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.