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The War in Vietnam: John Wayne Was Wrong

By Marko | The Voluntaryist Reader | 12/10/2012

John Wayne’s Vietnam-era pro-war classic, The Green Berets opens with a scene of a press conference. It starts off with a group of Green Berets introducing themselves to the press, which is followed by a Q&A session with two Green Berets sergeants who have been assigned to answer questions. The scene reaches a crescendo when a reporter asks one of the sergeants if the war in Vietnam does not seem like a war between the Vietnamese and if the Americans should therefore stay out of it. Hearing this, the visibly irritated sergeant proceeds to pick up captured Vietnamese firearms from a display board nearby, and drops them in front of the reporter one by one, all the while explaining in a voice laden with hostile emotion that the weapons are Chinese-made, Soviet-made and Czechoslovakian-made respectively.

The implication is clear. The war in Vietnam is not merely an internal Vietnamese affair, because quite aside from the American factor in the war there is also the Soviet, the Chinese, even the Czechoslovakian factor. It is therefore on the account of this involvement of foreign Communist powers in Vietnam that the United States has to involve itself on the other side.

Now it is easy to see the inadequacy of that argument. Providing war material, even on a vast scale, is in no way comparable to a direct military intervention carried out with an occupation force of half a million soldiers, which is how many the United States had in Vietnam at the time The Green Berets aired in 1968.* Clearly the American involvement in Vietnam went far beyond what was necessary to balance out the involvement of the Soviets, the Chinese, or the Czechoslovaks, on the side of Hanoi.

But is it even true the American involvement was a reaction, perhaps an exaggerated reaction, to the Soviet, etc involvement? What were the actual cause and effect, in life rather than on film? Were the Americans in Vietnam because Soviet shipments of weaponry were going there, or were the Soviets shipping weaponry to Vietnam because the Americans had come there? How does this and other claims of war propagandists of the time stack up against what we know from the works of historians today?

In fact, where the Soviets are concerned their relationship with the Vietnamese before the American intervention in Vietnam was at its nadir precisely because the Soviet Union would not support DRV (North Vietnam) in reunifying Vietnam by military means. Soviet aid to DRV in this period, that is when the North was facilitating the struggle of the NLF (“Viet Cong”) in the South and before direct American involvement on a great scale, was relatively small and almost exclusively economic, not military.

When the unifying elections called for by the Geneva Accords of 1954 that had ended the French War in Vietnam did not come about, Hanoi gradually resolved to wage a military campaign to oust the American-backed government in the South. In this, however, it did not have the support of Moscow.

The Soviets feared American intervention which would have to result in an American-Soviet confrontation that would interfere with their policy line of “peaceful coexistence” with the Capitalist bloc. They made it clear to Hanoi they supported its struggle to reunify Vietnam only in as much as it was pursued by diplomatic means and encouraged Hanoi to pursue a peaceful strategy.

Vietnamese Communists shared many of the concerns being voiced by Moscow, but ultimately pressed on regardless. Both the Vietnamese and the Soviets were acutely aware that waging a violent struggle for reunification could result in an American invasion in Vietnam. They were both uneasy about this prospect and regarded it as highly undesirable, even disastrous. The difference was that the Vietnamese were ultimately willing to accept a confrontation with the Americans if they stood in the way of the reunification of their country, but the Soviets were not.

It was not until the time of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution which marked the official entry of the United States into the war in Vietnam that the USSR begun to provide DRV with military assistance. The Soviets had held back on providing Vietnamese Communists with war material because this would encourage them to wage war in the South, which could in turn result in an American intervention. Now that Americans had intervened regardless, the Soviets no longer had a reason to continue to hold back. Whatever they did, the Americans were already in Vietnam. Now they would provide the Vietnamese with aid, because that was the only way these could hope to prevail against the Americans.

An additional reason for the Soviet reversal on the question of military assistance was to regain the influence they had lost with North Vietnam to China. In 1954 Moscow and Beijing had pressured the Vietnamese Communists into signing the Geneva Accords, which ended the French War in Indochina, but also split Vietnam in half.** Since then both China and the Soviet Union acted as a moderating force on Hanoi. They encouraged the Vietnamese to pursue the goal of reunification by peaceful means only, even after these had clearly shown themselves to be ineffectual when unifying elections called for by the Accords failed to materialize.

Following the Sino-Soviet split, however, Beijing gradually moved away from this position and came to see a military struggle could complement diplomatic and propaganda efforts. In time, the Chinese position would become further radicalized and they would reject the notion that negotiations could be of any use at all. It is important to understand, however, that Beijing came to approve of the armed struggle of the Vietnamese only in 1961, fully two years after the Vietnamese had gone ahead with it.

The change in the position of the PRC and the resultant increase in assistance to Vietnam enabled the Chinese-Vietnamese relationship to thrive. In the context of the Sino-Soviet confrontation within the Communist camp North Vietnam was now aligning ever more closely to China. That is, until the American intervention in the war caused the Soviets to launch a giant, Lend Lease-like program of military assistance to the DRV and regain their lost influence with Hanoi.

The key thing to take from here is that it was not the case that the Vietnamese fell under China’s influence which directed them to pursue the goal of unification of their country with military means. The Vietnamese were orienting themselves to that of the two Communist powers which would support them in their own policy line on South Vietnam. Chinese-Vietnamese relations could thrive precisely because China had come to adopt Hanoi’s view of peaceful means to reunify Vietnam as inadequate. The Soviet Union in turn could regain its influence over DRV and pull it back from the Chinese camp only when it had dropped its opposition to the military struggle of the Vietnamese.

The presence of Soviet and Chinese-made firearms in Vietnamese hands did not in fact point to the latter being simply the agents of monolithic Communism with designs over the entire globe as John Wayne wanted Americans to believe in 1968. In actuality, by going to war the Vietnamese Communists had defied the Kremlin and had frustrated its plans. It was precisely by opting for a military struggle that the DRV leadership had demonstrated its freedom of action. It was also the case that the USSR did everything it could to spare the US its calamitous war in Vietnam.

The Soviets attempted to dissuade the Vietnamese leadership from waging a military struggle even at the cost of losing nearly all its influence in Hanoi and seeing North Vietnam slide into the Chinese camp. If the mistake the Soviets committed was failing to appreciate just how important it was to the Vietnamese to reunify their country, it was a mistake the Americans tragically made as well. In part, due to propagandists like John Wayne who put out the idiotic drivel of the Vietnamese struggle for reunification as a matter of “world Communist domination”.

~ Marko

Source: Mari Olsen, Soviet–Vietnam Relations and the Role of China, 1949–64: Changing Alliances (New York: Routledge, 2006)


*Albeit by the time The Green Berets aired this was no longer the case, the Chinese also stationed troops in Vietnam, specifically in the Communist-run Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam), but on a far smaller scale. In all 320,000 Chinese anti-aircraft and engineer troops served in Vietnam in comparison to 2.7 million Americans. The Chinese deployed in North Vietnam in mid 1965, in response to the Americans landing in the South. They evacuated in early 1968, having suffered about 1100 dead, mainly in the American bombing of the North.

**The two powers went as far as to signal the Viet Minh that rejecting the Accords may result in their ending their material assistance to the movement’s struggle.

March 21, 2020 Posted by | Film Review, Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , | 2 Comments

Leftist Neo-McCarthyite Witchhunters Hypocritically Mourn the Death of Kirk Douglas

By Matthew Ehret | Strategic Culture Foundation | February 9, 2020

Hollywood film legend Kirk Douglas’ passing on February 5th at the age of 103 has resulted in a sickening level of hypocrisy from the leftist mainstream media outlets. These outlets have written countless homages and memorials honoring the life of the man who “used his star power and influence in the late 1950s to help break the Hollywood blacklist” as CNN reported on February 6. Similar eulogies have followed this line from MSNBC, the NY Times, Washington Post, as well as many Hollywood celebrities.

What makes this so sickening is not that these memorials are untrue, but rather that it is these same MSM/Hollywood forces that are the heirs to the fascist McCarthyite machine which Kirk Douglass and his close network of collaborators fought so courageously against during their lives.

Hollywood and the CIA Today

In recent decades, barring a few exceptions, Hollywood (just like much of the mainstream media) has become a branch of the CIA and broader military industrial complex. While fake news agencies as CNN spin false facts to the intellects of mushy-minded Americans, Hollywood prepares the fertile soil for those false seeds to grow by shaping the hearts and imagination in their victims through the important hypnotic power of storytelling. Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies, Red Sparrow and Bitter Harvest are just a few of the most popular propaganda films which portray Russians as the nefarious villains of the earth and heroically elevate the CIA to patriotic heights.

Hacked emails from Sony pictures published on WikiLeaks provided a smoking gun when it was revealed that the Obama administration had courted Hollywood execs to the task of promoting films to “counter Russian narratives” and all of this in the midst of a renewed Cold War terror which has led to attacks on Chinese scholars in America and an attempted coup against a sitting U.S. President.

YET, just as Hollywood can serve as a force of great evil, Kirk Douglas and his small network of collaborators demonstrated that it could equally serve as a force of great good. This is because films exhibiting a spirit of honesty and courage can bypass the gatekeepers of intellect and strike at the inner being of the audience rendering a people, under certain circumstances better patriots of their nation and citizens of the world.

This brings us to the important question of “what truly made Kirk Douglas and his small but influential network of collaborators so important during such a dark period of World history during the peak of the Cold War?”

Ending the Blacklist: Douglas and Trumbo

The above quote from a CNN memorial cited Douglas’s efforts to end the Hollywood Blacklist. For those who are not aware, the blacklist was the name given to the “untouchables” of Hollywood. Those writers, directors and producers who courageously refused to cooperate with the fascist hearings of the House on Un-American Activities run under the dictatorial leadership of Senator Joseph McCarthy and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. By the end of the hearings, hundreds of careers were destroyed and examples were made of ten leading writers led by the great Dalton Trumbo- who were not only given prison sentences for defending the U.S. Constitution, but who became un-hirable for years after their release. Not only this, but anyone caught employing them were threatened with similar penalties.

In spite of that grim reality many of them continued to work under pseudonyms with Trumbo even winning two uncredited academy awards during the 1950s (Roman Holiday and the Brave One).

During this dark period, a network of brave film makers formed who worked very closely together for 20 years which centered around Trumbo, Kirk Douglas, David Miller, John Frankenheimer, Stanley Kramer, Burt Lancaster and producer Edward Lewis. Many of the films produced by these men not only carried stories which shook the foundations of the newly reorganized deep state, but also strove to awaken the moral sensibilities of Americans whose complacency had permitted the creation of a new Pax Americana abroad, and racist police state within.

Kirk Douglas responded to this early on by forming his own studio called Bryna Productions which created the anti-war classic Paths of Glory (1957) and Spartacus (1960).

Paths of Glory told the true story of the unjust execution of several French soldiers who refused to obey a suicide mission during WW1 and provided a strong statement against irrational wars but also arbitrary political power run amok.

Set in 72 BC, Spartacus told the true story of a Thracian slave who led a two year freedom struggle against Rome and spoke directly to the civil rights movement in America and fight against imperialism more broadly.

What gave Spartacus its strategic potency to end the Blacklist was due to the fact that it was written by the leading untouchable “commie-lover” of America… Dalton Trumbo. Kirk Douglas’ last minute decision to use Trumbo’s real name was more of a risk than most people realize, and in later years, Douglas described this period:

“The choices were hard. The consequences were painful and very real. During the blacklist, I had friends who went into exile when no one would hire them; actors who committed suicide in despair … I was threatened that using a Blacklisted writer for Spartacus — my friend Dalton Trumbo — would mark me as a ‘Commie-lover’ and end my career. There are times when one has to stand up for principle. I am so proud of my fellow actors who use their public influence to speak out against injustice. At 98 years old, I have learned one lesson from history: It very often repeats itself. I hope that Trumbo, a fine film, will remind all of us that the Blacklist was a terrible time in our country, but that we must learn from it so that it will never happen again.”

When the newly-elected president John Kennedy and his brother Robert crossed anti-Communist picket lines to first attend the film, and then endorsed it loudly, the foundations of the Blacklist were destroyed and the edifice of 15 years of terror came crashing down.

Kennedy’s Murder and Trumbo’s Revenge

Kennedy’s death in 1963 sent America into a spiral of despair, drugs and insanity. Films like Frankenheimber’s Manchurian Candidate (1962), and 7 Days in May (1964) attempted to shed light on the deep state takeover of America but it was too late. During the 1960s, Douglas, Ed Lewis, Trumbo and Frankenheimber continued to work closely together on films like Lonely are the Brave, Town without Pity, the Fixer, Last Sunset, Seconds, The Train, Devil’s Disciple, Johny Got His Gun, the Horsemen and more. Sadly, the cultural rot had set in too deeply and nothing came as close to the artistry of the dense 1957-1964 period of creative resistance.

One little known film stands out quite a bit however, and since so little is known of this small masterpiece, a word must be said now.

Ten years after Kennedy’s murder, Trumbo, Edward Lewis, David Miller, Mark Lane and Garry Horrowitz created a film which could be called “Trumbo’s last stand”. This film was called Executive Action (1973) and starred Kirk Douglas’ long-time collaborator Burt Lancaster as a leading coordinator of the plot to assassinate President John F. Kennedy. Edward Lewis, who had also produced Spartacus with Douglas earlier, spearheaded this film which tells the story of a cabal of oligarchs who arrange the murder of John Kennedy using three teams of professional mercenaries (former CIA men fired after the Bay of Pigs fiasco). This incredibly well-researched storyline infused fiction with powerful facts and was based upon the work of Mark Lane- a close friend of the Kennedys, NY State Attorney, and civil rights activist (the only legislator to be arrested as a Freedom rider fighting segregation).

During a powerful dialogue between James Farrington (Lancaster) and the leader of the cabal Robert Foster (played by Robert Ryan), the gauntlet is dropped, as the true reason is given for the need to [assassinate] Kennedy in chilling detail: Global Depopulation.

Here Farrington is told by Foster:

“The real problem is this James. In two decades there will be seven billion human beings on this planet. Most of them brown, yellow or black. All of them hungry. All of them determined to love. They’ll swarm out of their breeding grounds into Europe and North America… Hence, Vietnam. An all-out effort there will give us control of south Asia for decades to come. And with proper planning, we can reduce the population to 550 million by the end of the century. I know… I’ve seen the data.”

James: “We sound rather like Gods reading the Doomsday book don’t we?”

Foster: “Well, someone has to do it. Not only will the nations affected be better off. But the techniques developed there can be used to reduce our own excess population: blacks, Puerto Ricans, Mexican Americans, poverty prone whites, and so forth”.

Although the film was pulled from most American theaters, it still stands as one of the most direct and chilling refutations of the lone-gunman narrative and is also the only film this author is aware of which showcases the deeper neo-Malthusian agenda underlying the murder of Kennedy which feared the optimistic vision he had threatened to create as outlined in my previous paper “Remembering JFK’s Vision for the Future that Should Have Been”.

The oligarchs attempting to play God in today’s world, just as their predecessors who oversaw JFK’s murder know that hunger, war and disease are not the natural state of humanity, but simply means of checking population growth.

It is worth keeping in mind that those same media and Hollywood outlets mourning Douglas’ passing are the perpetrators of this Malthusian legacy, and are deathly afraid of a renewal of JFK’s legacy under a revived space program to establish permanent human colonies on the Moon and Mars as well as establish cooperative relations with Russia and China which provides humanity its last, best chance to end the oligarchy’s pandemic of wars, disease and hunger forever.

February 9, 2020 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Film Review, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , | 1 Comment

Is Hollywood about to award an Oscar to ‘For Sama’ – a propagandumentary that pushes Al Qaeda’s narrative in Aleppo?

Screenshot from the trailer for For Sama (2019) PBS distribution
By Vanessa Beeley | RT | February 8, 2020

Oscar-nominated ‘For Sama’ is a gritty, well produced “documentary” claiming to present the reality of the five-year siege of the Syrian city of Aleppo. Just how deceptive is this portrayal?

The 90-minute video directed by UK Channel 4’s Waad Al-Kateab and English filmmaker Edward Watts has been unanimously praised in the mainstream media and tonight it might win this year’s Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. But does the film present a truly  unbiased picture of the Syrian conflict or, rather, just the side of the story that fits the Western narrative about the war?

Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watts, February 4, 2020 © REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

The armed-group occupation of East Aleppo portrayed as “freedom”

East Aleppo was the armed group hinterland of the city of Aleppo for five years. During this time the shape-shifting militant cadres mingled and confronted each other in mafia-style gang warfare over territory, status, financing and control over the civilians living through their occupation. Ultimately the dominant force was Al-Qaeda or Nusra Front in Syria.

Very few journalists could safely enter this barren and desolate zone reigned over by brutal, extremist groups. Channel 4 teamed up with Syrian “revolution” sympathiser and camera-woman, Waad Al-Kateab, and her alleged “doctor” husband who goes by the pseudonym of Hamza Al Kateab (real name Zahed Katurji) to produce “citizen journalist” reportage that would effectively choreograph the events in Aleppo for an unsuspecting public in the West.

Screenshot taken from Channel 4’s series of reports on Aleppo, provided by Wa’ad Al Kateab

Inside Aleppo consisted of a series of video reports produced by Waad, for Channel4, that claimed to record the daily life inside the extremist group-controlled districts of East Aleppo. Channel 4 accepted and republished these reports without any apparent independent verification or investigation.

Aleppo was Channel 4’s perceived “Guernica,” their reporting was consistently one-sided and partisan towards the “moderate rebels” who, according to the British TV network, were being “disproportionately” targeted by the “dictator Assad” and the Syrian Arab Army. The reality for journalists, like myself, who spent time in Syrian-government secured West Aleppo, sheltering 1.5 million civilians including an estimated 500,000 who had fled East Aleppo when it was invaded by armed militants in 2012, was diametrically different from the narrative being marketed by Channel 4 and the majority of state-aligned media in the West. Aleppo, according to residents, was opposed to the “revolution” from day one.

Channel 4 normalising terrorism and extremism

Channel 4’s reporting in Aleppo and Syria has almost invariably presented the child-beheading, ethnic-cleansing sectarian groups as “rebels with a cause.” In a 2016 report, ‘Aleppo: up close with the rebels’, Krishnan Guru Murthy follows none other than members of formerly US-funded Nour Al Din Zinki, responsible for the horrific public torture and decapitation of 12-year-old Palestinian child, Abdullah, in July 2016.

In the same report, Murthy appears to legitimize the armed group strategy of mass suicide bombing as an act of “defense” without mentioning that many of these suicide bombers were targeting civilian and residential areas. Channel 4 removed this report after their lack of recognition of the war crimes committed by its protagonists was exposed.

‘For Sama’ is little more than a compilation of the ‘Inside Aleppo’ reports, skilfully converted into a feature-length documentary that has already been awarded the Bafta for best documentary and is nominated for the Oscars this weekend.

Dedicated to Waad’s daughter, the documentary can only be described as a grotesque misrepresentation of life in East Aleppo under the tyranny of sectarian armed groups. Anyone watching this movie will assume that East Aleppo was the “free country” as described by Waad, besieged and preyed upon by the Syrian government. The film literally airbrushes Nusra Front  from the scenario. Groups like Nour al-Din al-Zenki are not referred to, their crimes go unmentioned.

The role of Hamza Al-Kateab affiliated with the armed groups in East Aleppo

Many journalists have pointed out the dangers of working in areas occupied by the militant factions. Waad and her husband have no apparent issues living side by side with groups renowned for their brutal violence against anyone who would challenge their rule. In fact, a number of videos and social media interactions demonstrate the close relationship that Hamza had with members of these groups – in particular with the aforementioned Nour al-Din al-Zenki.

While corporate media and ‘For Sama’ portray Hamza as a compassionate “doctor,” we must ask how deceptive that image is. Many interactions have been deleted from Hamza’s social media accounts but are still available as screenshots. In these interactions Hamza is involved in military strategy discussions with extremist groups. Hamza is clearly aware of the violence and abuse meted out against civilians by the occupying forces but he never condemned it to the media outlets who relied heavily upon his testimony to file their Aleppo reports.

When the terrorists were evacuated from the last district of East Aleppo, Al Sukare, where Al Quds hospital was located, they left behind a deadly trail of mines and booby traps designed to kill civilians returning to their homes. I was, myself, witness to one of these explosions, after a booby trap left in a washing machine was detonated – murdering and injuring civilians on Christmas Eve 2016.

According to social media conversations, Hamza was aware of this heinous practice. He and Waad evacuated at the same time as the armed groups. Therefore, it can be assumed that they knew about the dangers that awaited civilians, yet they apparently did nothing to warn them.

Much of ‘For Sama’ footage is located in the Al Quds hospital which was, itself, the center of controversy in East Aleppo when Doctors without Borders (MSF) declared it “destroyed” by a Russian airstrike in May 2016. Various independent researchers and journalists exposed this narrative as misleading and unsubstantiated.

Screenshot from movie ‘For Sama’ (2019) Dir: Waad Al-Kateab, Edward Watts, Channel 4/PBS Distribution

‘For Sama’ omits the reality that hospitals in East Aleppo were taken over by the armed groups, often converted into military headquarters. The vast complex of the Childrens and Eye hospital was transformed into a torture and detainment center for civilians who did not comply with the armed group ideology or those perceived to be Syrian government-loyalists. After liberation of East Aleppo, civilians testified that they did not receive medical treatment in the remaining hospitals which were effectively militant triage centers. I spoke with children and teenagers whose injured limbs had been amputated by the so-called medical staff who preferred such cruel expediency over long-term treatment. Why does ‘For Sama’ not cover any of these inconvenient truths?

The children I interviewed in East Aleppo who were forced to witness public executions and crucifixions, by the extremist groups, are ignored by Channel 4 and ‘For Sama’. Journalists like Theo Padnos and Matthew Schrier, who were imprisoned and tortured by the armed groups in the Eye Hospital compound  are not referred to.

The mortars fired daily into West Aleppo by the militants that Waad does not refer to were responsible for thousands of civilian deaths and the maiming of countless more who lost limbs in the rain of lethal “Hell-cannon” gas canister missiles or were sniped in the streets that bordered the Nusra Front-dominated enclaves.

The 2013 Queiq River narrative explained

The 2013 River Queiq massacre is portrayed, in the film, as a Syrian government crime, the gory scenes exploited to further criminalise the SAA. If Channel 4 had conducted any kind of investigation into this event, they might have fulfilled their duty to provide context and evidence that would have better informed their audiences in the West. Channel 4 must be considered grossly negligent in their distorted representation of the Syrian conflict.

Aleppo-based journalist, Khaled Iskef, did exactly this investigation over a period of years before Al Mayadeen channel published his findings based upon forensic DNA reports and witness testimony. ‘For Sama’ glosses over fact in favor of propaganda and denies justice for the victims of extremist violence & brutality. According to Iskef’s evidence, River Queiq was a convenient dumping ground for these armed groups to dispose of evidence, Waad and Channel 4 have apparently provided cover for the crimes they committed.

Screenshot from Khaled Iskef documentary on the 2013 River Queiq massacre, blamed on the Syrian government

Channel 4, media architects of war

It is no surprise that Channel 4 has been instrumental in the production of ‘For Sama’. I have extensively documented the channel’s role in the behind-the-scenes management of other such revisionist projects on Syria. The White Helmets, another terrorist-linked entity operating in East Aleppo, produced an award winning, Oscar nominated movie, ‘Last Men in Aleppo’, which also eradicated the presence of extremist fighters and terrorist groups from the conflict landscape – reducing the narrative down to “bad Assad” and “good rebels.”

Channel 4 were among the hidden architects of this production and were also at the forefront of support for the White Helmets Nobel Peace Prize nomination while this UK/US funded group stands accused of all manner of war crimes by the Syrian people who lived under militant-group-occupation across Syria.

‘For Sama’ is an exploitative and well packaged instrument of injustice. It is an attempt by governments and media in the West to rewrite history, to erase their shameful role in maintaining a nine-year conflict, in Syria, based on lies and obfuscation of fact.

If you were to speak to the Syrian people in Aleppo who lived through the period covered by ‘For Sama’, they would tell you that this film does not represent their suffering or abuse at the hands of the armed gangs. They would tell you that ‘For Sama’ effectively defends those who tortured, imprisoned and subjected them to all manner of horror and bloodshed. They would tell you that ‘For Sama’ is just another insult from the billionaire funded PR industry for war that has denied the real Syrian victims a voice for nine years while those who help perpetrate the crimes against them will, once again, be on Hollywood’s red carpet.

Vanessa Beeley is an independent journalist and photographer who has worked extensively in the Middle East – on the ground in Syria, Egypt, Iraq and Palestine, while also covering the conflict in Yemen since 2015. In 2017, Vanessa was a finalist for the prestigious Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism, which was won by the much-acclaimed Robert Parry that year. In 2018, Vanessa was named one of the 238 most respected journalists in the UK by the British National Council for the Training of Journalists. In 2019, Vanessa was among the recipients of the Serena Shim Award for uncompromised integrity in journalism. Follow Vanessa Beeley on Patreon.com and on Twitter @VanessaBeeley.

February 8, 2020 Posted by | Deception, Film Review, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | Leave a comment

Netflix, Iran and the Documentary as Geopolitical Weapon

By Brian Mier | FAIR | January 21, 2020

Netflix: Nisman: The Prosecutor, the President and the Spy

Netflix‘s Nisman: The Prosecutor, the President and the Spy

Like The Mechanism before it, Netflix’s new series Nisman: The Prosecutor, the President and the Spy is an entertainment product that advances US interests through character assassination of a popular left-wing Latin American leader.

“Try saying this,” the director said:  “‘In the ’80s, Rio de Janeiro was a land of the haves and the have nots. I was a have not.’” In 2016, I was working as a fixer on an episode of a Netflix documentary crime series, and the main character was not cooperating with the script.

He was Afro-Brazilian, but he was not the stereotype they had imagined while preparing the story in England. He had never lived in a favela, was educated in elite private schools, and was an Army special forces captain before entering a life of crime. “In the ’80s,” he said, “Rio de Janeiro was a land of the haves and the have nots. I was a have.”

To the production team’s credit, after half an hour of trying to get him to say he was a “have not,” they changed the story to better fit what really happened. But this episode illustrates an important point that most casual viewers are unaware of: Nearly all documentaries are highly manipulated.

As I learned on the set of various TV documentaries, if an important character refuses to give an interview, their importance to the “narrative thread” of the documentary is minimized, and the script is adjusted accordingly. Characters are prone to get more airtime and scripts are likewise adjusted if they have expressive facial features, good eyebrow control and appear pretty, handsome or humorous on camera. All of this makes sense if the end product is entertainment, but what happens when the program involves real people in positions of power?

Furthermore, if documentarians regularly manipulate narratives and script dialogue for entertainment purposes, wouldn’t it be reasonable to think  that they may also do this to advance the geopolitical interests of the companies that hire them? The Capital Group, for example, is the largest investor in both Netflix and Shell, a corporation that has made  billions of dollars through petroleum privatizations by right-wing governments in South America. Could it be that it and the other big mutual funds that invest in both Netflix and the oil industry, such as Blackrock, use their power to influence content in a manner similar to how governments influence the TV and film industry in accord with their geopolitical interests?

Netflix: The Mechanism

Netflix‘s The Mechanism

During Brazil’s 2018 election year, Netflix launched a dramatic series called The Mechanism, which portrayed a thinly disguised character based on former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva—who in real life was leading all polls for a return to the presidency, with double the popularity of his nearest rival, the neofascist Jair Bolsonaro—as a criminal mastermind behind a multi-billion dollar corruption scheme. This led to a boycott drive in Brazil, international media attention, an apology by director José Padilha, and probably influenced Netflix’s purchase of transmission rights to Edge of Democracy, an Oscar-nominated documentary about the 2016 Brazilian parliamentary coup that was less biased against Lula’s center-left PT party.

On January 1, four days before the US assassinated Iranian General Soleimani, Netflix launched a six-part documentary series called Nisman: The Prosecutor, the President and the Spy, about the death of conservative prosecutor Alberto Nisman. He was found dead in his bathroom five days after accusing President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and four of her aides of treason, in connection to an alleged cover up of Iranian involvement in the 1994 AMIA Jewish cultural center bombings that killed 85 people.

The documentary makes it clear that the treason charges are frivolous. Treason can only take place, according to Argentinian law, during a time of war. Nisman accused Kirchner and her aides of covering up for Iran in exchange for a bilateral agreement between the two nations which was never ratified. Finally, as the documentary painstakingly shows, despite 20 years of joint investigations between the police, intelligence services, the FBI and the US Department of Justice, nobody has ever been able to provide any material evidence linking Iran to the bombing (FAIR.org, 11/3/15).

But this is what series director Justin Webster refers to as “cinematic non-fiction,” and the facts do not seem  as important as the tone and the mood. It spends a lot more time with the Prosecutor and the Spy characters than it does with former President Kirchner, who averages about one minute of airtime per episode.

Alberto Nisman

Alberto Nisman in Nisman

Nisman, coming to life through old footage and stories from friends and family, gets the lion’s share of attention. The week before his death, he appears nervous about having to defend his treason accusations in front of Congress, initially saying he will only appear to members of the sympathetic and conservative Republican Proposal party, and if there are no reporters. When he is told it will be a public hearing, he asks his friend, Congressmember Laura Alonso, to postpone it for a week.

The night before the hearing, his body is found in his bathroom, in what is initially ruled a suicide. As sad music plays in the background, Alonso talks about the dark mood that was sweeping over the country and her worries about her friend.

We are not told that Alonso is former Argentine director of Transparency International, the ostensibly “anti-corruption” NGO which is funded by the US and British governments, Exxon Mobil and Shell (Guardian, 5/22/08). We are not told that Alonso was the most vocal public critic of Kirchner’s nationalization of the petroleum industry, or that she directly benefited from the charges filed against Kirchner, assuming the position of Anti-Corruption Minister in the Mauricio Macri government. In the doc, she is just a concerned friend.

Jaime Stiuso

Nisman‘s Jaime Stiuso

According to Webster, the other two main characters in the series, the Spy and the President, are “Shakespearean.” The Spy is Antonio “Jaime” Stiuso, a 42-year veteran of Argentina’s State Intelligence Secretariat (SIDE) with close ties to the CIA and the Mossad. He was in the agency during the Argentine military junta’s Dirty War, when it participated in the notorious “disappearances”  of leftists, 30,000 of whom were machine-gunned down, or drugged and pushed out of airplanes into the South Atlantic. He was corrupt and dangerous but, like the FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover, apparently too powerful to fire, until Cristina Kirchner did it in December 2014, one month before his partner Alberto Nisman filed treason charges against her.

In terms of entertainment value, Stiuso is a fantastic character, and he gets more airtime than any other living person in the documentary. With a boyish gleam in his eye and a quick, mysterious grin, he is the type of subject documentary-makers dream about, and is already showing himself to be a favorite of the critics—“charming and evasive,” according to Variety (9/23/19).

Cristina Kirchner

President Cristina Kirchner is not seen much in Nisman.

The third main character, President Kirchner,  in office from 2007–15, is a center-left politician who rejected Washington consensus economic policies in favor of Keynesian developmentalism, and reached out to Washington bete noires like Fidel Castro, Evo Morales and Hugo Chávez. She  set an example for leaders around the world by strengthening labor unions, initiating large minimum wage hikes and by renationalizing strategic companies that had been privatized during the disastrous IMF-imposed structural adjustment period of the 1990s, including the train system, the water system, the Aerolinas airline company and the YPF oil company. Her government was marked by high growth rates and innovative redistributive policies that reduced inequality. Consequently, she became extremely popular with the poor and working class.

After Nisman died, Alonso’s right-wing Republican Proposal party capitalized on the frivolous treason charges against Kirchner, spread conspiracy theories about his death and catapulted party leader Mauricio Macri to the presidency. Praised by Barack Obama and English-language corporate media, Macri used presidential decrees to immediately gut the public health and education systems, lay off tens of thousands of public sector workers, reestablish a relationship with the IMF and implement privatization.

As had happened during the IMF structural-adjustment period, poverty skyrocketed and widespread hunger led to food riots. As Macri’s popularity plummeted, fellow Nisman character Alberto Fernandez won the presidential election by 7 percentage points, with Cristina Kirchner as his VP; they took office on December 10, 2019. You would have no idea that any of this had happened by watching Nisman.

Cristina Kirchner is one of the most fascinating political characters of the 21st century, but all we see of her in Nisman are short speech fragments and soundbites, peppered with unflattering photos and ominous background music.

During her 50 seconds of airtime in episode 5, for example, she says, “This isn’t an issue that started here in Argentina, it is a political, judicial and communications matrix that extends throughout the entire region.” Kirchner is talking about “lawfare,” the weaponized use of legal tactics to destroy political enemies. This has indeed been applied to left and center-left politicians across Latin America, often with the support of the US Department of Justice, as happened to her friend and former Brazilian President Lula, who was arrested on frivolous charges with no material evidence in order to bar him from the 2018 presidential elections.

The frivolous treason accusation against her, also apparently prepared in partnership with the US DOJ, is another clear example of lawfare. Taking a small fragment of a speech on this subject out of context, however, makes her look like a paranoid conspiracy theorist. This is ironic to see in a six-part documentary that is entirely built upon two conspiracy theories which, as is shown in the series itself, do not have any material evidence to back them up.

This is not to say that the documentary is totally one-sided. Throughout, there are moments in which members of Kirchner’s party and journalists—all men—defend her. Importantly, however, Webster chose not to let her defend herself, despite the widespread availability of archival footage in which she does so eloquently.

Variety: Justin Webster Sheds Light on the Alberto Nisman Case in New Documentary Series

Audiences “may well come to a conclusion, one open to interpretation,
though it not for me to say,” director Justin Webster, Variety (9/23/19).

In  Variety (9/23/19), Webster says:

The rules with fiction and non-fiction are completely different in a sense of the relationship with the truth. A good non-fiction story is showing you “this much is true,” uncovering the details, the evidence…. It’s not like there is one version of the truth and another version of the truth, there is only one truth.

The problem is, a television director is not a judge or a prosecutor, and normally has little knowledge of the law. The proper venue for deciding whether the president of a foreign nation is guilty is a court of law, not a television channel controlled by corporate investors who have a vested interest in privatizations in the nation presided over by that president. In a court of law, defendants have the right to to defend themselves, normally through a final argument. In a documentary, the director can arbitrarily decide to limit someone they’re accusing of a crime to one minute of airtime per episode.

Given the long history of US-backed right-wing coups in Latin America, most recently in Argentina’s neighbor Bolivia, given the rising tensions between the US and Iran, and given the fact that neocon Foundation for Defense of Democracies vice president Toby Dershowitz, who appears in the documentary, began associating Fernandez and Kirchner with Iranian terrorists as soon as they took office last month, it would be reasonable to suspect that the US and its integral state allies in the corporate media are going to use this nonexistent Iran story from 1994 as justification for a coup attempt in Argentina in the near future.

Nisman is beautifully filmed and entertaining, and director Justin Webster does a good job uncovering the relationship between the FBI, CIA and Argentinian intelligence services. But the bottom line is that he casts suspicion on Cristina Kirchner even though he knows that there is no proof against her.

January 24, 2020 Posted by | Film Review | | Leave a comment

The Art of Doublespeak: Bellingcat and Mind Control

By Edward Curtin | Behind the Curtain | December 10, 2019

In the 1920s, the influential American intellectual Walter Lippman argued that the average person was incapable of seeing or understanding the world clearly and needed to be guided by experts behind the social curtain. In a number of books he laid out the theoretical foundations for the practical work of Edward Bernays, who developed “public relations” (aka propaganda) to carry out this task for the ruling elites.  Bernays had honed his skills while working as a propagandist for the United States during World War I, and after the war he set himself up as a public relations counselor in New York City.

There is a fascinating exchange at the beginning of Adam Curtis’s documentary, The Century of Self, where Bernays, then nearly 100 years old but still very sharp, reveals his manipulative mindset and that of so many of those who have followed in his wake. He says the reason he couldn’t call his new business “propaganda” was because the Germans had given propaganda a “bad name,” and so he came up with the euphemism “public relations.” He then adds that “if you could use it [i.e. propaganda] for war, you certainly could use it for peace.” Of course, he never used PR for peace but just to manipulate public opinion (he helped engineer the CIA coup against the democratically elected Arbenz government in Guatemala in 1954 with fake news broadcasts). He says “the Germans gave propaganda a bad name,” not Bernays and the United States with their vast campaign of lies, mainly aimed at the American people to get their support for going to a war they opposed (think weapons of mass destruction). He sounds proud of his war propaganda work that resounded to his credit since it led to support for the “war to end all wars” and subsequently to a hit movie about WWI, Yankee Doodle Dandy, made in 1942 to promote another war, since the first one somehow didn’t achieve its lofty goal.

As Bernays has said,

The American motion picture is the greatest unconscious carrier of propaganda in the world today.

He was a propagandist to the end. I suspect most viewers of the film are taken in by these softly spoken words of an old man sipping a glass of wine at a dinner table with a woman who is asking him questions. I have shown this film to hundreds of students and none has noticed his legerdemain. It is an example of the sort of hocus-pocus I will be getting to shortly, the sly insertion into seemingly liberal or matter-of-fact commentary of statements that imply a different story. The placement of convincing or confusing disingenuous ingredients into a truth sandwich – for Bernays knew that the bread of truth is essential to conceal untruth.

In the following years, Bernays, Lippman, and their ilk were joined by social “scientists,” psychologists, and sundry others intent on making a sham out of the idea of democracy by developing strategies and techniques for the engineering of social consensus consonant with the wishes of the ruling classes. Their techniques of propaganda developed exponentially with the development of technology, the creation of the CIA, its infiltration of all the major media, and that agency’s courting of what the CIA official Cord Meyer called in the 1950s “the compatible left,” having already had the right in its pocket. Today most people are, as is said, “wired,” and they get their information from the electronic media that is mostly controlled by giant corporations in cahoots with government propagandists. Ask yourself: Has the power of the oligarchic, permanent warfare state with its propaganda and spy networks increased or decreased over your lifetime. The answer is obvious the average people that Lippman and Bernays trashed are losing and the ruling elites are winning.

This is not just because powerful propagandists are good at controlling so-called “average” people’s thinking, but, perhaps more importantly, because they are also adept – probably more so – at confusing or directing the thinking of those who consider themselves above average, those who still might read a book or two or have the concentration to read multiple articles that offer different perspectives on a topic.  This is what some call the professional and intellectual classes, perhaps 15-20 % of the population, most of whom are not the ruling elites but their employees and sometimes their mouthpieces.  It is this segment of the population that considers itself “informed,” but the information they imbibe is often sprinkled with bits of misdirection, both intentional and not, that beclouds their understanding of important public matters but leaves them with the false impression that they are in the know.

Recently I have noticed a group of interconnected examples of how this group of the population that exerts influence incommensurate with their numbers has contributed to the blurring of lines between fact and fiction. Within this group there are opinion makers who are often journalists, writers, and cultural producers of some sort or other, and then the larger number of the intellectual or schooled class who follow their opinions.  This second group then passes on their received opinions to those who look up to them.

There is a notorious propaganda outfit called Bellingcat, started by an unemployed Englishman named Eliot Higgins, that has been funded by The Atlantic Council, a think-tank with deep ties to the U.S. government, NATO, war manufacturers, and their allies, and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), another infamous U.S. front organization heavily involved in so-called color revolution regime change operations all around the world, that has just won the International Emmy Award for best documentary. The film with the Orwellian title, Bellingcat: Truth in a Post-Truth World, received its Emmy at a recent ceremony in New York City. Bellingcat is an alleged group of amateur on-line researchers who have spent years shilling for the U.S. instigated war against the Syrian government, blaming the Douma chemical attack and others on the Assad government, and for the anti-Russian propaganda connected to among, other things, the Skripal poisoning case in England, and the downing of flight MH17 plane in Ukraine. It has been lauded by the corporate mainstream media in the west.  Its support for the equally fraudulent White Helmets (also funded by the US and the UK) in Syria has also been praised by the western corporate media while being dissected as propaganda by many excellent independent journalists such as Eva Bartlett, Vanessa Beeley, Catte Black, among others. It’s had its work skewered by the likes of Seymour Hersh and MIT professor Theodore Postol, and its US government connections pointed out by many others, including Ben Norton and Max Blumenthal at The Gray Zone. And now we have the mainstream media’s wall of silence on the leaks from the Organization for the Prohibition on Chemical Weapons (OPCW) concerning the Douma chemical attack and the doctoring of their report that led to the illegal U.S. bombing of Syria in the spring of 2018. Bellingcat was at the forefront of providing justification for such bombing, and now the journalists Peter Hitchens, Tareq Harrad (who recently resigned from Newsweek after accusing the publication of suppressing his revelations about the OPCW scandal) and others are fighting an uphill battle to get the truth out.

Yet Bellingcat: Truth in a Post-Truth World won the Emmy, fulfilling Bernays’ point about films being the greatest unconscious carriers of propaganda in the world today.

Who presented the Emmy Award to the film makers, but none other than the rebel journalist Chris Hedges. Why he did so, I don’t know. But that he did so clearly sends a message to those who follow his work and trust him that it’s okay to give a major cultural award to a propaganda outfit. But then, perhaps he doesn’t consider Bellingcat to be that.

Nor, one presumes, does The Intercept, the billionaire Pierre Omidyar owned publication associated with Glen Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill, and also read by many progressive-minded people. The Intercept that earlier this year disbanded the small team that was tasked with reviewing and releasing more of the massive trove of documents they received from Edward Snowden six years ago, a minute number of which have ever been released or probably ever will be. As Whitney Webb pointed out, last year The Intercept  hosted a workshop for Bellingcat. She wrote:

The Intercept, along with its parent company First Look Media, recently hosted a workshop for pro-war, Google-funded organization Bellingcat in New York. The workshop, which cost $2,500 per person to attend and lasted five days, aimed to instruct participants in how to perform investigations using “open source” tools — with Bellingcat’s past, controversial investigations for use as case studies… Thus, while The Intercept has long publicly promoted itself as an anti-interventionist and progressive media outlet, it is becoming clearer that – largely thanks to its ties to Omidyar – it is increasingly an organization that has more in common with Bellingcat, a group that launders NATO and U.S. propaganda and disguises it as “independent” and “investigative journalism.”

Then we have Jefferson Morley, the editor of The Deep State, former Washington Post journalist, and JFK assassination researcher, who has written a praiseworthy review of the Bellingcat film and who supports Bellingcat. “In my experience, Bellingcat is credible,” he writes in an Alternet article, “Bellingcat documentary has the pace and plot of a thriller.”

Morley has also just written an article for Counterpunch – “Why the Douma Chemical Attack Wasn’t a ‘Managed Massacre’” – in which he disputes the claim that the April 7, 2018 attack in the Damascus suburb was a false flag operation carried out by Assad’s opponents. “I do not see any evidence proving that Douma was a false flag incident,” he writes in this article that is written in a style that leaves one guessing as to what exactly he is saying. It sounds convincing unless one concentrates, and then his double messages emerge. Yet it is the kind of article that certain “sophisticated” left-wing readers might read and feel is insightful.  But then Morley, who has written considerably about the CIA, edits a website that advertises itself as “the thinking person’s portal to the world of secret government,” and recently had an exchange with former CIA Director John Brennan where “Brennan put a friendly finger on my chest,” said in February 2017, less than a month after Trump was sworn in as president, that:

With a docile Republican majority in Congress and a demoralized Democratic Party in opposition, the leaders of the Deep State are the most—perhaps the only—credible check in Washington on what Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) calls Trump’s “wrecking ball presidency.”  

Is it any wonder that some people might be a bit confused?

“I know what you’re thinking about,” said Tweedledum; “but it isn’t so, nohow.”

“Contrariwise,” continued Tweedledee, “if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn’t, it ain’t. That’s logic.”

As a final case in point, there is a recent book by Stephen Kinzer, Poisoner in Chief: Sidney Gottlieb And The CIA Search For Mind Control, the story of the chemist known as Dr. Death who ran the CIA’s MK-ULTRA mind control project, using LSD, torture, electric shock therapy, hypnosis, etc.; developed sadistic methods of torture still used in black sites around the world; and invented various ingenious techniques for assassination, many of which were aimed at Fidel Castro. Gottlieb was responsible for brutal prison and hospital experiments and untold death and suffering inflicted on all sorts of innocent people. His work was depraved in the deepest sense; he worked with Nazis who experimented on Jews despite being Jewish himself.

Kinzer writes in depth about this man who considered himself a patriot and a spiritual person – a humane torturer and killer. It is an eye-opening book for anyone who does not know about Gottlieb, who gave the CIA the essential tools they use in their “organized crime” activities around the world – in the words of Douglass Valentine, the author of The CIA as Organized Crime and The Phoenix Program. Kinzer’s book is good history on Gottlieb; however, he doesn’t venture into the present activities of the CIA and Gottlieb’s patriotic followers, who no doubt exist and go about their business in secret.

After recounting in detail the sordid history of Gottlieb’s secret work that is nauseating to read about, Kinzer leaves the reader with these strange words:

Gottlieb was not a sadist, but he might well have been…. Above all he was an instrument of history. Understanding him is a deeply disturbing way of understanding ourselves.

What possibly could this mean? Not a sadist? An instrument of history? Understanding ourselves? These few sentences, dropped out of nowhere, pull the rug out from under what is generally an illuminating history and what seems like a moral indictment. This language is pure mystification.

Kinzer also concludes that because Gottlieb said so, the CIA failed in their efforts to develop methods of mind control and ended MK-ULTRA’s experiments long ago. Why would he believe the word of a man who personified the agency he worked for: a secret liar? He writes,

When Sydney Gottlieb brough MK-ULTRA to its end in the early 1960s, he told his CIA superiors that he had found no reliable way to wipe away memory, make people abandon their consciences, or commit crimes and then forget them.

As for those who might think otherwise, Kinzer suggests they have vivid imaginations and are caught up in conspiracy thinking: “This [convincing others that the CIA had developed methods of mind control when they hadn’t] is Sydney Gottlieb’s most unexpected legacy,” he asserts. He says this although Richard Helms, the CIA Director, destroyed all MK-Ultra records. He says that Allen Dulles, Gottlieb, and Helms themselves were caught up in a complete fantasy about mind control because they had seen too many movies and read too many books; mind control was impossible, a failure, a myth, he maintains. It is the stuff of popular culture, entertainment. In an interview with Chris Hedges, interestingly posted by Jefferson Morley at his website, The Deep State, Hedges agrees with Kinzer. Gottlieb, Dulles, et al. were all deluded.  Mind control was impossible. You couldn’t create a Manchurian Candidate; by implication, someone like Sirhan could not have been programmed to be a fake Manchurian Candidate and to have no memory of what he did, as he claims. He could not have been mind-controlled by the CIA to perform his part as the seeming assassin of Senator Robert Kennedy while the real killer shot RFK from behind. People who think like this should get real.

Furthermore, as is so common in books such as Kinzer’s, he repeats the canard that JFK and RFK knew about and pressured the CIA to assassinate Fidel Castro. This is demonstrably false, as shown by the Church Committee and the Assassinations Record Review Board, among many others. That Kinzer takes the word of notorious liars like Richard Helms and the top-level CIA operative Samuel Halpern is simply incredible, something that is hard to consider a mistake. Slipped into a truth sandwich, it is devoured and passed on. But it is false. Bullshit meant to deceive.

But this is how these games are played. If you look carefully, you will see them widely. Inform, enlighten, while throwing in doubletalk and untruths. The small number of people who read such books and articles will come away knowing some history that has no current relevance and being misinformed on other history that does. They will then be in the know, ready to pass their “wisdom” on to those who care to listen. They will not think they are average.

But they will be mind controlled, and the killer cat will roam freely without a bell, ready to devour the unsuspecting mice.

December 10, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Film Review, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 1 Comment

Film ‘Official Secrets’ is the Tip of a Mammoth Iceberg

By Sam Husseini • Consortium News • August 29, 2019

Two-time Oscar nominee Keira Knightley is known for being in “period pieces” such as “Pride and Prejudice,” so her playing the lead in the new film “Official Secrets,” scheduled to be released in the U.S. on Friday, may seem odd at first. That is until one considers that the time span being depicted — the early 2003 run-up to the invasion of Iraq — is one of the most dramatic and consequential periods of modern human history.

It is also one of the most poorly understood, in part because the story of Katharine Gun, played by Knightley, is so little known. Having followed this story from the start, I find this film to be, by Hollywood standards, a remarkably accurate account of what has happened to date–“to date” because the wider story still isn’t over.

Katharine Gun worked as an analyst for Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the British equivalent of the secretive U.S. National Security Agency. She tried to stop the impending invasion of Iraq in early 2003 by exposing the deceit of George W. Bush and Tony Blair in their claims about that country. For doing that she was prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act — a juiced up version of the U.S. Espionage Act, which in recent years has been used repeatedly by the Obama administration against whistleblowers and now by the Trump administration against WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange.

Gun was charged for exposing— around the time of Colin Powell’s infamous testimony to the UN about Iraq’s alleged WMDs – a top secret U.S. government memo showing it was mounting an illegal spying “surge” against other U.N. Security Council delegations in an effort to manipulate them into voting for an Iraq invasion resolution. The U.S. and Britain had successfully forced through a trumped up resolution, 1441 in November 2002. In early 2003, they were poised to threaten, bribe or blackmail their way to get formal United Nations authorization for the invasion. [See recent interview with Gun.]

Katherine Gun

The leaked memo, published by the British Observer, was big news in parts of the world, especially the targeted countries on the Security Council, and helped prevent Bush and Blair from getting the second UN Security Council resolution they said they wanted. Veto powers Russia, China and France were opposed as well as U.S. ally Germany.

Washington invaded anyway of course — without Security Council authorization — by telling the UN weapons inspectors to leave Iraq and issuing a unilateral demand that Saddam Hussein leave Iraq in 48 hours— and then saying the invasion would commence regardless.

‘Most Courageous Leak’

It was the executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, where I work (accuracy.org), Norman Solomon, as well as Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg who in the U.S. most immediately saw the importance of what Gun had done. Ellsberg would later comment: “No one else — including myself — has ever done what Katharine Gun did: Tell secret truths at personal risk, before an imminent war, in time, possibly, to avert it. Hers was the most important — and courageous — leak I’ve ever seen, more timely and potentially more effective than the Pentagon Papers.”

Of course, no one knew her name at the time. After the Observer broke the story on March 1, 2003, accuracy.org put out a series of news releases on it and organized a sadly, sparsely attended news conference with Ellsberg on March 11, 2003 at the National Press Club, focusing on Gun’s revelations. Ellsberg called for more such truth telling to stop the impending invasion, just nine days away.

Though I’ve followed this case for years, I didn’t realize until recently that accuray.org’s work helped compel Gun to expose the document. At a recent D.C. showing of “Official Secrets” that Gun attended, she revealed that she had read a book co-authored by Solomon, published in January 2003 that included material from accuracy.org as well as the media watch group FAIR debunking many of the falsehoods for war.

Gun said: “I went to the local bookshop, and I went into the political section. I found two books, which had apparently been rushed into publication, one was by Norman Solomon and Reese Erlich, and it was called Target Iraq. And the other one was by Milan Rai. It was called War Plan Iraq. And I bought both of them. And I read them cover to cover that weekend, and it basically convinced me that there was no real evidence for this war. So I think from that point onward, I was very critical and scrutinizing everything that was being said in the media.”

Thus, we see Gun in “Official Secrets” shouting at the TV to Tony Blair that he’s not entitled to make up facts. The film may be jarring to some consumers of major media who might think that Donald Trump invented lying in 2017.

Gun’s immediate action after reading critiques of U.S. policy and media coverage makes a strong case for trying to reach government workers by handing out fliers and books and putting up billboards outside government offices to encourage them to be more critically minded.

Solomon and Ellsberg had debunked Bush administration propaganda in real time. But Gun’s revelation showed that the U.S. and British governments were not only lying to invade Iraq, they were violating international law to blackmail whole nations to get in line.

Mainstream reviews of “Official Secrets” still seem to not fully grasp the importance of what they just saw. The trendy AV Club review leads: “Virtually everyone now agrees that the 2003 invasion of Iraq was a colossal mistake based on faulty (at best) or fabricated (at worst) intelligence.” “Mistake” is a serious understatement even with “colossal” attached to it when the movie details the diabolical, illegal lengths to which the U.S. and British governments went to get other governments to go along with it.

Gun’s revelations showed before the invasion that people on the inside, whose livelihood depends on following the party line, were willing to risk jail time to out the lies and threats.

Portrayal of The Observer

Other than Gun herself, the film focuses on a dramatization of what happened at her work; as well as her relationship with her husband, a Kurd from Turkey who the British government attempted to have deported to get at Gun. The film also portrays the work of her lawyers who helped get the Official Secrets charge against her dropped, as well as the drama at The Observer, which published the NSA document after much internal debate.

Observer reporter Martin Bright, whose strong work on the original Gun story was strangely followed by an ill-fated stint at the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, has recently noted that very little additional work has been done on Gun’s case. We know virtually nothing about the apparent author of the NSA document that she leaked — one “Frank Koza.” Other questions persist, such as how prevalent is this sort of U.S. blackmail of foreign governments to get UN votes or for other purposes? How is it leveraged? Does it fit in with allegations made by former NSA analyst Russ Tice about the NSA having massive files on political people?

Observer reporter Ed Vulliamy is energetically depicted getting tips from former CIA man Mel Goodman. There do seem to be subtle but potentially serious deviations from reality in the film. Vulliamy is depicted as actually speaking with “Frank Koza,” but that’s not what he originally reported:

“The NSA main switchboard put The Observer through to extension 6727 at the agency which was answered by an assistant, who confirmed it was Koza’s office. However, when The Observer asked to talk to Koza about the surveillance of diplomatic missions at the United Nations, it was then told ‘You have reached the wrong number’. On protesting that the assistant had just said this was Koza’s extension, the assistant repeated that it was an erroneous extension, and hung up.”

There must doubtlessly be many aspects of the film that have been simplified or altered regarding Gun’s personal experience. A compelling part of the film — apparently fictitious or exaggerated — is a GCHQ apparatchik questioning Gun to see if she was the source.

Little is known about the reaction inside the governments of Security Council members that the U.S. spied on. After the invasion, Mexican Ambassador Adolfo Aguilar Zinser spoke in blunt terms about U.S. bullying — saying it viewed Mexico as its patio trasero, or back yard — and Zinser was compelled to resign by President Vicente Fox. He then, in 2004, gave details about some aspects of U.S. surveillance sabotaging the efforts of the other members of the Security Council to hammer out a compromise to avert the invasion of Iraq, saying the U.S. was “violating the U.N. headquarters covenant.” In 2005, he tragically died in a car crash.

“Official Secrets” director Gavin Hood is perhaps more right than he realizes when he says that his depiction of the Gun case is like the “tip of an iceberg,” pointing to other deceits surrounding the Iraq war. His record with political films has been uneven until now. Peace activist David Swanson, for instance, derided his film on drones, “Eye in the Sky.” At a D.C. showing of “Official Secrets,” Hood depicted those who backed the Iraq war as being discredited. But that’s simply untrue.

Keira Knightley appears as Katherine Gun in Official Secrets (Courtesy of Sundance Institute.)

Leading presidential candidate Joe Biden — who not only voted for the Iraq invasion, but presided over rigged hearings on in 2002 – has recently falsified his record repeatedly on Iraq at presidential debates with hardly a murmur. Nor is he alone. Those refusing to be held accountable for their Iraq war lies include not just Bush and Cheney, but John Kerry and Nancy Pelosi.

Biden has actually faulted Bush for not doing enough to get United Nations approval for the Iraq invasion. But as the Gun case helps show, there was no legitimate case for invasion and the Bush administration had done virtually everything, both legal and illegal, to get UN authorization.

Many who supported the invasion try to distance themselves from it. But the repercussions of that illegal act are enormous: It led directly or indirectly to the rise of ISIS, the civil war in Iraq and the war in Syria. Journalists who pushed for the Iraq invasion are prosperous and atop major news organizations, such as Washington Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt. The editor who argued most strongly against publication of the NSA document at The Observer, Kamal Ahmed, is now editorial director of BBC News.

The British government — unlike the U.S.– did ultimately produce a study ostensibly around the decision-making leading to the invasion of Iraq, the Chilcot Report of 2016. But that report — called “devastating” by the The New York Times made no mention of the Gun case. [See accuracy.org release from 2016: “Chilcot Report Avoids Smoking Gun.”]

After Gun’s identity became known, the Institute for Public Accuracy brought on Jeff Cohen, the founder of FAIR, to work with Hollie Ainbinder to get prominent individuals to support Gun. The film — quite plausibly — depicts the charges being dropped against Gun for the simple reason that the British government feared that a high profile proceeding would effectively put the war on trial, which to them would be have been a nightmare.

Sam Husseini is an independent journalist, senior analyst at the Institute for Public Accuracy and founder of VotePact.org. Follow him on twitter: @samhusseini.

August 29, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Film Review, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , | 2 Comments

PBS: Keeper of Official State Myths

By Bill Willers | Dissident Voice | August 5, 2019

A prime function of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) is the reinforcement and perpetuation of the state’s explanations of events, however absurd and discredited. While cultural offerings on PBS are excellent and appreciated, divergence from official governmental narratives is not permitted. PBS is a foremost informational gatekeeper, a role enhanced by its insistence that it represents the best of investigative journalism.

American Experience:  “Oklahoma City”

The official stories of the Murrah office building and 9/11 are now enshrined in memorials, the purpose of which is to make a lie the truth.

— Paul Craig Roberts, “The Oklahoma City Bombing After 22 Years”, Global Research, April 20, 2017

Once ‘terrorism’ had been established as the enemy for society to fear, it was to become extended from a force thought of as foreign to one also to be found in the American “Homeland”. A horrifying and convincing example of “domestic terrorism”, the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19,1995, was the event that would solidify this in the public mind and serve to justify increased police powers.

There is considerable evidence that the bombing of the Murrah Building was not as reported and likely involved elements of the government itself. The air force’s explosive’s expert, Brigadier General Benton Partin has presented “irrefutable” proof that the primary damage to the building came from powerful multiple charges positioned at key points on the third floor, not from Timothy McVeigh’s truck bomb of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, a relatively weak explosive. Partin’s letter to a U.S. Senator puts this in summary.

Other explosives experts agree that the building was blown up from inside, and that there was evidence of official coverup. Nevertheless, the 2017 film “Oklahoma City” focuses on the history of neo-Nazi wrath over governmental clashes at Ruby Ridge, Idaho and Waco, Texas, where U.S. citizens were killed. The film is tailored to convince viewers that right wing domestic terrorism was behind the Murrah bombing, period. But if explosives experts are correct, this must be false, as such militants would lack both technical skill and access to the building for such a sophisticated wiring job.

There are also myriad associated questions that have never been dealt with: e.g., the police officer convinced of governmental coverup who died under mysterious circumstances; indication the FBI knew of the plan well in advance; McVeigh’s claim to have been working with an FBI agent; surveillance tapes “lost” by the FBI reportedly showing a man with McVeigh exiting the truck just before the bombing; CIA involvement which would indicate foreign implication; the fact that engineers whose analysis of the Murrah bombing was to become official were also selected to analyze the 9/11/2001 destruction of the World Trade Center, and whose report was to become the basis for Nova’s 2002 “Why The Towers Fell”.

Decision makers at PBS chose to ignore all evidence not in conformity with the government’s preferred version of events and, two decades after the bombing, to solidify the apparently false history.

NOVA: “Why the Towers Fell” 

All the proffered evidence that America was attacked by Muslims on 9/11, when subjected to critical scrutiny, appears to have been fabricated.

— David Ray Griffin, “Was America Attacked by Muslims on 9/11?“, September 10, 2008

If, on 9/11/2001, journalists Dan Rather and Peter Jennings, reporting live, could discern the similarity of the collapses of the Twin Towers to intentional demolitions, one assumes the tens of thousands of engineers watching would also be having hunches. Still, there was apparently no concerted statement of the sort from that professional community in the months following. Indeed, it was from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) that a team of 22 was chosen by FEMA to explain to a shocked Nation, hungry for answers, why the Towers, as well as WTC7, fell as no steel-framed buildings had ever fallen. The resulting NOVA production, “Why The Towers Fell“, covered the team’s Building Performance Study and aired on PBS on April 30, 2002, just seven months after the attack.

The team was led by Gene Corley who, it happens, had also led the investigation of the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah building in Oklahoma City, although his team’s finding there was not in accord with that of General Partin, the Air Force’s explosives expert (see above). In any event, “building performance” was the focus of both studies, without any consideration of the possibility that the buildings had been previously prepared for demolition, although there was evidence that such was the case.

While “Why The Towers Fell” can still be seen at dailymotion, only a transcript is available at the PBS website, this for good reason. Since its airing in 2002, a veritable army of engineers and researchers has rendered it more than merely inaccurate. One does not wish to disparage engineers in the video, for certainly pressure was intense to find a politically acceptable explanation for an anxious public. But evidence of the buildings having been prepared for demolition prior to 9/11 is by now overwhelming. Details of why this is so is not the point here, but good sources of information, for those interested, are Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth and virtually any of the books on the subject by David Ray Griffin.

What is glaring is the absolute silence of PBS to the accumulated mountain of evidence that the World Trade Center buildings had been carefully prepared for 9/11. In 2015, PBS showcased three Frontline presentations, all in accord with the official story, with this introduction: “Fifteen years ago, Al Qaeda operatives carried out the deadliest domestic terror attack in American history by hijacking four passenger airplanes and crashing two into the World Trade Center, one into the Pentagon and another into a Pennsylvania field”. With a single concise sentence, and a decade and a half after the event, PBS is affirming what is most certainly a false account.

American Experience:  Roads to Memphis”

William Pepper, confidante of Martin Luther King, Jr. and King Family attorney, spent decades uncovering the truth about the assassination of King. In 2010, when PBS first aired Roads To Memphis, a fictional account about designated patsy James Earl Ray, Pepper had already published two books (1995 and 2003) revealing the plot to assassinate the good Reverend, a plot involving a complex of governmental, military and underworld players. It would be hard to find a more blatant example of official state television eclipsing truth than the multiple airings by PBS of Roads To Memphis.

Even the most superficial scan of the King assassination record quickly leads to Pepper’s publications and references to them. It is not possible to have missed them. The creators and disseminators of Roads To Memphis were therefore faced with two radically opposing narratives: Pepper’s detailed expose’ on the one hand, which they chose to disregard altogether, and on the other hand the Government’s story line, which Pepper had annihilated. A side-by-side comparison of the two accounts of the assassination leaves one in a state of shock. See here Pepper’s words from the introduction of the The Plot To Kill King, the last of his trilogy:

For me, this is a story rife with sadness, replete with massive accounts of personal and public deception and betrayal. Its revelations and experiences have produced in the writer a depression stemming from an unavoidable confrontation with the depths to which human beings, even those subject to professional codes of ethics, have fallen; ….. Far from being elated that the truth is now with us face-to-face, I feel consumed by a sadness that will be a lifelong emotional presence. One significant factor is facing the reality that one has misjudged the integrity and even the basic decency of individuals, some of whom have been friends or respected comrades over many years. It is a traumatic realization that the use of political assassinations has all too often been successful at removing uncontrollable leaders whose commitment to substantive change of their societies had threatened the ruling forces, and thereby become so intolerable that physical removal remained the only option.

Despite Pepper’s The Plot To Kill King having been published in 2016, PBS was still airing Roads To Memphis a year later.

FRONTLINE: “Putin’s Revenge”

The American propaganda campaign being waged against the Russian Federation and its president Vladimir Putin has reached a stage of perverse perfection…… ‘Putin’s Revenge’ feature[s] so-called experts who outdo one another in stoking anti-Russian flames. PBS can never seem to find any expert who can make counter arguments.

— Margaret Kimberley, “Putin, Trump and Manafort“, OpEd News, November 3, 2017

Following World War 2, the U.S. was relatively unscathed, her manufacturing base for war materials was humming, stakeholders were intent on maintaining it, and a perceived enemy would justify its continuance. Russia; i.e., the Soviet Union (USSR), recently an ally, had an economic system antithetical to capitalism. The Red Scare was born, nurtured and perpetuated throughout a Cold War that was to last until 1989. But Russia had suffered Nazi invasion, and with a death toll of perhaps 20,000,000, had neither ability nor reason to threaten the U.S. in 1945. Looking back, it is unpleasant to contemplate the extent to which the Cold War was U.S. driven.

With media reinforcing the ‘Russia=Enemy!’ meme, transition into the “new” Cold War has gone smoothly, but Frontline’s “Putin’s Revenge” is a remarkable 2-hour distortion of the “Russiagate” fiasco. Centered on a claimed Russian “hacking” of 60,000 emails of the Democratic National Committee, allegedly to assist the Trump presidential campaign, it begins with the CIA’s John Brennan calling the hacking “tantamount to war”, and it never departs that focus.

As the commanding voice of narrator Will Lyman details Putin’s “lifetime of grievances” against American humiliations, the Russian’s face is shown in still shots chosen for sinister innuendo. Putin, viewers are told, “weaponized” information and sent hacked DNC emails to Wikileaks to expose Clinton’s undermining of the Sanders Campaign, thereby disuniting Democrats and aiding Trump. Along the way, there is deceptive reporting of a Russian “invasion” of Crimea, and suggestion of collusion between Putin and Trump. Commentary from governmental figures is reinforced by mainstream journalists from the NY Times, New Yorker, Washington Post, Bloomberg News, and Politico.

The two hours of “Putin’s Revenge” aired on October 25 and November 1, 2017 despite an organization of intelligence professionals having already disputed hacking claims in late 2016 and published their technical assessment by July, 2017 that the DNC emails, rather than hacked, had been downloaded; i.e., “leaked”, from within the DNC itself. It strains believability that Frontline’s researchers could have missed these. Moreover, Julian Assange had long insisted that neither Russia nor any other state party was Wikileak’s source of the DNC emails, as Frontline had to have known. Records indicate that the Clinton Campaign, aware that incriminating emails were about to be made public, conspired with the DNC and media to divert attention onto a fabricated “Russian hack”, for which there was never evidence.

Ever since the U.S. promised the Soviets in 1990 that NATO would not move “one inch to the east” of Germany, NATO military activity has expanded along Russia’s western border from the Baltic to the Black Sea, the expanse over which Napoleon and Hitler carried out their respective invasions. That is the geographic equivalent of Russian bases being placed along a U.S. border. Crimea is the site of Russia’s naval base on the Black Sea, where U.S. warships have been cruising in recent years, and the northeast quadrant of which is Russian coastline. Base and coastline had to be protected without delay. In response to NATO-driven regime-change in western Ukraine, a referendum for union with Russia (not covered in the Frontline piece) was held in Crimea. Russian blood and culture dominate in Crimea, and the referendum passed by a reported 95%, hence Russia’s annexation. Frontline’s depiction of an “invasion” is beyond merely simplistic and is illustrative of why Americans are so ignorant of world affairs.

American mainstream journalism is now a tapestry of lies of omission. PBS, however, is a standout in this area, because its prominent, “in depth” productions on Nova, American Experience and Frontline are considered widely to represent the best investigative journalism available. It is this reputation that places PBS above the networks in the public mind. As PBS has willfully avoided specific areas for exploration, and has excluded truths that a governmental power structure does not want aired, it has made itself a powerful tool in the rewriting of history.

Bill Willers is an emeritus professor of biology, University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh. He is founder of the Superior Wilderness Action Network and editor of Learning to Listen to the Land, and Unmanaged Landscapes, both from Island Press. He can be contacted at willers@uwosh.edu.

August 6, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, False Flag Terrorism, Film Review, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment

Google’s Empire: The Science Fiction of Power

By Maximilian C. Forte | Zero Anthropology | June 28, 2019

For as long as I can remember, I always wanted to make a film about libraries,” explains Ben Lewis, the director of Google and the World Brain (2013). About libraries, he says, “they are my favourite places to be. Serene, beautiful repositories of the best thoughts that men and women have ever had”. Political economy, and the rights of citizens in a democracy, also loom large in Lewis’ estimation of the importance of libraries. As he states, libraries are: “Free to use. Far from the din of modern capitalism, libraries are the epitome of the public institution. There is simply nothing bad about a library. It is my paradise”. While praising the value of the Internet, Lewis warns, “the Internet also takes things from us, without asking”. Marrying the Internet and libraries raises hugely problematic issues, especially in the case of Google’s book-scanning project—problems surrounding copyright, national cultures and surveillance.

The political economy of knowledge production is one of the central areas of research interest that constitute the Zero Anthropology Project. This documentary was a good match for that interest, especially as it provokes a number of “big questions”: What are the social and political consequences of knowledge centralization? How, or when, is the digitization of knowledge problematic, and for whom? What role do libraries play in contemporary society? Does copyright protect much more than just authors’ rights and publishers’ profit-making activities? How is the digitization of knowledge linked to surveillance and governance? Should private corporations play any part in creating and/or controlling a universal library? Is a universal library even possible?

Google and the World Brain (2013)

If you were looking for a documentary that was not just another evangelical tract about how “information wants to be free,” spoken by wide-eyed zealots of “open access,” then this is the film for you. While beginning with enthusiasm for open access, for nearly a decade now Zero Anthropology has been warning about the dangers of open access, especially when it comes to facilitating the flow of information to the imperialist military of the US, or bolstering US academic hegemony. Ben Lewis’ Google and the World Brain shows us that we are on the right track. Yet some will argue that there are questionable aspects of Lewis’ critiques and the way they are presented in the film.

Directed by Ben Lewis, Google and the World Brain (2013) runs for 89 minutes. A trailer is included below, but the film in its entirety can be seen online, for free, on Archive.org and on the website of Polar Star Films. If you have 89 minutes to spare, please view it and then let us know if the following analysis was either flawed or unfair.

A trailer for the film is available below:

Polar Star Films, which produced Google and the World Brain, provided a detailed synopsis of the film which forms the basis for the following overview of the film.

Overview

Google and the World Brain is the story of “the most ambitious project ever attempted on the Internet: Google’s project to scan every book in the world and create not just a giant digital global library, but a higher form of intelligence”. The film’s critique draws from the dystopian warnings of H.G. Wells who in his 1937 essay “World Brain” predicted the creation of a universal library that contained all of humanity’s written knowledge, and which would be accessible to all of humanity. However, this would not just be a library in the sense of a static holding of inventoried contents, rather it would form the foundation for an all-knowing entity that would eliminate the need for nation-states and governments. With every increase in the quantity of information that it possessed, the globalist World Brain would be better able to rule over all of humanity, and would thus monitor every human being on the planet.

Supposedly Wells’ dystopian vision of technological progress (has progress ever really produced anything other than a succession of dystopias?) was just science fiction. However, this film shows how a World Brain is being brought into existence on the Internet: “Wikipedia, Facebook, Baidu in China and other search engines around the world  are all trying to build their own world brains—but none had a plan as bold, far-reaching and transformative as Google did with its Google Books project”.

Starting in 2002, Google began its project of scanning the world’s books. To do so, they entered into legal agreements with major university libraries in the US, most notably those of Harvard, Stanford, and Michigan, and then expanded to include deals with the Bodleian Library at Oxford in the UK and the Catalonian National Library in Spain. The goal was not simply the collection of all books—instead, as Lewis’ film argues, there was “a higher and more secretive purpose” which was to develop a new form of Artificial Intelligence.

Of the 10 million books scanned by Google by the time this documentary was made, six million of them were under copyright. This fact provoked authors, publishers, and some librarians around the world to not only protest Google, but also to take legal and political action against it. In the fall of 2005 the Authors Guild of America and the Association of American Publishers filed lawsuits against Google. That resulted in a 350-page agreement negotiated with Google, which was unveiled in October of 2008.

However, that agreement which involved Google paying a settlement of $125 million, also granted Google Books huge new powers. The result was that Google would become the world’s biggest bookstore and commercialized library. Google now had the exclusive right to sell scans of all out-of-print books that were still in copyright. What this meant is that Google had a monopoly over the majority of books published in the 20th-century.

Reacting against this settlement, Harvard University withdrew its support for Google’s project. Authors in Japan and China joined a worldwide opposition to Google’s book-scanning. The governments of France and Germany also condemned the agreement. In the US, the Department of Justice launched an anti-trust investigation. Starting in late 2009, US Judge Denny Chin held hearings in New York to assess the validity of the 2008 Google Book Settlement, and in March of 2011 he struck it down.

Google altered its plan in order to continue with a version of its book-scanning project. Google signed deals with many individual publishers that would allow Google to show parts of their books online. Google also continued to scan books out-of-copyright. What Google was not able to do was carry out its master plan for an exclusive library that it controlled alone. The Authors Guild also persevered with  suing Google for up to $2 billion in damages for scanning copyrighted books.

In this documentary, Google occupies the spotlight. Issues of copyright, privacy, data-mining, downloading, surveillance, and freedom come to the fore as a result.

The key figures interviewed in this film include some of the leading Internet analysts such as Evgeny Morozov, Jaron Lanier, Kevin Kelly, Clay Shirky, and Pamela Samuelson. Librarians in charge of some of the world’s leading libraries are also interviewed, including Robert Darnton (Harvard), Reginald Carr and Richard Ovendon (Bodleian), Jean-Noel Jeanneney (French National Library). In addition, authors involved in the struggle against Google Books such as Charles Seife, Roland Reuss, and Mian Mian (a best-selling Chinese author), are also key figures in the film.

The filmmakers challenge utopian visions of the Internet as the hoped for means of spreading democracy, freedom, and culture around the globe. Instead, the film argues that the Internet has enabled practices contrary to those ideals by, “undermining our civil liberties, free markets and human rights, while concentrating power and wealth in the hands of powerful new monopolies over which we have little influence”.

Polar Star Films ends its synopsis with this very important warning and urgent call for action:

“Humanity now stands at a crossroads. We can either take action to ensure that all the information and knowledge that the Internet is providing serves us, or we can remain passive consumers, and wait for all that information to take control over us. Whatever we do in the next few years will shape society for centuries to come”.

Contemporary Globalization as Science Fiction

H.G. Wells has to be one of the most prescient thinkers of the past two centuries. It is astounding just how far his supposed science “fiction” was in fact an outline discerning what would soon become reality. He had a particularly keen sense of the patterns taking shape around him, and just as keen a vision of the direction in which forces would move the world.

This is not the first time that we resort to the work of H.G. Wells which, under the guise of “fiction,” seemed to provide what global leaders would then adopt as a plan of action. In “The Shape of Things to Come in Libya,” we witnessed the applicability of Wells’ The Shape of Things to Come with its domineering figures, the “United Airmen”—progressivist autocrats who proclaimed themselves “freemasons of science”. Precursors to the neoliberal globalist mode of governance, the United Airmen came to vanquish local warlords and end all national governments, declaring independent sovereign states at an end, even if it meant war to erase them from the face of the earth.

Google and the World Brain opens with these words from the 1937 essay, “World Brain,” by H.G. Wells:

“There is no practical obstacle whatever now to the creation of an efficient index to all human knowledge, ideas and achievements. To the creation, that is, of a complete planetary memory for all mankind”.

Wells’ depiction of the World Brain was of a new kind of empire: a global dictatorship of technologists and intellectuals. Managers would become the new de facto politicians. This tyranny of expertise sits very well with the current neoliberal world order which sees its future in jeopardy.

It is a peculiar way to start, accompanied by an eerie soundtrack, since one might think that there is nothing especially scary about an “index,” about efficient organization of information, or a complete memory. However, given the mood of the film’s opening, we are immediately invited by the filmmaker to consider these aims in a different light—a much dimmer one.

The film also ends with Wells—all is bad that ends Wells. Quoting from his 1945 book, Mind at the End of its Tether, Wells predicted that this progressivist new world order would come crashing down:

“It is like a convoy lost in darkness along an unknown rocky coast with quarrelling pirates in the chart room and savages clambering up the sides of the ship to plunder and do evil as the whim may take them. That is the rough outline of the more and more jumbled movie on the screen before us. There is no way out. Or round. Or through”.

What is at Stake?

Wells also seemed to predict the Internet as making this world brain possible—this complete database of all human knowledge, past and present, could “be reproduced exactly and fully in Peru, China, Iceland, Central Africa or wherever else”. One of the analysts interviewed in the film, Kevin Kelly, is of the opinion that having instantaneous access to all human knowledge, “changes your idea of who you are”. Some will inevitably ask: “Is that a bad thing?” Kelly himself seems to think not, and he appears in this film as an evangelist for AI, the Internet, and the wonders of the screen.

The film thus turns its attention to the Google book-scanning operation, described by one analyst as, “clearly the most ambitious World Brain scheme that has ever been invented”. Still, some will wonder, what is the problem? How is the scanning of books something that should alarm anyone?

The film focuses further, and becomes a story about Google trying to achieve a monopoly over the digitization of books. Some will ask: “Is the real problem the total digitization of printed knowledge (which is quite distinct, and often separate from all knowledge as such, since not all human knowledge is published), or is the problem that of corporate monopoly?” In its early minutes, the documentary can be confusing about its intended aims.

The third focus comes next: the argument becomes that Google could track everything, and as Pamela Samuelson (law professor, Berkeley) explains, Google “could hold the whole world hostage”. Some viewers might balk: “this is just alarmism”.

Robert Darnton, Director, Harvard Library

What are the stakes? Speaking of the continued importance of libraries, Robert Darnton (Director, Harvard University Library) says in the film that libraries are, “nerve centres, centres of intellectual energy”. Lewis Hyde adds: “Libraries stand for an ideal, which is an educated public. And to the degree that knowledge is power, they also stand there for the idea that power should be disseminated and not centralised”. Are centralization and dissemination opposed and mutually exclusive? Even as he calls for dissemination, Darnton himself utilizes the concept of “centres”.

(Ironically, Darnton calls for the knowledge held by libraries to be opened up and shared—yet when I tried to gain access to some of Harvard’s library collections myself during research visits in 2004 and 2005, I required special written permission just to gain entry into the buildings.)

Expanding and Centralizing the Control of Knowledge

Google was initially successful in seducing a few of the world’s largest libraries, including those of Harvard and Oxford, whose chief librarians interpreted Google’s book-scanning project as a logical extension of a long history of attempts at centralizing knowledge. Among the earlier attempts were encyclopaedias; plans for a catalogue of all knowledge; and, microfilming.

More recently, and since the advent of the World Wide Web, Project Gutenberg became the first digital library, one which scholars have used and will continue to use regularly. Project Gutenberg, founded by Michael Hart, actually started in the early 1970s with the simple act of typing and distributing the Declaration of Independence.

Ray Kurzweil’s invention of the scanner clearly represented the one key advance needed to proceed towards digitizing knowledge. In 1975, Kurzweil created the first omni-font optical character recognition device, which went commercial in 1978. As Kurzweil admits, “we talked about how you could ultimately scan all books and all printed material”.

In the late 1990s the book, the scanner, and the Internet were combined in an effort to create what was hoped would be gigantic digital libraries. The Internet Archive, an indispensable tool for both myself and likely many readers of this review, was established in 1996. Significantly, the director of the Internet Archive, Brewster Kahle, speaks in this film and indicates that he refused collaboration with Google because of the secrecy surrounding the nature of its agreements with libraries, and the fact that Google appeared to be on track to create something exclusive and separate.

Wikipedia, and arguably YouTube, are also massive attempts at acquiring and centralizing knowledge.

Google = Hegemony

Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google with Larry Page, says that Page first conceived of Google Books in 1999. Google Books was then initiated in 2004. In “A Library to Last Forever,” published in The New York Times on October 9, 2009, Brin explained that Google’s digitization effort would be history’s largest-scale effort, primarily because Google invested significantly in the resources needed for the project. In that article, Brin also is clear that Google was zeroing in on out-of-print but in-copyright books, and commercializing them, while also seeking to create new regulations that would allegedly serve the interests of rights holders. Brin argues that Google’s motivation was to preserve “orphan books” against physical destruction and disappearance. Commenting on Google’s supposedly lofty goals, Evgeny Morozov says the following in this film:

“I don’t think that Google is aware of the fact that it’s a corporation. I think Google does think of itself as an NGO that just happens to make a lot of money. And they think of themselves as social reformers who just happen to have their stock traded on stock exchanges and who just happen to have investors and shareholders, but they do think of themselves as ultimately being in the business of making the world better”.

Google, while claiming to be laying the path for others to follow and which says it has aided other digitization efforts, is highly secretive about its scanning operation. It refused the filmmakers access to any of its (secret) scanning locations, and the film thus relies on six seconds of footage—the only such footage in existence—that was leaked out. Google’s secrecy extends to the total number of books it has scanned, and to how much it costs to scan them on average (one estimate is between $30 and $100 per book). Google also worked to prevent any one of its partner libraries from communicating with other partner libraries about the nature of their individual contracts with Google. According to Sidney Verba, former director of Harvard Library, Google “bent over backwards” to make sure that each library would not tell the others what kind of contract they had and how they were working with Google.

How did Google benefit from book-scanning? Five explanations are offered by interviewees in the film.

(1) Lawrence Lessig introduces the point that one of the benefits of massive book-scanning, is that it pumps information into Google’s core, allowing it to develop more sophisticated algorithms that depend on knowing more and more.

(2) Sidney Verba offers a different explanation: by having lots of information in Google, more people would use Google, which would increase the prospective advertising landscape, thus enriching Google by selling advertising space.

(3) Pamela Samuelson, narrowing Google down to a search engine, offers a third viewpoint: having more data (from books, for example), allows Google to perfect its search technology.

(4) Jaron Lanier argues that there is a competition between all sectors of the modern economy (whether healthcare, information and communications technology, finance, criminality, etc.) for more and more data, because data—and specifically data differentials—is a measure of power. Then the data hoarders can in some cases claim that their work is for the common good, by increasing efficiency.

(5) Lanier, Lessig, and Kevin Kelly together make the point that feeding all these books into Google’s servers leads to the creation of something akin to a life-form, a transformative force, a mass of memories that empowers an artificial intelligence system. As the reader will have noted, there is nothing about these five theories that renders them mutually exclusive—they can all be true, at the same time.

The head of Google Books Spain, Luis Collado, the only company official willing to speak to the filmmakers about Google Books, offered a comparatively milder and more innocent explanation. Collado says that Google’s motivation was to amplify the richness of online knowledge. Until it started adding books to the Internet’s offerings, the Internet only consisted of materials that were specifically created for it. For example, in late 1994 in the SUNY-Cortland library I surfed the entire World Wide Web as it then existed, in just one afternoon (at the time I rushed to the conclusion that the Internet was “useless”). For a few years, it was actually practical for me to print everything I found interesting online, because there was so little worth printing. So Collado has a point, even if it does not exhaust the range of plausible explanations.

For Father Damià Roure, Library Director at the Monastery of Montserrat in Spain, Google’s book-scanning was a means of “diffusing our culture” to the rest of the world, while helping to preserve the knowledge contained in its vast library. What he was simply unable to answer was why the monastery had not asked Google to pay for the privilege of scanning the monastery’s collection. As Google turned its operation into a business, from which it would profit, was it fair to get the materials for free? Father Roure went completely silent at this point in the film, in one of the longest, most awkward silences I have ever seen on the screen. He brought it to an end by saying that he was not in a position to comment on anything other than digitization. Reginald Carr, former director of the Oxford’s Bodleian Library, simply downplayed the point: Google, in his view, was fully entitled to make a profit—having invested so much in the scanning—even if the Bodleian’s ethos was to make knowledge available for free.

These two library directors serve a useful purpose: they are a reminder to us that willing collaboration on the part of intermediary local elites is often essential to any grant project of hegemony-building. When it comes to the Internet, and Google in particular, readers of this article are also collaborators—collaborators that, at a minimum, feed Google with content with each search they perform. By continuing to use Google, you make it more powerful.

Assisted Intelligence or Artificial Intelligence?

Jaron Lanier

Speaking of collaboration, the film specifically addresses how Internet users are themselves used. To the extent that this is done unknowingly, unthinkingly, and without compensation, we move from collaboration to exploitation. Jaron Lanier makes this argument forcefully:

“AI is just a religion. It doesn’t matter. What’s really happening is real world examples from real people who entered their answers, their trivia, their experiences into some online database. It’s actually just a giant puppet theatre repackaging inputs from real people who are forgotten. We are pretending they aren’t there. This is something I really want people to see. The insane structure of modern finance is exactly the same as the insane structure of modern culture on the Internet. They’re precisely the same. It’s an attempt to gather all the information into a high castle, optimise the world and pretend that all the people the information came from don’t deserve anything. It’s all the same mistake”.

An absolutely unctuous and all too precious spokesperson for Google, Amit Singhal, actually confirms Lanier’s point when he says the following in the film:

“Google Search is going to be assisted intelligence and not artificial intelligence. In my mind I think of Search as this beautiful symphony between the user and the search engine and we make music together”.

Singhal confirms what Lanier argued, that Google is powered by its users, but then makes the false analogy to a symphony. Musicians performing in an orchestra are clearly instructed on their roles, they perform willingly, and they perform in accordance with known rules and by reading codified music sheets. In other words, the musicians are willing, aware, and informed. Most of Google’s users do not know they are performing in any “symphony”. Google emphasizes harmony where there is in fact concealment, deceit, and exploitation. If there is any music, it is music only to Google’s ears.

Google and Copyright: The Essence of the Confrontation

The film takes a turn into questions of copyright at this stage, when Harvard’s library director, Robert Darnton, points out that its agreement with Google only allowed for the scanning of books in the public domain. However, Google’s agreements with other libraries allowed it to scan all books, including those in copyright. Mary Sue Coleman, president of Michigan University, openly stated that her university allowed Google to scan copyrighted books, claiming that it was “legal, ethical, and noble” to do so (meanwhile universities warn students not to photocopy more than 10% of any given work). Copyright violation is where the legal problems exploded in Google’s face.

However, one of the outcomes of the lawsuits against Google was that the settlement agreement allowed Google to become the world’s biggest bookstore, specializing in out-of-print but in-copyright books. The settlement in fact granted Google an exclusive right to sell such books, without sharing the profits with authors. Google would also not respect the privacy of readers: the company would instead track what readers read, and for how long they read it.

One of the features of copyright that stands out in this film, is that copyright on the Internet takes the place of national borders. Thus we hear from Angela Merkel in this film, asserting that the German government would defend the rights of German authors, by making sure that copyright had a place on the Internet. Likewise, the former President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, declares in footage shown in this film that France would not allow a large private corporation to seize control of French national heritage, “no matter how nice, important, or American it may be”. Standing against the imperial ambitions of Google therefore was the seemingly old-fashioned principle of copyright. It reached the extent that when the Google book settlement was taken to court in 2009, representatives of foreign authors and foreign governments, accused the US of violating various treaty obligations which could force foreign parties to go to the WTO—and in the likely event of the US losing a case before the WTO, other nations would then have a right to impose trade sanctions on the US.

The outcome is that Google remains the target of publishers’ and authors’ lawsuits, while it continues to scan both out-of-copyright books as well as in-copyright books (in agreement with major libraries, and then offering only “snippets” of the book online). Rivalling Google, various governments and major libraries have undertaken their own library digitization, thus defeating Google’s attempt at becoming an exclusive monopoly. The Digital Public Library of America is one such example of a project that took off in response to the threat posed by Google, as is the case of Europeana.

Google as Empire

The film quotes from William Gibson’s 2010 article in The New York Times, “Google’s Earth,” as part of its argument that Google is building an artificial intelligence entity of a grander scale and sophistication than was even imagined in science fiction. As Gibson explains in that article, Google is “a central and evolving structural unit not only of the architecture of cyberspace, but of the world,” and he adds that this was, “the sort of thing that empires and nation-states did, before,” only now Google’s empire is one that also becomes an organ of “global human perception”. In Google, we are citizens, but without rights.

French National Library

Jean-Noël Jeanneney

Jean-Noël Jeanneney, the former director of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (the French National Library), represents the voice of the library of the nation-state, that which Google ultimately seeks to erase. He recounts in the film his first encounter with two young Google representatives who came to meet him—he points out that what struck him was their “arrogance” and “brutal commercialism”. These “salesmen,” as he calls them, badly miscalculated his psychology when they brought as a gift a thermo-flask, for which he had no use and which he cast aside. Following his meeting with Google’s representatives, and the company’s announcement that it alone would build a universal digital library, Jeanneney announced to his staff a plan for what he emphatically calls a “counter-offensive”. He criticized the Google book-scanning project as incorporating an Anglo-American cultural bias, and in a noteworthy critique published by Le Monde in 2005 titled “When Google Challenges Europe,” he argued that, “what I don’t want is everything reflected in an American mirror. When it comes to presenting digitized books on the Web, we want to make our choice with our own criteria”. Jeanneney pointed to “the risk of a crushing domination by America in the definition of the idea that future generations will have of the world”. Google suddenly appears not so much as a “new” empire, as in Gibson’s piece, but rather a part of the American empire in a new extension of itself. We are thus back to the familiar problems of Americanization and cultural imperialism.

As Sidney Verba explains in the film, there were two additional sides to the French critique of Google: one had to with the dominant language of Google search results—English—which thus acted as a force undermining French, and the second had to do with who got to decide what would be digitized, its order of priority, and who would get to do the digitization. Who are the Americans at Google who get to digitize France’s books?

Conclusion

While sometimes striking an alarmist tone that was not warranted by the empirical substance that was presented, one could also conclude that the film is only guilty of erring on the side of caution. When dealing with Google in particular, we are well past the point of being cautious: it is a monopolistic entity that for years had a large revolving door between itself and the State Department and the Democratic Party, while also striking deals with the Pentagon and engaging in political censorship. There is nothing innocent about Google, and to the extent that it swallows the Internet, there is little about the Internet that is innocent.

One of the possible lapses of the film is that it does not direct as much attention to China’s Baidu, which has its own extensive book-scanning project that might even rival Google’s. The film presents an interview with Baidu’s communications director, and provides some useful statistics from Baidu employees about the extent of its own book-scanning project—but the bulk of the criticism is reserved for Google.

A book scanning unit in China

However, it has to be said that Ben Lewis does us all an essential service with this film that, ostensibly, appears to be about the simple act of scanning library books, and becomes instead a much larger story about democracy, rights, nation-states, cultures, corporatization, political economy, international law, and the future of globalization.

It was not surprising to see that, once again, one of the top documentaries we have had the privilege of reviewing was produced by Europe’s Arte television company.

This documentary, with all of its thought-provoking questions and careful detail, would be suitable for a wide range of courses in fields such as Information and Communication Studies, Librarianship, Media Studies, Sociology, Anthropology, and Political Science. The film earns a score of 8.75/10.

(This documentary review forms part of the cyberwar series of reviews on Zero Anthropology. This film was viewed four times before the written review was published.)

June 28, 2019 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Film Review, Full Spectrum Dominance, Timeless or most popular | , , | 1 Comment

The lessons of Chernobyl: It’s the West that now needs Glasnost

By Neil Clark | RT | June 10, 2019

The much-acclaimed series ‘Chernobyl’ tells the story of the 1986 nuclear disaster and the authorities’ attempts to play it down. Ironically, 33 years on, it’s Western leaders who need to learn how to be honest and transparent.

It was the accident which some think led directly to the fall of communism. “Reformers in the Soviet Union, and Mikhail Gorbachev himself, used Chernobyl as an argument for more accountability and greater frankness, because the initial reaction of the Soviet authorities was anything but transparent. It became a symbol of what was wrong with the Soviet system,” says Professor Archie Brown, author of ‘The Rise and Fall of Communism’, as cited in yesterday’s Sunday Express newspaper.

Just three-and-a-half years after Chernobyl, the Berlin Wall came down, and in 1991, the USSR itself ceased to exist.

Western ideologues were quick to gloat, saying that a system which kept telling people lies and trying to cover things up was always doomed to fail, but in terms of openness and telling the truth, are we really much better than the Soviet Union of the 1980s?

Consider the way a succession of illegal wars has been sold to the public. We were told in 2003 that Iraq had ‘weapons of mass destruction’ which could be assembled and launched within 45 minutes. It was false, patently so, yet the Chilcot Report was only published 13 years later, and even now, no one has been prosecuted in relation to a war which led to the deaths of one million and the rise of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS).

In 2011, we went to war again, against Libya. Once more, our politicians were less than honest with us. We were told that we had to bomb because Colonel Gaddafi was going to massacre the inhabitants of Benghazi. Only five-and-a-half years later were we allowed to know the truth. In September 2016, a House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee report held that “the proposition that Muammar Gaddafi would have ordered the massacre of civilians in Benghazi was not supported by the available evidence… the Government failed to identify that the threat to civilians was overstated and that the rebels included a significant Islamist element.”

Again, we were tricked into war. By ‘nice’ Western politicians, mark you, and not ‘lying’ Soviet ones. Once more, there’s been no accountability. Libya, a country which had the highest Human Development Index in the whole of Africa, was destroyed. It was a far worse disaster than Chernobyl, as indeed Iraq was. When will the HBO dramas on these catastrophes be screening?

It’s not just the illegal wars. There have been cover-ups of plenty of other things, too. Three years after Chernobyl, there was the Hillsborough disaster in which 96 Liverpool football fans were crushed to death. It was the worst disaster in British sporting history. To add insult to tragedy, the fans themselves were blamed. Rupert Murdoch’s Sun claimed on its front page that fans had urinated on policemen and picked the pockets of victims. It took nearly 30 years to get the record formally put right and achieve ‘Justice for the 96’ when a jury held that the fans were ‘unlawfully killed’. The Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign, which wants a public inquiry into the way striking miners in South Yorkshire were ‘brutalised’ by police in the so-called ‘Battle of Orgreave’ in 1984, are still waiting. In 2016, Home Secretary Amber Rudd said there would be no inquiry.

Where’s the openness and transparency here?

Likewise with the cover-ups over suspected Establishment pedophiles and other high-up wrong-doers. We learnt only this year that Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher had, back in the 80s, personally protected a senior Conservative MP who allegedly had a “penchant for small boys.”

We don’t know whether a leading Soviet politician who was a child-abuser would have been prosecuted. Probably not. But we do know that in Britain in the 1980s, such cover-ups definitely occurred. And who really believes that’s still not the case today?

Bergson and Popper famously divided societies into ‘open’ and ‘closed’ ones, but Western ‘openness’ is not quite as ‘open’ as we’re led to believe. It does not extend to politicians frankly acknowledging the role that Western foreign policy has played in aiding, directly or indirectly, the very same terrorists who have gone on to target Western civilians. That’s a taboo subject, even after the Manchester Arena bombings and the bomber’s link to the MI5-‘sorted’ anti-Gaddafi LIFG, and the slaughter of tourists on the beach in Tunisia by a man who reportedly trained at an IS camp in neighboring ‘liberated’ Libya.

There are many more subjects too that are so taboo I dare not even mention them here. By contrast, dishonest or fact-lite narratives, such as ‘Russiagate’, or the one that holds that the UK Labour Party, an anti-racist party, is ‘awash with anti-Semitism’, hold sway. We CAN talk about these and indeed some commentators talk about little else.

It is the greatest of ironies that at the very same time that we are being told how HBO’s Chernobyl exposes the rottenness of the ‘closed’ Soviet system, a man who does believe in openness and transparency, a free press, and government accountability, is languishing in a maximum security prison in ‘open’ London, facing a possible extradition to the US and sentences of up to 175 years in jail. Julian Assange, whose only crime is wanting to show us what was behind the curtain, is no less persecuted than the Soviet dissidents about whom we heard an awful lot in the 1980s.

It’s been said that if you feud with someone long enough you end up being like them, or at least how you liked to portray them. When we think of the old Cold War and what’s going on today, that seems to have come true.

In its lack of transparency and openness, and the way in which lying has become the new normal, the West is now behaving the way the Soviet Union is supposed to have operated at the time of Chernobyl.

Who, I wonder, will be the equivalent of Mikhail Gorbachev to introduce some much-needed Western Glasnost?

June 10, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Film Review, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment

Contracts Reveal For First Time How DEA Exercises Control Over Television, Film Productions

By Tom Secker | ShadowProof | May 28, 2019

Nearly 200 pages of Drug Enforcement Administration contracts with producers were obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. They show for the first time how the agency interacts with television and film productions.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is quite active in the entertainment industry. It exercises stringent control over how the agency is represented in documentaries, reality shows, and dramas.

With several projects, the DEA carefully reviews their own files to pick out select cases that made them look good, which then form the basis for either fictional or factual productions.

The contracts [PDF] cover 2011 to 2017. Over that time period, DEA supported dozens of projects, including “Cops and Coyotes” and multiple episodes of “Drugs Inc.” and “Gangsters: America’s Most Evil.” They support the fictional drugs drama “Pure,” too.

Other supported projects were “Lethal Cargo,” “The Notorious Mr. Bout,” and “Declassified: Untold Stories of American Spies.” They even worked with the U.S. government-funded Middle East Broadcasting Network for a program that featured the DEA museum.

Strangely absent from the contracts are “Narcos” and “Breaking Bad,” despite various reports that both shows employed DEA employees as consultants.

In response to a separate FOIA request asking about their input on “Breaking Bad,” the DEA claimed they couldn’t find any records whatsoever. The released documents also do not include “Finding Escobar’s Millions” and “Battle Zone: The Origins of Sicario,” even though the DEA was credited on both documentaries.

The contracts show the near-total control the DEA wields over productions they assist.

Some producers are given permission to embed film crews within DEA Enforcement Groups but only under the provision that “DEA supervisors on the scene shall have the final say in approving any filming during real-time law enforcement operations.”

The production support offered by the DEA is completely free. It costs the producers nothing and ranges from granting permission to use the DEA name and logo to filming at DEA installations and interviewing their agents.

Some of the DEA’s restrictions apply to certain projects. The producers of “Canada: Drug Kingpin” were told they weren’t allowed to “accompany DEA employees to Canadian-U.S. border ‘hot spots’ known for the transit of illicit substances.”

The makers of “Lethal Cargo” were only permitted to interview one DEA employee, and the contract specifies several topics that he was not allowed to talk about. The forbidden topics included, “Information relating to the production and consumption status of a country and that country’s law enforcement approach to drug trafficking,” “the port of Valencia as an ingress point for cocaine,” and “the Nigerian mafia as couriers.”

In more recent years, with marijuana legalization a growing issue and reality, the DEA began including a clause saying that any interviews with “DEA personnel regarding marijuana operations or related issues” had to be approved in advance by the agency’s chief of congressional and public affairs.

On all supported projects, the producers must grant a “senior DEA official” control over the final edit, to ensure a project doesn’t compromise an “ongoing investigation or prosecution, investigative practices or techniques, or the identities of confidential sources or DEA special agent or task force officers.”

The official “may make that determination at any time during the editing and production process,” and the “producer agrees to abide by DEA requests to modify, delete or otherwise change” anything that is deemed objectionable.

While some of these restrictions are reasonable and protect the rights of those accused of crimes, the DEA-imposed limits also ensure they are depicted in a positive light.

Shadowproof spoke with author Doug Valentine, who has written extensively on the DEA’s culture and corruption. “Positive P.R. is more important [to the DEA] than accurate portrayal,” he said.

The contracts list several specific scenarios that cannot be shown under any circumstances. They include, “Recording of any shooting incident, regardless of who fires,” “filming of suspect interrogations,” “filming where an individual’s communications are being monitored in any fashion,” and “footage that exposes DEA’s confidential or sensitive investigative techniques.”

As a consequence of these restrictions, the productions all maintain the same basic message—that the DEA are heroes, who are fighting evil people who threaten American society.

“It’s propaganda B.S. pure and simple,” Valentine said. “I talk a lot about the myth of the hero. They want to portray themselves as heroes on a noble cause. They demand total control over the narrative.”

Asked whether these shows were inaccurate representations of the real relationships between DEA agents and drug dealers, Valentine replied, “Depends on the agent and the trafficker, but the trafficker can never arrest the agent. So agents have the power of the law. Where it gets sticky is with informants and special hires and undercover ops. CIA stuff.”

In addition to asserting control over the final edit of a production, the documents have clauses saying the DEA “reserves the right to perform background checks and, if necessary, deny access to those individuals who DEA believes may compromise DEA operations. DEA also reserves the right to limit the number of representatives who may have access to DEA.”

Like the FBI, the DEA is not just concerned with the content of the productions they support but also with the backgrounds of the people producing them.

“It’s another way of assuring control. DEA is obsessed with control and being the superior force,” Valentine added.

Further demonstrating the DEA’s obsession with control, the contracts require the producers to destroy any materials provided by the DEA (photos, documents, statistics, b-roll footage and so on) as soon as the production is released or broadcast.

The producers must provide the DEA with a DVD copy and a non-exclusive license to use the resulting film or TV show for the purposes of “recruiting, training, professional development, community relations, or demand reduction efforts.”

June 2, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Film Review, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , | Leave a comment

‘Chernobyl’ is a blast of a TV series – but don’t call it ‘authentic’

Jared Harris and Stellan Skarsgard in Chernobyl ©  Liam Daniel/HBO
By Igor Ogorodnev | RT | June 2, 2019

Building film sets out of old Soviet buildings is easier than understanding the people who inhabited them – and the hit HBO show doesn’t grasp either why the nuclear accident was allowed to happen, nor the heroism that followed.

Authenticity is not an essential virtue even for a docudrama, but it has been one of the main selling points of Chernobyl, the five-part mini-series that is currently the highest-ever rated TV program on film database IMDB.

Now, my qualms aren’t with the factual inaccuracies, the creation of Emily Watson’s fictional female scientist in place of the thousands of women actually involved, or the squeezing of such a grand-scale, multi-faceted story into what is, for the most part, a disaster film with two leads.

All of this artistic license could have been acceptable if only a higher truth had been preserved. But Chernobyl is fundamentally phony.

Because for all his strengths as a dramatist and thousands of hours of earnest research, New Yorker Craig Mazin, who wrote and produced the show, does not have an accurate mental picture of Soviet society on the edge of Perestroika.

And this is important. The reason Chernobyl struck the USSR so deeply wasn’t just the invisible terror of radiation, but how every stage of the catastrophe – from the flawed reactor design, to its shoddy construction, the carelessness and obstinacy of its staff, the cover-up afterwards, and the human cost – perfectly embodied the pathological deficiencies of a soon-to-collapse Communist order. April 26, 1986 was a systemic disaster, the harbinger of seismic change.

But there are no Soviet people in Chernobyl – and I am not talking about the British accents.

Mazin’s party officials are more like sullen gangsters protecting their own patch – they bully, shout, laugh ostentatiously, and bang their fists on the table. Stellan Skarsgard’s senior cabinet minister threatens to throw Jared Harris’s renowned academic off a helicopter, then to shoot him, but the conversation is as implausible as it would be if it were shown between Vice President George H.W. Bush and physicist Richard Feynman, to pick two contemporaries.

In real life, it was a disaster of consummate elite bureaucrats, who spoke to each other in a mix of déclassé party jargon and that matter-of-fact Russian frankness. The shortcomings of these people, almost all of whom thought they were doing the right thing, was not cartoonish villainy – but a callous sense of careerist self-preservation, a distancing from human suffering, wrong priorities, and an unwillingness to challenge the system. And in skilful hands the chilliness of the Soviet apparatchik could have been every bit as sinister and tragic as the scenery-chewing on display.

Similarly, the ordinary Russians tasked with the dirty and dangerous jobs are shown either as patriotic naïfs stirred by speeches, or independent-minded salt-of-the-earth types. But it was neither one nor the other. Other than the very first firefighters, the hundreds of thousands of Soviets involved in the clean-up were broadly aware of the risks they faced, but they went along anyway. Many went with fear, others with a sense of duty, but most complied simply because they lived in a totalitarian state, in which if the government tells you to do something, you do it. The most jarring scene is a Soviet minister bargaining with coal miners at gunpoint to persuade them to dig a tunnel under Chernobyl. Moscow mandarins did not negotiate with those 10 rungs below them – they sent down orders and didn’t need bullets to enforce them.

Once again there is drama in the get-on-with-it heroism of people who were thrown at the problem like faceless numbers, but it requires a more sensitive approach.

These elements of Soviet life may seem like the background to the central human stories, but in fact they dictated how each scene shown in Chernobyl unfolded in real life. And although occasionally the show hits upon the right note, perhaps when it sticks closest to a verbatim recreation, it does not seem to realize it. Most of the time, those involved act wrong on the wrong motivations, talk about the wrong things, and say them in the wrong order with an alien cadence that is more than just a different language.

Like an English upper class drama, staged by an Italian who grew up in his own culture and doesn’t speak the language, starring Italian actors, the whole thing feels off, ersatz. The mostly convincing sets show up the inauthenticity of the content.

This is not about defending my own cultural turf. Foreigners have every right to write about Chernobyl, and post-Soviet filmmakers are welcome to try and show that they remember the era better themselves through their own conflicted legacies and agendas.

But a caution: you are not REALLY learning about the Soviet Union or Russia or Ukraine from Chernobyl. And if you do want to dig through the testimonies and videos and books, there exists for you a story that is no less harrowing, but perhaps deeper and more involving.

Igor Ogorodnev is a Russian-British journalist, who has worked at RT since 2007 as a correspondent, editor and writer.

June 2, 2019 Posted by | Film Review | | Leave a comment

Let’s not make a drama about Skripal case before important questions are answered

By Neil Clark | RT | May 22, 2019

It’s over 14 months since the Skripal poisonings first made world headlines but to paraphrase the words of the 1970s Johnny Nash hit ‘There are more questions than answers, and the more we find out, the less we know.’

There’s been neither sight nor sound of Yulia or Sergei Skripal. Yulia was last seen in a short video statement released on May 23, 2018, her father in CCTV footage in a shop in Salisbury at 12.47pm on February 27, 2018. If Sergei was sure that the Russian state was responsible for what happened to him, why hasn’t he been put before a camera to say so? Even more mysteriously, why hasn’t this dutiful son not called his 91-year old mother Yelena to say he’s ok?  Might Sergei Skripal actually be dead – and if so, why haven’t we been told?

Then there’s the unraveling of the Amesbury (a town nine miles from Salisbury) postscript. The news that two British nationals, Charlie Rowley and Dawn Sturgess, had been admitted to hospital after being exposed to alleged Novichok poisoning from a bottle of perfume found in a bin by Rowley, caused a sensation when it broke in early July 2018.

But a couple of days ago the Guardian, cited a source au fait with the police’s criminal inquiry, who stated: “The bin where the bottle (of perfume) was found was regularly emptied, so it seems inconceivable that it had been there in March.”

Which raises the question: If the bottle did contain Novichok and the two Russian suspects didn’t put it in the bin, then who did?

There are three possible explanations – if we rule out the bottle somehow quite miraculously remaining in the bin after regular emptying over a sixteen-week period.

Firstly, Rowley misremembered where he found the bottle and that he actually picked it up somewhere else. Secondly, the bottle didn’t contain Novichok and wasn’t the source of the poisoning and Dawn’s tragic death. Thirdly, it did contain Novichok and that it was placed in the bin in the week preceding Rowley finding it.

Possibility one clearly does not exclude the two Russian suspects leaving the Novichok somewhere else, eg in a bush in the park and Rowley finding it several weeks later. However, Rowley did tell ITV in July 2018: “I feel confident in myself to say it wasn’t picked up in the park.”

The other two possibilities raise some very serious questions indeed. They would indicate that some unknown actor was keen to link the poisoning of Rowley and Burgess to the earlier events in Salisbury. If so, was it done to try and further turn public opinion against Russia in pursuance of a geopolitical agenda?

Again, it’s worth stressing that up to now the Metropolitan Police have been unable able to link the poisoning of Rowley and Burgess to that of the Skripals.

All things considered, what we could really do with at this point is answers from the authorities who were so quick to throw accusations at Russia, and a new television documentary could help that.

I’m old enough to remember the excellent ITV series ‘In Suspicious Circumstances’, shown in the early 1990s, which looked into real-life murder mysteries of the past. The individual programs were introduced by the late Edward Woodward. They included mini-dramatizations, but in the end, Woodward would sum up what we did know and what we didn’t and let us make our own minds up.

One would hope that ‘Salisbury’ the new two-part BBC ‘factual drama’ on the Skripal case, announced last week, will follow the same forensic pattern, but given the anti-Russian undercurrent to so much of contemporary programming, one can’t be too optimistic. The article on the BBC website announcing the drama doesn’t inspire confidence as it states “Dawn Sturgess was fatally poisoned in the attack.”

The truth is that the Met has been unable to prove that and manslaughter charges against the two Russian suspects have not been brought.

Commissioning a two-part drama about an event which remains clouded in so much uncertainty is premature. Surely it would be better to try and establish exactly what happened first, and then make the drama? Perhaps Government DSMA Notices (formerly D-Notices) are the reason why proper investigative journalism is not taking place. We know of at least two DSMAs being issued in relation to the Skripal affair. But these notices are not legally enforceable and Britain is not –or at least not yet – a totalitarian state. It should be possible to make a painstakingly-factual documentary on the Skripal case without compromising national security.

For such a documentary to be credible, it would be imperative that the two Russian suspects, traveling under the names of Boshirov and Petrov, but allegedly Messrs Chepiga and Mishkin of Russian Military Intelligence, make themselves available for interview. If they had nothing to do with the poisoning of the Skripals then we really need to know what they were doing in Salisbury on the weekend in question (no one, let’s face it, is convinced about the ‘they were just tourists visiting the Cathedral’ line). At the same time, other leads need to be investigated too. Could the poisonings have been planned by an unknown actor hostile to Russia, with the knowledge that the two Russians were visiting Salisbury for a purpose connected to Sergei Skripal but not involving poisoning him? Could Boshirov and Petrov have been set up, with traces of Novichok left in their hotel room weeks later to try and incriminate them? That would explain why no guests occupying the room after Boshirov and Petrov became ill.

Can we even be 100 percent sure that Novichok was indeed used, and that the Skripals weren’t instead the victims of fentanyl poisoning? Remember the testimony of eyewitness Freya Church, who saw the Skripals on the bench that Sunday afternoon, and who told the BBC: “He was doing some strange hand movements, looking up to the sky… They looked like they had been taking something quite strong”.

Remember too the letter to the Times published on 14th March 2018 from Dr Stephen Davies, Consultant in Emergency Medicine at the Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust, who wrote: “May I clarify that no patients have experienced symptoms of nerve agent poisoning in Salisbury and there have only ever been three patients with significant poisoning… No member of the public has been contaminated by the agent involved.”

Might what happened be linked to Skripal’s work on Russian criminal/Mafia gangs with Spanish Intelligence?

Could there be a connection to the Steele dossier, or is that just a wild conspiracy theory? Where is the CCTV footage of the Skripals in Salisbury on 4th March 2018? Why haven’t we seen it?

And regarding the Amesbury postscript, if Novichok was suspected, why has there still been no coroner’s inquest into the death of Dawn Sturgess?

These are the questions that I’m sure Edward Woodward would be asking.

Journalists should be asking them too.

May 23, 2019 Posted by | Film Review, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | | 1 Comment