Category Archives: United States

Mediating notions of freedom: The Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

Radio Free Europe’s headquarters in Prague

Away from the physical wars of violence and destruction, a cultural war has taking been place since the end of World War II. I’m not referring to the phony cultural war of the Right versus Left or Conservative versus Liberal, I’m talking about the bombardment of other countries via the airwaves. The countries that are enduring this cultural bombardment are those in Central Asia, the Balkans and the Middle East.  Some Eastern European countries are included… but not those that have already succumbed to the imperialist message of brotherhood through ‘free trade’.

Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty are, for all intents and purposes, one and the same broadcaster and were, until 1970, directly funded  by the CIA. Their funding now comes directly from Congress but that doesn’t make them any less pernicious than they were previously. In the glory days of the Cold War, RFE/RL would broadcast messages about the wonders of Coca-Cola and other treats to the so-called Iron Curtain countries, but once the Berlin Wall fell, they turned their attention to those countries in Asia, which they believed were in need of ‘freedom’. The truth is altogether less altruistic and I will come to that later.

RFE/RL broadcasts to Iraq and Iran (no surprise). It claims not to beam its signal to Syria but I think, given the current situation there, it most probably does.

RFE began broadcasting in 1950 to Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland and Romania. RL began in 1951. It is interesting to note that in the same year that RFE was founded, the CIA covertly created the Congress for Cultural Freedom.

For decades in art circles it was either a rumour or a joke, but now it is confirmed as a fact. The Central Intelligence Agency used American modern art – including the works of such artists as Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell, Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko – as a weapon in the Cold War. In the manner of a Renaissance prince – except that it acted secretly – the CIA fostered and promoted American Abstract Expressionist painting around the world for more than 20 years.

Here’s a clip from Crusade for Freedom. This is the same Orwellian freedom much beloved of our friends in the Liberty League and The Freedom Association,

The Crusade succeeded in convincing many Americans that the idea of freedom that was being mediated to them by domestic broadcasters was the ‘right’ freedom, and that this freedom should be ‘enjoyed’ by everyone.

While not exactly sinister, the Crusade for Freedom was unquestionably deceitful. Over almost twenty years, it repeatedly took advantage of American good will, expanding from a small, obscure program into a monstrous propaganda subterfuge. Crusade organizers instigated parades in small towns, complete with a shining Freedom Bell displayed along the streets. Organizers cast the bell at a foundry near where the Liberty Bell was originally created to enhance its propaganda value. They added other touches, too, appealing to people’s patriotic sentiments. The top of the Freedom Bell, for example, was circled with peace laurels, and the bottom was engraved with a quote from Abraham Lincoln. People were asked to sign Freedom Scrolls and donate Truth Dollars.

“Freedom Scrolls” and “Truth dollars”. What does that sound like to you?

RFE’s website tells us,

In the first years of the Cold War, Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty adopted more confrontational editorial policies than other Western broadcasters. The broadcasts produced in accordance with these policies did not promote uprisings and, after 1953, emphasized evolutionary system change.

The original intention of RFE/RL was to inspire insurrection in the East but this failed to happen. Instead, the radios adopted a more softly softly approach through the use of culture.

In what came to be called “surrogate” broadcasting, RFE and RL provided an unbiased, professional substitute for the free media that countries behind the Iron Curtain lacked. Unlike other Western broadcasters, the programs focused on local news not covered in state-controlled domestic media as well as religion, science, sports, Western music and locally banned literature and music.

They claim that they provided “unbiased” news. Such news does not and never did exist.

The “radios” provided news, features and music aimed at communist and non-communist elites as well as the general population. RFE and RL also gave a voice to dissidents and opposition movements that, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, would emerge as leaders of the new post-communist democracies.

Most Americans had no idea that their tax money was being used to support RFE/RL and many still don’t understand the role they played in the production of propaganda during Gulf War II and the occupation of Iraq.

But it’s not going all RFE’s way. Last October, the Voice of America website reported,

U.S.-funded media outlet Radio Liberty says it will end its radio broadcasts and move to digital platforms to comply with a new Russian law prohibiting foreign control of broadcast licenses.

In a Moscow Times article, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) president Steve Korn says the station is adapting to new legal realities and changing technology and distribution systems.

Korn says Radio Liberty’s future lies in digital, Internet and social media, where it hopes to reach “young, urban and educated Russians” who “are at the forefront of change and who will lead Russia in the future.”  He says there was no alternative to compliance with Russian law.

The Voice of America (VOA) looks like a rival outfit but it is part of the same propaganda machine. The VOA includes the African continent in its broadcast orbit as well as the rest of the world. In the 1970s, I can remember once tuning in to the VOA in time for the news. The announcer told listeners that the news was in “Special English”. I always took that phrase to mean “code”. It actually means “American English for foreign speakers”.

English language lessons are part of the propaganda drive: through the teaching of a language one can inculcate in the listener the values of the culture from which that language comes.  In this case, the language is American English, which tells us that the cultural values of the dominant ideology in the United States will be passed on to the listener in a seemingly innocent manner. This is also true of the BBC World Service.

Chomsky and Herman (1989) say,

The mass media serve as a system for communicating messages and symbols to the general populace. It is their function to amuse, entertain, and inform, and to inculcate individuals with the values, beliefs, and codes of behavior that will integrate them into the institutional structures of the larger society. In a world of concentrated wealth and major conflicts of class interest, to fulfill this role requires systematic propaganda.

In the case of VOA, RFE and RL, they obviously function as American propaganda machines: they are supported by the government through taxation and private (and corporate) donations. While Chomsky and Herman wrote about the function of the media in advanced capitalist societies in which there exists a ‘free press’, it is important to understand how the American radios projected an image of America that was at ease with itself and in which there were no internal conflicts, racism or the surveillance of ‘subversives’. The American people were portrayed as unified and happy. But this was no more than an illusion for the American people and the world’s listeners, whose only knowledge of the US came from one of the radios. In Debordian terms, this is a spectacular image of the US that is being mediated to listeners. But is not the radios themselves that are spectacular, rather the social relations that exist between the listener and the radios are spectacular.

Indeed, Debord said,

The spectacle is not a collection of images, but a social relation among people, mediated by images.

The spectacular freedom articulated by the radios can only be achieved by the ‘opening up’ of markets so that the consumer goods can flow freely. Images of fast-food, high-spec gadgets and designer clothing are used to reinforce this mediated idea of freedom.

Let’s take the example of the Czech Republic, of which Pew Global said,

Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project found broad-based Czech discontent with the country’s economic situation and the way democracy is working.

Adding,

Nonetheless, the data also showed a strong commitment among Czechs to free markets and democratic values. Moreover, Czechs ranked high among their peers in the region in terms of happiness with the transition to free market economics and multiparty politics.

The Czech Republic was one of the first of the former Soviet Union’s satellite states to embrace the free market notion that had been mediated during the Cold War. It is likely that the idea of the “democratic values” of which Pew speaks were projected through the distorted lens of capitalist commodity production onto the Czech people through the radios.  The use of the slippery word “happiness” is instructive here and I would suggest that it has also been subjected to the process of spectacularization.  In other words, happiness comes through the consumption of freely available commodities, but for those without the means to consume such things there is no freedom. This is the ugly flipside of the freedom and democracy concepts that were articulated by the radios. The Shangri-La promised by RFE/RL/VOA exists only for the wealthy, who snapped up the former state industries, and the powerful political figures who capitalized on the vacuum left by the former rulers.

Now the transmitters have turned their signal to those parts of the world that have been hitherto untouched by the invisible hand of the market.

So for those who have yet to be touched by the joys of free market capitalism: your freedom will be mediated to you.

References

Debord, G. (2005) Society of the Spectacle, Detroit: Black and Red.

Herman, E. S. & Chomsky, N. (1994) Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media, London: Vintage Books.

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Filed under Africa, Media, Middle East, propaganda, United States, World

Gardiner leads The Charge of the Bitter Brigade

Obama won, get over it.

Obama won the election and the Moonie is angry… and bitter. I found this on the English version of Die Welt.

… Nile Gardiner, of conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation, does not believe that the Republicans’ defeat is of great significance, since they still have the power to stymie the president’s bills. He points out that the new generation of Republicans, like Florida senator Marco Rubio, are just as conservative as the old. “So you’re not going to see the Republicans shifting to the left but maintaining their core conservative principles,” said. He also believes that the Tea Party will continue to have a lot of influence.

He’s in denial. The Republicans have to change. Gardiner’s idea of a conservative is something akin to a Falangist (I’m stopping short of fascist). Indeed, the Republicans have slid so far to the right that any party that is slightly less right-wing is seen as “left” or “socialist”. In truth, the Tea Party’s influence scuppered any real chance Romney had, because by associating with them, he became their hostage to such an extent that he developed Stockholm Syndrome. But the Republicans can’t see it. Here’s some more from The Moonie.

“So far there isn’t any evidence that he is willing to be bipartisan,” he warned.

Gardiner also argued that though Obama is politically further left than the country as a whole, he will still be a “lame duck president.” And he adds that Obama will struggle to pass his immigration reform proposal. “I don’t see any Republican appetite for immigration reform,” he said.

If Obama is “left-wing” and a “socialist”, then I’m a Tory grandee. He’ll continue to kill civilians in drone strikes and protect capitalist interests. That’s what he does. The Affordable Healthcare Act, dubbed “Obamacare”, will continue to exercise Republican emotions.  And the Birthers and Truthers? Well, they’ll keep dribbling conspiranoid fantasies. The world still turns.

Let’s have a look at some of his tweets.

His Torygraph stablemate, James Delingpole, chimes in with some poorly thought out bollocks about Greece and the EU. Notice how Gardiner also retweeted some bullshit article from  The Washington Times. Now correct me if I’m wrong, but haven’t plenty of Republican presidents sucked up to “overseas authoritarians”? Do the names Nixon, Pinochet and Suharto mean anything? Well, not to Gardiner, because he’s the Director of the Orwellian Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom, whose raison d’etre is not freedom but serfdom for those who aren’t billionaire industrialists or bankers.

Let’s have a look at that Wash Times article. Here’s the opening paragraph.

The Russians, Chinese and Iranians would vote for Barack Obama. That’s a good reason for Americans to select someone else.

Oh, very bitchy. Let’s read on.

Polls and informal surveys from around the world show that if foreigners could vote in the U.S. election, President Obama would win hands down. “The One” may have lost some of the luster he had four years ago, when simply showing up was good enough for him to land a Nobel Peace Prize, but he’s still popular overseas. That’s because many countries resent a robust White House, and adversary states chafe when their designs are foiled by American might. Mr. Obama is the perfect president for both factions. His diminutive stature on the global scene incites no envy among our friends and offers frequent opportunities to our adversaries.

Paranoia alert! Curiously enough, this article has no by-line and it’s entirely possible that it was written by the chubby-cheeked one.

Over at the Torygraph, Brendan O’Neill claims that Obama’s victory is a win for the “elitists”. It’s a typically confused piece that argues the President’s campaign was not so much supported by “Joe Averages” as it was by

 “the tech sector, government and the academy” – his top five funders were “the University of California, Microsoft, Google, the US government, and Harvard”. Executives at Craigslist, Facebook and Google gave maximum donations to Obama’s campaign.

O’Neill’s argument is drawn from an article by Joel Kotkin at the Daily Beast. Tell us something we don’t know, Brendan. Big business supports the Democrats. It’s hardly earth-shattering stuff.

Doc Stanley, he of the Pat Buchanan biography, points the finger at the Tea Party for Romney’s defeat.  The sanguine Stanley then offers some advice to the Tea Party. Good luck with that.

The challenge for the Tea Party is to return to its fiscal roots and try to shake off some of the bad memories of this election year. It’s interesting to note that House candidates supported by Ron Paul – who peddles a less culturally toxic brand of libertarianism – did rather well. Is Paulism the future?

Ah, so now the Doc has become a Paulician? Yeah, I know what a Paulician is, I’ve just appropriated the name. Dig? I love how Stanley casts off Romney like a beat-up mac and slips into his new Ron Paul cape and boots. No one wants to be seen with a loser. Good luck with that one too, Doc. As for Paul’s [coughs] libertarianism being “less toxic”, that’s just nuts. He’s a racist. Remember?

I can’t end this blog without mentioning Janet Daley, whose blog is, well, weird.

A depressing election fact for the Republican party constitutes something of a warning for Labour. According to exit polls, a significant majority of US voters still blame George Bush for the economic crisis. In other words, they continue to hold the party which was in power at the time responsible for the 2008 crash and its lingering consequences. Angry commentators on the American Right are attributing this to the White House spin operation which has never failed to pin it all on the Bush administration even as its own goals for economic recovery were repeatedly missed.

There’s no mention of Romney or the Tea Party in her blog. Instead, she tries to comfort herself with the fantasy of Labour being trounced at the next general election by the Conservatives… who are currently demonstrating how economically illiterate they are, while doling out NHS contracts to their business chums. You keep taking the drugs, Janet but I don’t think they’re working.

And what about the zombie-eyed granny-starver, Paul Ryan? Hopefully he’ll disappear back up his own arse.

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Filed under United States, US Presidential Election 2012, World

Can you hear that?

It’s the sound of Moonie, Nile Gardiner sobbing his wee heart out as Mitt Romney loses the Presidential Election to Barack Obama.

I guess it’s back to penning outraged blogs about how Churchill’s bust no longer sits in the Oval Office and how Obama is allowing Argentina to “insult” Britain. He’ll also find the time to complain that Obama hasn’t visited “our friend and ally” Israel.

Gardiner still hasn’t said anything about Sun Myung Moon’s death. The silence, as they say, is deafening.

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Da Don, his ‘truth’ and a little bit of business in Aberdeenshire

Donald Trump is a nasty piece of work. If anyone saw the film You’ve Been Trumped on BBC2 the other week, you’ll know that the billionaire property developer purchased land in Aberdeenshire with the intention of building one of his luxury resorts. The site that he purchased was identified as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Those that lived nearby were harassed and their homes described as “slums” by Da Don, a man who’s used to getting his own way by simply waving his wedge about. There are also serious allegations that Trump regarded Grampian Police as his private security team and has been putting them under pressure to act. Does he get away with this shit in Noo York? Probably.

Trump is a bit like a Mafia don but without the garottes, knuckledusters, violin cases and pretensions to a Sicilian heritage. He’s a plastic don. He’s got the dynasty – da family. His hair, often resembling a mutated piece of shredded wheat, attracts ridicule and bafflement the world over. He’s got the money (but is it real or just debt?) and influence. But it’s his claims to have access to a special kind of truth that has been attracting the most ridicule, especially on Twitter.

Last year, Da Don claimed to have ‘evidence’ of Barack Obama’s ‘foreign’ birth. It turned out to be another one of his attention-seeking stunts (He’d earlier claimed that he was going to run for the Republican presidential nomination but went a bit silent). This time around, it’s all about the President’s college records. Sigh. This is… how can I put this? Juvenile?

Let’s be clear about this: demands to see Obama’s birth certificate or any other document smells suspiciously, in The Cat’s view, of crypto-racism. In other words, it’s the sort of racism that does its best to deny its true nature by claiming to be something else. That can be either a concern for the ‘truth’ or an economic rationalization (see the classical liberals’ arguments about Jim Crow and segregation). Questions of one’s birth were, rather curiously, absent in the case of John McCain, who was born outside the Continental United States in the Panama Canal Zone, which was not, at that time, an incorporated territory. McCain is white, therefore his citizenship was never in question as far as the Tea Partiers and assorted conspiranoids are concerned.  On that basis, McCain should have been disqualified on the grounds that he was born outside of the United States. Even those born of US service personnel overseas are barred from running for the presidency. Is that fair? Well, not really. But those are rules.

The discourses of citizenship and national identity are often deployed by the right, nationalists especially, to question the right of those persons of a particular ethnicity or culture to live in, what they see as, ‘their’ country. Therefore such discourses almost always contain the hidden and unpleasant discourse of racism. In Trump’s case, it’s fine for Black people to be athletes and boxers, but President of the United States? Not in Trump’s world! The word that springs to mind, but which Trump did not say, is “uppity”, which is always attached to the other word. The one that begins with the letter, “N”.

But what about Trump’s authenticity? Is he what he claims to be? Listen to The Guardian’s Adam Gabbutt as he tries to obtain a copy of Trump’s passport and college records. The person who takes the call is pretty unpleasant.

If you haven’t seen You’ve Been Trumped, here’s the trailer. The film may still be on BBC iPlayer.

Trump recently announced that he would donate $5 million to charity if Obama showed him his college records. I’ll show you mine, if you show me yours! Ooer, missus!  The Mambo rips into The Man with the Mystery Hair here.

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The Wisconsin recall election or “Things go better with Koch”

The right will be feeling vindicated after Wisconsin Governor, Scott Walker won his recall election by 53%. The right on this side of the Atlantic will be feeling similarly smug in their belief in the power of laissez-faire capitalism. The people have decided that Walker was right, they’ll tell us. Now he can carry on slashing like Freddy Kruger on crank,  safe in the knowledge that he has a mandate from 53% of the electorate.

But something is rotten in the state of Wisconsin. There’s a lot of money sloshing around and it comes from out of the state. Much of it comes from hyper-rich right-wing donors like the Koch Brothers. But to read the Torygraph, you’d think that none of that mattered. For these people, all of whom are fully signed-up members to the Cult of the Invisible Hand, this was a sign. A sign of Romney’s impending victory in November. The cultists are even doing their victory jigs as I write this. I found this Media Matters article which puts things into perspective. I will quote a snippet here,

Right-wing media are arguing that Wisconsin governor Scott Walker’s victory in the Wisconsin recall election was a victory for the grassroots over unions and progressives. But, due to Citizens United and a loophole in Wisconsin campaign finance laws, the progressive message was swamped by conservative special interest money.

Did you see the way he used the word “grassroots”? Yes, so did I.  It’s utterly meaningless within the context of this story and I will come back to that later.

Yesterday, 5 Torygraph bloggers chipped in with their congratulations. This blog from James “I don’t read peer-reviewed research” Delingpole is rather typical. He opens with,

From my poolside in Puglia I was going to do you an amusing post about The Archers…

Oh? Why didn’t you then?

That’s because I want instead to draw your attention to two important stories from the US which, I suspect, will have far greater impact on the world than even Nigel Pargeter’s murder (by politically correct BBC harridans) ever did. I refer to Governor Scott Walker’s victory in Wisconsin  and an equally important but perhaps less well-publicised victory won in the Alabama house and senate over the UN’s malign and insidious Agenda 21.

He never misses an opportunity to tell us that the BBC is “politically correct” or “left-wing”. The guy’s a loon. Then he says,

Walker’s victory has been thoroughly and expertly analysed by my estimable colleague Tim Stanley. For the benefit of those readers who a) find US politics remote, weird or dull and/or b) think Walker was one of the Brothers responsible for The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Any More before going a bit weird on his solo albums, I’d just like to reiterate that this is a story of significance to all of us.

What wit. I think the less time I spend on Delingtroll’s blog, the better. So I had a look at “estimable” Tim Stanley’s blog.  Stanley is described as “Pat Buchanan’s biographer”. Is that really something to boast about?

Stanley’s gripping headline reads “As the Wisconsin Tea Party gives Obama a bloody nose, Bill Clinton stabs him in the back”. Hyperbole and junk. Let’s read on,

Tuesday night saw a double whammy rejection of Obamanomics – once by the voters and once by former President Bill Clinton. Given a choice, the people of Wisconsin took Republican fiscalism over Democratic populism in a recall vote that let Tea Party favourite Scott Walker keep his state’s governorship. Incredibly, Bill Clinton – the man the White House sent to represent the President during the election – compounded the result by admitting that the country was in a recession and by urging Congress to extend the Bush tax cuts. That makes him the most senior liberal in the nation to cast doubt on Obama’s economic strategy. The people of Wisconsin are trending towards Romneynomics in 2012. So too, it would seem, is Hillary Clinton’s husband.

Stanley fails to grasp one essential: Walker had amassed a huge war chest of $18m since he took office. Herr Doktor also seems to think that the people of Wisconsin are happy to have their collective throat cut to ‘save’ the economy. It’s absurd.  Many voters weren’t happy with the recall vote in the first place, believing it to be unnecessary. The Doctor takes care not to mention this wee factlet. Stanley doesn’t mention the out-of-state donors who contributed $ millions on smear campaigns and outright emotional blackmail. Instead, he says,

But when you factor in the huge amount of Leftwing fervour pouring into the state, the usual rumours of Democratic fraud (turnout in one district was projected to be 119 percent) and the fact that this isn’t a solid Republican state like Alabama, and the tally starts to look healthy. Crucially, the administration’s class war language failed to mobilise a majority in a state that went strongly for Obama in 2008.

It’s a common charge on the part of the right in the US and in this country, to allege that their opponents are guilty of electoral fraud. If one smear doesn’t work, then try another and maybe it will stick. Stanley also seems to think, like so many of his fellow travellers, that Wisconsin is going to swing it for Romney come November’s election.

But did Clinton really “stab” Obama in the back?

So campaigning in Wisconsin was left to Bill Clinton, who is fast becoming a fixture of the 2012 campaign. Apparently paid appearances at the opening of an envelope are down this year.

I have looked over and over at Stanley’s blog and nowhere does he elucidate on this point. Instead he tells us,

The problem is that while Wisconsin was fought between local personalities, it was over issues with national salience. In the last 18 months, Wisconsin has been a laboratory for both Tea Party economic revanchism and the Democratic Party’s fight back. Walker’s platform is pure conservatism: he defunded the unions, slashed public sector spending, cut business and property taxes, and his accountants project a balanced budget. The economic outcome has been mixed: a perplexing blend of low unemployment and persistent job loss.

Pure praise-song. I can only imagine what his biography of Pat Buchanan reads like. He continues,

On the other hand, everything the local Democrats did in response has been echoed by the message of the Obama 2012 campaign. Special interest groups and unions were mobilised, women were reminded of the Republican war on reproductive rights, and class solidarity was constantly invoked. Barrett vs Walker looked a lot like Obama vs Romney.

Notice how he refers to “special interest groups” in relation to the Democratic challenger. It’s as if to say that the Republicans are free of such interests. Nothing could be further from the truth. But the truth isn’t something that bothers Stanley. Unions are bad. Women are bad. Class solidarity is bad.  Never mind that Clinton is gaffe-prone and his presidency shored up neoliberalism by offering massive tax cuts for the wealthy. Stanley, like so many right-wing critics of Obama, rely on codewords to express their unsavoury, but nonetheless, hidden discourses: Obama is “incompetent”, an “amateur”; “he doesn’t know how to run the economy”. Tell me this Doc, which president in the postwar history of the US has run the economy in the way you would like to see it? Stupid question, really. But Reagan actually increased the national debt as well as the deficit. Oops!

Stanley believes, like his stablemates, that Walker’s survival spells the end of Obama’s time in the White House. If that’s what he thinks, then perhaps he should read this article from the Christian Science Monitor. I shall quote a little here,

President Obama got some good news in the Wisconsin recall election, even as the Democrats failed to oust Republican Gov. Scott Walker: The president polled ahead of Mitt Romney by a wide margin – 51 percent to 44 percent, according to the exit poll conducted by Edison Research.

The recall election was a colossal mistake on the part of Wisconsin Democrats, who thought that this would make Walker disappear.  It didn’t. Instead, he’s been given a free hand to do as he wants. But the right in this country and in the US are fooling themselves that this is some sort of precursor to the main event. Wisconsin has voted for the Democrat candidate in every presidential election since 1988.

The right-wing media have been quick to point out that this was a grassroots victory. But they are deluding themselves and lying to the voting public. The ‘grassroots’ the US right often refers to is top-down rather than the other way around. Therefore real victor in the recall election was money. The money of special interests and corporate America.  The kind of money that buys votes. Stanley and Delingpole are too dumb or too dishonest to see this. Are you surprised? No, neither am I.

By the way, I’m not an Obama fan. In my mind, he’s another mad bomber like the presidents before him.

UPDATE: 7/6/12 @1736

Doc Stanley has spat out this postscript to his earlier blog. Here’s an excerpt.

You have to admire the optimism of the American Left. After Republican Scott Walker pulled off a sizeable victory in the crucial Wisconsin recall, they came out with a counter narrative that would shame Baron von Munchausen. Not only was Wisconsin not about Obama, but defeat actually makes him stronger. As Lawrence O’Donnell put it on MSNBC, “Tonight, the really big winner in the Wisconsin recall election is … Barack Obama.” What will O’Donnell say if Romney wins in November? “Tonight, the really big winner in the presidential election is … Barack Obama.” Because it’s the taking part that counts.

Exactly, the operative word here is “if” Romney wins and he won’t. It seems to me that Herr Doktor hasn’t seen the polls.

 

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Romney includes Nile Gardiner in his foreign policy team

Apparently GOP presidential hopeful, Mitt Romney, has included Moonie Nile Gardiner, in his foreign policy team. Quite what Gardiner has to offer in the sphere of international relations is anyone’s guess. Last month, The National Memo said this,

And then there is Nile Gardiner, a British national, ultra-conservative, and former Unification Church devotee, who is thinking deep thoughts about Europe for Romney. Gardiner once said that we would only discover why we had invaded Iraq after the fall of Baghdad, when records proving Saddam Hussein’s collaboration with Al Qaeda would fall into our hands. (Is he still waiting for that?)

Gardiner is something of a Jack D. Ripper figure who imagines that all sorts of enemies are lining up to poison our water and steal our women.

Gardiner’s world view, like that of Romney, is US-centric and thus cyclopean. Both of them inhabit a pre-Copernican world where the US is the centre of the universe.

According to Romney’s website, Gardiner is going to ‘advise’ him on Europe. That’s interesting, given the fact that Gardiner spends no time here nor does he seem to know much about the continent for which he has been given a brief.

Here’s Gardiner’s latest drivel, where he claims that the #OWS movement has been “defeated”. Of course what our Moonie friend completely ignores is the police brutality that forced the protesters from Zucchoti Park (of which he doubtlessly approves). He also seems to have ignored the fact that the protest is continuing.

Occupy Wall Street has been an act of desperation by the liberal Left, which now represents a small minority of Americans in terms of ideology. In many ways, OWS has been the antithesis of the Tea Party. It has failed to shape the political debate on Capitol Hill and has been driven by an anti-capitalist agenda that does not resonate with most Americans. In addition, while the Tea Party has been an unfailingly law-abiding movement, with tremendous respect for the police and the rule of law, Occupy Wall Street has descended into anarchy. In many ways, OWS is an anachronism, a wannabe 1960s-style protest movement in an America that has moved on. And it is above all a symbol of a Left in decline amidst an increasingly conservative nation that has had enough of the kind of big government, anti-free market policies the liberal protestors crave.

Smears and lies.  In the same blog, he claims that the Tea Party is the political force in the ascendancy. Nothing like objectivity, eh?

In marked contrast, conservatism has undergone a profound revival since Obama entered the Oval Office. As I’ve noted before, the Tea Party has been the most influential US political movement of the early 21st Century, fundamentally transforming the political landscape.

Funnily enough, the Tea Party seems to be in decline but Gardiner doesn’t let the facts get in the way of a good story.

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Filed under Media, propaganda, Tea party, United States, United States, World, Yellow journalism

Myths, lies and the iconography of Osama bin Laden

Here is some breaking news,

“Osama bin Laden was killed by US Navy SEALS. He was armed and was brandishing an AK-47.  A woman, believed to be one of his wives, was being used a human shield”.

There was only one thing in that statement that is true: bin Laden was killed by US Navy SEALS. The rest of it is rubbish.  Within hours of the announcement of bin Laden’s death, a photo was produced that was purported to be that of the newly-deceased Al-Qaeda leader. It was a photoshopped composite of two, possibly more, separate photos. A doctored image that had, apparently been substituted for the real image, which was allegedly “too gruesome” for sensitive Western eyes. Bullshit. We got to see the photos of the expired Saddam Hussein and his gruesome sons. What’s the problem? Aren’t humans, by nature, full of bloodlust? Isn’t that why ‘sports’ like badger-baiting and hare-coursing are still popular with some people? Because we revel in the sight of a blood-spattered being? In spite of what they say, those who go fox-hunting don’t go for the “thrill of the chase” and the stirrup cup (though it helps); they go purely for the denouement. They want to see death.

The assassination of Osama bin Laden in a house in Abbottabad in Pakistan has raised more questions than it has answered. Already, there are conspiracy theories surrounding the life and death of OBL.  Is he really still alive and living the life of luxury in Belize? Is he teaching at a school in Dar es Salaam? Or is he working in a chip shop in Batley, West Yorkshire with Elvis Presley as his manager? Or, to pose a more Baudrillardian question, did he ever exist? I’ll leave those questions for those people who listen to the paranoid ramblings of Alex Jones and Jeff Rense ;  or those who  get a buzz from reading the psychotic prose of  lizard-worrier and anti-Semite, David Icke.  By far the most important question is how this mission was carried out without the expressed prior approval of the Pakistani government. Such a mission would have been unthinkable in a country like North Korea or China, both of whom would be planning  la  revanche as I type this. Surely this hit violated every tenet of what passes for international law? Yes? No? So much for co-operation in the “War on Terror” and other abstract nouns. l’alliance: elle est cassé. Pakistan was only ever going to be a junior partner if that…but Pakistan has a nuke. Nonetheless, the Torygraph bloggers are pretty much united: most of them claim that bin Laden’s summary execution was just and that the US had every right to carry it out. Many of them also agree that this event will spawn a million and one conspiracy theories, which they will pin on ‘leftists’. Some of them, like the Hon Tobes, have produced spectacular drivel like this,

If bin Laden had been captured and put on trial, thousands of people would have died at the hands of his terrorist sympathisers. No doubt there will be reprisals in any event, but the terrorist response would have been far greater if bin Laden had been taken alive.

Hmmm, yes, Tobes. The real truth is that The Network (Al-Qaeda to you and me) is in decline. They have had no influence on the events that have taken place during the so-called and ongoing, “Arab Spring”.  The suggestion put about by Torygraph bloggers and other self-appointed sages of the Right is that bin Laden’s execution will serve as a bookend. But you’d have to be an idiot to believe that. Tobe’s stablemate, the LMer Brendan O’Neill, on the other hand, comes across like a tuppence ha’penny moral philosopher , O’Neill opines,

And third, these complainers don’t seem to realise that the stakes in war are far higher than they are in law. War is a matter of life and death. It touches upon highly existential issues. It is generally considered acceptable in a war to kill someone whom you believe to be a threat to you, your people or your way of life.

On the same page, gobshite serial commenter and Islamo-obsessive, “danoconnor” chips in like a skipping CD,

The Left feels it has an affinity with Islam because the Left feels it has an affinity with everyone–except its own culture .

The Left thinks that all religions have a few nutters , but don’t worry we’ll take care of that when we have defeated the real enemy –the West .

“danoconnor” is a two-trick pony. He only does Islam and the “Left”. Aren’t you glad you don’t have to drink with him?

Many bloggers and commentators were quick to draw parallels with the Nuremberg War Trials and an imagined war crimes trial of OBL.  But it’s lazy stuff that is born of enfeebled minds. It was inevitable that the Nazis would get dragged into this, since the Nazis have become wholly symbolic of pure, undiluted  evil. Before the Nazis came along, Satan incarnate came in the shape of Kaiser Wilhelm and before him, the squat figure of Napoleon Bonaparte.  Will bin Laden supersede Hitler as the embodiment of evil? More than likely. Make no mistake, OBL is the bogeyman for the 21st century. He is, in death as he was in life, a mythologized creature of  spectacular invention: paradoxically, he is at once a dehumanized human being and a monster of gargantuan proportions. He takes his place in the genealogy of unspeakable evil – he is the bastard son of  Adolf Schicklegruber. A sort of bastard’s bastard.

The issue of bin Laden’s “burial at sea” is also a bone of contention. The US says that it dumped OBL’s bullet-riddled corpse into the briny because they “didn’t want his grave to become a site of pilgrimage”. Of course this ignores the fact that the Abbottabad compound in which he was slain could easily become a shrine, complete with a souvenir shop selling T-Shirts, mugs and key-rings with OBL’s visage gracing each one.

One thing that was revealing about the White House’s Jay Carney’s press briefing yesterday, was the way he unconsciously divulged the manner of bin Laden’s death. He was shot in the face, though he corrected himself and said “head”.

The mafia and others shoot people in the face so that the deceased’s relatives can’t have an open coffin at the funeral. But OBL was chucked into the deep…. Now there’s something to think about.

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Wisconsin again

Good blog from Socialist Unity about the situation in Wisconsin, where the governor, Scott Walker (the namesake of my favourite male vocalist) is proposing to end collective bargaining. Wisconsin is the state that once had a socialist mayor in its capital, Madison.

In Wisconsin Monday, protesters are again expected to fill and surround the Capitol in Madison.

It’s the seventh consecutive day of demonstrations against a plan by Republican Gov. Scott Walker to increase healthcare and pension contributions by public employees, while eliminating most of their collective bargaining rights.

Senate Democrats remain out of state to try to thwart a vote on the bill.

Snow, slush, rain and sleet kept the size of Sunday’s crowd down and forced the protests indoors, but thousands still packed into the Capitol rotunda.

They crammed themselves up to 10 deep along the rails of the upper floors to voice their displeasure with Gov. Walker’s budget-repair bill.

Union leaders for the state’s teachers, healthcare workers and other public employees say they’ll give the governor the financial concessions he wants — amounting to a pay cut of eight percent or more — but they will stand firm on what they call union busting proposals.

You can read the rest here.

What time is it? It’s revolution time!

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It can’t happen here?

Or can it? The events in North Africa and the Middle East have sparked off protests and rebellions around the globe. Last night,  Saif al-Islam Ghaddafi was on Libyan state television speaking darkly about “foreigners, Islamists, drunks and drug users” being responsible for the revolts in Benghazi and now Tripoli. But Ghaddafi is a desperate man and like all dictators (elected and unelected) he’s blaming the events on everything and everyone but his father’s regime.

The protests and revolts aren’t confined to North Africa and the Middle East. There have been protests in China, Gabon and Wisconsin in the United States are the latest countries to witness mass protests against corrupt regimes and neoliberal economic policies. In Wisconsin,

Some 70,000 people, including union members from neighbouring states, flooded the state capital Madison on Saturday, protesting against benefit cuts proposed for government workers and an attack on union bargaining rules by the right-wing Governor.

In China, the Irish Times reports,

FEARFUL THE wave of change sweeping across North Africa and the Middle East could undermine the position of the Communist Party, Chinese security forces took to the streets of 13 major cities yesterday to squash any displays of dissent after a mysterious online call for a “Jasmine Revolution”, inspired by pro-democracy demonstrations elsewhere.

Crowds gathered outside McDonald’s in the Wangfujing shopping precinct, not far from Tiananmen Square, and some protesters were taken away.

One man was detained when he tried to place a jasmine flower in front of the restaurant.

In Djibouti, the Financial Times says,

Opposition parties said more than 30,000 people protested on Friday against the dynastic rule of President Ismail Guelleh, who last year scrapped a two-term constitutional limit to allow him to stand for re-election at polls due in April. Government officials say less than a thousand people took part.

One person has been killed.

In Yemen, MPs have joined the anti-government protests. AFP says,

Opposition MPs, who vowed to take to the streets in a statement issued on Sunday, joined students who have been protesting for the past nine days.

Security forces surrounded the protesters as they gathered in a nearby square carrying banners declaring: “People want change,” “People want to overthrow the regime” and “Leave”.

The Common Forum, an alliance of parliamentary opposition groups has urged all of its parties on Sunday to “join the protesting youths… in their demonstrations against oppression, tyranny and corruption,” in a statement received by AFP.

In Morocco,

Thousands staged rallies in Moroccan cities on Sunday demanding political reform and limits on the powers of King Mohammed VI, the latest protests demanding change that have rocked the region.

Between 3,000 and 4,000 people took to the streets of the capital Rabat, shouting: “The people want change, denouncing corruption and calling for a democratic constitution to be adopted.

In Casablanca, the North African nation’s biggest city, more than 4,000 people came out demanding: “Freedom, dignity, justice,” an AFP reporter said.

Already in Britain, the cost of living has sky-rocketed and the current Tory-led government continues to attack the poor, the low-waged and the working class. It has already put forward a range of cuts designed to kill any future young people may have longed for by raising university tuition fees and scrapping the EMA. The NHS is to be further marketized under their proposals. These are presented as ‘reforms’ but as anyone who has lived through the 1960’s will tell you, the word “reform” means something else.

As the cuts begin to bite, there will be more protests. The government will tell us that any change/protest should be made at the ballot box.  I’m not sure any of us can sit around for the next 4 years while we watch the country being destroyed by bankers and the mega-riche.

For pure comedy value, here’s Glenn Beck with some uneducated nonsense about the “New World Order”.

He blames the protests  on “The Muslim Brotherhood, Commies and the United Nations”. Standard fare for endtimes hick conspiracy theorists.

In 1848, revolutions swept away the old orders in Europe. In Britain, the Chartist petition was presented to Parliament, who pushed it aside.

These protests are only the beginning.

UPDATE: 2348

Added link to Gabon

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Filed under Africa, Cuts, Government & politics, Middle East, Middle East, United States, World, Yemen

Violent political rhetoric in American politics

The Washington Post has produced some examples of heated political rhetoric in the US. Even Obama has used it in the past. In fact during the election campaign he said,

“If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun … Because from what I understand, folks in Philly like a good brawl. I’ve seen Eagles fans.”

Then there’s Palin’s infamous line,

“Don’t retreat, Instead – RELOAD!”

Have a look at some of the comments. They’re enough to make your hair stand on end! One comment is repeated 5 times. Presumably the commenter thought once wasn’t enough.

The people who are trying to take away basic American liberty such as the right to own firearms, the right to free speech instead of politically correct speech (defined by libs), and the right to decide what health coverage you buy or don’t buy should expect to draw fiery comments from the people they are trying to dupe. Anyone who speaks out against them is using “hate speech” according to them. It is regrettable when a nut chooses to shoot a group of people (and this nut has liberal ways, atheist is one). The liberals have sowed the seed of hate by trying to enslave Americans to their theoretical utopia on earth, where they rule of course. You don’t have to be too concerned about insurrection when a nut grabs a gun and acts stupid, but when Americans finally get completely sick of the lefties and grab their guns, then worry.

Posted by: johntu | January 9, 2011 10:13 PM

Repetition is a sure sign of a serious mental disorder. “johntu” seems to have missed the news. Loughner is connected to an extreme right wing group that calls itself American Renaissance (I won’t provide a link but you can Google them). Their idea isn’t so much of a renaissance as a return to the stone age.

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