According to former Institute for Jewish Policy Research director Antony Lerman, the CST has been “abusing its mandate” in order to give “political support for Israel.” 

Localised groups like Sussex Friends of Israel offer further insight on the growing aggressive face of the pro-Israel street lobby.

Al Jazeera's previous undercover investigation of UK lobby activity, exposing the particular role of Israeli diplomat Shai Masot, reveals much about the linkages between Britain's pro-Israel bodies and the Israeli Embassy.

And, of course, the calculated smear campaign waged against Jeremy Corbyn and the wider left for 'harbouring anti-Semitism' is a foremost example of the lobby's pernicious agenda.

No matter how much Corbyn seeks to denounce such tendencies, and safeguard his party from discriminatory practices, the drip-drip insinuations and distortions continue.

Jonathan Cook also relates here how Owen Jones was courted, and willingly engaged, lobby insiders the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM), further legitimising this group in its efforts to subvert Corbyn.

Encouragingly, the newly-founded Jewish Voice for Labour is now acting as a strong counter to the JLM lobby.

Jews For a Just Peace have also declared their support for BDS, a clear and exemplary statement of their anti-apartheid bona fides.

However, rising support for the Palestinian cause, including the welcome backing of Jewish-based bodies, has seen other duplicitous groups now advocating for Israel.

In Scotland, the lobby is attempting to spread its message via the Confederation of Friends of Israel Scotland (CoFIS), an avowedly pro-Israel organisation masquerading as a set of 'pro-peace' street campaigns, including Glasgow Friends of Israel (GFI).

Besides propagating for Israel, CoFIS's core task is to attack, smear and undermine Palestine solidarity groups in Scotland.

Ignoring multiple UN resolutions and international law, CoFIS consistently defend Israel's illegal acts, refusing to acknowledge basic Palestinian rights and legitimate claims to statehood.

It approves Israel's apartheid wall. It blames Israel's mass killing in Gaza on Hamas. It fails to condemn Israel's incarceration and shooting of children, or the callous bulldozing of Palestinian houses. It routinely lauds Netanyahu. It openly approves Trump, and his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital. It denounces BDS and artists like Roger Waters. And it calls upon Ahed Tamimi to be treated and punished as a 'terrorist'.

Much of the literature CoFIS hands out to the public comes from the same US right-wing campaign group, Stand With Us.

And CoFIS do, indeed, stand with them. CoFIS founder Nigel Goodrich and his associates embrace the same basic ideology and lobby agenda in evangelising for Israel and whitewashing its crimes.

Director Ken Loach, writer Paul Laverty, theatre director Clare McGarry, actor Tam Dean Burn, and theatre critic Mark Brown were among signatory Artists for Palestine UK who, in 2017, opposed CoFIS's "misnamed “Shalom Festival”, which promotes, not “peace”, but the apartheid State of Israel and its occupation." 

Their letter stated that the Festival, organised by Goodrich and GFI's Sammy Stein, was "part of the State of Israel’s attempts to counter BDS. It claims to support “peaceful coexistence” in Israel/Palestine, while whitewashing Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights. This is the language of the Israeli state itself, and is code for continued occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people and the ongoing denial of the right of return of millions of Palestinian refugees."

Artists for Palestine UK also noted the supporting bodies and message of the event: "Glossy display panels and piles of leaflets and brochures from StandWithUs and Christians United for Israel, an extreme rightwing Islamophobic organisation with a large following in the United States, pressed Israel’s biblical claim to the whole of the Holy Land and demonised BDS as a movement in sympathy with ISIS terror."

Like other lobby groups, CoFIS make voluble claims about wanting 'dialogue', professing to be 'non-discriminatory', and 'anti-racist', while denying the inhuman effects of the Occupation, the calamity of Gaza, and Israel's colonial settlements.

This mirrors the very same deception Israel itself has peddled for generations in its contrived calls for a 'peace process', while using every opportunity to extend the settlements, intensify the Occupation, imprison Gaza, and deepen its racist treatment of Palestinians.

Much of this pro-Israel street action hides behind the pretentious garb of 'community engagement', urging 'shared understanding' of 'both Israel's and Palestinians' interests', a window-dressing exercise which, alas, still seems appealing to some virtue-signalling liberals and unwary progressives.

In contrast, rational observers have long since seen the 'peace process' for what it is: a cynical charade; a continuous stalling mechanism, serving to normalise and legitimate Israel's land thefts, and prioritise its 'security concerns'.

As with the BDS movement, serious solidarity groups have long understood the need to keep fully focused on effective, strategic forms of civil action, a key part of which is exposing the multiple fronts and guises of the Israel lobby.

Palestine is sometimes seen by some on the left as a 'peripheral' and 'awkward' question, rather than integral to left anti-imperialism. Much of that left ambivalence is due less to straight lobby propaganda than exposure to the more veiled liberal version of lobby discourse, as peddled by people like Jonathan Freedland and much of the Guardian, with its loaded 'two-sides narrative', and pitching of Palestine as a 'complex', 'divisive' and 'intractable' problem.

Again, this is all insidious diversion, cloaked in 'doveish' language, serving the wider lobby's attempts to blur the real issue - Israel's crimes - and undermine serious solidarity.

Any real progressive response must, in turn, be more vigilant to false fears, smears and liberal persuasions.

People of conscience, whatever their background or religious beliefs, should reject any organisation which seeks to approve and defend Israel's apartheid state. And they should be particularly alert to any group which seeks to conceal their real purpose through stealth insertion into parliamentary life, mainstream parties or civil movements.

If we accept that, as with South Africa, apartheid is racism, then there should be no place for Israel-supporting organisations like CoFIS within any serious anti-racism event or demonstration.

And, besides suffering Palestinians, let's also remember here Israel's appalling treatment of its own, largely African, migrant population. As reported: "Netanyahu has called the migrants’ presence a threat to Israel’s social fabric and Jewish character, and one government minister has referred to them as “a cancer”."

It's inevitable that open rejection of organisations like CoFIS will be met with the same backlash unleashed by the wider pro-Israel lobby. Yet, this should make the response of leftists and others of good progressive mind even clearer. Much better to take a principled position and defend your case with confident argument than capitulate to such forces for fear of being falsely labelled and smeared. There's no placating or appeasing this network. It will come after solidarity groups whatever its 'inclusion' or rejection.

Lobby groups and campaigns which help defend and hide Israel's mass violations and crimes against humanity have to be resisted with moral resolve and tactical intent. You can't fully stand up to racism while lying down to apartheid.

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Presidents, Posts and liberal pandering to power

Despite some notable cases of brave, probing journalism, the liberal media has routinely evaded its duty in holding US presidents and other key elites to account.

Carrying a history of editorial incorporation, political obedience and journalistic deference, it hides its sins these days behind faux outrage against Donald Trump.

And while Trump's nocturnal tweets and 'fake news' awards seem manically scripted to by-pass and antagonise his liberal media foes, the latter's increasingly authoritarian reactions suggest much more about its own establishment-serving neurosis and obsequious relationships with presidents past.

All the President's men
Celebrity-staged journalism

Piers Morgan's set-piece interview with Trump, and liberal disapproval of it, shows how the public are being subjected to, both, a spurious 'president-as-celebrity' narrative and an even more sham liberal 'push-the-president' line. 

Despite his ignorant ramblings on climate, immigration, economics, geopolitics, racism, Islam, militarism and guns, Morgan did his dutiful best in this contrived exchange to sanitise and 're-package' Trump.

While Morgan got Trump to apologise over his 'erroneous' Britain First retweet, and 'pressed' him on being potentially snubbed over a royal wedding, the main purpose here was to 're-package' him for "my (Morgan's) country". The 'past Apprentice', no doubt, paying due respect to his 'old boss'.

But Morgan's interview wasn't just a fawning celebrity reluctant to engage Trump on his presidential record. It was a refusal to interrogate him on US crimes at large. 

Conveniently for Trump, there were no big, awkward questions from Morgan on the continuing misconduct of his country: nothing about the ongoing US wars and destabilisation of the Middle East, no mention of America's deepening alliance with the Saudi regime, and total silence on Washington's latest backing for the apartheid state of Israel.

For all his 'counter-establishment' posturing, Morgan is no less a service man to presidents and power in helping to divert public attention from America's unrelenting crimes.

However, it's the backlash to Morgan that's even more illuminating here.

Inevitably, Morgan came under fire from much of the liberal media over his handling of Trump.

The BBC's high-titled World Affairs Editor, and 'in-house sage', John Simpson handed down this lofty 'advice':
The art of the political interview, Piers, is to push your interviewee hard - not let them spout self-evident tosh. That's just showbiz.
Here we see the liberal media using Morgan to 'elevate' its own self-proclaimed 'authority'; an indignant rebuttal, and reminder of its 'hard-won status' as the 'only real examiner' of, and 'check' on, presidential misconduct. 

Yet, there was no specific criticism here from Simpson about Morgan's unwillingness to push Trump on all those major and continuing US crimes. That's because the liberal media itself is even more complicit than Morgan in failing to press presidents and other elites on such key issues.   

Aside from his own self-cultivated persona, and nodding to the powerful, Simpson might, more usefully, have directed his attention to fellow BBC 'security correspondent' Gordon Corera and his servile interview with CIA head, Mike Pompeo

It's as though the seemingly star-struck Corera was trying to contain his excitement at being invited into the hallowed foyer of US spookdom. Not a seriously challenging word was offered in response to Pompeo's bombastic claims of 'Russian and Chinese threats, or his pledge that the CIA will steal every secret it can. 

If Morgan's interview with Trump was about caressing a presidential image, the BBC has been no less deferential. While acolytes like Morgan are using their celebrity platforms to protect, exonerate and whitewash Trump, the liberal media has shown itself even more culpable in the celebrity-styled treatment of its preferred presidents and elite figures.     

All the previous President's men and women

Celebrity-hagiographic liberal journalism

It's worth reflecting here on how the BBC, Guardian and wide UK/US liberal media helped consecrate past president Obama as the 'new shining light on the Hill'.

Dutifully displacing any awkward spotlight on his drone killings, war extensions and lifeboat billions to Wall Street, they helped create the perfect showbiz president.

And, as Media Lens remind us, there's been no more gushing hagiographer of Obama than John Simpson. In a piece relating his meeting with Obama, Simpson is almost genuflecting to the president, waxing mystically over his many virtues, and approving America's "active, effective" role as world policeman.
One of Sopel's Twitter headers
As Media Lens also note, Simpson's colleague, North America correspondent Jon Sopel, has been another senior BBC man standing in awe of Obama, helping, in one memorable case, to deny the president's war criminality by reporting that the US bombing of a Médecins Sans Frontières hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan had been a "mistaken" act.

Now, as the liberal media rage against Trump, Obama is celebrated as a special post-presidential celebrity, from kite-surfing with Richard Branson to being feted at gala celebrity charity functions.

Besides fawning over Obama, liberal deflection is now so entrenched that many Democrats are even expressing their admiration for George W Bush.

As RT comment:
Loathsome as Trump may be, his sins thus far don’t come close to the list of atrocities committed by Bush. In fact, Trump’s sins haven’t even come close to those committed by his Democratic predecessor Barack Obama, whose “humanitarian” bombing, to take one example, helped to utterly destroy Libya — once the richest country in Africa, now a failed state and a haven for the slave trade.
And, while the liberal media croon over Obama's economic performanceSarah Abdallah offers her own 'due praise':
Obama also deserves credit for bombing Libya back to the stone age and transforming it into a wasteland where jihadists now sell black Africans in open slave markets.
All the liberal womens' would-be President
Liberal-feminist journalism

The same liberal media and celebrities that helped deify Obama also elevated Hillary Clinton as his 'high moral' replacement, again ignoring her own extensive war crimes, corruption and service to corporate power.

Now they laud Hillary advocates like Meryl Streep and Oprah Winfrey as 'role models' and potential presidents.

Some more admirable leftist women who resisted the Hillary hype, like Susan Sarandon and the Green Party's Jill Stein - now being smeared as a 'Kremlin agent' - are still feeling the liberal-establishment backlash.

Meanwhile, Cambridge professor Mary Beard has been engaged in admiring liberal feminist conversation with Clinton, all eagerly hosted by the Guardian. As with the Guardian's careful election filtering of 'President Hillary', Beard had nothing to say about Clinton's part in destroying Libya.

Bonnie Greer, another Hillary-praising liberal feminist, has kept the same dutiful silence. Indeed, more intrigued by the 'body language', Greer opted to watch the Trump-Clinton TV debate with the sound down, knowing that:
Nothing that Hillary Clinton could say would make me feel that she was not qualified and able from Day One to become Commander-in-Chief of the largest and most powerful military on earth...
Greer and trusting others have also kept the sound down on Clinton's warmongering and hawk relationships, including her long, close association with notorious war criminal Henry Kissinger.

One sometimes wonders just what it might take for liberal feminists to distance themselves from figures like Clinton, who refuse to distance themselves from figures like Kissinger.

One also wonders how they can turn a blind eye to the leading roles of both Mr and Mrs Clinton in the immense suffering of Iraq. Or, to invoke, Madeline Albright, another criminal Clinton associate, do they think the price is worth it?

All the President's mockers
Liberal 'satire' journalism
"Trump’s hair blew and Twitter liberals have been going crazy all day."
With Trump now seeming like fair game for every form of media ridicule, Hillary Clinton has now assumed a starring role in the great liberal mockery.

While Clinton and assorted liberal stars trot-out lines from Fire and Fury, Michael Wolff's titillating tales of Trump's vanities, fantasies and indiscretions, high-ranking Democrats must also be sniggering more quietly at the gullibility of the 'Resistance' in letting them off the hook.

Helpfully, real critical comic observers like Jimmy Dore can still see the whole liberal-centrist playbook.

How readily the liberal media have embraced a caricature version of Trump 'criticism', failing, as Glenn Greenwald shows, to focus its most critical attention on Obama, the Clintons and the DNC machine.

While the whole Trump persona comes as a media gift, liberal satire snuggles in its own conceited cocoon, safely lampooning a monstrous product of the system rather than savaging and subverting the system itself.   

A good example of this can be seen in a recent episode of the BBC's The Mash Report, 'taking apart' Piers Morgan and his Trump interview with its "quick guide to the difference between hard-hitting journalism and a celebrity puff-piece." John Simpson was, of course, held up as a model of the former.

Morgan was, reportedly, unhappy over the piece's crude depictions of himself and Trump. But the BBC seemed willing to take the 'flak', helping to raise its 'street-edge' image and showcase its 'risk-taking' output.

Laughably, this is about as 'subversive' as it gets at the liberal-smug, boundary-pinching BBC.

All the Presidents Club men

Liberal identity journalism 

Alongside other celebrity exposures, the highlighting of Trump's ugly statements and behaviour towards women has helped generate wide discussion on male power.

Some of the debate here is to be welcomed, as a way of encouraging all human beings to treat each other with care and respect.

Yet, the fallout from Trump and other such events has also given rise to an increasingly strident liberal identity politics, which, perversely, has the effect of undermining any more radical politics, thus constraining how we contextualise, expose and challenge power.

Here's a related example. The recent Financial Times revelations over an exclusive Presidents Club dinner offered damning insights on the organised degradation of women. Yet, here was a class-based cabal of corporate elites, political cronies and sundry power climbers indulging their pleasures behind the facade of liberal charity. Why didn't the FT run with that kind of extended context?

There's a much more comprehensive story here, not just about the 'abuse' of power, but the very construction of power as a form of abuse. And the absence of such context shows how media like the FT, and its corporate worldview, form part of the very same system of power and exploitation that's keeping us all, female and male, locked in neoliberal servitude.

One might also ask, in this regard, why the heroic undercover acts of other women are never accorded such attention, such as the courageous mother-to-be who walked on stage and challenged a gathering of black-tie elites at a corporate arms trade dinner.

Here was a young woman trying to highlight and disrupt warmongers and merchants of death, as they sat at their privileged tables. Why are these kind of morally-acting women, or men, never given such wide and approving media coverage?

The ongoing veneration of Hillary Clinton reflects a similar problem with liberal feminist journalism, largely encapsulated in the same false raising of 'identity politics' above real, radical examination and resistance to power.

With Clinton now being questioned over her relevance as a #MeToo advocate, Sarah Abdallah comments on her pledge to keep fighting for the rights and participation of women and girls:
Says the woman who empowered jihadists that enslave women and girls in Syria and Libya, and makes excuses for sexual predators.
It's no accident that so many top female journalists, politicians and celebrities laud such figures. So often, we're urged to celebrate and idolise women, like Clinton, who 'manage to make it' in the corporate and political world, rather than applaud women, and men, who help challenge and resist the brutal ideology of market individualism and cut-throat power politics that's keeping us all from moving towards a truly equal society of compassion and inclusion.

From US Presidents to Presidents Club, what does this all say about the effectiveness of identity politics? Again, that it's part of the vital protective liberal barrier helping to safeguard establishment power.

All the President's Men
Hollywood liberal journalism

The liberal version of 'speaking truth to power' also finds vital projection through Hollywood.

Alan J Pakula's atmospheric film, All the President's Men, is a landmark account of the Watergate affair, and the resilient Washington Post journalists who sought to expose Nixon. But it has also been used as a mythical marker of America's 'free and fearless' press.

Steven Spielberg's current working of that lofty ideal is The Post, a coy liberal interpretation of an embattled press in the lead up to Watergate.

As Spielberg confirmed in an intimate, liberal-laced exchange with the Guardian's Jonathan Freedland, The Post was rushed out as an 'urgent response' to Trump's attacks on the 'free media'.

In its cautious depiction of RAND Corporation employee Daniel Ellsberg's brave leaking of the Pentagon Files, and the Post's belated efforts to publish them, The Post plays on all the key liberal tropes: taking on a power-abusing president, upholding the First Amendment, and invoking the Supreme Court as last defenders of free speech.

There's a nominal account here of the lies and cover-up over Vietnam, but Spielberg is deferentially careful not to overstate the villainy of JFK, LBJ, or the deep extent of defence secretary Robert McNamara's deceptions. The dark, cold-war agenda of RAND is barely touched upon.

As iconic Hollywood liberals, Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep seem naturally cast as the conflicted, yet noble, voices of the liberal crusading media. Post editor Ben Bradlee's (Hanks) close relationship with Kennedy is suitably glossed over, as is the society friendship between Post owner Katharine Graham (Streep) and McNamara. (At one point, some of the cinema audience around me started applauding Streep, illustrating the power of this film as major liberal propaganda.)

It's no spoiler to say that the Spielberg interpretation of 'speaking media truth to power' emerges as the victor here - sending that all-important message of 'liberal defiance' to Trump.

Nor should we be surprised that there was no end caption noting Ellsberg's continuing anti-war campaigning, or his consistent support for Wikileaks, Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange.

Imagine Spielberg rushing out an epic about their bravery in standing up to power, and harsh treatment for releasing damning documents to the public.

There's also the damning irony of the Washington Post, which helped publish Snowden's leaked NSA documents, now rejecting calls for him to be pardoned. As Glenn Greenwald notes:
In doing so, the Washington Post has achieved an ignominious feat in U.S. media history: the first-ever paper to explicitly editorialize for the criminal prosecution of its own source.
Nor, with current Post owner Jeff Bezoz now on-track to be the wealthiest person in modern history, should we forget that most crucial 'first right' of the 'free press': the right of corporate control.

Rather than The Post, suggests Assange, viewers might more usefully watch The Most Dangerous Man in America, a much more illuminating film, providing deeper insights into Ellsberg the man, his admirable journey from RAND career to moral whistleblower, and all the key political background to Vietnam and the state lies he helped expose.

Zinn, Ellsberg, Chomsky.
May Day anti-Vietnam war protest, 1971
At one point in this fine film, there's a remarkable still photo of Daniel Ellsberg, Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn, all grouped together in a landmark anti-Vietnam protest. A snapshot of three great figures, who, between them, have exposed more political deceit, chronicled more radical history, and challenged more state-corporate propaganda than the entire US liberal media could ever contemplate.

Again, as The Post is hailed at the Oscars, when might we see Hollywood look to the work of these kind of major independent figures as subject matter and sources for stories on America's vast global crimes?

All the Presidents' men and women - not
Real, critical journalism

One of the 'upsides' of Trump's election is that it has helped draw into the open the real authoritarian face of McCarthyite Democrats and liberals, while giving greater, and much-needed, voice to authentic, radical journalism.

As one such exponent, Caitlin Johnstone, warns:
Look at the worldview of the average person who identifies as a liberal and you'll find adoration of psychopathic authoritarian intelligence agencies like the CIA and the FBI, a significantly warmed opinion of George W Bush and the neocons he ushered into power, a total apathy toward the US war machine and Orwellian surveillance network, a seething hatred of all things Russia and a hysterical McCarthyite beef with anyone who fails to fall in line with approved establishment narratives.
And, as Glenn Greenwald shows, while Trump's release of the, still unsubstantiated, 'Nunes memo' is intended to deflect attention from the potentially damaging, and even more spurious, Mueller investigation, liberal media hysteria over both cases betrays a compliant service to big power and Deep State agencies.

For Amir Amini:

We now have reached a point where liberals praise the Deep State as the pillars of honesty and integrity, think whistleblowers should be executed, foreign media banned and the Cold War revived. All because they couldn’t even beat Donald Trump after rigging their own primaries.
Also bringing welcome, sober analysis to the whole 'Russiagate' panto is The Real News Network's Aaron Maté, who provides a particular service here in taking apart the spurious work of liberal Guardian journalist Luke Harding.

For another sharp insight into what constitutes true, independent journalism, there's a fine testimonial on the great, recently-departed Robert Parry, listing his heroic battles with multiple past presidents and their press protectors.

The article, written by Parry's son, also charts the Washington Post's complicity in using a spurious 'fake news' agenda to smear and blacklist Parry's excellent Consortiumnews, noting how the Post gave approving cover to PropOrNot, a reactionary organisation set up to smear 200 leftist sites.

Like others noted here, the work of admirable figures like Robert Parry reminds us that the best radical journalism lies not just in keeping safe moral distance from venal presidents and corporate elites, but in remaining critically independent from their liberal-media servers.