Betraying the Bolivarian Revolution: Vichy Journalism at teleSUR English – By Jon Jeter (MINT PRESS)

QUITO, ECUADOR (Special Report) — Rita Anaya was a 25-year-old graduate student living in southern California when Venezuelan activists invited her to travel to their homeland for the first time in 2007. Her initial response, she freely acknowledges now, was one of ambivalence, but when you’re the daughter of a Chicano farmworker and a Jewish labor organizer (from Queens, no less), there’s a sort of Calvinist inevitability to these things: ”You are who you are before you’re born, player,” as Jay-Z might say. So not only did she make the trip, but she was accompanied by the whole of her immediate family — mother, father, and sister – in a kind of social-justice family vacation.

What beckoned the Anaya clan was, of course, Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution, which was, by that time, in its ninth year. And indeed, Rita found the experience exhilarating, if not downright transformative. It wasn’t just seeing the material impact of President Hugo Chavez’s socialist policies up-close – the nationalization of the oil industry, the ambitious land reform program, a steep reduction in the percentage of Venezuelans living in poverty, the sharp spike in the nation’s literacy rates or the health clinics that proliferated across the gorgeous Caribbean landscape like daffodils after a spring rain, each of which ran counter to global economic trends of that time.

All of those achievements were impressive, to be sure, but what really beguiled Rita was that in a corner of the New World that has for centuries been governed by the European settlers who own the country, the non-white workers who built it were beginning to demand their fair share with growing confidence. And in the process, they were not only improving their material reality, but raising their level of consciousness, and fulfilling Frantz Fanon’s prophetic vision of a new, post-colonial (Wo)Man.

 

A new media for a newly awakened people

The perfect manifestation of the Venezuelan people’s newfound faith were the grassroots community media outlets that began to sprout in the years following the 1989 Caracazo, when state security forces and military personnel roamed the streets of the capital city of Caracas, shooting indiscriminately at demonstrators protesting the government’s abrupt shift to neoliberal policies. The practice of pirating airwaves to broadcast the news from the barrios was done largely clandestinely for fear of reprisals from the state, until Chavez was first elected president in late 1998, and promptly deployed community assemblies throughout the country to rewrite the constitution.

The resulting 1999 constitution is one of the world’s most progressive and enshrines, as a human right, access to education, healthcare, housing, employment, political participation, and even the media. According to the news agency Venezuelanalysis, Article 58 of the constitution specifically states, “Communication is free and plural and must adhere to the obligations and responsibilities under the law. Every person has the right to objective, true and impartial information, without censorship…,” and goes on to assert that all communication media, public and private, must contribute to the social development of citizens. It further guarantees public access to radio, television, libraries and other information networks.

President Hugo Chavez smiles during his weekly radio show broadcast from San Sebastian de Los Reyes in the state of Aragua, Venezuela, June 10, 2001. Chavez's well publicized war with the news media is a staple of his "cadenas," or speeches, which by law must be broadcast by Venezuelan TV and radio, usually during prime time. (AP/Juan Carlos Solorzano)

In her 2007 junket and her subsequent trips to Venezuela as an intern for the human rights organization, School of the Americas Watch, Anaya found herself enthralled with citizens’ media —  its reimagining of the Fourth Estate as a kind of bulletin board for revolution, and of the journalist as a public servant, tasked with helping build a Beloved Community.

When provincial officials announced plans to privatize the local water supply, the alternative press didn’t just cover the subsequent protests; it helped organize them. Similarly, the citizens’ press led the peaceful takeover of a bullfighting ring that was converted into an arts and cultural center, and weekly radio shows allow high school students to combine hip-hop and politics. TV cameramen take great pains to photograph their subjects from below rather than from above — as the former camera angle tends to empower people and make them appear almost larger than life, while the latter is, quite literally, condescending.

Said one indigenous woman whose program was broadcast weekly on community radio:

Our children turn on the radio, and they hear their aunt, their friend’s mother, their older sister and her friends. They hear stories from the mouths of those who know the community and what we need. And they hear our language. All of this makes the children proud and eager to participate, and it gives our own community some of the power we lost to the lies of the media stations.”

It was almost as if the media collectives were riffing on the Marxist intellectual C.L.R. James’ famous supposition and asserting that if every cook can govern, surely every housemaid or gardener can report the news.

This democratization of the press was largely emblematic of a new political relationship in Venezuela, in which the unwashed passed an average of 200 handwritten messages a day to the head-of-state – “I need a bag of cement to fix my house,” or “I need a job as a teacher,” or simply “God Bless You, Hugo” – and Chavez reciprocated with the most extraordinary of gestures: he spoke back.

“When Chavez talks, it is like he is one of us,” Pablo Rosales, 53, a black cab driver told me when I visited Caracas in 2004. After returning from a state visit abroad, for example, Chavez would appear on his weekly television broadcast — Halo, Presidente — using a map and pointer.

“He will say this is where I was and it takes X number of hours to travel there by plane from Caracas,” an advisor, Maximilien Arvelaiz, told me, continuing:  

For the rich and the middle class, this is all quite boring because of course they know where Spain is on the map. They think it is stupid. But poor people love this. No one has ever taken the time to explain this to them. He is the first president I’ve seen who talks to the poor and not just the high class. He includes us when he talks.”

 

Grassroots media helps rescue Chavez, Venezuela in 2002

But alternative media really began to blossom after throngs of protesters managed to reverse a 2002 coup attempt orchestrated by Venezuela’s oligarchs. In the hours after Chavez was abducted at gunpoint from the presidential palace known as Miraflores, Venezuela’s major broadcasters and newspapers reported that he had simply resigned, and abandoned his presidency for Cuba, where presumably, he would live in comfort as a guest of his close friend, Fidel Castro.

Supporters of ousted president Hugo Chavez run towards Miraflores presidential palace during protests, Saturday, April 13, 2002. Pro-Chavez protests were reported in at least 20 neighborhoods throughout the capital, Caracas, as well as the cities of Los Teques, Guarenas, Maracay and Coro. (AP/Dario Lopez Mills)

But, knowing that the country’s media moguls were in league with the coup-plotters (indeed, four media channels had ties to Chavez’s conservative opposition), the Afro-Caribbeans and mixed-race mestizos who lived in the slums and the countryside refused to buy it, and took to pirated radio frequencies to rally the grassroots. Within hours, the barrios of Caracas rose up in unison, and tens of thousands of Chavistas streamed into the streets to assert their displeasure, louder than the proverbial bomb.

Armed mostly with pots-and-pans and white-hot indignation, the rainbow-colored phalanx marched on the military base where Chavez was held, Fuerte Tiuna — engaging well-armed soldiers who fired on them along the route — to arrive, finally, at their destination, and demand the release of their democratically-elected leader.

Outnumbered, and outmaneuvered in the court of public opinion, the shocked oligarchs had no choice but to relent; Chavez was restored to power a mere 48 hours after he was ousted, and went on to rule the coastal country of 31 million people for another 11 years until his death from cancer in 2013.

Despite his common touch and his sometimes coarse language, Chavez, who was himself of mestizo and African ancestry, was an avid reader and an intellectual whose political ideology was steeped in his interrogation of revolutionary texts. While he admired Bolivar tremendously for his emancipation of the continent’s northern rim, he fully understood that the Great Liberator would never have managed to loosen Spain’s colonial chokehold on the continent without adding 250 Haitian soldiers, a small fleet, 4,000 muskets, 15,000 pounds of gunpowder, money, food and a printing press from Haiti, which had waged the first successful slave revolt in the Western hemisphere.

Chavez saw, moreover, that while Bolivar had indeed honored his promise to the Haitians to abolish slavery in the liberated colonies, his Republic never formally recognized Haiti, and, in fact, excluded his benefactors from the inaugural meeting of the Americas’ newly independent states in 1826, while inviting one U.S. President James Madison, who supported both imperialism and the peculiar institution of slavery.

Once he had been extricated from the clutches of his own country’s plutocrats, the savvy Chavez realized that, like Bolivar, he was singularly indebted to the black and brown Venezuelans who mobilized on his behalf, and that an independent media was a predicate for insulating the revolution from the future attacks that were inevitable. In the months following the aborted coup, his government introduced a flurry of proclamations and legislation to “darken” the state, including the Presidential Commission for the Prevention and Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination in the Venezuelan Educational System — requiring, among other things, that public schools teach the contributions of Afro-Venezuelans.

After the ravaging of Hurricane Katrina through the Gulf Coast in 2005, despite a strained political relationship with the United States government, Venezuela offered aid to the region through its Venezuelan Embassy in the form of mobile hospitals, medical workers, power plants, and food. (A humiliated President George W. Bush, however, wouldn’t even entertain the offer).

In the aftermath of a catastrophic earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010, Venezuela forgave Haiti’s over $395 million dollars in foreign debt, and pledged more financial support to the Caribbean nation than did either the United States or the European Union. In 2005 Venezuela began leading initiatives in Afro-descendant communities such as New Orleans and the South Bronx, providing discounted heating oil and free energy-saving light bulbs to low-income families during the winter months. Venezuela also provided grants to community-based organizations to build self-sustaining institutions, such as worker-owned cooperatives and holistic healthcare centers for women.

When the actor Danny Glover visited in early 2004 and attended a ceremony to name an elementary school for the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., televised news accounts showed Chavez pointing to his curly hair and broad nose and saying that he, like Glover, was of African heritage. Simultaneously, community media was exploding, from 13 licensed radio, television and print outlets in 2002 to 193 licensed outlets by 2007, and another 300 or so unlicensed enterprises, according to Henry Fernandes, one of the founders of Radio Crepuscular, a popular station in Caracas.

 

The birth of teleSUR

In 2005, Chavez announced Venezuela’s high-profile collaboration with the leftist governments of Cuba, Argentina, and Uruguay (and later Bolivia and Ecuador) to launch the state-financed, independent network teleSUR, to counter the corporate media that monopolizes information across the Americas. The network’s first director general, Uruguayan journalist Aram Aharonian, described teleSUR’s objective as:

 . . . to see ourselves as we truly were. . . . We were presented through a colonial mentality as blond and tall and European, and some of us are, but we’re also short, dark, Zambo, Indian. We needed to shake off our inferiority complex and tell our own stories.”

Aram Aharonian, center, Director of Telesur, meets with the station's news director Jorge Botero, left, and news producer Isabel Rui in a hotel room in Caracas, Venezuela, Friday, March 25, 2005, where the groundwork for teleSUR was laid. (AP/Leslie Mazoch)

Rita Anaya was working on her dissertation and teaching at a Nigerian university when she spotted an online ad calling for reporters and editors to work at teleSUR’s new English-language website in early 2014. She fired off her application immediately, and was among the first group of hires when teleSUR English began publishing from Ecuador’s capital city, Quito, in the spring of that year.

 

The top-down ethos of teleSUR English

But it became immediately apparent that teleSUR English couldn’t be more different from the grassroots media she’d observed in Venezuela. The citizen-journalists she saw at work on-the-ground in Venezuela were constantly out in the community, their reportage crackling with the energy, and chatter, of the streets. TeleSUR English is located in Quito’s toniest neighborhood and resembles an insurance office. Its reporters seldom venture outside, conduct phone interviews, or even discuss news stories at length.

They are, for the most part, not reporters at all, but aggregators, rewriting news stories published elsewhere, and churning out a daily requirement of five stories, all of which are reproductions, typically absent any original reporting. While the editorial structure of Venezuela’s community journalism was bottom-up, with reporters driving the coverage, top editors at teleSUR English exercised almost total control over coverage.

“What I saw in the community media was democratic, participatory and horizontal,” Rita told MintPress, “while teleSUR English was a top-down structure where we had to agree with the editorial line of the organization and we were never clear on where the line was. There was no transparency.”

About six weeks into the job, however, Rita pounced on an opening for the local correspondent’s job in the Quito office, which would afford her an opportunity to engage with the community and generate her own stories. She beat out another writer for the job — a blonde, blue-eyed American — and started her new assignment in early July of 2014.

But from the start, no one seemed invested in her success. She received no training on how to edit video, nor did she receive any instructions on what kind of stories to pursue. It was difficult to find a cameraman to accompany her and, flying blind, she typically worked 12-hour days.

After two weeks on the job, she was summoned to a video conference meeting with teleSUR’s top editors. The organization’s top editors in Caracas, and Quito — including Greg Wilpert, who is of German extraction and married to Venezuela’s ambassador to Ecuador — were unhappy with her work. Her Spanish wasn’t great, and she wasn’t as productive as they hoped. As evidence of her shortcomings, they cited a segment she’d reported on indigenous women organizing collectives and labor unions since the 2007 election of Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, whose liberal policies teleSUR supported.


Read more by Jon Jeter


What seemed particularly nettlesome was that she mentioned, even in passing, the patriarchal attitudes that were prevalent in Ecuadorian society. Rita exploded, noting that she’d received practically no training, no instruction and very little support. “Greg, whose side are you on?” she asked, singling out Wilpert, who had hired her. “You’re not a leader; you’re a ball-less piece of shit.”

But it was all to no avail. Management had already decided to replace Rita with the blue-eyed, blond-haired woman whom she’d just beat out for the correspondents’ job three weeks earlier. Rita returned to a desk rewrite job, and then, after a month in which she uttered not a single word to any of the top editors, quit and returned to the U.S. to finish her doctoral studies.

Four years in, teleSUR English is, by any critical measure — the size of its audience, the impact of its journalism, or its strengthening of democracy — an abysmal failure, and represents nothing less than a betrayal of the Bolivarian revolution.

The cause of this failure is clear: central to Venezuela’s socialist uprising are people of color and women who are, intent on finally slaying the white-settler colonial state that reduced them to guest workers in the country of their birth, while the editorial policies and reportage of teleSUR English have, since its birth, been decided unilaterally by a battery of white men from North America who seem intent on maintaining the status quo.

 

The dysfunction of teleSUR English’s reverse meritocracy

By the time I arrived in Quito in the summer of 2016 to start working for teleSUR English, Wilpert had been replaced as the newsroom’s top director by Pablo Vivanco, Chilean by birth but raised in Toronto; and his top deputy, Cyril Mychalejko, who is of Ukrainian descent but raised in Philadelphia. TeleSUR English, I quickly discovered, is an inverse meritocracy, where the two least qualified journalists in the newsroom were charged with managing some of the most talented, hungry, and committed young journalists I’ve met in nearly 30 years in-and-around the media.  

In interviews and conversations with more than a dozen staffers at teleSUR English, Pablo, Cyril, Greg Wilpert and most of the outlet’s top editors are consistently described in the most disparaging terms, and indeed it is hard to imagine that the hiring of such inept and morale-killing managers was an accident. Were teleSUR’s top newsroom managers hired to rewrite the history of the Bolivarian Revolution, to return the European settler to power, and to restore the white man’s unquestioned authority?

Telesur coordinator Luis Ramos directs news anchor Marcela Eredia at a rehearsal for a live news broadcast in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, Oct. 31, 2005. (AP/Leslie Mazoch)

“I call it white respectability politics,” said a young black woman who once worked as an editor at teleSUR. “Why else would you have white men who are anti-black and anti-woman in charge of telling the story of the New World?”

Without access to the organization’s top decision-makers, their motives can only be a matter of speculation. What’s hard to refute, however, is that under Vivanco and Mychalejko’s leadership, the newsroom was a hive of misogyny, racism and mediocrity.

For starters, neither had worked for any mainstream journalism outlet, but had instead spent much of their careers prior to teleSUR in the NGO world. Neither one ever demonstrated any profound understanding of journalism, nor did they seem even remotely interested in developing one.

At an editors’ meeting to discuss what we could do about teleSUR English’s plummeting numbers and dwindling audience, the social media editor deconstructed our readership and concluded that we had no foundational audience and were reliant almost solely on clickbait and other gimmicks.

Her prescription echoed the broad newsroom consensus: we needed to produce more original and compelling content. Cyril was unconvinced, however, and turned to the young editor after her presentation to ask rather sharply: “How do we know our numbers aren’t down because some of our writers aren’t producing their five stories a day?”

Pablo’s delayed response was even more bewildering. A week later he addressed the presentation in an email, writing: “How do we even know that our audience wants original content?”

 

A primer in how to stunt, thwart, and drive away talented journalists

In my four months at teleSUR, I don’t recall a single conversation with Pablo or Cyril about the quality of our reportage or writing. Their entire raison d’etre was disciplining the writing staff, which was comprised mostly of hard-working and gifted women and people of color. Once, the staff’s best writer, a young Canadian woman whose parents had fled Pakistan, reported for her Sunday morning shift nearly three hours late. I was the only editor working that morning, and because she was never late, typically skipped lunch, and brought boundless energy and enthusiasm to her job, the thought of writing her up never crossed my mind.

“Jon,” Cyril snarled hysterically in a meeting two days later, “when they’re late you have to get in their face!”

“For what?” I shot back dismissively. “You want to lose your best writer over a one-off?”

With Pablo’s blessing, Cyril fetishized authority, no matter how illegitimate. He once came into work two hours early to run the morning huddle to crack down on one enthusiastic copy editor who would pitch three or sometimes four stories, instead of the two that Cyril demanded, in a power move that was openly mocked by nearly the entire morning shift. Another time, the normally morose Cyril was almost giddy as he wrote up two women writers who had reported to work a few minutes late because of a parade near the office.

“Are you serious?” one of them asked in bewilderment. “We were like six minutes late.”

“Yeah, I know,” Cyril said, grinning awkwardly, “but you know the rules.”

Pablo and Cyril’s mismanagement had unmistakable racial and patriarchal overtones.  

The young woman who worked as the social media editor told me that Cyril and another top male editor had reprimanded her with such demonstrative hostility that she felt physically threatened. Paid op-ed articles were disproportionately commissioned to white writers, and writers of color like Matt Sedillo complained that their payments were routinely delayed for weeks, when white writers they’d befriended told them that they’d already received payment for articles published around the same time.

A young man of Mexican ancestry, who was the most fully-developed writer at teleSUR when I was there, was banished to the graveyard shift for no other reason than that he had complained about working six days a week. When teleSUR’s Venezuelan correspondent examined the country’s chronic food shortages, he did so by explaining how difficult it was for him, a white British expatriate, to find his favorite foods, rather than interviewing a Venezuelan family. A black woman from Washington, D.C., who had worked for teleSUR, told me that Pablo was dismissive of suggestions to aggressively cover the Black Lives Matter movement in 2014 until the story was too big to ignore.

“He said that Michael Brown was just another police shooting,” she recalled, “and it would soon blow over.”

The only writers spared Cyril and Pablo’s micro-aggressions were a young Arab man named Mohammed — who was the only Muslim Uncle Tom I’ve ever encountered and once publicly repeated the trope that Middle-Eastern men, including his own father, are more prone to commit violence against women than are other men — and a Canadian woman named Heather, who many of us had taken to calling “Cointelpro” because she tipped off Cyril and Pablo when a fellow writer either was late or pitched three stories instead of two at the morning huddle.

Heather was also the author of a profile of a blonde-haired Dutch woman who had joined the Marxist-influenced revolutionary militia known by its Spanish acronym, the FARC. The story was problematic for a couple of reasons.

Only weeks earlier, a young woman – who I thought was the most aggressive reporter on staff – had pitched a story about the organizing efforts of indigenous women working in Bolivia’s male-dominated mining industry. At an editor’s meeting one afternoon, Pablo had openly derided the story idea and the woman who’d proposed it, on the grounds that it might portray Bolivia’s first indigenous president — Evo Morales, a socialist and friend of the late Chavez — in a negative light.

“That’s not journalism,” I said to Pablo in the meeting. “That’s cheerleading.”

But both he and Cyril had championed Heather’s profile of the Dutch guerilla fighter, going so far as to publish it as the lead story, and allow it to remain in that position on the website for nearly twenty-four hours, when most stories remained in the top spot for no more than a few hours.

The entire staff ridiculed the profile as Orientalist dross. “There are enough n!@#$% in the FARC to make a Tarzan movie,” I said to my coworkers, paraphrasing an old joke told on the 70s television sitcom Sanford and Son, “and they find the one white girl to write a story on.”

 

Last straw — over and out

A week before the 2016 election, I discovered that the Content Management System (CMS) was once again on the fritz. It would not allow me to save my edits. This was a recurring problem and one that I had complained to both Cyril and Pablo about just five days earlier. The system went down at 9:21 a.m; I called tech services to report the problem at 9:37. When they told me it would be at least half an hour before the problem was fixed, I ran an errand to the bank.

I returned to find an email from Cyril reprimanding me for failing to alert CMS to the problem. I responded in an email, cc’ing Pablo:

Fuck you and your written warning, Cyril. I have been having problems with CMS since Thursday . . . both of you are well aware . . . and yet, those same problems have not only continued but gotten worse.”

Pablo wrote back that I should “stand down.” I responded:

Who is responsible for CMS not working, if not you two? It is wholly unprofessional to write someone up for something that is (a) your responsibility, and (b) I handled appropriately.

In 30 years in newsrooms, that is something else that I have never seen occur.

In my 4 months here, I have seen absolutely NO investment in producing quality journalism. But you and Pablo seem awfully invested in being the BOSS, except when something really needs to be done. Our numbers are falling through the fucking basement and the only idea that comes from you and Pablo is writing someone up.

It strikes me that you and Pablo are heavily invested in holding everyone accountable.

And yet, the only two people in the office who are not accountable are you two.”

Fearing that I would do time in an Ecuadorian jail if I saw Cyril or Pablo, I quit an hour later, and walked off the job.

Top Photo | Workers set up for the inauguration of TeleSur in Caracas, Venezuela, Sunday, July 24, 2005. (AP Photo/Leslie Mazoch)

Jon Jeter is a published book author and two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist with more than 20 years of journalistic experience. He is a former Washington Post bureau chief and award-winning foreign correspondent on two continents, as well as a former radio and television producer for Chicago Public Media’s “This American Life.”

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Crimea is Russian, the matter is finished – By John Wight (RT)

John Wight
John Wight has written for newspapers and websites across the world, including the Independent, Morning Star, Huffington Post, Counterpunch, London Progressive Journal, and Foreign Policy Journal. He is also a regular commentator on RT and BBC Radio. John is currently working on a book exploring the role of the West in the Arab Spring. You can follow him on Twitter @JohnWight1
 
Crimea is Russian, the matter is finished
A firestorm of anti-Russia hysteria in the UK is no excuse for peddling a revisionist narrative over the status of Crimea.

Yet just such a revisionist narrative is being peddled by the country’s foreign office to mark the fourth anniversary of Crimea’s decision, expressed in a democratic referendum on March 16, 2014, to reunite with Russia.

Worse, not only is London peddling a false narrative on the roots and causes of the Ukraine crisis – the wider political context in which the decision of the people of Crimea to reunite with Russia was taken – it asserts that economic sanctions against Moscow must remain until Crimea returns to Ukrainian sovereignty.

This is a provocation that serves no cause or purpose other than to feed the beast of anti-Russia hysteria that is currently dominating Westminster on the back of the Sergei Skripal case.

READ MORE: ‘Russia as close to a rogue state as any’: Wildest MP claims from Skripal session in UK parliament

It should be borne in mind that Crimea’s status was changed not by Russia, but by the unconstitutional and illegal coup, actively supported by the British and other Western governments, which succeeded in toppling Ukraine’s elected and internationally recognized government in Kiev in February 2014.

Thus, on a de jure basis, the people of Crimea, the majority of whom are ethnic Russian and Russian speakers, were left with no government in Kiev that they were bound to recognize or that had any basis in international law. Moreover, the Maidan coup government not only assumed power in a clear and flagrant violation of the constitutional and democratic rights of those Ukrainian citizens who did not support it, it posed a direct threat to Ukraine’s Russian minority.

Those who opposed the coup were immediately threatened with repression. Naturally, the first in line here was Crimea, the Russian-speaking Crimea. In view of this, the residents of Crimea and Sevastopol turned to Russia for help in defending their rights and lives. – Russian President Vladimir Putin 

Indeed, many of the Maidan coup government’s supporters, along with a number of its ministers and officials, were and are avowed neo-Nazis and anti-Russian racists for whom the country’s ethnic Russian population has always constituted an alien presence, making it ripe for cleansing in service to a monist Ukrainian national and cultural identity.

Such a monist identity, it should be pointed out, was and remains incompatible with Ukraine’s history and ethnic composition. Nonetheless, it is an identity that has historical roots, beginning with the establishment of the OUN (Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists) in Vienna in 1929.

Of Dmytry Dontsov, whose writings shaped the politics and ideology of the OUN from the organization’s inception, Professor Richard Sakwa writes: “He [Dontsov] proposed a new ‘nationalism of the deed’ and a united ‘national will’ in which violence plays an essential part in overthrowing the old order.

This is fascism by any other name, which Sakwa confirms, intoning that within the OUN “fascist ideas about national rebirth took deep root.

The most famous and revered Ukrainian nationalist of all, who likewise held a narrow monist Ukrainian national identity, is Stepan Bandera. Bandera’s image was prominent throughout the Maidan coup in 2014, this despite the fact he collaborated with the Nazi occupation of Ukraine, when it was part of the former Soviet Union, during World War II.

Contesting this narrow and rigid monist Ukrainian national identity is a pluralist alternative, which takes into account the country’s aforementioned actual ethnic composition. Returning to Professor Sakwa: “The pluralist model argues that all the peoples making up contemporary Ukraine have an equal stake in the development of the country.

In other words, it marks the difference between intolerant monism and diverse pluralism.

This short detour into Ukraine’s history, and the ideological and national divide which largely defines it, is vital when it comes to providing the context for the current status of Crimea.

It is false to claim that Russia annexed Crimea. The Russian troops and military personnel that were present in Crimea during the Maidan coup in Kiev were there legally, under the terms of the 2010 Kharkiv Accords, agreed between Moscow and Kiev with respect to the status of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet.

The ensuing Crimean referendum in March 2014 restored the democratic rights of the region’s 2.2 million residents – rights that had been unceremoniously undermined and violated by the February coup. Thus it was a referendum conducted in extraordinary circumstances – circumstances created by an illegal coup with the open and active connivance of Western governments, including the British government, motivated by malign intent.

Bringing matters up to date, on March 12, 2018, the Council of the European Union announced a six-month extension of existing sanctions against Russia over Ukraine. In essence, these sanctions are reflective of the fact that the EU’s attempt to assert economic and political influence over Ukraine with its support for the coup failed, and failed miserably, plunging the country and its people into crisis.

Moscow was aware when it took the action it did in defending the rights and lives of ethnic Russians and Russian speakers in Crimea that it would incur the very sanctions that are currently in place. “I had to evaluate Crimea’s return and the possible ramifications to our relations with many countries around the globe,” President Putin revealed in a recent interview, before continuing that when “we consider the destinies of millions of people on the one hand, and the fact that Crimea is home to over two million people who want to return to Russia, with the difficulties in relations with other countries on the other, the former is far more important.

While London may have a geopolitical stake in Crimea, it certainly has no interest in the welfare of its people. If it did, it would not have helped inflame the riotous events of Maidan Square in Kiev at the beginning of 2014.

Four years on, Crimea is a part of the Russian Federation. Its people are safe and secure with their future assured.

This would not have been the case otherwise.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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Why the West Cannot Stomach Russians – By Andre Vltchek (NEW EASTERN OUTLOOK)

Author: Andre Vltchek

 

 

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When it comes to Russia or the Soviet Union, reports and historical accounts do get blurry; in the West they do, and consequently in all of its ‘client states’.

Fairytales get intermingled with reality, while fabrications are masterfully injected into sub consciousness of billions of people worldwide. Russia is an enormous country, in fact the largest country on Earth in terms of territory. It is scarcely inhabited. It is deep, and as a classic once wrote: “It is impossible to understand Russia with one’s brain. One could only believe in it.”

The Western mind generally doesn’t like things unknown, spiritual and complex. Since the ‘old days’, especially since the crusades and monstrous colonialist expeditions to all corners of the world, the Westerners were told fables about their own “noble deeds” performed in the plundered lands. Everything had to be clear and simple: “Virtuous Europeans were civilizing savages and spreading Christianity, therefore, in fact, saving those dark poor primitive souls.”

Of course, tens of millions were dying in the process, while further tens of millions were shackled and brought to the “New Worlds” as slaves. Gold, silver, and other loot, as well as slave labor had been (and still are) paying for all those European palaces, railroads, universities and theatres, but that did not matter, as the bloodshed was most of the time something abstract and far away from those over-sensitive eyes of the Western public.

Westerners like simplicity, particularly when it comes to moral definitions of “good and evil”. It matters nothing if the truth gets systematically ‘massaged’, or even if the reality is fully fabricated. What matters is that there is no deep guilt and no soul-searching. Western rulers and their opinion makers know their people – their ‘subjects’ – perfectly well, and most of the time, they give them what they are asking for. The rulers and the reigned are generally living in symbiosis. They keep bitching about each other, but mostly they have similar goals: to live well, to live extremely well, as long as the others are forced to pay for it; with their riches, with their labor and often with their blood.

Culturally, most of the citizens of Europe and North America hate to pay the bill for their highlife; they even detest to admit that their life is extremely ‘high’. They like to feel like victims. They like to feel that they are ‘used’. They like to imagine that they are sacrificing themselves for the rest of the world.

And above all, they hate real victims: those they have been murdering, raping, plundering and insulting, for decades and centuries.

Recent ‘refugee crises’ showed the spite Europeans feel for their prey. People who made them rich and who lost everything in the process are humiliated, despised and insulted. Be they Afghans or Africans, the Middle Easterners or South Asians. Or Russians, although Russians are falling to its own, unique category.

*

Many Russians look white. Most of them eat with knife and fork, they drink alcohol, excel at Western classical music, poetry, literature, science and philosophy.

To Western eyes they look ‘normal’, but actually, they are not.

Russians always want ‘something else’; they refuse to play by Western rules.

They are stubbornly demanding to remain different, and to be left alone.

When confronted, when attacked, they fight.

They rarely strike first, almost never invade.

But when threatened, when assaulted, they fight with tremendous determination and force, and they never lose. Villages and cities get converted into invader’s graves. Millions die while defending their Motherland, but the country survives. And it happens again and again and again, as the Western hordes have been, for centuries, assaulting and burning Russian lands, never learning the lesson and never giving up on their sinister dream of conquering and controlling that proud and determined colossus.

In the West, they don’t like those who defend themselves, who fight against them, and especially those who win.

*

It gets much worse than that.

Russia has this terrible habit… not only it defends itself and its people, but it also fights for the others, protecting colonized and pillaged nations, as well as those that are unjustly assaulted.

It saved the world from Nazism. It did it at a horrific price of 25 million men, women and children, but it did it; courageously, proudly and altruistically. The West never forgave the Soviet Union for this epic victory either, because all that is unselfish and self-sacrificing, is always in direct conflict with its own principles, and therefore ‘extremely dangerous’.

The Russian people had risen; had fought and won in the 1917 Revolution; an event which terrified the West more than anything else in history, as it had attempted to create a fully egalitarian, classless and racially color-blind society. It also gave birth to Internationalism, an occurrence that I recently described in my book The Great October Socialist Revolution: Impact on the World and the Birth of Internationalism.

Soviet Internationalism, right after the victory in WWII, helped greatly, directly and indirectly, dozens of countries on all continents, to stand up and to confront the European colonialism and the North American imperialism. The West and especially Europe never forgave the Soviet people in general and Russians in particular, for helping to liberate its slaves.

That is when the greatest wave of propaganda in human history really began to roll. From London to New York, from Paris to Toronto, an elaborate web of anti-Soviet and covertly anti-Russian hysteria was unleashed with monstrously destructive force. Tens of thousands of ‘journalists’, intelligence officers, psychologists, historians, as well as academics, were employed. Nothing Soviet, nothing Russian (except those glorified and often ‘manufactured’ Russian dissidents) was spared.

The excesses of the Great October Socialist Revolution and the pre-WWII era were systematically fabricated, exaggerated, and then engraved into the Western history textbooks and mass media narrative. In those tales, there was nothing about the vicious invasions and attacks coming from the West, aimed at destroying young Bolshevik state. Naturally, there was no space for mentioning the British, French, U.S., Czech, Polish, Japanese, German and other’s monstrous cruelties.

Soviet and Russian views were hardly ever allowed to penetrate the monolithic and one-sided Western propaganda narrative.

Like obedient sheep, the Western public accepted the disinformation it was fed with. Eventually, many people living in the Western colonies and ‘client states’, did the same. A great number of colonized people were taught how to blame themselves for their misery.

The most absurd but somehow logical occurrence then took place: many men, women and even children living in the USSR, succumbed to Western propaganda. Instead of trying to reform their imperfect but still greatly progressive country, they gave up, became cynical, aggressively ‘disillusioned’, corrupt and naively but staunchly pro-Western.

*

It was the first and most likely the last time in the history, Russia got defeated by the West. It happened through deceit, through shameless lies, through Western propaganda.

What followed could be easily described as genocide.

The Soviet Union was first lulled into Afghanistan, then it was mortally injured by the war there, by an arms race with the United States, and by the final stage of propaganda that was literally flowing like lava from various hostile Western state-sponsored radio stations. Of course, local ‘dissidents’ also played an important role.

Under Gorbachev, a ‘useful idiot’ of the West, things got extremely bizarre. I don’t believe that he was paid to ruin his own country, but he did almost everything to run it into the ground; precisely what Washington wanted him to do. Then, in front of the entire world, a mighty and proud Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics suddenly shook in agony, then uttered a loud cry, and collapsed; died painfully but swiftly.

A new turbo-capitalist, bandit, pro-oligarch and confusedly pro-Western Russia was born. Russia which was governed by an alcoholic Boris Yeltsin; a man loved and supported by Washington, London and other Western centers of power.

It was a totally unnatural, sick Russia – cynical and compassionless, built with someone else’s ideas – Russia of Radio Liberty and Voice of America, of the BBC, of black marketers, of oligarchs and multi-national corporations.

Is the West now daring to say that Russians are ‘interfering’ in something in Washington? Are they out of their minds?

Washington and other Western capitals did not only ‘interfere’, they openly broke the Soviet Union into pieces and then they began kicking Russia which was at that point half-alive. Is it all forgotten, or is Western public again fully ‘unaware’ of what took place during those dark days?

The West kept spitting at the impoverished and injured country, refused to honor international agreements and treaties. It offered no help. Multi-nationals were unleashed, and began ‘privatizing’ Russian state companies, basically stealing what was built by the sweat and blood of Soviet workers, during long decades.

Interference? Let me repeat: it was direct intervention, invasion, a grab of resources, shameless theft! I want to read and write about it, but we don’t hear much about it, anymore, do we?

Now we are told that Russia is paranoid, that its President is paranoid! With straight face, the West is lying; pretending that it has not been trying to murder Russia.

Those years… Those pro-Western years when Russia became a semi-client state of the West, or call it a semi-colony! There was no mercy, no compassion coming from abroad. Many of those idiots – kitchen intellectuals from Moscow and provinces – suddenly woke up but it was too late. Many of them had suddenly nothing to eat. They got what they were told to ask for: their Western ‘freedom and democracy’, and Western-style capitalism or in summary: total collapse.

I remember well how it was ‘then’. I began returning to Russia, horrified, working in Moscow, Tomsk, Novosibirsk, Leningrad. Academics from Akadem Gorodok outside Novosibirsk were selling their libraries in the bitter cold, in dark metro underpasses of Novosibirsk… Runs on the banks… Old retired people dying from hunger and cold behind massive doors of concrete blocks… unpaid salaries and starving miners, teachers…

Russia under the deadly embrace of the West, for the first and hopefully last time! Russia whose life expectancy suddenly dropped to African Sub-Saharan levels. Russia humiliated, wild, in terrible pain.

*

But that nightmare did not last long.

And what happened – those short but horrible years under both Gorbachev and Yeltsin, but above all under the Western diktat – will never be forgotten, not forgiven.

Russians know perfectly well what they do not want, anymore!

Russia stood up again. Huge, indignant and determined to live its own life, its own way. From an impoverished, humiliated and robbed nation, subservient to the West, the country evolved and within a few years, the free and independent Russia once again joined ranks of the most developed and powerful countries on Earth.

And as before Gorbachev, Russia is once again able to help those nations which are under unjust and vicious attacks of the Western empire.

A man who is leading this renaissance, President Vladimir Putin, is tough, but Russia is under great threat and so is the world – this is no time for weaklings.

President Putin is not perfect (who is, really?), but he is a true patriot, and I dare say, an internationalist.

Now the West, once again, hates both Russia and its leader. No wonder; undefeated, strong and free Russia is the worst imaginable foe of Washington and its lieutenants.

That’s how the West feels, not Russia. Despite all that was done to it, despite tens of millions of lost and ruined lives, Russia has always been ready to compromise, even to forgive, if not forget.

*

There is something deeply pathological in the psyche of the West. It cannot accept anything less than full and unconditional submission. It has to control, to be in charge, and on top of everything; it has to feel exceptional. Even when it murders and ruins the entire Planet, it insists on feeling superior to the rest of the world.

This faith in exceptionalism is the true Western religion, much more than even Christianity, which for decades has not really played any important role there. Exceptionalism is fanatical, it is fundamentalist and unquestionable.

It also insists that its narrative is the only one available anywhere in the World. That the West is seen as a moral leader, as a beacon of progress, as the only competent judge and guru.

Lies are piling on top of lies. As in all religions, the more absurd the pseudo-reality is, the more brutal and extreme are the methods used to uphold it. The more laughable the fabrications are, the more powerful the techniques used to suppress the truth are.

Today, hundreds of thousands of ‘academics’, teachers, journalists, artists, psychologists and other highly paid professionals, in all parts of the world, are employed by the Empire, for two goals only – to glorify the Western narrative and to discredit all that is standing in its way; daring to challenge it.

Russia is the most hated adversary of the West, with China, Russia’s close ally being near second.

The propaganda war unleashed by the West is so insane, so intense, that even some of the European and North American citizens are beginning to question tales coming from Washington, London and elsewhere.

Wherever one turns, there is a tremendous medley of lies, of semi-lies, half-truths; a complex and unnavigable swamp of conspiracy theories. Russia is being attacked for interfering in U.S. domestic affairs, for defending Syria, for standing by defenseless and intimidated nations, for having its own powerful media, for doping its athletes, for still being Communist, for not being socialist anymore; in brief: for everything imaginable and unimaginable.

Criticism of the country is so thorough and ludicrous, that one begins to ask very legitimate questions: “what about the past? What about the Western narrative regarding the Soviet past, particularly the post-Revolutionary period, and the period between two world wars?”

The more I analyze this present-day Western anti-Russian and anti-Chinese propaganda, the more determined I am to study and write about the Western narrative regarding Soviet history. I’m definitely planning to investigate these matters in the future, together with my friends – Russian and Ukrainian historians.

*

In the eyes of the West, Russians are ‘traitors’.

Instead of joining the looters, they have been standing by the ‘wretched of the world’, in the past, as well as now. They refused to sell their Motherland, and to enslave their own people. Their government is doing all it can to make Russia self-sufficient, fully independent, prosperous, proud and free.

Remember that ‘freedom’, ‘democracy’ and many other terms, mean totally different things in distinctive parts of the world. What is happening in the West could never be described as ‘freedom’ in Russia or in China, and vice versa.

Frustrated, collapsing, atomized and egotistic societies of Europe and North America do not inspire even their own people, anymore. They are escaping by millions annually, to Asia, Latin America, and even to Africa. Escaping from emptiness, meaninglessness and emotional cold. But it is not Russia’s or China’s business to tell them how to live or not to live!

In the meantime, great cultures like Russia and China do not need, and do not want to be told by the Westerners, what freedom is, and what democracy is.

They do not attack the West, and expect the same in return.

It is truly embarrassing that the countries responsible for hundreds of genocides, for hundreds of millions of murdered people on all continents, still dare to lecture others.

Many victims are too scared to speak.

Russia is not.

It is composed, gracious, but fully determined to defend itself if necessary; itself as well as many other human beings living on this beautiful but deeply scarred Planet.

Russian culture is enormous: from poetry and literature, to music, ballet, philosophy… Russian hearts are soft, they easily melt when approached with love and kindness. But when millions of lives of innocent people are threatened, both the hearts and muscles of Russians quickly turn to stone and steel. During such moments, when only victory could save the world, Russian fists are hard, and the same is true about the Russian armor.

There is no match to Russian courage in the sadistic but cowardly West.

Irreversibly, both hope and future are moving towards the east.

And that is why Russia is desperately hated by the West.

Andre Vltchek is philosopher, novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He’s a creator of Vltchek’s World in Word and Images, a writer of revolutionary novel Aurora and several other books. He writes especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”
https://journal-neo.org/2018/03/08/why-the-west-cannot-stomach-russians/

America is a System Not a Democracy – Chris Kanthan (Sott.net)

US democracy

Are you perturbed by what’s happening in America? Are you shocked by inequality, disappearing middle class, declining quality of health, police brutality, gun violence, ever-growing national debt, government’s Orwellian monitoring etc.? You are not alone, but all these are confusing only if you think in terms of an “American government” or “American corporations” or “American banks” that have, or should have, unique loyalty or consideration towards the American people.

But that’s the wrong way to think about American today. Everything becomes clear if you think of it as a “System”.

Why would we be surprised that there are millions of Americans who work full time and yet live in poverty, when the System exploits people in other countries for much, much lower wages? In the cost-savings Excel sheet of the System, a Walmart worker is still 10x more expensive than the worker from that ‘other’ country.

We cease to be surprised that Bank of America and JP Morgan Chase defraud American homeowners when we realize that the System brought down whole countries such as Greece, Spain, Italy, Ireland and Portugal using the same financial engineering schemes, lies and manipulations. Most of these countries are now being looted by the austerity programs demanded by the same System.

How can we be shocked by gun violence in America when the System is the #1 exporter of guns and weapons in the world? The System thrives on violence. The System loves perpetual wars – Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Niger … just to name a few countries the System has bombed in the last decade. The System is also planning for bigger wars with North Korea, Russia and China.

If police brutality and militarization of police is disturbing, we have to realize how the System supports, and has supported, dictators all over the world when it is/was profitable to do so. Many ruthless dictators in Latin American countries, Africa, Middle East and Asia were handpicked and put in power by the System. Some were even trained in a special school in the U.S. The system gladly funds and arms terrorists in Afghanistan, Libya and Syria. All that valuable experience can’t be wasted.

When it comes to child poverty, no one should be surprised that America ranks at the bottom among developed nations. From Apple to Calvin Klein to Hershey’s, many corporations depend on child labor for their stocks to outperform the expectations of Wall Street analysts. When the System profits from ten-year-olds working in toxic mines in third-world countries, American kids on food stamps look quite spoiled. The ‘poor’ in America don’t realize how good they have it.

For anyone who is enraged by our exploding national debt, don’t be. Debt is the ultimate tool for the System to enslave nations. The economic hit men of the World Bank and the IMF have, over the last 75 years, mastered this art of drowning nations in debt in order to control them. Does anyone think it’s a coincidence that Russia – the country the System loves to hate – has a debt-to-GDP ratio of 17%? Compare that to America’s 105% or Japan’s 250%. The System doesn’t like countries with low debt, just like it doesn’t appreciate people trying to go off-grid in America or people thinking for themselves. This is also the same reason that Americans save only 2.4% of their income while US households have a record debt of over $13 trillion. Credit cards, student loans, auto loans and mortgages are all different tools with the same purpose.

Once you understand the System, you can’t feign surprise that wages are stagnant while the cost of living keeps going up. With all the advancement in science, one would think that healthcare cost would go down every year, but that would be naive. Healthcare (“sickcare”) is the best extraction tool, since people will give up a kidney (sometimes literally) for medical care when they are sick. The only things that are cheap are processed food and mass entertainment that are toxic to your body and mind respectively. Does anyone ever wonder if that’s just a coincidence?

This is why America’s education ranks at the bottom of developed nations. As a Wikileaks email revealed, the elites “conspire to produce an unaware and compliant citizenry.” Translation: Dumb and Subservient.

Do you wonder why fracking and GMOs are allowed to destroy America’s environment? The System couldn’t care less about the environment. It has destroyed an unimaginable amount of rain forest all over the world, and couldn’t care less about the thousands of species that are going extinct every year. The System hates sustainability and freedom. Just like how the older version of the System wiped out the Native Americans, the current System despises tradition, culture, religion, spirituality, consciousness, holistic medicine, anything that involves people taking care of and responsibility for themselves.

By now, hopefully, you understand why lobbyists have taken over the American government and why we really don’t have a functional democracy. The System is not a fan of democracy. You really don’t think that the psychopathic elite would agree to run their lives and plan their grand strategies on the basis of the needs of millions of pesky little people, do you? Democracy and elections are just nice illusions so that we feel content, be passive, go to work, watch lots of TV, get into debt, spend our money on things we don’t need and, most importantly, believe in the righteousness of the System.

Are you mad? You should be. The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.

Avatar

Chris Kanthan (Profile)

Chris Kanthan is the author of a new book, Deconstructing the Syrian war.. Chris lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, has traveled to 35 countries, and writes about world affairs, politics, economy and health. His other book is Deconstructing Monsanto.. Follow him on Twitter: @GMOChannel

The Authoritarians Who Silence Questions on Syria – By Jonathan Cook (MintPress)

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, center, confers with members of the United Nations Security Council just outside the chamber before a scheduled vote on a resolution, Feb. 24, 2018, demanding a 30-day humanitarian cease-fire across Syria. (AP/Craig Ruttle)

It is not the critical thinkers on Syria who are demanding that only one side of the narrative is heard; it is western governments and supposedly “liberal” journalists like Brian Whitaker and George Monbiot.

Opinion — I am loath to draw more attention to the kind of idiocy that passes for informed comment nowadays from academics and mainstream journalists. Recently I lambasted Prof Richard Carver for his arguments against BDS that should have gained him an F for logic in any high school exam.

Now we have to endure Brian Whitaker, the Guardian’s former Middle East editor, using every ploy in the misdirection and circular logic playbook to discredit those who commit thought crimes on Syria, by raising questions both about what is really happening there and about whether we can trust the corporate media consensus banging the regime-change drum.

Whitaker’s arguments and assumptions may be preposterous but sadly, like Carver’s, they are to be found everywhere in the mainstream – they have become so commonplace through repetition that they have gained a kind of implicit credibility. So let’s unpack what Whitaker and his ilk are claiming.

Whitaker’s latest outburst is directed against the impudence of a handful of British academics, including experts in the study of propaganda, in setting up a panel – the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media – to “provide a source of reliable, informed and timely analysis for journalists, publics and policymakers” on Syria. The researchers include Tim Hayward of Edinburgh University and Piers Robinson of Sheffield University.

A screenshot of Brian Whitaker's article on Medium.com

So what are Whitaker’s objections to this working group? Let’s run through them, with my interjections.

Whitaker: They dispute almost all mainstream narratives of the Syrian conflict, especially regarding the use of chemical weapons and the role of the White Helmets search-and-rescue organisation. They are critical of western governments, western media and various humanitarian groups but show little interest in applying critical judgment to Russia’s role in the conflict or to the controversial writings of several journalists who happen to share their views.

Western governments and western corporate media have promoted a common narrative on Syria. It has been difficult for outsiders to be sure of what is going on, given that Syria has long been a closed society, a trend only reinforced by the last seven years of a vicious civil-cum-proxy war, and the presence of brutal ISIS and al Qaeda militias.

Long before the current fighting, western governments and Israel expressed a strong interest in overthrowing the government of Bashar Assad. In fact, their desire to be rid of Assad dates to at least the start of the “war on terror” they launched after 9/11, as I documented in my book Israel and the Clash of Civilisations.

Very few corporate journalists have been on the ground in Syria. (Paradoxically, those who have are effectively embedded in areas dominated by al Qaeda-type groups, which western governments are supporting directly and through Gulf intermediaries.) Most of these journalists are relying on information provided by western governments, or from groups with strong, vested interests in Assad’s overthrow.

Should we take this media coverage on trust, as many of us did the lies promoted about Iraq and later Libya by the same western governments and corporate media? Or should we be far more wary this time, especially as those earlier regime-change operations spread more chaos, suffering and weapons across the Middle East, and fuelled a migrant crisis now empowering the far-right across much of Europe?

Whitaker and his ilk are saying we should not. Or more disingenuously, Whitaker is saying that the working group, rather than invest its energies in this supremely important research, should concentrate its limited resources on studying Russian propaganda on Syria. In other words, the researchers should duplicate the sterling efforts of Whitaker’s colleagues in daily attributing the superpowers of a James Bond villain to Russian President Vladimir Putin.


Read more by Jonathan Cook


Here’s a counter-proposal: how about we leave well-funded western governments and media corporations to impugn Putin at every turn and on every pretext, while we allow the working group to check whether there is a large (larger?) mote in the west’s eye?

Whitaker: The worrying part, though, especially in the light of their stated intention to seek ‘research funding’, is their claim to be engaging in ‘rigorous academic analysis’ of media reporting on Syria.

Is this really so worrying? Why not allow a handful of academics to seek funds to try to untangle the highly veiled aid – money and arms – that western governments have been pumping into a war tearing apart Syria? Why not encourage the working group to discern more clearly the largely covert ties between western security services and groups like the White Helmets “search-and-rescue service”? One would think supposedly adversarial journalists would be all in favour of efforts to dig up information about western involvement and collusion in Syria.

Whitaker: But while members of the group are generally very critical of mainstream media in the west, a handful of western journalists — all of them controversial figures — escape similar scrutiny. Instead, their work is lauded and recommended.

More of Whitaker’s circular logic.

Of course, the few independent journalists (independent of corporate interests) who are on the ground in Syria are “controversial” – they are cast as “controversial” by western governments and corporate journalists precisely because they question the consensual narrative of those same governments and journalists. Duh!

Further, these “controversial” journalists are not being “lauded”. Rather, their counter-narratives are being highlighted by those with open minds, like those in the working group. Without efforts to draw attention to these independent journalists’ work, their reporting would most likely disappear without trace – precisely the outcome, one senses, Whitaker and his friends would very much prefer.

It is not the critical thinkers on Syria who are demanding that only one side of the narrative is heard; it is western governments and supposedly “liberal” journalists like Whitaker and the Guardian’s George Monbiot. They think they can divine the truth through … the corporate media, which is promoting narratives either crafted in western capitals or derived from ties to groups like the White Helmets located in jihadist-controlled areas.

Again, why should the working group waste its finite energies scrutinising these independent journalists when they are being scrutinised – and vilified – non-stop by journalists like Whitaker and by big-budget newspapers like the Guardian?

In any case, if official western naratives truly withstand the working group’s scrutiny, then the claims and findings of these independent journalists will be discredited in the process. These two opposed narratives cannot be equally true, after all.

Whitaker: The two favourites, though, are Eva Bartlett and Vanessa Beeley — ’independent’ journalists who are frequent contributors to the Russian propaganda channel, RT. Bartlett and Beeley also have an enthusiastic following on ‘alternative’ and conspiracy theory websites though elsewhere they are widely dismissed as propagandists.

“Widely dismissed” by … yes, that’s right, Whitaker’s friends in the corporate media! More circular logic. Independent journalists like Bartlett and Beeley are on RT because Whitaker’s chums at British propaganda outlets – like the Guardian and BBC – do not give, and have never given, them a hearing. The Guardian even denied them a right of reply after its US-based technology writer Olivia Solon (whose resume does not mention that she was ever in Syria) was awarded a prominent slot in the paper to smear them as Kremlin propagandists, without addressing their arguments or evidence.

Whitaker: [Bartlett and Beeley’s] activities are part of the overall media battle regarding Syria and any ‘rigorous academic analysis’ of the coverage should be scrutinising their work rather than promoting it unquestioningly.

There is no “media battle”. That’s like talking of a “war” between Israel, one of the most powerful armies in the world, and the lightly armed Palestinian resistance group Hamas – something the western corporate media do all the time, of course.

Instead there is an unchallenged western media narrative on Syria, one in favour of more war, and more suffering, until what seems like an unrealisable goal of overthrowing Assad is achieved. On the other side are small oases of scepticism and critical thinking, mostly on the margins of social media, Whitaker wants snuffed out.


Related


The working group’s job is not to help him in that task. It is to test whether or how much of the official western narrative is rooted in truth.

is to cast doubt on rational but unwelcome explanations by advancing multiple alternative ‘theories’ — ideas that may be based on nothing more than speculation or green-ink articles on obscure websites.

But it precisely isn’t such “green-ink” articles that chip away at the credibility of an official western consensus. It is the transparently authoritarian instincts of a political and media elite – and of supposedly “liberal” journalists like Whitaker and Monbiot – to silence all debate, all doubt, all counter-evidence.

Because at heart he is an authoritarian courtier, Whitaker would like us to believe that only crackpots and conspiracy theorists promote these counter-narratives. He would prefer that, in the silence he hopes to impose, readers will never be exposed to the experts who raise doubts about the official western narrative on Syria.

That is, the same silence that was imposed 15 years ago, when his former newspaper the Guardian and the rest of the western corporate media ignored and dismissed United Nations weapons experts like Scott Ritter and Hans Blix. Their warnings that Iraq’s supposed WMD really were non-existent and were being used as a pretext to wage a disastrous colonial war went unheard.

Let’s not allow Whitaker and like-minded bully-boys once again to silence such critical voices.

Top Photo | U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, center, confers with members of the United Nations Security Council just outside the chamber before a scheduled vote on a resolution, Feb. 24, 2018, demanding a 30-day humanitarian cease-fire across Syria. (AP/Craig Ruttle)

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (Pluto Press) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books). His website is www.jonathan-cook.net.

© CounterPunch

Stories published in our Daily Digests section are chosen based on the interest of our readers. They are republished from a number of sources, and are not produced by MintPress News. The views expressed in these articles are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect MintPress News editorial policy.

Lifting of US Propaganda Ban Gives New Meaning to Old Song -By Whitney Webb

"U.S. Official War Pictures", propaganda poster by Louis D. Fancher circa 1917. (Public Domain)

In the age of legal, weaponized propaganda directed against the American people, false narratives have become so commonplace in the mainstream media that they have essentially become normalized, leading to the era of “fake news” and “alternative facts.”

Though its ostensible purpose is to fund the U.S. military over a one year period, the National Defense Authorization Act, better known as the NDAA, has had numerous provisions tucked into it over the years that have targeted American civil liberties. The most well-known of these include allowing the government to wiretap American citizens without a warrant and, even more disturbingly, indefinitely imprison an American citizen without charge in the name of “national security.”

One of the lesser-known provisions that have snuck their way into the NDAA over the years was a small piece of legislation tacked onto the NDAA for fiscal year 2013, signed into law in that same year by then-President Barack Obama. Named “The Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012,” it completely lifted the long-existing ban on the domestic dissemination of U.S. government-produced propaganda.

For decades, the U.S. government had been allowed to produce and disseminate propaganda abroad in order to drum up support for its foreign wars but had been banned from distributing it domestically after the passage of the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948. However, the Modernization Act’s co-authors, Reps. Mac Thornberry (R-TX) and Adam Smith (D-WA, no relation to the Smith of the 1948 act), asserted that removing the domestic ban was necessary in order to combat “al-Qaeda’s and other violent extremists’ influence among populations.”

 

Thornberry stated that removing the ban was necessary because it had tied “the hands of America’s diplomatic officials, military, and others, by inhibiting our ability to effectively communicate in a credible way.” Yet, given that Thornberry is one of the greatest beneficiaries of weapon manufacturers’ campaign contributions, the real intent — to skeptics at least — seemed more likely related to an effort to ramp up domestic support for U.S. military adventurism abroad following the disastrous invasions of Iraq and Libya.


Read more by Whitney Webb


Five years later, the effects of the lifting of the ban have turned what was once covert manipulation of the media by the government into a transparent “revolving door” between the media and the government. Robbie Martin — documentary filmmaker and media analyst whose documentary series,  “A Very Heavy Agenda,” explores the relationships between neoconservative think tanks and media — told MintPress, that this revolving door “has never been more clear than it is right now” as a result of the ban’s absence.

In the age of legal, weaponized propaganda directed at the American people, false narratives have become so commonplace in the mainstream and even alternative media that these falsehoods have essentially become normalized, leading to the era of “fake news” and “alternative facts.”

Those who create such news, regardless of the damage it causes or the demonstrably false nature of its claims, face little to no accountability, as long as those lies are of service to U.S. interests. Meanwhile, media outlets that provide dissenting perspectives are being silenced at an alarming rate.

 

The effects of lifting the ban examined

Vice founders Shane Smith, left, and Suroosh Alvi, attend the 20th Annual Webby Awards at Cipriani Wall Street on Monday, May 16, 2016, in New York.

Since 2013, newsrooms across the country, of both the mainstream and “alternative” variety, have been notably skewed towards the official government narrative, with few outside a handful of independently-funded media outlets bothering to question those narratives’ veracity. While this has long been a reality for the Western media (see John Pilger’s 2011 documentary “The War You Don’t See”), the use of government-approved narratives and sources from government-funded groups have become much more overt than in years past.

From Syria to Ukraine, U.S.-backed coups and U.S.-driven conflicts have been painted as locally driven movements that desperately need U.S. support in order to “help” the citizens of those countries — even though that “help” has led to the near destruction of those countries and, in the case of  Ukraine, an attempted genocide. In these cases, many of the sources were organizations funded directly by the U.S. government or allied governments, such as the White Helmets and Aleppo Media Centre (largely funded by the U.S. and U.K. governments) in the case of Syria, and pro-Kiev journalists with Nazi ties (including Bogdan Boutkevitch, who called for the “extermination” of Ukrainians of Russian descent on live TV) in the case of Ukraine, among other examples. Such glaring conflicts of interests are, however, rarely — if ever — disclosed when referenced in these reports.

More recently, North Korea has been painted as presenting an imminent threat to the United States. Recent reports on this “threat” have been based on classified intelligence reports that claim that North Korea can produce a new nuclear bomb every six or seven weeks, including a recent article from the New York Times. However, those same reports have admitted that this claim is purely speculative, as it is “impossible to verify until experts get beyond the limited access to North Korean facilities that ended years ago.” In other words, the article was based entirely on unverified claims from the U.S. intelligence community that were treated as compelling.

As Martin told MintPress, many of these government-friendly narratives first began at U.S.-funded media organizations overseen by the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) — an extension of the U.S. state department.

Martin noted that U.S.-funded media, like Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Europe (RFE), were among the first to use a State Department-influenced narrative aimed at “inflaming hostilities with Russia before it soaked into mainstream reporting.” Of course, now, this narrative — with its origins in the U.S. State Department and U.S. intelligence community — has come to dominate headlines in the corporate media and even some “alternative” media outlets in the wake of the 2016 U.S. election.

This is no coincidence. As Martin noted, “after the ban was lifted, things changed drastically here in the United States,” resulting in what was tantamount to a “propaganda media coup” where the State Department, and other government agencies that had earlier shaped the narrative at the BBG, used their influence on mainstream media outlets to shape those narratives as well.

A key example of this, as Martin pointed out, was the influence of the new think-tank “The Alliance for Securing Democracy,” whose advisory council and staff are loaded with neocons, such as the National Review’s Bill Kristol, and former U.S. intelligence and State Department officials like former CIA Director Michael Morell. The Alliance for Securing Democracy’s Russia-focused offshoot, “Hamilton 68,” is frequently cited by media outlets — mainstream and alternative — as an impartial, reliable tracker of Russian “meddling” efforts on social media.

Martin remarked that he had “never seen a think tank before have such a great influence over the media so quickly,” noting that it “would have been hard to see [such influence on reporters] without the lifting of the ban,” especially given the fact that media organizations that cite Hamilton 68 do not mention its ties to former government officials and neoconservatives.

In addition, using VOA or other BBG-funded media has become much more common than it was prior to the ban, an indication that state-crafted information originally intended for a foreign audience is now being used domestically. Martin noted that this has become particularly common at some “pseudo-alternative” media organizations — i.e., formerly independent media outlets that now enjoy corporate funding. Among these, Martin made the case that VICE News stands out.

After the propaganda ban was lifted, Martin noticed that VICE’s citations of BBG sources “spiked.” He continued:

One of the things I immediately noticed was that they [VICE news] were so quick to call out other countries’ media outlets, but yet — in every instance I looked up of them citing BBG sources — they never mentioned where the funding came from or what it was and they would very briefly mention it [information from BBG sources] like these were any other media outlets.”

He added that, in many of these cases, journalists at VICE were unaware that references to VOA or other BBG sources appeared in their articles. This was an indication that “there is some editorial staff [at VICE News] that is putting this in from the top down.”

Furthermore, Martin noted that, soon after the ban was lifted, “VICE’s coverage mirrored the type of coverage that BBG was doing across the world in general,” which in Martin’s view indicated “there was definitely some coordination between the State Department and VICE.” This coordination was also intimated by BBG’s overwhelmingly positive opinion of VICE in their auditing reports, in which the BBG “seemed more excited about VICE than any other media outlet” — especially since VICE was able to use BBG organizations as sources while maintaining its reputation as a “rebel” media outlet.

Watch | VICE’s Fall From Counterculture Hipster Rag To Neoliberal Mouthpiece

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/_mVLVWmVa5U?rel=0&showinfo=0

Martin notes that these troubling trends have been greatly enabled by the lifting of the ban. He opined that the ban was likely lifted “in case someone’s cover [in spreading government propaganda disguised as journalism] was blown,” in which case “it wouldn’t be seen as illegal.” He continued:

For example, if a CIA agent at the Washington Post is directly piping in U.S. government propaganda or a reporter is working the U.S. government to pipe in propaganda, it wouldn’t be seen as a violation of the law. Even though it could have happened before the ban, it’s under more legal protection now.”

Under normal circumstances, failing to disclose conflicts of interests of key sources and failing to question government narratives would be considered acts of journalistic malice. However, in the age of legal propaganda, these derelictions matter much less. Propaganda is not intended to be factual or impartial — it is intended to serve a specific purpose, namely influencing public opinion in a way that serves U.S. government interests. As Karl Rove, the former advisor and deputy chief of staff to George W. Bush, once said, the U.S. “is an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.” This “reality” is defined not by facts but by its service to empire.

Meanwhile, counter-narratives, however fact-based they may be, are simultaneously derided as conspiracy theories or “fake news,” especially if they question or go against government narratives.

 

The revolving door

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former CIA Director John Brennan appear on CNN to discuss allegations of Russian influence in the presidential elections. (CNN Screenshot)

Another major consequence of the ban being lifted goes a step further than merely influencing narratives. In recent years, there has been the growing trend of hiring former government officials, including former U.S. intelligence directors and other psyops veterans, in positions once reserved for journalists. In their new capacity as talking heads on mainstream media reports, they repeat the stance of the U.S. intelligence community to millions of Americans, with their statements and views unchallenged.

For instance, last year, CNN hired former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. Clapper, a key architect of RussiaGate, has committed perjury by lying to Congress and more recently lied about the Trump campaign being wiretapped through a FISA request. He has also mad racist, Russophobic comments on national television. Now, however, he is an expert analyst for “the most trusted name in news.” CNN last year also hired Michael Hayden, who is a former Director of both the CIA and the NSA, and former Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence.

CNN isn’t alone. NBC/MSNBC recently hired former CIA director John Brennan — another key architect of RussiaGate and the man who greenlighted (and lied about) CIA spying on Congress — as a contributor and “senior national security and intelligence analyst.” NBC also employs Jeremy Bash, former CIA and DoD Chief of Staff, as a national security analyst, as well as reporter Ken Dilanian, who is known for his “collaborative relationship” with the CIA.

This “revolving door” doesn’t stop there. After the BBG was restructured by the 2016 NDAA, the “board” for which the organization was named was dissolved, making BBG’s CEO — a presidential appointee — all powerful. BBG’s current CEO is John Lansing, who – prior to taking the top post at the BBG – was the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing (CTAM), a marketing association comprised of 90 of the top U.S. and Canadian cable companies and television programmers. Lansing’s connection to U.S. cable news companies is just one example of how this revolving door opens both ways.

 

Media-government coordination out of the shadows

Defense Secretary James Mattis chats with Amazon founder Jeff Bezos during a visit to west coast tech and defense companies. (Jeff Bezos/Twitter)

Such collusion between mainstream media and the U.S. government is hardly new. It has only become more overt since the Smith-Mundt ban was lifted.

For instance, the CIA, through Operation Mockingbird, started recruiting mainstream journalists and media outlets as far back as the 1960s in order to covertly influence the American public by disguising propaganda as news. The CIA even worked with top journalism schools to change their curricula in order to produce a new generation of journalists that would better suit the U.S. government’s interests. Yet the CIA effort to manipulate the media was born out of the longstanding view in government that influencing the American public through propaganda was not only useful, but necessary.

Indeed, Edward Bernays, the father of public relations, who also worked closely with the government in the creation and dissemination of propaganda, once wrote:

The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.”

While this was once an “invisible” phenomenon, it is quickly becoming more obvious. Now, Silicon Valley oligarchs with ties to the U.S. government have bought mainstream and pseudo-alternative media outlets and former CIA directors are given prominent analyst positions on cable news programs. The goal is to manufacture support at home for the U.S.’ numerous conflicts around the world, which are only likely to grow as the Pentagon takes aim at “competing states” like Russia and China in an increasingly desperate protection of American hegemony.

With the propaganda ban now a relic, the once-covert propaganda machine long used to justify war after war is now operating out in the open and out of control.

Top Photo | “U.S. Official War Pictures”, propaganda poster by Louis D. Fancher circa 1917. (Public Domain)

Whitney Webb is a staff writer for MintPress News who has written for several news organizations in both English and Spanish; her stories have been featured on ZeroHedge, the Anti-Media, and 21st Century Wire among others. She currently lives in Southern Chile.

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The Genocide Conspiracy Against North Korea: An Open Letter to the International Criminal Court – By Eastern Outlook

 

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The American threats against North Korea continue to mount and with them the threat of the genocide of the people of North Korea by the United States of America and its allies. The meeting of the USA, Canada and other nations that attacked North Korea in 1950 held in Vancouver, Canada, on January 16, which some hoped would lead to a political solution, instead took on the character of a meeting of criminals who by their presence, agreement and actions made them parties to a conspiracy to commit genocide, a crime under the statute of the International Criminal Court and the Genocide Convention of 1948.

The threats made against North Korea are due to one single fact: the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea refuses to accept the world hegemony of the American Empire. It has nothing to do with nuclear weapons. It has become a ritual now to state that all the permanent members of the Security Council are armed with nuclear weapons, that the United States has used them on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, that they have continuously threatened to use them to intimidate other nations since 1945, that Pakistan, India, and Israel have them, that NATO members in Europe have them at their disposal under US direction, that North Korea is in violation of no international law in developing them to defend themselves, to ensure their security just as all those other nations have done, that North Korea threatens no one and seeks only to have a full and final peace with the United States.

The nuclear weapon issue is a simply the pretext that the United States is using to try to solidify its tyranny over Korea, over the world.

The threat to the world peace comes not from North Korea. It comes from the United States and its allies: the nations who have degraded themselves into subjugated vassal states ready to obey any criminal order of their masters of war in Washington.

In response to what in our considered opinion are criminal actions, Dr. Graeme MacQueen, Founder and former Director of the Centre For Peace Studies, at McMaster University, and I, felt it necessary to send the following Open Letter to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court on January 23.

“                                                                                                                Open Letter

Dear Madame Prosecutor:

Re: Threats of Genocide Made Against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

We, the undersigned, share the desire of the Canadian people to establish and preserve peace in the world. It is therefore necessary for us to ask you to open an investigative file on the action of governments allied to the United States, including Canada, its government ministers and officials active in the on-going crisis with the DPRK.

Embarrassment and shock at President Trump’s threats against North Korea have been widespread and have led to a serious discussion in the US as to whether Mr. Trump is mentally fit to govern. However, the threats of Mr. Trump and his secretary of defense go well beyond the US domestic sphere and have direct implications for other countries, including Canada.

Article 6 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court states that genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole of in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group:

 

(a) killing members of the group,

(b) causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group,

(c) deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about the physical destruction, in whole or in part, of the group.

Conspiracy to commit genocide is understood in international law as a concerted agreement to commit genocide which may be inferred from the conduct of the conspirators. The evidence to support the charge of genocide can be based on circumstantial evidence as well as direct evidence. Further, the concerted or coordinated action of a group of individuals can constitute evidence of an agreement.

On August 8, 2017 Mr. Trump said that North Korean threats “will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.” His secretary of defense, James Mattis, followed up on August 9 with the statement that, “The DPRK should cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people.

Mr. Mattis added a further comment on September 3: “We are not looking to the total annihilation of a country, namely North Korea, but as I said, we have many options to do so.

During his maiden speech to the UN General Assembly on September 19, Mr. Trump said: “The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.”

Finally, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, during an interview on January 17, 2018 at Stanford University with Condoleeza Rice, stated approvingly in reference to deaths aboard Korean fishing boats going out to sea in winter without necessary fuel: “they [the North Koreans] are feeling the effect of our sanctions.” This is direct evidence that the United States is intentionally creating conditions that will cause the death of Korean civilians on a large scale in order to achieve US objectives.

Rhetorical excess (“fire and fury”) is one thing, but this connected series of statements, including a threat of total destruction, constitutes a threat of genocide. Threatening genocide is, arguably, not a crime, but “public incitement to genocide” is explicitly included as a crime in the Genocide Convention to which the US is party. Already, therefore, by publicly and passionately promoting genocide as a policy option, Mr. Trump and Mr. Mattis have entered dangerous territory legally. Since the US is party to the Genocide Convention the provisions of the Convention have the status of US law.  

To successfully convict someone of genocide, proof of intention is required. The prosecution needs to show “intent to destroy”.  This is usually a challenge for the prosecution since perpetrators seldom telegraph their destructive intentions to the world in advance. But, as two genocide scholars have already argued in the Washington Post, the US leadership has done precisely this: it has telegraphed its intentions. If, they point out, Mr. Trump does what he has threatened, prosecuting him for genocide would take a straightforward path.

The country of the undersigned, Canada, is a member of the ICC and under its jurisdiction, and Canadian leaders and officials have individual responsibility for any crimes committed under the Statute. Since there is clear evidence that the crime of genocide is being discussed openly and that plans are being made to carry it out against the people of the DPRK by US leaders and since, in these circumstances and with full knowledge of these threats and plans, US allies, including Canada, are cooperating with the US government and meeting to discuss actions to be taken against North Korea, and since these allies of the US appear to be ignoring international law, the Charter of the United Nations and the Rome Statute, it is necessary that an investigation be conducted by your office to consider the evidence and to prosecute if there is evidence of a crime.

The United States of America is no longer a member of the ICC. However, it is bound by the Charter of the United Nations to keep the world peace, is party to the Genocide Convention, and was a sponsor of the International Criminal Court.  Moreover, the ICC has not only an investigative and prosecutorial role, but also the role of informing the world what criminal conduct is when it is happening; and it has a duty to make a public statement condemning it when it happens. It chose to do so with regard to Kenya for example. It should do so in the current crisis.

We ask that the Office of the Prosecutor open an investigative file in this matter and, in addition, use your voice as Prosecutor and the moral imperative your office claims to represent to avoid genocide and to condemn as grave violations of international criminal law the announced intentions and actions of the nations mentioned above.”

We urge others to do the same.

Christopher Black is an international criminal lawyer based in Toronto. He is known for a number of high-profile war crimes cases and recently published his novel “Beneath the Clouds. He writes essays on international law, politics and world events, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”
https://journal-neo.org/2018/01/26/the-genocide-conspiracy-against-north-korea-an-open-letter-to-the-international-criminal-court/

From Pentagon Papers to Pressman’s Strike: The Washington Post and American Journalism Lost Their Way – By Jon Jeter

Over 1,000 striking pressmen and supporters stage a march and rally on the one year anniversary of the Pressman's strike on October 2, 1976 that culminated with burning Katherine Graham in effigy in front of the Post headquarters. (Photo: Reading/Simpson, non-commercial use permitted)

The Post’s redoubled emphasis on the bottom line exemplified a crucial change in American newspapering and reflected the transformation of the daily newspaper in the United States from a family enterprise to a corporation with an obligation to its stockholders to ‘maximize’ profits.

 

WASHINGTON (Opinion) — Meryl Streep received her 21st Oscar nomination last week for her portrayal of Katharine Graham in Steven Spielberg’s thriller, The Post. The film depicts the iconic newspaper publisher and her storied editor, Ben Bradlee (played by Tom Hanks), staring down a ruthless Nixon administration and cautious shareholders to print the secret government study that put paid to the official lies undergirding the Vietnam War, in an act of heroism that saved the Fourth Estate if not American democracy itself.

Talk about fake news.

“If you’re not careful,” Malcolm X once said, the media’s preoccupation with folkloric narratives that romanticize the rich and the powerful “will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.” The Post is damning evidence in support of Hollywood’s class bias — for Graham and Bradlee did indeed have a lasting impact on both journalism and democracy, but not in a good way.

 

 

From freedom of the press to firing of the pressmen

Far more transformative than The Washington Post’s 1971 publication of the Pentagon Papers was a work stoppage by the Post’s 200 pressmen that began four years later in the wee morning hours of October 1, 1975. When it was over 10 weeks later, Graham had crushed Local 6 of the Newspaper and Graphic Communications Union, replaced the fired pressmen with non-union scabs, inspiring her friend Ronald Reagan to do the same to 11,345 striking federal air traffic controllers six years later, which introduced a new era of labor docility that produced offshored jobs, shrinking wages, and yawning inequality.

Washington Post reporters Carl Bernstein, left, and Bob Woodward, who uncovered the Watergate scandal, along with other editorial employees, walk off the job at the Post in Washington, April 8, 1974, after Baltimore-Washington arm of the American Newspaper Guild struck the paper. (AP Photo)

The 1975 pressman’s strike represented not only the twilight of the American working class but of journalism as well. In her zeal to maximize profits for the Washington Post Company’s new shareholders, Graham is as responsible as any media mogul for reshaping reportage to meet investors’ narrow and elitist tastes, leading to a “fake news” environment today that is obsessed with allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 election, while almost entirely ignoring the perfect economic and political storm that is bearing down on the global economy.

Graham herself seemed cognizant of her true legacy, devoting 50 pages to the pressman’s strike in her 1998 memoir Personal History, or nearly double the number of pages exploring her decision to publish the Pentagon Papers. In the Pulitzer-prize winning autobiography, she describes being blindsided by Local 6, which disabled all nine presses before their walkout and “brutally” beat a pressroom foreman who’d tried to inspect the damage.  Writing in the same self-ennobling language that characterizes Spielberg’s film, she writes that she was awakened by a phone call from one of her negotiators at 4:45 a.m:

There was no time to think. I dressed hastily, jumped in the car without waking my driver who lived nearby and drove myself down quiet and dark Massachusetts Avenue to 15th Street.”

Central to Graham’s defense was the union’s damage to the presses, which the Post, at one point implied approached $15 million, or nearly $70 million in today’s dollars. Post executives later agreed to a sum of about $270,000, and there is evidence the damage was far less than that figure even. An enterprising Chicago Tribune reporter called the company hired to manage the repairs and was quoted a figure of $12,900.

The truth of the matter is that the Post had been preparing “for a strike for two years,” wrote the newspaper’s former national editor, Ben Bagdikian — who supervised coverage of the Pentagon Papers and was later the dean of the journalism program at the University of California at Berkeley — “sending 125 management people to a training center to take over union duties, and setting up alternative composing equipment in a secret project on the paper’s executive floors.”

 

Elevating the bottom line

The reason was simple: money. Those same shareholders who failed to convince Graham to bury the Pentagon Papers when the Washington Post Company first went public in 1971, ruled the roost by 1975. The newspaper’s overall financial health was sound, with revenues soaring to $122 million in 1974, up from $84 million three years earlier. Profits stood at $10.9 million, or a robust 9.1 percent, but investors pushed Graham to restore profit margins to their 1969 level of 15.1 percent.

“The first order of business at The Washington Post is to maximize the profits from our existing operations,” Graham told security analysts in January 1972. “Some costs resist more stubbornly than others. The most frustrating kind are those imposed by archaic union practices . . . This,” she concluded, “is a problem we are determined to solve.”


Read more by Jon Jeter


The pressmen overwhelmingly rejected the Post’s final offer. Said Local 6 leader, Jimmy Duggan: “To have accepted that final offer would have meant there was no union. There was no doubt in my mind the Post wants to bust its unions.”

Graham acknowledged as much in a conversation with a family friend, the conservative AFL-CIO President George Meany, who asked her in the strike’s final days what she would do if the pressmen accepted her final offer. “I guess I’d slit my throat from ear-to-ear,” was her response.

 

The backlash against “socialism,” the New Deal, and racial progress

Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham, center, speaks with first lady Nancy Reagan, right, and former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, during a gala celebrating the 50th anniversary of Newsweek magazine, Feb. 7, 1983, in New York. (AP/Ray Stubblebine)

To understand how integral the pressman’s strike was to reshaping labor relations and the New Deal’s Keynesian compact between management and workers, it’s important to contextualize the period in which it occurred. Graham succeeded as the Post’s publisher both her father and her late husband, Phil, both of whom had good relations with the newspaper’s’ craft unions. But as Japan and postwar Europe began to challenge the country’s manufacturing dominance in the late 1960s, and aggressive trade unions began to demand an increasingly larger share of the national Gross Domestic Product, investors began to worry that the U.S. was becoming another social democracy.

The same year as the pressman’s strike at the Post, Wall Street effectively staged a coup in New York City, marginalizing militant public sector unions to redirect taxpayer money away from the commonwealth, and into creditors’ bank accounts.

And, of course, race played a vital role in both Wall Street’s takeover and the Post’s union busting. To combat New York’s most militant labor activists, African-Americans, Wall Street executives wooed white labor leaders by depicting blacks as selfish and even unpatriotic. Similarly, Graham managed to isolate Local 6 by portraying the union as a kind of racial bubble in a city that was, at the time, two-thirds African-American.

“The pressmen were all-white,” Craig Herndon, a black former Post photographer who started at the newspaper in 1968 and refused to cross the picket line told MintPress:

A lot of those guys lived in West Virginia and they would drive into town for the week, and then go back home on the weekends, and that cost them a lot of support in Chocolate City. There just wasn’t a lot of support for them either in the newsroom or at City Hall.”

Graham cynically boasted that the first scab hired was a black man, though the Post was never viewed as an ally of the District’s black community, and at the relationship’s nadir in 1981 published a fabricated profile of an eight-year old black heroin addict. That same year Graham’s friend, President Ronald Reagan, fired 11,345 striking air traffic controllers represented by the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO), which was a shot across the bow in America’s class war. Reagan’s handling of the labor dispute signaled to private industry that there was a new sheriff in town and, in this new arrangement, organized labor was persona non grata.

Moreover, Bagdikian wrote a month after the strike concluded in the January 1976 issue of The Washington Monthly, the Post’s redoubled emphasis on the bottom line exemplified “a crucial change in American newspapering,” and reflected the “transformation of the daily newspaper in the United States from a family enterprise to a corporation with an obligation to its stockholders to ‘maximize’ profits.”

That tension has had a profound influence on today’s media, and is a principal factor in journalism’s myopic scrutiny of Russian political interference.

 

Cynicism up close and personal

On a personal note, the 1975 strike has bookended my own journalism career. When I was a young City Hall reporter at the Minneapolis Star Tribune in the early 1990s, the city’s liberal mayor summoned me into his office one morning and recounted an interesting conversation he’d had recently with the newspaper’s publisher, Roger Parkinson, who’d arranged for helicopters to transport typeset pages to printing presses while a Post executive during the 1975 strike.

“[Roger] asked me if there’s any way to get around the city ordinance forbidding private helicopters from landing on city buildings, the mayor said.

The Star Tribune was about to enter into negotiations with the newspaper guild, of which I was a member.

“I told him that there was not,” the mayor continued with a sly smile. “I told him that the law was in place to prevent shenanigans like the one the Post pulled to break the pressman’s union. He didn’t seem happy with that answer.”

Years later in 2004, almost a decade before Amazon founder Jeff Bezos purchased the paper, I was a foreign correspondent for the Post, when editors held a series of stories I’d written about Argentina’s debt crisis and the growing national consensus that the government should default because the debt owed to foreign bondholders was largely illegitimate. I was floored: in more than a decade at the paper, I’d never before so much as had a single, completed story go unpublished. In my last 18 months, editors had refused to publish easily a half-dozen articles.

I was telling this to an Argentine economist when he stopped me mid-sentence. “Jon,” he asked, “don’t you think it’s possible that [Post shareholder] Warren Buffett or some other Post shareholder, owns some of Argentina’s paper [i.e., debt] as well, and they don’t want to see any talk of ‘default’ in a newspaper that they partially own?”

I quit the Post a year later.

Top Photo | Over 1,000 striking pressmen and supporters stage a march and rally on the one year anniversary of the Pressman’s strike on October 2, 1976 that culminated with burning Katherine Graham in effigy in front of the Post headquarters. (Photo: Reading/Simpson, non-commercial use permitted)

Jon Jeter is a published book author and two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist with more than 20 years of journalistic experience. He is a former Washington Post bureau chief and award-winning foreign correspondent on two continents, as well as a former radio and television producer for Chicago Public Media’s “This American Life.”

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The Deep Rot Inside the Over-Extended US Armed Forces – By F. William Engdahl

The waste, incompetence, and dysfunction is a reflection of how the US itself has lost its way, becoming a shambling empire rather than the utopian Republic it began as

Mon, Nov 6, 2017
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MORE: Military
The few, the proud, and the gay

Since the inauguration of US President D. J. Trump in January 2017, along with his contingent of generals, Washington has rattled its nuclear and other military sabers in most every direction, threatening to totally destroy North Korea, ramping up weapons deliveries to Syrian opposition groups, scaling up AFRICOM military actions, sending its naval fleets in every imaginable direction from the South China Sea to the Baltic, building up troops along the borders to Russia, threatening Iran…

Behind all the bluster is a US military with morale at an all-time low, with preparedness in many cases abysmally inadequate, and using technologies that are costly to taxpayers and far behind the state of the art of other potential adversaries.

All are symptoms of a failing former sole superpower whose military is being gravely abused and misused, far from the intent for defense of the nation.

US Navy Collisions

 

This August the USS John Sidney McCain, a guided-missile destroyer of the US Navy’s Seventh Fleet collided with an oil tanker off Singapore, killing ten sailors. Two months earlier the Japan-based USS Fitzgerald collided with a merchant ship killing seven sailors and causing an estimated half-a billion dollars in damage. A Naval intelligence investigation found zero evidence of cyber-attack. For once Washington did not try to blame Russia or China. The fault lies at home.Incredible as it may seem, for the world’s largest and most formidable Navy, a decision was made during the Bush-Cheney Administration when Don Rumsfeld was Secretary of Defense to “save money” by scrapping the traditional training of Navy officers.

As naval electronics such as advanced radar, sonar, gun, missile, and data linkage systems became more complex during the 1960s, the Navy created what was called the Surface Warfare Division Officer School which gave future officers a rigorous 12-14 months of training before they boarded their first ship.

In 2003, it was shut down “to create efficiencies,” and replaced by computer-based training (CBT). Instead of attending the earlier training, new naval officers were given a packet of computer training discs and the ship commander was told to be responsible for the competence of officers under their command.

Vice Admiral Timothy LaFleur, the one responsible for the decision, sharply criticized by many officers, insisted the elimination of serious training would, “result in higher professional satisfaction, increase the return on investment during the first division officer tour, and free up more career time downstream.”

The training cuts saved a ludicrous $15 million a year. Moreover, over-reliance on “fail-proof” electronics such as automated radar systems and the automatic identification system (AIS) led to abandonment of human watch-standers actually looking out the bridge window of the ship for dangers. No one was watching on the USS Fitzgerald or the USS McCain.

The commanders of the USS Fitzgerald and the USS McCain were relieved of their commands, hardly a serious response to the deeper problem. The rot goes much deeper.

Lower standards

As any honest experienced military veteran of the 1960s Vietnam War can attest, there is a crucial difference if you come as a foreign soldier to a land and its people who are fighting for their independence from foreign military occupation or defending from foreign attack. Ho Chi Minh, Chairman of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Vietnam, who spent years in the United States and France, led a vastly under-equipped army of peasants against the best-equipped armed force in the world and ultimately won.

The fact that the armed forces of the United States, since the end of the Cold War with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 has not had a convincing “evil” adversary, has had a huge effect on morale. Going to Afghanistan in 2001 to destroy Osama bin Laden, then to Iraq to destroy Saddam Hussein, then to Libya to destroy Muhammar Qaddafi, now to Syria to destroy Bashar al Assad—none of these “adversaries” are morally convincing to most Americans.

Not surprisingly, in this context the US Armed Forces are having difficulty recruiting sufficient qualified, intelligent service personnel for the wars that Washington and its patrons in Wall Street seem to want to wage around the world.This year to meet its quota of new recruits to fill its global missions, the US Army has had to accept recruits with lower qualifications, to take recruits who scored in the lower third of the tests, so called Category Four recruits, including those with records for drug use.

And it is not only the lack of sufficient preparation of its Army personnel or of its naval officers.

Alarming pilot shortage

On October 23, the US Air Force revealed that it is preparing its fleet of B-52 nuclear-capable bombers for 24-hour alert status, something not done since the end of the Cold War, according to Defense One. Airmen at the Barksdale Air Force base are readying the planes “in case the alert order is issued.” The B-52s would be armed with nuclear bombs available to take off at a moment’s notice something that was discontinued with the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.

The mad new plan of Trump’s generals however, has an added problem. The Air Force has a dramatic shortage of qualified pilots.On October 21, President Trump signed an executive order allowing the Air Force to call back to service up to 1,000 retired pilots, by expanding a state of national emergency declared by George W. Bush after Sept. 11, 2001. The order is part of an attempt “to mitigate the Air Force’s acute shortage of pilots,” according to a Pentagon spokesman.

For decades the US military–whose annual budget exceeds that of China, UK, France, Germany, and Russia combined–has waged wars against military opponents such as Iraq or Afghanistan or Libya where there was no contest.

This past June the US Army War College issued a study titled, At Our Own Peril: DoD Risk Assessment in a Post-Primacy World. In the study the authors conclude that the world order created after World War II, dominated by the US “is under enormous stress.” They add, “The order and its constituent parts… were transformed to a unipolar system with the collapse of the Soviet Union, and have by-and-large been dominated by the United States and its major Western and Asian allies since.

Status quo forces collectively are comfortable with their dominant role in dictating the terms of international security outcomes and resist the emergence of rival centers of power and authority.”

The study adds that the US “can no longer count on the unassailable position of dominance, supremacy, or pre-eminence it enjoyed for the 20-plus years after the fall of the Soviet Union.”Now, with the emergence of China as a genuine great power, with the rapid emergence of Russia as a great power in cohesion with China’s vision of an emerging Eurasia, the Trump Administration is warring around with everybody everywhere in what is clearly not either a healthy conduct of US foreign policy nor a serious manner for a mature nation to behave.

Building up and restoring America’s rotting domestic infrastructure, not building up the US military against concocted threats or nations who ask the right to own sovereignty, building the real American economy to rejoin the ranks as a leading industrial nation makes far more sense in my view.


F. William Engdahl is strategic risk consultant and lecturer, he holds a degree in politics from Princeton University and is a best-selling author on oil and geopolitics, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”
https://journal-neo.org/2017/10/29/usa-military-force-projection-semper-paratus/


Source: New Eastern Outlook

 
 
 
 

Mainstream Media Still Hyping The Muslim Boogeyman, Hate Crimes Up – By Roqayah Chamseddine

 MUSLIMGRUPINUS

The first half of the year saw a 91-percent increase in hate crimes against Muslims on the heels of President Donald Trump’s inauguration. His own Islamophobic comments, coupled with biased media coverage of Muslims, have created an aura of fear around the religion in the U.S.

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/Fre8Hl7T9JQ?rel=0&showinfo=0

The American boogeyman of terrorist threats, often used to further war and military intervention, comes with domestic consequences. In the United States, Muslim houses of worship have been inundated with threats of bodily harm and property destruction, as well as seen items like pig’s heads and desecrated Qurans left on their doorsteps.

According to a recent report by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), there was a 91-percent spike in hate crimes against Muslims in the first part of this year compared to the same period in 2016. The abuses Muslims have faced include targeted harassment, FBI intimidation, discriminatory legislation and violent assaults.

 
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The role that the media has played in stoking fears of a Muslim menace can’t be discounted, especially when it comes to how they cover violence. Journalist Mehdi Hasan has argued that this disparity is most obvious when a Muslim is involved in a terrorist act, as the media tends to give it much more coverage than similar incidents involving non-Muslims.

From print media to the programs and films watched on a daily basis, Muslims are often seen through a single lens: as barbarians. This portrayal has real-life impact. Nearly half of Americans believe U.S. Muslims are “anti-American,” and the overall view of Muslims remains deeply negative.


Related | What’s Behind The Surge In Hate Crimes Against American Muslims?


A study conducted by researchers at Georgia State University found that terror attacks in the US between 2011 and 2015, when perpetrated by a Muslim, were given five times more media coverage than terror attacks committed by non-Muslims. And while Muslims carried out 12.4 percent of attacks in the U.S., they received 41.4 percent of news coverage. This extreme focus on Muslims is intentional and leads to violence against not only Muslims, but those mistakenly associated with Muslims, such as Sikhs.

In one of many anti-Muslim incidents, Rick Sorrel of Portland, Oregon admitted that he threatened a Muslim couple in July because of “fear and ignorance” and after being influenced by what he had seen and read in the news and social media. The answer to these types of incidents is a free and independent press that does away with Orientalist stereotypes and treats news as something informative instead of a spectacle to be consumed.

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