Author: Daniel Margrain

I graduated in 2001 with an Upper Second Class Honours degree in Human Geography and Social Policy. I then successfully completed my masters in Globalisation, Culture and the City at Goldsmiths, London. I am a massive fan of the musician Neil Young. My favourite book is Murder In Samarkand by Craig Murray. My favourite album is Van Morrison's Astral Weeks and my favourite film is Giuseppe Tornatore's Cinema Paradiso. I have traveled widely and fell in love with Cuba and Madagascar. My other interests include politics and current affairs and social and urban theory.

Correcting Tyranny

By Daniel Margrain

Under the 1st and 14th amendments to the United States Constitution it is possible, under the auspices of  freedom of religion provisions, to obtain equal recognition for any proposed “religion” upon the payment of a nominal fee. A few US states have offered ordination by mail or on-line of The Church of the Latter-Day Dude and the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster as a result of their adherents’ willingness to stump up the requisite cash.

These, and other parody religions have also sought the same reasonable accommodation legally afforded to mainstream religions, including religious-specific garb or headgear. One approach to parody religion is to place the kinds of critical demands on it as one would do in relation to other issues in order to highlight its deficiencies.

This was clearly the aim of the groups above who used their right to freedom of expression under the US Constitution in support of a parody so as to expose the flaws in the original argument. If the right not to be offended can be codified in law as a result of parodying aspects of orthodox religious dogma, then it logically follows, believers in the existence of the Flying Spaghetti Monster or the congregation of the Church of the Latter-Day Dude also should have their right “not to be offended” codified in law.

Satirists and others who believe in freedom of speech, actively embrace both their right to be offended and to offend the belief systems of others unhindered. One of my earliest memories of having my right to be offended and to offend curtailed was when, in their infinite wisdom, Torbay Borough Council and thirty-eight others throughout the UK decided to ban the Monty Python religious comedy satire, The Life of Brian, from cinema’s on the basis that it was deemed by a small minority to have been “blasphemous”.

Following the films release in 1979, I walked 6 miles to a cinema in Newton Abbot in the rain to watch it. Incredibly, the ban in Torbay continued until 2008 after the Council finally permitted the film to be shown after it won an online vote for the English Riviera International Comedy Film Festival. Perhaps more importantly still, the film was shunned by the BBC and ITV, who declined to show it for fear of offending Christians in the UK. Blasphemy was restrained – or its circulation effectively curtailed – not by the force of law “but by the internalization of this law.” (p.27).

Almost a decade after the controversy surrounding The Life of Brian, orthodox religion was again the catalyst behind the attempt to censor art. The Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie’s fourth novel, first published in 1988, was inspired in part by the life of Muhammad. As with his previous books, Rushdie used magical realism and relied on contemporary events and people to create his characters. The title which refers to a group of Quranic verses is based on the historical interpretations of events by the scholars al-Waqidi and al-Tabari

Many Muslims accused Rushdie of blasphemy and subsequently engaged in a number of book burning exercises throughout the UK. In mid-February 1989, following a violent riot against the book in Pakistan, the Ayatollah Khomeini, then Supreme Leader of Iran and a Shi’a Muslim scholar, issued a fatwa against Rushdie and his publishers.

Disgraced British parliamentarian, Keith Vaz, who led a march through Leicester shortly after he was elected in 1989, rallied behind India’s decision to ban the book by calling for the same in the UK. To date, with police protection, Rushdie has escaped direct physical harm. However, forty-one others associated with his book have either been murdered or have suffered violent attacks leading to serious, and in some cases, life threatening injuries.

Islamic fundamentalism was again to play a part in regards to its opposition to the French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo. The publication, which featured cartoons, reports, polemics, and irreverent jokes, was the target of two terrorist attacks, in 2011 and 2015 in response to a number of controversial cartoons it published of the prophet. In the second of these attacks, 12 people were killed, including the magazines publishing director and several other prominent cartoonists.

On Christmas Day, 2015, Jewish comic, Sarah Silverman caused controversy after she had tweeted to her 7.5 million followers ‘MERRY CHRISTMAS! Jesus was gender fluid!’. The joke triggered a fierce backlash online from Christians who were outraged at the suggestions that their Lord and Saviour identified as both male and female.

Meanwhile, in France, public officials, Jewish groups and others have attempted to censor the satirist, political activist and comedian Diedonne M’bala M’bala, who created and popularized the quenelle gesture in 2005. These groups have interpreted the quenelle as an inverted Nazi salute, while others view it as antisemitic and have sought to ban it.

Professional footballer Nicolas Anelka was fined and banned after he used the quenelle salute during a match, while British musician, Alison Chabloz made headlines after she was photographed doing a quenelle pose following the banning of her show at the Edinburgh festival on the grounds her material was deemed to have been antisemitic.

In her recent blog article entitled, A Song Is Not A Crime, Chabloz recounts her alleged harassment at the hands of supposed anti-racists. The musician and satirist currently faces a criminal conviction for malicious communications for two of her songs, allegedly on the basis of evidence supplied to the Crown Prosecution Service by members of the Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA), Gideon Falter and Stephen Silverman.

As I previously stated, the CAA are in reality a pro-Zionist and Israeli front organisation whose role is to characterize anybody who opposes the State of Israel – particularly anti-Zionist activists and Corbyn supporters – as antisemites. In addition to chairing the organisation, Falter is a board member of the Jewish National Fund which has a long history of supporting ethnic cleansing in Palestine.

The notion the UK is awash with antisemites serves a political and ideological purpose. The promotion of the idea that Jews within the diaspora are under threat of antisemitism, intimidation and violence is intended to encourage their emigration to Israel, thereby helping to further reinforce Zionism’s role as Israel’s state ideology.

Jewish fundamentalist groups like the CAA and others need “antisemitism” to flourish in order to justify their continued government funding. I, myself, have recently been subject to the iron fist of the pro-Israel lobby following Jeremy Corbyn’s recent capitulation in response to the CAAs political weaponization of antisemitism.

My application to join the Labour Party was rejected on the basis of an opinion piece  I wrote in which I supposedly used “anti-Semitic language, including the use of ‘Zionist’ as a term of abuse and indicated support for a candidate other than the Labour Party candidate” at the last election. I’ll leave it the followers of this blog to decide whether this is an accurate characterization of my article.

The smears and attacks by the Israel lobby on anti-Zionist activists and campaigning journalists such as Mike Sivier, Dinah Mullholland, Rebecca Massey, Ken Livingstone, Shami Chakrabarti, Jackie Walker and Craig Murray, is indicative of a McCarthyite attack on freedom of speech, whether that be through the medium of satire and the performing arts or through political writing in blogs like this.

It’s worth pointing out that the latter individual is currently being sued by the lawyer Mark Lewis for libel in the High Court in England on behalf of the Zionist, Jake Wallis Simons, Associate Editor of the Daily Mail Online. It was Mr Murray’s Sky TV appearance which led to the libel action against him.

Mr Wallis Simons boasts on his website:

“In 2015, I published a series of articles exposing Jeremy Corbyn’s links with anti-Semitic figures, and this led to what is now known as the “Labour anti-Semitism scandal.”

In an interview, Mark Lewis characterizes opponents of Israel such as Mr Murray as “Nazis” and opines “I am quite happy to take their homes off them… at least they can be a homeless Nazi.”

Mr Murray has stated on his blog that he cannot afford to defend himself against the charges made against him. I implore all those who care about freedom of speech to dig deep and donate to Mr Murray’s defence fund. The stakes for the rest of us couldn’t be higher.

Ultimately, in terms of whether myself or others agree with the views of the likes of Mr Murray or Ms Chabloz is neither here nor there. For the record, I strongly support Murray’s stance on Israel and fundamentally disagree with Ms Chabloz’s Holocaust “revisionist” views. The latter is as insane as claiming the earth is flat, or the twin towers on 9/11 were brought down by controlled explosives.

The point is, though, the ability to be able to circulate ideas that some extremely rich and powerful people deem to be uncomfortable, should not be the reason for these ideas to be suppressed. The disproportionate and widely discredited UK libel law is increasingly being used by rich people against poor people for this reason.

The great musician and satirist, Frank Zappa, believed rightly, that no barrier, however “offensive”, should be placed in the way of freedom of expression. Zappa’s targets were everything and everybody from religion, politicians and corporations through to “Catholic girls”, “Jewish princesses”, “valley girls”, black people, white people and ideologies and dogmas of all kinds. He showed no mercy for the human race and regularly exposed hypocrisy at every turn. This is the spirit of freedom and openness that we should all aspire to but which religious dogmas and political ideologies often try to suppress.

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Believing in Miracles

By Daniel Margrain

Bob Dylan once said “every pleasure’s got an edge of pain, pay your ticket and don’t complain.” Following my previous article about WTC building 7 [1], I promised to myself I wouldn’t write another word about the subject, but the temptation turned out to be too much – not that I’m complaining. Like a gambling addict, I can’t resist the temptation to feed the slot machine one more coin in my attempt to persuade others to see reason, particularly as the debate about what happened that fateful day on September 11, 2001, has once again surfaced in light of its recent anniversary.

Official narrative

The gist of the broad official narrative is that on the morning of September 11, 2001, 19 men, mostly from Saudi Arabia – under the auspices of Osama bin Laden – hijacked four planes out of Boston, New York City, and Washington, DC, and without giving away their intentions redirected the planes on kamikaze missions towards four American landmarks on the east coast — the Twin Towers of the WTC in New York, the Pentagon, and an unknown fourth location theorized by some to have been the White House or the Capitol building (the last plane was brought down through passenger interference, in an open field outside of Shanksville, Pennsylvania).

The attacks resulted in the complete collapse of the World Trade Center twin towers in New York City (now known as Ground Zero), heavy damage to one side of the Pentagon and the deaths of just under 3000 people, some 400 of whom were police and firefighters [2].

This narrative seems highly plausible. Indeed, all alternative versions would appear to have been debunked and rebutted [3], [4], [5], [6][7]  Commenting on the notion 9/11 was an ‘inside job’, Noam Chomsky said:

“The Bush administration would have had to have been insane to plan anything like that. If it had, it is almost certain it would have leaked…It’s a very porous system. Secrets are very hard to keep. You couldn’t control an event like that. It’s very unpredictable.”

Chomsky continued:

“There are plenty of coincidences and unexplained phenomena. But if you look at controlled scientific experiments, the same is true….If you want to get a sense of it, take a look at the letters columns in the technical scientific journals. They are commonly about unexplained properties of reports of technical experiments carried out under controlled conditions which are going to leave a lot of things unexplained – it’s the way the world is. When you take a natural event – something that isn’t controlled – most of it will be unexplained….The belief it [9/11] could of been planned has such a low level of credibility, I don’t think it’s serious. It’s diverting people from serious issues” [8].

Perceived gaps

The perceived gaps in the broad official narrative of the kind alluded to by Chomsky, doesn’t entitle the truth movement to fill in the gaps with unsubstantiated and conjecture-based assertions and then present the said assertions as evidence based facts. But this is precisely what many within the truth movement do.

Moreover, appearances can often be deceiving. When people view videos of the twin towers collapsing in what the truth movement claim is free fall speed, for example, what they actually see are inaccurate interpretations of the collapse at angles that correspond to the preconceived theories of this movement.

The claims made on the basis of these videos have no basis in factual scientific-based evidence. Indeed, if essence and appearance coincided, there would be no need for science, as our observations of earth as a static entity viewed from the perspective of our planet, attest.

Similarly, while the Titanic was sinking, passengers heard explosions in the ship. In this case, the ‘official story’ would be wrong, using the same conspiracy theory logic. To this day, no one really knows what exactly caused the sound, only that it sounded like an explosion. Some say it was the steel snapping as the ship broke in two. Others say it was the hot steam engines hitting the cold water which exploded. Using conspiracy theory logic, it was blown up because some witnesses characterized the sound as an ‘explosion’.

Of course, it’s the controlled demolition explosion theory that the truth movement cling to in order to explain the collapse of WTC 7 (and depending on which particular conspiracy theory one believes, the other two towers). For the sake of brevity, it’s the questioning of the theory in relation to the former, I want to return to here.

In terms of the WTC collapse, George Galloway was among the first to popularize the notion that “if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, the chances are it’s a duck” thesis. Unconvinced that the twin towers were brought down by controlled explosives, it’s people like Galloway and Chomsky the progressive left and others who dismiss the official narrative, should be listening to.

Elephant in the room

The blank spot among those who propose the controlled demolition thesis is their inability to acknowledge the ‘elephant in the room’, namely, cause and affect. I cannot understand how rational people refuse to accept the most probable explanation that two planes travelling at high velocity laden with jet fuel smashing in to the WTC, was the most likely catalyst for WTC 7s collapse. I find the rejection of this course of events to be absolutely extraordinary.

I am willing to accept, for the sake of argument, that there is, say, a 1 per cent possibility that something other than this explanation was responsible for bringing the building down. But I’m afraid it is incumbent on the truth movement and others who reject the official narrative, to prove it. As I’ve repeatedly stated, extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence.

The claim that the building was brought down as a result of a controlled demolition, given the circumstances that preceded it, is about as extraordinary a proposition as it’s possible to get. It’s not necessary to be an expert to arrive at such a conclusion. Given the available evidence, on the balance of probability alone, the notion that it was a controlled demolition that brought the building down, does not stack up by any logical measure. Those honest enough to look at the claims and counter claims in an objective and rational manner, could not arrive at any other conclusion.

Controlled demolition?

To believe, for example, that a controlled demolition took place one would have to ignore the testimony of FDNY chief, Daniel Nigo [9], 16,000 uniformed and civilian members of the FDNY [10], or anyone else who was involved in this apparent huge conspiracy, at least one of whom after 16 years – as post-doctoral researcher, David Grimes, implies [11], would have, by now, come forward.

You would have to believe that WTC 7 was wired for explosives, either when the building was erected (which would require the longest conspiracy planning in history), or that they were planted later. If the latter scenario is to be believed, how could it be possible to wire a high rise building occupied by 50,000 people on a daily basis?

You would have to believe that a set of incompetent governments who failed to pull off Watergate and who were incapable of faking weapons of mass destruction, are all-seeing and all-powerful. You would have to believe in an incredible motive such as the Larry Silverstein insurance scam theory, which has been comprehensively debunked [12].

You would have to believe the building fell at free fall speed into its own footprint, and discredit the notion the damage to WTC 7 was actually caused by debris from WTC 1, 400 feet away [13]. A controlled demolition would obviously try to avoid such behaviour. If one accepts that WTC 7 was burning for many hours, it’s illogical to also propose the controlled demolition thesis because the one precludes the other.

You would have to ignore the notion that the explosive demolition would not be very controlled, or likely to work at all, if it involved slamming tons of skyscraper debris through a building and then setting it on fire for seven hours. You would also have to ignore the experts in the field who insisted that precision explosives, timers, and wiring don’t like that sort of treatment [14].

Witness testimonies & unreliable experts

Testimonies from firefighters inside and outside of the building in relation to the damage caused are consistent, and demolitions experts who saw WTC 7 collapse neither saw nor heard anything indicating an explosive demolition [15]. You would have to ignore the notion that nothing can be seen or heard in videos that resembles explosive charges going off before the collapse or that seismic data from multiple sources indicates that the collapse of WTC 7 began slowly, completely unlike an explosive demolition but consistent with internal failures leading to global collapse [16].

You would have to believe the citations of experts in disciplines only superficially connected to structural engineering, ballistics, nano-thermite and other specialist fields, like David Ray Griffin and Lynn Margolis who the truth movement regularly cite. Griffin is professor of philosophy of religion and theology [17], and Margolis specializes in evolutionary theory and biology [18].

Some epistemological aspects of 9-11 conspiracy theories that I have seen on the internet in recent days, include evidential cherry-picking and egregious ‘quote mining’, disproportionate emphasis on anomaly and attention to these kinds of maverick voices [19]. The truth movement consistently cite experts in irrelevant disciplines. Loose Change is full of this, for example [20].

Like Holocaust deniers and climate change deniers, internet ‘experts’ not only cite loosely connected academics, but also cite discredited academics like Steven E  Jones [21] to support their theories. They pontificate on highly complex matters like engineering and munitions with apparent absolute certainty, and have a habit of cross referencing one another in a cosy little circle. They frequently use faulty logic, like presenting inductive possibility (inference) as deductive fact [22].

Alexander Cockburn accurately described 9/11 truthers as amateur detectives:

“[They] proffer what they demurely call “disturbing questions”, though they disdain all answers but their own. They seize on coincidences and force them into sequences they deem to be logical and significant. Like mad Inquisitors, they pounce on imagined clues in documents and photos, torturing the data ­- as the old joke goes about economists — till the data confess. Their treatment of eyewitness testimony and forensic evidence is whimsical. Apparent anomalies that seem to nourish their theories are brandished excitedly; testimony that undermines their theories–like witnesses of a large plane hitting the Pentagon — is contemptuously brushed aside” [23].

Religious cult that denies agency

The notion that WTC 7 free fell for 2.25 seconds is not controversial. But the truth movement extrapolate from that as evidence the building was brought down by controlled explosives, on the basis that some experts believe it to be the case. But many experts in theology also believe that scripture in the Old Testament is evidence of the existence of Jesus. This is apt since 9/11 truthers remind me of nothing less than a religious cult. As Chomsky inferred, people believe these false arguments because it proposes a closed world that’s comprehensible and controllable, as opposed to one that’s chaotic without destination or purpose. The cold, hard truth, that no paper to date has passed the peer review process proving the controlled demolition thesis, is quietly overlooked.

But perhaps the biggest argument of all against the notion of conspiracy is that it denies agency. By claiming WTC 7 was brought down by explosives, and by extension the broader belief 9/11 was an ‘inside job’, the truth movement deny that those who suffer at the hands of US imperialism have a legitimate grievance against decades of US military aggression sufficient enough to warrant a terrorist attack on the US.

Until the 9/11 truth movement get around to actually testing their controlled demolition hypothesis and publishing the data from such a test in a reputable peer-reviewed scientific journal, their claims are worthless. Until now, they have not got beyond the stage in which they have made the leap from assertion and conjecture to testable hypothesis and plausible theory.

Sources:

Noam Chomsky Debunks 9/11 and JFK Murder @ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m7SPm-HFYLo

Noam Chomsky Has No Opinion on Building 7 @ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3i9ra-i6Knc

http://debunking911.com/

http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/9-11

http://www.911myths.com

http://screwloosechange.blogspot.com

http://www.jod911.debunking911.com

Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

Brent Blanchard of Protec: http://tinyurl.com/z6zyc

Incontrovertible – the ‘truth’ about 9/11 by Philip Roddis @ https://off-guardian.org/2016/09/05/incontrovertible-the-truth-about-911/

NIST WTC Disaster Study: https://www.nist.gov/topics/disaster-failure-studies/world-trade-center-disaster-study

Why Did the World Trade Center Collapse?—Simple Analysis By Zdenˇek P. Baˇzant1: http://www-math.mit.edu/~bazant/WTC/WTC-asce.pdf

Testimonies: https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20061221064623AA01qch&page=2

Collapse Symmetry: http://ae911truth.info/wordpress/ae911truths-case/collapse/collapse-symmetry/

The 9/11 Conspiracy Nuts by Alexander Cockburn: https://www.counterpunch.org/2006/09/09/the-9-11-conspiracy-nuts/

How To Tell If Conspiracy Theories Are Real – Here’s The Math by Taylor Kubota: https://www.livescience.com/53494-how-to-tell-if-conspiracy-theories-are-real.html

Bayoneting A Scarecrow by George Monbiot: http://www.monbiot.com/2007/02/20/bayoneting-a-scarecrow/

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The Mass Media & Trump

By Daniel Margrain

In 1938, in response to the alleged arrival to America of aliens from another planet, thousands of US citizens left their suburban homes in a state of panic and departed for the hills. An unsuspecting public did this because the authoritative tones of the radio announcer who imparted this ‘news’ was able to induce the requisite amount of fear in them.

It was only later that the people concerned had realized they had been duped. What was actually being broadcast was an adaptation of H G Wells’ War of the Worlds, and the announcer was the renowned actor and film director, Orson Welles. The power of radio had convinced people to behave in an irrational manner in response to this ‘fake news’.

Almost eight decades after Welles made his famous radio broadcast, the corporate media persuaded hundreds of thousands of protesters to descend on Washington DC and many other cities across America and throughout the world ostensibly against Trump’s boast that he groped the genitals of a woman. This soon morphed into mass protests against his inauguration as the 45th President of the United States.

More recently, mass protests that involved attacks on statues in response to the widespread perception Trump wasn’t sufficiently unequivocal in his condemnation of right wing forces followed the killing of a protester in Charlottesville.

Censorship by omission

The criticisms of Trump in relation to the above and much else are, of course, valid. But the media coverage given to these incidents which acted as the catalyst for the demonstrations also raises further questions in terms of what the media do and do not regard as a newsworthy story. Why, for example, hadn’t the media given equal coverage to the sexual depravities of Bill Clinton?

It should be noted that Hillary not only condoned Bill’s actions but has often slandered those who would dare speak out against them. The fact that the media have not managed to inculcate into the public consciousness the alleged crimes of Bill Clinton in the way they have in relation to Trump, almost certainly explains why, during Bill’s presidency and impeachment trial 20 years ago, there was very little outcry among the public.

So fake news is as much about the ability of the media to censor by omission as it is about the actual production of deliberately false information intended to deceive. In turn, the distortions often provide the basis for ‘post truth politics’ exemplified by the appeal to emotion where a discourse of identity and personal beliefs dominate.

The media’s preoccupation with Trump’s sexist and misogynistic attitude to women and alleged racism intended to evoke an emotional response, was to be the starting point for what was to follow. The media’s anti-Trump agenda, in other words, had not long after he became elected, been cast.

Manichean logic & Red Baiting

The demonizing agenda was stepped-up a gear following the media’s relentless efforts to link Trump with Russian president, Vladimir Putin. With their application of Manichean logic, the intention of the political-media class was to deliberately conflate media dissent with the notion that the dissenters uncritically support Russia and thus to imply these dissenters are Trump, and by extension, Putin apologists.

In the eyes of the establishment, the dissenters’ ‘crime’ was to acknowledge that one of Trump’s initial stated aims to shift future US foreign policy from belligerence to cooperation with Russia, had validity. Thus, the aim of the media is to discredit any support for a US foreign policy that doesn’t involve US exceptionalism.

Trump’s subsequent toing and froing in regards to US foreign policy reflect the extent to which he appears to be guided to this end by media spin and personal ratings. It’s no coincidence that a more aggressive and unilateral foreign policy approach by Trump initiates far less media criticism of him than would otherwise be the case. Conversely, as Edward Herman contends, a declared lack of enthusiasm for foreign conflict, notably with Russia, “may help explain the intensity of media hostility to Trump”.

It’s a measure of the extent to which the mass media barely stray from their paymasters tune, that on April 7, 2017, Trump with near-unanimous journalistic support, was able to launch an illegal missile strike on the al-Shayrat airbase in Syria in retaliation to an alleged sarin gas attack by president Assad three days earlier. Moreover, it’s Trump’s bellicose rhetoric against Russian ally, North Korea, that is endearing him to vast swaths of the American public and corporate media alike.

The response of a corporate outlet like the Washington Post is to label anybody who proffers an alternative foreign policy narrative to that pumped out by the mainstream as “routine peddlers of Russian propaganda.” The writer, Chris Hedges, who is on a list of 200 alternative websites condemned by the paper, describes the Post’s report as an “updated form of Red-Baiting”.

Hedges added:

“This attack signals an open war on the independent press. Those who do not spew the official line will be increasingly demonized in corporate echo chambers such as the Post or CNN as useful idiots or fifth columnists.”

On twitter, I was subjected to this kind of divided loyalty trope. The following tweet, for example, was in response to my factual assertion that Russia was invited by Syria to intervene in the country as a direct response to the arming, training and funding of Salafist terrorists by the US, UK, Saudi, Qatari and Turkish governments:

:4h4 hours ago

  you sound like you might be a Trotskyist. Are you in the pay of a counter revolutionary organisation?

Paradox

As far as the political-media establishment is concerned, the Trump phenomenon represents a paradox, or as Charles Krauthammer put it, an “ideological realignment”. Trump’s authentic, albeit idiosyncratic, populism is the antithesis to the prevailing liberal politico-media establishment orthodoxy that, paradoxically, nevertheless remains welded to the capitalist order.

Under Obama, the media had it relatively easy because the nature of the understanding between the economic and political elite was mutually understood. The snake oil salesman said the right things when required and kept the industrial-military complex ticking along by initiating a succession of foreign wars.

Trump, on the other hand, not only says the ‘wrong things’ in a less statesman-like way, but often contradicts himself days or even hours later. It’s this unpredictability that poses a threat to the elites ability to be able to maintain a buffer zone between themselves and the democratic forces that Trump has the potential to unleash, that the former fear the most. Trump’s unmanageable authenticity is, in other words, bad news for a politico-media elite that is used to having their snouts comfortably feeding from the gravy train trough on their own terms.

Public relations

Many of the activists who have taken to the streets in protest against Trump, but refrained from doing the same against Obama, have clearly been indoctrinated to do so as a result of the media’s displacement strategy. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the Clinton gang is pushing for war with Iran while criticisms of Trump by Jack Straw and other war criminals are clearly their attempts at stealing the moral high ground.

The kind of blinkered liberalism that focuses a disproportionate amount of criticism towards Trump for his sexual misdemeanors and reflexive reactions to domestic populist warmongering, but largely overlooks the sexual abuse and war crimes of other American presidents, is encapsulated by the following tweet:

Ashamed

To claim to feel more ashamed to be a citizen of a country represented by the actions of the latest in a long line of misogynistic presidents who has followed through on a democratic mandate by, for example, introducing a seven country visa ban policy as opposed to the actions of his predecessor who bombed seven countries in six years, is indicative of the propaganda power of the mass media.

It is surely no coincidence that “feeling ashamed to be part of America for the first time in 32 years” is related to the inability of the media to devote honest coverage of US foreign policy since 1945 including the numerous wars of aggression waged both overtly and covertly by successive US presidents.

The fact that the reason why Trump’s selective and temporary travel ban (not a Muslim Ban as reported) is considered to be an acceptable part of media discourse, but the war machine championed by Obama and historically by numerous other presidents isn’t, is because critiques of the latter pose a potential threat to the underlying structure of media-state power.

Manipulating the public

It is an illustration of how corporations that now dominate much of the domestic and global economies recognize the need to manipulate the public through media propaganda by manufacturing their consent, largely achieved through coordinated mass campaigns of the kind described that combine sophisticated public relations techniques.

These techniques involve the filtering out of all unwanted information by censoring it and amplifying all ‘useful’ information. The former explains why very few people remember the time when Theresa May as UK Home Secretary illegally deported 50,000 foreign students which consequently failed to generate the publicity required for a mass demonstration.

Although the issue is different, exactly the same principle can be applied to the lack of publicity the media have given to demonstrations against the government’s welfare reforms including cuts to disability benefits, reduced social care budgets and the introduction of the bedroom tax.

Make no mistake, the decision of Trump to ban people from seven majority Muslim countries on the false premise that it’s a security issue when those countries not on the banned list were the ones whose citizens were responsible for the attacks on 9-11, is illiberal, immoral and plain wrong.

But it is also wrong for the media to have perpetuated the myth that it was Trump who set the policy in motion and that his critics are somehow perturbed that he fulfilled a pre-election democratic mandate. Perhaps it’s indicative of the ‘post-truth’ era, that many people are shocked when politicians actually follow through on their campaign promises. In that sense, at least Trump has put down a marker for elected leaders in the future to follow.

Conclusion

The media hype in relation to the reporting of Trump is disproportionate and exaggerated. Where were the reports of NATO’s flattening of the Libyan town of Sirte that killed thousands of civilians and the changing of the law enabling the deportation from the UK of any refugee child?

Why are a series of war criminals and war apologists seen fit to be interviewed about their disparaging views on Trump and are allowed to pass comment unchallenged?

Why were the public told that Western civilisation was under threat from Islamist terrorists from the same countries who the elites criticised Trump for wanting to put travel restrictions on? Could it be that Trump is unknowingly exposing the lie to their own propaganda?

The fact that these questions are never asked of the powerful and that a mass of well-meaning liberal protesters uncritically fall into line like a herd of cattle, is a testament to the hold the media has on great swaths of the population.

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The London Dockland’s Arms Fair: The Royal Merchants of Death

By Daniel Margrain

If not for the protests that have been taking place over the past week at London’s Docklands, what is taking place their might appear to some to be a run of the mill trade show. In fact, one of the world’s greatest cities is hosting representatives of some of the most authoritarian regimes on earth such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and Azerbaijan as part of the biennial Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) exhibition that began yesterday (September 12, 2017).

This summer, Britain demonstrated its support for the Saudi government, the biggest market for UK arms companies, by delivering a consignment of 500lb Paveway IV bombs originally earmarked for the RAF. Saudi Arabia’s fleet of strike aircraft includes British Tornados, Eurofighter Typhoons and US F-15s.

Michael Stephens, of the Royal United Services Institute (Rusi), told the BBC:

“The UK is digging into its own weapons supplies to replenish Saudi stocks.”

Many of the weapons that will be sold to the Saudi’s at the arms fair will be used in airstrikes ostensibly against Houthi rebels in Yemen but in fact are being targeted against civilian infrastructure. This amounts to a violation of the laws of war. More than 1,500 companies are expected to exhibit their weapons of death wares at the event, including the US and UK giants Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon and BAE Systems.

Many of the Saudi bombs raining down on Yemeni civilians are being sold to them by BAE Systems, whose chairman, Sir Roger Carr, is also vice-chair of the BBC Trust. This almost certainly explains why the BBC has been reluctant to highlight Saudi-UK links in their news coverage. 

At past London arms fairs, campaigners have discovered a variety of illegal torture equipment advertised for sale, including electric shock stun guns and batons, leg-irons, and belly, body and gang-chains. There has also been a range of illegal cluster-munition weaponry advertised. Author and activist, Matt Kennard, posted a photograph on Twitter of some of the munitions on sale at the event (see below):

According to the Guardian, Amnesty said it had identified nine companies that had violated UK law at DSEI events between 2005 and 2013.

The royal connection

The British establishment and royalty know that arms are good investments especially shells, bombs and cruise missiles that are tipped with depleted uranium. Air, water and soil are contaminated when DU is used and once contaminated there is no way to de-contaminate it. To contaminate the food chain is a crime against humanity for which the Royal Family is complicit.

Their complicity (with the help of Tiny Rowland), extended to the asset stripping of Africa. Tiny Rowland, who was an unashamed member of Hitler Youth and nicknamed the “Royal Buckaneer”, was chief executive of the Lonrho conglomerate from 1962 to 1994. Angus Ogilvy, the Queen’s nephew, would sit on Rowland’s Board with Royal approval. The Royal shares would thus finance the arming of Africa in the Lonrho resource wars. African lenders who promised Lonrho their strategic minerals were armed to the hilt by Ogilvy and Rowland.

In 1987, the Anti-Slavery Society reported that in Lonrho’s shanty goldmines, 60 boys had to work almost naked in a pool of cyanide at their extractor plant in Ghana. The cyanide, in separating out the gold, enters the body as gas, liquid or acid dust. But for Lonrho and royalty such horror is overlooked if it happens to impinge on profits. With the help and advice of their pet buckaneer, the royal shareholder’s had recolonized Africa by the back door and their uranium holdings are now worth more than 6 billion dollars.

But here’s the catch. No amount of money can deflect from the fact that pollution is democratic. Not only can uranium winds blow back into the faces of their profiteers but thanks to uranium investors, radioactive isotopes are now found in the flesh of worms. Worms are a pillar of ecosystems in as much as they air-ate the soil and aid the nutrient uptake of plants which Prince Charles reportedly likes to talk to.

Depleted uranium that hardens the tips of shells that can pierce concrete is one of the royal ordinance star exports despite the fact that weapons which contain DU violate the Geneva Convention. The DU shell which the Sovereign has shares in, is not only illegal but it is also a highly mobile discriminate killer described as a “permanent terrain contaminant”.

Iraq Birth Defects Depleted UraniumUnlike any hereditary monarchy, however historic, DU stains the environment forever and rewrites DNA codes. The rates of human deformation in Fallujah, the city in Iraq where the West used DU, exceed those in Hiroshima. While the UK government was undertaking its illegal war in Iraq, it increased the value of the Royal investment. The price of uranium increased 500 percent in six years.

The trading in death by royalty continues apace but has shifted from the Continent they fleeced during the Ogilvy/Rowland years to the Arabian Gulf Peninsula. Three year ago BAE systems, sold 72 Typhoon fighter jets to the Saudi Arabian dictatorship. On the eve of the day the deal was signed Prince Charles was in the Saudi capital Riyadh, dressed in traditional robes and joining the Saudi princes in a sword dance.416d25d02296c9098b4b34155971abeb

Andrew Smith from the Campaign Against the Arms Trade said:

“It is clear that Prince Charles has been used by the UK government and BAE Systems as an arms dealer”. This was Charles’ 10th visit to the Saudi regime and was made at the request of the Foreign Office. A previous investigation into UK-Saudi arms deal, Margaret Thatcher’s sale of Tornado fighters in the Al Yamamah deal, was blocked by Tony Blair on “national security grounds”.

Illegal arms deals involving British royalty extends further afield. In South Africa, for example, Hawk Jets are the preferred killing machines.

Former South African MP Andrew Feinstein said:

“The royal family was involved in trying to persuade South Africa to buy BAE’s Hawk jets, despite the air force not wanting the planes that cost two and a half times the price of their preferred aircraft. As an ANC MP at the time, I was told that £116m in bribes had been paid to key decision-makers and the ANC itself. The royal family’s attitude is part of the reason that BAE will never face justice in the UK for its corrupt practices.”

It’s the hereditary concentration of power and accumulation of wealth through weapons profiteering, corruption and death that, in part, is the context that lays behind Jeremy Corbyn’s decision to refuse to sing the national anthem. The monarchy and notions of democracy are irreconcilable concepts.

It was on this principle that the English people fought a civil war, made a revolution and cut off their king’s head in the 17th century. I’m not suggesting anything of the sort be carried out today, but the outward expression of Corbyn’s republican principles, set against Monday’s passing of the Brexit Bill in Westminster, highlight the contradiction at the heart of liberal democratic Britain in the 21st century.

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Britain’s Eternal Shame

By Daniel Margrain

An article from April 13, 2010, highlights that while in office as Labour’s Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Yvette Cooper had drawn up plans that would almost certainly have met with the approval of Iain Duncan-Smith and the current Secretary of State for Work a Pensions, David Gauke. Indeed, the policy plans outlined by Cooper were subsequently adopted by the Tory/Lib-Dem Coalition government under the tutelage of the former Tory Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Esther McVey.

The plan agreed by the Tories and Labour was to cut the benefits of more than 300,000 disabled people. That Cooper rushed to the defence of McVey, who presided over some of the most wicked policies of arguably the most reactionary and brutal right-wing government in living memory, is extremely revealing. What was also revealing were Cooper’s attacks on Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, for his “sexist” attack on McVey’.

Double standards

The media’s double standards in response to Cooper’s setting in motion the Tories regime of welfare cuts and system of testing to the sick and disabled, many of whom would have been Labour voters, was extraordinary. A few days prior to the media’s onslaught against Corbyn’s close ally, McDonnell, Guardian journalist Nicholas Lezard called for the crowdfunded assassination of the Labour leader. Needless to say, there was no media outrage at this latter suggestion, nor at Cooper and McVey’s connivance.

The media’s double standards continued last year, after Channel 4 engaged in an undercover smear campaign against the pro-Corbyn grass roots organisation, Momentum. No similar campaign has been undertaken against, their right-wing Tory counterparts, Activate, whose young members have explained how they would like to gas “spice homo chavs”, “introduce compulsory birth control” and “run some medical experiments on them.” These are the kind of perverse neo-fascist sentiments that reflect the mentality of the Tory establishment and many of their voters.

Cover-up

Shortly before the last General Election, the Daily Mirror availed their readers of the attempts by the Tories to cover-up rates of suicide among Britain’s sick and disabled people who the government deem “fit for work.” The Mirror revealed that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) refused to release figures highlighting the number of Incapacity Benefit and Employment Support (ESA) claimants who have died. It was only after concerted political pressure from below that the government was forced to admit that nearly 100,000 sickness benefit claimants died between January 2011 and February 2014.

The then DWP Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, who admitted that his department have a “duty of care” to benefit claimants, disingenuously insisted that there was no evidence of a ‘causal link’ between the governments work capability assessment (WCA) and the subsequent 590 recorded deaths from suicide. This was contradicted by the coroners findings which stated that all of the deaths “certainly aren’t linked to any other cause”.

Conscious cruelty

It was subsequently revealed that the “conscious cruelty” adopted by the WCA assessors included the “use of psychological ‘nudge’ techniques to push the mentally-ill and those with disabilities towards suicide in order to reduce the ‘burden on society’ caused by these ‘useless eaters’.”

The recorded figures of avoidable deaths resulting from this technique, almost certainly represents the tip of an enormous ice berg. Using ESA figures, independent investigative journalist and campaigner, Mike Sivier compared the number of deaths per year with the number of governments sanctions.

Sivier states that:

“In 2011, the number of people on ESA who were adversely sanctioned totalled 4,462 – 33 per cent of the 13,490 who died that year. In 2012, there were 12,710 adverse sanctions – 64 per cent of the 19,940 who died that year. And in 2013, there were 22,560 adverse sanctions – 82 per cent of the 27,370 who died that year.”

Frances Ryan in the Guardian reported:

“More than 70,000 people on the out-of-work sickness benefit (employment and support allowance) ESA had their benefits stopped between December 2012 and December 2016. More than 5,000 had them stopped for at least six months. That’s wheelchair users and people with learning difficulties left with bare cupboards and cold homes.

The vast majority of recent ESA sanctions – more than 90% since December 2015 – have been a punishment for people failing to take part in “work-related activity”: anything from skills training or drawing up a CV to community work placements. Disabled people going through the system repeatedly report this can mean being sanctioned for not going to a meeting despite being in too much pain to get out of bed.

This is not a coincidence but, rather, reflective of a political culture that has fetishised getting disabled people into work at any cost.

It’s the same thinking that from April resulted in many people on ESA permanently losing £30 a week under the guise that it would give them an “incentive to work”.

Two years ago, there were warnings sanctions were unfair, excessively punitive, and causing destitution. Whitehall’s official spending watchdog has found there is no evidence sanctions actually work. Yet barely any modification has been made. In July, the Department for Work and Pensions announced that people with mental health conditions who have their jobseeker’s allowance sanctioned will now be eligible for immediate access to hardship payments – as if not leaving a young mum with depression without food for two weeks is vast progress.

Social policy reform based on the premise of removing the money people need in order to live is always shameful. But to do this to disabled people – who are receiving benefits because they are not well enough to work – is a stain on the national conscience.”

Excess deaths

With thirty-thousand ‘excess deaths’ in 2015 linked to cuts in health and social care, in addition to the preventable Grenfell Tower tragedy, it is clear that the Tories are actively engaged in the killing by stealth of the poor, disabled and weak.

In an an attempt to humanize some of those who have been socially murdered by the Tories, concerned citizens have recorded the personal details of a select few of the individuals and the circumstances that led to their untimely deaths. This information can be viewed hereherehere and hereIt’s particularly shocking to this writer that in Britain in 2017 many of those listed died of starvation.

Deception

The personal testimony of commentator Stewart Bailey provides a graphic insight into how assessors are encouraged to push claimants off-benefits towards serious hardship. Mr Bailey’s account which highlights a series of misrepresentations and falsehoods made by assessors in relation to his health condition, is supported by the findings of the Disability News Service (DNS) who have collected evidence as part of a lengthy investigation.

The DNS allege widespread dishonesty by assessors working for the outsourcing giants Capita and Atos. Claimants repeatedly cite dishonesty, “fraudulent conduct” and “lie after lie after lie” told by assessors in their reports, on which DWP decision-makers base their decisions on their eligibility for Personal Independence payments (PIPs).

The DNS point out that nearly half (45%) of PIP claimants who had a planned review of their award in 2016 either saw it cut or lost it entirely based on the absurd pretext that cutting benefits to the long-term disabled will help them into work.

Joe Whittaker, chair of Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People, said:

“The imposition of yet another stage in the already oppressive process to ‘support disabled people into employment’, cynically named a ‘health and work conversation’, is another pernicious attempt to weaken the rights of disabled people.”

Caroline Richardson, one of the authors of a report on last years green paper for the Spartacus Network of sick and disabled campaigners published in March, 2017, said:

“The plans show a total ignorance of the level of sickness or disability that the claimant may be experiencing, and will subsequently lead to huge stress and deprivation at what may be a crisis point in people’s lives”.

The Spartacus report accused ministers of using the green paper as a “smokescreen” to disguise their intention to cut support and force sick and disabled people into inappropriate work.

Genocide

The DNS findings came a few days after they revealed new plans which indicate that the Tory genocide against the sick and disabled is set to accelerate. Recent government reviews into PIPs mean that disabled people are constantly in fear of having their payments cuts or, worse, halted.

I, myself, as well as some of my close relatives, can personally attest to the veracity of the DNS findings. We have all had similar experiences in which non-specialized Capita or Atos staff during the interview process have asked irrelevant questions, have failed to refer to any of the medical evidence supplied and requested that we engage in inappropriate movements of feet and hands.

We were all left with the distinct impression that the system has been deliberately set up to fail those who rely on it for financial support and the relative peace of mind that comes with it. One of my disabled relatives has a proven degenerative condition and yet the DWP insisted that one year after granting him his PIP award, he undertake a second WCA “interview”.

Arbitrary

We are currently waiting for the result of the “interview”, but judging by what can only be described a farce, we are not confident that the outcome will be a satisfactory one. It is obvious that unqualified private assessors are being financially incentivized to meet targets. The decisions that are made, in other words, are arbitrary and biased, predicated on the fulfillment of quotas. They do not accurately reflect the medical conditions of the individuals being accessed.

The system is inherently flawed because the default position of the DWP is that the sick and disabled are assumed to be deceitful and need to prove the extent of their illness by satisfactorily addressing completely irrelevant straw man points.

One author in the Independent comments section stated:

“My wife is in tears of pain and emotional distress most days and has overdosed once already due to an extreme pain condition which is commonly called suicide disease. She gets nothing and was basically called a liar by Capita and the DWP.”

Another said:

“My brother in law, now about 60yrs has some form of extremely painful joint issues. He has now contested findings of a lady physio who declared him perfectly fit – giving him about 30 points out of a much higher required number. Can hardly walk, has injections. One specialist wants him to have an operation to fuse his wrists, basically to create two paddles instead of hands.

His house has been fitted with numerous things like bath lifts, handles etc etc. She specified that no adjustments by Social Services had been carried out, ignored specialists notification of this impending operation, (and she was supposed to be a Physio?? ). He has submitted about 10 letters now from the various surgeons and specialists. Absolute stupidity on board assessments part and this person who is supposed to be qualified should be struck off.

Sorry I am not aware of correct illness but do know – have you ever seen a grown man cry etc and he on most days can hardly walk due to the pain, cannot drive now as he cannot grip the wheel or gear stick etc. Shameful.”

Many sick and disabled claimants appeal these kinds of injustices and, as Mike Sivier points out, the government lose the vast majority of these appeals. When claimants go to independent tribunals, 58% of appeals succeed for ESA, and 63% for PIP. Extremely conservative estimates put the cost to the tax payer at £39m to enable the Tories to defend its decision to stop benefits to the most vulnerable.

United Nations

Last year, the UN slammed the government for their “grave and systematic violations of the rights of disabled people”. Moreover, the current situation is creating what the UN described in their latest report as a “human catastrophe” for disabled people.

Tracey Lazard, CEO of Inclusion London, described the UN report as “a damning verdict….on the UK governments failure to protect and uphold disabled people’s rights.”

Three of the governments flagship welfare policies are illegal because of the impact they are having on disabled people, but the Tories continue with these policies regardless. This is the politics of punishment, vindictiveness, cruelty and hate.

All this comes on top of the introduction in April 6, 2017, of the governments policy to reduce tax credits to families with two children meaning 116,000 households will be affected, pushing an additional 387,000 children into poverty. Levels of welfare payments in the UK are so low that they have been described by the Council of Europe as “manifestly inadequate“.

Life unworthy of life

While all decent people rightly regard the Tories ‘involuntary euthanasia’ strategy to be deeply shocking, it should be noted that it is far from being a new one. Years before moving towards explicit racial genocide, the Nazis developed the notion of ‘useless mouths’ or ‘life unworthy of life’ to justify their killing of ‘undesirables’ who like the Tories they regarded as a ‘drain on society’ and whose value was measured solely in terms of their perceived negative impact on the ‘taxpayer’.

These and similar ideas of the kind articulated by the members of Activate, who posit that the weak and poor are vermin to be tested on, are a variant of nineteenth century ‘Social Darwinism’ and eugenicist theories, which adapted Darwin’s notion of the survival of the fittest. This describes relationships within society or between nations and races as a perpetual evolutionary struggle in which the supposedly weaker or defective elements were weeded out by the strongest and the ‘fittest’ by natural selection.

Off benefits into coffins

Following Iain Duncan Smith’s resignation over a scandal in which the Tories were initially exposed for pushing people off benefits into coffins, many people were hopeful of a change in policy direction under his successor, Stephen Crabb. But these hopes were dashed after the latter announced a further six years of “welfare reforms” (euphemism for £12 billion of cuts to the most in need).

What Mike Sivier correctly described as a preventable “war of attrition” amounts to an ideological attack on those who are least able to defend themselves. This war continued under Duncan Smith’s successor, Damian Green, after it was revealed that under his auspices the government reversed Tribunal rulings that would have extended financial support to 160,000 people with disabilities.

Conclusion

The systematic killing of the weakest and most vulnerable in our society by stealth is being legally sanctioned by government policies that display many of the characteristics of fascist ideology. With a mainstream corporate media that has been virtually silent in their criticism, or have failed to acknowledge that government policies are killing the sick and disabled, its incumbent on people to search out information for themselves.

It’s no longer acceptable for the public to claim ignorance of the cleansing among the weakest and most vulnerable of our fellow citizens happening around them. Let me be clear about this. Anybody who votes for the Conservatives at the next General Election will be complicit in the social murder of sick and disabled people.

But as Blairites like Yvette Cooper have shown, evil is not restricted to the Tories. With Jeremy Corbyn in the ascendancy, now is the ideal opportunity to force through the compulsory re-submission of candidates to members who are energized by a very different set of priorities to self-serving politicians like Cooper.

Those motivated primarily by money will disappear by stealth into the ether. But in order for this to happen, Corbyn needs to grab the bull by the horns by cleverly negotiating the tide of optimism sweeping throughout the grass roots of the party. The Blairites are currently on the defensive and Corbyn should exploit this situation to the maximum by taking control of the hierarchy of the party.

The contradiction between Cooper’s deeds and words outlined in the introduction of this article, highlight the extent to which the ideological consensus between the New Labour hierarchy and the ruling Tory establishment, is structurally embedded within a dysfunctional system of state power that is no longer fit for purpose. Corbyn’s task in changing this situation around is difficult but not impossible. He should resist all calls to bring ‘heavyweights’ like Cooper back into the fore. The sick and disabled depend on it.

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New Media & Censorship

By Daniel Margrain

During the height of the anti-capitalist movement in 2002, I wrote a paper as part of my MA in which I said:

“The growth of new (physical) technologies allied with the development of the (virtual) media, is resulting in the revival and reworking of the classical ideal of an actively engaged and responsible citizenship. It is my contention that established media and virtual media will increasingly contest for spheres of influence in ‘cyberspace’. The extent to which one or the other establishes spatial dominance is likely to shape the nature of politics in the new century and therefore determine a new set of socio-political relationships.”

Global village

The development of new media corresponded to what Marxist geographer, David Harvey, referred to as “time-space compression” brought about by the growth in global communication networks which has its genesis as part of a concept of what became known as the “global village” – a term first coined by Marshall McLuhan in 1962. Having since become a cliche of global communications, it describes, in the loose sense, how citizens of the world who have communication tools at their command, can communicate and share interests across the world, just as they might across a village street.

More importantly, however, McLuhan claimed that the dominant mode of communication in the earlier part of the century had been written and printed. Even modes like the telegraph message and air letter were communication in print. This was formal communication typical of the hierarchical and procedurally bound societies of the time.

Conversely, in the global village, television, telephone and other electronic communication restored a formal oral culture in which informality and impermanence were the characteristics. This cut across the formal structures of existing political organisations.

The significance of McLuhan was that he anticipated the phenomena of virtuality and interactivity, the dissolving of traditional structures and patterns and the compression of time and space. One of the main technological manifestations that facilitate the latter is the growth of telecommunications infrastructure.

Power structure

It is the integration of global communication networks – telecommunications, computing and media technologies – that forms the basis of the internet and ISDN traffic. From its small military beginnings in the 1970s and 1980s, the former has opened up the possibility of a genuine new form of community. Over twenty years ago, John Allen and Chris Hamnett even went as far as to argue that the internet would bring about the “death of geography.”

But what McLuhan and Allen and Hamnett overestimated was the extent to which the global village would remove old hierarchies and social gradients. Correspondingly, they underestimated the ability of the new technology to reinforce existing socioeconomic patterns of inequality and structures of power.

Not only has the the new technology installed a new form of communicative apartheid as evidenced by the uneven global spread of internet hosts and web users, but the nature of this trend also gives the illusion of empowerment. In their 1997 book, The Global Media,  Edward Herman and Robert McChesney are rightly critical of the notion that the growth in internet use results in the ability of humanity to leapfrog over existing forms of corporate communication, citing the internet’s rapid commercialization which functions in sharp contrast to it.

While in theory, the development of the internet is the potential catalyst for an active, responsible and informed citizenship to grow, the reconciling of technology with a democratic utopianism presupposes that those who control communications technology are politically and ideologically impartial in a way that the British state broadcaster, for example, is not.

The notion that BBC news journalists are impartial and that their role is to bring power to account, is based on a collective delusion. In Inventing Reality: The Politics of the Mass Media, political scientist, Michael Parenti argues that these kinds of journalists:

“Rarely doubt their own objectivity even as they faithfully echo the established political vocabularies and the prevailing politico-economic orthodoxy. Since they do not cross any forbidden lines, they are not reined in. So they are likely to have no awareness they are on an ideological leash” (1986, p.25).

But surely establishment journalists are free to say what they want in a democracy?

In 1996, Noam Chomsky challenged the assertion made by the BBCs Andrew Marr that his views were not the product of a form of self-censorship. Chomsky said:

“I’m sure you believe everything you are saying. But what I’m saying is, if you believed something different, you [Marr] wouldn’t be sitting where you are sitting.”

In other words, as Michael Parenti commenting on how media bias manifests, said of establishment journalists like Marr: “[Journalists] say what [they] like because they [their proprietors] like what [they] say.”

Propaganda

If the internet is to successfully leapfrog over what John Pilger describes as “the best, most sophisticated propaganda service in the world”, it must free itself from the forms of control indicative of its traditional counterparts.

Launched in February, 2004, the on-line social media site, Facebook, looked like it offered a genuine avenue for alternative forms of information to flourish freely. But recent evidence uncovered by the website Vox Political points to attempts by the corporation to suppress this free flow of information (see graphic below):

vox.png

According to another popular left-wing site, Skawkbox, statistics for its blog “show a ratio of around four or five visitors via Facebook for every one via Twitter. Over the last few days that has dropped to around one and a half Facebook referrals to every Twitter visitor.”

This is in line with additional analysis which suggests that new Google algorithm’s are restricting access to other left-wing progressive web sites.

The question of whether the cultural globalization of virtual space will result in the homogenization and neutralization of public and political discourse in similar ways that have befallen the traditional media, is likely to depend on the extent to which it is subject to the same distorted relations of economic power. For a liberal democracy like the UK that boasts about its plurality, the signs do not appear to be encouraging:

“Frank Beacham who enthused about the internet as a public sphere outside of corporate or government control in early 1995, lamented one year later that the internet was shifting ‘from being a participatory medium that serves the interests of the public to being a broadcast media where corporations deliver consumer-orientated information. Interactivity would be reduced to little more than sales transactions and e mail.” (Herman, E. & McChesney, R. (1997) ‘The Global Media’, p.135).

Commercial values

The implication is that the nature of the new, as with old, media content is implicitly and explicitly determined or influenced by advertising and commercial values. A key issue relates to whether information that is not influenced by the above factors is freely accessible in other forms. The main problem with liberal democracies is not necessarily that information is unavailable to the public, or that voting procedures, for example, are too cumbersome, rather it is the public’s lack of scepticism and desire to root out the facts (See for example, Hirschkop, K. in Capitalism and the Information Age, 2000).

The spread of the internet in such a situation, therefore, increases the access to far more information that would otherwise be the case with traditional forms of media. But access by itself is not the principal problem. Knowledge is not the base of its authority but its instrument. It is within this context that new media is unlikely to prove qualitatively different from the old. However, it is by its nature, likely to alter our perceptions of political space, relations to power and historical forms of rule.

In terms of production networks, global media output and global multinational capital both need technology in order to expand, just as much as technology needs multinationals and governments to globalize spaces of capital and new media through economic liberalization. Thus, globalization, technology, new media and the dominant relations of economic power are inter-connected. Moreover, as Robert McChesney asserts, these factors are reinforced by an uneven balance of power for the benefit of corporate-media political culture:

“A market dominated political economy tends to produce exactly such a political culture, to some extent because commercial penetration tends to undermine the autonomous social organisations that can bring meaning to public life…A capitalist society works most efficiently when the bulk of the population is demoralized and effectively depoliticised…As the Financial Times put it, ‘capitalist democracy can best succeed to the extent that it is about ‘the process of depoliticising the economy.’ The global commercial media are integral to this depoliticization process” (1997, pp.16-17).

Whether virtual space can bring about a new democratic polity based upon notions of social, economic and political justice, will depend on whether networked technologies are able to break free from the grip of the distortions that reflect the overriding interests associated with traditional forms of media proprietorship.

Ultimately, new media is shaped by the ideology of power, not democracy. In the context in which a Guardian editorial recently argued that “censoring the internet is necessary”, and a mainstream media which historian Mark Curtis contends, “keeps the public in the dark about virtually every important current and historical policy”, the stakes could hardly be higher.

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Bony & Clyde

By Daniel Margrain

My first distinct memory of being a West Ham United fan was in 1971. More specifically, it was the brief appearances for the Hammers of the young Nigerian cult figure, Ade Coker, that first excited me the most as a nine year. That said, it was his occasional striking partner, Clyde Best, who is the player I most fondly remember from this period. I was rather proud of my club for having been one of the first in the top tier of the professional English game to have brought through the ranks both African and a wind rush generation of players from the Caribbean.

This was a period in time when white TV entertainers ‘blacked up’ as part of their role as performing minstrels on what passed for peak time Saturday night light family entertainment on the BBC. It’s also a time when people laughed at unfunny comedies of the ilk of ‘Mind Your Language’ and ‘On The Buses’ – the former having played on the crudest forms of racial stereotyping imaginable for its ‘laughs’.

As a skinny nine year old boy I remember seeing much older and bigger gangs of “suede headed” Doc Martin booted bovver boys on TV and remember seeing them on the streets of Barking and Upminster during times when we used to visit our relatives. I sometimes used to have nightmares that these older lads were Chelsea fans and would find out I was a West Ham fan and West Ham had black players playing for them who they hated.

This hatred of the ‘other’ was an integral feature of everyday life, not only in Basildon, my hometown, but throughout other working class communities up and down the country. It was normal for my parents’ generation at that time to openly address ‘concerns’ they had of ‘coloured’ people moving into their streets on mass for fear of the ‘locals’ being ‘taken over’ and thereby potentially reducing the value of their homes.

This was of course nonsense, but hopefully it does give the reader a sense of what growing up was like for many in the early 1970s. The truth is, in all my formative years living in this post-war version of somebody else’s notion of egalitarian Utopianism, I rarely, if ever, crossed paths with a black person.

To this day, I’ve not experienced a time when the gap between perception and reality has been wider. Ignorance and irrational fear is the food racism feeds on and it was difficult to envisage any group of people that were more ignorant and irrationally fearful than post-war white working class communities fed on an almost daily diet of ‘rivers of blood’ that helped sustain the National Front’s appetite for violence.

These were, then, strange and confusing, but also extremely happy times for an impressionable young boy trying to make his mark within an Essex new town in which celebrities as diverse as Bob Marley, David Bowie and Dick Emery played a strangely equal, but significant, part.

As black people began to increasingly make inroads in public life, professional football became the most visible and positive representation of this change for my class and generation. As hard as it is to imagine nowadays, black players in England, right up to the era of John Barnes and Viv Anderson, were still targeted by hooligans on the basis of the colour of their skin.

As a 10 year old, I remember being called a ‘traitor’ for supporting a club that had black players playing for it – the same club that six years previously had essentially won England the world cup. It was generally the case that West Ham United fans at that time used to get a lot of stick from the fans of other London clubs for no other reason than we had black players playing for us. I loved the fact that the club were different in that regard.

My memories of the young Nigerian striker, Adi Coker, have been largely clouded by the passing of time, but Clyde who played for us longer, and was a more regular feature in the teams line-up, I remember well. For some reason I used to refer to him as Clive Best (probably because I confused him with one of the other black players, Clive Charles) for quite a time. It was only when I read the team line-ups on the back of the match day programmes, that I realized his name was in fact ‘Clyde’.

Of course, there was another Best earning his living for some other team in some other strange and mysterious city in another part of the country somewhere up north where the people spoke funny, and which at that time seemed like the equivalent in distance to what London is to Berlin now. Sadly, Clyde was overshadowed by George which peeved me off, but then again the same applied to every other football fan in the country, whose players were overshadowed by the Belfast genius. I took a great deal of consolation from that.

I recently saw a George Best documentary on TV where they showed the famous clip where the ball wizard turned West Ham defender John McDowell inside out. That’s one of my first memories of a football match and I can say that I saw one of the greatest players of all time at the peak of his powers.

Anyway, I digress. Best (that’s Clyde not George), was born in Somerset, Bermuda, in 1951 having played 218 games and netting 58 goals for West Ham over seven seasons between August 1969 and January 1976. Long before John Barnes was pelted with bananas by knuckle-dragging morons, Best was the brunt of racist chanting from the terraces, not just by opposing fans but I remember him being abused regularly by a sizeable minority of West Ham fans too. They weren’t abusing him because of any perceived lack of footballing ability.

This happened regularly but it gradually subsided when the racists began to cotton on that he actually played better when they stopped abusing him. For one thing, Clyde put in 100 per cent on the pitch during almost every game. One of the reasons why Best still resonates with me all these years later is that then, as now, I have a tendency to empathize with the trials and tribulations of the underdog fighting against seemingly insurmountable odds.

I think Clyde fell into that category, although one against one, he was big enough, I’m sure, to have handled himself quite adequately off the pitch. On the pitch he was no slouch either. What he lacked in pace and a certain degree of technical ability, he gained in physical strength, power and on the field presence. This was a guy who wasn’t afraid to get stuck in and work hard.

In that sense, he was similar to Andy Carroll, that is to say, he possessed the kind of skills of the traditional English centre forward. He held the ball up well and was tough to dispossess when he had it at his feet. Like Carroll, he was particularly good in the air.

I often thought that he was underrated by critics at the time who by and large, in my view, tended to overlook the finer points in his game like deftness of touch and finesse which, for a big man, I thought he combined very well with his power.

Older readers who are familiar with Best and saw him play, will probably think I’m over-egging the point when I say that he reminds me to a large extent of the currently on-loan Manchester City striker Wilfried Bony (which is in anybody’s book is high praise indeed).

In general, it is arguably an exercise in futility to try to compare the quality of teams or players from different eras other than perhaps to focus on certain characteristics and styles of playing that made them similar. Physically Bony appears to have a similar build to Best at his peak and, I would argue, plays a similar type of game.

Although Bony’s current record of 43 goals in 77 premier league appearances thus far, is double that of Best’s career at West Ham, it’s the former attributes that remind me of Clyde. Overall, though, I think that Bony is a much more technically gifted player than Best was. Like Clyde, Bony is not a regular on his managers team sheet. After going seven games without a goal for his on-loan team, Stoke, he scored twice in a 3–1 victory over his former club Swansea City on 31 October 2016. After turning down a transfer to a Chinese club, the Stoke manager, Mark Hughes, left Bony out of his squad.

Personally, I would love to see West Ham put in a bid for Bony at some point before the transfer window closes. Seeing him play upfront at the Olympic Stadium with a creative midfield play-maker providing him with the ammunition would, in my view, suit the team down to the ground, particularly as the tactical trend seems to be reverting back to good old 4-4-2.

During an era when black players were virtually unknown at the top tier of the game, a great deal of credit has to be given to Ron Greenwood who brought Clive Charles, Ade Coker and Clyde Best to the fore by playing them alongside legends like Bobby Moore and Geoff Hurst. Greenwood was among the first managers to realize that football was becoming a form of entertainment as opposed to merely a sport.

Of course, it was the late, great, Jimmy Hill who was one of the central pioneering figures that combined many other factors together to provide the conditions for the current premier league football to thrive. With the third week of the season beginning today (August 26) and with the Hammers currently bottom of the league, the killer instinct of an unsettled Bony will be the perfect addition to the West Ham squad, who would likely be far more clinical in front of goal than Clyde was.

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