Archive | April 17th, 2019

How many British MPs are working for ‘Israel’?

Israeli London embassy spy Shai Masot

By Jonathan Cook

Aljazeera is to be congratulated on an undercover investigation exposing something most of us could probably have guessed: that some Israeli embassy staff in the UK – let’s not pussy around, Mossad agents – are working with senior political activists and politicians in the Conservative and Labour parties to subvert their own parties from within, and skew British foreign policy so that it benefits Israeli, rather than British, interests.

One cannot really blame Israel for doing this. Most states promote their interests as best they can. But one can and should expose and shame the British politicians who are collaborating with Israel in further harming Britain’s representative democracy.

It is not as though these people cannot be easily identified. They even advertise what they are up to. They are members of the Conservative and Labour Friends of Israel (CFI and LFI respectively). They dominate both parliamentary parties, but especially the Conservatives. According to the CFI’s figures, fully 80 per cent of Tory MPs belong to the party’s Friends of Israel group.

Traitors?

Once, no one would have hesitated to call British politicians acting in the interests of a foreign power, and very possibly taking financial benefits for doing so, “traitors”. And yet, as Aljazeera’s secretly filmed footage shows, Israeli spies like Shai Masot can readily meet and conspire with a Tory minister’s much-trusted aide to discuss how best to “take down” the deputy foreign minister, Alan Duncan, over his criticisms of Israel’s illegal settlements in the occupied territories. Maria Strizzolo, Education Minister Robert Halfon’s assistant, suggests engineering a “little scandal” to damage Duncan.

Once, no one would have hesitated to call British politicians acting in the interests of a foreign power, and very possibly taking financial benefits for doing so, “traitors”. 

Masot and Israel’s intelligence services cannot influence British foreign policy through the opposition Labour party, but that doesn’t prevent them from also taking a keen interest in Labour MPs. Masot is filmed talking to Labour Friends of Israel’s chair, Joan Ryan, about “lots of money” – more than GBP 1 million – he has received from the Israeli government to send yet another batch of Labour MPs on an all-expenses-paid trip to Israel, where they will be wined and dined, and primed by top officials to adopt even more extreme pro-Israel positions. LFI is known for sending the largest proportion of MPs to Israel on these kinds of trips.

Labour MP Joan Ryan with Israeli spy Shai Masot

Labour MP Joan Ryan was told by the Israeli spy Shai Masot at the meeting that she could go on an expenses paid trip to Israel

Does that have an effect on British domestic politics. You bet it does! Israel isn’t a charity.

A large number of those who have been making Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s life a misery belong to Labour Friends of Israel. They are the same MPs who have been talking up an “anti-Semitism crisis” in the Labour party – based on zero tangible evidence – since Corbyn became party leader. Were they following the dictates of their conscience? Did they really fear an anti-Semitism plague had suddenly beset their party? Or were they playing deeply cynical politics to oust a leader who supports justice for the Palestinian people and is considered by Israel’s right wing government, which has no interest in making peace with the Palestinians, to be bad news for Israel?

Al Jazeera’s investigation has not been shown yet, so we can rely only on the snippets released so far, either by Aljazeera itself or additional leaks of the investigation provided by the Mail on Sunday.

It is worth listening to a Tory minister in the government of recently departed David Cameron, who writes anonymously in the Mail on Sunday. S/he warns of a double whammy to British politics caused by Israel and its British partisans – one that is starting to approach the damage done to the US political system by Israel.

Agents of Israel

The British government skews its foreign policy to avoid upsetting Jewish donors, s/he says. MPs, meanwhile, act like agents of a foreign power – s/he generously assumes unwittingly – rather than representatives of the British people. Forget international law, these politicians are not even promoting British interests.

Here is what the minister writes:

British foreign policy is in hock to Israeli influence at the heart of our politics, and those in authority have ignored what is going on.

For years the CFI and Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) have worked with – even for – the Israeli government and their London embassy to promote Israeli policy and thwart UK government policy and the actions of ministers who try to defend Palestinian rights.

Lots of countries try to force their views on others, but what is scandalous in the UK is that instead of resisting it, successive governments have submitted to it, taken donors’ money, and allowed Israeli influence-peddling to shape policy and even determine the fate of ministers.

Even now, if I were to reveal who I am, I would be subjected to a relentless barrage of abuse and character assassination…

It now seems clear people in the Conservative and Labour parties have been working with the Israeli embassy, which has used them to demonise and trash MPs who criticise Israel; an army of Israel’s useful idiots in Parliament.

This is politically corrupt, and diplomatically indefensible. The conduct of certain MPs needs to be exposed as the poisonous and deceitful infiltration of our politics by the unwitting agents of another country …

We need a full inquiry into the Israeli embassy, the links, access and funding of the CFI and LFI.

It is rare that I agree with a Tory government minister, but such an inquiry cannot come too soon.

An indictment of the UK media

Note too that it is an indictment of the UK media that Aljazeera, rather than the British fourth estate, has exposed Israel’s moves to subvert the British political system. It is not as though reporters from the BBC, the Guardian, the Timesand the Mail haven’t had ministers like the one above complaining to them for years about interference from Israel. So, why did they not long ago send in undercover teams to expose this collusion between Israel and British MPs?

Here we have documented evidence of the Israeli government secretly plotting with “friendly” British MPs to oust a British government minister. Will we… have weeks of coverage of this story in the UK media, or will it be quickly filed away and forgotten?

We have had weeks of stories about the supposed efforts of Russia and Putin to subvert the US election, without a hint yet of any evidence, and based on a central allegation against the Russians that they compromised the election result by releasing truthful information about wrongdoing in the Democratic Party. Russian diplomats have been expelled based on these evidence-free claims, and President Obama has vowed to take other, covert action against Russia.

Here we have documented evidence of the Israeli government secretly plotting with “friendly” British MPs to oust a British government minister. If that isn’t interference in the British political system, I don’t know what is. Will we similarly have weeks of coverage of this story in the UK media, or will it be quickly filed away and forgotten?

And will any action beyond the removal of Masot be demanded by the British government? It seems unlikely. The Foreign Office has already issued a statement saying that, following Masot’s dismissal, it considers the matter closed.

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UK Labour Party in grip of Zionist inquisition

NOVANEWS
Misuse of anti-Semitism

By Stuart Littlewood

The orchestrated smear campaign against pro-Palestine sympathisers sent me reaching for my pen. But Gilad Atzmon too was eyeing the Labour Party’s crazed witch hunt for “anti-Semites” with misgiving and had already declared, in his usual robust way, that Labour under Jeremy Corbyn was not so much a party as a piece of Zionist-occupied territory.

Writing in his blog about Corbyn’s and McDonnell’s servile commitment to expel anyone whose remarks might be interpreted by Zionist mafioso as hateful or simply upsetting to Jews, Atzmon concludes: “Corbyn’s Labour is now unequivocally a spineless club of sabots goyim [which I take to mean non-Jewish dogsbodies who do menial jobs that Jews are forbidden to do for religious reasons].

“The Labour Party’s policies,” says Atzmon,

are now compatible with Jewish culture: intolerant to the core and concerned primarily with the imaginary suffering of one people only. These people are not the working class, they are probably the most privileged ethnic group in Britain. Corbyn’s Labour is a Zionist occupied territory… It proves my theses that the left is not a friend to Palestine, the oppressed or the workless people.

I would have never believed that Jeremy Corbyn would engage in such colossally treacherous politics. I did not anticipate that Corbyn would become a Zionist lapdog. Corbyn was a great hope to many of us. I guess that the time has come to accept that the left is a dead concept, it has nothing to offer.

This writer too is shocked after signing up as a supporter (though not a member) of the Labour Party with the express purpose of voting in the leadership election for that beacon of common sense, that staunch champion of high ideals, that great white hope who would start a revolution in British politics and sweep away the crap and corruption left behind by Blair and Brown.

Boy, was I in for a disappointment!

Zionist inquisitors

The latest casualty in this ugly Zionist power-play is former mayor of London Ken Livingstone. In a heated public spat with one of the party’s chief inquisitors, John Mann MP, he had the temerity to defend a female member of parliament, Naz Shah, who had fallen foul of the party’s anti-Semitism police for comments made on Facebook before becoming an MP.

She had suggested that Israel be transferred to the United States. She apologised profusely, but Labour’s Israel lobby went ballistic after raking up this old remark.

It scarcely needs saying that Zionism may mean self-determination for the Jewish people but it has cruelly denied the Palestinians their right to self-determination for decades.

Had they forgotten that their hero, David Ben-Gurion himself, was mad-keen on population transfer – of Palestinian Arabs, that is? So what’s to get excited about?

Mann happens to be chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Anti-Semitism. One-sidedness is the name of his game.

What seems to have generated greatest sound and fury is this observation by Livingstone:

When Hitler won his election in 1932 his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews.

Joan Ryan MP, Chair of Labour Friends of Israel, said:

To speak of Zionism – the right of the Jewish people to self-determination – and Hitler in the same sentence is quite breathtaking. I am appalled that Ken Livingstone has chosen to do so… He should be suspended from the Labour Party immediately.

It scarcely needs saying that Zionism may mean self-determination for the Jewish people but it has cruelly denied the Palestinians their right to self-determination for decades. Nevertheless Livingstone is suspended from the party after 47 years.

The president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Jonathan Arkush, can be relied on to put in his two-pennyworth on these occasions, and he didn’t disappoint:

Ken Livingston’s comments were abhorrent and beyond disgraceful. His latest comments combine holocaust revisionism with anti-Semitism denial, when the evidence is there for all to see. He lacks any sense of decency. He must now be expelled from the Labour Party.

On the suspension of Naz Shah, Arkush was in overdrive:

If the Labour Party is to re-establish its credibility on this issue, it needs to take four important steps forward:

First, there must be a credible inquiry into the entire Naz Shah episode. Secondly, the party has to take effective measures to eradicate anti-Semitism wherever it occurs within its membership.  Thirdly, the leader must make it clear that allegations of anti-Semitism are not to be dismissed as arguments about Israel. Fourthly, Jeremy Corbyn must now respond to our repeated calls for him to accept that his meetings with rank anti-Semites before he became leader were not appropriate and will not be repeated.

Witch hunters’ balloon pricked

Whether Livingstone’s claim that Hitler was a Zionist is correct, I know not and care not. He presumably checked his facts and was itching to score with this mischievous titbit. Whether that was a wise thing to do is a matter for idle chatter, not expulsion. Meanwhile Zionist hotheads inside and outside the party would do well to pay attention to the The Jewish Socialists’ Group, which has some sound advice for them and sticks a pin in their not-so-pretty balloon with this measured statement:

Anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are not the same. Zionism is a political ideology which has always been contested within Jewish life since it emerged in 1897, and it is entirely legitimate for non-Jews as well as Jews to express opinions about it, whether positive or negative. Not all Jews are Zionists. Not all Zionists are Jews.

Criticism of Israeli government policy and Israeli state actions against the Palestinians is not anti-Semitism. Those who conflate criticism of Israeli policy with anti-Semitism, whether they are supporters or opponents of Israeli policy, are actually helping the anti-Semites. We reject any attempt, from whichever quarter, to place legitimate criticism of Israeli policy out of bounds.

Accusations of anti-Semitism are currently being weaponised to attack the Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour Party with claims that Labour has a “problem” of anti-Semitism. This is despite Corbyn’s longstanding record of actively opposing fascism and all forms of racism, and being a firm a supporter of the rights of refugees and of human rights globally.

A very small number of such cases seem to be real instances of anti-Semitism. Others represent genuine criticism of Israeli policy and support for Palestinian rights, but expressed in clumsy and ambiguous language, which may unknowingly cross a line into anti-Semitism. Further cases are simply forthright expressions of support for Palestinian rights, which condemn Israeli government policy and aspects of Zionist ideology, and have nothing whatsoever to do with anti-Semitism.

The Jewish Socialists’ Group goes further and suggests that the attacks come from four main sources: the Conservative Party, Conservative-supporting media and pro-Zionist Israeli media sources, right-wing and pro-Zionist elements claiming to speak on behalf of the Jewish community, and opponents of Jeremy Corbyn within the Labour Party. These groups make common cause to wreck the Corbyn leadership, divert attention from Israeli government crimes and discredit those who dare to criticise Israeli policy or the Zionist enterprise.

In short, the Jewish Socialists’ Group says what needs to be said and puts the witch hunter generals firmly in their place.

Of course, if Labour – or the Conservatives – truly wished to be squeaky-clean in matters of racism they would disband their Israel fan clubs (i.e. Friends of Israel) and suspend all who refuse to condemn Israel’s brutal acts of ethnic cleansing and other war crimes. If people holding public office put themselves in a position where they are influenced by a foreign military power, they flagrantly breach the Principles of Public Life. There are far too many Labour and Conservative MPs and MEPs who fall into that category.

The Labour Party announced today it is considering reviewing its rules to send a clear message of zero-tolerance on anti-Semitism. For balance, why not match this with zero-tolerance of those who use the party as a platform for promoting the criminal Israeli regime and its continuing territorial ambitions? Go on, Labour, prove Atzmon wrong – prove the party is not Zionist occupied territory.

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The Zionists’ war on Corbyn: What you need to know

 

Jeremy Corbyn looking afar

By Nureddin Sabir, Editor, Redress Information & Analysis

The knives are out for Jeremy Corbyn, the first leader of the British Labour Party not to subscribe to the imperious, hegemonic values that underpin the British state.

Corbyn has a long record of support for the Palestinian people and other justice causes. His landslide victory in the Labour Party’s leadership election in September 2015 was a humiliating defeat for the Zionist lobby, in the shape of the Labour Friends of Israel group, which up to that moment had been in complete control of Labour’s leadership. As Asa Winstanley put it, in an article in Electronic Intifada,

For career-minded, rising Labour MPs, joining Labour Friends of Israel was long seen as the place to be…

Under Blair, Jeremy Corbyn was a backbench MP, and a gadfly of the big business- and war-friendly clique that had captured Labour’s leadership. He voted against Blair’s party line hundreds of times.

The scale of Corbyn’s victory – almost 60 per cent of 422,664 voters – last summer put the right on the back foot.

So now they are resorting to ever more desperate tactics, blaming alleged “anti-Semitism” in the party on Corbyn’s leadership.

Media collusion

In an open, democratic society, it is the duty of the media to scrutinise and question politicians and others who hold positions of power, so that the public can make informed decisions.

However, Britain is a democracy in form only, not in substance. True, people go to the ballot box every few years to vote for the party of their choice in national and local elections. But many do so in ignorance, not so much informed as brainwashed and manipulated by right-wing media – some openly right wing while others, such as the Guardian and the Independent newspapers, disguising themselves as progressive liberals.

In the ongoing row over alleged “anti-Semitism” in the Labour Party, no mainstream media outlet – no major newspaper or broadcaster, whether the BBC or Channel 4, the UK’s supposed public service broadcasters – has seriously challenged the accusations that have been levelled against members of parliament Ken Livingstone and Naz Shah or Labour councillors and ordinary party members up and down the country. Not one media outlet has bothered to do even the most basic research into the accusers and the accusations they are making.

Instead, it has been left to relatively small, independent online media, such as the Electronic Intifada and the Middle East Eye, and campaign groups, such as Jews for Justice for the Palestinians and the Jewish Socialists’ Group, to do what the mainstream media should have done: to challenge, scrutinise and correct the questionable information that has been put in the public domain.

Premeditated smear

In his article in the Electronic Intifada, Winstanley reminds us that smears of “anti-Semitism” against Corbyn started even before he was elected.

During his leadership campaign in the summer of 2015, the establishment media worked itself into a frenzy of anti-Corbyn hysteria, led more than any other paper by the liberal Guardian.

One of the recurring themes in this campaign was Corbyn’s long-standing support for Palestinian human rights.

Because of this, attempts were made to say outright, or to imply, that Corbyn was a secret anti-Semite, or that he associated with, or tolerated “notorious” anti-Semites.

Although these hit jobs gained some traction, they were soon debunked, and ultimately seemed to have little impact on the leadership election.

This dishonest theme is now being revisited, and the culprits are visible for anyone willing to see.

Key facts

Alex Chalmers

A key player in the campaign to smear pro-Palestinian activists in the Labour Party, Alex Chalmers falsified stories about “anti-Semitism” and hid his own affiliation to the pro-Israel lobby.

Alex Chalmers posing with failed Labour Party deputy leadership bidder Caroline Flint

Alex Chalmers posing with failed Labour Party deputy leadership bidder Caroline Flint

In a public Facebook posting in February, Chalmers, the co-chair of the Oxford University Labour Club, resigned his position over what he claimed was anti-Semitic behaviour in “a large proportion” of the student Labour club “and the student left in Oxford more generally.”

As “evidence”, he cited the club’s decision, in a majority vote, to endorse Oxford’s Israeli Apartheid Week, an annual awareness-raising exercise by student groups supporting Palestinian rights.

“This connection was clearly designed to smear Palestine solidarity activists as anti-Semites – a standard tactic of the Israel lobby,” Winstanley correctly notes in his Electronic Intifada article.

What Chalmers does not disclose is his affiliation to Britain’s Israel lobby.

Chalmers has worked for BICOM, the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre.

Funded by the billionaire Poju Zabludowicz, BICOM is a leading pro-Israel group in London.

Chalmers once listed an internship with BICOM on his LinkedIn profile, although the page was deleted some time in February.

The same day Ken Livingstone was suspended from the Labour Party, BICOM posted a tweet with the words: “Save your pitch fork for Corbyn.”

Chalmers has been accused of disseminating a false allegation that a left-wing Labour student at Oxford had organised people into a group to follow a Jewish student around campus calling her a “filthy Zionist”, and that he had been disciplined as a result.

However, as Winstanley points out, the accused student said she had reason to believe Chalmers may have been behind the dissemination of this smear.

Moreover, Paul Di Felice, the current acting principal of the Oxford college in question, confirmed to the Electronic Intifada the authenticity of a statement from its late principal denying all the allegations. “I have found no evidence of any allegations being made to the college about” the student “involving “anti-Semitism”, or indeed anything else, during his time at the college,” the statement read.

Jeremy Newmark

Another key “anti-Semitism” smear monger who has been at the heart of the witch hunt for Labour left wingers is Jeremy Newmark, the chairman of the Jewish Labour Movement.

Jeremy Newmark is the chairman of the Jewish Labour Movement, affiliated to the World Zionist Organisation

Jeremy Newmark is the chairman of the Jewish Labour Movement, affiliated to the World Zionist Organisation

The Jewish Labour Movement is affiliated to the UK Labour Party, the Israeli Labour Party and the World Zionist Organisation which, according to the UN, pumps millions into building in the occupied West Bank through its settlement division.

Newmark also worked as chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, an anti-Palestinian lobbying group behind numerous attacks on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS).

Wes Streeting

A right-wing Labour MP and Israel lobby stalwart, Wes Streeting has participated in Israeli government efforts to cast the Palestine solidarity movement as “evil”. He also featured on the radio, together with Newmark, where he claimed that Labour has “now got a problem” and that people think the party is “apathetic to “anti-Semitism”.

Wes Stressing is a loyal Israel stalwart

Wes Stressing is a loyal Israel stalwart

Streeting is a longstanding member of Progress, a right-wing faction within Labour which continues to support former Prime Minister and war crimes suspect Tony Blair.

In 2009, when Streeting was president of the National Union of Students, he attended an anti-BDS working group in occupied Jerusalem.

The visit was organised by the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

Louise Ellman

Louise Ellman, Labour MP for Liverpool Riverside, is Chair of the Jewish Labour Movement and Vice-Chair of Labour Friends of Israel

Louise Ellman is a veteran rabid Zionist

Louise Ellman is a veteran rabid Zionist

She frequently appears on TV warning of Labour’s problem with “anti-Semitism”, without offering a shred of evidence.

In 2009, while the Gaza Strip was being destroyed by the Israeli Wehrmacht, she said at a pro-Israel rally: “We should stand together to stick up for Israel.” She said “nobody is entirely innocent” in Gaza, not even children.

A rabid warmonger, Ellman voted “very strongly for” the Iraq War, “very strongly against” an investigation into that war and “very strongly for” renewal of Trident, Britain’s nuclear weapons programme.

The biggest enemies of Jewish people

Ironically, by conflating Israel and “the Jews”, the smear mongers mentioned above are in fact among the biggest enemies of the Jewish people. As Jamie Stern-Weiner says,

When Israel’s hated prime minister declares himself ‘representative of the entire Jewish people’; when Israel’s apologists cast wholly legitimate criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic; and when leading Jewish communal organisations take every opportunity to come out in support of Israeli war crimes – in short, when Israel and its supporters systematically blur the boundary between Israel and Jews – they cannot complain if some people take them at their word.

So, if you are genuinely against racism – all forms of racism, including anti-Jewish racism – now is the time to take a stand against these bigoted stooges and pimps of Zionism.

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Corbyn victory unmasks Britain’s Guardian newspaper

The Guardian and Observer

By Jonathan Cook

In autumn 2002 Ed Vulliamy, a correspondent for Britain’s Observer newspaper, stumbled on a terrible truth that many of us already suspected.

In a world-exclusive, he persuaded Mel Goodman, a former senior Central Intelligence Agency official who still had security clearance, to go on record that the CIA knew there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Everything the US and British governments were telling us to justify the coming attack on Iraq were lies.

Then something even more extraordinary happened. The Observer failed to print the story.

In his book Flat Earth News, Nick Davies recounts that Vulliamy, one of the Observer’s most trusted reporters, submitted the piece another six times in different guises over the next half year. Each time the Observer spiked the story.

Vulliamy never went public with this monumental crime against real journalism (should there not be a section for media war crimes at the Hague?). The supposedly liberal-left Observer was never held accountable for the grave betrayal of its readership and the world community.

Turning the tables

But at the weekend maybe the tables turned a little. The Observer gave Vulliamy a platform in its comment pages to take issue with an editorial the previous week savaging Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Labour Party leader.

In understandably cautious mode, Vulliamy called the paper’s stance towards Corbyn “churlish”, warning that it had lost the chance to stand apart from the rest of the British media. All had taken vehemently against the new Labour leader from the very beginning of his candidacy.

“We conjoined the chorus with our own – admittedly more progressive – version of this obsession with electoral strategy with little regard to what Corbyn says about the principles of justice, peace and equality (or less inequality).”

In a few months Corbyn has endured more contempt from the fearless watchdogs of the left than the current Conservative prime minister, David Cameron, has suffered over many years..

What do these two confrontations between Vulliamy and the Observer –13 years apart; one public, one not – indicate about the changing status of the liberal-left media?

To understand what’s going on, we also need to consider the coverage of Corbyn in the Guardian, the better-known daily sister paper of the Observer.

All the Guardian’s inner circle of commentators, from Jonathan Freedland to Polly Toynbee, made public that they were dead against Corbyn from the moment he looked likely to win. When he served simply to justify claims that the Labour Party was a broad and tolerant church, these commentators were in favour of his standing. But as soon as he began to surge ahead, these same liberal-left pundits poured more scorn on him than they had reserved for any other party leader in living memory.

In a few months Corbyn has endured more contempt from the fearless watchdogs of the left than the current Conservative prime minister, David Cameron, has suffered over many years.

The Guardian’s news coverage, meanwhile, followed exactly the same antagonistic formula as that of the right-wing press: ignore the policy issues raised by Corbyn, concentrate on trivial or perceived personality flaws, and frame stories about him in establishment-friendly ways.

We have endured in the Guardian the same patently ridiculous, manufactured reports about Corbyn, portraying him as sexist, anti-Semitic, unpatriotic, and much more.

We could expect the rightiwing media to exploit every opportunity to try to discredit Corbyn, but looking at the talkbacks it was clear Guardian readers expected much more from their paper than simple-minded character assassination.

Red neo-liberals

The reality is that Corbyn poses a very serious challenge to supposedly liberal-left media like the Guardian and the Observer, which is why they hoped to ensure his candidacy was still-born and why, now he is leader, they are caught in a terrible dilemma.

While the Guardian and Observer market themselves as committed to justice and equality, but do nothing to bring them about apart from promoting tinkering with the present, hugely unjust, global neo-liberal order, Corbyn’s rhetoric suggests that the apple cart needs upending.

If it achieves nothing else, Corbyn’s campaign has highlighted a truth about the existing British political system: that, at least since the time of Tony Blair, the country’s two major parliamentary parties have been equally committed to upholding neo-liberalism. The Blue Neo-Liberal Party (the Conservatives) and the Red Neo-Liberal Party (Labour) mark the short horizon of current British politics. You can have either hardcore neo-liberalism or slightly more softcore neo-liberalism.

Corbyn is not just threatening to expose the sham of the Parliamentary Labour Party as a real alternative to the Conservatives, but the sham of Britain’s liberal-left media as a real alternative to the press barons.

Corbyn shows that there should be more to politics than this false choice, which is why hundreds of thousands of leftists flocked back to Labour in the hope of getting him elected. In doing so, they overwhelmed the parliamentary Labour Party (PLP), which vigorously opposed him becoming leader.

But where does this leave the Guardianand Observer, both of which have consistently backed “moderate” elements in the PLP? If Corbyn is exposing the PLP as the Red Neo-Liberal Party, what does that mean for the Guardian, the parliamentary party’s house paper?

Corbyn is not just threatening to expose the sham of the PLP as a real alternative to the Conservatives, but the sham of Britain’s liberal-left media as a real alternative to the press barons. Which is why the Freedlands and Toynbees – keepers of the Guardian flame, of its undeserved reputation as the left’s moral compass – demonstrated such instant antipathy to his sudden rise to prominence.

They and the paper followed the right-wing media in keeping the focus resolutely on Corbyn rather than recognising the obvious truth: this was about much more than one individual. The sudden outpouring of support for Corbyn reflected both an embrace of his authenticity and principles and a much more general anger at the injustices, inequalities and debasement of public life brought about by neo-liberalism.

Corbyn captured a mood, one that demands real, not illusory change. He is riding a wave, and to discredit Corbyn is to discredit that wave.

Character assassination

The Guardian and the Observer, complicit for so long with the Red Neo-Liberals led by Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband, thought they could kill off Corbyn’s campaign by joining in the general media bullying. They thought they could continue to police the boundaries of the political left – of what counts as credible on the left – and place Corbyn firmly outside those borders.

But he won even so – and with an enormous lead over his rivals. In truth, the Guardian’s character assassination of Corbyn, rather than discrediting him, served only to discredit the paper with its own readers.

Corbyn’s victory represented a huge failure not just for the political class in all its narrow neo-liberal variations, but also for the media class in all its narrow neo-liberal variations. It was a sign that the Guardian’s credibility with its own readers is steadily waning.

The talkback sections in the Guardian show its kneejerk belittling of Corbyn has inserted a dangerous seed of doubt in the minds of a proportion of its formerly loyal readers. Many of those hundreds of thousands of leftists who joined the Labour Party either to get Corbyn elected or to demonstrate their support afterwards are Guardian readers or potential readers. And the Guardian and Observer ridiculed them and their choice.

Media like the Guardian are tied by a commercial and ideological umbilical cord to a neo-liberal order a large swath of their readers are growing restless with or feel downright appalled by.

Belatedly the two papers are starting to sense their core readership feels betrayed. Vulliamy’s commentary should be seen in that light. It is not a magnanimous gesture by the Observer, or even an indication of its commitment to pluralism. It is one of the early indications of a desperate damage limitation operation.

We are likely to see more such “reappraisals” in the coming weeks, as the liberal-left media tries to salvage its image with its core readers.

This may not prove a fatal blow to the Guardian or the Observer but it is a sign of an accelerating trend for the old media generally and the liberal-left media more specifically.

Papers like the Guardian and the Observer no longer understand their readerships both because they no longer have exclusive control of their readers’ perceptions of what is true and because the reality – not least, polarising inequality and climate degradation – is becoming ever more difficult to soft-soap.

Media like the Guardian are tied by a commercial and ideological umbilical cord to a neo-liberal order a large swath of their readers are growing restless with or feel downright appalled by.

In 2003 the Observer knowingly suppressed the truth about Iraq and WMD to advance the case for an illegal, “preventive” war, one defined in international law as the supreme war crime.

At that time – digitally the equivalent of the Dark Ages compared to now – the paper just about managed to get away with its complicity in a crime against humanity. The Observer never felt the need to make real amends with Vulliamy or the readers it betrayed.

But in the age of a burgeoning new media, the Observer and Guardian are discovering that the rules are shifting dangerously under their feet. Corbyn is a loud messenger of that change.

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The dangerous cult of the Guardian

A thought police for the internet age

By Jonathan Cook

Jonathan Cook looks at how Britain’s Guardian newspaper is trying to maintain its role as gatekeeper of information and controller of public debate by vilifying, smearing and defaming those who test the bounds of permissible thought and challenge established truths, including musician and writer Gilad Atzmon, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, journalist John Pilger and academic Noam Chomsky.

There could be no better proof of the revolution – care of the internet – occurring in the accessibility of information and informed commentary than the reaction of our mainstream, corporate media.

For the first time, Western publics – or at least those who can afford a computer – have a way to bypass the gatekeepers of our democracies. Data our leaders once kept tightly under wraps can now be easily searched for, as can the analyses of those not paid to turn a blind eye to the constant and compelling evidence of Western hypocrisy. Wikileaks, in particular, has rapidly eroded the traditional hierarchical systems of information dissemination.

… it would be unwise to believe that the Guardian is … a free market in progressive or dissident ideas on the left. In fact, quite the contrary: the paper strictly polices what can be said and who can say it in its pages, for cynical reasons we shall come to.

The media – at least the supposedly left-wing component of it – should be cheering on this revolution, if not directly enabling it. And yet, mostly they are trying to co-opt, tame or subvert it. Indeed, progressive broadcasters and writers increasingly use their platforms in the mainstream to discredit and ridicule the harbingers of the new age.

A good case study is the Guardian, considered the most left-wing newspaper in Britain and rapidly acquiring cult status in the United States, where many readers tend to assume they are getting access through its pages to unvarnished truth and the full range of critical thinking on the left.

Certainly, the Guardian includes some fine reporting and occasionally insightful commentary. Possibly because it is farther from the heart of empire, it is able to provide a partial antidote to the craven coverage of the corporate-owned media in the US.

Nonetheless, it would be unwise to believe that the Guardian is therefore a free market in progressive or dissident ideas on the left. In fact, quite the contrary: the paper strictly polices what can be said and who can say it in its pages, for cynical reasons we shall come to.

Until recently, it was quite possible for readers to be blissfully unaware that there were interesting or provocative writers and thinkers who were never mentioned in the Guardian. And, before papers had online versions, the Guardian could always blame space constraints as grounds for not including a wider range of voices. That, of course, changed with the rise of the internet.

The Guardian’s unfree Comment is Free blog

…Comment is Free was never quite as free… Significant writers on the left, particularly those who were considered “beyond the pale” in the old media landscape, were denied access to this new ‘democratic’ platform. Others, myself included, quickly found there were severe and seemingly inexplicable limits on what could be said on CiF…

Early on, the Guardian saw the potential, as well as the threat, posed by this revolution. It responded by creating a seemingly free-for-all blog called Comment is Free to harness much of the raw energy unleashed by the internet. It recruited an army of mostly unpaid writers, activists and propagandists on both sides of the Atlantic to help brand itself as the epitome of democratic and pluralistic media.

From the start, however, Comment is Free was never quite as free – except in terms of the financial cost to the Guardian – as it appeared. Significant writers on the left, particularly those who were considered “beyond the pale” in the old media landscape, were denied access to this new “democratic” platform. Others, myself included, quickly found there were severe and seemingly inexplicable limits on what could be said on CiF (unrelated to issues of taste or libel).

None of this should matter. After all, there are many more places than CiF to publish and gain an audience. All over the web dissident writers are offering alternative analyses of current events, and drawing attention to the significance of information often ignored or sidelined by the corporate media.

Rather than relish this competition, or resign itself to the emergence of real media pluralism, however, the Guardian reverted to type. It again became the left’s thought police.

This time, however, it could not ensure that the “challenging left” would simply go unheard. The internet rules out the option of silencing by exclusion. So instead, it appears, it is using its pages to smear those writers who, through their own provocative ideas and analyses, suggest the Guardian’s tameness.

The Guardian’s discrediting of the “left” – the left being a concept never defined by the paper’s writers – is far from taking place in a fair battle of ideas. Not least the Guardian is backed by the huge resources of its corporate owners. When it attacks dissident writers, they can rarely, if ever, find a platform of equal prominence to defend themselves. And the Guardian has proved itself more than reluctant to allow a proper right of reply in its pages to those it maligns.

But also, and most noticeably, it almost never engages with these dissident writers’ ideas. In popular terminology, it prefers to play the man, not the ball. Instead it creates labels, from the merely disparaging to the clearly defamatory, that push these writers and thinkers into the territory of the unconscionable.

The Guardian’s attack on Gilad Atzmon “truly worthy of Pravda in its heyday”

A typical example of the Guardian’s new strategy was on show this week in an article in the print edition’s comment pages – also available online and a far more prestigious platform than CiF – in which the paper commissioned a socialist writer, Andy Newman, to argue that the Israeli Jewish musician Gilad Atzmon was part of an anti-semitic trend discernible on the left.

… the Guardian was happy to offer its imprimatur to Newman’s defamation of Atzmon, who was described as a conspiracy theorist “dripping with contempt for Jews”, despite an absence of substantiating evidence. Truly worthy of Pravda in its heyday.

Jonathan Freedland, the paper’s star columnist and resident obsessive on anti-Semitism, tweeted to his followers that the article was “important” because it was “urging the left to confront anti-Semitism in its ranks”.

I have no idea whether Atzmon has expressed anti-Semitic views – and I am none the wiser after reading Newman’s piece.

As is now typical in this new kind of Guardian character assassination, the article makes no effort to prove that Atzmon is anti-Semitic or to show that there is any topical or pressing reason to bring up his presumed character flaw. (In passing, the article made a similar accusation of anti-Semitism against Alison Weir of If Americans Knew, and against the Counterpunch website for publishing an article by her on Israel’s role in organ-trafficking.)

Atzmon has just published a book on Jewish identity, The Wandering Who?, that has garnered praise from respected figures such as Richard Falk, an emeritus law professor at Princeton, and John Mearsheimer, a distinguished politics professor at Chicago University.

But Newman did not critique the book, nor did he quote from it. In fact, he showed no indication that he had read the book or knew anything about its contents.

Instead Newman began his piece, after praising Atzmon’s musicianship, with an assumptive reference to his “anti-Semitic writings”. There followed a few old quotes from Atzmon, long enough to be intriguing but too short and out of context to prove his anti-Semitism – except presumably to the Guardian’sthought police and its most deferential readers.

The question left in any reasonable person’s mind is why dedicate limited commentary space in the paper to Atzmon? There was no suggestion of a newsworthy angle. And there was no case made to prove that Atzmon is actually anti-Semitic. It was simply assumed as a fact.

Atzmon, even by his own reckoning, is a maverick figure who has a tendency to infuriate just about everyone with his provocative, and often ambiguous, pronouncements. But why single him out and then suggest that he represents a discernible and depraved trend among the left?

Nonetheless, the Guardian was happy to offer its imprimatur to Newman’s defamation of Atzmon, who was described as a conspiracy theorist “dripping with contempt for Jews”, despite an absence of substantiating evidence. Truly worthy of Pravda in its heyday.

A hatchet job on Julian Assange

The Atzmon article appeared on the same day the Guardian carried out a similar hatchet job, this time on Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks. The paper published a book review of Assange’s “unauthorised autobiography” by the Guardian’s investigations editor, David Leigh.

That Leigh could be considered a reasonable choice for a review of the book – which he shamelessly pilloried – demonstrates quite how little the Guardian is prepared to abide by elementary principles of ethical journalism.

Leigh has his own book on the Guardian’s involvement with Wikileaks and Assange currently battling it out for sales in the bookshops. He is hardly a disinterested party.

But also, and more importantly, Leigh is clearly not dispassionate about Assange, any more than the Guardian is. The paper has been waging an all-but-declared war against Wikileaks since the two organizations fell out over their collaboration on publishing Wikileak’s trove of 250,000 classified US embassy cables. The feud, if the paper’s talkbacks are to be believed, has finally begun to test the patience of even some of the paper’s most loyal readers.

The low point in Leigh’s role in this saga was divulging in his own book a complex password Assange had created to protect a digital file containing the original and unedited embassy cables. Each was being carefully redacted before publication by several newspapers, including the Guardian.

This act of – in the most generous interpretation of Leigh’s behaviour – gross stupidity provided the key for every security agency in the world to open the file. Leigh has accused Wikileaks of negligence in allowing a digital copy of the file to be available. Whether true, his own role in the affair is far more inexcusable.

Even given his apparent ignorance of the digital world, Leigh is a veteran investigative reporter who must have known that revealing the password was foolhardy in the extreme. Not least, it clearly demonstrated how Assange formulates his passwords, and would provide important clues for hackers trying to open other protected Wikileaks documents.

…the paper lambasted the Wikileaks founder as an ‘information absolutist’ who was ‘flawed, volatile and erratic’, arguing that he had chosen to endanger informants named in the US cables by releasing the unredacted cache.

[But it] made no mention either of [its investigations editor David] Leigh’s role in revealing the password or of Wikileaks’ point that, following Leigh’s incompetence, every security agency and hacker in the world had access to the file’s contents.

His and the Guardian’s recklessness in disclosing the password was compounded by their negligent decision to contact neither Assange nor Wikileaks before publication of Leigh’s book to check whether the password was still in use.

After this shabby episode, one of many from the Guardian in relation to Assange, it might have been assumed that Leigh was considered an inappropriate person to comment in the Guardian on matters related to Wikileaks. Not so.

Instead the paper has been promulgating Leigh’s self-interested version of the story and regularly impugning Assange’s character. In a recent editorial, the paper lambasted the Wikileaks founder as an “information absolutist” who was “flawed, volatile and erratic”, arguing that he had chosen to endanger informants named in the US cables by releasing the unredacted cache.

However, the paper made no mention either of Leigh’s role in revealing the password or of Wikileaks’ point that, following Leigh’s incompetence, every security agency and hacker in the world had access to the file’s contents. Better, Wikileaks believed, to create a level playing field and allow everyone access to the cables, thereby letting informants know whether they had been named and were in danger.

Leigh’s abuse of his position is just one element in a dirty campaign by the Guardian to discredit Assange and, by extension, the Wikileaks project.

Some of this clearly reflects a clash of personalities and egos, but it also looks suspiciously like the feud derives from a more profound ideological struggle between the Guardian and Wikilieaks about how information should be controlled a generation hence. The implicit philosophy of Wikileaks is to promote an ever-greater opening up and equalization of access to information, while the Guardian, following its commercial imperatives, wants to ensure the gatekeepers maintain their control.

At least Assange has the prominent Wikileaks website to make sure his own positions and reasons are hard to overlook. Other targets of the Guardian are less fortunate.

George Monbiot’s and Nick Cohen’s smear and stigma tactics

George Monbiot, widely considered to be the Guardian’s most progressive columnist, has used his slot to attack a disparate group on the “left” who also happen to be harsh critics of the Guardian.

In a column in June he accused Ed Herman, a leading US professor of finance and a collaborator on media criticism with Noam Chomsky, and writer David Peterson of being “genocide deniers” over their research into events in Rwanda and Bosnia. The evidence was supposedly to be found in their joint book The Politics of Genocide, published last year, and in an online volume, The Srebrenica Massacre, edited by Herman.

In Chomsky’s view, even journalists like Monbiot are selected by the media for their ability to manufacture public consent for the maintenance of a system of Western political and economic dominance.

Implying that genocide denial was now a serious problem on the left, Monbiot also laid into journalist John Pilger for endorsing the book and a small website called Media Lens that dedicates itself to exposing the failings of the corporate media, including the work of the Guardian and Monbiot. Media Lens’s crime was to have argued that Herman and Peterson should be allowed to make their case about Rwanda and Bosnia, rather than be silenced as Monbiot appeared to prefer.

Monbiot also ensnared Chomsky in his criticism, castigating him for writing a foreword to one of the books.

Chomsky, it should be remembered, is co-author (with Herman) of Manufacturing Consent, a seminal book arguing that it is the role of the corporate media, including liberal media like the Guardian, to distort their readers’ understanding of world events to advance the interests of Western elites. In Chomsky’s view, even journalists like Monbiot are selected by the media for their ability to manufacture public consent for the maintenance of a system of Western political and economic dominance.

Possibly as a result of these ideas, Chomsky is a bete noire of the Guardianand its Sunday sister publication, the Observer.

He was famously vilified in 2005 by an up and coming Guardian feature writer, Emma Brockes – again on the issue of Srebrenica. Brockes’s report so wilfully mischaracterized Chomsky’s views (with quotes she could not substantiate after she apparently taped over her recording of the interview) that the Guardian was forced into a very reluctant “partial apology” under pressure from its readers’ editor. Over Chomsky’s opposition, the article was also erased from its archives.

Such scurrilous journalism should have ended a young journalist’s career at the Guardian. But ridiculing Chomsky is standard fare at the paper, and Brockes’s career as celebrity interviewer flourished, both at the Guardian and the New York Times.

Nick Cohen, another star columnist, this time at the Observer, found time to mention Chomsky recently, dismissing him and other prominent critical thinkers such as Tariq Ali, the late Harold Pinter, Arundhati Roy and Diana Johnstone as “West-hating”. He blamed liberals and the left for their “Chomskyan self-delusion”, and suggested many were “apologists for atrocities”.

Monbiot’s article followed in the same vein. He appeared to have a minimal grasp of the details of Herman’s and Peterson’s books. Much of his argument that Herman is a “genocide belittler” depends on doubts raised by a variety of experts in the Srebrenica book over the figure of 8,000 reported executions of Bosnian Muslims by Serb forces at Srebrenica. The authors suggest the number is not supported by evidence and might in fact be as low as 800.

Whether or not the case made by Ed Herman and his collaborators is convincing was beside the point in Monbiot’s article. He was not interested in exploring their arguments but in creating an intellectual no-go zone from which critical thinkers and researchers were barred – a sacred genocide.

Whether or not the case made by Herman and his collaborators is convincing was beside the point in Monbiot’s article. He was not interested in exploring their arguments but in creating an intellectual no-go zone from which critical thinkers and researchers were barred – a sacred genocide.

And to achieve this end, it was necessary to smear the two writers as genocide deniers and suggest that anyone else on the left who ventured on to the same territory would be similarly stigmatized.

Monbiot’s treatment of Herman and Peterson’s work was so slipshod and cavalier it is hard to believe that he was the one analysing their books.

To take just one example, Monbiot somehow appears to be unable to appreciate the careful distinction Herman’s book makes between an “execution” and a “death”, a vital differentiation in evaluating the Srebrenica massacre.

In the book, experts question whether all or most of the 8,000 Bosnian Muslims disinterred from graves at Srebrenica were victims of a genocidal plan by the Serbs, or casualties of bitter fighting between the two sides, or even some of them victims of a false-flag operation. As the book points out, a post-mortem can do many things but it cannot discern the identities or intentions of those who did the killing in Srebrenica.

The authors do not doubt that a massacre, or massacres, took place at Srebrenica. However, they believe we should not accept on trust that this was a genocide (a term defined very specifically in international law), or refuse to consider that the numbers may have been inflated to fit a political agenda.

This is not an idle or contrarian argument. As they make clear in their books, piecing together what really happened in Rwanda and Bosnia is vital if we are not to be duped by Western leaders into yet more humanitarian interventions whose goals are far from those claimed.

The fact that Monbiot discredited Herman and Peterson at a time when the Guardian’s reporting was largely cheering on the latest humanitarian intervention, in Libya, was all the more richly ironic.

So why do the Guardian and its writers publish these propaganda articles parading as moral concern about the supposedly degenerate values of the “left”? And why, if the left is in such a debased state, can the Guardian’s stable of talented writers not take on their opponents’ ideas without resorting to strawman arguments, misdirection and smears?

The writers, thinkers and activists targeted by the Guardian … share a talent for testing the bounds of permissible thought in creative ways that challenge and undermine established truths and … the “climate of assumptions” the Guardian has helped to create and sustain.

The writers, thinkers and activists targeted by the Guardian, though all of the left, represent starkly different trends and approaches – and some of them would doubtless vehemently oppose the opinions of others on the list.

But they all share a talent for testing the bounds of permissible thought in creative ways that challenge and undermine established truths and what I have termed elsewhere the “climate of assumptions” the Guardian has helped to create and sustain.

It hardly matters whether all or some of these critical thinkers are right. The danger they pose to the Guardian is in arguing convincingly that the way the world is presented to us is not the way it really is. Their very defiance, faced with the weight of a manufactured consensus, threatens to empower us, the reader, to look outside the restrictive confines of media orthodoxy.

The Guardian, like other mainstream media, is heavily invested – both financially and ideologically – in supporting the current global order. It was once able to exclude and now, in the internet age, must vilify those elements of the left whose ideas risk questioning a system of corporate power and control of which the Guardian is a key institution.

The paper’s role, like that of its right-wing cousins, is to limit the imaginative horizons of readers. While there is just enough left-wing debate to make readers believe their paper is pluralistic, the kind of radical perspectives needed to question the very foundations on which the system of Western dominance rests is either unavailable or is ridiculed.

Reading the Guardian, it is possible to believe that one of the biggest problems facing our societies – comparable to our compromised political elites, corrupt police authorities, and depraved financial system – is an array of mainly isolated dissidents and intellectuals on the left.

Is Atzmon and his presumed anti-Semitism more significant than AIPAC [the American Israel Public Affairs Committee]? Is Herman more of a danger than the military-industrial corporations killing millions of people around the globe? And is Assange more of a menace to the planet’s future than US President Barack Obama?

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Julian Assange and the fate of journalism

NOVANEWS
WikiLeaks

By Lawrence Davidson

Julian Assange

Julian Assange is the Australian founder of WikiLeaks, a website dedicated to the public’s right to know what governments and other powerful organisations are doing. WikiLeaks pursues this goal by posting revelatory documents, often acquired unofficially, that bring to light the criminal behaviour that results in wars and other man-made disasters. Because WikiLeaks’ very existence encourages “leaks”, government officials fear the website, and particularly dislike Julian Assange.

Essentially, WikiLeaks functions as a wholesale supplier of evidence. Having identified alleged official misconduct, WikiLeaks seeks to acquire and make public overwhelming amounts of evidence – sometimes hundreds of thousands of documents at a time – which journalists and other interested parties can draw upon. And since the individuals and organisations being investigated are ones ultimately responsible to the public, such a role as wholesale supplier of evidence can be seen as a public service.

Unfortunately, that is not how most government officials see the situation. They assert that government cannot be successful unless aspects of its behaviour are conducted in secret. The fact that those aspects in question thereby lose any accountable connection to the public is discounted. The assumption here is that most citizens simply trust their governments to act in their interests, including when they act clandestinely. Historically, such trust is dangerously naive. Often government officials, even the democratic ones, feel no obligation to their citizens in general, but rather only to special interests.

One reason for this is that large and bureaucratic institutions that last for any length of time have the tendency to become standalone institutions – ones with their own self-referencing cultures, loyalty to which comes to override any responsibility to outside groups other than those with particular shared interests. In other words, long-lasting institutions/bureaucracies take on a life of their own.

Thus, it should come as no surprise that many governments look upon WikiLeaks as a threat to institutional wellbeing. And so, in an effort to cripple WikiLeaks and have their revenge on Assange, the United States and the United Kingdom, with the cooperation of Sweden, first sought to frame Assange (2010) on a sexual assault charge. This having failed, Assange was still left liable for jumping bail in the UK in order to avoid seizure and deportation to the US, where he would certainly be put on trial for revealing secrets. He escaped to the Ecuadorian embassy in London (2012), where he was given asylum. As of this writing, he is still there. However, a recent change in government in Quito has led to discussions between Ecuador and the UK that may well lead to Assange’s eviction from the embassy.

The ideals of journalism

Some of the anger over Assange’s fate has been directed at the journalistic profession which he has sought to serve. After all, Assange has ardently supported the notions of free speech, free press and the public’s right to know. Nonetheless, as the documentary filmmaker John Pilger, a supporter of Assange, has noted,

@@There has been no pressure [in support of Assange] from media in the United States, Britain, Australia or pretty much anywhere except in [media] programmes… outside the mainstream… “The persecution of this man has been something that should horrify all free-thinking people.@@

He is quite right. Unfortunately, there never have been many brave free-thinkers about, so no one should be surprised at Assange’s poor prospects.

This brings up the difference between the ideals of the journalistic profession and the reality within which it operates. There is a model of journalism that presents it as a pillar of democracy. The journalist is a tough and persistent person who digs up facts, asks hard questions and explains the truth to his or her readers/viewers. Few seem to have noticed that, to the extent that this picture is accurate, the ideal model has alienated those readers/viewers who cannot tell the difference between “the truth” and their own opinions. Recently, this alienation has opened the entire media industry to the charge that it is really the “enemy of the people” because it peddles “fake news” – that is, news that belies one’s opinions.

To bring the idealistic journalist in line with real public expectations, editors put pressure on media workers to compromise their professional ideals. The result is most often manipulated reports aimed at fitting the particular outlook of the particular media operation’s target audience. Thus, it is simply wrong to think that, on the average, those who investigate, do research, write about things, and report through the various media are any braver or, ultimately, any more principled than the rest of the population. As Julien Benda showed us in his 1928 book, The Betrayal of the Intellectuals, while it is in fact the job of those who research and report to remain independent of the ideologies and biases of both their community and their government, the truth is that most often these people end up serving power. This is particularly the case when there is an atmosphere of patriotic fervor, or just plain pressure from sources that can hurt one’s career. At that point you will find that bravery does exist but it is the exception and not the rule – and the brave will, more often than not, stand alone.

That is what is happening in the case of Julian Assange. Many American news outlets are willing to selectively use the documented evidence made available by WikiLeaks. To do so is to draw on what the website has placed in the public domain. But they will not stand up and publicly defend the “whistleblower” who makes the information public. I imagine publishers, editors, and media moguls, and the vast majority of those they employ, just don’t have the courage to support the individual who breaks some unprincipled law or regulation designed to enforce silence in relation to official crimes and hypocrisy.

A shared problem

The United States is certainly not the only country facing this dilemma. To one extent or another this is a shared problem in all those lands claiming to have a free press. For example, a similar problem has long existed in Israel. Here one finds a whole ethnicity whose journalists are open to persecution.

Take the case of Omar Nazzal, a member of the board of the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate. In a 10 August 2016 report appearing in the online blog +972 Magazine, and entitled “Israeli journalists silent as their Palestinian colleagues are jailed”, we are told that Nazzal was taken into custody by Israeli forces in April 2016, without charges. Like Assange, there has been an attempt, after the fact, to claim that Nazzal is a criminal. The Shin Bet, one of those Israeli security forces that only the naive or venal take at face value, claims that he is a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which they consider to be a terrorist organisation. No proof of this charge has been publicly presented (Shin Bet claims the “proof” is secret) and Nazzal denies any affiliation. As it turns out, the real reason he was arrested somewhat parallels Assange’s activity. At the time of his seizure, Nazzal was on his way to Sarajevo for a meeting of the European Federation of Journalists. No doubt, the Israelis did not want him telling true, documentable, stories to an organisation of European journalists. Most Israeli Jewish journalists, like their American counterparts, remain silent. So do their respective publics.

Conclusion

One might ask just how seriously “the public” wants a media that tells them “the truth”. The most watched cable news channel in the US is Fox News, a media ally of Donald Trump that has no demonstrable interest in objective facts. It is more likely that Americans (and others) chose their news outlets on the basis of which one most often tells them what they want to hear – in other words, the search for “accurate” reporting is really driven by a desire for confirmation of bias.

Under these circumstances it is easy to understand why a for-profit media industry need not be beholden to the general citizenry or any ideal of supplying fact-based news. This situation puts truth tellers like Assange, and in the case of Israel, Omar Nazzal, in a bad position. They will have their defenders but they will be outside the mainstream – because truth itself is also outside the mainstream. That is their predicament, and ours as well.

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The UK’s hidden hand in Julian Assange’s detention

Julian Assange

Nazareth-based Jonathan Cook writes:

It now emerges that the last four years of Julian Assange’s effective imprisonment in the Ecuadorean embassy in London have been entirely unnecessary. In fact, they depended on a legal charade.

Behind the scenes, Sweden wanted to drop the extradition case against Assange back in 2013. Why was this not made public? Because Britain persuaded Sweden to pretend that they still wished to pursue the case.

In other words, for more than four years Assange has been holed up in a tiny room, policed at great cost to British taxpayers, not because of any allegations in Sweden but because the British authorities wanted him to remain there. On what possible grounds could that be, one has to wonder? Might it have something to do with his work as the head of Wikileaks, publishing information from whistleblowers that has severely embarrassed the United States and the UK.

In fact, Assange should have walked free years ago if this was really about an investigation – a sham one at that – into an alleged sexual assault in Sweden. Instead, as Assange has long warned, there is a very different agenda at work: efforts to extradite him onwards to the US, where he could be locked away for good. That was why UN experts argued two years ago that he was being “arbitrarily detained” – for political crimes – not unlike the situation of dissidents in other parts of the world that win the support of Western liberals and leftists.

According to a new, limited release of emails between officials, the Swedish director of public prosecutions, Marianne Ny, wrote to Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service on 18 October 2013, warning that Swedish law would not allow the case for extradition to be continued. This was, remember, after Sweden had repeatedly failed to take up an offer from Assange to interview him in London, as had happened in 44 other extradition cases between Sweden and Britain.

Ny wrote to the CPS:

We have found us to be obliged to lift the detention order… and to withdraw the European arrest warrant. If so, this should be done in a couple of weeks. This would affect not only us but you too in a significant way.

Three days later, suggesting that legal concerns were far from anyone’s mind, she emailed the CPS again: “I am sorry this came as a [bad] surprise… I hope I didn’t ruin your weekend.”

In a similar vein, proving that this was about politics, not the law, the chief CPS lawyer handling the case in the UK, had earlier written to the Swedish prosecutors: “Don’t you dare get cold feet!!!”

In December 2013, the unnamed CPS lawyer wrote again to Ny: “I do not consider costs are a relevant factor in this matter.” This was at a time when it had been revealed that the policing of Assange’s detention in the embassy had at that point cost Britain £3.8 million. In another email from the CPS, it was noted: “Please do not think this case is being dealt with as just another extradition.”

These are only fragments of the email correspondence, after most of it was destroyed by the CPS against its own protocols. The deletions appear to have been carried out to avoid releasing the electronic files to a tribunal that has been considering a freedom of information request.

Other surviving emails, according to a Guardian report last year, have shown that the CPS “advised the Swedes in 2010 or 2011 not to visit London to interview Assange. An interview at that time could have prevented the long-running embassy standoff.”

Assange is still holed up in the embassy, at great risk to his physical and mental health, even though last year Sweden formally dropped an investigation that in reality it had not actually been pursuing for more than four years.

Now the UK (read US) authorities have a new, even less credible pretext for continuing to hold Assange: because he “skipped bail”. Apparently, the price he should pay for this relatively minor infraction is more than five years of confinement…

Remember too that, according to the UK Foreign Office, Ecuador recently notified it that Assange had received diplomatic status following his successful application for Ecuadorean citizenship.

As former British ambassador Craig Murray has explained, the UK has no choice but to accept Assange’s diplomatic immunity. The most it can do is insist that he leave the country – something that Assange and Ecuador presumably each desire. And yet the UK continues to ignore its obligation to allow Assange his freedom to leave. So far there has been zero debate in the British corporate media about this fundamental violation of his rights.

One has to wonder at what point will most people realise that this is – and always was – political persecution masquerading as law enforcement.

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Guardian escalates its vilification of Julian Assange

Guardian and Assange

By Jonathan Cook

It is welcome that finally there has been a little pushback, including from leading journalists, to the Guardian’s long-running vilification of Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks.

Reporter Luke Harding’s latest article, claiming that Donald Trump’s disgraced former campaign manager Paul Manafort secretly visited Assange in Ecuador’s embassy in London on three occasions, is so full of holes that even hardened opponents of Assange in the corporate media are struggling to stand by it.

Faced with the backlash, the Guardian quickly – and very quietly – rowed backits initial certainty that its story was based on verified facts. Instead, it amended the text, without acknowledging it had done so, to attribute the claims to unnamed, and uncheckable, “sources”.

The propaganda function of the piece is patent. It is intended to provide evidence for long-standing allegations that Assange conspired with Trump, and Trump’s supposed backers in the Kremlin, to damage Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential race.

… damaging contents of the emails. show that [Democratic] Party bureaucrats sought to rig the primaries to make sure Clinton’s challenger for the Democratic nomination, Bernie Sanders, lost.

The Guardian’s latest story provides a supposedly stronger foundation for an existing narrative: that Assange and WikiLeaks knowingly published emails hacked by Russia from the Democratic Party’s servers. In truth, there is no public evidence that the emails were hacked, or that Russia was involved. Central actors have suggested instead that the emails were leaked from within the Democratic Party.

Nonetheless, this unverified allegation has been aggressively exploited by the Democratic leadership because it shifts attention away both from its failure to mount an effective electoral challenge to Trump and from the damaging contents of the emails. These show that party bureaucrats sought to rig the primaries to make sure Clinton’s challenger for the Democratic nomination, Bernie Sanders, lost.

To underscore the intended effect of the Guardian’s new claims, Harding even throws in a casual and unsubstantiated reference to “Russians” joining Manafort in supposedly meeting Assange.

Manafort has denied the Guardian’s claims, while Assange has threatened to sue the Guardian for libel.

“Responsible for Trump”

The emotional impact of the Guardian story is to suggest that Assange is responsible for four years or more of Trump rule. But more significantly, it bolsters the otherwise risible claim that Assange is not a publisher – and thereby entitled to the protections of a free press, as enjoyed by the Guardianor the New York Times – but the head of an organisation engaged in espionage for a foreign power.

The intention is to deeply discredit Assange, and by extension the WikiLeaks organisation, in the eyes of right-thinking liberals. That, in turn, will make it much easier to silence Assange and the vital cause he represents: the use of new media to hold to account the old, corporate media and political elites through the imposition of far greater transparency.

The Guardian story will prepare public opinion for the moment when Ecuador’s right-wing government under President Lenin Moreno forces Assange out of the embassy, having already withdrawn most of his rights to use digital media.

It will soften opposition when the UK moves to arrest Assange on self-serving bail violation charges and extradites him to the US. And it will pave the way for the US legal system to lock Assange up for a very long time.

  Assange and his supporters have been proved right once again. An administrative error this month revealed that the US justice department had secretly filed criminal charges against Assange.

For the best part of a decade, any claims by Assange’s supporters that avoiding this fate was the reason Assange originally sought asylum in the embassy was ridiculed by corporate journalists, not least at the Guardian.

Even when a United Nations panel of experts in international law ruled in 2016 that Assange was being arbitrarily – and unlawfully – detained by the UK, Guardian writers led efforts to discredit the UN report. See here and here.

Now Assange and his supporters have been proved right once again. An administrative error this month revealed that the US justice department had secretly filed criminal charges against Assange.

Heavy surveillance

The problem for the Guardian, which should have been obvious to its editors from the outset, is that any visits by Manafort would be easily verifiable without relying on unnamed “sources”.

Glenn Greenwald is far from alone in noting that London is possibly the most surveilled city in the world, with CCTV cameras everywhere. The environs of the Ecuadorian embassy are monitored especially heavily, with continuous filming by the UK and Ecuadorian authorities and most likely by the US and other actors with an interest in Assange’s fate.

The idea that Manafort or “Russians” could have wandered into the embassy to meet Assange even once without their trail, entry and meeting being intimately scrutinised and recorded is simply preposterous.

According to Greenwald:

If Paul Manafort… visited Assange at the embassy, there would be ample amounts of video and other photographic proof demonstrating that this happened. The Guardian provides none of that.

Former British ambassador Craig Murray also points out the extensive security checks insisted on by the embassy to which any visitor to Assange must submit. Any visits by Manafort would have been logged.

In fact, the Guardian obtained the embassy’s logs in May, and has never made any mention of either Manafort or “Russians” being identified in them. It did not refer to the logs in its latest story.

Murray says:

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

No fact-checking

It is worth noting it should be vitally important for a serious publication like the Guardian to ensure its claims are unassailably true – both because Assange’s personal fate rests on their veracity, and because, even more importantly, a fundamental right, the freedom of the press, is at stake.

Given this, one would have expected the Guardian’s editors to have insisted on the most stringent checks imaginable before going to press with Harding’s story. At a very minimum, they should have sought out a response from Assange and Manafort before publication. Neither precaution was taken.

I worked for the Guardian for a number of years, and know well the layers of checks that any highly sensitive story has to go through before publication. In that lengthy process, a variety of commissioning editors, lawyers, backbench editors and the editor herself, Kath Viner, would normally insist on cuts to anything that could not be rigorously defended and corroborated.

It appears the Guardian has simply taken this story, provided by spooks, at face value. Even if it later turns out that Manafort did visit Assange, the Guardian clearly had no compelling evidence for its claims when it published them.

And yet this piece seems to have been casually waved through, given a green light even though its profound shortcomings were evident to a range of well-placed analysts and journalists from the outset.

That at the very least hints that the Guardian thought they had “insurance” on this story. And the only people who could have promised that kind of insurance are the security and intelligence services – presumably of Britain, the United States and / or Ecuador.

It appears the Guardian has simply taken this story, provided by spooks, at face value. Even if it later turns out that Manafort did visit Assange, the Guardianclearly had no compelling evidence for its claims when it published them. That is profoundly irresponsible journalism – fake news – that should be of the gravest concern to readers.

A pattern, not an aberration

Despite all this, even analysts critical of the Guardian’s behaviour have shown a glaring failure to understand that its latest coverage represents not an aberration by the paper but decisively fits with a pattern.

Glenn Greenwald, who once had an influential column in the Guardian until an apparent, though unacknowledged, falling out with his employer over the Edward Snowden revelations, wrote a series of baffling observations about the Guardian’s latest story.

First, he suggested it was simply evidence of the Guardian’s long-standing (and well-documented) hostility towards Assange.

The Guardian, an otherwise solid and reliable paper, has such a pervasive and unprofessionally personal hatred for Julian Assange that it has frequently dispensed with all journalistic standards in order to malign him.

It was also apparently evidence of the paper’s clickbait tendencies:

They [Guardian editors] knew that publishing this story would cause partisan warriors to excitedly spread the story, and that cable news outlets would hyperventilate over it, and that they’d reap the rewards regardless of whether the story turned out to be true or false.

And finally, in a bizarre tweet, Greenwald opined, “I hope the story [maligning Assange] turns out true” – apparently because maintenance of the Guardian’sreputation is more important than Assange’s fate and the right of journalists to dig up embarrassing secrets without fear of being imprisoned.

Deeper malaise

What this misses is that the Guardian’s attacks on Assange are not exceptional or motivated solely by personal animosity. They are entirely predictable and systematic. Rather than being the reason for the Guardian violating basic journalistic standards and ethics, the paper’s hatred of Assange is a symptom of a deeper malaise in the Guardian and the wider corporate media.

Even aside from its decade-long campaign against Assange, the Guardian is far from “solid and reliable”, as Greenwald claims. It has been at the forefront of the relentless, and unhinged, attacks on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for prioritising the rights of Palestinians over Israel’s right to continue its belligerent occupation. Over the past three years, the Guardian has injected credibility into the Israel lobby’s desperate efforts to tar Corbyn as an anti-semite. See herehere and here.

Similarly, the Guardian worked tirelessly to promote Clinton and undermine Sanders in the 2016 Democratic nomination process – another reason the paper has been so assiduous in promoting the idea that Assange, aided by Russia, was determined to promote Trump over Clinton for the presidency.

The Guardian’s coverage of Latin America, especially of populist left-wing governments that have rebelled against traditional and oppressive US hegemony in the region, has long grated with analysts and experts. Its especial venom has been reserved for left-wing figures like Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, democratically elected but official enemies of the US, rather than the region’s right-wing authoritarians beloved of Washington.

The Guardian has been vocal in the so-called “fake news” hysteria, decrying the influence of social media, the only place where left-wing dissidents have managed to find a small foothold to promote their politics and counter the corporate media narrative.

The Guardian has painted social media chiefly as a platform overrun by Russian trolls, arguing that this should justify ever-tighter restrictions that have so far curbed critical voices of the dissident left more than the right.

Heroes of the neoliberal order

Equally, the Guardian has made clear who its true heroes are. Certainly not Corbyn or Assange, who threaten to disrupt the entrenched neoliberal order that is hurtling us towards climate breakdown and economic collapse.

Its pages, however, are readily available to the latest effort to prop up the status quo from Tony Blair, the man who led Britain, on false pretences, into the largest crime against humanity in living memory – the attack on Iraq.

That “humanitarian intervention” cost the lives of many hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and created a vacuum that destabilised much of the Middle East, sucked in Islamic jihadists like Al-Qaeda and Islamic State group, and contributed to the migrant crisis in Europe that has fuelled the resurgence of the far-right. None of that is discussed in the Guardian or considered grounds for disqualifying Blair as an arbiter of what is good for Britain and the world’s future.

The Guardian also has an especial soft spot for blogger Elliot Higgins, who, aided by the Guardian, has shot to unlikely prominence as a self-styled “weapons expert”. Like Luke Harding, Higgins invariably seems ready to echo whatever the British and American security services need verifying “independently”.

Higgins and his well-staffed website Bellingcat have taken on for themselves the role of arbiters of truth on many foreign affairs issues, taking a prominent role in advocating for narratives that promote US and NATO hegemony while demonising Russia, especially in highly contested arenas such as Syria.

That clear partisanship should be no surprise, given that Higgins now enjoys an “academic” position at, and funding from, the Atlantic Council, a high-level, Washington-based think-tank founded to drum up support for NATO and justify its imperialist agenda.

Improbably, the Guardian has adopted Higgins as the poster-boy for a supposed citizen journalism it has sought to undermine as “fake news” whenever it occurs on social media without the endorsement of state-backed organisations.

The truth is that the Guardian has not erred in this latest story attacking Assange, or in its much longer-running campaign to vilify him. With this story, it has done what it regularly does when supposedly vital Western foreign policy interests are at stake – it simply regurgitates an elite-serving, Western narrative.

Its job is to shore up a consensus on the left for attacks on leading threats to the existing, neoliberal order: whether they are a platform like WikiLeaks promoting whistle-blowing against a corrupt Western elite; or a politician like Jeremy Corbyn seeking to break apart the status quo on the rapacious financial industries or Israel-Palestine; or a radical leader like Hugo Chavez who threatened to overturn a damaging and exploitative US dominance of “America’s backyard”; or social media dissidents who have started to chip away at the elite-friendly narratives of corporate media, including the Guardian.

The Guardian did not make a mistake in vilifying Assange without a shred of evidence. It did what it is designed to do.

Posted in Media, UKComments Off on Guardian escalates its vilification of Julian Assange

After seven years of deceptions about Assange, the US readies for its first media rendition

Persecution of Julian Assange

By Jonathan Cook

For seven years, from the moment Julian Assange first sought refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy in London, they have been telling us we were wrong, that we were paranoid conspiracy theorists. We were told there was no real threat of Assange’s extradition to the United States, that it was all in our fevered imaginations.

For seven years, we have had to listen to a chorus of journalists, politicians and “experts” telling us that Assange was nothing more than a fugitive from justice, and that the British and Swedish legal systems could be relied on to handle his case in full accordance with the law. Barely a “mainstream” voice was raised in his defence in all that time.

Disinformation

From the moment he sought asylum, Assange was cast as an outlaw. His work as the founder of WikiLeaks – a digital platform that for the first time in history gave ordinary people a glimpse into the darkest recesses of the most secure vaults in the deepest of Deep States – was erased from the record.

Assange was reduced from one of the few towering figures of our time – a man who will have a central place in history books, if we as a species live long enough to write those books – to nothing more than a sex pest, and a scruffy bail-skipper.

The political and media class crafted a narrative of half-truths about the sex charges Assange was under investigation for in Sweden. They overlooked the fact that Assange had been allowed to leave Sweden by the original investigator, who dropped the charges, only for them to be revived by another investigator with a well-documented political agenda.

They failed to mention that Assange was always willing to be questioned by Swedish prosecutors in London, as had occurred in dozens of other cases involving extradition proceedings to Sweden. It was almost as if Swedish officials did not want to test the evidence they claimed to have in their possession.

The media and political courtiers endlessly emphasised Assange’s bail violation in the UK, ignoring the fact that asylum seekers fleeing legal and political persecution don’t usually honour bail conditions imposed by the very state authorities from which they are seeking asylum.

The political and media establishment ignored the mounting evidence of a secret grand jury in Virginia formulating charges against Assange, and ridiculed WikiLeaks’ concerns that the Swedish case might be cover for a more sinister attempt by the US to extradite Assange and lock him away in a high-security prison, as had happened to whistleblower Chelsea Manning.

They belittled the 2016 verdict of a panel of United Nations legal scholars that the UK was “arbitrarily detaining” Assange. The media were more interested in the welfare of his cat.

They ignored the fact that after Ecuador changed presidents – with the new one keen to win favour with Washington – Assange was placed under more and more severe forms of solitary confinement. He was denied access to visitors and basic means of communications, violating both his asylum status and his human rights, and threatening his mental and physical wellbeing.

Equally, they ignored the fact that Assange had been given diplomatic status by Ecuador, as well as Ecuadorean citizenship. Britain was obligated to allow him to leave the embassy, using his diplomatic immunity, to travel unhindered to Ecuador. No “mainstream” journalist or politician thought this significant either.

They turned a blind eye to the news that, after refusing to question Assange in the UK, Swedish prosecutors had decided to quietly drop the case against him in 2015. Sweden had kept the decision under wraps for more than two years.

British chicanery

It was a freedom of information request by an ally of Assange, not a media outlet, that unearthed documents showing that Swedish investigators had, in fact, wanted to drop the case against Assange back in 2013. The UK, however, insisted that they carry on with the charade so that Assange could remain locked up. A British official emailed the Swedes: “Don’t you dare get cold feet!!!”

Most of the other documents relating to these conversations were unavailable. They had been destroyed by the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service in violation of protocol. But no one in the political and media establishment cared, of course.

Similarly, they ignored the fact that Assange was forced to hole up for years in the embassy, under the most intense form of house arrest, even though he no longer had a case to answer in Sweden. They told us – apparently in all seriousness – that he had to be arrested for his bail infraction, something that would normally be dealt with by a fine.

This was never about Sweden or bail violations, or even about the discredited Russiagate narrative… It was about the US Deep State doing everything in its power to crush WikiLeaksand make an example of its founder.

And possibly most egregiously of all, most of the media refused to acknowledge that Assange was a journalist and publisher, even though by failing to do so they exposed themselves to the future use of the same draconian sanctions should they or their publications ever need to be silenced. They signed off on the right of the US authorities to seize any foreign journalist, anywhere in the world, and lock him or her out of sight. They opened the door to a new, special form of rendition for journalists.

This was never about Sweden or bail violations, or even about the discredited Russiagate narrative, as anyone who was paying the vaguest attention should have been able to work out. It was about the US Deep State doing everything in its power to crush WikiLeaks and make an example of its founder.

It was about making sure there would never again be a leak like that of Collateral Murder, the military video released by Wikileaks in 2007 that showed US soldiers celebrating as they murdered Iraqi civilians. It was about making sure there would never again be a dump of US diplomatic cables, like those released in 2010 that revealed the secret machinations of the US empire to dominate the planet whatever the cost in human rights violations.

Naked truth

Now the pretence is over. The British police invaded the diplomatic territory of Ecuador – invited in by Ecuador after it tore up Assange’s asylum status – to smuggle him off to jail. Two vassal states cooperating to do the bidding of the US empire. The arrest was not to help two women in Sweden or to enforce a minor bail infraction.

No, the British authorities were acting on an extradition warrant from the US. And the charges the US authorities have concocted relate to WikiLeaks’ earliest work exposing the US military’s war crimes in Iraq – the stuff that we all once agreed was in the public interest, that British and US media clamoured to publish themselves.

There will be no indignation at the BBC, or the Guardian, or CNN. Just curious, impassive – even gently mocking – reporting of Assange’s fate.

Still the media and political class is turning a blind eye. Where is the outrage at the lies we have been served up for these past seven years? Where is the contrition at having been gulled for so long? Where is the fury at the most basic press freedom – the right to publish – being trashed to silence Assange? Where is the willingness finally to speak up in Assange’s defence?

It’s not there. There will be no indignation at the BBC, or the Guardian, or CNN. Just curious, impassive – even gently mocking – reporting of Assange’s fate.

And that is because these journalists, politicians and experts never really believed anything they said. They knew all along that the US wanted to silence Assange and to crush WikiLeaks. They knew that all along and they didn’t care. In fact, they happily conspired in paving the way for the kidnapping of Assange.

They did so because they are not there to represent the truth, or to stand up for ordinary people, or to protect a free press, or even to enforce the rule of law. They don’t care about any of that. They are there to protect their careers, and the system that rewards them with money and influence. They don’t want an upstart like Assange kicking over their applecart.

Now they will spin us a whole new set of deceptions and distractions about Assange to keep us anaesthetised, to keep us from being incensed as our rights are whittled away, and to prevent us from realising that Assange’s rights and our own are indivisible. We stand or fall together.

Posted in USA, Ecuador, UKComments Off on After seven years of deceptions about Assange, the US readies for its first media rendition

The media smoothed the path to British soldiers using Corbyn as target practice

British soldiers using Corbyn as target practice

By Jonathan Cook

It is time to stop believing these infantile narratives the British political and media establishments have crafted for us. Like the one in which they tell us they care deeply about the state of political life, and that they lie awake at night worrying about the threat posed by populism to our democratic institutions.

How do they persuade us of the depth of their concern? They express their horror at the murder of an MP, Jo Cox, and their outrage at the abuse of another, Anna Soubry – both victims of the frenzied passions unleashed by Brexit.

But the political and media elites don’t really care whether politicians are assaulted, vilified or threatened – at least, not if it is the kind of politician who threatens their power. They aren’t seriously worried about attacks on democracy, or about political violence, or about the rottenness at the core of state institutions. Their outrage is selective. It is rooted not in principle, but in self-interest.

Is that too cynical? Ponder this.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn hasn’t faced just shouted insults from afar, like Soubry. He was recently physically assaulted, hit on the head by a man holding an egg in his fist. But unlike Soubry, our media expressed no real concern. In fact, they could barely hide their sniggers at his “egging”, an attack they presented as little more than a prank. They even hinted that Corbyn deserved it.

“Kill vampire Jezza”

The media have been only happy too to vilify Corbyn as a Kremlin stooge and a former Soviet spy. Senior Tory Iain Duncan Smith called Corbyn “a Marxist whose sole purpose in life is to do real damage to the country” – a remark that, as ever went, entirely unchallenged by the BBC interviewer giving him a platform. Just imagine a Labour MP being allowed to accuse Theresa May of being a fascist whose only goal is to destroy the country.

But the BBC has never bothered to conceal its intense dislike of Corbyn. Its news shows have even photoshopped the Labour leader to make him look “Russian” – or “more Russian”, as the BBC and the rest of the media mischievously phrased it. Those who protested were told they were reading too much into it. They needed to lighten up and not take themselves so seriously.

Senior Conservatives, including the former defence secretary, Michael Fallon, have regularly portrayed Corbyn as a threat to national security, especially over concerns about the Trident nuclear missile system. Many senior members of Corbyn’s own party have echoed such smears – all amplified, of course, by the media.

Those who suggested that the government and media needed to engage with Corbyn’s well-grounded doubts about the safety of nuclear weapons, or the economics and practicalities of the Trident programme, were derided – like Corbyn – as “pacifists” and “traitors”.

And the mood music to these political clashes was the quite literal demonisation of Corbyn by the red-top dailies. Most famously, the Daily Mail photoshopped him as Dracula, above the headline: “Labour must KILL vampire Jezza.”

Degraded political culture

Then Corbyn became the target of another sustained smear campaign. It was claimed that this lifelong, very public anti-racism activist – who over decades had forged strong ties to sections of the British Jewish community, despite being a steadfast critic of Israel – was a secret anti-Semite, or at best providing succour to anti-Semites as they overran the Labour Party.

Was there any factual basis or evidence for these claims? No. But the British public was assured by right-wing Jews like the Board of Deputies of British Jews and by “left-wing” Jewish supporters of Israel like Jonathan Freedland that evidence wasn’t necessary, that they had a sixth sense for these things.

Corbyn’s supporters were told that they should not question the wildly inflammatory and evidence-free denunciations of Corbyn and the wider Labour membership for a supposed “institutional anti-Semitism” – and, with a satisfyingly circular logic, that to do so was itself proof of anti-Semitism.

The weaponisation of anti-Semitism through political spin by Corbyn’s political enemies, including the Blairite faction of the parliamentary Labour Party, was and is a dangerous assault on public life, one that has very obviously degraded Britain’s political culture.

Too toxic to lead Labour

The smear was meant to override the membership’s wishes and make Corbyn too toxic to lead Labour.

It has also politicised the anti-Semitism allegation, weakening it for a section of the population, and irresponsibly inflaming fears among other sections. It has deflected attention from the very real threat of a rising tide of right-wing racism, both Islamophobia and the kind of anti-Semitism that relates to Jews, not Israel.

Then, there was the serving British general who was given a platform by the Sunday Times – anonymously, of course – to accuse Corbyn of being a threat to Britain’s security. The general warned that the army’s senior command would never allow Corbyn near Number 10. They would launch a coup first.

But no one in the corporate media or the political establishment thought the interview worthy of much attention, or demanded an investigation to find out which general had threatened to overturn the democratic will of the people. The story was quickly dropped down the memory hole. Those who sought to draw attention to it were told to move on, that there was nothing to see.

And now, this week, footage has emerged showing British soldiers – apparently taking their commanders’ expressed wishes more seriously than the media – using a poster of Corbyn as target practice out in Afghanistan.

Questioning “security credentials”

Do the media and politicians really care about any of this? Are they concerned, let alone as outraged as they were at Soubry’s earlier discomfort at the verbal abuse she faced? Do they understand the seriousness of this threat to British political life, to the safety of the leader of the opposition, they themselves have stoked?

The signs are still far from reassuring. Theresa May did not think it worth using prime minister’s questions to condemn the video, to send an unequivocal message that Britain’s political choices would never be decided by violence. No one else in the chamber apparently thought to raise the matter either.

Sky News even used the footage to question yet again Corbyn’s “security credentials”, as though the soldiers might thereby have grounds for treating him as a legitimate target.

The clues as to where all this is leading are not hard to fathom. The white nationalist who drove into a crowd outside Finsbury Park mosque in London in 2017, killing a worshipper, admitted at his trial that the real target had been Corbyn. An unexpected roadblock foiled his plans.

The fact is that no one in the political or media class cares much whether their constant trivialising of Corbyn’s political programme degrades British political life, or whether their smears could lead to political violence, or whether four years of their incitement might encourage someone to use more than an egg and a fist against Corbyn.

So let’s stop indulging the media and politicians as they cite Jo Cox’s murder and Anna Soubry’s intimidation as evidence of their democratic sensibilities and their commitment to political principle.

The truth is they are charlatans. They will use anything – from the murder of an MP to confections of anti-Semitism and smears about treason – to incite against a democratic politician who threatens their domination of the political system.

It is their refusal to engage with a political argument they know they will lose, and to allow a democratic process to take place that they fear will produce the “wrong” result, that is setting the scene for greater polarisation and frustration. And ultimately for more violence.

Posted in UKComments Off on The media smoothed the path to British soldiers using Corbyn as target practice


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