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  • Time for Corbyn to stand up to his detractors and the manufactured media 'crisis'

    johnhilley.blogspot.com | Tue, 07 Aug 2018 19:47:00 +0000

    As the media manufactured 'crisis' of antisemitism within Labour reaches 'fever pitch', it really is time for Jeremy Corbyn to end the futile appeasement and confront those determined to break him.

    An entire herd media have now converted what should be a manageable 'problem' for Labour into a 'major issue', turned it into a 'political furore', and helped elevate it to an 'existential crisis'. 

    In typical 'concerned' pose, Toby Helm at the Observer/Guardian 'laments' Labour's 'failure to be getting on with the important issues': 

    Instead, the past week has seen Labour monopolise the headlines for all the wrong reasons. The only issue on which it has made waves is the interminable and increasingly tortuous row over antisemitism in its own ranks, and the resulting near-total breakdown in its relations with the British Jewish community.
    In effect, the media create, generate and hype the headlines, then blame Corbyn for 'monopolising' them.

    This, in turn, encourages even more shrill headlines, readily fed by the coup-makers, such as Tom Watson with his fatuous claim that the party is about to “disappear into a vortex of eternal shame and embarrassment.” All too dutifully, the Guardian continue reporting this cringing hyperbole without question.
    Lamentably, much of the media onslaught against Corbyn has been given added impetus by a 'woke left' supposedly there to defend him. Leading this element is Owen Jones. Following Corbyn's deeply-mistaken Guardian article, apparently intended to reassure his detractors, Jones rushed to laud him: 
    Corbyn telling the anti-Semitic fringe where to go. And as he says: “Anyone who denies that this has surfaced within our party is clearly actually wrong and contributing to the problem.
    In truth, it's people like Jones who are contributing to the problem for Corbyn, by giving the charges against him and Labour even more undue airing and 'significance'. All of which only helps in distracting attention from the associated aim of the Corbyn-destroying lobby: protecting Israel and negating Palestinian rights.  

    As Ali Abunimah responds to Jones: 
    Everyone can agree that racist “fringe” is not welcome in party like . But target of Israel lobby’s fake anti-Semitism smear is not a fringe that was always already marginal but rather mainstream support for Palestinian rights/opposition to Israeli racism and apartheid
    Echoing Jones, Aaron Bastani and others, Barnaby Raine employs similar seemingly well meaning, yet deeply problematic, language in talking-up the "battle" and "war" against antisemitism inside Labour and the wider society. We can, Raine insists, criticize Israel/support Palestine, while 'tackling the scourge' of antisemitism. 

    In a searing response (39:19 into video), Norman Finkelstein dismisses Raine's 'walking and chewing gum at the same time' line. And Finkelstein is, indeed, correct here in refusing to accept the very premise of Labour's 'deep problem' with antisemitism, and the language of 'battle' and 'war' being used to 'eradicate' and 'stamp it out'. 

    This kind of vocabulary only gives added weight and encouragement to those making such contrived claims of an 'endemic problem' and 'crisis' within Labour. And it's all to no avail in helping to protect Corbyn. As Finkelstein knows all too well, these pro-Israel organisations and lobby groups will never be satisfied. They want nothing less than Corbyn's political scalp. For Finkelstein, Corbyn should simply tell the truth, say what's right, and face them down, rather than engage in the utterly mistaken appeasement he turned to in his Guardian piece.

    The immediate wave of hostility to Corbyn's article is proof positive that nothing will get in the way of the lobby's determination to remove him. As the Jewish Labour Movement declared
    Today, other than another article bemoaning a situation of the party’s own making, nothing has changed. There is no trust left. We find ourselves asking once again for action, not words.
    Stephen Pollard, editor of the Jewish Chronicle, also joined the immediate condemnation:
    So Corbyn’s great move is a piece in the Guardian saying our worries are overheated rhetoric and all would be well if only we could just talk. And not a word of contrition about anything except process. He really is shameless
    As Iain Macwhirter concluded, in response to Pollard's brutal dismissal:
    This confirms that there is nothing that Corbyn could conceivably say that would satisfy his pro-Israeli critics. Any concession will be seen as a confirmation of anti-semitic perfidy. [You] can’t appease a smear campaign.
    Likewise, the party's mistaken capitulation to 'sacred figures' like Margaret Hodge only serves to embolden the entire Friends of Israel lobby.  

    Rather than the kind of useless political 'triangulation' urged by Jones and the Momentum playmakers, and in assertive resistance to the unforgiving plotters around the Jewish Labour Movement, Corbyn should adopt the more direct and progressive guidance of Jewish Voice for Labour.     

    In a brilliant stand-your-ground article, taking apart the entire liberal-posturing narrative and craven media compliance, Manchester Jewish Action for Palestine also articulate the central issues here:
    As Jewish people in Manchester, England, we resent the despicable racism shown towards the Palestinians by Guardian stalwarts such as Jonathan Freedland, Polly Toynbee, Jessica Elgott, Eddie Izzard, Nick Cohen, Marina Hyde and Gaby Hinsliff among others, all saturating comment sections on mainstream news websites with attacks designed to bring down the UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, and to protect Israel from accountability. The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Anti-Semitism definition guidelines the Labour Party are correctly omitting, are designed by Israeli propagandists to aid their many mass lobby attempts to stop international solidarity with the Palestinians and to deny Palestinians the right to express the nature of Israel’s 70 years of violence and racism towards them. We call on everyone to see that creating a largely-mythical anti-Semitism ‘crisis’ in the Labour Party is one of the few tools left to ailing and desperate establishment hacks wanting to smear Corbyn and maintain UK support for Israel, no matter how many Palestinians the Israeli army slaughters, or how many houses, schools, and hospitals Israeli jets destroy in Gaza. In the face of this, Zionist groups with a history of uncritical support for Israel claim that Corbyn presents an existential threat to British Jews? This is obscene, hypocritical scaremongering.
    I urge everyone to read this full, exemplary piece. In similar vein, I commend the superb, and timely-titled, article by Lindsey GermanThere’s only one way to stop the witch-hunt against Jeremy Corbyn – stand up to it.  

  • World Cup window on Russian realities and British hypocrisy

    johnhilley.blogspot.com | Thu, 12 Jul 2018 22:17:00 +0000

    With an outstandingly successful World Cup in Russia now drawing to a close, the praise and enjoyment of so many global visitors contrasts with the awkward and hypocritical absence of British dignitaries.

    Despite the England team lasting out till the semi-finals, neither Theresa May, her ministers or any member of the royal family attended the event.

    Lamentably, nor did any member of the opposition - a perhaps more understandable avoidance by Jeremy Corbyn given the hateful media and political backlash he would have inevitably faced.

    The official government reason for the boycott, we're reminded, was the 'Novichok attacks'.

    May and Home Secretary Sajid Javid have placed Russia directly responsible for the poisoning of five individuals in and around Salisbury, including, now, the sad death of Dawn Sturgess.

    With the police now treating this as a murder inquiry, linked to the original poisoningsDefence Secretary Gavin Williamson wasted no time in raising the political stakes, again pointing the finger at Russia“The simple reality is that Russia has committed an attack on British soil which has seen the death of a British citizen. That is something that I think the world will unite with us in actually condemning.”

    Yet, to date, not a single piece of substantive evidence has been provided to the public proving any such "simple reality".

    The actual truth behind this whole murky affair may be a long time emerging, But it doesn't take Sherlock Holmes to see the propaganda opportunity for Britain in its efforts to vilify Putin and Russia. And what could have been more 'timely' than this latest tragic development right in the middle of Russia's showcase World Cup?

    Whatever one's view of Putin, is there anyone in this situation less likely to order such 'attacks', or wish for such adverse publicity? One can only imagine Putin's displeasure in discovering that some 'in-house' or errant element had carried out such actions 'on his behalf' or for 'Russia's benefit'. 

    One of the more facile variations put forward here is that Putin does these kind of things just to 'sow confusion', or to encourage 'multi-conflicting' narratives to keep the Western public 'fixated on Russia'. All part of the 'Putin playbook', all-knowing liberals tell us. Again, the resort to slogan charges rather than evidence-based proof.

    Beyond such limp conjecture, any half-savvy member of the public could come up with half-a-dozen more plausible scenarios and set of motivations. 

    Alongside the UK state's unproven story of Russian culpability sits the vacuous conformity of British journalism. Any 'quality' media would be all over this story, seeking to mine the deeper truths. Instead, an effective silence prevails. Where are all the Pulitzer-spirited investigations?

    This should be a golden moment for investigative journalism. Yet, there's been little more than sheep-like repetition of government statements and, shamefully, obedient adherence to government D-Notice-type prohibitions on reporting about the Skripals. 

    It also now transpires that Newsnight's senior diplomatic correspondent Mark Urban met with Sergei Skripal on several occasions in 2017, before he was poisoned. What, we may reasonably wonder, as Craig Murray does, was the 'scope' of Urban's 'research', and why does his 'understanding' of the Salisbury events seem to fit so closely with the official line?

    It's remarkable how readily the BBC accept and amplify the standard narrative. Even while security correspondents like Frank Gardner mention competing explanations, there's no serious scrutiny of the UK's deeply suspect claims, silences and omissions.

    British deceit and subterfuge over Salisbury is matched only by the hypocrisy of its selective support for other brutal states. Imagine if the World Cup finals, with English or other UK participants, were being played in Saudi Arabia or Israel. Would we be seeing such 'moral' non-attendance?

    Unlike the unverified claims against Russia over Salisbury, here are two states with decisively proven records of murdering innocent civilians in Yemen and Gaza. Yet there's been no major condemnation of the slaughter carried out by these regimes. Nor will our lofty media pursue and expose the dark part the UK plays in such killing, through arming, training and placating them.

    Britain condemns Russia's human rights record, but would never employ the same language or punishments against Israel or Saudi Arabia. What's the likelihood of UK/Western sanctions being placed on these serial violators of international law?

    In similar vein, Britain castigates leaders like Assad for 'killing his own people'. Yet, why is the ill-treatment of one's 'own' populace deemed so much more heinous than the bombing and killing of foreign 'others'? Does this not count as abuse of human rights? Is this not part of any country's human rights record?

    Continuing its imperialist crimes, Britain has recently helped murder a million souls in Iraq, left Afghanistan in chaos, bombed Libya back to the dark ages, and fueled regime change catastrophe in Syria.

    It's not only the UK's backing of sundry despots, it's Britain's own murderous conduct around the globe that renders it unfit to lecture anyone on human rights. And it's a measure of the ever-assumed 'but we're the good guys' mantra in the West that you will almost never see or hear that description of Britain as a criminally active rogue state even suggested by our deeply-conditioned media.

    Citing the shrill UK media commentary and coy insinuations over Russia's rights to host the event, Media Lens noted: "It would never occur to a Daily Mail/Guardian journalist that Britain and its leading allies might be considered 'less enlightened corners of the world', given their staggering record of selecting, installing, arming and otherwise supporting dictators in 'less enlightened corners', including Saudi Arabia as it devastates famine-stricken Yemen."

    While Russia is being isolated and boycotted, the perpetrators of vast Western war crimes are approved and celebrated.


    The BBC's Jeremy Vine and the Guardian's Andrew Rawnsley have just conducted expansive interviews with Madeleine Albright, in which she warned about the dark forces of fascism, Putin and the 'threat to Nato'. Yet, neither found time to challenge 'Maddy' on Nato's own aggressive build up across the Baltic and Balkan states, or its criminality in places like Libya. 

    Nor did Vine or Rawnsley  think it appropriate to mention Albright's own high criminal part in the elimination of half a million Iraqi children.

    While such villains are feted, anyone questioning the prevailing anti-Russia narrative is deemed a 'Putin apologist'. Such is the darkening climate of liberal McCarthyism. For Media Lensthe Guardian's own gushing editorials on Nato suggests "a corporate newspaper that has now fallen under a kind of ideological military occupation." 

    Following Russia's elimination from the World Cup, Nato tweeted its own approval that the four remaining sides were all from Nato states.

    In this 'Manichean World Cup', it's 'our' team of 'benign Nato protectors' up against the 'malign Russian menace'.

    Inconveniently, while a posturing British establishment and Nato-friendly media have snubbed and demonised Russia, the World Cup has offered fans and observers much more positive insights on Russian life and society. 


    England manager Gareth Southgate also seemed averse to the pre-contest scaremongering, offering high praise to Russia over its well organised tournament and hospitable treatment of his team.  


    Bringing commendably balanced comment and illuminating images from Russia, Alex Thomson
    offered this further key reminder over the poisoning story back home: "Worth noting at this point that the British Govt has yet to provide any evidence connecting Novichok poisoning of Skripals to the Russian Govt, still less the latest contamination."

    Thomson also tweeted a moving image of Volgograd (once Stalingrad), in commemoration of the millions of Russians sacrificed in the heroic battle against Nazi Germany: "And at the setting of the sun we might pause and remember Stalingrad. To no other place on earth does humanity owe such a debt."

    Here, at least, was a welcome window on the real complexities of Russia, past and present, rather than the 'looming threat' posed in David Dimbleby's pre-World Cup propaganda piece, Putin's Russia, in which he warned: "these are dangerous times for Russia, and dangerous times for Russia are dangerous times for us." 

    As England prepared for their semi-final match against Croatia, a jingoistic Independent pondered the 'diplomatic problem' for the English players having to shake hands with Putin if they made it to the final.

    Imagine the same media writing about the dilemma for those players having to meet with Theresa May on their return, a leader currently assisting in the annihilation of Yemen.

    With England, rather than 'football', coming home, media-hyped 'English expectation' and 'English entitlement' has now given way to more reflective 'English valiance'. England at play, it seems, is England at war, all part of the same metanarrative of an imperious, mystical and righteous nation, even in defeat: 'our game', 'our bravery on foreign fields', 'our right' to decide who is friend or foe.      

    Again, though, it's worth remembering just how much a grandstanding elite and toxic media help feed such notions of 'English exceptionalism'.  

    It's good, and all too human, to get caught up in the passion of the 'beautiful game'. Nor should we be in any doubt about the obvious connections between sport and politics, notably the ways in which they are most often used to serve powerful interests and ideas. The point is to understand how we are being played.

    In a welcome tweet, Gary Lineker has taken Boris Johnson to task for jumping on the political bandwagon by hailing England as returning heroes, reminding us that, as Foreign Secretary, he had actually pushed for England's withdrawal from the contest. 

    As this most memorable World Cup reaches its exciting end game, the 'noble absence' of the British establishment will have been no loss to the wider-watching world. Hopefully, it will have helped highlight their gross hypocrisy and the enduring crimes of the British state.   

  • Honour murdered Palestinian medic Razan al-Najjar by boycotting Israel

    johnhilley.blogspot.com | Mon, 04 Jun 2018 23:17:00 +0000

    Sometimes the sheer wickedness, the unfathomable cruelty, of Israel's crimes leaves one grasping for words.

    Razan Ashraf Abdul Qadir al-Najjar
    The murder of 21 year-old Palestinian volunteer medic Razan al-Najjar by an Israeli army sniper isn't the first unspeakable act committed by this heinous state. And we surely know it won't be the last. 

    129 civilians, including 15 children, have now been killed, and over 13,000 more shot and injured, since the start of the Great Return protests in Gaza. The International Committee of the Red Cross has now dispatched "two teams of war surgeons and medical supplies to Gaza to shore up a healthcare system it said was on the “brink of collapse.”" The ICRC say 1,350 gun shot victims now require complex multiple surgery.


    Like those medics, Razan was committed to saving, rather than taking, lives.

    Unlike conscientious people like Razan, Israel's 'first response' is to murder and maim rather than assist and heal. This 'most moral army' is engaged in acts of merciless state terror, killing relentlessly, systematically, without compunction, mowing down unarmed people at will. 


    This is a regime not only impervious to world opinion, but able to brush aside futile statements of 'international concern', knowing that, without any prospect of serious legal or political sanction, it can continue to murder with complete impunity.    


    The killing of Razan as she and other medics ran, hands in air (see video), to give medical attention to a wounded Palestinian is not just the criminal act of one cowardly soldier. It's another high war crime committed by a state on the rampage, slaughtering and terrifying in brazen defiance of every international law and convention, all aided by the criminal complicity of its key allies and a media obfuscating the truth of Israel's villainy.


    Thus has the BBC consistently hidden Razan's and other Palestinian killing behind the spurious headlining of "Gaza violence" and "Gaza border clashes", rather than as acts of wilful state murder.

    Multiple other media reports have followed the same whitewashed narrative of 'violent clashes', 'deathly confrontations', and Israel's 'promise to investigate'

    Disgracefully, here's how the Guardian headlined Razan's murder: "Palestinian woman shot dead during protest near Gaza fence."


    The cold brevity of such words: the decontextualising of a state crime; the dehumanising of an imprisoned people; the depersonalising of a young woman, a daughter, a sister, a mother, a friend, a giver of aid, a saver of life, a precious human being.


    This is all too typical of the standard, anodyne referencing of Palestinians, an Orwellian violence of language in itself, serving to deflect and anonymise their existence, their suffering, their deaths.


    Even media use of 'conflict' here is a power-serving distortion, playing all too easily into the default liberal, and Israeli-preferred, 'two-sides' narrative. 

    This is not a 'conflict'. It's a one-sided mass assault on a continually oppressed people, an ongoing ethnic cleansing, an unremitting settler-colonial project, an inhuman subjugation. There is no 'conflict' here. There's an illegal occupation, an illegal siege, an illegal imposition of settlements, an illegal apartheid wall, and, as we've seen in Gaza, more illegal slaying of civilian lives by one of the most heavily militarized states in the world. 


    Alongside all the predictable denials and mitigation over Razan's murder, there have also been disgusting words of 'condolence', such as this shameless statement from Confederation of Friends of Israel Scotland (CoFIS facebook page): "This is a very sad loss of this brave lady's life. must be made to stop inciting these riots. They - Hamas - are causing loss of life, damage of property, unrest, violence ..."

    Yes, it's always Hamas. One can only think of what Razan's bereft family will make of such words. Like other parts of the rearguard Israel lobby, CoFIS can only but affect 'regrets' over such indefensible killings. Frustratingly, they can't find anything with which to blame Razan herself. And, of course, they would never countenance blaming the actual killers, the Israeli state, and calling for its prosecution. But they will always find a way of invoking the 'controlling hand' of Hamas, even though it had no formal role in the calling of these protests, even though this is so obviously an historic movement of Palestinians freely massing in desperate protest at their inhuman incarceration.


    The lobby know very well that Razan lived and died as the very embodiment of that duty-driven demonstration, coming to the aid of her fellow people in their demand for justice. But none of that can ever be admitted.

    Here's what CoFIS's associate group, Glasgow Friends of Israel, had to say about the murder of Razan al-Najjar (at their facebook page):



    That's right, nothing. Zero. A blank space of silent evasion.


    But Razan's death too, no doubt, falls under the same relentless GFI claim that such killing and suffering is all the fault of Hamas, and that all actual evidence to the contrary, from international observers, medics and human rights groups, is part of some contrived "Pallywood" act. It really takes some kind of special mendacity and perverse insensitivity not only to deny and deflect Israel's crimes, but to blame the victims and scoff at Palestinian suffering.


    Another measure of GFI's twisted evangelism and racist inhumanity can be seen in this (GFI facebook) comment:
    "Israeli children are taught to love. Sadly Palestinian children are only taught to hate."

    Again, it's hard to comprehend what kind of mindset could produce such ugly fabrication and racist branding - all part of GFI's consistent protection of Israel's apartheid state. And to think that CoFIS/GFI had the audacity to join - shamefully, uncontested by its organisers - a recent Stand Up to Racism march.

    Just as there will be many more state-instructed killings, so too will come more zealous lies and concoctions from Israel's Hydra-headed lobby, more crass denials, more spurious excuses, more hollow words of 'concern'. 

    There will also be more high political hand-wringing and fake media context, a negation and marginalisation of Palestinian life as 'unworthy other'. 

    As Razan's family grieve, as we try to comprehend the callousness of her taking, remember that there can never be proper justice for her and all those other murdered and maimed Palestinians without meaningful action to stop this barbaric, apartheid state. 


    All those elevated words of condemnation are futile unless they are matched by resolute decisions to oppose, indict and boycott Israel.

  • Israel's racist front groups must be resisted, not placated or wished away

    johnhilley.blogspot.com | Wed, 21 Mar 2018 21:17:00 +0000

    A march through Glasgow last weekend organised by Stand Up to Racism (SUTR) has caused some considerable debate among a number of campaign groups and individuals. At issue was the attempt by pro-Israel lobby group Confederation of Friends of Israel Scotland (CoFIS) to participate in the demonstration.

    Understandably, and not uncommon to many left/progressive exchanges, this matter has generated no small amount of divisive feeling. However, that should not deter us from fair, critical comment and constructive reflection. In that spirit, I'd like to address three main aspects of this issue.   

    1. The problem with CoFIS's participation in this event.
    2. The mistakes SUTR made in their response to this situation.
    3. How it could have been better handled, and other lessons to be drawn.

    1. The first things to note is that SUTR did not specifically 'invite' CoFIS to this demonstration. Many people within and supportive of SUTR also issued comments on CoFIS, ranging from dislike to outright rejection. Many expressed a wish for CoFIS not to be on the rally.

    However, the key problem here lay not in such non-invitations or individual reservations, but in SUTR's refusal to issue a formal statement rejecting CoFIS as an organisation. In this sense, SUTR did 'provide' an implicit 'invitation' to CoFIS.

    It was the specific absence of any clear statement from SUTR declaring CoFIS unwelcome that compelled all main Palestinian solidarity groups and other bodies to register their concerns and objections. 

    Another thing that should be clarified here is that no Palestinian solidarity group has ever called for Jews to be banned or removed from this or any other event. Any such call would be abhorrent. Even if such stewarding was logistically possible, it would be utterly wrong, and quite clearly anti-Semitic.

    Again, the specific question here concerns the standing of a particular organisation, one which openly supports, approves and campaigns for a racist, apartheid state, the very forms of institutional discrimination which SUTR profess to be standing against.

    CoFIS are not being opposed because of the religious affiliation of their members (many of whom are, in fact, Christians as well as Jews) but because of their support for Israel and its racist/apartheid oppression of Palestinians.

    Beyond CoFIS's own well-peddled narrative, this is not an issue about Jews, it's an elementary issue about human rights: the right not to be a victim of racism/apartheid; and the right to resist any organisation which openly supports a state, military and civil apparatus dedicated to the perpetuation of that racist/apartheid treatment.

    A cursory look at CoFIS's reactionary literature (much of it provided by right-wing bodies Stand With Us and Christians United for Israel), social media postings, campaigning postures and deceitful banners claiming to be 'pro-Palestinian' is enough to see what this organisation really represents.

    Beyond any reasonable mitigation, it's very hard to understand how SUTR could have been unaware of CoFIS's zealous pro-Israel status, and how completely antithetical those positions should be to SUTR's own supposed aims and values.

    A key claim aired by SUTR was that its movement encompasses people of many political positions, and that the theme of the march - resisting Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and standing up for refugees - could not include Palestine as a 'defining' point, or that it 'didn't fit the criteria'.

    This is not only a straw man argument, with regard to the obvious diversity of political opinions, but a more troubling evasion of SUTR's supposed objectives.

    Of course, even on a demonstration such as this, there will be many diverse views held by participating individuals. But, again, it's the presence of a particular racist-supporting organisation that matters here.

    Groups like the Scottish Defence League insist they are not racist, that they are 'merely defending national interests'. Would SUTR defend the right of such an organisation to march with them? Of course not. They understand precisely what this organisation represents, and would shun them as hostile interlopers.

    The same principle applies to CoFIS. Why didn't SUTR look at what this organisation really represents, and act accordingly?

    If one accepts that Israel is an apartheid/racist state - as every major Palestinian solidarity group, and many civil and political others, do - then this is the criterion against which CoFIS participation in an SUTR event most certainly should be judged.

    Some SUTR advocates also argue that these kind of marches, in continued opposition to Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and purging of refugees, is the best way to support oppressed Palestinians.

    This, again, is feeble mitigation. The idea that Palestinians will take any kind of comfort from such 'solidarity' is not only risible but deeply patronising. SUTR's failure to issue any formal disapproval of an organisation working consistently against Palestinian rights is the very last kind of 'support' Palestinians need.

    One need only consider the group of Palestinian firefighters in Scotland last week, courtesy of the FBU, who felt unable to join a march that included a CoFIS organisation banner and Israeli flags, all visible and humiliating symbols of their oppression.

    It should also be noted that to be seen standing alongside such images risks interpretation by other Palestinians as collaboration.

    What's really at the heart of SUTR's positioning here is a fear of being labelled anti-Semitic. And this is why it's so important for bodies like SUTR not to fall for that mendacious narrative.

    Progressive people and organisations should be under no illusions about the power and resources of Israel's lobby machine in its relentless determination to smear opponents and distort the issue. That's why they should be particularly alert to front groups like CoFIS trying to build respectable cover for their racist/apartheid supporting activities.

    2. As the issues and implications over this march began to surface, a number of solidarity groups and others began making representations to SUTR. These included Scottish Friends of Palestine, Association of Palestinian Community - Scotland, Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, and Scotland Against Criminalising Communities (SAAC).

    In addition, Glasgow Palestine Human Rights Campaign (GPHRC) expressed their objections, pointing out that, as a street body, it has been raising public awareness (with leaflets and other information) about CoFIS, and its associate group Glasgow Friends of Israel (GFI), since their appearance over two years ago.

    An SUTR steering meeting was convened the week before the march to discuss a motion calling for SUTR to oppose CoFIS's participation. That motion, presented by SUTR affiliate SAAC, was subsequently rejected.

    A demonstration outside of this meeting was held by the Revolutionary Communist Group (RCG), which had raised early warnings of SUTR's refusal to issue a statement rejecting CoFIS.

    Despite having a close interest in the issue, GPHRC, as a non-SUTR affiliate, was not allowed access to the meeting.   

    In recognition of all these growing concerns, the UK-wide Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) had also written to SUTR. Besides its conciliatory tone, it's important to note here the PSC's specific detailing of CoFIS as "the most offensive propagators of anti-Palestinian narratives", and calling this to the attention of SUTR.

    Here's the exchange:

    Earlier this week, PSC wrote to and held direct conversations with Stand Up to Racism (SUTR) about our concerns at the likely participation of the Confederation of Friends of Israel Scotland in the SUTR Glasgow march this Saturday. Yesterday we received a formal response. Both PSC’s letter and the SUTR response can be read below. 
    PSC agrees with all of the sentiments contained within the SUTR Scottish steering committee statement. However, it does not address the concerns we raised about the participation of the Confederation of Friends of Israel Scotland in the Glasgow march.  It is our view – based on the Confederation’s  policies,  beliefs  and behaviours in Scotland, as set out in our letter, that their participation will necessarily  undermine the core message of the march and the important work that SUTR does. We would hope, even at this stage, that SUTR would make a clearer statement to address the concerns that have been raised. However, in the absence of any reassurances that Palestinians and their friends and supporters will not face a hostile environment if they attend the march, regrettably we cannot advise our members in Scotland to participate in an event whose core aims we very much support. 
    We remain committed to an ongoing discussion with SUTR to resolve these issues so that we can work together on shared policies in combatting racism, islamophobia and anti-Semitism in the longer term. 
    Letter from PSC: 
    We wanted to follow up our telephone conversations with a written note about our concerns over the presence of the Confederation of Friends of Israel Scotland on the SUTR Glasgow march on Saturday. 
    We are aware that a range of groups in Scotland including Scottish Friends of Palestine and SNP Friends of Palestine have raised their worries about the participation of the Confederation. These include the fact that this places Palestinians – including a group of Palestinian firefighters currently being trained by the FBU – in a hostile environment on a march they had intended to a join. 
    Whilst we understand that SUTR want to build a broad coalition of partners wishing to fight racism – including anti-Semitism, a brief visit to the Facebook page of the Confederation reveals them as propagators of the most offensive anti-Palestinian narratives. These include denying the Palestinian Nakba and posting material stating that no Palestinian villages and towns were destroyed prior to and after the establishment of the state of Israel; denying the status of Palestinian refugees and posting an article from the CEO of AIPAC which states that any Palestinian state is incompatible with Israel’s security. The Confederation is also part of a campaign to have student activism on UK campuses under the banner of ‘Israel Apartheid Week’ closed down. The Confederation has links with groups in the UK who – alongside Britain First and the EDL – have attempted to disrupt PSC marches and meetings. 
    We understand that the Confederation has framed its desire to attend within the context of an opposition to anti Semitism and that there is a concern that to indicate that their presence is not welcome will leave organisers open to the charge of anti-Semitism.There are many definitions of racism, but to promote prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against people of a different race, ethnicity or culture, as the Confederation does, must surely give you as organisers cause for concern.We would hope that there could be a clear statement that all of those organisations participating in a SUTR march need to stand on a platform of opposition  to all forms of racism – which includes resistance to or, at the very least,  not supporting the policies and laws of any state that are clearly racist. As organisers, we would hope that you would agree that anyone who cannot sign up to these basic principles would not be welcome and that behaviour designed to intimidate other participants will not be tolerated.We would hope it is not too late for such a statement to be issued. Notwithstanding this, after the events of this weekend, we would wish – as the PSC – to have a more detailed conversation with SUTR about the long term strategy to address these issues. 
    Ben Jamal, PSC Director, and Hugh lanning, PSC Chair. 
    SUTR Response 
    Dear Ben and Hugh, 
    For your information the SUTR Scottish Steering Committee unanimously agreed the following statement: 
    Stand up to Racism is a broad coalition comprising many civic organisations, refugee and migrant communities, as well as trade unions, political organisations and individuals. The key criteria are opposition to the rising tide of racism, Islamophobia, Antisemitism and the scapegoating of refugees and migrants. If you support these principles please come and join us on M17.
    Signatories: Scottish Trades Union Congress, Unison Scotland, Unite the Union Scotland, Educational Institute of Scotland, University and College Union Scotland, Scottish Labour Party, Church of Scotland, Justice and Peace Scotland, Scottish Council of Jewish Communities, Scottish Refugee Council, Muslim Council of Scotland, Scottish Faiths Action For Refugees, Show Racism The Red Card, City of Edinburgh Unison, Glasgow City Unison, Unison South Lanarkshire, Edinburgh College EIS-Fela, Unite Scottish Housing Associations branch, Unite NHS Ayrshire &; Arran, Unite GPM and IT Branch, Unite Glasgow retired members, MEND, Afghan Human Rights Foundation, Social Work Action Network, The People’s Assembly Scotland, Govanhill Baths Community Trust, Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees, Govanhill Against Racism, Maryhill Integration Network, Perth Against Racism, Women for Independence Glasgow, Scottish Jews For A Just Peace, PCS Scotland, RMT Scotland, FBU Scotland, Interfaith Glasgow. 
    We urge the Palestine Solidarity Campaign to join us. 
    https://www.palestinecampaign.org/psc-statement-stand-racism-glasgow-march/
    As can be seen, SUTR's response here amounts to no more than a reiteration of their rigid 'criteria', list of affiliates and call to join the march. It made no effort to engage the PSC's substantive points.

    With no indication of SUTR addressing these concerns, or shifting its position, every major Palestine solidarity group withdrew their support for the march. 


    Besides the PSC's call, a boycott of the march was advocated by Scottish Friends of Palestine, Association of Palestinian Community - Scotland, Glasgow Palestine Human Rights Campaign, Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the Muslim Council of Scotland, an ad hoc group of Jewish anti-racists, and SAAC. The Communist Party (Scotland) also announced its non-participation in rejection of CoFIS and in support of Palestinians. 


    Consequently, SUTR's demonstration went ahead without the participation of an entire pro-Palestinian movement, Scotland's official Muslim organisation, and a number of other political/civil bodies. That, by any reasonable measure, is a significant loss to a body seeking to build a unified anti-racist movement. 


    CoFIS did attempt to participate in the march, but were successfully slowed down and held back from the rally's main body by a commendable pro-Palestine grouping from West Dunbartonshire, carrying an imaginative representation of Israel's apartheid wall. The RCG also took a leading role in stalling CoFIS from marching.  


    3. Many questions, thus, have to be asked about SUTR's failure to engage the wide concerns over CoFIS's presence, its fear of being falsely labelled/smeared as anti-Semitic, and its apparent inability to handle the issue in more principled and unifying ways.

    So, what else might SUTR have done here?

    Rather than the decision taken, SUTR could have followed the approach of Artists for Palestine UK (AFP).

    In response to a 2017 Edinburgh 'Shalom' festival, organised by CoFIS and GFI, AFP issued a clear statement exposing CoFIS as a front organisation for the promotion of 'Brand Israel', and defender of Israel's apartheid/racist state.

    Like AFP, SUTR were not obliged to approach CoFIS on the matter. AFP did not write directly to CoFIS. Rather, they made their position clear in an open letter signed by multiple figures, including Ken Loach and Paul Laverty, stating: "We call for a boycott of the misnamed "Shalom Festival", which promotes, not "peace", but the apartheid State of Israel and its occupation."

    SUTR could have issued a similar-styled statement denouncing CoFIS and its attempted participation on their march.

    People reading AFP's statement and article were helpfully informed about CoFIS's real agenda, and the case for Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) as a public counter-measure.

    SUTR could have adopted that same approach - even without approving BDS.

    Specifically, SUTR could have made a clear public statement saying that it had:

    Looked closely at CoFIS as an organisation. 
    Felt deeply concerned about its aggressive pro-Israel positions.
    Realised that CoFIS was using the SUTR demonstration as a vehicle for its own agenda.
    Feared that CoFIS was intent on dividing SUTR and Palestinian solidarity groups.
    Concluded that CoFIS support for Israel's apartheid/racist state was incompatible with SUTR's own aims and values.
    Stated that CoFIS, as an organisation, was not welcome at any SUTR event.

    Having issued this open statement, CoFIS would, in turn, have had to consider whether it still wished to participate in such an event. If it decided not to, complaining that it had been excluded for anti-Semitic reasons, SUTR only had to repeat and defend their statement, rejecting this spurious claim. If CoFIS did appear at the march, SUTR would have been under no obligation to try and enforce their removal. Again, the statement deploring CoFIS as an organisation, and the reasons behind their attempted participation, would have been sufficient.

    Others, within or beyond the march, would have been equally free to express their own peaceful opposition to such participation.

    Any 'adverse' media fallout could, likewise, have been used to re-state SUTR's position, insisting that, as a hostile body and apartheid/racist-supporting organisation, CoFIS did not adhere to SUTR's own basic tenets. Rather than fear the publicity this might generate, SUTR and supporting organisations could have used the opportunity to reaffirm their common opposition to racism, and to bodies that openly, or as front groups, seek to defend Israel's racism/apartheid.

    It's not intended here to castigate those SUTR associates with a long history of supporting Palestinian rights. It is, however, appropriate to ask that they now reflect carefully on SUTR's deeply misguided conduct, and its own damaged standing as an anti-racist organisation.  

    This issue, and SUTR's dismal mishandling of it, should serve as a wider lesson to those who think that the pro-Israel lobby can be ignored, placated or simply wished away. 

    You can't stand up to racism while turning your eyes from Israel's daily apartheid, and the organisations working to disguise it.

    The evidence should be glaringly obvious to SUTR and any other body proclaiming serious anti-racist credentials.

    While Palestinian child Ahed Tamimi's cruel incarceration and trial, over a minor slap, continues in a closed-door military court, an Israeli soldier has had his 18-month sentence for murdering a wounded Palestinian cut by a third.

    An Arab family seeking to buy a piece of land in an Israeli town is refused permission by the mayor, fearing it would not be in keeping with its 'Jewish-Zionist nature'.

    Palestinian workers are herded and crushed like caged animals on their way to menial work in Israel.

    These are but small samples of Israel's routine racist crimes and apartheid practices, all of which CoFIS openly denies. 

    It's remarkable to think that, as Israel's inhuman treatment of occupied, bombed and imprisoned people intensifies, an anti-racist group here in Scotland could be so reticent and fearful in standing up to an organisation defending those very racist crimes.  

    As the building of real solidarity for Palestinians continues in Scotland, it's to be hoped that SUTR come to understand the need for true, decisive resistance to racist state apologists like CoFIS.


  • Stand up to Israel and its front campaigns

    johnhilley.blogspot.com | Tue, 13 Mar 2018 19:37:00 +0000

    Israel is becoming increasingly isolated, as worldwide criticism mounts over its illegal Occupation, siege of Gaza and apartheid crimes, unleashing, in turn, an even more furious backlash from Israel and its global defenders.

    In particular, rising support for Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) has prompted new reactionary responses from the Israeli state and an increasingly strident lobby.

    Condemnation of Donald Trump's incendiary speech endorsing Jerusalem as Israel's capital has only intensified Israeli propaganda and lobby hubris.

    This is evident in the many fabrications against Palestinian children, notably the branding of Palestinian child Ahed Tamimi as a 'terrorist' for slapping a soldier. Ahed and her mother, imprisoned just for filming the incident, have had their trial, before a closed door military court, continuously delayed, as Israel weighs up how to impose its harshest punishment.

    Those damning Ahed also have to deal with the awkward fact that an Israeli soldier had just shot her 15-year-old cousin, Muhammad Tamimi, removing part of his skull. In a further vindictive act, Muhammad, awaiting vital surgery, was again arrested in a night raid and forced to confess he had sustained his injury from a bike fall. Even after his doctors had shown medical proof of the shooting, an unapologetic lobby continue maligning the Tamimi family.    

    It's all part of a relentless hasbara, seeking to control the narrative and intimidate anyone inclined to criticise Israel. US comedian Sarah Silverman was also denounced for urging fellow Jews to stand up for Ahed. The lobby even turned on Gary Lineker for daring to question Israel's brutal treatment of children.

    With Netanyahu approving a new $75 million "public relations commando unit" to counter BDS, the lobby is now using every form of threat and distortion. With further menacing intent, Gilad Erdan, Israel's minister of strategic affairs, is leading a "black-ops" campaign against BDS.

    Heading a growing list of artists endorsing BDS, noted musician Roger Waters has felt the lobby's fiercest wrath, with pressure on sponsors and legal threats to close down his shows. Admirably, Waters remains unfazed.

    New Zealand singer Lorde has also experienced intense lobby intimidation after refusing to play Israel. Two young women, one Jewish, one Palestinian, who sent a letter asking Lorde to support BDS are being sued by pro-Israel legal group, Shurat HaDin.

    Alongside 'Brand Israel', and paying students for hasbara trolling, online Palestine activists are now being censored as part of the pretext corporate clampdown on 'fake news'. Glenn Greenwald notes how Facebook executives approved Israel's requests to delete huge numbers of pro-Palestine accounts. 

    Unlike the raging hysteria over 'Russiagate', Western media aren't rushing to report Israel's dark meddlings.

    Escalating fears over BDS and Israel's declining image has also placed the US lobby on heightened political alert. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), and Anti-Defamation League (ADL) are leading an extensive attack on BDS through The Israel Anti-Boycott Act, legislation opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union as a violation of First Amendment rights.

    Jonathan Cook notes that what's "special about the Israel lobby in the US – an amalgam of hawkish Jewish leadership organisations and messianic Christian evangelicals – is the fear it exploits to silence critics. No one wants to be labelled an anti-Semite."

    Stand With Us are part of that same right-wing network, running multiple pro-Israel campaigns, and opposing Anti-Apartheid Week. It has been "accused of anti-Muslim propaganda and encouraging a militant Israeli and U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East." 


    The group was widely criticised after one of its media advisers wrote a virulent article disparaging common support between oppressed Palestinians and black protesters in Ferguson. The author was defended by Hen Mazzig, another Stand With Us associate with rabid right-wing views. 

    The same US lobby have also launchedvociferous attack on Al Jazeera's forthcoming exposé of US lobby activity.

    In the UK, Al Jazeera's previous undercover investigation has already revealed key connections between lobby bodies and the Israeli Embassy. With Priti Patel's recent 'family holiday' in Israel, and co-lobbyist Lord Stuart Polak, also now exposed, Conservative Friends of Israel are now ratcheting-up the fear, as in Michael Gove's shrill warnings on Palestine activists' "dark and furious energy". 

    The enduringly Blairite Labour Friends of Israel remain on-message too, with Emily Thornberry delivering a speech to LFI "that could have been written by a pro-Israel lobbyist".

    And the lobby's relentless smearing of Jeremy Corbyn for 'harbouring anti-Semitism' goes on, no matter how much he denounces such tendencies. 

    Jonathan Cook also shows here how Owen Jones engaged lobby insiders, the Jewish Labour Movement, further serving to subvert Corbyn.

    Encouragingly, newly-founded Jewish Voice for Labour now provide a strong counter to JLM's smear agenda, while Jews For a Just Peace have declared their support for BDS.

    However, all this pressure on Israel has spurred other zealous lobbying.  

    One group pursuing that kind of mission here is the Confederation of Friends of Israel Scotland (CoFIS), an avowedly pro-Israel organisation masquerading as 'pro-peace' street campaigns. This includes Glasgow Friends of Israel (GFI).

    Besides evangelising for Israel and whitewashing its crimes, CoFIS consistently attack and smear Palestine solidarity groups.

    Ignoring multiple UN resolutions and international law, CoFIS defends Israel's illegal acts, refusing to back key Palestinian rights and claims to full statehood. It approves Israel's apartheid wall, blames Israel's mass killing in Gaza on Hamas, and fails to condemn Israel's shooting and incarceration of children. It consistently applauds Netanyahu. It hails Trump and his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital. It denounces BDS and artists like Roger Waters. And it insists on Ahed Tamimi being punished as a 'terrorist'. 

    Much of the literature CoFIS hands out to the public comes from the same visceral US right-wing group, Stand With Us.

    Director Ken Loach, writer Paul Laverty, and actor Tam Dean Burn were among signatory Artists for Palestine UK who, in 2017, opposed CoFIS's "misnamed “Shalom Festival”, which promotes, not “peace”, but the apartheid State of Israel and its occupation." 

    Their letter stated that the Festival, organised by CoFIS founder Nigel Goodrich and GFI's Sammy Stein, and endorsed by Stand With Us, was "part of the State of Israel’s attempts to counter BDS. It claims to support “peaceful coexistence” in Israel/Palestine, while whitewashing Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights."

    CoFIS claim to be 'anti-racist', while denying the inhuman effects of the Occupation, the calamity of Gaza, and Israel's colonial settlements. This mirrors the very same deception Israel has peddled for generations with its contrived 'peace process', using every opportunity to extend the settlements, imprison Gaza, and deepen its racist treatment of Palestinians.

    CoFIS has no support from Palestinian civil society. While it speaks of 'shared interests' and 'open dialogue', drawing in virtue-signalling liberals and unwary progressives, serious observers see this 'pro-peace' line for what it is: a cynical charade and continuous stalling exercise, serving to normalise Israel's land thefts, and prioritise its 'security concerns'. As with BDS, meaningful solidarity remains focused on real strategic action, helping to expose the multiple fronts and guises of Israel's lobby.

    People of conscience, whatever their background or religious beliefs, should reject any organisation which seeks to approve and defend Israel's apartheid state. And they should be particularly alert to any group which seeks to conceal their real purpose through stealth insertion into parliamentary life, mainstream parties or civil movements. 

    If we accept that, as with South Africa, apartheid is racism, there should be no place for Israel-protecting bodies like CoFIS within any authentic anti-racism event or demonstration.

    Rejection will, inevitably, be met with the same lobby backlash. But leftists should defend their position with principled argument rather than capitulate for fear of being falsely labelled. There's no placating or appeasing this lobby. 

    Campaigns which help hide Israel's mass crimes have to be resisted with moral resolve and tactical intent. You cannot stand up to racism while lying down to Israel's apartheid.

    *(This is an abbreviated version of my previous blog article.)

  • Serious solidarity must resist the Israel lobby and its front campaigns

    johnhilley.blogspot.com | Tue, 27 Feb 2018 18:27:00 +0000

  • Presidents, Posts and liberal pandering to power

    johnhilley.blogspot.com | Fri, 09 Feb 2018 01:27:00 +0000

  • The common world of 'defence' chiefs, 'defence' journalists and 'defence' politicians

    johnhilley.blogspot.com | Fri, 26 Jan 2018 09:57:00 +0000

    General Sir Nick Carter, the British Army's Chief of General Staff, has been on the propaganda circuit, talking-up the 'Russian threat', promoting the UK's latest imperialist ambitions, and, of course, lobbying for more public money.

    Delivered from the lofty Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), Carter's speech is the latest top-brass military display of rhetorical weaponry and stealth evasion of the UK's own vast war crimes. 

    The General's script is so riddled with scare memes, hyperbolic claims and cold war sophistry, it seems barely credible that any serious observer could fail to see through it.


    That, alas, isn't how it works for our servile media and deferential political class.

    Primed and briefed, the BBC duly reported Carter's speech below their Pravda-pitched headline:

    Army chief warns British forces would struggle against Russia
    Without the slightest journalistic shame, the BBC's Jonathan Beale openly approved Carter's message:
    Coherent, detailed and impressive speech by tonight making the case for investment in . CDS in waiting ?
    As noted by Media Lens:
    This is how the impartial defence correspondent responded to the UK army chief's propaganda speech on : 'Coherent, detailed and impressive'.
    In a subsequent Twitter thread, Beale crudely dismissed objections that he had amplified Carter's message without any critical challenge.

    Not to be outdone, the establishment-serving Guardian also gave Carter top-billing:
    UK warned that Russian threat requires increased defence spending 
    Chief of general staff, Sir Nick Carter, will say Britain needs to keep up with adversaries to avoid being exposed to unorthodox, hybrid warfare
    Russia is biggest threat to UK since cold war, says head of British army  
    Gen Sir Nick Carter gives stark warning of ‘complex and capable security challenge’ for Nato  
    The default 'defence' line here is often, 'we are only reporting the news'. Yet, as noted by Ian Sinclair, consider how the above Guardian headline contrasts with that of the Morning Star:
    Britain's army chief accused of alarmist hyperbole over Russian threats
    Why couldn't the Guardian say it likewise? It might also, quite reasonably, have added:
    Gen Sir Nick Carter makes deeply questionable claims about ‘complex and capable security challenge’ for Nato
    Deborah Haynes, senior defence correspondent at the Times, also trotted-out approving repetitions of Carter's speech:  
    . says his motivation for speaking out is to help generate debate, to get people talking about the security of the nation
    And:
    UK looks to keep military footprint in Germany, @ArmyCGS reveals as he spells out "clear and present danger" posed by Russia. This is not just a plea for £. It's an explanation of modern war and threats http://bit.ly/2E1Dgt8
    An avid militarist and forces-supporting voice, Haynes is also a relentless purveyor of the great fake 'fake news' hysteria:
    Better late than never and details still sketchy, but UK reveals plans to combat & deter fake news & other forms of information warfare deployed by states such as Russia to influence/disrupt/manipulate
    There was also much party political indulgence of General Carter's fear-laden talk. Lamentably, this included the SNP's defence spokesperson, Stewart McDonald, who tweeted this message urging consideration of Carter's claims and warnings:
    Worth listening to this speech by General Sir Nick Carter, Chief of the General Staff. It doesn't pull any punches and should make uncomfortable viewing for the government.
    McDonald affects an anti-government motivation here. But his primary nod is to Carter's 'serious defence concerns'.

    Ex-SNP MP, and McDonald colleague, John Nicolson also worries that:

    The UK is badly underdefended - Scotland especially so. Labour and the Tories sacrifice vital defence needs for Trident shibboleth.
    Is the UK really "badly underdefended - Scotland especially so"? Here, again, we see a posturing form of 'opposition', in this case disingenuously using Trident to argue for more militarist spending to counter 'all those other external threats'.

    In speaking for Scotland's main independence party, one might expect from McDonald some critical reaction to General Carter and his 'security' agenda for the British state. Seemingly not. McDonald now appears deeply smitten by such 'prestigious' figures and organisations, not least Nato, the West's leading warmongering machine, which McDonald wants to see hosted in Scotland.


    McDonald's other apparent mission is to 'sort out' an "MoD in chaos". He laments 'big-ticket' spending on vanity projects like HMS Queen Elizabeth, at the 'expense' of 'conventional forces', and calls out MoD ministers for the 'shambles' over a stalled 'defence review', but offers no meaningful challenge to the military establishment at large. There's no renunciation of the political-military-corporate network behind it all. There's no argument for much wider UK disarmament. There's nothing here on the actual murderous menace of British militarism, as currently seen in Yemen. There's not a hostile word against Nato.


    It's also worth noting, in these same regards, that one of McDonald's most favoured and oft-cited 'defence' correspondents is the above-mentioned Deborah Haynes.


    Many of those trying to steer Labour away from their party's Blairite nightmare have been expressing deep disquiet over the imperialist-toned and pro-Israel utterances of foreign affairs spokesperson, Emily Thornberry. Serious leftists and progressives within the SNP and wider indy movement should be paying similar close attention to McDonald's own disturbing militarist and Israel-friendly positions.

    The dutiful headlining, repeated claims and approving reaction to Carter's 'pulls-no-punches' speech illustrates the insidious relationships between 'defence' correspondents, 'defence' politicians and 'defence' chiefs.

    It's sobering to think of the respect accorded to figures like Carter who, from Iraq to Afghanistan, has led this country's forces in illegal invasions, ruinous occupations and the mass elimination of life. Dripping in establishment honours (KCB CBE DSO ADC), it seems the more death and destruction such people deliver, the greater elevation and higher platform they receive, particularly from our liberal politicians and media.

    It's also remarkable that Carter's host, RUSI, a military-minded 'think tank' founded by the Duke of Wellington and figure-headed by the Queen, can be so liberal-approved and cited by the BBC as somehow 'neutral'. Again, we see how elite militarism flourishes through liberal deference.      


    The excellent historian and journalist Mark Curtis has just launched Declassified. Alongside Curtis's regular output charting the UK's current political-military criminality around the world, it's a most valuable resource, chronicling Britain's dark historic warmongering, proxy coups, human rights atrocities and other past crimes.

    Rather than indulging drum-beating hawks like Carter, politicians, journalists and anyone else really concerned with understanding and challenging British militarism might find in such places much more useful information and critical direction. 

  • Demonising Russia and RT - the dark effects of liberal authoritarianism

    johnhilley.blogspot.com | Thu, 23 Nov 2017 19:47:00 +0000


    The current political and media assault on Russia, fearmongering over Russian 'bots', and McCarthyite outing of  'Russia apologists' casts revealing light not only on the usual right-wing foghorns, but the more crucial role liberals play in upholding, reproducing and naturalising the dominant order.

    Such is the rising liberal antagonism against Russia that leftist writer Glenn Greenwald has had to dismiss countless facile tweets casting him as a Kremlin stooge, while pointing out that Western liberal charges against Russia are now so hysterical and distorted that it's left even liberals in Russia itself perplexed and isolated.

    As Greenwald notes, spurious claims of Russian subterfuge are now spreading like wildfire. Having helped de-bunk so many false and unsubstantiated charges, he asserts that:

    an incredibly reckless, anything-goes climate prevails when it comes to claims about Russia. Media outlets will publish literally any official assertion as Truth without the slightest regard for evidentiary standards. Seeing Putin lurking behind and masterminding every western problem is now religious dogma – it explains otherwise-confounding developments, provides certainty to a complex world, and alleviates numerous factions of responsibility – so media outlets and their journalists are lavishly rewarded any time they publish accusatory stories about Russia (especially ones involving the U.S. election), even if they end up being debunked.
    Every other standard-bearing Guardian liberal now seems enthused to join in the anti-Russia frenzy. From 'robbing Hillary' of the White House, to 'bot-shaping' the Great British Public over Brexit, it all links back to that most damnable Putin-Kremlin 'interference in our affairs'.

    Conveniently, this dispenses with any serious need to examine the crisis of neoliberalism that has given rise to Trump and Brexit. Likewise, there's no need to detain ourselves with the crucial part our liberal class has played in entrenching that neoliberal 'reality', leading to the populist reactions and eruptions we're now seeing. Instead, we're all enjoined to rage against Trump, bewail the 'Brexit apocalypse' and point an all-indicting finger at those scheming Russians.

    Caught up in her own political crisis, Theresa May saw the obvious distracting opportunity to denounce Russia and Putin. It should have been equally obvious even to the Westminster bubble media what she was up to. Instead, true to form, the BBC dutifully headlined all her contrived charges.

    Yet, BBC journalists need no automatic cue from imposters like May when it comes to pious evasion. They're already BBC-primed. And there's no more ready target for BBC worthies than that odious media usurper, Russia Today.

    Whatever the limitations of RT, it provides an important counterpoint to much loaded Western media. For Jonathan Cook:
    RT is far from a perfect source of news – no state or corporate media is – but it is a vital voice to have online. It has become a sanctuary for many seeking alternative, and often far more honest, critiques both of western domestic policy and of western interference in far-off lands. It has its own political agenda, of course, but, despite the assumption of many western liberals, it provides a far more accurate picture of the world than the western corporate media on a vast range of issues.
    The level of anti-Russia liberal chatter was raised again after ex-First Minister for Scotland Alex Salmond launched his new chat show on RT. Seemingly appalled by the move, the BBC's Nick Robinson used his 'impartial' BBC Twitter account to insist that our open democratic broadcaster cannot be compared with their closed authoritarian pretender. For Robinson:
    The question is not whether is making Kremlin propaganda. It is whether he’s lending his credibility & that of his guests to Kremlin propaganda
    It most likely doesn't occur to Robinson that he is only able to say such things as an elevated correspondent from the BBC because his very own words are so establishment-tuned. That's a form of managed denial, institutional conditioning and state control that Russia and RT are never likely to match.

    Readers might also like to recall here Robinson's own display of liberal tolerance, as he smashed up an anti-war placard outside Westminster.

    Yet, in a field of serious competitors, one might struggle to find a more brazen platform for state propaganda than the BBC's This Week. Even beyond the system-serving output of Robinson, Marr, Kuenssberg, Humphrys and trusted BBC others - one wonders quite how the openly-reactionary Andrew Neil still manages to maintain such a commanding - and highly-remunerated - presence at our 'public service' broadcaster.

    In his latest set piece, Neil, aided by nodding accomplices Michael Portillo and Ed Balls, launched a searing attack on RT presenter Afshin Rattansi - who, of course, had been given his own 'take of the week' just to show how 'open and balanced' the BBC really are.

    Repeatedly labelling RT "Roubles Today", Neil laid out a long list of alleged Russian and RT villainy, from unleashing 'bot armies' to peddling every form of conspiracy theory. At one point, Neil's rambling charge sheet on Russian interference lapsed into emotional blather, pleading to understand from Rattansi just why RT is trying everything in its power "to divide us":
    "The whole point of Russia Today and the election meddling done on social media is all focused to undermine our faith in our democratic institutions and to divide us....Why do you want to be a part of that?"
    Neil's touching urging to 'leave our democracy alone' was met with a look of bemused incredulity from Rattansi.

    Joining the anti-RT chorus at BBC Radio Scotland's Shereen show, ex-MP and enduring Blairite Tom Harris also castigated Salmond for ending his career in such an "undignified" way, by "selling your soul for Kremlin gold". He also rubbished anyone who would dare equate RT and the BBC, calling it an "appalling comparison."

    One might recall that, unlike an unrepentant Harris, Salmond didn't vote to bomb Iraq, resulting in the deaths of a million souls and untold, ongoing carnage. As with similar appearances by other media-hopping warmongers like Alastair Campbell, none of this studio ensemble seemed able to contemplate the significance of Harris's political crimes, or mention the dark irony of his own shameless resort to late career-washing. The idea of the BBC acting as a major medium of state propaganda was, of course, ignored by all as no less risible. 

    Alas, the noble liberal crusade against Russia and RT has also spread to further parts of the liberal-left commentariat. In a tortured Bella Caledonia article, From Russia With LOLs, editor Mike Small repeated all the same liberal-based charges, declaring that:
    The deluge of evidence about the actions of Russia to effect the outcome of the Brexit referendum and the US election will continue, and as they do it will become not just increasingly absurd to call Russia a democracy, it will become increasingly offensive to do so.
    In a piece that could have been lifted straight from the Guardian, Small even used the notorious US-funded, CIA-fronted Freedom House as a 'valid source' in pointing-up Russia's lowly 'democracy rating'. To many critical responses, Small again objected that "Russia is not a functioning democracy."

    How readily faux leftist commentators adopt this spurious liberal box-placing narrative, no less facile than the 'our model democracy' gushings from Neil.

    And this fits a pattern of mutual liberal approval and encouragement. The BBC/Guardian liberal fixation on Russia and RT provides a leading, 'moral' narrative for others on the soft liberal left to follow. Thus did much of the SNP leadership feel 'upright' in openly distancing themselves from Salmond's RT show.

    The default defence here, of course, is 'liberal consistency'; in essence, 'we won't turn a blind-eye to Russia's human rights abuses, homophobia or state interference'.

    Much of this indulges in conformist notions of a still-benign and enlightened West. In geopolitical terms, it's manifested, typically, in liberal denunciations of Russia's 'aggression' over Ukraine/Crimea, rather than actual recognition of the Western-backed neo-fascist coup carried out there, or the wider realpolitik of Russia protecting its territorial interests from an expansionist Nato and EU.

    Nor is such vilification of Russia ever comparatively consistent. Where are the similar liberal denunciations of Saudi Arabia, and the armed support it receives from the UK in annihilating Yemen? Where, indeed, are any of the multiple crimes committed by Britain and the US around the globe so scathingly denounced? Where are all the liberal political and media calls to impose sanctions on the outlaw state of Israel, as it continues its brutal 60-year occupation and persecution of Palestinians?

    This 'liberal consistency' also involves an often unctuous, virtue-signalling identity politics in attacking Russia. It's right, of course, to denounce the persecution of any vulnerable community anywhere in the world. Nor do we need deny the criminal capacities of the Russian state, just as we understand the criminal capacities of most others. Yet, liberal voices have elevated such concerns to a much more Manichean, 'Free World' level, suggesting capacities for repression that are somehow endemic or particular to Russia. The main ideological beneficiaries of this shouldn't be hard to fathom.    

    What's so dismally absent here is any critical context on why Russia is so vilified, and what propagandist purpose it serves. It evades all the real power issues: notably, how, as a serious capitalist contender, Russia refuses to conform to the West's 'consensual' demands, or allow its economy to be appropriated; and how the omnipresent 'Russian threat' is needed to help sustain a whole militarist, war-waging, corporate arms economy in the West. There's an entire historical background on Russia defending its borders and resources against Western aggression and interference that seemingly doesn't even occur to the crusading liberal mindset. 

     And, as Chomsky so neatly reminds us on all those claims of 'Russian interference':
    "Half the world is cracking up in laughter. The United States doesn’t just interfere in elections. It overthrows governments it doesn’t like, institutes military dictatorships."
    We can, indeed, but laugh at the indignant liberal charge that Russia is 'meddling with our democracy'.

    Yet, the darker implications of such repeated tropes are now becoming apparent. The liberal baying against Russia has raised the stakes for a more punishing turn to online control and censorship.

    Twitter has banned RT and Sputnik adverts. Facebook is under increasing pressure to 'police' 'fake' Russian content. An RT affiliate has been forced to register as a "foreign agent" under US 'anti-propaganda' laws. And, in true Orwellian-speak, Google has announced that it will now "de-rank" RT and Sputnik. As reported at RT:
    Eric Schmidt, the Executive Chairman of Google’s parent company Alphabet, says the company will “engineer” specific algorithms for RT and Sputnik to make their articles less prominent on the search engine’s news delivery services. “We are working on detecting and de-ranking those kinds of sites – it’s basically RT and Sputnik,”Schmidt said...The Alphabet chief, who has been referred to by Hillary Clinton as a “longtime friend,” added that the experience of “the last year” showed that audiences could not be trusted to distinguish fake and real news for themselves. (Italics original.)
    The task of hegemony - as in how to build legitimacy and maintain popular consent - requires an ever-inventive mobilisation of class forces, political interests and cultural ideas to help insulate, validate and sustain power. And it's here that a liberal network, notably its media arm, plays such a vital role: in normalising the political and economic order; in moderating dissent and radical options; in managing neoliberalism and upholding corporate rule as still the only game in town; in repeating the same elite-based narratives and arguments over issues like Brexit; in castigating Trump as a crazy outlier, rather than the symptom of a crazy system; in keeping the truth of climate emergency and corporate culpability safely detached; in cheering and mitigating Western warmongering; and in amplifying the establishment's cast of international villains.

    In so many ways, liberal agencies help ensure system continuity. Their spreading of official enemy narratives has been key in helping to popularise the fake meme 'fake news', a corporate-serving contrivance that disguises the real manipulation of news and information.

    And this is giving impetus to more sinister openings. Seizing the 'fake news' moment, a concerted corporate purge is now underway to take out not only media like RT but multiple other leftist platforms, with barely a liberal murmur. As Cook warns:
    They [RT] and progressive sites are being gradually silenced and blacklisted, herding us back into the arms of the corporate propagandists. Few liberals have been prepared to raise their voices on behalf of RT, forgetting warnings from history, such as Martin Niemoller’s anti-Nazi poem “First they came for the socialists”.
    Rania Khalek also notes how the feeding of anti-Russia hysteria has much slippier consequences:
    Google will pick and choose what ppl see and don’t see all bc of anti-Russia hysteria pushed by the US govt. the media ppl cheering this on need to understand that this is a slippery slope to their outlets being censored 
    And Adam Johnson reinforces the point:
    leftists & liberals shld ask themselves: which is more of a threat to the left: (1) state-run TV channel whose avg program is watched by less than 30K ppl/day (2) the world's second-largest corporation making ad hoc calls about what is & isn't "propaganda" and "misinformation"
    So, will those lofty liberals start to realise what kind of service to power they provide? Will all those liberal 'champions of free and equal speech' now stand up for RT? Will they acknowledge their complicit part in stoking the fear agenda that allows governments and corporate monoliths to collude in closing down awkward viewpoints? As the 'halt Russia' and 'fake news' purge plays out against more selected leftist sites, will they reflect on their own liberal authoritarianism as the most perverse threat to real independent media and democratic expression?

  • Questioning BBC militarist-speak: an exchange with the Executive Complaints Unit

    johnhilley.blogspot.com | Fri, 15 Sep 2017 23:07:00 +0000

    Following prior correspondence with the BBC over its coverage of the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, an exchange with the BBC's Executive Complaints Unit.

    (Sent 3 September 2017)
    Ref: CAS-4541173-LC5LL7

    Dear ECU

    Further to my recent complaint, I wish to register my dissatisfaction with two BBC response pieces, and to request that the ECU now consider the four specific points raised in my original letter.

    On point 1, please provide a detailed response to my question, and specify precisely why, according to Sean Moss, this requested information is "not a service we [the BBC] provide". 

    On point 2, please tell me why the BBC failed to offer any counterview to Admiral Philip Jones and other military/political/public figures in its live report pieces on HMS Queen Elizabeth. 

    On point 3, please tell me why, with reference to the BBC's Charter requirements for 'impartiality' and 'due weight',  no such alternative view can be discerned either here or over the BBC's wider output.

    On point 4, please show me where the BBC's coverage of HMS QE, and other similar events, have been specifically contextualised and explored in relation to Britain's aggressive militarism, arms supplies to tyrant regimes, and particular part in the bombing of Yemen. Also, given its highly approving coverage of HMS QE, please explain why the BBC offer no similar level of coverage to describe and question the scale, cost and devastating human impact of such weaponry?          

    All correspondence on this matter can be read, in sequence, via these links:

    Drool Britannia: complaint to BBC over naked militarist propaganda

    BBC naval gazing and coverage of British militarism: a further exchange

    BBC all on deck, lauding 'benign' state militarism: a further exchange

    I look forward to hearing from you.

    Kind regards
    John Hilley
    ------------------------------

    Reply from ECU Complaints Director Colin Tregear:

    14 September 2017

    Dear Mr Hilley

    Your complaint about BBC News

    Thank you for your email of 3 September regarding the BBC News coverage of the arrival of HMS Queen Elizabeth in Portsmouth.

    As you know, the BBC Complaints Team has informed you it does not intend to respond further to your complaint. It now falls to the Executive Complaints Unit to decide whether you were given a reasonable response to your original complaint and whether the BBC Complaints Team was correct in deciding that further investigation of your complaint wasn’t justified. This is in line with the Interim BBC Complaints Framework and Procedures1 which sets out the process for handling complaints.

    I understand you think the coverage amounted to “state media propaganda” and the BBC took “an obviously strong and partisan position in upholding, praising and celebrating… British state militarism”. You are, of course, entitled to your view but I think the responses you received from Emma Duff on 24 August and Sean Moss on 29 August were reasonable and appropriate in the circumstances, addressed the specific concerns you raised and explained how the requirements of the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines for due impartiality were met. I therefore think the decision not to engage in further correspondence on the matter was justified.

    I should clarify you can make a Freedom of Information request for the information you requested in Point 1 of your email of 3 September. Details of how to do so can be found here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/foi/requesting-information.

    There’s no provision for further appeal against this decision within the BBC. However, you can contact the broadcasting regulator, Ofcom, if you believe your complaint has identified a breach of the Ofcom Code (which can be seen at https://www.ofcom.org.uk/tv-radio-andon-demand/broadcast-codes/broadcast-code), though of course it would be for Ofcom itself to decide whether to consider your complaint. Information about lodging a complaint with 1

    http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/aboutthebbc/insidethebbc/howwework/accountability/consultations/complaints_fram ework.pdf 2

    Ofcom can be found at https://www.ofcom.org.uk/tv-radio-and-on-demand/how-to-report-acomplaint. Ofcom acknowledges all complaints received, but will not normally write back to individual complainants with the outcome of its considerations.

    Yours sincerely
    Colin Tregear
    Complaints Director

    -----------------------

    Dear Mr Tregear

    Thanks for your reply. It is clear from your cursory and patrician-like response that no serious or detailed consideration of my original questions was ever forthcoming.

    You are also, of course, entitled to your view on such matters, the substantive difference being that the ideological basis of the opinion you so openly express here duly fits with the BBC's own establishment worldview.

    Or, as Noam Chomsky once reminded Andrew Marr, if you held any radically different views, you wouldn't be sitting where you are (1).  

    You call the responses to my questions on such matters "reasonable and appropriate in the circumstances." How very BBC. Is it unreasonable or inappropriate to ask why the BBC are such ready exponents of expanding British militarism, yet such feeble voices on its appalling human impact?   

    In routinely lauding Britain's power-projecting warships, killer planes (2) and state-of-the-art laser missiles (3), the BBC are acting as an effective public relations arm of the MoD and its corporate partners.     

    As with its dutiful silence on the state-corporate villains (4) trading this past week at the DSEI arms fair (5) - and that dark organisation's hosting of Michael Fallon's monstrous sales pitch (6) - the BBC's failure to cover, question and expose Britain's relentless warmongering, wicked weapons economy and supporting culture of militarism renders it a complicit party to mass UK crimes around the world.

    I trust that readers of this and my preceding correspondence with the BBC over its HMS QE coverage will, at least, have gained some further insight into the power-serving nature of British state media, the editorial framing of its militarist narratives, the lamentable absence of alternative views, and the Orwellian layers of mitigation and denial helping to keep public objections to all such propaganda safely marginalised.

    Perhaps, one day, some of those same 'journalists', editors and gatekeepers may come to reflect more internally on the BBC's key part in helping to sell aggressive militarism and whitewash UK/Western war policy, all serving to increase and perpetuate vast human suffering.  

    (1) https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=16&v=GjENnyQupow
    (2) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-38510344
    (3) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/technology-30145680/flying-the-nintendo-fighter-jet
    (4) https://www.caat.org.uk/issues/arms-fairs/dsei
    (5) https://www.dsei.co.uk/#/
    (6) https://twitter.com/markcurtis30/status/908259508992049154

    Sincerely
    John Hilley  

  • BBC all on deck, lauding 'benign' state militarism: a further exchange

    johnhilley.blogspot.com | Thu, 31 Aug 2017 17:07:00 +0000

    Following an initial letter/reply and further exchange with the BBC on its reporting of the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, I received this latest communication (29/8/2017) from the BBC's Sean Moss. My further response is noted below.

    Dear Mr Hilley
    Ref: CAS-4541173-LC5LL7
    Thank you for getting in touch again about our live page reporting on the arrival of new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth in its home port. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/live/uk-england-hampshire-40937149)
    To take your original points in order, at your request:
    1: This isn’t a service we provide.
    2:  The premise here is your belief that an unquantified but significant strand of public opinion, which you term as “anti-war,” exists and should have been included in our coverage here. However the fact that alternative views exist on a given story does not mean that we’re obliged to include them and this story, at its core, is about the completion of a new UK aircraft carrier and its journey to its home port. Your characterisation of the alternative view here is also largely based on your interpretation of the navy’s role and the words "maritime power," which you outline exclusively along military lines without referring, for example, to additional functions in humanitarian and emergency scenarios and in supporting efforts against international crime.
    3: As above, there’s no obligation we reflect every view on a subject and we believe the contents of this live page adhered to our requirement for due impartiality.
    4: This is essentially an entirely separate point, linked here for the purposes of your wider argument and to which we can only add that we’ve reported extensively on the Yemen Crisis, most notably including Orla Guerin’s report from the city of Aden, published last month. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/world-middle-east-40748158/yemen-crisis-bbc-gains-rare-access)
    On September 8th last year Newsnight reported on a draft copy of a report into whether UK-made weapons are being used against civilians in Yemen, asking “Do weapons sold to Saudi Arabia by Britain break international humanitarian law with their use in Yemen, and if so, what should be our response?”
    So this isn’t a topic that has gone unexplored by BBC News and we've noted your points but do not consider they have suggested a possible breach of the BBC's standards to justify further investigation or a more detailed reply.
    If you are dissatisfied about our decision not to take your complaint further, you can contact the BBC's Executive Complaints Unit (ECU) who will consider whether this was an appropriate decision.
    If you wish to contact the ECU please write to it within 20 working days of receiving this reply. You can email ecu@bbc.co.uk  or write to: Executive Complaints Unit, BBC, Broadcast Centre, London W12 7TQ. Please include the case reference number which you have been given.
    Best wishes,
    Sean Moss
    BBC News website
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints/ 
    My response

    Dear Sean Moss


    Thanks for replying. As expected, your response merely confirms the BBC's capacity for uniform-speak. It's yet another illustration of state media marching in tune with state militarism.


    Allow me, in turn, to address your points in the same order.   
    1. This is blatant evasion. At the very least, you should provide some justification for the extent of journalistic resources expended on this story, an output, we must suspect, consistent with the wasteful expenditure on the ship itself. Readers of your dismissive reply here can judge for themselves what lies behind such a denial of basic public information.

    2. Isn't it all too revealing that you choose to interpret "maritime power" in this case as somehow 'benign'? You object that I didn't note the Navy's "additional functions in humanitarian and emergency scenarios and in supporting efforts against international crime." Why didn't Admiral Sir Philip Jones specifically use that kind of terminology - something like 'major maritime support role' - rather than his very obvious assertion of boastful militarist might? That's the real profile being projected by Admiral Jones, as amplified by Defence Secretary Michael Fallon:

    Today we welcome our mighty new warship, HMS Queen Elizabeth to her home for the very first time. She is Britain’s statement to the world: a demonstration of British military power and our commitment to a bigger global role.
    The BBC's eager repeating of such messages demonstrates just what kind of part it plays in defining and promoting expansionist UK militarism as legitimate and benevolent. 

    Here, via author and historian Mark Curtis, are some helpful links illustrating the British Navy's true, extremist agenda, and the BBC's role in approving it: 

    UK Navy's openly-declared goals are to control resource-rich regions and threaten those who challenge this. 
    Read what the Royal Navy is saying. Our military is managed by imperialist, militarist extremists. 
    The #BBC is simply a medium for the British state, a key part of its information operations 
    Again, this can’t be MSM newsworthy since it would serve no political/propaganda function 
    How did the Head of UK Navy become radicalised? Was it his private madrassa? The videos he watched? Could MI5 have prevented it? 
    UK disinformation system is so extreme, Head of Navy's extremism doesn't even get reported, let alone ridiculed. 
    Head of Navy confirms official meaning of 'national' . I.e, 'militarist elite'. Similar to term 'national interest'. 
    One of the government's embedded spokespeople at the BBC. 
    'Warfighting': the UK's comparative advantage in the global division of labour, as seen by elites  
    #Oman, already a crawling UK intell base, has in effect become a UK military colony.
    Reminder: New 'UK' aircraft carriers will also deploy *US* combat aircraft. para 3.19 
    UK's new Navy warships are appropriately named 'City-class', indicating ongoing commercial/military imperialism 
    Head of Royal Navy. Actually, aircraft carriers are offensive attack systems, used in first strike. See use of term ‘deterrent’ to mislead.
    Citing the UK government's "massive £178 billion military re-equipment programme", and key speeches given recently by Admiral Jones to the City of London, Curtis observes that the head of the Royal Navy:
    "is seriously saying that British sea power and military force will protect and British financial and commercial interests, including those of the City of London, especially in Asia. This is a clear exposition of the return of imperial gunboat diplomacy that Britain envisages in the post-Brexit world."
    As Media Lens also put it:
    A major function of @BBCNews is to boost public support for 'our' armed forces #PermaWar
    I wonder why Permanent War and these core motivations aren't considered by you and the BBC in your understanding of the Royal Navy and its "additional functions.''

    3. Again, readers can form their own judgment on your claim here to BBC 'impartiality'. What you're really saying is that the BBC, as 'all-knowing arbiters', will not permit alternative voices to the commissioning of this £3 billion ship, and Britain's dark militarist ambitions, to be aired. As previously noted, that's a subjective editorial judgement, one that weighs decisively in support of a particular, establishment view. That's not editorial 'impartiality'. It's straight propaganda. And, as Media Lens assert, it's a service that must be dutifully maintained:

    Challenge anyone @BBCNews about omissions and biases and you'll get silence or a robotic assertion of 'impartiality'
    4. My linking of the warship to events in Yemen was not a 'separate issue', or some 'additional argument'. It's internal to the same question about Britain's aggressive militarism, and the BBC's own culpability in failing to convey the true scale of it. 

    Also, like other key BBC pieces on Yemen's humanitarian crisis, Orla Guerin's report says precisely nothing about Britain's part in sending arms to Saudi Arabia for the mass bombing of Yemen. More generally, beyond occasional and guarded discussion, many viewers of major BBC news reports on Yemen may likely never know that the UK is deeply involved in the human suffering which Guerin describes, such is the consistent level of BBC omission. Again, given the BBC Charter's own insistence of 'due weight', where is the appropriate level of coverage across BBC news headlining Britain's criminal involvement? As Curtis comments:

    Imagine reporting this and not mentioning UK arms/advice/training. Seriously, it takes real commitment. #Yemen 
    More BBC pieces on #Yemen without mentioning that this is also a UK war
    That complicit blind eye to aggressive UK militarism is the key context to my complaint about the BBC's celebratory coverage of HMS Queen Elizabeth. I suspect that, as part of the 'BBC guard', you will continue to deny and dismiss such connections. As ever with such enquiries and exchanges, my own small purpose here is to help shed a little light on BBC uniformity and service to power.

    I will forward my complaint to the Executive Complaints Unit.


    Kind regards

    John Hilley

  • BBC naval gazing and coverage of British militarism: a further exchange

    johnhilley.blogspot.com | Fri, 25 Aug 2017 20:17:00 +0000

    A reply (24 August 2017) from the BBC concerning my complaint over its coverage of the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth on its arrival in Portsmouth.


    Dear Mr Hilley
    Reference CAS-4529010-T2T6CD 
    Thank you for contacting us regarding BBC News Website coverage of HMS Queen Elizabeth's arrival in Portsmouth. 
    I understand you feel the coverage was both excessive and biased, failing to feature the views of those who opposed the commissioning of the ship. 
    While I appreciate how strongly you feel about the points you raise, we would explain that the intention in our live coverage of this event was simply to report on the ship's arrival in her home port. As part of this we spoke with members of the crowd who turned out to watch the carrier's approach, discussed its construction, and featured speeches from senior naval personnel and Theresa May. 
    However we would point out that across our wider news coverage we did discuss some of the criticism the vessel has faced. In his report on BBC One's 'Breakfast' programme on 16 August Duncan Kennedy acknowledged that it was also "a controversial day" owing to the "cost of the carrier"; he explained, "critics say the carrier has cost more than £3 billion and doesn't have a clearly defined role". 
    Please be assured, the BBC is committed to impartial reporting at all times. Indeed, our News editors ensure that over a reasonable period of time we reflect the range of significant views, opinions and trends on particular issues, but it's important to add here that our published Editorial Guidelines explain that not every issue or viewpoint necessarily has to be included in each individual report. 
    Account needs to be taken of the way a subject is covered over a period of time; perfect balance is difficult to achieve on every single individual occasion, while overall it is a more achievable goal taking into account our coverage as a whole. 
    The key point is that the BBC as an organisation has no view or position itself on anything we may report upon - our aim is to identify all significant views, and to test them rigorously and fairly on behalf of our audiences. 
    Nonetheless, I am sorry to read you feel we are failing to meet our objectives.
    Please be assured, we appreciate your feedback on this issue and I have passed your comments forward on a report which will be read by senior BBC management and the BBC News team.
    Once again, thank you for taking the time to contact us. 
    Kind regards
    Emma Duff
    BBC Complaints Team
    www.bbc.co.uk/complaints
    My further response to the BBC

    Dear Emma Duff

    Thanks for responding to my letter of complaint.

    As anticipated, it's a lamentable copy-piece of BBC mitigation, evasion and denial.

    Predictably, you insist that the "BBC is committed to impartial reporting at all times". That's a claim no serious analysis of these propaganda-loaded reports could sustain.

    You mention "how strongly" you think I feel about these matters. Let's explore that for a moment. The important point here is not the 'strength' of feeling, it's how we seek to define it. I do not write or speak in an objective way. I have an openly subjective view. All of our thoughts, feelings and expressions are subjective, in one form or another, overtly or otherwise stated.

    And that includes the BBC, whose directors, editors and journalists also take subjective positions, rooted in approval of 'BBC values' and strong, supportive feelings about 'what BBC journalism stands for'. It suggests a strong endorsement of the BBC's establishment status, together with a strongly selective 'understanding' of the permissible boundaries of journalistic expression.

    It is a matter of contention how able we are to make 'objective' assessments of any subjective output, particularly that specifically claiming to be 'impartial'. Here, again, our own subjective interpretations cannot be removed from any supposed 'objective' examination.

    Yet, any rational reading of these reports would acknowledge that the BBC has taken an obviously strong and partisan position in upholding, praising and celebrating the HMS Queen Elizabeth and other such displays of British state militarism.

    Again, that's my view. The point of concern here is not just that the BBC takes an opposite view (which it clearly does), but that - as you contend - it claims to take "no view" at all.

    This kind of reportage might, at least, be deemed 'honest', were the BBC to accept that their output is, indeed, subjectively made; that they do, indeed, take a position, just like most other media. Yet you insist that, unlike my "strong" position, the BBC are still making impartial editorial decisions and reporting in a balanced, objective way.

    You mention the requirements for impartiality, as set out in the BBC Charter. Again, we have to look at this document and its principal terms as both subjectively constructed by elite interests and subject to privileged interpretation by BBC directors.

    At every level, from the commissioning of output to the handling of complaints, it's the subjective judgement of those same BBC figures who, in practice, determine what constitutes "due impartiality", and what's considered "due weight." You have simply reiterated those 'guiding' biases in your letter.

    As with the compliance of senior editors and journalists, this suggests a level of indoctrination so deeply-rooted that those proclaiming notions of BBC 'impartiality' either can't see this filtering process, or, in daily acts of prudent self-restraint, simply avoid any career-threatening gaze.    

    A determining factor here, as you note, is not just what's contained in a report, or set of reports, but "the way a subject is covered over a period of time." Thus, you point to the inclusion in a Breakfast News report of apparent 'concern' over the 'controversial cost' of this vessel. Do you consider this ample questioning of Britain's vast, wasteful and immoral military spending? Where, one may reasonably ask, are all those other 'balancing' pieces? Where is the 'due weight' of anti-war/weaponry sentiment duly represented?

    As we've seen, such token and tepid mentions are dwarfed by the sheer scale and tone of reports lauding the ship and what it supposedly represents to 'the nation'. And, just like that task force, the BBC's subjectively-determined mission here is not just about 'reflecting' public feeling, but leading on, and feeding, dominant ideas and interests, ever careful to omit and circumvent that which casts British militarism in a negative light.  

    In the same dutiful way, your reply completely ignores my questions on the BBC's reporting and quoting of senior military figures. Where, I repeat, are the counterpoints to Admiral Philip Jones's provocative assertions of Britain as a major maritime power? Why was he permitted to enunciate, unchallenged, such imperialist-sounding claims of military superiority? Where is the critical scrutiny, either in this set of reports, or in wider terms, of the UK state's war posturing and weapons prowess?

    You also ignored, in this same, vital context, my question about the extent of Britain's dark involvement in weapons procurement and supplies to Saudi  Arabia and other regimes, with notable reference to the human catastrophe of Yemen. Why was this key context not duly mentioned in these reports, and why hasn't that state-corporate arms nexus been given due, critical attention over the longer period?

    This set of reports show quite clearly that the BBC are not only openly supportive of HMS Queen Elizabeth, but are strongly promoting the entire culture of UK militarism.

    Just as the BBC have failed to engage these core issues, your letter has avoided answering the specific points of my initial letter. Please be informed that I'd like them raised to the next level of the complaints procedure for serious consideration.

    Kind regards
    John  Hilley



  • Drool Britannia: complaint to BBC over naked militarist propaganda

    johnhilley.blogspot.com | Wed, 16 Aug 2017 21:17:00 +0000

    I wish to complain about the display of extravagant militarism celebrated in this live feed coverage of the aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth:

    New aircraft carrier arrives in home port

    This is a level of state media propaganda the BBC typically attributes to North Korea.

    1. Please specify how many BBC reporters were allocated to this 'story', and the overall costs incurred to the licence payer. How can this level of resources and live feed reportage be  justified?

    2. First Sea Lord Philip Jones Admiral Sir Philip Jones (sic) has been quoted in your report as saying: "Today, a new era of British maritime power is beginning." Is it reasonable to assume that a substantive section of the public do not, in fact, wish to see any 'resurgence' of Britain as a major maritime power, with all the dark imperialist history, and current global aggressions, that involves? In a world of Western, corporate-driven war, and desire for diplomatic alternatives, do you accept that this kind of comment is deeply controversial, offensive and inflammatory to many? Why did you publish this statement without providing any anti-war-voice?

    3. The BBC Charter maintains that BBC output must always be impartial and balanced. Please indicate where any opposition to the commissioning of this £3 billion ship, or objection to UK militarism at large, is included in this set of reports. While many struggle to feed their families, is it fair to suggest that considerable numbers of people find this level of expenditure deeply immoral? Where is this public concern reflected in your coverage?

    4. Do you consider it moral or proportionate to be giving this fawning level of coverage and support for British militarism while that same UK state is providing massive arms and support to Saudi Arabia for the indiscriminate bombing of civilians in Yemen? Please indicate where the BBC has raised this dark anomaly, or allowed space for any substantive comment on it. The live feed includes glowing pieces detailing 'HMS Queen Elizabeth in numbers' and 'Everything you need to know about HMS Queen Elizabeth'. Have the BBC produced any similar pieces specifying the numbers, scale and consequences of Britain's killing equipment to tyrant regimes?  
    I look forward to your considered and detailed response.

    Regards
    John Hilley

  • Rejecting militarism, supporting the radical hoops

    johnhilley.blogspot.com | Sat, 29 Jul 2017 15:47:00 +0000

    Green Brigade seat suspensions, Celtic v Rosenborg. 
    On the spectrum between high crimes and petty misdemeanors,
    As with their support for Palestine, the Green Brigade have been unafraid to take laudable positions over other 'difficult' issues. In 2010, they presented an anti-poppy banner, which declared:

    "Your deeds would shame all the devils in hell. Ireland, Iraq, Afghanistan. No blood-stained poppy on our hoops"

    To that list may be added, Libya, Syria, Yemen and other lands where Britain has helped shed more blood and unleash further human chaos. Yet, as the Green Brigade found out, dare to highlight and protest such crimes, and expect to be treated as a social deviant.

    People who reject the poppy aren't doing so out of disrespect for those fallen in wars, but in rejection of establishment militarism and the sanitising of Britain's warmongering. That's a valid act of political conscience, as was the Green Brigade's statement. But so, too, did Celtic, as a club, partake in a clear political act by choosing to wear the poppy on their shirts. It's all political.

    As the Green Brigade assert, you can't leave politics at the turnstile: "Politics is life. Politics has always been part of football and it’s disingenuous to claim otherwise." 

    Complementing its anti-sectarian leftism, the Green Brigade's anti-Unionism has also found common cause with the movement for Scottish radical independence - the GB "support a 32-county Irish Socialist Republic and an Independent Scottish Socialist Republic". All of which assumes new political significance following the recent ugly Tory-DUP  alignment.

    In similar spirit, the Green Brigade have expressed admirable support for refugees, highlighted anti-racism issues, and organised mass food bank collections for Glasgow's poor. No corporate displays. No corporate logos. Just statements of political solidarity and social empathy. How many other sets of fans are taking those kind of bold and compassionate positions?

    While commending the Green Brigade's "amazing" support, manager Brendan Rodgers insists that "the political element is not acceptable" inside Celtic Park, and that "Celtic is a football club, nothing else."

    He's mistaken on both counts. It's a social and cultural institution. Those values and identities may have evolved. But Celtic's founding mission to serve the poor of Glasgow's east end, notably its destitute Irish Catholic community, lives on as a progressive narrative within the Celtic fan base.

    Such values have certainly been undermined by scandalous board appointees like John Reid and Conservative peer Lord Ian Livingston, who caused a threatened walkout by fans in 2015 after backing Tory austerity cuts. 10,000 supporters signed a petition demanding his removal, a call ignored by the board after Chairman Ian Bankier defended him. In May 2017, Livingston announced that he was stepping down to concentrate on his other corporate duties.

    The Green Brigade are resisting a board that's seeking to emasculate Celtic's primary political history, and shroud it in corporate branding. The club's hierarchy insist there's no place for 'irresponsible' imagery inside football grounds. Meanwhile, much more insidious corporate messages abound.

    Celtic feature Dafabet on their shirt fronts. That's a direct advert for corporate gambling. What 'exemplary' message does that send out to young fans? While Brendan Rodgers has urged players to beware the pitfalls of gambling, club officials consider Dafabet 'responsible' sponsorship. Did they think for a moment of the families, predominantly poor, torn apart by gambling addiction; the breakups, suicides and despair? Did they reflect on how betting shops are taking over high streets, or how firms like Dafabet are enticing vulnerable people online? From Dafabet shirts to the William Hill Scottish Cup: when did corporate-serving directors and governors ever stop to think about these kind of social messages?

    It's all part of the mass corporate invasion of sport. Grounds named after airlines, trophies and leagues prefixed by banks and shark loan companies. Flashing, seizure-inducing advertising now surrounds pitches, distracting from the actual play. It's amazing to think that almost no one even blinks at this naked corporate indoctrination.

    And, of course, the same goes for alcohol sponsorship. Ironically, Celtic were also threatened with UEFA censure after substitute players wore kit featuring the Magners alcohol logo. This is the extent of UEFA's concern: the protection of corporate rights, rather than the right of protection from corporate images.

    That imposition of corporate ideology is also a political act, again, one the Green Brigade have challenged in their denunciation of anti-union and sweatshop firms like Nike and Coca-Cola.
    Whatever elite directors or ruling bodies demand, football grounds and other sporting venues are, indeed, appropriate places for alternative political expression.


    In a field of establishment compliance and corporate conformity, it's gratifying to see the Green Brigade's left idealism, political provocations and iconoclastic displays. Other Celtic fans are entitled to their political views. Few among the Green Brigade would claim to speak for all supporters or the club. But the GB should also be free to express their own particular viewpoints, in their own unique style, without censure from a conservative board or the opprobrium of other fans.

    In an age of mass social media, radical resistance to dominant propaganda - neoliberal, corporate, militarist - is taking new, and more significant, cultural forms. As a popular platform helping to highlight state villainy, resist corporate hegemony, and stand up for oppressed people, the inventive displays and political voice of the Green Brigade are to be supported.

  • Radiohead in Israel: why is Thom Yorke so outraged over boycott call?

    johnhilley.blogspot.com | Fri, 30 Jun 2017 23:27:00 +0000

    Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke has now made a public statement rejecting calls from Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) and the wider Palestinian solidarity movement to cancel the band's Tel Aviv concert. Disappointingly, it's a piece riddled with liberal evasions, barbed charges, and unfounded assumptions about those making the case for a boycott.

    Here's Yorke's full comments on the issue, as reported at Rolling Stone:

    I'll be totally honest with you: this has been extremely upsetting. There's an awful lot of people who don't agree with the BDS movement, including us. I don't agree with the cultural ban at all, along with J.K. Rowling, Noam Chomsky and a long list of others. 
    There are people I admire [who have been critical of the concert] like [English film director] Ken Loach, who I would never dream of telling where to work or what to do or think. The kind of dialogue that they want to engage in is one that's black or white. I have a problem with that. It's deeply distressing that they choose to, rather than engage with us personally, throw shit at us in public. It's deeply disrespectful to assume that we're either being misinformed or that we're so retarded we can't make these decisions ourselves. I thought it was patronizing in the extreme. It's offensive and I just can't understand why going to play a rock show or going to lecture at a university [is a problem to them]. 
    The university thing is more of a head fuck for me. It's like, really? You can't go talk to other people who want to learn stuff in another country? Really? The one place where you need to be free to express everything you possibly can. You want to tell these people you can't do that? And you think that's gonna help? 
    The person who knows most about these things is [Radiohead guitarist] Jonny [Greenwood]. He has both Palestinian and Israeli friends and a wife who's an Arab Jew. All these people to stand there at a distance throwing stuff at us, waving flags, saying, "You don’t know anything about it!" Imagine how offensive that is for Jonny. And imagine how upsetting that it's been to have this out there. Just to assume that we know nothing about this. Just to throw the word "apartheid" around and think that's enough. It's fucking weird. It's such an extraordinary waste of energy. Energy that could be used in a more positive way. 
    This is the first time I've said anything about it. Part of me wants to say nothing because anything I say cooks up a fire from embers. But at the same time, if you want me to be honest, yeah, it's really upsetting that artists I respect think we are not capable of making a moral decision ourselves after all these years. They talk down to us and I just find it mind-boggling that they think they have the right to do that. It's extraordinary. All of this creates divisive energy. You're not bringing people together. You're not encouraging dialogue or a sense of understanding. Now if you're talking about trying to make things progress in any society, if you create division, what do you get? You get fucking Theresa May. You get [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu, you get fucking Trump. That's divisive.
    Noted musician and leading Palestinian campaigner Roger Waters has responded to Yorke, again as reported at Rolling Stone:
    I read Thom Yorke’s interview in Rolling Stone. It needs a reply as it doesn’t tell the whole story. 
    On February 12th, hoping to start a dialogue, I sent an email expressing my concern about Radiohead crossing the BDS picket line to perform in Israel. A few hours later, Thom replied. He was angry. He had misinterpreted my attempt to start a conversation as a threat. So I tried again. 
    “Hey Thom,I’m sorry. My letter wasn’t meant to be confrontational. I was reaching out to see if we could have the conversation that you talk about in your reply. Can we?Love, R.” 
    I didn’t hear back. So silence prevailed for three weeks until March 4th when I sent a long heartfelt entreaty to Thom asking him again to talk. 
    In Thom’s interview with Andy Greene of Rolling Stone, in referring to Ken Loach and me, he says, “It’s deeply distressing that they choose to, rather than engage with us personally, throw shit at us in public.” 
    That is not true, Thom. I have made every effort to engage with you personally, and would still like to have the conversation. 
    “Not to talk is not an option.” 
    Today is the 50th anniversary of the occupation of Palestine by Israel. Fifty years living under military occupation. Fifty years for a people with no civil rights. Fifty years of no recourse to the law. Fifty years of apartheid. 
    The BDS picket line exists to shine a light on the predicament of the occupied people of Palestine, both in Palestine and those displaced abroad, and to promote equal civil rights for all the people living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea no matter what their nationality, race or religion. All human life is sacred, every child is our child, exceptionalism is always our enemy. There is no Us or Them, only Us. 
    Restiamo umani.  
    Love,
    Roger Waters
    The warm and patient tone of that letter from Roger Waters stands in stark contrast to Thom Yorke's hostile lines. Waters also offers a quiet reminder to Yorke of just what Palestinians have endured over 50 years of illegal occupation, and that "the BDS picket line exists to shine a light on [their] predicament". 

    Yorke is, of course, entitled to his viewpoint. But why, we might wonder, did he feel the need to respond with such invective-laden charges against BDS and its backers? Why such angry indignation?

    Yorke makes a first attempt at moral cover by citing a list of those who oppose any cultural boycott, including JK Rowling and Noam Chomsky. 

    While nominally correct regarding Chomsky, it's a disingenuous selection, failing to note Chomsky's more selective and nuanced endorsement of certain boycott tactics, as well as a lifetime's work exposing and resisting Israel's crimes. In that assertive spirit, Chomsky has engaged with leading BDS figure Ilan Pappe over the boycott issue, helping to promote the actual narrative of tactical resistance. 

    Strikingly, although a short interview, Yorke doesn't even mention the Palestinians, their treatment, the need to resist Israel's aggressions, or how best to go about it.   

    Nor does Yorke care to note JK Rowling's liberal Zionist contortions, or the criticism she faced across Palestinian civil society over her rejection of BDS and endorsement of the pro-Israel grouping Culture for Coexistence.  

    Again, it seems, Yorke is seeking safe liberal cover behind major names, and evading the core issue of Palestinian suffering.              

    Yorke continues in more injured voice, claiming that it's "deeply disrespectful to assume that we're either being misinformed or that we're so retarded we can't make these decisions ourselves.

    Yet, why would Yorke himself make such facile assumptions about the understandings or motives of those campaigners? Does he really believe that bodies like BDS, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Artists For Palestine (including Waters and Loach), alongside groups like Jewish Voice for Peace, Radiohead Fans for Palestine, or anyone else asking them not to play Israel, take Yorke and his band to be so "misinformed" or "retarded" that they're unable to take such decisions for themselves? 

    Why resort to such overblown, straw-man language? Why not simply accept that these are legitimate organisations and people making an open appeal based on rational argument, and that Yorke has the same rights and opportunities to oppose that view?  
    Yorke also says it's "deeply distressing that they [Loach and others] choose to, rather than engage with us personally, throw shit at us in public." Again, that's a remarkably crass and inaccurate claim, as the context and tenor of the reply from Waters clearly illustrates. 
    But there's a more particular problem with Yorke's annoyance here: why shouldn't this discussion be conducted in public, as an open and vital issue? Are we all to remain quiet and restrained about artists', like Radiohead's, part in legitimising Israel's brutal and illegal conduct, because it's too "distressing" for Yorke and his band?
    Yorke also seems to think that fellow band member Jonny Greenwood has some kind of special emotional status in this regard. He's "the person who knows most about these things", claims Yorke, apparently because he has Israeli and Arab friends and an Arab Israeli wife: "All these people to stand there at a distance throwing stuff at us, waving flags, saying, "You don’t know anything about it!" Imagine how offensive that is for Jonny."
    Again, the inverted assumption about those flag-wavers. Why does Yorke presume to know, and dismiss, campaigners' own comprehension of the issues? More importantly, might Yorke imagine how offensive his own prioritised defence of Jonny Greenwood and his 'superior understanding' is to actual Palestinians facing the daily experience of occupation, siege and constant threat to life in the West Bank and Gaza?    
    Nor is the label "apartheid" just simply thrown around by campaigners as some lazy slur. If Yorke and Greenwood really are so well-informed, they will know that the application of 'apartheid state' to Israel has been ably demonstrated through a wealth of academic studies, papers and booksUN findings and rapporteurs' reports. Devoid of any serious counter-argument, Yorke can only say that this is "fucking weird. It's such an extraordinary waste of energy."

    The call for an academic boycott is similarly derided and dismissed: "It's like, really? You can't go talk to other people who want to learn stuff in another country? Really?

    I have no idea whether Yorke has read the particular guidelines for academic disengagement laid out by bodies like PACBI. But it would, at least, be intellectually reasonable for him to know and reference them, rather than present the call for academic boycott as some random ploy to prevent people wanting "to learn stuff in another country." 

    In particular, Yorke's anodyne wish for 'open exchange' includes no recognition of an academic system deeply inter-connected with its occupier state, providing every form of support for Israel's military aggression, weapons development and hi-tech surveillance, continued land seizures, control of water supplies and other key resources, as well as the whole vital field of cultural and ideological production helping to hide and excuse those crimes. 
    Pointing these things out is, apparently, antagonistic to Yorke, who finds it "really upsetting that artists I respect think we are not capable of making a moral decision ourselves after all these years. They talk down to us and I just find it mind-boggling that they think they have the right to do that. It's extraordinary. All of this creates divisive energy. You're not bringing people together. You're not encouraging dialogue or a sense of understanding."
    Yet, without a trace of self-reflecting irony, here's Yorke effectively shouting down to those who won't any longer accept the relentlessly-peddled 'need for dialogue' and proclaimed 'peace process', as though that entire, exhausted posture hasn't been seen, exposed and dismissed by BDS for the sham that it is. 

    "Not to talk is not an option," Yorke says. Again, such assured liberal conformity. While voicing his own lofty disdain for those no longer willing to participate in the deceit, there's not a single word here about how Israel and its backers have used that very 'peace' narrative as a weapon of evasion and expanded occupation for over half a century. That's exactly why BDS have asked Radiohead not to give succour to Brand Israel.  

    In an impressive letter to Yorke, a list of Israeli musicians set out the same key points about Israel's branding agenda:
    Every international artist who plays in Israel serves as a propaganda tool for the Israeli government. International performances in Israel serve the government’s agenda of whitewashing its war crimes against Palestinians by creating a “business as usual” atmosphere wherein the status-quo, a reality of colonization and military occupation for Palestinians, becomes normalized. Maintaining this atmosphere relies heavily on creating a facade of Israel as a hip, advanced, progressive state with a vibrant and diverse cultural scene. In 2005 the Israeli foreign ministry decided to invest in a public relations strategy to “re-brand Israel,” diverting attention away from Israeli crimes by highlighting Israeli cultural and scientific achievements. Needless to say, the government which just celebrated 50 years of brutal military rule over the occupied Palestinian West Bank and Gaza Strip should not be assisted, even unintentionally. The government which legislated to suppress even the commemoration of the displacement of the majority indigenous Palestinian population in 1948 should not be given the chance to claim that artists and musicians are endorsing its policies. This effect of a performance in Israel can not be undone even with the best intentions. Any statement that you might wish to make on stage would be overshadowed by the fact that you would be crossing an international picket line established by the vast majority of civil society organizations in Palestine. On the other hand, if you decided not to play, it would send a strong message to the Israeli government that their racist policies and grave violations of Palestinian human rights will not be normalized. It would also send a message to the people of Palestine that you’re with them in their struggle in a very real way.
    Their letter concludes, like so many others to Yorke, with an open invitation: 
    Please reconsider violating the Palestinian call for boycott. We remain at the ready to talk to you about any questions or concerns that you may have, and continue to welcome a conversation with you.
    Again, note the studious argument behind that appeal, none of it intended to intimidate. It's a laudable message of solidarity, serving to connect communities in pursuit of just resolutions.

    Yet, for Thom Yorke, the boycotting of Israel, an occupier, apartheid state, is, apparently, "divisive", resulting in the emergence of people like Netanyahu. That's quite an inversion of cause and effect. By such logic, not only are BDS culpable, but a mass of Palestinians who support the boycott are responsible for creating their own oppressors. 

    If you create division, Yorke says, you get the likes of May and Trump. Once more, the recourse to liberal angst, rather than willingness to address the structural forces underpinning such villains. How easy to slate Netanyahu, May and Trump - what of Obama? - without identifying the very systems of power - neoliberalism, militarism, Zionism - that build and thrive on social division. How easy to wish for peace and dialogue. How noble to want an end to Palestinian suffering without doing anything seriously proactive to bring it about. 

    The purpose of BDS is not about creating social division. It's about bringing people together in broad, tactical and effective opposition to the unbending, repressive power and divisive infrastructure of the Israeli state: its illegal wall, inhuman checkpoints and colonialist settlements; its ruthless imprisonment and disconnection of Gaza from the outside world; its apartheid divisions inside Israel and ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.
    I have no idea whether or not Yorke and his band are able to see the merits of that case. But they should, at least, resist caricaturing those making it as "weird" and "patronising". Yorke's vociferous indignation looks a lot more like feigned liberal deflection of the actual issues.

    It seems unlikely that Radiohead will change their minds now about performing in Israel. That's their decision, their moral choice. But Yorke should refrain from slandering a BDS movement with serious, rational and well-supported ideas about how to advance human rights and justice for Palestinians. 

    There's been no 'talking-down' or 'telling' Thom Yorke and Radiohead what to do, only fair and reasoned requests for them not to cross this picket line and partake in Israel's whitewash. Accept or reject those arguments, but don't run for cover behind faux outrage.

  • Scotland and the potential of a Corbyn-led progressive alliance

    johnhilley.blogspot.com | Wed, 07 Jun 2017 21:37:00 +0000

    No predictions. One can only hope now for a Corbyn victory and the pleasure of May's removal. But either an outright win or a close outcome presents us with the exciting potential of a Corbyn-led progressive alliance.
     
    Corbyn's manifesto is no radical socialist blueprint. But it's still a major statement of progressive intent, breaking decisively with Blairism and steering us away from the harshest excesses of neoliberal orthodoxy. A Corbyn victory would be the greatest rebuke to establishment politics since 1945.


    As an alarmed elite and poisoned media make their last efforts to stop Corbyn and deny his mass appeal, his popularity and resilience demonstrates the multiple possibilities of a new united politics.

    In seeing-off the most brutal media-led assault ever unleashed on a left-Labour leadership - including the BBC's relentless smears and protection of May - the surge for Corbyn represents a landmark achievement in itself.

    Even if the final numbers take us into hung parliament territory, it opens the way for a practical progressive alignment, a whole new dynamic for leftist change, driven by Corbyn, the SNP, Plaid and the Greens.

    This requires a decisive rejection of Labour in Scotland. Kezia Dugdale's Scottish Labour remains a lamentable impediment both to Corbyn and any such progressive development.

    Perversely, in the very place that should have the most left-leaning, Corbyn-approving voice, Labour's garrison is still stuck in its old establishment ways, hunched down in its Union-defending bunker, unable either to advance Corbyn's major leftist agenda or engage the new independence politics.

    Part of the failed coup forces, Dugdale and her associates are no friend of Corbyn. No amount of squirming overtures to her leader can disguise that dislocation. Even the undeserved Corbyn boost Scottish Labour is likely to receive doesn't rectify the fundamental problem of a party needing completely taken down and rebuilt as a serious leftist force.

    Corbyn's rise has presented something of an existential political problem for many leftists in Scotland still desiring radical independence. Yet while wishing for a Corbyn victory in England and Wales, any temptation towards Scottish Labour only entrenches the very problems noted.

    The SNP still has a considerable journey to make towards being a radical force for change. It can be seen as an encouraging work in progress, for many in the wider indy movement a means to an end. 

    Yet, for all its flaws, left-leaning minds should still view a vote for the SNP here as both vital in building progressive alliances and holding the line for independence.  A significant bloc of SNP MPs not only helps maintain the independence mandate, it also provides an incentivising effect on Corbyn.

    This is no more apparent than the key issue of Trident, opposed outright by the SNP, yet still maintained by deeper Labour forces against Corbyn's wishes. In this and vital other policy-forming areas, the leverage of SNP and Greens on Corbyn can only be of mutual, progressive advantage.

    Also, while May still appears resolute in denying Holyrood's recently-secured mandate for a second independence referendum, any SNP dealings with Corbyn, whether he's in power or substantially well placed at Westminster, might prove more fertile. Again, that requires a substantive SNP representation. 

    So many intriguing possibilities, so much to play for. Whatever the outcome, we can take great heart from Jeremy Corbyn's leadership and his inspiring part in opening-up these new progressive spaces.    

  • Corbyn soars high above weathervane Guardian

    johnhilley.blogspot.com | Tue, 06 Jun 2017 00:17:00 +0000

    It's been a pleasure to watch Jeremy Corbyn surge on a wave of rational argument and populist appeal. Whatever happens now, Corbyn has won his party and seen off any further Blairite plots. It's been inspiring to track this astonishing comeback, against everything the establishment could muster, most notably the brutal media onslaught.

    In particular, it's been heartening to observe the squirming awkwardness of Corbyn's left-liberal naysayers at the Guardian, following its

(h/t Ludwig W)
From John Harris to John Crace, the rush of Guardian liberals now affecting praise for Corbyn is almost too embarrassing to read.

Another, Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett - revealing much about subtle Guardian bullying of young reporters - has now declared: "I used to be a shy Corbynite, but I'm over that now."

Disappointingly, when congratulated, yet chided, by Jonathan Cook over her belated 'coming out' for Corbyn, Cosslett could only reduce to: "interesting this man waited for a woman to write something before launching a patronising tirade". Cook replied: "Oh dear! Better read my blog before commenting. Otherwise your special pleading looks very silly. (Try asking Freedland, Monbiot, Jones)." Media Lens, also citing Cook's many previous attacks on Freedland, Jones and Monbiot, asked: "Worst ever attempt to resort to 'sexist male' take?"

The real intention of Cook's comment, as emphasised in his updated piece, was not to target Cosslett, but to highlight the pernicious culture of intimidation at the Guardian, and show how the actual publishing of Cosslett's piece is yet another example of the paper in all-out damage limitation mode.

Now, days before the election, a Guardian editorial has come out with the most grudging, 'endorsement' of Corbyn. Still damned with faint praise, Corbyn is presented as some kind of 'surprisingly improved schoolboy' who, despite not coming up to the Guardian's lofty 'standards', could just, after all, have some 'redeeming grades' for use in seeing-off the Tories.

With Corbyn's poll numbers surging, here was the most cynical and sanctimonious attempt to 're-identify' with Labour's core, and 'walk-back' some of its recent hatchet-job editorial

Whatever the outcome on Thursday, we can be pretty sure the Guardian cabal will be using the same weathervane commentary to keep readers abreast of 'Corbyn's progress'. Pleasingly, many are now deserting its fair-weather pages, having seen through its shrill, pettifogging and hypocritical output.

Corbyn's electoral advancement against everything the Guardian's 'best' warned us about shows just what a crucial impediment the liberal establishment media is to real political progress. 

And its humiliation can give impetus to wider radical aspirations. For example, in conveying the case for a more radical independence politics, Robin McAlpine at Common Space sees great merit in Corbyn's assertive approach, and the need to resist the Guardian's doom-laden mantras: 
I've been following the Guardian's coverage of Corbyn with gritted teeth – the swaggering certainty of most Guardian analysts (many former cheerleaders for Blair) that Corbyn is self-evidently bottled, distilled failure was utterly endemic.
In halting the Blairites and taking his party to this vital point, Corbyn has not only demonstrated the deep potential for a renewed politics, but that it's possible to build such a project without the help and approval of an entirely hostile and system-serving media. That's a massive achievement and message of encouragement to all now seeking real progressive change.            

  • Manchester bombing: media fail to probe intelligence-jihadi collusion under May's watch

    johnhilley.blogspot.com | Tue, 30 May 2017 18:57:00 +0000

    Amid reports of multiple arrests and the 'immense progress' made by police and the security services in 'rounding-up' the alleged terror network behind the Manchester bombing, a vital piece of the story has been wilfully ignored by the BBC and other leading media.

    A key investigation by the reputable Middle East Eye has uncovered damning evidence that British intelligence agencies actively approved and assisted the travel movements of known jihadist individuals between the UK and Libya. In particular, it provides critical insight on the covert dealings between MI5/MI6 and the proscribed Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG).

    According to MEE:
    The British government operated an "open door" policy that allowed Libyan exiles and British-Libyan citizens to join the 2011 uprising that toppled Muammar Gaddafi even though some had been subject to counter-terrorism control orders, Middle East Eye can reveal. Several former rebel fighters now back in the UK told MEE that they had been able to travel to Libya with "no questions asked" as authorities continued to investigate the background of a British-Libyan suicide bomber who killed 22 people in Monday's attack in Manchester.
    The investigation relates how, for LIFG-linked individuals, it was "no questions asked", with travel "sorted" by MI5:
    One British citizen with a Libyan background who was placed on a control order – effectively house arrest – because of fears that he would join militant groups in Iraq said he was "shocked" that he was able to travel to Libya in 2011 shortly after his control order was lifted "I was allowed to go, no questions asked," said the source, who wished to remain anonymous. He said he had met several other British-Libyans in London who also had control orders lifted in 2011 as the war against Gaddafi intensified, with the UK, France and the US carrying out air strikes and deploying special forces soldiers in support of the rebels. "They didn't have passports, they were looking for fakes or a way to smuggle themselves across," said the source. But within days of their control orders being lifted, British authorities returned their passports, he said.
    British intelligence officers were, in effect, acting as 'travel agents' for known jihadists. 

    David Pratt at the Sunday Herald, citing the MEE investigation, offers supportive background:  
    Abedi’s parents fled Libya as opponents of Colonel Gaddafi’s regime, the British government only too happy to give them refuge in 'Little Libya' as Manchester became dubbed. Along with Birmingham and London, Manchester became a hub of Libyan opposition politics. It was from these cities that many would return home to fight against Gaddafi as part of a broad opposition, among them Salman Abedi’s father. In some cases though these anti-Gaddafi forces were closely linked to Islamist groups like the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG). This Islamist connection is crucial, not least because it has now become clear that the British government operated an “open door” policy that allowed Libyan exiles and British-Libyan citizens to join the 2011 uprising that overthrew Gaddafi, even though some had been subject to counter-terrorism control orders. Unpalatable as it might be to consider let alone accept, last week’s Manchester attack is, in part, of Britain’s own making – insofar as the UK government willingly embraced a policy that exacerbated instability and a subsequent power vacuum in Libya that allowed jihadist terror to gain traction. Several foreign fighters now back in the UK and interviewed by the respected online news website Middle East Eye (MEE) confirmed that they had been able to travel to Libya during that time with “no questions asked”.
    Alastair Sloan at Al-Jazeera provides another sharp piece on Abedi, the Libyan-Manchester connection and UK duplicity. Writing his column at the Mail, Peter Oborne offers further acknowledgement of the MEE research, valuable insights on the hierarchical culture of MI6, and damning comment on UK collusion.

    But where is all this crucial information and analysis from the BBC, ITN and other 'mainstream' outlets? Lamentably, there's been no wider flagging of the MEE story and its vital implications.

    These revelations should be leading news, calling into question both the dark conduct of the security agencies and the very competence of Theresa May and her government. A real media would have this on the front pages every day. Indeed, proper reporting of this story should be enough to bring Theresa May down.

    Instead, it's all about her 'strong response' to the bombing, depicted for the public by shots of taped-off streets and armed police standing outside smashed doors. 'Breaking news' headlines announce that 'suspects' continue to be arrested - the subsequent release of most more quietly noted. Nominal questions are raised about why Salman Abedi wasn't subject to closer surveillance, all dutifully assumed by 'security correspondents' as a 'procedural failure' to cope with the growing volume of people now on the intelligence radar

    Yet, given the security services' long-standing relations with LIFG, is it credible that Abedi and connected others simply 'slipped through the net'? As intelligence chiefs instruct an 'internal inquiry' into such 'failings', how readily the BBC accepts the proposition of MI5 'investigating' itself. How 'laughable' to see the 'all-probing' Guardian report it likewise.    

    Media speculation over Abedi's possible motives includes only abbreviated suggestions of 'blowback', the link to UK foreign/war policy framed mainly as an election issue around whether Jeremy Corbyn's proposed security agenda can really be trusted against May's more 'proven record' and 'stronger commitment' to fighting terror. 

    While the BBC's Andrew Neil conducted a virulent smear job on Corbyn, spending almost half their interview on spurious 'evidence' of his 'IRA associations', May has been spared any such interrogation by the BBC over her actual part in protecting Libyan-connected terrorists.  

    We also hear the usual calls for 'greater Muslim vigilance', and 'need to identify' those elements feeding radicalisation, all coated in supportive liberal messages to the wider Muslim community.  Yet, much more carefully avoided is the possibility of deeper state collusion with those very jihadist individuals and groupings, the issue here again pitched around the 'need for greater sharing of information' and 'lessons to be learned' by MI5.  

    Beyond all this token 'analysis' and establishment 'self-inspection', real pressing questions should be exercising serious journalists:

    What is the precise connection between the UK security forces, MI5/MI6, and the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group based in Manchester and other parts of the UK?

    Why, as detailed by the MEE report, was there an 'open-door' arrangement in place for the easy movement of Salman Abedi and other jihadists between the UK and Libya?

    Why wasn't Abedi detained, or more closely monitored, by the security agencies despite mosque authorities and others reporting concerns over his conduct?

    Why didn't the UK act upon recent US intel warnings about Abedi?

    Why were Theresa May, Home Secretary Amber Rudd and the UK intelligence services so aggrieved at the US leaking of Abedi's name and details?

    Why aren't the BBC and other 'mainstream' media headlining the MEE story as central context to the Manchester bombing?

    Why aren't the media pointing a damning finger at Theresa May, who must have known about this arrangement, not just on becoming PM, but, even more crucially, under her watch as Home Secretary between 2010 and 2016?

    How was the UK's regime change decision to oust Gaddafi conveyed by the Home Office to the security agencies, the green light given to assist LIFG and the instruction made to lift control orders on known jihadists?

    Where is the investigation of David Cameron's own role in this affair and his bombing of Libya in 2011?

    While a few decent efforts to address these questions have been made, most major media either avoid, or merely hint at, the dark extent of UK malfeasance. All told, the negating of this story is a striking example of compliant, boundaried journalism, understanding the limitations of critical enquiry, and the safe, 'dignified' tone to be observed. Much is still to be learned about the actual motives and movements of Abedi and his assumed network. But the absence of serious media coverage and investigation only serves to hide deep state subterfuge and protect those war-promoting politicians responsible for intensifying the terror environment. 

  • Manchester: seeking the deeper causes of terrorist violence

    johnhilley.blogspot.com | Thu, 25 May 2017 18:17:00 +0000

    If the wicked slaughter of innocents in Manchester leaves us grasping for explanations, the major political and media reactions offer only the same futile repetitions on 'security' and the continuing 'war on terror'.

    Imagine a truly concerted political effort dedicated to understanding and limiting terrorist violence. Wouldn't its first, elementary task be to identify the actual reasons for that violence, the core causes? Wouldn't that require honest comprehension of what really spawns, motivates and generates violence? Wouldn't any such uncompromised enquiry want to trace the primary circumstances and founding grievances behind major acts of violence? Wouldn't it, in true enlightenment spirit, dispense immediately with all the tired labels, standard narratives and media pedantry that has only served to obscure, excuse and further encourage terrorist violence? Wouldn't it come to the logical conclusion that the more states, governments and corporations produce, sell, fund, sponsor and promote the instruments, economics, geopolitics and deeper culture of violence, the greater likelihood of a respondent spread of virulent violence?

    Even if we're to accept that violence is somehow an intrinsic or inevitable feature of human existence, shouldn't the driving instincts of a truly civilized order be to contain and limit terror through imaginative diplomacy and patient peace initiatives rather than relentless war-seeking 'interventions' and arms proliferation?

    Donald Trump has been in Saudi Arabia this week sword-dancing with despots. Yet his buffoonery, readily derided by liberals, got more attention than the staggering $110 billion arms deal being signed-off by these two weapons-addicted states. More planes, bombs and instruments of mass terror to annihilate more suffering children in Yemen. More military and political support from the world's primary exporter of arms for a regime intent on building ISIS in Syria and Iraq and spreading its ideological barbarism across an already war-scorched region. 

    As fellow leading arms trader, the UK also continues to back this medievalist tyranny. Given a virtual free ride by the media, Theresa May and Defence Secretary Michael Fallon express no concern over such ugly dealings and the West's wider economy of death. The UK's arms trade with Saudi Arabia, they insist, is in the 'public interest', a 'commercial necessity'. For May, "Gulf security is our security and Gulf prosperity is our prosperity." And this 'vital relationship', she soothes, has "helped to keep people on the streets of Britain safe." Is this claim remotely credible? 

    While May and Trump stand in 'resilient defiance' of ISIS-style terrorism, they both uphold a regime that, 9/11 included, has done more than any other to promote, inculcate and export such ideological violence. Yet, rather than blanket media condemnation, an already electorally-wounded May gets the chance to play moral stateswoman. How many mourning the victims in Manchester fully realise that May and the UK state actually back the regime most supportive of ISIS, its offshoots and its proxy executioners? Will the BBC or any of our leading commentariat ever have the guts to highlight and shout-down such blatant hypocrisy?  

    We watch bewildered at the actions of a crazed terrorist. How could any person carry out such an act of calculated wickedness? Murdered children, devastated parents. Lives and families wrecked. Yet we remain cocooned and detached from the same human suffering inflicted by our politicians and their deliverance of terrifying weaponry against similar innocents in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine. 

    The emergence of al-Qaeda in Iraq, and now ISIS in Syria, was the direct product of Western invasion. After Blair and Bush, Cameron, Obama and NATO have also left a trail of human carnage in Libya, giving rise to more jihadist forces, notably the al-Qaeda-derived Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, a contingent of which is thought to have been domiciled in Manchester, where suicide bomber Salman Abedi was born to a Libyan family.

    Abedi carried out the bombing days after returning from Libya. As Neil Clark asks, not only do we need to understand who turned Abedi, but "who turned Libya - which as recently as July 2010 was being lauded in the British press as one of the top six cruise ship holiday destinations - into an "Daesh stronghold" - and a training ground for terrorists like Abedi?"

    That one person, Salman Abedi, is immediately responsible for the horrific killings in Manchester. Others may be party to his terrible act. But, as Trump joins the Western war club with his own murderous assaults on Yemen and Syria, you will wait in vain for 'our' state elites and their corporate-military associates to accept that they hold crucial responsibility for the unleashing and spread of such madness.

    As Nafeez Ahmed observes, the mindset of ISIS-drawn 'martyrs' suggests a pathology of the deluded "loser" dangerously detached from social reality, seeking 'inclusion' and 'approval' through acts of 'redemptive' violence. But, as Ahmed shows, that same sick denial of barbaric act and consequence is evident in the words of Trump as he proclaims 'solutions' to the ISIS menace through more mass arms shipments and partnership with the Saudis.

    Ahmed goes on to remind us how the US, West and Gulf states funneled arms and support to al-Qaeda affiliates in Syria as part of their common agenda to remove Assad. The CIA and MI6 also facilitated "rat-lines" for jihadist fighters to Syria from Libya, the Caucuses and Balkans. As Ahmed records, all this was approved by the UK authorities, who turned their own blind eye to British jihadists travelling to Syria. Ahmed further notes how NATO and the West were eager partners of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group in their common effort to remove Gaddafi.          

    It's very likely we may never prevent a deranged individual, bent on whatever ideological crusade, from exploding a bomb, or weaponising a truck, in a public space. But, as the media grant prime ministers and presidents privileged platforms to condemn and denounce, there's a gaping lack of scrutiny over the West's own wicked war and arms agenda - or 'foreign policy' as it's so dutifully called. 

    That distortion matches the abject failure of Western 'intelligence' to promote meaningful 'safety on our streets'. What truly intelligent mind, after all, would fail to see, or seek to disguise, the inevitable consequences of so much Western aggression, invasion, proxy warmongering and arms procurement? 

    For Nafeez Ahmed, the "deeply uncomfortable reality" here is that:

    the domestic leftovers of Britain's military adventures abroad are emboldened networks of extremist sympathisers, which British authorities are literally afraid of prosecuting for fear of embarrassing MI5 and MI6 over their wanton liaisons with Islamist militants for geopolitical aggrandisement.
    It is a convenient way of avoiding confrontation with the most inconvenient truth of all time: that since 9/11, the staple tactics of the 'War on Terror' - military interventions, mass surveillance, drone assassinations, torture, rendition - have seen a massive acceleration in terrorist violence. US State Department data shows that since 2001, terror attacks have skyrocketed by 6,500 percent, while the numbers of casualties from terror attacks has increased by 4,500 percent. At what point are we going to wake up to the fact that the institutions of the 'War on Terror', too, have failed? Not just failed, but contributed to the violence we all fear? (Original emphasis.)
    Behind all the lofty appeals to 'uphold our way of life', Manchester only confirms how the whole language of 'state intelligence' and 'public security' has been crafted as propaganda in the service of power. Incredibly, we're now asked to believe that May ordering troops onto the streets is a signal of 'strength and reassurance' rather than an admission of the greater dangers we now face as a result of Britain's failed warmongering. As historian Mark Curtis asserts, "the British establishment is putting our lives at risk."    

    Lamentably, populist liberal voices lauding our 'resistance to terror' and 'refusal to succumb' also obfuscate the problem by failing to accompany that message with wider explanation of Western crimes.

    The admirable, spontaneous care shown by people in Manchester and beyond tells us much about the natural capacity for human compassion and empathy. Yet any serious deterrence and limiting of such suffering, here and elsewhere, requires not just condemnation and pledges of unity, but the specific indictment and exposure of the higher state forces driving terrorist violence.   

    Einstein's (supposed) definition of insanity - doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results - may have become, in itself, a circular-sounding cliche, but, as the same reactive outcries over yet another atrocity on 'our' cities unfolds, how many politicians and journalists have the integrity to confront these issues in their wider, causal context?

  • Holyrood passes Section 30, a mandate based on real political authority

    johnhilley.blogspot.com | Wed, 29 Mar 2017 00:27:00 +0000

    While today's Scottish parliamentary vote approving a Section 30 order (to the Scotland Act, 1998) won't hush debate over the justification of a second independence referendum, it does now entrench Scotland's political right to hold one. Even though Westminster retains the final constitutional say on whether that request is granted, the case for preparing and pursuing a referendum is now a legislative reality.

    The SNP entered office in 2016 with a manifesto pledge to initiate a referendum should there be a "significant and material" change in constitutional circumstances. Brexit provided that. Even beyond notional polling indications of public support or otherwise for independence, or a referendum on it, the SNP government are clearly entitled to request a new poll on that basis. 

    Underwriting the SNP's manifesto claim, the Scottish government, backed by the Greens, have now secured majority Holyrood approval for a second poll. That, remember, is not just any rhetorical 'will of the Scottish people', but the officially-stated will of the Scottish parliament. If Westminster has the sole power to approve the triggering of Article 50, Holyrood has now discharged the same implicit authority to present Section 30.

    As Aileen McHarg, Professor of Public Law, concludes, while the legal and constitutional process of Section 30, and Scotland's ultimate right to secede the Union, remains a contested terrain: 

    Politically, the Scottish Government appears to have the stronger hand, with the precedent of the 2014 referendum and a clear change of circumstances in the form of Brexit to justify a second vote.
    Moreover, she asserts:
    Underlying all this is the sense that the constitutional mess in which the UK government finds itself is one entirely of its own making. It is difficult to see how placing obstacles in the way of a second independence referendum can do anything other than make things worse.
    Stephen Tierney, Professor of Constitutional Theory, also observes that this is primarily a political issue to be worked out between Westminster and Holyrood rather than taken through the courts, a scenario, he warns, that, unlike the Edinburgh Agreement underwriting the 2014 referendum, would drag judges into a deeply contentious area, with even more volatile political consequences.

    In effect, any reasonable resolution of this political issue should recognise the kind of political rights underpinning it. And here we see the clear political authority of Holyrood in seeking a second poll.

    Theresa May's singular refusal to countenance a Section 30 request tells us all we need to know about the enduring problem of the Westminster-Holyrood relationship. Despite holding a solid mandate for a referendum, an obdurate Tory leader can simply say no, "now is not the time." Whatever one's views on Brexit, however people in Scotland voted, that's a fundamentally undemocratic basis for determining such issues. Not only is Scotland being forced out of the EU against the majority wishes of its electorate, its government and parliament is simply being ignored.

    Short of inventive guerrilla politics, Scotland's government and parliament remain subject to this blatant dismissal. Which only intensifies the case for a referendum and support for leaving our 'Union of equals'. Only independence can resolve that glaring democratic deficit.

    Those who voted No in 2014 in understandable fear of leaving the 'security' of the Union must now see that the Union itself is a perpetual lock-in to Westminster government, policies and dictates. As with the UK's intention to leave the EU, all major decisions and outcomes continue to be determined by external forces and institutions.

    On timing, whether or not we take May at her literal 'Brexit means Brexit', the minutiae and concluding terms are of little importance here. The UK is leaving the EU. That's the material change: the actual exit, not the detail of the exit. Holyrood's presenting of Section 30 is a direct response to the clear, binary option laid out on June 23, and Westminster's vote to enshrine Brexit.

    In that vein, the Scottish government can reasonably insist on holding a vote before the signing of a final agreement between Britain and the other 27 EU states in order to widen Scotland's options for any possible transitional dealings with the EU. Professor Michael Keating (Centre of Constitutional Change) cites this as one of the main advantages of a referendum before the UK formally leaves the EU. The EU's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, also insists that any deal with the UK must be concluded by October 2018. Thus, the Autumn 2018 - Spring 2019 schedule proposed by Nicola Sturgeon offers Scotland an obvious starting point for preparing its own arrangements, rather than being detained by the fallout and hubris of an already-determined Brexit.

    May's insistence on Scotland waiting till negotiations have concluded look like classic stalling tactics, and the likely contriving of further obstacles beyond that point. Meanwhile, as the No mandarins mobilise, we hear the same appeal to our 'Great Union of Nations', and intimations of beneficent sweeteners, establishment code for 'know your place', and elusive promises of a few more 'devo-treats' if you behave well. How much longer will people indulge such patronising dismissal?  

    While the constitutional chess game plays out, the main consideration for now is how best to pitch the new indy case. Some Yes supporters worry that 18 to 24 months may not be enough time to build a winning campaign. Yet, the much greater risk lies in any more protracted one, with Yes activists and backers becoming jaded and disheartened.

    Significantly, positions on currency, budgets, borders, trade and other key macro issues are likely to be more coherently presented this time around, with more vigilant scrutiny of media distortion and confident policy work from groups like Common Weal helping to build new awareness.

    Obviously, Brexit, the actual material reason for a new poll, is at the political fore here. But it would be a serious error to make this referendum an effective re-run of the Brexit issue. Rather, it should be set as a key contextual example of external control, with independence as the only way to resist all such imposed decisions.

    There's also the more immediate risk here of assuming that Scotland's 62 per cent EU remain vote will translate straightforwardly into a majority for independence. The SNP and wider Yes movement already recognise the complex variation of feeling here, not least within the SNP itself. While the party are clear in their desire for Scotland to stay, or rejoin, as a full EU member state (also the Scottish Green Party position) a more prudent pitch may be to leave this as a decision to be resolved post-indy referendum. Unshackled from Westminster, Scotland would then be in a much clearer position to determine its specific relationship with Europe, whether fully in, fully out, partly in as an EEA/EFTA state, or any other variant arrangement.

    This should be presented as another model opportunity for democratic participation. Voters who fear leaving the UK must be reminded that they will be ditching not only the last chance for rejoining the EU, if that's their wish, but the abandonment of much wider possibilities. Having secured political independence, we would have the rare and enviable chance to discuss and formulate the kind of dealings we wish to see in the making of a more progressive society.

    Even more than 2014, this coming independence argument has to stress to No voters and waverers the calculus of vital opportunities: not just what they would gain, but the crucial realities of what they will certainly lose. They will be throwing away the immediate right to determine their chosen status with Europe, whatever they wish that to be. But they will also lose the chance of securing a much more effective parliament with full powers to enact meaningful change. By remaining within the sclerotic confines of the UK, we forfeit all those political and civil gifts, returning us to the same constitutional dependencies, economic redundancies and social conformities.

    The consequences for Scotland of a close-run, yet lost, 2014 indy vote was the imposition in 2015 of another Tory Westminster government, and a 2016 EU referendum driven by internal Tory party and establishment divisions. These are the effects and outcomes of a self-serving Unionist politics. Whatever challenges lie ahead in shaping Scotland as a more radical democracy, moving beyond the still tame policies of a soft-neoliberal SNP, nothing of real change can occur within that all-constraining arrangement.  

    Much is being made in Yes circles just now about the need for patient and non-acrimonious persuasion. Quite right. Nor does there seem much point in over-projecting one's own particular political views, hopes or visions.

    Rather, in respectful appeal, on the day this Section 30 is ratified, more basic questions may be posed to prospective voters. Why would you opt to be governed by an archaic, undemocratic and, most likely, continually Tory-dominated parliament, rather than a modern-founded, fairly-elected and more-accountable one? Why, given the proven record of that Scottish parliament, and succession of Scottish governments, would you doubt the abilities of Scotland to run all of its own affairs? Whatever your political beliefs and affiliations, is it not better to have your policies and decisions made in a place where you can much better influence and challenge them? Why pass-up on this rare opportunity for greater participatory democracy? As ultimate sovereignty rests with the Scottish people, through its parliament, why not exercise that sovereignty to its fullest extent? Confronted by global forces intent on emasculating real democracy, why not secure as much political control as you possibly can?

  • Guardian's day of shame, and the dark depths of liberal McCarthyism

    johnhilley.blogspot.com | Wed, 01 Mar 2017 01:07:00 +0000

    The liberal 'resistance' to Donald Trump has revealed a service media now plumbing its own dark, reactionary depths.

    A Guardian editorial has welcomed back to public prominence none other than George W Bush. Even for the Blair-protecting, war-apologising Guardian, it's a landmark day of shame.

    The deaths of 1 million Iraqis, and the staggering madness unleashed by Bush, is brushed aside by the Guardian editors as some historical aberration, another 'past and awkward' chapter in 'overseas adventurism'. Like Blair over Brexit, Bush is now being hailed by the Guardian as a 'welcome voice of reason' against Trump's irrationality.

    Yet what kind of 'rational' mind, we must wonder, could write and approve an editorial proclaiming the 'virtues' of a man with so much blood on his hands? From Blair to Obama and now to Bush, note Media Lens, the Guardian are "faithfully providing a service for 'our' war criminals. Sympathetic coverage, endorsement, rehabilitation, gushing praise..." 

    The brave Iraqi journalist who hurled his shoes at Bush, as a statement of deepest Arab disrespect, has just had them, in effect, thrown back at the Iraqi people by the Guardian.

    Guardian editor-in-chief Katherine Viner and whoever else oversaw this disgraceful piece are basically saying: you're suffering is not worthy of real recognition, it's excusable, its perpetrators are still 'ours', their actions must be treated differently. Was there ever a clearer example of craven liberal mitigation, of crawling apologetics for mass Western violence? One can only despair at such selectivity, crass insensitivity, and, yes, deep liberal racism.

    And the reaction to this ugly editorial from the paper's keynote journalists? Heads down, squirming silence.

    Viner should resign. She won't. The paper's crusading columnists, notably Owen Jones and George Monbiot, should denounce their employer. They won't. They will all say nothing, let it pass, ignore criticisms, dismiss challengers as vexatious trolls. Instead, they will continue peddling their righteous denunciations of Trump, urging on the 'resistance', polishing their 'radical' status, protecting their careers. There's nothing quite like watching the contracted left liberal go to ground when such awkwardness arises.    

    As is now increasingly evident over the reaction to Trump, this is not only default liberal conformity, but the alarming face of liberal extremism. From approving Deep State subversion to the championing of war criminals as 'rescuers of liberty', we have a 'vanguard' media utterly in thrall to corporate and warmongering authority.

    Central to this is a mindset of denial, the rush to blame and scapegoat the 'devilish other', notably Russia and its 'apologists', rather than indict the system itself. For Glenn Greenwald, citing the past warnings of IF Stone, this is the very playbook of liberal McCarthyism.

    Adam Johnson has also taken apart a New York Times editorial spluttering with liberal indignation over Trump's apparent 'moral equivalence' between the US and Russia. In recalling some of the genocidal crimes committed by the US, Johnson notes that:

    the most important function of major editorial boards is to be gatekeepers of national security orthodoxy. And there is no more axiomatic orthodoxy than American. One can handwring over “mistakes,” even occasionally do harsh reporting on American war crimes—so long as one arrives back at the position of American moral superiority. “Yes, America has made mistakes,” the good liberal insists, “but at least we don’t do this other bad thing that is, unaccountably, uniquely disqualifying.”
    Even where liberals might 'acknowledge' some of the West's high crimes, they're still utterly beholden to fundamental notions of the 'good Western state'. Trump is deemed a unique threat and open racist. Yet, where was the great liberal crusade against Obama and Clinton when they were relentlessly bombing, droning and murdering so many foreign 'others'? While Yemen is being annihilated, the UK's vital part in those war crimes, notes Mark Curtis, goes unreported, "an amazing propaganda achievement in a 24/7 media society."

    In objecting to Trump's UK visit, Guardian liberals uphold the narrative of 'our state's decency.' In disapproving Trump's right to a formal visit, they give undue legitimacy to a UK state itself dripping in blood, in multiple violation of international laws, "rendering it a rogue state." Again, the vital context of connected Western criminality is airbrushed and ignored.

    In more progressive vein, people might actually 'welcome' such visits between mutually-supporting villains, allowing them to get on the street and shout down both criminal states simultaneously. It would also provide an opportunity for exposing our militarist monarchy's part in the great sham.

    The Guardian could push to prosecute, rather than embrace, Bush, Blair et al. Both the US and UK could be urged to establish earnest truth commissions to confess their vast, historical crimes against humanity. Instead, guided by the liberal media, the public are in a state of angst over 'honourable state diplomacy', and the 'need to observe' royal protocols. That's pretty smart hegemony.

    It corresponds with the dismal truth that a substantial section of the British public still view the British Empire in a positive light. According to a recent YouGov poll, no less than 44% expressed pride in the history of British colonialism. As historian Mark Curtis observes, that's a:
    stupendous propaganda success for the UK elite; an indication of extent of both media disinformation and, I would say, mainstream academia
    This helps explain why Trump is seen as a 'particular assault' on 'democratic decency'. Trump is presented as the crisis, rather than explained in the fuller context of systematic power and its deepening crisis. It's remarkable, in this regard, how the Guardian's own lauding of Bush will be ignored, or just seen as unremarkable, by most other liberal media.

    Some liberal-minded observers give dutiful nods to this bigger picture. In a recent piece, noting a past exchange, Bella Caledonia wrote:
    Whilst the game of Trump-bashing must be forged into an actual resistance – and in Scotland a resistance to contagion – there is another problem, as critics of Bella like John Hilley point out.  If we focus solely on Trump’s exceptionalism we miss the continuity of raw US military imperial power and give a free pass to the Obama regime clouded over by a mist of Black Liberal Schmaltz. I’ll buy some of that, US foreign policy didn’t arrive out of the ether, but equally the danger of stressing continuity can be disabling if it just tricks us into thinking “nothing new here”, it’s just the same old USA just with a Lunatic Goofball in charge.
    But, as previously argued, continuity doesn't just mean "nothing new here", or that Trump is 'just the same' as Obama. The point is that Trump is the latest manifestation of pernicious US corporate, imperialist power. It's to understand Trump as a product of that system; its inevitable progeny.

    In denial of this continuity, patriotic liberals avert their eyes from 'home-grown Trump'. As Adam Johnson points out, rather than the incessant media demonology comparing Trump to the usual panoply of foreign foe dictators, he's actually "a distinctly American phenomenon":
    Trump’s agenda is largely the same as the broader Republican Party; his rise, moreover, was the logical manifestation of the xenophobic, “insurgent” tea party movement — funded and supported not by foreign governments, but by entirely domestic billionaires. There’s a reason why Republican senators from John McCain to Marco Rubio have voted to confirm Trump’s nominees: They basically agree with him. How strange, then, that we have zero hot takes drawing parallels between Trump and McCain or Trump and Rubio, and dozens of hot takes drawing parallels between Trump and Latin American leftists. The foreign leader comparison prioritizes style over policy, personality over material effect.
    Meanwhile, Obama luxuriates in hallowed liberal light. For the fawning Guardian, he's now even more the world's undisputed Mr Cool. Again, this is the liberal media's rearguard role in maintaining the cultural and political narrative of 'our always decent and benign' leaders. As the same Guardian cabal, like John Harris and Jonathan Freedland, intensify their assault on Jeremy Corbyn, we see how they act as vital protectors of neoliberal 'reality'.

    Brexit provides a similar example of how we've been led by elite narratives framed by a righteous liberal commentariat. As Ken Loach argues, this has been a distracting storyline for many leftists, deliberating over how to oppose a neoliberal EU, while showing solidarity with workers, migrants and refugees. Again, it's about seeing through the liberal packaging, as a way of bolstering real movement politics.

    Encouragingly, affiliation with socialist groups in the US is growing on the back of the Trump protests. As elected city councillor in Seattle, Kshama Sawant of the Socialist Alternative insists: "Our movement cannot be limited to what's acceptable to the Democratic Party establishment."

    Yet, as the smearing of Keith Ellison and securing of Tom Perez as new DNC chairman shows, the liberal establishment will always fight against any form of radical overhaul. Typically, there's been no Guardian editorial lamenting this dire continuation of power.


    Whatever the fallout from Trump, the moment has, at least, helped shine a damning new light on our quisling liberal media. As independent journalist Matt Kennard observes, we've come to quite a point when a 'leading left liberal' outlet can castigate Jeremy Corbyn, while championing George W Bush: 

    Guardian: hates democratically elected socialist leader of Labour Party. Loves Republican war criminal tyrant 
    It's high time real journalists and radical others stood up and exposed this paper's shameful duplicity.  

  • Trump protests must see and oppose US crimes in their totality

    johnhilley.blogspot.com | Fri, 03 Feb 2017 00:17:00 +0000

    As global protests continue against Donald Trump, what could be the nucleus of a promising new progressive movement, akin to Occupy, is being compromised by a faux liberal 'resistance'.

    It's been encouraging to see people act in a spirit of intuitive solidarity with Muslims in rejection of Trump's discriminatory edicts. But, thanks to the liberal media's veneration of Obama and Hillary, and dismal silence on that administration's own authoritarian policy crimes, the real issue of ongoing US power, and Trump as its latest manifestation, is being neutered. And the convenient effect of this is to paint Obama and previous presidents as, somehow, rational and benign.

    How many of those worthy protesters are likely to know that Trump's executive order banning Muslims is actually the continuation of a policy initiated by Obama? How many realise that the seven Muslim countries 'picked out' by Trump are the same seven countries targeted by his predecessor?

    Most crucially, how many of those engaged in moral protest against Trump's barring of Muslims are more exercised by Obama's and Clinton's bombing, as well as banning, of people from those countries?

    American comedian and commentator Jimmy Dore makes the point with sharp, sardonic effect:

    Everybody was cool with bombing them, but banning them? Oh no! That's where I put my foot down. You can bomb the shit out of them, but as soon as you try to bar them from coming into the country...you're a monster, you're a monster.
    Citing an article by Seth Frantzman, Dore shows that, in fact, "Obama's administration selected these seven Muslim-majority countries." For all his ugly motivations, Trump actually acted upon an existing list underwritten by Congress, the Department of Homeland Security, and Obama's Terrorist Prevention Act (2015):
    The public should be suspicious of Trump’s policies and the media should speak truth to power and demand answers from the administration. But the media should also be truthful with the public and instead of claiming Trump singled out seven countries, it should note that the US Congress and Obama’s Department of Homeland Security had singled out these countries. It should have told us about the Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015 rather than pretend this list was invented in 2017. Trump’s executive order said “countries of concern,” it didn’t make a list. That list was already made, last year and years before. (Bold text, original.)
    Dore's background piece was commended by Glenn Greenwald, who, in response to liberal objections that this is only 'deflecting from Trump', tweeted:
    Pointing out that Trump is exploiting the framework that Obama and Bush built isn't an excuse for Trump. It's just fact.
    And:
    No, I'm not willing to allow Democrats [to] lie about history and what the foundation for policies are.
    In an incisive piece, highlighting Obama's own banning policy, Greenwald insists that we must see Trump in full context, as the product of an already repressive and aggressive system:
    Beyond U.S. support for the world’s worst regimes, what primarily shapes Trump’s list is U.S. aggression: Five of the seven predominantly Muslim countries on Trump’s list were ones bombed by Obama, while the other two (Iran and Sudan) were punished with heavy sanctions. Thus, Trump is banning immigrants from the very countries that the U.S. government — under both Republicans and Democrats — has played a key role in destabilizing and destroying...
    In a further article, Greenwald cites the murders of two members of the same family in Yemen as evidence of the seamless US bombing of that country, from Obama and now to Trump. Again, for Greenwald, you can't see Trump's actions outwith the past and continuing US war machine. He also reminds us that Obama's 'counter-terrorism' agenda on drone killing and Guantanamo, adopted from Bush/Cheney, has enjoyed considerable support among liberals and left Democrats.

    Yet, liberal fear and loathing abounds. Anticipating the death-knell of 'liberal democracy', post-Obama, Sunny Hundall, in the Independent, has implored Angela Merkel to step up to the mark as 'true leader of the free world', rather than granting that 'right' to the 'undeserving' Trump.

    Other left-liberals are berating 'errant lefties' for 'not seeing' the coming Trump threat. Citing Trump's National Security Advisor Michael Flynn's first statement that "As of today, we are officially putting Iran on notice", Mehdi Hasan tweeted: "Remember when some lefties thought Hillary would be the hawk, not Trump."

    It's highly likely, of course, that Clinton's first action would have been to 'put Russia on notice', intensifying the crisis in Syria, and ramping-up Nato's already dangerous militarism across Eastern Europe. Nor can Hasan, apparently, entertain the more prosaic possibility that both Clinton and Trump could be hawks; a continuity of warmongers.


    Hasan also tweeted:

    Given past 7 days, everyone who said 'there's no difference between Trump & Clinton' should hang heads in shame & owe rest of us an apology
    My reply:
    There is. Libya, Syria, Iraq... Trump's a demagogue, Clinton's a crazy war criminal. And it's largely BECAUSE of her, we got him.
    Hasan's baitings are the default line of a coy commentariat that refuses to see Trump as the consequence of systemic neoliberal failure, and the liberal class's own complicit part in that crisis.

    As Ian Sinclair observes, a service liberal media continue to lambast Trump as beyond the pale, simply "unpresidential", an historical joke when set against Sinclair's own damning list of previous presidential villainy.

    Alas, media fear and fury over Trump also seems to be having an insidious effect on much other 'alternative journalism', in its all-too-easy adoption of the same liberal memes. Consider, as illumination, this twitter exchange with pro-Scottish independence site Bella Caledonia over its representations of Trump:

    Bella Caledonia:More
    Trump is a Dalek, Bannon's his Davros
    http://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2017/01/30/trump-is-a-dalek/

     
    MoreLook inside your 'Tardis' for the more expansive story on how Trump's Muslim ban is an Obama policyhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4FTFB9GDfls

     
    Moreyes very good, all agreed. Obama's not in office now.

    John Hilley:
    MoEvasion. Nothing useful learned about Trump and what to do about him without crucial context: https://theintercept.com/2017/01/28/trumps-muslim-ban-is-culmination-of-war-on-terror-mentality-but-still-uniquely-shameful/

     
    I don't disagree. I'm not sure why I'm the focus of your hostility.

     
    MoreNot "hostility", reasoned comment, drawing attention to what looks like usual liberal omission.

     More
    Well I agree with your analysis but articles have to have some focus.

    Bella Caledonia:
    Some of the 'but what about Hillary'? stuff just sounds like flailing about - posturing 'radicalism'

     
    MoreIsn't it more posturing 'leftism' to dismiss criticism of Clinton's system-serving as 'whataboutery'?


    I agree on the need for context, but 'm not sure that Clinton is the issue today?


    What Clinton, Obama and the liberal establishment uphold is precisely the key issue for radicals today.


    We have written critique of Obama presidency recently


    Your narrative often much too Guardian-like. Where's radical context like Pilger, Greenwald, @medialens?


    Feel free to submit an article for consideration John.

    John Hilley:
    No, thanks. Go well.


    Bella produces much good work, and, yes, we've had the occasional critique of Obama. As an advocate for Scottish radical independence, I also feel a desire to show common cause. Yet, there's also cause for concern over how this nascent site is already sounding so lamentably 'mainstream' - fearfully, a 'new Guardianista' in the making?      

    Bella's lame lines here claiming to have 'looked previously at Obama's presidency', and 'Clinton not being the issue now', are not only token, but highly revealing of the defensive liberal mindset. It's a dismissive reprimand, basically saying: 'that's all past politics, with no bearing on today's key issue, Trump.' And it's highly typical of the ways in which the liberal media selectively pitch Trump as some 'sudden' and 'abnormal' threat, rather than a continuation of vast US policy crimes. 


    As argued by Greenwald, Trump is the creation of an already deeply-authoritarian system of corporate power, long propagated by Obama, Clinton and their predecessors. How can any serious, progressive assessment of Trump view his actions outwith that vital frame?


    Bella also joined in the liberal media's facile attack on Putin during the great 'Russia hacked the election' uproar. Again, thankfully, we had real, probing journalists like Greenwald and Adam Johnson on hand to confirm Clinton's and the Democratic Party's dark deeds, and the liberal media's system-serving role in that affair. As with other liberal media, Bella resort to lofty denunciations of Putin and Assad, without any serious attempt to represent Syria and other Middle East conflicts in their deeper context. And that involves paying particular attention to 'our' mendacious part in the great imperialist game.

    In 'virtue-signalling' their relentless loathing of Russia, and playing to the Guardian gallery, such outlets are as 'radically useful' as Jonathan Freedland on 'Trump the unpresidential', or Timothy Garton-Ash in pitching him as some unprecedented agent of global disorder. Any progressive media worth its salt should be meeting that propaganda head on. As Patrick Cockburn shows, there's been almost total, one-sided establishment 'reporting' of Syria and Iraq. Isn't it the imperative task of real left journalism to correct, rather than amplify, such liberal distortion?

    One landmark guide, in these regards, is the recent piece by John Pilger on Obama's "Ascension", the depth of US crimes, and the poverty of liberal journalism in addressing it all. For Pilger:
    The obsession with Trump is a cover for many of those calling themselves "left/liberal", as if to claim political decency. They are not "left", neither are they especially "liberal". Much of America's aggression towards the rest of humanity has come from so-called liberal Democratic administrations - such as Obama's.
    The same lack of serious critical dissent can be seen in the widely-signed petition stating that Trump:
    should not be invited to make an official State Visit because it would cause embarrassment to Her Majesty the Queen. Donald Trump's well documented misogyny and vulgarity disqualifies him from being received by Her Majesty the Queen or the Prince of Wales. 
    Again, while commending the honest rejection of Trump, how many stopped to question the framing of this loaded missive? How very troubling that Trump's misogyny and vulgarity might discomfort our unelected, feudal elite. Did anyone consider the criminal vulgarity of Britain's 'visits' around the globe, past and present? Did indignant liberals stop to wonder about the moral right of this warmongering state to feel queasy about a visit from that warmongering state? What, alone, of the million souls they both took in Iraq? 

    Again, how easily our liberal-left jumped to attention. Perversely, just as the anti-Trump protests and petition provide cover for Obama and major US crimes, so does it allow a veil of respectability for Britain's high vulgarians - including Prince Charles, the sword-swinging arms ambassador to a Saudi regime currently slaughtering civilians in Yemen, without much media interest.     


    All-too-eager to play-up the UK as some bastion of 'higher values', the BBC gave ready voice to the 'anguished' establishment:

    Theresa May's decision to invite Donald Trump to a state visit has put the Queen in a "very difficult position", a former head of the Foreign Office says. In a letter to The Times, Lord Ricketts said the offer had been "premature".
    The Guardian, meanwhile, offered a ready platform on the issue to none other than Jack Straw, a man now most likely heading to court over his part in illegal rendition

    How easily the liberal class rail against Farage and his cohorts for protecting Trump. How passive they are when the Guardian and other system-serving media indulge and protect people like Obama and Clinton, Blair and Straw.   


    As Neil Clark notes:

    Liberals, for instance, fawned over the former Secretary of State Madeline Albright when she said she "stands ready" to "register as Muslim" in "solidarity" against Trump. The very same Madeline Albright once declared that the death of half a million (predominantly Muslim) children in Iraq due to sanctions was a price that was "worth it." Will Albright be met with large-scale protests next time she comes to the UK for defending infanticide in Iraq? Don’t hold your breath. She's against 'The Donald' so must be a good ‘un.
    Indeed. So often it's 'our good 'uns' that are allowed the benefit of history. Thus, while Hillary tries to appropriate the anti-Trump moment, the media remain oblivious to the human catastrophe she visited on Libya. Ed Miliband, an eager supporter of that wicked intervention, also joined in the great denunciation of Trump. Again, liberal silence. 

    Any serious awakening and challenge to power requires us to see the larger canvas. Yet, our liberal media play a crucial part in keeping public concern narrowly framed, the structural causes shielded, the system itself intact.
    Take the emergency issue of climate change. As another penetrating analysis from Media Lens shows, the climate calamity cannot be detached from the broader problem of corporate power, rampant neoliberalism and war economics. Yet, as Media Lens note, it's key liberal media like the Guardian, BBC and Channel 4 News that, while reporting the essential science, remain dutifully averse to highlighting these crucial, causal connections. In stark contrast, while Trump is identified by Media Lens as an alarming climate change denier, we also get the much fuller contextual story of US failure on the climate issue, including Obama's lamentable record in office, and the corporate forces controlling it all.       

    One of the most pernicious effects of the liberal media is the way in which it obscures any such comprehension of connected power, thus neutralising meaningful action. In the case of Trump, it has led to an outpouring of virtue politics, rather than outrage over systematic US villainy. 


    Yet, this is still a protest movement with enormous potential, one that requires a re-kindling of purpose. Beyond so much liberal angst and distraction, I commend the sober and instructive analysis from Stop the War's Andrew Murray, laying out the emerging Trump dynamics, including his possible engagements over Russia, Nato and Syria, his more threatening pivots to China and Iran, the intensification of support for Israel, the implications of his 'America First' economic nationalism, and how all this impacts on the long-standing US/UK aggressive pact, otherwise known as the 'special relationship'. 


    As Murray notes, we should be under no illusions about Trump as a new war president, but one already primed by a war-driving system. And it's on that more radical understanding of Trump as the latest product of a pernicious authoritarian order that any broad and effective opposition to it can be built, exposing and resisting US power in its totality.      

  • La la liberals showcase Obama and play supporting role to the Deep State

    johnhilley.blogspot.com | Mon, 16 Jan 2017 20:37:00 +0000

    Noble speech, or the liberal limits of human respect?
    As Barack Obama approaches his last day in office, emotional liberals have been recording their tributes to the president and dark fears over what's to come.

    There's been hagiographic coverage of Obama's farewell speech, and 'heartwarming' pictures of his tenure. A succession of Hollywood names, from Tom Hanks to Samuel L Jackson, have been re-stating Obama's 'Yes We Can' motif.

    In similar deference, Obama and Hillary supporter Meryl Streep used a Golden Globe stage to castigate Donald Trump's "disrespect" for a physically impaired reporter, and to urge "the principled press to hold power to account." There were lumps in the throats of the bow-tied and silk-gowned as they stood in dew-eyed applause. Robert De Niro and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association sent Streep letters of approval.

    Yet, amid all the lofty celeb denunciations of Trump the Terrible, there's been dutiful silence over Obama's and Clinton's much higher crimes, notably the murder and chaos their administration has initiated and perpetuated across the Middle East.

    There's been no such artiste speeches denouncing a president who bombed no less than seven Muslim countries during his time in office. No "disrespect" for the Obama-Hillary team who pushed regime change in Syria and Libya, resulting in mass murder, humanitarian catastrophe and the growth of Islamic State. No big podium moments recalling that Obama sold more weapons to Middle East dictators than any other president. No mention of his continuing military aid and support for Saudi Arabia's annihilation of Yemen. No mention of how, in his love for Israel, he turned a blind-eye to the obliteration and suffering of Gaza. No mention that his parting gift to Israel's apartheid state is $38 billion of aid over the next decade. And no calls for Streep's "principled press" to hold him to account for these and other criminal acts.

    The Guardian's Suzanne Moore hailed Streep's speech as "pretty much perfect", a "spark" for the liberal fightback to come:
    Streep said that this “sank hooks into my heart ... it wasn’t a movie it was real life. Disrespect incites disrespect. Violence incites violence. When powerful people use their position to bully we all lose.” She also asked for the press to be protected in order to hold Trump to account and said that Hollywood was composed of outsiders and foreigners without whom it would not exist. 
    Moore amplifies Streep's concerns about Tinseltown's inability to function without "outsiders and foreigners" - what a liberal calamity if that were to collapse - yet all those killed under the Obama-Clinton watch in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Libya and other 'outside foreign' places merit no apparent comment. Streep once also praised Thatcher as a "figure of awe."

    Moore goes on, in 'balancing' tones, to ask whether the righteous words of Hollywood liberals are now just being disregarded as mere 'virtue-signalling' by a now more cynical electorate. This is the tortured extent of liberal 'awakening' to the new political terrain.

    As with the great celebrity romance, the Guardian's coverage of Obama has been nothing short of an eight-year love-in. Now, its headline names are lamenting his departure and the 'lost opportunity' of Hillary.

    For the paper's World Affairs editor, Julian Borger, Obama "has become the world’s normaliser-in-chief," a "therapist for those suffering from Trump anxiety." A collection of Guardian guest writers have used similar hyperbolic language to praise Obama's record.

    There was further Obama-swooning over at Channel 4 in Jon Snow's fawning interview with outgoing US Ambassador to the UK, Matthew Barzun. After an intimate chat with Barzun over his vinyl record collection and palatial London embassy, Snow got down to the 'real critical' questions, as in did the ambassador regret Obama's "failure" over Syria? Not, of course, Obama's "crimes" over Syria, Libya or elsewhere. Not a word from Snow on the CIA's $1 billion a year funding of jihadi insurgents, and Washington's disastrous dealings in Syria. And how 'indecent' it would have been, at this late juncture, for Snow to mention all the drone killings Obama has ordered, or question his administration's efforts to minimise the death count. Snow was also moved to confide in Barzun 'our deep worries' over Trump, as though speaking 'on behalf of the free world', and Obama as some retiring champion of western civilization.

    Nor, as Obama expelled 35 Russian diplomats to help divert attention from real public-interest leaks exposing a corrupt Democratic Party, did we hear such liberal notables question the 'Putin interference' and 'election hacking' fabrications, a farrago of false news eagerly spread by the Washington Post and other 'great bastions of press freedom'.

    Analyst Stephen Gowans shows how, in the case of the New York Times, "an evidence-free finding alleging Russian interference in the US election was turned into an indisputable 'truth'."

    Former CIA officer, Philip Giraldi, even derided the intelligence community's key report as lacking the remotest smoking-gun evidence, concluding that "the latest attempt to nail perfidious Moscow is, to my mind, yet another mish-mash of soft facts combined with plenty of opinion and maybe even a bit of good old Cold War-style politics."

    And Buzzfeed's rush to publish a smear-laden 'dossier' on Trump now sees more highly-questionable US 'intel' dutifully placed in the public domain.

    Predictably, the Guardian's Luke Harding and Nick Hopkins led the way in promoting the 'bona fides' of the dossier's author, ex-MI6 agent, and now corporate spook, Christopher Steele. Jonathan Cook warns that "despite Harding's best efforts to spin this Steele's way, he gives away several clues that, until some solid evidence is produced, we should trust this dossier about as much as a 12-dollar bill."

    Typically, while talking-up the seemingly bogus Steele, the Guardian ran a major smear piece against the provenly reliable Wikileaks. Following sharp analysis from Julian Assange on the shape of Trump's incoming elite, his comments were portrayed by the Guardian as Assange's 'approval of Trump' and 'support for Putin'. It took an independent-minded journalist, Glenn Greenwald, to point out the disgraceful extent of the Guardian's "fraud".

    In a revealing interview (conveniently not archived by Channel 4), Greenwald also helped highlight Jon Snow's shallow 'assessment' of the issues around Wikileaks, Putin, Trump and US 'intel'.

    As Greenwald asserts, there's no need to approve of Trump to ask why the Deep State are going after him. Still seething from Hillary's defeat, a squalid alignment has been growing between an establishment liberal media and US intelligence agencies. Both had campaigned, editorialised and lobbied for a Clinton victory. Now a brooding liberal class is giving vital airtime to a smear agenda, and urging on the most mendacious elements of US intelligence.

    Again, Greenwald has been a voice of rationality in pointing all this out:
    For months, the CIA, with unprecedented clarity, overtly threw its weight behind Hillary Clinton’s candidacy and sought to defeat Donald Trump. In August, former acting CIA Director Michael Morell announced his endorsement of Clinton in the New York Times and claimed that “Mr. Putin had recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.” The CIA and NSA director under George W. Bush, Gen. Michael Hayden, also endorsed Clinton, and went to the Washington Post to warn, in the week before the election, that “Donald Trump really does sound a lot like Vladimir Putin,” adding that Trump is “the useful fool, some naif, manipulated by Moscow, secretly held in contempt, but whose blind support is happily accepted and exploited.”It is not hard to understand why the CIA preferred Clinton over Trump. Clinton was critical of Obama for restraining the CIA’s proxy war in Syria and was eager to expand that war, while Trump denounced it. Clinton clearly wanted a harder line than Obama took against the CIA’s long-standing foes in Moscow, while Trump wanted improved relations and greater cooperation. In general, Clinton defended and intended to extend the decades long international military order on which the CIA and Pentagon’s preeminence depends, while Trump — through a still-uncertain mix of instability and extremist conviction — posed a threat to it.
    For Greenwald, the election fallout signals a liberal lurch to Deep State rule:
    Whatever one’s views are on those debates, it is the democratic framework — the presidential election, the confirmation process, congressional leaders, judicial proceedings, citizen activism and protest, civil disobedience — that should determine how they are resolved. All of those policy disputes were debated out in the open; the public heard them; and Trump won. Nobody should crave the rule of Deep State overlords. Yet craving Deep State rule is exactly what prominent Democratic operatives and media figures are doing.
    But rather than ring alarm bells over this dangerous slide, the liberal media has only intensified its focus on 'rising Russian authority', and what a 'lagging US' now means for the world. 

    The Guardian's Simon Tisdall worries that "fictional or not", the dossier and hacking allegations "has the effect of advancing Moscow’s long-held aim of weakening the US, paralysing its political decision-making process, and avenging Russia’s humiliation at the close of the cold war."


    And it's Obama's 'weakness' here that's so often cited by his liberal 'critics'. Thus, while evading the US/Nato madness inflicted on Libya, the Guardian's Julian Borger can only lament how "Obama fudged the response to the Libyan civil war, agreeing to intervene but “leading from behind.”"

    The BBC's Barbara Plett Usher expresses the same deep liberal concern over America's 'failing influence' under Obama. In a piece riddled with blatant evasions and distortions, she asks: 

    How did a man who took office espousing a new era of engagement with the world end up a spectator to this century's greatest humanitarian catastrophe? Barack Obama was not against using force to protect civilians. Yet he resisted, to the end, a military intervention to stem Syria's six-year civil war, even as it killed or displaced half the country's population, brutally documented in real time on social media.
    Again, there's nothing here about the actual extent of Obama's regime change agenda for Syria - an enduring US policy objective, further confirmed by leaked State Department cables. There's nothing about the role of his Gulf proxies in that destabilisation, its terror group linkages, or how Obama even provoked pushback from the Joint Chiefs of Staff over his regime change policies in Syria and Libya.

    Plett Usher's key worry, instead, is Obama's part in 'waning' US and Western power. And even here, any such 'criticism' of Obama's 'non-intervention' is tempered by her implicit faith in his 'always benign intent'.  

    Such concerns, anxieties and mitigations are all consistent with the establishment-serving politics of boundaried liberalism, the same respectful subservience to the dominant political order at home and abroad.

    Thus, alongside its adulation of Obama, promotion of Clinton and denigration of Trump, we've seen the BBC's and Guardian's relentless smearing of Jeremy Corbyn. For the Guardian's leading writers, no upstart usurper like Corbyn should be allowed to encroach on their 'authoritative guidance'.

    In an excellent study, Alex Nunns charts how the Guardian moved from mild indulgence of Corbyn's candidacy to outright panic, as realisation of his likely victory dawned. In its ongoing hostility to Corbyn, the Guardian even censored part of a letter director Ken Loach had written criticising the paper's particular part in that smearing.

    As with the pleas and pandering on behalf of Obama and Hillary, and its Deep State copy-speak on Trump, the reactionary inclinations of the liberal class in upholding dark authority and the neoliberal order should not be underestimated.

    Much of this is shrouded by a seemingly 'plain liberal decency', which prides itself in opposing political abuses and social injustice. Thus, Guardian stalwarts like Jonathan Freedland and Polly Toynbee assume the mantle of 'eminent social reformers', while hiding and excusing the blatant villainy of people like Obama and Hillary.

    Pitching itself as the 'higher moral end' of the 'media spectrum', the Guardian, typically, talk-up their personal virtues, political qualities and even human foibles, thus providing cover for the neoliberal and warmongering policies they actually practice.

    Consistently, the most vocal and persuasive calls for western military interventions have come from 'caring' liberal hawks.

    We even see the 'stretching' of that 'liberal dissent' through satirical expression. Here, too, it observes safe, default boundaries, as in the much darker cartoonish mockery of official villains like Assad and Putin, and now, of course, in the 'devilish relationship' between Putin and Trump.

    Considered the daring doyen of media satire, Charlie Brooker's annual Wipe review show also joined in the anti-Corbyn smearfest with sneering asides about his 'blind eye' to 'anti-semitism'. Brexit is, likewise, scorned by Brooker as a dark plague on liberal sensibilities. And while Trump's victory is mawked-up as an unbelievable bad dream, the dark, criminal records of Obama and Hillary receive no such savaging.

    BBC's Newsnight took it all to another level of shameless 'comic' insinuation with a background studio image of Corbyn wearing a red Trump-style hat with the fatuous, altered words "Make Britain Great Again." Such are the crude attempts to cast clearly distinguishable problem figures for the dominant liberal order in the same disparaging light.

    As liberal journalists line up to pour scorn on Trump's inauguration, one can only imagine the same kind of raining on Obama's outgoing parade. This is the deep, sanitising effect of liberal-speak in projecting safe, deferential narratives.

    It's still remarkable to think that, as Trump comes to office, there's no serious discourse around the staggering failure of Obama, Clinton and their corrupt party network. Instead, we're consumed by 'Putin-play', the 'great Russian threat' and the CIA as the 'white helmets' of 'US democracy'. That's the framing power of a liberal media establishment.

    System-safe liberals and celebrities are unlikely to see the paradoxical reality, but this class are largely to blame for Trump, Brexit and other such upheavals. They form a privileged network, the political and cultural protectorate of a dominant order, an all-providing status quo that brings them comfort, security and patronage, a space to indulge their pet charities, liberal grievances and 'edgy comic' pretensions, a place to announce their selective cares for the world, their coy humanity, their 'reformist' missions, without ever having to put their heads above the parapet, without ever having to speak serious words to power, without ever having to advocate for real, radical change. And, as we've seen, they've been called-out by forces no longer willing to accept their cosy order.

    Perhaps this is part of a necessary, unfolding process. We can but hope for a new progressive dynamic, an awakened electorate, the opportunities that open up when a complicit liberal class gets so nakedly exposed. The humiliation of Clinton, arrival of Trump and appearance of defiant right-wing populism owes much to the lame politics and patronising vacuity of system-friendly liberalism. Trump too will be duly exposed as just another variant of grasping capitalism, offering nothing to those already alienated and subjected to brutal corporate rule. Perversely, it may be deep state forces that come to 'assist' in his 'quieting down' or early removal. But it's the glaring liberal support for dark authority, its indulgence of an overall rotten system, and screaming reactions over ruptured liberal privileges, that's bringing all these tensions, contradictions and possibilities into fascinating focus.

  • The strange world of Paul Mason's liberal left wargaming

    johnhilley.blogspot.com | Sat, 26 Nov 2016 18:07:00 +0000

    Anxious about whether the arrival of Trump signals an expanded militarism? Disturbed about hovering neo-cons getting an upper-hand in his administration? Fearing the promotion of dangerous new Cold War narratives?

    Well, while all that latest hawk politics plays out, consider how the very case for greater militarism and weapons 'solutions' is being made by prominent left liberal Paul Mason.      

    Astonishingly, having already defended Trident, Mason now invokes the Rand Corporation, and its Wargaming discourse, to argue for a massive show of Nato strength across Eastern Europe.

    Rand's own war agenda (noted associates include Henry Kissinger and Donald Rumsfeld) and Dr Strangelove mindset should be obvious enough. So, why is Mason embracing it? It seems, for Mason, that the 'looming Russian menace' just can't be ignored, and that, 'realistically', we must look to such analysis and strategies to help counter it. 

    In phrases that might have come straight from the head of MI5 (as actually hosted recently by an all-too-eager Guardian), Mason warns:
    The UK’s national security is faced with two threats. One is jihadi terrorism, which current security, intelligence and policing has managed to contain, for now. The other is no longer simply a theoretical attack by Putin on the Baltics: it is the strategic breakup of Europe in the face of US isolationism and Russian adventurism.
    On top of the encirclement already taking place, Mason sees the need for an even more substantive build-up of Nato divisions along Europe's eastern borders with Russia:
    You’ll have read about increased NATO troop deployments to the Baltics but these are peanuts compared to what RAND estimates is needed even as a baseline figure.
    As a demonstrative act of 'national security', he urges that the UK's own military spend move beyond 2 percent of GDP. In promotion of all this, he even wants us to embrace a new popular militarist culture:
    Make the UK armed forces look more like the UK population. In May 1940 the shock of Dunkirk was amplified by the distance many people felt from the UK’s military culture. The plan for an expanded Territorial Army should be embraced and its status enhanced. The labour movement in the UK needs to start thinking about what a democratized and socially engaged UK armed forces would look like, and what pro-active links it wants to build with the military as an institution.
    In advocating a major shift of military resources towards the European arena, Mason asserts that: 
    The first thing, obviously, is to avoid conflict in the Baltics. Especially since all the projected outcomes from it are catastrophic.
    Yet what's more likely to precipitate that kind of catastrophe than the arrival of even larger numbers of troops and weaponry? Isn't the calamity of Syria evidence enough that more militarism only inflames conflict? Wasn't Nato's murderous assault on Libya and its humanitarian consequences sufficient warning? Isn't the West's and Nato's aggressions in the Middle East proof positive that more soldiers and arms only intensify, rather than avert, war and human misery? And, why, for Mason, are Nato's land-grabbing wars in the Middle East somehow different from its border-expanding ambitions in Eastern Europe?           

    Amid much apocalypse-speak on Trump, Putin and Assad, Mason doesn't even mention the already disastrous record of Obama and Hillary Clinton in promoting a neo-fascist coup in Ukraine, nor the heightening of military tensions her election would have brought there.

    Helpfully, Lindsey German, at Stop The War, provides a reality-check on Mason's 'Russian threat', and the true menace of Nato's encouragements:
    The truth is, Russia is nowhere near the military power it was during the Cold War. Even then, it was weaker than its main adversary, the US. True it is stronger militarily now than it was after the collapse of the USSR and the Warsaw Pact. But its military strength bears no comparison to that of the US, let alone the US and its allies in NATO. The countries lobbying for greater NATO involvement, including Poland and the Baltic states, are not doing so for reasons of peace. 
    It's also notable how other left liberals eagerly court such discourse. Giving an approving heads-up to Mason, Bella Caledonia editor Mike Small suggests independence-seeking Scots should now look beyond the standard 'Bairns not Bombs' narrative. Citing Mason's reading of Rand, Small says:
    It’s a compelling wake-up call that casts into light both our lack of control over Defence matters in Scotland and the long-term incompetence of British defence strategy. It’s a challenge to peaceniks and the left to think on our feet and adapt to rapidly changing global circumstances. If the Better Together arguments and propaganda has crumbled – so too must the case for an independent Scotland be updated and overhauled, and not just rest on the laurels of ‘Bairns not Bombs’.
    Alas, despite much good output, Bella too often lapses into the same queasy Guardian-speak - the very place where Mason has found a ready platform for much of his specious 'left militarism'.

    For nuclear-weapons-burdened people in Scotland, as elsewhere, the real thinking on our feet should not be about Mason's liberal-defined 'adaptations', but how quickly we rid ourselves of the entire militarist monster posing as Nato 'security' - including what the US harbours at Faslane. That's still the vital imperative behind Bairns not Bombs.

    The most insidious case for 'necessary militarism' comes not from the dark world of Rand Wargaming, but from the pages of liberal wargamers. It's lofty media like the Guardian and New Statesman giving criminal warmonger Tony Blair relentless airings. It's state-serving BBC journalists forever fetishising 'our' weapons and 'military capabilities'. And it's 'liberal-realist' interventionists like Paul Mason making Nato's rapacious war machine and its provocative deployments seem benign and palatable.



  • The real cause of Trump: rampant neoliberalism

    johnhilley.blogspot.com | Fri, 18 Nov 2016 18:27:00 +0000

    As the great 'How Could This Have Happened' inquest into Donald Trump's victory continues, we've seen predictable liberal recourse to simplified 'explanation' and blame. Primarily, it points the finger at naked racism, understated misogyny, and hatred of minorities, all amplified by Trump and his play to authoritarian populism. And who would deny the prevalence of all that.

    Yet, this liberal tick-box tells us almost nothing of substance. Indeed, it merely mystifies the issue more. For what's being identified here are symptoms rather than elementary causes.

    How easy to invoke media memes like 'whitelash', as if we can simply say a country founded and built on racism has now just suddenly decided to turn decisively on black, latino or immigrant people. There's no doubt that base racism, and Trump's ugly cultivation of it, played a notable part in his election. But that doesn't make it a core cause.

    How myopic, likewise, to claim Clinton's demise can be attributed to Trump's and his followers' hatred of Clinton as a woman. Misogyny exists, in varying degrees, at all levels of society. Yet, it's no more a principal cause of major political outcomes than any other form of social hostility. 

    Among much of the liberal left commentariat, the 'explanatory' narrative seems more 'searching', yet no more convincing. Owen Jones, for example, posits, first and foremost, the same 'primary' factors: racism, misogyny and homophobic hatred. In his further 'probing' of the electoral demographics, Jones adds: 
    Trump appears to have done best among middle-income Americans, and narrowly beat Clinton among the affluent. But the biggest shift to Trump – a 16-point swing– came from those earning less than $30,000 a year, even though he still lags behind Clinton among this group. Last time they voted for the country’s first black president. This time they shifted to a candidate backed by avowed racists, and ensured he won. Centrism has failed these and many other voters.
    Jones believes that "Centrism", "the ideology of self-styled moderates" is now "in a state of collapse." Once, this "third way project championed by Bill Clinton and Tony Blair could claim political dominance in much of the US and Europe." For Jones, that 'vacuum' has now provided the opening for Trump.
    Again, none of this provides any real insight on Trump's victory. Firstly, Jones is eager to blame racism as a central factor, while pointing out that many low income voters once loyal to Obama have now switched to Trump, thus undermining his very own claim about racism as a major determining issue. Why not, at least, discuss this as class, rather than racist, politics? 
    Again, confusing cause and effect, Jones claims "Centrism" and its "collapse" as the reason for social and economic estrangement, and the political turn to Trump. But why not look, more closely, and critically, at the actual forces driving that "Centrism"? How appropriate is it even to call the extremist market doctrines embraced by Blair and Clinton 'centrist'? 
    As Glenn Greenwald more convincingly argues, liberal denial and deflected blame following both Trump and Brexit have only obscured the real issue:   
    The indisputable fact is that prevailing institutions of authority in the West, for decades, have relentlessly and with complete indifference stomped on the economic welfare and social security of hundreds of millions of people. While elite circles gorged themselves on globalism, free trade, Wall Street casino gambling, and endless wars (wars that enriched the perpetrators and sent the poorest and most marginalized to bear all their burdens), they completely ignored the victims of their gluttony, except when those victims piped up a bit too much — when they caused a ruckus — and were then scornfully condemned as troglodytes who were the deserved losers in the glorious, global game of meritocracy.
    Greenwald also notes that Obama leaves office with high approval ratings, suggesting there's little evidence to show that racism is any more an issue in 2016 than it was in 2008 and 2012:
    People often talk about “racism/sexism/xenophobia” vs. “economic suffering” as if they are totally distinct dichotomies. Of course there are substantial elements of both in Trump’s voting base, but the two categories are inextricably linked: The more economic suffering people endure, the angrier and more bitter they get, the easier it is to direct their anger to scapegoats.
    Greenwald also relates, at Democracy Now, how the US media first talked-up Trump during the primaries, then turned on him when he became the Republican's candidate:
    And in a big way, that also played a role, unwittingly, I think, in helping Trump, because, of all the institutions in the United States, the institutions of authority that are hated, the American media leads the way. 
    Unlike liberal denialists and moderated leftists like Jones, Greenwald takes us to the closer heart of why Trump got elected.    

    It's here we get to the essential cause, rather than symptoms, of what we're now witnessing in America, as elsewhere: rampant neoliberalism.

    Neoliberal doctrine has been relentlessly imposed by a liberal political class, and propagated at every level of life, notably by a corporate media. In a fine study article on neoliberalism, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, Anis Shivani writes:
    I would go so far as to say that neoliberalism is the final completion of capitalism’s long-nascent project, in that the desire to transform everything—every object, every living thing, every fact on the planet—in its image had not been realized to the same extent by any preceding ideology.
    And, for Shivani, there's been no more zealous practitioner of unrestrained neoliberalism than Clinton:
    When Hillary Clinton frequently retorts—in response to demands for reregulation of finance, for instance—that we have to abide by “the rule of law,” this reflects a particular understanding of the law, the law as embodying the sense of the market, the law after it has undergone a revolution of reinterpretation in purely economic terms. In this revolution of the law persons have no status compared to corporations, nation-states are on their way out, and everything in turn dissolves before the abstraction called the market.
    Complementing this view, Nomi Prins provides a detailed assessment of Hillary Clinton's service to Wall Street. She recalls how Clinton backed her husband in dismantling the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999, which "freed the big banks to use their depositors’ money as collateral for risky bets in the real estate market and elsewhere, and so allowed them to become ever more engorged with questionable securities." Clinton also failed as senator to initiate bills that would regulate Wall Street, while protecting her major bank contributors (Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, and Morgan Stanley). And she voted to approve Obama's $700 billion bank bail-out during the 2007-8 financial crisis, the very institutions that had ran amok with risky investments, plunging ordinary people into poverty.

    Prins concluded with this warning, had Clinton got elected:
    The banks have voted with their dollars on all of this in multiple ways. Hillary won’t do anything to upset that applecart. We should have no illusions about what her presidency would mean from a Wall Street vs. Main Street perspective.
    It's here we saw the vital role of Clinton's liberal backers. In particular, Clinton's liberal media devotees either ignored, said little about, or cravenly excused her neoliberal positions, from every form of financial deregulation and corporate alignment, to upholding, despite expedient prevarications, key 'free trade' deals like TTP and  NAFTA.

    Evading serious discussion of her corporate loyalties, political corruption and mass warmongering, Clinton was eagerly hailed at the Guardian by Polly Toynbee, Hadley Freeman and other female notables.

    Likewise, while 'progressive feminist' Laurie Penny could rightly denounce Trump's sleazy behaviour, she saw in Hillary's conduct an admirable "dignity". Having talked-up her candidacy, Penny now laments her losing:
    It was decreed that the only alternative to naked screaming fascism was the status quo. Despite her gender, Hillary Clinton was the status quo candidate, the legacy candidate, the dynasty candidate. She also looks like what she is — a woman in politics — and that enraged as many people as it inspired.
    An all seemingly sober admission. Yet, where do we find in such narrative the more crucial truth that Hillary was the neoliberal candidate?

    In contrast, a fine piece at Jacobin magazine details Clinton's corporate-serving policies and "neoliberal feminism":
    When Clinton was brought onto the board of Walmart, the company was facing serious problems of gender discrimination. At every level, women were paid less than men, leading to the largest sex discrimination class-action lawsuit in history. As Featherstone wrote, while “Clinton’s presence on the board helped to make the company look like a better place for women, there is no evidence that she took any measures as a board member to address Walmart’s systemic sexism.” This example captures the essence of neoliberal feminism — the placement of women in leadership positions of institutions dedicated to maintaining unequal, sexist, and discriminatory practices. While it is sold as a “trickle-down theory,” in reality, women in these positions — Hillary Clinton, Madeleine Albright, Condoleezza Rice, Carly Fiorina — only serve to reproduce the unjust and unequal institutions they head.
    The title of another sharp piece captures Clinton's faux progressive foreign policy: "Dear Hillary: You Can't Be a Pro-War Feminist". For its author, Belén Fernández, Clinton can't escape:
    the fundamental irreconcilability of feminism and giddy warmongering [...] Clinton’s performance on the international battlefield over the years makes a mockery of any pretense of support for the rights of women not to be violated, either sexually or otherwise.
    Citing a 2014 Time magazine article, Fernández highlights Clinton's:
    warmongering efforts as Secretary of State under Barack Obama, when her State Department “helped enable Obama’s expansion of lethal drone strikes.” The article goes on to observe that “on at least three crucial issues — [escalation in] Afghanistan, Libya, and the bin Laden raid — Clinton took a more aggressive line than [Defense Secretary Robert] Gates, a Bush-appointed Republican.”
    And then, notes Fernández, there's Hillary on Israel:
    “I think Israel did what it had to do” was her assessment of the 2014 Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip that killed some 2,251 Palestinians, among them 299 women and 551 children. It’s no wonder, perhaps, that more than one observer has referred to Israel’s devastating domination of Gaza as itself tantamount to rape.
    John Pilger has issued a scathing indictment of the Guardian and other liberal propagandists for hyping Clinton and ignoring her crimes.

    In another searing rebuttal of Hillary adherent Jonathan Freedland, Jonathan Cook denounces Democrat-supporting liberals for rigging the primaries against Bernie Sanders, and, under Obama and Clinton, upholding the very worst neoliberal doctrines. For Cook:
    Trump isn’t the antithesis of liberal America. You liberals created him. You unleashed this monster. It is you in the mirror. You stayed silent, you took no stand while your country was stolen from you. In fact, you did worse: you enthusiastically voted time after time for those who did the stealing. 
     As Naomi Klein asserts, that same neoliberalism is:
    the force most responsible for creating the nightmare in which we now find ourselves wide awake [...] That worldview – fully embodied by Hillary Clinton and her machine – is no match for Trump-style extremism. The decision to run one against the other is what sealed our fate.
    For Klein - author of The Shock Doctrine - neoliberalism has caused the mass devastation, insecurity and inequality that's so energised Trump's resentful constituency. And it sees in the Clintons nothing but indifference as they cosy-up to the global elite: 
    Elite neoliberalism has nothing to offer that pain, because neoliberalism unleashed the Davos class. People such as Hillary and Bill Clinton are the toast of the Davos party. In truth, they threw the party.
    Unlike so many Guardian-styled liberals, desperate to exonerate Clinton and blame everyone from Wikileaks to Putin, Klein views neoliberalism as the core, causal issue behind Trump's ascendancy. 

    So too have other progressive women, like Green Party candidate Jill Stein who captured it neatly in this post-election tweet:
    Dear Liberals: the pain of Clinton neoliberalism caused the rise of Trump. To survive, we must build an economy that works for all of us.
    Stein was, of course, wilfully ignored and sidelined by a corporate media beholden to everything Clinton defends and Stein opposes. Other conscientious left women like Susan Sarandon also saw through the false 'lesser evil' and 'glass ceiling' pleas to support Clinton.

    As Craig Murray concisely notes, the liberal plea to elect Clinton was itself pitched as a neoliberal rationale:
    Still more blatant was the promotion of the idea that Hillary being a corrupt neo-con warmonger was outweighed by the fact she was female. The notion that elevating extremely rich and privileged women already within the 1% to top positions, breaks a glass ceiling and benefits all women, is the precise feminist equivalent of trickledown theory.
    That metropolitan governing class not only believed in itself completely, but couldn't see past its own preoccupations and concerns. Liberals think that everything is basically fine barring a minor tweak here and there (because for middle class liberals with nice houses everything really is basically fine). It's signature policy is more women in the boardrooms of multinationals. It has managed to take the massive issue of inequality and turn it into a problem of the rich.
    Thus, Trump's election is also a landmark failure of liberalism; a political failure, as with Brexit, to persuade people that neoliberalism is the only realistic game in town.

    The liberal media is now invoking facile memes like 'post-truth' and 'fake news' to suggest that it was 'irrational' and false output on social media that helped deliver Trump and Brexit.

    Yet, isn't this media-hyped 'problem' of 'false news' the most brazen inversion of a truth? From the BBC's complicit lies over Iraq, to the Guardian's warnings that Corbyn cannot be trusted with the economy, there's no more fake news than the state propaganda and neoliberal narratives peddled daily by our 'mainstream' media.

    Using Trump and Brexit as examples, the BBC even had Alastair Campbell in the studio defending the term 'post-truth' as a way of exposing the 'dangers' of 'fake news'. Campbell stated:
    It's acknowledging that politics, which has always been rough, has moved to a different phase where politicians who lie now appear to get rewarded for it. (BBC2 Jeremy Vine Show, 16/11/2016.) 
    What might Orwell have said about Campbell, master spinner and Blairite warmonger, sitting inside the BBC being rewarded for his thoughts on 'post-truth and 'fake news'?

    Beyond the BBC's own newspeak, Trump isn't some toxic aberration. His election isn't just some sudden turn to neo-fascist politics. He's the latest manifestation of dark corporate authority in the US.

    Trump is a 'charismatic', 'reality show' con man. But he's also an inevitable outcome of what happens when capitalism in its most promiscuous and visceral form creates ever deeper social destruction, inequality and misery, allowing space for the concocting of even more right wing 'solutions'.

    Liberals see Trump as a 'stain on American democracy'. Again, this symptomatic outpouring tells us much about how a liberal establishment help disguise actual cause and effect. A basic part of that denial lies in the very refusal to see that America is not actually a democracy at all. As one notable US academic study concludes, it's an oligarchy. Some may add other valid identifiers: a plutocracy, a kleptocracy, and now, after so many brutal neoliberal decades, it may be reasonably argued, a demagoguery, announcing a deepening shift to more corporate-fascistic rule.

    Mass rejection of Clinton is the outcome of an all-consuming neoliberalism. It's not that Trump's supporters identified it as such, and voted in that political vein. It's a primal reaction to a system that offers them nothing. And when Clinton and other liberal protectors of that system dismiss such people as "deplorables", the response is not surprising. As Anis Shivani observes:
    Hillary Clinton has been the most perfect embodiment of neoliberalism among all the candidates, she is almost its all-time ideal avatar, and I believe this explains, even if not articulated this way, the widespread discomfort among the populace toward her ascendancy. People can perceive that her ideology is founded on a conception of human beings striving relentlessly to become human capital (as her opening campaign commercial so overtly depicted), which means that those who fail to come within the purview of neoliberalism should be rigorously ostracized, punished, and excluded.
    This will go down as one of the greatest snake oil sales jobs of all political time. But it wasn't hard to see why brooding, alienated Americans bought the mix. It wasn't difficult to see how they embraced Trump's seductive 'remedies' in emboldened rejection of Clinton.

    Of course, alongside his immediate back-peddling on 'platform policies', like pledging to jail Clinton and end Obamacare, the list of Trump's crony 'transition team' shows just how 'determined' he is to 'drain the swamp'. If Clinton is the swamp, Trump and his coterie are part of the same sewer system.

    There's a short honeymoon now before Trump's hardline constituency realise they've been played. But it may be considerably longer before the Clinton cabal openly concede their own venality in cheer-leading an arch-warmonger and Wall Street-serving villain.

    Wait also in vain for the remotest acceptance that they used every dirty trick and subterfuge to stop Bernie Sanders, knowing that, at all stages of the primaries, he was regarded as the only candidate to stop Trump. And, as Shivani reminds us, Sanders diverged significantly from Clinton's wholesale neoliberalism:
    He does not believe—unlike Hillary Clinton—that the market can tackle climate change or income inequality or unfair health and education outcomes or racial injustice, all of which Clinton propagates. 
    Self-protecting Democrats, media liberals, and posturing 'leftists' are now in raging mood, lamenting the 'crisis of democracy', and urging on the 'Not My President' street protests. What they fail to admit is their own lamentable part in ignoring Clinton the hawk, and remaining silent on the neoliberal disorder she helped create. Within their New York party-media bubble, they see and understand almost nothing of the real, fundamental cause of Trump's landscape victory.

    Reports of supporters crying over Clinton's 'thank you speech reveal so much about the illusion-making complicity of the liberal media. Echoing the words in her speech, Clinton tweeted:
    "To all the little girls watching...never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world."
    Except, of course, all those little girls in the Middle East no longer able to watch, all the non-valued, powerless and undeserving she helped bomb. Typically, Clinton's first post-election public appearance was at the Children's Defence Fund gala.

    It's a 'crisis of civilization', anguished liberals, notably 'liberal progressives', wail; 'a vote for intolerance and destruction'. Tell that to the destroyed women and families of Iraq, to the broken people of Libya and Syria, to the children of Gaza, wondering when the next US-supplied bomb is coming to kill them.

    Clinton, has been behind every moment of these 'civilizing interventions', and much more. Backed by Hillary, Obama leaves office having raised the military cheque for Israel over the next decade to $38 billion (from $3.1 billion to $3.8 billion per year). And, for all the unpredictability of Trump, and speculation over his seemingly ad hoc foreign policy, we've, at least, been spared the predictable spectre of Clinton's intensified militarism in Syria and heightened prospects of war with Russia.

    Again, how could so many lofty liberals fail to see Clinton's true colours? How could they dismiss the corporate bankrolling that tried to buy another election as just some 'that's the way it is' political system? Why weren't they shouting down the system itself? Why weren't they saying: 'the real lesser evil choice is not between two corporate-placed elites, but the choice between upholding or rejecting a system set up to secure elite power in perpetuity'?

    Paradoxically, Trump the corporate trickster, has no seeming ambition to court neoliberal ideologues. Indeed, there's no apparent driving mission behind 'Trump economics' other than a more protectionist version of grab-it-all-while-you-can capitalism. For Shivani, the Trump elite seem ready for a "shackles off" fight with all contenders, a kind of perverse challenge, in itself, to the quieter menace of neoliberal orthodoxy.  

    As Noam Chomsky warns, this is most apparent in his vulgar denial of climate change and its emergency implications. Having delivered both House and Senate for the Republicans, Trump is now dispensing posts to another motley crew, all ready to wield their own array of planet and people destroying policies.

    Yet it's a rupture that brings forth not only more bombastic villains, but new progressive opportunities. Political authority has shifted and intensified. But this also signals a deepening crisis of elite legitimacy. We are witnessing the death throes of neoliberalism, and, bleak as things seem, the possibility of real alternatives to emerge. Bereft of remedies, it won't be long before Trump's vacuous policies give way to the same social disenchantment over Obama's 'Hopey-Changey' failure. The only other direction from there is a serious leftward turn, as shown so promisingly in the mass popular support behind Sanders. Acknowledging this radical potential, Klein observes:
    A good chunk of Trump’s support could be peeled away if there were a genuine redistributive agenda on the table. An agenda to take on the billionaire class with more than rhetoric, and use the money for a green new deal.
    And if Sanders was always likely to have beaten Trump in America, Jeremy Corbyn can win in Britain. When the next smart pollster, Blairite plotter or BBC journalist declares that Corbyn has no chance of being elected, just remember the Sanders surge, and, now with Trump, how readily people can turn against the warnings of the political-media establishment and 'assurances' of 'know-all' liberals.

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