Monday, 8 August 2016

Owen Jones shows true Guardian colours in his attack on Corbyn


Owen Jones has been criticised by much of the Corbyn left after he published a deeply loaded blog piece entitled Questions all Jeremy Corbyn supporters need to answer.

Peddled as an 'emergency appeal' to "Labour and the left teeter[ing] on the brink of disaster", there can be little doubt that, in the middle of a coup-enforced leadership contest, Jones's article was a precisely calculated intervention intended to undermine and cast doubt on Corbyn.

Mark and remember, also, this similar 'confession' piece from Jones in which, while 'honestly' outlining the 'formidable obstacles' faced by Corbyn and Labour, he gives vital exposure to Corbyn's 'weaknesses' and sustenance to the would-be coup-makers.

Rather than take a firm campaigning position, Jones has hidden behind the evasive veil of 'all-enquiring journalist', giving ample interview slots to Owen Smith and his backers, such as Lisa Nandy and Jess Phillips, as well as Corbyn and allies like Clive Lewis (whom Jones admits he'd been seeking to install all along). This has allowed Jones a convenient façade, a 'neutral space' to 'question' and 'debate', while suggesting to his wide readership the 'deep flaws' and 'worrying implications' of a Corbyn leadership.

Note also, in this regard, how Jones re-tweeted the link to a rather smart hatchet piece on Corbyn and his supporters by LRB writer Tom Crewe.

My own prior twitter question to Jones asking for clarification of which candidate he actually backs in the contest went unheeded.

Before listing his 'nine key questions', Jones lays out a tortured account of his 'humble devotion' to radical causes, his 'left CV', and a listing of his left-liberal friends. In almost martyred tones, Jones says that he:
cannot even begin to put into words how much I’ve agonised over Labour’s terrible plight.
All this is offered as 'essential personal explanation' in preparation for the 'urgent' issues he wants Corbyn backers to reflect upon:
Because of this poisonous political atmosphere, the first chunk of this blog will be what many will consider rather self-indulgent (lots of ‘I’ and ‘me’, feel free to mock), but hopefully an explanation nonetheless of where I’m coming from. However long it is, it will be insufficient: I can guarantee the same charges will be levelled.
Jones's outpourings culminate in the hyperbolic plea that:
the questions below need answers. Not just for my own sanity, but for the future of the Labour party. 
For all the 'modest angst', the questions Jones subsequently asks are largely straw man, media-speak abstractions, pondering on, for example, Labour's 'lack of vision'. But the intent and indictment is clear enough: a charge sheet aimed at Corbyn and the 'perilous state' he's brought the party to. None of the questions are pointed at Owen Smith and the Parliamentary Labour Party coup-makers. In effect, believing that a snap Westminster election is probably on the cards, Jones gives 'crisis notice' that Labour are unelectable under Corbyn.

Jones talks about the leadership's 'failed media strategy', and his 'anxious concern' about the left not getting its message across. So, wouldn't he better serve the left's immediate cause by focusing directly on the mass media onslaught against Corbyn? Jones insists that he has repeatedly addressed such attacks, using this sleight of hand to deny criticisms of his own participation:
To criticise is to join in a chorus of media attacks, goes the argument. There’s a difference: the vehement media attacks on Corbyn come from those who do not want the left to succeed. But my starting point is exactly the opposite. I worry about the left failing, and even disappearing forever.
If so, where's the real exposure and challenging of that corporate-establishment campaign from this 'leading figure of the left'? With damning evidence at hand of widespread bias against Corbyn across all 'mainstream' outlets, notably the BBC, why hasn't Jones shone his sharpest spotlight on the media's dark proclivities, rather than Corbyn's media 'inabilities'? As blogger Kate Buffery notes:
The irony is that if Owen Jones were really driven about media strategy, he’s better placed than any of us to have an impact in redressing the current imbalance in the press. Instead he writes an article which has the PLP and their supporting media, singing from the rafters.
And where, more readily, is his denunciation of the Guardian's own relentless and leading assault on Corbyn? Convenient silence. In an astonishing piece of 'acceptance', the Guardian's Roy Greenslade even asks what harm is there in Corbyn getting such a negative press, including from the Guardian, as documented in a major LSE study. The response from Jones? As ever, none. Jones isn't, and doesn't need to be, gagged by the Guardian. He understands perfectly the self-enforcement expected.

Jones also laments Corbyn's national poll ratings, bewails his 'lack of leadership', and claims he's been "entirely missing in action" in response to Theresa May's ascendancy and other Tory actions. Yet, doesn't Jones see that people are routinely sick of such dreary soundbite politics? The very appeal of Corbyn to so many, notably young, voters is that he doesn't conduct himself in the same mechanical ways. Which other figure can draw thousands to street meetings, all eager to hear a sincere and authentic voice? Jones, of course, recognises this populist appeal, but chooses to ignore it's electoral potential. 

Rather than agonise over the electorate's "first impressions" of Corbyn, why doesn't Jones highlight his integrity and talk-up his refreshing political persona? Why not give his fullest energy and substantial platform to promoting Corbyn's new economic agenda, rather than denigrating his political style?

Instead, we see Jones and the Guardian fall back on 'liberal reality' politics: even if he's popular with party members, they cry, this won't play well with the wider electorate. In effect, let's pander to cautious conservatism rather than lead with radical programmes. Jones has already 'gifted' much of his 'all-seeing advice' to Corbyn on how to moderate his policies and placate the 'national mood', and seems stung that the Corbyn camp has effectively ignored it.

The Guardian is similarly displeased. Following every editorial, op-ed and 'news report' it could muster to stop Corbyn becoming leader, another desperate appeal to 'liberal reason' is now being waged by the Guardian select. Typically, the paper's liberal house matron Polly Toynbee 'commends' Corbyn for his efforts, but urges that he now stand aside for the more 'realistic' leadership of Owen Smith. It says much that Toynbee and arch-Blairite John McTernan both tweeted Jones's blog article with glowing approval.

Smith is being hailed as the latest white-shirt-rolled-up-sleeves-let's-get-things-done-politician. The problem for the Guardian and Jones is how to re-invent this corporate-groomed, Trident-supporting neo-Blairite as a bona fide 'leftist' and saviour candidate. He may be a bit "wobbly", a gushing Guardian editorial concedes, and has to lose a bit of the smooth PR polish to reach the masses, but he's getting there. How reassuring. 

It's not just that the Guardian and PLP coup circle are ideologically terrified of the Corbyn project. It's that they can't even see anything other than the Guardian template of what a 'serious' politics and leader should look like. Their own 'vision' of politics, and journalistic careers, have been shaped by the safe, myopic view that only 'respectable', business-attuned people like Smith are credible figures able to deliver 'realistic change'.

The Guardian class have been in a similar state of high anxiety over the prospect of a Trump presidency. In common voice, Jones berates anyone 'stupid enough' not to endorse Clinton. We must be realistic and back Clinton, he cries: she may have her 'faults', but Trump must be stopped.

The Guardian's nauseating promotion of Clinton tells us all we need to know about liberal-establishment conformity to power. No focus here on Clinton's voracious warmongering, her support for war in Iraq, her promotion of the carnage in Syria, her key part in the annihilation of Libya, her unstinting devotion to a murderous, apartheid Israeli regime. It's all about glitzy conventions, celeb endorsements, Obama handing over to another 'benign leader.'

Yet, the proclaimed antidote to Trump, the 'needs-must' Clinton, is widely reviled, particularly among young Americans. And just as Sanders had hopefully filled that gap, so do people see in Corbyn a welcome and realisable alternative, even to the Guardian's 'needs-must' Smith.

Something meaningful is unravelling beneath the assumed body politic. People are not only rejecting neoliberal doctrines, but turning their backs on the 'sensible liberal-left' which sustains that dominant order. And Guardian boundary police like Jones and Toynbee are finding themselves uncomfortably exposed as they try to mitigate and temper such feeling.

Union leader Manuel Cortes has criticised Jones's "back-stabbing" and behind-the-scenes efforts to undo Corbyn, noting:
I would not like to be in a trench alongside Owen under heavy shelling.
It's a charge Indy left progressives in Scotland will remember only too well. When the entire establishment machine, including the Guardian, was mobilised to stop the Yes movement, Owen Jones, again using the cover of 'balanced observer', showed his real colours in declaring for No.

Alas, Jones still hasn't come to terms with the actual Yes reality. Among his nine questions, he agonises over Labour's 'problem' task in Scotland. But, as with many respondents to his question, he offers no imaginative answer other than to attack the SNP as a way of 'rebuilding' Labour in Scotland.

It's almost tragi-comic to observe this line of argument. Following generations of betrayal, Scottish Labour is now on the verge of extinction after siding with the Tories over independence. Its leader, Kezia Dugdale, is part of the coup against Corbyn, clinging desperately to her unionist line. And still Jones shows no inclination to support the case for radical independence.   

Voters in Scotland have been stuffed three time over: a stolen opportunity for independence in 2014; as a consequence, a Tory government inflicted against its will in 2015; and now in 2016 - after Cameron's calamitous efforts to quell conflict in his own party - forced into a referendum and taken out of the EU against majority wishes.

The real question for EU referendum voters in Scotland wasn't whether to remain or leave. It was, and is, at its core, about having the right to make such decisions unencumbered by Westminster. All through this process, that more pivotal issue has lay unresolved: the ability of people in Scotland to determine their own political will. Little wonder the penny has now finally dropped for so many No voters.  Little wonder so many are now converts to the case for independence.

There is a strong strand of support for Corbyn across the Yes left. Even Alex Salmond defended|Corbyn and denounced the "disgusting, organised coup". Yet, for all that empathy, there can be no true uplift for the Labour left in Scotland until it embraces the resilient demand for independence.

Hopefully, we are at a new and more productive point of political engagement. As the coup daggers are wielded, all people of a progressive persuasion, including SNP supporters, should be backing Corbyn. In turn, Corbyn Labour, particularly in Scotland, must now acknowledge and work with Yes Indy. This has to be a movement politics, rather than party politics, a major accommodation of left political forces.

After EU Project Fear, peddled as both 'Immigration Nightmare' and 'Economic Armageddon' (recall Osborne's invented threat to slash £30 billion from public services, and the banks' threat to exit the City), we can see that fear and negativity only breed more fear and reactionary responses. A cycle of bad political karma. If nothing else, as in 2014, this has been another learning curve in cynical manipulations. And for the main establishment network, it's the sorest of all lessons, as, despite the City elite's market 'intelligence' and private polling, the brooding alienated of Sunderland, Hartlepool and other austerity-battered locales defied their condescending warnings.

Owen Jones doesn't specify the Brexit issue in any of his blog questions. But you can be sure that Corbyn and McDonnell have a much healthier and more progressive view of what the EU really stands for, and the positive potential of the vote, than the kind of shrill, apocalyptic language ("terrifying" and "weep for your country") used by Jones, the Guardian and other establishment voices.

As Jonathan Cook puts it:
This is where we on the progressive left are, and the Brexit vote is a huge challenge to us to face facts. We want to believe we are free but the truth is that we have long been in a prison called neoliberalism. The Conservative and Labour parties are tied umbilically to this neoliberal order. The EU is one key institution in a transnational neoliberal club. Our economy is structured to enforce neoliberalism whoever ostensibly runs the country.
Ultimately, we can keep hoping for the delivery of people and planet through enduring neoliberalism, or try to make decisive breaks from those repressive rules and institutions. Scottish or British, young or old, EU or non-EU, we're all controlled and exploited by this brutal doctrine.

Little of this crucial reality was up for discussion as the coup cabal used the Brexit moment to purge Corbyn. Jones issued no such indictment sheet against Alan Johnson (the Iraq war-supporting Blairite he once courted as a replacement for Miliband), Angela Eagle or the other plotters. Rather, it was Corbyn's 'failings' over the EU that became the pretext for 'necessary action'. The Guardian's Jonathan Freedland even castigated Corbyn for 'betraying the young', and for avoiding a Remain event part-lead by war criminal Tony Blair. Again, Jones had precisely nothing to say about this virulent assault by his Guardian peers. His silence is all part of the contrived Guardian recrimination against Corbyn and those who dare cross the establishment line.

Corbyn's leadership is perhaps the last chance to make his party a serious force for change. The coup against Corbyn offers an historical moment to push back and finally break Blairism and the neoliberal stranglehold. The BBC, Guardian and other service media have done all they can to present Corbyn as a 'crisis' for Labour and 'the country'. Lamentably, Owen Jones has given ready amplification to that jingo-ridden narrative. Beyond all the personal 'soul-searching' and 'desire to save the left', Jones has used his considerable platform to undermine and break Corbyn. And what an unedifying spectacle to watch him placate and pal along with the PLP while trying to maintain his 'popular-man-of-the-left' credentials. A pretentious liberal positioning, very much the Guardian man. 

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Whatever the EU vote, the same power elites and institutions need to be resisted

I'm oddly thankful that this EU referendum is coming to a close - even if the aftermath is likely to be much uglier. Unlike the vibrant people engagement and progressive optimism around Scottish independence, this contest has been underwritten by a virulent, dismal and racist politics.   

As previously outlined, my own inclinations have been towards Lexit, not Brexit. The distinction is important. It's about contextualising the issues in left, progressive ways, unlike the overwhelming EU 'debate' which has been framed, discussed, reported and analysed almost exclusively on the establishment's terms.

Cameron and Gove got prominent turns on Question Time specials. Osborne's warning of economic calamity was pitched against Farage's dark rhetoric over immigration, the essential message here being that only their versions, their narratives, are up for 'serious debate'. Where have we seen the same attention given to any left case, for in or out? Such is the 'choice' of perspectives allowed by our 'all-informing' media.

Battered by this mass propaganda, it's been difficult keeping focused on the central issues. Like many on the left, I have pondered and wavered. Yet core objections to the EU won't go away. Whatever its origins, the EU stands as a rapacious neoliberal institution, controlled by a self-serving banking class, and managed by a conservative political vanguard. Under the secretly-negotiated TTIP, driven evangelically by the EU and US, corporate sovereignty will be total, allowing big business unmatched legal rights to sue anyone obstructing their interests, from national governments to local councils. And even besides TTIP, a whole range of corporate-serving EU legislation already exists, requiring privatisation and deregulation of public services like railways and healthcare. Consider how this would seriously constrain any incoming left-aspiring Corbyn government. As one leftist observer notes in Lexit the Movie, a useful antidote to the mainstream framing, the EU is not some social democratic project, it's an aggressive trading bloc underpinned by corporate demands.   

Beyond all the hype about 'reclaiming power', this is the real issue of sovereignty. The Remain case has been supported and funded by City sovereigns like Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley. It's been commended by other champions of capitalist sovereignty like the IMF, WTO, OECD, World Bank and George Soros. Even the speculated outcome of the referendum has been boom time for City casino capitalism. As one City bond trader gloated: "You look forward to days like this...There's money to be made and lost". And in whose interests do mass warmongers Blair and Mandelson, Nato and Obama speak as 'principled' Remainers?  

Nor is there convincing evidence that the 'workers' rights', supposedly originating from the EU, represent anything more than token crumbs from the same boss class. What serious social democracy, never mind actual socialism, can we expect from an institution run by elite commissioners and bankers? The UK may not be part of the Eurozone, but the momentous crushing of Greece tells us all we need to know about its ruthless neoliberal essence. We should be equally disturbed by the EU's expansionist agenda and bonded ties to Nato, as witnessed most alarmingly in their dual promotion of a fascist coup in Ukraine.   

And yet, like much of the left, I've still had conflicted feelings on how to vote, particularly on a question pitched and fought over by two sides of the establishment.

Alongside Boris Johnson's vile rants, we've seen the wicked discourse on immigration from Farage, including a racist 'Breaking Point' poster that will live in infamy. Amid this febrile atmosphere, a decent-minded MP has been murdered in an act of political terrorism (two words barely uttered by a media that would have leapt on them had the attacker been a Muslim) underwritten by that same essential 'we ourselves' mindset and hatred towards the 'intruding other'. And yet, consider also the pernicious language and inferences Cameron, Osborne and other Remain Tories have directed towards 'swarming' migrants, 'benefit-grasping' Romanians and 'still undeserving' Turks. Isn't it depressing how we've been urged to think and calculate so selfishly around 'what's good for me' rather than how do we best challenge destructive power institutions and elites in compassionate consideration of wider humanity and planet? 

In this faux binary contest we've seen the great Battle of the Thames, with Farage and Sir Bob Geldof, a farce that hasn't the slightest life relevance to immigrants, refugees or poor people relying on foodbanks. While observing the mass media attention given to this 'conflict on the water', a much more significant maritime-related event happened, all but ignored by the media. The key aid agency Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) took the momentous decision not to accept any more money from the EU, given its shameless treatment of refugees and its concocting of the Greece/Turkey deal to ship them back. The sham of a 'civilized EU' decisively sunk. Whatever the lamentable treatment of poor migrants and desperate refugees struggling to reach British shores, there's little or nothing to commend the racist record of fortress Europe.

Unlike the 'looming crisis' of immigration, there's been no such discussion over the real emergency threat of climate change. Some Remainers make the valid argument that environmental progress like the recent Paris Agreement could only have been reached through large EU bloc-type negotiations. Yet any serious advancement of environmental action still comes down to the meaningful policies and pledges of nation states. And all of that involves decisive exposure of the key corporate forces behind climate destruction, forces that neither Brussels or Westminster has the remotest intention of crossing.  

For those of us in Scotland, the other more pragmatic case for voting to remain is the pursuit of Scottish independence. If Scotland votes to remain and the rest of the UK to leave, this would most likely trigger popular demand for a second independence referendum. For any Yes leftist, with little regard for the EU or Westminster, that's a strategic option well worth considering. Neoliberal Brussels with a growing right-wing politics is not a protective shield from Westminster. And a neoliberal, Tory and undemocratic Westminster system provides little assurance from that same EU.   

Ultimately, in or out of Europe, in or out of the UK, the same much more crucial challenges for progressives remain: resisting neoliberalism; the breaking of loaded political systems; the realisation of true socialist movements, parties, policies and governments.

On that note, and as jaded and confused voters make late evaluations on such matters, I'd like to commend this fine, elegiac lament from the writer Steve Topple on the state of the UK in 2016.

Friday, 6 May 2016

New green shoots - promising outcome of Holyrood 2016

SNP 63, Greens 6.

It's a good, encouraging outcome. No SNP majority, just two seats short. But, arguably, a better overall result, with greater potential for progressive politics and wider promotion of the Yes case.

Six Green MSPs now hold the effective balance of power, and, in principle, could be well placed to push the SNP leftwards on climate change, fracking, land reform, progressive taxation, welfare powers, poverty, inequality and other vital issues.

This new Green presence should be seen by left-minded SNP members as constructive support for a more radical SNP agenda, a conditional backing for Nicola Sturgeon and the party respectfully articulated by Elaine C. Smith:
I’m also a friend, ally and supporter of Nicola Sturgeon and have been happy to vote SNP for the last 20 years or more. I still did this time – but my second vote went to the Greens. The #BothVotesSNP strategy left me and many others – on the left in particular – a bit uncomfortable. It felt greedy, with a whiff of entitlement – and that sat uneasily with us. I’m sure that the intention was a purely political and strategic one – but it played into the hands of a currently resonant narrative about unchallenged power, both on the right and the left. The release of The Sun endorsement last weekend didn’t help either.
The Green arrival gives potential impetus to a new Yes alignment politics, rather than the case for Indy2 resting too closely with the SNP, vital as it still is in leading that process. Patrick Harvie and his colleagues also sit closely with the SNP in repeating that it's the Scottish people, not any party, who will determine the case for a second referendum, and that they would back any such significant display of public feeling.  

The new Green intake can also help concentrate SNP minds on taking real progressive positions. Andy Wightman, the leading voice of radical land reform in Scotland, is a welcome addition in this regard, as is John Finnie, who left the SNP over its pro-Nato decision.

The aftermath for Labour in Scotland is all too obvious. They could now take this historical low as the defining moment to initiate a truly radical reformulation, notably serious acceptance of the case for independence. Otherwise, it will drift entirely into oblivion. The return of people like Anas Sarwar suggests little chance of any such realisation. It's do or die, and probably too late to do.   

The media have, predictably, focused on the 'great Tory revival'. It is, of course dispiriting to see their increased vote, explicable, in large part, as consolidation of the Unionist 2014 No vote, a right-hardening of class politics over the constitution. Yet, in practice, Davidson will have no effective power in the parliament. They also owe most of their seats to the vagaries of the regional list.

Hopefully, this coming parliament will legislate for a fairer, less speculative system than AMS. One only need look at the SNP's clean-sweep of constituencies in Glasgow, while its massive 111,101 list votes in that regional list gained the party not a single additional seat - and saw the Greens just miss out on a second. Acrimonious debate will, no doubt, continue amongst parts of the SNP and wider Yes community over how the SNP 'minority' government could have been averted. It was always the case that voters couldn't 'game' this AMS system, given the unknowns of constituency seats likely to be won, the unreliability of opinion polls and other human variables. But, while, as proven in Glasgow, Rise and Solidarity always looked unlikely to reach the bar, there was the credible chance of a Green advance. (I voted SNP and Green on that basis, to see Harvie returned on the list, and in moral support of a wider Yes/radical politics.)

Beyond all the 'casino' politics, the case for Indy2 and any more progressive politics will have to encompass much more than the SNP. And the new Greens, just like the SNP, will be judged on just how assertively they strive to make all that a reality. We should take heart from the vibrancy of political engagement still evident post-2014. This election outcome has revealed key new questions for the SNP, and challenges for the Yes left, but there shouldn't be any need for despondency. And, as the election dust settles, it's still good to remember that a majority of Holyrood MSPs still stand for independence.   

Monday, 2 May 2016

Dark motivations behind 'Labour's anti-Semitism problem'

As the political cries and media echoes of 'Labour's anti-Semitism crisis' continue, what rational 'measurement' of those allegations and responses to them might we make?

The real determining factor here, one can argue, is motivational intent. That, of course, is a matter of varying interpretation in itself, all such evaluation being subjective. Yet, it's still an intuitively valuable way to comprehend human actions.

Caveat made, let's consider the likely motivations of the main figures accused here of anti-Semitism, of those making the accusations, and the positioning of varying leftists over such charges.

Firstly, what serious indication is there that Naz Shah or Ken Livingstone are in any way driven by a sense of hatred or animosity towards Jews? The fundamental question here is not just the use of language but the emotional feeling behind it. What really matters is whether a person's words and expressions are motivated by actual hatred or animosity towards another person or people due to their religious, racial or other beliefs.

What evidence of such is there against Livingstone and Shah? Precisely none. What they are clearly compelled by is a sense of grievance and opposition to the unjust treatment of Palestinians. Nothing of what either of them said can, on close scrutiny, be regarded as speech or expression specifically hateful of, or antagonistic towards, Jews as people, or disrespectful of Jewish identity. In short, neither are anti-Semitic, and none of their comments seem remotely intended as such.

Nor is there any real evidence to suggest particular hatred or animosity towards Jewish people from within Labour or the broad left. Indeed, beyond generalised forms of racist and religious prejudice, and contrary to the claims of 'vanguard' groups like the CST, there's nothing to indicate any deep, specific hatred or substantive public enmity in Britain towards Jewish people at large. So, too, can most people distinguish between anti-Semitism and criticising Israel.

In the course of much street engagement, I've heard people make occasional clumsy remarks or crass formulations - such as 'Jews run the world' - often buoyed by a sense of anger at what Israel is doing to the Palestinian people. Such comments are obviously facile and counter-productive to the Palestinian cause. But they are relatively scarce and dwarfed by the casual utterances and media-spread impressions we hear of the 'Muslim threat', or that 'Muslims are all terrorists'.

Questionable memes and images float around online, inviting easy repetition by the unwary. Well before her election, Naz Shah appears to have indulged in such. Of course, it's worth noting the origin of Shah's actual tweets in 2014 and how one was grossly misrepresented.

Behind the 'move Israel to the US' graphic lies an actual, crucial point about the shameful collaborations between America and Israel. There was always a better way of stating that message - one, we can be sure, Shah now belatedly recognises. But that doesn't make Shah's conduct, in itself, anti-Semitic. Again, we have to see it in the context of motivation: a moral response, a conscientious feeling, most probably as reactive anger over Israel murderous attack that year on Gaza.

But why, many have asked, in supporting Shah, did Livingstone 'invoke Hitler' in this discussion? Livingstone himself has expressed regrets about raising the point, given the 'disruption' it caused. But what about the essence of his point? Again, let's apply the motivation test.

If Livingstone was using an historical reference to castigate Jewish people, or call into question their suffering, that would most certainly be a slanderous and anti-Semitic act. What, in fact, he was referencing was an actual historical event, the Haavara Agreement, denoting the engagement between Nazi officials and Zionist figures. Nor, for the record, did Livingstone state, as has been consistently misreported by much of the media, that 'Hitler was a Zionist'. His central point was that after Hitler was elected in 1932, the Nazis saw the expedient possibility of removing Jews from Europe to Palestine, and that Zionist forces saw mutual advantage in this. That's a recorded fact, not mendacious conjecture. What motivated Livingstone's critics to present it in any other way?

It's also important to recall that Livingstone was being questioned about the ugly term "transportation" of people. Is it really credible to suggest that he raised this point in order to offend Jewish people? Or was he relating factual background about the history of Jewish people being moved? Again, some argue it was 'politically unwise' to do so over such a sensitive issue. But if we are to talk honestly about Israel-Palestine, all such historical context is important, so long as it's discussed with diligent respect for its victims. Why should such discussion be deemed 'off-limits'? Is it valid subject matter for historians and researchers, but not politicians? What does it say about the paucity of our intellectual life that such comments are only to be scrutinised and judged by tabloid notions of whether they are 'fit' for 'real politics'? What motivates such denigration of qualitative, respectable expression?

Israel defender John Mann's verbal assault on Livingstone saw him claim that there's no place for such comment in relation to Jewish suffering at the hands of the Nazis. And there wouldn't be if Livingstone was guilty of ugly revisionism or any questioning of that suffering. He's plainly not. Amid such condemnations of Livingstone sat the inconvenient fact that he had told an unvarnished truth. Unable to dispute the authenticity of what he had referred to, his critics could only resort to the illogical charge that by merely mentioning this historical event, Livingstone was somehow guilty of anti-Semitism by calculated inference. All of which amplified message serves to divert from the real issues such forces want hidden. 

So what might we say about the motivations of those critics? Most of it is lamentably obvious. After right-wing blogger Guido Fawkes had drilled down looking for dirt on Naz Shah, the Israel lobby, alongside an opportunist Blairite faction still seething over Corbyn's ascent, seized the moment to advance their common causes. Key Israel-supporting figures like Stephen Pollard weighed-in, issuing increased fears about the "left's hatred of Jews".

Here we see the coalescing interests and motivations of those alleging anti-Semitism, notably the rearguard attempts to defend and whitewash Israel, to break Jeremy Corbyn, and to counter the rise of BDS.

What many of those converging critics really fear is any historical reference to, or public discussion of, the mass expelling and transportation of 800,000 Palestinians in the course of the Nakba. They don't want any discussion of the Palestinian Right of Return, of the illegal Occupation, of Israel's apartheid state, of the murderous bombing, imprisonment and siege of Gaza, of the children killed and locked up in Israeli jails.

With perverse timing, the despotic Mark Regev, Israel's new ambassador to the UK, has stepped into the fray, using the same malevolent spin propagated over the mass killing of Palestinians to now ratchet-up the 'leftist threat to Jews'.     

So, what, in turn, might we say about the responses and motivations of Labour leftists to such spurious charges, particularly those professing Palestine solidarity? Predictably, the default line for so many was that Livingstone is a 'liability' and had to go.

Key Corbyn allies like Dianne Abbott and Len McCluskey correctly rejected the claim of serious anti-Semitism within Labour, pointing to the internal Blairite plotting. But few were prepared to defend Livingstone or Shah. 

And this is where notable left voices like Owen Jones have more seriously erred, as Ali Abunimah so convincingly reminded him in an illuminating twitter exchange: "To watch @OwenJones84 throw Ken Livingstone under the bus to appease a bunch of hard-right racists is a truly pitiful sight." Jones counters that he has been a consistent advocate of Palestinian rights, and that his supporting of Livingstone's suspension is intended to help 'stamp out anti-Semitism' within Labour. Yet, hasn't Jones's overstated claims, and righteous repetition, of 'pervasive' anti-Semitism within the party only added to the hysteria? What, one wonders, motivates such a positioning? 

Contrary to Jones's mitigations, any earnest defence of the Palestinian cause would more usefully involve resisting the false narrative and pernicious assault being waged by Israel and the Blairite lobby. That's the primary task here. The most destructive inner element of the Labour party is not a handful of misguided 'leftists'. It's Labour Friends of Israel. 

There's no use trying to placate those forces - which, as Abunimah reminds us, will never be satisfied - through party purges and synthetic appeasements. They will always drive for more. Indeed, even while Corbyn and McDonnell, understandably, resort to 'damage limitation' and party management, it's still incumbent upon leftists to resist the narratives forcing such reactions. In short, the priority task of left public figures is not to join the chorus. It's about exposing the motivations of the Israel lobby, those seeking to oust Corbyn, and the establishment media's role in peddling such discourse.

On that note, here's a complaint letter I sent to the BBC (in the hours prior to Livingstone's involvement) regarding Newsnight's coverage of 'anti-Semitism within Labour':
28 April 2016

Re 27 April 2016 edition of Newsnight.

Please can you explain the gross imbalance in this discussion of alleged anti-Semitism within the Labour Party?

In particular, can you account for the absence of any countervailing voices to the two principal guests, Lord Levy and Baroness Neuberger, as well as the supporting opinions of Richard Angell (Director of the Blairite Progress group), Danny Cohen (BBC Director of Television, 2013 - 2015), David Winnick (Labour MP) and other comments repeated by reporter Hannah Barnes?

Presenter Evan Davis introduced his guests as reflecting a "debate within the Jewish community" about growing anti-Semitism. Why was no alternative opinion sought from any other figure within the Jewish community?

Also, why did Davis passively accept the generic claims made by Julia Neuberger regarding "the conflation of Zionist to mean Jew" and "this praise of Hitler"? Why didn't he ask for specific evidence of where such views exist within the Labour Party, and the nature of their alleged extent? Instead, Davis merely responded: "That's clearly over the line."

Davis also failed to question Lord Levy over his equating of 'Zionism' with 'anti-Semitism', or his political background, notably his close links with Tony Blair and how that financial backing informed New Labour's friendly positioning on Israel.

In all these regards, the BBC has clearly violated its basic remit to provide impartial coverage and balanced opinion.
I await a response.

One might note here that while it was seemingly acceptable for Julia Neuberger to raise claims of leftists 'conflating Jews with Hitler', without any solid evidence, Livingstone was to be hounded over a much less incendiary comment the next day. Which all proves the kind of stark double standards deployed by the establishment media.

We might also consider here the supporting motivations of the Guardian in this affair, such as liberal notables Jonathan Freedland, Gaby Hinsliff and Marina Hyde.

Not for the first time, Freedland's response to such an issue has been to ask why Israel and Jewish people at large are being 'subjected' to such 'special scrutiny'. Ali Abunimah calls this piece: "Surely the most disingenuous article ever by @Freedland in defense of a brutal apartheid settler colony". Here, we might ask, what motivated Freedland to pen such a "wretched article", rather than ask people to imagine for a moment just what it must be like to suffer for so many decades under the brutal fist of the Israeli state?

Hinsliff, likewise, trotted-out the same 'why Israel?' line, and tortured angst over 'Labour's calamity', piling on even more lurid accusations of the left's anti-Semitic motivations:
But calling for its people to be swept into the sea, or forcibly transplanted somewhere else, or in any other way denying Israel’s right to exist, is crossing a line because that simply doesn’t happen to other countries no matter how oppressive their regime. No other nation state on the planet is constantly asked to prove itself morally worthy merely of being allowed to exist.
Hyde also resorted to the usual Guardian snide-speak, conflating Livingstone with Boris Johnson, while offering an 'embarrassed apology' "for the conduct of my nation." Imagine Hyde having the dutiful conscience to ask what this same British state has ever done for suffering Palestinians, or whether a nation that has invaded so many others and taken the lives of so many souls even has the moral claim to such standing.

The Murdoch press may rightly be seen as beyond the pale in this country, but is there a more sanctimonious, deceitful and vitally power-serving outlet in the land than the Guardian?

As befits its relentless efforts to undermine Corbyn, there's no shortage of space, either, at this despicable paper for Labour favourites like Jess Phillips, who, from her Guardian platform said: "There are very strong feelings in the party about recognising the state of Palestine, as well as strong feelings about the protection of the state of Israel. Most people fall sensibly in both camps." Here, complementing Freedland et al, we see the same, safe liberal obfuscation of a core issue, pronounced as some kind of two-sided conflict in which we must remain respectfully vigilant about protecting the oppressor.

Rather than appease the Israel lobby or play to this liberal media narrative, those truly set on defending Palestinian rights, and justice at large, have been motivated to expose it all. Excellent examples include:

Jamie Stern-Weiner: Jeremy Corbyn hasn’t got an ‘antisemitism problem’. His opponents do.

Jamie Stern-Weiner: Fact-checking Newsnight on Labour’s ‘antisemitism problem’

Jewish Socialists' Group: Statement on “Labour’s problem with anti-Semitism”

Ben White: Shifty anti-Semitism wars

John Wight: Antisemitism and the new McCarthyism in our midst

Asa Winstanley: How Israel lobby manufactured UK Labour Party’s anti-Semitism crisis

Please read and share widely. Hopefully, these kind of motivated responses will help motivate others to resist the power-serving distortions being peddled by people like Freedland and the loaded narratives being legitimised by figures like Jones.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Brussels attacks: no live media outside Nato's terror base

Once again, as with the divergently-covered attacks on Paris and Beirut, we've seen starkly contrasting media reaction to the terror events in Brussels and Ankara. Despite comparable levels of death and injury, the killings in European capitals, it seems, are deemed much more deserving of our attention and sympathy.

And as the live feeds from the Place de la Bourse in Brussels continue, the same media narrative plays out: adoption of the Belgian flag, icons of Belgian defiance and other je suis-styled sentiment.

Amid the tributes and reflection, 'security correspondents' like the BBC's Frank Gardner lament the failure of Belgian forces to monitor and purge the terrorist cells. How, they ask, could so much intelligence and street policing lead to the bombing of an airport and metro system?

The term 'security' here has become a byword for state control and 'protection against the other', rather than a universal life value. All part of the primary media meme: 'how do we comprehend and deal with the terrorism now being visited on our cities'.

The relative importance of 'our' cities is also defined by their buildings and institutions. Brussels: nominal capital of Europe, home of the European Commission, Parliament and Council of Ministers, centre of EU commerce and international embassies. Again, we're reminded how close and vulnerable all these key places are to terrorist attack.      

Yet, the presence and role of one crucial Brussels edifice seems to carry no such media interest: Nato HQ. The location of Nato in the middle of a city just bombed by a terror cell might be an obvious media cue for asking more probing, connecting questions about the attacks and how we really understand the issue of terrorism. It might even prompt consideration of Nato's presence there as a terror base, plotting and sending out orders of destruction from this esteemed city.

But the mass murder and mayhem unleashed by Nato on Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere, as well as its expansionist presence in Ukraine and other Baltic states, seems to hold little significance in the great 'how do we stop terrorism' question.

Here, also, is the perfect opportunity to question the whole Nato presence in Turkey, how Erdoğan has used the cover of that US-led club to prosecute regime change in Syria, to facilitate ISIS, and to purge the Kurds, leading, in response, to the terror killings in Ankara and Istanbul.    

And, as part of that same US-Nato war complex, what better time than a presidential race to shine full media light on Hillary Clinton's dark part in the Libyan and Syrian calamities, and responsibility for the terror responses we're now witnessing?

Nothing happens in isolation. Islamic State and its devotees may never see any other aim than jihadist supremacy. But Nato militarism, with its vastly more dangerous claims to global control, only feeds that zeal.        

And so it goes on, round and round, the West and Nato wielding major terrorist violence, the inevitable responses, the shallow media coverage, the facile security analyses, the token visits to Muslim suburbs wondering how young men get radicalised. Just as the cycle of Western-led war and 'blowback' continues, so does the same political and media message revolve in an ever-repeating loop. How do we move on from such omission, denial and spin?    

As the Brussels-based political writer Frank Barat puts it:
To stop this drift towards self-destruction we, as a human race, need to ask the tough questions, and speak truth to power. We, collectively, need to ask ourselves why some young men and women, born and raised in Brussels, with family and friends here, many with jobs and even businesses in the city, turned into terrorists and suicide bombers, very often in a matter of a couple of years. Despite the rage that we are feeling today, we must try to think rationally and try to understand, which is very different from condoning, what led them to commit such terrible and heinous crimes.
This should be priority enquiry for any media serious about informing the public. Yet, for Barat:
If you look at what happened in France and Belgium, if you study all the footage and read all the media reports and analyses, you will realise most of them focus on “security”, “militarisation” “hitting back” and “war”. Only a few are concentrating on what the terrorists said or wrote. Why did they do it? What did they say while doing it? If you read these – not something you’ll find easily with a Google search – you will realise that all the attackers are talking the same language. They were politically educated out of the destruction of Iraq, the invasion of Afghanistan, the drones bombing in Pakistan, Yemen, the torture of Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib and the colonisation and occupation of Palestine. 
It's not that these factors are never aired. How could they be completely ignored? But it's a rudimentary acknowledgement, usually contextualised as 'Western mistakes', 'problems of migration and integration', or the 'failings of the Muslim community to contain jihadism'. 

Take, as a useful example, the live presentation, reports and analyses by Matt Frei, Jonathan Rugman and Paraic O'Brien for Channel 4 News the day after the Brussels attacks. There's multiple questions and discussion about the Belgian intelligence failures, the possible need for greater surveillance, the rise of radical terrorism, interviews with locals outside the killers' apartment in the city's Shaerbeek area where the terror plots were allegedly hatched, the brooding mood in nearby Molenbeek district, the 'migrant crisis', the spectre of fascistic parties across Europe, implications for the EU referendum and other apparently linked issues. All these things are up for earnest assessment by Frei et al. But there's no talk of Nato, or its Brussels location, nothing - beyond token mention of Syria and its fallout - about Nato war policy, or that the actual formation of ISIS came from the catastrophe of Iraq and other Western-led chaos in the Middle East.

Rather than just coverage from the Place de la Bourse, or the grubby flat in Shaerbeek, imagine the impact of live comment and critical interviews outside the home of the Nato war machine, asking rational, penetrating questions about that organisation's part in promoting global terror, and how its violence has come back, full circle, to Brussels.

Unthinkable. Which tells us all we really need to know about the vital presentational role of the media in framing terror attacks and the 'war on terrorism'. How easy, having seen images of the devastation, to condemn a wicked terror cell in Brussels. How much harder, with far less media scrutiny of its murderous, earth-scorching operations, to comprehend and decry what's being planned and directed from inside Nato's Brussels building.

Reporting from locations festooned with flowers and candles keeps us attuned to safe forms of human observance, 'solidarity', and determination to 'resist the terrorists'. But a far greater media service and public empathy could be realised by locating and exposing the state-militarist agencies most deeply responsible for creating the conditions under which such attacks inevitably occur. How many more mass deaths, around the world and in 'our' cities, have to happen before a complicit media start relaying the big, connecting picture?

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

A note on BBC's Orwellian use of 'migrants'

The BBC routinely claims to be an impartial broadcaster, forever reminding us of the need for neutral language in its reports. Yet, consider the routine use and deeply-loaded impact of the word 'migrant', the associated 'migrant crisis', and derivative terms like 'irregular migrants' within BBC new stories.

From the BBC News website:
A note on terminology: The BBC uses the term migrant to refer to all people on the move who have yet to complete the legal process of claiming asylum. This group includes people fleeing war-torn countries such as Syria, who are likely to be granted refugee status, as well as people who are seeking jobs and better lives, who governments are likely to rule are economic migrants.
A note on the Orwellian use of such terminology

The BBC's selective use of the term 'migrant', rather than 'refugee', helps convey a generic process of invasive immigration. In fact, "this group" consists mainly of refugees, most notably, as the BBC's own graph shows, those fleeing the three most war-ravaged states, Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, all of them subject to calamitous invasion, mass-bombing, civil destruction, human dislocation and political destabilisation by the West and its proxies. By labelling refugees 'migrants' seeking jobs and better lives, the BBC helps perpetuate a specious narrative of foreigner opportunism, rather than Western interventionism with all its dire human, economic and geopolitical consequences.

The term 'migrant crisis' extends the false inversion, reinforcing notions of an unsustainable demand on UK/EU resources rather than a humanitarian crisis for refugees, caused largely by the West's invasions, coveting and theft of other peoples' resources.

And when, as dutifully amplified by the BBC, Britain sends naval ships to assist the "Nato mission tackling people smugglers", we see the fullest expression of the blame agenda, in lauding Western action against the new scapegoats 'feeding' the 'migrant crisis', rather than citing all those UK and Nato 'missions' that really underlie it. As, Media Lens parody the presentation: 
Kind, benign @Nato 'wading into help' with the 'migrant' crisis, says @BBCNews.
In similar vein, BBC reporting of the EU deal with Turkey to push back "irregular migrants" contains no critical comment on the joint EU-Nato initiative and political bribery behind it. Only the approving thoughts of European Council President Donald Tusk - "the days of irregular migration to Europe are over" - other EU leaders and Turkish heads are aired. No mention is made, either, of Turkey's key militarist part in creating the 'migrant crisis', or the dark paradox of it now being used to harbour and process these 'irregular migrants' on Nato's and a war-complicit EU's behalf.

This and much other power-serving language studiously adopted by the BBC provides vital cover for multiple Western crimes and the consequent humanitarian crisis we're now seeing. The true scale of such criminality and culpability is matched only by the Orwellian terminology and apologetics helping to hide it.