Category: politics

How much longer can the corporate media continue to vilify Corbyn?

Image result for pics of corbyn

By Daniel Margrain

In 1978, the Australian social scientist, Alex Carey, pointed out that the twentieth century has been characterized by three developments of great political importance: “the growth of democracy; the growth of corporate power; and the growth of corporate propaganda as a means of protecting corporate power against democracy.”

In order to defend their business interests against the forces of democracy, the 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 that combine sophisticated public relations techniques.

This is the context of the political and media establishment’s vilification of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and their plot to oust him.

Media hate-fest

What Media Lens accurately described as a “panic-driven hysterical hate-fest right across the corporate media spectrum,” began during Corbyn’s campaign to become leader. This was manifested politically after a hardcore group of right-wing MPs all refused to serve under him.

After it became clear that Corbyn had secured ‘the largest mandate ever won by a party leader’, the attacks against him became more intense culminating in what colour poppy Corbyn would wear, his refusal to sing the national anthem or whether he would wear a tie or do up his top button. All of this was granted national news headlines and incessant coverage.

Not to be outdone, in October 2015, the BBCs political editor Laura Kuenssberg featured in an almost comically biased, at times openly scornful, attack on Corbyn’s reasonable stance on nuclear weapons. The BBC then broadcast five senior Blairite Labour figures all opposing Corbyn without any opportunity for an alternative viewpoint.

letter published in the Guardian signed by various academics and media activists, including Greg Philo of the Glasgow Media Group, Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman, noted:

“The leadership of Jeremy Corbyn has been subject to the most savage campaign of falsehood and misrepresentation in some of our most popular media outlets. He has, at different times, been derided, ignored, vilified and condemned.”

Other manufactured anti-Corbyn stories and attempts to undermine his leadership have included fake antisemitism claims and the McCarthyite purging of Corbyn supporters.

Increase in vote share & party membership

When in September 2016, Corbyn defeated Owen Smith’s leadership challenge, the former increased his share of the vote from 59.5% to 61.8% compared with the result of the 2015 leadership election. Membership of the party is currently higher than its last peak of 405,000 members last seen under Tony Blair’s leadership.

Under Blair, the party haemorrhaged 4.9 million votes between 1997 and 2010. The man who took the country to war in Iraq under a false prospectus, and who lobbies on behalf of some of the world’s most brutal and corrupt dictators, claimed in a moment of Orwellian doublespeak that Corbyn is a disaster for the party.

Blair was not alone. Prior to the last General Election, right-wingers within the party had continued to assert that Corbyn was an electoral liability for Labour. This was despite the fact that pre-coup, Labour led the Tories in three polls in a row over 41 days.

Myth-making

It was clear that the ‘left are unelectable narrative’ was intended to play into the hands of Corbyn’s opponents. It is a narrative that is based on a myth. The notion, for example, that you have to be right-wing to win elections is belied by the fact that the SNP under Nicola Sturgeon won the people of Scotland over on a left-wing ticket. Moreover, the British public’s ‘enthusiasm’ for Blair in 1997 was not based on policies that were subsequently known as Blairite, but, rather, on a left-wing image of the kind outlined in the 1997 Labour Manifesto.

Similarly, as the June 2017 General Election neared, the public began to frame their views on Corbyn, less on what the media wanted them to believe through their propagandizing of him, and more on what they saw and heard in public speeches and debates.

They liked what they heard. The bread and butter issues resonated across the board, but particularly with the young who saw in Corbyn somebody who at last was prepared to put issues like tuition fees, education, inequality, social justice and affordable housing at the top of the agenda.

The media’s depiction of Corbyn as a bumbling idiot and terrorist sympathizer didn’t square with the reality. Thus, the closer the election got, the narrower the polls became. When Theresa May called the election last April, the Tories lead over Labour was 24 points. A week before the election, the lead had been cut to just three.

Compassion, justice & humanity

Having galvanized the young and encapsulated the wider public mood with an inspired insurgency campaign, it was clear in the early hours on 9 June 2017, that Corbyn against all the odds, had prevented a Tory majority. The electorate in huge numbers had been persuaded by the Labour leaders message of compassion, justice and humanity.

Given the level of media vilification, hostility and bias against Corbyn from the moment he became Labour leader, the election result was nothing less than astonishing. Corbyn ‘increased Labour’s share of the vote by more than any other of the party’s election leaders since 1945, with the biggest swing witnessed since the Second World War. He won a larger share of the vote than Blair in 2005.

In his constituency of Islington North, Corbyn inherited a majority of 4,456, which increased to 21,194. He added a further 10,430 at the General election. He’s one of the few Labour MPs whose vote increased between 2005 and 2010, when he added 5,685 to his majority.

The corporate media commentariat – most of whom predicted a Tory landslide – were stunned at the result. When a tweeter suggested that Corbyn’s result was “brilliant”, New Statesman editor Jason Cowley replied: “Yes, I agree.” Just three days earlier, Cowley had written under the ominous title:

“The Labour reckoning – Corbyn has fought a spirited campaign but is he leading the party to worst defeat since 1935?”

In March 2017, Cowley opined:

“The stench of decay and failure coming from the Labour Party is now overwhelming – Speak to any Conservative MP and they will say that there is no opposition. Period.”

Cowley’s views are indicative of how the elite class in general have been slow in responding to the shifting political landscape. The unrepresentative nature of TV political punditry continues pretty much as it did before the election.

But it isn’t just the commentariate and TV producers within the elite media bubble who are out of touch and aloof. The Labour party establishment who endorse the elite narrative and who were filmed predicting Corbyn’s demise and felt he was unsuitable to lead the party into the election, have without any shame or embarrassment, continued with ‘service as normal’.

Czech spy & Russia apologist

Almost a year on since the election, the elites have continued with their sustained anti-Corbyn fake news stories. One of the latest and most prominent of these was the claim Corbyn met with Czech communist spies to sell them secrets. Corbyn’s team were left with no option other than to threaten one of his accusers with legal action. With a potential libel suit hanging over him, MP Ben Bradshaw, was forced publicly to apologize unreservedly for the untrue and false accusations he made against the Labour leader.

Then in March 2018, Corbyn came under yet more attacks from his own MPs over the Salisbury Skripal poisoning case. Corbyn’s reasonable stance that prompted the attacks on him, was his request to PM Theresa May that she present to parliament evidence to support her assertion that Russia was responsible for the poisonings.

He was also criticised for reminding May that under the terms of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) to which the UK is a signatory, the UK government was obliged to provide Russia with a sample of the nerve agent used, along with all related evidence uncovered in the course of the investigation.

It soon transpired that May provided no evidence regarding Russia’s alleged culpability. When Russia formally requested that the UK submit a sample of its evidence to the Organisation for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), May refused the request. It was subsequently revealed that on March 14, the UK government blocked a Russia-drafted UN Security Council statement calling for an urgent inquiry into the incident.

Compared with the histrionics of May and the establishment mass media, Corbyn had been far more circumspect and rational in his approach to the issue. There is a very good reason for this. Barely mentioned in the press was the fact that seven months ago, Russia had destroyed all of its stockpiles of chemical weapons.

The Director-General of the OPCW, Ambassador Ahmet Üzümcü, stated:

“The completion of the verified destruction of Russia’s chemical weapons programme is a major milestone in the achievement of the goals of the Chemical Weapons Convention. I congratulate Russia and I commend all of their experts who were involved for their professionalism and dedication.”

Former UK diplomat Craig Murray points out with reference to the contents published in a prestigious scientific journal by Dr Robin Black, Head of the facilities Detection Laboratory, that the evidence for the existence of Novichoks was scant and their composition unknown. As such “the UK government has absolutely no ‘fingerprint’ information such as impurities that can safely attribute this substance to Russia.”

But even if there was evidence of a compound corresponding to a “Novichok”, it doesn’t necessarily follow that Russia was responsible for manufacturing the compound, since no Russian sample can be compared to it. In other words, May’s assertion that the Russian state was responsible for the attacks on Mr. Skripal and his daughter on the basis that ‘Novichoks’ can only be made in certain military installations, is demonstrably false.

The antisemitism accusations resurface

Once again, Corbyn defied his critics. But it didn’t take long before the attacks on him would resurface. The Labour Friends of Israel lobby inside the party which, in April 2016, had manufactured a fake antisemitism crisis, took their opportunity two years later to strike again. The catalyst this time was an anti-capitalist wall mural by artist, Kalen Ockerman, removed from East London in 2012.

The basis for Corbyn’s admiration for the work – which actually surfaced in 2015 – was the anti-capitalist themes depicted in the mural (Corbyn had previously expressed praise for a similarly themed mural by left-wing Mexican artist Diego Rivera). What was a non-issue at that time, had three years later become a major media scandal. Yet not a single commentator in the corporate mainstream had thought to ask the question why.

Furthermore, the Jewish Chronicle responsible for the ‘scoop’ back in 2015, and which asserted at the time the mural might have “antisemitic undertones”, not only attributed the claim to Corbyn’s critics, but three years later had changed their tune. They were now claiming that the mural was explicitly antisemitic and attributed the support of the mural’s supposed antisemitic themes to Corbyn not his critics.

In addition, back in 2015, the paper described the scene depicted in the mural as “a group of businessmen and bankers sitting around a Monopoly-style board and counting money” not as the media is now doing, a “cabal of Jewish bankers”. Among the right-wingers who joined in the chorus of anti-Corbyn smears was former leader, Ed Miliband who accused Corbyn of not doing enough to counter the ‘problem’ of antisemitism in the party despite claims to the contrary outlined by human rights lawyer Shami Chakrabarti in her report.

Revealingly, only 18 MPs voted against Theresa May’s 2014 Immigration Act, which enshrined dogwhistle racism and the hostile environment policy. None of the 18 mentioned included any anti-Corbyn right-wing Labour MPs who supposedly care so much about antisemitism and racism within the party.

Nevertheless, in their attempts to make the fake antisemitic claims stick, some of the said Labour MPs continued on April 17 to denounce Corbyn’s handling of alleged antisemitism with rousing speeches in parliament. Corbyn critic and chief Zionist cheerleader, John Mann, recounted a story in which his wife was sent a dead bird in the post by an ‘antisemitic’ Corbyn supporter affiliated to Momentum. But it was subsequently revealed that the incident in question happened in 2012, three years before Momentum was formed and three years prior to Corbyn’s election as party leader.

Another MP and Corbyn critic who spoke during the ‘debate’ was former Israel lobby spin doctor, Ruth Smeeth who, after entering the UK parliament in 2015, continued to be funded by two leading figures from her former employer, BICOM – the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre. The latest official register of financial interests for members of Parliament shows that Smeeth continues to be funded by the Israel lobby.

Vote with those you are officially opposing

The parliamentary ‘debate’ described, in addition to the recent accusations of antisemitism accompanying it, are aimed to coincide with the forthcoming local elections which Corbyn’s critics inside the party desperately want to be calamitous for the Labour leader.

Former UK ambassador, Craig Murray, recalled reporting on an Uzbek Presidential election where the ‘opposition’ candidate advised voters to vote for President Karimov. “When you have senior Labour MPs including John Woodcock, Jess Phillips, John Mann, Luciana Berger, Mike Gapes, Wes Streeting and Ruth Smeeth carrying on a barrage of attacks on their own leader during a campaign, and openly supporting Government positions, British democracy has become completely dysfunctional”, he said.

The reason why the attacks against Corbyn have reached fever pitch is precisely because his critics within the establishment know he is highly electable and therefore represents a threat to their privileged positions both inside and outside of the party. This is probably no better illustrated than the positive reaction by the CBI to Corbyn’s February 26, 2018 Brexit speech.

In the aftermath of the speech, establishment writers for centre-right publications like the Spectator and pro-hard Brexit right-wing politicians like Jacob Rees-Mogg who, financially, stand to lose the most should Corbyn become the next Prime Minister, are the same people who appear to have undergone somewhat of a Damascene conversion to the working class cause.

Power of social media

Corbyn’s success is indicative of the power of social media to break the ability of the corporate mainstream to manufacture the electorates consent. All those within the political and media establishment motivated primarily by elite interests associated with money and power will disappear once the money dries up. Social media is leading the way in helping to dispel the myths and falsehoods for which the elites depend in order to sustain their privileged positions in society. Corbyn’s rise is indicative of how the consolidated power of the old established corporate- media hierarchies and their fake narratives are breaking down.

This is bad for the elites but good for democracy. Given that the smears promoted by the press have had virtually no effect on public opinion, and as Corbyn edges closer to the reigns of power, for how much longer will the corporate elite class be able to sustain what has arguably been the most prolonged and vitriolic reportage ever witnessed against any British political figure in history?

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Fantasy Island

Best Episodes of Fantasy Island | List of Top Fantasy ...

I haven’t written anything on this site for a while now.  It’s actually rather difficult to know what to write when confronted with the astonishing spectacle of national self-destruction that is unfolding in front of our eyes.  Nowadays hardly a day passes without another  reminder that the UK has entered a new political dimension in which delusions of grandeur, magical thinking and ideological fantasy have replaced anything that we once thought had any connection to the real world.

These tendencies reach across the political spectrum.  You can find them in George Galloway, doing the full UKIP/Churchill thing on Arron Banks’s Westmonster website (sorry not linking to this) and reminding Europeans that WE saved them during WWII and that ‘If not for us not a single European politician would hold office anywhere unless as a Quisling collaborator of the German Reich.’  For the Churchillian war-child Galloway this means that ‘ when I hear a “Schnell” or an “Achtung” from the Junkers (sic) of this world I don’t consider it music in my ears.’

Let no one spoil this demagogic rant by telling Galloway that Jean-Claude Juncker comes from Luxembourg not Germany. He already knows that.  But for Galloway, anyone who has anything to do with the EU is close enough to Nazis to make no difference, and anyone who says otherwise, like Churchill’s opponents, belong to what he calls ‘the gang of appeasers and fifth columnists within the British elite.’

Such idiocy, as we have seen for some time now, is not confined to the fringes.  Take Boris Johnson’s latest fatuous suggestion comparing the border between  Northern Ireland and Ireland to a congestion zone between Westminster and Camden.  Never one to resist blowing his own trumpet, Johnson reminded Radio 4 listeners ‘ when I was mayor of London we anesthetically and invisibly took hundreds of millions of pounds from the accounts of people traveling between those two boroughs without any need for border checks.’

Many people have pointed out that it may not be so easy to ‘anesthetically and invisibly’ bypass Irish history or a conflict that cost 3,000 lives.  It’s a bleak testament to the current state of things that such points even need to be made, or that a self-aggrandising buffoon like Johnson has any influence on anything at all.  But his continued presence in the corridors of power is a symptom of a detachment from reality that only seems to grow wider as the Brexit process slouches incoherently  towards political Neverland.

For eighteen months the May government has been asking for things it cannot have, promising things it cannot deliver, bluffing, posturing, and pursuing things that cannot be achieved, even as its own impact assessments predict that the country will be worse off in every single Brexit scenario.   Yet when civil servants point out the potential damage that the country is likely to inflict on itself, they are dismissed as traitors, quislings, closet Eurocrats or members of the ‘pro-European elite’.

Humankind cannot bear very much reality, wrote TS Eliot, and Brexiters cannot bear any reality at all that conflicts with their fantasy of a global buccaneering Britain, freed of EU red tape and the unwanted immigrants that the country depends on, able to smoke in pubs as we surge toward a brave new world that we now know will not be a ‘Mad Max-style’ dystopia.

In fact a country that allows its politics to be driven by ideological fantasies and straw man constructs is likely to find itself inhabiting a reality that is more dystopian than its opposite, and the right aren’t the only dreamers in Brexittown.  On Monday, Jeremy Corbyn once again demonstrated that the left is no less prone to magical thinking than the Rees-Mogg/Nadine Dorries crowd.

Corbyn’s speech was hailed by his fans as a ‘ bold Brexit vision’, because his fan base will never say anything different about anything he says.  But despite – or perhaps because of – its attempt to be everything to everyone, his speech was littered with little reminders of why His Majesty’s Opposition have presented very little opposition whatsoever to the Brexit process,  and has largely fallen over itself in its desire to wave it through.

There was a leftwing version of the ‘£350 million for the NHS’ pledge in Corbyn’s promise to ‘use funds returned from Brussels after Brexit to invest in our public services and the jobs of the future, not tax cuts for the richest.’  While insisting that there should be ‘no scapegoating of migrants’, Corbyn once again promised that ‘Our immigration system will change and freedom of movement will as a statement of fact end when we leave the European Union.’

So migrants won’t be scapegoated, but freedom of movement – one of the great progressive achievements of the European Union – will end  in order ‘ To stop employers being able to import cheap agency labour to undercut existing pay and conditions’.

When Corbyn last mentioned this ‘importation’, it was in relation to the construction industry, which has a skills shortage and where wages are actually rising.   But Corbyn clearly believes that immigration is a ‘bosses club’ ploy and in Brexit Britain believing is everything.   Corbyn won’t accept a ‘ deal that left Britain as a passive recipient of rules decided elsewhere by others’ even though the EU has made it quite clear that it will not accept cherry-picking deals that allow the UK to continue to enjoy a privileged position without any obligations.   Then there is this:

‘There will be some who will tell you that Brexit is a disaster for this country and some who will tell you that Brexit will create a land of milk and honey. The truth is more down to earth and it’s in our hands. Brexit is what we make of it together, the priorities and choices we make in the negotiations.’

Not really.  Because whatever priorities and choices we decide upon, the UK is negotiating within a very limited set of parameters and is almost certain to find itself worse-off than it was before, no matter what is ultimately decided.  The tragedy is that neither the government nor the opposition want to admit this. Mesmerised by their own narrow party or personal interests, wide-eyed and prostrate before ‘the will of the people’, they offer fantasies and pipedreams and demand the impossible in an attempt to square circles that cannot be connected.

Sooner or later the consequences of this political cowardice and dereliction of duty will become impossible to ignore, and when that happens things may get even uglier than many of us imagine.  Because there are historic mistakes that cannot easily be undone, and Brexit is one of them.

For now, it seems, the millions of us who are unwilling passengers on this runaway train can merely sit while it heads towards the buffers, hostages to a political nightmare that we seem incapable of waking up from, shouting out warnings that those who are driving this process seem unable or unwilling to hear, and from the point of view of a writer – and a citizen – that is not a comfortable position to be in at all.

The above article was written by Matt Carr and originally published on his excellent blog, Matt Carr’s Infernal Machine at:

http://www.infernalmachine.co.uk/fantasy-island/

 

Havana: city of dreams underpinned by harsh socioeconomic realities

By Daniel Margrain

The Plaza Hotel in central Havana has all the grace and fading colonial splendour reminiscent of something out of a E. M Forster novel. I had arrived at the hotel in the early hours. The wooden shutters of my room opened up to a small balcony overlooking a dusty and dimly lit street. What first struck me about the city was its apparent sense of serene calmness. I felt I had stepped into an Edward Hopper painting. Except for the sound of the occasional taxi that passed on the street directly below, and the flickering echo of distant voices, the streets remained eerily quiet.

Cuba

Bustling

It wasn’t until the following morning from the rooftop of the hotel that the aromas of the city, bustling street life and clogged roads in the distance below – set against a backdrop of crumbling tenement buildings, colonial edifices and pot-holed roads – became evident in this unique metropolis. The vivaciousness, eclecticism and atmospheric energy of the Caribbean’s largest city has survived everything that has been thrown at it throughout its 500-year history and continues to stand as a beacon of resistance against U.S imperialism today.

For this writer, it was the visceral and abstract, as opposed to conventional notions of beauty, that was Havana’s main appeal. The overriding sense of a city that forms part of an Island of quasi-socialism within a sea of capitalism, and all of the contradictions and potential opportunities that this entails, is palpable for the first time visitor. Graham Greene was right when he said that Havana is a city where “anything is possible”.

To be immersed in the hustle and bustle of Havana whilst constantly reminding yourself of the historical significance of the city in both time and place opens up a potential space in which it is possible to get lost in the melee and embrace its earthy authenticity. No other city in the world that I have visited has quite the aesthetic seductiveness for the flaneur as Havana has.

It’s along the kilometre stretch of the Calle Obispo that the city really bursts into life. A rag-bag collection of hustlers, drunks, artists and musicians throng the street from dawn until dusk after which time the cramped drinking dens come into their own. Musically accomplished and professional-sounding resident bands who can be heard for free playing everything from jazz and the traditional son through to calypso, folk and salsa way into the early hours, throng the bars.

Beating heart

The beating heart of the city metaphorically pulses to the sound of live music in much the same way as New Orleans does. Whether it emanates from somebody’s balcony or from the bars and streets, the eclecticism of a city where music and architecture appear to fuse into one means that visitors and residents alike are rarely far from either.

The latter is one of Havana’s main draws. Many of the buildings and squares are shaped by a colourful colonial history embellished by a myriad of foreign influences that gracefully combine baroque, neoclassical, art nouveau, art deco and modernist styles. The buildings in central Havana are almost, without exception, visually stunning. Unfortunately, much of the architectural splendour has been left to fester in an advanced state of dilapidation, largely as a result of the turmoil of three separate revolutionary wars.

Thankfully, though, the cities well-preserved historical core has survived into the 21st century relatively unscathed. One of the most impressive of these ‘survivors’ is the magnificent 18th century baroque Catedral de San Cristobal de la Habana (see photo above). This graceful-looking edifice was described by the Cuban novelist Alejo Carpentier as “music set in stone”. This, if anything, is an understatement. Words cannot describe the emotional impact this building and the beauty of its tranquil surroundings had on this writer.

In a city like Havana, it’s difficult to fully set aside the vibrant and colourful cultural preconceptions associated with the place from a lifetime of images ingrained in ones consciousness. Some of these images have an objective basis in reality, while others are mainly subjective or fantasies and caricatures. The Havana experience in its totality, though, is rarely less than alluring.

To what extent one allows oneself to be immersed in either aspect is largely dependent on the individual. “Habana is very much like a rose”, said Fico Fellove, in the movie The Lost City, “it has petals and it has thorns….so it depends on how you grab it. But in the end, it always grabs you.” 

Fellove is right. Havana is a city of dreamers and dreams; of myths and fantasies. But it is also a city that cannot escape a present guided by the dark forces of its past. In essence, Havana is a contradiction that represents the antithesis of the kind of nightmares imposed on it by its super power adversary 90 miles away.

Torricelli & Helms-Burton

One of the nightmares the people of Havana continue to suffer is the US trade embargo which has hit the city hard. The Washington-imposed 1992 Torricelli Act prevents foreign subsidiaries of US companies trading with the city and prohibits ships that have called at its port from docking at US ports for six months.

The 1996 Helms-Burton Act, meant that the tightening of the embargo was pulled up a notch. The end result of this draconian U.S attack, was the effective banning of virtually the entirety of the rest of the world trading with Cuba. This is causing terrible suffering in the city.

The hope for many was that Helms-Burton would be repealed. However, under Obama these hopes were dashed. Given the perilous state of the U.S economy under his successor, Trump, in addition to Cuba’s continued resistance to U.S hegemony, any compromise in the Cuban position, post-Fidel, seems equally unlikely.

By smearing Cuba’s “socialism” as “devastating” and a “failure”, Trump has further alienated the Cuban leadership. The country is hardly socialist. The revolution that overthrew U.S puppet, Fulgencio Batista in 1959, was in reality an anti-colonial rather than a socialist revolution in which Cuba’s workers were largely onlookers, however sympathetic.

Two-tier economy

The consequence of prioritizing national liberation above socialist revolution has been the emergence of a two-tier economy in Havana. Hard currency in the form of the Cuban convertible, has largely replaced the Peso as the means of exchange. Its growing use is creating a distorted local economy altering the dynamic of the city in a way not dis-similar to the satellite states of the former Soviet Union prior to the collapse of the Berlin wall.

The crisis in the Cuban economy was exacerbated during the period 1991-94. This was a particularly dark phase in the history of Havana. During this time the people of the city and throughout the country, had suffered terribly. The ending of Soviet subsidies that had effectively sustained the Cuban economy for 30 years had, by the end of the decade, become reliant for its growth on a rapidly expanding tourist industry. But this growth was fragile because it did not reflect any deep transformation of the economy.

Today, the Cuban convertible and other forms of hard currency (except the US dollar), can be exchanged at any bank in Havana for Pesos. A basic meal paid for by the latter on the streets of the city costs the equivalent of 25p, while a beer at a hard currency-only tourist bar will set a skilled Cuban worker back one-twentieth of his or her monthly salary. This kind of two-tier economy is not consistent with socialism but rather a highly political bureaucratic state.

Corruption

State corruption is the inevitable consequence that flows from this set of relationships. Ordinary Cubans who are not connected to either the high echelons of the bureaucratic state or the tourist sector, speak endlessly and angrily about the visible and growing gulf – economic, social and political – between this privileged layer and the majority, whose daily life is a struggle. Tourism exacerbates these divisions which explains why politically, socially and economically Havana is being pulled in different directions.

At the time of my visit to the city, socioeconomic polarizing fractures had already started to appear – a situation that will almost certainly worsen as the relative trickle of tourists inevitably turn into a flood in the years to come. The irreconcilable forces that are seemingly pulling the city apart acts as a warning sign to the rest of the country in a post-Fidel world.

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Theresa May’s Mansion House speeches: Is Putin an agent of the British state?

By Daniel Margrain

In Alfred Hitchcock’s classic 1959 film, North By Northwest, Cary Grant plays the part of an advertising executive who inadvertently gets caught up in a web of espionage after he is mistaken for “George Kaplan”, a fictional persona created by a government agency in order to thwart the nefarious activities of a spy, Phillip Vandamm (James Mason).

After reading the transcript of Theresa May’s recent Mansion House speech in which she alluded to the alleged nefarious activities of Vladimir Putin, one might reasonably conclude that real life imitates art and that the Russian leader is a creation of Britain’s secret services.

Hard power

Resplendent with cliches and insubstantial rhetorical flourishes low on substance, May’s projection of hard power harked back to the days of the British Empire in which, as George Galloway famously remarked, “the sun never set because God would never trust the English in the dark”.

May’s vision of a post-Brexit Britain in a globalized world, is marked by ‘humanitarian interventionism’ predicated on military pre-emption, or as one US administration official put it, “pre-emptive retaliation”. Such a foreign policy strategy is one in which the ‘responsibility to protect’ is informed by a notion of imperialist exceptionalism couched in the language of economic liberalism and free markets. This is regarded by the political establishment as the best way to counter (largely imaginary) military threats.

Last years Mansion House speech

Thus, in the tradition of Kipling, May emphasized that the historic role of Britain was to nurture ‘less enlightened’ societies by invoking in them the virtues of neoliberal ‘trickle-down’ economics. This sentiment echoes the substantive part of the Mansion House speech May made this time last year:

“Over our long history, this country has set the template for others to follow”, said May.

The PM continued:

“We demonstrate to the world that we can be the strongest global advocate for free markets and free trade.”

But as income inequality has continued to increase inexorably since last years Mansion House speech, the PM has been left to ponder as to whether ‘trickle-down’ is not really a case of ‘gushing-up’. Regardless, there is scant evidence she intends to do anything about it, preferring instead to regurgitate the requisite caveats:

“There have been downsides to globalisation in recent years, and that – in our zeal and enthusiasm to promote this agenda as the answer to all our ills – we have on occasion overlooked the impact on those closer to home who see these forces in a different light”, said the PM.

May added:

“If we take a step back and look at the world around us, one of the most important drivers becomes clear – the forces of liberalism and globalisation which have held sway in Britain, America and across the Western world for years have left too many people behind.”

But rather than acknowledge that neoliberal ideology is the catalyst for growing inequality, May persists with the illusion that the rules-based international capitalist system on which it is based, represents the solution to the problem:

“Liberalism and globalisation…underpin the rules-based international system that is key to global prosperity and security and which I am clear we must protect and seek to strengthen,” claimed May.

White man’s burden

The alleged merits of a 19th century rules-based liberal system rooted in the Kipling-esque “white man’s burden” notion of modern international relations, was a topic May returned to during her November 13, 2017 speech:

“So as we reach out into the world and write this new chapter in our national history, the task of a global Britain is clear – to defend the rules based international order against irresponsible states that seek to erode it”, said May.

Clearly, the PM had one country in mind as one of the more significant of the worlds “irresponsible states” who she regards as potentially undermining neoliberalism’s global reach:

“The comprehensive new economic partnership we seek will underpin our shared commitment to open economies and free societies in the face of those who seek to undermine them. Chief among those today, of course, is Russia”, said May.

Ratcheting-up

Ratcheting-up Russia’s imaginary threat to Western civilization, May remarked:

“Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea was the first time since the Second World War that one sovereign nation has forcibly taken territory from another in Europe.”

This simplistic analysis conveniently overlooks the subversive actions of the US in the Ukraine and broader geopolitical and strategic contextual objectives of the Western-led alliance which meant that Putin was left with little option other than to incorporate Crimea in order to attempt to fend off an encroaching NATO.

Also, by limiting her critique to Europe, May ignored the attempts by Britain, France, the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia among others, to destabilize Syria in addition to the US-led coalitions decades-long illegal wars of aggression against the sovereign nations of Iraq and Libya.

May stepped-up the anti-Russian line by reproducing unsubstantiated soundbites against the country. The PM falsely inferred that Russia’s supposed state-run media propaganda is unique to a country whose official enemies constantly use the rhetoric of war against it.

May’s anti-Russian tirade during the latter part of her speech culminated in what were clear threats against Putin – an arrogance akin to that of a 19th century imperial overseer. Seemingly eager to continue justifying the reinforcing of the British industrial-military complex, May added to the fear mongering rhetoric:

“The UK will do what is necessary to protect ourselves, and work with our allies to do likewise”, she said.

That it’s Britain and it’s NATO allies, not Russia, that represents the greatest potential threat to world peace, is unmentionable in mass corporate media parlance.

Weaponising information

Ironically, the Russian state broadcaster, RT, who Theresa May in her speech alluded seeks to “weaponise information…in an attempt to sow discord in the West and undermine our institutions”, revealed the collusion between the Western powers and ISIS. This was a fact that the BBC only began to belatedly acknowledge many years later.

So, as Patrick Henningsen astutely pointed out with an air of sarcasm, using May’s logic, the much maligned Vladimir Putin – who the PM effectively accused of ‘weaponising information’ – is presumably meddling in the BBC?

Another possibility is that he is a double agent, who like the Cary Grant character in North By Northwest, is unknowingly working for the British government. The third, and most likely possibility, is that Theresa May is a hypocrite and liar.

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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 direction 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 have been comprehensively 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].

Conjecture-based assertions presented as facts

Unexplained phenomena and coincidences of the kind alluded to by Chomsky, have been seized upon by the 9/11 truth movement who have filled in the gaps of uncertainty with unsubstantiated and conjecture-based assertions. They then present these assertions as evidence based facts.

Accounts from the 9/11 truth movement are remarkably similar to the accounts of many of those who experienced the sinking of the Titanic. As the vessel was sinking into the ocean, passengers heard explosions in the ship. In this case, the ‘official story’ would be wrong, according to the truth movement. 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 truth movement logic, it was blown up because some witnesses characterized the sound as an ‘explosion’.

The point is, appearances can often be deceiving. 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.

When the truth movement view videos of the twin towers collapsing in what they claim is free fall speed, what they actually see are versions of the collapse at angles that reinforce their own prejudices. This is commonly referred to as confirmation bias. The claims made on the basis of what is contained in these videos have no basis in factual scientific-based evidence.

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 the likes of Galloway and Chomsky and others on the progressive left that those 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. It is incomprehensible to realists how otherwise 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.

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 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 a professor of religion and theology believes it to be the case. Experts in theology also believe that scripture in the Old Testament is evidence of the existence of Jesus. But the existence of Jesus is, in fact, highly contested.

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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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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