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Death of the Art House Revolution

Another important dispatch from The Greanville Post. Be sure to share it widely.



Can the Americanized West ever stage a real rebellion?

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he great religious fabulist Billy Graham once crooned to his audience of wide-eyed acolytes, “I’ve read the last page of the Bible. It’s all going to turn out all right.” The assembled flock then fell into a rousing rendition of, “How Great Thou Art.” Ah, to have such simple-minded faith. This is evidently what we long for, after all, the credulous faith of children. And you don’t have to cast your gaze back to the Nile River Valley or the saline shores of the Dead Sea to discover the human proclivity for savior motifs. Just check the nearest cinema signage or streaming app. From Westeros to Wonder Woman, the public seems to have a bottomless appetite for saviors sweeping in to save civilization--or perhaps to purge it of its more unflattering excrescences. Through the nimbus of a nacreous sky, out of a thick wood, cresting over the roiling waves, dredged up from the sea floor, every corner of the planet has been ransacked for sources of redemption, while the tinseltown scribes continue to scribble their visions of apocalypse. The urge to be saved and the fear of Armageddon come together to a screen near you every six months or so. There’s an odd kind of mutualism at work between the Cassandras and Christ-figures.



Consider that since 2008, the filmic output of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has grossed more than seven billion dollars. Mind you, this is not DC Comics, so no Superman, Batman, or Aquaman. This is Black Panther, Spider-Man, Thor, Avengers, X-Men, Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, and so forth. And don’t kid yourself. These days it is mostly adults flocking to the theaters in anxious anticipation of how their childhood heroes will rescue the world from the latest miscreant or megalith or monstrosity. For its part, DC Comics has grossed some five billion with its Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Justice League, and Suicide Squad fare, but DC also reaches back into the Seventies, when Christopher Reeve was inhabiting the Clark Kent attire. Marvel commands the throne of comic-book fantasy at the moment. And Disney has some 20 new film slotted into the starting gate in the next few years.

In many respects what all this superhero cinema reveals is the startling infantilism of the American mind. Benjamin Barber foresaw this some years ago in his excellent cultural exposition, Consumed. The infantilization of the American masses produces the ideal state for consumption: blissfully ignorant and driven by impulsive desires and fears, largely uninformed by any evaluative research let alone the consequences of spending. The critical faculties of adults are absent in the infantile consumer. Surely adults that continually appease their fears (or boredom) with fantasies of caped crusaders rescuing the sheeple from certain destruction participate in this sophomoric recidivism. This is not to say there isn’t plenty of good product out there to enjoy. There is, but it is rather to suggest that our level of indoctrination is such that any thought of radical revolution, real rebellion, is almost immediately derailed or redirected into consumer escapes.

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Sophia Loren and husband Carlo Ponti.

Editor's Note: The author could not be more correct in fingerism runaway infantilism and the constant pressures to further infantilisation as one of America's most noxious and least examined cultural traits. From the cradle on up Americans are injected with the fairytale notion that beauty, physical power and impressive height are all ineluctable components of goodness and heroism.  The pervasive obsession with heightism is clear in many professions and social fields, especially politics. Being short is almost always a disqualifier for men in US politics or in the corporate boardrooms, especially high office. A Napoleon, a Macron or even a Julius Caesar ("only" 5'9") would have had a tough time in the US where US presidents and top executives usually exceed 6 feet. Short men with tall wives is also an unusual sight in America, but commonplace in Italy and France, for example, not to mention Japan or China, where height is rarely regarded as a tacit requirement for excellence in personal or social affairs. Hollywood has exploited and accentuated this assumption, even if, ironically, some of the industry's most charismatic players—Jimmy Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, Alan Ladd, Gene Kelly— were all under 5' 9". Meanwhile, even very tall men, feeling insecure, used lifts or stuffed their boots to appear taller. John Wayne, a natural 6' 4" did that routinely.  Growing up is something Americans are not very good at.—PG
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It is instructive to see the disposable dollars we fling into the coffers of Hollywood, because we do not put nearly that amount of money or time into producing authentic change for the tens of millions of us who labor beneath the extractive engines of neoliberal capitalism. Rather than construct real transformation, we opt for escapism. Our revolutions happen on cinema screens rather than side streets. Perhaps the scope and reach of the neoliberal world is too large a task, so that it stuns us into inaction. For our vantage point, the exploitation economy rolls over the horizons of our vision, no end in sight. But imagine if just half that movie money had been poured into the coffers of a socialist third party. Or a party that simply insisted that public needs be solved by socialist government ‘intervention’ rather than some shoddy pretext of market efficiency. Instead, Bernie Sanders has to flood your inbox with hectoring prophecies of doom just to scrape together a pile of $27 donations to run his campaign.

Rather than construct real transformation, we opt for escapism. Our revolutions happen on cinema screens rather than side streets. Perhaps the scope and reach of the neoliberal world is too large a task, so that it stuns us into inaction. For our vantage point, the exploitation economy rolls over the horizons of our vision, no end in sight.

On some level, it’s understandable. You don’t have to deconstruct why we are often satisfied to place our faith in entertaining fictive solutions rather than engage in the tedious ‘years of struggle’ repeatedly called for by the likes of Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn, who understood the grim realities of political transformation. The lined faces of lifetime activists serve as testaments to the cut and thrust of battle against the depredations of faceless multinationals and their ever-growing databases of information, through which struggles are defused and disarmed. From mobile phones, from fiber lines, from five-eyed satellites, from wirelines, from surveillance cams innocuously hung from every string of traffic signals. But is it simply the scale of the job that keeps us from banging pots in the streets like Argentines before they threw the parasitical IMF from their country, or like Venezuelans rallying behind an embattled administration because it represents a movement whose colors they proudly wear? Or, of course, like the emergency-clad French who turn out in the public square week after week despite increasing repression. Are we fatally distracted? Or is it our creature comforts that dissuade us?

The Bourgeois Revolt
British novelist JG Ballard published Millennium People in 2001, a novel about a middle-class rebellion in London’s fictive Chelsea-Marina neighborhood. Darkly comic, but with serious questions at its core, the novel suggested a seemingly absurd concept, that people who enjoyed a modicum of material comfort would ever stage a rebellion. Ballard said at the time, “People are telling me the book made them laugh out loud. Terrific! But it also suggests how brainwashed the middle-class is that it considers the very idea of a rebellion to be laughable.”

The leader of the bourgeoisie revolution is a film lecturer at a local college, Kay Churchill. She rails against the declining fortunes of middle-class life. When narrator David Markham wryly comments that London’s wealthier enclaves, “...looks very pleased with itself. No sign of rickets, scurvy or leaking roofs” Churchill sets him straight, “Salaries have plateaued. There’s the threat of early retirement…(we’re) all locked into huge mortgages. People have sky-high school fees, and banks breathing down their necks….Knowledge-based professions are just another extractive industry. When the seams run out we’re left high and dry with a lot of out-of-date software. Believe me, I know why the miners went on strike.”

Her group of bourgeois revolutionaries see education as a vast brainwashing institution, but also travel, which is another pacifying agent designed to suppress more radical instincts in the middle class. “All the upgrades in existence lead to the same airports and resort hotels, the same pina colada bullshit. The tourists smile at their tans and their shiny teeth and think they’re happy. But the suntans hide who they really are--salary slaves.”

She also declaims on the infantilizing character of Hollywood, refusing to acknowledge even the value of film noir. Listing her favorite films, Markham asks,

“No American films?”

“I don’t like comic strips.”

“Film noir?”

“Black is a very sentimental colour. You can hide any rubbish behind it. Hollywood flicks are fun, if your idea of a good time is a hamburger and a milk shake. America invented the movies so it would never need to grow up. We have angst, depression and middle-aged regret. They have Hollywood.”

Bumptious, then Bought Off
The question at the heart of this novel is one we might still pose to ourselves, even as wage stagnation and plummeting purchasing power rile larger and larger elements of the populace. Will a slight elevation of conditions, a watered-down New Deal, green, gold, or silver, keep our revolutionary instincts at bay? That’s what Bernie Sanders proposes. A return to FDR government programs designed to create jobs and pull a majority out of economic insecurity. But such a program, though initially helpful, will inevitably be attacked by capital. Read Alex Carey’s Taking the Risk Out of Democracy for a look at how quickly and earnestly business ramped up campaigns to savage labor and ultimately unwind the programs designed to benefit them. As David Harvey has said, capitalism will ultimately cannibalize its own source of wealth. Will this sort of New Deal policymaking be a step forward, or backward lurch, for socialism, as many said the ACA was, a kind of generational punt on true healthcare reform?

What German author Florian Cord notes in his excellent work on Ballard is how he depicts the ways in which resistance movements are ultimately incorporated into the capitalist system, and then commodified and sold to lapdog consumers ready for their next fix. What so easily happens is, as Cord writes, “...revolution is entirely reduced to its material dimension. By presenting themselves as responsive to some of the concrete grievances that initially started the revolt, the authorities cleverly transform these into the sole matter of contention and utterly cast aside its much more important ideological dimension.”

Proposals for this kind of incorporation abound, for the very reasons mentioned earlier, that the working class has been offshored and automated into desperate straits, while the middle-class have lost their privileges in similar fashion. Only when conditions deteriorate far enough for the populace to appear threatening to elites--only then are ameliorative proposals countenanced. Sanders New Dealism, trendy candidate Andrew Yang’s $1,000 monthly supplement to consumer bank accounts, Obamacare, etc. These are all forms of pacification in the interest of salvaging the established order, status quo neoliberal capitalism. By addressing the concrete, the ruling class sidesteps the ideological. French elitist Emmanuel Macron has tried this very thing with the Gilets Jaunes, hoping to fob them off with a wage lift here, a canceled tax there. Pacify the insurgents, and never address the core protest, which is against the capitalist ideology itself. Thus far it hasn’t worked on the multi-sectional insurgents of the French uprising. But it has worked here far too many times. Interesting how much of the antiwar anger of the bourgeoisie, stirred up by the Vietnam War, fairly well vanished once the draft was abolished. A nice cultural analogue might be this: the day Pearl Jam appeared on the cover of Time Magazine, the grunge movement was doomed, its outsider angst soothed by incorporation. A nascent rebellion strangled in its crib. In Millennium People, the revolt fizzles out, and Kay is ultimately welcomed into the intelligentsia, produces a documentary about the aims of the Chelsea-Marina rebellion, and becomes gainfully employed by the MSM, which commodifies her edginess and markets it to the masses.

The Dilemma
The word ‘dilemma’ could be visualized as a determined matador standing before an angry bull, dusting the arena floor with an impatient hoof. He faces two horns, neither an inviting prospect. The dilemma asks which horn you would rather be speared with. So it seems with our American political prospects. We’re faced with two barriers. First, the need for a broadly cast recognition that New Dealism is a stopgap solution that will be instantly sabotaged by capital, forcing labor to wage war simply to retain what insufficient victories it won within the capitalist system. It is a de facto bribe from the stakeholders of the status quo, a pacifier for a choleric infant. Second, there is the vast mystification of socialism and any kind of government planning or intervention, the mere idea of which sends half the population into spirals of seething contempt. It is likewise largely unknown that socialism is not a path to tyranny and slaughter, but a sane and humane program for human development, one that, in its very essence, combines the demands of our Machiavellian identity politics liberals. And there we are: on the one hand, hush money; on the other, a stifling hallucination.

How far does our standard of living have to fall before the mass of people stage a revolution? How far does the fading middle-class have to fall before they join in? As the Kaiser Report’s Max Kaiser points out, “You have a situation where people in America have no money, and house prices are skyrocketing relative to their wages, but the government says that’s not inflation. Healthcare costs are galloping ahead, ten to fifteen percent a year inflation, but the government says that’s not inflation.” The federal government couldn’t care less about healthcare or housing or asset price inflation. But it cares deeply about the threat of wage inflation. Wages have risen five percent since 1960 while rents have risen 61 percent.

The question then becomes, if the situation becomes dire enough, and a critical mass of people rebel, can they be quickly bought off? Or will they reject every sweetener and finally capsize capitalism itself, and begin the project of building socialism? There are decades of indoctrination that militate against this prospect. Yet France looks to be a modern hothouse experiment in a cross-section of class interests challenging the neoliberal regime.

What Ballard’s book doesn’t tackle is the possibility that ‘first world problems’ like rising utility bills and heavy property taxes are minuscule set next to the depredations our capitalist governments visits on foreign nations--the overwhelming violence of resource wars led by Washington and London and Paris--and that this contrast, and the startling reality of the latter, might prove a fusible and durable raison d'être for political action. Or maybe that, too, is too remote a reality for our insular, attention-deficit West to embrace. Unless, perhaps, it became a cause célèbre, fatality figures blazoned across well-designed pennants carried by Bono, Beyoncé, and George Clooney through Bel Air, their fierce protests breathlessly reported by Variety and TMZ, and quickly optioned by Disney for its next summer blockbuster.

 

This essay is part of our special series

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jason Hirthler is a veteran of the communications industry and author of The Sins of Empire and Imperial Fictions, essay collections from between 2012-2017. He lives in New York City and can be reached at jasonhirthler@gmail.com.

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THIS WORK IS LICENSED UNDER A Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License





 

Be sure to get the most unique history of the Russo-American conflict now spanning almost a century!  The book that every American should read.

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Nuclear Armageddon or peace? That is the question.
And here’s the book that answers it.
How did we come to be in this horrid pickle? Join the discussion! Read Ron Ridenour’s provocative bestseller The Russian Peace Threat, the most scathing and irrefutable exposé of US foreign policy and its malignant obsession with the elimination of Russia as a countervailing force in world affairs. Buy it today direct from us. You don’t have to patronize Amazon. Just click on the bar below.

 

.CLICK HERE to buy The Russian Peace Threat.

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Ecuador Embassy Staff Contradicts Allegations Against Assange

Another important dispatch from The Greanville Post. Be sure to share it widely.


As time goes by, the barrage of lurid allegations against Assange fall apart due to lack of substatiaiton, but the mainstream media is not printing any retractions

Assange with Ecuador's former foreign minister.

“You have to attack and defame the personality if you don’t want the public opinion to support the brave one who challenged the most powerful nation on the planet.”

[dropcap]E[/dropcap]cuador’s president Lenin Moreno made a number of allegations against Julian Assange, including accusing the whistleblower of being disrespectful towards embassy staff. However, Ecuadors consul at the time has dispelled Moreno’s accusations, calling them a “smokescreen”.

RELATED:

Assange Was Put Through 'Hell' At Ecuadorean Embassy: Narvaez

Fidel Narvaez was the consul in London for 6 of the 7 years that Julian Assange stayed at the embassy, speaking to Russian outlet RT he said; “his alleged breach of asylum conditions” and altercations with diplomatic staff were a “smokescreen” and that “a couple of isolated incidents with security guards” was not improper conduct.

President Moreno accused Assange of violating terms in a number of ways including harassing guards, covering CCTV cameras, hacking security files. Most lewd of all, he accused Assange of smearing his feces on our embassy’s walls. All without corroboration, the only footage to emerge from his stay is a leaked CCTV video of the Wikileaks founder skateboarding in a small room.

Narvaez laments the focus on Assange's supposed transgressions during his stay, saying; “I was very disappointed that the fundamental thing – which is the persecution of a journalist for ... the crime of publishing truthful information about war crimes, corruption, mass surveillance – is not in the focus of international [media coverage],”  instead, mainstream media often focused on “day-to-day behavior of Assange in the Embassy and his relationship with Ecuador [authorities].”

The former consul also denounced Lenin Moreno's earlier decision to cut off Assange's internet connection, prior to his expulsion, commenting “a very, very gross violation of human rights of someone who was not serving a sentence, of somebody who was not a prisoner,” with that act, he argued that Ecuador was no longer a “protector”, but rather a “persecutor”.

Narvaez concluded by explaining how the personal attacks on Assange were part of strategy to silence the whistleblower, “You have to attack and defame the personality if you don’t want the public opinion to support the brave one who challenged the most powerful nation on the planet,”

Assange was first taken in under the leftist administration of former president Rafael Correa. However, Lenin Moreno’s government has shifted Ecuador’s economic and foreign policy, realigning the country’s geopolitical position towards the US. The country recently signed an IMF deal for a loan of over $4 billion in exchange for neoliberal reforms. Earlier in the week, it was also announced that US military personnel had arrived in the country for talks with the government. A reversal of Correa’s approach, that included expelling the US military base on the country’s coast, and ridding security and intelligence institutions of US presence.

 

This essay is part of our special series

The best way to get around the internet censors and make sure you see the stuff we publish is to subscribe to the mailing list for our website, which will get you an email notification for everything we publish.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR
This is a dispatch from Telesur news agency, supported by the free Venezuelan people in pursuit of their Bolivarian revolutionary goals.

Creative Commons License
THIS WORK IS LICENSED UNDER A Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License





 

Be sure to get the most unique history of the Russo-American conflict now spanning almost a century!  The book that every American should read.

[su_panel background=”#f9fafa” border=”1px solid #170101″ shadow=”8px 1px 2px #eeeeee” radius=”24″]

Nuclear Armageddon or peace? That is the question.
And here’s the book that answers it.
How did we come to be in this horrid pickle? Join the discussion! Read Ron Ridenour’s provocative bestseller The Russian Peace Threat, the most scathing and irrefutable exposé of US foreign policy and its malignant obsession with the elimination of Russia as a countervailing force in world affairs. Buy it today direct from us. You don’t have to patronize Amazon. Just click on the bar below.

 

.CLICK HERE to buy The Russian Peace Threat.

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Global Warming, Propaganda-Journalism And The Definition Of Insanity (Revised & Updated)

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Another important dispatch from The Greanville Post. Be sure to share it widely.

Heading For A Different Planet: Global Warming, Propaganda-Journalism And The Definition Of Insanity


By David Cromwell • Originally published 26 Mar 2013 • Revised and corrected on 27 April 2019 •
Our thanks to Jenna Collins for her generous assistance in spotting defects in original version.

No event is exempt from manipulation, including those that can lead to major wars. Coverage of this type ushered America's participation in World War I.  Some argue now that the Lusitania disaster, Pearl Harbor, and 9/11 were probably examples of "passive false flags."

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he systematic propaganda of the corporate media - its deep-rooted antipathy towards upholding proper journalistic standards in the public interest - extends to its coverage of human-induced climate change. The Independent recently delivered a masterpiece of headline obfuscation with: 'World cools on global warming as green fatigue sets in.'

The news report said:

'Only 49 per cent of people now consider climate change a very serious issue – far fewer than at the beginning of the worldwide financial crisis in 2009.'


As usual, there was no mention of the role of the corporate media as a leading cause of why 'green fatigue' has supposedly set in. No mention of the media's shameful failure to explore root causes of the climate crisis, not least the elite-serving corporate globalisation that has taken humanity to the brink of disaster. Chris Shaw, a social sciences researcher at the University of Sussex,  noted on Twitter that nor was there 'any mention of the work of the merchants of doubt, paid for and acting on the behalf of corporate interests'.

Ironically, science writer Joe Romm of the indispensable Climate Progress blog had exposed the myth of 'green fatigue' in a piece a few days earlier:

'The two greatest myths about global warming communications are 1) constant repetition of doomsday messages has been a major, ongoing strategy and 2) that strategy doesn't work and indeed is actually counterproductive!'

Romm's powerful rebuttal noted that 'blunt, science-based messaging that also makes clear the problem is solvable' has a demonstrable effect in stimulating public concern about climate. His piece listed 8 key points about the mostly poor standard of climate coverage in the media, as well as the incessant pro-business propaganda to which the US public is subjected (likewise in the UK and other 'developed' countries). Some of Romm's key points are:

• 'There is not one single TV show on any network devoted to this subject [climate change], which is, arguably, more consequential than any other preventable issue we face.'
• 'The public is exposed to constant messages promoting business as usual and indeed idolizing conspicuous consumption...'
• 'The major energy companies bombard the airwaves with millions and millions of dollars of repetitious pro-fossil-fuel ads. The environmentalists spend far, far less money.'

Not only is the so-called 'mainstream' media uninterested in addressing the climate catastrophe looming right in front of us, it is simply not equipped to do so. This is obvious when one recalls that the media isn't actually 'mainstream', if by that word we mean representing majority public interests. It's corporate media: owned and operated by elite interests - government, financial, business – that are structurally driven by the 'need' for control, profit and accumulation.

Civilisation On The Cusp Of Disaster

study published earlier this month in the prestigious journal Science showed that, on current trends, the world will be warmer by 2100 than at any time since the end of the last ice age, over 11,000 years ago. This time period, known as the Holocene, encompasses the origins of agriculture, writing, cities, science, the Industrial Revolution and the exploration of space (see thisexcellent video of a climate talk by David Roberts of  Grist).

The current phase of global warming, from around the start of the 20th century, is much more rapid than at any other time in the Holocene. According to Jeremy Shakun of Harvard University, a co-author of the Science study:

'We are heading for somewhere that is far off from anything we have seen in the past 10,000 years – it's through the roof. In my mind, we are heading for a different planet to the one that we have been used to.'

Meanwhile, the Guardian noted yet another 'climate change alarm', in a decades-long series of unheeded 'alarms' or 'wake-up calls', the familiar recycled trope of jaded journalism. This was the news that US scientists had measured the second-greatest annual rise in CO2 emissions last year at the famous Mauna Loa observatory on Hawaii. Guardian environment editor John Vidal, asafe pair of hands at the paper who has managed to skip over numerous troubling questions for over two decades, noted:

'The chances of the world holding temperature rises to 2C – the level of global warming considered "safe" by scientists – appear to be fading fast.'

Here, Vidal uncritically relayed the dangerous and discredited notion of a 2ºC 'safe limit' for global temperature rise. Climate change has been hereby reduced to a phenomenon defined by a single global dangerous number. This is a simplistic and damaging view of climate which, in reality, varies widely in time and space with multiple, overlapping impacts and feedbacks including ice melt, sea level rise, increasing storms and devastating droughts. Social scientist Chris Shaw, whom we mentioned above, has studied how this skewed 'safe limit' framing of the climate change debate arose, and how it has become a stranglehood on climate policy and even on progressive voices who should know better. Shaw warns that 'falsely ascribing a scientifically derived dangerous limit to climate change diverts attention away from questions about the political and social order that have given rise to the crisis.' He notes:

'The oft quoted quip attributed to Einstein, that the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing, even after it has failed, seems particularly apposite for the "dangerous limits" framing of climate policy.'

Rapid and dangerous climate change is already underway, with little chance now of keeping global temperature rise to under 2ºC. Indeed, another recent climate study warns that a global temperature rise of just 1.5ºC may 'trigger the thawing of permanently frozen ground over a large part of Siberia' with 'vast quantities of carbon dioxide and methane' being released into the atmosphere, adding to the greenhouse effect. We are, said a report in New Scientist, 'on the cusp of a tipping point in the climate'.  And a new scientific study has linked recent examples of extreme weather to human-induced climate change. There are deeply difficult times ahead. Yet the political response has been pitiful.

Consider that in pre-industrial times the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere was around 280 parts per million. Largely due to human activities since then, notably fossil fuel use, the level of CO2 has been rising inexorably and has now reached 391 ppm. Science writer Peter Gleick predicts that in 2014 we will see the 'inevitable' headline, 'Planet's CO2 level reaches 400 ppm for first time in human existence.' He warns that:

'never in the history of the planet have humans altered the atmosphere as radically as we are doing so now. And the climatic consequences for us are likely to be radical as well, on a time-scale far faster than humans have ever experienced.'

And yet, switch on the television or the radio, or open up a newspaper, and – bar a few items in passing – it's as if none of this is happening. Instead, the public is being force-fed a diet of celebrity gossip, huge advertising campaigns to consume more and more, and tedious 'news' and 'debates' that elucidate almost nothing about the real world.

Journalists and editors at all levels of the major news organisations must be aware, to some extent, that the glorious vision of the media 'holding power to account' is more myth than reality. But very few media professionals have the honestybravery anddecency to speak out. We understand that it is not easy; one's hopes of a stellar media career or even the prospect of continued employment might be on the line. In the early days of Media Lens, we used to entertain the very slim possibility that – if anyone - the environment editors of the major newspapers might do so. But signs of media sanity from even these quarters are scarce.

 

Locked Inside A Box

BBC News is no exception to the corporate media's abysmal performance on climate. This crucial issue – the fate of humanity, no less - is confined to a small, tightly-shut box that is rarely opened for public display, even when it's kicking and screaming to be heard. There are all too many examples we could cite. Take one report on the BBC News at Ten last month (February 19, 2013), for instance, by John Moylan, the BBC's employment and industry correspondent. On the flagship television news programme, watched by millions around the country, Boylan spoke of the rising demand for energy and the cost of fuel. He stood in front of impressive high-tech graphics and he eloquently made his points. And he referred, briefly, to EU environmental targets on closing 'dirty polluting power plants'.

But Moylan did not once mention climate change. In an era when leading scientists are warning of the catastrophic dangers of climate instability under global warming, how could the BBC correspondent possibly justify this omission from his report? We asked him, twice, but did not receive an answer.

Obviously this single example is not an exhaustive investigation of BBC News; although the cumulative impact can be gauged from our numerous media alerts and several books over many years. But it is indicative of how poorly BBC News journalists and editors take their commitment to (a) reporting the significant risk of rapid and dangerous climate change; (b) responding to public concerns about it. As ever, the biased and debased standards of BBC News adhere to the norms of corporate journalism.

But what about the Guardian? It has long been considered by many greens as a sort of 'flagship' newspaper for the environment movement. This has never been an accurate picture. But even more so in recent years when, notes Haaretz columnist Zafrir Rinat, the paper has been avidly:

'developing business ties with corporations leading to the creation of the websites such as Global Development Professionals, which received financing from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and a host of corporations. The Guardian is also involved in several environmental ventures that are expected to yield profits.'

Rinat spoke with Joe Confino, an executive editor of the Guardian, and the chairman and editorial director of Guardian Sustainable Business. This is a Guardian-corporate partnership which promotes the notion of 'corporate social responsibility', a public relations oxymoron that should be exposed repeatedly.

Confino said:

'We are partners in ventures with businesses that we are convinced are going in the right direction on sustainability. The condition for all cooperation is preserving complete editorial independence.'

But high-ranking newspaper professionals always assert that there is a 'firewall' between advertising and editorial content, a claim that does not withstand scrutiny. Moreover, as Haaretz's Rinat rightly points out:

'Behind this [Guardian and corporate business] cooperation lies a pretentious worldview that it is possible to convince corporations to operate differently along the entire production chain, from the raw materials stage up through handling the refuse from the final products that are sold.'

Rinat added that 'the media is still part of the problem because it continues to promote in its reports the culture of consumerism that depletes the planet's resources.' He noted that Confino 'doesn't deny' this crucial point but, disappointingly, the Haaretz columnist did not press the Guardian executive about it.

Consider that a major imperative for corporate newspapers like the Guardian, struggling with dwindling advertising revenue, is to boost the numbers of people exposed to online ads by visiting their websites. Chris Elliott, the Guardian readers' editor, was upfront about this in a recent column when he said that this was 'essential' to 'secure the future' of the paper.

But there are flickerings of internal dissent:

'in the last six months three colleagues have written or spoken to me to express concern that the entirely reasonable desire to attract people to the site may be skewing news and features agendas.'

One 'conflicted colleague', as Elliott put it somewhat pejoratively, said:

'There have been occasions recently where stories have been commissioned by editors who have talked about how they hope it will "play well" online – this appears to have been at the very forefront of their mind when commissioning. Certainly this is the prime driver of many online picture galleries. Obviously ... we want to be well-read and popular, but it is a slippery slope, and it now appears that in a few cases we are creating stories purely to attract clicks.'

Given that Elliott's piece was likely a sanitised, for-public-consumption version of the reality, one wonders what Guardian staff are really thinking, and how widespread is the concern, perhaps even direct opposition, inside their plush corporate offices. 'Conflicted' Guardian journalists may well be wondering how – if at all – a corporate newspaper is able to uphold the nine cardinal principles of journalism set out by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism, amongst which:

Journalism's first obligation is to the truth
• Its first loyalty is to citizens
• It must serve as an independent monitor of power
• It must provide a forum for public criticism and compromise

Covering dangerous climate change in accordance with such basic essentials means not just reporting the science of climate change responsibly – a task too far for the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday. But it also means investigating the systemic reasons for global warming. That must include a critical appraisal of corporate-driven capitalism and unrestrained consumerism. And, finally, it must also mean full and open public debate about alternative ways of organising society to benefit human well-being and the climate stability of the planet.

 

Hope: The Spirit of '45

If you need hope and inspiration in the face of such a huge task, then watch Ken Loach's new film, The Spirit of '45. It is partly a tribute to those who lived through the Second World War and then battled to fight poverty, illness and unemployment at home in Britain. It was public pressure, through the election of a post-war Labour government, that led to the nationalisation of assets such as railways, the coal mines and the steel industry; building a proper welfare system; and the founding of the National Health Service. This was not, in fact, real socialism. For example, private ownership of the mines transferred to state ownership with many of the same elitist bureaucracies and establishment figures in charge. But many gains were achieved for the benefit of millions of working-class people; not least the NHS which is now being carved open for private profit under the noses of a compliant news media, including the BBC.

BELOW: A discussion of the film with director Ken Loach.

Loach's film, then, is much more than a nostalgic nod to a bygone era. It is highly relevant to today's 'age of austerity' (in other words, austerity for the many, and riches for the few). It is a skillful, engaging and powerfully humane response to the neoliberal propaganda that 'there is no alternative' to capitalism; and that all the current system might need is a 'kinder and gentler' face. But as one participant in the film wryly notes: 'Caring capitalism is like the Arabian Phoenix: everyone's heard about it but nobody's seen one!'

The Spirit of '45 is a timely reminder of what people can achieve when they work together for the good of everyone. That same spirit is needed today and can bring about radical change. After all, 'ordinary people' hold enormous latent power in our hands. Governments and private interests are forever fearful of us rediscovering, and acting upon, that powerful truth.


About the author
David Cromwell is a senior (and founding) editor of Media Lens, Britain's premier media watch organisation.




We Told you So Dept.—Mainstream Liberal Publication Salon Confirms What Anti-imperialist Journalists Have Been Saying All Along

Another important dispatch from The Greanville Post. Be sure to share it widely.


Kudos to Salon for allowing some desperately needed truth into the West's Orwellian Propaganda Bubble


Douma gas attack victims—another false flag event designed to frame the Assad government.

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Editor's Note: Reader Patrick Corbett spotted this amazing and totally unexpected item on Salon magazine. We are at a loss to figure the reason for this sudden breaking of the ranks, this dangerous puncture to the official narrative balloon covering up imperial criminality across the globe, and particularly in Syria, a hapless experimental lab for America's most cynical tools of hybrid war disinformation. After many decades of near airtight conformity ensuring the effectiveness of the corporate system's near universal brainwash, the appearance of this piece brimming with honest admissions and disclosures on a widely read and respected liberal outfit like Salon is nothing short of seismic. The article is the result of Salon editor Patrick Lawrence interview with Sharmine Narwani. Patrick (Corbett) sums up this piece's value thusly:

After years of following the war in Syria this is the piece that nails it conclusively FROM A WESTERN MSM PUBLICATION. (I say that in caps because Vanessa Beeley, Eva Karene Bartlett, Patrick Henningsen and other independent journalists have said the same and more throughout the war.) This is significant coming from Salon, which you remember published the ridiculous hit piece on Eva Karene Bartlett a while back.  They're are so many nuggets in this piece one could use it to refute the entire American narrative on Syria item by item.  And Narwani establishes the very significant point that propaganda is both primary and central to the American efforts. So we could legitimately see ourselves as part of a guerrilla force fighting against a central piece of the American war efforts.

Let us hope that this is not the last of Salon's departures from the prevailing herdlike media conformity that has allowed so many outrages and social disasters to go on and multiply unchallenged.  Probably the most important takeaway from this remarkable interview is that what Sharmini Narwani has done is not so much refute, point by point, the most glaring errors in reporting on Syria committed by Western (and especially US) journalists, but irrefutably denounced on a mainstream medium like Salon a whole sociopathic machinery of totalitarian disinformation intentionally lying to largely clueless and abysmally confused publics.  As she states, "Journalists were not dupes in this conflict. Western journalists covering Syria were, for the most part, believers in the liberal order, U.S. exceptionalism, interventionism — these people are hired because they think that way."

The truths that Sharmine Narwani and Patrick Lawrence have confirmed are not revelations to our audience. We in the counter-establishment world have known these facts for many years, since the indecencies of the Western media did not begin with the Syrian conflict, nor with the Obama regime, and we understand well the nature of the capitalist/imperialist beast. The omissions of truth, half-truths, distortions, and false flags have been there for generations, part and parcel of the huge propaganda arsenal spawned by American capitalism by the turn of the 20th century, a machine enormously expanded and finetuned since the end of World War2, all to justify the legitimacy and supposed necessity of criminal foreign (and sometimes) domestic policies before the US population.

Every person with a modicum of decency and awareness of the gravity of the issues confronting our planet, and, naturally, America heself, knows this stifling media monopoly is simply killing humanity's future. Defeating this stranglehold on truth is therefore essential to our survival. It has come to a point that this is a non-negotiable situation. —PG

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MAIN IMAGE: Children were continually enlisted in the West's unrelenting campaign of lies and defamation against the Assad government and its allies.  Seven-year-old Bana Al-Abed was recruited to plea with Western publics to help "stop the Russian and Syrian bombardment of Aleppo," an ISIS hostage city, which would have not only prolonged the protracted process of liberating that important city from Jihadists, but allowed the terrorists to regroup and possible escape destruction. Eventually it was shown that Bana Al-Abed was simply part of a hybrid war op organized by Western intel services and slavishly implemented by the Western media.


NOTE: The following are excerpts from the referenced article. Italics ours .
Read the whole piece here

Reporter Sharmine Narwani on the secret history of America's defeat in Syria

After years covering the "main battlefield in World War III," Narwani says everything you think you know is wrong

PATRICK LAWRENCE / SALON
APRIL 21, 2019 10:00AM (UTC)

Sharmine Narwani

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hen the war in Syria was recently declared decisively over, there were few correspondents or witnesses to turn to for a credible look at exactly what happened during eight years of conflict. The questions were many, but I could count on one hand those worth putting them to. Among these was Sharmine Narwani, whose work I have long counted distinctly thorough and honest amid coverage that — in her view as well as mine — hit a new low by way of collapsed professional standards and abandoned ethics. Narwani’s pieces, written for a variety of publications, consistently reflect her hard work on the ground — work nearly no one else did. She is eyes wide open and beholden to no national interest or media slant.Narwani brings impressive credentials to the craft. After earning a masters in journalism from Columbia, she was for four years (2010–14) a senior associate at St. Antony's College, Oxford. It was during those years that she began to make her mark covering the Middle East from her bureau-of-one in Beirut.

...

Her accounts of the war as it truly unfolded have opened many eyes over the years, mine included.Having witnessed the Syrian war from start to finish, she now casts it in a usefully broad context. “The Syrian conflict constitutes the main battlefield in a kind of World War III,” she said during our lengthy exchange. “The world wars were, in essence, great-power wars, after which the global order reshuffled a bit and new global institutions were established.” This, in outline, is what Narwani sees out in front of us, now that the Western powers’ latest “regime change” operation has failed.Narwani and I conducted our exchange via email, Skype and WhatsApp over a period of several weeks in late March and early April. In this, the first of two parts, Narwani dissects the role of various constituencies — radical jihadists and the nations that backed them, the Western press, the NGOs — in prolonging a war that, in her view, could have ended far sooner than it did. I have edited the transcript solely for length. Part 2 will follow.
...
You returned from Syria just last week — this after going in several times last year. The intervening months were important, given the war has just ended. What have you been seeing on the ground?
...
My trips last year took place in May and June, in the weeks before the battle for the south of Syria began. I visited Daraa, Suweida and Quneitra, the three southern governorates most critical to the upcoming battle. It was fascinating. It dispelled a number of myths about the conflict for me. One of these was the discovery that al–Qaida was smack in the middle of the fight in Daraa, indistinguishable from Western-supported militant groups in all the main theaters. Another shocker was when I interviewed former al–Nusra and FSA [Free Syrian Army] fighters near the Lebanese border: They told me their salaries had been paid by the Israelis for the entire year before they surrendered, around $200,000 per month from Israel to militants in the town of Beit Jinn alone.
...
The southern battle was very swift, and since then all focus has moved to the north — to Idlib, where the most extreme militants have amassed in their final stronghold, and in the northeast, where U.S. troops have begun a slow withdrawal, without having yet ceded those territories back to the Syrian state…. Last week, I visited Idlib to see what I could glean about the timing of the upcoming battle, but nothing much has changed. There has to be a political decision first; some hope this will come after Russia, Iran and Turkey meet in late April. Idlib is different from Daraa because the militancy there is probably around 80 percent al–Qaida, and the rest, its allies. But Turkey and the Western powers — including the U.S. — continue to protect it for the moment.
...
What is the latest you have on reconstruction efforts, plans for a new constitution, and a political settlement? Russia, Iran and Turkey are said to be trying to establish a constitutional mechanism of some kind at the U.N. Russia and Turkey have summited with Germany and France on reconstruction plans — not that we’ve seen a word about it in the American press. Where is all this headed, in your estimation?
...
We need to put what is commonly called the Syrian “political process” into perspective. Syria, Russia and Iran won. Turkey is crippled by its Syria losses and is desperately seeking a new geopolitical equilibrium. France and Germany are very worried about more refugees — and extremists — flooding their borders, and they are willing to break with the U.S.’ goals in Syria over this issue.In short, the “political process” is whatever Syria, Russia and Iran want it to be. Their meetings in Astana [the Kazakh capital, where a series of peace talks have taken place] demilitarized the hotspots in Syria and placed them back under government control. And their meetings in Sochi [the Russian resort city] managed to get Syrians of all walks together, in a room talking. So these three countries will figure out the constitutional process. Just expect it to be mostly under the victor’s terms. Major concessions to Western interests — in exchange for reconstruction funds — will be unlikely because the whole Middle East now knows the U.S. doesn’t stick to its agreements. Syria isn’t betting on Western funds anyway, contrary to what media reports suggest.I predict that the endgame will take Syria back to where it was in 2011, right after Assad passed unprecedented reforms that the international community decided to ignore.
...
That’s a very interesting observation. In your writing, you previously suggested that the 2016 peace talks in Geneva would lead to the same thing. Very few people in the West know that Assad proposed numerous reforms in response to the initial unrest in 2011. Some of them are strikingly liberal by any standard. Please tell us about these, and why you think Assad’s 2011 proposals are where things will finish up now.
...
When the Syrian government introduced reforms in 2011 and 2012, the only thing we ever really heard about them was “it’s too late” and “they’re window-dressing.” But these reforms were far-reaching and significant. So much carnage could have been avoided had they been given the time and space to take hold.Starting in 2011, Assad issued decrees suspending almost five decades of emergency law that prohibited public gatherings. This was a big deal, as other Arab leaders were doing the opposite in response to their “uprisings.” Other decrees included the establishment of a multi-party political system, term limits for the presidency, the suspension of state security courts, prisoner releases, amnesty agreements, decentralizing down to local authorities, sacking controversial political figures, introducing new media laws that prohibited the arrest of journalists and provided for more freedom of expression, investment in infrastructure, housing, pension funds, establishing direct dialogue between populations and governing authorities, setting up a committee to dialogue with the opposition — many of whom turned down the offer.You could feel these reforms unfolding in Damascus by early 2012. I would drive into the city from Beirut, call up opposition figures on their mobile phones, go to their homes, talk to regular folks about politics. I could even access Twitter and Facebook in Syria — platforms that had been banned for years.What was the reaction among Syrians? Mixed, I gather. You’ve written that some Syrian dissidents were also critical of these reforms.  

Many people were skeptical about reforms initially. The narratives against the Syrian state were very pervasive, and folks were confused with all the competing information. Most domestic opposition figures were certain that Assad was going to be gone within a few weeks, so that impacted their readiness to dialogue with his government or support reforms publicly. At the same time, these figures — many of whom had languished in Syrian prisons for years — rejected foreign intervention, the imposition of sanctions, and the militarization of the conflict. In early 2012, the dissidents I met mostly scoffed at reforms, but when massive bombs tore apart Damascus that summer, I saw a marked shift in their positions.

In terms of the general population, I think sentiments were split — not so much on the reforms themselves, but on whether they would actually be implemented. One way to gauge public support would be to look at how many Syrians turned out for the constitutional referendum. Many boycotted it, but the participation rate was just under 60 percent, so I would argue that a modest majority of Syrians were willing to put their trust in the reforms.

What is your assessment of the U.S. plan to withdraw from Syria? I think you suggested in one piece you wrote some time ago that the U.S. effectively ceded Syria to Russia as far back as the first Russian air sorties in September 2015. 

Yes, in September 2015 the U.S. lost the conflict to Russia and its allies. The reason is very simple. The Russian intervention provided the Syrian army and its ground allies with the necessary cover to do their jobs effectively. He who dominates the air and the ground wins the war.

To be fair, it also seemed highly unlikely that Obama was prepared to turn this into a full-on U.S. air war. He was happy to do “regime change” in that passive-aggressive way Democrats do it: all “humanitarian intervention” and marketing spin and tragic soundbites. But the Nobel Peace Prize winner was not going to put U.S.–piloted planes in Russian-dominated airspace over Syria in any significant way — not after Iraq and Afghanistan, certainly, and not after the Russians and Chinese blocked Obama’s U.N. Security Council route to war by vetoing all resolutions that might legitimize intervention.

To what extent do you think Syria changed the U.S. position in the Middle East as a whole? It seems as if we are coming out of an important passage in the long story of American involvement in the region.

The U.S. was already exiting the Middle East before the so-called “Arab uprisings” kicked off. Whoever in the U.S. national security apparatus made the decision to stick around and redirect these uprisings against regional adversaries made a colossal mistake. I want to write about this one day because it’s important. I believe the Syrian conflict constitutes the main battlefield in a kind of World War III. The world wars were, in essence, great-power wars, after which the global order reshuffled a bit and new global institutions were established.

Look around you now. We have had a reshuffle in the balance of power in recent years, with Russia, China, Iran in ascendance and Europe and North America in decline. That’s not to say that Washington, London or Paris don’t have levers left to pull: They do. But it is on the back of the Syrian conflict that a great-power battle was fought, and in its wake, new international institutions for finance, defense and policymaking have been born or transformed.

<>>>>

As you’ve just suggested, Syria has long seemed to be a different kind of war, a new kind — a war fought with images, information and disinformation, true and false portrayals of events, people, organizations, and so on. Based on what you’ve written over many years — and from inside Syria, on the ground — I would think you agree with this.

In some ways, Syria wasn’t that different. All modern Western wars have been fought with manipulated imagery and disinformation. We call it propaganda and accuse the Nazis and Soviets of doing it, but the U.S. does it better than anyone. It’s literally the main tool in America's military kit: Otherwise, Americans would never accept the never-ending wars. There used to be laws forbidding the U.S. government from propagandizing the American people. The Obama administration undid many of those legal barriers. If you ever have a chance to read the U.S. Special Forces’ Unconventional Warfare manual, you will see how fundamental propaganda is to U.S. efforts to maintain hegemony. Everything starts and ends with “scene-setting” and “swaying perceptions” to prepare a population to support invasion, occupation, drone wars, “humanitarian interventions,” rebellion, regime change.

It was no different in Syria. The U.S. government imposed key narratives from day one — that Assad was indiscriminately killing civilians in a popular, peaceful revolution. Was this true? Not particularly. Eighty-eight soldiers were killed across Syria in the first month of protests. You never heard that in the Western media. That information would have altered your perception of the conflict, wouldn’t it?

The Syrian opposition used to burn tires on the tops of buildings to simulate shelling for TV cameras. Did you see that footage here? The only reason Syria seems like a “different kind of war” is because we had Twitter and Facebook and alternative media punching holes in Washington’s storyline every day — and because Syrians had the audacity to resist for eight years. You can’t keep up an act for eight years. People catch on.

Let’s focus on a few topics that you’ve argued very effectively were key factors in prolonging and, as you say, “weaponizing” the conflict. The first of these is the question of casualty counts — “the casualty count circus,” I think you called it in one of your pieces. Can you summarize what you found and how you came to be so at odds with mainstream reporting? 

I first investigated the Syrian death toll 10 months into the conflict. In that month, January 2012, the U.N.’s figure for casualties in Syria was around 5,000 dead. The U.N.’s Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria issued its first report two months later, in March, stating that 2,569 Syrian security forces had been killed in the first year. Right there we know that half of the dead were neither civilians nor with the opposition. Half of the Syrian dead were security forces, which also informed us that the opposition was, in fact, armed, organized, and very, very lethal.

How about the other half of the death toll — the remaining 2,431 casualties? I found that they were a mixture of pro-government civilians, pro-opposition civilians, and opposition gunmen in civilian clothing. The “rebels” were not wearing military gear, so they were indistinguishable from civilians. Mainstream media just didn’t want to know this obvious stuff. They asked no questions, they investigated nothing.

A year later, one of the main opposition casualty counters, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which the Western media quote all the time, told me it was hard to differentiate rebels from civilians because “everybody hides it.” By then, in year two, the Syrian death toll had increased tenfold and the U.N. released a casualty analysis that included the information that 92.5 percent of the dead were male. That is not a death toll representative of a “civilian population.”

The point is, why wasn’t there a single other journalist out there asking the question, “Who is killing and who is dying?” If they had asked that elementary question, the way we view this conflict would have been very, very different. There was, at the very least, parity in the killing, which also means the Syrian government’s response to opponents was not at all disproportionate.

Another area of interest is the question of when and how the opposition — supposedly unarmed at the start — came to be armed. The question of proportionate responses to violence comes into this, as you’ve just suggested.  

Elements of the opposition were armed from the very start of the conflict. We have visual and anecdotal evidence of weapons caches, armed gunmen infiltrating the Lebanese border, and “foreign” gunmen appearing in Daraa, the city [in southern Syria] where protests first manifested. In the early days, it was hard to prove this because efforts were made to hide evidence that the opposition had weapons — and anyone claiming so was instantly marginalized. But then the Arab League (which had suspended Syria and was therefore viewed as an impartial body) sent in an observer team that produced a stunning report — one you did not read about in the Western press. The observer mission detailed the opposition’s bombings and terrorism and attacks on infrastructure and civilians.

I also know the opposition was armed from the start [March 2011] because of my own investigation and discovery that 88 Syrian soldiers were ambushed and killed across Syria in the first month of the conflict…. I have their names, ages, ranks, birthplaces — everything. Then in June 2011, over 100 Syrian soldiers were murdered in Jisr Shughour, in Idlib Province, many with their heads cut off, and nobody could dispute this anymore. Yet we continued to hear “the opposition is unarmed and peaceful” in the media for a good long while.

<>>>>>

The next question is obvious. Who armed the opposition? Are we able to say?

We know today the U.S., U.K., France, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E. and Turkey are the main countries that armed, trained, financed and equipped the militants, and that they found intricate ways to avoid detection, especially at the beginning.

...

Weapons came into Syria from all five border countries at different parts of this conflict — Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq, Israel — but I would say the most weapons probably arrived via Turkey, arms transfers that were very much coordinated with its NATO partners.

When, why, and how did groups such as al–Nusra become involved? What were or are their relations with the Free Syrian Army and the Syrian Democratic Forces? 

The Nusra Front is the Syrian franchise of al–Qaida. Bombings in Damascus in December 2011 and January 2012 were the first actions publicly attributed to al–Qaida, and these were shortly followed by a viral video of AQ chief Ayman al–Zawahiri urging fellow jihadists to flood into the Syrian theater. I don’t know if you’ve heard of the declassified 2012 Defense Intelligence Agency document on AQ? This paper shows that the U.S. and its allies had identified AQ as the strongest, most capable fighting force in Syria against the Assad government, that these extremists had intent to create a “Salafist principality” on the Syrian–Iraqi border, and that the U.S. and its allies basically supported this. Many tried to play down this document, but then Obama sacked Michael Flynn as head of the DIA [Defense Intelligence Agency], and Flynn came out and said the document was correct, that the U.S. had “willfully” supported this whole mess.

The FSA was a shitshow from the start — no central authority, no chain of command, no cohesion, etc. “FSA” became the whitewashed moniker for any militant fighting the Syrian army. Many FSA fighters joined AQ and ISIS during this conflict. The FSA often gave or sold its U.S.–provided weapons to al–Qaida — and the Pentagon knew about this all along. When I asked a CENTCOM [U.S. Central Command] spokesman in 2015 why so many U.S. weapons supplied to their trainee fighters were showing up in al–Qaida’s hands, he actually said: “We don’t ‘command and control’ these forces. We just ‘train and equip’ them.”

<>>>>>

You made an effort at one point to get the State Department to name even a single “moderate rebel” group. They couldn’t or wouldn’t, as you reported it. Please tell us about that episode. 

I used to ask the State Department to name the so-called “moderate rebels” they supported in the Syrian conflict. They always refused to answer, claiming that info could compromise the security of rebel groups.

Here’s my takeaway: The reason the U.S. won’t name the militant groups they funded and armed is because the moment they do, we will find atrocity videos and snuff films made by that group. The liability issues are huge. But mostly the issue is that the U.S. basically armed extremist groups in the Syrian conflict, and they don’t need the public knowing who these people are.

What degree of support for the Assad government did you find? And from which sectors of the Syrian population?

First of all, let me say that Syria is not Tunisia or Egypt — those populations had pretty much zero connection to their leaders, not on the domestic front, not in terms of worldview. The Syrian state is not wealthy, yet it provided basic services, plus education, health care, food staples for its population. And it very much shared a worldview with its population — anti-imperialist, anti–Zionist, resistance against interventionist powers, independence, etc.

In a nutshell, Assad always maintained support from some very key constituencies. These are the major urban hubs of Aleppo and Damascus, the business class and elites, the armed forces (very significant), the minority groups (Alawites, Christians, Druze, Shia, etc.), and the secular Sunnis. The [governing] Baath Party has around 3 million members, and they’re mostly Sunni. That’s a big chunk of core support right there. And then, as living conditions deteriorated and political violence escalated, many opponents fled to government-controlled areas and gave up on the fight.  

Let’s stay with Syria a little longer before dilating the lens. There were two factors in the war that played decisive roles in constructing and maintaining the narrative, as you say. At a certain point they intersected, but let’s take them one at a time.

First, please describe your impressions of how the Western media performed. You’ve called them “ridiculously sycophantic” in one of your pieces. I’d like to hear from you on this. Were they, for example, purposely complicit in “perception management,” as they say, or simply dupes? Maybe professional standards have just plain collapsed since my years in the field.

Mainstream Western media were absolutely complicit in disseminating disinformation about the Syrian conflict to serve the political agendas of their respective governments…. We are living through an era of full-on information warfare, and what is interesting is that populations recognize this at some gut level, because people are turning off their media and searching for alternative sources of information.

Journalists were not dupes in this conflict. Western journalists covering Syria were, for the most part, believers in the liberal order, U.S. exceptionalism, interventionism — these people are hired because they think that way. They quote their governments’ statements unquestioningly, despite the lies of Iraq, Libya, Vietnam, etc. They are fundamentally uninterested in the legalities of warfare — the U.S. and U.K. bombardment of Syria, the establishment of military bases there, the funding and arming of terrorist groups — all of it illegal under international law.

A number of Western journalists who dared to probe deeper were sacked, silenced or smeared. I know a couple of journalists who lost their jobs. The Huffington Post stopped publishing my work once I started reporting from inside Syria — and then a year or so later, they quietly removed my entire archive from their site. Other mainstream journalists who questioned the Syria narratives were badly smeared — by their colleagues, quite shockingly — which made more than a few of them back down, write less, tweet differently. The intimidation tactics by our peers have been relentless in the coverage of Syria.

In short, Western media helped to stage and grow this conflict. I no longer think journalists should be treated with a special kind of immunity when they get a story this wrong, repeatedly, and people die in the process. I prefer to call them “media combatants,” and I think that is a fair and accurate description of the part they play in wars today.

Now let’s go to the Western NGOs — Human Rights Watch and the like — or the Syrian Observatory, for that matter. What was their role? Was it principled, as most Westerners assume? They were primary sources for the Western press while, as Patrick Cockburn pointed out [in The London Review of Books], they were staffed by anti–Assad activists. Not exactly “reliable sources,” I’d say.

It’s actually quite interesting the role NGOs played in the spinning of this conflict. You’re right, they were entirely one-sided and pro-opposition. They would put out statements and reports based on the loosest definition of sourcing I’ve ever seen, their Western journalist pals would then bullhorn this rubbish across the world media, and then governments would react in outrage and cite the NGO and press reports as fact.

Most of their interviews of Syrians on the ground were coordinated by liaisons connected with the militant opposition — many were conducted via Skype. How do you know who you’re speaking to? How do you know if they’re telling the truth? Who introduced you to this “source?” Do they have a motive? NGOs — local and international — were the source of most of the information we learned about chemical weapons attacks, cluster munitions, massacres, civilian casualties of air attacks, etc.

The most ubiquitous of these is, of course, the Western-funded White Helmets “rescue team,” who worked only in areas with the most extreme militant groups and played witness to so many of the alleged chemical attacks in Syria. But troll Facebook for a while and you will find photos of dozens of these White Helmets guys flaunting weapons and posing next to al–Qaida and ISIS fighters. Despite this kind of evidence from their own pages and websites, media consistently used this group as a source, and still do.

In this line, you wrote a piece following the alleged gas attack in Eastern Ghouta — in the spring of last year, I think — that was especially fine. I was pleased to cite it at length in one of my Salon columns. You actually found and photographed a jihadist-held farmhouse filled with U.S.–supplied chemical weapons equipment. Nobody else had it.

Can you talk about that experience? How, generally, do you manage to get so much closer to the ground than other correspondents, especially the Beirut-dwelling Westerners? And as that story demonstrates, closer to the truth.

I have no particular advantage over other foreign journalists traveling to Syria. I have to wait just as long to receive a visa, and each visit is limited to four days, though that can be extended in-country with permission from the Ministry of Information.

When I was in Damascus last March, the ministry put out a call to reporters about a laboratory they’d discovered the day before while liberating some Ghouta farmlands….  It turns out the facility was not that secure and we had to duck and weave through some very bumpy fields on foot, with mortars and gunfire going off just meters away. I’m not a war reporter and I have no training whatsoever in that very specialized, madman’s niche, so it wasn’t pleasant in the least. The facility itself was a laboratory of sorts run by a militant, Saudi-backed faction called Jaysh al–Islam. It was clear that something was being produced there that had military applications, but since the lab had only just been discovered, it wasn’t yet clear what that was.

I never wrote that it was a chemical weapons lab, by the way. You could see in the photos the level of sophistication of the equipment, the large compression units, the pipes going from the laboratory upstairs to the heavier devices below. The one thing I did conclude from this discovery is that Syrian militants clearly had the means to access sanctioned, foreign — even American — equipment with dual-use technologies, that they were able to create production lines in the middle of war zones, that they were able to procure toxic substances. Chlorine was found in rows of containers at the front of the facility. Before this, the narrative was that the “rebels” couldn’t possibly be responsible for chemical weapons attacks because they couldn’t make or buy them. This facility showed they could make them….

Interesting. Your account prompts another question. I take it you were led to the site by Syrian officials. Were you able to conclude with confidence it wasn’t a put-up job on the government’s part?

Yes, two other media crews — TV outlets — and I were taken to the location by Syrian soldiers, with permission from the defense ministry. There are several things that made me fairly confident I wasn’t walking into a set-up. The facility had been shelled fairly extensively — there was debris and dust covering most of the equipment, so this stuff wasn’t “brought in” the day before for staging. There was so much gunfire and shelling still going on in the area that I still can’t believe the army had the gall to call this “liberated land.” With war still raging mere meters away, one could not reasonably believe the Syrian army moved in equipment for staging, carried it across the furrowed fields to this lab, then dusted it just-so with realistic looking debris from mortar hits.

Finally, the militant group that occupied this lab, the Saudi-backed Jaysh al-Islam: Not only didn’t they deny they ran this lab; they have previously admitted to using toxic agents in the Syrian conflict — against Kurds in the Sheikh Maqsood neighborhood of Aleppo.

To me the episode in Ghouta, which ended in U.S., British and French missile bombardments of Damascus, was the second-clumsiest of them all. First place goes to the August 2013 incident, when U.N. chemical weapons inspectors had just settled in their Damascus hotels — at Assad’s invitation — and there’s a gas attack in, once again, Ghouta. On cue, the U.S. instantly blamed Assad. Preposterous. False-flag and “psy-ops” just aren’t what they used to be. Or maybe in our media-saturated age, we can simply see more.

Were all these incidents in Syria faked or staged? Are you in a position to judge this conclusively?

I am not in a position to judge anything conclusively, but based on my experience I do have some opinions on this subject. In the early days, it seemed that on the eve of every U.N. Security Council meeting on Syria — or before an “international team” was about to arrive in the country — something violent and horrific would happen. You could almost time these massacres and chemical weapons attacks according to the politically significant event that was about to take place in a Western capital. It was hard not to notice this pattern and even harder not to get cynical about “massacres.” ...

<>>>>

This is a pattern you see in most of the other attacks — evidence manipulated, unknown chain of custody, controlled and limited access for investigators. Most of the attacks happen in militant-controlled areas, so the opposition is in complete control over access and flow of information. I do not believe you could prosecute the Syrian government in an impartial court and win convictions in any of these cases. Logically, the Syrian state is the entity that least benefits from any of these CW or massacre incidents. It had no motive to launch these attacks. Why use highly controversial chemical munitions when you can do more damage with conventional ones — and escape censure?

Please read the entire interview on Salon, HERE.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Patrick Lawrence is Salon’s foreign affairs columnist. A longtime correspondent abroad, chiefly for the International Herald Tribune and The New Yorker, he is an essayist, critic, editor and contributing writer at The Nation. His most recent book is “Time No Longer: Americans After the American Century”. Follow him on Twitter. Support him at Patreon.com. His web site is patricklawrence.us.

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Continual Confrontation in the South China Sea

Another important dispatch from The Greanville Post. Be sure to share it widely.


The ubiquitous, busybody US Navy. Its true and single mission is to project and facilitate imperial power in all latitudes.

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n a display of groveling sycophancy the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, has decided to name an illegal Jewish settlement in the occupied Golan Heights after Donald Trump.  (Trumpen-lebensraum, perhaps?) This follows an equally bizarre proposal by Poland’s President Duda to call a US military base Fort Trump, which The Economist observed “struck many Poles as toe-curlingly crass”. It is intriguing to speculate on what might come next.  Perhaps the Pentagon will  suggest renaming a South China Sea islet in his honor. One choice could be Mischief Reef  in the Spratly Island chain, where the US Navy regularly disports itself in “routine and regular freedom of navigation operations.”

Freedom of Navigation is most important, and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea lays down that “The high seas are open to all States, whether coastal or land-locked. Freedom of the high seas is exercised under the conditions laid down by this Convention and by other rules of international law.”

The generally accepted definition of freedom of navigation is “the right recognized in international law especially by treaties or agreements for vessels of one or all states to navigate streams passing through two or more states.”

The United States is the self-appointed guardian of the Seas, and declares it “will exercise and assert its navigation and overflight rights and freedoms on a worldwide basis in a manner that is consistent with the balance of interests reflected in the Law of the Sea Convention.”  There is a problem with this, in that the US Senate refuses to ratify the Convention, which makes nonsense of the constant threats by Washington that everybody must obey it or there will be the United States to reckon with, in the shape of the US Navy which roams the seas with its eleven aircraft carriers, 9 amphibious ready groups (more accurately, strike squadrons), 22 cruisers and 66 destroyers with, down below, some seventy submarines.  Nuclear weapons abound, but nobody knows which surface vessels carry them (except the intelligence services of China and Russia), because it is policy to “neither confirm nor deny” if nuclear weapons are on board.

It is remarkable that the only national leader ever to have publicly condemned the “neither confirm nor deny” rule was New Zealand’s Prime Minister David Lange in 1984 when he “barred the visit of the American Navy destroyer Buchanan after Washington refused to say whether it was nuclear-armed or not.”  The US then demonstrated its maturity and “suspended naval maneuvers with New Zealand and stopped sharing intelligence information with it” and cancelled a high level security conference. Lange showed his disdain for such antics when speaking at a farewell dinner for the US ambassador, H Monroe Browne, in 1986. The ambassador, as with so many US heads of mission, was a rich man who had bought his appointment, and he owned a racehorse called Lacka Reason, about which Lange observed that “You are the only ambassador in the world to race a horse named after your country’s foreign policy.”

Which brings us to Washington’s shenanigans in the South China Sea.

Washington objects to China’s presence in the South China Sea.  It upsets the US government that Beijing continues to build various facilities, including airfields, on islands which in some cases are claimed by other regional nations as their own territory. On March 27 the Pentagon’s Randall Schriver told the House Armed Services Committee that China’s “activities in the South China Sea could be met with consequences elsewhere . . . We are intent on making sure no one country can change international law per the norms” — in spite of failure by the United States to ratify the Convention it quotes to justify its saber-rattling activities from the Baltic to the Taiwan Strait.

And these activities are extensive, including the current commitment of the 11th Amphibious Squadron’s warships, of which the largest, the USS Wasp, carries F-35 advanced strike aircraft whose armament is not known because the Navy “declined to disclose. . . the assets aboard the Wasp due to operational security concerns.”  The squadron’s deployment to the South China Sea is consistent with US policy, as noted by Stars and Stripes which reported on April 4 that “The US regularly challenges Beijing’s claims by sailing warships within 12 nautical miles of islands that China has built up in the Paracel and Spratly chains. So far this year, the Navy has picked up the pace, conducting at least five freedom-of-navigation operations since January: one each through the Paracels and Spratlys, and three through the Taiwan Strait.”

Additionally, the US Air Force, not to be left out of the in-your-face fandangos, regularly sends nuclear-capable strike aircraft over the South China Sea. Nobody knows what they are carrying in the way of armaments, as “We do not discuss the nuclear capabilities of our operational bomber aircraft,” but on March 13 it was announced that “Two B-52H Stratofortress bombers took off from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, and conducted routine training in the vicinity of the South China Sea. . . US aircraft regularly operate in the South China Sea in support of allies, partners, and a free and open Indo-Pacific . . . as part of US Indo-Pacific Command’s Continuous Bomber Presence operations.”

Then there is the US Army’s contribution to security and stability, which it seeks to improve by mounting exercise ‘Defender Pacific’ later this year. The US Army Commander in the Pacific, General Robert Brown, declared that the maneuvers “will focus on a South China Sea scenario” and that the thousands of troops deployed “will get the challenge of coming to the Pacific with the Pacific-assigned forces already there. And we won’t go to Korea, we will actually go to a South China Sea scenario where we will be around the South China Sea.”  Indicating the focus of its planning, “the US Army recently conducted a joint exercise with the US Marine Corps practicing raiding and seizing a small island in Japan’s southwest Ryukyu chain,” on the boundary of the East China Sea.

While all these operations are part of the rich tapestry of military life, the overflights by nuclear-capable bombers, the provocative maneuvers by combat ships close to Chinese-settled islands, and the practicing of island invasion are sending a combative message.

Washington cannot imagine for one moment that the Pentagon’s military antics will result in China withdrawing from even the smallest atoll. Not even Bolton or Pompeo could think that the US campaign of confrontation in, around and above the South China Sea will persuade Beijing to bend the knee to Washington.

It is obvious that the US armed forces are gearing up for a summer of confronting China, and that this is going to be effected on land, by sea, and in the air. But provocation cannot be accepted indefinitely, and it will be interesting to see just how far the Chinese permit it to continue.  What will happen after they blast a coat-trailing US destroyer out of the water round Mischief Reef?

This essay is part of our special series

The best way to get around the internet censors and make sure you see the stuff we publish is to subscribe to the mailing list for our website, which will get you an email notification for everything we publish.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Brian Cloughley writes about foreign policy and military affairs. He lives in Voutenay sur Cure, France.

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Be sure to get the most unique history of the Russo-American conflict now spanning almost a century!  The book that every American should read.

[su_panel background=”#f9fafa” border=”1px solid #170101″ shadow=”8px 1px 2px #eeeeee” radius=”24″]

Nuclear Armageddon or peace? That is the question.
And here’s the book that answers it.
How did we come to be in this horrid pickle? Join the discussion! Read Ron Ridenour’s provocative bestseller The Russian Peace Threat, the most scathing and irrefutable exposé of US foreign policy and its malignant obsession with the elimination of Russia as a countervailing force in world affairs. Buy it today direct from us. You don’t have to patronize Amazon. Just click on the bar below.

 

.CLICK HERE to buy The Russian Peace Threat.

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