Posts Tagged ‘Democracy Now’

Book on Conservative, Anti-Left Bias at the BBC

August 24, 2017

The BBC: The Myth of a Public Service, Tom Mills (London: Verso 2016).

I managed to pick up a copy of this book, which came out last year, yesterday while poking around one of the secondhand book shops in Cheltenham. The BBC has become increasingly very blatantly biased against the Labour party, trade unions and the left in general. The Corporation has huffily denied this, but it’s been the subject of academic critiques by Edinburgh, Glasgow and Cardiff academics, who have concluded that there is a very real bias towards the Tories and business leaders, and against Labour MPs and trade unionists. According to the back flap of the dust jacket, Tom Mills is another academic – a lecturer in sociology and policy at Aston University, and a former co-editor of the New Left Project.

The blurb on the front flap states

The BBC is one of the most important institutions in Britain; it is also one of the most misunderstood. Despite its claim to be independent and impartial, and the constant accusations of a liberal bias, the BBC has always sided with the elite. As Tom Mills demonstrates, we are only getting the news that the Establishment wants aired in public.

Throughout its existence, the BBC has been in thrall to those in power. This was true in 1926 when it stood against the workers during the General Strike, and since then the Corporation has continued to mute the voices of those who oppose the status quo: miners in 1984; anti-war protesters in 2003; those who offer alternatives to austerity economics since 2008. From the outset much of its activity has been scrutinized by the secret services at the invitation of those in charge. Since the 1990s the BBC has been integrated into the market, while its independence from the government and big business has been steadily eroded. The BBC is an important and timely examination of a crucial public institution that is constantly under threat.

Barry and Saville Kushner have also pointed out how the Beeb and its journos unquestioningly accept the necessity of austerity, rarely inviting on their programmes anyone dares say otherwise. When they do, the interviewer promptly throws a fit and shouts them down. They heard one instance of this while listening to a radio interview on Radio 4 with a leading trade unionist, who was very abruptly stopped when he tried explaining that there was absolutely no need for it. See their book, Who Needs the Cuts.

The anti-Labour bias is acutely obvious in Laura Kuenssberg’s treatment of the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn. It was also very evident with the reports on the Six O’clock news by John Pienaar and George Alagiah. Any number of people have complained about Kuenssberg’s flagrant bias, and got the same shirty treatment from the people in the media bubble. Those, who dare to complain, like Guy Debord’s Cat, get a haughty letter from one of its apparatchiks pompously informing them how the Corporations journalists are all scrupulously impartial, and they are mistaken. And the hackettes in the Groaniad immediately got on their high horses to claim that those criticizing la Kuenssberg were just doing it because they were sexist chauvinists, like the Bernie Bros in America. Which also didn’t exist, but were made up by Killary and her minions as a way of explaining why few people, including women, actually like this highly entitled, neoliberal, establishment figure, who befriends blood-soaked war criminals like Henry Kissinger.

And despite the Beeb’s protestations, several of their own journos don’t buy this rubbish either. Robert Peston, now the Beeb’s economics editor, was asked three years ago what he thought about the claims that it had a liberal bias. Peston replied that, on the contrary, the Corporation was ‘completely obsessed with the agenda set by newspapers’, naming the Heil and Torygraph. He added that it ‘quite often veers in what you might call a very pro-establishment, rather right-wing direction’. He forthrightly said that the claims that the Beeb is left-wing is ‘bollocks’. (p. 106).

But such claims have been around since the BBC was formally incorporated as a nationalized industry. When it was just a cartel of radio manufacturers and broadcasters, the Conservatives were accusing it of a Socialist bias. Glancing through the book reveals that there have been repeated attempts by the Tories to make it reflect their views. In 1947 Churchill launched one of these. Some of the most significant occurred in the 1970s with Keith Joseph and the other neoliberals around Maggie Thatcher. They got very upset in 1974 when the respected American economist, J.K. Galbraith, presented a series critiquing corporate power and the rise and crisis of industrial society, including Marxist and Keynsian perspectives, The Age of Uncertainty. This was too much for Joseph and the rest of the frothing mad Tory right. Galbraith was no liberal. He identified as Conservative, but had said the unsayable. Galbraith stated in the introduction to the ninth episode of that, ‘The Big Corporation’, that it was a myth that the consumer is sovereign and the corporation respond to their preferences, efficiently allocating society’s resources. The reality was that ‘corporations influence government, influence the consumer. Only the textbooks say otherwise.’ Joseph and Geoffrey Howe then organized a campaign to have another series set up, examination the question from a pro-Hayekian, free market perspective, presented by Milton Friedman. This was the Milton Friedman, who enthusiastically rejected democracy after realizing that his Chicago School would always been a minority. He therefore championed General Pinochet, who was also an enthusiastic Monetarist, when he overthrew the Marxist president of Chile, Salvador Allende, in a Fascist coup.

One of the most revealing sections is the chapter discussing how the Beeb’s massive pro-business bias was established about nine or so years ago, way back at the start of century around the year 2000. It was set up, and the treatment of business affairs expanded, by Greg Dyke. Dyke was a member of the Labour party, and a crony of Tony Blair. This explains why the Tories were constantly howling about how he was a dangerous Socialist, and there was a left-wing bias at the Beeb. In fact, Dyke had imbibed the same Thatcherite, neoliberal views as Blair, despite the continued whines that the Beeb had an ‘anti-industry culture’. It’s another example of how politicians on the nominal left, like Blair, took over and expanded the Conservatives’ neoliberal programme.

As for pro-Fascist bias, this even afflicted that great founder of the Beeb, Lord Reith. In 1933 Reith made a speech declaring that it was possible for someone to spread democratic values without being a democrat. Two years later, in 1935, he made a speech praising Mussolini. He personally believed the country needed a dictatorship. Fortunately, the rest of the Beeb’s governors and controllers didn’t, and forced him out.

This is interesting, as it’s an aspect of Reith’s life I hadn’t heard about before. There have been biographies of him – one of which was published in the 1990s, and, I think, reviewed by the Financial Times. However, from what I can remember, what was said about Reith’s personal failings was about his own puritanism, repressed homosexuality, and guilty infatuation with another man. I can’t recall any mention of Reith being a supporter of Fascist style dictatorship, although it should also be said that he despised the Fascists’ thuggery.

It would be too much to say that the corporation is pro-Fascist. They’re very proud of a quote made during the crisis of 1974, when one of the journos announced that the Beeb isn’t impartial – it’s strongly pro-democratic, and passionately feels this needs to be cherished. On the other hand, broadcasters tend to be Conservatives. And one aspect of the Conservative mindset is authoritarianism. See some of the pieces on YouTube discussing this by left-wing news sites like Democracy Now and so on. This would explain why they give more respect than they should to extreme right-wing movements like the BNP and UKIP. Guy Debord’s Cat has written about this over on his blog, if you want further information.

The book also places Mary Whitehouse, the moral crusader, who became the scourge of broadcasters from the 1960s onwards. Whitehouse is still a notorious figure today for her campaign against all manner of smut and filth on television with her group, the Viewers’ and Listeners’ Association. A year or so ago there was a book about her and her correspondence with the Corporation, Ban This Filth. Mills states that she is looked upon as an eccentric figure. Misguided, but essentially harmless. This isn’t quite the case.

Whitehouse was linked the Tories, and a friend of Maggie Thatcher. She and they thought that there was a plot by a left-wing elite to foist all this degeneracy and moral chaos on the British public. It’s a view that’s now become firmly established within the Right. And there was a very strong political dimension to her campaign. She believed that the liberal elite wanted to create sexual permissiveness and anarchy in preparation for a state of political anarchy, in which the fundamental institutions of British society would be torn down. And like many a bonkers conspiracy theorist, she was convinced that this was all being coordinated by Moscow. These days she’d probably be on Infowars with Alex Jones, along with nutters frothing about imaginary satanic paedophile rings operating out of Boston pizza parlours by Hillary Clinton, and those who think that the government is run by a secret cabal of aliens from Zeta Reticuli.

As for her views about political anarchism, this was also held by MI5, much to the amusement of the real anarchists in the Anarchist Federation. See one of the pieces on modern anarchism in the anthology of anarchist literature, Anarchism, edited by George Woodcock.

The book concludes that Reith’s vision of the Beeb’s role was the same as that as Matthew Arnold, the headmaster of Rugby, in his book Culture and Anarchy. The alienated laboring poor were to be incorporated into the culture and political structure of British society, but firmly under the leadership of the upper classes. The brief period when British society and the BBC had become more egalitarian due to rising affluence and the economic and social changes of the 1960s, has disappeared. This is partly due to the collapse of Communism. There is now no longer an exterior threat demanding that certain concessions be made to the working and lower middle classes, so that they don’t become too radicalized. Neoliberalism has increased poverty and jobs are precarious. At the same time, power has become more distanced and centralized amongst a powerful coterie of Oxbridge-educated managers. And just as this has occurred in industry and wider British society, so it as has also occurred in the Beeb.

This is an important study of the Beeb’s institutional right-wing, pro-Establishment bias. It’s another refutation of the Beeb’s repeated, and increasingly spurious claims of impartiality. Since Corbyn became leader, more people have become aware of how hypocritical and specious these claims are. It’s why more people are getting their news and information from the internet, and sites you can really trust. Sites like Vox Political, Tom Pride, Johnny Void, Another Angry Voice, DPAC, Kitty S. Jones, the Canary, the Squawkbox, Guy Debord’s Cat, Tony Greenstein and others too numerous to mention.

These people convey real news, and their under threat from the big corporations Google and Facebook, who only want you to view and read approved corporate, neoliberal propaganda. It’s why they’re demonetizing left-wing news shows like Democracy Now, The Young Turks, the David Pakman Show, Secular Talk and Sam Seder’s Majority Report, and changing the rules on Facebook to make it difficult for people to access the left-wing blogs.

Don’t let them get away with this. Support your favourite left-wing blogs and news shows.

Christian Clergy Speak about How They Were Surrounded by Torch-Wielding Nazis at Charlottesville

August 16, 2017

I’ve just heard a clip on BBC News report about Trump’s equivocal condemnation of the violence at Charlottesville, in which the orange fascist says that there was violence on both sides, and appeared to be saying that an equal amount of it came from the anti-Nazis.

Rubbish. The Beeb report stated that the anti-Nazi protesters were mostly local people, and that they were unorganized. The Nazis and White supremacists came armed and with shields adorned with racist and Nazi symbols.

In this clip from another alternative news show on the Net, Democracy Now, Amy Goodman talks to the Rev. Cornell West, the professor of public philosophy at Harvard, and the Rev. Dr. Traci Blackmon, a priest with Wisdom Ministries, United Church of Christ. These clergy describe how they were at a meeting in a church, in which all races and religious traditions were present, Christian, Muslims, Jews, Black, White and Red, with many indigenous people. He also states he doesn’t wish to downplay the suffering of the LGBT brothers and sisters, who were attacked the following day.

He and Traci Blackmon describe how the church was surrounded by the Nazis. Goodman reminds her viewers that these thugs were chanting ‘Blood and Soil’, a Nazi slogan, ‘You shall not replace us’, and ‘Jews shall not replace us’ in a torchlight procession.

West and Blackmon also describe how, when the people in the church did manage to get outside, they were immediately threatened by the Nazis, to the point where Dr. West states that he thought he was about to die. He says hearing the Nazis approach outside the church, he wanted to give them a thump, as, despite his convictions, he’s not a pacifist. And he was afraid that someone was going to have to ‘pay the ultimate price’, as Heyer, the woman killed by the Nazi, who ran those 20 people over, has paid the ultimate price.

However, he states that he and Blackmon were saved from being killed by the Nazis outside the church by the Antifa and anarchists.

I admit, it’s weird hearing a Christian minister praise anarchists, considering how the anarchist tradition has included militant atheists like Mikhail Bakunin, who attacked organized religion because of its participation in the oppression of working people, as they saw it. However, Dr. West is very committed to social justice and standing up for the poor and the marginalized, regardless of religious conviction, race, gender or gender orientation. So, I understand, is the United Church of Christ. I’ve got the impression from the comments about them from the American Religious Right that they’re liberal, theologically and politically.

The comments from Dr. West and the Rev. Blackmon make it very clear that the violence came mostly from the Nazis. As for Trump, there are videos from The Young Turks and similar shows on YouTube of him walking out of a meeting and not answering when the press calls on him to condemn expressly the violence of the Nazis.

And they’ve come to the inescapable conclusion that Trump won’t unequivocally condemn the Nazis, because he’s well aware that they comprise many of his supporters.

Hence, there is a video in which he condemns racism, while seeming to maintain that both Fascists and anti-Fascists were equally responsible. And some of the spokesmen from the Alt-Right have been delighted with this response.

Dr. West and the Rev. Blackmon, as well as no doubt many of the other, ordinary Americans, who were there, attest otherwise.

Jimmy Dore Show: Obama Rejected North Korea Nuclear Peace Deal in 2015

August 13, 2017

Over the past week the major news issue has been about Trump and North Korea’s dictator, Kim Jong Un, ratcheting up the tension that could easily lead to a nuclear war. The North Koreans have test fired another missile, which is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, and have threated to hit the island of Guam, on which America has a military base. In return, Trump has vowed to retaliate ‘with fire and fury, such as the world has never seen.’

This is terrifyingly like some of the Cold War rhetoric I grew up under in the 1980s, when the spectre of a global nuclear holocaust was all too real. It was also completely unnecessary, a product of Reagan and Thatcher’s militant posturing and determination to spread capitalism around the globe, no matter what the dangers. All while pretending to be the champions of political freedom.

In this clip from The Jimmy Dore Show, the American comedian and his guests Ron Placone and Steffi Zamorano, the Miserable Liberal, comment on a very revealing piece on another liberal internet news channel, Democracy Now. They interviewed the respected academic linguist and veteran critic of American militarism and capitalism, Noam Chomsky. Chomsky revealed that two years ago, the North Koreans offered to make a peace deal with Barack Obama. They would freeze their nuclear programme. In return, they wanted the Americans to stop conducting manoeuvres close to their borders, including flights by B52 bombers, which are capable of carrying nuclear bombs.

Obama refused.

Which, they comment, kind of makes America look like the aggressor. Dore makes the point that during the Korean War, the country was literally flattened by American bombing, so that there were no targets left. A million people were killed. And the North Koreans have very long memories.

Obama’s refusal of the peace offer by the North Koreans, and this latest jingoistic saber-rattling by Trump, also shows that it doesn’t matter who’s in the White House, the military-industrial complex gets its way anyway.

They also comment on the complicity of the American media in promoting a possible war. There are no journalists working for MSNBC, or writing for the New York Times or Washington Post, advocating peace. No Hans Blix, the UN weapons inspector, who told George Dubya what he really didn’t want to hear: that Iraq didn’t have weapons of mass destruction. And no Phil Donohue either, who was sacked because he also spoke out against the war in Iraq. And the New York Times also sacked one of its journos for writing a piece arguing against the invasion of Iraq.

Dore makes the point that this piece needs to go viral, and be reblogged, because you aren’t going to read it or hear about it in the mainstream news. Or if you do, it’ll be on page 88, after a long piece demanding America go to war.

There’s no doubt that Kim Jong Un is a psychopathic dictator, a Stalinist autocrat with the taste for murdering his own family of a Roman emperor. This doesn’t change the fact that this episode, and the horrifying possibility of nuclear war, could have been avoided.

Just like tensions are being ratcheted up with Iran on the same issue of nuclear weapons, and for apparently the same reasons: the American military-industrial complex and bought politicians want a war with Iran. A war which would have similar devastating consequences for the country and the wider Middle East as the Iraq War.

And this is another piece of news that tarnishes the gilded reputation of Barack Obama. Obama, remember, won the Nobel Peace Prize when he was elected, despite not having done anything. It was enough that he was America’s first Black president, and that great things were expected of him. Once in power, however, his radical critics on the Left have pointed out that he was as centrist and corporatist as his predecessors. And far from being anti-war, he massively expanded American military adventures into a further five nations. And Hillary Clinton, who served him as America’s foreign minister, was responsible for backing another Fascist military coup in Honduras. This installed a right-wing government that has restored power to American corporations, and conducted a reign of terror against trade unionists, indigenous peoples and activists for their rights, and the left wing opposition. Killary was also close friends with Henry Kissinger, Nixon’s close aide, who has been dubbed the greatest unindicted war criminal because of the murderous regimes and atrocities he backed from Pinochet’s coup in Chile, Pakistan’s attacks on Bangladesh during their war of independence, and the Vietnam War.

This is why so many Americans want change, and flocked to Bernie Sanders when he denounced Clinton for her friendship with Kissinger, and said that America should no longer interfere in other countries’ domestic affairs.

And the silence of the press over this – both in America and over here, in Britain, on similar issues, is why we need to support the internet and left-wing news shows like Dore’s and Democracy Now, as well as independent bloggers like Mike, despite attempts by Google and Facebook to close them down by denying them an audience.

Trump Wants to Publish List Immigrant Crimes, Just Like Nazis Did to Jews

February 5, 2017

Here’s another step towards real Fascism by the Trump administration. In this clip from Democracy Now! anchor Amy Goodson and her co-host talk to Andrea Pitzer about yet another policy of Trump’s, which is very close to the Nazi vilification of the Jews. Pitzer is the author of One Long Night: A Global History of Concentration Camps. She and the Democracy Now! team discuss Trump’s proposal to publish official lists of crimes committed in sanctuary cities – those towns where the officials are unwilling to comply with Trump’s deportations of illegal immigrants. They point out that this is exactly what the Nazis did in the pages of their ‘newspapers’ Der Sturmer and Das Neues Volk with the Jews. Der Sturmer had a column called ‘Letterbox’, in which its readers were encouraged to send it stories about crimes committed by Jews. The Nazi life-style magazine, Das Neues Volk, which was mostly about wonderful Aryan families and their beautiful homes, also carried stories about crimes supposedly committed by Jews, or Jewish-looking people. This section of the clip illustrates the point by showing covers of the rags with their illustrations showing the blood libel – the anti-Semitic smear that Jews ritually kill gentile, Christian children, along with other vile charicatures.

They also point out that in America some newspapers have also used the same tactic of vilifying ethnic minorities. Before Japanese internment during World War II, the San Francisco Chronicle used to run stories about how the Japanese minority were unassimilable, and how they were also responsible for crime. More recently, Breitbart ran a ‘Black Crimes’ list, and their CEO, Steve Bannon, is now one of Trump’s closest advisors in the White House.

The show points out that immigrants to America have a lower crime rate than those committed by members of the host population. Some of this is possibly to avoid drawing attention from the immigration authorities. However, they also point out that detailing crimes committed by immigrants without providing any context is very dangerous, and it serves to place them in a simplistic ‘good’ versus ‘evil’ view of immigration. And this is particularly dangerous, as this view has the official imprimatur of a government document.

They also briefly discuss another of Trump’s proposals, that immigrants should hand over their cell phone information. Pitzer points out that totalitarian government is impossible without a secret police. Even with the resources of the Nazi state, it was still difficult for them. Himmler apparently used to complain about not having enough men. But you don’t need quite so many staff with the massive expansion of the American surveillance state and its powers and abilities to spy on the electronic communications of American citizens. This is far more than the Nazis had.

This is very frightening, and should concern everyone who’s genuinely concerned about racial justice and personal freedom on either side of the Atlantic. Over here in Britain, Black and ethnic minority campaigners bitterly objected to the way the British right-wing press misrepresented them as being disproportionately responsible for crime. The issue became particularly controversial after the 1981/2 ‘race riots’, when the newspapers became blatantly racist in equating Blacks with crime and anti-White racism. And sections of the Tory press are notoriously ready to run stories about immigrant criminality today, such as the Daily Heil and the Scum. If Trump goes ahead with this, and it is not successfully challenged, it will emboldened UKIP and very large sections of the Tory party to do the same, as well as encourage rags like the Mail, the Sun and the Express to become even more racist in their equation of Blacks and other ethnic minorities with criminality.

Democracy Now On Petition to Impeach Trump for Corruption

January 30, 2017

Here’s news of yet another petition against the Orange Fuhrer that’s being set up. In this short video – about four minutes long – Democracy Now’s anchor, Amy Goodson, talks to John Bonifaz, an attorney and political activist, about an anti-Trump petition his group has launched. It asks for Congress to impeach Trump because of his massive business interests. These place Trump in a conflict of interest, as he stands to profit personally from occupying the role of President, in violation of the law. There are two acts, which forbid the president from receiving any monies from foreign governments and from domestic organisations or individuals, which Trump has broken. He has been asked to divest himself of his companies, and refused. In fact, Mr Bonifaz states at one point that Trump is so massively corrupt, he’s actually worse than Nixon. Which is clearly going some, in stakes of Most Corrupt President Ever. Since the petition has been launched, it’s garnered nearly a quarter of a million signatures.

There’s a petition over here to stop the Orange Generalissimo coming to Britain on state visit because of his racist ban on Muslims entering the US. There are demonstrations against that law in airports across the US, and a Federal judge has ruled in unconstitutional. The Governor of Washington state has also denounced it as cruel, racist and economically damaging, and described the efforts his administration is making to ending it.

All around the world, people are coming together to force this malignant buffoon out of office. The people of America are showing that they’re not going to stand idly by while he tramples on the rights of fellow US citizens.

Have I Got News For You and the Bias in BBC News Satire

December 17, 2016

As I said in the previous blog post, I’ve stopped watching Have I Got News For You, because I’m sick of its bias. This is partly because I’m fed up with the show constantly repeating the anti-Corbyn, anti-Labour line of the mainstream newspapers. I also think its because, after having read some of the alternative news outlets and organisations about various issues, like Counterpunch, Lobster and seen Abby Martin and Amy Goodson on RT and Democracy Now, as well as The Young Turks, Secular Talk, the Jimmy Dore Show and Sam Seder’s Majority Report, I’ve become acutely aware of how far the reporting of the corporate media, including the mendacious BBC, is from the real situation in Britain and other nations around the world.

I was particularly struck by it during an edition of Have I Got News For You a month or so ago. One of the guests that week is the new head of the Conservative part in Scotland. I can’t remember her name. I did, however, find her very smug, self-satisfied and sneering, as you’d expect from a Tory official. She was also introduced as being ‘openly gay’, as if it were part of the changes the Tories had made to make themselves more electable to the guid people north of the Border. The Tories have been fielding many openly gay candidates around the country for several years now, ever since Dave Cameron took over the party and very ostentatiously set about his modernisation policy. This was about trying to make the Conservatives look more left-wing than the Labour party, then under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, which wasn’t exactly the most difficult task. Part of this involved them trying to break the image of the ‘nasty party’ by endorsing more female and minority candidates. This is presumably calculated to impress that part of the liberal middle class, who are worried about the lack of representation of women, ethnic minorities and gays in parliament, but only if they come from respectable upper and middle class backgrounds like themselves. If they’re working or lower middle class, then they had better know their place along with the rest of the proles, and not threaten the wonderful Thatcherite utopia the Tories and Blairites have created.

At one point, the Tory went off on a rant about how the Ukraine was under threat from Putin, as part of his campaign to annexe the whole country, beginning with the eastern part of the country and the Crimea, before taking over the Sudetenland and invading Poland. The view pushed very much by her was that the Russians are the aggressor, who need to be stopped at all costs from victimising the innocent Ukrainian regime.

It’s a tissue of lies. The Ukrainian regime is hardly innocent. It is stuffed full of Nazis from the Pravy Sektor, individuals and organisations that have adopted the full regalia and rituals of the SS auxiliaries that fought for the Nazis during the Second World War. These Ukrainians Nazis fully participated in the Holocaust and were responsible for some of the most horrific pogroms against Jews in the occupied Soviet territories during the War. These groups have shot at and savagely beaten left-wingers, including trade unionists. Just as the regime is intent on clamping down on independent journalists, who do not follow Kyiv’s ultranationalist line. This has included compiling and publishing a black list online of several hundred offending journalist, who have subsequently received death threats.

It is also a lie that the current regime is the product of spontaneous democratic demonstrations, like that of the Maidan Revolution. It isn’t. It is essentially the creation of a clique of very corrupt oligarchs, backed by quangos from America and the EU. The orange uniforms the protestors wore were handed out to them at a tent run by these semi-official US organisations.

And instead of being the aggressors, it is the Russians and Russian-speaking Ukrainians, who are the victims. Simply looking online, you can find reports of these people being beaten and murdered by the Ukrainian army, and of the Ukrainian government sending troops in to prevent them from reaching polling stations. This is to stop them putting in their votes for the opposition. I realise that some of this is going to be Russian propaganda, but not all.

But this is very much not the image presented by the corporate media and the Beeb. Including Private Eye’s editor, Ian Hislop. Hislop cut into the woman’s spiel. However, instead of challenging her about the real situation in Ukraine, he instead decided to ask her questions about whether or not she had contradicted Boris Johnson.

This is an issue, especially if you like to see the Tories tear themselves apart. But it’s not the most important issue here.

Which is that the British people are being fed lies by their media, and the British, American and EU authorities to whip up hatred of the Russians and strengthen ties with a brutally intolerant and persecutory Nazi regime. There’s obviously a very good reason why the Beeb and the corporate media want to silence any mention of Nazism in Ukraine. Despite the vile antics of National Action, the sight of a real Nazi politico, like those in the Ukrainian rada, in full SS gear, giving the Nazi salute would appal the vast majority of people in this country, regardless of whichever side of the political spectrum they came from. Except, perhaps, the Tory right and parts of UKIP.

And so in the interests of furthering this international, corporatist agenda of incorporating the Ukraine into the web of western-orientated, free-trade governed countries, any reporting and discussion of just how murderous and undemocratic the Ukrainian regime is, is rigorously censored.

And this incident also showed how the Beeb’s political bias works, even in a show which proclaims itself as ‘irreverent’. In an interview a while ago at the Edinburgh television festival, the genuinely irreverent – amongst many other things – Scots comedian Frankie Boyle discussed political bias at the Beeb. Boyle, you will remember, had been a regular guest on Mock The Week, another news comedy show. This was more like What’s My Line, in that the guests were given subjects to joke about by the question master, Dara O’Brien. Boyle disappeared as some of his jokes were too extreme and dark for the Beeb, even if the show was broadcast after nine O’clock. Boyle commented that the Beeb’s idea of remaining impartial is simply to lampoon all of the parties. It does not, however, like criticism or jokes about particular issues. And so Boyle’s humour was too edgy for the Corporation.

He was also critical of Have I Got News For You and the cosy relationship the show has with the politicians it lambasts and lampoons. Boyle had been to Romania. While he was there, he watched a Romanian comedian on television, who was making jokes about the country’s government, members of which were in the audience. The comedian pointed them out, and the politicos and comedian exchanged quips and greetings. Boyle found it all far too cosy and complacent, and said so to his Romanian guide. The man defended the show, saying that Boyle had it in his own country. How so, asked the Scots comedian. ‘I’ve seen it. Have I Got News For You‘, replied his Romanian friend, who stated it was just like that.

And Boyle concurs that it is. He stated that if the show rips into a politico one week, the next week they’ll have him on the panel, laughing and joking with them. He gave the example of Boris Johnson, who was a regular guest on the show. He could have mentioned many others. Such as Cecil Parkinson, who father a love child with his secretary, Sarah Keays, and then did his best to prevent the story getting out and imposing legal restrictions on Keays and her disabled daughter that led to great hardship. I have to say, I don’t know many women, who find Parkinson at all attractive. Far from it. I think most women find him smarmy. And my mother and her friends described him as ‘the type of man you would not like to be caught behind the filing cabinet with’. But Parkinson’s charm certainly worked on Hislop. After he appeared on Have I Got News For You, the editor of Private Eye talked about he charmed all of them on the programme. Perhaps you have to meet him in person to feel it.

I’m very much aware that Frankie Boyle is very much a controversial figure. Some of his jokes are too dark and tasteless for most people. But in this case, he’s absolutely right. The BBC has a very pronounced bias, even on ‘satirical’ shows such as Have I Got News For You, where the presenters and guests very definitely keep away from certain topics, and keep their criticisms within the very narrow compass prescribed by the official media.

Dr Cornel West on Standing with the Native Americans, Teaching Public Philosophy and Castro

December 2, 2016

This is a clip from Democracy Now, in which the anchor, Amy Goodson, talks to the very distinguished radical Black professor, Dr. Cornel West. Dr. West is a radical Christian theologian and philosopher, standing up for the poor and minorities. In his personal appearance and speaking style, he reminds me of the great, progressive evangelical preachers of the 19th century, who campaigned against slavery and the exploitation of the poor in both America and Britain. His clothing style strikes me as rather 19th century, and when he talks, he describes people as ‘brother’ and ‘sister’. He’s campaigned for Bernie Sanders, and also for Dr. Jill Stein of the Green party.

In this segment, he talks about going to Standing Rock to show his solidarity with the water protectors and the Native peoples. He states that this is the greatest coming-together of the 200 First American nations since the 19th century. He doesn’t intend to anything, except follow orders and support them. Amy Goodson asks him what he thinks about Barack Obama, as Obama visited Standing Rock in 2014. This was unusual for a president, and he has talked about supporting Native Americans. He sent in the US corps of engineers, and has tried to broker arrangements between the three parties involved. Dr West agrees, but says that Obama has managed to impress people by talking ‘pretty words’ while actually doing very little about the situation.

Dr. West also talks about how he is about to take up a new post at Harvard, teaching engagement in public philosophy. He looks forward to this appointment teaching young minds about taking up the great issues that confront America and the world. He also says that it’s going to be post where he shares and learns from others from different political perspectives, such as Conservatives and Centrists.

Finally, Goodson asks him about his views on Fidel Castro. West makes it clear that he admires the Cuban dictator, and the support he gave to the struggles of Africans and the Cuban people against imperialism. He also condemns Castro as a dictator. He criticises him for the way he hung to power and oppressed his people. He himself has gone to Cuba, and was taken to the palace to be upbraided by the Cuban authorities. He was a radical, democratic Socialist, who believed in the circulation of elites. That means not letting anyone person stay in power for too long, and throwing them out after a little while to get a fresh leader in. He made that point about Castro, and so was accused of being counterrevolutionary. But he also makes the point that the Cubans were oppressed under Battista. He therefore salutes Castro for his anti-imperialism, and the Cuban medical and educational systems. He says that Castro was a great revolutionary, ‘and I’m a revolutionary Christian. I love it.’

Many Black Americans have expressed and given their support to the Native Americans at Standing Rock, and identify with their struggle. And I don’t think it takes a genius to see why. It seems to be that both peoples have a shared history as the dispossessed, exploited victims of White supremacism, a supremacism that is coming back under Trump, and which many Whites are also very firmly against. It’s excellent that Dr West is giving the Native peoples his support, and it’d be interesting to hear his experiences of standing with the Water Protectors.

Jewish Women’s Organisation Occupies Friends of IDF Headquarters in New York

October 9, 2016

I’ve blogged many times that, in contrast to what the Israel lobby would have everyone believe, criticism of Israel is not limited to gentiles. There are very many principled and very courageous Jews and Jewish organisations, who also speak out against Israel’s murderous dispossession of the Palestinians and their ethnic cleansing. Like the non-Jews, who criticise Israel, these people are also smeared as anti-Semitic. They are slandered as ‘self-hating’ and ‘not really Jews’. These attacks may turn into outright persecution in the case of some of the Israelis, who have attacked their country’s sordid history. Ilan Pappe, the author the book The Ethnic Cleansing of the Palestinians, was forced out of his post at one of the Israeli universities, and eventually forced to leave his homeland altogether due to the acute persecution he faced for showing up the atrocities the country had committed in its past. Dr Pappe now teaches, I believe, at the University of Exeter. Despite his forced exile, Dr Pappe certainly does not hate his former countrymen and women. In a talk he gave on YouTube, he said that Israelis were decent people, and described the success he had in explaining the iniquity that was being done in their name. He had opened his house to the public every Thursday night, so that people could come and hear for themselves what he believed. He stated that these gatherings, which were entirely informal, became packed with people from his home village.

Jewish Americans are also very active in opposing their country’s support for Israel’s brutality towards the Palestinians. These critics include Prof Norman Finkelstein, who is himself the son of Holocaust survivors, as well as many other less well known. Many of them were also moved to action by Israeli atrocities in Gaza. The clip below is a Democracy Now! report from two years ago – 2014 – on the occupation of the headquarters of the Friends of the Israeli Defence Force by a Jewish women’s organisation. It’s particularly moving as one of the ladies speaking is the daughter and granddaughter of women, who were fortunate enough to survive the Shoah.

Here’s the clip:

Democracy Now’s blurb for the piece on YouTube states

Protests in response to Israel’s assault on Gaza have drawn hundreds — and in some cases thousands — around the world. On Tuesday, members of Jewish Voice for Peace and Jews Say No! occupied the New York City office of the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, a non-profit group that raises money in the United States to send to the Israeli military. For about an hour, activists read the names of the more than 600 Palestinians killed, and demanded the organization stop its fundraising for the military attacking Gaza. Nine were arrested when they refused to leave the premises. We get a video report from the protest.

North Dakota Oil Pipeline: Company Destroys Native Burial Sites

September 10, 2016

If true, this is pure barbarism. I blogged earlier this week about protests by Native Americans about the North Dakota Access Pipeline, which is intended to carry oil through the lands of the Standing Rock Sioux people. The tribe are opposing it, as they fear that the pipeline will lead to the pollution of their water supply and the destruction of their lands and its ecosystem. In this piece from Democracy Now!, the anchor Amy Goodson speaks to the tribe’s lawyer, Jan Hasselman, from the chambers Earthjustice, and the tribe’s chairman Dave Archambault.

The oil company has tried a number of tactics to try to close down and disrupt the protests. They local sheriff and officials have pulled cellphone access over the area, to stop citizens uploading videos of the protests to the internet. They’ve also attacked the protesters with dogs and pepper spray. There’s video footage of the bites some of the protesters received from one of the animals, with blood dripping from the muzzle of a Doberman Pinscher. The oil company has also tried to destroy the ancient burials on the site, which Mr Hasselman was hoping to use as part of his case against the development.

Mr Hasselman and a team of archaeologists surveyed the site to show that there were Native American archaeological remains, some of them very rare, in the area which was scheduled for digging. These included the burials. They submitted these to the court in the hope that the judge would therefore rule that digging could not go ahead under the relevant legislation protecting ancient monuments in America and desecrating burial sites. The reverse happened. The company took the information, and used it as a guide to the location of the remains. They then sent the bulldozers in to destroy them. They did so in front of the protesters, and when they moved to protect the monuments, the security guards set the dogs on them and attacked them with mace.

Here’s the report.

This is outrageous on so many levels. It’s disgusting when anyone’s graves are desecrated. It is particularly outrageous when it’s deliberately done by a multimillion, if not multibillion dollar company against an impoverished community in a deliberate attempt to destroy their past for corporate profit. I have a postgraduate qualification in Archaeology from Bristol University. When I was on the course, a number of the other students I met were archaeologists from the other side of the Atlantic – America and Canada. Several of them had worked studying ancient First Nation American and Canadian remains. One young woman had designed a heritage park for one of the local peoples in southeast America. Another young man had also worked in Canada, prospecting ahead of the oil companies on the Canadian prairie for palaeoindian remains. And another young woman had been part of an expedition to the Canadian arctic to study Inuit monuments.

There is a wealth of fascinating archaeology from the indigenous American and Canadian cultures, which archaeologists have recovered and from which they are still learning. This archaeology is often not fully appreciated, even by the local people, to whom it really belongs, as for years the American and Canadian governments and some religious organisations, Such as the Roman Catholic missions in the American South West, did their level best to destroy the indigenous culture. In Canada, this was most notoriously through the government boarding schools, which were designed to isolate Native children from their ancestral culture and inculcate in them the culture, including clothing and language, of the White majority. The same policy was adopted in Australia against the Aboriginal people. As a result, some First Nation peoples tragically have only a very hazy idea of their traditional culture and the meaning of the monuments their ancestors created and left behind. I believe such a policy today of trying to destroy the Native people’s ancestral way of life would count as genocide under international human rights legislation.

Because of the historic injustice against these communities, excavation of these sites is extremely sensitive and, in Canada, they’re very strongly protected. The lad, who worked on the prairie informed me that he was working to make sure that there were no ancient Indian artifacts around before the oil companies moved in to extract oil from the shale geology of the area. If just one flint arrowhead was found, the area was a protected site and no development could go ahead. He also told me of some of the ceremonies that had to be carried out, and in which the archaeologists conducting the excavation, had to take part according to tribal religion. The archaeologists exploring ancient Sioux burial grounds, for example, had to be ‘smudged’ by the tribe’s shaman. ‘Smudging’ is something like Christian exorcism, but also rather different. The excavators and investigators, including those just handling the remains and writing up the notes, had to be anointed on their wrists and neck with buffalo grease by the local shaman for as long as the excavation lasted. This obviously made washing and personal cleanliness difficult, but it had to be done. The archaeologists were after all investigating another people’s culture, and so had to respect it.

Because archaeological remains are scarcer in America and Canada, because of the sparser population before the European conquest, excavations are carried out with a greater thoroughness than in Britain and Europe. They may take longer, and are done in finer detail than is frequently possible across the Atlantic.

Now it seems remains of immense cultural, spiritual and personal value to Sioux people, as well as of inestimable scientific value to archaeologists, has been destroyed for no reason other than to spite the protesters and their supporters, and prevent proper investigation by the courts. Several of the faculty at Bristol uni were members of, or had personal connections to, the World Heritage Organisation. Archaeologists, like other academics, travel all over the world to excavate and teach. So you can bet that scholars across the world have heard of this attack through their organisations, colleagues and students. And they aren’t going to be impressed.

I.W.W. Issue Nationwide Call for Prison Strike in America

September 10, 2016

Yesterday, Counterpunch published the call from the I.W.W. Incarcerated Workers’ Organisation Committee calling for a nationwide strike in American prisons against slavery. This is the use of prisoners as unpaid labourers for private companies. The I.W.W. is the syndicalist trade unions, nicknamed the ‘Wobblies’, which was at the forefront of American working class radicalism in the early 20th century. It still exists to day, and has a branch in Bristol, which meets at one of the radical bookshops in Bristol’s Old Market. The call begins

This is a Call to Action Against Slavery in America

In one voice, rising from the cells of long term solitary confinement, echoed in the dormitories and cell blocks from Virginia to Oregon, we prisoners across the United States vow to finally end slavery in 2016.

On September 9th of 1971 prisoners took over and shut down Attica, New York State’s most notorious prison. On September 9th of 2016, we will begin an action to shut down prisons all across this country. We will not only demand the end to prison slavery, we will end it ourselves by ceasing to be slaves.

In the 1970s the US prison system was crumbling. In Walpole, San Quentin, Soledad, Angola and many other prisons, people were standing up, fighting and taking ownership of their lives and bodies back from the plantation prisons. For the last six years we have remembered and renewed that struggle. In the interim, the prisoner population has ballooned and technologies of control and confinement have developed into the most sophisticated and repressive in world history. The prisons have become more dependent on slavery and torture to maintain their stability.

Prisoners are forced to work for little or no pay. That is slavery. The 13th amendment to the US constitution maintains a legal exception for continued slavery in US prisons. It states “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States.” Overseers watch over our every move, and if we do not perform our appointed tasks to their liking, we are punished. They may have replaced the whip with pepper spray, but many of the other torments remain: isolation, restraint positions, stripping off our clothes and investigating our bodies as though we are animals.

Slavery is alive and well in the prison system, but by the end of this year, it won’t be anymore. This is a call to end slavery in America. This call goes directly to the slaves themselves. We are not making demands or requests of our captors, we are calling ourselves to action. To every prisoner in every state and federal institution across this land, we call on you to stop being a slave, to let the crops rot in the plantation fields, to go on strike and cease reproducing the institutions of your confinement.

This is a call for a nation-wide prisoner work stoppage to end prison slavery, starting on September 9th, 2016. They cannot run these facilities without us.

The prisoners go on to state that they need popular support on the outside. They describe the impact the slave system in American prisons has on the wider community. Ordinary citizens are arrested and sentenced to prison for the specific purpose of providing unfree labour for these private companies. They also talk about the ‘extra-judicial executions’ of Black Americans, naming a few of the victims. This is related to the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement, which protests against the complete disregard some members of the American police have for the value of human life in shooting Blacks, regardless of the severity of the crime, or even if there is any crime at all. Several of the victims have been innocent.

To achieve this goal, we need support from people on the outside. A prison is an easy-lockdown environment, a place of control and confinement where repression is built into every stone wall and chain link, every gesture and routine. When we stand up to these authorities, they come down on us, and the only protection we have is solidarity from the outside. Mass incarceration, whether in private or state-run facilities is a scheme where slave catchers patrol our neighborhoods and monitor our lives. It requires mass criminalization. Our tribulations on the inside are a tool used to control our families and communities on the outside. Certain Americans live every day under not only the threat of extra-judicial execution—as protests surrounding the deaths of Mike Brown, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland and so many others have drawn long overdue attention to—but also under the threat of capture, of being thrown into these plantations, shackled and forced to work.

Our protest against prison slavery is a protest against the school to prison pipeline, a protest against police terror, a protest against post-release controls. When we abolish slavery, they’ll lose much of their incentive to lock up our children, they’ll stop building traps to pull back those who they’ve released. When we remove the economic motive and grease of our forced labor from the US prison system, the entire structure of courts and police, of control and slave-catching must shift to accommodate us as humans, rather than slaves.

I’m quite aware that criminals in the prison system are hardly innocent victims, and that many are guilty of the most vile offences. But in this case, they have a point: they are being used as slave labour for private profit, and this is affecting the wider community. In America, the private prison corporations donate money to the political parties and for the election of judges, so that they will run on a platform of being tough on crime. The local political candidates are effectively bribed to pass laws introducing harsher penalties, and judges are effectively bribed to pass longer sentences. There’s a case in one of Michael Moore’s films, Capitalism: A Love Story, we he discusses the case of a teenage schoolgirl sent to jail for truancy, because the beak was connected to the local prison company, which wanted more slave labour.

Nor is this iniquitous system confined to America. Mike put up a piece several weeks ago, discussing the highly exploitative conditions in private prisons, in which prisoners are used as unfree labour for British companies. Mike made the point that we cannot close our eyes to such exploitation in this country, and claim that it doesn’t happen here. It does. Of course criminals should be punished, but it’s one of the fundamental cornerstones of the concept of justice that the punishment should fit the crime. The exploitation of prisoners as unpaid workers goes directly against this. As a punishment, it’s only an excuse for their exploitation for the profit of big business.

The strike has spread to something like 24 states and 40 prisons all over America, according to a report on Democracy Now! Over on this side of the pond, we need to start thinking about how we can stop the exploitation of prisoners for corporate profit over here.