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The EU and the warning signs of Fascism

Image source – here
By Kit Knightly | OffGuardian | December 10, 2018

Things are spiralling out of control in Europe, faster than many predicted. Outside of Brexit, there is strong anti-EU feeling in Hungary, Spain, Italy, Greece and France. The EU is in danger of crumbling, and people afraid of losing power are prone to extreme acts of dictatorial control.

How long before the EU truly becomes the authoritarian force that people from both ends of the political spectrum have always feared?

The EU Defence Force

Earlier this year, the EU voted to “punish” one of its own members, Hungary, for the internal policies of its elected government. To be clear about this – whatever you think of Viktor Orban, he was elected by the people of Hungary. He is their legally recognised democratic leader. Hungary voted for him – in contrast, Hungary did NOT vote for any of the 448 MEPs who supported the motion, posed by Dutch MEP Judith Sargentini, that:

The Hungarian people deserve better… They deserve freedom of speech, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice and equality, all of which are enshrined in the European treaties.”

Note that “democracy” is not included on that list. “Tolerance”, “justice” and “equality”, but not democracy. A Freudian slip, perhaps.

The European Parliament vote was, itself, a corrupt nonsense – one in which abstentions were disregarded so the 2/3rds majority could be reached. Forcing through a bill that, essentially, calls for a change of regime in Hungary via:

“appropriate measures to restore inclusive democracy, the rule of law and respect for fundamental rights in Hungary”

One suggested punishment – “The Nuclear Option” – is a loss of voting rights. Hungary would still be a member of the EU, would still have to pay into the EU, would still have to obey all EU laws and regulations, but would no longer have a say in what those laws were.

This would, notionally, be in defence of “inclusive democracy”.

How long before disapproval and punishment of certain leaders turns into outright removal? Can we really say that would never happen?

This month, Paris (and other French cities) have seen the massive Gilets Jaunes protests against the fuel tax, austerity and income inequality. The violent repression of these protests has received no criticism from either individual member states of the EU, or the EU itself. However, an armored vehicle painted with the EU’s insignia was seen on the streets of Paris.

Both Macron and Merkel have talked, recently, of the need for an EU Army – will these protests in France be used as an excuse to implement those plans?

Let’s assume the EU Army is brought about – let us supply the European Union with its coveted “defence force”. 250,000 hypothetical men, drawn from all the member states. What is their purpose? What is their function?

For example, would they have been deployed to Catalonia last year to “keep the peace”? Would an EU army have moved against a peaceful vote to “defend” the integrity of the Union?

Would a possible step in dealing with Viktor Orban’s government be to deploy the EU Defence Force to Budapest and remove the man who is a threat to “equality”? Would that count as “appropriate measures to restore inclusive democracy”?

If Brexit is ruled a “threat to human rights” (or some other collection of buzzwords), would the EU army be rolling armoured vehicles along the streets of London to protect us from ourselves?

There have been, and could be, many situations in the EU’s recent past where military intervention was only avoided because it literally wasn’t an option. An EU Army would make it an option, do we trust Brussels not to avail themselves of it?

Some argue that an EU Army would be a good thing because it would decrease Europe’s reliance on NATO, and remove US influence. I don’t believe that to be the case, and as evidence, I supply the fact that the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a well-known US-backed NGO, is very much in favour of the plan.

The EU’s Ministry of Truth

Of course, the increasing possibility of an EU consensus imposed by force is only one part of the threat.

Outside of physical repression – both by the EU (of national sovereignty), and by the state (of the individual right to protest) – there are warning signs of intellectual repression. A coming crackdown on freedom of expression and opinion.

There is a scary article on The Guardian today: Russia ‘paved way for Ukraine ship seizures with fake news drive’ . It’s not scary because of the headline – it’s scary because of the motivations behind it, and the implications for the future of Europe.

The meat of the article is an unsourced, unlinked, evidence-free claim of Russian malfeasance, and as such, Hitchens’ Razor applies.

The first half of the article is riddled with lies, omissions and mistakes. It’s the Guardian, you expect that. Disregard the babble about cholera and nuclear bombs. Disregard the factual errors – many though they are. In this instance, none of it matters.

All that matters is the second half – the proposed “solution” to the “problem” to which this article is a “reaction”. Namely, online disinformation. Specifically, “Russian” online disinformation.

Julian King, former UK ambassador to France and now EU security commissioner, wants tech companies to take steps to prevent the spread of “fake news”. It’s a war against dissent, with three fronts.

One – establish the “truth”:

Last week the European Commission announced it would set up a rapid alert system to help EU member states recognise disinformation campaigns

Essentially, there will be an EU mandated list of acceptable “news”, and anything which deviates from that in the slightest way will be branded “disinformation”. This will allow people to dismiss, rather than engage with, views that differ from their own.

Two – eliminate dissent:

King said social media platforms needed to identify and close down fake accounts that were spreading disinformation.

By “fake accounts”, they mean accounts which spread “disinformation”. Being a “bot” is not about whether or not you are a real person, it’s about whether or not you have the right opinions. As has been demonstrated, they either do not know or do not care who is real and who is not. Perfectly real people have been labelled Russian bots in the media, when they are proven to be neither Russian nor bots. Whether this is incompetence or corruption does not matter, the point is governments have shown they cannot be trusted on this issue.

Three – control the narrative:

We need to see greater clarity around algorithms, information on how they prioritise what content to display, for example. If you search for anything EU-related on Google, content from Russian propaganda outlets like RT or Sputnik is invariably in the first few results…. All of this should be subject to independent oversight and audit.

The Google algorithm is allowing news that either disagrees with the EU, or is directly critical of it, to be shown in their results. This is unacceptable. What the EU security commissioner wants is for Google to “fix” their system, to make sure news that deviates from the EU’s agenda does not show up in their results.

Now, if you think that sounds like censorship, don’t worry because [our emphasis]:

What we are not trying to do is to censor the internet. There is no suggestion that we – or anyone else – should become the arbiter of what content users should or shouldn’t be consuming online. This is about transparency, not censorship.

The EU wants Google to remove certain websites from their algorithm, but it’s about transparency, not censorship. So that’s OK.

Conclusion

To sum up:

  • The European Union’s two major figureheads are both in favour of an EU army.
  • The European Union’s flag is painted on armoured vehicles repressing anti-government protests in France.
  • The European Union is putting aside £4.6 millio (5 million Euros) to “help people recognise disinformation”.
  • The European Union wants to pressure social media companies into “shutting down” accounts that spread “fake news”.
  • The European Union wants Google to alter their algorithm, to promote news that praises the EU and demote sites critical of it.
  • The European Union wants us to understand that this is about “transparency” and is definitely NOT censorship.

Does this sound like an organization of which we want to be a part? Are we supposed to like the proposed multi-national EU “defense force” putting down anti-EU marches on the streets of Barcelona or Rome? To cheer on the idea that the EU Army could be sent into non-cooperative member-states to remove “dangerous” elected leaders because they are a threat to “equality”?

We won’t even be able to get to the truth of those matters, because the EU will be supplying lists of “fake news” social media accounts to Twitter and Facebook, who will dutifully shut them down. While Google alters and re-alters their algorithm to make sure any news covering EU repression of democracy is pushed so far down the results pages it may as well not exist.

The British press, pundits and talking heads are constantly referring to the “Brexit crisis”, but that’s just hysteria and fear mongering. Re-negotiating your position in a trade bloc is NOT a crisis. A crisis is what happens when an unelected, bureaucratic power structure suddenly senses its grip on power is slipping, and acts accordingly.

And a crisis could well be on the horizon. The signs are there, if you want to see them.

Kit Knightly is co-editor of OffGuardian. The Guardian banned him from commenting. Twice. He used to write for fun, but now he’s forced to out of a near-permanent sense of outrage.

December 10, 2018 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Fake News, Full Spectrum Dominance, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mainstream Media Assaults on Freedom of Speech. “The Truth” is No Longer “Important”

Alternative news sources have come under sustained attacks

By Shane Quinn – Global Research – December 7, 2018

The New York Times unveiled a new slogan early in 2017 titled, “The truth is more important now than ever.” It has acquired a seemingly noble motto but a perhaps contentious one if we examine the Times’ recent history. Two international law specialists, Howard Friel and Richard Falk, published a book after the 2003 Invasion of Iraq called The Record of the Paper, which has scarcely been reviewed.

Friel and Falk focused on the Times due to the newspaper’s importance. The authors point out that in 70 Times editorials on Iraq – from September 11, 2001 to March 20, 2003 – the words “international law” and “UN Charter” were never mentioned. The “truth” did not seem terribly “important” as the Times stood idly by in the destruction of Iraq.

Such was the barrage of propaganda directed at the American public that 69% believed Saddam Hussein was “personally involved” in the September 11 attacks. That is a significant achievement in manipulation. The poll results must have been news to the Iraqi dictator himself, a forgotten one-time American ally.

Why Hussein would take it upon himself to orchestrate a surprise attack on the United States, of all nations, is anyone’s guess. Perhaps if he had a death wish but as later events proved he was not the suicidal type.

The Times was not alone in its position of selling the Iraq war to the American people, as television networks from Fox News to CBS and CNN were overwhelmingly pro-war. Fox News, owned by Rupert Murdoch – who strongly backed the illegal conflict – placed a permanent US flag in the corner of the screen. Fox employees were compelled to describe the invasion as “Operation Iraqi Freedom”, with hundreds of thousands of Iraqis later being killed.

The pattern continues into other illegitimate interventions as the liberal Guardian newspaper championed the demolition of Libya in 2011, with editorials imploring, “The quicker Muammar Gaddafi falls, the better.” The Guardian encouraged NATO “to tip the military balance further against Gaddafi”, while later that year summarising that “it has turned out, so far, reasonably well” – by that point thousands had been killed.

In 2015 Ian Birrell, then deputy editor of the Independent, still assured his readers, “I would argue that Britain and France were right to step in [in Libya]. The failures came later on.” Apparently it was fine for two old imperial powers to “step in” to shatter a sovereign nation, then afterwards absolve the invaders of blame with “the failures” only coming “later on”.

Sceengrab from The Independent

It’s a rare thing indeed to hear a prominent commentator question the balance of Western mainstream coverage. The same voices can be heard piping up when alternative news sources take a different line not so palatable to their tastes.

Nick Cohen, writing in the Guardian, accused the network Russia Today (RT) of being a “propaganda channel” and that Russia was “prostituting journalism”. In the following sentence, Cohen describes the BBC and New York Times as being “reputable news organisations”.

Cohen firmly supported the Iraq war, writing at the time that “the Left betrays the Iraqi people by opposing war”, and “an American invasion offers the possibility of salvation”. He was deemed not to be “prostituting journalism” in backing this violation of international law, nor when later supporting other interventions in Libya and Syria.

The BBC’s reputation, which Cohen previously claimed to be “reputable”, was dealt a blow when it was revealed by Cardiff University that the network “displayed the most ‘pro-war’ agenda of any broadcaster” with its coverage on the Iraq invasion.

Steven Erlanger of the New York Times described RT as “an agent of Kremlin policy” used to “undermine Western democracies” and to “destabilise the West” – failing to back up the claims with any evidence. To gain perspective on these attacks, it may be worth pointing out a key excerpt from the First Amendment of the US Constitution: “Congress shall make no law… abridging [curtailing] the freedom of speech, or of the press.”

This law does not exist in Western democracies but attempts at limiting freedom of expression continue apace, while attacks on alternative media outlets by institutions of power grow. It has reached a point whereby the French president Emmanuel Macron, shortly after assuming office, publicly attacked legitimate news sources of “behaving like deceitful propaganda”.

Perhaps the hidden concern about RT, for example, is its continued increase in both popularity and scope – with the channel enjoying a total weekly viewership of 70 million people and rising. RT is available to viewers in Western heartlands such as Britain and the US, with eight million Americans watching the station each week. It represents quite an achievement that a channel with the word “Russia”, featured in its title, can attract viewers in their millions, despite the growing anti-Russian sentiment espoused by the powers-that-be.

It is revealing that elite figures like Hillary Clinton have lamented in the past, “We are in an information war and we are losing that war.” For the first time in history, populations have broad access to alternative news angles – points of view that they likely find of a more balanced nature. Gone is the unchallenged monopoly on the public mind.

December 7, 2018 Posted by | Book Review, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | 1 Comment

Fact-checking the second volume of the U.S. National Climate Assessment

By Roger Andrews | Energy Matters | December 4, 2018

This recently-issued study (the “Assessment”) was seized on by the media as proof of the massive damage the US will suffer if nothing is done about climate change. The Assessment’s conclusions are based largely on speculative model projections that aren’t amenable to checking, but it also claims that the US is already experiencing some of the impacts of man-made climate change, and these claims can be checked. This post accordingly evaluates them claim-by-claim and finds that they are rarely backed up by any hard data, that in some cases they are contradicted by disclaimers buried in the text, and that in no case is there any hard evidence that conclusively relates the impacts to man-made climate change. The credibility of the Assessment’s predictions can be judged accordingly.

The Assessment is 1,600 pages long and I doubt that anyone has read it from cover to cover – I certainly haven’t. I have obtained my information from the Summary Findings, Overview, Report Chapters and Downloads sections in the boxes that clicking on this link leads to. These sections themselves contain several hundred pages of text, much of it repetitive, but there is always the possibility that I’ve missed some critical graphic or piece of text. On the other hand, if I’ve missed it the media, who will have read the introductory sections only, will have too.

And how did the media report the Assessment’s results? Here are some excerpts:

Guardian

Climate change is already harming Americans’ lives with “substantial damages” set to occur as global temperatures threaten to surge beyond internationally agreed limits ……… The influence of climate change is being felt across the US with increases in disastrous wildfires in the west, flooding on the east coast, soil loss in the midwest and coastal erosion in Alaska

CBS News

Billions of hours in productivity will be lost. Hundreds of billions of dollars will be wiped from the economy. Tens of thousands of people will die each year. The scientific report, which was produced by 13 federal agencies, describes an American future nothing short of apocalyptic due to rising threats from climate change …. rising sea levels, disruptions in food productions and the spread of wildfires — have all come true today.

National Public Radio

Climate change is happening here and now …. It is affecting all of us no matter where we live. And the more climate changes, the more serious and even more dangerous the impacts will become.

US News & World Report

From record-breaking wildfires that destroyed more than 14,000 homes in California, to hurricanes that devastated parts of Florida and much of Puerto Rico, long-predicted impacts of climate change are here and wreaking havoc.

The media never lose an opportunity to cast climate change in the worst possible light, or fail to report it when someone else does it for them.

And what are the climate change impacts that the Assessment claims are “happening here and now”, which are the only ones we can verify, or not verify as the case may be, against observations? These excerpts identify them either explicitly or implicitly:

Glaciers and snow cover are shrinking

Increases in greenhouse gases and decreases in air pollution have contributed to increases in Atlantic hurricane activity since 1970.

America’s trillion-dollar coastal property market and public infrastructure are threatened by the ongoing increase in the frequency, depth, and extent of tidal flooding due to sea level rise

Existing water, transportation, and energy infrastructure already face challenges from heavy rainfall, inland and coastal flooding, landslides, drought, wildfire, heat waves, and other weather and climate events

Climate-related changes in weather patterns and associated changes in air, water, food, and the environment are affecting the health and well-being of the American people, causing injuries, illnesses, and death.

Rising air and water temperatures and changes in precipitation are intensifying droughts, increasing heavy downpours, reducing snowpack

Our Nation’s aging and deteriorating infrastructure is further stressed by increases in heavy precipitation events, coastal flooding, heat, wildfires

Some storm types such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and winter storms are also exhibiting changes that have been linked to climate change

After eliminating repetition and sorting the individual impacts into something resembling order we are left with droughts; floods; heavy precipitation; heat waves; wildfires; Atlantic hurricanes; tornadoes; winter storms; sea level rise; glaciers and snowpack; injuries, illnesses and death. We will review these in order of appearance:

1. Droughts

The Assessment begins by claiming that climate-change-induced droughts are intensifying in the US. Then later in the text it shoots itself in the foot:

While there are a number of ways to measure drought, there is currently no detectable change in long-term U.S. drought statistics using the Palmer Drought Severity Index

And adds a graphic to prove it, reproduced below as Figure 1:

Figure 1: US drought conditions. The Palmer Drought Severity Index is the commonly-used metric for measuring drought intensity

2. Floods

The Assessment provides no hard data to back up its claims that climate change is already causing increased flooding in the US (coastal flooding is discussed under sea level rise). The only quantitative historical data I can find on US floods are summarized in Figure 2 (data from Researchgate ):

Figure 2: Two measures of US flood damage, 1934-2000

These graphics don’t tell us whether floods in the US are on the increase or not. And the Assessment doesn’t tell us either, Not only does it fail to detect any nationwide trends, it states that it never claimed any relationship between floods and man-made climate change to begin with:

Analysis of 200 U.S. stream gauges indicates areas of both increasing and decreasing flooding magnitude but does not provide robust evidence that these trends are attributable to human influences …. Hence, no formal attribution of observed flooding changes to anthropogenic forcing has been claimed.

3. Heavy Precipitation

Since the Assessment admits that there are no detectable human-induced trends in US flooding we can reasonably assume that the claimed increase in heavy precipitation events has had no impact. But we will look at the data anyway. The Assessment presents this   graphic to back up its claim that heavy precipitation events are increasing over the US as a whole (Figure 3). As usual, the source of the data is not specified:

Figure 3: Percent of US land area with heavy precipitation events

The U.S. Global Change Research Program, under the auspices of which the Assessment was written, also produces graphics showing how heavy precipitation has changed with time and by region in the US (they may in fact be buried in parts of the Assessment I haven’t looked at). According to Figure 4 (from Globalchange) heavy precipitation events have increased over all of the US except the Southwest:

Figure 4: Increases in US total precipitation and very heavy precipitation events by region

And Huang et al (2017) produce time series showing how total precipitation and extreme precipitation in the Northeast US have both increased since about 1960 (Figure 5):

Figure 5: Increases in US total and extreme precipitation

So in this case the claim checks out against observations, or least in the northeast US. A lingering question, however, is how much of the increase in heavy precipitation was caused by man-made climate change. The Assessment implicitly assumes that all of it was, but a 2015 study by Hoerling et al. concludes that most of the changes after 1979 were caused by ocean variability:

Based on the modeling results, we conclude that anthropogenic climate change has not been a principal factor driving key characteristics of observed changes in U.S. heavy daily precipitation since 1979 …. Our results provide evidence for an alternative argument for another factor that has been operating in recent decades, namely, that statistics of U.S. heavy precipitation have been sensitive to strong decadal ocean variability since 1979

4. Heat Waves

One of the problems with heat waves is defining them (droughts and floods have the same problem). How hot does it have to get, and for how long, before a warm spell becomes a heat wave? The Assessment does not tell us. All it presents in the way of evidence for an increase in heat waves in the introductory report sections, including the 186-page “Report-in-Brief”, is this graphic (Figure 6), which shows the “heat wave season” increasing since the 1960s but not how many heat waves there were. Once again the data source is not specified, nor is the meaning of the cross-hatching:

Figure 6: Length of US “heat wave season”

The next graphic (Figure 7) is another one I added from the globalchange website. It shows an increase in daily record high temperatures in recent decades but again provides no information on the number of heat waves. How many of the record highs, for example, occurred in the winter?

Figure 7: Record daily highs in the US. The meaning of “ratio of daily temperature records” isn’t clear

The only graphic I found that provided any historic information on the incidence of heat waves was the Figure 8 plot of the EPA’s Annual Heat Wave Index. It’s not surprising that it doesn’t appear in the Assessment:

Figure 8: US annual heat wave index since 1895

5. Wildfires

The Assessment provides two graphics to support its claim that climate change is causing more wildfires. Figure 9 shows the first. Again no data source is cited, but it turns out that it comes from the National Interagency Fire Center:

Figure 9: Acres burned by US wildfires since 1987

It also shows only a fraction of the NIFC data. Figure 10, for what it may be worth, shows the complete plot. I say “for what it may be worth” because the plot comes accompanied by this disclaimer:

The National Interagency Coordination Center at NIFC compiles annual wildland fire statistics for federal and state agencies. This information is provided through Situation Reports, which have been in use for several decades. Prior to 1983, sources of these figures are not known, or cannot be confirmed, and were not derived from the current situation reporting process. As a result the figures prior to 1983 should not be compared to later data.

Figure 10: Acres burned by US wildfires. Figure 9 data carried back to 1926

Figure 11 reproduces the Assessment’s second graphic. It shows that about half of the increase in acreage burned was caused by climate change. (Note that it conflicts with the Figure 9 data, according to which a cumulative total of 173 million acres, not 23 million, has been burned since 1984).

Figure 11: Acreage burned by naturally-occurring wildfires vs. acreage burned by climate-change-caused wildfires

In this case the data source is specified. It’s a 2016 paper written by John T. Abatzoglou and A. Park Williams entitled “Impact of anthropogenic climate change on wildfire across western US forests”. How did they segregate climate change-caused wildfires from naturally-occurring wildfires? They used climate models:

We quantify the influence of ACC (anthropogenic climate change) using the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project, Phase 5 (CMIP5) multimodel mean changes in temperature and vapor pressure …. This approach defines the ACC signal for any given location as the multimodel mean 50-y low-pass-filtered record of monthly temperature and vapor pressure anomalies relative to a 1901 baseline.

Before we can accept these results as meaningful we must assume that the global CMIP5 climate models can hindcast temperatures and vapor pressures to a high level of accuracy in the US, which they probably can’t (it’s generally accepted that climate models do a poor job of simulating regional changes). We also have to assume that the numerous other variables that affect wildfires have had no impact. This is a stretch, to put it mildly.

6. Atlantic Hurricanes

In this case the Assessment supplies no data, or at least none that I can find, to back up its claim that Atlantic hurricanes have increased since 1970. So once again I have had to dig up data on my own. Figure 12 (data from the US Environmental Protection Agency) plots the number of North Atlantic hurricanes since 1880. The total number is defined by the orange line, which adjusts for undercounting before 1967, and by the green line after that. There has been an erratic overall increase since about 1970, but since 1880 there has been no clear trend:

Figure 12: Unadjusted hurricane counts, hurricane counts adjusted for undercounting and hurricanes making landfall in the US

The North Atlantic, however, is not part of the US. The important consideration is how many hurricanes have made landfall in the US. These are shown by the red line at the bottom of Figure 12. There is no clear trend since 1970 and if anything a decrease since 1880.

According to Figure 13 (data from Dr. Roy Spencer) major hurricanes making landfall in the US have also been decreasing since the 1930s:

Figure 13: Major hurricanes making landfall in the US

And according to Klotzbach et al (2018) there has been little to no increase in normalized hurricane damages in the US since 1900 (Figure 13):

Figure 14: Normalized damages from hurricanes making landfall in the US

In this case the claim broadly matches observations but conceals (probably deliberately) the big picture, which is that man-made climate change has not increased the incidence of, or the damage caused by, North Atlantic hurricanes making landfall in the US since at least the late 1800s.

7. Tornadoes

Some storm types such as … tornadoes … are also exhibiting changes that have been linked to climate change. Once more the Assessment presents no supporting data, but NOAA’s tornado counts (Figure 15) speak for themselves:

Figure 15: Total tornado and strong-to-violent tornado counts since 1954

8. Winter Storms

… winter storms … are also exhibiting changes that have been linked to climate change.

Once again there are no supporting data in the Assessment, but according to Coleman & Schwartz’s 2017 paper An Updated Blizzard Climatology of the Contiguous United States (1959–2014) the incidence of blizzards in the US has been increasing (Figure 16):

Figure 16: Incidence of blizzards in US

Is this counter-intuitive increase related to climate change? NOAA thinks it may be, although NOAA’s explanation works only in the eastern US ….

Conditions that influence the severity of eastern U.S. snowstorms include warmer-than-average ocean surface temperatures in the Atlantic. These can lead to exceptionally high amounts of moisture flowing into a storm and contribute to greater intensification of the storm. Natural variability can affect ocean surface temperatures, but as global surface temperatures increase, the temperature at any time is higher than it would have been without climate change.

…. and it doesn’t match up very well with trends in sea surface temperatures off the eastern US coast (data from KNMI Climate Explorer) ….

Figure 17: Sea surface temperatures along US east coast (30N-45N, 65W-80W)

… and according to the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report it’s going off in the wrong direction:

Changes in the frequency, severity, and duration of extreme events may be among the most important risks associated with climate change. In some parts of North America, this includes fewer periods of extreme cold, fewer snowstorms ….

Milder winter temperatures will decrease heavy snowstorms .…

This is one of the cases where the claim matches observational changes, but no conclusion as to causation can be reached until there is agreement over whether climate change causes a) more snowstorms, b) fewer snowstorms or c) both at the same time. My money is on c).

9. Sea Level Rise/Coastal Flooding

These are related phenomena, so I will discuss them under the same heading.

Once more there are no supporting data in the Assessment, so once more I had to go searching for some. This graphic from NOAA shows an increase in high-tide flooding that correlates with an increase in “coastal sea level” (Figure 18):

Figure 18: Average days/year with high-tide flooding vs. US sea level

And as shown in Figure 19 (data from EPA) the increased flooding is dominantly an east coast phenomenon:

Figure 19: Average number of tidal floods/year, 2010-2015 vs. 1950-1959

But note the fine print. These are “nuisance floods” that don’t do any serious damage. There is no accepted definition of a nuisance flood, but a maximum water depth of 10cm has been proposed. And a 10cm-deep flood is hardly a catastrophic event.

And what does sea level rise have to do with the increase in nuisance floods? Not much. The reason nuisance floods are more common along the east coast of the US is that the east coast is sinking (a result of glacial rebound*, sediment compaction and groundwater extraction) while the west coast isn’t, and the rate at which the east coast is sinking exceeds the rate at which sea levels are rising in many places. The PSMSL tide gauge record from Sewell’s Point, near the mouth of Chesapeake Bay, is an example (Figure 20). The trend line shows sea level rising at an average rate of 4.5mm/year, but according to the United States Geological Survey less than half of this – maybe less than 2 mm/year – is a result of eustatic sea level rise. The rest is caused by land subsidence:

* Glacial rebound causes the land in and immediately around the ice sheet to rise while the surrounding land, which was squeezed upwards by the ice, sinks back down again. 

Figure Figure 20: Relative sea level rise, Sewell’s Point, Virginia

10 cm nuisance floods and ~2 mm/year sea level rises also pale into insignificance beside the hurricane storm surges that have occurred in the past and which can be expected to recur in the future along the US east coast. They reached heights of eight feet at Sewell’s point during Hurricane Isabel as recently as 2003 and 18 feet along the North Carolina coast during Hurricane Hazel in 1954.

My 2016 post on Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana describes how sea level rise routinely takes the blame for inundations it didn’t cause. The Assessment cites it as an example of climate change in action.

10. Glaciers and snowpack

North American glaciers have indeed been retreating, as the Assessment claims. But  according to Oerlemans (2005, Figure 21) they have been retreating since about 1825 and retreating rapidly after 1890, well before human-induced climate forcings became significant. This raises the question of whether the retreat has anything to do with man-made climate change:

Figure 21: Glacier retreat since 1700. The green line is North America

No data are available on snowpack, but Rutgers University publishes North American snow cover data (Figure 22). The trend line shows only a very minor decrease since 1975:

Figure 22: Snow-Covered Area in North America, 1972-2015

11. Injuries, Illnesses and Death:

Climate-related changes in weather patterns …. are affecting the health and well-being of the American people, causing injuries, illnesses, and death.

No data on illnesses or injuries are readily available, but over the last ten years approximately 25 million people have died in the US. According to Wikipedia
natural disasters of the type that commonly get blamed on climate change (hurricanes, floods, blizzards, wildfires, tornadoes) have claimed only 1,200 lives over this period.

Conclusion:

In this post I have fact-checked eleven separate climate change impacts which according to the Assessment’s summary sections are already doing damage in the US. In six of these cases (heavy precipitation, heat waves, wildfires, winter storms, sea level rise/coastal flooding and glacier retreat) there is observational evidence – most of which I have had to dig up myself – for impacts that might be related to man-made climate change, but in all of them this evidence is equivocal (e.g. wildfires) or the impacts are insignificant (e.g. nuisance tidal floods). In the other five cases (droughts, floods, Atlantic hurricanes, tornadoes, and injuries, illnesses and deaths) the observational evidence either contradicts the Assessment’s claims or the Assessment admits later in the text that the claim isn’t valid (droughts and floods).

Clearly the Assessment was conducted with little regard for the facts. A disregard for the facts, however, is necessary if one wishes to get the climate change catastrophe message across.

December 4, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

The Guardian’s Bush obituary plumbs new depths of sycophantic hypocrisy

By Kit Knightly | OffGuardian | December 3, 2018

“The strong man with the dagger is followed by the weak man with the sponge.” – Lord Acton

George Herbert Walker Bush died on Saturday. He was 94 years old. Thanks to decisions he made throughout his career, thousands – perhaps millions – of people never got near 94. He invaded Iraq in 1991, instituted sanctions that destroyed the country. He pardoned those involved in the Iran-Contra affair and was head of the CIA when Operation Condor launched the military coup in Argentina in 1976.

None of that makes it into The Guardian’s obituary, of course.

Instead, Simon Tisdall – a mindless servant to the status quo, always happy to weave invective about our designated enemies – treats us to paragraph after paragraph of inane anecdotes.

Good old Georgie once gave him a lift in Air Force One.

Barbara gave him useful advice about raising Springer Spaniels.

The following words and phrases are not found anywhere in this article: CIA, Iraq, Iran-Contra, Argentinian coup, Iran Air Flight 655, NAZI, Panama.

Rather, Tisdall refers Bush’s term as “before the era of fake news”. Which makes him either a complete liar or profoundly under-qualified to write on the subject – as the Bush-era spawned the original fake news: The Nayirah testimony. A pack of lies told before the Senate, and used to justify a war in the middle-east.

A Bush family tradition.

Tisdall talks of Bush’s family – “he enjoyed a privileged upbringing in a monied east coast family” – but doesn’t say that his father, Prescott Bush, was a known Nazi sympathiser and was even implicated in an alleged plot to overthrow the government of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Bush started two wars as President. Planned and enabled countless crimes as director of the CIA. pardoned all those implicated in the Iran-Contra affair. Refused to apologise when the US Navy “accidentally” shot down an Iranian airliner, killing over 200 civilians, including 60 children.

He was the original neocon – his administration brought us Cheney and Powell and Rumsfeld. Gave birth to the ideology that stage-managed 9/11, launched the “War on Terror”, and cut a blood-stained swath across North Africa and the Middle East.

We don’t hear about that.

What we DO hear about is Bush’s “deep sense of public duty and service” and that “Bush was a patriot who did not need cheap slogans to express his belief in enduring American greatness”. No space is given over to analysis, to examine the fact that “belief in enduring American greatness” is quasi-fascism, and responsible for more violent deaths this century than any other cause you can name.

In hundreds of words, a notionally left-wing paper has nothing but praise for a highly unpopular right-wing president. No space is given over even to the gentlest of rebukes.

The whole article is an exercise in talking without saying anything. Pleasantries replacing truth. Platitudes where facts should be. A nothing burger, with a void on the side and an extra order of beige.

It’s an obituary of Harold Shipman that eschews murder talk and rhapsodises about his love of gardening.

A eulogy to Pinochet that praises his economic reforms but neglects all the soccer stadiums full of corpses.

An epitaph to Hitler that focuses, not on his “controversial political career”, but on his painting and his vegetarianism.

Did you know Genghis Khan once lent me a pencil? He was a swell guy. The world will miss him.

We’re no longer supposed to examine the lives, characters or morals of our leaders. Only “honour their memory” and be “grateful for their service”. History is presented to us, not as a series of choices made by people in power, but as a collection of inevitabilities. Consequences are tragic but unavoidable. Like long-dead family squabbles – To dwell on them is unseemly, and to assign blame unfair.

Just as with John McCain, apologism and revisionism are sold to us as manners and good taste. Attempts to redress the balance and tell the truth are met with stern glares and declarations that it is “too soon”.

It’s never “too soon” to tell the truth.

John McCain was a dangerous war-mongering lunatic. George Bush Sr was a sociopath from a family of corrupt sociopaths. The world would be a far better, and much safer place if just one major newspaper was willing to say that.

Really, there are two obituaries to write here:

First – George HW Bush, corrupt patriarch of an old and malign family, passing out of this world to face whatever eternal punishment (hopefully) awaits those who sell their immortal soul in exchange for a brief taste of power.

Second – The Guardian, perhaps a decent newspaper once-upon-a-time, now a dried out husk. A zombified slave to the state, mindless and brainless and lifeless. No questions, no reservations, no hesitation. Obediently licking up the mess their masters leave behind.

It’s sickening.

Kit Knightly is co-editor of OffGuardian. The Guardian banned him from commenting. Twice. He used to write for fun, but now he’s forced to out of a near-permanent sense of outrage.

December 4, 2018 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , | 2 Comments

Manufacturing Truth

By CJ Hopkins | Consent Factory | December 3, 2018

If you’re one of the millions of human beings who, despite a preponderance of evidence to the contrary, still believe there is such a thing as “the truth,” you might not want to read this essay. Seriously, it can be extremely upsetting when you discover that there is no “truth” … or rather, that what we’re all conditioned to regard as “truth” from the time we are children is just the product of a technology of power, and not an empirical state of being. Humans, upon first encountering this fact, have been known to freak completely out and start jabbering about the “Word of God,” or “the immutable laws of quantum physics,” and run around burning other people at the stake or locking them up and injecting them with Thorazine. I don’t want to be responsible for anything like that, so consider this your trigger warning.

OK, now that that’s out of the way, let’s take a look at how “truth” is manufactured. It’s actually not that complicated. See, the “truth” is … well, it’s a story, essentially. It’s whatever story we are telling ourselves at any given point in history (“we” being the majority of people, those conforming to the rules of whatever system wields enough power to dictate the story it wants everyone to be telling themselves). Everyone understands this intuitively, but the majority of people pretend they don’t in order to be able to get by in the system, which punishes anyone who does not conform to its rules, or who contradicts its story. So, basically, to manufacture the truth, all you really need is (a) a story, and (b) enough power to coerce a majority of people in your society to pretend to believe it.

I’ll return to this point a little later. First, let’s look at a concrete example of our system manufacturing “truth.” I’m going to use The Guardian‘s most recent blatantly fabricated article (“Manafort held secret talks with Assange in Ecuadorian embassy“) as an example, but I could just as well have chosen any of a host of other fabricated stories disseminated by “respectable” outlets over the course of the last two years. The “Russian Propaganda Peddlers” story. The “Russia Might Have Poisoned Hillary Clinton” story. The “Russians Hacked the Vermont Power Grid” story. The “Golden Showers Russian Pee-Tape” story. The “Novichok Assassins” story. The “Bana Alabed Speaks Out” story. The “Trump’s Secret Russian Server” story. The “Labour Anti-Semitism Crisis” story. The “Russians Orchestrated Brexit” story. The “Russia is Going to Hack the Midterms” story. The “Twitter Bots” story. And the list goes on.

I’m not going to debunk the Guardian article here. It has been debunked by better debunkers than I (e.g., Jonathan Cook, Craig Murray, Glenn Greenwald, Moon of Alabama, and many others). The short version is, The Guardian‘s Luke Harding, a shameless hack who will affix his name to any propaganda an intelligence agency feeds him, alleged that Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, secretly met with Julian Assange (and unnamed “Russians”) on numerous occasions from 2013 to 2016, presumably to conspire to collude to brainwash Americans into not voting for Clinton. Harding’s earth-shaking allegations, which The Guardian prominently featured and flogged, were based on … well, absolutely nothing, except the usual anonymous “intelligence sources.” After actual journalists pointed this out, The Guardian quietly revised the piece (employing the subjunctive mood rather liberally), buried it in the back pages of its website, and otherwise pretended like they had never published it.

By that time, of course, its purpose had been served. The story had been picked up and disseminated by other “respectable,” “authoritative” outlets, and it was making the rounds on social media. Nonetheless, out of an abundance of caution, in an attempt to counter the above-mentioned debunkers (and dispel the doubts of anyone else still capable of any kind of critical thinking), Politico posted this ass-covering piece speculating that, if it somehow turned out The Guardian‘s story was just propaganda designed to tarnish Assange and Trump … well, probably, it had been planted by the Russians to make Luke Harding look like a moron. This ass-covering piece of speculative fiction, which was written by a former CIA agent, was immediately disseminated by liberals and “leftists” who are eagerly looking forward to the arrest, rendition, and public crucifixion of Assange.

At this point, I imagine you’re probably wondering what this has to do with manufacturing “truth.” Because, clearly, this Guardian story was a lie … a lie The Guardian got caught telling. I wish the “truth” thing was as simple as that (i.e., exposing and debunking the ruling classes’ lies). Unfortunately, it isn’t. Here is why.

Much as most people would like there to be one (and behave and speak as if there were one), there is no Transcendental Arbiter of Truth. The truth is what whoever has the power to say it is says it is. If we do not agree that that “truth” is the truth, there is no higher court to appeal to. We can argue until we are blue in the face. It will not make the slightest difference. No evidence we produce will make the slightest difference. The truth will remain whatever those with the power to say it is say it is.

Nor are there many truths (i.e., your truth and my truth). There is only one truth … the official truth. The truth according to those in power. This is the whole purpose of the concept of truth. It is the reason the concept of “truth” was invented (i.e., to render any other “truths” lies). It is how those in power control reality and impose their ideology on the masses (or their employees, or their students, or their children). Yes, I know, we very badly want there to be some “objective truth” (i.e., what actually happened, when whatever happened, JFK, 9-11, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Schrödinger’s dead cat, the Big Bang, or whatever). There isn’t. The truth is just a story … a story that is never our story.

The truth is a story that power gets to tell, and that the powerless do not get to tell, unless they tell the story of those in power, which is always someone else’s story. The powerless are either servants of power or they are heretics. There is no third alternative. They either parrot the truth of the ruling classes or they utter heresies of one type or another. Naturally, the powerless do not regard themselves as heretics. They do not regard their “truth” as heresy. They regard their “truth” as the truth, which is heresy. The truth of the powerless is always heresy.

For example, while it may be personally comforting for some of us to tell ourselves that we know the truth about certain subjects (e.g., Russiagate, 9-11, et cetera), and to share our knowledge with others who agree with us, and even to expose the lies of the corporate media on Twitter, Facebook, and our blogs, or in some leftist webzine (or “fearless adversarial” outlet bankrolled by a beneficent oligarch), the ruling classes do not give a shit, because ours is merely the raving of heretics, and does not warrant a serious response.

Or … all right, they give a bit of a shit, enough to try to cover their asses when a journalist of the stature of Glenn Greenwald (who won a Pulitzer and is frequently on television) very carefully and very respectfully almost directly accuses them of lying. But they give enough of a shit to do this because Greenwald has the power to hurt them, not because of any regard for the truth. This is also why Greenwald has to be so careful and respectful when directly confronting The Guardian, or any other corporate media outlet, and state that their blatantly fabricated stories could, theoretically, turn out to be true. He can’t afford to cross the line and end up getting branded a heretic and consigned to Outer Mainstream Darkness, like Robert Fisk, Sy Hersh, Jonathan Cook, John Pilger, Assange, and other such heretics.

Look, I’m not trying to argue that it isn’t important to expose the fabrications of the corporate media and the ruling classes. It is terribly important. It is mostly what I do (albeit usually in a more satirical fashion). At the same time, it is important to realize that “the truth” is not going to “rouse the masses from their slumber” and inspire them to throw off their chains. People are not going to suddenly “wake up,” “see the truth” and start “the revolution.” People already know the truth … the official truth, which is the only truth there is. Those who are conforming to it are doing so, not because they are deceived, but because it is safer and more rewarding to do so.

And this is why The Guardian will not be punished for publishing a blatantly fabricated story. Nor will Luke Harding be penalized for writing it. Luke Harding will be rewarded for writing it, as he has been handsomely rewarded throughout his career for loyally serving the ruling classes. Greenwald, on the other hand, is on thin ice. It will be instructive to see how far he pushes his confrontation with The Guardian regarding this story.

As for Julian Assange, I’m afraid he is done for. The ruling classes really have no choice but to go ahead and do him at this point. He hasn’t left them any other option. Much as they are loathe to create another martyr, they can’t have heretics of Assange’s notoriety running around punching holes in their “truth” and brazenly defying their authority. That kind of stuff unsettles the normals, and it sets a bad example for the rest of us heretics.

December 3, 2018 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 1 Comment

“People hold opinions I don’t share, we should stop them.”

By Kit Knightly | OffGuardian | November 29, 2018

Sixty percent of us believe in “conspiracy theories”, and we shouldn’t. At least according to Hugo Drochon, Professor of Politics at Nottingham University.

He doesn’t raise the question of whether or not some “conspiracy theories” may be true, his blanket assumption is that all of them are not. His article is not about WHAT people think, WHY they think it, or IF they’re wrong. The article is about rationalizing social control – specifically steps the state can take to assert control over the political opinions of the electorate.

Indeed the entire premise of the article is right there in the headline:

Britons are swallowing conspiracy theories. Here’s how to stop the rot

British people think things they shouldn’t, and here’s how we can stop them. The flawed logic is aggressive. The patronising tone nauseating. It’s the terrifying smiling face of a Brave New World.

The article deals only in absolutes. There are “conspiracy theories”, and they are all wrong. Even such vague concepts as the idea the government might publish misleading statistics or that there could be unelected people running the country in spite of our notional democracy.

It’s a programmed response. A piece of hard code: If(Conspiracy).addClass(“false”)

No space is given over to the raft of historical “conspiracy theories” which turned out to be completely true. NSA mass surveillance. The “sexed up” dossier. Iran-Contra. The DNC rigging the primaries. The Gulf of Tonkin incident.

They are disregarded, ignored because they do not serve the narrative.

It is so blatantly dishonest it needs, and merits, no refutation. An alleged “academic” should know better, should be better.

Leaving aside the cod-psychological waffle, the frankly offensive assumptions, the frequent lies by omission and the constant conflation of all “conspiracy theories” as broadly the same thing, (People who believe aliens crashed at Roswell are filed alongside people who debate Global Warming, 9/11, and vaccination). What we’re presented with is a five-point plan to make sure we stop thinking things of which Professor Drochon does not approve. It’s just that simple.

1. Stage Interventions for your deluded loved ones

Although mistrust in politicians and other leaders is at an all-time high, trust among friends (87%) and family members (89%) remains rock solid. This can be a double-edged sword: if conspiracy theorists are friends with other conspiracy theorists, then that’s likely to be mutually reinforcing. But conspiracy theorists will also listen to their friends and family who are not. So if you have a friend who starts sayings things about how the CIA was behind 9/11, try talking to them. You never know, they might come round to thinking it was al-Qaida who hijacked the planes, after all.

Drochon doesn’t go into WHY people don’t trust politicians, of course, which may be connected to the “conspiracy theories” that turned out to be true. The lies about WMDs in Iraq, for example, would be held up as a “conspiracy theory” if hadn’t been conclusively proved.

Ignore history or facts or precedent or debate and remember – “conspiracy theorists” are ALWAYS wrong. It’s like a mental illness or a drug addiction. The important thing is you sit down any friends/family you have who believe things they shouldn’t believe, and you berate and/or shame them into changing their mind.

2. Argue from authority

Sadly journalists (77%) are no better trusted than government ministers or company bosses. Academics, however, fare better and retain the trust of 64% of the public. So academics should engage more with the public: Cas Mudde for instance, an expert on populism, has just launched a new series with the Guardian about “the new populism”. Consider this column my own attempt to do so, too.

Again, he doesn’t ask WHY journalists aren’t trusted (coughIraqcough), he just thinks it’s “sad”. Obviously, in a perfect world, we’d all trust journalists who are all great guys and just trying to help.

Anyway, we can’t be expected to learn, understand or debate issues amongst ourselves. We need to listen to academics*, who know what they’re talking about. Including, fortunately, Professor Drochon himself. Remember, someone with a PhD is not only smarter than you, but morally superior as well. They are also incapable of ever being mistaken or having an agenda.

*When he says “academics” he only means SOME academics, obviously the academics who research JFK, 9/11 or alternate theories of global warming don’t count. Disregard them entirely.

3. Indoctrinate Your Children

Studies show that those with higher educational achievements are less prone to believing conspiracy theories. The implication here is there should be more investment in education, which of course would be welcome. But compulsory courses on online education – learning to tell fake news from real for instance – should be considered, too.

Compulsory education courses for children. We need to teach our kids that anything they read on the internet which departs from the acknowledged government position is WRONG. This will help stamp out dissent conspiracy theories, and is not at all Stalinist.

4. Online Censorship Regulation

By asking questions about social media consumption, our latest poll confirms what has been suspected for a while: social media encourages conspiracy theories. Not all, mind you: Facebook encourages conspiracy theories, but Twitter mitigates against them. It turns out YouTube is the worst offender: those who get their news from the video platform are much more likely to believe conspiracy theories.

So far most of these new technologies have been left to regulate themselves, which has led to scandals surrounding the role Facebook might have played in recent elections. Politicians should take a more active role in regulating the spread of fake news and conspiracy theories. Falling that (sic), you’re welcome to delete your various accounts.

As mentioned above, “conspiracy theorists” talking to each other can be self-reinforcing. We need to stop that. The best way to do that is to regulate the internet. To make sure certain opinions don’t get shared and certain thoughts don’t get expressed.

It’s important to remember that this is NOT censorship. This is regulation. Bad people censor the truth. Good people “regulate” lies. The Government (who only 23% of people trust) can, of course, be trusted to carry out this task. There is no chance, at all, that they would use this to their own ends. After all, an academic suggested it… and they are not only smarter, but morally superior. I know, because an academic said that too.

5… wait, what?

Conspiracy theories spread among those who feel they are not being heard. Politicians have a responsibility to be more responsive to the demands of their citizens: it is true, for example, that the question of this country’s relation to the EU had long been off the table, and fears about immigration often fell on deaf ears. That is not to say they should follow Hillary Clinton in saying immigration into Europe should stop, but a coherent account of what type of immigration this country wants, and why, needs to be offered, alongside a clear vision of what its future relationship with the EU is going to be.

Conspiracy theories only spread as a result of people not being listened to, so we should stay in the EU and offer a more coherent immigration policy. Then people will stop believing in Aliens and won’t question 9/11 anymore?

Is he saying the government should make some token populist compromise or face a backlash? How does that relate to global warming? Is he saying anything even approaching that coherent?

Is it simply that every article in the Guardian needs to be related back to Brexit?

I’m struggling with this one, honestly. Does anyone have the faintest idea what he’s talking about?

Answers on a postcard, please.

Kit Knightly is co-editor of OffGuardian. The Guardian banned him from commenting. Twice. He used to write for fun, but now he’s forced to out of a near-permanent sense of outrage.

November 29, 2018 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance, Timeless or most popular | , , | 2 Comments

‘Temples to colonial theft’: Western museums should return looted artifacts to where they belong

Moai sculpture from Easter Island in the British Museum © Veronika Lukasova © Global Look Press
By Danielle Ryan | RT | November 28, 2018

Is it possible to ‘loan’ something back to the person or place you stole it from? The British Museum in London, which houses one of the biggest permanent collections of world art and artifacts, certainly seems to think so.

Last week, responding to an emotional plea from the governor of Easter Island, the museum generously announced that it would consider “loaning” an 800-year-old statue back to the territory, which is now part of Chile.

The Hoa Hakananai’a was stolen — or “taken without permission” as The Guardian more delicately put it — in 1868 by the British HMS ‘Topaze’ and delivered to Queen Victoria. The museum itself uses even more sanitized language. Its online information page about the statue explains that it was “collected” during the frigate’s expedition to Rapa Nui (Easter Island) and was “gifted” by the Queen to the museum a year later.

“This statue would have originally stood on a specially built platform on the sacred site of Orongo,” the museum explains. “It would have stood with giant stone companions, their backs to the sea, keeping watch over the island.”

The reason it doesn’t still serve this purpose, is because the museum refuses to give it back. The 2.4-meter statue has no cultural or emotional significance to British people. To the Rapa Nui people, on the other hand, the Hoa Hakananai’a is extremely culturally and spiritually significant.

“We are just a body. You, the British people, have our soul,” Governor Tarita Alarcon Rapu said through tears during a visit to the museum last week. “You have kept him for 150 years. Just give us some months and we can have it there.”

The Hoa Hakananai’a is just one example of many when it comes to spoils of the British Empire which sit permanently in UK exhibitions. The museum has also refused to return the Rosetta Stone, something the head of Egypt’s new national museum recently called for, and the Parthenon Marbles. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras recently raised the issue with Theresa May, saying that their “natural place” is at the Parthenon. In 2013, India called for the return of the Koh-i-noor diamond, which was taken and given to Queen Victoria in 1850. David Cameron dismissed the notion, saying he did not believe in “returnism.”

Just this week, news reports said that the London museum would temporarily return some of the iconic ancient Benin bronze sculptures to Nigeria. There are more than a thousand of the bronzes sitting in museums across Europe, and successive Nigerian governments have sought their return for decades. France is set to give back 26 of the sculptures permanently, a decision made after a report commissioned by President Emmanuel Macron called for thousands of African artworks to be returned.

“I cannot accept that a large part of the cultural heritage of several African countries is in France,” Macron said last year in Burkina Faso. “There are historical explanations for this but there is no valid, lasting and unconditional justification.”

According to the French report, about 90 percent of Africa’s cultural heritage is situated outside of the continent. When the British Museum returns “some” of their 700 Benin bronzes, however, it will only be on loan.

In a recent article for The Guardian, Tiffany Jenkins, the author of an entire book about why Western museums should refuse to return their stolen treasures, writes that when the first wave of Benin bronzes were created, Benin was an empire and the objects were crafted on the back of the slave trade. Maybe the descendants of the Benin king should apologize for slavery before they are approved as “morally worthy owners of the artefacts,” she writes, rather ironically.

Jenkins argues reductively that history is ugly and tussling over the rights and wrongs of the past is a pointless exercise. If Western countries start returning artifacts looted during the colonial era, she says, “there could be no end to competitive claim-making.”

Well, so be it.

It is not any British or European museum’s right to withhold plundered treasures while it decides who is “morally worthy” of possessing them. The very suggestion reeks of colonial arrogance. Ultimately, Jenkins writes, artifacts in Western museums “enlighten us about the world” and that is the job of our museums. How lovely; stolen cultural heritage enlightens us deserving Westerners, so of course, it has fulfilled its one, true purpose.

The fact that repatriating colonial loot is complicated and uncomfortable is no good reason to avoid facing reality and doing the bare minimum to atone for past sins. This is cultural property we are talking about. It belongs to the peoples and cultures where it originated — and to quote Macron, there is “no valid, lasting and unconditional justification” for refusing their return.

Of course, it is not only British or French museums that house looted art and cultural objects. There has been an ongoing dispute between Russia and Germany over artwork looted when the Red Army conquered Berlin in 1945. Much of the looted items were returned to East Germany after 1945, but not all of them. Moscow claimed the looting was a legitimate response to Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union and its destruction of Soviet national treasures. Germany begged to differ.

In October, the British Museum launched an initiative to counter the perception that everything within its walls is looted treasure — but Twitter users quickly made fun of the effort. ‘We didn’t steal all of it’ is hardly a very persuasive or positive-sounding plea.

That campaign came after art historian Alice Procter made headlines for giving ‘Uncomfortable Art Tours’ in British museums. The tours focus on slavery and colonialism and Porter encourages participants to wear ‘Display It Like You Stole It’ badges as they wander the exhibitions to advocate for more honest descriptions under artifacts. “On most text panels there’s little or no mention of how objects came to be there. Euphemistic language of ‘acquisition’ obscures the truth,” Procter wrote in a piece for The Guardian.

“You can look at the Gweagal shield in the British Museum and have no idea that it is considered crucial to the story of indigenous and settler relations in Australia, that its position in the museum is extremely controversial, and it’s sought by Gweagal people today,” she adds.

Another argument those against repatriation frequently use is that indigenous people, in some cases, offered or sold cultural objects to colonizers in exchange for something they needed more — money or tools, for example. Those items, they argue, can’t be said to be ‘stolen’ — but this completely ignores the power imbalance of the relationship between the colonizer and the colonized.

“Collected,” “acquired,” and “taken without permission” in this context are simply euphemisms for “stolen.” It is clear that the British Museum and people like Jenkins are worried about setting a precedent. Returning just one item would open the floodgates.

The British Museum is nothing short of a temple to colonial theft. If it concedes in one case, where does it end? It will never happen, of course, but in an ideal world, that would be just one extremely tiny — and wholly inadequate — price to pay for hundreds of years of colonial massacre and plunder.

November 28, 2018 Posted by | Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

Assange Never Met Manafort. Luke Harding and the Guardian Publish Still More Blatant MI6 Lies

By Craig Murray | November 27, 2018

The right wing Ecuadorean government of President Moreno continues to churn out its production line of fake documents regarding Julian Assange, and channel them straight to MI6 mouthpiece Luke Harding of the Guardian.

Amazingly, more Ecuadorean Government documents have just been discovered for the Guardian, this time spy agency reports detailing visits of Paul Manafort and unspecified “Russians” to the Embassy. By a wonderful coincidence of timing, this is the day after Mueller announced that Manafort’s plea deal was over.

The problem with this latest fabrication is that Moreno had already released the visitor logs to the Mueller inquiry. Neither Manafort nor these “Russians” are in the visitor logs.

This is impossible. The visitor logs were not kept by Wikileaks, but by the very strict Ecuadorean security. Nobody was ever admitted without being entered in the logs. The procedure was very thorough. To go in, you had to submit your passport (no other type of document was accepted). A copy of your passport was taken and the passport details entered into the log. Your passport, along with your mobile phone and any other electronic equipment, was retained until you left, along with your bag and coat. I feature in the logs every time I visited.

There were no exceptions. For an exception to be made for Manafort and the “Russians” would have had to be a decision of the Government of Ecuador, not of Wikileaks, and that would be so exceptional the reason for it would surely have been noted in the now leaked supposed Ecuadorean “intelligence report” of the visits. What possible motive would the Ecuadorean government have for facilitating secret unrecorded visits by Paul Manafort? Furthermore it is impossible that the intelligence agency – who were in charge of the security – would not know the identity of these alleged “Russians”.

Previously Harding and the Guardian have published documents faked by the Moreno government regarding a diplomatic appointment to Russia for Assange of which he had no knowledge. Now they follow this up with more documents aimed to provide fictitious evidence to bolster Mueller’s pathetically failed attempt to substantiate the story that Russia deprived Hillary of the Presidency.

My friend William Binney, probably the world’s greatest expert on electronic surveillance, former Technical Director of the NSA, has stated that it is impossible the DNC servers were hacked, the technical evidence shows it was a download to a directly connected memory stick. I knew the US security services were conducting a fake investigation the moment it became clear that the FBI did not even themselves look at the DNC servers, instead accepting a report from the Clinton linked DNC “security consultants” Crowdstrike.

I would love to believe that the fact Julian has never met Manafort is bound to be established. But I fear that state control of propaganda may be such that this massive “Big Lie” will come to enter public consciousness in the same way as the non-existent Russian hack of the DNC servers.

Assange never met Manafort. The DNC emails were downloaded by an insider. Assange never even considered fleeing to Russia. Those are the facts, and I am in a position to give you a personal assurance of them.

I can also assure you that Luke Harding, the Guardian, Washington Post and New York Times have been publishing a stream of deliberate lies, in collusion with the security services.

I am not a fan of Donald Trump. But to see the partisans of the defeated candidate (and a particularly obnoxious defeated candidate) manipulate the security services and the media to create an entirely false public perception, in order to attempt to overturn the result of the US Presidential election, is the most astonishing thing I have witnessed in my lifetime.

Plainly the government of Ecuador is releasing lies about Assange to curry favour with the security establishment of the USA and UK, and to damage Assange’s support prior to expelling him from the Embassy. He will then be extradited from London to the USA on charges of espionage.

Assange is not a whistleblower or a spy – he is the greatest publisher of his age, and has done more to bring the crimes of governments to light than the mainstream media will ever be motivated to achieve. That supposedly great newspaper titles like the Guardian, New York Times and Washington Post are involved in the spreading of lies to damage Assange, and are seeking his imprisonment for publishing state secrets, is clear evidence that the idea of the “liberal media” no longer exists in the new plutocratic age. The press are not on the side of the people, they are an instrument of elite control.

November 27, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , | Leave a comment

WikiLeaks Categorically Denies Assange-Manafort Meetings

By Tyler Durden – Zero Hedge – 11/27/2018

Update: WikiLeaks has fired back at the Guardian, tweeting: “Remember this day when the Guardian permitted a serial fabricator to totally destroy the paper’s reputation. @WikiLeaks is willing to bet the Guardian a million dollars and its editor’s head that Manafort never met Assange.

The Guardian’s report was written by Luke Harding and Dan Collyns, and was based exclusively on unnamed sources.

***

Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, held secret talks with Julian Assange inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London, right around the time he joined Trump’s campaign, according to The Guardian, which as is now the norm in reports of this kind refers to unnamed “sources.”

Sources have said Manafort went to see Assange in 2013, 2015 and in spring 2016 – during the period when he was made a key figure in Trump’s push for the White House.

It is unclear why Manafort wanted to see Assange and what was discussed. But the last meeting is likely to come under scrutiny and could interest Robert Mueller, the special prosecutor who is investigating alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

A well-placed source has told the Guardian that Manafort went to see Assange around March 2016. Months later WikiLeaks released a stash of Democratic emails stolen by Russian intelligence officers. –The Guardian

The 69-year-old Manafort has denied any involvement in the release of the emails, and has said that the claim is “100% false.”

While Manafort was jailed this year under a plea agreement with special counsel Robert Mueller, on Monday, Mueller said that Manafort had repeatedly lied to the FBI, breaching his deal. According to documents filed in court, Manafort committed “crimes and lies” covering a “variety of subject matters.”

According to The Guardian, Manafort’s first visit to the Ecuadorian embassy occurred one year after Assange was granted asylum inside, according to two sources. To add icing to the cake, “a separate internal document written by Ecuador’s Senian Intelligence agency and seen by The Guardian lists “Paul Manaford [sic]” as one of Assange’s several well-known guests, along with… “Russians.” 

According to two sources, Manafort returned to the embassy in 2015. He paid another visit in spring 2016, turning up alone, around the time Trump named him as his convention manager. The visit is tentatively dated to March.

Manafort’s 2016 visit to Assange lasted about 40 minutes, one source said, adding that the American was casually dressed when he exited the embassy, wearing sandy-coloured chinos, a cardigan and a light-coloured shirt. 

Visitors normally register with embassy security guards and show their passports. Sources in Ecuador, however, say Manafort was not logged. –The Guardian

So we have Manafort allegedly visiting Assange, in sandy-coloured chinos, and that Russians also visited the WikiLeaks founder. And none of this was known until today.

The Guardian goes on to suggest that “The revelation could shed new light on the sequence of events in the run-up to summer 2016, when WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of emails hacked by the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency. Hillary Clinton has said the hack contributed to her defeat.

Note that The Guardian has considered the “hack” settled, which agrees with Western intelligence assessments (the same Western intelligence that conducted espionage on Donald Trump’s campaign). Nowhere to be found is the possibility that the emails were copied locally – a theory recently bolstered by a fresh analysis that flies in the face of a report commissioned by cybersecurity firm Crowdstrike – which was caught fabricating a report on Russia hacking Ukrainian munitions, and was forced to retract portions of their analysis after the government of Ukraine admonished them.

The Guardian goes on to link Manafort to “black operations” against the political rival of Ukraine’s former “Moscow-friendly president, Viktor Yanukovych,” and that Manafort “flew frequently from the US to Ukraine’s capital, Kiev – usually via Frankfurt but sometimes through London.”

Manafort is currently in jail in Alexandria, Virginia. In August a jury convicted him of crimes arising from his decade-long activities in Ukraine. They include large-scale money laundering and failure to pay US tax. Manafort pleaded guilty to further charges in order to avoid a second trial in Washington.

As well as accusing him of lying on Monday, the special counsel moved to set a date for Manafort to be sentenced.

One person familiar with WikiLeaks said Assange was motivated to damage the Democrats campaign because he believed a future Trump administration would be less likely to seek his extradition on possible charges of espionage. This fate had hung over Assange since 2010, when he released confidential US state department cables. It contributed to his decision to take refuge in the embassy. –The Guardian

And in perhaps the most shocking part of The Guardian‘s reporting, they refer to the highly salacious and largely discredited “Steele Dossier,” saying that according to the document, Manafort was at the center of a “well-developed conspiracy of cooperation” between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, and that both sides had a mutual interest in defeating Clinton, wrote former MI6 spy Christopher Steele.

In a memo written soon after the DNC emails were published, Steele said: “The [hacking] operation had been conducted with the full knowledge and support of Trump and senior members of his campaign team.” –The Guardian

You know things are desperate when the Steele Dossier makes a guest appearance to once again bolster unsupported reporting.

November 27, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | 2 Comments

The Rehabilitation of Robert Mueller

By Kit Knightly | OffGuardian | November 24, 2018

The “Resistance” – the loose affiliation of liberals, progressives and neo-conservatives dedicated to opposing Donald Trump – is NOT a grass-roots movement. They don’t speak for the everyman or the poor or the oppressed. They are a distraction, nothing more. A parlor game. The face to Trump’s heel.

The Resistance is the voice of the Deep State – Pro-war, pro-globalisation, pro-Imperialism. It just hides its true face behind a mask of “progressive values”. They prove this with their own actions – opposing Trump’s moves toward peace with North Korea and finding common ground with Russia.

In fact, though the resistance lives to criticize the Trump administration, they have been notably quiet – even in favour of – three key issues: The bombing of Syria, the tearing up of the INF treaty and the prosecution of Julian Assange.

They tell us, in clear voices, who they are and what they want and millions of people refuse to listen. So totally brain-washed by the “Orange Man Bad” hysteria, that they will side with anyone hitting the same talking points, spouting the right buzzwords, using the same hashtags.

This process has contrived to turn hard-line, inveterate warmongers into a pantheon of “liberal” heroes. John “bomb bomb Iran” McCain was mourned across the media as if he were a champion of civil rights, while Bill Kristol and his ilk are suddenly regular guests on notionally “liberal” channels.

… and Robert Mueller receives a glowing write-up in the Guardian, being praised as “America’s straightest arrow”.

The painful prose paints a blurry picture of Mueller. Slapping ounces of vaseline onto the lens of reality. It praises his hair and his clothes and his 35 dollar watch. It declares him a soldier “forged in combat”, regaling us with tales of the bravery of Mueller’s marine regiment – “The Magnificent Bastards”.

Vietnam is reduced to a movie set – nothing but a backdrop for Mueller’s courage under fire. He won a bronze star, you know. Apparently while “The Magnificent Bastards” strode around the Vietnamese jungle, burning villages down and watching the napalm fall from the sky, a couple of angry farmers shot back and Mueller was wounded.

Taking a bullet in the leg from a terrified peasant who just wants you to sod off out of his country will always win you medals, but it shouldn’t.

Voluntarily signing on to enforce Imperial foreign policy in a war of conquest will always have the media paint you as a hero, but it shouldn’t.

What flaws the author does ascribe to Mueller are those we all happily admit to having ourselves. He’s a “micromanager” and he’s “too tough”.

Yes, and I’m sure he works himself too hard and doesn’t suffer fools gladly and always speaks his mind as well.

Read the column if you want, but I’d suggest not eating for a few hours first. A more nauseating panegyric I have not witnessed, at least since Barack Obama left office.

Far more telling than what it does say… is what it does not say. It mentions Mueller’s role as head of the FBI during the launch of the “war on terror”, but doesn’t go into any of the abuse of human rights that accompanied (and still accompanies) the increasingly authoritarian powers granted to US intelligence agencies by the Patriot Act.

Let’s be clear: Mueller’s FBI was complicit in rendition, torture, Gitmo. All of it.

Given that, it’s rather unsurprising that the article doesn’t mention the word “Iraq” once. A breath-taking omission, considering Mueller’s testimony in front of congress played a key role in spreading the lie of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction”:

It doesn’t matter how many Vietnamese peasants took pot-shots at him, it doesn’t matter how tidy his hair is, or how cheap his watch. It doesn’t matter if he looks like Cooper or speaks like Eastwood or walks like Wayne. He is a proven liar – a man culpable in the greatest crime of the 21st century. He is, and always will be, a servant of the Deep State.

A proven liar. A proven killer. An Imperialist. A criminal.

Is this the stuff of which political heroes should be made?

Only in “the Resistance”.

Obviously, Trump’s administration is dangerous – it still stokes warlike approaches to Iran and Russia. It has directly threatened Venezuela and Cuba. But you can’t fight the right-hand of the Deep State by clasping the left. They all join in the middle. They’re the same monster.

Anti-Trumpers, all over the world, need to take a good look at WHO they’re fighting alongside, and ask themselves WHAT they are fighting for.

Kit Knightly is co-editor of OffGuardian. The Guardian banned him from commenting. Twice. He used to write for fun, but now he’s forced to out of a near-permanent sense of outrage.

November 24, 2018 Posted by | Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , | 12 Comments

How Elites Use Mainstream Media to ‘Maintain and Expand Their Power’

By Kit Klarenberg – Sputnik – November 16, 2018

For quite some time, debate about ‘fake news’ has reverberated clamorously in both mainstream and alternative discourse. One could easily conclude the issue was a pressingly new plague, restricted to certain corners of the web – but academic TJ Coles begs to differ. In fact, he tells Sputnik fake news has been ubiquitous for thousands of years.

It’s difficult to pinpoint the precise moment the term ‘fake news’ entered the Western political and media lexicon, but the election of Donald Trump as US President certainly turbocharged its usage. For the controversial leader and his supporters, the label can be automatically applied to any and all media reporting critical of him, while his opponents play much the same game when roles are reversed.

This tit-for-tat sparring inspired TJ, director of Plymouth University’s Institute for Peace Research, to write a book on the subject — the fruit of his labours, Real Fake News: Techniques of Propaganda and Deception-based Mind Control, was published in September.

“All that talk made me think ‘hang on a minute, we’ve always had fake news’. It’s the nature of power — all power structures want to maintain and expand their power, so it’s therefore important to present information that benefits them, and keeps populations in a psychological and/or intellectual prison. The ‘fake news’ peddled by elite financial, commercial and political financial interests, duly regurgitated by major media organizations, eclipses any bogus story perpetuated by alleged ‘bots’ on Twitter, or whatever,” TJ says.

Babylonian Beginnings

In his work, TJ traces the birth of fake news all the way back to ancient Babylon, when rulers sought to perpetuate the notion they were descended from Gods and thus had a right to dominate and control the populace — history’s first recorded instance of the ‘divine right of kings’.

Similarly, Plato famously popularized the idea of the ‘noble lie’ — privileging untruths told for the benefit of elites and the population alike. These ideas very much endure in the modern day — TJ notes Wikileaks’ dump of the Clinton campaign’s internal emails amply demonstrates her team felt it wouldn’t be good, or necessary, for Hillary’s supporters to be aware of her close connections to Wall Street, so did their utmost to conceal the mephitic kinship.

“Elites the world over are acutely aware information is power, and actually quite open about their use and abuse of the news to shape public perceptions and preserve sociopolitical conditions benefitting them. For instance, the UK Ministry of Defence regularly publishes projections of how planners think the world will look in 10 — 20 years, and they routinely note the media is one of the key ways to maintain the current paradigm, and discuss the various ways information can be ‘weaponized’ against the public,” he says.

TJ suggests elites shape and control the public mind so effectively because they exploit fundamental facets of human nature. First, the well-established instinctive inclination to reflexively believe something reinforcing one’s existing beliefs, rather than assessing whether alternative facts or viewpoints have any value, or indeed considering whether what one believes might be wrong, or informed by confirmation bias.

This tendency is greatly exacerbated by the use of internet and social media algorithms that present a ‘personalized’ picture of the world to users, unfailingly presenting individuals with content they want to see, and tacitly suppressing information contrary to their existing opinions.

“Elites also know how easy it is to exploit guilt, which is why atrocity propaganda is so widespread today. Most sympathize with the victims of major atrocities, and naturally want to do something to help, so this aspect of human nature can be easily manipulated to justify aggressive foreign policy actions — ‘look at what we’re letting happen to poor defenceless people, we have a responsibility to protect them’ etcetera. It’s funny, when it comes to the economy, the powerful are quick to say people are naturally selfish, so it’s everyone for themselves, but when it comes to foreign policy, we should care about our fellow human beings and do something to help,” TJ says.

Evidence

As the academic’s work makes clear, atrocity propaganda doesn’t even need to have any grounding in reality whatsoever. In the lead-up to the NATO-backed violent overthrow of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, the mainstream media was awash with reports government forces fuelled by viagra were conducting mass rapes of civilians, and planning a borderline genocidal massacre of rebel forces — claims used to justify the imposition of a no-fly zone over the country, and NATO airstrikes.

The stories were subsequently found to be entirely without foundation — similarly, serious question marks hover over the veracity of numerous claimed chemical weapons attacks in Syria, which likewise have provided a pretext for Western attacks on the country.

Muammar Gaddafi

© Flickr / Thierry Ehrmann

“It’s especially easy to exploit guilt when you present bite-sized news reports about an atrocious event stripped of all context, and exclude the voices of people who are actually on the ground. Occasionally, contradictory voices do filter through the system, although largely by accident. For instance, the BBC made the mistake of inviting Peter Ford, former UK ambassador to Syria, on air to discuss chemical weapons attacks — he quickly demolished their propaganda. He hasn’t been invited back since,” TJ says.

Ford is surely but one of a great many talking heads to effectively be banned from appearing on the BBC for daring to state views and evidence contrary to ascendant elite narratives. However, the British state broadcaster’s blacklisting activities also extend to its own employees — in April 2018, the BBC admitted that for decades, job applicants and serving staff were subject to political vetting by MI5, in an effort to prevent “subversives” gaining employment with the Corporation.

Often, individuals were ostracized on extremely tenuous grounds. For instance, respected film director John Goldschmidt was blacklisted in the late 1960s, with two projects he was working on for the Beeb cancelled midway through production without warning or explanation — MI5 deemed him a potential subversive as he’d spent a few weeks in Czechoslovakia in his youth, as part of a student exchange program. Similarly, award-winning journalist Isabel Hilton was refused a job by BBC Scotland in 1976 — that she spoke Chinese and had been a member of Scottish China Association at Edinburgh University made MI5 extremely anxious.

Under the policy, popular children’s book author and playwright Michael Rosen was also outright sacked from the BBC in 1972 while a graduate trainee for a number of ‘transgressions’, including student activism at Oxford, and producing a film featuring clips of US soldiers being tested with LSD. The American Embassy in London complained about the project to both MI5 and the BBC directly, whereupon Rosen was shown the door.The policy was wound down in the 1990s, and it’s unknown whether any comparable structures existed at other major news organizations — although City University research suggests dissenting voices remain rare in the British mainstream media. The 2016 study concluded UK journalists are overwhelmingly white, male, and elite-university educated — and are far more trusting of politicians, the government, police and military than the general population, which the study’s authors partly attributed to reporters’ “reliance on these institutions as sources of information”.

Such widespread faith in the establishment may account for why so many prominent reporters see no problem with maintaining close relationships with the intelligence services. The Guardian’s Luke Harding has frequently, openly and proudly advertised his warm bond with British spying agencies in articles and books — and equally frequently been condemned for uncritically running stories of questionable probity potentially provided to him by agency staff. In a September article he claimed Russian diplomats had held secret talks in London with associates of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, in an attempt to assist in his escape from the UK. The covert action would’ve allegedly seen Assange smuggled out of the Ecuadorian embassy in Knightsbridge under cover of Christmas Eve in a diplomatic vehicle and transported to Moscow.

The story was entirely based on the testimony of anonymous sources, the identity of which Harding didn’t even hint at in the piece. In response, Craig Murray, former UK Ambassador to Uzbekistan, slammed the article, calling it a “quite extraordinary set of deliberate lies” and “entirely black propaganda” published by an “MI6 tool”.”I was closely involved with Julian and with Fidel Narvaez of the Ecuadorean Embassy at the end of last year in discussing possible future destinations for Julian. It is not only the case Russia did not figure in those plans, it is a fact Julian directly ruled out the possibility as undesirable. The entire story is a complete and utter fabrication. It is very serious indeed when a newspaper like the Guardian prints a tissue of deliberate lies in order to spread fake news on behalf of the security services. I cannot find words eloquent enough to express the depth of my contempt for Harding and Katherine Viner, who have betrayed completely the values of journalism,” Murray wrote.

Similarly, in 2007 the Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran published an analysis of 44 articles written by Daily Telegraph Defence Editor Con Couglin on Iran — including stories suggesting North Korea was helping Iran prepare a nuclear weapons test, and Iran was grooming Bin Laden’s successor. They found the pieces almost invariably; were based on “unnamed or untraceable” sources in intelligence agencies or the UK Foreign Office and “published at sensitive and delicate times” when there’d been “relatively positive diplomatic moves” towards Iran; contained ‘exclusive revelations’ about Iran combined with eye-catchingly controversial headlines, which were typically drawn from a single sentence in the wider article.

Prison Break

Despite his bleak analysis, TJ does not view the elite monopoly on information as insurmountable, or invincible — there’s much individuals and groups can do to shatter the stranglehold.

“People should keep a keen eye on sources that analyse news reporting and misreporting, such as Glasgow University Media Group and MediaLens, which offer alternative information and tell you what media coverage is actively omitting from the real story. However, change must come from within too — people should divorce themselves from preconceptions, and question their beliefs wherever and whenever possible. When presented with information that doesn’t conform to our predispositions, we should ask ourselves whether it’s true, rather than reflexively dismissing it outright,” TJ says.

While having less trust in the media more generally is a must, the academic also warns against placing too much faith in alternative news outlets and social networks, despite them being valuable resources with a significant positive potential.

“Independent media is growing in size and strength, but its overall reach is still relatively tiny — while print circulation is obviously down, people still get the vast bulk of their information from mainstream outlets. Similarly, social media could’ve democratized the spread of information, but it hasn’t — and in fact any such potential has probably been permanently neutered by the proliferation of ‘fact-checking’ resources, which are anything but unbiased and disinterested arbiters of truth,” TJ notes.

One-such ‘fact-checker’ is the Atlantic Council, a NATO-offshoot with a board of directors comprised of a ‘who’s who’ of contentious US political figures, including Henry Kissinger, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Robert Gates, Michael Hayden and David Petraeus, among others.

It partnered with Facebook in May to “independently monitor disinformation and other vulnerabilities” and combat the spread of fake news on the platform. To date, the collaboration has resulted in untold hundreds of pages and personal accounts being shut down — rather than being promulgators of propaganda though, the overwhelming bulk of the banished were alternative news sources, political organizations and individuals, highlighting issues and events the mainstream media downplays or ignores, such as US interventionism, drug legalization and police brutality.

Moreover, that elites exploit social media’s information-sharing capabilities to suit their own objectives is well-established.”The US State Department has used major social networks to recruit revolutionaries on several occasions, most notably during the ‘Arab Spring’, connecting ‘moderate rebels’ — actually violent jihadist lunatics — in select countries. Washington wanted Assad, Gaddafi and Mubarak gone, because they weren’t following orders — but there were no Twitter or Facebook ‘revolutions’ in the Gulf states, because the American empire wanted their rulers to remain in place. In Cuba, the CIA even went as far as creating a social network for the same purpose,” TJ concludes.

November 16, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Mainstream media on Gaza: Israelis get killed, but Palestinians merely ‘die’

By Darius Shahtahmasebi | RT | November 15, 2018

After a Twitter backlash, the Guardian was forced to amend a brazenly propagandized headline which sought to undermine the basic rights of Palestinians and elevate Israeli soldiers to levels previously thought unimaginable.

“We remain editorially independent, our journalism free from commercial bias and our reporting open and accessible to all,” reads an advertisement on the Guardian UK’s online newspaper when you click on a recent story.

“Imagine what we could continue to achieve with the support of many more of you. Together we can be a force for change.”

The article in question that I clicked on is a recent story entitled “Eight dead in undercover Israeli operation in Gaza.” According to the opening paragraph of the report, Israeli forces killed seven Palestinians in the Gaza Strip in an “apparently botched undercover raid and ensuring firefight.”

Sounds fairly straightforward, right? Just another day in Gaza, where Palestinians and Israelis alike find themselves in the line of fire, with the number of dead Palestinians outnumbering those on the Israeli side.

However, this wasn’t the only title the Guardian had previously given this same story. The original title was a poorly crafted “Israeli officer killed during raid in which seven Palestinians died.”

You see, prior to the title’s amendment, the Israeli officer was “killed” during the raid, yet the Palestinians (who were killed by the way) merely died. The Israeli officer was killed by the Palestinians, but the seven Palestinians died from some unknown cause. This is a clever yet obvious play on the English language, whereby the deaths of the seven Palestinians are brought about passively, whereas the Israeli officer is actively killed by his aggressor.

In actuality, the perpetrator of the raid is the person bringing about the violence. The Palestinians who react in response are not, in any normal sense of the word, the perpetrators of the violence in question.

Furthermore, the Israeli officer is the one that is highlighted by the title, whereas the lesser deaths of the Palestinians are brought about as a side note. The Guardian explains in the text of its report that seven Palestinians are dead, but the identities of those Palestinians are not highlighted.

If they were militants, why not say so? If they are not militants, are they in fact civilians? If they are civilians, why is the Israeli officer highlighted first in the title, and not the tragedy of the seven civilian deaths? If they are militants, why are they given a lesser status than the Israeli officer? Well, as far as we know, two of those killed (I mean, died) were Hamas commanders. The rest of the deceased were aged between 19 and 25.

Of course, the Guardian will no longer have to worry about answering those questions as it wasted no time in changing its headline in the wake of what can only be described as a viral Twitter frenzy. The UK-based Canary described it as the “Guardian headline on Palestine that’s shaming the entire field of journalism.”

If they had been allowed to get away with this shoddy piece of journalism, one could still argue that it is just a title and we should not spend our time fussing and feuding over the intricate wording of titles. After all, what matters to a story and its journalistic integrity is its content, right?

Anyone who knows and understands anything about modern journalism and propaganda knows this to be complete nonsense. Firstly, a study by the Media Insight Project, an initiative of the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and the American Press Institute found that over half of Americans surveyed were mere headline readers and nothing more.

The effects of this painful reality go well beyond that of a resulting lazy populace. As explained by Maria Konnikova in the New Yorker :

“Psychologists have long known that first impressions really do matter—what we see, hear, feel, or experience in our first encounter with something colors how we process the rest of it. Articles are no exception. And just as people can manage the impression that they make through their choice of attire, so, too, can the crafting of the headline subtly shift the perception of the text that follows. By drawing attention to certain details or facts, a headline can affect what existing knowledge is activated in your head. By its choice of phrasing, a headline can influence your mindset as you read so that you later recall details that coincide with what you were expecting.”

In a series of studies, Ullrich Ecker, psychologist and cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Western Australia, more or less confirmed this sad state of affairs. One of Ecker’s studies found that when matching headlines to photographs, if the headline diverged from the photo, the victim was rated more negatively by the respondents when the headline had been about the criminal; and the criminal was rated more positively when the headline had been about the victim. Starting to sound a little bit familiar?

According to Konnikova, Ecker’s findings show that misinformation causes more damage when it’s subtle than when it is blatant.

Say what you like about Fox News, but its blatant approach to lying makes it less of a threat in my mind than papers like the Guardian who advertise themselves as “editorially independent” and “free from commercial bias” as it deploys more subtle techniques to not only toe the establishment line, but to provide free public relations for states such as Israel, who regularly contravene international law in a variety of ways.

Make no mistake, the Guardian editors knew what they were doing when they released this headline. It was not done by accident. This is a tried and true strategy in which Western media will paint the aggressors in a conflict as being passive players with as little fault as possible – so long as those players are the US, UK or its close allies.

For example, a March 2017 attack by US-led forces in Mosul, Iraq massacred over 200 civilians in a single bombardment. The reason this attack took place is primarily because Donald Trump relaxed the so-called Obama-era restrictions on air strikes, meaning that even Iraqi commanders could call in air strikes on the battlefield with little to no oversight. The result of this policy was of course, outright death and destruction, with over 9,000 civilians killed in Mosul alone.

However, the US bombardment in March was framed by the establishment media in the kindest way possible for the US and its allies. As noted by FAIR’s (Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting) Ben Norton, ABC News went with the headline “US Reviewing Airstrike That Corresponds to Site Where 200 Iraqi Civilians Allegedly Died.” The LA Times ran with “US Acknowledges Airstrike in Mosul, Where More Than 200 Iraqi Civilians Died.” France 24 settled for “US-Led Coalition Confirms Strike on Mosul Site Where Civilians Died.” The best, of course, was the New York Times, which managed to concoct the following headline: “US Concedes It Played a Role in Iraqi Deaths.” Remember, this is the same US who “played a role” in over one million “Iraqi deaths,” but that is a topic for another story.

Conversely, if the alleged perpetrator of violence is in the handful of countries deemed to be enemies of Western society by the mainstream media (think Iran, Syria, Russia, or North Korea), they are portrayed as menacingly evil and bloodthirsty with no logic or context to their actions. These countries “pound” their victims, for example. Even when the alleged acts cannot be proven at all, such as highly questionable chemical weapons attacks that are immediately pinned on the Syrian government with little to no evidence of Syrian government involvement, Syria’s president is condemned by all forms of Western media in the strongest terms imaginable.

You see, the victims of attacks carried out by the US, UK, and its allies and lackey states such as Israel aren’t killed, they merely die at the scene. If anything, they were in the way of the magical freedom bombs that we and our allies have been trying to spread around the Middle East for years. But those victims who are purportedly killed by countries who have been targeted for regime change, they were tragically murdered by brutal forces. The jihadists fighting against these forces with known ties to al-Qaeda are mere rebels fighting for their freedom, but militants fighting against government forces in Gaza or in Yemen are terrorists who kill noble Israeli soldiers while dying in the crossfire by accident.

While we are on the topic, an honourable mention of course has to go to the New York Times, who once felt that it was justified to describe the plight of a young Yemeni girl who had her entire family wiped out in a Saudi-led airstrike with the headline: “Young Yemeni Girl Is Sole Survivor After Airstrike Topples Her Home.” Thank God – at least it only toppled her home, as air strikes are known to do much worse if they belong to an adversarial state.

This is shameful propaganda, plain and simple. The Guardian was once heralded as a beacon of journalistic integrity, but it has long given up that status and decided it will go out of its way to perpetuate establishment narratives that benefit, for example, even the dictatorship of Saudi Arabia.

Despite this, the fact the Guardian amended its headline and deleted its original tweet can still be seen as somewhat of a partial victory. While I don’t expect many of us who spoke out to continue to keep our Twitter privileges for much longer, the end result was totally worth it and I hope more people can continue to speak out as we fight back against warmongering establishment narratives.

November 15, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Full Spectrum Dominance, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, War Crimes | , | Leave a comment