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Untouchable - The Uses And Misuses Of ‘Genocide Denial’

Þri, 05/12/2017 - 10:18
  Introduction

One of the wonders of contemporary propaganda is the extent to which corporate commentators are in denial about their use of the term 'genocide denial'. Clearly, they believe they are using a neutral, objective term to describe indisputable facts of genocidal killing and ugly refusals to recognise those facts.

The delusion is quickly exposed when we ask a few simple questions. For example: how often do we see 'mainstream' commentators describing US-UK sanctions on Iraq from 1990-2003 as 'genocidal', as affirmed by senior UN diplomats? How often do journalists describe supporters of the devastating Bush-Blair war on Iraq, the Obama-Cameron war on Libya, or May's war on Yemen as 'genocide deniers'? Can we imagine someone who supported the war on Libya being called an 'Obama apologist'?

Like 'terror' and 'terrorism', 'genocide' and 'genocide denial' are simply not terms that are applied to Western actions.

This really awesome level of bias points to the reality that 'genocide denial' is a propaganda term overwhelmingly used to portray Official Enemies as morally and intellectually despicable, in fact untouchable. As used in the 'mainstream', the term is antirational, an attack on honest debate.

 

'Push Forward On Chomsky'

Relentlessly directed at key voices on the left, like Noam Chomsky, Edward Herman and John Pilger, the real target is the public. 'Genocide denial' has been deployed by Western equivalents of so-called 'Russian bots' to deter people from even considering, much less sharing and supporting, dissident arguments that threaten the goals of established power. Ironically, then, 'genocide denial' is most often used to defend an extremely violent and exploitative status quo.

On the Mondoweiss website, Theodore Sayeed discussed a leaked memo of a meeting of the Henry Jackson Society from November 2005:

'One of the items on the minutes, listed prominently in fourth place, was to discredit Chomsky. Their tack was to allege that he is a "denier" of the Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia. In the art of controversy, slapping the label "denier" on someone is meant to evoke the Holocaust. Chomsky, the furtive charge proceeds, is a kind of Nazi.'

Sayeed assessed the credibility of the claim:

'The only conclusion possible after surveying the material is that the evidence for this "denial" has all the merits of the evidence for chastity in a brothel.'

He added:

'The task of getting this slur into circulation was delegated to Marko Attila Hoare and Oliver Kamm. Among the papers chosen to carry the charge were the Guardian, the Times and the Spectator magazine. The individuals to be approached were then Independent columnist Johann Hari, former political editor of the Spectator Bruce Anderson, and the leader of the Muslim Council of Britain at the time, Sir Iqbal Sacranie. The memo, written in shorthand, states:

'Push forward on Chomsky / Srebrenica issue: Approach Guardian, Johann Hari, Bruce Anderson, THES, Spectator. Approach Sacranie and ask what he is to do about it. (Marko: coordinate with Oliver Kamm) Marko Atilla Hoare outlines the Chomsky case in the Guardian. In effect, this newspaper endorses genocide denial. Gideon Mailer mentions Jonathan Steel's piece in the Guardian also. It was agreed that Marko Atilla Hoare would get in touch with Iqbal Sacranie (for example) and ask what can be done about the denial of genocide against Muslims in Europe during the Balkan wars. It was also thought that this should be mentioned to Johann Hari and the THES.'

As Sayeed noted, 'genocide denial' is intended to present the target as 'a kind of Nazi'. The logic is crude but hidden: Holocaust denial is, of course, widely reviled as the product of minds so poisoned by racist hatred that they reject even obvious truth. Use of the word 'denial' is intended to invite the public to take a mental leap from 'genocide denial' to 'Holocaust denial', thereby tarring left dissidents with the same brush, rendering them intellectually illegitimate in the same way.

Sometimes the connection is made explicit. The same Oliver Kamm of The Times who featured in the Henry Jackson Society memo, wrote of us:

'The stuff [by Chomsky and Herman] that they find so impressive is not merely the moral equivalent of Holocaust denial: it is the methodological equivalent too, using literally the same techniques.'

This was 'literally' nonsense. But anyway, Kamm's real purpose was to suggest that we were morally and intellectually 'the same' as, 'equivalent' to, fascist Holocaust deniers. He has also written of us: 'Genocide denial is the organisation's orthodoxy.'

This use of 'genocide denial' is fundamentally antirational because it declares, not just that a particular argument is illegitimate, but that the particular person making the argument is illegitimate and should be shunned. The focus is on the intellectual and moral integrity of the targeted individual.

Thus, despite privately sending us numerous, oddly amiable emails over the years - beginning, for example, 'Hello, gents' (Email, September 16, 2017) - Kamm has repeatedly and publicly refused to debate with us on the grounds that we are 'genocide deniers':

'It's extraordinary that you consider you're entitled to be treated attentively, or conversed with at all, when you [engage in genocide denial]... Not with any reputable person, you're not.' (This comment was originally posted under an interview with us on the New Internationalist website, but is now unavailable)

The Kafkaesque logic was as comical as it was closed: Kamm described us as 'genocide deniers', but would not discuss the arguments for and against so labelling us. Why? Because we were 'genocide deniers'.

We dealt with Kamm's claims against us here. He has directed similar accusations at the journalist Neil Clark by whom he is currently being sued for stalking, harassment and defamation.

Consider, also, the complete redundancy of the term. In 2006, there was a good case for using the second Lancet study, which estimated 655,000 Iraqi civilian and combatant deaths as a result of the 2003 war, to challenge Iraq Body Count's (then) toll of 49,000 violent civilian deaths.

While one could certainly compare and contrast the competing methodologies and findings of IBC and Lancet, as we did, nothing at all would have been added by describing people engaged in the debate as 'genocide deniers'. The term adds nothing to a rational discussion. Quite the reverse, it actually demands that the argument is already settled. Indeed, as we have seen, it smears the 'denier' as morally debased, as beyond the pale, precisely because he or she is willing to debate an issue that is declared beyond doubt by all right-thinking people.

So, again, it is important to emphasise that the term is anti-intellectual and in fact an attack on rational discourse – it is an attempt to shut down debate.

Untouchable - The Uses And Misuses Of ‘Genocide Denial’

Þri, 05/12/2017 - 10:18
  Introduction

One of the wonders of contemporary propaganda is the extent to which corporate commentators are in denial about their use of the term 'genocide denial'. Clearly, they believe they are using a neutral, objective term to describe indisputable facts of genocidal killing and ugly refusals to recognise those facts.

The delusion is quickly exposed when we ask a few simple questions. For example: how often do we see 'mainstream' commentators describing US-UK sanctions on Iraq from 1990-2003 as 'genocidal', as affirmed by senior UN diplomats? How often do journalists describe supporters of the devastating Bush-Blair war on Iraq, the Obama-Cameron war on Libya, or May's war on Yemen as 'genocide deniers'? Can we imagine someone who supported the war on Libya being called an 'Obama apologist'?

Like 'terror' and 'terrorism', 'genocide' and 'genocide denial' are simply not terms that are applied to Western actions.

This really awesome level of bias points to the reality that 'genocide denial' is a propaganda term overwhelmingly used to portray Official Enemies as morally and intellectually despicable, in fact untouchable. As used in the 'mainstream', the term is antirational, an attack on honest debate.

 

'Push Forward On Chomsky'

Relentlessly directed at key voices on the left, like Noam Chomsky, Edward Herman and John Pilger, the real target is the public. 'Genocide denial' has been deployed by Western equivalents of so-called 'Russian bots' to deter people from even considering, much less sharing and supporting, dissident arguments that threaten the goals of established power. Ironically, then, 'genocide denial' is most often used to defend an extremely violent and exploitative status quo.

On the Mondoweiss website, Theodore Sayeed discussed a leaked memo of a meeting of the Henry Jackson Society from November 2005:

'One of the items on the minutes, listed prominently in fourth place, was to discredit Chomsky. Their tack was to allege that he is a "denier" of the Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia. In the art of controversy, slapping the label "denier" on someone is meant to evoke the Holocaust. Chomsky, the furtive charge proceeds, is a kind of Nazi.'

Sayeed assessed the credibility of the claim:

'The only conclusion possible after surveying the material is that the evidence for this "denial" has all the merits of the evidence for chastity in a brothel.'

He added:

'The task of getting this slur into circulation was delegated to Marko Attila Hoare and Oliver Kamm. Among the papers chosen to carry the charge were the Guardian, the Times and the Spectator magazine. The individuals to be approached were then Independent columnist Johann Hari, former political editor of the Spectator Bruce Anderson, and the leader of the Muslim Council of Britain at the time, Sir Iqbal Sacranie. The memo, written in shorthand, states:

'Push forward on Chomsky / Srebrenica issue: Approach Guardian, Johann Hari, Bruce Anderson, THES, Spectator. Approach Sacranie and ask what he is to do about it. (Marko: coordinate with Oliver Kamm) Marko Atilla Hoare outlines the Chomsky case in the Guardian. In effect, this newspaper endorses genocide denial. Gideon Mailer mentions Jonathan Steel's piece in the Guardian also. It was agreed that Marko Atilla Hoare would get in touch with Iqbal Sacranie (for example) and ask what can be done about the denial of genocide against Muslims in Europe during the Balkan wars. It was also thought that this should be mentioned to Johann Hari and the THES.'

As Sayeed noted, 'genocide denial' is intended to present the target as 'a kind of Nazi'. The logic is crude but hidden: Holocaust denial is, of course, widely reviled as the product of minds so poisoned by racist hatred that they reject even obvious truth. Use of the word 'denial' is intended to invite the public to take a mental leap from 'genocide denial' to 'Holocaust denial', thereby tarring left dissidents with the same brush, rendering them intellectually illegitimate in the same way.

Sometimes the connection is made explicit. The same Oliver Kamm of The Times who featured in the Henry Jackson Society memo, wrote of us:

'The stuff [by Chomsky and Herman] that they find so impressive is not merely the moral equivalent of Holocaust denial: it is the methodological equivalent too, using literally the same techniques.'

This was 'literally' nonsense. But anyway, Kamm's real purpose was to suggest that we were morally and intellectually 'the same' as, 'equivalent' to, fascist Holocaust deniers. He has also written of us: 'Genocide denial is the organisation's orthodoxy.'

This use of 'genocide denial' is fundamentally antirational because it declares, not just that a particular argument is illegitimate, but that the particular person making the argument is illegitimate and should be shunned. The focus is on the intellectual and moral integrity of the targeted individual.

Thus, despite privately sending us numerous, oddly amiable emails over the years - beginning, for example, 'Hello, gents' (Email, September 16, 2017) - Kamm has repeatedly and publicly refused to debate with us on the grounds that we are 'genocide deniers':

'It's extraordinary that you consider you're entitled to be treated attentively, or conversed with at all, when you [engage in genocide denial]... Not with any reputable person, you're not.' (This comment was originally posted under an interview with us on the New Internationalist website, but is now unavailable)

The Kafkaesque logic was as comical as it was closed: Kamm described us as 'genocide deniers', but would not discuss the arguments for and against so labelling us. Why? Because we were 'genocide deniers'.

We dealt with Kamm's claims against us here. He has directed similar accusations at the journalist Neil Clark by whom he is currently being sued for stalking, harassment and defamation.

Consider, also, the complete redundancy of the term. In 2006, there was a good case for using the second Lancet study, which estimated 655,000 Iraqi civilian and combatant deaths as a result of the 2003 war, to challenge Iraq Body Count's (then) toll of 49,000 violent civilian deaths.

While one could certainly compare and contrast the competing methodologies and findings of IBC and Lancet, as we did, nothing at all would have been added by describing people engaged in the debate as 'genocide deniers'. The term adds nothing to a rational discussion. Quite the reverse, it actually demands that the argument is already settled. Indeed, as we have seen, it smears the 'denier' as morally debased, as beyond the pale, precisely because he or she is willing to debate an issue that is declared beyond doubt by all right-thinking people.

So, again, it is important to emphasise that the term is anti-intellectual and in fact an attack on rational discourse – it is an attempt to shut down debate.

Survival? Symptoms Of Breakdown

Mið, 22/11/2017 - 12:51

If the human species survives long enough, future historians might well marvel at what passed for 'mainstream' media and politics in the early 21st century.

They will see that a UK Defence Secretary had to resign because of serious allegations of sexual misconduct; or, as he put it euphemistically, because he had 'fallen short'. But he did not have to resign because of the immense misery he had helped to inflict upon Yemen. Nor was he made to resign when he told MPs to stop criticising Saudi Arabia because that would be 'unhelpful' while the UK government was trying to sell the human rights-abusing extremist regime in Riyadh more fighter jets and weapons. After all, the amount sold in the first half of 2017 was a mere £1.1 billion. (See our recent media alert for more on this.) Right now, the UK is complicit in a Saudi blockade of Yemen's ports and airspace, preventing the delivery of vital medicine and food aid. 7.3 million Yemenis are already on the brink of famine, and the World Food Programme has warned of the deaths of 150,000 malnourished children in the next few months.

Meanwhile, Robert Peston, ITV political editor, and Laura Kuenssberg, BBC News political editor, have seemingly never questioned the British Prime Minister Theresa May about the UK's shameful role in arming and supporting Yemen's cruel tormentor. Nor have they responded when challenged about their own silence.

Future historians will also note that British newspapers, notably The Times and the 'left-leaning' Guardian, published several sycophantic PR pieces for Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, 'a risk-taker with a zeal for reform'. 'Is he taking on too much too fast?', asked a swooning Patrick Wintour, the Guardian's diplomatic editor. Martin Chulov, the paper's Middle East correspondent, waxed lyrical about the Crown Prince's 'bold move' in arresting senior royals, a prominent Saudi billionaire and scores of former ministers as part of a 'corruption purge'. The dramatic action was designed to 'consolidate power' while bin Salman 'attempts to reform [the] kingdom's economy and society'. As Adam Johnson noted in a media analysis piece for Fairness in Accuracy And Reporting, the Guardian's coverage was akin to a 'breathless press release.' A follow-up article by Chulov, observed Johnson, 'took flattering coverage to new extremes'. The 'rush to reform' was presented uncritically by the paper, painting the Crown Prince as a kind of populist hero; 'a curious framing that reeks more of PR than journalism.'

Meanwhile, Richard Spencer, Middle East editor of The Times, wrote articles proclaiming, 'Prince's bold vision drives progress in Saudi Arabia' and 'It's wrong to blame all terror on the Saudis', featuring such propaganda bullet points as:

'the Saudis are on our side, arresting militants and giving us vital intelligence'.

In October 2017, The Times even ran a four-part series promoting a Saudi conference to attract investment in the head-chopping kingdom with the lure of 'sweeping social and economic reforms'. As for any awkward questions about the brutality Saudi Arabia was inflicting on Yemen, well, they were swept away.

Historians examining media archives from this time will also observe that Gordon Brown, Chancellor of the Exchequer in Tony Blair's government, opined that the UK had been 'misled' about Iraq's supposed weapons of mass destruction:

'Top-secret US intelligence casting serious doubt over [Saddam Hussein's] destructive capabilities was not shared with Britain.'

As a result, claimed Brown, Blair was 'duped' into invading Iraq. And thus 'duped' into shared responsibility for the deaths of around one million Iraqis.

'Mainstream' news journalists blandly reported Brown's miserable excuses without demur. They failed to mention that former UN chief weapons inspector Scott Ritter had comprehensively dismissed the propaganda notion of Saddam as a threat well before the US-led invasion of March 2003. Ritter's team had concluded that Iraq had been 'fundamentally disarmed', with anything that remained being simply 'useless sludge' because of the limited 'shelf-lives' of chemical and biological weapons. This crucial information was already available by October 2002, five months before the invasion, in a handy short book that somehow 'escaped' the attention of the British government, including Brown, and that of a compliant corporate media that broadcast endless Western propaganda.

Nevertheless, millions of people around the world marched against the Iraq war before it began, because they did not swallow the torrent of deceits emanating from Washington and London. Brown, however, had always backed Blair to the hilt, telling the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war in 2010 that Blair took 'the right decision for the right reasons' and insisting that 'everything that Mr Blair did during this period, he did properly'.

Future historians will also study the media hysteria in 2017 over 'Russiagate' that focused obsessively on outraged claims of supposed pivotal Russian interference in Trump's election as US President. But, as US investigative reporter Glenn Greenwald noted:

'Inflammatory claims about Russia get mindlessly hyped by media outlets, almost always based on nothing more than evidence-free claims from government officials, only to collapse under the slightest scrutiny, because they are entirely lacking in evidence.'

Greenwald is not saying that there was definitely no Russian interference. But the 'evidence' for decisive intervention presented thus far is unconvincing, to say the least. The crucial point is that Western corporate media have only ever given minimal coverage to major longstanding US government efforts to intervene in other countries - from propaganda campaigns, meddling in foreign elections, and all the way up to assassinations, coups and full-blown invasions. A Time magazine cover story in 1996 even boasted that US interference helped Boris Yeltsin to be re-elected as president of Russia:

'Exclusive: Yanks to the Rescue. The Secret Story of How American Advisers Helped Yeltsin Win.'

The historical record will also reveal, in apparent blindness and deafness to this extensive record of US criminal behaviour, that BBC News journalists based there frequently end up gushing about the greatness of 'America'. It is a rite of passage that demonstrates their bona fides as servants of power.

It will not surprise future historians that prestigious press and broadcasting awards were given to those who reported within the limits circumscribed by established power. Such rewards were few for those who dared to expose crimes by the West or 'our' allies.

One of these 'allies', arguably the most important in the Middle East, is Israel. Earlier this month, Priti Patel resigned as Britain's minister for international aid after it had been revealed that she had had numerous secret meetings with Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, while on a 'family holiday'. She had also visited an Israeli military field hospital that treats Al Qaedi-affiliated fighters. Following her trip, Patel had actually wanted to send UK aid to the powerful Israeli army, even while cutting Palestinian aid to vital projects in Gaza. The episode briefly opened 'a small, opaque window on the UK's powerful Israel lobby', observed Jonathan Cook. But the topic of the Israel lobby is seemingly taboo in polite British society. Laura Kuenssberg quickly deleted a tweet she had sent out quoting an unnamed senior Tory MP complaining about the 'corrupt' relationship that has enabled Israel to 'buy access' in Westminster.

Perhaps, then, it was no surprise that when the UN Special Rapporteur on the Occupied Territories published a strongly-worded report in New York on October 26, 2017, the resulting media silence was deafening. Michael Lynk, a Canadian professor of law and a human rights expert, called on the world to hold Israel accountable for fundamental violations of international law during fifty years of occupation. This was especially timely with the 100-year anniversary of the Balfour Declaration that effectively stole Palestine from the Palestinians who were 'ethnically cleansed' from the land that became the state of Israel.

Lynk encouraged the international community to take 'unified actions on an escalating basis' to declare the occupation illegal and to demand Israel's withdrawal. Gaza, he said, was 'in misery', and Israel's continued illegal occupation of the West Bank and east Jerusalem was a 'darkening stain'. Despite the seriousness of these charges, and their authoritative UN source, we could not find a single mention in the UK press or on the BBC News website. Scholars in the future will marvel at this stunning media obedience to Western power, obtained without visible coercion.

 

'An Existential Threat To Our Civilisation'

Undoubtedly, what will appal future historians most is that the urgent calamitous risks of human-induced climate change were well known, but that nothing was done to stop the looming chaos. Worse than that: powerful private business, financial and economic elites, and the governments they had essentially co-opted, forged ahead with policies that accelerated the climate crisis.

The evidence has already been unequivocal for many years. In November 2017, a comprehensive review of climate science by thirteen US federal agencies concluded in a 477-page report that evidence of global warming was 'stronger than ever'. They said that it was 'extremely likely' – meaning with 95 to 100% certainty – that global warming is human-induced, mostly from carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of coal, oil and natural gas.

One climate scientist said:

'A lot of what we've been learning over the last four years suggests the possibility that things may have been more serious than we think.'

The language was couched in typical scientific caution. But the horror at what was unfolding was surely not far from the surface of academics' minds.

And yet, in a further sign of the short-term insanity that drives state and corporate policy, governments continued to channel huge sums of public money into planet-killing industries. European states, including the UK government, gave more than €112bn (£99bn) every year in subsidies to support fossil fuel production and consumption.

In 2016, gas companies spent €104m in intensive lobbying campaigns to try to encourage European policymakers to accept the myth that natural gas is a 'clean fuel' in an attempt to 'lock in' fossil fuels for decades to come. Moreover, fossil fuel companies lobbied hard behind the scenes of the Paris climate talks, as well as follow-up negotiations, to manipulate outcomes in their private favour. After all, cynical corporate madness has no boundaries when profits are the overriding concern. Absurdly, the text of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change did not even include the words 'fossil fuels'. Scientists warned that fossil fuel burning is set to hit a record high in 2017.

Meanwhile, it has been reported that 2017 is set to be one of the top three hottest years on record, according to the World Meteorological Organization. The WMO also noted that atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide have 'surged at unprecedented speed' to the highest level in 800,000 years

The signs of ecological breakdown are all around us. Last month, a new study revealed that the abundance of flying insects has plunged by three-quarters over the past 25 years. The results had 'shocked scientists'. This matters hugely because flying insects are, of course, a vital component of a healthy ecosystem upon which we are crucially dependent for food, water and oxygen. Robert Hunziker observes succinctly that this ecosystem, 'the quintessential essence of life on our planet', is breaking down. Our life support system is being destroyed.

One of the many symptoms of this breakdown that is likely to overwhelm human society is mass migration as a result of climate change. Tens of millions of people will be forced to move because of climate disruption in the next decade alone. This flood of human refugees will make the numbers of those who fled the Syrian conflict into Europe look like a trickle.

Sir David King, the former chief scientific adviser to the UK government, said:

'What we are talking about here is an existential threat to our civilisation in the longer term. In the short term, it carries all sorts of risks as well and it requires a human response on a scale that has never been achieved before.'

However, if governments really were motivated to protect the public, as they always claim when amplifying the threat of terrorism, they would have already announced a halt to fossil fuels and a massive conversion to renewable energy. A landmark study recently showed that global pollution kills nine million people a year and threatens the 'survival of human societies'. If terrorism was killing nine million people every year, and the very survival of human society was threatened, the corporate media and politicians would be reacting very differently. But because it's global pollution, merely an economic 'externality', private power can continue on its quest for dominance and profits.

The situation now is truly desperate. We are literally talking about the survival of the human species. There will be those who declare, either with black humour or a morally-suspect flippancy, that 'the planet would be better off without us'. But we surely cannot so casually dismiss the lives and prospects of literally billions of people alive today and their descendants too.

Government policies are driven primarily by short-term political gain and corporate power, so there needs to be a massive public demand for control of the economy towards sustainability. The alternative is no human future. But just at a time when public resistance and radical action are most needed, social media networks owned and controlled by huge corporations are suppressing dissent. A major part of the struggle for human survival, then, will be to overcome the unaccountable media corporations and tech giants that are attempting to define what is deemed 'acceptable' news and commentary.

DC

Survival? Symptoms Of Breakdown

Mið, 22/11/2017 - 12:51

If the human species survives long enough, future historians might well marvel at what passed for 'mainstream' media and politics in the early 21st century.

They will see that a UK Defence Secretary had to resign because of serious allegations of sexual misconduct; or, as he put it euphemistically, because he had 'fallen short'. But he did not have to resign because of the immense misery he had helped to inflict upon Yemen. Nor was he made to resign when he told MPs to stop criticising Saudi Arabia because that would be 'unhelpful' while the UK government was trying to sell the human rights-abusing extremist regime in Riyadh more fighter jets and weapons. After all, the amount sold in the first half of 2017 was a mere £1.1 billion. (See our recent media alert for more on this.) Right now, the UK is complicit in a Saudi blockade of Yemen's ports and airspace, preventing the delivery of vital medicine and food aid. 7.3 million Yemenis are already on the brink of famine, and the World Food Programme has warned of the deaths of 150,000 malnourished children in the next few months.

Meanwhile, Robert Peston, ITV political editor, and Laura Kuenssberg, BBC News political editor, have seemingly never questioned the British Prime Minister Theresa May about the UK's shameful role in arming and supporting Yemen's cruel tormentor. Nor have they responded when challenged about their own silence.

Future historians will also note that British newspapers, notably The Times and the 'left-leaning' Guardian, published several sycophantic PR pieces for Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, 'a risk-taker with a zeal for reform'. 'Is he taking on too much too fast?', asked a swooning Patrick Wintour, the Guardian's diplomatic editor. Martin Chulov, the paper's Middle East correspondent, waxed lyrical about the Crown Prince's 'bold move' in arresting senior royals, a prominent Saudi billionaire and scores of former ministers as part of a 'corruption purge'. The dramatic action was designed to 'consolidate power' while bin Salman 'attempts to reform [the] kingdom's economy and society'. As Adam Johnson noted in a media analysis piece for Fairness in Accuracy And Reporting, the Guardian's coverage was akin to a 'breathless press release.' A follow-up article by Chulov, observed Johnson, 'took flattering coverage to new extremes'. The 'rush to reform' was presented uncritically by the paper, painting the Crown Prince as a kind of populist hero; 'a curious framing that reeks more of PR than journalism.'

Meanwhile, Richard Spencer, Middle East editor of The Times, wrote articles proclaiming, 'Prince's bold vision drives progress in Saudi Arabia' and 'It's wrong to blame all terror on the Saudis', featuring such propaganda bullet points as:

'the Saudis are on our side, arresting militants and giving us vital intelligence'.

In October 2017, The Times even ran a four-part series promoting a Saudi conference to attract investment in the head-chopping kingdom with the lure of 'sweeping social and economic reforms'. As for any awkward questions about the brutality Saudi Arabia was inflicting on Yemen, well, they were swept away.

Historians examining media archives from this time will also observe that Gordon Brown, Chancellor of the Exchequer in Tony Blair's government, opined that the UK had been 'misled' about Iraq's supposed weapons of mass destruction:

'Top-secret US intelligence casting serious doubt over [Saddam Hussein's] destructive capabilities was not shared with Britain.'

As a result, claimed Brown, Blair was 'duped' into invading Iraq. And thus 'duped' into shared responsibility for the deaths of around one million Iraqis.

'Mainstream' news journalists blandly reported Brown's miserable excuses without demur. They failed to mention that former UN chief weapons inspector Scott Ritter had comprehensively dismissed the propaganda notion of Saddam as a threat well before the US-led invasion of March 2003. Ritter's team had concluded that Iraq had been 'fundamentally disarmed', with anything that remained being simply 'useless sludge' because of the limited 'shelf-lives' of chemical and biological weapons. This crucial information was already available by October 2002, five months before the invasion, in a handy short book that somehow 'escaped' the attention of the British government, including Brown, and that of a compliant corporate media that broadcast endless Western propaganda.

Nevertheless, millions of people around the world marched against the Iraq war before it began, because they did not swallow the torrent of deceits emanating from Washington and London. Brown, however, had always backed Blair to the hilt, telling the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war in 2010 that Blair took 'the right decision for the right reasons' and insisting that 'everything that Mr Blair did during this period, he did properly'.

Future historians will also study the media hysteria in 2017 over 'Russiagate' that focused obsessively on outraged claims of supposed pivotal Russian interference in Trump's election as US President. But, as US investigative reporter Glenn Greenwald noted:

'Inflammatory claims about Russia get mindlessly hyped by media outlets, almost always based on nothing more than evidence-free claims from government officials, only to collapse under the slightest scrutiny, because they are entirely lacking in evidence.'

Greenwald is not saying that there was definitely no Russian interference. But the 'evidence' for decisive intervention presented thus far is unconvincing, to say the least. The crucial point is that Western corporate media have only ever given minimal coverage to major longstanding US government efforts to intervene in other countries - from propaganda campaigns, meddling in foreign elections, and all the way up to assassinations, coups and full-blown invasions. A Time magazine cover story in 1996 even boasted that US interference helped Boris Yeltsin to be re-elected as president of Russia:

'Exclusive: Yanks to the Rescue. The Secret Story of How American Advisers Helped Yeltsin Win.'

The historical record will also reveal, in apparent blindness and deafness to this extensive record of US criminal behaviour, that BBC News journalists based there frequently end up gushing about the greatness of 'America'. It is a rite of passage that demonstrates their bona fides as servants of power.

It will not surprise future historians that prestigious press and broadcasting awards were given to those who reported within the limits circumscribed by established power. Such rewards were few for those who dared to expose crimes by the West or 'our' allies.

One of these 'allies', arguably the most important in the Middle East, is Israel. Earlier this month, Priti Patel resigned as Britain's minister for international aid after it had been revealed that she had had numerous secret meetings with Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, while on a 'family holiday'. She had also visited an Israeli military field hospital that treats Al Qaedi-affiliated fighters. Following her trip, Patel had actually wanted to send UK aid to the powerful Israeli army, even while cutting Palestinian aid to vital projects in Gaza. The episode briefly opened 'a small, opaque window on the UK's powerful Israel lobby', observed Jonathan Cook. But the topic of the Israel lobby is seemingly taboo in polite British society. Laura Kuenssberg quickly deleted a tweet she had sent out quoting an unnamed senior Tory MP complaining about the 'corrupt' relationship that has enabled Israel to 'buy access' in Westminster.

Perhaps, then, it was no surprise that when the UN Special Rapporteur on the Occupied Territories published a strongly-worded report in New York on October 26, 2017, the resulting media silence was deafening. Michael Lynk, a Canadian professor of law and a human rights expert, called on the world to hold Israel accountable for fundamental violations of international law during fifty years of occupation. This was especially timely with the 100-year anniversary of the Balfour Declaration that effectively stole Palestine from the Palestinians who were 'ethnically cleansed' from the land that became the state of Israel.

Lynk encouraged the international community to take 'unified actions on an escalating basis' to declare the occupation illegal and to demand Israel's withdrawal. Gaza, he said, was 'in misery', and Israel's continued illegal occupation of the West Bank and east Jerusalem was a 'darkening stain'. Despite the seriousness of these charges, and their authoritative UN source, we could not find a single mention in the UK press or on the BBC News website. Scholars in the future will marvel at this stunning media obedience to Western power, obtained without visible coercion.

 

'An Existential Threat To Our Civilisation'

Undoubtedly, what will appal future historians most is that the urgent calamitous risks of human-induced climate change were well known, but that nothing was done to stop the looming chaos. Worse than that: powerful private business, financial and economic elites, and the governments they had essentially co-opted, forged ahead with policies that accelerated the climate crisis.

The evidence has already been unequivocal for many years. In November 2017, a comprehensive review of climate science by thirteen US federal agencies concluded in a 477-page report that evidence of global warming was 'stronger than ever'. They said that it was 'extremely likely' – meaning with 95 to 100% certainty – that global warming is human-induced, mostly from carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of coal, oil and natural gas.

One climate scientist said:

'A lot of what we've been learning over the last four years suggests the possibility that things may have been more serious than we think.'

The language was couched in typical scientific caution. But the horror at what was unfolding was surely not far from the surface of academics' minds.

And yet, in a further sign of the short-term insanity that drives state and corporate policy, governments continued to channel huge sums of public money into planet-killing industries. European states, including the UK government, gave more than €112bn (£99bn) every year in subsidies to support fossil fuel production and consumption.

In 2016, gas companies spent €104m in intensive lobbying campaigns to try to encourage European policymakers to accept the myth that natural gas is a 'clean fuel' in an attempt to 'lock in' fossil fuels for decades to come. Moreover, fossil fuel companies lobbied hard behind the scenes of the Paris climate talks, as well as follow-up negotiations, to manipulate outcomes in their private favour. After all, cynical corporate madness has no boundaries when profits are the overriding concern. Absurdly, the text of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change did not even include the words 'fossil fuels'. Scientists warned that fossil fuel burning is set to hit a record high in 2017.

Meanwhile, it has been reported that 2017 is set to be one of the top three hottest years on record, according to the World Meteorological Organization. The WMO also noted that atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide have 'surged at unprecedented speed' to the highest level in 800,000 years

The signs of ecological breakdown are all around us. Last month, a new study revealed that the abundance of flying insects has plunged by three-quarters over the past 25 years. The results had 'shocked scientists'. This matters hugely because flying insects are, of course, a vital component of a healthy ecosystem upon which we are crucially dependent for food, water and oxygen. Robert Hunziker observes succinctly that this ecosystem, 'the quintessential essence of life on our planet', is breaking down. Our life support system is being destroyed.

One of the many symptoms of this breakdown that is likely to overwhelm human society is mass migration as a result of climate change. Tens of millions of people will be forced to move because of climate disruption in the next decade alone. This flood of human refugees will make the numbers of those who fled the Syrian conflict into Europe look like a trickle.

Sir David King, the former chief scientific adviser to the UK government, said:

'What we are talking about here is an existential threat to our civilisation in the longer term. In the short term, it carries all sorts of risks as well and it requires a human response on a scale that has never been achieved before.'

However, if governments really were motivated to protect the public, as they always claim when amplifying the threat of terrorism, they would have already announced a halt to fossil fuels and a massive conversion to renewable energy. A landmark study recently showed that global pollution kills nine million people a year and threatens the 'survival of human societies'. If terrorism was killing nine million people every year, and the very survival of human society was threatened, the corporate media and politicians would be reacting very differently. But because it's global pollution, merely an economic 'externality', private power can continue on its quest for dominance and profits.

The situation now is truly desperate. We are literally talking about the survival of the human species. There will be those who declare, either with black humour or a morally-suspect flippancy, that 'the planet would be better off without us'. But we surely cannot so casually dismiss the lives and prospects of literally billions of people alive today and their descendants too.

Government policies are driven primarily by short-term political gain and corporate power, so there needs to be a massive public demand for control of the economy towards sustainability. The alternative is no human future. But just at a time when public resistance and radical action are most needed, social media networks owned and controlled by huge corporations are suppressing dissent. A major part of the struggle for human survival, then, will be to overcome the unaccountable media corporations and tech giants that are attempting to define what is deemed 'acceptable' news and commentary.

DC

'Inappropriate Behaviour' – Michael Fallon, Yemen, And The ‘Mainstream’ That Is Anything But

Fös, 10/11/2017 - 09:00

 

The truth of corporate journalism, and the great irony of its obsession with 'fake news', is that it is itself utterly fake. What could be more obviously fake than the idea that Truth can be sold by billionaire-owned media dependent on billionaire-owned advertisers for maximised profit?

The 'mainstream' worldview is anything but – it is extreme, weird, a product of corporate conformity and deference to power. As Norman Mailer observed:

'There is an odour to any Press Headquarters that is unmistakeable... The unavoidable smell of flesh burning quietly and slowly in the service of a machine.' (Mailer, 'The Time Of Our Time', Little Brown, 1998, p.457)

A prime example of 'mainstream' extremism is the way the UK's illegal wars destroying whole countries are not an issue for corporate moralists. Physicians for Global Responsibility estimate that 1.3 million people have been killed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan alone. And yet it is simply understood that UK wars will not be a theme during general elections (See here and here). By contrast, other kinds of 'inappropriate behaviour' are subject to intense scrutiny.

Consider the recent resignation of Defence Secretary Michael Fallon and his replacement by Prime Minister Theresa May's Chief Whip, Gavin Williamson. Fallon resigned after it was revealed that he had 'repeatedly touched the broadcaster Julia Hartley-Brewer's knee at a dinner in 2002'.

Fallon was damaged further by revelations that he had lunged at journalist Jane Merrick:

'This was not a farewell peck on the cheek, but a direct lunge at my lips.'

The Commons leader Andrea Leadsom also disclosed that she had complained about 'lewd remarks' Fallon had made to her.

Sexual harassment is a serious issue, despite the scoffing of some male commentators. In the Mail on Sunday, Peter Hitchens shamefully dismissed women's complaints as mere 'squawking'.

But it is strange indeed that, while harassment is rightly deemed a resigning offence, other 'inappropriate behaviour' leaves 'mainstream' commentators completely unmoved.

Fallon voted for both the 2003 war that destroyed Iraq and the 2011 war that wrecked Libya. He voted for war on Syria. He voted for replacing the Trident nuclear missile system. Earlier this year, he even declared that Britain would be willing to launch a nuclear first strike.

After he was made Secretary of Defence in July 2014, Fallon oversaw the supply of weapons to Saudi Arabia waging war on Yemen. Two years later, Campaign Against Arms Trade reported that UK sales to Saudi Arabia since the start of the war included £2.2 billion of aircraft, helicopters and drones, £1.1 billion of missiles, bombs and grenades, and nearly half a million pounds' worth of tanks and other armoured vehicles. British sales of military equipment to the kingdom topped £1.1bn in the first half of this year alone.

In December 2016, Fallon admitted that internationally banned cluster munitions supplied by the UK had been used in Saudi Arabia's bombing campaign. Six months earlier, Amnesty International had reported that British-made cluster bombs were being used in attacks on civilians that had claimed the lives of children. For none of these horrors did Fallon resign.

So what kind of conflict are these weapons fuelling? The Guardian reports this week:

'Yemen is in the grip of the world's worst cholera outbreak and 7 million people are already on the brink of famine.'

In July, Reliefweb reported:

'The scale of the food crisis in conflict-ridden Yemen is staggering with 17 million people - two thirds of the population - severely food insecure and seven million of these on the verge of famine.'

Director-General of the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation, José Graziano da Silva, has described Yemen as the UN's 'largest humanitarian crisis today', noting that conflict and violence have disrupted agriculture, with violence intensifying in areas most short of food. In December 2016, a study by UNICEF, the UN children's agency, found that at least one child was dying in Yemen every 10 minutes. The agency found that, since 2014, there had been a 200 per cent increase in children suffering from severe acute malnutrition, with almost half a million affected. Nearly 2.2 million children were in need of urgent care.

This week, the Saudi-led coalition declared it would close Yemen's borders to prevent an alleged flow of weapons from Iran, after it intercepted a missile attack by Houthi rebels near Riyadh, the Saudi capital. Johan Mooij, Yemen director of Care International, commented:

'For the last two days, nothing has got in or out of the country. Fuel prices have gone up by 50% and there are queues at the gas stations. People fear no more fuel will come into Hodeidah port.'

He added:

'People depend on the humanitarian aid and part of the cholera issue [is] that they do not eat and are not strong enough to deal with unclean water.'

There have been 'daily airstrikes in Sana'a,' Mooij said, adding: 'People fear the situation is escalating.'

On Monday, the UN's World Food Program said that, out of Yemen's entire population of 28 million people, about 20 million, 'do not know where they're going to get their next meal'. These are Fallon's millions, May's millions, the 'mainstream's' millions.

In the Independent, Mary Dejevsky made the only mention of Yemen in an article discussing Fallon's resignation that we have seen in the national corporate press:

'In the Middle East [on Fallon's watch], the UK made great efforts to maintain its alliance with Saudi Arabia – and the arms sales that went with it – playing down the desperate plight of Yemen which was a by-product of this policy.'

Mass death, Iraq and Libya destroyed, millions of lives torn apart, profiteering in the billions from the torture of an impoverished, famine-stricken nation – none of this was deemed worthy even of mention in considering the record of Fallon and his 'inappropriate behaviour'.

As for his replacement, the Guardian's Andrew Sparrow tweeted a link to his blog piece titled: '10 things you might not know about Gavin Williamson'. Vital facts included news that the new Defence Secretary 'kept a pet tarantula called Cronus on his desk', 'likes hedgehogs', 'is only 41', and 'went to a comprehensive school'.

Sparrow was adhering to the journalistic convention that parliamentary politics should be depicted as a light-hearted, Wodehousian farce. It is all a bit of a laugh - everybody means well. Despite Williamson's lethal new role, the word 'war' was not mentioned.

Preoccupied with spiders and hedgehogs, Sparrow found no space to mention that Williamson 'almost always voted for use of UK military forces in combat operations overseas'. He voted for war in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq. He voted against the Yemen motion put before the House of Commons in October 2016 that merely called on the Government to suspend its support for the Saudi Arabia-led coalition forces in Yemen until it had been determined whether they had been responsible for war crimes. The motion was defeated by 283 votes to 193, telling us everything we need to know about the 'mainstream's' much-loved myth that British policy is motivated by a 'responsibility to protect'.

The BBC's political editor Laura Kuenssberg tweeted a link to the BBC's own comedy profile, which also discussed the tarantula and other nonsense, and made no mention of Williamson's record on war. We asked Kuenssberg:

'Will you be asking him if he has any regrets on voting against the Yemen motion to suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia, given the vast civilian crisis?'

We received no reply.

The extreme cognitive dissonance guiding 'mainstream' moral outrage was again highlighted by the Guardian columnist Gaby Hinsliff, who tweeted:

'Can't help thinking that now would be quite a good time for the first ever female defence secretary, really'

We asked:

'What difference would it make to the civilians dying under our bombs in Yemen and Syria? Isn't that the key issue on "defence"?'

Hinsliff did not reply. But the answer, of course, is that it would make no difference at all.

DE

 

 

'Inappropriate Behaviour' – Michael Fallon, Yemen, And The ‘Mainstream’ That Is Anything But

Fös, 10/11/2017 - 09:00

 

The truth of corporate journalism, and the great irony of its obsession with 'fake news', is that it is itself utterly fake. What could be more obviously fake than the idea that Truth can be sold by billionaire-owned media dependent on billionaire-owned advertisers for maximised profit?

The 'mainstream' worldview is anything but – it is extreme, weird, a product of corporate conformity and deference to power. As Norman Mailer observed:

'There is an odour to any Press Headquarters that is unmistakeable... The unavoidable smell of flesh burning quietly and slowly in the service of a machine.' (Mailer, 'The Time Of Our Time', Little Brown, 1998, p.457)

A prime example of 'mainstream' extremism is the way the UK's illegal wars destroying whole countries are not an issue for corporate moralists. Physicians for Global Responsibility estimate that 1.3 million people have been killed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan alone. And yet it is simply understood that UK wars will not be a theme during general elections (See here and here). By contrast, other kinds of 'inappropriate behaviour' are subject to intense scrutiny.

Consider the recent resignation of Defence Secretary Michael Fallon and his replacement by Prime Minister Theresa May's Chief Whip, Gavin Williamson. Fallon resigned after it was revealed that he had 'repeatedly touched the broadcaster Julia Hartley-Brewer's knee at a dinner in 2002'.

Fallon was damaged further by revelations that he had lunged at journalist Jane Merrick:

'This was not a farewell peck on the cheek, but a direct lunge at my lips.'

The Commons leader Andrea Leadsom also disclosed that she had complained about 'lewd remarks' Fallon had made to her.

Sexual harassment is a serious issue, despite the scoffing of some male commentators. In the Mail on Sunday, Peter Hitchens shamefully dismissed women's complaints as mere 'squawking'.

But it is strange indeed that, while harassment is rightly deemed a resigning offence, other 'inappropriate behaviour' leaves 'mainstream' commentators completely unmoved.

Fallon voted for both the 2003 war that destroyed Iraq and the 2011 war that wrecked Libya. He voted for war on Syria. He voted for replacing the Trident nuclear missile system. Earlier this year, he even declared that Britain would be willing to launch a nuclear first strike.

After he was made Secretary of Defence in July 2014, Fallon oversaw the supply of weapons to Saudi Arabia waging war on Yemen. Two years later, Campaign Against Arms Trade reported that UK sales to Saudi Arabia since the start of the war included £2.2 billion of aircraft, helicopters and drones, £1.1 billion of missiles, bombs and grenades, and nearly half a million pounds' worth of tanks and other armoured vehicles. British sales of military equipment to the kingdom topped £1.1bn in the first half of this year alone.

In December 2016, Fallon admitted that internationally banned cluster munitions supplied by the UK had been used in Saudi Arabia's bombing campaign. Six months earlier, Amnesty International had reported that British-made cluster bombs were being used in attacks on civilians that had claimed the lives of children. For none of these horrors did Fallon resign.

So what kind of conflict are these weapons fuelling? The Guardian reports this week:

'Yemen is in the grip of the world's worst cholera outbreak and 7 million people are already on the brink of famine.'

In July, Reliefweb reported:

'The scale of the food crisis in conflict-ridden Yemen is staggering with 17 million people - two thirds of the population - severely food insecure and seven million of these on the verge of famine.'

Director-General of the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation, José Graziano da Silva, has described Yemen as the UN's 'largest humanitarian crisis today', noting that conflict and violence have disrupted agriculture, with violence intensifying in areas most short of food. In December 2016, a study by UNICEF, the UN children's agency, found that at least one child was dying in Yemen every 10 minutes. The agency found that, since 2014, there had been a 200 per cent increase in children suffering from severe acute malnutrition, with almost half a million affected. Nearly 2.2 million children were in need of urgent care.

This week, the Saudi-led coalition declared it would close Yemen's borders to prevent an alleged flow of weapons from Iran, after it intercepted a missile attack by Houthi rebels near Riyadh, the Saudi capital. Johan Mooij, Yemen director of Care International, commented:

'For the last two days, nothing has got in or out of the country. Fuel prices have gone up by 50% and there are queues at the gas stations. People fear no more fuel will come into Hodeidah port.'

He added:

'People depend on the humanitarian aid and part of the cholera issue [is] that they do not eat and are not strong enough to deal with unclean water.'

There have been 'daily airstrikes in Sana'a,' Mooij said, adding: 'People fear the situation is escalating.'

On Monday, the UN's World Food Program said that, out of Yemen's entire population of 28 million people, about 20 million, 'do not know where they're going to get their next meal'. These are Fallon's millions, May's millions, the 'mainstream's' millions.

In the Independent, Mary Dejevsky made the only mention of Yemen in an article discussing Fallon's resignation that we have seen in the national corporate press:

'In the Middle East [on Fallon's watch], the UK made great efforts to maintain its alliance with Saudi Arabia – and the arms sales that went with it – playing down the desperate plight of Yemen which was a by-product of this policy.'

Mass death, Iraq and Libya destroyed, millions of lives torn apart, profiteering in the billions from the torture of an impoverished, famine-stricken nation – none of this was deemed worthy even of mention in considering the record of Fallon and his 'inappropriate behaviour'.

As for his replacement, the Guardian's Andrew Sparrow tweeted a link to his blog piece titled: '10 things you might not know about Gavin Williamson'. Vital facts included news that the new Defence Secretary 'kept a pet tarantula called Cronus on his desk', 'likes hedgehogs', 'is only 41', and 'went to a comprehensive school'.

Sparrow was adhering to the journalistic convention that parliamentary politics should be depicted as a light-hearted, Wodehousian farce. It is all a bit of a laugh - everybody means well. Despite Williamson's lethal new role, the word 'war' was not mentioned.

Preoccupied with spiders and hedgehogs, Sparrow found no space to mention that Williamson 'almost always voted for use of UK military forces in combat operations overseas'. He voted for war in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq. He voted against the Yemen motion put before the House of Commons in October 2016 that merely called on the Government to suspend its support for the Saudi Arabia-led coalition forces in Yemen until it had been determined whether they had been responsible for war crimes. The motion was defeated by 283 votes to 193, telling us everything we need to know about the 'mainstream's' much-loved myth that British policy is motivated by a 'responsibility to protect'.

The BBC's political editor Laura Kuenssberg tweeted a link to the BBC's own comedy profile, which also discussed the tarantula and other nonsense, and made no mention of Williamson's record on war. We asked Kuenssberg:

'Will you be asking him if he has any regrets on voting against the Yemen motion to suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia, given the vast civilian crisis?'

We received no reply.

The extreme cognitive dissonance guiding 'mainstream' moral outrage was again highlighted by the Guardian columnist Gaby Hinsliff, who tweeted:

'Can't help thinking that now would be quite a good time for the first ever female defence secretary, really'

We asked:

'What difference would it make to the civilians dying under our bombs in Yemen and Syria? Isn't that the key issue on "defence"?'

Hinsliff did not reply. But the answer, of course, is that it would make no difference at all.

DE

 

 

Noam Chomsky And The BBC: A Brief Comparison

Þri, 10/10/2017 - 10:21

A recent interview with 88-year-old Noam Chomsky once again demonstrates just how insightful he is in providing rational analysis of Western power and the suffering it generates. By contrast, anyone relying on BBC News receives a power-friendly view of the world, systematically distorted in a way that allows the state and private interests to pursue business as usual.

In what follows, we present examples of Chomsky's clarity on several important topics and contrast them with the distortions and silences from BBC News. These examples are not intended to be fully comprehensive, with lots of detailed background. But they are highly illustrative of the propaganda nature of what the BBC broadcasts every day.

First, consider North Korea which has carried out missile tests that have 'demonstrated its growing power and expertise, stoking tensions with the US', as the BBC puts it. A helpful graphic shows much of the northern hemisphere within range of these missiles. In particular, the west coast of the United States is portrayed as under real threat from the 'hermit' state's nuclear missiles: a scaremongering scenario that BBC News has promoted in line with the propaganda requirements of the White House, the Pentagon and the arms industry. Video clips on the BBC News website have titles such as 'N Korea announces nuclear test', 'S Korea drill response to N Korea missile', 'We're used to hearing about being bombed' and 'I don't know when I might be killed'.

In a forthcoming book of interviews with journalist David Barsamian, 'Global Discontents: Conversations on the Rising Threats to Democracy', Chomsky acknowledges that North Korea has a 'growing arsenal of nuclear weapons and missiles' which does indeed 'pose a threat to the region and, in the longer term, to countries beyond.' But then he provides vital context for this arsenal of weapons:

'its function is to be a deterrent, one that the North Korean regime is unlikely to abandon as long as it remains under threat of destruction.'

Yes, threat of destruction; something that is very real in the historical memory of the people:

'North Koreans remember well that their country was literally flattened by U.S. bombing, and many may recall how U.S. forces bombed major dams when there were no other targets left. There were gleeful reports in American military publications about the exciting spectacle of a huge flood of water wiping out the rice crops on which "the Asian" depends for survival.'

Today, as Chomsky notes, we are instructed that 'the great challenge faced by the world' is how to compel North Korea to freeze its nuclear and missile programmes. 'Perhaps we should resort to more sanctions, cyberwar, intimidation [...] perhaps even to direct attack on North Korea'.

He then continues:

'But there is another option, one that seems to be ignored: we could simply accept North Korea's offer to do what we are demanding. China and North Korea have already proposed that North Korea freeze its nuclear and missile programs. The proposal, though, was rejected at once by Washington, just as it had been two years earlier, because it includes a quid pro quo: it calls on the United States to halt its threatening military exercises on North Korea's borders, including simulated nuclear-bombing attacks by B-52s.'

Wait. What was that? There is another option? An article in The Diplomat, which describes itself as 'the premier international current-affairs magazine for the Asia-Pacific region', outlines the proposal; namely that:

'Pyongyang declare a moratorium on both nuclear and missile tests, in exchange for the United States and South Korea halting their large-scale joint military exercises.'

China has given this proposal the succinct name of 'dual suspensions'.

Chomsky explains further:

'The offer to freeze North Korea's nuclear and missile programs in return for an end to highly provocative actions on North Korea's border could be the basis for more far-reaching negotiations, which could radically reduce the nuclear threat and perhaps even bring the North Korea crisis to an end. Contrary to much inflamed commentary, there are good reasons to think such negotiations might succeed.'

He continues:

'Yet even though the North Korean programs are constantly described as perhaps the greatest threat we face, the Chinese-North Korean proposal is unacceptable to Washington, and is rejected by U.S. commentators with impressive unanimity. This is another entry in the shameful and depressing record of near-reflexive preference for force when peaceful options may well be available.'

So, there is a reasonable proposal from China and North Korea that could form the basis for negotiations leading to a peaceful resolution of the crisis – but it has been dismissed by Washington and US commentators. To what extent has it been covered by BBC News? Consider a report by Seoul-based BBC correspondent Stephen Evans when US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson threatened North Korea with military action. Like Obama, Trump has ruled out negotiation with North Korea. The 'situation remains the same', said Evans in the section of the BBC News report grandly titled 'Analysis':

'North Korea shows no hint of being willing to renounce nuclear weapons, whatever economic blows it receives and whatever China might think.'

If a BBC News reporter presents an 'analysis' that does not mention an important proposal that could bring about peace, and which the US has outright dismissed, what does that say about BBC bias?

This is not a one-off. Washington-based BBC correspondent Barbara Plett-Usher noted dutifully that Tillerson had urged an 'international response' to North Korea's nuclear and missile tests, without once mentioning the China-North Korea proposal.

Last month, BBC's China editor Carrie Gracie also offered her 'Analysis':

'China has insisted time and again that it will never accept North Korea as a nuclear weapons state, and it can't avoid the obvious and urgent question: how does China intend to stop it?'

There was nothing about the proposal that China has made, with North Korea, to address the stalemate. Likewise, earlier in the year, Gracie had said in another BBC News report:

'So in Beijing today, Mr Tillerson kept it diplomatic. There was no public repetition of President Trump's complaint that China is not doing enough to prevent North Korea's nuclear and missile programmes.'

The BBC News reporter was thus uncritically presenting Washington's 'complaint' about China without pointing out that its rational proposal had been summarily dismissed by the US. This is not journalism; it is power-friendly propaganda.

Noam Chomsky And The BBC: A Brief Comparison

Þri, 10/10/2017 - 10:21

A recent interview with 88-year-old Noam Chomsky once again demonstrates just how insightful he is in providing rational analysis of Western power and the suffering it generates. By contrast, anyone relying on BBC News receives a power-friendly view of the world, systematically distorted in a way that allows the state and private interests to pursue business as usual.

In what follows, we present examples of Chomsky's clarity on several important topics and contrast them with the distortions and silences from BBC News. These examples are not intended to be fully comprehensive, with lots of detailed background. But they are highly illustrative of the propaganda nature of what the BBC broadcasts every day.

First, consider North Korea which has carried out missile tests that have 'demonstrated its growing power and expertise, stoking tensions with the US', as the BBC puts it. A helpful graphic shows much of the northern hemisphere within range of these missiles. In particular, the west coast of the United States is portrayed as under real threat from the 'hermit' state's nuclear missiles: a scaremongering scenario that BBC News has promoted in line with the propaganda requirements of the White House, the Pentagon and the arms industry. Video clips on the BBC News website have titles such as 'N Korea announces nuclear test', 'S Korea drill response to N Korea missile', 'We're used to hearing about being bombed' and 'I don't know when I might be killed'.

In a forthcoming book of interviews with journalist David Barsamian, 'Global Discontents: Conversations on the Rising Threats to Democracy', Chomsky acknowledges that North Korea has a 'growing arsenal of nuclear weapons and missiles' which does indeed 'pose a threat to the region and, in the longer term, to countries beyond.' But then he provides vital context for this arsenal of weapons:

'its function is to be a deterrent, one that the North Korean regime is unlikely to abandon as long as it remains under threat of destruction.'

Yes, threat of destruction; something that is very real in the historical memory of the people:

'North Koreans remember well that their country was literally flattened by U.S. bombing, and many may recall how U.S. forces bombed major dams when there were no other targets left. There were gleeful reports in American military publications about the exciting spectacle of a huge flood of water wiping out the rice crops on which "the Asian" depends for survival.'

Today, as Chomsky notes, we are instructed that 'the great challenge faced by the world' is how to compel North Korea to freeze its nuclear and missile programmes. 'Perhaps we should resort to more sanctions, cyberwar, intimidation [...] perhaps even to direct attack on North Korea'.

He then continues:

'But there is another option, one that seems to be ignored: we could simply accept North Korea's offer to do what we are demanding. China and North Korea have already proposed that North Korea freeze its nuclear and missile programs. The proposal, though, was rejected at once by Washington, just as it had been two years earlier, because it includes a quid pro quo: it calls on the United States to halt its threatening military exercises on North Korea's borders, including simulated nuclear-bombing attacks by B-52s.'

Wait. What was that? There is another option? An article in The Diplomat, which describes itself as 'the premier international current-affairs magazine for the Asia-Pacific region', outlines the proposal; namely that:

'Pyongyang declare a moratorium on both nuclear and missile tests, in exchange for the United States and South Korea halting their large-scale joint military exercises.'

China has given this proposal the succinct name of 'dual suspensions'.

Chomsky explains further:

'The offer to freeze North Korea's nuclear and missile programs in return for an end to highly provocative actions on North Korea's border could be the basis for more far-reaching negotiations, which could radically reduce the nuclear threat and perhaps even bring the North Korea crisis to an end. Contrary to much inflamed commentary, there are good reasons to think such negotiations might succeed.'

He continues:

'Yet even though the North Korean programs are constantly described as perhaps the greatest threat we face, the Chinese-North Korean proposal is unacceptable to Washington, and is rejected by U.S. commentators with impressive unanimity. This is another entry in the shameful and depressing record of near-reflexive preference for force when peaceful options may well be available.'

So, there is a reasonable proposal from China and North Korea that could form the basis for negotiations leading to a peaceful resolution of the crisis – but it has been dismissed by Washington and US commentators. To what extent has it been covered by BBC News? Consider a report by Seoul-based BBC correspondent Stephen Evans when US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson threatened North Korea with military action. Like Obama, Trump has ruled out negotiation with North Korea. The 'situation remains the same', said Evans in the section of the BBC News report grandly titled 'Analysis':

'North Korea shows no hint of being willing to renounce nuclear weapons, whatever economic blows it receives and whatever China might think.'

If a BBC News reporter presents an 'analysis' that does not mention an important proposal that could bring about peace, and which the US has outright dismissed, what does that say about BBC bias?

This is not a one-off. Washington-based BBC correspondent Barbara Plett-Usher noted dutifully that Tillerson had urged an 'international response' to North Korea's nuclear and missile tests, without once mentioning the China-North Korea proposal.

Last month, BBC's China editor Carrie Gracie also offered her 'Analysis':

'China has insisted time and again that it will never accept North Korea as a nuclear weapons state, and it can't avoid the obvious and urgent question: how does China intend to stop it?'

There was nothing about the proposal that China has made, with North Korea, to address the stalemate. Likewise, earlier in the year, Gracie had said in another BBC News report:

'So in Beijing today, Mr Tillerson kept it diplomatic. There was no public repetition of President Trump's complaint that China is not doing enough to prevent North Korea's nuclear and missile programmes.'

The BBC News reporter was thus uncritically presenting Washington's 'complaint' about China without pointing out that its rational proposal had been summarily dismissed by the US. This is not journalism; it is power-friendly propaganda.

Bowing Down Before The BBC: Polly Toynbee and The Role Of A Liberal Propagandist

Mið, 20/09/2017 - 06:30

A standard technique deployed by corporate journalists to fend off challenges from the public is to point to selected examples of 'abuse' and then tar all reasoned criticism with the same mucky brush. Or, if that doesn't work, to sneer at claims of 'conspiracy' or 'plots', thus permitting instant dismissal of the arguments made. Polly Toynbee managed to combine the two techniques in a recent Guardian column. It is a near-masterclass in liberal propaganda.

Toynbee began her article by claiming that the BBC, described in hagiographic terms as 'the nation's crucible', is 'often bad at defending itself'. With BBC journalism supposedly 'under ferocious and unjustified attack', in particular from both 'pro- and anti-Brexiteers', she was pleased to hear BBC chairman David Clementi 'standing up for its journalists' in his speech at the Royal Television Society convention in Cambridge last week.

Clementi said it was unacceptable for politicians, whom he did not name, to 'stand by and watch' heckling at press conferences. He added:

'I have become increasingly aware of the abuse that some of them – particularly female journalists – are subject to on an almost daily basis.'

He continued:

'These days, there is much more abuse. It is increasingly explicit and aggressive. And much of it occurs online.

'I welcome the work the Government is doing to tackle this, and I'm following closely the efforts of Twitter and Facebook, amongst others, to clamp down on the perpetrators. I hope the social media platforms do even more.'

It is obviously true that sexist and misogynist abuse exists on social media and that threats against women should be taken seriously. But as website Skwawkbox rightly pointed out, the speech by Clementi, a former deputy governor of the Bank of England, was actually 'a barely-veiled attack on new media'. He:

'ignore[d] the fact that anger toward journalists is, overwhelmingly, precisely because they do not "do their job" and ask the awkward, unwelcome question – and most of the rest of the time, it's because they ask ridiculous questions.'

Skwawkbox added:

'The BBC angers the aware amongst its viewers and readers precisely by failing to question government policy, instead giving government ministers and spokespeople not just a "free ride" but an untrammelled opportunity to propagandise unchallenged.'

This is not territory that Toynbee wished to explore.

Next, she referred to the reported claim that Laura Kuenssberg, the BBC's political editor, has been appointed a bodyguard. In the following sentence, Toynbee then mentioned Jo Cox, the Labour MP who was murdered in June 2016. This was an insidious link to make, implying that criticism of Kuenssberg's journalism would increase the risk of any death threats against her. Toynbee made no reference to a petition by website 38 Degrees being taken down last year after claims of 'sexist abuse' against Kuenssberg. The petition, signed by 35,000 people, had protested her blatantly biased anti-Jeremy Corbyn reporting.

The former UK ambassador Craig Murray said that he had read through every single one of the comments on the 38 Degrees website when around 26,000 people had signed the petition. He noted:

'Of the many scores, possibly hundreds (there is no counter) of comments I read through, only one was sexist. That one was very unpleasant, but totally unrepresentative. I can see no reason why they could not just delete any such stupid comments. Everywhere on the internet gets them, including this blog.'

Murray added:

'It seems to me astonishing that a tiny and unrepresentative number of people can get a petition scrapped which had been signed by many thousands of genuine people.'

He was later told by 38 Degrees that the alleged abuse was not on the petition website itself; it 'was on connected social media'. But when Murray asked them for the evidence of abuse, 'they absolutely refuse[d] to show it.'

Murray continued:

'We have had five people searching all day. So far we have one single tweet, which was nasty – it called Laura K by a expletive reserved for women. And it did refer to the petition. But it was sent by a young man, 90% of whose comments referred to football and 100% of whose tweets used similar expletives. [...] But even if there are more nasty examples of abuse, that is not the fault of the 35,000 good people who signed the petition. [...] I utterly condemn any such abuse, but it does not negate the genuine concerns of the petitioners. Regular readers know I myself receive constant abuse, sometimes death threats.'

As for the BBC's political editor, Murray described her as:

'the most openly biased journalist I have ever seen on the BBC, particularly in her very obvious vindictive hatred of Jeremy Corbyn and of Scottish Independence.'

Inevitably, the corporate media's focus on a tiny number of abusive comments helped to block any discussion about deep-rooted BBC bias.

Bowing Down Before The BBC: Polly Toynbee and The Role Of A Liberal Propagandist

Mið, 20/09/2017 - 06:30

A standard technique deployed by corporate journalists to fend off challenges from the public is to point to selected examples of 'abuse' and then tar all reasoned criticism with the same mucky brush. Or, if that doesn't work, to sneer at claims of 'conspiracy' or 'plots', thus permitting instant dismissal of the arguments made. Polly Toynbee managed to combine the two techniques in a recent Guardian column. It is a near-masterclass in liberal propaganda.

Toynbee began her article by claiming that the BBC, described in hagiographic terms as 'the nation's crucible', is 'often bad at defending itself'. With BBC journalism supposedly 'under ferocious and unjustified attack', in particular from both 'pro- and anti-Brexiteers', she was pleased to hear BBC chairman David Clementi 'standing up for its journalists' in his speech at the Royal Television Society convention in Cambridge last week.

Clementi said it was unacceptable for politicians, whom he did not name, to 'stand by and watch' heckling at press conferences. He added:

'I have become increasingly aware of the abuse that some of them – particularly female journalists – are subject to on an almost daily basis.'

He continued:

'These days, there is much more abuse. It is increasingly explicit and aggressive. And much of it occurs online.

'I welcome the work the Government is doing to tackle this, and I'm following closely the efforts of Twitter and Facebook, amongst others, to clamp down on the perpetrators. I hope the social media platforms do even more.'

It is obviously true that sexist and misogynist abuse exists on social media and that threats against women should be taken seriously. But as website Skwawkbox rightly pointed out, the speech by Clementi, a former deputy governor of the Bank of England, was actually 'a barely-veiled attack on new media'. He:

'ignore[d] the fact that anger toward journalists is, overwhelmingly, precisely because they do not "do their job" and ask the awkward, unwelcome question – and most of the rest of the time, it's because they ask ridiculous questions.'

Skwawkbox added:

'The BBC angers the aware amongst its viewers and readers precisely by failing to question government policy, instead giving government ministers and spokespeople not just a "free ride" but an untrammelled opportunity to propagandise unchallenged.'

This is not territory that Toynbee wished to explore.

Next, she referred to the reported claim that Laura Kuenssberg, the BBC's political editor, has been appointed a bodyguard. In the following sentence, Toynbee then mentioned Jo Cox, the Labour MP who was murdered in June 2016. This was an insidious link to make, implying that criticism of Kuenssberg's journalism would increase the risk of any death threats against her. Toynbee made no reference to a petition by website 38 Degrees being taken down last year after claims of 'sexist abuse' against Kuenssberg. The petition, signed by 35,000 people, had protested her blatantly biased anti-Jeremy Corbyn reporting.

The former UK ambassador Craig Murray said that he had read through every single one of the comments on the 38 Degrees website when around 26,000 people had signed the petition. He noted:

'Of the many scores, possibly hundreds (there is no counter) of comments I read through, only one was sexist. That one was very unpleasant, but totally unrepresentative. I can see no reason why they could not just delete any such stupid comments. Everywhere on the internet gets them, including this blog.'

Murray added:

'It seems to me astonishing that a tiny and unrepresentative number of people can get a petition scrapped which had been signed by many thousands of genuine people.'

He was later told by 38 Degrees that the alleged abuse was not on the petition website itself; it 'was on connected social media'. But when Murray asked them for the evidence of abuse, 'they absolutely refuse[d] to show it.'

Murray continued:

'We have had five people searching all day. So far we have one single tweet, which was nasty – it called Laura K by a expletive reserved for women. And it did refer to the petition. But it was sent by a young man, 90% of whose comments referred to football and 100% of whose tweets used similar expletives. [...] But even if there are more nasty examples of abuse, that is not the fault of the 35,000 good people who signed the petition. [...] I utterly condemn any such abuse, but it does not negate the genuine concerns of the petitioners. Regular readers know I myself receive constant abuse, sometimes death threats.'

As for the BBC's political editor, Murray described her as:

'the most openly biased journalist I have ever seen on the BBC, particularly in her very obvious vindictive hatred of Jeremy Corbyn and of Scottish Independence.'

Inevitably, the corporate media's focus on a tiny number of abusive comments helped to block any discussion about deep-rooted BBC bias.

Preferred Conclusions – The BBC, Syria And Venezuela

Mið, 13/09/2017 - 07:47

 

As the late media activist Danny Schechter wrote, when it comes to the corporate broadcast media: 'The more you watch, the less you know.'

Schechter's observation only fails in one key respect: 'mainstream' output does tell us a lot about which foreign governments are being lined up for regime change.

In 2013, it was remarkable to see the BBC reporting claims from Syria on a daily basis in a way that almost always blamed the Syrian government, and President Assad personally, for horrendous war crimes. But as the New York Times reported last month, the picture was rather less black and white. The US was embroiled in a dirty war that was 'one of the costliest covert action programs in the history of the C.I.A', running to 'more than $1 billion over the life of the program'. Its aim was to support a vast 'rebel' army created and armed by the US, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey to overthrow the Syrian government.

The BBC's relentless headline stories were mostly supplied by 'activists' and 'rebels' who, in fact, were militants attempting to overthrow Assad, and whose claims could not be verified. Veteran Middle East correspondent Patrick Cockburn described the problem afflicting virtually all 'mainstream' reporting on Syria:

'All wars always produce phony atrocity stories – along with real atrocities. But in the Syrian case fabricated news and one-sided reporting have taken over the news agenda to a degree probably not seen since the First World War... The real reason that reporting of the Syrian conflict has been so inadequate is that Western news organisations have almost entirely outsourced their coverage to the rebel side.'

There was a simple reason why 'rebel' claims were uncontested: they originated from 'areas controlled by people so dangerous no foreign journalist dare set foot among them'. The additional point being that 'it has never been plausible that unaffiliated local citizens would be allowed to report freely'.

This was obvious to everyone, doubtless including the BBC, which nevertheless produced a tsunami of 'rebel'-sourced propaganda. Crucially, these stories were not balanced attempts to explore the various claims; they sought to establish a version of events justifying regime change: 'rebels' and 'activists' were 'good', Assad was 'bad' and had to go. Journalist Robert Parry explains:

'The job of the media is not to provide as much meaningful information as possible to the people so they can exercise their free judgment; it is to package certain information in a way to guide the people to a preferred conclusion.'

The BBC campaign was clearly inspired – whether consciously or otherwise - by a high-level decision to engineer regime change in Syria.

The key moment arrived in August 2013 when the US came very close to launching a major attack against Syrian government forces, supposedly in response to Assad's alleged use of chemical weapons in Ghouta, Damascus. Only the UK parliament's rejection of the case for war and warnings from US generals on doubts about the claims, and likely fallout from regime change, prevented Obama from attacking.

Particularly disturbing was the fact that, as the possibility of a direct US regime change effort faded, so too did the steady flow of BBC atrocity claims. It was as if, with the goal temporarily unattainable, the propaganda tap was simply closed. It was later re-opened ahead of an anticipated, pro-war Clinton presidency, and then as part of an attempt to push president-elect Trump to intensify the Syrian war.

Preferred Conclusions – The BBC, Syria And Venezuela

Mið, 13/09/2017 - 07:47

 

As the late media activist Danny Schechter wrote, when it comes to the corporate broadcast media: 'The more you watch, the less you know.'

Schechter's observation only fails in one key respect: 'mainstream' output does tell us a lot about which foreign governments are being lined up for regime change.

In 2013, it was remarkable to see the BBC reporting claims from Syria on a daily basis in a way that almost always blamed the Syrian government, and President Assad personally, for horrendous war crimes. But as the New York Times reported last month, the picture was rather less black and white. The US was embroiled in a dirty war that was 'one of the costliest covert action programs in the history of the C.I.A', running to 'more than $1 billion over the life of the program'. Its aim was to support a vast 'rebel' army created and armed by the US, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey to overthrow the Syrian government.

The BBC's relentless headline stories were mostly supplied by 'activists' and 'rebels' who, in fact, were militants attempting to overthrow Assad, and whose claims could not be verified. Veteran Middle East correspondent Patrick Cockburn described the problem afflicting virtually all 'mainstream' reporting on Syria:

'All wars always produce phony atrocity stories – along with real atrocities. But in the Syrian case fabricated news and one-sided reporting have taken over the news agenda to a degree probably not seen since the First World War... The real reason that reporting of the Syrian conflict has been so inadequate is that Western news organisations have almost entirely outsourced their coverage to the rebel side.'

There was a simple reason why 'rebel' claims were uncontested: they originated from 'areas controlled by people so dangerous no foreign journalist dare set foot among them'. The additional point being that 'it has never been plausible that unaffiliated local citizens would be allowed to report freely'.

This was obvious to everyone, doubtless including the BBC, which nevertheless produced a tsunami of 'rebel'-sourced propaganda. Crucially, these stories were not balanced attempts to explore the various claims; they sought to establish a version of events justifying regime change: 'rebels' and 'activists' were 'good', Assad was 'bad' and had to go. Journalist Robert Parry explains:

'The job of the media is not to provide as much meaningful information as possible to the people so they can exercise their free judgment; it is to package certain information in a way to guide the people to a preferred conclusion.'

The BBC campaign was clearly inspired – whether consciously or otherwise - by a high-level decision to engineer regime change in Syria.

The key moment arrived in August 2013 when the US came very close to launching a major attack against Syrian government forces, supposedly in response to Assad's alleged use of chemical weapons in Ghouta, Damascus. Only the UK parliament's rejection of the case for war and warnings from US generals on doubts about the claims, and likely fallout from regime change, prevented Obama from attacking.

Particularly disturbing was the fact that, as the possibility of a direct US regime change effort faded, so too did the steady flow of BBC atrocity claims. It was as if, with the goal temporarily unattainable, the propaganda tap was simply closed. It was later re-opened ahead of an anticipated, pro-war Clinton presidency, and then as part of an attempt to push president-elect Trump to intensify the Syrian war.

The BBC’s Climate Denialism: Coverage Of Hurricane Harvey And The South Asian Floods

Þri, 05/09/2017 - 07:07

In J.G. Ballard's classic novel, The Drowned World, people are struggling for survival on a post-apocalyptic, overheating planet. A 'sudden instability in the Sun' has unleashed increased solar radiation, melting the polar ice caps and causing global temperatures to rise by a few degrees each year. Once-temperate areas, such as Europe and North America, have become flooded tropical lands, 'sweltering under continuous heat waves'. Life has become tolerable only within the former Arctic and Antarctic Circles.

The frailty of 'civilisation' and the attempts to cope with psychological changes in the human condition as a result of the catastrophe are laid bare. It is a frightening surreal vision of the human predicament by a master novelist. At one point, one of the characters is asked about his life before the apocalypse. He answers, 'I'm afraid I remember nothing. The immediate past is of no interest to me.'

Hurricane Harvey has provided a genuinely terrifying glimpse of a global Ballardian dystopia that may actually be humanity's fate. And yet, even now, corporate media are suppressing the truth.

On August 25, the category 4 Hurricane Harvey, with 130 mph winds, made landfall near Corpus Christi on the southern coast of Texas. Harvey's progress then stalled over Houston, the fourth largest city in the United States, dumping enormous 'unprecedented' quantities of water, creating 'a 1-in-1,000-year flood event'. To date, 50 people have been killed, around one million residents have been displaced and 200,000 homes have been damaged in a 'path of destruction' stretching for over 300 miles. The Washington Post reported that:

'the intensity and scope of the disaster were so enormous that weather forecasters, first responders, the victims, everyone really, couldn't believe their eyes.'

The total financial cost of Harvey is yet to be determined. But, according to the governor of Texas, damages will likely be in the range of $150 billion to $180 billion, exceeding the $118 billion cost of Hurricane Katrina that devastated New Orleans in 2005. Around 80 per cent of Hurricane Harvey victims do not even have flood insurance; many had skipped buying insurance believing it to have been a 'low-risk gamble'.

Meteorologist Eric Holthaus surveyed the deaths and devastation caused by Harvey and said bluntly: 'this is what climate change looks like'. He added:

'The symbolism of the worst flooding disaster in U.S. history hitting the sprawled-out capital city of America's oil industry is likely not lost on many. Institutionalized climate denial in our political system and climate denial by inaction by the rest of us have real consequences. They look like Houston.'

BBC News reported that Harvey had actually shut down almost a quarter of the US capacity for oil refining.

Other societal factors have played their part in worsening the crisis. Dr Andrew King, a climate extremes research fellow at the University of Melbourne, observes that Houston is the second-fastest growing city in the US, adding:

'As the region's population grows, more and more of southern Texas is being paved with impermeable surfaces. This means that when there is extreme rainfall the water takes longer to drain away, prolonging and intensifying the floods.'

As Robert McSweeney and Simon Evans note in a piece for Carbon Brief:

'The rising population also changes flood risk in some unexpected ways. Parts of Houston are subsiding rapidly as a result of people extracting too much groundwater'.

Moreover:

'the US government was warned 20 years ago, in a National Wildlife Federation report, that its flood insurance programme was encouraging homes to be built, and rebuilt, in flood-prone areas of the country. [...] Two decades on, the author of the report says a flood event like Hurricane Harvey "was inevitable".'

Meanwhile, halfway around the planet in South Asia, an even greater climate-related catastrophe was taking place. Reuters observed that 'the worst monsoon floods in a decade' have killed over 1,400 people across India, Nepal and Bangladesh. Around 41 million people have been displaced. That number is simply staggering. And in areas with little infrastructure and financial resources, the consequences are almost unthinkable. The Times of India reported that rains had brought Mumbai, a city of 18 million people, 'to its knees'.

E.A. Crunden wrote in a piece for ThinkProgress that the crisis:

'is alarming aid officials, who say the issue is spiraling into an unprecedented disaster.'

Francis Markus, a spokesman for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, told the New York Times of his concern that the disaster in South Asia might not get the attention it needs:

'We hope people won't overlook the desperate needs of the people here because of the disasters closer [to] home.'

Although coverage of the monsoon flooding in South Asia was not entirely absent in British media by any means, it was swamped by the coverage devoted to Harvey in Texas and Louisiana. We conducted a ProQuest newspaper database search on September 4 for the period since August 25 (the day Hurricane Harvey hit Texas). Our search yielded just 26 stories in the UK national press on the South Asian flooding, while there were 695 articles on Harvey. Thus, coverage from the US dominated South Asia by a factor of almost 30 to 1, even though the scale of deaths and flooding was far greater in the latter. There was some good coverage of both, notably in the Guardian. But the general trend was glaring. Somehow, people in South Asia just don't matter as much as Americans; or Westerners in general.

Similarly, Ben Parker, a senior editor at IRIN, a non-profit group specialising in humanitarian news, consulted databases of online news stories and noted that 'US media last week [Aug 24-31] mentioned Hurricane Harvey at least 100 times more than India'. As for the rest of the world, the gap was smaller: non-US media gave 3-4 times as much attention to Harvey as to the monsoons.

The BBC’s Climate Denialism: Coverage Of Hurricane Harvey And The South Asian Floods

Þri, 05/09/2017 - 07:07

In J.G. Ballard's classic novel, The Drowned World, people are struggling for survival on a post-apocalyptic, overheating planet. A 'sudden instability in the Sun' has unleashed increased solar radiation, melting the polar ice caps and causing global temperatures to rise by a few degrees each year. Once-temperate areas, such as Europe and North America, have become flooded tropical lands, 'sweltering under continuous heat waves'. Life has become tolerable only within the former Arctic and Antarctic Circles.

The frailty of 'civilisation' and the attempts to cope with psychological changes in the human condition as a result of the catastrophe are laid bare. It is a frightening surreal vision of the human predicament by a master novelist. At one point, one of the characters is asked about his life before the apocalypse. He answers, 'I'm afraid I remember nothing. The immediate past is of no interest to me.'

Hurricane Harvey has provided a genuinely terrifying glimpse of a global Ballardian dystopia that may actually be humanity's fate. And yet, even now, corporate media are suppressing the truth.

On August 25, the category 4 Hurricane Harvey, with 130 mph winds, made landfall near Corpus Christi on the southern coast of Texas. Harvey's progress then stalled over Houston, the fourth largest city in the United States, dumping enormous 'unprecedented' quantities of water, creating 'a 1-in-1,000-year flood event'. To date, 50 people have been killed, around one million residents have been displaced and 200,000 homes have been damaged in a 'path of destruction' stretching for over 300 miles. The Washington Post reported that:

'the intensity and scope of the disaster were so enormous that weather forecasters, first responders, the victims, everyone really, couldn't believe their eyes.'

The total financial cost of Harvey is yet to be determined. But, according to the governor of Texas, damages will likely be in the range of $150 billion to $180 billion, exceeding the $118 billion cost of Hurricane Katrina that devastated New Orleans in 2005. Around 80 per cent of Hurricane Harvey victims do not even have flood insurance; many had skipped buying insurance believing it to have been a 'low-risk gamble'.

Meteorologist Eric Holthaus surveyed the deaths and devastation caused by Harvey and said bluntly: 'this is what climate change looks like'. He added:

'The symbolism of the worst flooding disaster in U.S. history hitting the sprawled-out capital city of America's oil industry is likely not lost on many. Institutionalized climate denial in our political system and climate denial by inaction by the rest of us have real consequences. They look like Houston.'

BBC News reported that Harvey had actually shut down almost a quarter of the US capacity for oil refining.

Other societal factors have played their part in worsening the crisis. Dr Andrew King, a climate extremes research fellow at the University of Melbourne, observes that Houston is the second-fastest growing city in the US, adding:

'As the region's population grows, more and more of southern Texas is being paved with impermeable surfaces. This means that when there is extreme rainfall the water takes longer to drain away, prolonging and intensifying the floods.'

As Robert McSweeney and Simon Evans note in a piece for Carbon Brief:

'The rising population also changes flood risk in some unexpected ways. Parts of Houston are subsiding rapidly as a result of people extracting too much groundwater'.

Moreover:

'the US government was warned 20 years ago, in a National Wildlife Federation report, that its flood insurance programme was encouraging homes to be built, and rebuilt, in flood-prone areas of the country. [...] Two decades on, the author of the report says a flood event like Hurricane Harvey "was inevitable".'

Meanwhile, halfway around the planet in South Asia, an even greater climate-related catastrophe was taking place. Reuters observed that 'the worst monsoon floods in a decade' have killed over 1,400 people across India, Nepal and Bangladesh. Around 41 million people have been displaced. That number is simply staggering. And in areas with little infrastructure and financial resources, the consequences are almost unthinkable. The Times of India reported that rains had brought Mumbai, a city of 18 million people, 'to its knees'.

E.A. Crunden wrote in a piece for ThinkProgress that the crisis:

'is alarming aid officials, who say the issue is spiraling into an unprecedented disaster.'

Francis Markus, a spokesman for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, told the New York Times of his concern that the disaster in South Asia might not get the attention it needs:

'We hope people won't overlook the desperate needs of the people here because of the disasters closer [to] home.'

Although coverage of the monsoon flooding in South Asia was not entirely absent in British media by any means, it was swamped by the coverage devoted to Harvey in Texas and Louisiana. We conducted a ProQuest newspaper database search on September 4 for the period since August 25 (the day Hurricane Harvey hit Texas). Our search yielded just 26 stories in the UK national press on the South Asian flooding, while there were 695 articles on Harvey. Thus, coverage from the US dominated South Asia by a factor of almost 30 to 1, even though the scale of deaths and flooding was far greater in the latter. There was some good coverage of both, notably in the Guardian. But the general trend was glaring. Somehow, people in South Asia just don't matter as much as Americans; or Westerners in general.

Similarly, Ben Parker, a senior editor at IRIN, a non-profit group specialising in humanitarian news, consulted databases of online news stories and noted that 'US media last week [Aug 24-31] mentioned Hurricane Harvey at least 100 times more than India'. As for the rest of the world, the gap was smaller: non-US media gave 3-4 times as much attention to Harvey as to the monsoons.