Posts Tagged ‘Freedom of the Press’

What Horrors Have Our Imperial Governors Committed in Iraq?

December 1, 2017

I’ve been thinking about this for a couple of weeks now, ever since I read an op-ed piece in the I by Yasmin Alibhai-Browne. Alibhai-Browne’s an Muslim lady, whose family were Ugandan Asians, married to a White Brit. She writes about racism, multiculturalism and related issues. She’s a modern, tolerant Muslim, who attacks anti-White, as well as anti-Black racism. I’m not saying I always agree with what she says, but she offers a different perspective.

And a few weeks ago she published a piece attacking the former British diplomat, who said we should try to kill the various Brits, who’ve gone to Iraq to fight for the Islamists before they come home. Alibhai-Browne was shocked by this, as were a number of others, including Mike over at Vox Political. It is, after all, the attitude of the death squads. It’s extra-judicial execution, or political murder. But it’s in line with Obama’s and Trump’s policies. This is, after all, what drone strikes are. They’re sent into foreign countries, like Yemen, to kill terrorists, including American citizens. And their families, including their kids. The last are simply called ‘fun-sized terrorists’.

Those opposing the drone strikes have asked people to imagine what would happen if the situation was reversed. If an Islamic, or Black African, or Asian country sent drones into America to kill White, American terrorist groups like the Klan. Or perhaps a more appropriate target would be Henry Kissinger. Kissinger was responsible for various Fascist coups in Latin America, and supporting tyrants and mass-murders across Asia, from Pakistan to Indonesia, as well as the carpet-bombing of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. If anyone should be killed by agents of a foreign power, it should be Kissinger, simply because of the millions of people he’s had killed. I’m not recommending that anyone should do it. Just saying that if America has the right to send drones to kill terrorists, then the people of Latin America and Asia have the absolute right to blow him away.

One of the deeply disturbing facts Abby Martin revealed in the Empire Files, as well as other left-wing news networks, is how far out of control the American military and its private contractors – the mercenaries it hired – were in Iraq. They were running prostitutes and brutalised and murdered ordinary Iraqis. There are reports of these b*stards driving around, shooting ordinary men and women waiting to cross the street. Simply for sport. The butcher, whose career in Iraq was turned into a glowing cinematic celebration by Clint Eastwood in American Sniper was a Nazi, who boasted of killing women and children. Yeah, that’s who Eastwood decided to promote. His film so incensed the reviewer over at 366 Weird Movies that he broke with describing and cataloguing strange cinema, like the works of Ed Wood and co, to attack Eastwood and his oeuvre in an article. The reviewer described himself as an old-fashioned Conservative, and hated Eastwood because he wasn’t.

So you don’t have to be a lefty-liberal to be sickened by this. Just an ordinary person with a conscience.

And the American Empire was complicit in these murders. Martin also revealed how one of the military governors put in by Bush or Obama actually assisted the Shi’a assassination squads, which roamed Baghdad and the rest of the country kidnapping and murdering Sunni Muslims. Because the Sunnis were the dominant, privileged sect under Saddam Hussein, and now form the backbone of the insurgency.

Alibhai-Browne in her article on the British diplomat, who was all in favour of killing British Islamists before they could return to Blighty, noted that he came from a privileged class, which knew all about Islam but had no sympathy with Muslims or the ordinary people they governed. He was another public schoolboy, and Oxbridge graduate. He had a background in Arabic, and had a full diplomatic career in the Middle East. And he’d also served as governor in that part of Iraq run by Britain.

Which makes me wonder what atrocities he’s committed, or turned a blind eye to. A year or so ago I read a book by an Arab author and political scientist, A Brutal Friendship, which argued that the rulers installed by Britain, America and the West, were brutal dictators, who oppressed their people and ruled by terror. One example was the Prime Minister of Iraq in the 1950s. He was installed by us, and was hailed and promoted by the establishment as a great leader, wisely ruling his country. In fact, the man was so hated by ordinary Iraqis that they rose up against him. Not content with simply hacking him to pieces, they then ran over the pieces with cars.

Now I might be slandering the man. He might, for all I know, be perfectly blameless, and to have ruled well. Or as well as anybody could, given the circumstances, which were corrupt from the very beginning.

But I don’t know. I don’t think any of us will know, until we have a genuinely free press and free television in this country.

America has a genuine tradition of free speech, which was strengthened by Clinton’s passing of the Freedom of Information Act. The corporatist elite have been trying to weaken and undermine it ever since. Just as the political and corporate elites have been trying to do the same to its British counterpart. And that was already deliberately weaker than Clinton’s when Tony Blair introduced it. America has a tradition of genuine, radical, investigative journalism. The arch-neocon, Daniel Pipes, in his book on Conspiracy Theories, points out that much of the anti-American tropes going round the world, like ‘the almighty dollar’ have their roots in Americans’ own criticism of their country and its economic and political system. As an arch-Conservative, Pipes is definitely no fan of this. And the American elite are trying their best to stamp it out. Witness the attacks on RT, Al-Jazeera, the Real News, Democracy Now! and other, alternative news networks like the David Pakman Show, Sam Seders’ Majority Report, the Jimmy Dore show, The Young Turks and so on.

But we don’t have that tradition in England. Not since the decline of the genuinely left-wing press in the 1950s. We don’t have a written constitution, and there is no guarantee of freedom of speech in this country. Not necessarily a bad thing – it means we can ban hate speech, like calls from the Nazi fringe to murder Jews, Blacks, Muslims, ‘Reds’, the disabled and anyone who ever looked at them funny at the bus stop.

And our press is very deferential. A while ago Channel 4 broadcast a documentary showing just how much power the Queen has to censor information about the royal family. Far more power than the other ‘bicycling monarchies’ on the continent, like Denmark.

And the state has covered up horrendous atrocities committed by the British Empire. It was only the other year that Kenyans imprisoned and tortured during the Mao Mao insurgency actually won the court case, and the British state declassified the documents showing how Britain was running interment camps. This has formed the subject of a book, Africa’s Secret Gulags. But we also have the thirty year rule, to prevent the release of sensitive information, and the state can withhold it for even longer, if it thinks it’s necessary.

So we have no way of knowing what our troops – and our imperial staff – were really doing in Iraq. All we have are assurances from our leaders and our own self-image that, as Brits, we are all that is good, noble and right in the world. And that we would never butcher civilians.

But we have. And we may still be doing so. We won’t know, until we get rid of the crushing censorship and our investigative reporters are free and willing to expose what’s really going on.

Which, I hope, will be that we aren’t. But until that day comes, we will never know for sure. And there is absolutely no cause for complacency.

Daniel McAdams: NeoCons Hate RT Because Criticism of American Imperialism so Compelling

December 1, 2017

This is another little piece from RT America discussing Congress’ withdrawal of their press accreditation. In this snippet, their anchorman talks to Daniel McAdam, of the Ron Paul Institute. Ron Paul is the leading Libertarian in Congress, so presumably this is a thinktank founded by him to support his ideology. In which case, it’s very definitely not socialist, and in fact very anti-. But Libertarians can also be fierce critics of American imperialism and radically opposed to the NeoCons.

Here McAdams states that the removal of RT America’s accreditation following reassurances that the demand for the network to register under FARA as a foreign agent would not impede the network in anyway is just part of the way Congress operates. He compares it to the ‘sense of Congress’ motions. These are always presented as non-binding. It’s just Congress’ opinion. But they provide the basis for further action.

McAdams goes on to say that the NeoCons hate RT because it gives good, patriotic Americans, like himself, a platform to criticise American foreign policy. And he states that they can’t tolerate this, because the arguments against American imperialism are so compelling.

The anchor then asks him what message this sends the world about free speech in America. McAdams states that he’s been to Washington several times, and met the staff at RT. He states their young, hardworking, perhaps a trifle idealistic. But this measure sends the message to young journalists that the government will persecute you and try to control what news people watch. He compares it to the worst periods of totalitarianism in the last century, when governments had the audacity to consider that their perfect systems were too fragile to allow free speech.

The anchorman ends by thanking McAdams for his time and his comments about RT’s staff, but gently chides him for missing out one quality: guts. It takes guts to tell the truth.

Yes, it does. Chris Hedges, one of the radical journalists, who has his own show on RT, got sacked from the New York Times because he dared tell the truth about the carnage the Iraq invasion would cause. Phil Donohue was forced off his show because he did the same, and the network, CNN, then came out with a totally bullsh*t story about how he was sacked because of low ratings. He wasn’t. In fact, his show was the highest rated the network had. And you can find a long list of others.

As for RT’s staff, Abby Martin, who used to work for RT, states that the staff at RT America are leftists and socialists, who are there because it is the only network that provides a space for their beliefs. They’re not working there because they’re admirers of Putin.

And Jimmy Dore has pointed out very sarcastically that it’s vast, growing poverty, the lack of free healthcare, the destruction of America’s welfare net, the privatisations and the massive profiteering by the corporate elite, that’s causing discontent in America. It ain’t propaganda from Putin that’s causing people to demonstrate, or join protest groups like Black Lives Matter.

But RT’s a convenient scapegoat. It, and the other radical or alternative news networks are being singled out because the elite can’t argue against what these news programmes are showing. So all they can do is lie and try to close these networks down.

And once they’ve done it to those broadcasters on the margins – like Al-Jazeera, RT, Press TV, The Young Turks, Jimmy Dore Show, the Real News, Democracy Now! and so many others, they’ll move into the mainstream.

This is how the colossal propaganda machines of Goebbels in the Nazi Germany and Mussolini in Italy started. And they all used the same excuse: they were protecting the citizens of their country from ‘fake news’ spread by the regimes’ enemies.

Welcome to the beginning of Corporate Newspeak. It’s Goebbels’ Ministry of Public Enlightenment, brought to you by the Republicans and Clintonite Democrats, with the assistance of Google and funded by the Koch Brothers.

Congress Revokes RT America’s Press Accreditation

December 1, 2017

The campaign to close down RT America continues. In this piece, the Russian funded network reports on the removal of their press accreditation by the Congressional committee responsible for the press gallery. They have been instructed to hand in their press accreditation and then leave the capitol.

Basically, they’re banned from Congress.

The speakers on the clip point out that this gives the lie to the assurance RT was given a week or so ago, when they were told they had to register as foreign agents, that this would not interfere with their business. They also briefly comment on the lack of support from the professional organisations, that are supposed to be defending press freedom and journalists in America. The presenters note that this came from the Democrats and the Clinton camp trying to divert attention from Killary’s corruption, but it has snowballed, so that now there isn’t anything too wild that can’t be said about RT. For example, the head of NBC declared that RT was like al-Qaeda and ISIS.

They also make the point that very many other countries also have state-funded broadcasters in America. Like the Beeb. Does this mean that the BBC will also have to register as a foreign agent, or have their accreditation revoked?

The presenter then talks about this latest attack on RT with Lionel, of Lionel Media. Lionel remarks on the sheer hysteria behind this move. He also points out that it’s having the opposite effect. Whereas a few years ago he had a hard time telling anyone, who RT was, now everyone knows about it, because it’s constantly being pushed in front of people as a kind of media ‘forbidden fruit’.

The radical journalist, Chris Hedges, once remarked that if you’re a journalist, and the people in power don’t hate you, then you’re not doing your job. Hedges himself certainly did do his job, and suffered from it. He lost his job at the New York Times because he opposed the Iraq War. It’s why he, and very many other journalists, are at RT.

Abby Martin, who presents the Empire Files on TeleSur English, was also at RT. She has said in an interview on the Jimmy Dore Show that she never said anything in praise of Putin, but was there simply because there was nowhere else to go. And that was true of very many of the broadcaster’s staff. RT had many leftists and Socialists working for it, not because they were fans of Putin, but because it was the only network that allowed them to express their opinions.

She also made the point that she saw the attack on RT coming way back in 2007 when the Conservative establishment and the news media began attacking Al-Jazeera as foreign propaganda.

This isn’t about foreign propaganda. This is about clamping down on free speech. The Republicans and Corporatist, Clintonite Democrats hate RT because it covers the issues that the mainstream media doesn’t, and shows the bitter reality of neoliberal policies in America: the rising mass poverty, the misery and deaths caused by lack of affordable healthcare, the massive political corruption caused by corporate political funding, the destruction of America’s beautiful natural environment through fracking and the oil industry; racism and Black Lives Matter, and the horrors and atrocities committed by American imperialism.

It’s because RT covers these issues, that Congress wants to close it down. And as Martin and Dore point out, once they’ve finished with RT, they’ll go after the other news media, even the mainstream networks.

Donald Trump has said several times that he’d like to suspend the broadcasting license of those networks that criticise him, like MSNBC. Congress’ removal of RT’s press accreditation just brought that highly illiberal, dystopian possibility just a bit closer.

Czech President Threatens Journalists with Fake Kalashnikov

October 25, 2017

More from Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian of The Young Turks on the rising threat to freedom of the press around the world. In this clip they report on and discuss the behaviour of the Czech President, Milos Zeman, who turned up at a press conference waving around a replica gun which had ‘For Journalists’ written on it. Zeman himself hates the press, and in the past has described them as ‘manure’ and ‘hyenas’. At a meeting with Putin in May, he joked about how some of them deserved to be ‘liquidated’. As Uygur points out, there is very strong evidence that Putin has had journalists murdered, so that joke really isn’t funny. Zeman, you will not be surprised to know, is also a colossal Islamophobe. He has said that Czechs need to arm themselves against a coming ‘superholocaust’ against them, which will be carried out by Muslims. Uygur comments drily, ‘Who knew there were so many Muslims in the Czech Republic, and they were so powerful?’

Zeman’s gun-waving comes after the death of a female journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was killed by a car bomb in Malta. Galizia was dubbed a ‘one-woman WikiLeaks’ for her dogged pursuit of uncovering stories of corruption. She was killed a week after revealing that Joseph Muscat, the Prime Minister of the island nation, had been involved in offshore companies and the sale of Maltese passports and payments from the Azerbaijani government.

Clearly, Malta isn’t anywhere near the Czech Republic, but her death was reported there. And the president, Zeman, thinks so little of the murder of journalists that he ‘jokes’ about it by waving replica firearms around at the press. Uygur also states that the Czechs have just elected a new prime minister, who is the millionaire head of a populist party. He predicts that this won’t end well.

This is clearly a story from a small nation in the EU, but it shows the way journalistic freedoms are being eroded all over the world. The Young Turks point out that democracy isn’t just about voting – it’s also about the freedom of the press and conscience – and this is what has makes Western democracy so great. The Young Turks have also covered the prosecution of journalists and political opponents of President Erdogan in Turkey, and the persecution of another crusading journo in Azerbaijan itself. As well as the attempted assassination of another Russian journo, who was suspiciously stabbed a madman two weeks after the Putin media declared her and her radio station an agent of America.

About ten years ago, John Kampfner wrote a book, Freedom for Hire, in which he described how countries around the world, from France, Italy, Russia, Singapore and China, were becoming increasingly dictatorial. And we in Britain had no cause for complacency, as he described how Blair had also tried to muzzle the press, especially when it came to the Gulf War. The web of corruption Galizia uncovered was so widespread, and went right to the top, so that Malta was described by the Groaniad yesterday as ‘Mafia Island’.

As for the Czech Republic, after Vaclav Havel its post-Communist presidents have been extremely shady individuals. I can remember reading one travel book on eastern Europe, which discussed how his critics had disappeared or been murdered. And following the Fall of Communism, there has come a series of reports and scandals about rising racial intolerance there. The target of much of this is the Roma. It has been reported that the Czech medical service routinely forcibly sterilised Gypsy women in order to stop them having children, and members of various political parties have called for either their expulsion or their extermination. I am not surprised by the Islamophobia, as a little while ago Counterpunch carried a story about one of their contributor’s meeting with a Czech politician, who had very extreme, right-wing views, including a deep hatred of Muslims. There also appears to be an undercurrent of anti-Semitism in the country as well. A few years ago, the BBC’s programme, Who Do You Think You Are, explored Stephen Fry’s ancestry. As Fry himself has said many times on QI, his grandfather was a Jewish Hungarian, who worked for a sugar merchants. It was through his work that he met Fry’s grandmother, who was a member of Fry’s, the Quaker chocolate manufacturer, and settled with her in England. Thus he fortunately survived the Holocaust. Fry travelled to Austria, Hungary and the Czech Republic, tracing the movements of his ancestors in the course of their work through the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. Fry was, understandably, visibly upset and shaken when he found out just how many of his grandfather’s kith and kind had been murdered at Auschwitz.

He was also very unimpressed by the attitude of some of the Czechs he spoke to in his quest. He quoted them as saying that ‘it is very curious. They knew the Holocaust was coming, but they stayed here anyway.’ He was justifiably outraged at the implication that somehow the millions of innocents butchered by the Nazis wanted to be killed.

It’s possible to suggest a number of causes for the rise in Islamophobia. You could probably trace it back to historic fears about the Ottoman Empire and the conquest of the Balkans by the Muslim Turks in the 15th century. The Ottoman Empire still sought to expand in the 17th century, when its army was just outside the gates of Vienna. It was defeated by Jan Sobieski, the king of Poland, and his troops. The Ottoman Empire persisted until it finally collapsed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, amidst a series of bloody massacres. The majority of these were blamed on the Turks, and specifically the irregular troops, the Bashi-Bazouks. It was their massacres that led to Gladstone calling for Turkey to be thrown ‘bag and baggage out of the Balkans’. But other journalists in the Balkans at the time also noted that the Christian nations, like the Serbs, were also guilty of horrific mass slaughter, but that this went unreported due prevailing Western prejudice.

Part of it might be due to the Czechs being a small nation – there are about four million of them – who have had to struggle to survive against domination by larger neighbours. Their medieval kings had invited ethnic Germans into the country to settle and develop their economy. This led to the creation of what became the Sudetenland, the areas occupied by ethnic Germans, and there was friction between them and the native Czechs. This friction eventually exploded into open conflict in the 15th century in the wars following the attempt of Jan Hus to reform the Roman Catholic church. Czech nationalism was suppressed, and Moravia and Bohemia, the two kingdoms, which became Czechoslovakia, were absorbed into the Austrian Empire. The Czechs and Slovaks achieved their independence after the First world War, but the country was conquered by the Nazis during World War II, and then ‘liberated’ by Stalin. It was then incorporated into the Communist bloc. When Anton Dubcek, the president, attempted to create ‘Communism with a human face’, introducing free elections and a form of market socialism, the-then Soviet president, Anton Dubcek, sent in the tanks to quell the ‘Prague Spring’.

Other factors also include the wave of immigrants from Syria and North Africa, that forced their way through the various international borders to come up through Greece and Serbia in their hope of finding sanctuary and jobs in the West. The Counterpunch article stated that there was a real fear that they would turn east, and swamp the small, former eastern bloc nations like the Czech Republic.

And these racial fears are being stoked throughout the former eastern bloc by the poverty and misery that has come with capitalism. The peoples of the former Communist nations were led to believe that the introduction of capitalism would create employment and prosperity. This has not occurred, and the result has been widespread disillusionment. Counterpunch also ran another article, which quoted the statistic that 51 per cent of the population of the former East Germany had responded positively to the statement that ‘things were better under Communism’ in a poll, and wanted Communism to come back. Similar statistics could be found right across the former Communist nations of eastern Europe.

Now, faced with rising poverty, unemployment and inequality, made worse by neoliberalism, the old fears of racial domination and extermination are rising again, and being exploited by ruthless, right-wing populists. So there are a series of extremely nationalistic, Fascistic governments and parties in Hungary and the Czech Republic. Just like in western Europe there’s Marine Le Pen’s Front National and Germany’s Alternative fuer Deutschland, and Donald Trump and the Alt Right in America.

And across the globe, ruthless, corrupt politicians are trying to curtail freedom of speech and the press, in order to preserve their power. Hence the rising racism, Fascism and violence towards ethnic minorities and the press. These freedoms are at the core of democracy, and have to be defended for democracy to work at all, and governments held accountable by their citizens.

50 + Tory Policies Are Uncosted, But Biased Media Will Not Ask Them About It

May 20, 2017

Mike over at Vox Political yesterday put up a piece showing exactly what voting for the Tories will mean – more poverty, more cuts, more privatisation, including that of the NHS. He also has a graphic that shows that, far from being the party of financial prudence and sound fiscal policy that they are always boasting they are, 50 plus of the policies in May’s manifesto have not been costed.

And the graphic lists them.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/05/19/this-is-what-voting-conservative-really-means/

But, as far as I’m aware, the Tories haven’t been asked about these. Nor about how they will finance schools, hospitals and other parts of the state infrastructure generally when they are making such savage – and unnecessary – cuts.

Buddy Hell over at Guy Debord’s Cat, has written a couple of pieces attacking the media’s bland, uncritical, and unintelligent assumption that the economic orthodoxy expounded by the Tories makes any sense, and does not deserve the same interrogation and critique that Labour’s policies do. He points out that most of the journos in the media seem to believe that national finances and the economy are the same as household finances, and points to an article by the Angry Yorkshireman, who has also attacked this myth.

The Cat writes

Television and radio hacks, and their commentator allies have accepted the Thatcherite logic of the market and the domestic finance analogy as fait accompli. For supposedly well-educated people, broadcast journalists have shown that they are neither capable nor willing to ask fundamentally straightforward questions about the Tories’ economic claims, and instead have focussed their attention on Labour’s mythologized economic incompetence. But the questions they ask are not intelligent questions and behind them is a discourse of mocking and sneering of anything that diverges even slightly from the orthodoxy.

We see this whenever a Tory politician talks about tax cuts, they are never asked “how much will these tax cuts cost”? Instead, their proposals are taken at face value and their tenuous claims to economic competence are accepted as axiomatic. Yet, tax cuts do cost money and the burden will always fall on the shoulders of those who are least equipped to deal with it. Tories will always claim that they have taken those who earn the least out of taxation altogether. No questions are asked if the richest will pay more or how libraries, schools and the National Health Service are to be funded when ever-decreasing amounts of tax are being collected by the state. Of course, Tory politicians know they will never be subjected to the kind of scrutiny reserved for Labour or even Green politicians (Andrew Neil is a possible exception). The deference with which most media journalists treat these puffed up charlatans is more sickening than eating ten Cadbury’s Cream Eggs in a single sitting and it’s getting worse.

He makes the point that the media’s double standards are shown by the different ways Diane Abbott and Theresa May were treated by the press and media when they appeared confused during interviews on particular questions. Abbott, you will recall, was pilloried by the press after she appeared unable to answer Nick Ferrari’s question about where the money would come from to fund more police officers when she appeared on his show on LBC.

But May was given a very different treatment when Andrew Marr asked her if it was right that nurses should have to go to food banks. Stumped for any kind of proper reply, she could only stammer out that there were ‘complex reasons’.

This is rubbish, and she knew it. But she could rely on the Tory lapdogs in the media not to press her on it, but instead to portray her as ‘strong and stable’. Which sounds to me exactly what various modish modern architects say about their ludicrous monstrosities, often way over cost and behind schedule, shortly before they unexpectedly fall down or have to be closed while major structural repairs have to be undertaken.

https://buddyhell.wordpress.com/2017/05/02/how-much-will-it-cost/

The Cat’s article also describes how May went ‘full Erdogan’ with the press during her visit to Cornwall, and has a link to a feature about this on the Cornwall Live website. May turned up to support the six Tory MPs, who hold all the seats in the county.

Erdogan is the current president of Turkey, who is rapidly trying to undo the decades of secularisation began with the Turkish nationalist, Kemal Ataturk. Instead of being the head of a modern state, which values free speech, a free press and the other marks of democratic society, Erdogan acts like he would like to be a new Ottoman emperor. Anything that even smacks of disrespect to his fragile, Trump-like ego, is banned and the person who produced it arrested and prosecuted by the rozzers. A few months ago a doctor found himself arrested and prosecuted for insulting the president, simply because he had retweeted a joke about him on his mobile phone.

The ladies and gentlemen of the media in Kernow also found themselves in a similarly tightly controlled environment. According to Cornwall Live, they were locked in a room and forbidden to film. They did ask some questions, and there were some photographs, including one of the locked door. Briefly glancing through the article, I got the distinct impression that May’s answers to questions consisted mostly of the same guff about being ‘strong and stable’.

http://www.cornwalllive.com/prime-minister-theresa-may-visits-cornwall-ahead-of-general-election/story-30306323-detail/story.html#kMAvlh8iYr7EHHod.99

May’s management of the press in Cornwall isn’t unique. Whenever she goes anywhere, the event is very carefully stage managed. Rather than meeting the public, these events are private, and the public are kept very far away from meeting her and asking any awkward questions.

As for locking the press and broadcast media in a room, this seems a very strong metaphor for the repressive state of Tory Britain anyway. Blair, the Tories and the Lib Dems all brought in legislation providing for secret courts, where you could be arrested and tried without knowing the evidence against you, who your accuser was, and with the public and press excluded, if this was all deemed necessary for national security.

Exactly like the perverted judicial systems of Nazi Germany and the Communist states of the former eastern bloc.

One of the underground poems written against the Communist dictatorship in Hungary describes the author looking down at his shoelaces. He still has them, so he can’t be in prison. It’s a succinct, poetic description of the lack of freedom the Hungarians endured in what was basically a Stalinist dictatorship following the quelling of their uprising in the 1950s.

Now have a look at your own feet. Well, we must be free, ’cause we’ve still got our shoelaces. But when May starts locking the press into a room, while her goons prevent her from being properly filmed, you wonder how long.

Donald Trump Considering Removing American First Amendment Rights?

May 1, 2017

In this brief clip from The Ring Of Fire, host Farron Cousins discusses the statement of Reince Priebus, Donald Trump’s chief of staff, that the Orange Fascist is considering abolishing the First Amendment. That’s the part of the American constitution protecting freedom of the press, assembly and the separation of church and state. Donald Trump is debating removing those freedoms because he’s upset at the press’ criticism of him.

It’s astonishing that he’s considering doing what no other president has done.

Cousins makes the obvious point that while the Republicans like to sneer at those on the left as ‘special snowflakes’, this shows that Trump is actually one of them. So much so that his fragile ego can’t take criticism and so he’s literally thinking of attacking the American constitution itself.

Cousins states that Trump won’t be able to do this. It would require a constitutional convention, in which he would need a two-thirds majority. He also wonders where the guns rights lobby are in all this. They may not care about the First Amendment, but when there’s a whiff that the government might repeal the Second, they’re out in force. But Trump has no problems removing that amendment either. He made sure that the NRA stopped attendees from bringing guns to one of his rallies. And once Trump has removed the First Amendment, he will definitely come for the Second.

It’ll be interesting to see how the American right handles this obvious statement of real, near Fascist lunacy from Trump. Secular Talk a little while carried stories about the weird accusations thrown at Barack Obama from some of the right-wing Talk Radio hosts. The Republican right pilloried Obama as a dangerous racist and a Communist bent on genocide. Two right-wing radio hosts declared that Obama was going to become a dictator, who would kill more people than Moa or Stalin. One of Trump’s own aides is a bug-eyed lunatic, who thinks that Obama is an anti-White racist determined to wipe them all out. Quite apart from Alex Jones’ rants about how Obama wanted to incarcerate Americans in FEMA camps.

All that was rubbish. It never happened. And even when Obama was in power, it was obvious that it was all tosh except to the deranged conspiratorial fringe.

But this isn’t coming from Alex Jones and the Infowars paranoiacs. It’s coming from inside Trump’s own team. It states very clearly that Trump would like to be a dictator.

And as such, it’ll be very interesting to see how Republicans like Alex Jones, loudly shouting that they, and only they, are the guardians of the Constitution, handle this statement from the man they serve and promote as the upholder of American freedom.

John McDonnell and Anti-Marxist Scaremongering on Thursday’s Question Time

September 18, 2016

I was talking to Mike this evening about John McDonnell’s appearance on Question Time last week, when all the other panelists, including Alistair Campbell, Soubry for the Tories and Dimbleby himself all tried to pile into him and attack himself and Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour party. I didn’t see the programme, but heard from Mike that at one point someone attempted to score a point accusing McDonnell of being a Marxist. McDonnell said he was, and that as a Marxist he was overjoyed at the 2008 financial crisis, as this was the kind of massive economic crisis that is caused by capitalism. Mike took this McDonnell answering in the conditional: this is what he would believe, if he was a Marxist. But even if McDonnell is a Marxist – which is debateable – this still is not necessarily a reason why he should be feared or disqualified from government.

There’s a difference between Marxism and Communism. Communism is a form of Marxism, but as historians of the Soviet regime and political scientists will tell you, it is a form of Communism based on the interpretation of Lenin and the Bolsheviks. And I was taught by the tutor at College on the rise of Communism in Russia, that Lenin adapted and reformed Marxism as much as his ideological opponents and enemies in democratic socialism. I should point out here that before he began the course, he made a little speech stating that he wasn’t a Communist, and if, by some accident, he found himself in such a party, he would very soon find himself thrown out of it. This is pretty much true. The official ideology of the Soviet Union was Marxism-Leninism, and it broke with the ideas of the German Social Democrats, and particularly that of Karl Kautsky, as the leading European Marxist party. In 1910 the German Social Democrats (SPD) were world’s leading socialist party. They had 110 deputies in the Reichstag, the German parliament, 720,000 members and over 70 newspapers and periodicals. (See John Kelly, Trade Unions and Socialist Politics, p. 27).

The party had been riven by ideological conflict in the 1890s over Eduard Bernstein’s ‘Revisionism’. Bernstein had argued that Marxism was wrong, and that far from impoverishing the workers in the operation of the ‘iron law of wages’, the workers were becoming more prosperous. He therefore urged a revision of Marxist socialism, abandoning the aspects that were no longer relevant. Instead of the Hegelian dialect, he urged instead that the party should incorporate and adapt the ideals of the great German philosopher, Immanuel Kant. This did not mean abandoning socialism or the nationalisation of industry. Indeed, he saw the emergence of joint-stock companies as the type of capitalist institution, which would gradually become transformed as society developed to produce the new, socialist society of the future. Despite widespread, and fierce opposition, Bernstein was not thrown out of the party. Lenin, who had previously been an admirers of the Germans, really couldn’t understand this. When he met Karl Kautsky, the Austrian leader of German and Austrian Marxism, during his exile from Tsarist Russia, Lenin asked him that question. Kautsky replied that they didn’t do that kind of thing. Lenin went berserk, called him a prostitute, and published a pamphlet attacking Kautsky and denouncing him as a ‘renegade’.

Kautsky was no enemy of democracy. I’ve put up various pieces from Marx, Kautsky and the French Marxist, Lucien Laurat, showing how they all supported, to a certain degree, parliamentary democracy. Marx never ruled out violent revolution, but was increasingly of the opinion that there was no need, as socialists were winning considerable concessions and advances through parliamentary politics. Kautsky and Laurat fully support parliamentary democracy. Kautsky himself despised the workers’ soviets as undemocratic, and bitterly attacked the Bolsheviks for their suppression of human rights. He hated the disenfranchisement of the bourgeoisie, their subjection to slave labour and how they were given the worst jobs, and were given the worst rations. He also attacked the Bolsheviks’ monopolisation of the press and their destruction and banning of competing parties, newspapers and publications. And rather than industry being nationalised in one fell blow, as the Bolsheviks had done, he argued instead that Marxism demanded that industry should only be nationalised gradually at the appropriate moment. This was when the various capitalist firms in a particular economic sector had merged to create a cartel. It was only then that the industries should be taken over by the state, and run in the interests of the working class and the people as a whole. After the Bolshevik revolution, Kautsky supported the Mensheviks, their ideological rivals, in the newly independent state of Georgia in the Caucasus, before that was finally conquered by the USSR.

Lenin, by contrast, had argued in his 1905 pamphlet, What Is To Be Done, that the Russian socialist party should be led by committed revolutionaries, who would command absolute authority. Debate was to be strictly limited, and once the party’s leaders had made a decision, it had to be obeyed without question. Lenin had come to this view through his experience of the conspiratorial nature of Russian revolutionary politics. He was influenced by the ideas of the Russian revolutionary – but not Marxist – Chernyshevsky. He also adopted this extremely authoritarian line as an attempt to prevent the rise of factionalism that divided and tore apart the Populists, the Russian agrarian socialists that form Marxism’s main rival as the party of the peasants and working class.

Now I’ll make it plain: I’m not a Marxist or a Communist. I don’t agree with its atheism nor its basis in Hegelian philosophy. I’m also very much aware of the appalling human rights abuses by Lenin, Stalin, and their successors. But Marxism is not necessarily synonymous with Communism.

During the struggle in the 1980s in the Labour party with the Militant Tendency, the Swedish Social Democrats also offered their perspective on a similar controversy they had gone through. They had also been forced to expel a group that had tried to overturn party democracy and take absolute power. They had not, however, expelled them because they were Marxists, and made the point that there still were Marxists within the party. Thus, while I don’t believe in it, I don’t believe that Marxism, as opposed to Communism, is necessarily a threat.

It’s also hypocritical for members of New Labour to try to smear others with the label, when one element in its formation was a Marxist organisation, albeit one that came to a very anti-Socialist conclusion. This was Demos. Unlike conventional Marxists, they believed that the operation of the Hegelian dialectic had led to the victory, not of socialism, but of capitalism. The goal for left-wing parties now should be to try to make it operate to benefit society as a whole, rather than just businessmen and entrepreneurs.

Arguably, this form of Marxism has been every bit as destructive and doctrinaire as Militant. Blair seized control of the Labour party, and his clique swiftly became notorious for a highly authoritarian attitude to power. Events were micromanaged to present Blair in the best, most flattering light. Furthermore, the policies they adopted – privatisation, including the privatisation of the NHS and the destruction of the welfare state, the contempt for the poor, the unemployed, the disabled and the long-term sick, who were seen as scroungers and malingerers, resulted in immense poverty and hardship, even before they were taken over and extended massively by Cameron and now Theresa May.

Traditional Marxists in the Labour party, as opposed to Communists and Trotskyites aren’t a threat. And neither McDonnell nor Corbyn are either of those. What has damaged the party is the pernicious grip on power of the Blairites, who have turned it into another branch of the Tories. It is they, who have harmed the country’s economy, provoked much of the popular cynicism with politics, and impoverished and immiserated its working people and the unemployed. All for the enrichment of the upper and middle classes. It is their power that needs to be broken, and they, who are responsible for acting as a conspiratorial clique determined to win absolute control through purging their rivals. It’s long past time they either accepted the wishes of the grassroots for a genuine socialist leadership, and made their peace with Corbyn, or left to join the Tories.

Secular Talk: Judge Has Journalist Arrested for Using Freedom of Information Act

July 10, 2016

It seems that freedom of the press is under attack all around the world. Erdogan, the wannabe Ottoman Sultan of Turkey, has made himself notorious for jailing anyone, journalist or not, who dares criticise him. John Kampfner, in his book, Freedom for Sale, describes the clampdown on press and media freedom across the world, in Britain, France, Italy, Russia, Singapore, Dubai and Russia. And now America. In this piece from Secular Talk, Kyle Kulinski comments on a Vice Report about the arrest of a journalist in the US state of Georgia, Mark Thomason, and his lawyer, Russell Stookey, by the chief judge of Pickens County superior Court, Brenda Weaver. Thomason’s the publisher of a small, local newspaper, Fannin Focus. They were arrested on charges of identity fraud and making false statements. Thomason’s real crime was making official requests for public documents on illegally cashed cheques. He and Stookey also issued subpoenas to the court’s banks to get them to provide information on this issue. Weaver claims that Thomason made false statements when filing the official requests, and that he did not ask her permission, when issuing the subpoenas, and so was attempting to steal that information on the banking details. Weaver also stated that she resented Thomason’s weekly attacks on her character in his paper, saying, ‘I don’t react well when my honesty is questioned.’

Kulinski points out that this is indirect violation of the amendments in the Constitution guaranteeing the freedom of the press. He points out that she had the two arrested not for slander or libel, but simply because she didn’t like what he said about her. She is the criminal in this case, who for her attack on one of America’s fundamental freedoms should be jailed instead of the journo and his lawyer.

I know this is an American case, but I’m posting it because, along with the good and noble stuff we’ve had come across the Pond – MLK, Civil Rights, the Freedom of Information Act, and Elvis – our politicians seem determined also to pick up every wretched, degrading idea as well. Like workfare, which first emerged under the Republicans, and was being touted over here by the Conservatives under Thatcher. Mike and the other disability activists have been given the run-around by the DWP when they’ve tried to use in the British Freedom of Information Act to get the info on the number of disabled people, who’ve died after being wrongly declared ‘fit for work’ by Atos and its successor, Maximus. The DWP first of all declared that the requests were frivolous. Then, when this was overturned on appeal, they delayed releasing the information, and waited till almost the very last minute before appealing against the decision, and then, after they were told to release it, they cavilled against the terms of the request, and deliberately misinterpreted them so that they could issue the wrong information.

And then Ian Duncan Smith had the sheer audacity to pretend to break out in tears during an interview with Ian Hislop on Channel 4, to show he genuinely cared about the unemployed. This was after he and his boss, David Cameron, were shown having a jolly old guffaw in parliament when a Labour MP was reading out tales of the hardship the government sanctions had caused. They looked like the Chuckle Brothers, if those stalwarts of British children’s television had made the weird decision to make their characters grotesque old Etonian snobs.

And then the Tories a few months ago held an inquiry on making the terms of the Freedom of Information Act even narrower, so the public would not be able to get access to so much government information. They did so, because they didn’t like the power it gave citizens like Mike and so many other activists to challenge government decisions. Rather than being used for this purpose, the government issued a statement that the information provided under the Act should only be used to understand how a decision was made. In other words, shut up, you proles, and obey.

If Brenda Weaver gets away with this in America, I can see it spreading to this country. You can read in Private Eye’s ‘Rotten Boroughs’ column, week in, week out, reports of how local authorities up and down Britain have tried to imprison ordinary people for daring to criticise them on blogs, in the press and even for notices they’ve put on the windows of their own property. In one particularly hilarious incident down here in the West Country, a parish councillor in Compton Dando went berserk and was trying to have arrested the appalling felon, who stuck a picture of him as Adolf Hitler in the local public call box. The fiend! But I can see the big boys and girls further up the food chain – Cameron, IDS, Jeremy Hunt and now Theresa May, as being equally, if not more eager, to have journalists arrested for spreading the wrong message, if they could. The DWP’s constant delays and appeals under IDS certainly shows that it doesn’t want to co-operate in releasing embarrassing information. And I can see IDS ordering the arrest of journalists under trumped up charges for maligning him, if he could get away with it. This is the man, after all, who turns up in parliament with an armed guard, just in case he’s attacked by a squad of elite ninja disabled people and their careers. This is the man, after all, who has made up lie after lie about himself, having qualifications he does not possess and serving as a major in the army, when he was returned to unit. Probably. Just before he left the DWP he was whining about getting the blame for welfare-to-work, when it was Labour that invented it. Well, so they did, but he could have discontinued it. He didn’t, and so he deserves the condemnation he got. And the probable new leader of the Tories, Theresa May, is an authoritarian, who wants access to everyone’s internet and phone data. Just in case we’re all members of ISIS or paedos.

If this gang of would-be tyrants think they can get away with arresting people for using the Freedom of Information Act, they will.

The National Union of Journalists’ Code of Professional Conduct

June 4, 2016

This is the NUJ’s code of professional conduct, as laid out in Mark Hollingsworth’s The Press and Political Dissent: A Question of Censorship (London: Pluto 1986).

1. A journalist has a duty to maintain the highest professional and ethical standards.
2. A journalist shall at all times defend the principle of the freedom of the Press and other media in relation to the collection of information and the expression of comment and criticism. He/she shall strive to eliminate distortion, news suppression and censorship.
3. A journalist shall strive to ensure that the information he/she disseminates is fair and accurate, avoid the expression of comment and conjecture as established fact and falsification by distortion, selection or misrepresentation.
4. A journalist shall rectify promptly any harmful inaccuracies, ensure that correction and apologies receive due prominence and afford the right of reply to persons criticized when the issue is of sufficient importance.
5. A journalist shall obtain information, photographs and illustrations only by straightforward means. The use of other means can be justified only by over-riding considerations of the public interest. The journalist is entitled to exercise a personal conscientious objection to the use of such means.
6. Subjection to justification by over-riding considerations of the public interest, a journalist shall do nothing which entails intrusion into private grief and distress.
7. A journalist shall protect confidential sources of information.
8. A journalist shall not accept bribes nor shall he/she allow other inducements to influence the performance of his/her professional duties.
9. A journalist shall not lend himself/herself to the distortion or suppression of the truth because of advertising or other considerations.
10. A journalist shall neither originate nor process material which encourages discrimination on grounds of race, colour, creed, gender or sexual orientation.
11. A journalist shall not take private advantage of information gained in the course of his/her duties, before the information is public knowledge.
12. A journalist shall not by way of statement, voice or appearance endorse by advertisement any commercial product or service save for the promotion of his/her own work or of the medium by which he/she is employed.

So now you know all the ethical rules which the press, particularly Murdoch, the BBC and Laura Kuenssberg regularly and spectacularly break.

Vox Political on Thicky Nikki’s Plan to Stop People Protesting Against School Sell-Offs

March 19, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has also posted up a piece commenting on a report on the Politics.co.uk blog that the education minister, ‘Thicky’ Nikki Morgan, is introducing more legal reforms to make it difficult for parents and other interested local people to prevent their schools being taken over and transformed into academies.

I’m not surprised she’s done this. The Tories’ education reforms have never been about raising standards or empowering people, no matter how much hot air Thatcher spouted about it when she was trying to smash the control of Local Education Authorities in the 1980s. It’s always been about giving private education companies the right to make a good profit from them, regardless of quality. I can still remember how Thicky Nikki refused to answer Charlie Stayt’s questions on Breakfast TV when she was talking about Cameron’s renewed campaign to push more schools into becoming academies. Stayt asked her how many academies had had to be taken back into state management. The answer, if I recall correctly, was 25. Morgan didn’t answer, but just continued to bluster about how unfair it was that parents and pupils should continue to suffer from poor standards when their school was being blocked from becoming an academy. To his credit, Stayt carried on asking the question, and after she still didn’t answer, said, ‘You know how many.’ She does. That’s why she didn’t answer the question. And so do we.

And it’s exactly the same over in America. The equivalent of the academy system over there are the Charter schools. The Republicans hate the public school system with a passion, ostensibly because of its secularism. No religious worship or teaching is allowed in school, though I believe that the constitution also forbids the opposite: you can’t indoctrinate children with atheism either. But that’s not the whole reason they hate the public (state) school system. They hate it because it’s provided by the state, and not run for profit by a private corporation. I posted up a little while ago a video I found on Youtube reporting on how local authorities and private corporations in many American states had succeeded in privatising the local public schools in direct contravention of the wishes of the parents and community. There had been demonstrations against them by parents, teachers, and respected members of the community, including clergy. All to no avail. It’s happening in America, and Thicky Nikki wants more of it to happen over here.

Paradoxically, in this the Conservatives are far more right wing that D’Annunzio’s proto-Fascists at Fiume. Article 8 of the statelet’s constitution guaranteed citizens the right to state education, as well as range of welfare benefits, leisure activities and legal protections. It stated:

The Constitution guarantees to all citizens of both sexes: primary instruction in well-lighted and healthy schools; physical training in open-air gymnasiums, well-equipped; paid work with a fair minimum living wage; assistance in sickness, infirmity, and involuntary unemployment; old age pensions; the enjoyment of property legitimately obtained; inviolability of the home; ‘habeas corpus’; compensation for injuries in case of judicial errors or abuse of privacy.

I don’t know how seriously D’Annunzio’s government took all this. After all, the previous article, 7, began with a liberal statement promising freedom of conscience and association:

Fundamental liberties, freedom of thought and of the Press, the right to hold meetings and to form associations are guaranteed to all citizens by the Constitution.

As this was the first to be violated when Mussolini took power, and D’Annunzio himself ended up keeping silent after Musso gave him a pension and various other privileges, I doubt that personal freedom rated very highly in his estimation either. Much of this was in any case inherited from the liberal Italian state Mussolini despised, and from Socialist doctrines of the regime’s enemies. Italy had been providing state education to its children from the early 19th century onwards, long before Britain did so, although few working class children were able to take it up due to poverty and the constraints of work. But it’s certainly an indictment of this government, that those liberties which even D’Annunzio’s storm-troopers had to recognise, are discarded by them.