Thursday, 31 May 2018

More "Russia did it" fake news

When it comes to Russia, journalistic standards in the corporate media are as hard to find as unicorns. The "murder" of Arkardy Babchenko on Tuesday demonstrated this truism beyond any doubt.

The Ukraine coup government announced that the Russian journalist, Arkardy Babchenko, had been murdered in his home by Russia. The corporate media repeated the story, complete with much moral indignation and smug self satisfaction, denouncing President Putin and Russia.

Yet, no one at the BBC or CNN or the Guardian or Sky News or the New York Times or any of the rest thought for one minute to check even as to whether or not Mr Babchenkov was alive or dead. There was no attempt to check any facts. The corporate media simply rushed to regurgitate the Ukrainian disinformation and add their own moralising for good measure. These so called journalists were, at best, blinded by their own prejudices.

However, yesterday (Wednesday), Babchenko appeared alive and well at a press conference. His "murder" had been staged by the Ukrainian authorities. The report of his murder had been a complete fabrication, right down to the bloody picture of his corpse. When Ukrainian politicians and state officials had accused Russia of murdering him, they had been lying.

There is nothing surprising about such behaviour from the Stepan Bandera idolising neo-Nazis who took control of the Ukraine in the US backed 2014 coup d'etat. It is standard operating procedure for the regime - and the so called journalists in the corporate media must know this. Yet, not for a second did it occur to them to attempt to verify the narrative. Instead, they acted like the stenographers for power that they are. They simply repeated the propaganda as news, which is of course their standard operating procedure.

So when Babchenko appeared at the press conference on Wednesday, the corporate media hacks dealt with the new narrative by treating Kiev's claims with scepticism - no, of course, not. Instead, they treated the new narrative with the same uncritical acceptance as they had treated the "murder" narrative. The "hoax" (note: it wasn't propaganda or fake news or lies or disinformation) had been necessary in order to foil a Kremlin plot to murder Babchenkov - so the narrative was right all along: the Russians are assassinating journalists for having the audacity to say things critical of Russia. How very neat.

There is a very simple moral to the story: do not accept anything the corporate political media elite assert without evidence.

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Criminalising speech and media censorship

Last week Tommy Robinson was arrested outside Leeds Crown Court on suspicion that that he was likely to cause a breach of the peace. He has now been sentenced to thirteen months' imprisonment; not for breach of peace, but for contempt of court. Robinson's "crime" consisted of his attempts to draw attention to gangs of Muslims sexually exploiting girls - a fact that has been repeatedly established by the courts and independent inquiries, but is systematically minimised by the media and generally ignored by the political elite. The court, not only sentenced Robinson for his exercise of his right to freedom of speech, it also imposed a ban on reporting.

The silencing of Tommy Robinson and the censorship of the media is an outrage. If this were happening in another country, Russia for instance, the British political media elite would be jumping up and down with moral indignation and using the case as proof that Russia is a dictatorship that does not respect fundamental human rights and the rule of law. They would be using the case as a justification for sanctions against Russia.

A petition demanding the release of Tommy Robinson reportedly (Sputnik) gathered four hundred thousand signatures on its first day. However, currently (three days later) the petition has zero signatures. The deletion of all those signatures can only be seen as evidence of a concerted campaign to suppress all dissent on this issue.

All laws against freedom of speech are contrary to the fundamental human right to freedom of expression. The only reasonable exception to this assertion is incitement to violence, but even there it should be very narrowly interpreted. However, there is no suggestion that Robinson was inciting violence. All he was doing was acting as a citizen journalist, standing outside a court and attempting to report what the case before the court was about. There is nothing even remotely criminal about this behaviour. Yet he was immediately arrested on an obviously trumped up charge and was within hours found guilty of a completely different "crime" and sentenced to prison. Critics of the British regime should realise that they are confronted by a Stalinist dictatorship, which will not tolerate any dissent from its ideology.

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Police deny right to privacy

The parliamentary Justice Select Committee yesterday heard evidence that the police routinely require persons making complaints of sexual assault to sign away their right to privacy as a condition of the investigation. This is done at the initial stage by requiring the complainant to sign a "Stafford Statement". The title refers to a court judgement against the police for violating the right to privacy of a victim. Faced with the judgement, the police chose to protect themselves from further adverse judgements by introducing a procedure that demands the complainant sign way their right to privacy.

This is a shocking abuse of institutional power. It ought to be a scandal. Yet a google search reveals zero results. The corporate media are apparently unconcerned by this administrative denial of a human right that effectively nullifies both domestic law (the Human Rights Act) and international law (the European Convention of Human Rights). This lack of interest by the fourth estate is all the more shocking as the evidence was not only provided to the Committee, but is also easily available online.

The notion that all the corporate media is unaware of this denial of human rights to victims of sexual assaults is simply not credible. The only credible inference that can be drawn from this collective silence is that the corporate media has consciously decided not to publicise this scandalous abuse of power. This collective silence by the corporate media is effectively both censorship and propaganda. It undermines both the rule of law and democracy, and it colludes in the denial of human rights to people who are particularly vulnerable and in need of support.

Monday, 14 May 2018

Where are the Skripals?

Neither Sergei Skripal nor his daughter Yulia have been seen since they were found on a park bench in Salisbury on the fourth of March. Other than one brief telephone call between Yulia and her cousin and the Metropolitan police's press statements on her behalf (which obviously were not authored by her), nothing has been heard from the Skripals. They have not had consular access; they have not been allowed a visit from relatives; they have not spoken to the press. They have disappeared - and they could only have been disappeared by the British state.

Yet no one in the political media elite seems to be in the least concerned. Surely members of parliament and journalists ought to be asking the government some serious questions about the welfare of the Skripals. Instead of such questioning, there is a deafening silence. Indeed, the case of the Skripals has been largely dropped by the political media elite. The accusation that Russia was responsible was made over and over again during March and April without ever presenting a scintilla of evidence. It may be that this lack of evidence is the reason for dropping the story. Instead of talking about the poisonings of the Skripals and Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey, the focus shifted to Russian disinformation. This neatly deflects attention away from Sergei and his daughter and the lack of evidence, whilst providing yet more Russia is bad talking points.

The Guardian, which has been particularly concerned to push this Russian disinformation narrative, has been notably uninterested in the welfare of the Skripals. Taken at face value, this ought to seem very strange, as the Guardian makes a point of professing its commitment to human rights. Yet, one will search the Guardian's pages in vain looking for any interest in the legal rights of Sergei and Yulia Skripal. The Skripal case is clearly of no interest to the political media elite other than as a tool to demonise Russia.

Today, the Skripal case has resurfaced in the corporate media. However, the news has nothing to do with Sergei and Yulia: the reporting is concerned with the Head of MI5's opinion that Russia's "disinformation" about the case poses a threat to western democracies. This afternoon a BBC anchor discussed this with the BBC's intelligence services correspondent. In this conversation, the correspondent admitted that there was no evidence and that he doubted any would be forthcoming. This was a remarkable admission from the corporate media generally, and particularly from the BBC, which has explicitly stated that its sees itself as in an information war with Russia and has rebuked people for expressing scepticism about the official anti-Russian narratives.

Now that the BBC has finally admitted that there is no evidence of Russia's guilt in the Skripal case, perhaps it could finally engage in some genuine journalism and use one of its many thousands of publicly funded journalists to do some actual journalism and ask the authorities about the whereabouts of Sergei and Yulia Skripal. Maybe, but I am not holding my breath.

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Defenders of human rights

The enemies of the west's political media elite are routinely denounced as violators of human rights. These denunciations are often based on nothing more than unsubstantiated allegations. They are invariably delivered in tones of hysterical moral indignation. These same defenders of human rights are greeting the nomination of Gina Haspel for the post of CIA Director as a triumph of feminism.

Gina Haspel is guilty of torture. This is not a suspicion; it is a fact. She oversaw torture for the CIA across the globe. Yet, for the western political media elite this does not mean she should face trial as a war criminal. On the contrary, it merely means that her "history" with torture is a complication for the confirmation hearings, or might make it somewhat complicated for feminists to support her.

The simple moral fact that torture is wrong full stop is completely lost on the political media elite. For them what matters is who is being tortured (or otherwise having their rights violated) by whom. Human rights violations are completely acceptable when its suits the interests of Washington and its allies, and completely unacceptable when it suits Washington to say so.

The European Union has issued a strong condemnation of Russia over the arrest of protesters at the weekend. The EU asserts that the arrests threaten fundamental freedoms of expression and assembly. Yet, the same European Union fully supported the Spanish government's violent suppression of democracy in Catalonia and the imprisonment of independence leaders. The Catalans' fundamental freedoms were to be sacrificed to law and order. In Russia, law and order has to be sacrificed to the fundamental freedom to protest the election of Putin.

In the Ukraine, the morally superior defenders of human rights supported a violent coup d'etat by neo-Nazis to overthrow the elected government; a coup d'etat which unleashed a civil war and led to Crimea overwhelmingly voting to secede and join the Russian Federation. The western political elite may well have considered the Stepan Bandera-idolisers as heroes, but the people of Crimea saw them clearly and sought genuine protection for their human rights from Russia. In Russia's presidential election, the people of Crimea voted for Putin in higher numbers than anywhere else in Russia.

For the western political media elite human rights are nothing more than rhetorical weapons, which they can use to demonise their enemies and clothe themselves of pseudo-morality. Navalny organises an unauthorised (ie, illegal) protest in Moscow, the police make arrests and the political media elite use the events as "proof" that Putin is a fascist dictator. The west finances and arms and trains jihadis to promote regime change in Libya and when the government tries to maintain law and order, the political media elite fabricate lies of an imminent massacre to justify bombing the continent's most advanced country back into the middle ages, as protection of the Libyans' human rights.

If Gina Haspel is confirmed as Director of the CIA, it will clearly signal Washington's utter contempt for human rights. It will clearly show that the political media elite value human rights as nothing more that rhetorical weapons.

Friday, 4 May 2018

Guardian accuses Russia of disinformation

According to Luke Harding, the Russian government is guilty of propagating disinformation about the Skripal case. He claims Russia has offered numerous explanations for the poisonings. Harding cites a number of these alternative explanations. He points out that Russia cited the Swiss laboratory finding of BZ in the sample it tested. He points out that Russia has accused the British government of destroying evidence. He claims that Russia has accused the British government of abducting Yulia Skripal. (Apparently, he is unaware that none of these are explanations.) He accuses Russia of abandoning diplomacy and adopting the tactics of trolls. In contrast, Harding asserts that since the Skripals were found on a bench, the British government has "stuck to one version of events." Harding's characterisation is nothing more that disinformation and propaganda - and blatantly so.

The British government's official narrative has only had one constant: Russia did it. The details, however, have constantly changed. In fact, there are no basic facts in this case. And Luke Harding, and the Guardian, must be aware of this. They must also must be aware that their readers will know that the details of the official narrative have constantly changed. But when it comes to propaganda, facts do not matter. All that matters is that the narrative (Russia did it!) is constantly reiterated. And that is Harding's forte.

So he pretends that the official narrative has never changed. According to this representation, the Skripals were always poisoned by contact with Sergei Skripal's door handle according to the official narrative, even though this claim was not made for a month. Prior to that it had been from Skripal's car; no, it was in the street; no, it was Yulia's luggage; no, it was the restaurant, etc. Similarly, Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey was poisoned at the park bench; no, it was at the Skripal house - which was it: oh, let's just not talk about DS Bailey. And we are all supposed to have conveniently forgotten that Boris Johnson told us that the people at Porton Down told him that they knew the substance was from Russia even though Porton said they did not know the origin.

However, Harding quickly drops any pretence to be concerned with facts and resorts to the reassuring notion that the British government's claim was never based on facts (which had, of course, been the original claim of the official narrative) but is based on intelligence (just like the case for the invasion of Iraq in 2003). This claim enables him to segue neatly into citing Ukrainian anti-Russian propaganda, which claims that Russia specialises in "Deny, distract and blame."

However, as this is supposed to be news reporting, Harding concludes by claiming that Russia's propaganda cannot change the facts. Nevertheless, he criticises the British government for not doing enough to counter Russia's propaganda.

Mr Harding is a propagandist, posing as a journalist. This was exposed to devastating effect by Aaron Matte adopting the simple expedient of asking Harding for the evidence to support his allegations regarding the Trump and Russia collusion narrative. Even though Harding had written a whole book on the subject, he was unable to defend any of his claims. The interview shows that Harding simply sees anything and everything as proof of his preconceived ideas. For Harding, words like evidence and facts are merely rhetorical tools, as can readily be seen from his latest piece, which provides zero evidence of Russian propaganda, but ironically much evidence of anti-Russian propaganda.

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Diplomacy according to John Bolton

As the leaders of North and South Korea made a historic move towards peace on the peninsula, John Bolton, the US National Security Advisor, told Fox News that the US has in mind the Libya model. There are only two possible inferences one can draw from this intervention. Either Bolton is determined to sabotage the Korean peace initiative or he is completely delusional.

Libya had a nuclear weapons programme. Its leader, Colonel Gaddafi agreed to give up the programme in return for the end of sanctions and the west's acceptance of Libya. Within a few years, defenceless Libya was destroyed on fabricated allegations that Gaddafi was about to massacre his own people. Regardless of Bolton's intentions, the only message the leadership of North Korea could have received from Bolton's assertion was that the US intends to destroy North Korea once it is defenceless.

Kim Jong un can only interpret Bolton's words as proof that they were right to have developed a nuclear weapons and ballistic missile capability and they would be foolish to give up that capacity. Is this the message Bolton intended to send? I do not know, but he has a history of being incredibly pro-war. Before his appointment as National Security Advisor, he wrote a op-ed for the Wall Street Journal in which he set out what he considered to be the legal case for waging war on North Korea pre-emptively.

If Bolton did not know that North Korea could only interpret his words as proof that they must keep their nuclear weapons, he must be far too ignorant to hold the post of National Security Advisor. North Korea has previously publicly stated that its rationale for having such capacity is based on what happened to Libya after it gave up its nuclear weapons programme.

So on Friday, Kim Jong un announces his intention to give up North Korea's nuclear weapons capability and on Sunday John Bolton takes to US television to assert that the US has in mind the Libya model for North Korea: get them to give up their weapons of mass destruction in return for ending sanctions and security guarantees and then bomb them into the middle ages.

Whatever Bolton's intentions, it looks like he may well have sabotaged the most promising development for peace on the peninsula since the 1953 armistice.