Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Drool Britannia: complaint to BBC over naked militarist propaganda

I wish to complain about the display of extravagant militarism celebrated in this live feed coverage of the aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth:

New aircraft carrier arrives in home port

This is a level of state media propaganda the BBC typically attributes to North Korea.

1. Please specify how many BBC reporters were allocated to this 'story', and the overall costs incurred to the licence payer. How can this level of resources and live feed reportage be  justified?

2. First Sea Lord Philip Jones Admiral Sir Philip Jones (sic) has been quoted in your report as saying: "Today, a new era of British maritime power is beginning." Is it reasonable to assume that a substantive section of the public do not, in fact, wish to see any 'resurgence' of Britain as a major maritime power, with all the dark imperialist history, and current global aggressions, that involves? In a world of Western, corporate-driven war, and desire for diplomatic alternatives, do you accept that this kind of comment is deeply controversial, offensive and inflammatory to many? Why did you publish this statement without providing any anti-war-voice?

3. The BBC Charter maintains that BBC output must always be impartial and balanced. Please indicate where any opposition to the commissioning of this £3 billion ship, or objection to UK militarism at large, is included in this set of reports. While many struggle to feed their families, is it fair to suggest that considerable numbers of people find this level of expenditure deeply immoral? Where is this public concern reflected in your coverage?

4. Do you consider it moral or proportionate to be giving this fawning level of coverage and support for British militarism while that same UK state is providing massive arms and support to Saudi Arabia for the indiscriminate bombing of civilians in Yemen? Please indicate where the BBC has raised this dark anomaly, or allowed space for any substantive comment on it. The live feed includes glowing pieces detailing 'HMS Queen Elizabeth in numbers' and 'Everything you need to know about HMS Queen Elizabeth'. Have the BBC produced any similar pieces specifying the numbers, scale and consequences of Britain's killing equipment to tyrant regimes?  
I look forward to your considered and detailed response.

Regards
John Hilley

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Rejecting militarism, supporting the radical hoops

Green Brigade seat suspensions, Celtic v Rosenborg. 
On the spectrum between high crimes and petty misdemeanors, UEFA's fining of Celtic, and sanctions imposed by the club on its Green Brigade supporters, is shamefully disproportionate, revealing much about the selective ways in which militarist images are viewed and reported.

Much inflated outrage has been preached by the club's directors, and peddled by an eager media, after the displaying of an "illicit" paramilitary-styled banner at a recent match against Northern Ireland side, Linfield. Other club charges against the GB include the lighting of celebratory flares at a previous match against Hearts.

I have a deep disdain for any kind of militarism, particularly the British establishment variety. From Armed Forces Day to Remembrance Day, we're fed a relentless culture of populist militarism, giving legitimacy to the vast crimes and suffering visited by the British state on others across the globe. So, it follows that I'm no great fan, either, of paramilitarist insignia, which only seems to ape that ugly regimentation.

Yet, behind the pictorial balaclavas and dark glasses lies a deeper context of resistance. Tourists visiting the mural walls of Belfast and Derry will find not only images of men with guns, but a longer story on the peaceful demand for civil rights. And it's sobering to think how the hoods and armalites may never have manifested had the British state granted those basic civil and political rights, rather than sending in its own militarist boots.

While Britain's dark interventions proceed around the world, media condemnation of a crude banner shows just how selectively such images and narratives are treated. From the Daily Record and Daily Mail, to the Scottish Sun - yes, the Hillsborough96-denying Sun - the reaction has been, predictably, shrill.

Contrast that with the almost total media silence over this country's murderous militarism and shameless gun-running, disgracefully evident in its current arming of Saudi Arabia, and complicit part in the mass slaughter of civilians in Yemen, a damning truth studiously evaded by the BBC.

As historian Mark Curtis has charted, Britain is presently involved in at least seven illicit/covert wars. It's now the world's second highest arms supplier. That's serious militarism, all whitewashed as a media-approved culture of state violence.

While pyrotechnics, however creative, are never a smart idea inside a football ground, consider the ready denunciation of that small accident-free event at Celtic Park against the explosive spectacle of British bombs falling from the skies across the Middle East, and, again, the almost total media failure to condemn such terror.

Shock and Awe over Iraq, the misery of Mosul, or the obliteration of hospitals in Yemen may all seem far and detached from what's going on at Celtic Park. But the hullabaloo over this banner provides a useful illustration of just what sort of militarism our media find beyond the pale; how even petty gestures at a football match are subjected to media outrage and collective punishment, while 'our' state and its corporate arms merchants go freely about their real, deathly business.  

The Green Brigade are now pilloried by club, media and UEFA. It's a trinity of gross hypocrisy: a board that installed Iraq war criminal John Reid as a past chairman; a Scottish media tainted by its 'succulent lamb' journalism; and a UEFA elite that can wield sanctions over a banner, yet refuse to take action against Israel over its brutal, apartheid treatment of Palestinian footballers.

Unlike all the above entities, the Green Brigade have stood firmly in support of Palestine. In a brilliant act of public awareness, they raised £176,000 for Palestinian causes, in defiance of a UEFA fine for waving Palestinian flags during a match with Israeli side Hapoel Beer Sheva. Conveniently, the Celtic board, initially inclined to join in condemning the Green Brigade, stood back and enjoyed the worldwide plaudits 'for the club'.

This reflects the board's ongoing dilemma over the Green Brigade: how to dampen their political voice while reaping the financial benefits and fantastic atmosphere they bring to the ground.
In a troubled relationship, the board's decision to suspend nine hundred fans from the GB section looks like another worried shot across their bow. It's unlikely to silence these politically vibrant fans.


As with their support for Palestine, the Green Brigade have been unafraid to take laudable positions over other 'difficult' issues. In 2010, they presented an anti-poppy banner, which declared:

"Your deeds would shame all the devils in hell. Ireland, Iraq, Afghanistan. No blood-stained poppy on our hoops"

To that list may be added, Libya, Syria, Yemen and other lands where Britain has helped shed more blood and unleash further human chaos. Yet, as the Green Brigade found out, dare to highlight and protest such crimes, and expect to be treated as a social deviant.

People who reject the poppy aren't doing so out of disrespect for those fallen in wars, but in rejection of establishment militarism and the sanitising of Britain's warmongering. That's a valid act of political conscience, as was the Green Brigade's statement. But so, too, did Celtic, as a club, partake in a clear political act by choosing to wear the poppy on their shirts. It's all political.

As the Green Brigade assert, you can't leave politics at the turnstile: "Politics is life. Politics has always been part of football and it’s disingenuous to claim otherwise." 

Complementing its anti-sectarian leftism, the Green Brigade's anti-Unionism has also found common cause with the movement for Scottish radical independence - the GB "support a 32-county Irish Socialist Republic and an Independent Scottish Socialist Republic". All of which assumes new political significance following the recent ugly Tory-DUP  alignment.

In similar spirit, the Green Brigade have expressed admirable support for refugees, highlighted anti-racism issues, and organised mass food bank collections for Glasgow's poor. No corporate displays. No corporate logos. Just statements of political solidarity and social empathy. How many other sets of fans are taking those kind of bold and compassionate positions?

While commending the Green Brigade's "amazing" support, manager Brendan Rodgers insists that "the political element is not acceptable" inside Celtic Park, and that "Celtic is a football club, nothing else."

He's mistaken on both counts. It's a social and cultural institution. Those values and identities may have evolved. But Celtic's founding mission to serve the poor of Glasgow's east end, notably its destitute Irish Catholic community, lives on as a progressive narrative within the Celtic fan base.

Such values have certainly been undermined by scandalous board appointees like John Reid and Conservative peer Lord Ian Livingston, who caused a threatened walkout by fans in 2015 after backing Tory austerity cuts. 10,000 supporters signed a petition demanding his removal, a call ignored by the board after Chairman Ian Bankier defended him. In May 2017, Livingston announced that he was stepping down to concentrate on his other corporate duties.

The Green Brigade are resisting a board that's seeking to emasculate Celtic's primary political history, and shroud it in corporate branding. The club's hierarchy insist there's no place for 'irresponsible' imagery inside football grounds. Meanwhile, much more insidious corporate messages abound.

Celtic feature Dafabet on their shirt fronts. That's a direct advert for corporate gambling. What 'exemplary' message does that send out to young fans? While Brendan Rodgers has urged players to beware the pitfalls of gambling, club officials consider Dafabet 'responsible' sponsorship. Did they think for a moment of the families, predominantly poor, torn apart by gambling addiction; the breakups, suicides and despair? Did they reflect on how betting shops are taking over high streets, or how firms like Dafabet are enticing vulnerable people online? From Dafabet shirts to the William Hill Scottish Cup: when did corporate-serving directors and governors ever stop to think about these kind of social messages?

It's all part of the mass corporate invasion of sport. Grounds named after airlines, trophies and leagues prefixed by banks and shark loan companies. Flashing, seizure-inducing advertising now surrounds pitches, distracting from the actual play. It's amazing to think that almost no one even blinks at this naked corporate indoctrination.

And, of course, the same goes for alcohol sponsorship. Ironically, Celtic were also threatened with UEFA censure after substitute players wore kit featuring the Magners alcohol logo. This is the extent of UEFA's concern: the protection of corporate rights, rather than the right of protection from corporate images.

That imposition of corporate ideology is also a political act, again, one the Green Brigade have challenged in their denunciation of anti-union and sweatshop firms like Nike and Coca-Cola.
Whatever elite directors or ruling bodies demand, football grounds and other sporting venues are, indeed, appropriate places for alternative political expression.


In a field of establishment compliance and corporate conformity, it's gratifying to see the Green Brigade's left idealism, political provocations and iconoclastic displays. Other Celtic fans are entitled to their political views. Few among the Green Brigade would claim to speak for all supporters or the club. But the GB should also be free to express their own particular viewpoints, in their own unique style, without censure from a conservative board or the opprobrium of other fans.

In an age of mass social media, radical resistance to dominant propaganda - neoliberal, corporate, militarist - is taking new, and more significant, cultural forms. As a popular platform helping to highlight state villainy, resist corporate hegemony, and stand up for oppressed people, the inventive displays and political voice of the Green Brigade are to be supported.

Friday, 30 June 2017

Radiohead in Israel: why is Thom Yorke so outraged over boycott call?

Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke has now made a public statement rejecting calls from Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) and the wider Palestinian solidarity movement to cancel the band's Tel Aviv concert. Disappointingly, it's a piece riddled with liberal evasions, barbed charges, and unfounded assumptions about those making the case for a boycott.

Here's Yorke's full comments on the issue, as reported at Rolling Stone:
I'll be totally honest with you: this has been extremely upsetting. There's an awful lot of people who don't agree with the BDS movement, including us. I don't agree with the cultural ban at all, along with J.K. Rowling, Noam Chomsky and a long list of others. 
There are people I admire [who have been critical of the concert] like [English film director] Ken Loach, who I would never dream of telling where to work or what to do or think. The kind of dialogue that they want to engage in is one that's black or white. I have a problem with that. It's deeply distressing that they choose to, rather than engage with us personally, throw shit at us in public. It's deeply disrespectful to assume that we're either being misinformed or that we're so retarded we can't make these decisions ourselves. I thought it was patronizing in the extreme. It's offensive and I just can't understand why going to play a rock show or going to lecture at a university [is a problem to them]. 
The university thing is more of a head fuck for me. It's like, really? You can't go talk to other people who want to learn stuff in another country? Really? The one place where you need to be free to express everything you possibly can. You want to tell these people you can't do that? And you think that's gonna help? 
The person who knows most about these things is [Radiohead guitarist] Jonny [Greenwood]. He has both Palestinian and Israeli friends and a wife who's an Arab Jew. All these people to stand there at a distance throwing stuff at us, waving flags, saying, "You don’t know anything about it!" Imagine how offensive that is for Jonny. And imagine how upsetting that it's been to have this out there. Just to assume that we know nothing about this. Just to throw the word "apartheid" around and think that's enough. It's fucking weird. It's such an extraordinary waste of energy. Energy that could be used in a more positive way. 
This is the first time I've said anything about it. Part of me wants to say nothing because anything I say cooks up a fire from embers. But at the same time, if you want me to be honest, yeah, it's really upsetting that artists I respect think we are not capable of making a moral decision ourselves after all these years. They talk down to us and I just find it mind-boggling that they think they have the right to do that. It's extraordinary. All of this creates divisive energy. You're not bringing people together. You're not encouraging dialogue or a sense of understanding. Now if you're talking about trying to make things progress in any society, if you create division, what do you get? You get fucking Theresa May. You get [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu, you get fucking Trump. That's divisive.
Noted musician and leading Palestinian campaigner Roger Waters has responded to Yorke, again as reported at Rolling Stone:
I read Thom Yorke’s interview in Rolling Stone. It needs a reply as it doesn’t tell the whole story. 
On February 12th, hoping to start a dialogue, I sent an email expressing my concern about Radiohead crossing the BDS picket line to perform in Israel. A few hours later, Thom replied. He was angry. He had misinterpreted my attempt to start a conversation as a threat. So I tried again. 
“Hey Thom,I’m sorry. My letter wasn’t meant to be confrontational. I was reaching out to see if we could have the conversation that you talk about in your reply. Can we?Love, R.” 
I didn’t hear back. So silence prevailed for three weeks until March 4th when I sent a long heartfelt entreaty to Thom asking him again to talk. 
In Thom’s interview with Andy Greene of Rolling Stone, in referring to Ken Loach and me, he says, “It’s deeply distressing that they choose to, rather than engage with us personally, throw shit at us in public.” 
That is not true, Thom. I have made every effort to engage with you personally, and would still like to have the conversation. 
“Not to talk is not an option.” 
Today is the 50th anniversary of the occupation of Palestine by Israel. Fifty years living under military occupation. Fifty years for a people with no civil rights. Fifty years of no recourse to the law. Fifty years of apartheid. 
The BDS picket line exists to shine a light on the predicament of the occupied people of Palestine, both in Palestine and those displaced abroad, and to promote equal civil rights for all the people living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea no matter what their nationality, race or religion. All human life is sacred, every child is our child, exceptionalism is always our enemy. There is no Us or Them, only Us. 
Restiamo umani.  
Love,
Roger Waters
The warm and patient tone of that letter from Roger Waters stands in stark contrast to Thom Yorke's hostile lines. Waters also offers a quiet reminder to Yorke of just what Palestinians have endured over 50 years of illegal occupation, and that "the BDS picket line exists to shine a light on [their] predicament". 

Yorke is, of course, entitled to his viewpoint. But why, we might wonder, did he feel the need to respond with such invective-laden charges against BDS and its backers? Why such angry indignation?

Yorke makes a first attempt at moral cover by citing a list of those who oppose any cultural boycott, including JK Rowling and Noam Chomsky. 

While nominally correct regarding Chomsky, it's a disingenuous selection, failing to note Chomsky's more selective and nuanced endorsement of certain boycott tactics, as well as a lifetime's work exposing and resisting Israel's crimes. In that assertive spirit, Chomsky has engaged with leading BDS figure Ilan Pappe over the boycott issue, helping to promote the actual narrative of tactical resistance. 

Strikingly, although a short interview, Yorke doesn't even mention the Palestinians, their treatment, the need to resist Israel's aggressions, or how best to go about it.   

Nor does Yorke care to note JK Rowling's liberal Zionist contortions, or the criticism she faced across Palestinian civil society over her rejection of BDS and endorsement of the pro-Israel grouping Culture for Coexistence.  

Again, it seems, Yorke is seeking safe liberal cover behind major names, and evading the core issue of Palestinian suffering.              

Yorke continues in more injured voice, claiming that it's "deeply disrespectful to assume that we're either being misinformed or that we're so retarded we can't make these decisions ourselves.

Yet, why would Yorke himself make such facile assumptions about the understandings or motives of those campaigners? Does he really believe that bodies like BDS, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Artists For Palestine (including Waters and Loach), alongside groups like Jewish Voice for Peace, Radiohead Fans for Palestine, or anyone else asking them not to play Israel, take Yorke and his band to be so "misinformed" or "retarded" that they're unable to take such decisions for themselves? 

Why resort to such overblown, straw-man language? Why not simply accept that these are legitimate organisations and people making an open appeal based on rational argument, and that Yorke has the same rights and opportunities to oppose that view?  
Yorke also says it's "deeply distressing that they [Loach and others] choose to, rather than engage with us personally, throw shit at us in public." Again, that's a remarkably crass and inaccurate claim, as the context and tenor of the reply from Waters clearly illustrates. 
But there's a more particular problem with Yorke's annoyance here: why shouldn't this discussion be conducted in public, as an open and vital issue? Are we all to remain quiet and restrained about artists', like Radiohead's, part in legitimising Israel's brutal and illegal conduct, because it's too "distressing" for Yorke and his band?
Yorke also seems to think that fellow band member Jonny Greenwood has some kind of special emotional status in this regard. He's "the person who knows most about these things", claims Yorke, apparently because he has Israeli and Arab friends and an Arab Israeli wife: "All these people to stand there at a distance throwing stuff at us, waving flags, saying, "You don’t know anything about it!" Imagine how offensive that is for Jonny."
Again, the inverted assumption about those flag-wavers. Why does Yorke presume to know, and dismiss, campaigners' own comprehension of the issues? More importantly, might Yorke imagine how offensive his own prioritised defence of Jonny Greenwood and his 'superior understanding' is to actual Palestinians facing the daily experience of occupation, siege and constant threat to life in the West Bank and Gaza?    
Nor is the label "apartheid" just simply thrown around by campaigners as some lazy slur. If Yorke and Greenwood really are so well-informed, they will know that the application of 'apartheid state' to Israel has been ably demonstrated through a wealth of academic studies, papers and booksUN findings and rapporteurs' reports. Devoid of any serious counter-argument, Yorke can only say that this is "fucking weird. It's such an extraordinary waste of energy."

The call for an academic boycott is similarly derided and dismissed: "It's like, really? You can't go talk to other people who want to learn stuff in another country? Really?

I have no idea whether Yorke has read the particular guidelines for academic disengagement laid out by bodies like PACBI. But it would, at least, be intellectually reasonable for him to know and reference them, rather than present the call for academic boycott as some random ploy to prevent people wanting "to learn stuff in another country." 

In particular, Yorke's anodyne wish for 'open exchange' includes no recognition of an academic system deeply inter-connected with its occupier state, providing every form of support for Israel's military aggression, weapons development and hi-tech surveillance, continued land seizures, control of water supplies and other key resources, as well as the whole vital field of cultural and ideological production helping to hide and excuse those crimes. 
Pointing these things out is, apparently, antagonistic to Yorke, who finds it "really upsetting that artists I respect think we are not capable of making a moral decision ourselves after all these years. They talk down to us and I just find it mind-boggling that they think they have the right to do that. It's extraordinary. All of this creates divisive energy. You're not bringing people together. You're not encouraging dialogue or a sense of understanding."
Yet, without a trace of self-reflecting irony, here's Yorke effectively shouting down to those who won't any longer accept the relentlessly-peddled 'need for dialogue' and proclaimed 'peace process', as though that entire, exhausted posture hasn't been seen, exposed and dismissed by BDS for the sham that it is. 

"Not to talk is not an option," Yorke says. Again, such assured liberal conformity. While voicing his own lofty disdain for those no longer willing to participate in the deceit, there's not a single word here about how Israel and its backers have used that very 'peace' narrative as a weapon of evasion and expanded occupation for over half a century. That's exactly why BDS have asked Radiohead not to give succour to Brand Israel.  

In an impressive letter to Yorke, a list of Israeli musicians set out the same key points about Israel's branding agenda:
Every international artist who plays in Israel serves as a propaganda tool for the Israeli government. International performances in Israel serve the government’s agenda of whitewashing its war crimes against Palestinians by creating a “business as usual” atmosphere wherein the status-quo, a reality of colonization and military occupation for Palestinians, becomes normalized. Maintaining this atmosphere relies heavily on creating a facade of Israel as a hip, advanced, progressive state with a vibrant and diverse cultural scene. In 2005 the Israeli foreign ministry decided to invest in a public relations strategy to “re-brand Israel,” diverting attention away from Israeli crimes by highlighting Israeli cultural and scientific achievements. Needless to say, the government which just celebrated 50 years of brutal military rule over the occupied Palestinian West Bank and Gaza Strip should not be assisted, even unintentionally. The government which legislated to suppress even the commemoration of the displacement of the majority indigenous Palestinian population in 1948 should not be given the chance to claim that artists and musicians are endorsing its policies. This effect of a performance in Israel can not be undone even with the best intentions. Any statement that you might wish to make on stage would be overshadowed by the fact that you would be crossing an international picket line established by the vast majority of civil society organizations in Palestine. On the other hand, if you decided not to play, it would send a strong message to the Israeli government that their racist policies and grave violations of Palestinian human rights will not be normalized. It would also send a message to the people of Palestine that you’re with them in their struggle in a very real way.
Their letter concludes, like so many others to Yorke, with an open invitation: 
Please reconsider violating the Palestinian call for boycott. We remain at the ready to talk to you about any questions or concerns that you may have, and continue to welcome a conversation with you.
Again, note the studious argument behind that appeal, none of it intended to intimidate. It's a laudable message of solidarity, serving to connect communities in pursuit of just resolutions.

Yet, for Thom Yorke, the boycotting of Israel, an occupier, apartheid state, is, apparently, "divisive", resulting in the emergence of people like Netanyahu. That's quite an inversion of cause and effect. By such logic, not only are BDS culpable, but a mass of Palestinians who support the boycott are responsible for creating their own oppressors. 

If you create division, Yorke says, you get the likes of May and Trump. Once more, the recourse to liberal angst, rather than willingness to address the structural forces underpinning such villains. How easy to slate Netanyahu, May and Trump - what of Obama? - without identifying the very systems of power - neoliberalism, militarism, Zionism - that build and thrive on social division. How easy to wish for peace and dialogue. How noble to want an end to Palestinian suffering without doing anything seriously proactive to bring it about. 

The purpose of BDS is not about creating social division. It's about bringing people together in broad, tactical and effective opposition to the unbending, repressive power and divisive infrastructure of the Israeli state: its illegal wall, inhuman checkpoints and colonialist settlements; its ruthless imprisonment and disconnection of Gaza from the outside world; its apartheid divisions inside Israel and ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.
I have no idea whether or not Yorke and his band are able to see the merits of that case. But they should, at least, resist caricaturing those making it as "weird" and "patronising". Yorke's vociferous indignation looks a lot more like feigned liberal deflection of the actual issues.

It seems unlikely that Radiohead will change their minds now about performing in Israel. That's their decision, their moral choice. But Yorke should refrain from slandering a BDS movement with serious, rational and well-supported ideas about how to advance human rights and justice for Palestinians. 

There's been no 'talking-down' or 'telling' Thom Yorke and Radiohead what to do, only fair and reasoned requests for them not to cross this picket line and partake in Israel's whitewash. Accept or reject those arguments, but don't run for cover behind faux outrage.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Scotland and the potential of a Corbyn-led progressive alliance

No predictions. One can only hope now for a Corbyn victory and the pleasure of May's removal. But either an outright win or a close outcome presents us with the exciting potential of a Corbyn-led progressive alliance.
 
Corbyn's manifesto is no radical socialist blueprint. But it's still a major statement of progressive intent, breaking decisively with Blairism and steering us away from the harshest excesses of neoliberal orthodoxy. A Corbyn victory would be the greatest rebuke to establishment politics since 1945.


As an alarmed elite and poisoned media make their last efforts to stop Corbyn and deny his mass appeal, his popularity and resilience demonstrates the multiple possibilities of a new united politics.

In seeing-off the most brutal media-led assault ever unleashed on a left-Labour leadership - including the BBC's relentless smears and protection of May - the surge for Corbyn represents a landmark achievement in itself.

Even if the final numbers take us into hung parliament territory, it opens the way for a practical progressive alignment, a whole new dynamic for leftist change, driven by Corbyn, the SNP, Plaid and the Greens.

This requires a decisive rejection of Labour in Scotland. Kezia Dugdale's Scottish Labour remains a lamentable impediment both to Corbyn and any such progressive development.

Perversely, in the very place that should have the most left-leaning, Corbyn-approving voice, Labour's garrison is still stuck in its old establishment ways, hunched down in its Union-defending bunker, unable either to advance Corbyn's major leftist agenda or engage the new independence politics.

Part of the failed coup forces, Dugdale and her associates are no friend of Corbyn. No amount of squirming overtures to her leader can disguise that dislocation. Even the undeserved Corbyn boost Scottish Labour is likely to receive doesn't rectify the fundamental problem of a party needing completely taken down and rebuilt as a serious leftist force.

Corbyn's rise has presented something of an existential political problem for many leftists in Scotland still desiring radical independence. Yet while wishing for a Corbyn victory in England and Wales, any temptation towards Scottish Labour only entrenches the very problems noted.

The SNP still has a considerable journey to make towards being a radical force for change. It can be seen as an encouraging work in progress, for many in the wider indy movement a means to an end. 

Yet, for all its flaws, left-leaning minds should still view a vote for the SNP here as both vital in building progressive alliances and holding the line for independence.  A significant bloc of SNP MPs not only helps maintain the independence mandate, it also provides an incentivising effect on Corbyn.

This is no more apparent than the key issue of Trident, opposed outright by the SNP, yet still maintained by deeper Labour forces against Corbyn's wishes. In this and vital other policy-forming areas, the leverage of SNP and Greens on Corbyn can only be of mutual, progressive advantage.

Also, while May still appears resolute in denying Holyrood's recently-secured mandate for a second independence referendum, any SNP dealings with Corbyn, whether he's in power or substantially well placed at Westminster, might prove more fertile. Again, that requires a substantive SNP representation. 

So many intriguing possibilities, so much to play for. Whatever the outcome, we can take great heart from Jeremy Corbyn's leadership and his inspiring part in opening-up these new progressive spaces.    

Monday, 5 June 2017

Corbyn soars high above weathervane Guardian

It's been a pleasure to watch Jeremy Corbyn surge on a wave of rational argument and populist appeal. Whatever happens now, Corbyn has won his party and seen off any further Blairite plots. It's been inspiring to track this astonishing comeback, against everything the establishment could muster, most notably the brutal media onslaught.

In particular, it's been heartening to observe the squirming awkwardness of Corbyn's left-liberal naysayers at the Guardian, following its damning editorials, loaded reportage and columnists of calumny - Jonathan Freedland, Andrew Rawnsley, Owen JonesGeorge Monbiot and others - all now desperately back-tracking. 

As Jonathan Cook writes:
Those journalists who should have been behind Corbyn from the start – who could have been among his few allies as he battled the corporate media for nearly two years as Labour leader – are now starting to eat humble pie. Polls suggest that Corbyn may be gradually turning the election around, to the point where the latest poll, published in the Times, indicates that Britain could be heading for a hung parliament. No one is surprised that the Daily Mail, Telegraph and Times have been relentless in their hatchet jobs on Corbyn. But it has been disconcerting for the left that the Guardian and BBC never gave him a chance either. He was in their gun-sights from day one. Owen Jones, a Labour stalwart and Guardian columnist, should have been Corbyn’s number one ally in the press. And yet he used the invaluable space in his columns not to challenge the media misrepresentations, but to reinforce them. He engaged in endless and morose navel-gazing, contemplating a Labour rout.
After so many visceral Guardian attacks on Corbyn, one might have expected, at least, some kind of humble contrition. Nothing. Despite writing Corbyn's 'obituary', there's been no mea culpa from Freedland or his smug coterie. Someone at the Guardian even thought it necessary to edit the headline in Freedland's 'supportive' article from "extraordinary fightback" to just "fightback". 

The seething resentment of Corbyn permeates such crawling 'approvals' as they scramble to be seen as 'on-side'.

(h/t Ludwig W)
From John Harris to John Crace, the rush of Guardian liberals now affecting praise for Corbyn is almost too embarrassing to read.

Another, Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett - revealing much about subtle Guardian bullying of young reporters - has now declared: "I used to be a shy Corbynite, but I'm over that now."

Disappointingly, when congratulated, yet chided, by Jonathan Cook over her belated 'coming out' for Corbyn, Cosslett could only reduce to: "interesting this man waited for a woman to write something before launching a patronising tirade". Cook replied: "Oh dear! Better read my blog before commenting. Otherwise your special pleading looks very silly. (Try asking Freedland, Monbiot, Jones)." Media Lens, also citing Cook's many previous attacks on Freedland, Jones and Monbiot, asked: "Worst ever attempt to resort to 'sexist male' take?"

The real intention of Cook's comment, as emphasised in his updated piece, was not to target Cosslett, but to highlight the pernicious culture of intimidation at the Guardian, and show how the actual publishing of Cosslett's piece is yet another example of the paper in all-out damage limitation mode.

Now, days before the election, a Guardian editorial has come out with the most grudging, 'endorsement' of Corbyn. Still damned with faint praise, Corbyn is presented as some kind of 'surprisingly improved schoolboy' who, despite not coming up to the Guardian's lofty 'standards', could just, after all, have some 'redeeming grades' for use in seeing-off the Tories.

With Corbyn's poll numbers surging, here was the most cynical and sanctimonious attempt to 're-identify' with Labour's core, and 'walk-back' some of its recent hatchet-job editorial

Whatever the outcome on Thursday, we can be pretty sure the Guardian cabal will be using the same weathervane commentary to keep readers abreast of 'Corbyn's progress'. Pleasingly, many are now deserting its fair-weather pages, having seen through its shrill, pettifogging and hypocritical output.

Corbyn's electoral advancement against everything the Guardian's 'best' warned us about shows just what a crucial impediment the liberal establishment media is to real political progress. 

And its humiliation can give impetus to wider radical aspirations. For example, in conveying the case for a more radical independence politics, Robin McAlpine at Common Space sees great merit in Corbyn's assertive approach, and the need to resist the Guardian's doom-laden mantras: 
I've been following the Guardian's coverage of Corbyn with gritted teeth – the swaggering certainty of most Guardian analysts (many former cheerleaders for Blair) that Corbyn is self-evidently bottled, distilled failure was utterly endemic.
In halting the Blairites and taking his party to this vital point, Corbyn has not only demonstrated the deep potential for a renewed politics, but that it's possible to build such a project without the help and approval of an entirely hostile and system-serving media. That's a massive achievement and message of encouragement to all now seeking real progressive change.            

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Manchester bombing: media fail to probe intelligence-jihadi collusion under May's watch

Amid reports of multiple arrests and the 'immense progress' made by police and the security services in 'rounding-up' the alleged terror network behind the Manchester bombing, a vital piece of the story has been wilfully ignored by the BBC and other leading media.

A key investigation by the reputable Middle East Eye has uncovered damning evidence that British intelligence agencies actively approved and assisted the travel movements of known jihadist individuals between the UK and Libya. In particular, it provides critical insight on the covert dealings between MI5/MI6 and the proscribed Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG).

According to MEE:
The British government operated an "open door" policy that allowed Libyan exiles and British-Libyan citizens to join the 2011 uprising that toppled Muammar Gaddafi even though some had been subject to counter-terrorism control orders, Middle East Eye can reveal. Several former rebel fighters now back in the UK told MEE that they had been able to travel to Libya with "no questions asked" as authorities continued to investigate the background of a British-Libyan suicide bomber who killed 22 people in Monday's attack in Manchester.
The investigation relates how, for LIFG-linked individuals, it was "no questions asked", with travel "sorted" by MI5:
One British citizen with a Libyan background who was placed on a control order – effectively house arrest – because of fears that he would join militant groups in Iraq said he was "shocked" that he was able to travel to Libya in 2011 shortly after his control order was lifted "I was allowed to go, no questions asked," said the source, who wished to remain anonymous. He said he had met several other British-Libyans in London who also had control orders lifted in 2011 as the war against Gaddafi intensified, with the UK, France and the US carrying out air strikes and deploying special forces soldiers in support of the rebels. "They didn't have passports, they were looking for fakes or a way to smuggle themselves across," said the source. But within days of their control orders being lifted, British authorities returned their passports, he said.
British intelligence officers were, in effect, acting as 'travel agents' for known jihadists. 

David Pratt at the Sunday Herald, citing the MEE investigation, offers supportive background:  
Abedi’s parents fled Libya as opponents of Colonel Gaddafi’s regime, the British government only too happy to give them refuge in 'Little Libya' as Manchester became dubbed. Along with Birmingham and London, Manchester became a hub of Libyan opposition politics. It was from these cities that many would return home to fight against Gaddafi as part of a broad opposition, among them Salman Abedi’s father. In some cases though these anti-Gaddafi forces were closely linked to Islamist groups like the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG). This Islamist connection is crucial, not least because it has now become clear that the British government operated an “open door” policy that allowed Libyan exiles and British-Libyan citizens to join the 2011 uprising that overthrew Gaddafi, even though some had been subject to counter-terrorism control orders. Unpalatable as it might be to consider let alone accept, last week’s Manchester attack is, in part, of Britain’s own making – insofar as the UK government willingly embraced a policy that exacerbated instability and a subsequent power vacuum in Libya that allowed jihadist terror to gain traction. Several foreign fighters now back in the UK and interviewed by the respected online news website Middle East Eye (MEE) confirmed that they had been able to travel to Libya during that time with “no questions asked”.
Alastair Sloan at Al-Jazeera provides another sharp piece on Abedi, the Libyan-Manchester connection and UK duplicity. Writing his column at the Mail, Peter Oborne offers further acknowledgement of the MEE research, valuable insights on the hierarchical culture of MI6, and damning comment on UK collusion.

But where is all this crucial information and analysis from the BBC, ITN and other 'mainstream' outlets? Lamentably, there's been no wider flagging of the MEE story and its vital implications.

These revelations should be leading news, calling into question both the dark conduct of the security agencies and the very competence of Theresa May and her government. A real media would have this on the front pages every day. Indeed, proper reporting of this story should be enough to bring Theresa May down.

Instead, it's all about her 'strong response' to the bombing, depicted for the public by shots of taped-off streets and armed police standing outside smashed doors. 'Breaking news' headlines announce that 'suspects' continue to be arrested - the subsequent release of most more quietly noted. Nominal questions are raised about why Salman Abedi wasn't subject to closer surveillance, all dutifully assumed by 'security correspondents' as a 'procedural failure' to cope with the growing volume of people now on the intelligence radar

Yet, given the security services' long-standing relations with LIFG, is it credible that Abedi and connected others simply 'slipped through the net'? As intelligence chiefs instruct an 'internal inquiry' into such 'failings', how readily the BBC accepts the proposition of MI5 'investigating' itself. How 'laughable' to see the 'all-probing' Guardian report it likewise.    

Media speculation over Abedi's possible motives includes only abbreviated suggestions of 'blowback', the link to UK foreign/war policy framed mainly as an election issue around whether Jeremy Corbyn's proposed security agenda can really be trusted against May's more 'proven record' and 'stronger commitment' to fighting terror. 

While the BBC's Andrew Neil conducted a virulent smear job on Corbyn, spending almost half their interview on spurious 'evidence' of his 'IRA associations', May has been spared any such interrogation by the BBC over her actual part in protecting Libyan-connected terrorists.  

We also hear the usual calls for 'greater Muslim vigilance', and 'need to identify' those elements feeding radicalisation, all coated in supportive liberal messages to the wider Muslim community.  Yet, much more carefully avoided is the possibility of deeper state collusion with those very jihadist individuals and groupings, the issue here again pitched around the 'need for greater sharing of information' and 'lessons to be learned' by MI5.  

Beyond all this token 'analysis' and establishment 'self-inspection', real pressing questions should be exercising serious journalists:

What is the precise connection between the UK security forces, MI5/MI6, and the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group based in Manchester and other parts of the UK?

Why, as detailed by the MEE report, was there an 'open-door' arrangement in place for the easy movement of Salman Abedi and other jihadists between the UK and Libya?

Why wasn't Abedi detained, or more closely monitored, by the security agencies despite mosque authorities and others reporting concerns over his conduct?

Why didn't the UK act upon recent US intel warnings about Abedi?

Why were Theresa May, Home Secretary Amber Rudd and the UK intelligence services so aggrieved at the US leaking of Abedi's name and details?

Why aren't the BBC and other 'mainstream' media headlining the MEE story as central context to the Manchester bombing?

Why aren't the media pointing a damning finger at Theresa May, who must have known about this arrangement, not just on becoming PM, but, even more crucially, under her watch as Home Secretary between 2010 and 2016?

How was the UK's regime change decision to oust Gaddafi conveyed by the Home Office to the security agencies, the green light given to assist LIFG and the instruction made to lift control orders on known jihadists?

Where is the investigation of David Cameron's own role in this affair and his bombing of Libya in 2011?

While a few decent efforts to address these questions have been made, most major media either avoid, or merely hint at, the dark extent of UK malfeasance. All told, the negating of this story is a striking example of compliant, boundaried journalism, understanding the limitations of critical enquiry, and the safe, 'dignified' tone to be observed. Much is still to be learned about the actual motives and movements of Abedi and his assumed network. But the absence of serious media coverage and investigation only serves to hide deep state subterfuge and protect those war-promoting politicians responsible for intensifying the terror environment.