Friday, 25 January 2013

Media Lens 'unspeak' Poole's criticisms of Orwell

And the 'Orwell-Fromm-Schmidt prize' for exposing weak examples and false inversions of Orwellian newspeak by corporate professional journalists and other purveyors of linguistic Guardian liberalism...goes to:

David Edwards of Media Lens.

Stephen Poole is, assuredly, a proficient writer, his essay on Orwell sure to impress and provoke. And that's the key power of liberal output, in serving to define the critically safe boundaries of language and what we may reasonably consider 'unspeak'.

The power of Edwards's critique lies not only in defending Orwell's name but in pointing out the core limitations of Poole's own 'radical' language.

Edwards writes:
Orwell and Fromm understood that broader political and ethical concerns were being eliminated from awareness by state-corporate forces persuading people to view themselves as producers and consumers rather than as responsible human beings. More recently, American physicist Jeff Schmidt, who edited Physics Today magazine for 19 years, describes how media professionals are trained in exactly this way to internalise the understanding that they should not ‘question the politics built into their work’ [...] Ironically, Poole’s review of Orwell is itself a textbook example of the kind of alienated response described by Orwell, Fromm and Schmidt
Orwell, a true crusading writer, would surely have approved of Edward's own human undercutting of liberal journalism and the corporate professional at large. It's the real kind of unspeak that Guardian writers like Poole find hardest to face.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Harry's home: BBC welcome back 'Xbox killer'

The BBC's solid-service to Harry Wales and his country's crimes goes reliably on.

Here's Peter Hunt, reporting from RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, BBC News at Ten (23 Jan 2013 - thanks to Media Lens for noting):
An RAF plane with a royal on board returning via Cyprus from an Afghan desert to a wintry airbase. Its occupants have left behind a front line where Harry felt he was “one of the guys”, able to forget his destiny. Not any more. Disembarking, the soldier-prince was in reflective mood about his life:

“You know, there’s nothing normal about what we’ve been doing for the last four and a half months. There’s nothing normal about what’s going on out there. In the last day that I was there a seven-year-old girl got shot down by an insurgent. So, you know, normality is a very, very ambiguous thing, if you know what I mean.”
We must assume that the absence of "normality" for Prince Harry refers to the said 'insurgency' rather than the 'abnormality' of military invasion. Is it 'normal' for Afghan children to be shot down by Apache helicopters and Nato drones? Or, perhaps, this really is the tired 'normality' of a country once again occupied and bombed by foreign forces.

Any chance of Hunt deconstructing either that or Harry's own notion of "normality" is, as is normal for the BBC, unambiguously absent.

Hunt's grovelling piece then reminds us, in case we need reminding, just what the returning prince's task 'really' entailed:
For 20 weeks in Afghanistan as Captain Wales he served his country and his grandmother; not on the ground, but 2,000 feet up as an Apache helicopter co-pilot and gunner. His job was to protect troops down below, and when necessary to kill Taliban fighters.
Yes, just as Hunt's job is to serve his country and Auntie BBC; not on the ground witnessing UK/Nato's daily assaults, but three-and-a-half thousand miles back in Brize Norton as a royal-welcoming propagandist.

His job is to protect the establishment warmongers up above, and when necessary to provide cover for embarrassing royals who boast of killing Afghans.

But, never fear, Hunt is also ready to report the 'adverse side' of Harry's remarks:
His talk of taking people “out of the game who did bad stuff to our guys” has angered some. 
And that's it. Three token words. The noting of that anger doesn't seem to merit an actual example of it or invitation to any anti-war comment.

Hunt goes on to cite Captain Wales's 'simple' understanding of his job:
“You know, you get asked to do things in… you get asked to do things you’d expect to do wearing this uniform and that’s as simple as that really.”
Again, no probing thought from Hunt on those 'simple things', like the murdering of other human beings he's been asked, or ordered, to carry out.

Reflecting on his own job description, Hunt might, likewise, be saying: 'You know, you get trusted to do things you'd expect to do wearing this BBC title and it's as servile as that, really.'

Hunt's piece dutifully concludes:
For now Prince Harry will continue to juggle what he calls the “three mes” – being in the army, a senior royal and someone who, in his own words, “works hard and plays hard”.
Was there ever a more trite saying, or trite repetition of it?

The 'Taliban-slaying' prince has also reportedly said that his love of video games makes him an ideally-suited gunner, claiming that his job was:
"a joy … because I'm one of those people who loves playing PlayStation and Xbox, so with my thumbs I like to think I'm probably quite useful."
Presumably, as with the BBC's regular indulgence of Apache and other military 'toyware', Hunt must have given a prudent thumbs down to reporting or challenging this crass comment.

So, it's welcome back Captain Wales as he boasts: "I've killed Taliban fighters." And it's duty done, Peter Hunt, as the BBC fires-off yet another round of royal-militarist propaganda.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Obama's inaugural posture can't disguise King's true indictment

In 1967, Martin Luther King gave a speech in which he called the US government:
"the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today".
If King himself were alive today, he would surely be declaring the same powerful indictment. And more.

As Barack Obama invoked the spirit of King in his second inaugural address, we heard the stark hypocrisy of a president who oversees and continues that legacy of violent militarism across the globe.

King's 1967 speech and Obama's appropriation of his memory is highlighted by Glenn Greenwald in this excellent article:
MLK's vehement condemnations of US militarism are more relevant than ever
Unlike Obama's media-adulated text, read it and be illuminated.

As noted by Greenwald, it's not hard to see why King's bold and prophetic condemnation of American militarism has been so conveniently ignored, or why by this point, precisely a year before his killing, he was considered so radically dangerous by the US establishment.

Nor should we be surprised, even if we're disgusted, by the US military's latest attempt to usurp his memory in the name of their ongoing crimes.

Greenwald again on that ugly violation of King:
US military says Martin Luther King would be proud of its weapons
Unlike Obama's latest lofty pontifications from Washington, King's speech tells us all we need to know, even all these years on, about the curse of US militarism and the crass ideology fronting its violence. 

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Dutiful BBC holds its fire on Harry Wales

Here's what passes for a 'balanced' BBC headline' and 'challenging interview' when it comes to royal-gazing and British killing in Afghanistan:

Prince Harry in Afghanistan: I fired at enemy
"The prince, whose four-month deployment to the country has just ended, spoke about his role as an Apache co-pilot gunner, and whether he had killed.
"Yeah, so lots of people have. The squadron's been out here. Everyone's fired a certain amount," he said. "If there's people trying to do bad stuff to our guys, then we'll take them out of the game."
Prince Harry left Afghanistan on Monday. News teams were allowed to interview him during his deployment, if they agreed to delay broadcast until he had left the country."
As is cringingly evident here, the BBC need little guiding on establishment protocols or what's expected of their 'probing reporters'.

Another key section of the piece reads:
"On his role in Afghanistan, one journalist said: "You are the man with the trigger in your hand, and if called upon, you will fire, and presumably you have and you will kill the enemy?"

The prince responded: "Yeah, so lots of people have. The squadron's been out here. Everyone's fired a certain amount. Probably a little bit more than this time last year, to a certain extent, but that's just the way that its balanced out. Mainly due to weather, well whatever the reasons, I don't know.""
Amid such ramblings, Harry Wales also declares:
"We fire when we have to, take a life to save a life".
We can safely assume the deeply facile, pernicious and misguided views of a young man long indoctrinated by his royal-militarist upbringing and faux belief in imperialist humanity.

But is there one iota of critical integrity that would cause a BBC journalist to question and examine these crude, inhuman assertions? As in: how do you determine which life is the more important? What of suffering Afghans? Do you really understand what you're doing in another people's country?

Elementary questions, really, for anyone interested in the main issues of mass killing, foreign occupation and the pain of warfare rather than the cute fiction of Harry getting treated like an ordinary soldiering bloke.

But this is the BBC. And images must be maintained, questions dutifully controlled, the occupied safely ignored. The reporting rationale could almost be: 'We fawn because we have to, praise a life to erase a life.'

And, of course, not one single counter-balancing opinion here - say, from the anti-war movement - on the war-proud prince's ''take them out" killings or his country's dark part in this disastrous war.

In the adjoining 'Analysis' box, Peter Hunt, BBC royal correspondent, concludes:
"At 28, Harry is determined to be an army officer; a royal; and someone who works hard and plays hard."
Embarrassingly, they call themselves 'journalists'.

Algeria, Mali - media amplify Cameron's war drums

Amid news of the tragic hostage deaths in Algeria, our streamline media have almost nothing to say about the complex context of the attack, resolving, instead, to simply echo David Cameron's shrill war rhetoric.

Ever on cue, the BBC dutifully amplified Cameron's warnings of a necessary escalation and protracted "war on terror" across North Africa.   But here also was the 'liberal' Independent in similar stenographer mode:
Mr Cameron spelt out the scale of the challenge posed by al-Qa'ida-affiliated groups operating in the region. "It will require a response that is about years, even decades, rather than months," he said. "And it requires a response that is painstaking, that is tough but also intelligent, but above all has an absolutely iron resolve. And that is what we will deliver over these coming years.

"What we face is an extremist, Islamist, al-Qa'ida-linked terrorist group. Just as we had to deal with that in Pakistan and in Afghanistan, so the world needs to come together to deal with this threat in North Africa... We need to work with others to defeat the terrorists and to close down the ungoverned spaces where they thrive with all the means that we have."

The Government has not ruled out giving extra help to the French-led operation in Mali.
Even for 'informed' outlets like the Independent, what France is really doing in Mali is left largely unaddressed, as though French F-16s and 2000-plus heavily-weaponed troops entering another sovereign state to protect its own geopolitical and economic interests - notably, oil and gas - has litttle or no bearing on what's just happened in Algeria.

And with French motives accepted as benign, any UK-based 'support' is similarly endorsed without serious question.

As SOAS academic Jeremy Keenan explains, the formation of Islamic fighting rebels in Mali can be traced to their effective creation by the powerful Algerian state intelligence and security agency, the DRS, which, in turn, has been colluding with Western intelligence agencies. In essence, the Algerian state spawned the very al-Qaeda-styled rebel group Ansar al-Dine that France and the West are seeking to counter in northern Mali.

Keenan also confirms that the jihadist attack on the Algerian gas plant can be read as Islamic fighters  from Mali paying retribution for Algerian betrayal in permitting French use of its airspace to launch their intervention.

While pitching expediently with the West in pursuit of al-Qaeda, "Algeria had long warned against military intervention against the rebels, fearing the violence could spill over [their] border."

The inevitable outcome: blowback, retribution and deepening destabilisation across the region.

As Glenn Greenwald reminds us, the crisis in Mali can also be directly linked to the disastrous fallout from Nato's destruction of Libya which saw the return to Mali of a more weaponised Tuareg tribal resistance in alignment with those Islamic forces.

Alongside other US/Western meddling in Mali/Algeria and false-flag destabilisations detailed by Keenan, this set of foreign manoeuvrings and jihadi/tribal resistance led to the overthrow of Mali's corrupt government, giving a convenient green light to France's 'supportive' invasion.

Altogether, a much more complex picture than Cameron's simplified claim of the 'expanding jihadist threat' headlined by a compliant media.

Jihadist Islamism, however reprehensible, proliferates largely because of rampant poverty, Western-assisted corruption and the West's ongoing appropriation of the region's land and resources.

But the whole proclaimed purge of jihadism is also, notes Greenwald, driven by the perennial racist message which equates 'Muslim' and 'terrorist', a pretext for invasion which only serves to multiply such resistance and conflict:
"[T]he propaganda used to justify all of this is depressingly common yet wildly effective. Any western government that wants to bomb Muslims simply slaps the label of "terrorists" on them, and any real debate or critical assessment instantly ends before it can even begin. [...]The French bombing of Mali, perhaps to include some form of US participation, illustrates every lesson of western intervention. The "war on terror" is a self-perpetuating war precisely because it endlessly engenders its own enemies and provides the fuel to ensure that the fire rages without end."
Cameron deplores the killings in Algeria as a "despicable act", yet accepts not the slightest responsibility for their encouragement.

He also spoke in parliament about the "poisonous ideology" of jihadism, pledging to stamp it out in North Africa. Meanwhile, his government and the wider West turn a blind eye to the same jihadist forces committing dreadful massacres in Syria.

While the West facilitate the channelling of guns and aid to a Syrian 'resistance' infused with poisonous jihadi ideology and specific political goals, it delivers bombs, arms and ground forces to help curtail those very same forces in Mali.

Hence, we have this 'perpetual war' waged by the West, a profit-driven, selectively-delivered agenda underpinned by Cameron-type bombast and the service media which faithfully reports such claims.

The headline prominence of Cameron's statements are a template lesson in how establishment aims and interests get simplified, packaged and delivered to a general viewership with limited time, interest or attention spans.

Cameron proclaims 'the Islamist threat' in choice, alarmist language, his words get primary airing on the Six O'Clock News and 'expert' correspondents scan big maps of North Africa intimating 'the interminable spread' asking what can be done to 'contain it'.

What begins as a gallery-playing soundbite gets dutifully elevated to gravitas-sounding 'alert' and a 'common problem-solving' analysis on what 'we', our politicians and a 'worried' public, can do to counter it.

What gets deliberately lost is the geopolitical minutiae, the collaborations, the subterfuge, the cynical intelligence, the complex detail, above all 'our' elite's own criminality in creating and perpetuating such conflicts, all complementing the key task of keeping the public in a state of 'informed' ignorance.

And so it goes relentlessly on, like some dark cycle of misery.

Infinite militarist expansion, corporate greed and prettified interventions, further bombings, proxy violence and human loss, retaliatory actions, civil suffering and dislocation, more political posturing, myopic journalism and media complicity.

Not at all what we're expected to think about when workers, foreign and local, are killed in places like Algeria or when we're urged to support Cameron's 'new war on terror'.

Propaganda and thought direction at its very Orwellian best.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Gulp, friction: testy Tino whacks the Guru

So, director Quentin Tarantino has fired off some verbal shots on Channel 4's Krishnan Guru-Murthy while discussing his latest film Django Unchained.

A tense exchange escalated into barbed responses from Tarantino after being asked if real violence could be causally linked to cinematic violence.

Tarantino testily refused the question, insisting he's already covered this issue ad nauseam over the past twenty years.

Let's recall what he's been saying:
 To say that I get a big kick out of violence in movies and can enjoy violence in movies but find it totally abhorrent in real life - I can feel totally justified and totally comfortable with that statement. I do not think that one is a contradiction of the other. Real life violence is real life violence. Movies are movies.
Tarantino doesn't put much stock in the familiar argument that movie violence causes actual violence. For him, they exist in entirely separate realms. ''I have no problem with screen violence at all,'' he said, ''but I have a big problem with real-life violence.''
And after the Newtown killings:
Tarantino: Would I watch a Kung fu movie three days after the Sandy Hook massacre? Would I watch a Kung fu movie? Maybe, because they have nothing to do with each other.
Gross: You sound annoyed. I know you've been asked this a lot.
Tarantino: Yeah. I'm really annoyed. I think it's disrespectful to their memory, actually.
Gross: To whose memory?
Tarantino: To the memory of the people who died to talk about movies. I think its totally disrespectful to their memory. Obviously the issue is gun control and mental health.
Thus, Tarantino's reiterations to Guru-Murthy might not have been all that surprising, even if the manner of his refusal was arrogantly delivered:

“I haven’t changed my opinion one iota … and I am shutting your butt down.”

Perhaps Tarantino shouldn't be castigated for despatching his quizzer given all those well-recorded statements. Maybe Guru-Murthy could have made his pitch in more original ways.

Yet, are we merely to accept Tarantino's assertion that screen violence and actual gun culture has no ongoing or useful validity in such a discussion?

Who should call the content shots in such an exchange: probing journalist or publicity-seeking director? Or does Guru-Murthy's soft liberal pushings and Tarantino's acid evasions give a clue to the much deeper questions on America's wild-west gun culture not raised in this prickly 'stand-off'?

Alex Jones's recent assault on Piers Morgan offers another, more neurotic, take on the interview 'hit', with the latter screaming that the proliferation of guns has no bearing on the mass gun violence afflicting America.

The scary part here is not Jones's rambling salvo, but, even following Newtown, the still wide public endorsement of gun law. More particularly, there's no mention from Morgan of the key corporate forces driving that culture of consumerist fear.

To his credit, Tarantino does see a basic distinction between the cinematic depiction of guns and the actual need for gun control. Yet he still asserts in the exchange that "it's not my job" to engage that need through the prism of his work.

In the interview, Tarantino also contradicts himself in saying that Django does deal with real issues of violence - the violence of slavery, while also insisting that what's portrayed in the film isn't actually real: "it's a fantasy." So, which is it to be?

Of course, it's artistically permissible to experiment with both. But does this give a director artistic licence to render the core subject matter of his movies - violence - out of discussionable bounds?

Tarantino further claims that people are now suddenly engaging the issue of slavery now that he's released his movie.
"I am responsible for people talking about slavery in America in a way that they have not in thirty years."
That's quite a precocious claim in itself.  The cultural discussion of slavery in America, as in that generated by a Hollywood idiom, has never moved beyond specious gloss like Spielberg's Amistad and The Colour Purple or the TV contrivance Roots. Is Tarantino's movie really likely to advance that debate or understanding?

One of America's principal products, and it's most notable export, is violence: political, economic, militaristic and, as derived from Hollywood, cultural.

The corporate motives and propagandist purposes of such output should - like Tarantino's own recorded statements - need little elaboration - just think of who profits and gains from ideologically-loaded films like Dark Zero Thirty.

Perhaps if Tarantino was making critical artistic representations about those kind of power-connecting issues, he might not be so readily invited for interview or celebrated by his industry - and certainly not Oscar-nominated by an academy which knows the limits of 'critical' liberal cinema.

Which is where, whatever its cinematic merits, Django Unchained  - like the other Oscar-shortlisted DZT - ultimately sits as a 'radical' entertainment product.

All of which informsTarantino's own principal purpose in the interview:

"Cause I'm here to sell my movie. This is a commercial for the movie, make no mistake."

And just for good measure, he pumps another emphatic round: "This is a commercial for my movie."

Now, just imagine Guru-Murthy using that opportune moment to engage Tarantino on the subject of violent commercialism.

Might any interviewer from the corporate-run media have the nous to initiate or develop that line of questioning, as in: do you think America is a society indentured to capitalist cultural demands or enslaved to wider corporate violence? 

Imagine either figure, journalist or director, proposing a proper enlightened movie and serious open review about that 'taboo' issue.

The most likely response from dismissive media editors or movie producers:

 "I am shutting your butt down.”

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Israeli election - worse to come

While forecasting political outcomes in the Middle East is often difficult, it seems pretty safe to assume that Israel will continue self-destructively rightwards this election year.

With Likud hardliner Moshe Feiglin's rapid ascendancy and the ultra Jewish Home, headed by rightist zealot Naftali Bennett, tipped to become the second largest party, Netanyahu's Likud-Beiteinu platform will likely form the most reactionary coalition in Israeli history.

And with another incoming Likud-dominated government, more dreaded reality looms for occupied Palestinians: violent invasions, settlement expansions and state-directed killing.
If only, some might say, Israeli voters were more attuned to leftist parties. Yet, even the far-fetched prospect of a Labor victory suggests little difference for weary Palestinians. Indeed, Labor's campaign barely even mentions the Palestinian issue.

As Rashid Shahin points out, any 'distinction' between left and right parties in Israel is not only marginal, but a close indicator of the falsity of what passes for 'progressive' policies:
There is not much difference between the left and right parties in Israel; both are calling for more land confiscation and more settlement building. During the years of occupation, reality and facts on the ground show that the Israeli Labor party, which is classified as a leftist party, has confiscated more Palestinian land than the Likud did, with many more colonies built during the Labor party era.

Commentators predict that Likud will once again come to power with a coalition from the very fundamentalist right-wing groups and parties, and this will be the choice of the Israeli people. The position of this coalition with regard to a peace process is clear; more land confiscation, more colonies, judaizing the occupied part of Jerusalem, "East Jerusalem", denying Palestinian rights and the two state solution. 
Consider also, says Rashid, the West's differing responses to the election of 'extremist' parties:
When Hamas was elected by Palestinians in 2006, Palestinian people were collectively punished for their choice, the Western countries with the backing of the USA, accused Palestinians of being extremists for choosing an "extreme" party. If the Israeli people will choose (and they will) extreme parties, are the Western countries going to act in the same way? Are they going to boycott the "extreme government" to be formed in Israel? Or will the same double standards be applied, as usual, to Israel?
As ever, we can be sure of international consistency here.

An increasing number of disenfranchised Arab 'citizens' look likely to boycott the election, reviled by the ever-rightist drift, purging of Arab politicians and pandering of 'leftist' parties.

None of which prevents the Guardian's Jonathan Freedland from asserting a 'new dawn' of right-left polarities, post-election:
The right will be exposed, the moderate fig-leaves of the past stripped away. Meanwhile, the centre-left will include a greater number of robust liberals and genuine democrats, the ex-Likudniks of the now-defunct Kadima party having mostly departed. Instead of clustering around an artificial middle ground, Israeli politics will present a clear left-right choice.  
To which Jonathan Cook (on Facebook) suitably comments:
So now Netanyahu-lite ex-TV star Yair Lapid, ex-Likudnik Tzipi Livni, and Shelley Yacimovich, the Labor leader who refuses to mention the P-word, are the components of a true left. Left, my foot!
In a small, if more encouraging, gesture of solidarity, Facebook activists are asking Israelis to give their election votes over to a Palestinian

Limited in its reach, the sacrifice of such votes would not, of course, change anything. Indeed, given the consensual Zionism permeating Israel's political spectrum, which useful party might Palestinian 'proxies' actually vote for?

Still, with opinion polls showing a strong majority of Israelis opposed to a two-state deal even with a completely demilitarised Palestine, we might take some comfort from such civil-led initiatives.

As Cook (again at Facebook) notes, limitations aside, the campaign:
itself does make a powerful, if obvious, political statement, highlighting that, although Palestinians live under Israeli rule, they have no say in who rules them. It also reminds us that there are some Israelis prepared to put Palestinian interests before their own. And it might, if it gets more publicity, provoke a debate, however limited, among Israeli Jews about where Israel is heading with its current Greater Israel approach. One-person, one-vote anybody?
Yet, welcome as it is, such dissent remains no more than a token effort in a society deeply scarred by militarist fear and Zionist ideology.

Reflecting on a recent return visit to Haifa, the honourable academic and activist Ilan Pappe asked whether it's possible to feel any sense of compassion for certain Israelis relentlessly conditioned by their state's colonising project.

It's a hard thought to countenance for suffering Palestinians and others appalled by sixty-plus years of occupier brutality. It's also a difficult question for Pappe himself to pose.

And yet, in Pappe we find not just the uncompromising defender of full Palestinian rights, but an observer pained by the very understanding of how many Jews - from once-respected fellow-historian Benny Morris to inclusion-seeking Arab Jews - become so easily compromised and willing parties to their state's wicked oppressions.

Of another blindly-led grouping, Jewish students on Western university campuses, Pappe expresses similar exasperation:
Here too, the pathetic human condition triggers the compassion. They could have played a vanguard and leading role — as their predecessors did when they spearheaded the struggles for equality in the United States and the movements against apartheid in South Africa and imperialism in Vietnam — in one of humanity’s greatest campaigns for peace and justice: the solidarity movement with the Palestinians. But they find themselves confused and disoriented, representing the oppressor, the colonizer and the occupier. The end result is parroting slogans prepared by the Israeli diplomacy that make little sense I suspect even to those who chant it unconvincingly along with hysterical allegations of anti-Semitism and terrorism.
Though perhaps trusting in some eventual awareness to Israel's crimes, Pappe can find little evidence of any such breakthrough.  And of the political landscape itself, he remains acutely certain:
It is the totalitarianism of the right which is going to be the hallmark of the Jewish state in 2013.
Meanwhile, beyond Israel's competingly shrill election, Israeli indifference to persecuted Palestinians and the grim prospects of even harsher apartheid policies to come, here's a laudable message of support for the occupied victims and backing for a one state solution from Jews for Palestinian Right of Return:
As Jews of conscience, we call on all supporters of social justice to stand up for Palestinian Right of Return and a democratic state throughout historic Palestine — “From the River to the Sea” — with equal rights for all. The full measure of justice, upon which the hopes of all humanity depends, requires no less.
There, at least, alongside Pappe's honest searchings, is a compassionate, hopeful and welcome declaration to commence another year of pain and struggle.