Friday, 30 August 2013

Cameron defeat over Syria - pushing for real R2P

The humiliating parliamentary defeat suffered by David Cameron and Nick Clegg over Syria is not just a hopeful relief for the people of that already-savaged country, but also a promising impasse in the wider rejection of Western war-on-demand.

Nor should it be seen as a Labour-led 'rescue from war'. While militant Liberal interventionists, from Clegg to Ashdown, bewail the vote, Ed Miliband now rides the wave of liberal media approval.

Yet the Labour amendment, also defeated, was never written as a decisive anti-war tract. Deeply aware of the public mood, Miliband and the coy Douglas Alexander crafted a get-out card that keeps their party 'Blair-clean', yet still effectively commits to bombing and ousting Assad.

This halt on war proceedings - perhaps only a temporary one - did not happen because 'parliament has done its job', and certainly not because 'Labour has acted for Britain'.

Rather, it's been fostered by a constant anti-war voice which, if often seemingly tame and impotent, has been proven resiliently correct.

Fuelled by recent exposures of US-UK mass spying, the rejection also suggests a growing public distrust in intelligence agencies' efforts to wage relentless wars based on spurious evidence.

It would be churlish to claim that much public sentiment against this proposed war is rooted in particular feelings for Syrian or other Middle Eastern peoples, concerned as it is, rather, about 'our' sacrifices and weariness over 'our' losses in conflict. That's a selective propagandist message in itself. 

Yet, as the enduring carnage of Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya keeps showing, professed 'military solutions' amount to nothing of the sort. Whatever the wider war-rejectionist sentiment, such awareness has taken much deeper hold.    

That mood does, of course, reflect the oft-mentioned 'shadow of Iraq' and historical understanding of Blair's gross subterfuge. Yet, how darkly ironic to watch a media which helped sell such mass murder now invoke the spectre of that disaster against war-favouring politicians.

And, if a week's a long time in politics, just look at the Guardian's own shameless turnaround, from its gung-ho pre-debate editorial to its squirming post-debate approval of 'restraint'.

How seamlessly the Guardian and other media, deeply complicit in rationalising Iraq, sheltering the Blair circle and giving an implicit nod to Cameron over Syria now slip into 'noble back-off' mode.

Iraq haunts Blair and co-criminals like Alastair Campbell, both of whom had feverishly pitched for the bombing of Syria - while, like the West at large, staying silent on Egypt's military coup and mass killing.

Iraq has cast a restraining cloud too over the Cameron-Clegg war motion, with even multiple Tories covering their backs from hostile constituents. Posture and expedience posing as prudence and principle.

But the same Iraq shadow also looms over a war-step media, which has again tried to sell the latest 'damning evidence' to a disbelieving public.       

The source of that 'vital intel'? None other than Israel. Mossad and the CIA, we're meant to believe, have the 'smoking-gun proof' of Assad's guilt.

The motives behind that claim should have been viewed, at the very least, as likely fabrication in the joint push for war. So, likewise, with Cameron's supportive part in that mendacious loop, reflecting the resolute bond between this military-corporate alliance.  

But where are the leading media critiques and illumination of that key relationship, or sceptical questioning of its bomb-primed intelligence?

While 'regional correspondents' were busy showing anxious Israelis queuing for gas masks, there was virtual silence on Israel's own dark manoeuvrings and supposed 'slam-dunk' evidence of phone intercepts proving Syrian guilt. It was all just assumed and taken on faith. 

Meanwhile, as the politicians and spooks concoct their plans, the humanitarian crisis deepens.

What is to be done about the suffering of Syria? This writer has no certain ideas, other than the need for ultimate dialogue, something that the rebels and their Western/Gulf sponsors have resolutely avoided. Assad should surely have to answer for his acts. But so too must the jihadist-inflamed opposition and squalid international alliance that funds and supports them. Little or none of their high crimes, including Israel's bombing of Syria, is up for serious media discussion. 

Nor is the narrative of 'intervention' itself ever read as an aggressive act, pitched, as in this case, in always-malleable aims and means terms like 'punishment', 'lesson-learning' and 'proportionate'. 

A corrective word also, in that regard, towards that still 'leftist' rebel-supporting fragment which couldn't contain its own disappointment and animosity over the halting of cruise missiles. We, the 'anti-war miscreants', are now supposed to live with the 'guilty burden' of non-intervention and of 'caring more' for stopping Cameron/Obama than for suffering Syrians.  

It's a twisted and perverse logic, coming from many who have themselves opposed the West's darkest deeds and can surely see what's intended for Syria.  

Real responsibility to protect (RR2P?) means humanitarian action which helps stop the very forces who ruthlessly use 'liberal intervention' and R2P to efffect their own strategic interests, inevitably resulting in even greater murder and chaos. Again, just look at the ongoing daily death tolls in Iraq and Libya. 

Our primary human concern must be for all those souls killed and victimised in this brutal civil war. But one can be both conscientiously and empirically sure of one thing: more Western bombs, more 'missionary' missiles, will only intensify that death and suffering.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Guardian (again) bleating for war

As Cameron, Hague and their international ensemble of crazies ready for yet another murderous, imperialist assault, an ever-timely Guardian editorial offers this 'sober' advice on the need to authenticate it: 
Here again, the shadow of Iraq over our politics looms large. There can be no disputing the seriousness of any use of heinous and internationally outlawed chemical weapons. Yet tomorrow's debate will only even begin to carry public credibility if it is based on clear and persuasive information about their alleged use by the Syrian government. That information may well exist – much of the evidence points in that direction. Yet the case has not yet been made authoritatively to the public.
All very cautious, all seemingly sensible. Yet the priority problem for the Guardian lies not in the actual waging of war, and extended human misery that will cause, but how best to secure public approval:   
Yet if Mr Cameron is going to shift the UK domestic debate in favour of military action of any kind in Syria he will need to win other arguments that have so far defeated him. He needs to come up with a clear statement of how military action in Syria will be proportionate, legally sound and, above all, foreseeably finite. Tony Blair may have persuaded parliament to go to war in 2003, but he later lost parliament's confidence because, in the end, things went so much worse than had been foreseen.
Did you ever read such queasy liberal moralising, such wimpish warnings, such shameful evasion?

Probably. For this is the same spluttering apologetics that helped rationalise and excuse the slaughters in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.

Instead of outright denunciation of Cameron and his war-salivating ministers, rather than explicit exposure of their mendacious motives, we're asked to indulge this set of political psychotics, ruminate on Blair's prior 'mistakes' and kowtow to the great charade of 'parliamentary accountability'.    

True to form, it's all here in the Guardian, with its noble postures, tempered admonitions and guiding advice to Cameron on the need to persuade and carry the public. This is what passes for a serious, 'radical' response to scheming warmongers.

The Guardian could have led with an unambiguous rejection of Cameron, Hague and the whole R2P deceit they and their transatlantic masters are foisting on the public. Instead, we have this safe introspection, all serving to whitewash their crimes and legitimise the fiction of 'measured liberal intervention'.

When those cruise missiles start falling on Damascus, the Guardian will stand back and say 'we did our vanguard best'. It won't be remotely good enough. Such cowardly editorials are nothing but liberal bleating for war.    

Monday, 26 August 2013

Syria - guess the BBC headline

As the Western media, notably its liberal arm, rally the public for another 'noble intervention', the BBC is leading with its own weapon of mass distortion: the wielding of headline warfare.

No prizes for spotting which one here is the BBC's leading line: 
'Syria crisis: Diplomacy has not worked, says William Hague' 
'President Assad says the claims are "politically motivated" and defy logic as the regime has forces near the area.'
It's the former, of course, announcing the case for 'military solutions', like all others in this 'speak our words of war' reportage, with the latter claim safely buried for token 'balance' deep down the page.

All serving to get the critical message across that 'something must be done', and that Cruise missiles figure 'logically', 'normally' and 'humanely' in dealing with the problem.

Imagine a run of BBC headlines announcing:

'Attack on Syria would be illegal and a war crime, according to UN and international law'  
'Western bombing would be disastrous and criminal, warn Stop the War and others urging political solutions'  
Instead, we see a constant barrage of headline encouragements like:  
'UK urges 'serious response' on Syria'
No 'red line' crossing of journalistic propriety here, given the routine firing of establishment missives, but always vital as a last resort weapon to provoke and excuse the case for war. 

Conveniently absent from any of these headlines or their supportive narrative is leading consideration of actual culpability and the remaining uncertainty of who has carried out such an attack.

Nor have we seen the slightest questioning of Hague's own particular claims or detailed requests for his supposed evidence. 

As Alex Thomson has noted in several tweets, Hague has "in fact supplied no evidence at all to back his claim that Assad did last week's attack."

Thomson, a now rare voice of dissent at Channel 4, also damns the lack of wider media scepticism, adding that this is the "[s]econd time Hague has made CW claims about Assad which he is quite unable to back up."

And, of course, none of this headline or supportive output is ready to announce the added human death and misery that will certainly result in Cruise missiles bombarding Syria.

Whatever the causes of this conflict, whoever may have deployed chemical weapons, whatever the tragedy of ongoing deaths, no 'intervention' is excusable, and no further weaponry will help allay the suffering or hasten a realisable peace.

The BBC and wider liberal media's complicit crime here is in normalising war-thought; as in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and elsewhere, attuning and rationalising the public to the idea of 'necessary killing'; more 'liberal-war solutions' that can be signed-off and amplified through trusted media channels.   

Take the 'n' from 'headlines' and you have the BBC's key propaganda function in a nutshell.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Dealing with the bread thieves

There's been adverse reaction, apparently, to news that a few UK police forces are handing food vouchers to some people caught shoplifting.

Rather than arresting hungry individuals desperate to keep themselves fed with stolen basics, police have been issuing them with cautions and vouchers for food banks.

It's something of an enlightened practice, if not openly-admitted policy, which should be commended for its practical sense and relative compassion.

Alas, rather than the scandal of such poverty-created 'crime', we hear indignant condemnation from those who claim such responses will only foster 'more criminality', and that it's 'unfair' to those struggling others who don't resort to such actions.

Thus, from higher police officials and worried shopkeepers to much of the public, there's little consideration for those who feel compelled to take bread and other essentials in order to survive.

The rising numbers caught with staples like a loaf, eggs and milk, and the humiliation that must often involve, should be prompting emergency debates and real social assistance.

Instead, rather than indicting politicians and the greedy rich, there's denunciation of 'feckless thieves', all part of the harsh, unforgiving mood message we're encouraged to absorb from above.

As with the wider purge on benefit claimants, if they can't be hidden, they must be scapegoated.

It's the same tidy-them-away powers that Glasgow and Aberdeen city councils are currently seeking in order to banish beggars from the streets - proposals that, to its credit, the Scottish Government have strongly resisted.

Maybe, along with those embarrassing beggars, the great loaf thieves depriving Lord Sainsbury and his billionaire grocers of more profits should be sent straight to jail.

But how Dickensian such punishment would seem to our great liberal sensibilities. And that too would mean the government and all those outraged taxpayers paying for their prison meals and accommodation.

Still, we can't have such people helping themselves to bread - particularly those tasty French batons. Perhaps they could be handed-out cake, instead - date-expired, of course.  

Monday, 19 August 2013

Egypt's complicit liberals

As the military massacres and carnage intensify in Egypt, glaring questions about Egyptian liberals are being side-stepped by the West and its modulating media.

As previously asked, when is a coup not a coup? Answer: when it's the military overthrow of an elected government by Egyptian forces funded and supported by the US.

To which can now be added: when is a massacre not a massacre? Same answer: when, as reported by the BBC and other Western media, it's described only as a 'crackdown' by that Egyptian military.

And a further such question on the theme of selective liberal responses: when is 'necessary intervention' and the arming of Islamists not seen as a good idea? Answer: when, unlike Syria, those arms would be going to Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood (MB), a force which the US, Saudi Arabia and Israel are now cohesively lined up against.

How telling that there's no emergency Western calls this time to arm and support those being crushed. Islamic fundamentalists in Syria, al Qaeda amongst them, can be tooled-up for more killing, but not, apparently, the MB in Egypt.

And to any who cite the 'double-standards' of those who don't 'conscientiously' back the Syrian 'rebels' against the Syrian government, yet denounce the Egyptian military government's killing of Egypt's MB Islamists, the answer is quite clear: no solution to either conflict can ever be explored or realised through more guns and violence.

While, like divided Syrians, divided Egyptians shed their blood, military elites and their external backers keep the power.

One elementary thing that will, hopefully, be learned by proto-revolutionaries in Egypt or elsewhere is never to trust, or partake in 'expedient alliances' with, the military. That is the most disastrous consequence and lesson of the Egyptian revolution and coup.

The principal problem is not the MB, it's militarism and the deepening militarisation of Egypt's political problems.

One should always ask, cui bono? Who benefits? Whose interests are most likely to prevail? The seemingly obvious answer here: the generals and the deep oppressive state they have always sought to uphold. 

Yet, in facilitating this domination, key sections of the liberal class, notably the National Salvation Front, have made quisling, and what amount to anti-revolutionary, accommodations with the military and remnants of the old regime order (felool) for the purposes of crushing the MB.

It's a propaganda trap which the Western-backed military establishment has ably used in diverting hate away from them and towards their fellow Egyptians. As neatly captured by one alert Egyptian:
"My greatest fear seems to have come true," the activist says. "The Egyptians no longer see the authorities as their opponents. The enemy is now those Egyptians with other views."
Infected by this "hate virus", much of the liberal class have sought to rationalise their endorsement of the military and how they supposedly saw its 'hired role' in promoting a 'post-MB' Egypt. As detailed by Issandr El Amrani:
In this vision, a gradual transformation of the country could take place while preserving political stability through the armed forces. It would be negotiated and hard-fought, as so many democratic transitions in other parts of the world have been, but the old order would need the talent and competence of a new technocratic, and ultimately political, class to deliver and improve governance. Their hope was that the Islamists would understand that they had lost this round, and that they could be managed somehow while a new more liberal order emerged. This, in essence, was what Mohamed ElBaradei and other liberals bought into on July 3, no doubt earnestly, and what so many other outside of formal politics fervently hoped for: not the revolution radicals want, but a wiser, more tolerant, order in the country.
Unfortunately, among the broad liberal camp in Egypt, those who entertained such hopes are in a minority. Even among the National Salvation Front, as its obscene statement praising the police today showed, most appear to have relished the opportunity to crush the Muslim Brothers and appeared to believe that other Islamists could simply choose to be crushed alongside it, kowtow to the new order, or be pushed back into quietism. It appears that much of the business and traditional elite – represented politically by the Free Egyptians and the Wafd Party among others – falls into that category. They are joined by the security establishment, or deep state if you prefer.

Over the last week there was much talk of divisions between this segment and those symbolically important liberal members of the government, such as ElBaradei, over whether or not to negotiate with the Brothers or break their sit-ins. The camp that eventually won does not just believe that the Brothers are not worth negotiating with. They want to encourage it in its provocative sectarian discourse, its supporters desire for violence, and the push as much as the Islamist camp as possible into being outlaws. Those who nurture such eradicateur sentiment do not so much actually want to physically eradicate all Islamists as to provoke them into a situation where their political existence will be eradicated because they will have opted for violence.
The tactical thinking of General al-Sisi, unquestionably given the nod by America - and despite Washington's facial 'denunciations' of the killing - has been to unleash enough violence against the MB to encourage its own respondent violence, thus upgrading the 'terrorist threat' and permitting an even greater state offensive.

As owner of up to half the Egyptian economy, al-Sisi's and the military elites' primary loyalty is to itself and its US sponsors, not - as in the fanciful notions of Egyptian liberals and the propaganda they've indulged - to the people.

In return, whatever their public 'concerns', Obama and the US war machine's entrenched support is for al-Sisi and that same military, simply by the sheer weight of advantages the US, and West at large, enjoys from that arrangement - including facilitation of US aircraft carriers and safe military passage to effect other regional wars.

Contrary to Guardian-type claims of a 'rudderless US' perspective, the consistent, tactical imperative of America has been the retention of a strongarm miltary force still able to contain both the MB and any more progressive movement.

Cautiously late to the revolution, Morsi and the MB were never part of that demand for serious change. That became definitively clear in coming to office. 

Nor were they any friend of the Palestinians, even their would-be Hamas associates in Gaza. Thus, we saw how Morsi immediately sided-up to Israel and Washington as he filled in Gaza's tunnels.

But the demonizing of Palestinians has been a continuous feature of the Egyptian regime, from Mubarak to Morsi and always including a punitive military. The increasing scapegoating of Palestinians is part of the same divert and control message being peddled against the MB.

As headlining all across the Egyptian media, the Brotherhood is now the 'foremost terrorist threat'. Again, which set of forces benefit from that kind of fear factor? Do Egyptians really believe that once the MB have been purged and outlawed the military will hand power over to the people?

Are Egyptian liberals and those parts of the left who have gone along with this 'strategic alignment' naive or complicit? Any useful answer to this might address the sectoral and intellectual detachment of that class from the poorest mass of Egyptian society. 

Moreover, as noted by John Rees in a fine indictment of the liberal class and wider analysis of the situation, there is no reactionary equivalence between the MB and the Egyptian military. The latter, holding all the vital armoury, is the primary power and force to be resisted by all if any revolution is to be seriously advanced.

Again, as Rees, Fisk, Milne and others assert, none of this castigation of the military and its manipulations should be read as endorsement of the MB, a deeply vindictive, neoliberal and collaborating force which Egyptians were entitled to oppose.

Yet, the military and liberal portrayal of the MB as some monolithic religious-imposing entity conveniently obscures the much more factional and strategic currents of the organisation, a movement that has been both the subject of intense repression and ready to assert its own repressive hand.

Nor, as widely claimed, is it true that, while calling for Morsi's removal, the mass of Egyptians supported the violent coup and massacres in order to overthrow him. Expect that 'support' to diminish further as more Egyptians come to realise the propaganda deceit and Faustian pact they've been party to, most likely as the military turn against them.

The crucial task of any populist revolutionary movement now is urgent re-engagement of progressive MB elements, not the MB's persecution and extinction.   
Permanent removal of the MB only gives the military state even more reason to stay strong and powerful as a 'vanguard' against their 'terrorist intent'. Trying to ban and erase a body with such diverse and conflicting faces, representing not just Islamic ideals but many implicitly leftist ones, can only serve the military's calculating checks. 

Beyond any secularist fear of Islamic fundamentalism, Egypt's liberals and the disastrous violence they've helped unleash reflect a wider problem of liberal support for militarist interventionism. From Western rationalisations of Nato assaults on Iraq and Libya to the tortuous 'pragmatics' we're seeing in Egypt, liberal voices have been used as 'ethical sirens' for militarist criminality.  

If the resort to violence in Egypt has always been the prerogative of an old state-preserving military, the encouragement of that killing in false promotion of a 'new state order' lies just as deeply now with its complicit liberals.  

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Media Lens - the truth of advocacy journalism

The latest excellent Media Lens Alert, All Journalism is 'Advocacy Journalism', helps expose not only the mythology of 'objective reporting', but the conformist interpretation of motives within that corporate-dominated field.   

It offers, in particular, a neat dissection of the actual motivations behind Amazon-owning billionaire Jeffrey Bezoz's recent purchase of the Washington Post, highlighting many journalists' ready-reading of the takeover as some kind of 'noble', 'benevolent' act.

As Media Lens and a few notable others show, Bezoz has appropriated the paper not only as a profit-seeking concern, but as a platform for disseminating and protecting his own corporate interests.

This shouldn't come as any major revelation. But, as ML illustrate in, for example, the BBC's coverage of the deal, not only is the main motive conspicuously absent, so too is the most basic recognition that a corporate media in itself will always mean an advocacy journalism safely suited to corporate-establishment interests.

Thus, note ML:       
on the BBC website, Tara McKelvey's ostensibly 'objective' journalism reported that Jeffrey Bezos, the founder of online retail giant Amazon, had bought the newspaper Washington Post [.] What is Bezos' motive? 'Is it vanity, philanthropy - or good business sense?' The possibility that Bezos might be driven by greed for influence, power and profit did not appear on McKelvey's list. Instead, she gave credence to the benevolent explanation:

'Jeff Jarvis, author of What Would Google Do?, says he hopes Bezos will shake things up at the Post and help it adapt to a post-print world. '"In some ways it has to be a philanthropic act," says Jarvis of the purchase. "Bezos is trying to protect an American institution."'
McKelvey had nothing to say about the implications for democracy and truth-telling of the fact that a major 'free press' newspaper can be bought by a billionaire worth $25.2bn as though it were a car or a football club. She did not question whether media corporations owned by tycoons and oligarchs can report honestly on a world dominated by tycoons and oligarchs.
Again, a seemingly elementary truth, yet one which most editors and journalists will rarely engage - even if they actually see the issue.  

One might add here (as ML have discussed elsewhere) that just as all journalism is, in whatever form, advocacy journalism, so too is most advocated training in journalism.

Just as dominant ideas and interests largely prevail in the production and filtering of journalistic reports, comment and analysis, so also does 'journalism school' teach a selectively-advocated version of career-promoting and institutionally compliant journalism.

Thus, there's an almost blanket absence of such Media Lens-type perspectives - which, by its own logical admission, is also subjectively-offered advocacy journalism - in academic and 'in-house' (like the Guardian's) journalism courses.

This is vital in serving to reinforce and perpetuate the standard liberal myth of 'free and objective' journalism.

One can readily see how, exposed at the outset to such 'rudiments', the entire pathway of any emerging journalist will be 'signposted' by such warnings, directions and understandings. 

Imagine the new student being given ML's kind of critically-stimulating material as preparatory thinking on what constitutes advocacy journalism and the reality of 'objective' reporting.

Of course, even were it to be encountered, included or discussed, it would be flagged as 'controversial' and, with perverse liberal irony, marginalised as 'just advocacy journalism'. 

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Settlement expansion - orchestration and strings

As the spurious 'peace talks' unfold, it's no real surprise that Israel's Construction Minister Uri Ariel has announced plans to extend settlement building:
"We will continue to market housing and build in the entire country...This is the right thing at the present time, for Zionism and for the economy.'
As Jonathan Cook puts it:
"Few of us – even the participants – believe that there is any hope these latest “peace” talks will lead anywhere. All the Palestinians will get from the negotiations are a handful of political prisoners, while Israel gets a quick expansion of the very settlements it is supposed to be about to dismantle as part of a peace agreement. The current exchange rate is 1,200 new settler homes for the 26 Palestinian prisoners to be released this week. Or looked at another way, about 300 Jewish settlers for each prisoner."
Behind this seeming 'trade-off', Israel and the US are orchestrating another trap for a politically desperate Abbas, who, when 'negotiations' end, will either have caved-in to Israel's settlement and other claims, or, in rejecting such impossible demands, will see the Palestinians cast as 'peace wreckers'.

In covering the story, consider these contrasting statements on the illegality of settlements (h/t Jack Evans at Twitter).

From the Tehran Times:
"The United Nations and most countries regard the Israeli settlements as illegal because the territories were captured by Israel in a war in 1967 and are hence subject to the Geneva Conventions, which forbids construction on occupied lands."
And this standard from the BBC:
"Settlements are considered illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this."
The former gives an accurate summation of the legal situation, the latter a basic acknowledgement, but with 'balancing' qualification.

Which version offers the more instructive information? And how might that BBC 'disclaimer' look if set against the Tehran Times account?

One might say:
Settlements are considered illegal under international law, although the BBC's caveat helps refute this.
On a more uplifting note, here's something the BBC haven't, as yet, sought to cut or qualify.
Highest praise to the wonderful Nigel Kennedy who, accompanied by the Palestinian Strings (with three outstanding Palestinian playing brothers) and Orchestra of Life, performed captivating adaptations of Vivaldi's Four Seasons at the BBC Proms.

At the end, a virtuoso Kennedy humbly commended his fellow players, courageously concluding with this on-stage comment:
“Giving equality and getting rid of apartheid gives a beautiful chance for amazing things to happen.”
Marvellous. As with the beguiling beauty of this performance (his own final composition, Falling Forest, was stunning too) Nigel's brave words give some hopeful relief from the dominant orchestration, reminding us that Israel and its US 'peace composer' aren't pulling all the strings.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Online abuse - the pathology of political-corporate 'normality'

There's been much news and earnest comment, of late, on the growing problem of internet abuse, notably hateful trolling of women, a deeply unpleasant and troubling phenomenon, for sure, illuminating the creeping ways in which poisoned speech and intimidation has become an almost 'accepted' public language. 

Abusing trolls come in multiple social forms, from the openly-declaring bigot to the anonymous lurker. Culpable individuals they surely are, and must take responsibility for their offences. 

But isn't such language symptomatic of a more top-down inhumanity?

Hate and abuse, whether of a misogynistic, racist or other discriminatory form, may be readily denounced.  But aren't many such assaults, whether against women, gay people or any other major social collective, the product of more pervasive institutional influences?

Consider the hateful government language being used against illegal immigrants.

The message-decked vans patrolling UK streets saying "go home" aren't really meant for such individuals. It's really an instruction, a permission, an encouragement for everyone else to join in the great abusive purge; a populist pandering to suspicion, intolerance, self-protection and hateful incitement.

It's institutionalised power infecting the populace from above. And, nominal complaints aside, the disturbing effect seems to be even more popular and abusive support for such ugly campaigns. Abuse fosters more abuse, just as more guns foster more gun violence.

Using similar incendiary speech, Cameron has promised to clamp down on illegal gypsy encampments "like a ton of bricks".

A government-produced 'rogue's gallery' of individual tax evaders constitutes another populist distraction, encouraging us to focus on still relatively small-scale offenders rather than the much more endemic issue of mass corporate tax evasion.

Thus, while Cameron speaks righteously about online abuse, he's instructing racist profiling and harassment of non-white faces on the street. While preaching 'careful use of language', he's stirring-up wilful animosity against travelling people, those on benefits and other marginalised groups. And while cultivating diversionary name and shame imagery he's turning a blind eye to much more predatory corporate abuse.  

Worse, while all these unctuous words are pouring forth, he and his warmongering associates are party to mass, hateful killing around the globe.

There's a close pathological symmetry here between governments and corporations. Both have a shared agenda in promoting fear, greed, suspicion, competition, self-interest and abuse. Keeping people politically controlled, economically subservient and socially hostile serves a common purpose.

That all-important maxim of corporate profitability may seem only concerned with generating 'happy consumption', even laced with displays of 'caring-sharing corporate responsibility'. But corporate culture, particularly during 'downturns' and times of 'austerity' (useful top-down terms denoting an otherwise 'harmonious' existence under capitalism), also needs us to be lean, mean, unhappy with our lot and aggressively grasping. 

We hear - as if most didn't already suspect - that over half the British public are now living on the financial edge, deeply alarmed about their economic situations. As the gulf between rich and poor widens, the UK is, reportedly, now the most unequal country in the West, with a wealth gap worse than that of Ethiopia.

That kind of political-corporate abuse might be met with more serious resistance where it not for the kind of virulent language and action directed at the poorest and most vulnerable. Thus the top-down offensive against immigrants, benefit 'scroungers' and other easy scapegoats.    

It's a sobering reminder of how corporate capitalism, and the political forces that service it, are not only managing a 'reserve army' of labour but keeping it in a state of perpetual fear and loathing of competitive others.

Those in work - and not just in 'higher' positions - are encouraged to show little pity or empathy for those without work, those on benefits, any kind of immigrant - illegal or otherwise - and anyone else sitting in this precarious economic pyramid. Beyond all the calls to 'fellow citizenship' and 'considerate consumerism', this is the real hateful message inculcated by political elites and corporate institutions.

The senior exponent is America, now, beyond any rhetoric, a corporate-fascist state. Money, big money, calls the shots. All of them. And every Western state, alongside their Far East progeny, have lurched, obediently, in the same corporate-approving direction, like some zombie neoliberal epidemic.

Corporations determine the laws, run the hospitals and prisons, monitor our private lives and control the media, all ensuring, with their primary lobbying power, that the political system keeps every bit of that sovereignty safely preserved. 

Serving the corporate monolith and neoliberal mandarins who write the rules, a political cabal are literally stealing from the poorest and most vulnerable and giving to the richest and most undeserving. The political class have never been more nakedly, abusively and violently in the service of big business.

There's no serious difference between any main political party. And the vast majority of those who represent them are dutiful clones attentive only to the imperative, of 'getting us back to growth' and 'profitability'.

It's not just welfare cuts or the bedroom tax. It's the starker truth that the poor are considered with the same level of consideration as insects, minute and inconsequential, not only to be discarded, but to be abused in the process as wilful irritants to 'market normality'. 

There's a kind of state-corporate eugenics going on (corporate giant Atos have a key contract), with the low-consuming poor being inspected, pulled out of line and culled. 

Frankie Boyle has observed that elite politicians like Cameron and Osborne already view the able-bodied - who just about manage to meet the corporate system's slave-like demands - with hateful contempt, so just imagine how they feel towards those they see as the disabled and unproductive.

Stress, fear and insecurity stalks the land. This is all deemed 'normal' existence. 

In excess of a million people, from Sports Direct to Buckingham Palace, are now working zero-hour contracts. As the Sunday Herald's Ian Bell asks:
"A brave new world? There used to be a name for working people reduced to obedience, deference, dependence and fear. They used to call them peasants."
Amusingly, a liberal commentariat bewail this exploitation, citing Marx for good measure. For them, zero-hour working may be a 'pernicious Victorian practice' undermining the 'efficiency' of markets - like slavery did, back in the day - but there's no suggestion that the system itself - and the political language used to legitimate it - is abusive, hateful and fundamentally evil.

This is the pathological 'normality' of corporate-political life, where even a 'liberal-vanguard' media seem ever-ready to indulge Cameron's 'concerned interventions' over internet bullying, while treating his own menacing language and warmongering interventions as somehow 'above' that kind of abuse and violence.

And isn't it notable that the main 'challenge' to Cameron's "go home" message has come from an advertising authority, rather than the police - a market-defined view of what constitutes abuse?

Likewise, the reporting of corporate abuse may extend to, say, the scandal of tax evasion, even government inaction over it. But there's effective silence on the much more abusive 'normality' of corporate life and its pathological tendencies.    

It's also a corporate 'normality' now more efficient than ever in blocking what it considers 'threatening' language.

Thus in America, we can have the bizarre situation of a corporate-demanded court order gagging a family, including its children, from ever speaking about the disastrous health effects from fracking.

As Jonathan Cook comments:
That corporations are pathological really should not be hard to understand. Their rationale is the maximisation of profit, and everything - bar their public image - is subsidiary to that goal. What is deeply troubling is that these pathological entities now have such a hold on our societies that institutions like the courts, which are supposed to offer a degree of protection, allow this pathological behaviour to go unchecked. A case in point is this astounding story of a Pennsylvania family whose lives were wrecked by a US fracking firm drilling next to their home.
In similar vein, John Pilger describes how his long-valued postman is now expected to behave like some bowing serf in carrying out his job, all in line with new corporate-defined 'etiquette'; the cloying process of depersonalisation that condemns us to being "impoverished, gentrified and silenced".

Another such view proclaims that the NHS should be run along the same corporate lines as PC World. More 'free-market'-loving gibberish from the head of a right-wing think tank, you might assume. Actually, it's the considered view of Sir Bruce Keogh, Medical Director of the NHS.

A significant number of GPs also, apparently, now favour patients paying for general appointments.

Again, this is the corporate 'normality' we're now expected to accept. And with it, levels of political surveillance designed to keep us seeing it as inevitable. 

As the heroic efforts of Manning, Snowden and Wikileaks/Assange reveal, we now have forms of Orwellian surveillance, control and punishment of recalcitrants that Orwell himself may not have imagined.

We have a corporate media, including its liberal wing, rationalising wars, while keeping the populace ideologically subdued with militarist jingo, royalist fantasia and, as seen, narrow debate over unwarranted abuse.

And always underlying all of that the enduring reminder of consumer-obsessed competitiveness; a world in which, bombarded by 'you-too-can-have' advertising, our fellow being is still our economic adversary.

The idea of advancing any real politics of compassion is now considered so fanciful, so unorthodox, so heretical, so uncorporate, you might as well be talking 'political astrology'.

This may all seem somewhat far removed from the question of internet abuse. But that abuse, abhorrent, injurous and even fatal, as it might be, remains minuscule compared with the kind of hateful and much more consequential abuse the political elite and its corporate clients are capable of committing.  

Victims like Stella Creasy and Caroline Criado-Perez are surely right in feeling threatened and violated by misogynistic hate-speech. But where's the same kind of high-profile/media reaction to the wicked words of those society-stalking leaders and their corporate friends?  

It's not that this kind of abusive language, or the debate over it, is insignificant. It's the disproportionality of the discussion. Not only is online abuse part of a wider malaise of incivility and aggression - involving and affecting all strata of people -  the range of perpetrators has been selectively limited.

Imagine corporate calls to consume more planet-killing carbon - and the media's complicit part in that - being condemned as abuse and incitement. Imagine the media referring to politicians' calls to flood places like Syria with more weapons as criminal abuse and incitement to murder. Imagine the language of corporate life at large being discussed as pathologically abusive.

Ironically, there is a bullying 'alpha-male'-type influence at play here: politicians (many female) and corporations themselves, pushing strongarm neoliberalism and urging that we all 'man-up' to this corporate 'normality'.  

Are we ever likely to see a mass 'unlike' and rejection of this top-down abuse? Unlikely while those same top-down forces keep us hatefully distracted and concentrated on their version of what constitutes abuse and violence. 

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Barcelona clearly offside in visiting Israel

Selling the jerseys: Barcelona president with Peres
Barcelona FC are about to commence an unfortunate and detrimental 'Peace Tour' of Israel.

Although Messi and his co-stars will also first visit the West Bank (conducting one of their 'football clinics' in Hebron, the second in Tel Aviv) the club's inclusion of Israel in their itinerary is a completely misguided 'peace promotion'.

As the many Palestinian boycott and international solidarity organisations, including BDS Catalunya, have urged, Barcelona's seemingly altruistic tour only serves the process of normalisation, giving vital succour to Israel's own 'peace' posturing.

Indeed, this kind of 'dual recognition' is arguably worse than just playing Israel itself, for it reinforces the whole spurious 'two sides responsible' mythology that helps mitigate Israel's singular crimes and primary oppressions.

Barcelona will be officially greeted by Israeli President Shimon Peres, an historical war criminal, as well as PM Netanyahu.

Coming on top of Israel's staging of the recent Under-21 Euro Championship - shamelessly allowed by Uefa, and admirably opposed by a wide range of European and other players - Barcelona's involvement incentivises Brand Israel - a key hasbara project that eminent scientist Stephen Hawking recently helped undermine by refusing an invite to the 'illustrious' Peres presidential conference in Jerusalem.

Many other artists, performers and notable figures are taking that same, honourable position. 

Noting the close involvement of the Peres Centre for Peace, the Israel media are, predictably, extolling this opportunity of 'bringing football to kids', Israeli and Palestinian.

They have, in contrast, little to say about the kind of cruel travel restrictions imposed on Palestinian players, or Israel's barbaric treatment of jailed hunger strike player Mahmoud Sarsak - who also refused Barcelona's ameliorating invite to a match attended by Gilad Shalit.   
In their official statement, Barcelona emphasise that the Peace Tour also has the official recognition of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas - giving the enterprise a seemingly higher degree of authenticity.

Yet, with his own promotional agenda, Abbas and the Palestinian Authority do not credibly speak for the Palestinian street and a wide civil movement strongly approving the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. 

Many football-adoring Palestinians will, of course, revel in this chance to see their Barca heroes, regarding the West Bank visit as an act of welcome empathy, without endorsing the club's onward stop in Israel. 

But it's that 'second-half' appearance which ultimately invalidates their seemingly laudable 'first-half' efforts.

The emotional appeal of this tour  - sporting solidarity and encouragement to dialogue - may seem admirably supportable to many. But it only sets back the imperative task of holding Israel to immediate and sole account over the Occupation and its multiple war crimes.

That should be the real tactical game and publicity goal for Barcelona and any other serious team player intent on supporting Palestinian rights and challenging Israel's criminal, apartheid state.