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.

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

FaceBook deletes Declaration of Independence

The US Declaration of Independence is hate speech, according to FaceBook.

An obscure American newspaper, the Vindicator, has been publishing extracts from the US Declaration of Independence. The paper has a FaceBook page. When the Vindicator published part of the Declaration which denounced merciless Indian savages, who kill indiscriminately, FaceBook stepped in and deleted the post on the ground that it constitutes hate speech. FaceBook was, of course, entirely correct, as a matter of definition. However, in response to complaints, FaceBook apologised, stated that it had made a mistake and reinstated the post.

FaceBook's removal of the post was correct. The characterisation of native Americans as merciless savages, who kill indiscriminately, is "hate speech". FaceBook routinely deletes posts that are far less negative in their characterisations in respect of "protected" attributes, such as ethnicity, race, national origin, gender, religion, etc. Yet, FaceBook apologised and reinstated the post.

However, FaceBook's apology is was anything but sincere. FaceBook has not changed its policies and it does not intend to. FaceBook will continue to exercise its censorship on the basis of so called hate speech. The reason FaceBook apologised is not because it made a "mistake" and it now recognises that the Declaration of Independence is not hate speech. FaceBook apologised because the Declaration of Independence is a sacred document in America. Banning it is simply not politically possible. But let anyone try writing on FaceBook about native Americans (or any other social category) as the Founding Fathers did and their post will be censored.

What this episode shows is that the liberal opposition to hate speech is selective. Some hate speech is perfectly acceptable to the liberal political media elite and some hate speech is completely unacceptable to the same elite. This selectivity reveals the political motivation of the hate speech censorship campaign. The liberal political media elite do not want free discussion of certain issues, and characterising some speech as hate speech is an effective way of closing down debate without being accused of censorship; indeed, the censors get to wrap themselves in the robes of liberal, humanitarian concern for the welfare of others: it's not censorship, it is altruism. Better yet, it does not even need an explanation because anyone who cannot see its justice is obviously a racist, sexist, homophobe, anti-Semite, or whatever. This is censorship by name calling.

When FaceBook censored the Declaration of Independence, they did everyone a favour: because their action showed how pernicious this anti-hate speech campaign is. The anti-hate speech campaign denies human rights, it denies reality, it creates the pre-conditions for totalitarianism. When a minority gets to decide what can and cannot be said, there is no crime they cannot commit with complete impunity.

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Parliamentary virtue signalling

Today the British parliament discussed the Israeli destruction of the village of Khan al Ahmar. The sight was deeply depressing. The minister, Mr Burt, speaking on behalf of the government, fielded trenchant criticisms of Israel from all sides of the House. But none of it made any difference whatsoever.

The minister acknowledged that Israel is behaving contrary to international law, that its actions make peace and a two state solution even more distant, that Israel is not prepared to listen to reason. Yet, he made it perfectly plain that the British government is not prepared to do anything more than ask the government of Israel to show restraint - a restraint that by his own admissions, he knows Israel will not show.

This debate in the House was futile, and as Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry expressed it, a waste of breath. Israel violates international law and commits war crimes, systematically. The British government, when pressed, expresses regret and calls for restraint, whilst knowing full well that its words will have no effect. For decades, Israel has violated international law, has flouted United Nations resolutions, has systematically pursued policies that make the possibility of a sovereign Palestinian state ever more remote. And the British government has tacitly colluded in this.

When members of parliament suggested that finally the time had come for the British government to take some practical action, the minister fended off by asserting that the government was in discussions with its international partners. The debate ended with no requirement that the government do anything whatsoever.

The Americans have an expression: virtue signalling. It refers to the conspicuous, but empty because without effect, expression of one's moral values. And that is precisely what happened in this parliamentary debate. No action whatsoever is to be taken by the British government in response to Israel's violations of international law. The only purpose served by the debate was the expression by parliament of its own assumed moral superiority.

Thursday, 28 June 2018

Distinguishing between fact and opinion

Only a quarter of Americans can tell the difference between facts and opinions, according to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center.

My initial response to this finding was one of surprise. I was surprised that it was so high. Anyone who pays attention to the US political media elite will have come across countless examples of highly educated members of the American elite representing opinions as facts and pretending that facts are mere opinions. One even comes across American university professors who, with obvious sincerity, present opinions as though they were facts. In a society where even the best educated cannot apparently tell the difference between fact and opinion, it is amazing that Pew could find in a representative sample so many Americans who could. The implication would appear to be that the political media elite are deliberately eliding the distinction between fact and opinion.

There is another possibility, which is that because the study made it obvious that it was testing the ability to distinguish between fact and opinion, and defined the terms, and then immediately presented statements that were easily categorised, the study inevitably over estimates the ability of Americans to make the distinction. If this suggestion strikes you as overly cynical, I can only invite you to take the quiz for yourself.

This widespread inability to distinguish between fact and opinion probably helps to explain why the completely evidence-free, constantly changing, nonsense that is Russia-gate is apparently believed by so many Americans. Russia-gate is, of course, only the tip of a very large iceberg of supposedly factual narratives that are believed by millions of Americans despite a lack of evidential support. Such narratives are pushed daily by all the major news media (which in the US are owned and controlled by a mere handful of corporations). Daily readers of the New York Times and the Washington Post, viewers of CNN and MSNBC are fed a diet of false stories that present opinions as facts.

When the whole of the political media elite sees its role as propagandising, it is hardly surprising that people give up on facts and simply select the narratives that conform to their existing biases and interests, and decide their own opinions are fact, and the claims of others are mere opinions. This latter point is brought out in the statistical analysis of the Pew study. Republicans were likely to rate opinions they agreed with as facts, and opinions they disagreed with as opinions. Similarly they were likely to rate facts they agreed with as facts and facts they disagreed with as opinions. The same tendency was demonstrated by Democrats. These are deeply depressing findings, for they strongly suggest that it is impossible to persuade by the use of facts. And a society that no longer values facts is but a step away from deciding every issue by nothing other than force.

Thursday, 21 June 2018

Emotion substitutes for evidence and logic

In the politics of postmodernist-neoliberalist-globalism emotion has taken the place of evidence and logic. The political media elite no longer even pretend to be concerned with facts. Examples of this truism can daily be seen in the debates that decorate the parliaments of the so called liberal democracies and the narratives that fill the endless content of the corporate news media.

Consider, for example, the treatment of the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" of illegal aliens. Instead of a dispassionate analysis of the policy, it is presented in purely emotive terms. Rachel Maddow, the Russophobic MSNBC anchor, was apparently unable to articulate her report for the tears. And there was nothing exceptional about this. Other television anchors have been moved to tears over the plight of suffering children. The jihadi propaganda, dubbed, the Aleppo Boy, had the same effect.

But these are merely obvious examples of this preference for emotion. Day in and day out, the political media elite push their preferred narratives by privileging emotive rhetoric. Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations, specialises in emotive, moralising. She takes pictures of children into the UN Security Council and attempts to use them as proof. Yet when actual witnesses are presented, they are denounced. When actual evidence is presented, it is ignored or dismissed as propaganda.

This privileging of emotion does more than merely exclude facts and dispassionate analysis. It hides the real sources of power and influence, responsibility and accountability. Yesterday's report on the unnecessary deaths of hundreds of patients in Gosport Hospital was discussed in parliament. Everyone condemned the deaths and expressed their feelings and hoped things are now better. But the killings were not an aberration. They were the result of policies and institutionalised practices, put in place by the elite. The members of parliament, so fulsomely expressing their feelings, were wearing green hearts to show the world their solidarity with the victims of the Grenfell fire. Yet the people responsible for Grenfell fire were the same elite. The fire was a result of institutional policies and practices: policies and practices that have been developing for decades, ever since Thatcher imposed neoliberalism on the country.

In contemporary British society neoliberal imperatives are more than dominant; they are hegemonic. Neoliberalism is simply taken-for-granted, as though there were no alternative. But there are alternatives, which is why postmodernism is so essential. The postmodernist denial of objectivity and determinism, of evidence and logic; the notion that they are just narratives and that any narrative is no more valid that than any other, enables the political media elite to present whatever narrative it chooses as the narrative. But as the official narratives are all premised on the imperatives of neoliberalism, they cannot be honestly presented. Instead, they are wrapped in specious appeals of humanitarianism: "we" have to bomb Libya back to the middle ages to protect the people; "we" have to bomb Syria to uphold international law; "we" have to accept open borders and mass immigration for the sake of the children.

In these narratives, there is no room for the facts, no space for a cost benefit analysis, no opportunity for a consideration of alternative views. Postmodernism, whilst explicitly asserting that all views are equally valid, paradoxically collapses into totalitarianism, as when evidence and logic are excluded, the only way to arbitrate between differing views is power: and that power is neoliberalism. Everyone, and every institution, is required to accept the doctrines of neoliberalism, no matter how inappropriate or absurd or counterproductive. So health care becomes an industry, seeking to minimise costs and maximise profits and exacerbate inequalities. Regulations, purportedly in place to protect residents, are in fact remodelled to facilitate in the interests of corporations. Educational institutions are forced to compete to churn out ever more qualified people, who are ever less questioning or even capable of questioning. The senior ranks of police force are ever more skilled in parroting management speak and public relations spin, whilst violating the rights of the very people they are supposed to be protecting. And all this is hidden from view by a constant torrent of emoting and judging.

When emotion substitutes for evidence and logic, totalitarianism, increasing inequality and social dysfunction is the inevitable result.

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Parliamentary theatre

It is a cliche to describe the set piece debates that pass for politics in the House of Commons as theatre. However, yesterday's performance certainly demands the appellation.

Prime Minister's Questions was hardly underway, when Mr Ian Blackford, the leader of the Scottish Nationalists moved the that the House sit in private, causing the Speaker, Mr John Bercow, no little stress and forcing him to consult with his clerks (an archaic term for his expert assistants). Bercow denied Blackford's motion, suggesting that it could be dealt with after the session, which would have completely defeated Blackford's purpose. Instead of an argument about the procedural rules of the House, Bercow preferred to ensure that the televised coverage of the set piece debate continue uninterrupted. An outraged Blackford refused to cooperate and Bercow banned him for the rest of the day. Blackford, along with the rest of the Scottish Nationalist MPs, marched out of the House and declared their intention to use parliamentary procedures to sabotage parliament and the business of the government.

Later the House moved on to debate the Exiting the European Union bill. This too was pure theatre, and not merely for the obvious reason that no one's vote was going to be effected by the debate. Much more dramatic was the fact that the Remainers could not help but flaunt the antinomies that lie at the heart of all their rhetoric. Remainer after Remainer, all of whom are committed to maintaining the subordinate role of the British parliament to the unelected institutions of the European Union, insisted that parliamentary sovereignty gave parliament the right to micro-manage the executive's negotiations with the European Union (a position that no supporter of parliamentary sovereignty has ever held).

The drama was stepped up (or down depending on one's taste) to the level of soap opera by the Remainers throwing personal insults at those committed to leaving the European Union. Ken Clarke called his own party colleagues a group of "head-bangers". Implied accusations of racism were standard fare.

Hillary Benn, the self appointed leader of the New Labour MPs, decided to explain the options available to the country by resort to an analogy. In his Brexit for Dummies presentation, the European Union is an ocean liner and the Brexiters are wanting to get off. There is the option of jumping into the cold and dangerous sea, the "hard" Brexit or there is the option of a lifeboat, a "soft" Brexit, ie, pretending to leave, whilst actually remaining subject to all the rules of the European Union. According to Mr Benn, the government have done nothing but bicker about the colour and shape of the lifeboat and all that remains is for a minster to announce that no lifeboat is better than a bad lifeboat - the Remainers laughed and laughed. Politics as ridicule.

Nevertheless, there were some attempts to actually address issues, such as Chuka Umunna, who cited himself and his parents as proof that open immigration policies are good for the country. He told the House that people who were opposed to immigration were simply wrong: immigration was in their interests - who would have thought it, the problem wasn't the European Union, it was the ignorant electorate, who voted the wrong way. Perhaps, the Remainers should elect a new people.

And this is really the heart of the Remainers' position: they are still (two years later) unreconciled to the result of the referendum. They simply cannot accept that the people voted to leave the European Union. Unable to accept this reality, they resort to any contortion of logic and evidence, they descend to any rhetorical device, they steal the clothes of their adversaries, they invent facts, they replace evidenced argument with emotive pyrotechnics. Whilst it makes for terrible politics, it undeniably makes for entertaining theatre.

Monday, 11 June 2018

Corporate media's crimes against humanity

Eva Bartlett is an independent journalist. Her coverage of the war in Syria has been studiously ignored for the most part by the political media elite. The only exception to this is a few attempts by the corporate media to portray her as a propagandist, which is beyond ironic.

Bartlett's latest article published by RT ought to be compulsory reading for all the supporters of "the rebels" in Syria. It is based on the testimonies of Syrians in eastern Ghouta about what life (and death) was like under the so called rebels. These accounts are not for the squeamish or faint of heart. They speak of horrors of jihadist control - the preferred outcome for Syria of the promoters of the regime change operation. These testimonies also explode the Hollywood mythological representation of the White Helmets, showing them to be the propaganda arm of the jihadis.

The witnesses speak of the hoarding of food and aid by the jihadis. They tell of the torture and execution of people for such "crimes" as attempting to sell food cheaply or being suspected of supporting the government. They tell of the caging of people to use them as shields for the jihadis. They tell of the barbaric methods routinely employed by the "rebels".

The witnesses informed Bartlett about the activities of the "heroic" White Helmets. They told Bartlett that the White Helmets were foreigners with plenty of money. (The organisation was created by a "former" MI6 officer with funding from the United Kingdom Foreign Office.) They said that the White Helmets were partners with Jayish al Islam and the other terrorists. They spoke of how the White Helmets had staged atrocities, which they blamed on the Syrian government - fake stories the corporate enthusiastically retailed to the world.

Yet that same corporate media has ignored the people of eastern Ghouta since they were liberated by the Syrian Arab Army and its allies. This current lack of interest in the people of eastern Ghouta clearly reveals the fact that the corporate media isn't simply making mistakes in its reporting of the war in Syria (which is in fact a foreign regime change operation), it is deliberately engaging in propaganda to promote war crimes and crimes against humanity. As the Nuremberg Tribunal trial of Julius Streicher demonstrated, such propaganda constitutes crimes against humanity.