Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Knowing without finding out

Yesterday President Trump delivered his first state of the union address. A week earlier students at New York University were interviewed about his address, as though it had already happened. They all, with all the appearance of complete sincerity, responded to the questions as though they knew what Trump had said, and they all had formed judgements. Unfortunately, these students are anything but exceptional. Everyday people apparently convince themselves they know all about subjects, topics and issues without having any relevant knowledge whatsoever. As one can see from the video, the students simply substituted their biases and prejudices for knowledge of the facts.

This preference for biases and prejudices over actual facts is actually a normal, routine, everyday behaviour. One does not have to devote much attention to the news media, which boast of their commitment to facts and accuracy, to see how biases and prejudices predominate in the creation of narratives. A study of the BBC's coverage of the European Union and the British vote to leave demonstrates beyond any possibility of doubt that the BBC, notwithstanding its much vaunted claims to impartiality, is committed to propagandising in favour of the European Union, regardless of the facts.

One of the interesting side points to emerge from the study is how the BBC simply dismisses complaints about its bias on this issue as being false, no matter how detailed and persuasively made. Apparently, the BBC is so convinced by its self professed claim to be impartial that any criticism must be false and doubtless the result of bias and prejudice. Thus, complaints merely provoke projection.

This resort to projection as a way of countering any criticism or dissent has become the standard response of the political media elite. It is has been substantially reinforced as more and more people have come to the conclusion that neoliberalism is a threat. The election of Trump in 2016 gave a massive impetus to this propagandising by the unleashing of the Russia-gate scandal, which has resulted in hundreds of independent news sites and bloggers being labelled as Putin's agents, simply on the basis of their criticism of elite narratives.

The political media elite has decided that only its narratives are true. Any criticism is simply dismissed by mere name calling. Question Russia did it and you are an agent of Putin. Question the democratic record of the European Union and you are an ignorant racist. Question immigration and you are a fascist racist. Facts and logic have been dispensed with. In their stead, the corporate media impose opinion stated as fact, moralising stated as fact and demonising stated as fact. The corporate media repeatedly provide James Clapper with a platform to assert as fact that Russians are, as a result of their DNA, deceptive, deceitful cheats. This is presented as proof that Russia hacked the presidential election for Donald Trump. The holes in this narrative are so blatant that no criticism can be tolerated. This is why the political media elite are so determined to shut down freedom of speech.

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Are we heading towards world war?

Today's Daily Mail has a front page headline that screams: Putin is a clear and present danger to Britain. The claim is, of course, laughable - well, it ought to be, but the political media elite have successfully perpetrated such lying propaganda over and over. They lied about Saddam Hussein and weapons of mass destruction that could be unleashed on Britain within a mere forty-five minutes. They lied about Libya, claiming that Gaddafi was about to massacre his own people. They lied about Syria, demonising Assad, whilst they supported the jihadis. They have lied over and over, and never are they held to account: so doubtless they think they can get away with it again.

However, Russia isn't a Libya or Iraq. It is a nuclear weapons power. The game the political media elite are playing is incredibly dangerous: they are the clear and present danger. They are risking a nuclear war.

The propaganda demonising Putin and Russia looks exactly like the propaganda campaigns the political media elite engage in prior to unleashing war. As they have ramped up this campaign of demonisation, blaming Putin for virtually everything, tensions have mounted and the risks of actual war have dramatically increased.

After promising Nato would not move one inch closer to Russia, Nato forces are now massed on Russia's borders - something the Mail cites, quoting the Chief of the General Staff, Sir Nick Carter, as a reason to fear the Russian threat: "They are not thousands of miles away, they are on Europe's doorstep", as though it was Russia that had moved towards Nato.

Those Nato forces amassed on Russia's borders are a potential trip wire. In the atmosphere of Russophobia that the political media elite have so assiduously nurtured, any small incident could easily be misinterpreted, by either or both sides, and suddenly and uncontrollably escalate into all out war. World War Three could be a mistake, much like the First World War, which no one sought but no one could prevent once the tensions and distrust and alliances were in place. In 1914 all it took was a terrorist assassination.

The world today has many potential points of conflict that could act as the equivalent of Gavrilo Princep's terrorist attack. The evidence-free Russia-gate scandal in the US has been characterised by many of the political media elite as an act of war. As a consequence, although Trump was elected in part to establish friendly relations with Russia, he has been unable to do so and sanctions have been stepped up and Russia has been deemed the greatest threat to American security. The deterioration in diplomatic relations ensures that almost any incident would be difficult to resolve peaceably.

We are now probably closer to nuclear war than ever before.

Monday, 22 January 2018

Hypocrisy awareness, or lack of it

When Donald Trump allegedly called a number of countries as s***holes, it resulted in a storm of moral indignation from the political media elite. CNN, for example, ranted about it for days. Yet these same people had wildly cheered when Trump had unleashed tomahawk cruise missiles on Syria. In fact, these same people have consistently supported US bombings, invasions and regime change operations of countries across the globe. Apparently, in the moral universe occupied by the political media elite, using foul language about foreign countries is terrible, but illegally killing the people of such countries is to be enthusiastically supported. One might almost think that the political media elite have all had a hypocrisy awareness bypass operation. Unfortunately, hypocrisy is not only normal, it is mandatory.

Anne Applebaum clearly, albeit unintentionally, explained this required hypocrisy in an opinion piece in Washington Post. The article supposedly shows how Donald Trump has made dictators stronger. However, the article is not about Trump's policies; it is not about Trump actually making dictators stronger. Indeed, the author has nothing but support for US government policies that have consistently supported dictators and undermined democracies across the globe. Her ire is for Donald Trump's language; his failure to use the language of democracy and human rights. Unlawfully killing peoples and destroying their societies is something to be supported or, at worst, a price worth paying, just so long as it is dressed up in the rhetoric of morality and US exceptionalism.

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

A corporate media propagandist

On the Real News Aaron Matte interviewed Luke Harding about his book, Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win. Matte adopts the simple, straightforward strategy of merely asking Harding for the evidence. The effect is devastating. Harding is obviously unable to offer a single shred of evidence. Instead he relies exclusively upon false facts, rhetoric and logical fallacies. His logic (such as it is) is nothing more than the syllogism:

Putin is bad
the election of Trump is bad
therefore, Putin had Trump elected.

Harding attempts to hide this absurd logic by resorting to strawman arguments, guilt by association, irrelevant history, falsehoods, appeals to authority, "context" (whatever that is supposed to mean), the representation of moralising as fact and the fact that some other people agree with him.

The interview is starkly reveals the extent to which propaganda passes for fact in the corporate media.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

The Committee to Protect Journalists has named President Trump as winner of its award for overall achievement in undermining press freedom globally.

The Committee's judgement deifies both common and moral sense. The notion that Donald Trump calling CNN fake news does more to undermine press freedom than the state censorship imposed by countries such as Turkey, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, North Korea and Egypt is staggering. Such countries imprison and even kill people for exercising the fundamental right to freedom of expression; whereas Trump's alleged crime is the exercise of his right to freedom of expression. The Committee's award is just the latest example of the delusional hysteria of the neoliberal elite.

The notion that the exercise of freedom of expression undermines press freedom makes no sense. Yet the neoliberal political media elite apparently expect everyone to share their view that Donald Trump calling out the corporate media for pushing disinformation is more damaging than dictatorships, such as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, imprisoning and even executing people for expressing any dissent.

The Committee's award is just another example of the corporate media's hyperbolic criticism of Trump, which has done so much to undermine trust in the so called mainstream media. In my judgement, the winner of the award for overall achievement in undermining journalism globally goes to the corporate media, aka, the mainstream media. It merits this award by virtue of its decades long constant stream of false narratives, many of which have been used to justify illegal wars, wrecking death and destruction across the globe.

Monday, 8 January 2018

The BBC's criminal propaganda

The BBC (along with the rest of the political media elite) likes to portray RT and Sputnik as organs of Russian state propaganda. The accusations are as ironic as they are absurd. RT and Sputnik may well have their biases and prejudices, but they are nonetheless news agencies and neither have been shown to have deliberately produced false news, unlike the BBC.

In Sputnik one can read an article on the investigative work conducted by Robert Stuart into the BBC"s programme, Saving Syria"s Children. The piece describes how Stuart has convincingly demonstrated that the documentary was fictionalised propaganda designed to promote Washington's regime change operation in Syria. A particularly telling piece of evidence is the fact that the BBC team were provided "security" by Ahrar al Sham, a jihadist organisation linked to both al Qaeda and Islamic State, which Human Rights Watch had previously accused of the massacre of civilians, including women and children.

Ahrar al Sham is a jihadist group, committed to the creation of an Islamic state under Sharia. It is a designated terrorist organisation, but not by the United States even though John Kerry as Secretary of State repeatedly referred to it as a terrorist organisation. Amnesty International has accused Ahrar al Sham of war crimes and pointed to the organisation's use of chemical weapons. The organisation has received explicit support from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, as well as covert support from the US, the UK and France.

The BBC's involvement with Ahrar al Sham demonstrates beyond any possibility of doubt the broadcaster's role as an organ of propaganda, disinformation and the promotion of illegal wars. The executives and so called journalists at the British state broadcaster might be well advised to review the Nuremberg Tribunal trial of Julius Streicher, who was convicted of crimes against humanity and hanged purely on the basis of his use of journalism as propaganda.