Thursday, 3 September 2015

Understanding Palestinian rights and the ideology of Zionism - an essential piece from Ilan Pappe

I urge people to set a little time aside to read or/and listen to this brilliant interview with Professor Ilan Pappe:

PappĂ© on apartheid, ideology, Chomsky, and the contradictions of “liberal Zionism”

Free from clumsy jargon, Pappe lays out a penetrating set of comments and explanations on Palestinian rights, the driving ideology of Zionist Israel, the contortions of liberal Zionism, the illusion-peddled 'peace process', the contrived narrative of the 'two state solution', the fit between Israel's racist settler colonialism and wider neoliberalism, the applicability of 'apartheid' to Israel, and the case for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS).

Reflecting many of their current exchanges, Pappe's account is also a vital engagement of Chomsky's formulations - and it's important that it should be read in that spirit of healthy systematic inquiry, of constructive critique rather than criticism

Some examples of Pappe's acute observations:
What lies behind the idea of a two-state solution is: if the Jewish national movement and the Palestinian national movement arrive more or less at the same time to the same place, and were unable to settle the question of to whom the land belongs, and were unable to reconcile, and what was needed was kind of a grown-up in the form of the United States and Britain that would help these two sides to reconcile on the basis of a kind-of American, business-like approach, where you divide the land, you divide the responsibility, and so on. And that is a very wrong way of reading the whole history of Palestine since the arrival of the Zionist movement there in the late nineteenth century until today.  
The two state solution fits so well to the neoliberal paradigm, where you look at Israel and Palestine and you claim that you are using a very sensible measure called partition between two conflicting sides. But you give one side 80% of the land and one side 20% of the land, and you sell it as a fair deal. That is neoliberalism, that is exactly neoliberalism, the idea that economic balance of power determines what equality means. In reality, it is inequality in essence. But again, this new speak of neoliberalism is very, very important.
Overall, a riveting and deeply educational piece for anyone seeking clarification of the core issues and serious positioning on Palestine-Israel.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Guardian and Jones now working hard to 'moderate' Corbyn

As a gloomy Guardian come to accept the 'calamity' of a Corbyn victory, an anguished piece by political correspondent Patrick Wintour provides a useful indication of the next major effort to stifle any Corbyn movement for real change.

Wintour seems, firstly, barely able to believe it has actually 'come to this':   
In a fortnight’s time, if opinion polls and most other available evidence are to be believed, Jeremy Corbyn will be elected leader of the Labour party, placing the most unexpected pressure on the political management skills of a man who has previously run only the planning committee of Haringey council in north London.
We will then have the spectre of Corbyn the 'indulgent amateur' facing the 'real deal' of parliament and the 'wrath' of his party:
Within days of his election on 12 September, he will meet his MPs, only 20 of whom ever truly backed him. Two days later, he will face prime minister’s questions, an event he has watched from the backbenches for the past 32 years. A fortnight later, he faces four days of scrutiny at a traumatised Labour annual conference.
And, following this, the resentful, 'rightful reckoning' of 'Labour's best': 
At some point in this melee, he must appoint a new frontbench that may have lost some of its best talent. He will need to appoint a chief whip who is likely to be told by many Labour MPs that Corbyn is entitled to receive the levels of loyalty he gave previous Labour leaders – none. [Italics added.]
Wintour could have depicted all this as a fresh and exciting new time, a reinvigoration of debate, a first step in sweeping away the old machine politics and elite institutions. 

But this is your dutiful Guardian, always giving 'sensible' lessons on the 'achievable'.

Having apparently failed in its 'stop Corbyn' exercise, the task now for Wintour and the Guardian is containing radical Corbynism. Central to this effort is Owen Jones, lauded by Wintour in his piece as a vital voice of moderation. Mocking 'hard-left' calls for Corbyn to pursue a serious radical agenda, Wintour, instead, hails Jones's more "honest" account of the "challenges" ahead:  
Owen Jones, [Corbyn's] chief media ally, has written an impressively honest piece setting out how hard the challenge facing Corbyn will become. He urges Corbynites to deploy “message discipline”, reach out to the middle income people, the moderates in the Labour party, those opposed to immigration and more broadly to avoid internal confrontations “so that if he is attacked by those determined to undermine his democratically decided leadership they are exposed as the aggressors”. Corbyn should pick his fights with his fellow MPs.
Just as, we must suppose, people like Jones should 'pick their fights' without too much disturbance. The notion of Jones as "chief media ally" here doesn't, of course, include discussion of the Guardian's aggressive assault on Corbyn, or, for Wintour, Jones's own silence over such shameful attacks. But that's just part of the evasive narrative being peddled here. For Jones, as well as the Guardian, it's all about prudent avoidance.     
Another one of the fights Jones is urging Corbyn to avoid is over Britain's membership of Nato:
A Corbyn-led government has to pick its battles, because it already has enough of them. Take NATO: the merits of membership are so far from the mainstream of political debate, it would be pointless and self-defeating to pick a fight over it. Instead, Labour should suggest a more constructive role for Britain within the Alliance.
Yet, in an important counter-analysis, taking wider aim at Jones's moderating voice, John Rees more convincingly insists:
But less NATO is not really possible or acceptable. Neither is ‘less Trident’. Less ‘war on terror’ would be a challenge to the whole centre of British foreign policy. It would be a direct challenge to the British state’s standing in the world, and a breach in the special relationships with the US, Saudi Arabia and Israel. That is why any threat to the ‘UK’s place in the world’ (including unity with Scotland or membership of the EU, as well as NATO membership) will be treated as an existential threat by the ruling class. And this is why Jeremy Corbyn should hold to the ‘No to NATO’, ‘No War’ positions that he has campaigned for over many years. Owen Jones is completely wrong to urge Jeremy to break his long-standing agreement with the anti-war movement on the NATO issue.
In urging that the Corbyn movement hold to a decisive left agenda, Rees also warns of the mass establishment onslaught still to come after September 12:
We have not yet even seen the forces that were deployed to stop Scotland voting Yes in the referendum.
You can be sure of the Guardian being a keen part of any such upsurge. 

In his fine 2011 article The Dangerous Cult of the Guardian Jonathan Cook writes:
The media – at least the supposedly leftwing component of it – should be cheering on this revolution, if not directly enabling it. And yet, mostly they are trying to co-opt, tame or subvert it. Indeed, progressive broadcasters and writers increasingly use their platforms in the mainstream to discredit and ridicule the harbingers of the new age. A good case study is the Guardian, considered the most leftwing newspaper in Britain and rapidly acquiring cult status in the United States, where many readers tend to assume they are getting access through its pages to unvarnished truth and the full range of critical thinking on the left.
Everything Cook says here confirms what a vital role the Guardian and other liberal-left media are playing in suppressing change. We need only look at its place within the 'corporate reality':
The Guardian, like other mainstream media, is heavily invested – both financially and ideologically – in supporting the current global order. It was once able to exclude and now, in the internet age, must vilify those elements of the left whose ideas risk questioning a system of corporate power and control of which the Guardian is a key institution. The paper’s role, like that of its rightwing cousins, is to limit the imaginative horizons of readers. While there is just enough leftwing debate to make readers believe their paper is pluralistic, the kind of radical perspectives needed to question the very foundations on which the system of Western dominance rests is either unavailable or is ridiculed.
This is the real work of the liberal establishment, serving to circumvent, mitigate, evade, moderate, incorporate, pacify and prevent any potential for serious, radical change.

While journalists like Wintour invoke the 'perils' of a collapsed New Labour, Jones forms part of the adopted vanguard on how to manage it, preaching an 'insiderist' message of system-safe observance. 

Cover-to-cover, you will search in vain for any mention of this kind of Guardian-type service to power in Jones's own The Establishment. Indeed, that kind of selectively narrow indictment - as with the current liberal-left denouncing of the right-wing press over Corbyn - serves as the most welcome establishment diversion, a coveted fig-leaf journalism that helps authenticate and protect the whole carefully arranged system of power.

Friday, 28 August 2015

Mark Steel, alas, blocking debate on liberal media and its attack on Corbyn

Alas, I've been blocked on Twitter by Independent writer and comedian Mark Steel. Ah, well, so it goes. 
It's a shame, as I have great respect for Steel as a journalist and artist. It's all the more disappointing given that my questions and observations to him were offered in a spirit of fair engagement, a civil invitation to debate, albeit in the cursory way debate can ever be conducted on Twitter.

But the subject of such debate is no small matter, concerning the appalling performance of the Independent and Guardian, alongside the right-wing press, in their relentless campaign to smear and demolish Jeremy Corbyn.
Here's the exchange, in response to Steel's Independent piece headlined 'Thank God we have the right-wing press to tell us what a disaster Jeremy Corbyn as PM would be':
Mark Steel @mrmarksteel
My column has arrived, I bring news of Labour jollity

John Hilley @johnwhilley
.@mrmarksteel Love your stuff, but why just right-wing press, ignoring Indy/Guardian's dark part in warning us about the #Corbyn 'disaster'?

Mark Steel @mrmarksteel
@johnwhilley AAAAAAAAAAAGH A) I don't write the headlines B) Do you want me to write an article called 'why this paper is shit'?

John Hilley @johnwhilley
.@mrmarksteel Ok, what about a comment on this headline and the message it sends out? And is the Indy's output on #Corbyn beyond criticism? 
A previous observation was also made in a comment to a retweet:              
It says so much that such a sharp writer fails even to intimate the Indy/Guardian's appalling treatment of
It's worth noting here that while Steel may be correct in saying the title wasn't written by him, whoever did write it at the Indy was only reflecting, quite accurately, the actual media - Telegraph and Mail - Steel himself was targeting in his piece. So if he has an issue with the headline, why not say so?   
Media Lens were also blocked by Steel for posting a few similar civil questions and observations, as in: 
Media Lens @medialens @johnwhilley
@mrmarksteel Fine, but what's to stop you mentioning Guardian alongside the Mail and Telegraph? Has Guardian not been awful?
Media Lens @medialens
@mrmarksteel According to Lexis, you have criticised Guardian a total of 3 times, twice in passing, most recently 2001. Almost faultless?
Ironically, as Media Lens tweeted, Steel can resort to blocking commentators while denouncing Labour's purging of those it deems 'unfit' to vote in the leadership contest:
Media Lens @medialens
Irony: Steel lampooning Labour's blocking of applicants. He blocked us this morning for sending a couple of questions
A deep irony, indeed. 
Sometimes we find ourselves in times of real progressive potential. This is one such promising moment. And, as Jonathan Cook suggests in a fine blog comment, the Corbyn phenomenon is "a prospect terrifying our supposedly liberal media." 
We've seen the massive shift in public politicisation during and after the Scottish independence referendum. Now we're seeing a similar exciting surge of movement politics from the Corbyn campaign. In both cases, and many others, a liberal establishment media, notably the Guardian and Independent, have played a vital part in trying to halt or undermine that progress.
And, as Media Lens have helpfully documented, leading writers and observers can have no excuse for claiming not to see the extent of that 'stop Corbyn' campaign. 
Should we sit back and ignore this? Should we pretend it's all just an attack from the right-wing media? Should we turn a blind-eye to those leftist writers at the Indy and Guardian who, while putting out good articles, are still unwilling to address the kind of hatchet journalism and editorialising the liberal establishment media are engaged in? 
Some argue that we shouldn't 'alienate' those on our own side, or that we're 'expecting too much' of such writers, or that we're 'diverting attention' from 'real enemies' like Cameron and the Tories. Yet, should we simply dismiss how such media serve to contain, dilute and moderate debate on meaningful change, keeping us safely dulled on what's 'achievable'? 
Some say such media are relatively unimportant, that more of the public are exposed to and influenced by tabloid-type media. But that's to dismiss the central role of the liberal media in shaping safely-moderated narratives like 'sensible Labourism'. Hence, the gravitas writers like Polly Toynbee and Jonathan Freedland are treated with.
If anything, beyond what many disregard as virulent Sun/Mail-speak, their kind of 'sober' and 'balanced' viewpoints, as with 'respectable' anti-Corbyn Guardian/Indy editorials and news, carries even more influential weight.  
This requires a more critically challenging view of such media, a realisation that this is not a time for using the Guardian, Indy and other liberal places as an 'opportune platform' for defending Corbynism, but as an opportune moment for highlighting the very forces serving to suffocate it and other promising progressive movements.
This is the very terrain of political action. It's not a time or place to placate, appease or make excuses for such liberal-left media. If we want serious progress, there has to be a real effort to expose and transcend the hegemonic power of the whole establishment media, not some faux pretence and mitigation that it's still a 'useful' space within which serious change can be made. 
It's no big deal to be blocked by big names on the ego-driven Twittersphere. But such actions do help illustrate the deep avoidance of this key issue, and the extent to which even highly-admired journalists will go in evading discussion of it. 

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Trashing Corbyn, promoting Brown - Guardian's version of morality politics

Another week, another frontline assault on Jeremy Corbyn from the Guardian. It's a measure of the media establishment's panic that the 'Corbyn crisis' has now overtaken even the 'migrant crisis' (never, of course, a 'crisis for migrants') as the most pressing 'Operation Halt'.

Following Blair, Straw, Campbell and Johnson, David Miliband has now been rolled-in to deliver his stark warning over Corbyn. The Blairite rescue convoy now seems like an M20-type stack waiting in turn to denounce the menacing swarm of illegal entryists and system-threatening Corbynistas.

Alongside runs a relentless line of skewed 'copy' from Rowena Mason and other 'political correspondents'. Just how many smears, one wonders, can be crammed into a piece under that cover role? Mason is, of course, well attuned to such chicanery, having plied her trade for many years at the Telegraph.

Following a shameless piece 'covering' the Jewish Chronicle's attack on Corbyn, Mason continued with another deeply-loaded piece 'reporting' Channel 4 News anchor Cathy Newman's own shabby ambushing of Corbyn over the same scurrilous anti-Semitism claims.

If the Guardian, Channel 4 and the rest of our 'enquiring' media had the remotest integrity they would be headlining and exposing such fabrications. Instead, the slurs are 'reported', repeated and allowed to rest as part of a massively-weighted body of 'news' and opinion, supposedly 'balanced' by Corbyn's denials.

The much-hyped 'intervention' of Gordon Brown is a glaring case in point.

The Guardian wasted no time in getting him front-paged, with those all-important smear lines written-up, alongside, by Mason and her associates.

As with the Scottish independence vote, Brown has been wheeled-out as some kind of 'reluctant sage', intended as a more 'respectable' and persuasive figure than Blair or Campbell.

But, as with the Indy vote, and despite such favoured presentation, there's been a notable backlash against Brown's posturing, his fellow Labour 'saviours', and, increasingly, the Guardian itself for its complicit hosting of them.

In response, Guardian regular Suzanne Moore is now crying foul over 'hostile' Corbynites who are 'abusing' those 'daring' to speak out against Corbyn. Keeping up? 

As Moore bewails:
You should be able to express doubt about Corbyn without risking vitriol.
Note the coy use of words here: while an entire media effort to bombard Corbyn with abusive distortion can be reduced to "doubt", responses to it are to be condemned as "vitriol".

Moore goes on:
I am sure Corbyn genuinely does not want to sink to the level of yelling at his opponents, but the specialist subject of some of his supporters is vile abuse. This may just be the modus operandi of social media now, but it is unedifying to see that the mood music of those who would enact the socialist dream involves, at times, screaming at anyone who harbours any doubt about Corbyn. Express the slightest qualm about his potential leadership and you’re apparently a war-mongering moron who feasts on homeless people. Or, if you are Liz Kendall, basically to the right of Iain Duncan Smith.
At the risk of being labelled part of Moore's 'vitriolic pack', this is the most crass hyperbole, a facile sweep of the issues and debate, implying that alleged abuse from "some" on social media is somehow representative of, or particular to, Corbyn supporters.

More specifically, Moore laments that she:
was disturbed by the vitriol poured out against Gordon Brown this weekend, even while I’m aware of his flaws.
Again, note the passive use of "flaws", few of which are actually probed.  Instead, Moore uses her piece to talk-up Brown's 'respectable intervention', stoutly defending his record in office. Yet, amongst these "flaws", she conveniently fails to mention his central part as Treasurer in funding and supporting the war in Iraq.

Perhaps the passage of time has given Brown space for honest, moral reconsideration? Not so, as made abundantly clear in his own evidence to Chilcot, where he reaffirmed his support for Blair's motivations and conduct. This was nowhere to be seen in Moore's gushing account, not deemed one of his "flaws". A safe Guardian oversight, no doubt.

Moore's version of 'morality politics' here reflects the kind of 'bad apple' line the Guardian's executive editor Jonathan Freedland often adopts when seeking to mitigate Israel's criminality, as in denouncing Netanyahu, but staying soft on co-criminals like Livni.

Likewise, Moore assures us, criticism of people like Blair and Campbell is "entirely understandable", but not applicable to Brown, who, we must assume from Moore's apologetic screed, was one of the 'silent waverers', a 'deep-down dove'.

Yet, as noted in his own unambiguous declaration, that was never the case. And if he ever did have 'quieter misgivings', why didn't he declare them before the slaughter and resign in good conscience?

The Guardian's coverage of Brown tells us much about the pernicious cycle of smear and containment. Firstly, there's the eagerly-hosted attacks from people like Blair and Brown, followed by glowing coverage from 'correspondents' like Mason, leading to Moore's kind of rearguard demonisation of those challenging those smears and the 'reporting' of them.

It's more mounting evidence of how the establishment line is crafted and peddled in 'crisis' situations, and the pressing need, in ever-civil manner, to expose, boycott and exit the Guardian. 

Friday, 14 August 2015

Time to boycott and exit the Guardian

Political and media pundits are often fond of the term 'tipping point'. Well, maybe we've reached a very important one with regard to withdrawal of support for the Guardian. With its intense efforts to prevent Jeremy Corbyn winning the Labour leadership contest taking it to a new gutter level, isn't it time to respond accordingly?

As documented by Media Lens (see here and here), readers have been bombarded for weeks now by leading columnists like Polly Toynbee, Martin Kettle and Andrew Rawnsley, using every kind of loaded appeal and patronising warning to reject Corbyn.

Crucially, that assault been backed up by a cosy circle of 'political correspondents', Patrick Wintour, Rowena MasonNicholas Watt and Andrew Sparrow, assisted, as ever, by the 'fatherly' Michael White, churning out every kind of slanted and negative 'news' angle on Corbyn's campaign.

The 'stop Corbyn' message has also now been openly confirmed by the paper's editorial endorsement of Yvette Cooper. The tortured leader piece starts from a patronising 'recognition' of the Corbyn phenomenon:
Jeremy Corbyn has shot from backbench obscurity to the favourite to become Labour leader, and there is unusual interest in the party’s direction. Many young people, long alienated from politics, have become passionate and engaged.
There's various sniping asides about his 'narrow' worldview:
And as he justifiably rails against the rich-poor divide, he airbrushes away other distinctions – such as the tension between consumers and producers – which can matter just as much.
We get the usual 'sage' warnings about 'sensible reality' over 'indulgent idealism':
The brute lesson of May is that Labour cannot get there without first winning back significant numbers of Tory voters. Mr Corbyn will not do that. Those searching for an election winner must look elsewhere.
There's this kind of finger-wagging on how any new leader must act as a proper bulwark to those internal radical elements:
The new leader must confront the desiccated condition of the Labour establishment: without that, the Corbyn surge would never have happened.
And, finally, ignoring the welcome Corbyn effect of opening-up the whole Labour machine to critical scrutiny, a 'stirring' appeal for someone to bring all these fractured elements together into "one big, progressive tent":
It is a formidably difficult task, but there are very many in Britain who desperately need someone to pull it off. The person best placed to do that is Yvette Cooper.
Wouldn't it be useful to see who actually writes such editorials and Churchillian lines? This appears to have Toynbee's imprint, seeking to re-launch Cooper as the last great hope.

But with Corbyn still striding ahead, the Guardian has resorted to even more desperate measures, allowing leading space for Tony Blair to warn of impending ''annihilation" for Labour. Similar amplification has been given to Blair's chief propagandist Alastair Campbell. Other leading war advocates Jack Straw, Peter Hain and Alan Johnson have also been dutifully indulged by the Guardian. And remember, this blatant favouritism is for people who have committed the darkest of deeds in ordering and still defending the mass slaughter of Iraq.

How typical of its shabby mitigations and consistent calls for 'intervention' that the Guardian now formally supports Cooper, who also voted for the Iraq war. Of all four candidates, only Corbyn opposed it.

Speaking to Jeremy Vine (BBC Radio 2, 13 August 2015), Cooper dismissed the issue of Blair's possible indictment for war crimes with a tired sigh: "Well, I just think you've got to be about the future, not about arguing about the past." Presumably the Guardian share that 'prudent, let's just move on' sentiment.

In that vein, it was no surprise that Blair's intervention got the special front-page treatment (12 August 2015).

But it was the following day's front-page top (13 August 2015) that may go down as one of the paper's darkest ever exercises in tabloid-style smearing (Thanks to Peter, posting at Media Lens, for capturing both images).

A token video/report of Corbyn rejecting Blair's charges - demonstrating the paper's 'fair coverage' - has, to its right, the formal editorial statement endorsing Cooper. Below this, from left, is the header to a truly scandalous 'report' repeating utterly unfounded claims from the Jewish Chronicle that Corbyn has been associating with Holocaust deniers and implying he's anti-semitic. (Note that Jonathan Freedland, the Guardian's executive editor, is a regular columnist for the JC.) Another disgraceful comment article by James Bloodworth appears alongside, alleging similar slurs and fabrications of anti-semitism. And beside this sits a link to Blair's now infamous "annihilation" piece. All together, a kind of surround formation of smears, lies and denunciations.

And so it goes on, the relentless assault joined even by the Guardian's arts correspondent, Jonathan Jones, warning of the Corbyn campaign's dark totalitarian impulses:
Today, the terrifying reality of Marxism in power has been consigned mercifully to the history books, but it has strange echoes. Clearly, Jeremy Corbyn is no Stalin, or Lenin, or Mao Zedong, just a long-serving British MP, but Marxist ideas live again in some spectral form in Corbyn’s runaway campaign...
Many Guardian readers have now, indeed, seen a kind of 'blood red', deeply incensed and appalled by the paper's anti-Corbyn smears, loaded 'news' and tortured editorials. But what of its own leftist writers?

Is it remotely possible that those lauded columnists at the Guardian, Owen Jones, George Monbiot and Seumas Milne, all strongly supporting Corbyn, and proclaiming left politics at large, will now stand up, say enough is enough, and openly condemn the Guardian as an establishment-serving mouthpiece? Might they even go further, dare we ask, and resign their positions? Just imagine the positive effect of that, both for the Corbyn campaign and, more vitally, as a landmark statement of the urgent need for a truly independent media.

And why stop at the Guardian? Why not the Independent, Huffington Post and New Statesman, papers all joined together in the great 'stop-Corbyn' emergency? Imagine a wholesale exodus of these journalists, calling time on their corporate employers. Or are they still willing to sit tight as compromised writers serving that same establishment system?

The counter-arguments are, of course, well known. How are the 'masses' to be reached if not through these well-established papers, and by these well-regarded journalists?  Answer: through an already available or easily-created network of online platforms. It's not rocket science. It just need a collective will, even someone to take a moral lead.

Would Corbyn supporters object to such a stance? Would they and other progressive-minded observers stop reading what such writers were putting up at alternative, easily-accessible places - this time completely unrestrained from criticising their hosts? I think not. It would not only enhance their status as principled journalists, but give impetus to a whole new movement of independent journalism. What better timing than now? What better opportunity to advance progressive politics by exposing the very forces launching everything in its arsenal to contain it?

The case for such a collective exit rests on the fundamental truth that, contrary to the great 'we need to reach people' argument, the really pernicious effect of such participation is to legitimise that very corporate-establishment media, to feed, enlarge and sustain the beast.

And here we see the stark results of that indulgence, in the hue and cry, the 'crisis', over Corbyn. A paper that many have loyally, if mistakenly, regarded as a forum for 'progressive debate' is doing everything possible to raise the fear levels and halt popular demand for real change. Should radical journalists be part of organisations that are actively seeking to check radical progress? Shouldn't they be outed and challenged as key establishment forces?

Like the shock effect of the Yes rising in Scotland - also opposed by the Guardian - Corbyn has helped reaffirm the truth that real political repositioning is entirely possible. The same real optimistic possibilities apply to the media.

If readers and journalists are truly serious about radical transformation of the media they have to begin moving decisively beyond such dependency. There has to be a real boycott-based resistance, a relinquishing of the notion that liberated journalism is untenable, that it can't exist beyond the Guardian 'brand', a breaking of the deep propagandist illusion that organs like the Guardian are the 'only show in town'.

Just as Labour party voters are being urged to support a 'sensible' candidate, so are readers being urged to stay close to the Guardian's 'sensible' counsel. Just as a vote for Corbyn's opponents would mean safe political continuity, so too does sticking with the Guardian keep viewers and journalists in that same safely-moderated zone.

Stay or leave? Take control or remain under control? You can't break an abusive relationship by living in the same house as the abuser, whatever 'permission' they give you to move 'freely' around it. It's a trap. And the great delusion is that 'lodger' journalists really believe they have the freedom to say whatever they like under that 'tenancy'. Isn't it time to break free and find your own independent habitat?

That suggestion will likely be treated with the usual contemptuous silence. But even if any such 'notice to quit' seems unlikely, the whole sordid Guardian exercise in stopping Corbyn, and the accompanying charade of journalistic compliance, should be a model lesson for real reform-minded citizens and upcoming journalists.

Friday, 7 August 2015

Corbyn moment - never a better time to expose the Guardian

As the great 'Corbyn crisis' deepens, the Guardian's vital establishment part in stopping him is coming under increased scrutiny. Alas, it's not coming from the Guardian's 'best'.

Seumas Milne, for example, has written a worthy piece commending Jeremy Corbyn, arguing that, whatever the leadership outcome, his participation has revitalised the terms of political debate and raised the level of hope for real reformist change. Milne also notes that Corbyn faces a "wall of propaganda from almost the entire media".

It surely does. So, why not name the names? Why not add specifically: "including the Guardian"? Indeed, why not raise the bar of real honest journalism and say: "particularly the Guardian"? With so much shameless smearing and alarmist pieces from Britain's 'leading left-liberal' paper, isn't there a special case for its indictment?

Milne does seem to be alluding to his own paper's complicity here in his link to Patrick Wintour's report on a recent study claiming to show little popular support for anti-austerity policies. Yet, while Milne rightly calls it a "tendentious" study, he says nothing about Wintour's one-sided, non-critical reporting of it. Alongside the onslaught against Corbyn from Guardian columnists, the paper's coverage of his campaign and the leadership contest is riddled with these kind of loaded headlines and distorted 'news' articles.  
For Media Lens:
Seumas Milne won't say it, but his own newspaper is just another brick in the 'wall of propaganda' facing Corbyn.
Denouncing much of the "cod psychology" being deployed to stop Corbyn, Owen Jones, a crusading campaigner for Corbyn, also writes:
Some of these commentators huddle together on social media, competing over how snarky and belittling they can be towards those oh-so-childish/unhinged/ridiculous (delete as applicable) Corbynites, unable to understand that rare thing, the birth of a genuinely grassroots political movement.
But, again, where is the direct criticism of the Guardian's own concerted assault on Corbyn and that promising movement? Where's the open challenge to Toynbee, Kettle, Rawnsley, White, Wintour and many others? Where's the open denunciation of its editorial line?

Dismissing these questions as some kind of side-issue, or twisted agenda, some plead that we should 'keep our attention on the real enemy'. Yet, if that most vital arm of power, the media, can't be included in any such definition, what kind of radical politics are we really hoping to pursue?

For Pablo Iglesias of Podemos, the need to name and expose the role of establishment media is crucial. Adopting a useful Gramscian perspective, Iglesias states that "the media is the real terrain of the ideological battle", even specifying "the main regime institutions in Spain which are the El Pais newspaper" and its network. For Iglesias: "If one wants to know what the establishment really wants, you have to read the editorials of the El Pais newspaper, because El Pais took over the whole political centre in Spain", assuming the role of "organic intellectuals" in pushing for new coalitions that would stop the proto-Podemos movement.  

The Guardian, arguably, plays a very similar role in holding together the 'consensual centre' and acting as an ideological bulwark to radical politics. It's network runs deep within safe Labourism. That's also why it opposed the Yes movement in last year's Scottish referendum, and is now trying to halt the Corbyn-led movement for meaningful change. As with Corbyn, the Guardian urged voters last September to 'stay sensible'. It's no great credit either to Jones or Milne that, while commending such movement politics, they both failed to advocate a Yes vote. That was their choice. Yet, neither then or now have they dared address this issue of the Guardian as a protective shield for establishment outcomes.

Not only has the Corbyn campaign been galvanised by the rise of the left-leaning, anti-austerity SNP, much approval for Corbyn is now, to its great credit, coming from Scotland's independence-minded street, supporting that very, imperative task of building a movement rather than a party politics. In contrast, the Guardian is, again, acting as a block on that vital process. 
Befitting his own campaign for a new, healthy and open politics, Corbyn can only but welcome more critical scrutiny of a media that's urged people to support 'sensible' New Labourism, kept readers in step with 'neoliberal reality' and waged such a campaign of hostility towards Corbyn himself. And remember, this is not just the right wing press, it's the Guardian, Independent and others claiming to be serious about progressive change.  

How can such 'champion reformists' be so openly hostile to a politician whose policies are so popular amongst the public? How, many will now be asking, can the Guardian be so negative and scathing towards the Corbyn cause, pitching and apologising, instead, for the clone politics of Burnham, Cooper and Kendall? The  answer is neatly 'claimed' by Craig Murray

I think I am entitled to say I told you so. Many people appear shocked to have discovered the Guardian is so anti-left wing. I have been explaining this in detail for years. It is good to feel vindicated, and even better that the people I have repeatedly shared platforms with, like Jeremy and Mhairi [Black], are suddenly able to have the genuinely popular case they make listened to.
In that new people-speaking voice, in support of this major political mood change, there's no better time than now to raise that critical focus, to challenge the Guardian, and expose its cohort of finger-wagging elites as they try to end this 'summer of madness' and restore 'normality' politics.

Now rattled by the backlash, Chris Elliott, the Guardian's readers' editor, has taken on something of a damage limitation exercise in 'addressing' the complaint of biased output against Corbyn. This is of no serious value in assessing either the extent of anti-Corbyn pieces, the paper's editorial line or what passes for 'impartial news'. The supposedly 'neutral' pieces Elliott identifies can be taken as anything but.

For a devastating critique of the Guardian's relentless attacks on Corbyn, and Elliott's attempted "whitewash", see these two fine pieces from Media Lens:

Fantasy Politics - 'Corbyn's Morons' And The 'Sensible Approach'

Whitewash - the Guardian Readers' Editor Responds On Jeremy Corbyn

One very useful effect of the leadership contest is that, in its emergency rush to stop Corbyn, the Guardian has further exposed itself to a public which has hitherto regarded it favourably. As one notable response, motivated by the Media Lens articles, put it in a letter to Elliott:
The right wing press in this country is awful, but it's honest enough not to disguise its agenda.. What makes the liberal press so repellant is its dishonesty, and its hypocrisy. You claim liberal values, and yet you conduct a vicious campaign against a man who threatens to implement them. On this occasion, I think you've done your newspaper's liberal reputation irreparable damage; it was always a lie, but it's now transparent. People have been decrying the lack of political choice in this country, not least in your own newspaper, for a very long time. To see a supposedly liberal outlet react as viciously as it has done to the emergence of that choice in mainstream politics for the first time since 1979 does nothing to enhance your 'liberal' credentials, such as they are.

Yours sincerely, 
Nigel Levaillant

(Media Lens message board, 7 August 2015.)

A deceitful, establishment-serving organ finally being rumbled? No better time to do it. Whatever comes of Jeremy Corbyn's laudable campaign, a day of reckoning looms for the Guardian.

Monday, 3 August 2015

Freedland's hollow criticism of the 'hawks' - Israel is responsible for baby Ali's death

"Israel’s hawks can't dodge blame for this day of violence".

Relatives carry baby Ali, while his critically
injured family fight for their lives
So runs the headline from Jonathan Freedland's Guardian piece on the latest 'price-tag' arson attack by settlers, which claimed the life of 18-month-old baby Ali Saad Dawabsha, and left his mother, father and their other 4-year-old son with horrific burns. 17-year-old Laith Al-Khaldi was also shot dead by an Israeli sniper as Palestinians demonstrated against the killing. 

Rejecting Israeli leaders' 'denunciations' of the crime against the Dawabsha family, Freedland writes:
The condemnations are striking but still they ring hollow. Binyamin Netanyahu denounced the arson attack by Jewish settlers on the West Bank home of the Dawabsha family, in which Ali Saad, a baby just 18 months old, was burned to death, as an “act of terrorism in every respect”. Netanyahu was joined by Naftali Bennett, the leader of the ultra-nationalist Jewish Home party, which is close to being the political wing of the settlers’ movement. Bennett described the murder as a “horrendous act of terror”. The defence minister, the army, they all condemned this heinous crime. Which is welcome, of course. It’s good that there were no ifs or buts, no attempts to excuse the inexcusable. But still it rings hollow.
On the face of it, this seems like a searing and noble indictment from Freedland. Netanyahu is denounced, as is Bennett and others who have incited settler violence against Palestinians. Their hollow statements are also rightly exposed. 

But consider more closely the core issue of culpability here. If the 'hawks' are to blame, their condemnations rendered hollow, where does this leave the state of Israel itself as a culpable entity? As a state which only produces and harbours such 'hawks'? As a state which, even while 'criticised' by its own allies for failing to accept the illegality of the settlements, had no actual part in these murderous acts? Or as a terrorist, colonial state directly responsible for these and many thousands more killings?

While noting the long, notorious list of such attacks, Freedland also criticises "the culture of impunity that has always protected the settlers":
That charge can be directed at past Israeli governments of the centre-left as well as the hawkish right: while the latter actively sponsored the settlement that followed the 1967 war, the former indulged it. But the right’s guilt runs deeper, which is why its tearful words of regret now sound so false.
All seemingly true of the "hawkish right". But is this not brazenly side-stepping how settlement expansion has been consistently promoted by every Israeli government, including the Labor administration of Yitzhak Rabin, all in keeping with state Zionist doctrine?As Ben White put it in a responsive tweet:
@Freedland thinks Israel's "centre-left" merely "indulged", but not "sponsored", the post-67 settlement of the OPT [Occupied Palestinian Territories] 
Indeed, even Netanyahu's zealous colonization agenda does not easily distinguish him from his "ostensibly dovish predecessors", notes Ali Abunimah:
A recent interactive feature published by The New York Times shows that Israeli settlement construction in the occupied West Bank (excluding occupied Jerusalem) was often far higher under the supposed peace-seeking governments of Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert.
Recounting Bennett's direct involvement in "egging" the settlers on after a court ruling to remove two houses at the Bet El settlement, alongside Netanyahu's own continued anti-Arab racism and disavowal of any Palestinian state, Freedland laments:
There is a pattern here. The hawks of the Israeli right pump ever more air into the ultra-nationalist balloon – only to feign shock when it explodes.
Again, while this is certainly feeding the atmosphere of hatred and terror, what purpose does it serve to highlight the "hawks of the Israeli right"? Freedland may be seen as rightfully denouncing the political zealots who are upholding and pushing Israel's settlements. But what of the state at large? Where's that more fundamental indictment of Israel's founding Zionist impulse: appropriation, occupation and expansion?       

In many ways, Freedland's 'shame the hawks' position is more hollow than the Netanyahu-Bennett denunciations. At least we can see the real reactionary nature of such a mindset, and their part in such heinous acts. But while that can be readily unmasked by any honest critic, Freedland's narrative obfuscates the central issue of blame, pointing the main accusing finger at 'hawk' leaders, rather than Israel as a state, which has as its very raison d’ĂȘtre the continued control of stolen lands through all occupying and murderous means. 

In taking selective aim at the incendiary conduct of the 'hawks', Freedland is helping to promote a smokescreen over who, rather than what, is to blame, offering, in perverse effect, a vital lifeline to the legitimacy of Israel as a 'still moral-if-flawed' state. This line of mitigation runs through Freedland's output.

As a state now viewed with deepening disfavour around the world, including a rising percentage of "Democratic opinion elites" in the US, Israel now relies heavily on this kind of liberal hasbara

It's a sham line that's also been eagerly taken-up by pro-Israel 'peace groups' as they sought to denounce the baby's killing while trying to absolve Israel from any direct blame. Some even had the indecency to issue words condemning the killings accompanied by approvals of Netanyahu's own shameless 'denunciation' of them. Such is the wilful denial not only of Israel as the direct agency of such terrorism, but the refusal to condemn its most senior sponsor. 

The true motives behind that kind of 'concern' for Palestinians and the 'peace process' should be relatively obvious to any reasonable observer. Freedland's account seems much more palatable in its reluctance to stomach Netanyahu and his hypocrisy. But it's no less disingenuous or misleading. It merely helps reinforce the 'unacceptable face of Israel' line he peddles. As stated elsewhere by Freedland:
The point is that if the Israel we love is the Jewish, democratic state established in the Declaration of Independence then we need to fight for it.
In its defence, Freedland sees the threat to that "democratic" state of Israel coming from varying internal forces of the right, as in the settler mood around Hebron. This is: 
a strand of settler extremism that denounces the actual state of Israel, and especially its army, as godless institutions of secular democracy, demanding in their place the creation of a “Judean kingdom”. To them, Netanyahu is a traitor and apostate.
Again, we see Freedland's focus on the 'problem' posed to the Israeli state rather than the problem of the Israeli state.

Freedland's key task here - a significant one as executive editor at the Guardian - is to help frame that problem-addressing/solving discourse on behalf of Israel. It's an advocacy role, serving to assist and protect rather than expose and oppose. And while Freedland's account can accommodate nominal rights for occupied Palestinians and outrage over such killings, its primary purpose is to maintain the 'integrity' and continuity of the Israeli state. 

But that state is founded on illegal appropriation of others' land and their ethnic cleansing, not on the 'founding democratic' premise Freedland would have us believe. The kind of romanticised idealism which even liberal Zionists like Freedland can still hark back to is that of an invented Israel, constructed around what eminent Jewish historian Shlomo Sand brilliantly exposes as mythos notions of "The Land of Israel", a "semantic past" and set of ideological contortions which saw "a theological concept... finally converted and refined into a clearly geonational concept", giving legitimacy to an historic act of territorial theft. (Shlomo Sand, The Invention of the Land of Israel, Verso, 2012, pp 28-29.)  

That's why any real condemnation of settler idealism and its murderous acts cannot evade confronting the primary, historical culprit: Israel. The related idea that 'hawks'  rather than 'doves' have been driving that whole brutal enterprise, including the killing of baby Ali Saad Dawabsha, is as superficial and hollow a distortion as the invented 'Land of Israel'. But it serves a similar purpose in propping-up an expedient fiction.   

Settlers may have killed little Ali. Netanyahu, Bennett and their like may have incentivised the killers. But the primary responsibility rests with the Israeli state itself. Nothing Freedland says here or in any other of his circumventing output addresses that elementary truth.