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Buried In Broad Daylight - The ‘Free Press’ And The Leaked OPCW Report On Douma

Fös, 14/06/2019 - 07:02

A defining feature of the propaganda system is that facts supporting the agenda of Western power are pushed to the forefront of the 'mainstream' media, while inconvenient facts are buried. A prime example is the shameful media silence in response to a devastating document leaked from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), discussed in a recent media alert. The document, an engineering assessment of two chlorine cylinders found at two separate locations after an attack on the Damascus suburb of Douma on April 7, 2018, casts serious doubt on the official narrative that Syrian government forces had dropped them from helicopters. The claim that Assad had used chemical weapons 'against his own civilians' was used by the US, UK and France to 'justify' missile strikes on 'chemical weapons facilities' on April 14, 2018.

One of the cylinders was found on top of a four-storey building with its front end lodged in a hole in the roof. The other cylinder was found lying on a bed in the top-floor room of an apartment with a crater-like opening in the roof. Engineering analysis - based on measurements, photographs and computer modelling - were conducted on the two cylinders and the scenes where they were found. The aim was to 'evaluate the possible means by which these two cylinders arrived at their respective locations as observed.' The leaked report, signed by Ian Henderson, a senior OPCW engineer with many years' experience, concluded:

'In summary, observations at the scene of the two locations, together with subsequent analysis, suggest that there is a higher probability that both cylinders were manually placed at those two locations rather than being delivered from aircraft.' [Our emphasis.]

But this dissenting engineering analysis was excluded from the final OPCW Fact-Finding Mission report presented to the UN Security Council on March 1, 2019.

Theodore Postol, professor of science, technology, and international security at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, whose main expertise is in ballistic missiles, gave an initial assessment of the leaked OPCW report on May 21, and agreed with its conclusion. He summarised:

'observations at the scene of the two locations, together with subsequent analysis, suggest that there is a higher probability that both cylinders were manually placed at those two locations rather than being delivered from aircraft.'

In short:

'two analyzed chlorine cylinder attacks were staged in April 2018 in Douma.' [Our emphasis.]

On June 4, Postol released a more in-depth assessment which completely rejected the propaganda claim that the cylinders could only have been dropped from Syrian government helicopters. This strengthens the conclusion that the April 2018 Douma attacks were indeed staged, presumably by Syrian rebels attempting to provoke a Western military response against Assad (and perhaps even with Western connivance).

Postol noted the glaring discrepancies between the OPWC report that was submitted to the UN (minus the dissenting analysis of the leaked document) and the facts on the ground:

'The calculations produced as proof for the conclusions bear no relationship to what was observed at the scene and both the observed data from the scene and the calculations bear no relationship to the reported findings.'

Postol expanded:

'An important characteristic of concrete is that it is brittle. By definition, such a material is not flexible but will develop cracks and fail catastrophically when subjected to stresses that are sufficiently large. Concrete can be substantially strengthened [as in this case] by embedding reinforcing steel rebar or other strong but flexible materials within it. The rebar performs the function of maintaining the strength of the material when it is flexed rather than failing catastrophically as is the case with the surrounding brittle material.'

He added:

'A very important additional phenomenon associated with the impact of an object can be the creation of a hole due to a process that is generally referred to as "tunneling." Because the breach created by the penetrating object results in the crushing and pushing of brittle concrete as the object moves forward, the diameter of the hole produced by the impact of the object will be very close to that of the penetrating object. This means that a hole created by a 40 cm diameter chlorine cylinder should be close to 40 cm in diameter...'

But this was not the case:

'The diameter of the hole is nearly twice that of the cylinder and the steel rebar that was supposed to stop the cylinder from penetrating through the roof is instead completely shattered and bent away from the forward direction by more than 60°... This photograph shows that the crater was produced by an explosion on the roof which had nothing to do with the impact of a chlorine cylinder. These discrepancies simply mean that the cylinder was placed on the roof after the hole was produced by the explosion of a mortar shell or artillery rocket.'

Postol provided much more detail, but this was his summary:

'There is absolutely no doubt that the OPCW finding that the chlorine cylinder found at what it identifies as Location 2 did not produce the hole in the roof that allegedly led to the killing of more than 30 people that the OPCW claims were trapped and poisoned in the building. The OPCW's own science-based technical analysis does not come close to matching what was observed at Location 2.'

The only possible conclusion is that 'chemical weapons attacks' at the two sites where the cylinders were found must have been staged.

Postol praised the high-quality analysis presented in the leaked OPCW document. But he was damning about senior OPCW management who had disregarded the dissenting engineering assessment and instead presented a deeply biased and misleading final report to the UN:

'The OPCW has been compromised in terms of the content they are providing. The deception of the OPCW is quite blatant. Perhaps they are not used to people who are knowledgeable on these issues scrutinizing their material.'

On June 3, Labour MP Chris Williamson submitted a parliamentary question:

'To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, with reference to investigations suggesting that reports of the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian Government in Douma in April 2018 were staged and with reference to reports that OPCW expert advice was redacted from its final report, whether he has made a reassessment of the decision to bomb targets in Syria in 2018.'

In an interview with Afshin Rattansi on RT's Going Underground, Williamson rightly pointed to the insidious part played by the 'mainstream' media:

'The hysterical mainstream media at the time a year ago who seemed to be clamouring for military airstrikes have been incredibly silent about this [leaked OPCW report]. I remember having a very rough interview on Channel 4 about the whole issue. And yet they seem to, as far as I'm aware, have failed to follow up now with this quite damning revelation which has been brought to light by a whistle-blower.'

He added:

'What is very regrettable today is the tradition that we used to take for granted, that investigative journalists – serious journalists like John Pilger – seem to be sadly lacking these days.'

Williamson also cited Robert Fisk – 'a very unusual animal these days' – who reported from Douma last April, after interviewing civilians in the vicinity of the alleged chemical weapon attacks. A senior Syrian doctor, Dr Assim Rahaibani, told him that the 'gas' video that had so horrified the world showed patients who had been overcome, not by gas, but by oxygen starvation:

'I was with my family in the basement of my home three hundred metres from here on the night but all the doctors know what happened. There was a lot of shelling [by government forces] and aircraft were always over Douma at night – but on this night, there was wind and huge dust clouds began to come into the basements and cellars where people lived. People began to arrive here suffering from hypoxia, oxygen loss. Then someone at the door, a "White Helmet", shouted "Gas!", and a panic began. People started throwing water over each other. Yes, the video was filmed here, it is genuine, but what you see are people suffering from hypoxia – not gas poisoning.'

BBC Syria producer Riam Dalati said earlier this year via Twitter that:

'After almost six months of investigation, I can prove without a doubt that the Douma hospital scene was staged'.

He subsequently set his Twitter status to 'private'. Moreover, in a now deleted tweet, he stated two days after the Douma attack:

'Sick and tired of activists and rebels using corpses of dead children to stage emotive scenes for Western consumption. Then they wonder why some serious journos are questioning part of the narrative.'

As far as we know, BBC News has never given proper coverage to the serious doubts surrounding the alleged 'chemical weapons' attack on Douma, other than to ascribe such doubts to Syrian and Russian government claims of 'fabrication'. As we saw with Iraq and Saddam's 'denials of WMD', a powerful propaganda technique to dismiss facts, evidence and truth is to make them come out the mouths of Official Enemies.

Buried In Broad Daylight - The ‘Free Press’ And The Leaked OPCW Report On Douma

Fös, 14/06/2019 - 07:02

A defining feature of the propaganda system is that facts supporting the agenda of Western power are pushed to the forefront of the 'mainstream' media, while inconvenient facts are buried. A prime example is the shameful media silence in response to a devastating document leaked from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), discussed in a recent media alert. The document, an engineering assessment of two chlorine cylinders found at two separate locations after an attack on the Damascus suburb of Douma on April 7, 2018, casts serious doubt on the official narrative that Syrian government forces had dropped them from helicopters. The claim that Assad had used chemical weapons 'against his own civilians' was used by the US, UK and France to 'justify' missile strikes on 'chemical weapons facilities' on April 14, 2018.

One of the cylinders was found on top of a four-storey building with its front end lodged in a hole in the roof. The other cylinder was found lying on a bed in the top-floor room of an apartment with a crater-like opening in the roof. Engineering analysis - based on measurements, photographs and computer modelling - were conducted on the two cylinders and the scenes where they were found. The aim was to 'evaluate the possible means by which these two cylinders arrived at their respective locations as observed.' The leaked report, signed by Ian Henderson, a senior OPCW engineer with many years' experience, concluded:

'In summary, observations at the scene of the two locations, together with subsequent analysis, suggest that there is a higher probability that both cylinders were manually placed at those two locations rather than being delivered from aircraft.' [Our emphasis.]

But this dissenting engineering analysis was excluded from the final OPCW Fact-Finding Mission report presented to the UN Security Council on March 1, 2019.

Theodore Postol, professor of science, technology, and international security at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, whose main expertise is in ballistic missiles, gave an initial assessment of the leaked OPCW report on May 21, and agreed with its conclusion. He summarised:

'observations at the scene of the two locations, together with subsequent analysis, suggest that there is a higher probability that both cylinders were manually placed at those two locations rather than being delivered from aircraft.'

In short:

'two analyzed chlorine cylinder attacks were staged in April 2018 in Douma.' [Our emphasis.]

On June 4, Postol released a more in-depth assessment which completely rejected the propaganda claim that the cylinders could only have been dropped from Syrian government helicopters. This strengthens the conclusion that the April 2018 Douma attacks were indeed staged, presumably by Syrian rebels attempting to provoke a Western military response against Assad (and perhaps even with Western connivance).

Postol noted the glaring discrepancies between the OPWC report that was submitted to the UN (minus the dissenting analysis of the leaked document) and the facts on the ground:

'The calculations produced as proof for the conclusions bear no relationship to what was observed at the scene and both the observed data from the scene and the calculations bear no relationship to the reported findings.'

Postol expanded:

'An important characteristic of concrete is that it is brittle. By definition, such a material is not flexible but will develop cracks and fail catastrophically when subjected to stresses that are sufficiently large. Concrete can be substantially strengthened [as in this case] by embedding reinforcing steel rebar or other strong but flexible materials within it. The rebar performs the function of maintaining the strength of the material when it is flexed rather than failing catastrophically as is the case with the surrounding brittle material.'

He added:

'A very important additional phenomenon associated with the impact of an object can be the creation of a hole due to a process that is generally referred to as "tunneling." Because the breach created by the penetrating object results in the crushing and pushing of brittle concrete as the object moves forward, the diameter of the hole produced by the impact of the object will be very close to that of the penetrating object. This means that a hole created by a 40 cm diameter chlorine cylinder should be close to 40 cm in diameter...'

But this was not the case:

'The diameter of the hole is nearly twice that of the cylinder and the steel rebar that was supposed to stop the cylinder from penetrating through the roof is instead completely shattered and bent away from the forward direction by more than 60°... This photograph shows that the crater was produced by an explosion on the roof which had nothing to do with the impact of a chlorine cylinder. These discrepancies simply mean that the cylinder was placed on the roof after the hole was produced by the explosion of a mortar shell or artillery rocket.'

Postol provided much more detail, but this was his summary:

'There is absolutely no doubt that the OPCW finding that the chlorine cylinder found at what it identifies as Location 2 did not produce the hole in the roof that allegedly led to the killing of more than 30 people that the OPCW claims were trapped and poisoned in the building. The OPCW's own science-based technical analysis does not come close to matching what was observed at Location 2.'

The only possible conclusion is that 'chemical weapons attacks' at the two sites where the cylinders were found must have been staged.

Postol praised the high-quality analysis presented in the leaked OPCW document. But he was damning about senior OPCW management who had disregarded the dissenting engineering assessment and instead presented a deeply biased and misleading final report to the UN:

'The OPCW has been compromised in terms of the content they are providing. The deception of the OPCW is quite blatant. Perhaps they are not used to people who are knowledgeable on these issues scrutinizing their material.'

On June 3, Labour MP Chris Williamson submitted a parliamentary question:

'To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, with reference to investigations suggesting that reports of the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian Government in Douma in April 2018 were staged and with reference to reports that OPCW expert advice was redacted from its final report, whether he has made a reassessment of the decision to bomb targets in Syria in 2018.'

In an interview with Afshin Rattansi on RT's Going Underground, Williamson rightly pointed to the insidious part played by the 'mainstream' media:

'The hysterical mainstream media at the time a year ago who seemed to be clamouring for military airstrikes have been incredibly silent about this [leaked OPCW report]. I remember having a very rough interview on Channel 4 about the whole issue. And yet they seem to, as far as I'm aware, have failed to follow up now with this quite damning revelation which has been brought to light by a whistle-blower.'

He added:

'What is very regrettable today is the tradition that we used to take for granted, that investigative journalists – serious journalists like John Pilger – seem to be sadly lacking these days.'

Williamson also cited Robert Fisk – 'a very unusual animal these days' – who reported from Douma last April, after interviewing civilians in the vicinity of the alleged chemical weapon attacks. A senior Syrian doctor, Dr Assim Rahaibani, told him that the 'gas' video that had so horrified the world showed patients who had been overcome, not by gas, but by oxygen starvation:

'I was with my family in the basement of my home three hundred metres from here on the night but all the doctors know what happened. There was a lot of shelling [by government forces] and aircraft were always over Douma at night – but on this night, there was wind and huge dust clouds began to come into the basements and cellars where people lived. People began to arrive here suffering from hypoxia, oxygen loss. Then someone at the door, a "White Helmet", shouted "Gas!", and a panic began. People started throwing water over each other. Yes, the video was filmed here, it is genuine, but what you see are people suffering from hypoxia – not gas poisoning.'

BBC Syria producer Riam Dalati said earlier this year via Twitter that:

'After almost six months of investigation, I can prove without a doubt that the Douma hospital scene was staged'.

He subsequently set his Twitter status to 'private'. Moreover, in a now deleted tweet, he stated two days after the Douma attack:

'Sick and tired of activists and rebels using corpses of dead children to stage emotive scenes for Western consumption. Then they wonder why some serious journos are questioning part of the narrative.'

As far as we know, BBC News has never given proper coverage to the serious doubts surrounding the alleged 'chemical weapons' attack on Douma, other than to ascribe such doubts to Syrian and Russian government claims of 'fabrication'. As we saw with Iraq and Saddam's 'denials of WMD', a powerful propaganda technique to dismiss facts, evidence and truth is to make them come out the mouths of Official Enemies.

‘Mirthless Laugh’ - The Persecution And Torture Of Julian Assange

Þri, 11/06/2019 - 13:41

For anyone persuaded by the state-corporate campaign of sneers and smears depicting Julian Assange as a shit-smearing narcissist and rapist, the comments made by Nils Melzer, the UN's special rapporteur on torture, must be deeply shocking. The BBC headline:

'Julian Assange subjected to psychological torture, UN expert says'

Melzer is Professor of International Law at the University of Glasgow. He also holds the Human Rights Chair at the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights in Switzerland, where he has been teaching since 2009, including as the Swiss Chair of International Humanitarian Law (2011–2013). Melzer previously worked for 12 years with the International Committee of the Red Cross as Deputy Head of Delegation and Legal Adviser in various zones of conflict and violence. He commented:

'I've worked in many areas of war in my life, in situations of violence, and I've talked to victims of persecution around the world and I've seen very serious atrocities.

'But [what] I have never seen is that a single person has been deliberately isolated and, I would say, persecuted - not prosecuted, but persecuted - by several democratic states in a concerted effort to eventually break his will.'

Melzer added that, because of his treatment, Assange's health was at serious risk:

'We could see that Assange showed all the symptoms that are typical for prolonged exposure to psychological torture.'

Assange, he said, needs access to a psychiatrist who is 'not part of the prison service - someone he can fully trust' - to avoid his health deteriorating further.

In an interview with The Canary, Melzer described exactly how and by whom Assange has been 'persecuted':

'The evidence made available to me strongly suggests that the primary responsibility for the sustained and concerted abuse inflicted on Mr Assange falls on the governments of the United Kingdom, Sweden, the United States and, more recently, also Ecuador...

'The consistent and repeated failure of all involved states to protect Mr Assange's fundamental right to fair judicial proceedings and due process makes the hypothesis of mere coincidence extremely unrealistic and gives a strong impression of bias and arbitrary manipulation. This starts with the secretive grand jury indictment in the United States, continues with the abusive manner in which Swedish prosecutors disseminated, re-cycled and perpetuated their "preliminary investigation" into alleged sexual offences, exacerbates with the termination by Ecuador of Mr Assange's asylum status and citizenship without any form of due process, and culminates in overt bias against Mr Assange being shown by British judges since his arrest.

'The only realistic explanation for this sustained systemic failure of the judiciary is that the United States, and probably also the other involved states, are trying to make an example of Mr Assange before the eyes of the world, not as much as a punishment for whatever real or perceived harm he is alleged to have caused, but as a measure of deterrence for others who might be tempted to imitate Wikileaks and Mr Assange in the future. In these circumstances, Mr Assange has absolutely no chance to get a fair judicial proceeding in any of these jurisdictions.'

With admirable candour, Melzer explained to Democracy Now! how he had himself been influenced by the smear campaign:

'[I] had been affected by the prejudice that I had absorbed through... public... narratives spread in the media over the years. And only when I scratched the surface a little bit, I saw how little foundation there was to back this up and how much fabrication and manipulation there is in this case.'

He made the same point on Twitter:

'For the record: I never said I considered #JulianAssange "a bad actor" but that, initially, I had been affected by the same misguided smear campaign as everybody else, and only saw the real facts once I investigated in detail'

This comment instantly recalled the 'mainstream' commentators who have seemed so certain in their damning view of Assange. We thought, for example, of Guardian commentator Suzanne Moore, who said of Assange on Twitter in 2012:

'He really is the most massive turd.'

Tragicomically, Moore then commented to a colleague:

'I never met him. Did you?'

We tweeted Melzer's thoughtful tweet to Moore and two other leading lights of the Guardian's smear campaign below this message:

'If one tweet might give Guardianistas like @MarinaHyde @HadleyFreeman and @suzanne_moore pause for thought, perhaps it's this one from the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture.'

Marina Hyde responded:

'What a privilege for us ladies to be lectured on our incorrect response to a rape accusation by the men who have famously only read one book (Manufacturing Consent, and they didn't even understand aspects of that)'

Hyde was bluffing about her supposed insight into our misreading of 'Manufacturing Consent'. The late Edward Herman, the book's lead author, told us repeatedly, 'Media Lens is doing an outstanding job', often emailed us in support and regularly sent donations. The book's co-author, Noam Chomsky, has said: 'Am really impressed with what you are doing' (Chomsky, email to Media Lens, September 14, 2005) and commented on our latest book, 'Propaganda Blitz' (Pluto Press, 2018): 'A great book. I've been recommending it.' In response to earlier dismissive remarks on Twitter in 2015, former Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald commented to us, copying to Hyde:

'Mocking you as conspiracists is how UK journalists demonstrate their in-group coolness to one another: adolescent herd behavior' (Greenwald, Twitter, 25 August 2015)

Hyde was similarly bluffing in accusing us of lecturing (in effect, 'mansplaining') – we were simply highlighting credible, new expert testimony. And she was also bluffing in making an issue of our gender: obviously, Melzer's comments stand or fall on their own merits, regardless of the gender of people recommending them. If Hyde imagines the opinion of the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture is skewed by sexist bias, then she should feel free to supply the evidence.

Sometimes, of course, gender does matter, and it is why we selected just these three Guardian commentators for inclusion in our tweet. As anyone who has been following the smear campaign knows, female journalists have been used by the Guardian and other media to lead attacks on a male political dissident facing accusations of rape; their gender helping to empower and protect the smears. Hyde's tweet provided an excellent example - male critics can be instantly dismissed as 'lecturing' 'mansplainers', 'misogynists' and 'rape apologists'. As Chomsky has pointed out, there is very little one can do to defend against these personal attacks:

'There's no way to respond. Slinging mud always works.'

 

‘Mirthless Laugh’ - The Persecution And Torture Of Julian Assange

Þri, 11/06/2019 - 13:41

For anyone persuaded by the state-corporate campaign of sneers and smears depicting Julian Assange as a shit-smearing narcissist and rapist, the comments made by Nils Melzer, the UN's special rapporteur on torture, must be deeply shocking. The BBC headline:

'Julian Assange subjected to psychological torture, UN expert says'

Melzer is Professor of International Law at the University of Glasgow. He also holds the Human Rights Chair at the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights in Switzerland, where he has been teaching since 2009, including as the Swiss Chair of International Humanitarian Law (2011–2013). Melzer previously worked for 12 years with the International Committee of the Red Cross as Deputy Head of Delegation and Legal Adviser in various zones of conflict and violence. He commented:

'I've worked in many areas of war in my life, in situations of violence, and I've talked to victims of persecution around the world and I've seen very serious atrocities.

'But [what] I have never seen is that a single person has been deliberately isolated and, I would say, persecuted - not prosecuted, but persecuted - by several democratic states in a concerted effort to eventually break his will.'

Melzer added that, because of his treatment, Assange's health was at serious risk:

'We could see that Assange showed all the symptoms that are typical for prolonged exposure to psychological torture.'

Assange, he said, needs access to a psychiatrist who is 'not part of the prison service - someone he can fully trust' - to avoid his health deteriorating further.

In an interview with The Canary, Melzer described exactly how and by whom Assange has been 'persecuted':

'The evidence made available to me strongly suggests that the primary responsibility for the sustained and concerted abuse inflicted on Mr Assange falls on the governments of the United Kingdom, Sweden, the United States and, more recently, also Ecuador...

'The consistent and repeated failure of all involved states to protect Mr Assange's fundamental right to fair judicial proceedings and due process makes the hypothesis of mere coincidence extremely unrealistic and gives a strong impression of bias and arbitrary manipulation. This starts with the secretive grand jury indictment in the United States, continues with the abusive manner in which Swedish prosecutors disseminated, re-cycled and perpetuated their "preliminary investigation" into alleged sexual offences, exacerbates with the termination by Ecuador of Mr Assange's asylum status and citizenship without any form of due process, and culminates in overt bias against Mr Assange being shown by British judges since his arrest.

'The only realistic explanation for this sustained systemic failure of the judiciary is that the United States, and probably also the other involved states, are trying to make an example of Mr Assange before the eyes of the world, not as much as a punishment for whatever real or perceived harm he is alleged to have caused, but as a measure of deterrence for others who might be tempted to imitate Wikileaks and Mr Assange in the future. In these circumstances, Mr Assange has absolutely no chance to get a fair judicial proceeding in any of these jurisdictions.'

With admirable candour, Melzer explained to Democracy Now! how he had himself been influenced by the smear campaign:

'[I] had been affected by the prejudice that I had absorbed through... public... narratives spread in the media over the years. And only when I scratched the surface a little bit, I saw how little foundation there was to back this up and how much fabrication and manipulation there is in this case.'

He made the same point on Twitter:

'For the record: I never said I considered #JulianAssange "a bad actor" but that, initially, I had been affected by the same misguided smear campaign as everybody else, and only saw the real facts once I investigated in detail'

This comment instantly recalled the 'mainstream' commentators who have seemed so certain in their damning view of Assange. We thought, for example, of Guardian commentator Suzanne Moore, who said of Assange on Twitter in 2012:

'He really is the most massive turd.'

Tragicomically, Moore then commented to a colleague:

'I never met him. Did you?'

We tweeted Melzer's thoughtful tweet to Moore and two other leading lights of the Guardian's smear campaign below this message:

'If one tweet might give Guardianistas like @MarinaHyde @HadleyFreeman and @suzanne_moore pause for thought, perhaps it's this one from the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture.'

Marina Hyde responded:

'What a privilege for us ladies to be lectured on our incorrect response to a rape accusation by the men who have famously only read one book (Manufacturing Consent, and they didn't even understand aspects of that)'

Hyde was bluffing about her supposed insight into our misreading of 'Manufacturing Consent'. The late Edward Herman, the book's lead author, told us repeatedly, 'Media Lens is doing an outstanding job', often emailed us in support and regularly sent donations. The book's co-author, Noam Chomsky, has said: 'Am really impressed with what you are doing' (Chomsky, email to Media Lens, September 14, 2005) and commented on our latest book, 'Propaganda Blitz' (Pluto Press, 2018): 'A great book. I've been recommending it.' In response to earlier dismissive remarks on Twitter in 2015, former Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald commented to us, copying to Hyde:

'Mocking you as conspiracists is how UK journalists demonstrate their in-group coolness to one another: adolescent herd behavior' (Greenwald, Twitter, 25 August 2015)

Hyde was similarly bluffing in accusing us of lecturing (in effect, 'mansplaining') – we were simply highlighting credible, new expert testimony. And she was also bluffing in making an issue of our gender: obviously, Melzer's comments stand or fall on their own merits, regardless of the gender of people recommending them. If Hyde imagines the opinion of the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture is skewed by sexist bias, then she should feel free to supply the evidence.

Sometimes, of course, gender does matter, and it is why we selected just these three Guardian commentators for inclusion in our tweet. As anyone who has been following the smear campaign knows, female journalists have been used by the Guardian and other media to lead attacks on a male political dissident facing accusations of rape; their gender helping to empower and protect the smears. Hyde's tweet provided an excellent example - male critics can be instantly dismissed as 'lecturing' 'mansplainers', 'misogynists' and 'rape apologists'. As Chomsky has pointed out, there is very little one can do to defend against these personal attacks:

'There's no way to respond. Slinging mud always works.'

 

Life Or Death - Corporate Media Or Honest Media?

Fim, 23/05/2019 - 07:20

Relying on the corporate media, including BBC News, to provide a reliable account of the world is literally a matter of life or death, on many levels.

Imagine, for example, a Russian dissident living in the UK who had published copious evidence of Russian war crimes, and who had then sought political asylum in an embassy in London. Imagine if that dissident were then expelled from the embassy, under pressure from Russia, immediately imprisoned in a high-security prison here and faced with the prospect of extradition to Russia to face life imprisonment or the death sentence. There would be a massive uproar in the Western media. Western political leaders would issue strong statements of disapproval and demand the freedom of a brave dissident. The case of Julian Assange, co-founder of WikiLeaks, is much worse. He is being pursued relentlessly by a powerful country, the United States, of which he is not even a citizen.

US prosecutors are now reportedly helping themselves to Assange's possessions, including medical records and two manuscripts. Baltasar Garzon, international legal co-ordinator for the defence of Assange and WikiLeaks, urged international bodies to intervene in what he called:

'an unprecedented attack on the rights of the defence, freedom of expression and access to information.'

He added:

'It is extremely worrying that Ecuador has proceeded with the search and seizure of property, documents, information and other material belonging to the defence of Julian Assange, which Ecuador arbitrarily confiscated, so that these can be handed over to the agent of political persecution against him, the United States.'

The US is undoubtedly looking for evidence to build a bogus case against Assange to lock him away for life for alleged crimes against the world's number one rogue state. As Noam Chomsky has long observed, the US behaves like the Mafia writ large. You go against their power at your peril.

The incentives for Ecuador, under a Washington-friendly government led by Lenín Moreno since 2017, to behave in this appalling manner are obvious. A report in The Canary spelled it out:

'Ecuador is raking in new [trade] deals with the UK and US after handing over Julian Assange'.

In Sweden, surely under US pressure, prosecutors have now applied for a warrant for Assange's arrest. Craig Murray provided the vital background to this latest disgraceful development, pointing to the:

'incredible and open bias of the courts against Assange [...] since day 1.'

The former British diplomat is clear about the crucial importance of the work of WikiLeaks and Assange:

'Julian Assange revolutionised publishing by bringing the public direct access to massive amounts of raw material showing secrets the government wished to hide. By giving the public this direct access he cut out the filtering and mediating role of the journalistic and political classes.'

Murray pointed out the contrast with the Panama Papers, detailing how the super-rich hide their money, covered by the Guardian and other 'mainstream media' outlets with great fanfare. However, contrary to media promises, such coverage:

'only ever saw less than 2% of the raw material published and where major western companies and individuals were completely protected from revelation because of the use of MSM ["mainstream" media] intermediaries.'

He continued:

'Or compare Wikileaks to the Snowden files, the vast majority of which have now been buried and will never be revealed, after foolishly being entrusted to the Guardian and the Intercept. Assange cut out the intermediary role of the mediating journalist and, by allowing the people to see the truth about how they are governed, played a major role in undercutting public confidence in the political establishment that exploits them.'

John Pilger, a staunch defender of Assange and WikiLeaks source Chelsea Manning, as all journalists should be, said via Twitter:

'The filthy war on Julian #Assange and Chelsea Manning, whose heresy is to have revealed the crimes of great power, intensifies. Craven Sweden plays to its theatre of darkness while Assange the prisoner is denied even his glasses.'

Manning is yet again back in prison, following a brief spell of freedom. She has steadfastly refused to testify to a secret grand jury in Virginia that is attempting to entrap her into revealing incriminating evidence about her past communications with WikiLeaks. The reluctance of corporate journalists, and even human rights groups, to support Manning, Assange and WikiLeaks is symptomatic of a broken political system still masquerading as 'democracy'.

Life Or Death - Corporate Media Or Honest Media?

Fim, 23/05/2019 - 07:20

Relying on the corporate media, including BBC News, to provide a reliable account of the world is literally a matter of life or death, on many levels.

Imagine, for example, a Russian dissident living in the UK who had published copious evidence of Russian war crimes, and who had then sought political asylum in an embassy in London. Imagine if that dissident were then expelled from the embassy, under pressure from Russia, immediately imprisoned in a high-security prison here and faced with the prospect of extradition to Russia to face life imprisonment or the death sentence. There would be a massive uproar in the Western media. Western political leaders would issue strong statements of disapproval and demand the freedom of a brave dissident. The case of Julian Assange, co-founder of WikiLeaks, is much worse. He is being pursued relentlessly by a powerful country, the United States, of which he is not even a citizen.

US prosecutors are now reportedly helping themselves to Assange's possessions, including medical records and two manuscripts. Baltasar Garzon, international legal co-ordinator for the defence of Assange and WikiLeaks, urged international bodies to intervene in what he called:

'an unprecedented attack on the rights of the defence, freedom of expression and access to information.'

He added:

'It is extremely worrying that Ecuador has proceeded with the search and seizure of property, documents, information and other material belonging to the defence of Julian Assange, which Ecuador arbitrarily confiscated, so that these can be handed over to the agent of political persecution against him, the United States.'

The US is undoubtedly looking for evidence to build a bogus case against Assange to lock him away for life for alleged crimes against the world's number one rogue state. As Noam Chomsky has long observed, the US behaves like the Mafia writ large. You go against their power at your peril.

The incentives for Ecuador, under a Washington-friendly government led by Lenín Moreno since 2017, to behave in this appalling manner are obvious. A report in The Canary spelled it out:

'Ecuador is raking in new [trade] deals with the UK and US after handing over Julian Assange'.

In Sweden, surely under US pressure, prosecutors have now applied for a warrant for Assange's arrest. Craig Murray provided the vital background to this latest disgraceful development, pointing to the:

'incredible and open bias of the courts against Assange [...] since day 1.'

The former British diplomat is clear about the crucial importance of the work of WikiLeaks and Assange:

'Julian Assange revolutionised publishing by bringing the public direct access to massive amounts of raw material showing secrets the government wished to hide. By giving the public this direct access he cut out the filtering and mediating role of the journalistic and political classes.'

Murray pointed out the contrast with the Panama Papers, detailing how the super-rich hide their money, covered by the Guardian and other 'mainstream media' outlets with great fanfare. However, contrary to media promises, such coverage:

'only ever saw less than 2% of the raw material published and where major western companies and individuals were completely protected from revelation because of the use of MSM ["mainstream" media] intermediaries.'

He continued:

'Or compare Wikileaks to the Snowden files, the vast majority of which have now been buried and will never be revealed, after foolishly being entrusted to the Guardian and the Intercept. Assange cut out the intermediary role of the mediating journalist and, by allowing the people to see the truth about how they are governed, played a major role in undercutting public confidence in the political establishment that exploits them.'

John Pilger, a staunch defender of Assange and WikiLeaks source Chelsea Manning, as all journalists should be, said via Twitter:

'The filthy war on Julian #Assange and Chelsea Manning, whose heresy is to have revealed the crimes of great power, intensifies. Craven Sweden plays to its theatre of darkness while Assange the prisoner is denied even his glasses.'

Manning is yet again back in prison, following a brief spell of freedom. She has steadfastly refused to testify to a secret grand jury in Virginia that is attempting to entrap her into revealing incriminating evidence about her past communications with WikiLeaks. The reluctance of corporate journalists, and even human rights groups, to support Manning, Assange and WikiLeaks is symptomatic of a broken political system still masquerading as 'democracy'.

The London Climate Protests – Raising The Alarm

Fim, 09/05/2019 - 07:51

The feeling is often there at night, of course, in the wee small hours. But it can arise at almost any time – looking at someone we care about, listening to birdsong on an unusually warm spring morning, shopping.

It is like being trapped on a sinking ship, with the captain and crew refusing to admit that anything is wrong. The passengers are mostly oblivious, planning their journeys and lives ahead. Everything seems 'normal', but we know that everything will soon be at the bottom of the sea. Everything seems ordinary, familiar, permanent, but will soon be gone. It feels as if our happiness, our every moment spent with the people and places we love, is irradiated by the fear of impending climate collapse.

Last month, the Extinction Rebellion protests in London (and globally) finally challenged some aspects of this waking nightmare – at last, a sense that human beings are not completely insane, that we are capable of responding with some rationality and dignity. In the end, 1,100 people allowed themselves to be arrested, with 70 charged, for all our sakes.

While many people thrill to the prospect of pouring milkshake over political opponents, Extinction Rebellion proved, conclusively, once and for all, that non-violent protest is the superpower of democratic change. And this was not just non-violent protest; it was non-hating, rooted in love of the planet, love of people, love of life. The mystic Lao-Tzu wrote:

'Nothing in the world
is as soft and yielding as water.
Yet for dissolving the hard and inflexible,
nothing can surpass it.

'The soft overcomes the hard;
the gentle overcomes the rigid.'

The special forces in this compassionate revolution are the 83-year-old grandfather who spoke so eloquently atop a blocked train in Canary Wharf. They are the little children sitting quietly in the middle of Oxford Street, the mums with toddlers, and of course the extraordinary Greta Thunberg whose insight and intelligence have stunned many veteran climate activists. Where the adults have been cautioning for years that we should not be too 'alarmist', too 'pessimistic' for fear of upsetting a lily-livered public, Thunberg has said simply:

'I want you to panic. I want you to act as if the house was on fire... To panic, unless you have to, is a terrible idea. But when your house is on fire and you want to keep your house from burning to the ground then that does require some level of panic.'

She is exactly right. In his recent BBC documentary, 'Climate Change: The Facts', 93-year-old David Attenborough missed 16-year-old Thunberg's point. The first half of Attenborough's film did an excellent job of drawing attention to the threats, but the second half was much too positive on the prospects for individual and collective action. It ended on a hopeful, reassuring note. It should have ended on a note of deep alarm and, yes, panic.

When governments seek to mobilise the public for action, they terrify us with tales of Huns bayonetting babies, of weapons of mass destruction ready to destroy us within 45 minutes. They do this because it works – people are willing to kill and be killed, if they think their own lives and those of the people they love are at stake.

We have always argued that climate scientists and activists should also emphasise the terrifying prospects – not in the dishonest, hyped way of state cynics, but honestly, sticking to the facts. When the science is punching great holes in the blind conceit of industrial 'progress' we should not pull our punches. Again, the Extinction Rebellion protests – the name makes the point - have powerfully vindicated this strategy. An opinion poll after the protests found:

'Two-thirds of people in the UK recognise there is a climate emergency and 76% say that they would cast their vote differently to protect the planet.'

John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK, said the debate around environmentalism had been fundamentally altered:

'Climate activists, young and old, have put the UK government under enormous pressure to officially recognise the climate emergency we are facing. There is a real feeling of hope in the air that after several decades of climate campaigning the message is beginning to sink in. What we need now is to translate that feeling into action.'

As a result of this pressure, the UK last week became the first parliament to declare a climate emergency – previously unthinkable. Leading climate scientist, Professor Michael Mann, tweeted of the declaration:

'Yeah, there's a lot going on in the current news cycle. But this is undoubtedly the most important development of all'

Light-years beyond his Conservative opponents on this issue, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn commented:

'We have no time to waste. We are living in a climate crisis that will spiral dangerously out of control unless we take rapid and dramatic action now.

'This is no longer about a distant future we're talking about nothing less than the irreversible destruction of the environment within our lifetimes of members of this house. Young people know this. They have the most to lose.'

By contrast, the voting record of Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, indicates that he 'Generally voted against measures to prevent climate change.' Prime Minister Theresa May has maintained a studied, shameful silence, clearly hoping the issue and the protests will go away. Action is clearly not on her agenda.

As if the climate crisis was not bad enough, a new UN report reveals that one million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction. The world is experiencing a rate of destruction tens to hundreds of times higher than the average over the past 10 million years. Dr Kate Brauman, from the University of Minnesota, a lead author of the assessment, commented:

'We have documented a really unprecedented decline in biodiversity and nature, this is completely different than anything we've seen in human history in terms of the rate of decline and the scale of the threat.'

The following day, only two UK newspapers, (Guardian and i) led with the UN report on species extinction, most preferring to focus on a royal birth. The BBC News website featured no less than six stories about the royal baby before the headline, 'Humans "threaten 1m species with extinction".' This was a classic example of why Erich Fromm warned in his book 'The Sane Society', that it truly is possible for an entire society to be, in effect, insane.

 

The London Climate Protests – Raising The Alarm

Fim, 09/05/2019 - 07:51

The feeling is often there at night, of course, in the wee small hours. But it can arise at almost any time – looking at someone we care about, listening to birdsong on an unusually warm spring morning, shopping.

It is like being trapped on a sinking ship, with the captain and crew refusing to admit that anything is wrong. The passengers are mostly oblivious, planning their journeys and lives ahead. Everything seems 'normal', but we know that everything will soon be at the bottom of the sea. Everything seems ordinary, familiar, permanent, but will soon be gone. It feels as if our happiness, our every moment spent with the people and places we love, is irradiated by the fear of impending climate collapse.

Last month, the Extinction Rebellion protests in London (and globally) finally challenged some aspects of this waking nightmare – at last, a sense that human beings are not completely insane, that we are capable of responding with some rationality and dignity. In the end, 1,100 people allowed themselves to be arrested, with 70 charged, for all our sakes.

While many people thrill to the prospect of pouring milkshake over political opponents, Extinction Rebellion proved, conclusively, once and for all, that non-violent protest is the superpower of democratic change. And this was not just non-violent protest; it was non-hating, rooted in love of the planet, love of people, love of life. The mystic Lao-Tzu wrote:

'Nothing in the world
is as soft and yielding as water.
Yet for dissolving the hard and inflexible,
nothing can surpass it.

'The soft overcomes the hard;
the gentle overcomes the rigid.'

The special forces in this compassionate revolution are the 83-year-old grandfather who spoke so eloquently atop a blocked train in Canary Wharf. They are the little children sitting quietly in the middle of Oxford Street, the mums with toddlers, and of course the extraordinary Greta Thunberg whose insight and intelligence have stunned many veteran climate activists. Where the adults have been cautioning for years that we should not be too 'alarmist', too 'pessimistic' for fear of upsetting a lily-livered public, Thunberg has said simply:

'I want you to panic. I want you to act as if the house was on fire... To panic, unless you have to, is a terrible idea. But when your house is on fire and you want to keep your house from burning to the ground then that does require some level of panic.'

She is exactly right. In his recent BBC documentary, 'Climate Change: The Facts', 93-year-old David Attenborough missed 16-year-old Thunberg's point. The first half of Attenborough's film did an excellent job of drawing attention to the threats, but the second half was much too positive on the prospects for individual and collective action. It ended on a hopeful, reassuring note. It should have ended on a note of deep alarm and, yes, panic.

When governments seek to mobilise the public for action, they terrify us with tales of Huns bayonetting babies, of weapons of mass destruction ready to destroy us within 45 minutes. They do this because it works – people are willing to kill and be killed, if they think their own lives and those of the people they love are at stake.

We have always argued that climate scientists and activists should also emphasise the terrifying prospects – not in the dishonest, hyped way of state cynics, but honestly, sticking to the facts. When the science is punching great holes in the blind conceit of industrial 'progress' we should not pull our punches. Again, the Extinction Rebellion protests – the name makes the point - have powerfully vindicated this strategy. An opinion poll after the protests found:

'Two-thirds of people in the UK recognise there is a climate emergency and 76% say that they would cast their vote differently to protect the planet.'

John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK, said the debate around environmentalism had been fundamentally altered:

'Climate activists, young and old, have put the UK government under enormous pressure to officially recognise the climate emergency we are facing. There is a real feeling of hope in the air that after several decades of climate campaigning the message is beginning to sink in. What we need now is to translate that feeling into action.'

As a result of this pressure, the UK last week became the first parliament to declare a climate emergency – previously unthinkable. Leading climate scientist, Professor Michael Mann, tweeted of the declaration:

'Yeah, there's a lot going on in the current news cycle. But this is undoubtedly the most important development of all'

Light-years beyond his Conservative opponents on this issue, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn commented:

'We have no time to waste. We are living in a climate crisis that will spiral dangerously out of control unless we take rapid and dramatic action now.

'This is no longer about a distant future we're talking about nothing less than the irreversible destruction of the environment within our lifetimes of members of this house. Young people know this. They have the most to lose.'

By contrast, the voting record of Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, indicates that he 'Generally voted against measures to prevent climate change.' Prime Minister Theresa May has maintained a studied, shameful silence, clearly hoping the issue and the protests will go away. Action is clearly not on her agenda.

As if the climate crisis was not bad enough, a new UN report reveals that one million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction. The world is experiencing a rate of destruction tens to hundreds of times higher than the average over the past 10 million years. Dr Kate Brauman, from the University of Minnesota, a lead author of the assessment, commented:

'We have documented a really unprecedented decline in biodiversity and nature, this is completely different than anything we've seen in human history in terms of the rate of decline and the scale of the threat.'

The following day, only two UK newspapers, (Guardian and i) led with the UN report on species extinction, most preferring to focus on a royal birth. The BBC News website featured no less than six stories about the royal baby before the headline, 'Humans "threaten 1m species with extinction".' This was a classic example of why Erich Fromm warned in his book 'The Sane Society', that it truly is possible for an entire society to be, in effect, insane.

 

40,000 Dead Venezuelans Under US Sanctions: Corporate Media Turn A Blind Eye

Þri, 30/04/2019 - 11:05

A new report on April 25 by a respected think tank has estimated that US sanctions imposed on Venezuela in August 2017 have caused around 40,000 deaths. This atrocity has been almost entirely blanked by the British 'mainstream' media, including BBC News. Additional sanctions imposed in January 2019 are likely to lead to tens of thousands of further deaths.

The report was co-authored by Mark Weisbrot and Jeffrey Sachs for the US-based Center for Economic and Policy Research. CEPR was founded in 1999 'to promote democratic debate on the most important economic and social issues that affect people's lives.' Its advisory board includes Nobel Laureate economists Robert Solow and Joseph Stiglitz.

Weisbrot is Co-Director of CEPR and his expertise encompasses economic growth, trade, international financial institutions, development and Latin America. Sachs is a world-renowned economist and senior UN advisor with considerable knowledge of policies related to sustainable development and combatting poverty. Their credentials are impressive and the title of their report is damning: 'U.S. Sanctions on Venezuela Are Responsible for Tens of Thousands of Deaths'.

The Trump administration imposed sanctions on Venezuela in August 2017. These prohibited the Venezuelan government from borrowing in US markets, thus preventing the country from restructuring its foreign debt. As the report made clear:

'It is important to emphasize that nearly all of the foreign exchange that is needed to import medicine, food, medical equipment, spare parts and equipment needed for electricity generation, water systems, or transportation, is received by the Venezuelan economy through the government's revenue from the export of oil. Thus, any sanctions that reduce export earnings, and therefore government revenue, thereby reduce the imports of these essential and, in many cases, life-saving goods.'

The authors added:

'The sanctions reduced the public's caloric intake, increased disease and mortality (for both adults and infants), and displaced millions of Venezuelans who fled the country as a result of the worsening economic depression and hyperinflation. They exacerbated Venezuela's economic crisis and made it nearly impossible to stabilize the economy, contributing further to excess deaths. All of these impacts disproportionately harmed the poorest and most vulnerable Venezuelans.'

In January 2019, additional US sanctions cut Venezuela off from its largest oil market – the United States. Washington also intervened to pressure other countries, including India, not to buy Venezuelan oil that had been previously imported by the US. The consequences have been catastrophic. Amongst the report's findings were:

• More than 40,000 deaths from 2017–18;
• Sanctions have reduced the availability of food and medicine, and increased disease and mortality;
• The August 2017 sanctions contributed to a sharp decline in oil production, causing great harm to the civilian population;
• If US sanctions implemented in January 2019 continue, they will almost certainly result in tens of thousands more avoidable deaths;
• This finding is based on an estimated 80,000 people with HIV who have not had antiretroviral treatment since 2017, 16,000 people who need dialysis, 16,000 people with cancer, and 4 million with diabetes and hypertension (many of whom cannot obtain insulin or cardiovascular medicine);
• Since the January 2019 sanctions, oil production has fallen by 431,000 barrels per day or 36.4 per cent. This will greatly accelerate the humanitarian crisis. But the projected 67 per cent decline in oil production for the year, if the sanctions continue, would cause vastly more loss of human life.

Weisbrot spelled out the enormity of punitive US policy towards Venezuela:

'The sanctions are depriving Venezuelans of lifesaving medicines, medical equipment, food, and other essential imports. This is illegal under U.S. and international law, and treaties that the U.S. has signed. Congress should move to stop it.'

Just as the corporate media blamed Saddam Hussein for the devastating impact of US-UK sanctions on Iraq which led to the deaths of over one million Iraqis between 1990 and 2003, 'our free press' are united in blaming Nicolás Maduro, the Venezuelan president, for the country's economic and humanitarian crisis. The new CEPR report refutes that propaganda framework. Sachs emphasised:

'Venezuela's economic crisis is routinely blamed all on Venezuela. But it is much more than that. American sanctions are deliberately aiming to wreck Venezuela's economy and thereby lead to regime change [our emphasis]. It's a fruitless, heartless, illegal, and failed policy, causing grave harm to the Venezuelan people.'

The report highlights that:

'the pain and suffering being inflicted upon the civilian population may not be collateral damage but actually part of the strategy to topple the government.'

Indeed, Weisbrot and Sachs make the devastating point that sanctions:

'would fit the definition of collective punishment of the civilian population as described in both the Geneva and Hague international conventions, to which the US is a signatory.'

In a sane political and media world, this would be headline news.

40,000 Dead Venezuelans Under US Sanctions: Corporate Media Turn A Blind Eye

Þri, 30/04/2019 - 11:05

A new report on April 25 by a respected think tank has estimated that US sanctions imposed on Venezuela in August 2017 have caused around 40,000 deaths. This atrocity has been almost entirely blanked by the British 'mainstream' media, including BBC News. Additional sanctions imposed in January 2019 are likely to lead to tens of thousands of further deaths.

The report was co-authored by Mark Weisbrot and Jeffrey Sachs for the US-based Center for Economic and Policy Research. CEPR was founded in 1999 'to promote democratic debate on the most important economic and social issues that affect people's lives.' Its advisory board includes Nobel Laureate economists Robert Solow and Joseph Stiglitz.

Weisbrot is Co-Director of CEPR and his expertise encompasses economic growth, trade, international financial institutions, development and Latin America. Sachs is a world-renowned economist and senior UN advisor with considerable knowledge of policies related to sustainable development and combatting poverty. Their credentials are impressive and the title of their report is damning: 'U.S. Sanctions on Venezuela Are Responsible for Tens of Thousands of Deaths'.

The Trump administration imposed sanctions on Venezuela in August 2017. These prohibited the Venezuelan government from borrowing in US markets, thus preventing the country from restructuring its foreign debt. As the report made clear:

'It is important to emphasize that nearly all of the foreign exchange that is needed to import medicine, food, medical equipment, spare parts and equipment needed for electricity generation, water systems, or transportation, is received by the Venezuelan economy through the government's revenue from the export of oil. Thus, any sanctions that reduce export earnings, and therefore government revenue, thereby reduce the imports of these essential and, in many cases, life-saving goods.'

The authors added:

'The sanctions reduced the public's caloric intake, increased disease and mortality (for both adults and infants), and displaced millions of Venezuelans who fled the country as a result of the worsening economic depression and hyperinflation. They exacerbated Venezuela's economic crisis and made it nearly impossible to stabilize the economy, contributing further to excess deaths. All of these impacts disproportionately harmed the poorest and most vulnerable Venezuelans.'

In January 2019, additional US sanctions cut Venezuela off from its largest oil market – the United States. Washington also intervened to pressure other countries, including India, not to buy Venezuelan oil that had been previously imported by the US. The consequences have been catastrophic. Amongst the report's findings were:

• More than 40,000 deaths from 2017–18;
• Sanctions have reduced the availability of food and medicine, and increased disease and mortality;
• The August 2017 sanctions contributed to a sharp decline in oil production, causing great harm to the civilian population;
• If US sanctions implemented in January 2019 continue, they will almost certainly result in tens of thousands more avoidable deaths;
• This finding is based on an estimated 80,000 people with HIV who have not had antiretroviral treatment since 2017, 16,000 people who need dialysis, 16,000 people with cancer, and 4 million with diabetes and hypertension (many of whom cannot obtain insulin or cardiovascular medicine);
• Since the January 2019 sanctions, oil production has fallen by 431,000 barrels per day or 36.4 per cent. This will greatly accelerate the humanitarian crisis. But the projected 67 per cent decline in oil production for the year, if the sanctions continue, would cause vastly more loss of human life.

Weisbrot spelled out the enormity of punitive US policy towards Venezuela:

'The sanctions are depriving Venezuelans of lifesaving medicines, medical equipment, food, and other essential imports. This is illegal under U.S. and international law, and treaties that the U.S. has signed. Congress should move to stop it.'

Just as the corporate media blamed Saddam Hussein for the devastating impact of US-UK sanctions on Iraq which led to the deaths of over one million Iraqis between 1990 and 2003, 'our free press' are united in blaming Nicolás Maduro, the Venezuelan president, for the country's economic and humanitarian crisis. The new CEPR report refutes that propaganda framework. Sachs emphasised:

'Venezuela's economic crisis is routinely blamed all on Venezuela. But it is much more than that. American sanctions are deliberately aiming to wreck Venezuela's economy and thereby lead to regime change [our emphasis]. It's a fruitless, heartless, illegal, and failed policy, causing grave harm to the Venezuelan people.'

The report highlights that:

'the pain and suffering being inflicted upon the civilian population may not be collateral damage but actually part of the strategy to topple the government.'

Indeed, Weisbrot and Sachs make the devastating point that sanctions:

'would fit the definition of collective punishment of the civilian population as described in both the Geneva and Hague international conventions, to which the US is a signatory.'

In a sane political and media world, this would be headline news.

Assange Arrest – Part 2: ‘A Definite Creep, A Probable Rapist’

Fim, 18/04/2019 - 08:56

 

In December 2010, Guardian columnist Suzanne Moore commented on Julian Assange in the Mail on Sunday:

'Indeed it's difficult to get a clear picture of the complaints by two women he had sex with in Sweden in August... The sex appears to have been consensual, though his refusal to use condoms was not. His behaviour looks bad rather than illegal but who really knows? The Swedish prosecutors themselves say they believe these women's stories but don't believe these are crimes.'

'Who really knows?' The answer, of course, was and is that, in the absence of a trial, nobody except the people directly involved knows what really happened.

If Moore was somewhat reasonable in 2010, her stance had changed by June 2012, when Assange sought political asylum in Ecuador's London embassy – a time when, still, nobody really knew what had happened. She tweeted:

'Seems like Assange's supporters did not expect him to skip bail? Really? Who has this guy not let down?'

She added:

'I bet Assange is stuffing himself full of flattened guinea pigs. He really is the most massive turd.'

As discussed in Part 1, the nub of this 'mainstream' scorn was the belief that Assange's concerns about extradition were a cowardly excuse for fleeing possible sex crimes - fears of extradition were a nerdish, paranoid fantasy. Moore wrote in 2011:

'The extradition hearing last week involved massive showboating on both sides. Assange supporters were gathered outside the courts dressed in orange Guantanamo Bay jumpsuits. Does anyone seriously believe this is what will happen to Assange?'

It is a bitter irony, then, that Assange is currently trapped in the high-security Belmarsh Prison, which has been described as 'Britain's Guantanamo Bay'.

The fact that Assange has now been arrested at the request of the US seeking his extradition over allegations that he conspired with Chelsea Manning, means that Assange's claimed motive for seeking political asylum now appears very credible indeed - he was right about US intentions.

Assange can now be depicted as a cowardly fugitive from Swedish justice only by someone finding it outrageous that he should resist extradition by the Trump regime to spend the rest of his life in jail, or worse.

In other words, if corporate journalists are responding to the facts, rather than power-serving prejudice, recent events should have moderated their stance towards Assange. It is easy to check.

Assange Arrest – Part 2: ‘A Definite Creep, A Probable Rapist’

Fim, 18/04/2019 - 08:56

 

In December 2010, Guardian columnist Suzanne Moore commented on Julian Assange in the Mail on Sunday:

'Indeed it's difficult to get a clear picture of the complaints by two women he had sex with in Sweden in August... The sex appears to have been consensual, though his refusal to use condoms was not. His behaviour looks bad rather than illegal but who really knows? The Swedish prosecutors themselves say they believe these women's stories but don't believe these are crimes.'

'Who really knows?' The answer, of course, was and is that, in the absence of a trial, nobody except the people directly involved knows what really happened.

If Moore was somewhat reasonable in 2010, her stance had changed by June 2012, when Assange sought political asylum in Ecuador's London embassy – a time when, still, nobody really knew what had happened. She tweeted:

'Seems like Assange's supporters did not expect him to skip bail? Really? Who has this guy not let down?'

She added:

'I bet Assange is stuffing himself full of flattened guinea pigs. He really is the most massive turd.'

As discussed in Part 1, the nub of this 'mainstream' scorn was the belief that Assange's concerns about extradition were a cowardly excuse for fleeing possible sex crimes - fears of extradition were a nerdish, paranoid fantasy. Moore wrote in 2011:

'The extradition hearing last week involved massive showboating on both sides. Assange supporters were gathered outside the courts dressed in orange Guantanamo Bay jumpsuits. Does anyone seriously believe this is what will happen to Assange?'

It is a bitter irony, then, that Assange is currently trapped in the high-security Belmarsh Prison, which has been described as 'Britain's Guantanamo Bay'.

The fact that Assange has now been arrested at the request of the US seeking his extradition over allegations that he conspired with Chelsea Manning, means that Assange's claimed motive for seeking political asylum now appears very credible indeed - he was right about US intentions.

Assange can now be depicted as a cowardly fugitive from Swedish justice only by someone finding it outrageous that he should resist extradition by the Trump regime to spend the rest of his life in jail, or worse.

In other words, if corporate journalists are responding to the facts, rather than power-serving prejudice, recent events should have moderated their stance towards Assange. It is easy to check.

Assange Arrest - Part 1: 'So Now He's Our Property'

Þri, 16/04/2019 - 07:25

If 'journalism' meant what it is supposed to mean– acting as the proverbial 'fourth estate' to challenge power and to keep the public informed – then Julian Assange and WikiLeaks would be universally lauded as paragons. So would Chelsea Manning, the brave former US Army whistleblower who passed on to WikiLeaks more than 700,000 confidential US State Department and Pentagon documents, videos and diplomatic cables about the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The most infamous example was 'Collateral Murder', a video clip filmed from a US helicopter gunship, showing the indiscriminate killing of a dozen or more Iraqi civilians, including two Reuters journalists, in 2007. Shockwaves reverberated around the world, to the deep embarrassment of the US government and military. Today, Manning is incarcerated in a Virginia jail, and Assange is locked up in the high-security HM Prison Belmarsh.

In 2013, Manning was given a 35-year prison sentence for daring to reveal brutal US abuses of power. This was commuted by President Barack Obama in 2017, two days before he left office, and Manning was able to go free. However, last month she was called to testify against WikiLeaks before a secret grand jury in Virginia. Recognising that this had clearly been set as a trap to incriminate both her and Assange, she refused to answer questions:

'I will not participate in a secret process that I morally object to, particularly one that has been used to entrap and persecute activists for protected political speech.'

And now Assange, after almost seven years of political asylum in cramped quarters in Ecuador's embassy in London, and in fading health, has been literally dragged out of what should have been a safe refuge, contrary to international law, and placed at the mercy of UK and US power.

Sean Love, a medical doctor who examined Assange while he was in the embassy, was clear that the WikiLeaks co-founder had suffered badly while in asylum, and would carry that suffering with him for the rest of his life:

'Assange does not leave behind the physical and psychological sequelae of his confinement at the embassy. The harms follow him; they are irreparable. The inhumanity of his treatment and the flagrant denials of his universal rights by Ecuador and the UK are unconscionable.'

He also countered the scurrilous propaganda that Assange had behaved badly while in the embassy:

'Never did I witness Assange having poor hygiene or discourteous behavior toward embassy staff. His suffering was readily apparent, yet he was always pleasant, professional; admirable characteristics under extreme and punitive circumstances.'

Fidel Narvaez, former consul at the Ecuador embassy from the first day Assange arrived, on 19 June 2012, until 15 July 2018, said that the claims smearing Assange's behaviour in the embassy were 'absolutely false, or distorted, or exaggerated'. Narvaez added that:

'whenever I was in the room with Julian, there was always an attitude of respect, of mutal respect, always, from all the diplomatic and administrative staff towards Julian and from Julian towards them... I challenge any member of the embassy staff to cite an occasion when Julian ever - ever! - treated them with a lack of respect.'

Narvaez says the atmosphere may well have changed after he left when, he believes, Moreno's regime tried to make life 'unbearable' for Assange in the embassy.

Prime Minister Theresa May boasted of Assange's arrest to Parliament:

'This goes to show that in the United Kingdom, no one is above the law.'

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt opined:

'Julian Assange is no hero'.

Democratic Senator Joe Manchin on Thursday celebrated Assange's arrest, arguing that it's 'great for the American people':

'We're going to extradite him. It will be really good to get him back on United States soil. So now he's our property and we can get the facts and truth from him.'

But Rafael Correa, the former president of Ecuador who had granted Assange asylum in 2012, was scathing about the man who had succeeded him in 2017:

'The greatest traitor in Ecuadorian and Latin American history, Lenin Moreno, allowed the British police to enter our embassy in London to arrest Assange. Moreno is a corrupt man, but what he has done is a crime that humanity will never forget.'

Journalist John Pilger had strong words:

'The action of the British police in literally dragging Julian Assange from the Ecuadorean embassy and the smashing of international law by the Ecuadorean regime in permitting this barbarity are crimes against the most basic natural justice. This is a warning to all journalists.'

Former CIA whistleblower Edward Snowden warned:

'Assange's critics may cheer, but this is a dark moment for press freedom.'

In an interview on Democracy Now!, Noam Chomsky called Assange's arrest 'scandalous in several respects' and expanded:

'One of them is just the effort of governments—and it's not just the U.S. government. The British are cooperating. Ecuador, of course, is now cooperating. Sweden, before, had cooperated. The efforts to silence a journalist who was producing materials that people in power didn't want the rascal multitude to know about [...] that's basically what happened. WikiLeaks was producing things that people ought to know about those in power. People in power don't like that, so therefore we have to silence it. OK? This is the kind of thing, the kind of scandal, that takes place, unfortunately, over and over.'

He added:

'The other scandal is just the extraterritorial reach of the United States, which is shocking. I mean, why should the United States—why should any—no other state could possibly do it. But why should the United States have the power to control what others are doing elsewhere in the world? I mean, it's an outlandish situation. It goes on all the time. We never even notice it. At least there's no comment on it.'

Assange Arrest - Part 1: 'So Now He's Our Property'

Þri, 16/04/2019 - 07:25

If 'journalism' meant what it is supposed to mean– acting as the proverbial 'fourth estate' to challenge power and to keep the public informed – then Julian Assange and WikiLeaks would be universally lauded as paragons. So would Chelsea Manning, the brave former US Army whistleblower who passed on to WikiLeaks more than 700,000 confidential US State Department and Pentagon documents, videos and diplomatic cables about the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The most infamous example was 'Collateral Murder', a video clip filmed from a US helicopter gunship, showing the indiscriminate killing of a dozen or more Iraqi civilians, including two Reuters journalists, in 2007. Shockwaves reverberated around the world, to the deep embarrassment of the US government and military. Today, Manning is incarcerated in a Virginia jail, and Assange is locked up in the high-security HM Prison Belmarsh.

In 2013, Manning was given a 35-year prison sentence for daring to reveal brutal US abuses of power. This was commuted by President Barack Obama in 2017, two days before he left office, and Manning was able to go free. However, last month she was called to testify against WikiLeaks before a secret grand jury in Virginia. Recognising that this had clearly been set as a trap to incriminate both her and Assange, she refused to answer questions:

'I will not participate in a secret process that I morally object to, particularly one that has been used to entrap and persecute activists for protected political speech.'

And now Assange, after almost seven years of political asylum in cramped quarters in Ecuador's embassy in London, and in fading health, has been literally dragged out of what should have been a safe refuge, contrary to international law, and placed at the mercy of UK and US power.

Sean Love, a medical doctor who examined Assange while he was in the embassy, was clear that the WikiLeaks co-founder had suffered badly while in asylum, and would carry that suffering with him for the rest of his life:

'Assange does not leave behind the physical and psychological sequelae of his confinement at the embassy. The harms follow him; they are irreparable. The inhumanity of his treatment and the flagrant denials of his universal rights by Ecuador and the UK are unconscionable.'

He also countered the scurrilous propaganda that Assange had behaved badly while in the embassy:

'Never did I witness Assange having poor hygiene or discourteous behavior toward embassy staff. His suffering was readily apparent, yet he was always pleasant, professional; admirable characteristics under extreme and punitive circumstances.'

Fidel Narvaez, former consul at the Ecuador embassy from the first day Assange arrived, on 19 June 2012, until 15 July 2018, said that the claims smearing Assange's behaviour in the embassy were 'absolutely false, or distorted, or exaggerated'. Narvaez added that:

'whenever I was in the room with Julian, there was always an attitude of respect, of mutal respect, always, from all the diplomatic and administrative staff towards Julian and from Julian towards them... I challenge any member of the embassy staff to cite an occasion when Julian ever - ever! - treated them with a lack of respect.'

Narvaez says the atmosphere may well have changed after he left when, he believes, Moreno's regime tried to make life 'unbearable' for Assange in the embassy.

Prime Minister Theresa May boasted of Assange's arrest to Parliament:

'This goes to show that in the United Kingdom, no one is above the law.'

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt opined:

'Julian Assange is no hero'.

Democratic Senator Joe Manchin on Thursday celebrated Assange's arrest, arguing that it's 'great for the American people':

'We're going to extradite him. It will be really good to get him back on United States soil. So now he's our property and we can get the facts and truth from him.'

But Rafael Correa, the former president of Ecuador who had granted Assange asylum in 2012, was scathing about the man who had succeeded him in 2017:

'The greatest traitor in Ecuadorian and Latin American history, Lenin Moreno, allowed the British police to enter our embassy in London to arrest Assange. Moreno is a corrupt man, but what he has done is a crime that humanity will never forget.'

Journalist John Pilger had strong words:

'The action of the British police in literally dragging Julian Assange from the Ecuadorean embassy and the smashing of international law by the Ecuadorean regime in permitting this barbarity are crimes against the most basic natural justice. This is a warning to all journalists.'

Former CIA whistleblower Edward Snowden warned:

'Assange's critics may cheer, but this is a dark moment for press freedom.'

In an interview on Democracy Now!, Noam Chomsky called Assange's arrest 'scandalous in several respects' and expanded:

'One of them is just the effort of governments—and it's not just the U.S. government. The British are cooperating. Ecuador, of course, is now cooperating. Sweden, before, had cooperated. The efforts to silence a journalist who was producing materials that people in power didn't want the rascal multitude to know about [...] that's basically what happened. WikiLeaks was producing things that people ought to know about those in power. People in power don't like that, so therefore we have to silence it. OK? This is the kind of thing, the kind of scandal, that takes place, unfortunately, over and over.'

He added:

'The other scandal is just the extraterritorial reach of the United States, which is shocking. I mean, why should the United States—why should any—no other state could possibly do it. But why should the United States have the power to control what others are doing elsewhere in the world? I mean, it's an outlandish situation. It goes on all the time. We never even notice it. At least there's no comment on it.'

Fake News Tsunami - Trump's 'Collusion' And Corbyn As 'Dangerous Hero'

Fös, 05/04/2019 - 07:26

According to corporate journalism, a tidal wave of 'fake news' has long been threatening to swamp their wonderful work reporting real news. The ProQuest media database finds fully 805,669 hits for newspaper articles mentioning the term 'fake news'. The key sources of such fakery are said to be social media, and above all, of course, Russia.

It is a perfect irony, then, that 'the Mueller report', conducted by the US Department of Justice Special Counsel's Office, headed by former FBI Director Robert Mueller, 'did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities'.

Jeremy Scahill of The Intercept explains the significance:

'This has been an utterly colossal media failure and it reveals how little things have actually changed with the broader press since the Iraq War lies. The overall tone of much of the reporting on this Trump-Russia story has started from the position that the intelligence community was being truthful about Trump and Russia. The reporting then sought to further confirm those assertions. It was confirmation bias to the nth degree...

'Also, the fact that Trump is a cartoonish buffoonish villain contributed to an atmosphere where the attitude was that anything Trump was accused of—no matter how insane it sounded—was totally plausible, if not likely, if not certain to have happened. Trump was not supposed to win. It was Hillary Clinton's turn.'

As we will discuss below, this should ring loud bells with British readers subjected to a very similar smear campaign targeting Jeremy Corbyn, who was also 'not supposed to win' the Labour Party election leadership.

In 2017, a Guardian leading article commented on Trump and Russia:

'The Guardian view of Trump's Russia links: a lot to go at.'

Another leader in 2017 went much further:

'Meanwhile the grenades he [Trump] lobs via Twitter or interview cloud the issue that still lies at the heart of his presidency: Russian meddling in the US election, and the possible collusion of his own campaign. All other iniquities pale beside this.'

Also in the Guardian in 2017, columnist Paul Mason highlighted 'Kremlin involvement in the Trump campaign' as the key reason 'Trump could be out of office within a year'.

The Telegraph agreed that the 'russiagate' claim 'is the cloud hanging over the entire presidency'.

The press has been filled with numerous similar examples.

Strongly echoing UK experience, Scahill adds:

'We have been subjected to more than two years of nonstop, fact-free assertions and wild theories masquerading as fact, masquerading as insightful analysis.'

A tsunami of 'fake news', in other words, supplied by the very same media who have supplied that other tsunami of warnings on the threat of 'fake news'.

The key word, and the title of Guardian journalist Luke Harding's best-selling book: 'Collusion'. The rest of the book title, unfortunately for Harding: 'How Russia Helped Trump Win the White House' (Guardian Faber Publishing; Main, 2017).

Harding was also lead author of a fake, front-page Guardian claim in November 2018 that Paul Manafort, Donald Trump's former campaign manager, had met Julian Assange three times in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Both Harding and Guardian editor Kath Viner have refused to respond to challenges posed, for example, by former Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald. Needless to say, our questions were also ignored.

Fake News Tsunami - Trump's 'Collusion' And Corbyn As 'Dangerous Hero'

Fös, 05/04/2019 - 07:26

According to corporate journalism, a tidal wave of 'fake news' has long been threatening to swamp their wonderful work reporting real news. The ProQuest media database finds fully 805,669 hits for newspaper articles mentioning the term 'fake news'. The key sources of such fakery are said to be social media, and above all, of course, Russia.

It is a perfect irony, then, that 'the Mueller report', conducted by the US Department of Justice Special Counsel's Office, headed by former FBI Director Robert Mueller, 'did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities'.

Jeremy Scahill of The Intercept explains the significance:

'This has been an utterly colossal media failure and it reveals how little things have actually changed with the broader press since the Iraq War lies. The overall tone of much of the reporting on this Trump-Russia story has started from the position that the intelligence community was being truthful about Trump and Russia. The reporting then sought to further confirm those assertions. It was confirmation bias to the nth degree...

'Also, the fact that Trump is a cartoonish buffoonish villain contributed to an atmosphere where the attitude was that anything Trump was accused of—no matter how insane it sounded—was totally plausible, if not likely, if not certain to have happened. Trump was not supposed to win. It was Hillary Clinton's turn.'

As we will discuss below, this should ring loud bells with British readers subjected to a very similar smear campaign targeting Jeremy Corbyn, who was also 'not supposed to win' the Labour Party election leadership.

In 2017, a Guardian leading article commented on Trump and Russia:

'The Guardian view of Trump's Russia links: a lot to go at.'

Another leader in 2017 went much further:

'Meanwhile the grenades he [Trump] lobs via Twitter or interview cloud the issue that still lies at the heart of his presidency: Russian meddling in the US election, and the possible collusion of his own campaign. All other iniquities pale beside this.'

Also in the Guardian in 2017, columnist Paul Mason highlighted 'Kremlin involvement in the Trump campaign' as the key reason 'Trump could be out of office within a year'.

The Telegraph agreed that the 'russiagate' claim 'is the cloud hanging over the entire presidency'.

The press has been filled with numerous similar examples.

Strongly echoing UK experience, Scahill adds:

'We have been subjected to more than two years of nonstop, fact-free assertions and wild theories masquerading as fact, masquerading as insightful analysis.'

A tsunami of 'fake news', in other words, supplied by the very same media who have supplied that other tsunami of warnings on the threat of 'fake news'.

The key word, and the title of Guardian journalist Luke Harding's best-selling book: 'Collusion'. The rest of the book title, unfortunately for Harding: 'How Russia Helped Trump Win the White House' (Guardian Faber Publishing; Main, 2017).

Harding was also lead author of a fake, front-page Guardian claim in November 2018 that Paul Manafort, Donald Trump's former campaign manager, had met Julian Assange three times in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Both Harding and Guardian editor Kath Viner have refused to respond to challenges posed, for example, by former Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald. Needless to say, our questions were also ignored.

The Destruction of Freedom: Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange And The Corporate Media

Þri, 19/03/2019 - 07:57

In 2013, US Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning was given a 35-year prison sentence after she had leaked more than 700,000 confidential US State Department and Pentagon documents, videos and diplomatic cables about the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to WikiLeaks. Perhaps the most notorious of the releases was a US military video that WikiLeaks titled 'Collateral Murder'. It showed the indiscriminate killing of up to eighteen people in Baghdad on 12 July, 2007. The footage, taken from an Apache helicopter gun-sight, showed the slaying of a wounded Reuters journalist and his rescuers. A second Reuters staff member, employed as a driver and camera assistant, was also killed. Two young children, whose father was among those killed, were seriously wounded.

The video, together with the transcript of army exchanges during the indiscriminate US killings, shocked many around the world:

Let's shoot.
Light 'em all up.
Come on, fire!
Keep shoot, keep shoot. [keep shooting]
keep shoot.
keep shoot.
[...]
Oh, yeah, look at those dead bastards.
Nice.

While in prison, Manning twice attempted to commit suicide and also spent time in solitary confinement. She was released in 2017, after her sentence was commuted by President Barack Obama, two days before he left office.

On 8 March – International Women's Day – Manning was once again jailed after she refused to testify against WikiLeaks, and its founder Julian Assange, before a grand jury in Virginia. A grand jury means that the public is not allowed entry: the hearings are held in secret. She said in a statement:

'I will not comply with this, or any other grand jury.

'Imprisoning me for my refusal to answer questions only subjects me to additional punishment for my repeatedly-stated ethical objections to the grand jury system.

'I will not participate in a secret process that I morally object to, particularly one that has been used to entrap and persecute activists for protected political speech.'

Binoy Kampmark, who lectures at RMIT University in Melbourne, remarked:

'The sense of dredging and re-dredging in efforts to ensnare Manning is palpable... There is a distinct note of the sinister in this resumption of hounding a whistleblower'.

Kampmark added:

'Manning's original conviction was a shot across the bow, the prelude to something fundamental. Journalists long protected for using leaked material under the First Amendment were going to become future targets of prosecution.'

Sending Manning back to jail shows:

'the unequivocal determination of US authorities to fetter, if not totally neutralise, the reach of WikiLeaks in the modern information wars.'

The famous whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, who released the Pentagon Papers in 1971 detailing US war crimes in Vietnam and US government lies to the public, told Amy Goodman in a Democracy Now! interview:

'This is a continuation of seven-and-a-half years of torture of Chelsea Manning, in an effort to get her to contribute to incriminating WikiLeaks, so that they can bring Julian Assange or WikiLeaks to trial on charges that would not apply to The New York Times. It's been speculated for years now that the secret charges, if they did exist—and apparently they do exist—against Julian Assange were under the same charges that I was first—the first person to be prosecuted for, back in 1971: violations of the Espionage Act, conspiracy and theft. It would be the same cases brought against me.'

Ellsberg continued:

'Unfortunately, bringing that against a journalist is even more blatantly a violation of the First Amendment, freedom of the press. And although Donald Trump has made it very plain he would love to prosecute and convict The New York Times, he doesn't have the guts to do that, to do what he wants, fortunately, because it would be so obviously unconstitutional, that although his base would be happy with it and he would be happy with it, he would get into too much trouble constitutionally. So he wants to find charges against Julian that would be different from mine, because if he brought the same charges that he brought against me—in this case, against a journalist—it would clearly be found unconstitutional.'

He then pointed to the significance of this latest development:

'And so, Chelsea, having failed to give them what they wanted over seven-and-a-half years here she was incarcerated, or since, or in the grand jury—namely, false incriminating charges against WikiLeaks—they're resorting again to torture, which does work at getting false confessions. That's what it's for. That's what it mainly does. They want her to contradict her earlier sworn testimony many times, that she behaved in relation to WikiLeaks exactly as she would have to The New York Times or The Washington Post, to whom she went first, before going to WikiLeaks. And they didn't pick up on what she was offering, so she went to WikiLeaks. But she took sole responsibility, not to spare them, but because that was the truth. And she tells the truth.'

Journalist Glenn Greenwald, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his contribution to a series of Guardian and Washington Post articles based on documents released by whistleblower Edward Snowden, concurred that the real target is WikiLeaks:

'the Trump administration is trying to do what the Obama administration tried to do but ultimately concluded it couldn't do without jeopardizing press freedoms, which is to prosecute WikiLeaks and Julian Assange for what it regards as the crime of publishing top-secret or classified documents.'

Greenwald rightly called this attempt to go after WikiLeaks 'a grave threat to press freedom'. However:

'most reporters are mute on this scandal, on this controversy, and while a lot of Democrats are supportive of it, because they still hate WikiLeaks so much from the 2016 election that they're happy to see Julian Assange go to jail, even if it means standing behind the Trump administration'.

The reference to the 2016 election is the allegation that WikiLeaks' publication of emails from the Democratic Party and John Podesta, Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign chairman, brought about Trump's victory. Assange had even supposedly conspired with Trump, and with Trump's alleged Russian allies, to fatally damage Clinton's 2016 campaign: charges that are without any solid basis.

The Courage Foundation, a trust set up to fundraise the legal defence of individuals such as whistleblowers and journalists, warns of the 'Assange Precedent'; namely, the threat to all media posed by the Trump administration's attempt to prosecute Julian Assange:

'All media organizations and journalists must recognize the threat to their freedom and ability to work posed by the Trump Administration's prosecution of Assange. They should join human rights organizations, the United Nations and many others in opposing Assange's extradition. They should do so out of their own self-interest given that their ability to safely publish is under serious threat.'

In December 2015, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention deemed that the WikiLeaks founder, whose health is deteriorating, has been arbitrarily detained since 2010, and that he should be freed and compensated. George Galloway rightly points out that:

'It's a kind of modern day torture that Julian Assange has been subjected to.'

In November 2018, Assange's mother made an urgent and impassioned plea to raise awareness of his plight:

'This is not a drill. This is an emergency. The life of my son...is in immediate and critical danger.'

On 18 March, Christine Assange renewed her appeal to journalists, in particular, to stand up for her son. Their record to date has been, in the main, shameful. We have previously detailed numerous examples of journalistic abuse, scorn and ridicule thrown at Assange, and WikiLeaks, notably by Guardian journalists. For instance, Hannah Parkinson, who writes for the Guardian and its sister Sunday paper, the Observer, tweeted this about Assange last year:

'this little shit has lived rent free in Knightsbridge for 5 years, probably saved about £200k'

The tweet was 'liked' by John Simpson, the 'impartial' grandly-titled BBC World Affairs Editor who exudes gravitas, if little insight, on world affairs.

And in response to the news last October that Assange was to launch legal action against the government of Ecuador, accusing it of violating his fundamental rights and freedoms, Parkinson had tweeted:

'a teenager whose parents turn the wifi off'

This is par for the course at the Guardian whose journalists are regularly shamed by WikiLeaks and Julian Assange doing the real job of exposing power to public scrutiny. In 2015, Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs had even mocked Chelsea Manning when she was put in solitary confinement:

'And the world's tiniest violin plays a sad song'

That, however, did earn a mild rebuke in a tweet from Guardian editor Matt Wells. The tweets were subsequently deleted, but not before screenshots had been saved.

The disdain, sometimes outright hostility, towards WikiLeaks and Assange is also reflected in the minimal coverage, and distinct lack of support, for Chelsea Manning's renewed incarceration. The Guardian merely published a brief article titled, 'Chelsea Manning jailed for refusing to testify to grand jury in WikiLeaks case'. As WikiLeaks journalist Kristinn Hrafnsson pointed out:

'Of the MSM ['mainstream' media] the @guardian benefitted most from material Chelsea Manning was sentenced for in 2013. You might expect a huge story on the yda [yesterday] jailing of @xychelsea [Chelsea Manning] to extort her to testify against Assange/@wikileaks. But nothing except a small AP [Associated Press] based story that quickly lost front.'

Hrafnsson added:

'Every day Chelsea Manning @xychelsea spends in jail for refusing to testify against Assange/@wikileaks adds shame to those journalists who remain silent about this disgrace. This applies especially to those who benefited most from her brave acts in the past. @guardian @nytimes'

The Guardian had, of course, benefitted in publishing Greenwald's work based on Manning's releases via WikiLeaks; as well as book sales that were generated on the back of WikiLeaks' work. In 2012, journalist and filmmaker John Pilger wrote that the British government's pursuit of Julian Assange was 'an assault on freedom and a mockery of journalism'. He described the corporate media's treatment of Assange as 'a vituperative personal campaign':

'Much of it has emanated from the Guardian, which, like a spurned lover, has turned on its besieged former source, having hugely profited from WikiLeaks disclosures. With not a penny going to Assange or WikiLeaks, a Guardian book has led to a lucrative Hollywood movie deal. The authors, David Leigh and Luke Harding, gratuitously abuse Assange as a "damaged personality" and "callous". They also reveal the secret password he had given the paper in confidence, which was designed to protect a digital file containing the US embassy cables.'

A ProQuest newspaper database search on 19 March revealed that there were but four newspaper articles about the imprisonment of Chelsea Manning in the whole of the national print press: The Times, the Daily Mail, The Herald and the Daily Record (the latter two newspapers are based in Scotland). The Guardian article mentioned above, based on an Associated Press release, was published online; but not in the print version. There was also an online Telegraph piece which was also just a press release (by Agence France-Presse). As far as we could tell, there was not a single editorial or column in a major national newspaper defending Chelsea Manning, nor pointing to the grave danger to press freedom that her new incarceration posed. That is a disgraceful indictment of our so-called 'free press'.

In an interview last week with Dennis Bernstein on Radio KPFA, John Pilger described the significance, and injustice, of the recent jailing of Chelsea Manning. The irony of her being imprisoned on International Women's Day was first noted, then Pilger pointed to the shameful silence from the women's movement, and other human rights activists:

'Where are they [human rights activists] on Chelsea Manning? Why were there only ten people outside the Court House? Where is Amnesty International? Where are the women's groups? Where are the LGBT groups? Where are the Pride people? Why aren't they massing in support of Chelsea Manning? Instead I see Chelsea Manning's story relegated in a sort of, "Oh well, that's almost inevitable this is going to happen." But this [...] is the most significant act of principle; an inspiration to all decent people; to democrats, to people who believe in justice. So where are the groups who have been very loud in their condemnation – rightly - of Donald Trump? Where are they? Why are we not hearing from them?'

Discussion then turned to the crushing reality that the corporate media is an extension of an oppressive establishment order:

Dennis Bernstein: 'it seems to me that journalists believe Chelsea Manning should be in jail. And that Julian Assange isn't a publisher, and that he should be tried for treason because, after all, these journalists are patriots. They're no reporters.'

John Pilger: 'Well, I think I'll stand back a little from that question a little, Dennis. I think we can go on and beat our heads on the media brick wall, and asking these questions on the media. The media is part of an oppressive system in various forms [...]. It is an extension of the established order and these days it is without something it used to have, and that is spaces – limited spaces – but spaces for free and fair comment. Right across the corporate media these spaces have evaporated. So they are part of a system. They have shown this in a most grotesque way by the persecution of Julian Assange – the slandering of him, the distortion of the facts about his case.'

Pilger, who is well-versed in Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky's propaganda model of the media, explained that it has already been clear for some considerable time how and why the corporate media operate in the way they do. It is now time for nonviolent direct action against the media that constantly promotes rapacious Western interests and erodes public freedoms:

'It is certainly right for us to protest – and I think our protests against the media should be more of a direct action now: occupy their spaces, occupy their buildings, confront them.'

Pilger added that 'people who preserve human decency' – the majority, that is – need to ask ourselves what we are doing about the ongoing state and corporate assault on freedom of expression; and, indeed, on freedom itself:

'The Chelsea Manning/Julian Assange case goes to the very heart of everything. It is about freedom. It's not just about freedom of expression. It is about justice. It is about the law: the use of law, the misuse of law. It is about right and wrong. If there is going to be any real debate, I think we have to confront it, and we have to do it on our terms; not through the hopeless cypher of a corporate media.'

The corporate media is institutionally opposed to the interests of the vast majority of the public; that is why we reject the label 'mainstream'. The corporate media, including BBC News, systematically promotes imperialist and exploitative state interests, together with private power in the form of big business, financial speculation, military forces, the arms industry, the fossil fuel lobby, destructive agribusiness, unsustainable food production and rampant global consumerism that is destroying ecosystems, ramping up mass loss of species and endangering human survival through climate chaos. This oppressive system, with the corporate media a vital cog in the apparatus, must be exposed, confronted, dismantled and replaced with a society that truly promotes democracy, justice and human potential. It is up to us to make it happen before it's too late.

DC

The Destruction of Freedom: Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange And The Corporate Media

Þri, 19/03/2019 - 07:57

In 2013, US Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning was given a 35-year prison sentence after she had leaked more than 700,000 confidential US State Department and Pentagon documents, videos and diplomatic cables about the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to WikiLeaks. Perhaps the most notorious of the releases was a US military video that WikiLeaks titled 'Collateral Murder'. It showed the indiscriminate killing of up to eighteen people in Baghdad on 12 July, 2007. The footage, taken from an Apache helicopter gun-sight, showed the slaying of a wounded Reuters journalist and his rescuers. A second Reuters staff member, employed as a driver and camera assistant, was also killed. Two young children, whose father was among those killed, were seriously wounded.

The video, together with the transcript of army exchanges during the indiscriminate US killings, shocked many around the world:

Let's shoot.
Light 'em all up.
Come on, fire!
Keep shoot, keep shoot. [keep shooting]
keep shoot.
keep shoot.
[...]
Oh, yeah, look at those dead bastards.
Nice.

While in prison, Manning twice attempted to commit suicide and also spent time in solitary confinement. She was released in 2017, after her sentence was commuted by President Barack Obama, two days before he left office.

On 8 March – International Women's Day – Manning was once again jailed after she refused to testify against WikiLeaks, and its founder Julian Assange, before a grand jury in Virginia. A grand jury means that the public is not allowed entry: the hearings are held in secret. She said in a statement:

'I will not comply with this, or any other grand jury.

'Imprisoning me for my refusal to answer questions only subjects me to additional punishment for my repeatedly-stated ethical objections to the grand jury system.

'I will not participate in a secret process that I morally object to, particularly one that has been used to entrap and persecute activists for protected political speech.'

Binoy Kampmark, who lectures at RMIT University in Melbourne, remarked:

'The sense of dredging and re-dredging in efforts to ensnare Manning is palpable... There is a distinct note of the sinister in this resumption of hounding a whistleblower'.

Kampmark added:

'Manning's original conviction was a shot across the bow, the prelude to something fundamental. Journalists long protected for using leaked material under the First Amendment were going to become future targets of prosecution.'

Sending Manning back to jail shows:

'the unequivocal determination of US authorities to fetter, if not totally neutralise, the reach of WikiLeaks in the modern information wars.'

The famous whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, who released the Pentagon Papers in 1971 detailing US war crimes in Vietnam and US government lies to the public, told Amy Goodman in a Democracy Now! interview:

'This is a continuation of seven-and-a-half years of torture of Chelsea Manning, in an effort to get her to contribute to incriminating WikiLeaks, so that they can bring Julian Assange or WikiLeaks to trial on charges that would not apply to The New York Times. It's been speculated for years now that the secret charges, if they did exist—and apparently they do exist—against Julian Assange were under the same charges that I was first—the first person to be prosecuted for, back in 1971: violations of the Espionage Act, conspiracy and theft. It would be the same cases brought against me.'

Ellsberg continued:

'Unfortunately, bringing that against a journalist is even more blatantly a violation of the First Amendment, freedom of the press. And although Donald Trump has made it very plain he would love to prosecute and convict The New York Times, he doesn't have the guts to do that, to do what he wants, fortunately, because it would be so obviously unconstitutional, that although his base would be happy with it and he would be happy with it, he would get into too much trouble constitutionally. So he wants to find charges against Julian that would be different from mine, because if he brought the same charges that he brought against me—in this case, against a journalist—it would clearly be found unconstitutional.'

He then pointed to the significance of this latest development:

'And so, Chelsea, having failed to give them what they wanted over seven-and-a-half years here she was incarcerated, or since, or in the grand jury—namely, false incriminating charges against WikiLeaks—they're resorting again to torture, which does work at getting false confessions. That's what it's for. That's what it mainly does. They want her to contradict her earlier sworn testimony many times, that she behaved in relation to WikiLeaks exactly as she would have to The New York Times or The Washington Post, to whom she went first, before going to WikiLeaks. And they didn't pick up on what she was offering, so she went to WikiLeaks. But she took sole responsibility, not to spare them, but because that was the truth. And she tells the truth.'

Journalist Glenn Greenwald, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his contribution to a series of Guardian and Washington Post articles based on documents released by whistleblower Edward Snowden, concurred that the real target is WikiLeaks:

'the Trump administration is trying to do what the Obama administration tried to do but ultimately concluded it couldn't do without jeopardizing press freedoms, which is to prosecute WikiLeaks and Julian Assange for what it regards as the crime of publishing top-secret or classified documents.'

Greenwald rightly called this attempt to go after WikiLeaks 'a grave threat to press freedom'. However:

'most reporters are mute on this scandal, on this controversy, and while a lot of Democrats are supportive of it, because they still hate WikiLeaks so much from the 2016 election that they're happy to see Julian Assange go to jail, even if it means standing behind the Trump administration'.

The reference to the 2016 election is the allegation that WikiLeaks' publication of emails from the Democratic Party and John Podesta, Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign chairman, brought about Trump's victory. Assange had even supposedly conspired with Trump, and with Trump's alleged Russian allies, to fatally damage Clinton's 2016 campaign: charges that are without any solid basis.

The Courage Foundation, a trust set up to fundraise the legal defence of individuals such as whistleblowers and journalists, warns of the 'Assange Precedent'; namely, the threat to all media posed by the Trump administration's attempt to prosecute Julian Assange:

'All media organizations and journalists must recognize the threat to their freedom and ability to work posed by the Trump Administration's prosecution of Assange. They should join human rights organizations, the United Nations and many others in opposing Assange's extradition. They should do so out of their own self-interest given that their ability to safely publish is under serious threat.'

In December 2015, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention deemed that the WikiLeaks founder, whose health is deteriorating, has been arbitrarily detained since 2010, and that he should be freed and compensated. George Galloway rightly points out that:

'It's a kind of modern day torture that Julian Assange has been subjected to.'

In November 2018, Assange's mother made an urgent and impassioned plea to raise awareness of his plight:

'This is not a drill. This is an emergency. The life of my son...is in immediate and critical danger.'

On 18 March, Christine Assange renewed her appeal to journalists, in particular, to stand up for her son. Their record to date has been, in the main, shameful. We have previously detailed numerous examples of journalistic abuse, scorn and ridicule thrown at Assange, and WikiLeaks, notably by Guardian journalists. For instance, Hannah Parkinson, who writes for the Guardian and its sister Sunday paper, the Observer, tweeted this about Assange last year:

'this little shit has lived rent free in Knightsbridge for 5 years, probably saved about £200k'

The tweet was 'liked' by John Simpson, the 'impartial' grandly-titled BBC World Affairs Editor who exudes gravitas, if little insight, on world affairs.

And in response to the news last October that Assange was to launch legal action against the government of Ecuador, accusing it of violating his fundamental rights and freedoms, Parkinson had tweeted:

'a teenager whose parents turn the wifi off'

This is par for the course at the Guardian whose journalists are regularly shamed by WikiLeaks and Julian Assange doing the real job of exposing power to public scrutiny. In 2015, Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs had even mocked Chelsea Manning when she was put in solitary confinement:

'And the world's tiniest violin plays a sad song'

That, however, did earn a mild rebuke in a tweet from Guardian editor Matt Wells. The tweets were subsequently deleted, but not before screenshots had been saved.

The disdain, sometimes outright hostility, towards WikiLeaks and Assange is also reflected in the minimal coverage, and distinct lack of support, for Chelsea Manning's renewed incarceration. The Guardian merely published a brief article titled, 'Chelsea Manning jailed for refusing to testify to grand jury in WikiLeaks case'. As WikiLeaks journalist Kristinn Hrafnsson pointed out:

'Of the MSM ['mainstream' media] the @guardian benefitted most from material Chelsea Manning was sentenced for in 2013. You might expect a huge story on the yda [yesterday] jailing of @xychelsea [Chelsea Manning] to extort her to testify against Assange/@wikileaks. But nothing except a small AP [Associated Press] based story that quickly lost front.'

Hrafnsson added:

'Every day Chelsea Manning @xychelsea spends in jail for refusing to testify against Assange/@wikileaks adds shame to those journalists who remain silent about this disgrace. This applies especially to those who benefited most from her brave acts in the past. @guardian @nytimes'

The Guardian had, of course, benefitted in publishing Greenwald's work based on Manning's releases via WikiLeaks; as well as book sales that were generated on the back of WikiLeaks' work. In 2012, journalist and filmmaker John Pilger wrote that the British government's pursuit of Julian Assange was 'an assault on freedom and a mockery of journalism'. He described the corporate media's treatment of Assange as 'a vituperative personal campaign':

'Much of it has emanated from the Guardian, which, like a spurned lover, has turned on its besieged former source, having hugely profited from WikiLeaks disclosures. With not a penny going to Assange or WikiLeaks, a Guardian book has led to a lucrative Hollywood movie deal. The authors, David Leigh and Luke Harding, gratuitously abuse Assange as a "damaged personality" and "callous". They also reveal the secret password he had given the paper in confidence, which was designed to protect a digital file containing the US embassy cables.'

A ProQuest newspaper database search on 19 March revealed that there were but four newspaper articles about the imprisonment of Chelsea Manning in the whole of the national print press: The Times, the Daily Mail, The Herald and the Daily Record (the latter two newspapers are based in Scotland). The Guardian article mentioned above, based on an Associated Press release, was published online; but not in the print version. There was also an online Telegraph piece which was also just a press release (by Agence France-Presse). As far as we could tell, there was not a single editorial or column in a major national newspaper defending Chelsea Manning, nor pointing to the grave danger to press freedom that her new incarceration posed. That is a disgraceful indictment of our so-called 'free press'.

In an interview last week with Dennis Bernstein on Radio KPFA, John Pilger described the significance, and injustice, of the recent jailing of Chelsea Manning. The irony of her being imprisoned on International Women's Day was first noted, then Pilger pointed to the shameful silence from the women's movement, and other human rights activists:

'Where are they [human rights activists] on Chelsea Manning? Why were there only ten people outside the Court House? Where is Amnesty International? Where are the women's groups? Where are the LGBT groups? Where are the Pride people? Why aren't they massing in support of Chelsea Manning? Instead I see Chelsea Manning's story relegated in a sort of, "Oh well, that's almost inevitable this is going to happen." But this [...] is the most significant act of principle; an inspiration to all decent people; to democrats, to people who believe in justice. So where are the groups who have been very loud in their condemnation – rightly - of Donald Trump? Where are they? Why are we not hearing from them?'

Discussion then turned to the crushing reality that the corporate media is an extension of an oppressive establishment order:

Dennis Bernstein: 'it seems to me that journalists believe Chelsea Manning should be in jail. And that Julian Assange isn't a publisher, and that he should be tried for treason because, after all, these journalists are patriots. They're no reporters.'

John Pilger: 'Well, I think I'll stand back a little from that question a little, Dennis. I think we can go on and beat our heads on the media brick wall, and asking these questions on the media. The media is part of an oppressive system in various forms [...]. It is an extension of the established order and these days it is without something it used to have, and that is spaces – limited spaces – but spaces for free and fair comment. Right across the corporate media these spaces have evaporated. So they are part of a system. They have shown this in a most grotesque way by the persecution of Julian Assange – the slandering of him, the distortion of the facts about his case.'

Pilger, who is well-versed in Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky's propaganda model of the media, explained that it has already been clear for some considerable time how and why the corporate media operate in the way they do. It is now time for nonviolent direct action against the media that constantly promotes rapacious Western interests and erodes public freedoms:

'It is certainly right for us to protest – and I think our protests against the media should be more of a direct action now: occupy their spaces, occupy their buildings, confront them.'

Pilger added that 'people who preserve human decency' – the majority, that is – need to ask ourselves what we are doing about the ongoing state and corporate assault on freedom of expression; and, indeed, on freedom itself:

'The Chelsea Manning/Julian Assange case goes to the very heart of everything. It is about freedom. It's not just about freedom of expression. It is about justice. It is about the law: the use of law, the misuse of law. It is about right and wrong. If there is going to be any real debate, I think we have to confront it, and we have to do it on our terms; not through the hopeless cypher of a corporate media.'

The corporate media is institutionally opposed to the interests of the vast majority of the public; that is why we reject the label 'mainstream'. The corporate media, including BBC News, systematically promotes imperialist and exploitative state interests, together with private power in the form of big business, financial speculation, military forces, the arms industry, the fossil fuel lobby, destructive agribusiness, unsustainable food production and rampant global consumerism that is destroying ecosystems, ramping up mass loss of species and endangering human survival through climate chaos. This oppressive system, with the corporate media a vital cog in the apparatus, must be exposed, confronted, dismantled and replaced with a society that truly promotes democracy, justice and human potential. It is up to us to make it happen before it's too late.

DC

The Fake News Nazi - Corbyn, Williamson And The Anti-Semitism Scandal

Mið, 06/03/2019 - 10:01

One of us had a discussion with an elderly relative:

'He can't be allowed to become Prime Minister.'

'Why not?'

'It's so awful...'

'What is?'

'The way he hates the Jews.'

The last comment was spoken with real anguish, the result of continuous exposure to just two main news sources: the Daily Mail and the BBC.

What is astonishing is that, just four years ago, essentially no-one held this view of Jeremy Corbyn.

Corbyn first became an MP in 1983. He stood for the Labour leadership 32 years later, in May 2015. We searched the ProQuest database for UK newspaper articles containing:

'Jeremy Corbyn' and 'anti-semitism' before 1 May 2015 = 18 hits

'Jeremy Corbyn' and 'anti-semitism' after 1 May 2015 = 11,251 hits

None of the 18 hits accused Corbyn of anti-semitism. For his first 32 years as an MP, it just wasn't a theme associated with him.

We also searched the ProQuest database for UK newspaper articles containing:

'Labour Party' and 'anti-semitism' before 1 May 2015 = 5,347 hits

'Labour Party' and 'anti-semitism' after 1 May 2015 = 13,921 hits

The archive begins in 1980, which means that more than twice as many articles have included these terms in the last four years than in the 35 years from 1980 until May 2015 when Corbyn stood for the Labour leadership. A standard response to these findings runs along these lines:

'Irrelevant backbencher gets less Press attention than Leader of The Opposition SHOCKER. What's your next scoop, Water Wet, Sky Blue?'

But in fact, Corbyn was not an irrelevant backbencher. We found 3,662 hits for articles mentioning Corbyn before May 2015. Many of these are mentions in passing, but he had also long been a high-profile anti-war MP at a time of numerous wars. And he was frequently smeared, only not about his supposed anti-semitism. Consider, for example, an article that appeared in The Sun in 1999, under a typically cruel title:

'Why did it take you so long to dump him, Mrs Corbyn?' (Ally Ross, The Sun, 13 May 1999)

The story:

'EXTREME Left MP Jeremy Corbyn has been dumped by his missus after an amazing bust-up over their son's education.'

The key issue, according to The Sun:

'Now the question on everyone's lips is: Why did it take her so long to leave the loathsome Lefty, and more importantly, why is she only moaning about his choice of schools?'

Because there was, apparently, plenty to moan about. The Sun described Corbyn as 'class crusader Jeremy - a rabid IRA sympathiser' who 'not only looks and dresses like a third-rate Open University lecturer, he thinks like one too. In 1984 the Provo stooge invited twice-convicted terrorist and bomber Linda Quigley to the House of Commons just 13 days after the IRA's murderous attack on Tories staying at the Grand Hotel in Brighton'.

This was pretty brutal stuff. The Sun added of Corbyn's ex-wife:

'Claudia's saviour of the masses also suffers incredible delusions of grandeur. Communist states may be falling like dominoes, but raving Red Jeremy still believes his outdated views are relevant to modern-day Britain.'

And:

'Not only is Jeremy a political coward who backs terrorists, he is also a self-confessed big girl's blouse.'

And:

'Jeremy's mis-shapen suits, lumpy jumpers and nylon shirts are not exactly what the well-dressed radical is wearing in 1999... Claudia should be aware her ex is irredeemably, unforgivably, annoyingly stupid.'

Given the no-holds-barred nature of the smear, it is amazing that The Sun made no mention at all of Corbyn's vile anti-semitism, viewed as his most obvious and dangerous defect now.

The reason is that, as this shows, not even his worst enemies viewed him as an anti-semite. The extreme Tory press aside, the accepted view of Corbyn pre-2015 is indicated by a long, admiring piece in which Jewish journalist Deborah Ross, whose family members were murdered in Polish pogroms even before the Nazi Holocaust was unleashed, interviewed him for the Independent in 2005. Ross commented:

'He is also, it is generally agreed, an exemplary constituency MP. Even my friend Rebecca, who recently sought his help on a local issue, and never usually has a nice word to say about anybody, which is why I like her, describes him as a "totally genuine mensch".'

Ross added:

'As The Sun would have it, Mr Corbyn is a "beardy Bolshevik" and "loathsome lefty" but he does not come across as either. He has strong opinions but does not demand you listen to them, if you don't want to.

'He is scandal free, unless you count the hoo-ha a few years back when it was revealed that Jeremy's oldest son would be attending a grammar school outside the borough.'

Joseph Finlay is a former Deputy Editor of the Jewish Quarterly, who co-founded a range of grassroots Jewish organisations such as Moishe House London, Wandering Jews, Jewdas and The Open Talmud Project. On 2 March 2018, Finlay wrote in his blog under the title, 'Jeremy Corbyn is an anti-racist, not an anti-Semite':

'Firstly we need to restore some perspective. The Labour party has thousands of Jewish members, many Jewish councillors, a number of prominent Jewish MPs and several Jewish members of its ruling council. Many people at the heart of the Corbyn team, such as Jon Lansman, James Schneider and Rhea Wolfson are also Jewish. Ed Miliband, the previous party leader, was Jewish (and suffered antisemitism at the hands of the press and the Conservatives). I have been a member for five years and, as a Jew, have had only positive experiences.'

Finlay added:

'Jeremy Corbyn has been MP for Islington North since 1983 – a constituency with a significant Jewish population. Given that he has regularly polled over 60% of the vote (73% in 2017) it seems likely that a sizeable number of Jewish constituents voted for him. As a constituency MP he regularly visited synagogues and has appeared at many Jewish religious and cultural events. He is close friends with the leaders of the Jewish Socialist Group, from whom he has gained a rich knowledge of the history of the Jewish Labour Bund, and he has named the defeat of Mosley's Fascists at the Battle of Cable as a key historical moment for him. His 2017 Holocaust Memorial Day statement talked about Shmuel Zygielboym, the Polish Bund leader exiled to London who committed suicide in an attempt to awaken the world to the Nazi genocide. How many British politicians have that level of knowledge of modern Jewish history?'

Israel-based journalist Jonathan Cook notes that a recent Labour Party report 'decisively undercut' the claims of Corbyn's critics 'not only of endemic anti-semitism in Labour, but of any significant problem at all'. Cook summarised:

'Over the previous 10 months, 673 complaints had been filed against Labour members over alleged anti-semitic behaviour, many based on online comments. In a third of those cases, insufficient evidence had been produced.

'The 453 other allegations represented 0.08 percent of the 540,000-strong Labour membership. Hardly "endemic" or "institutional", it seems.'

He added:

'That echoed an earlier report by the Commons home affairs committee, which found there was "no reliable, empirical evidence" that Labour had more of an anti-semitism problem than any other British political party.'

In 'Antisemitism in contemporary Great Britain: A study of attitudes towards Jews and Israel' by the Jewish Institute for Policy Research, L. Daniel Staetsky found:

'Levels of antisemitism among those on the left-wing of the political spectrum, including the far-left, are indistinguishable from those found in the general population. Yet, all parts of those on the left of the political spectrum – including the "slightly left-of-centre," the "fairly left-wing" and the "very left-wing" – exhibit higher levels of anti-Israelism than average. The most antisemitic group on the political spectrum consists of those who identify as very right-wing: the presence of antisemitic attitudes in this group is 2 to 4 times higher compared to the general population.'

The report notes that 'the prevalence of antisemitism on the far right is considerably higher than on the left and in the political centre'.

Noam Chomsky has commented:

'The charges of anti-Semitism against Corbyn are without merit, an underhanded contribution to the disgraceful efforts to fend off the threat that a political party might emerge that is led by an admirable and decent human being, a party that is actually committed to the interests and just demands of its popular constituency and the great majority of the population generally, while also authentically concerned with the rights of suffering and oppressed people throughout the world. Plainly an intolerable threat to order.' (Noam Chomsky, email to Media Lens, 9 September 2018)

 

The Fake News Nazi - Corbyn, Williamson And The Anti-Semitism Scandal

Mið, 06/03/2019 - 10:01

One of us had a discussion with an elderly relative:

'He can't be allowed to become Prime Minister.'

'Why not?'

'It's so awful...'

'What is?'

'The way he hates the Jews.'

The last comment was spoken with real anguish, the result of continuous exposure to just two main news sources: the Daily Mail and the BBC.

What is astonishing is that, just four years ago, essentially no-one held this view of Jeremy Corbyn.

Corbyn first became an MP in 1983. He stood for the Labour leadership 32 years later, in May 2015. We searched the ProQuest database for UK newspaper articles containing:

'Jeremy Corbyn' and 'anti-semitism' before 1 May 2015 = 18 hits

'Jeremy Corbyn' and 'anti-semitism' after 1 May 2015 = 11,251 hits

None of the 18 hits accused Corbyn of anti-semitism. For his first 32 years as an MP, it just wasn't a theme associated with him.

We also searched the ProQuest database for UK newspaper articles containing:

'Labour Party' and 'anti-semitism' before 1 May 2015 = 5,347 hits

'Labour Party' and 'anti-semitism' after 1 May 2015 = 13,921 hits

The archive begins in 1980, which means that more than twice as many articles have included these terms in the last four years than in the 35 years from 1980 until May 2015 when Corbyn stood for the Labour leadership. A standard response to these findings runs along these lines:

'Irrelevant backbencher gets less Press attention than Leader of The Opposition SHOCKER. What's your next scoop, Water Wet, Sky Blue?'

But in fact, Corbyn was not an irrelevant backbencher. We found 3,662 hits for articles mentioning Corbyn before May 2015. Many of these are mentions in passing, but he had also long been a high-profile anti-war MP at a time of numerous wars. And he was frequently smeared, only not about his supposed anti-semitism. Consider, for example, an article that appeared in The Sun in 1999, under a typically cruel title:

'Why did it take you so long to dump him, Mrs Corbyn?' (Ally Ross, The Sun, 13 May 1999)

The story:

'EXTREME Left MP Jeremy Corbyn has been dumped by his missus after an amazing bust-up over their son's education.'

The key issue, according to The Sun:

'Now the question on everyone's lips is: Why did it take her so long to leave the loathsome Lefty, and more importantly, why is she only moaning about his choice of schools?'

Because there was, apparently, plenty to moan about. The Sun described Corbyn as 'class crusader Jeremy - a rabid IRA sympathiser' who 'not only looks and dresses like a third-rate Open University lecturer, he thinks like one too. In 1984 the Provo stooge invited twice-convicted terrorist and bomber Linda Quigley to the House of Commons just 13 days after the IRA's murderous attack on Tories staying at the Grand Hotel in Brighton'.

This was pretty brutal stuff. The Sun added of Corbyn's ex-wife:

'Claudia's saviour of the masses also suffers incredible delusions of grandeur. Communist states may be falling like dominoes, but raving Red Jeremy still believes his outdated views are relevant to modern-day Britain.'

And:

'Not only is Jeremy a political coward who backs terrorists, he is also a self-confessed big girl's blouse.'

And:

'Jeremy's mis-shapen suits, lumpy jumpers and nylon shirts are not exactly what the well-dressed radical is wearing in 1999... Claudia should be aware her ex is irredeemably, unforgivably, annoyingly stupid.'

Given the no-holds-barred nature of the smear, it is amazing that The Sun made no mention at all of Corbyn's vile anti-semitism, viewed as his most obvious and dangerous defect now.

The reason is that, as this shows, not even his worst enemies viewed him as an anti-semite. The extreme Tory press aside, the accepted view of Corbyn pre-2015 is indicated by a long, admiring piece in which Jewish journalist Deborah Ross, whose family members were murdered in Polish pogroms even before the Nazi Holocaust was unleashed, interviewed him for the Independent in 2005. Ross commented:

'He is also, it is generally agreed, an exemplary constituency MP. Even my friend Rebecca, who recently sought his help on a local issue, and never usually has a nice word to say about anybody, which is why I like her, describes him as a "totally genuine mensch".'

Ross added:

'As The Sun would have it, Mr Corbyn is a "beardy Bolshevik" and "loathsome lefty" but he does not come across as either. He has strong opinions but does not demand you listen to them, if you don't want to.

'He is scandal free, unless you count the hoo-ha a few years back when it was revealed that Jeremy's oldest son would be attending a grammar school outside the borough.'

Joseph Finlay is a former Deputy Editor of the Jewish Quarterly, who co-founded a range of grassroots Jewish organisations such as Moishe House London, Wandering Jews, Jewdas and The Open Talmud Project. On 2 March 2018, Finlay wrote in his blog under the title, 'Jeremy Corbyn is an anti-racist, not an anti-Semite':

'Firstly we need to restore some perspective. The Labour party has thousands of Jewish members, many Jewish councillors, a number of prominent Jewish MPs and several Jewish members of its ruling council. Many people at the heart of the Corbyn team, such as Jon Lansman, James Schneider and Rhea Wolfson are also Jewish. Ed Miliband, the previous party leader, was Jewish (and suffered antisemitism at the hands of the press and the Conservatives). I have been a member for five years and, as a Jew, have had only positive experiences.'

Finlay added:

'Jeremy Corbyn has been MP for Islington North since 1983 – a constituency with a significant Jewish population. Given that he has regularly polled over 60% of the vote (73% in 2017) it seems likely that a sizeable number of Jewish constituents voted for him. As a constituency MP he regularly visited synagogues and has appeared at many Jewish religious and cultural events. He is close friends with the leaders of the Jewish Socialist Group, from whom he has gained a rich knowledge of the history of the Jewish Labour Bund, and he has named the defeat of Mosley's Fascists at the Battle of Cable as a key historical moment for him. His 2017 Holocaust Memorial Day statement talked about Shmuel Zygielboym, the Polish Bund leader exiled to London who committed suicide in an attempt to awaken the world to the Nazi genocide. How many British politicians have that level of knowledge of modern Jewish history?'

Israel-based journalist Jonathan Cook notes that a recent Labour Party report 'decisively undercut' the claims of Corbyn's critics 'not only of endemic anti-semitism in Labour, but of any significant problem at all'. Cook summarised:

'Over the previous 10 months, 673 complaints had been filed against Labour members over alleged anti-semitic behaviour, many based on online comments. In a third of those cases, insufficient evidence had been produced.

'The 453 other allegations represented 0.08 percent of the 540,000-strong Labour membership. Hardly "endemic" or "institutional", it seems.'

He added:

'That echoed an earlier report by the Commons home affairs committee, which found there was "no reliable, empirical evidence" that Labour had more of an anti-semitism problem than any other British political party.'

In 'Antisemitism in contemporary Great Britain: A study of attitudes towards Jews and Israel' by the Jewish Institute for Policy Research, L. Daniel Staetsky found:

'Levels of antisemitism among those on the left-wing of the political spectrum, including the far-left, are indistinguishable from those found in the general population. Yet, all parts of those on the left of the political spectrum – including the "slightly left-of-centre," the "fairly left-wing" and the "very left-wing" – exhibit higher levels of anti-Israelism than average. The most antisemitic group on the political spectrum consists of those who identify as very right-wing: the presence of antisemitic attitudes in this group is 2 to 4 times higher compared to the general population.'

The report notes that 'the prevalence of antisemitism on the far right is considerably higher than on the left and in the political centre'.

Noam Chomsky has commented:

'The charges of anti-Semitism against Corbyn are without merit, an underhanded contribution to the disgraceful efforts to fend off the threat that a political party might emerge that is led by an admirable and decent human being, a party that is actually committed to the interests and just demands of its popular constituency and the great majority of the population generally, while also authentically concerned with the rights of suffering and oppressed people throughout the world. Plainly an intolerable threat to order.' (Noam Chomsky, email to Media Lens, 9 September 2018)