Aletho News

ΑΛΗΘΩΣ

Israel destroyed 172,900 homes, expelled 1.3m Palestinians since the Nakba

MEMO | October 5, 2021

The Israeli occupation has demolished about 172,900 Palestinian homes, displaced 1,324,000 Palestinians and confiscated 19 million dunums (19,000 square kilometres) of the land of historical Palestine “to bring 5 million Zionist immigrant from around the globe to replace the indigenous people.”

Marking the World Habitat Day yesterday, the Land Research Centre in Jerusalem said: “During the Nakba 1948, the Israeli occupation demolished 125,000 Palestinian houses and displaced 800,000 Palestinians, about 47 per cent of the Palestinians.”

The centre stated that the continuous Israeli attacks led to the occupation of about 78 per cent of historical Palestine and demolished about 4,500 houses, rendering 30,000 Palestinians homeless between 1950 and 2021.

During the 1967 war, Israel occupied the rest of the Palestinian lands, including the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Jerusalem, the centre said, stating that 5,500 Palestinian houses were demolished during the war and 200,000 Palestinians were displaced.

“Israeli demolition policies in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are still going on,” the organisation said. “Israeli bulldozers demolished 11,900 Palestinian houses, 7,440 of which are in East Jerusalem, between 1967 and 2021. Thus, 73,000 Palestinians lost their homes, 47,220 are in Jerusalem alone.”

“During the same period, Israeli air strikes demolished 21,000 Palestinian houses in the Gaza Strip – the most vicious attacks were during wars in 2008/920122014 and 2021, leaving 189,000 Gazans homeless, most of them slept or are still sleeping at schools or with relatives, and some still live in tents.”

October 6, 2021 Posted by | Aletho News | 3 Comments

By endorsing the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, Europe stifles academic freedom

By Nasim Ahmed | MEMO | October 6, 2021

The European Commission is set to incorporate the controversial International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism as part of Europe’s strategy to combat anti-Jewish racism. Details of the Commission’s plan were outlined yesterday in a 26-page programme. The three central goals are to prevent anti-Semitism in all its forms; protect and foster Jewish life; and promote Holocaust research, education and remembrance.

None of this, of course, is particularly controversial. Indeed, we would expect the Commission, if it were likewise to adopt a programme for combating Islamophobia, to include the protection and fostering of Muslim life as a goal while also promoting research and education to expose groups peddling anti-Muslim bigotry.

“We want to see Jewish life thriving again in the heart of our communities,” said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. “This is how it should be. The strategy we are presenting today is a step-change in how we respond to anti-Semitism. Europe can only prosper when its Jewish communities feel safe and prosper.”

European Union member states are encouraged to develop national strategies by the end of 2022 to tackle anti-Semitism, or include measures in their national action plans against racism and provide sufficient funding to implement them.

More controversially, but unsurprising nonetheless, the EU said that it will strengthen its cooperation with Israel and use the IHRA “working definition” to determine what constitutes anti-Jewish racism. It will also encourage local authorities, regions, cities and other institutions and organisations to do the same.

Putting aside the obvious contradiction in working with a state practicing apartheid and promoting Jewish supremacy, in order to combat racism, the incorporation of the highly contested IHRA definition of anti-Semitism into a programme as important as this risks undermining the very goal that the Commission has set out to achieve.

The problem with the IHRA is not the actual definition. No one opposes the text at the heart of the document: “Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.” Nevertheless, the IHRA and the European Commission’s strategy are good examples of how well-meaning endeavours are hijacked for use as weapons in someone else’s propaganda war.

Seven of the 11 illustrative examples within the IHRA definition conflate racism towards Jews with criticism of the state of Israel. It is this that is having a chilling effect on free speech across Europe and elsewhere, despite the insistence by its supporters that the IHRA text has no legal force and is meant to serve only as a guide. If the Commission were to adopt a programme to combat Islamophobia, would it incorporate a definition that included criticism of “Islamism” or any so-called “Islamic” countries as examples of anti-Muslim racism? I doubt it. Just as it would reject China’s insistence that criticising Beijing is in any way anti-Chinese.

Recent high-profile cases illustrate why critics are right to fear that the IHRA has been weaponised for Israel’s benefit. The University of Bristol, for instance, has dismissed a leading British critic of Israel and its lobby, Professor David Miller, following a long “pressure campaign by Israel’s assets in the UK.” An expert in propaganda and political pressure groups, Miller has been a key critic of the pro-Israel lobby for the past decade, as well as of Zionism, the state’s racist official ideology.

Some 200 academics and public intellectuals signed an open letter to the university in support of Miller and his work. Denouncing the attack against him as the “weaponisation” of anti-Semitism, the signatories said: “We oppose anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and all forms of racism. We also oppose false allegations and the weaponisation of the positive impulses of anti-racism so as to silence anti-racist debate. We do so because such vilification has little to do with defeating the harms caused by racism. Instead, efforts to target, isolate and purge individuals in this manner are aimed at deterring evidence-based research, teaching and debate.”

Bristol University claimed that it was committed to an environment preserving “academic freedom” and admitted that Miller’s anti-Israel remarks did not constitute “unlawful speech”. Nonetheless, the university apparently caved in under pressure from groups describing themselves as “proud” Zionists that have been leading the campaign to have him sacked. The very same groups are also pushing for the blanket adoption of the IHRA definition in order to protect Israel from legitimate criticism.

In America, the latest example of the chilling effect of the IHRA definition has seen Israeli diplomats reportedly put pressure on the dean of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to have Kylie Broderick, a teacher critical of the occupation state, removed from her job. The intervention by the Israeli officials followed a campaign by right-wing, pro-Israel websites and an advocacy group who highlighted Broderick’s Twitter account and posts which criticised Israel and Zionism. They cited the posts as evidence of anti-Semitism. The university said it followed guidelines in the IHRA definition to assess whether Broderick’s remarks were anti-Semitic or not.

These are just two of the most recent examples of how the IHRA definition has been used to crackdown on free-speech. It has had the impact about which its many critics have warned, including the drafter of the IHRA text, Kenneth Stern. “Jewish groups have used the definition as a weapon to say anti-Zionist expressions are inherently anti-Semitic and must be suppressed,” wrote Stern in a sensational article in the Times of Israel. He claimed that pro-Israel lobby groups have weaponised the definition in an attempt to silence critics of Zionism.

As the European Commission was busy adopting the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, the Senate in France, which in recent years has adopted a number of laws slammed by critics as Islamophobic, duly adopted the working definition. The decision has been applauded by anti-Palestinian groups, which have urged other European parliaments to follow suit.

Freedom of speech is often described as one of the pillars of liberal democracy but not, it seems, when that freedom is used to express legitimate criticism of the Zionist state of Israel and its pernicious, racist ideology. As many pro-Palestine activists have said, “Anti-Semitism is a crime; anti-Zionism is a duty.” The two should never be conflated.

October 6, 2021 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Full Spectrum Dominance, Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

Every US state-funded exposé on the lavish lives of elites is about Russia & Putin, even when he’s not mentioned

By Paul Robinson | RT | October 5, 2021

The powerful are wealthy, and the wealthy are powerful. They’ll also often go to great lengths to avoid paying taxes. Those are the conclusions from some 12 million financial files leaked to reporters last week and covered widely.

Known as the Pandora Papers, the revelations were handed to the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and then picked up on Sunday by the BBC and The Guardian newspaper. The secret documents reveal how some 400 former and current world leaders, government officials and billionaires have funnelled their money through offshore accounts to buy property incognito and avoid paying taxes.

Oh, and in case you wondered what the fuss is all about, it all somehow leads back to Russia and President Vladimir Putin – though quite how is never properly explained. Suffice it to say that readers are meant to be shocked at the apparent corruption of the world’s elites, led by the most corrupt of them all – the Russians. Curiously though, none of those exposed are Americans. This may be because the American tax system allows its wealthy citizens to evade taxes without resorting to offshore companies. Or it could have something to do with the fact that the OCCRP is funded by, among others, the US Agency for International Development and the US Department of State.

Regardless, its discovery that the wealthy are good at tax evasion is hardly a huge surprise. Moreover, the revealed transactions all appear to be entirely legal.

For instance, the papers discuss how King Abdullah of Jordan purchased properties worth £70 million ($95 million) in the US and UK via a network of offshore companies. They also show how the wife of former British prime minister Tony Blair avoided paying over £300,000 ($408,651) in stamp duty by setting up a company to purchase a building from the offshore organization that owned it. But neither transaction was illegal. As lawyers for King Abdullah noted, it is “common practice for high profile individuals to purchase properties via offshore companies for privacy and security reasons.”

If there’s a scandal here, it’s that countries like the UK have set up their financial systems in such a way as to allow the wealthy to avoid stumping up the money that ordinary folk has to pay. Oddly, though, that’s not the way that the press has decided to play the story. Instead, the words “Russia,” “Putin,” and “Kremlin” have led the way, as if clever tax dodges were somehow part and parcel of a web of corruption leading back to Moscow.

So it is that BBC’s lead story starts off with a big picture of Putin, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev, and King Abdullah, before telling readers that the leak “links Russian President Vladimir Putin to secret assets in Monaco.” Meanwhile, on The Guardian’s website, the biggest headlines all mention Russia, referring to “the Kremlin,” a “Russian tycoon’s links to alleged corruption” and “Putin’s inner circle.” A group of headshots of several prominent world leaders sits atop the Guardian headlines, with Putin’s head by far the largest of them all.

This is odd, because the name “Vladimir Putin” never appears in the Pandora Papers even once.

This doesn’t stop The Guardian mentioning the name “Putin” no less than 50 times in an article entitled “Pandora papers reveal hidden  riches of Putin’s inner circle.” The obsession with a person not even mentioned in the papers seems rather excessive. Moreover, the alleged “inner circle” consists of just two people, and no evidence is provided to connect Putin to those persons’ financial dealings. In short, the “link” to Putin is decidedly thin.

The nature of the alleged connection is that in 2003, a wealthy Russian woman named Svetlana Krivonogikh purchased a luxury flat in Monaco via a complex network of offshore companies. The Russian media outlet Proekt has alleged that in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Krivonogikh was Putin’s lover and gave birth to his daughter, allegations that have never been substantiated.

In short, 20 years ago, somebody who may, or may not, have been Putin’s lover bought an apartment in Monaco. That’s it. As stories go, it’s not very exciting.

Nor is the other Putin “link” revealed in the papers. Krivonogikh’s apartment purchase was supposedly set up by a British accountancy and tax firm whose other clients include a long-standing friend of the Russian president – Gennady Timchenko.

And, that’s it, folks. That’s all that The Guardian has got. It can’t even come up with some allegedly crooked dealings by Timchenko and his British pals. And it most definitely doesn’t show that Putin himself is stashing cash away in Monaco, or anywhere else for that matter. But that doesn’t stop The Guardian’s ever-reliable mis-reporter Luke Harding from stirring up the dirt.

For Timchenko, you see, was a founder of Swiss-based oil trading company Guvnor, which is worth several billion dollars. This provides Harding with an opportunity to bring up allegations made by Moscow political scientist Stanislav Belkovsky that Putin is the real owner of Guvnor, supposedly making him a multi-billionaire.

The problem with Belkovsky’s claim is that absolutely no evidence has been produced to substantiate it. The entire story is one completely unconnected person’s entirely unsupported allegation. One would imagine that journalists devoted to reporting reliable information would give it a wide berth. Harding, however, devotes nearly 150 words to repeating the claim in depth. You can tell that he wants you to believe it.

It is a very curious piece of journalism. A set of leaked documents that have absolutely nothing to do with Putin are used as an excuse to throw out lots of articles mentioning his name over and over, and as an opportunity to dig out old and unverified rumours that are entirely irrelevant to the story in question.

The problem, one suspects, is that having got their hands on millions of pages of financial documents showing the wheelings and dealings of the rich and powerful, the massed ranks of Western journalism were left with the awkward reality that none of it shows any obvious wrongdoing. In fact, it’s all completely above board. There’s no scandal there – save for that of the fact it’s legal in the first place. So one has to be invented. At which point, Harding et al. turn to their favorite targets – Russia and Vladimir Putin – and make them their focus of attention. It’s a fairly shoddy tactic.

So what do the Pandora Papers actually tell us? Nothing about Russia. Merely that there are rich people out there; that power and money go together; and that the wealthy have the means and opportunity to exploit tax loopholes that ordinary mortals do not. In short, the rules favor the rich. Not quite the bombshell some had hoped for.

Paul Robinson is a professor at the University of Ottawa. He writes about Russian and Soviet history, military history and military ethics, and is the author of the Irrussianality blog.

October 6, 2021 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | 1 Comment

Mainstream Press Silence on the JFK Deadline

By Jacob G. Hornberger | FFF | October 6, 2021

Sometimes silence by the mainstream press speaks volumes about where they stand on important issues of the day. A perfect example is the absence of editorials and commentaries on the upcoming October 26 deadline for releasing the CIA’s long-secret records relating to the Kennedy assassination, which have been kept secret now for almost 60 years.

Take a look, for example, at all the mainstream papers. I could be mistaken, but as far as I know not one of them has addressed the upcoming deadline, one way or the other.

The mainstream press is in a pickle. On the one hand, they stand for the principle of “transparency” in governmental operations, especially in foreign regimes, which would argue for full release of those decades-old records. On the other hand, however, the last thing they want to do is upset the Pentagon and the CIA, which they know they would do by calling for the release of the records.

So, what do they do? They punt by just deciding to remain silent, acting as if the matter just doesn’t exist and hoping that no one notices.

Well, I’ve noticed! Hopefully other people have noticed as well!

There is another factor to consider. For decades the mainstream press has mocked and ridiculed the notion that the assassination was a highly sophisticated regime-change operation orchestrated and carried out by the U.S. national-security establishment on grounds of “national security.” Following the cue that the CIA sent out to its Operation Mockingbird assets decades ago, the mainstream press has reveled in labeling anyone who has concluded that the assassination was a regime-change operation as a “conspiracy theorist.”

Okay, then why not openly demand the disclosure of the CIA’s long-secret assassination records? Given that the mainstream press is so convinced of the validity of the official lone-nut theory of the assassination, why not call for the release of those records to prove that the lone-nut theory is true and correct?

There is one possible reason they don’t do that: They’re nervous about what those thousands of still-secret records show.

After all, let’s face it: The notion that the release of 60-year-old records could threaten “national security,” no matter what definition is placed on that meaningless term, is patently ludicrous. Whatever evidence the records contain, their disclosure will not cause the United States to fall into the ocean. Communist Cuba will not invade and conquer the United States. The dominoes near North Vietnam will not start falling. The North Korean communists will not come and get us. And the supposed communist conspiracy to take over America that was supposedly based in Moscow, Russia (yes, that Russia) during the Cold War terminated a long time ago.

My hunch is that if you gave lie detector tests to the editorial and op-ed writers in the mainstream press as well as to the Washington, D.C., establishment, the tests would reveal that 95 percent of them, deep down, know that the Kennedy assassination was a regime-change operation. They just don’t want to “know know” that it was a regime-change operation. They just want what happened to be kept secret under the carpet. Their mindset is: What good will it do to “know know” that the U.S. national-security establishment took out a sitting U.S. president based on the need to protect “national security” from his policies?

After all these years, they have to be basically familiar with the fraudulent autopsy that the national-security establishment conducted on the president’s body on the very evening of the assassination. (See my two books The Kennedy Autopsy and The Kennedy Autopsy 2.) As I have repeatedly emphasized over the years, there is no innocent explanation for a fraudulent autopsy. A fraudulent autopsy equals guilt in the assassination.

It’s not as though those long-secret records will contain any confessions. Nobody would be that stupid. Moreover, from its beginning the CIA had a longstanding policy to never mention its state-sponsored assassinations in writing.

But given all the evidence establishing the fraudulent autopsy that came out during the ARRB years in the 1990s, it is a virtual certainty that that those still-secret records contain more evidence that fills out the regime-change mosaic even more, very likely the Mexico City part of the operation, which clearly went awry and is still shrouded to this day in “national-security” secrecy.

One darkly ironic aspect of all this is that if the national-security establishment concluded that a president really did pose a threat to “national security,” much of the mainstream press would undoubtedly want the national-security establishment to act to save the nation. They just would hope that it would be done in a way that would not cause them to “know know” what had to be done in the name of protecting “national security.”

The CIA knows that another request for secrecy will look bad, very bad. But they themselves are in a pickle. There is a reason they kept those records secret 60 years ago and 30 years ago. It is the same reason they sought an extension of time when the deadline for release came due under the Trump administration. Undoubtedly, that reason is still motivating them today to keep those records secret.

So, the problem for the CIA is: Should it seek another extension of time for secrecy, which will look even more incriminating? Or should it release those long-secret records know that they contain incriminating evidence? The answer is obvious: Better to take the heat for continuing the cover-up than to have the regime-change mosaic filled out even further with incriminating evidence.

My prediction? The CIA will seek still another extension of time for secrecy and President Biden, citing “national security,” will grant it. I also predict that the mainstream press will continue to remain silent on the matter, doing its best not to upset the Pentagon and the CIA but continuing to stand for “transparency,” especially within foreign regimes.

October 6, 2021 Posted by | Book Review, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , | 5 Comments

Taliban, Iran conclude bilateral economic deals

MEMO | October 6, 2021

Afghanistan and Iran yesterday concluded “important” bilateral economic and trade agreements, a spokesman for the Taliban said.

Zabihullah Mujahid, who is also acting deputy minister of information and culture in the interim Afghan government, said in a statement that a meeting was held between Afghan and Iranian officials “with the aim of strengthening economic ties and providing necessary facilities for trade issues between the two countries”.

According to the statement, the two sides have decided to increase working hours to facilitate the flow of goods at the Islam Qala-e-Dogharoon border, reviewing existing tariffs on goods and services, as well as launching discussions on fuel supplies.

Last year, Iran’s exports to Afghanistan amounted to about $4 billion while Afghan exports to Iran ranged between $40-$50 million only.

The statement added that a Taliban delegation will visit Tehran to meet officials from the Iranian Oil Ministry.

The two sides also agreed that Iran would build roads in eight Afghan provinces in order to improve trade and transportation within the next month.

October 6, 2021 Posted by | Economics | , | 3 Comments

Japan Stocking Fossil Fuels for Winter (part of global pattern)

By Vijay Jayaraj | Master Resource | October 5, 2021

Right in the midst of a global political effort to reduce fossil fuel consumption, Japan is set to increase its fossil fuel use and imports as an expected colder-than-normal winter approaches.

The country’s meteorological department recently released its weather outlook for the upcoming winter, which expects that most regions will experience either 30-year-average or below average temperatures between December and February.

Climate Narrative vs. Energy Reality

Blind belief in the global warming narrative can catch nations off guard, risking severe energy crises due to unpreparedness. There is an old axiom that says, “Measure twice, cut once.” It reiterates the need for careful planning before embarking on a task. Doing so saves time and energy and prevents mistakes.

The axiom is extremely relevant in energy policy planning. With the ascendancy of the climate global warming narrative, many nations are susceptible to believing climate-model projections that may not reflect real climate, much less actual weather patterns.

On-the-ground weather forecasts contradict the narrative that winters will be milder. A Washington Post article read, “Winters are Shrinking.” Environmental Defense Fund claimed, “Winters are warmer” and “cold streaks are rarer.”

Such false climate forecasts can lead to chaos due to unpreparedness. Texas got suckered into this belief, making the great freeze of February 2021 shocking.

Japan, an energy-intensive country, is one such country where warmer world–milder winters can cause significant disruptions to energy planning. But this country is wise enough not to get caught in this global propaganda. It is aware of the importance of trusting regional weather patterns.

Fossil Fuels Deliver

Fossil fuels are the preferred energy source in many countries for tough winter conditions as they are the only dependable and affordable fuel source—alongside nuclear—in cold and snowy conditions.

Wind turbines work only in certain geographical regions and in certain months when wind speed is optimum. But in cold weather, they are not reliable. According to the government of Canada,

the operation of wind turbines in a cold climate such as Canada’s involves additional challenges not present in warmer locations, such as: Accumulation of ice on wind turbine blades resulting in reduced power output and increased rotor loads; Cold weather shutdown to prevent equipment failure; and Limited or reduced access for maintenance activities.

For these reasons countries like China and Japan depend heavily on coal, natural gas, and oil, instead of the highly unreliable wind and solar. The Japanese authorities know they cannot leave millions to freeze in the cold and have decided to stock up enough fossil fuels to sustain during the winter. S&P Global notes, “Japan’s demand for coal, LNG, crude and fuel oil for power generation as well as city gas and kerosene for heating was robust in January as a result of severe cold spells.” The scenario is likely to repeat this year.

Other Countries Too

Winter energy crises are of great concern the world over. The Japanese are very close to China, a country which in recent years has experienced severe energy shortages during winters due to its reluctance to increase coal consumption. A partial coal ban in northern provinces caused severe winter heating problems in recent years.

This year, news agencies in China predict widespread power blackouts in more than a dozen provinces as the country is critically short of coal and some power plants have stopped producing coal power due to high coal prices.

Japan, which has a bird’s eye view, is aware of the power shortage in China. So, to avoid a similar situation at home, Japan will not restrict the use of coal, natural gas and oil during winter months.

The demand for oil and gas is not just in Japan. The UK, too, is highly reliant on imported natural gas for winter heating needs, and analysts have urged the country to secure its resources before winter induces a power demand surge.

“If the winter is actually cold, my concern is we will not have enough gas for use for heating in parts of Europe. … it won’t only be a recessionary value, it will affect the ability to provide gas for heating. It touches everybody’s lives,” said Amos Hochstein, the US State Department’s senior adviser for energy security.

The Future is Now

The combined rise in demand for fossil fuels from Europe, China, India, Vietnam, and Japan has led to an increase in coal and natural gas prices. Investors see a “natural-gas crunch spilling into crude market, lifting oil prices.” OPEC, in its newly released World Oil Outlook 2045, observes that “oil will be leading energy source for decades (at least until 2045) as crude reaches 3-year highs.”

The demand for fossil fuels and the sharp increase in fossil fuels prices indicate that these energy fuels still dominate the global energy sector. The winter rush for fossil fuels also confirms their effectiveness in delivering reliable energy during cold weather.

COP26 planners, are you listening?

———————————–

Vijay Jayaraj (M.Sc., Environmental Science, University of East Anglia, England), is a Research Contributor for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation and resides in Bengaluru, India.

October 6, 2021 Posted by | Economics, Science and Pseudo-Science | | 1 Comment

With much of Europe facing a worsening squeeze on gas supplies, the West is already looking to blame Russia

By Rachel Lloyd | RT | October 6, 2021

With gas prices rising dramatically across much of Western Europe, and a dip in its transit through Belarus and Ukraine to the EU, many commentators have pointed the finger once again at Russia, as the source for all their woes.

For some, this is evidence that President Vladimir Putin is weaponizing energy to the detriment of the rest of Europe. However, recent events and well-established agreements seem to tell another, less glamorous, story.

Turning off the taps?

The issue being painted as the next big Russian conspiracy is a noticeable drop in gas supplies being moved through Belarus to the EU. Posted on the site of Gazprom – Russia’s state energy corporation and Europe’s largest supplier of natural gas – are numbers that appear to substantiate a 70% dip in volumes reaching the EU, compared with last month.

That number has upset many, especially in the face of Europe’s biggest energy crisis in years. However, the fact is that there are other well-known factors at play using these numbers as evidence that Russian malevolence is more fear-mongering than fact.

Likely the biggest reason is last year’s agreement between Gazprom and its Belarusian subsidiary operator, where it was decided that much less gas would be transited through the Yamal-Europe pipeline in the fourth quarter of 2021. Unsurprisingly, this change was set to start in October of this year, perfectly coinciding with the drop seen today.

Could Moscow really predict a crunch in the European gas market a year in advance? Not likely, especially considering the uncertainty of Covid-19 and its effect on the near future of the world economy and society.

While there may be a dip in gas deliveries right now, when all data is placed on a timeline of the last four years rather than just two misleading months, it’s clear that such anomalies are typical and that there have been similar falls, which have quickly recovered.

Also, overall supplies from Russia to the EU are still on pace with the prior month’s numbers, if not a bit better. The first four days of October show an average of 210 million cubic meters, which is par for the course compared to September and previous months.

The full picture

There are, of course, other variables that need to be considered, some of which existed before the energy crisis first reared its ugly head. In December of 2019, Kiev and Moscow struck a deal on gas transit via Ukraine. As part of it, Russia’s minimum pledged for shipment was changed to 40 bcm annually from 2021 to 2024, down from 65 bcm in 2020 and 86.8 bcm in 2018.

Additionally, the September agreement between Moscow and Hungary has seen the TurkStream pipeline begin pumping supplies to the Central European nation, starting last week. The deal will supply Hungary with 4.5 billion cubic meters of natural gas from Russia annually for the next 15 years. Gas supplies that may have generally transited through Ukraine or the Yamal pipeline are now being funneled through a new route across the Black Sea in order to reach Hungary and Croatia.

There’s also the genuine concern about the cold and snow of the winter season. Russia, known for its harsh winters, can see temperatures drop below -40 centigrade in Siberia – where many of Russia’s gas fields are located. The lower temperatures and harsh conditions of an extreme winter can directly impact oil and gas production and transit.

Typically, to avoid shortages, reserves are filled for storage. However, last year, Russia dealt with an especially long and cold winter and is currently scrambling to stockpile oil and gas to meet its own domestic needs. Gazprom’s oil and gas inventories plummeted to 16% at the end of last winter, well below the standard 35% seen in years prior.

And with the expectation of another brutal snowy season comes the unfortunate understanding that the natural gas powerhouse is not yet in a position to provide more gas to the rest of Europe. In November, when Gazprom should have storage sites replenished, there is hope that Russia can begin to prioritize taking excess volumes and channeling them into the Western European market.

Not orchestrated by Moscow

The unprecedented gas crisis in Europe is currently causing consternation from politicians and economists to those getting their heating bills in the mail. Prices have surged over the past few weeks, often breaking records each day. Current costs are six times higher than last year, with seemingly no end in sight.

However, faulting Putin for the increase is a reach. Demand globally has spiked, potentially as a result of the world economy’s reemergence after the end of global lockdowns. There is more competition among East Asian countries as they angle for a piece of the pie. Just as in Russia, Western European stocks of natural gas were depleted significantly following last winter. There may also be issues developing from Europe’s energy transition.

Delayed by American sanctions in 2019, Nord Stream 2 is beginning to run tests, with natural gas currently being filled in one of the two pipelines. The project will double the current export capacity of gas supplies to Western Europe and is currently awaiting German approval. Had such a delay at the behest of the US not occurred, perhaps gas prices would not be soaring.

In essence, Europe’s current crisis is the result of a perfect storm of conditions – many of which are out of Moscow’s control.

Gazprom “cannot wave a magic wand and deliver extra gas to any place in Europe that requires it on short notice,” notes Vitaly Yermakov, a senior research fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies. “No matter how hard Gazprom tries, it cannot single-handedly balance such a huge market as Europe.”

Perhaps those countries worst affected should come together and start searching for solutions, rather than just for someone to blame.

Rachel Lloyd is a policy analyst at the Russian Public Affairs Committee (Ru-PAC). She writes about Russia-US relations, international law, and American foreign policy.

October 6, 2021 Posted by | Economics, Russophobia | , | Leave a comment

There’s a wide range of factors causing massively increased gas prices in Europe, but Russia is not one of them: Kremlin

By Jonny Tickle | RT | October 6, 2021

Russia has nothing to do with the rapidly rising gas prices in Europe, and the country is providing as much as it possibly can to the rest of the continent, the Kremlin said on Wednesday, amid accusations that Moscow is to blame.

Speaking to journalists on Wednesday, spokesman Dmitry Peskov rejected the idea that Russia is playing any part in the rising prices. Earlier that day, the price of gas in Europe once again reached a historical record of $1,900 per 1,000 cubic meters.

“The first and most important thing is that we not only believe, but we insist that Russia is playing no role in what is happening on the gas market in Europe,” Peskov said, noting that Gazprom is pumping as much gas as it can “within the framework of the existing contracts.”

According to the Kremlin spokesman, Russia has avoided huge gas prices due to a well-thought-out strategy, while Europe has made mistakes.

“It’s all very simple. If you bet on the development of wind energy, you create the appropriate infrastructure,” Peskov explained. “But different climate processes happen and suddenly there is less wind. This is what is happening this year in Europe. There is less wind and generation is down.”

Some have accused Moscow of intentionally limiting gas supplies to Europe as a means to speed up the launch of the controversial pipeline Nord Stream 2, which was recently completed.

On Tuesday, the European Commission announced it would look into suggestions that Moscow is trying to boost gas prices. However, according to European Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson, Russia is “fulfilling its long-term contracts.”

October 6, 2021 Posted by | Economics, Russophobia | , , | 1 Comment

Lift Iran sanctions if you seek end to global energy crisis: Minister

Press TV – October 4, 2021

Iranian Oil Minister Javad Owji says removing sanctions from Iran’s hydrocarbon sector would be key to resolving a global energy crisis that has affected supplies in many Western countries.

Owji said on Monday that people in the United States and some European countries have been paying the price for the unwise policies of their leaders who have banned crude exports from Iran as one of the leading energy suppliers of the world.

The minister made the remarks while speaking after a meeting of OPEC+ alliance of oil exporting nations.

He was referring to fuel, natural gas and electricity problems reported on both sides of the Atlantic amid rising prices and increasing demand caused by the global recovery from the coroanvirus pandemic.

“My recommendation to the decision-makers in these countries is that they should take a lesson from the current circumstances and lift sanctions from Iran so that people in all regions can benefit from cheap and accessible energy,” said Owji.

Iran has seen its oil exports slashed to levels much lower than those reported in mid-2018 when a former US administration pulled out of an international agreement on Iran’s nuclear program and imposed sanctions on the country.

A new US government has been pressing for a revival of the 2015 nuclear deal that would lift sanctions from Iran’s energy exports.

Beside its huge crude production capacities, Iran is also a leading supplier of natural gas with a current production of over 1 million cubic meters per day.

Owji said Iran has repeatedly declared that it would be able to swiftly increase its crude production to help alleviate the global shortage of fuel.

He said the current shortages could have larger implications on the livelihoods of people in the West in future if policymakers do not properly tackle supply issues.

October 6, 2021 Posted by | Economics, Wars for Israel | , , , | 1 Comment

Rising tensions between Azerbaijan and Iran spark fears of an Israeli-US proxy war against Tehran

By Robert Inlakesh | RT | October 6, 2021

Tensions are running high as Iran holds war games along its northern border, warning it won’t tolerate its neighbour providing a safe haven for the “anti-security activities of the fake Zionist regime.”

Iranian war games held along its northern border with Azerbaijan, leading to Baku threatening military deployment in retaliation, has sparked fear of war between the two countries.

But any such war would not end up being won by Tehran or Baku, but rather the United States and Israel, who would likely seize such an opportunity to fuel a Syria-style proxy war against the Islamic Republic.

The tensions that have arisen between Azerbaijan and Iran, as of late September, have seemingly popped up out of nowhere, but such an escalation was only a matter of time. The recent political quarrel has come about as a product of last year’s war between Azerbaijan and Armenia, over the Nagorno-Karabakh area, which resulted in a victory for Baku and allowed it to take over Karabakh from Armenia.

Iran had previously used its access through Armenian-controlled Karabakh to reach West Asia and Russia, sending its trucks and other means of transportation through the area, often free of customs.

Since Azerbaijan established its sovereignty over Karabakh, it has cracked down harshly on Iranian trucking and sought to establish itself as the leader of the Caucasus, intending to make itself the primary connection hub between Europe and Asia.

In order to undermine Baku, Iran has now announced that it will help Armenia establish a new bypass road that will cut out Azerbaijan. Although Tehran denies it initiated the recent war games along the Iran-Azerbaijan border with the intent of escalation, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev criticised the military drills, asking, “Why now, and why on our border?”

The commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Ground Force offered one answer when he said last week that Iran would not tolerate its neighbors becoming “a safe haven and a base for the presence and anti-security activities of the fake Zionist regime.”

In the event that a clash does occur between Iran and Azerbaijan, it is likely that the Islamic Republic has the upper hand, being a regional military powerhouse. Yet Azerbaijan has more potential for causing Iran trouble through its allies and potential proxies than it does through its military might. Iran’s military drills, named Fatehan-e Khaybar (Conquerors of Khaybar), are also clearly not just aimed at sending a message to Baku, but also to Israel.

Israel armed Azerbaijan with roughly $825 million in armaments between 2006-2019. Although it would seem strange to some that Iran claims an Israeli presence on its northwestern border, as Israel is not even close geographically and its relationship with Azerbaijan looks on the surface to be mainly business based, it does have a point when it claims this, as the relationship runs far deeper than weapons trade.

A WikiLeaks-released cable sent by Donald Lu, the deputy chief of mission for the US embassy in Baku, to the US State Department revealed the nature of Azerbaijan-Israel ties, stating: “The relationship also affects U.S. policy insofar as Azerbaijan tries, often successfully, to convince the U.S. pro-Israel lobby to advocate on its behalf,” indicating a much closer connection than publicly admitted between the two sides. The document also revealed that, “with some humor, the Israeli DCM told us that Israeli businessmen expressed to her that they prefer corruption in Kazakhstan to that of Azerbaijan because in Kazakhstan one can expect to pay exorbitant fees to do business but those are generally collected at once, up front, whereas in Azerbaijan the demands for bribes never cease.”

Foreign Policy Magazine published a piece in 2012 in which they claimed that a senior US official confirmed that Israel had secured an airfield in Azerbaijan and that Israel could be using the country for a staging ground against Iran, a charge that Baku denies. Beyond this, Tehran has accused Azerbaijan of encouraging separatists groups inside of Iran, many of which staged demonstrations last year during the war between Azerbaijan and Armenia, calling for the re-establishment of what they call “Southern Azerbaijan.”

If any war was to be initiated between Baku and Tehran, this would be the greatest opportunity for Israel and the US to back ethnic Azeri separatists in a similar way to how the Obama administration funded and trained Syrian militants to overthrow the government of Bashar Assad. Out of Iran’s 83 million citizens, between 10-15 million of them are believed to be ethnic Azeris, meaning that just a small portion of them are needed to form an extremely problematic military force that could fight in urban warfare settings.

The United States and Israel have for long been hesitant to launch direct strikes against Iran, likely for fear of the regional war which it could spark, along with Iranian retaliation, yet a proxy war would be much less costly. During any such war, they could also launch strikes against Iran, especially Israel, which constantly threatens Tehran.

Turkey has already pledged its support to Azerbaijan, and during the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war, even sent ex-Syrian Jihadist mercenaries to aid Baku’s forces; some of these ex-Syrian militants are reportedly present along the Iranian border now.

Iran may be able to handle such a proxy war, but it would certainly be a tough challenge, while Azerbaijan would likely suffer badly. The war would benefit no one but regional players and super powers seeking regime change in Tehran, which is unlikely to succeed, as was the case in Syria. Such a war would result in perhaps hundreds of thousands of deaths and cause any number of unforeseen consequences. Iran knows the strategy which the likes of Israel is attempting to employ against it, meaning that such a war could lead to retaliatory action committed against Tel Aviv.

Robert Inlakesh is a political analyst, journalist and documentary filmmaker currently based in London, UK. He has reported from and lived in the occupied Palestinian territories and currently works with Quds News and Press TV.

October 6, 2021 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Democrats and Media Do Not Want to Weaken Facebook, Just Commandeer its Power to Censor

By Glenn Greenwald | October 5, 2021

Much is revealed by who is bestowed hero status by the corporate media. This week’s anointed avatar of stunning courage is Frances Haugen, a former Facebook product manager being widely hailed as a “whistleblower” for providing internal corporate documents to the Wall Street Journal relating to the various harms which Facebook and its other platforms (Instagram and WhatsApp) are allegedly causing.

The social media giant hurts America and the world, this narrative maintains, by permitting misinformation to spread (presumably more so than cable outlets and mainstream newspapers do virtually every week); fostering body image neurosis in young girls through Instagram (presumably more so than fashion magazines, Hollywood and the music industry do with their glorification of young and perfectly-sculpted bodies); promoting polarizing political content in order to keep the citizenry enraged, balkanized and resentful and therefore more eager to stay engaged (presumably in contrast to corporate media outlets, which would never do such a thing); and, worst of all, by failing to sufficiently censor political content that contradicts liberal orthodoxies and diverges from decreed liberal Truth. On Tuesday, Haugen’s star turn took her to Washington, where she spent the day testifying before the Senate about Facebook’s dangerous refusal to censor even more content and ban even more users than they already do.

There is no doubt, at least to me, that Facebook and Google are both grave menaces. Through consolidation, mergers and purchases of any potential competitors, their power far exceeds what is compatible with a healthy democracy. A bipartisan consensus has emerged on the House Antitrust Committee that these two corporate giants — along with Amazon and Apple — are all classic monopolies in violation of long-standing but rarely enforced antitrust laws. Their control over multiple huge platforms that they purchased enables them to punish and even destroy competitors, as we saw when Apple, Google and Amazon united to remove Parler from the internet forty-eight hours after leading Democrats demanded that action, right as Parler became the most-downloaded app in the country, or as Google suppresses Rumble videos in its dominant search feature as punishment for competing with Google’s YouTube platform. Facebook and Twitter both suppressed reporting on the authentic documents about Joe Biden’s business activities reported by The New York Post just weeks before the 2020 election. These social media giants also united to effectively remove the sitting elected President of the United States from the internet, prompting grave warnings from leaders across the democratic world about how anti-democratic their consolidated censorship power has become.

But none of the swooning over this new Facebook heroine nor any of the other media assaults on Facebook have anything remotely to do with a concern over those genuine dangers. Congress has taken no steps to curb the influence of these Silicon Valley giants because Facebook and Google drown the establishment wings of both parties with enormous amounts of cash and pay well-connected lobbyists who are friends and former colleagues of key lawmakers to use their D.C. influence to block reform. With the exception of a few stalwarts, neither party’s ruling wing really has any objection to this monopolistic power as long as it is exercised to advance their own interests.

And that is Facebook’s only real political problem: not that they are too powerful but that they are not using that power to censor enough content from the internet that offends the sensibilities and beliefs of Democratic Party leaders and their liberal followers, who now control the White House, the entire executive branch and both houses of Congress. Haugen herself, now guided by long-time Obama operative Bill Burton, has made explicitly clear that her grievance with her former employer is its refusal to censor more of what she regards as “hate, violence and misinformation.” In a 60 Minutes interview on Sunday night, Haugen summarized her complaint about CEO Mark Zuckerberg this way: he “has allowed choices to be made where the side effects of those choices are that hateful and polarizing content gets more distribution and more reach.” Haugen, gushed The New York Times’ censorship-desperate tech unit as she testified on Tuesday, is “calling for regulation of the technology and business model that amplifies hate and she’s not shy about comparing Facebook to tobacco.”

Agitating for more online censorship has been a leading priority for the Democratic Party ever since they blamed social media platforms (along with WikiLeaks, Russia, Jill Stein, James Comey, The New York Times, and Bernie Bros) for the 2016 defeat of the rightful heir to the White House throne, Hillary Clinton. And this craving for censorship has been elevated into an even more urgent priority for their corporate media allies, due to the same belief that Facebook helped elect Trump but also because free speech on social media prevents them from maintaining a stranglehold on the flow of information by allowing ordinary, uncredentialed serfs to challenge, question and dispute their decrees or build a large audience that they cannot control. Destroying alternatives to their failing platforms is thus a means of self-preservation: realizing that they cannot convince audiences to trust their work or pay attention to it, they seek instead to create captive audiences by destroying or at least controlling any competitors to their pieties.

As I have been reporting for more than a year, Democrats do not make any secret of their intent to co-opt Silicon Valley power to police political discourse and silence their enemies. Congressional Democrats have summoned the CEO’s of Google, Facebook and Twitter four times in the last year to demand they censor more political speech. At the last Congressional inquisition in March, one Democrat after the next explicitly threatened the companies with legal and regulatory reprisals if they did not immediately start censoring more.

Pew survey from August shows that Democrats now overwhelmingly support internet censorship not only by tech giants but also by the government which their party now controls. In the name of “restricting misinformation,” more than 3/4 of Democrats want tech companies “to restrict false info online, even if it limits freedom of information,” and just under 2/3 of Democrats want the U.S. Government to control that flow of information over the internet:

The prevailing pro-censorship mindset of the Democratic Party is reflected not only by that definitive polling data but also by the increasingly brash and explicit statements of their leaders. At the end of 2020, Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), newly elected after young leftist activists worked tirelessly on his behalf to fend off a primary challenge from the more centrist Rep. Joseph Kennedy III (D-MA), told Facebook’s Zuckerberg exactly what the Democratic Party wanted. In sum, they demand more censorship:

This, and this alone, is the sole reason why there is so much adoration being constructed around the cult of this new disgruntled Facebook employee. What she provides, above all else, is a telegenic and seemingly informed “insider” face to tell Americans that Facebook is destroying their country and their world by allowing too much content to go uncensored, by permitting too many conversations among ordinary people that are, in the immortal worlds of the NYT‘s tech reporter Taylor Lorenz, “unfettered.”

When Facebook, Google, Twitter and other Silicon Valley social media companies were created, they did not set out to become the nation’s discourse police. Indeed, they affirmatively wanted not to do that. Their desire to avoid that role was due in part to the prevailing libertarian ideology of a free internet in that sub-culture. But it was also due to self-interest: the last thing social media companies wanted to be doing is looking for ways to remove and block people from using their product and, worse, inserting themselves into the middle of inflammatory political controversies. Corporations seek to avoid angering potential customers and users over political stances, not courting that anger.

This censorship role was not one they so much sought as one that was foisted on them. It was not really until the 2016 election, when Democrats were obsessed with blaming social media giants (and pretty much everyone else except themselves) for their humiliating defeat, that pressure began escalating on these executives to start deleting content liberals deemed dangerous or false and banning their adversaries from using the platforms at all. As it always does, the censorship began by targeting widely disliked figures — Milo Yiannopoulos, Alex Jones and others deemed “dangerous” — so that few complained (and those who did could be vilified as sympathizers of the early offenders). Once entrenched, the censorship net then predictably and rapidly spread inward (as it invariably does) to encompass all sorts of anti-establishment dissidents on the right, the left, and everything in between. And no matter how much it widens, the complaints that it is not enough intensify. For those with the mentality of a censor, there can never be enough repression of dissent. And this plot to escalate censorship pressures found the perfect vessel in this stunningly brave and noble Facebook heretic who emerged this week from the shadows into the glaring spotlight. She became a cudgel that Washington politicians and their media allies could use to beat Facebook into submission to their censorship demands.

In this dynamic we find what the tech and culture writer Curtis Yarvin calls “power leak.” This is a crucial concept for understanding how power is exercised in American oligarchy, and Yarvin’s brilliant essay illuminates this reality as well as it can be described. Hyperbolically arguing that “Mark Zuckerberg has no power at all,” Yarvin points out that it may appear that the billionaire Facebook CEO is powerful because he can decide what will and will not be heard on the largest information distribution platform in the world. But in reality, Zuckerberg is no more powerful than the low-paid content moderators whom Facebook employs to hit the “delete” or “ban” button, since it is neither the Facebook moderators nor Zuckerberg himself who is truly making these decisions. They are just censoring as they are told, in obedience to rules handed down from on high. It is the corporate press and powerful Washington elites who are coercing Facebook and Google to censor in accordance with their wishes and ideology upon pain of punishment in the form of shame, stigma and even official legal and regulatory retaliation. Yarvin puts it this way:

However, if Zuck is subject to some kind of oligarchic power, he is in exactly the same position as his own moderators. He exercises power, but it is not his power, because it is not his will. The power does not flow from him; it flows through him. This is why we can say honestly and seriously that he has no power. It is not his, but someone else’s. . . .

Zuck doesn’t want to do any of this. Nor do his users particularly want it. Rather, he is doing it because he is under pressure from the press. Duh. He cannot even admit that he is under duress—or his Vietcong guards might just snap, and shoot him like the Western running-dog capitalist he is….

And what grants the press this terrifying power? The pure and beautiful power of the logos? What distinguishes a well-written post, like this one, from an equally well-written Times op-ed? Nothing at all but prestige. In normal times, every sane CEO will comply unhesitatingly with the slightest whim of the legitimate press, just as they will comply unhesitatingly with a court order. That’s just how it is. To not call this power government is—just playing with words.

As I have written before, this problem — whereby the government coerces private actors to censor for them — is not one that Yarvin was the first to recognize. The U.S. Supreme Court has held, since at least 1963, that the First Amendment’s “free speech” clause is violated when state officials issue enough threats and other forms of pressure that essentially leave the private actor with no real choice but to censor in accordance with the demands of state officials. Whether we are legally at the point where that constitutional line has been crossed by the increasingly blunt bullying tactics of Democratic lawmakers and executive branch officials is a question likely to be resolved in the courts. But whatever else is true, this pressure is very real and stark and reveals that the real goal of Democrats is not to weaken Facebook but to capture its vast power for their own nefarious ends.

There is another issue raised by this week’s events that requires ample caution as well. The canonized Facebook whistleblower and her journalist supporters are claiming that what Facebook fears most is repeal or reform of Section 230, the legislative provision that provides immunity to social media companies for defamatory or other harmful material published by their users. That section means that if a Facebook user or YouTube host publishes legally actionable content, the social media companies themselves cannot be held liable. There may be ways to reform Section 230 that can reduce the incentive to impose censorship, such as denying that valuable protection to any platform that censors, instead making it available only to those who truly allow an unmoderated platform to thrive. But such a proposal has little support in Washington. What is far more likely is that Section 230 will be “modified” to impose greater content moderation obligations on all social media companies.

Far from threatening Facebook and Google, such a legal change could be the greatest gift one can give them, which is why their executives are often seen calling on Congress to regulate the social media industry. Any legal scheme that requires every post and comment to be moderated would demand enormous resources — gigantic teams of paid experts and consultants to assess “misinformation” and “hate speech” and veritable armies of employees to carry out their decrees. Only the established giants such as Facebook and Google would be able to comply with such a regimen, while other competitors — including large but still-smaller ones such as Twitter — would drown in those requirements. And still-smaller challengers to the hegemony of Facebook and Google, such as Substack and Rumble, could never survive. In other words, any attempt by Congress to impose greater content moderation obligations — which is exactly what they are threatening — would destroy whatever possibility remains for competitors to arise and would, in particular, destroy any platforms seeking to protect free discourse. That would be the consequence by design, which is why one should be very wary of any attempt to pretend that Facebook and Google fear such legislative adjustments.

There are real dangers posed by allowing companies such as Facebook and Google to amass the power they have now consolidated. But very little of the activism and anger from the media and Washington toward these companies is designed to fracture or limit that power. It is designed, instead, to transfer that power to other authorities who can then wield it for their own interests. The only thing more alarming than Facebook and Google controlling and policing our political discourse is allowing elites from one of the political parties in Washington and their corporate media outlets to assume the role of overseer, as they are absolutely committed to doing. Far from being some noble whistleblower, Frances Haugen is just their latest tool to exploit for their scheme to use the power of social media giants to control political discourse in accordance with their own views and interests.

October 6, 2021 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Are People’s Risk Perceptions So Skewed?

By Noah Carl • The Daily Sceptic • October 5, 2021

Yesterday I noted that, 18 months after the start of the pandemic, a sizeable chunk of Americans still dramatically overestimate the risks of Covid. In a recent poll, more than one third said the risk of being hospitalised if you’re not vaccinated is at least 50%.

Of course, you’d expect some people to get the answer wrong just because we’re dealing with a small quantity, and there’s always going to be some degree of overestimation. But many people were off by a factor more than 10. What accounts for this?

Interestingly, Democrat voters’ guesses were much higher than Republican voters’ – about twice as many Democrats said the risk of being hospitalised if you’re not vaccinated is at least 50%. This suggests a role for ideology.

Throughout the pandemic, the ‘Democrat position’ has been to support restrictions and mandates, whereas the ‘Republican position’ has been to oppose such measures. This is clearly visible in a plot of U.S. states by average stringency index. Almost all the ‘red’ states are on the left-hand side, while almost all the ‘blue’ states are on the right.

Given that partisans (on all sides) like to avoid cognitive dissonance, they tend to adopt beliefs that are consistent with their party’s platform. Since Democrat politicians have been busy imposing all sorts of restrictions and mandates, Democrat voters have adopted beliefs that imply those measures were justified.

Most survey respondents don’t know numbers like ‘the risk of hospitalisation for people who aren’t vaccinated’ off the top of their head. Instead, they probably make a guess based on all the relevant information they can recall.

Democrat voters, who’ve spent the pandemic consuming media like MSNBCCNN and NPR, will recall numerous incidents of pundits saying that Covid is extremely dangerous, and we have to do whatever we can to stop the spread.

They will also recall that they were locked down for months, that their kids’ schools were closed, and that they had to wear a mask whenever they went to the grocery store.

Putting all this information together, they will tend to assume that the risk of being hospitalised from Covid is extremely high. ‘Why else,’ they might ask, ‘would there have been so many restrictions?’

Note: Republicans also overestimated the risk of being hospitalised from Covid, albeit to a lesser extent than Democrats. This indicates that people’s skewed risk perceptions cannot be blamed solely on the content of left-wing media (or the policies implemented in ‘blue’ states).

The psychological quirk that may account for people’s skewed risk perceptions has a name in psychology: the availability heuristic. As Steven Pinker notes, “people estimate the probability of an event or the frequency of a kind of thing by the ease with which instances come to mind”.

Because plane crashes always make the news, people tend to overestimate the risks of air travel. And they may overestimate the risks of Covid for the same reason.

Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve been treated to morbid ‘daily death numbers’ – but for only one cause of death. Perhaps if these figures had been reported for all causes of death, people’s risk perceptions would be slightly less skewed. (Or perhaps they’d just be terrified of everything…)

During a pandemic, we obviously do want people to take precautions; we don’t want them nonchalantly walking into a care home when they have a high fever and a nasty cough. Yet – contrary to what some in government seem to believe – we don’t want people to be utterly terrified either.

There’s been so much attention on people claiming Covid is “just the flu” that the media has largely ignored the other end of the spectrum: people who believe Covid is the bubonic plague!

We can agree it’s bad if people underestimate the risks. But it’s also bad if they overestimate the risks. We want them to have the right risk perceptions. That way, they can make informed decisions.

October 6, 2021 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | | 1 Comment