Thursday, 27 December 2018

The values of the corporate media

Donald Trump announced the withdrawal of US troops from Syria. This is good news, one would have thought. The US troops should never have been in Syria in the first place. The invasion was clearly illegal in international law. It was also unconstitutional in US domestic law. Yet, the political media elite were appalled. CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and all the rest responded with anger and outrage. How dare the president decide to call off an illegal invasion? This is a gift for Putin, or Assad or Erdogan or Islamic State or Iran or something.

Senator Lindsey Graham was much quoted. He turned the US Constitution upside down and asserted that it ought to be Congress that makes such a decision - even though Congress is supposed to decide to authorise war, not to terminate an illegal war; even though Congress never authorised this illegal invasion of Syria in the first place.

Indeed, the corporate media quoted just about every "expert" they could find to prove that pulling out of Syria was bad. They even quoted Max Boot, the expert who has been wrong about everything. Track record meant nothing. All that mattered was that the so called expert should denounce Trump's decision.

None of this should be too surprising, as the corporate media have only twice lauded Trump as presidential: both were when he illegally bombed Syria on the basis of alleged chemical weapons attacks. The first attack was a jihadist false flag operation and the second was a hoax staged by jihadists. Facts that the corporate media have conveniently ignored.

A day after Trump's announcement, the United Nations heard detailed evidence about the horrors of the jihadist White Helmets: an organisation supported by the US and its allies and lauded as heroic by the corporate media. Among the many horrors revealed was the fact the White Helmets have systematically engaged in organ theft. This ought to have been headline news across the globe. Yet the corporate media responded with silence. Not a word. They ignored the story. Not because they were unaware: they were present at the presentation. They, news agency after news agency, decided the story was not worth reporting. Not worth reporting because it effectively undermines their narrative.

These two stories starkly reveal the values of the corporate media. They devote saturation attention to denouncing a move to end an illegal war of aggression, whilst simultaneously ignoring a story that exposed some of the horrors of that war. The corporate media are propagandists for wars of aggression. They support the criminal jihadists and condemn moves to end unnecessary war. And this sociopathy is wrapped up and presented as morality. Yet anyone who dissents, criticises or even merely questions their narratives is immediately denounced as a propagandist. One wonders if they have ever heard of the defence mechanism known as projection?

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Russia weaponises humour, claims BBC

Olga Robinson, BBC's Senior Journalist Disinformation (yes that is her title), reports that the Kremlin has a new tool in its disinformation tool kit: laughter. The dastardly mastermind, Putin, is exploiting mockery and ridicule as weapons in the information war. Instead of taking seriously western allegations of his malign activities and fessing up to his obvious wrong-doing, he, and his army of trolls and bots, are laughing!

Theresa May told parliament and the world that it was highly likely that Russia had poisoned Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia. The pesky Russians outrageously turned the phrase "highly likely" into a joke, mockingly prefacing every evidence free accusation against Russia with the phrase. Robinson quotes from a Russian Embassy (United Kingdom) tweet to illustrate this mockery. "In the absence of evidence, we definitely need Poirot in Salisbury." For her, and the BBC, such a mocking response to the British evidence free narrative is simply not cricket. How dare the Russians laugh at risible assertions?

Of course Robinson provides expert opinion to support her argument that mockery is Russian state disinformation. Enter Roman Dobrokhotov, who has a website, so he must know what he is talking about. She cites his opinion that such Russian mockery is designed to lower the debate (from the very high standards routinely employed by the corporate media and their anonymous sources presumably). The purpose he explains is to "sow doubt" - apparently, if anyone doubts the evidence free allegations against Russia, it must be because Russian propagandists have lowered the debate, creating doubt and scepticism - obviously it couldn't be because the allegations lack evidence, are internally inconsistent or have even been disproved. No, it has to be the result of Putin's masterly propaganda. After all, with minuscule number of social media ads Putin's trolls managed to persuade millions of Americans to not vote for Hilary Clinton, who only spent $1.2 billion on her election campaign and merely had the support of over ninety percent of the mass media. Obviously, such a master of propaganda could easily use laughter to create doubt and dissension, to undermine the people's faith and trust in their selfless leaders, who are only motivated by a desire to improve the lives of the ignorant, unwashed masses, who weirdly keep voting the wrong way - no matter how many times things are explained to them.

And they wonder why people laugh at their narratives.

Friday, 7 December 2018

Government in contempt of parliament, parliament in deadlock

The five days of debate on the proposed Withdrawal Agreement of the United Kingdom from the European Union began on Tuesday with three consecutive defeats for the government. In the first of these, the government was found to be in contempt of parliament. In the past, parliament has brought down governments, but, as far as I am aware, a finding of contempt is unprecedented. The Leader of the House, representing the government, looked visibly shaken as she listened to the result. She promised the House that the Attorney General's advice, the point of contention, would be made available.

This defeat was entirely of the government's own making, as was entirely obvious when the advice was published on Wednesday. There was nothing in the advice that made it against the public interest to publish: yet that had been precisely the government's vehemently asserted defence. What was in the advice, however, as MPs had suspected, was contrary to the government's political interests. The advice made it clear that the United Kingdom could be trapped in the Northern Ireland Protocol, the so called Backstop, indefinitely, and could only escape with the agreement of the European Union. This was a point government ministers had sought to hide, or at least to minimise, in order to bolster support on their own benches.

The debate over the first three days have not improved from this inauspicious start. It remains clear that there is no majority in the House for the government's proposed deal. The opposition parties all continue to oppose it. The DUP, which the government relies upon for its majority, is even more strongly opposed. And many on the government's benches remain opposed. Given this opposition, John MacDonald, the Shadow Chancellor, yesterday made a bid for parliament to take control of the process of exiting the European Union. He suggested an alternative to both the government's proposed deal and the default, which is to leave the European Union without a deal. His proposal was for a customs union and the single market. This proposal has the merit of being capable of commanding a majority in the House. However, it faces serious problems. First, the government's proposed deal would have to be defeated on Tuesday (the last day of the debate). Second, a mere motion of the House cannot control the executive, and it is the executive that would have to return to the European Commission and request a renegotiation. Thus, Labour's proposal requires that Labour take control of the executive and the only way for that to happen is either for the government to fall and for Labour to form a minority government or by a general election which Labour wins. The general election route, whilst eating into the ever decreasing time-table, is highly unlikely, as it would require two-thirds of the House to vote for it, and many of those MPs would be effectively voting themselves out. The government falling route also seems unlikely. The hallmark of Theresa May's premiership has been her obstinate (one might even say delusional) refusal to accept the seriousness of the difficulties she has faced. I cannot therefore see her, on the defeat of her proposed deal, simply acknowledging defeat and resigning. Another alternative scenario would be for her own MPs to bring her down by triggering a leadership contest. But here, the MPs who are most discontented are precisely the ones who would not tolerate Labour's solution, seeing it (correctly) as remaining in the European Union.

Given all these difficulties, many (Remain) MPs have used the debate as an opportunity to argue for the so called People's Vote option. They claim parliament is deadlocked, pointing out (rightly) that there is no majority for the proposed deal; there is no majority (again rightly) for the no deal option: therefore, they argue, the people must decide. But this too has problems, specifically, timing, as it would take six months to organise a referendum and we would have left the European Union already. Thus, Remain, which they obviously demand be on the ballot paper could not be an option. The way round this problem would be to extend Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, but this could only be requested by the government and the government has no intention of making such a request.

What these problems throw into stark relief is the fact that the executive governs and parliament can only make laws and hold the executive to account. Parliament cannot micro-manage the executive. In order to direct the government's actions, parliament only has the tool of making laws. And to carry out any strategy that could command a parliamentary majority would require a raft of laws (and repeal of laws), and the Opposition simply does not have the parliamentary time at its disposal to enact any such programme.

Watching these debates in parliament has been a surreal experience, as so many MPs seem to be blissfully unaware of the constitutional position. Thus, the Shadow Chancellor puts forward a strategy that he does not have the power to carry out. Die-hard Remainers keep demanding a People's Vote, which they are not in a position to organise and even if they did, it would be too late for their preferred outcome to even be a possibility. Worse still, many MPs have used the debate, not only to ignore realities, but to propagate myths about the motivations of the people who voted to leave (as though anyone knows why 17.4 million people voted the way they did), in order to justify their own refusal to accept that the decision was made in June 2016. Thus, much of the debate has been completely sterile. This does of course stem from the fact that there is no majority in parliament for parliament to do anything it can do and only potential majorities for parliament to do things it cannot do. There are only two ways of resolving this deadlock. Either parliament does what it can (accept the proposed deal or the default) or it changes the government for one which will pursue a course that can command a majority.

MPs now have the weekend before the debate is resumed on Monday to find a way out of this dilemma. I will be surprised if they have the creativity to do so. Lacking that creativity, the country will leave the European Union in March without having agreed a deal, something the vast majority of MPs view with horror.

Thursday, 29 November 2018

Theresa May carries on regardless

The Withdrawal Agreement that Theresa May commended to parliament met with almost universal disapproval. Both Leavers and Remainers were vehemently opposed. Many of her own party were opposed. The Labour Party was opposed. The Liberal Democrats were opposed. The Scottish and Welsh nationalists were opposed. The Green MP was opposed. And the Democratic Unionist Party was opposed. It was obvious for anyone to see that there was no majority for the proposed deal. Yet Theresa May was apparently undismayed.

Instead of recognising the reality, May simply doubled down and went into full campaign mode. She decided to go over the heads of the parliamentarians and appeal directly to the public. In the two weeks since her disastrous parliamentary statement, she has given press conferences, television interviews, taken radio call-ins, travelled the country and constantly repeated her talking points, which can be distilled to there is no other deal and not accepting the deal would be a disaster.

Watching Theresa May is a surreal experience. What is particularly troubling is the impression that she is being sincere, and truly believes what she says, and cannot see that virtually everyone else knows that what she is saying is simply not congruent with the facts. We have seen before what happens when a country is run by a prime minister who prefers belief to evidence and facts. That was how Tony Blair took us into the war on Iraq, for instance.

May's (well, Michel Barnier and Olly Robbins really) deal does not achieve any of the things she claims it does, which is why it is equally disliked by Remainers and Leavers alike. For the Leavers, it does not remove the country from the rules of the European Union. For the Remainers, it does not provide the benefits of the current relationship. It is neither Leave nor Remain, but some kind of half-way house: the worst of all possible worlds.

Yet, May is in denial. She apparently cannot understand why everyone isn't congratulating her on a wonderful deal. So to add weight to her campaign to bring the light to all those dim people who are opposed, she has had the Treasury conjure up "analyses" that show her deal is better than no deal. She has had the Bank of England create "scenarios" that show how her deal is better than no deal. Before the referendum vote, the then prime minister, David Cameron, tried this project fear tactic and the Treasury and Bank of England told the public that merely voting to Leave would cause the sky to fall. The people voted to Leave and the sky did not fall. Yet, Prime Minister May has wheeled out the self same tactic, expecting it to work this time around.

For this stubborn refusal to acknowledge reality, May is receiving much praise from many in the media. They admire her resilience and fortitude, her never say die attitude. But there is nothing admirable about her behaviour. She isn't refusing to be defeated by a mortal enemy. This isn't Churchill vowing to fight on and on. It is a prime minister who has clearly lost the capacity to see what's plainly in front of her.

However, there is a limit to how long one can maintain a delusion. In May's case, the meeting with reality is scheduled for 11 December, which is when her deal is put to the vote in parliament. There can only be one outcome: a crushing defeat for her deal. What happens then probably depends on how she reacts. If she cannot accept reality at that stage, it is inevitable that her own party will depose her. That is the Tories secret weapon: they get rid of losing leaders. The only question is: who will want to take her place?

Thursday, 15 November 2018

Theresa May in denial, her Brexit deal dead

The fundamental key to parliamentary politics is the ability to command a majority. This is so basic, one would hardly expect to need to point it out. However, judging by Theresa May's performance in the House of Commons today, she is apparently blissfully unaware of this necessity.

Prime Minister May commended to the House the text of her negotiated deal for exiting the European Union. There was no majority for the deal. This should have been obvious even before she rose to address the House. The previous day, she had had a difficult cabinet meeting. The cabinet had, eventually, agreed to the text. However, this morning saw minister after minister resign.

As MP after MP rose to speak, it was immediately obvious that there was even less support for the text in the House. Remainers were opposed to the proposed deal and Leavers were opposed. As I listened, I could only count fifteen MPs who expressed even luke warm support. The lack of support was so obvious that MP after MP pointed out that there was no majority for the prime minister's position. The Scottish Nationalists opposed. The Welsh nationalists opposed. The Liberal Democrats opposed. The Green opposed. The Labour Party (both Remainers and Leavers) opposed. The Democratic Unionists opposed. And a substantial number the Conservatives opposed. The arithmetic was obvious.

It was obvious to everyone that the proposed deal was dead. Everyone that is, except apparently the prime minister. When MP after MP pointed out what was obvious to everyone and asked what she intended to do, she responded as though she thought parliament would vote for the proposed deal. This was so bizarre, one MP felt moved point out that she was a psychologist and to assert that the prime minister was in denial.

Frankly, the prime minister's performance was worse: she was clearly delusional. She repeatedly made factual assertions that were not just false, but blatantly so.

Jacob Rees Mogg referred to the prime minister's prior commitments (commitments she apparently believes she has honoured) and pointed out how they were each abandoned in the proposed deal. He concluded by asking if he should send a letter of no confidence. Apparently, she was unable to appreciate the significance of the question and simply claimed she had maintained her red lines: something the text proved false.

Shortly after Rees Mogg's question, a substantial number of Conservative MPs left the chamber. One can easily infer that they were having a strategy meeting and, shortly thereafter, Jacob Rees Mogg submitted his letter of no confidence and held a press conference. The clear implication is that shortly there will be enough letters of no confidence to trigger a leadership contest.

Such a contest would seriously muddy the waters.

Prior to Mogg's intervention, the United Kingdom was heading inexorably towards leaving the European Union without any deal. The deal May had negotiated was dead, but she was clearly unable to even recognise it. Thus, the deal would fail and the country would leave in March 2019 without any deal. However, if a leadership contest is triggered, any, and every, candidate would have to offer a positive solution to the problem. The very notion that a candidate standing on the platform of leaving with no deal winning such an election seems unlikely. Whilst such a platform might well appeal to the party at large, it is unlikely that the parliamentary party would short-list such a candidate. Ironically, Rees Mogg's intervention might just have provided those who want a deal a last life-line.

Friday, 2 November 2018

European Court of Human Rights: rights for some only

The European Court of Human Rights has demonstrated that the right to freedom of expression is not universal and is only for some people. The Court made this blatantly clear in its differential treatment of two freedom of expression cases.

In the case of Frau S, the court found that Austria had not violated her right to freedom of expression. In the case of Pussy Riot, the court found that Russia had violated their right to freedom of expression. To any dispassionate, impartial observer, these two judgements are more than contradictory. In the first case, Frau S had simply stated the the prophet Mohammed was a paedophile. This was an accurate factual claim. Mohammed, as is well attested by the hadiths, had married a six year old girl and had consummated the marriage when she was nine. For making this accurate statement, the Austrian courts had found Frau S guilty of inciting racial hatred. (The fact that Islam is not a race only makes the ruling absurd as well as unjust.) The European Court of Human Rights ruled that Austria had not violated Frau S's right to freedom of expression.

The case of Pussy Riot is strikingly different, and the court treated it very differently too. In this case Pussy Riot engaged in a "punk prayer" in Moscow's Christ the Saviour cathedral. This was clearly intended to cause offence to Christians and the Russian courts found Pussy Riot guilty of inciting religious hatred. The European Court of Human Rights found that Russia had violated the band members' right to freedom of expression. When this case is contrasted with the case of Frau S, there can be no doubt that the court was acting improperly. There is simply no way to reconcile the two judgements on the basis of the facts of the cases and the application of a universal human right to freedom of expression.

The court's upholding of the Austria position is clearly wrong. And that fact is underlined by the court's judgement that Russia was in the wrong, as the case against Frau S is remarkably weak; whereas the case against Pussy Riot is much stronger because it was precisely their intention to offend and to incite hatred of a religion. Indeed, the fact that the court ruled against Russia is overwhelming evidence that it should have ruled against Austria.

These two cases illustrate a major problem with the European Court of Human Rights: the court is more a political organisation than a court. Whilst the judges may well all have law degrees, they are not experienced, practising judges; they are political appointees. The judges are not people who are listening to the facts of the cases before them and applying the law dispassionately and impartially. In fact their judgements are politically motivated. In the case of Frau S, they upheld Austria in order to appease Muslims. The ruling makes this clear, as the court justifies its decision on the ground of protecting religious peace - in other words, the judges were persuaded that if Austrians could point out that Mohammed was a paedophile, Muslims might be enraged and resort to violence. That is not a dispassionate, impartial application of the law. At best, it is a pragmatic attempt to ensure peaceful co-existence in the same society between Muslims and non-Muslims by using the courts to protect Islamic sensibilities. As for the Pussy Riot case, there is an argument that the court impartially applied the law to the facts of the case, in the sense of the universal right to freedom of expression. However, if that is so, the judgement merely throws into even sharper relief the perversity the judgement against Frau S.

The European Court of Human Rights is simply not fit for purpose. It is not a court in any realistic sense of the word. It is staffed by political appointees, who lack judicial experience, and who ignore the court's own prior judgements. The court is in fact a mockery of a real court.

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Khashoggi case: Erdogan implies possible resolution

President Erdogan delivered a much trailed speech today to the Turkish parliament. He provided a detailed timeline of the events that led up to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. The president alluded to the much leaked evidence that the Turkish authorities claim to have, but did not explicitly refer to the alleged recording. His remarks were particularly interesting in respect to King Salman.

According to Erdogan, the Turkish authorities were allowed access to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul only as a result of a conversation between himself and the king. Erdogan also stressed that he was convinced that the king was sincere and wanted a thorough and complete investigation of the crime and all those responsible, no matter how high, to be held to account. Erdogan went on the say that the trial should be held in Istanbul.

Reading between the lines, Erdogan appeared to be offering the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia a possible resolution to the crisis. The president was implying that eighteen people the Saudis have already identified as suspects should be put on trial for the murder of Khashoggi. Erdogan did not mention Mohammed bin Salman by name, but the implication was clear that Mohammed bin Salman should (in some way) be held responsible. The vagueness here was doubtless deliberate. He was probably suggesting that the Crown Prince by seen as incompetent, rather than as having actively ordered the killing.

Erdogan obviously left unstated the possible publication of the alleged recording of the crime. This possibility is what has driven the Saudis to change their story; it is what forced the Saudis to allow the Turkish authorities access to the consulate; it is what forced the Saudis to agree to cooperate with the Turkish investigation; it is what forced the Saudis to name the eighteen suspects. Erdogan clearly thinks he can use the same possibility to force King Salman to remove Mohammed bin Salman from the position of Crown Prince, and de facto leader, and replace him with someone else; someone who would pursue policies favourable to Turkey (and doubtless Qatar).

In the world of international relations, it is clear that blackmail can be carried on in plain sight.

Sunday, 21 October 2018

The Saudi story changes

Jamal Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on the second of October. He has not been seen since. Initially, the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia stated that Mr Khashoggi had left the consulate after an hour or so. However, whilst there was closed circuit television evidence of his entry, there was none of his exit. For eighteen days, the Saudi authorities stuck to their claim, in the face of constant leaks from the Turkish authorities claiming that Khashoggi had been tortured and murdered. Then the Saudi authorities issued a new story. They claimed that Mr Khashoggi had died in the consulate during a fight. The new story did not explain why Mr Kahashoggi had decided to engage in a fist fight with a number of younger and fitter men. It did not explain why the Saudis had not informed the Turkish authorities of the death at the time. It did not explain, why they had falsely insisted for eighteen days that Khashoggi had left the consulate, alive and well. Nor, did it explain what had happened to Mr Khashoggi's body. The Saudi story is nothing but an obvious fiction. Yet President Trump asserts that he finds it credible.

The case of Jamal Khashoggi can be reasonably compared with that of Sergei Skripal. The two cases involve allegations of state agents killing or attempting to kill persons on foreign soil. In the case of Khashoggi there is clear and overwhelming evidence of the involvement of the Saudi state. In the case of Skripal there is no evidence of the involvement of Russian state. A disinterested and impartial observer would find the allegation against Russia to be unsupported. The same observer would, however, find that senior Saudi state officials had, at least, killed Khashoggi and that this was almost certainly premeditated and planned in detail. Given the differences between the two cases, one would expect reasonable people to respond very differently. And the responses have been very different. Yet the responses of western governments have been precisely the opposite of what a reasonable person would have expected.

In the unproven case of Sergei and Yulia Skripal, western governments have pronounced Russia guilty and imposed punishments, including the expulsion of a record number of Russian diplomats and the imposition of sanctions. Whereas in the proven case of the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, western governments have repeatedly stated that there needs to be a thorough and complete investigation to establish all the facts. They, especially the United States and the United Kingdom, have stressed the importance of their relationship with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. This relationship has been emphasised for its substantial economic ties, and a role that Saudi Arabia plays in combatting jihadi terrorism, which is not only completely bogus, but is the exact opposite of the truth.

A dispassionate comparison of the responses of western governments to the two cases clearly reveals the complete hypocrisy of the ruling elites in the western liberal democracies. The application of double standards could not be more blatant. The much vaunted values of the liberal democracies are shown to be nothing but mere propaganda. The Russian Federation, in comparison to the barbarous Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, is a model of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has none of these. It routinely kills people for non-crimes, such as the expression of opinions. It has no democratic institutions and it is ruled by an absolute monarch, a dictatorial tyrant. Its pretence to a rule of law is just that: a complete fiction. Yet, the governments of the western liberal democracies ignore the systemic human rights violations, the war crimes and crimes against humanity of the Saudi regime; whilst condemning and punishing Russia on the basis of nothing more than unsupported allegations and false facts.

As can be seen from a comparison of the two cases, the elites of the west are sociopaths, for whom words such as human rights, democracy and the rule of law are nothing more than rhetorical tools to be exploited as propaganda.

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Khashoggi and media disinformation

Two weeks ago Jamal Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Turkey. He has not been seen since. The Turkish authorities claimed they had proof that he had been tortured, murdered and dismembered by the Saudi regime. The western corporate media, led by the Washington Post, a newspaper for which Khashoggi worked, made a scandal out of the disappearance and possible murder.

The Washington Post represented Mr Khashoggi as a journalist, who was a critic of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. They represented him as being an advocate of human rights and democracy. They suggested that the regime had sought to silence his dissent. Everything about this representation was completely false.

Mr Khashoggi was not a journalist. There is no journalism in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. He was a propagandist. He was not a critic of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. On the contrary, he was a well connected member of the Saudi establishment. His so called journalism consisted solely of the promotion of Saudi propaganda and, as an editor, the censorship of opinions and facts that did not suit the interests of the regime. This propaganda promoted both the absolute rule of the monarchy and its Wahabist version of Islam, neither of which recognise human rights nor democracy. Indeed, Khashoggi had helped to support Osma bin Laden. He did this right up until there was a parting of the ways between bin Laden and the House of Saud, as would be expected from a state propagandist.

About a year ago, Mr Khashoggi went to America, an act of self imposed exile. This was not because of some mythical conversion to the values of human rights and democracy. It was because the princes he had aligned himself with had fallen out of favour with the Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. The rift between Khashoggi and the Saudi regime was not a conflict between a freedom loving dissident and an autocratic regime, but an internal power conflict within the ruling elite of Saudi Arabia. Mr Khashoggi had picked the wrong princes.

However, the simple facts of the case do not suit the Washington Post. Hence the fairy tale about him being a critic of the regime. Mr Khashoggi was not a critic of the regime any more than the Washington Post was a critic of the regime. He, just like the Washington Post and the rest of the US elite, was a supporter of the barbarous regime in Saudi Arabia. The purpose of the Washington Post narrative, which has been amplified by the rest of the corporate media, is to hide the inconvenient fact that the US elite fully supports the murderous regime in Saudi Arabia.

Indeed, it should be obvious to all that the expressed outrage is completely confected, given the fact that the regime routinely and systematically violates human rights; that it tortures and kills people for non-crimes, such as the expression of opinion; that it is committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in its war on Yemen, a war the US and its allies fully support; that it promotes jihad and terrorism across the globe. None of this is news. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has always been a barbarous state. Yet, the Washington Post has not seen fit to demand action be taken when the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has persecuted genuine critics of the regime. On the contrary, it has acted as a PR arm of the regime.

The case of the disappearance of Mr Khashoggi is a textbook illustration of the propaganda role of the corporate media. A few actual facts, embedded in a mendacious narrative that inverts reality and turns the world upside down, claiming black is white, tyranny is freedom, and sociopathy is altruism. If this sounds like Orwell's 1984, it is simply because ever since the common people gained the right to vote, the ruling elites have felt compelled to lie in public.

Friday, 5 October 2018

Jeff Bezos: richest man in the world

Jeff Bezos is reportedly worth one hundred and fifty billion dollars. The figure is staggering.

Mr Bezos has come under some criticism of late. This has focused on his ruthless, exploitative approach to his workers, many of whom are paid minimum wages and forced to endure bullying management. So, Mr Bezos listened to his critics and decided to announce that he intends to raise the wages of his lowest paid workers to fifteen dollars an hour. He didn't say anything about the bullying management practices, which Amazon have always defended.

Prior to announcing his decision, Mr Bezos had asked the world what they thought he should do to improve things. Pay your workers decent wages proved to be a popular response. So I guess he was listening, sort of.

However, given his obscene wealth, there are a number of other things Mr Bezos might consider. For example, according to the United Nations, it would cost a mere ten billion dollars to ensure everyone has access to clean water. When you have a hundred and fifty billion, surely ten is not too much to save millions of lives. However, I am not expecting Mr Bezos to turn up at the UN and hand over ten billion any time soon.

You see, when you look at Mr Bezos' promise of increased wages, it turns out to be far less generous and enlightened and altruistic than it looks at first sight. For what Mr Bezos giveth with one hand, he taketh away with the other. All those workers expecting pay rises, will also find that their rights to other benefits have been stripped away. Moreover, Mr Bezos is facing a job market that is tilting in the interests of employees and other employers have already been forced by these changes in the labour market to increase the wages they pay. And Mr Bezos has to compete with those employers.

Of course, none of this should come as a surprise. No one gets to be a billionaire by being kind and compassionate, by being just and fair. They get to be billionaires by being sociopathic, self-interested, exploitative monsters. That's how capitalism works: the rich use their economic (and political) power to steal (legally, for the most part) from everyone else, especially the poor.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

On dog whistles and witch-finders

Back when President Trump was mere candidate Trump, an American professor published an article, arguing that Trump is anti-Semitic. The professor claimed to have overwhelming evidence; all from Trump's public statements; all in Trump's own words. I read the article, as I had completely failed to notice any trace of anti-Semitism from Trump. However, what I found was not evidence of anti-Semitism, but rather the argument that every time Trump referred to banks and finance capitalism, he really meant Jews and that his supporters knew this and he was appealing to their anti-Semitism. According to the professor, Trump was speaking in a secret code that was only accessible to other anti-Semities.

Unfortunately, this form of argument is depressingly common. There is even a noun-phrase for it. It is called dog whistle racism. It is from Australian English and has infected the whole of the English speaking world. And the political media elite love it. I suspect Joseph Heller would have loved it too, for it has all the Alice in Wonderland logic of his famous Catch 22.

Anyone can be accused of dog whistle racism on the basis of anything they have ever said or written because the words do not mean what they denote; they mean whatever the accuser claims they mean. And no one is allowed to dissent. Because dissent would mean supporting a racist and only a racist would support racism.

Once someone is accused of dog whistle racism there is no defence. How could there be? The accusation is evidence-free. The "proof" is words that do not mean what they say, but what the accuser says they mean. Any protest is immediately interpreted as further "evidence" of the racism of the accused. This is the kind of charge that witch-finders developed in the late middle ages. The accusation is made and the accused is guilty: it is just a matter of how deep that guilt goes.

If all this strikes you as completely senseless, I am afraid I can only say, Wait, it gets worse. It gets worse because the very definition of dog whistle racism is that it is a secret code that only the racists are capable of recognising. Thus, strictly speaking when someone accuses another of dog whistle racism, they are, in effect, accusing themselves of being racist. Yet, no one ever points out this simple, obvious logical and linguistic point. The accusers get a free pass. No one says, How come you are able to read this secret racist code that is only known to racists?

And it gets even worse. Anyone who is unable to read this secret, racist code is not presumed to be not racist. On the contrary, claiming to not know the secret, racist code is immediately construed as support for the racist and thus not being able to decipher the secret code is paradoxically considered to prove racism.

The notion of dog whistle racism shows just how radical is the political media elite's rejection of the values of the Enlightenment. Not only have they completely rejected evidence, due process, and the presumption of innocence; they have invented a noun (phrase) that is an accusation that is itself supposed to be the evidence that proves the guilt of the accused and cannot be challenged: indeed any attempted defence is construed as proof of even greater guilt. Moreover, should anyone come to the defence of the accused, they too will be subjected to precisely the same treatment.

In a world where the notion of dog whistle racism exists one is either with the witch-finders or one is a witch; or at least in imminent danger of becoming a witch. 

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Skripal case: the suspects

Last week, Theresa May told parliament that the two people, Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, suspected of poisoning Sergei and Yulia Skripal are GRU officers. However, Neil Basu, the police assistant commissioner in charge of the investigation, told the press that there is no evidence that the suspects are linked to the Russian state. Today, President Putin has stated that the Russian government knows who the suspects are and that they are civilians. Putin also said that he expected the men to come forward and speak to the media. These statements are obviously not compatible.

The notion that Neil Basu was lying when he told the press that the investigation had no evidence of a link between the suspects and the Russian state is simply not credible. Basu's statement does not in itself rule out the possibility that the suspects are GRU officers, but if they are, it means Theresa May has access to evidence that is being withheld from the investigation. The only actors who could conceivably be in a position to have such evidence, be able to withhold it from the investigation and be able to present to the prime minister, would be the intelligence services. And the suggestion that the intelligence services are Theresa May's source of information, rather than the investigation, seems more than plausible. It would explain why the official narrative is so full of lacuna, inconsistencies, contradictions and absurdities; so lacking in evidence.

These absurdities only increased when the investigation named its two suspects. A major problem with the official narrative revealed by the publication of the suspects names and the timings of their movements was the issue of when were Sergei and Yulia poisoned. According to the official narrative, they were poisoned by touching the outer door handle of Mr Skripal's house, which had been doused with a military grade nerve agent that is eight times more lethal than VX. The official narrative also holds that Skripal and his daughter left the house at before 9:15 in the morning. However, the official narrative has the two suspects in London and they do not arrive in Salisbury until just before noon. So if the official narrative is correct, neither of the suspects could be the perpetrators, as the poison had to have been applied to the door handle prior to 9:15.

Frankly, I suspect the intelligence services do not care about all the logical inconsistencies and this is why they just keep mounting up. For example, the hotel the suspects stayed at in London was, according to the official narrative, found to be contaminated with the nerve agent. This discovery was allegedly made at the beginning of May, but it was not announced to the public until September. During all that time, the authorities made no attempt to safeguard the welfare of all the people who had had contact with the room, nor to stop anyone else from having contact with the room, nor did they inform the owner of the hotel. This is similar to the duck feeding incident, which never even made it into the official narrative, where the authorities knew that Sergei had had contact with three boys after he must have been poisoned, but the authorities made no attempt to contact the boys. Similarly, after it was determined that the Skripals had been poisoned by a military grade nerve agent and people in hazmat suits were engaged in decontamination action, it took the authorities two weeks to issue a public health warning, which merely suggested washing one's clothes and wiping objects with a baby wipe. On one hand the authorities appear to think that the nerve agent poses no threat, whilst on the other it presents an extremely serious danger, so much so that anything, including vehicles and buildings, that might have come into contact with it must be destroyed and buried.

The release of the suspect information also highlighted inconsistencies in the case of Charlie Rowley and Dawn Strugess. According to the official narrative, Charlie found a perfume bottle in a charity shop bin months after the poisoning of the Skripals. It was in the centre of Salisbury. It was in a box that was sealed with cellophane. Charlie opened it, using a knife and that is how he and Dawn were poisoned with the military grade agent, the same agent that had poisoned the Skripals. Yet, if it was the same agent that the suspects had used to spray the nerve agent on Skripal's door handle, how could it be still sealed? Given that it was sealed, why would the suspects have put it in a charity bin? Moreover, it seems to stretch credulity that the perfume box had lain undisturbed in a bin for months.

Whenever one looks closely at any aspect of this case, it does not add up. A lethal weapon that does not kill. Russian intelligence officers that apparently were completely incompetent. A chemical weapon that requires the most rigorous decontamination processes and requires little or even no decontamination. A hero detective sergeant who mysteriously disappears, and no one seems to notice. And so it goes on. The only part of the case that does make sense is the D notice the government issued to suppress the link between Sergei Skripal and Pablo Miller, the MI6 officer who recruited Skripal to spy on Russia for the United Kingdom. Miller was, of course, a part of Orbis with Christopher Steele, who produced the infamous Trump Dossier and sold it to Clinton and the FBI. This connection is precisely what the government has sought to cover up. The official narrative is nothing more than a distraction. Look over here. Smoke and mirrors. With the additional benefit of allowing the political media elite to jump up and down with moral indignation, shouting: Russia, Russia, Russia.

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

NEC adopts IHRA examples

Yesterday the Labour Party's National Executive Committee adopted all the examples of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's working definition of anti-Semitism. This constitutes a major victory for the opposition to Jeremy Corbyn's leadership of the Labour Party. The effect of the examples is to brand much criticism of the state of Israel as anti-Semitic, which paves the way for charging and proving, by Labour's own rules, that Jeremy Corbyn is guilty of anti-Semitism and potentially his expulsion from the party.

Ever since Jeremy Corbyn was elected to the position of leader of the party, he has been under constant attack. He has been attacked by most of the parliamentary Labour Party, who have staged attempted coups; they forced a second election contest, from which they even tried to deny him the right to appear on the ballot paper and they excluded tens of thousands of members from voting whom they suspected of supporting him. They have colluded with the corporate media in smear campaigns, designed to portray him as unelectable, a supporter of terrorism, an agent of foreign powers. However, the campaign that they have found to be most successful is the smearing him and his supporters as anti-Semites. The adoption by the NEC of the IHRA examples is the culmination of that campaign.

The reason why the neoliberal parliamentarians felt constrained to adopt the drastic measure of making freedom of speech incompatible with membership of the Labour Party was precisely because of their inability to make any progress in their attempts to undermine and overthrow his leadership of the party. All their previous attempts had proven to be ineffective. Indeed, his popularity has only increased. It is this latter point that makes their next move so fraught with danger - to themselves.

Jeremy Corbyn has the support of hundreds of thousands of Labour Party members. This is not something that can be said for the Labour Party parliamentarians who oppose his leadership. Should Corbyn be ousted from the leadership (withdrawal of the whip, suspension or even expulsion from the party - any of which could be done under the new rule), it is quite likely that many constituency parties will seek to hold their complicit members of parliament to account and deny them the opportunity to stand as Labour candidates at the next election. Fear of this outcome might well make some MPs think twice. The decisive factor here will be control of the NEC.

If those opposed to Corbyn can be sure of their ability to control the NEC, they will be emboldened to remove him, as they will be able to use their control of the NEC to shut down any constituency party that moved to remove a sitting member of parliament and engage in a purge of Corbyn supporters. This was a strategy employed by Kinnock and his supporters back in the eighties, ostensibly to remove members of Militant, but in fact to remove committed socialist, whether members of Militant or not, who were attempting to shape party policy in ways designed to promote economic equality and promote disarmament.

In a grossly unequal contest, Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters have made substantial gains. However, yesterday's rule change by the NEC, in the name of identity politics and anti-racism, has significantly shifted the balance of forces - for it is now no longer a matter of democracy, but a matter of bureaucratic procedures: this was precisely how Stalin took control of the Bolshevik party. Who controls the NEC will determine the future of British politics as we approach leaving the European Union and the next general election.

Thursday, 30 August 2018

A fashion for McCarthyism

A blogger by the name of Kester Ratcliff published a list of "Assadists" on Medium. The page attracted a substantial amount of attention. However, much of that attention was overwhelmingly negative. The blog was subjected to criticism, contempt and mockery. So much so, Kester has apparently removed the page; anyhow, it is no longer available even though Kester is still blogging on Medium.

The page provided a list on over one hundred and fifty people who, according to Kester, were guilty of promoting pro-Assad propaganda. These Assadists included people as diverse as Jimmy Dore, the American comedian, Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the British official opposition, Boris Johnson, the former British Foreign Secretary and Vanessa Beeley, an independent journalist.

The list is but one iteration of what has clearly become a fashion. Governments, politicians, think tanks, and corporate media organisations have produced list after list of people whose views are unacceptable to the neoliberal elite. All these lists share a disdain for actual critical analysis in favour of the use of name calling. The favourite label being propagandist, along with Russian troll and bot.

This fashion is deeply disturbing. It is reminiscent of nothing so much as the McCarthyism of the Cold War, when people's careers and even lives were destroyed by the suggestion that they were communists. People who express dissenting views, especially views which are critical of US foreign policy, are simply demonised and dehumanised. They are represented as the enemy.

Kester's list of Assadists was a classic example of the genre. It ignored the actual facts of the conflict in Syria. Kester simply assumed that the government of Syria is in the wrong and evil, and the opposition is good and in the right. On this basis, according to Kester, anyone who does not accept this view is therefore a propagandist for Assad. This is nothing more sophisticated than us and them thinking, with us being the goodies and them being evil. The fact that this binary division placed jihadists in the good camp and the popular, secular government of Syria in the bad camp, did not trouble Kester one iota.

This fashion for manichean thinking and representations is unbelievably regressive and highly dangerous. When the world is divided into good and evil, there is no place for evidence and reason; facts no longer matter. Tribal loyalty is the only arbiter of truth, which is nothing more than the favoured narrative. Power is the only way to resolve disputes. Internal dissent is transformed into treason. This fashion for McCarthyism is creating a new totalitarianism.


Tuesday, 28 August 2018

America is truly foreign

Foreign countries are... well, foreign. And in foreign lands, they do things differently, as someone once said.

Take the United States of America, for example. In America the left apparently consists of the Democratic Party, the vast majority of the corporate media, Hollywood, the permanent state (including the intelligence agencies, the State Department and the Department of Defence), most of the legal profession, the universities, the major corporations, especially the hi-tech companies, and even much of the Republican Party, as witnessed by the lionising of John McCain. In other words, virtually all institutionalised power is in the hands of the left. In this fantasy, people like James Comey, James Clapper, John Brennan and Robert Mueller are portrayed as left-wing activists.

This fantasy is beyond absurd or surreal. It is literally delusional. This is a world in which words do not mean what they denote. They have no more fixed meaning for the American political media elite than they did for Humpty Dumpty.

In this surreal, post-factual world, one can be anything one wants and one can have any reality one wants. Objective facts no longer exist. This is a world where a woman with pale skin and blue eyes can be famous for being an African-American. It is where people can be any sex or gender (I am not even sure the American elite knows the difference) they wish. It is a world where consistently promoting wars of aggression, fascists and jihadists, for decades makes one a hero for peace. It is a world where lying to Congress proves one is a font of trustworthiness. It is a world where lying the country into illegal wars proves one is a patriot and a paragon of virtue.

In this surreal world, millions and millions are spent on investigating a non-crime. And when, after two years of investigation, no evidence of is uncovered, the response is to demand more investigation. It is a world where people are investigated to discover crimes, rather than crimes are investigated to discover perpetrators. It is a world where actual crimes are ignored, denied, covered up and explained away.

When whole societies are gripped by delusion and hysteria, only bad things can happen. Groupthink takes over. Witch-hunts happen. And if you are not with the witch hunters, you are probably either already a witch or about to become one.

Monday, 20 August 2018

Truth isn't truth

In the savage war against Yemen a school bus full of children was bombed. This happened on the ninth of August. Within hours of the atrocity, a local journalist had published proof that the bomb was a US made Mk 82. Yet CNN is now reporting that they can reveal as an "exclusive" that the bomb was supplied by the US.

Juxtaposed with this "exclusive" report, CNN is making much of a remark made by Rudi Giuliani that "truth isn't truth". His assertion came in the middle of an interview. The point he was, rather inelegantly making, was that should President Trump appear before the Mueller investigation, he might be subject to a perjury trap. A point that is not entirely unreasonable as Michael Flynn was subjected to precisely such treatment by the FBI in this Russophobic investigation. Moreover, Mueller has a track-record of lying, including perjury. He was one of the people who lied America and its allies into the war on Iraq.

However, one would not glean any inkling of this from CNN's treatment. For CNN, Giuliani's words are simply proof that Trump and his supporters are all liars. The irony is apparently completely lost on CNN's journalists. They appear to believe whatever they say is the truth, even when it is the opposite of what they had previously asserted, and any dissenting view is a lie, regardless of the actual facts. In the case of the Giuliani interview, rather than report what was said (and clearly meant) they decided to take three words out of context and focus of the literal meaning of those words, to convey a completely false and misleading impression.

CNN's relationship to anything that could be characterised as the truth is tenuous, at best. When President Trump met Putin at Helsinki, CNN couldn't wait to quote John Brennan (another deep state perjurer) accusing Trump of treason. The fact that John Brennan is incapable of supporting his allegation does not bother the truth-seekers at CNN one iota. Nor are they at all bothered that such hyperbole might inflame passions and even incite violence, even though they routinely accuse Trump of using language that is likely to cause violence and undermine freedom of speech because he accuses them of fake news. When they accuse him of treason, they are just reporting the news; when he accuses them of fake news, he is endangering freedom of the press, the lives of journalists and destroying democracy around the world.

The contradictions of CNN's so called news are so glaring, it is hard to believe that they are blissfully unaware of them. For years, CNN has either ignored or supported the US-backed war on Yemen. Indeed, it has supported war after war; whilst occasionally crying crocodile tears over child victims. In its coverage of the war on Syria, it has consistently supported the jihadis, ignored the war crimes of the US and its allies, and lied about the Syrian government and its allies. Yet, CNN pretends that it is only concerned with the truth.

CNN is a propaganda organisation masquerading as a news outlet.


Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Israel, Corbyn and anti-Semitism

The venial nature of the British corporate media is thrown into sharp relief by an article in the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz. The article is an opinion piece by Gideon Levy. The article makes it perfectly plain that the attempt to smear Jeremy Corbyn as a racist anti-Semitie is a campaign orchestrated by the state of Israel. This campaign has been enthusiastically supported by the Jewish establishment in Britain and by the British corporate media.

The motivation of the state of Israel is clear: Corbyn is a consistent critic of Israel and an equally consistent supporter of the rights of the Palestinian people. The last thing the state of Israel wants in Britain is Jeremy Corbyn as prime minister. The state of Israel does not want Britain to recognise the state of Palestine. It does not want to see arms sales stopped. It does not want Britain supporting resolutions in favour of the Palestinians in the Security Council of the United Nations. It does not want Britain to support the boycott movement.

The motivation of the British Jewish establishment is more mixed. Partly it is support for Israel, which has declared itself the homeland of the Jewish people. Partly it is a result of domestic considerations, specifically Corbyn's socialist policy positions, or, as the Board of Deputies characterised it, his far left politics.

It is these domestic considerations that mainly (along with membership of Friends of Israel) explain the motivation of the hundred or more Labour members of parliament who have supported the campaign. They are unequivocal in their opposition to socialism, being Blairite neoliberals.

This hatred of anything to the left of neoliberalism also explains why the British corporate media has been so committed to the Israeli propaganda. One of the ironies of the British corporate media's propaganda against Corbyn is that whilst it routinely depicts him as a traitor (a Russian spy, a friend of terrorists), it is the corporate media that is aligned with a foreign state in order to subvert the democratic process. The corporate media has also supported terrorists, such as the White Helmets and other jihadists.

However, the propaganda campaign is having far less success than its promoters would have wished. Notwithstanding the daily barrage of name calling, the popularity of Jeremy Corbyn remains remarkably high. Even with a majority of the parliamentary party conspiring against him, the Labour Party has made spectacular gains under his leadership. The party has grown to be the largest in Europe. In the general election, which Theresa May called in the expectation of a massive victory, Labour secured greater gains than at any time since Tony Blair's landslide of 1997, and he had the support of the establishment.

The corporate media's campaign against Corbyn is not only not working, it is back-firing. Fewer and fewer people take the claims of the corporate media at face value. More and more people are ignoring their news outlets and seeking out alternative sources of information. All the major organs of the corporate media have seen massive declines in their audiences in the past year. And many people seem to take notice of the corporate media merely for the sake of disagreeing, as can be clearly seen in the comments sections of online newspapers.

Monday, 13 August 2018

Boris and the Burka row

When Boris Johnson is not being a politician, he writes a newspaper column. Last week he wrote an article on why it is wrong to ban the burka. And this caused a tremendous row. The neoliberal globalists were outraged. They characterised his piece as racist, Islamophobic and dehumanising. They demanded an abject apology. Boris was unrepentant, and so the row rages on - it is August, after all.

All the moral outrage surrounding Boris' article is really quite astounding, even in these times of constant moral outrages about little or nothing. Boris' article presented a liberal argument in favour of the burka (which is of course utterly absurd, but it is the position of the political media elite). However, the fact that he was presenting the elite's position was completely lost in a focus on two similes. He claimed that women in burkas look like "letter boxes" and "bank robbers". These two comparisons caused a storm of outrage from what I can only call the simile police.

For over a week, the political media elite have been shrilly demanding that Boris apologise. However, even as the days have past, none of them appear to be capable of explaining why he should apologise. When challenged on this point, they are forced to (albeit reluctantly) admit that he had a right to express his opinion, that he did not break any law, that they do in fact agree with the thrust of his argument. But, they declaim indignantly, he caused offence!

This rationale is completely disingenuous. These defenders of the establishment do not seriously think that one is not allowed to cause offence and that one should apologise if someone takes offence at something one says (or writes). Their position is disingenuous because they are deliberately leaving out a crucial fact. Their complaint isn't that Boris used language that might be offensive (to some). It is that he used language that might offend some Muslims. For the political media elite no one should ever say anything that might offend any Muslim qua Muslim. No one should ever criticise Islam, Islamic practices or customs associated with Muslims: that's Islamophobia (apparently words mean whatever they want them to mean, just like Humpty Dumpty).

Vince Cable, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, was interviewed by Julia Hartley-Brewer on this issue. She doggedly asked him why Boris should apologise. Vince tied himself in knots as he desperately tried to square the circle: demanding Boris apologise without admitting that the reason only applies to Muslims, and thus repeatedly undermining his own rationale for demanding that Boris apologise.

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Trump's economic warfare

The administration of President Trump appears to be engaged in economic warfare: with everyone. Certainly, if there is a rational  underlying economic strategy, it eludes me.

There are, of course, some aspects of his tariffs and sanctions (and threats of such) that do make some economic sense. For example, Trump's demand that other Nato countries spend more on defence is clearly designed to increase the market for US arms manufacturers. Similarly, Trump's opposition to Nord Stream 2 is clearly designed to enable the US to sell liquid natural gas to Europe and to negatively impact the Russian economy by reducing its sales of natural gas.

However, much of Trump's imposition of tariffs and economic sanctions, rather than promoting US economic or even geopolitical interests, seem designed simply to harm others, and even economic interests within the US itself, and to push other countries into an alliance in opposition to US hegemony.

For example, the latest of the sanctions against Iran, which include the threat of secondary sanctions against anyone who has economic dealings with Iran, can only result in pushing Iran away from improved relations with western powers (which would have the assets in the US sanctioned) and into closer economic and political relations with China and Russia: the two countries the Trump administration identified as the greatest threats to US hegemony. On its face, Trump's economic sanctions against Iran are in direct contradiction to his administration's declared national "defence" policy.

The Trump administration is also engaged in using sanctions against an overt ally and long time member of Nato: namely, Turkey. This tactic can only result in other Nato members questioning the Trump administration's commitment to the alliance and inevitably reviewing the value of their membership of the organisation.

In a similar vein, Trump's imposition of tariff's on goods from US allies do not appear to directly assist US economic interests and indeed obviously result in direct harm to some US economic interests. Moreover, such actions have caused confusion and anger in foreign capitals, resulting in even ardent foreign supporters of the US demanding retaliatory measures.

This confusion seems to beset the Trump administration itself. Whilst imposing tariffs and sanctions, the US demands that the sanctioned countries should help the US in achieving its policy objectives. Even small children know, you cannot hit someone and simultaneously expect them to go out of their way to help you.

If there is a coherent strategy underlying Trump's tariffs and sanctions, it appears to be based on the notion that the US is the world superpower and can exhort any deal it wishes from whomever it wishes by dealing with each country separately. In other words, Trump seems to be determined to destroy the  multilateralism of the contemporary international order.

Monday, 30 July 2018

Trump has driven liberals insane, literally

American health professionals are reporting increasing numbers of people complaining of symptoms they define as Trump Anxiety Disorder. This is beyond irony.

Ever since Donald Trump won the presidential election in November 2016, conservatives have been mocking liberals by labelling them as suffering from Trump Derangement Syndrome. Now health professionals have confirmed the existence of this putative mental illness. Stranger still, many liberals have publicly admitted to suffering from this mental illness. What started out as mere political name calling has within the space of a mere two years become an actually existing mental illness, publicly proclaimed by both suffering individuals and treating professionals. Within American culture, it is now established that holding democratic elections can cause mental illness.

Perhaps, it really shouldn't come as a surprise. When President Trump met with President Putin in Helsinki, the corporate media characterised the meeting, not as an opportunity to improve relations between two nuclear powers with the capacity to destroy all human life, but as treason. The newspapers and television shows were full of people calling for Trump's impeachment. The characterisation and the calls had even been made whilst the press conference was still in progress. The only reasonable inference is that the American political media elite clearly prefer the prospect of nuclear war to the idea of America and Russia having normal diplomatic relations. If that's not insane, its hard to think of anything that would be.

Monday, 23 July 2018

Name calling as censorship

The outraged allegations of anti-Semitism being hurled at Jeremy Corbyn are nothing more than name calling. The current manifestation of this campaign is the hullaballoo surrounding the Labour Party's National Executive Committee's guidelines on anti-Semitism. The political media elite are crying foul on the ground that the guidelines do not accept hook, line and sinker the so called International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's working definition. The representation being that not doing so is proof of anti-Semitism.

However, the pundits and commentators, the politicians and pseudo-journalists forwarding this line either have not read the working definition or do not care that its examples do in fact provide a means of censoring non-anti-Semitic speech (as indeed has been recognised by the author). This fact is carefully hidden from view in all the countless discussions of the issue by rhetorical sleights of hand, such as construing the issue as: Why does Labour have such a problem with anti-Semitism? A construction that clearly implies that anti-Semitism in the Labour Party is an established fact - which, of course, is false. No matter how many times a false assertion is reiterated, it still remains a false assertion.


Of course, the accusations are not about anti-Semitism. They are about Jeremy Corbyn's position as leader of the Labour Party; they are about the criticisms of Labour party activists of Israel; they are about the movement to boycott Israel; they are about the support on the left for the rights of the Palestinian people. When the Board of Deputies issued its denunciation of the Labour Party for its alleged anti-Semitism, Enough is Enough, it actually made it clear that its concern was Corbyn's "far left" politics. Another fact that the political media elite conveniently overlooked. This selectivity is normal and routine.


Currently, the BBC and the rest are jumping up and down about Margaret Hodge's personal attack on Jeremy Corbyn, not in terms of her verbal aggression, but as proof that the Labour Party is an anti-Semitic organisation and that Corbyn (somehow) has fostered and encouraged that anti-Semitism. Apparently, for the BBC (and the rest) mere accusation constitutes proof, when the accusation is directed against those they disapprove of.


The "the Labour Party is anti-Semitic" campaign has nothing to do with actual anti-Semitism. It is a part of a much larger campaign against the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn. The political media elite are terrified at the prospect of a genuinely left wing politics achieving popular support. Corbyn has been subjected to a constant campaign of smear and character assassination ever since he was elected as leader. These campaigns have been notable only by their spectacular lack of success. Smearing and lying about Corbyn has had no effect on his support in the party and the country. And this is why the political media elite are so committed to these false accusations: merely being accused of being racist is toxic in contemporary political culture. No evidence is required. So, calling him nasty names should make him unelectable.


However, the name calling card has been so over used, it is ceasing to work. The political media elite construed anyone who would vote to Leave the European Union as an ignorant racist: yet the people voted to Leave. In America, anyone who supported Trump was labelled a deplorable racist, sexist, Islamophobic, homophobe: and Trump won the election by a landslide. The same tactic was tried in Italy: and it failed. Nevertheless, the political media elite keep playing the same card in the hope that it will work, for the simple truth is they have no other. They really do hope that sufficient name calling will silence all dissent.