Posts Tagged ‘Alexander Cockburn’

American State Censored TV Programme on American Nerve Gas Atrocity in Laos

February 13, 2017

I’ve blogged before about the way the Thames TV documentary, Death On the Rock, about the killing of an IRA terror squad by the SAS in Gibraltar, angered Maggie Thatcher so much that she destroyed Thames. The documentary presented evidence that the British army knew about the group’s movements, and could have picked them up peacefully at any time. They deliberately chose not to. The shootings were therefore a targeted assassination, with the SAS acting as a South American-style death squad.

This was, of course, too much for Maggie. She had Thames’ broadcasting licence removed, and they were replaced by Carlton. This is something to remember the next time John Humphries or anyone else at the Beeb tells you that she never interfered with the state broadcaster, and that this only began under Blair. I’m not arguing that Tory Tony didn’t interfere or throw his weight around with the Beeb. And there’s plenty of evidence that Maggie also had programme censored. She had the documentary, ‘Maggie’s Militant Tendency’, produced by Panorama, censored because it argued that the Conservatives had been infiltrated by card carrying neo-Nazis, just like the Labour party had been infiltrated by Militant. Perhaps in Humphries’ case, the Conservatives didn’t interfere with the news coverage, because they didn’t need to. It already reflected their own bias.

Such censorship isn’t confined to Britain. It also happened in America. William Blum, a very long time critic of US foreign policy, has a section describing the censorship of a documentary on American television in 1998 in his book Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower (London: Zed Books 2014). The company aroused the ire of the political, economic and media elite because it dared to tell the truth about a US gas attack in Laos that resulted in the deaths of civilians and American servicemen. He writes

In September 1970, American forces in Laos, acting under “Operation Tailwind”, used aerosolized Sarin nerve agent (referred to also as CBU-15 or GB) to prepare their entry in an attack upon a Laotian village base camp, with the object of killing a number of American military defectors who were reported to be there. The operation succeeded in killing in excess of 100 people, military and civilian, including at least two Americans. How many died before the attack from the gas and how many from the attack itself is not known.

Sarin, which was developed in Germany in the 1930s, can kill within minutes after inhalation of its vapor. A tiny drop of it on the skin will do the same; it may even penetrate ordinary clothing. It works by inhibiting an enzyme needed to control muscle movements. Without the enzyme, the body has no means of stopping the activation of muscles, and any physical horror is possible.

When the invading Americans were making their getaway, they were confronted by a superior force of North Vietnamese and communist Pathet Lao soldiers. The Americans called for help from the air. Very shortly, US planes were overhead dropping canisters of sarin upon the enemy. As the canisters exploded, a wet fog enveloped the enemy soldiers, who dropped to the ground, vomiting and convulsing. Some of the gas spread towards the Americans, not all of whom were adequately protected. Some began vomiting violently. Today, one of them suffers from creeping paralysis, which his doctor diagnoses as nerve-gas damage.

This story was reported on June 7, 1998, on the TV programme “NewsStand: CNN & Time”, and featured the testimony of Admiral Thomas Moorer, who had been Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1970,, as well as lesser military personnel, both on and off camera, who corroborated the incidents described above.

Then all hell broke loose. This was a story too much in conflict-painfully so-with American schoolbooks, Readers Digest, the flag, apple pie and mom. It was damage-control time. The big guns were called out-Henry Kissinger, Colin Powell, Green Beret veterans, the journalistic elite, the Pentagon itself. The story was wrong, absurd, slanderous, they cried. CNN retracted, Moorer retracted, the show’s producers were fired…lawsuits all over the place.

Like the dissidents who became “non-persons” under Stalin, Operation Tailwind is now officially a “non-event”.

Notwithstanding this, the program’s producers, April Oliver and Jack Smith, put together a 78 page document supporting their side of the story, with actual testimony by military personnel confirming the use of the nerve agent. (pp. 139-141).

This is truly Orwellian. Orwell, of course, based 1984 on Stalin’s Russia, and the way party functionaries rewrote history to suit the needs of the party and Stalin. The most famous example of this was the way the regime turned Trotsky from a hero and co-author of the Revolution with Lenin, to its arch-enemy and betrayer.

This incident shows how the American military-industrial complex and its puppets and paid shills in the media are quite prepared to do the same, and vilify and expel anyone who commits the same cardinal crime of exposing state lies and atrocities.

Cockburn and Sinclair in their book, End Times: The Death of the Fourth Estate, describe the way the American military and media have managed news reporting to support the Iraq invasion, up to and including the killing of journalists. Now the situation seems ready to get worse under Fuhrer Trump. But this would have been under Bill Clinton’s presidency. And Blum’s book shows that the corruption goes back further than that, right back to the Second World War.

It really makes you start to wonder how free the American press and media is, or if it ever was.

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Alexander Cockburn and the Row Over the Israel Lobby

May 4, 2016

As I said in a previous piece I put up this evening, Mike has reported the suspension of two more Labour MPs for supposed anti-Semitism. They’re the Newport Councillor Miqdad Al-Nuaimi, and Terry Kelly, a councillor for Renfrewshire. Mr Kelly is supposed to have discussed the ‘Jewish lobby’ in the US, claiming that it influenced foreign policy and rigged the Oscars. See the article: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/05/04/anti-semitism-row-labour-suspends-two-more/

In fact, as I’ve posted several pieces about the subject, it’s perfectly reasonable to talk about the Israel lobby and its very strong influence on American foreign policy without necessarily being either an anti-Semite or even anti-Israel. One of those, who does so is the veteran radical academic and scholar of linguistics, Noam Chomsky. Chomsky has said in an interview that one of the right-wing organisations in the America tried to uncover something with which they could smear him a decade or so ago. They were disappointed. After digging around, they found that personally, Chomsky was actually very boring, living in bourgeois American domesticity with his family, and mowing his lawn on Sundays. They therefore had to content themselves with making a sneering remark about his linguistic theories, like he hadn’t properly understood the role of such and such in his transformational grammar. Or some such asinine remark.

Ten years ago there was massive controversy over in the US when Mearsheimer and Walt published their study, The Israel Lobby, in 2006. Alan Dershowitz, a Harvard professor whom the radical journo Alexander Cockburn described as America’s most manic Zionist, went off on a rant and compared it to the anti-Semitic conspiracy text, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. He was joined by Eliot Cohen in the Washington Post. Cockburn discusses the furore in the chapter ‘The Row Over the Israel Lobby’, in his and Jeffrey St Clair’s End Times: The Death of the Fourth Estate. He points out that the book and its conclusions are entirely unremarkable and not remotely anti-Semitic. He begins the chapter thus:

This spring of 2006 a sometimes-comic debate has simmering [sic] in the American press, focused on the question of whether there is an Israeli Lobby, and if so, just how powerful is it?

I would have thought that to ask whether there’s an Israeli Lobby here is a bit like asking whether there’s a Statue of Liberty in New York Harbour and a White House located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington D.C. For the past sixty years, the Lobby has been as fixed a part of the American scene as either of the other two monuments, and not infrequently exercising as much if not more influence on the onward march of history.

The late Steve Smith, brother-in-law of Teddy Kennedy and a powerful figure in the Democratic Party for several decades, liked to tell the story of how a group of four Jewish businessmen got together two million dollars in cash and gave it to Harry Truman when he was in desperate need of money amidst his presidential campaign in 1948. Truman went on to become president and to express his gratitude to his Zionist backers.

Since those days the Democratic Party has long been hospitable to and supported by rich Zionists. In 2002, for example, Haim Saban, the Israel-American who funds the Saban Center at the Brooking Institute and is a big contributor to AIPAC, gave $12.3 million to the Democratic Party. In 2001, the magazine Mother Jones listed on its website the 400 leading contributors to the 2000 national elections. Seven of the first 10 were Jewish, as were 12 of the top 20 and 125 of the top 250. Given this, all prudent candidates have gone to amazing lengths to satisfy their demands. There have been famous disputes, as between President Jimmy Carter and Menachem Begin, and famous vendettas, as when the Lobby destroyed the political careers of Representative Paul Findley and of Senator Charles Percy because they were deemed to be anti-Israel.

None of this history is particularly controversial, and there have been plenty of well-documented accounts of the activities of the Israel Lobby down the years, from Alfred Lilienthal’s 1978 study, The Zionist Connection, to former U.S. Rep. Paul Findley’s 1985 book They Dare To Speak Out to Dangerous Liaison: The Inside Story of the U.S. Israeli Covert relationship, written by my brother and sister-in-law, Andrew and Leslie Cockburn, and published in 1991. (pp.319-20)

Looking at Mearsheimer’s and Walt’s book, Cockburn stated that it’s actually unremarkable and really rather boring.

In fact, the paper by Mearsheimer and Walt is extremely dull. The long version runs to 81 pages, no less than 40 pages of which are footnotes. I settled down to read it with eager anticipation but soon found myself looking hopefully for the end. There’s nothing in the paper that any moderately well-read student of the topic wouldn’t have known long ago, but the paper has the merit of stating rather blandly some home truths which are somehow still regarded as too dangerous to state publicly in respectable circles in the United States. (P. 322.)

Of the denunciations of the book as anti-Semitic, Cockburn states that they’re actually funny, as the Lobby does exist, the authors weren’t ant-Semites, and even the Washington Post and New York Times have pointed out that the book had a point.

This method of assault at least has the advantage of being funny, because there obviously is a Lobby – as noted above and because Mearsheimer and Walt aren’t anti-Semites any more than 99.9 per cent of others identifying the Lobby and criticizing its role. Partly as a reaction to Dershowitz and Cohen, the Washington Post and New York Times have now run a few pieces politely pointing out that the Israel Lobby has indeed exercised a chilling effect on the rational discussion of U.S. foreign policy. The tide it turning slightly. (P. 323).

Except in 21st century Britain, apparently. It looks very much like another case where someone has confused the Israel Lobby with ‘Jews’. In the case of the accusations against the Oscars, unfortunately there have always been stupid conspiracies about the Jewish influence in show business. Jews have been very prominent in American cinema, as has been pointed out by historians of the American film industry. They’ve stated, however, that this isn’t due to some dodgy conspiracy, but the simple fact that there much less prejudice against them in the entertainment and film industries than there were elsewhere. At times, there have been anti-Semitic accusations levelled because of this, as during the 1930s when Father Coughlin accused the Jewish film moguls of trying to destroy American culture. At other times, the situation has been much more complicated. Private Eye a few years ago ran a story about how the career of US entertainment journalist had been torpedoed after they ran an article, which described the large number of Jews in the film industry as a ‘Jewish mafia’. However, a Jewish author in a later article also used the same words to describe the strong Jewish presence in American cinema, with no complaints.

I very much doubt that there is any kind of Jewish conspiracy to rig the Oscars. But that shouldn’t stop any reasonable discussion of the possible influence of Jewish organisations, or organisations claiming to represent Jews, in such areas. This should be for the same reason that talking about the role of Evangelical Christians in promoting the Satanism scare a few years ago, or describing how, horrifically, many Christians in the Fascist countries during the War were all too willing to collaborate with the Nazis should necessarily make you anti-Christian.

These are very emotive, very controversial topics. Let’s show a bit of common sense and calm rationality before throwing accusations like anti-Semitism around, shall we?

What You Won’t Read in the Mainstream Press

May 4, 2016

Mike has also posted over at Vox Political a couple of articles commenting on the lack of coverage of certain issues by the mainstream press. He writes in this article below about the way, with the exception of Channel 4 news, none of the other channels are reporting about a meeting today between the police and the Election Commission to discuss massive Tory electoral fraud.

Election Commission meets police over Tory election fraud evidence

He also has this piece about how Jeremy Corbyn has told Labour members and supporters that people are turning to social media because of the censorship by the mainstream media of positive news about the party.

If political debate has a new home, it is in the social media – and Jeremy Corbyn knows it

Corbyn’s exactly right, and the mainstream media are terrified. Social media has already had an effect on American politics. Reginald D. Hunter, the Black American comedian, who has appeared on British TV in, amongst other things, Have I Got News For You, credited Obama’s election eight years ago to social media. Ordinary people got on Twitter, Facebook and so on to support him, thus circumventing establishment candidates like Shrillary. I gather that Corbyn’s election as leader of the Labour party was also in large part due to activists coming together on social media. And I got a feeling that something similar is happening in the Land of the Free for Bernie Sanders. Unlike Shrillary, Cruz and the other presidential hopefuls, Bernie’s campaign is being funded not by corporations, but by ordinary people. He’s the genuinely popular candidate against corporate, establishment stooges. And like Corbyn’s Labour party, he’s also been largely frozen out by the mainstream media. They aren’t reporting him. In fact, there was even a mass demonstration against CNN for their refusal to give him airtime. Donald Trump, by contrast, has been given billions’ of dollars worth of free airtime by the news networks. Possibly because The Donald is a raving Fascist, and, whatever he says to the contrary, the walking embodiment of corporate power.

And there’s been a lot of very ugly censorship in the American media. Israel is a case in point. The American establishment press is uniformly pro-Zionist, and very largely will not run articles critical of Israel. Their stance is more extreme than that of the domestic Israeli press, which will cover stories of harassment, discrimination and brutality by their country’s government and the armed forces. To this day the American press has not published the UN resolution condemning the killing of civilians by the IDF in a particular massacre.

This censorship even extends to attacks on American shipping and service personnel by the Israelis. In 1967 Israeli warplanes attacked a US naval vessel, killing 127 American matelots. But the Israel lobby made sure that the story was spiked and didn’t appear in the press.

And it’s not just Israeli war crimes that the American press refuses to give space to. The New York Times also spike several stories about the atrocities committed by the Fascist death squads Reagan was backing in Central America back in the 1980s. A journo for the Times, Bonner, tried to run a story about the massacre of 1,000 men, women and children by the government death squads in the town of Monote in El Salvador. The story was spiked. Bonner went down there to make certain the story was true. It was. It still didn’t appear. The New York Time’s owner, Abraham Rosenthal, was one of Ronald Reagan’s mates. As a Reagan considered death squads like the Contras in Nicaragua ‘the moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers’, Bonner’s report was spiked and his career ruined.

If you read Libertarian blogs, you can easily get the impression that the New York Times must be some towering bastion of liberal journalism. Mind you, the people, who write these blogs are frequently so insanely right-wing that they think the Daily Mail is left-wing. In fact, the paper’s so full of establishment lies and falsehoods that the radical journos, Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St Clair published an article about why dumping on the New York Times was useless in their book, End Times: The Death of the Fourth Estate. They made the point that the newspaper was so corrupt, you should adopt the complete opposite attitude to reading it. Instead of being saddened that there was precious little that was true or accurate in it, you should instead be glad, and only be downhearted if it actually said something close to the truth.

The end result is that people are abandoning the mainstream news media. The Young Turks and Secular Talk have reported how young people in particular are getting their news from the internet. Even the talk radio stations that carry such right-wing media pundits in America like Rush Limbaugh have a very low audience. If you believe Rushbo, he’s got one of the highest rated radio shows in America. The truth is, his audience is lower than some College campus radio stations, which only have the ability to broadcast a couple of miles at most. As for Fox News, which one pundit in the Radio Times tried to present as a model for future news reportage in the Beeb, its audience has an average age of 68. It’s been described as a television ‘retirement community’. It’s basically a group of reactionary senior citizens ranting about what them thar kids are gettin’ up to.

This is why there has been moaning in the Radio Times and the lamestream media about how irrelevant they’re becoming, and their declining influence. People are getting their news from elsewhere, news that may well be unattributed and sheer rubbish. And, worse, it’s breaking down the social consensus on issues that prevailed when everyone read pretty much the same newspapers, and watched the same TV news.

Too bad. Yes, there is a lot of rubbish on the internet. Bogus stories about dodgy bigfoot sightings, and aliens in the White House. But it’s also been genuinely empowering, and challenging the power of the corporate media. And that’s no bad thing indeed.

CounterPunch’s Alexander Cockburn on Censorship and Abuse for Covering Palestine

May 3, 2016

Alexander Cockburn, one of the writers and publishers of the radical US journal, CounterPunch, described his experience of abuse and censorship in a piece on the Israeli oppression of the Palestinians in the chapter ‘Palestine Down the Decades’ in his and Jeffrey St Clair’s End Times: The Death of the Fourth Estate (Petrolia: CounterPunch/Edinburgh: AK Press 2007) 327-333. He writes

The first time I ever wrote about Palestinians was around 1973, when I was just starting a press column for a New York weekly called the Village Voice. It concerned a story in the New York Times about a “retaliatory” raid by the Israeli air force, after a couple of Al Fatah guerrillas had fired on an IDF unit. I’m not sure whether there were any fatalities. The Israeli planes flew north and dumped high explosive on a refugee camp in Lebanon, killing a dozen or so men, women, and children.

I wrote a little commentary, noting the usual lack of moral disquiet in the Times’ story about this lethal retaliation inflicted on innocent refugees. Dan Wolf, the Voice’s editor, called me in and suggested I might want to reconsider. I think, that first time, the item got dropped. But Dan’s unwonted act of censorship riled me, and I started writing a fair amount about the lot of the Palestinians.

These were the days when Palestinians carried far less news value for editors than Furbish’s lousewort, and no politician ever held that this beleaguered plant didn’t actually exist as a species, which is what Golda Meir, Israel’s prime minister said of Palestinians.

Back then you had to dig a little harder to excavate what Jewish Israelis were actually doing to Palestinians. Lay out the facts about institutionalized racism, land confiscation, torture and a hail of abuse would pour through the mailbox, as when I published a long interview in the Voice in 1980 with the late Israel Shahak, the intrepid professor from Hebrew University. (p. 327).

He then goes on to say that there were plenty of testimony about the Israeli oppression, but very little of it ever got into print. And any suggestion that there was a long term plan to displace the Palestinians was bitterly attacked.

It wasn’t hard to get vivid descriptions of the increasingly intolerable conditions of life for Palestinians: the torture of prisoners, the barriers to the simplest trip, the harassment of farmers and school children, the house demolitions. Plenty of people came back from Israel and the occupied territories with harrowing accounts, though few of them ever made the journey into a major newspaper or onto national TV.

And even in the testimonies that did get published here, what was missing was any
acknowledgement of the long-term plan to wipe the record clean of all troublesome U.N. resolutions, crush Palestinian national aspirations, steal their land and water, cram them into ever smaller enclaves, ultimately balkanize them with the Wall, which was on the drawing board many years ago. Indeed, to write about any sort of master plan was to incur further torrents of abuse for one’s supposedly “paranoid” fantasies about Israel’s bad faith, which much pious invocation of the “peace process”.

But successive Israeli governments did have a long-term plan. No matter who was in power, the roads got built, the water stolen, the olive and fruit trees cut down (a million), the houses knocked over (12,000), the settlements imposed (300), the shameless protestations of good faith issued to the U.S. press (beyond computation).(Pp. 328-9).

We’ve seen a little of how the Israel lobby seeks to silence the country’s critics with the vicious accusations of anti-Semitism levelled at Naz Shah and Ken Livingstone. But they certainly haven’t been alone, as this article shows.

Voter Registration and the Campaign of Disenfranchisement and Intimidation against Working Class and Black Voters in Florida

February 1, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has written another excellent piece on how the Tories’ changes to the system of electoral registration has left many Labour supporters unable to vote. Which is precisely why they were introduced in the first place. Nevertheless, there is still enough time to register until three weeks before the elections.http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/02/01/electoral-registration-change-delivers-advantage-to-conservatives-lets-level-the-odds/ Hope Not Hate have also been running a campaign, in concert with the trade unions, to encourage everyone disenfranchised by the voting reforms to register: http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/vrdrive/

Don’t be fooled. This was one done deliberately so that the young, the working class and ethnic minorities – the groups least likely to vote Tory, wouldn’t get the vote. The reforms are similarly to those introduced by the Republicans in America to exclude those groups. Again, the pretext was to stop voting fraud. But some of the Republicans were so blasé about the real reasons for the reforms, that they brazenly admitted it. One Republican congressman from the American Deep South actually stated, on American news, that they did it to attack the Democrats, the party in America that traditionally attracts these voters. The Young Turks did a piece on this about half a year ago, which I put up on this blog.

And when all else fails, the Republicans will go back to more traditional methods of crookedly securing an election win: abuse and intimidation of the voters at the election booths. They did this way back in Florida, in the election that narrowly secured Dubya his first term in the White House. Everyone remembers the presidential election in that state for the controversy over the way the voting machines worked, and how the various marks punched into the ballot papers were interpreted. All the fuss about ‘pregnant’ and ‘hanging’ chads. What wasn’t reported was the way working class, and particularly Black voters, were wrongfully harassed and thrown out of the voting booths after being told, again wrongly, that they had no right to vote. Jeffrey Sinclair wrote an entire chapter on the scandal, What You Didn’t Read About the Black Vote in Florida’, in the book he and Alexander Cockburn wrote about the current dire state of politics and political journalism in America, End Times: The Death of the Fourth Estate.

Among the incidents they uncovered was a case where a man, who was taking his family to vote in his car, was stopped by the cops and told that he couldn’t take that many people down to the voting booth without a chauffeur’s licence. he was forced to go home. By the time he got to vote, it was too late.

Another man was refused entry to polling station on the grounds that he ineligible to vote, as he was a convict. Again, another lie.

And there was a massive campaign against Black and Hispanic voters, where tens of thousands were turned away before they could exercise their democratic rights at the polls. Details of this vile debacle were gather by the NAACP – National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in a five hour hearing. Election workers demanded to see the IDs of Blacks coming to vote, but made no such demands of Whites. Haitians coming to vote were told that they need to forms of identification. Police roadblocks were set up around the Black neighbourhoods in Tallahassee. The cops also sought to intimidate Blacks coming to vote by asking them if they were criminals. Some polls were moved without notice from their official positions, and the polls closed early in Black neighbourhoods. A number of Black college students were sent away after being told that they couldn’t vote, even though they had registered in the summer. Many others were also given the excuse that they couldn’t vote, because they weren’t on the rolls. They later found out that they were. Stacey Powers, the news director of a local radio station in Tampa Bay, and a former policewoman, said that while visiting a number of local polling stations on the day she saw Blacks being refused entrance to the polls on the grounds that their names weren’t on the lists. When she informed them that they had the right to vote, as long as they signed an affidavit, she herself was thrown out. Charles Weaver, the publisher of a local newspaper in Fort Myers, the Community Voice, said he saw poll watchers threatening voters by saying that they knew where they worked, and were going to get them fired. In one of area, Duval County, which has a functional illiteracy rate of 47 per cent, those asking for help with their ballots were insulted by the election workers as ‘dumb’ and ‘retarded’. About 2,000 recent Haitian immigrants were prevented from voting because of the complexity of ballot papers and the fact that there no interpreters made available, who spoke their native Creole French. In other areas, which did have translators and interpreters, these were told not to talk to speak to them. If they did, they were thrown out. Other Haitians were threatened with deportation.

And when these stunts didn’t work, there was always deliberately obstructive bureaucracy. One woman and her husband, who had moved to Florida from NYC, did not receive their elections cards, despite having registered in time and making repeated enquiries. After being repeated stonewalled, the woman left the offices of the registration authorities, unable to vote.

Across Florida, more than 187,000 votes were declared invalid. Over half of these were from Blacks. 12,000 people were denied the right to vote, on the ground they were former criminals. Nearly all of them were Black, and nearly all of them were no such thing. 8,000 of these maligned people did manage to re-register, but 4,000 didn’t bother. The list of supposed ex-cons was compiled Database Technologies, a subsidiary of ChoicePoint. This company has also been under investigation for misusing information taken from state computers. Its CEO, Rick Bozar, made a donation of $100,000 to the Republican National Convention.

Adding insult to injury for all this was the complete indifference of the election authorities and the Democrats, who would have benefited from the disqualified votes. The Justice Department did not do anything to investigate the charges, despite the fact that the Attorney General is charged with enforcing the Voting Rights Act. And Jesse Jackson was told by his bosses in the party to stop mentioning the issue after he’d complained about it for two days.

St. Clair compares the whole charade to the demonstration election held in the South and Central American US client states, when they were under the control of US-backed Fascist dictators. These used to hold ‘demonstration elections’ to show that they were democracies. Just before the elections took place, the death squads swooped to arrest or kill any potential troublemakers. After the opposition and the poor were duly cowed, the election took place, the ruling Nazis re-elected, and western observers went back to report how everything was normal, peaceful and democratic there under the benign rule of El Colonel or whoever. It wasn’t quite that bad in Florida, but nevertheless, the Republicans and their official collaborators used fraud and intimidation to get back in.

It’d be tempting, but wrong, to see this as simply something that could only happen in America. The problem is the Tories have taken so much of their policies and campaign strategies from America, that I’m afraid there’s a real danger that they’ll start importing their dirty tricks as well. They have, after all, taken on their campaign to disenfranchise British Blacks, other ethnic minorities and the poor through copying the Republican registration reforms. I would not like to put it past any of them not to try something like this. Remember Stalin’s line: It’s not who votes that counts, but who counts the votes.

Make sure you’re registered to vote, and be very careful to make sure there are no dirty tricks in your area. And if there are, inform the proper authorities and every available civil rights and, if you’re Black or Asian, anti-racist organisations. They may not try a stunt like this at the election, but they should be ruthlessly exposed if they do. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.

The War on Drugs, Racism and Eugenics in Modern America

January 29, 2016

There’s a particularly chilling passage in the chapter ‘The History of “Black Paranoia” in Cockburn and St. Clair’s End Times: The Death of the Fourth Estate, where they describe the revival and continuation of eugenics policies, including the use of castration and sterilisation, and the US government’s ‘war on drugs’. The chapter as a whole is intended to show that Black Americans have very good reason for not trusting the US government, considering the numerous policies that have been deliberately enacted against them. This has includes treating them as unwitting subjects for human experimentation, and the way crimes have been specifically framed by the legal authorities so that punishment bears down hardest on Blacks and other ethnic minorities. The various anti-drugs legislation is a case in point. Although middle class White Americans also used opium, marijuana and cocaine, the laws against them were formulated and promoted to specifically attack Blacks, Mexicans and Chinese, as a way of making them seem threateningly foreign. Cannabis was originally just called ‘hemp’. It was renamed ‘marijuana’ as a way of associating with Mexican workers, who were then competing with White workers in the Depression for jobs. It was associated with the racial threat supposedly posed by Black men, often using the crude imagery of school playground racial stereotype. One government headline screamed that ‘Negroes with Big Lips Lure White Women with Marijuana and Jazz.’ And all this was going on a mere few decades after one US cigarette manufacturer offered smokers cocaine-laced ciggies for their consumption.

The Destruction of Black Communities by the War on Drugs

Cockburn and St. Clair talk about the devastation wrought in downtown L.A. by the War on Drugs, which effectively turned poor Black neighbourhoods into war zones. Wards were walled off from each other, curfews imposed, and Black men were stopped and searched on the street. 89 per cent of those arrested were released without charge. Unemployment soared, as did the proportion of Blacks in US prisons. Poverty increased, and for the first in a century, the average Black life expectancy fell.

Fred Goodwin on Inner City Men Evolving Backwards

And as conditions in the inner cities deteriorated, there was a revival of eugenics. In 1992, Fred Goodwin, the director of ADAMHA, or the Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health Administration, declared that the increase in Black violence in the inner cities may well have been due to a gene for violence. He recommended that a national biomedical campaign should be launched to isolate the gene and treat the gene’s carriers. In February of that year he gave a speech to the National Mental Health Advisory Council, in which he explicitly stated that violence had increased, as individuals in the jungle conditions of the inner cities had reverted to more ‘natural’ behaviour. He stated:

There are discussion of “biological correlates” and “biological markers”. The individuals have defective brains with detectable prefrontal changes that may well be predictive of later violence. The individuals have impaired intelligence, in this case “cognitive deficit” … Now, one could say that if some of the loss of social structure in this society, and particularly within the high impact inner city areas, has removed some of the civilising evolutionary things that we have built up and that maybe it isn’t just the careless use of the word when people call certain areas of certain cities jungles, that we may have gone back to what might be more natural, without all of the social controls that we have imposed upon ourselves as a civilisation over thousands of years in our evolution.

Planting Electrodes in Brains to Control Violence

Cockburn and St. Clair link Goodwin’s attempt to find the genetic origins of violence and a medical treatment, with that of Lewis “Jolly” West, who presided over the neuropsychiatric institute at UCLA. In 1969 West announced his plan to plant electrodes in the brain of violent offenders, in order to control them. This caused such an outcry that he was forced to abandon his plans. There are shades here of the limiter in the BBC SF series, Blake’s 7. One of the early characters, Oleg Gan, had had a limiter – an electronic device designed to prevent him from killing anyone – implanted in his brain after he killed the Federation trooper, who’d raped his girlfriend. Blake’s 7 was a kind of ‘Dirty Dozen’ meets Star Wars, in which a motley crew of criminals led by the dissident Blake took on the totalitarian Federation. It was very much of its time, and strongly influenced by the medical abuse of psychiatry against dissidents in the former Soviet Union. West and his electrodes suggest that its creator, Terry Nation, the man, who gave children the world over the terrible joy of the Daleks, was also very much aware of the totalitarian tendencies in western science.

The Castration of the Violent

One of West’s own mentors was Dr Ernst Rodin, who was in charge of the Neurology department of Lafayette Clinic. He recommended neurosurgery and castration for the ‘dumb young males who riot’. His views were echoed by West after the Watts riots, but instead of surgery, West recommended sterilising them with cyproterone acetate. In 1972 he recommended that this should be carried out on the inmates in US prisons. This caused such an outcry that his funding was cut.

The Eugenic Sterilisation of the Unfit

Cockburn and St. Clair also cover the eugenics laws enacted in twelve US states in the first two decades of the last century. Between 1907 and 1964 about 63,678 people had been compulsorily sterilised in thirty states and one colony. But this was probably an underestimate of the true numbers of the policy’s victims. In 1974 Federal Judge Gerhard Gessell, reviewing the suit brought by them, declared that 100,000 to 150,000 people with low incomes had been sterilised annually over the past few years in federally funded programmes. Allan Chase, the author of a book on this, The Legacy of Malthus, states that this is comparable to the rate of the Nazis in their sterilisation campaign.

Such programmes were supposed to be voluntary, but Gessell ruled that an unknown number had been forced into it through the authorities threatening to take away their welfare benefits. Those most frequently targeted with this kind of pressure were women reliant on Medicaid to pay their bills for childbirth. One of the intended victims of this was Katie Relf, who successfully fought it off by locking herself into her room. Chase has estimated that by the end of the 1970s, the US was sterilising 200,000 citizens annually.

Winston Churchill, Eugenics, and the Bengal Famine

And the policy was not without its supporters over here. Winston Churchill also supported the policy, and wanted to see about 100,000 degenerates in the UK forcibly sterilised. This isn’t by far the most loathsome thing the great War Leader ever said or did. Last week, Secular Talk covered the story in the Independent that 40 per cent of Brits miss the Empire. The show covered a series of crimes against humanity committed by the Empire and its servants. These included the Amritsar Massacre, the incarceration of Afrikaaner women and children in concentration camps during the Boer War, and the Bengal Famine, in which 27 million people died of starvation. The wheat that could have fed them was diverted to British troops fighting in Europe in the Second World War. For the victims, Churchill had no sympathy. He said he hated Indians, and that it served them right for ‘breeding like rabbits’. He may have been the great leader who kept Europe free, but that doesn’t stop him from also being a moral slug.

Conclusion: Don’t Trust Those Who Claim to Have Found the Gene For Whatever

Apart from its main point – that American Blacks have every reason to be alienated and distrustful of the government and authorities, the chapter also shows how recently such racist attitudes were accepted by medical authorities, as well as the use of sterilisation against the poor generally. And it also provides very good reasons for being extremely distrustful of scientists when they claim to have found the gene for ‘X’. This includes the gene for schizophrenia, for homosexuality, and for violence. The latter surfaced yet again about a few months ago. Someone was claiming that extremely violent crims had a certain mutated chromosome. Then another biologist pointed out that roughly half of everybody also had the gene, and it didn’t make them into psychos. There’s a real danger here that if we pay too much attention to these scientists, we’ll be back with sterilisation and compulsory lobotomy. Just like the early 20th century and Nazis.

Rupert Murdoch and the Ending of Affirmative Action in California

January 29, 2016

Among the other fascinating pieces in Cockburn and St. Clair’s End Times: The Death of the Fourth Estate, is an interesting little piece on Proposition 209 in the chapter ‘How the Media Use Blacks to Chastise Blacks’ by Ishmael Reed. Proposition 209 was the law that ended Affirmative Action for Blacks in California. It was ostensibly introduced by Ward Connerly, who was himself Black. In fact, Connerly was merely the front man to give a spurious multi-racial gloss to the campaign. Behind the scenes the campaign was funded and promoted by a number of right-wing billionaires and racist groups. These included Richard Mellon Scaife, who also gives money to attacking climate change and promoting Creationism, and the Pioneer Fund. This is a group specialising in trying prove a connection between race and heredity. Up to the 1960s its single largest contributor was Wickliffe Draper. Draper was, appropriately enough for his name, a textile magnate. He was also a vehement racist, who worked with the House Committee on UnAmerican Activities. He wanted to prove that Blacks were naturally racially inferior, and should be sent back to Africa.

And a certain Australian-American newspaper baron and general media mogul also spent $200,000 on the campaign to stop Black Californians getting a helping hand: Rupert Murdoch. The man really is a menace to everything decent and civilised on all continents.

Reagan’s Lies: Libyan Terrorists Invade from Canada

January 29, 2016

There’s a whole chapter in Alexander Cockburn’s and Jeffrey St. Clair’s book, End Times: The Death of the Fourth Estate, on the lies, propaganda and general vileness of Ronald Reagan. Reagan, remember, told Americans that the Contra rebels, who were responsible for some of the worst atrocities in the Nicaraguan civil war in the 1980s were ‘the moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers’. Cockburn remarks drily that the Iroquois would have agreed. And just in case anyone is in the doubt that Reagan was Fascist sympathiser, he apparently told his audience in Spain that the Lincoln Brigade and Defenders of the Republic, Americans who fought against Franco in the Spanish Civil War, were on the wrong side. Among the terror groups Reagan sponsored were RENAMO in Mozambique and UNITA in Angola, as well as Rios Montt’s band of torturers in Guatemala. And the CIA left a torture manual in El Salvador.

But it’s some of the propaganda that really makes you, like Matilda, gasp and stretch your eyes. He had a group called ‘Threat Inflaters’, comprising Robert Moss, Clare Sterling and Arnaud de Borchgrave, who were there to exaggerate the Soviet threat. And this they dutifully did. Reagan duly told his audience about an impending invasion from Nicaragua, whose army was coming up through Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico. And in 1987 ABC ran a series, Amerika, in which the Soviet Union conquered the American Midwest. And the Caribbean nation of Grenada just had to be invaded, because it lay on vital sea lanes and so threatened US trade.

To demonise Qaddafi further, the Reaganites planted a story in the media about a Libyan assassination squad coming into the US from Canada to blow the President away. Or may be it was Mexico. This squad was composed of three to thirteen men. Depending who you listened to, it’s members included three Libyans, three Iranians, and three Syrians, as well as a Palestinian, a Lebanese and someone from East Germany. It came out during the Iran-Contra hearings that this had all been dreamed up by an Israeli secret agent. The CIA was also aware the story was bogus. Cockburn states that a Federal customs officer, who worked on the tunnel from Windsor in Canada to Detroit, told him that they weren’t told to look out for any hit squads, despite this being one of the most obvious and major routes into the US.

Of Reagan’s mendacity and sheer evil, Cockburn states in this pungent passage:

hearing all the warm and fuzzy talk about the Gipper, young people spared the experience of his awful sojourn in office, probably imagine him as a kindly, avuncular figure. He was a vicious man, with a breezy indifference to suffering and consequences of decisions. This indifference was so profound that Dante would surely have consigned him to one of the lowest circles of hell, to roast for all eternity in front of a malfunctioning TV and a dinner tray swinging out of reach like the elusive fruits that tortured Tantalus.

Reagan was a liar, and his lies helped prepare the world for the invasion of Iraq and the consequent bloodbath into which the area has descended. Yet there’s a consistent attempt in America to present him as a great statesman and visionary. The sooner that view is destroyed, the better.

Bruce Page on Rupert Murdoch

January 27, 2016

I found an entire chapter devoted to Rupert Murdoch in the book, End Times: The Death of the Fourth Estate, by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair (Petrolia: CounterPunch 2007). The book is about the end of critical, investigative journalism, particularly in America, and the way the press now colludes with and promotes Conservative parties and policies. The chapter on the Dirty Digger, ‘Murdoch’s Game’, describes the Australian media magnate’s rise to global dominance, his role as a right-wing propagandist and his psychopathic psychology. Part of the chapter is an interview with Bruce Page, an Australian-born British journalist and former member of the Insight team at the Sunday Times, before that august journal was bought out, along with the Times proper, by the Chunder from Down Under. Page had written a critical study of Murdoch and his empire of yellow journalism and sleaze, The Murdoch Archipelago. Other books have been written about the media magnate since then, and particularly since the phone hacking scandal. This chapter is still very interesting, and it’s worth reading the whole. However, I was particularly struck by certain passages, which I’ll reproduce here.

Cockburn himself makes a good point about Murdoch as a propagandist for Right-wing regimes.

core thesis is that Murdoch offers his target governments a privatized version of a state propaganda service, manipulated without scruple and with no regard for truth. His price takes the form of vast government favors such as tax breaks, regulatory relief (as with the recent PCC ruling on the acquisition of DirecTV), monopoly markets and so forth. The propaganda is undertaken with the utmost cynicism, whether it’s the stentorian fake populism and soft porn in the UK’s Sun and News of the World, or the shameless bootlicking of the butchers of Tiananmen Square.

Page on Murdoch’s attitude to offshore ownership and democracy:

“On sovereignty: my belief is that Murdoch and his like deeply fear every kind of collaboration between effective democratic entities. They can exist only in an offshore domain from which they truck and barter with comprador elites. Sadly for them, there is an antagonistic tendency which every now and then makes crucial advances: if and when the OECD countries organise a viable tax system, Newscorp is toast. The US and the EC have made more progress in that direction than is generally realised. Only crooks really like offshore, and crooks have no guaranteed monopoly over the world.”

‘Comprador’ is a Marxist term for the elites in subaltern countries, who collaborate in the economic domination of their country by the capitalist West. General Pinochet and his cronies in Chile would constitute such a ‘comprador elite’ after the CIA sponsored coup, for example.

Page makes the case that Murdoch learned his authoritarianism and mendacity from his father, the journalist, media mogul and propagandist Sir Keith Murdoch. Murdoch claimed to be an independent journalist, but worked behind the scenes to impose conscription for Australians during the First World War. He was also involved in a plot against the Ossie general, John Monash, purely because that senior officer was Jewish. This was despite the fact that it was Monash’s volunteers broke the German line at one of the battles. Page goes on and says of the way Murdoch’s own authoritarianism and sheer credulity have allowed him to dominate the world’s media.

“Journalists are insecure, because they must trade in the unknown. Their profession, said the sociologist Max Weber, is uniquely ‘accident prone’. Good management may reduce this insecurity-but Newscorp style actually uses insecurity as a disciplinary tool. And the seeming assurance of the authoritarian has tactical benefits: Murdoch can swap one attitude for another with zero embarrassment, and it enables him to ‘deliver’ newspapers to any power he approves of. Readers naturally grow sceptical. But this does not yet harm Newscorp’s business model.

“It would have been remarkable for Rupert to develop in non-authoritarian fashion, given his inheritance. When his father died, he had neither graduate from university, nor gained any real newspaper tradecraft. In order to take control of what was then News Limited, under the trust Sir Keith established, Rupert had to accept his father as a paragon of journalistic integrity: to convince the trustees, believers in that myth, of his desire to emulate it. Exactly when independence is essential for personal and professional development, a spurious parental image descended on him. And he has emulated the political propagandist, not the mythological paragon.

“The outcome attracts today’s politicians because a sickness afflicts them. In all developed societies trust in politics has declined: while democracy advances in the developing world, it finds itself ailing in its homelands. Finding themselves distrusted, politicians turn for a cure to tabloid journalism-Murdoch’s especially-which they realise is distrusted still more than themselves. They do so just as victims of a slow, fatal disease use quack remedies if the real cure still seems too strenuous.

“The real problem of politics is the increasingly complex, and therefore occult nature of advanced society. We fancy it has become more open, and it somewhat has. But progress has fallen behind the needs of better-educated, less deferential citizens whose problems grow more daunting intellectually. The state for which politicians are responsible cannot explain itself to its citizens. It might change this by opening itself far more freely to scrutiny. But against this the bureaucrats-public and private-on whom politicians rely for administrative convenience conduct relentless guerrilla attack. Should politicians choose to fight back, they will not lack allies, for most Western societies still have some competent, independent news media and the demand exists among citizens. In Britain, real newspapers and broadcasters like the BBC continue to be trusted, as Murdoch’s tabloids will never be. But quack remedies still appeal to governments: and all Murdoch asks in return is a little help in extending his monopolies.

“Of course, if the process goes far enough, only the quack remedy will be available, and democracy’s ailment would then be terminal.”

In other words, modern society is too complex to be easily explained by politicians and civil servants. The complex nature of modern life has meant that the educated want more information, not less. The civil servants don’t want this. The politicians also find themselves distrusted. So to the boost politicos’ popularity and for the civil servants to fob people off with less information than they want or need, both groups of officialdom turn to Murdoch.

I’ve got a feeling that Adam Curtis said something extremely similar in one of his documentaries years ago. I’ve got a feeling it was in the one where he attacked game theory, and its view of people as fundamentally selfish. And since then, the elite’s desire for secrecy and disinformation has come back in spades, as shown in Cameron and co.’s attempts to muzzle the Freedom of information Act. And guess what? They were helped into power by none other than the Dirty Rupe, dubbed in his homeland, ‘the Minister for Public Enlightenment’. This was the title the Nazis gave Goebbels. And if the cap fits, wear it.