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Why I’ve joined the Church of the Latter-Day Dude

Image result for church of the latter day dude, pics

By Daniel Margrain

Recently, the Independent reported on the curious story of a group of Satanic worshippers who unveiled a statue of the Knights Templar goat-man, Baphomet, in Arkansas. It was not so much the face value story that caught my attention but the statement made by Satanic Arkansas co-founder, Ivy Forrester: “If you’re going to have one religious monument up then it should be open to others. If you don’t agree with that then let’s just not have any at all,” said Forrester.

Equal religious status

On the surface, the demand by Satanists that they have equal religious status with Christians, appears absurd. But is it?  Under the 1st and 14th amendments to the United States Constitution it is possible, using 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 established religions that Forrester argues is equally applicable to Satanism. The 1st and 14th amendments to the US constitution ensure that legally no distinction can be made between the rights of citizens to have their faith in belief systems recognized (or ridiculed) under the right to freedom of expression, irrespective of the form the said ‘religion’ takes.

The critical demands placed upon belief systems and critiques of their evidence-based deficiencies apply equally to the Church of the Latter-Day Dude. Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and mainstream established religions. All are afforded equal status under the US Constitution and all are open to scrutiny, ridicule and parody on an equal basis.

The problem for freedom of expression advocates is one of lack of consistency. Established organised religions consider themselves to be absolved from ridicule in the way that the likes of the Church of the Latter-Day Dude and the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster do not. The implication is that established religious faith-based systems are more credible than non-established ‘joke’ religions. But since neither are fact based, the criticisms made against the latter do not stack up.

So why does the UK state, for example, make a distinction between joke ‘religions’ and established ones? Why should the former be regarded as exclusively non-credible, while the latter be considered immune from criticism, ridicule and parody? Why does one group make demands in law to be taken seriously despite the absurd claims that are made in an attempt to legitimize them, and the other remain open to be parodied and ridiculed on the basis of the said absurd claims? Why is there a different set of standards applied to each of them? Surely, the notion that all belief systems should be open to criticism and/or parody and ridicule whether established or not, should be regarded as a welcome development in free and democratically transparent societies?

The groups who formed the Church of the Latter-Day Dude and the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster are using freedom of expression legislation under the US Constitution to augment their right to parody other belief systems in the same way that those who adhere to equally irrational (albeit established) belief systems, are entitled (and indeed, expected ), to ridicule them.

Inadvertently, the United States is leading the way in exposing the absurdity of organised religious dogma in all its forms. Satirists who form spoof religious groups as vehicles for exposing the double standards and hypocrisy of the state as a means of exercising their right to freedom of speech, actively embrace the ability to both be criticised and to criticise the belief systems of others on an equal basis free from the constraints of censorship. Indeed, this principle is central to the establishment of healthy democracies. Nevertheless, it still remains the case that there are limits set by many state legislatures as to how far down the road its citizens are allowed to go in lampooning organised religion.

Life of Brian & the Satanic Verses

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”.

Incredibly, the ban in Torbay remained in place until 2008 lasting 29 years. More significantly, the film was shunned by the BBC and ITV, who declined to broadcast 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.

Almost a decade after the The Life of Brian controversy, 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.  

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.

Hebdo, Diedonne & Corbyn

Islamic fundamentalism was again to play a part in relation 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.

Meanwhile, in France, public officials, Jewish groups and others have attempted to censor the satirist, political activist and comedian Diedonne M’bala M’bala, for his outspoken criticisms of the Israeli state. More recently the pro-Israel Lobby in the UK have attempted to gag pro-Palestinian activists that include Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn. In both cases, the aim of the Lobby is to curtail the freedom of speech of all voices critical of the ethnic cleansing policies of an apartheid state using contrived anti-Semitism allegations as their justification.

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 of all kinds. He showed no mercy for the human condition 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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Saving Syria’s Children: Was BBC license fee money used to support an Islamist terror group protection-racket?

By Daniel Margrain

  In Saving Syria’s Children the logo of Salafist terror group, Ahrar al-Sham, is visible on the front of one the vehicles in Pannell and Conway’s security convoy (Source: Robert Stuart).

For many years I have been following Robert Stuart’s exhaustive and detailed exposition of the possible fabrications behind the infamous BBC Panorama documentary ‘Saving Syria’s Children’. The documentary was made in response to the alleged dropping of an incendiary bomb containing a “napalm-type” substance on the playground of the Urm al-Kubra school near Aleppo.

The BBC team comprising reporter, Ian Pannell and cameraman, Darren Conway were inside Syria when the alleged attack happened. They reported on, and filmed, the incoming casualties arriving at the Atareb hospital on 26 August 2013. The footage formed the basis of the documentary.

Stuart contends that the filmed sequences were largely, if not entirely, staged. Scenes from the documentary were shown as part of a brief BBC News at Ten broadcast report by Pannell and Conway which contained harrowing scenes of teenage boys and young men, their skin apparently in tatters, racing into what the report describes as “a basic hospital funded by handouts” to be treated for burns. In one particularly disturbing scene a tableau of young men writhe, drool and groan, seemingly in great distress.

My first impression after having seen the film was that it was contrived and staffed by actors. What initially led me to this conclusion were the actions of the central figure, Mohammed Asi, who looked directly into the camera for several moments before raising his arm, at which point the group around him instantly became animated before moaning in unison.

Many other anomalies and contradictions too numerous to mention here in detail were evident throughout the Panorama documentary and the related reports. These included:

– Conflicting and contradictory accounts.

– A “victim” who appeared to be grinning.

– Implausible demeanours of alleged victims.

– Questions as to the authenticity of the alleged burns to victims by experienced doctors.

– Apparent choreographed behaviour.

– Unconvincing injuries.

– Testimonies that challenged the BBC version of events.

I attended Robert Stuart’s most recent public presentation of his findings in London which can be viewed here

Saving Syria’s Children made reference to two British female doctors, Rola Hallam a ‘volunteer’ for the ‘charity’ Hand-in-Hand-for Syria, and (former?) BBC TV presenter, Saleyha Ahsan.

Dr Rola’s father, Dr Mousa al-Kurdi, is a senior Syrian opposition member, while her on-site colleague, Dr Ahsan, is a former captain in the British Army Medical Corps. All of this information was hidden from the public by the BBC.

The British state broadcaster has not addressed any of the legitimate issues raised by Stuart. All of the anomalies and contradictions highlighted call into question the authenticity of the entire alleged attack.

The researcher has presented his findings in open public forums on numerous occasions and has not been threatened, legally, with any injunctions or forms of legal redress which would almost certainly have been the case had the allegations been false.

Most recently, Stuart has argued, convincingly, that Pannell and Conway were given protection by the ISIS-affiliated Salafist terror group, Ahrar al-Sham. On 22 November, 2017, Stuart reported the activities of Pannell and Conway – that amounted to colluding with executioners – to Britain’s National Counter Terrorism Security Office.

Not only is it shocking that the British public helped fund the production of anti-Syrian government propaganda in the form of Saving Syria’s Children, but that they also inadvertently helped support an Islamist terrorist protection racket to enable this to happen.

It appears to be increasingly clear that BBC licence fee money was used to allow the safe passage of Pannell and Conway to and from the location where Saving Syria’s Children was being filmed.

The actions of the BBC are not only inexcusable, but they have the potential to pose a serious risk to national security and to further undermine what little remains of the trust the public has in the national state broadcaster to report accurately and objectively on issues of national importance.

It is clear that the BBC not only colluded in the production of false UK government propaganda intended to influence a vote in parliament to commit British troops to Syria in yet another illegal war, but that they did so by engaging in a sophisticated and well-planned series of events that involved the active participation of Islamist terrorists and their sympathizers.

While the UK foreign office and high-ranking government ministers are eager to publicly condemn terrorist atrocities committed against UK citizens on British soil, what has not been widely acknowledged is the extent to which the British state is complicit in furthering the terrorists objectives in Syria. This has serious potential implications for all UK citizens in terms of helping to facilitate ‘blow-back’ on the streets of our towns and cities.

Evidence produced from independent journalists like Vanessa Beeley, Eva Bartlett and others who have exposed the nefarious activities of UK-funded ‘humanitarian’ organisations like the White Helmets and Hand in Hand, add to accusation that the role of the BBC is that of a propaganda conduit for UK imperial power in the countries these groups operate. After having studied Robert Stuart’s analysis in detail, it is difficult to arrive at any other conclusion.

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Review of Fiende Fatale live at The Horn, St. Albans

By Daniel Margrain

In Steven Shea’s 2013 cult horror-adventure parody, Fiende Fatale, an assortment of DNA-cloned monsters and weirdos reconfigured from the carcasses of vampires, zombies, demons and others, find themselves confronting government and terrorist forces in a dystopian world devoid of meaning whose citizens are out of control.

As well as working at the level of a spoof, the short film mainly succeeds as a metaphor for a world spiraling ever-deeper, both spiritually and figuratively, into decay. With the enemy as much internalized as a result of the tactics of divide and rule, and brute force increasingly becoming the norm, the urban proletariat see violence as their only form of salvation against the tyranny of government – a kind of subterranean ‘fight club’ for lost souls.

The dark and claustrophobic venue, ‘The Horn’ in St. Albans fits neatly into this cinematic narrative. When headline band, Fiende Fatale, took to the venues small stage last Saturday evening, against a backdrop of the ever-present sight of ghouls, vampires and zombies in the run up to Halloween, the scene was set perfectly.

From two songs in, it was clear that the band are not easy to pigeon-hole. This is a testament to their creative and musical flair. Attending the same school, the north London ensemble have clearly imbued a multitude of influences – Lou Reed, Stooges, Sex Pistols, Roxy Music – among them.

The groups defining aesthetic is nevertheless one that is reminiscent of the art-rock and post-punk scenes of the early 1970s and early 1980s respectively. Indeed, the manner with which the group merge these influences seamlessly into their work is extremely impressive.

From the opening chords, the bands music, to this critics ears, doesn’t sound derivative, contrived or forced but rather discombobulating which is a mark of their distinctive musicality and artistic creative impulses.

Underneath the clever and often witty lyrics given free expressive reign by lead singer and guitarist, Matthew Magee – whose intensity is equal to Ian Curtis, and whose theatrics are reminiscent of Dave Vanian – is a band that musically, as a unit, are as tight as The Fall without Mark E Smith.

All the while, guitarist, Rolph Edwards regularly skews the formal structure of the groups sound to the point of cacophonous informality rooted in Captain Beefheart and the post-punk of say, the Gang of Four, while Alex Wright’s meaty bass and Dom Bowmans manic but disciplined drumming ensures that the spine of the sound remains intact.

Unfortunately my close friend and me had to leave during the bands rendition of the catchy ‘My Own Worst Enemy’ in order to catch the last train back to London so we missed all of the set. My one criticism is that the group do perhaps veer at times too much towards pop for my taste, but regardless they are talented musician’s who are keeping the spirit of rock and roll very much alive.

Fiende Fatale play The Fiddler’s Elbow, Camden, Thursday, 30th November.

 

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Why the corporate media continue to obfuscate in relation to Assad sarin attack claims

By Daniel Margrain

“A new report from the UN has found that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces are to blame for a deadly chemical attack that killed more than 90 people in a rebel village earlier this year”, proclaimed a recent Independent article.

Contradicting what the paper alluded was a definitive statement of fact, the article continued:

“The investigation from the UN and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), released on Thursday [October 26], said that experts are confident that the Syrian Arab Republic is responsible for the release of sarin at Khan Sheikhoun on 4 April 2017”.

UK Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, was quick to emphasize the former interpretation when he stated:

“The independent [OPCW] report from expert investigators reach a clear conclusion: the Assad regime used sarin nerve gas against the people of Khan Sheikhoun in Syria on 4 April with tragic consequences for hundreds of victims.”

However, Russian officials claimed that the reports methodology, that included the sequence and storage of material evidence, the use of fake evidence and biased sources, was flawed.

The Russian claims appear to be credible. Details outlined by Moon of Alabama indicate that the alleged gas attack was used by the US government as their justification to launch an illegal missile strike on Syria’s al-Shayrat airbase on April 7, three days later. The decision to attack the airbase, in other words, had already been made; that it preceded the justification, which was being retrofitted to an act of aggression.

It’s a measure of the extent to which the mass media have become embedded within the deep state of government that president Trump, with near-unanimous journalistic support, was able to launch the April 7 attack on the airbase. Cathy Newman on Channel 4 News (April 10, 2017), for example, stated without evidence to support her assertion, that the US attack was “in retaliation to a sarin gas attack by president Assad”.

We’ve been here before

The release of the latest OPCW-UN report follows on the heels of another similarly flawed August, 2015 OPCW-UN report in connection with Security Council resolution 2235. The report which was aimed at introducing new sanctions against Syria didn’t make the claims subsequently attributed to it by the corporate media, namely that between April, 2014 and August, 2015 the Assad government was definitively responsible for three chemical attacks using chlorine.

Referring to the August, 2015 reports many caveats and reservations, security analyst Charles Shoebridge argued that the evidence “wasn’t sufficiently good to declare that Syria had dropped chlorine to a standard that could be considered “strong”, or “overwhelming”, adding that “investigators were largely reliant on reports from the [pro-rebel terror organisation] the White Helmets.”

Furthermore, independent journalist Gareth Porter inferred that U.N. investigators increasingly make their conclusions fall in line with Western propaganda after he exposed distortions contained in a March 1, 2017 report by the United Nations’ “Independent International Commission of Inquiry which claimed that an airstrike on a humanitarian aid convoy in the west of Aleppo City on September. 19, 2016, was undertaken by Syrian government planes. Porter revealed that the reports findings, also based on White Helmets testimonies, were “full of internal contradictions.”

Purveyor of propaganda

Despite the reservations as to the veracity of previous UN reports outlined, Boris Johnson’s eagerness to uncritically promote the latest OPCW offering is indicative of his role as a purveyor of UK government propaganda.

He has form in this regard. In September last year, for example, Johnson engaged in a piece of foreign office-produced theatre. The UK foreign secretary claimed the government had earmarked £2.3 billion towards supporting human rights organisations in Syria.

The money, however, was almost certainly channeled into promoting sophisticated propaganda campaigns and the funding of mercenary forces. The ultimate objective, as French foreign minister Roland Dumas admitted, is regime change in Syria that the UK government have “prepared, conceived and organised.”

However, impending defeat for the West in Syria prompted rhetorical flourishes from mainstream reporters and politicians alike that have shifted from the surreal to the absurd. Labour MP Ben Bradshaw, for example, described the liberation of Aleppo as a “tragedy”.

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Class matters

By Daniel Margrain

Image result for photos of class divide

Defined in the objective Marxist sense, class is an historical constant. However, the extent to which workers, historically, are conscious of their class and its potential power in helping to shape and transform society, is dependent upon prevailing socioeconomic circumstances.

The long demand-led economic boom which had gathered pace during the 1950s in Britain, alongside the developments in the welfare state and the growth in power of social democratic discourses of meritocracy, had led to the emergence of a new social formation of better educated, assertive and frustrated, younger people who wanted to see the stuffiness of a system based upon status and respect shift into a meritocratic environment.

The social realism and British new wave movements in film-making that emerged from the optimism generated after the 1950 Festival of Britain and its espousal of new technologies, produced talents of the stature of Ken Loach, Jack Clayton, Tony Richardson, Karel Reisz, John Schlesinger and Lindsay Anderson. All of these directors produced memorable films whose cinematic themes reflected the deep underlying societal shifts of the time, indicative of the new meritocratic scene in which the working class were largely at the forefront.

As the post-war consensus between capital and labour began to ebb away and be replaced by the growing inequality of the neoliberal years from the mid-1970s onwards, so the confidence of the working class began to recede also. Whereas identifying as working class during the 1960s opened up opportunities, by the 1980s, the perception was that class negatively impacted on them.

Low point

As the British Social Attitudes Survey indicate, the 1980s marked a low point from which the working class haven’t recovered. One particularly depressing shift over the last few decades that the survey highlights, is the extent to which the perception of class relates to welfare. The survey states:

“In 1984 measures of social class such as economic status, socio-economic group and income level had strong correlations with both welfare and liberal attitudes. For example, lower socio-economic groups were more likely to support increased government taxation and spending … In 2012, although there is a relatively high continuity, there are some indications that class has declined in importance.”

Many workers today display, at best, an ambivalent and at worst, a morally superior attitude towards other working class people – usually immigrants and those on benefits – who they regard as being in some way inferior to them. In extreme cases, this has manifested in violence directed against these groups on the streets of many British towns and cities.

These behaviour traits are consistent with the BSAS survey above which appear to reinforce the widely held notion that working class attitudes to people on benefits have hardened over the last three decades as the harshness of neoliberalism has kicked in.

The obvious inference that can be made, is that rather than the prospect of the poor uniting outwardly as one against the forces that oppress them, many instead turn inward by attacking others in similar situations to themselves. Implicit in this, is the notion that the ruling class, through the implementation of the classic divide and conquer tactic, seek to weaken working class resistance to their politics of cruelty.

The way they achieve this is by shifting the public’s perception of the importance of class understood objectively in terms of the relationship workers have to the means of production, towards their acceptance of its re-definition, subjectively, as an occupation and lifestyle category.

Propaganda

The corporate media is deeply complicit in this latter process. Instead of workers self-identifying as being part of a broad objective class-based stratified system, they are encouraged, through mass consumption and corporate advertising campaigns, to buy things they don’t need with money they haven’t got. In this way, retail therapy embodied in consumption, becomes a form of displacement activity.

This in turn, reinforces the notion that the working class are best defined by the subjective lifestyle choices they make thereby ensuring class consciousness is minimized. The role retail therapy plays in the transformation of the citizen from political actor to passive consumer, is crucial to the process of negating collective class-based mobilizations and revolutionary impulses.

The subtle form of media propaganda described which attempts to obliterate the concept of the working class, correspondingly reduces the need for overt forms of state oppression. As Noam Chomsky put it, “propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state.” In this sense, formal dictators have largely failed to understand that ‘successful’ thought control reduces the need for tanks, guns and torture.

This is where the corporate mass media comes into its own. The celebrity lifestyles of the rich and famous and other forms of ‘infotainment’ whose purpose is to encourage the masses to consume, fill the gap left over by ‘news’. It’s hard to disagree with journalist Jonathan Cook who said that consumers “are being constantly spun by the media machine that’s the modern equivalent of ‘soma’, the drug in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World that its citizens were fed to keep them docile and happy.”

Crucially, a ‘successful’ totalitarian democracy is one in which the ruling class manages to convince a significant amount of ordinary people that what defines them as human beings, is not the extent to which they are able to exercise collective economic control over the productive resources of society, but rather the extent to which they are engaged politically in terms of the individual choices they make as consumers.

Separating the economic & political

The ruling class have succeeded in their myth-making by deliberately separating the economic and political spheres. The strategy serves an ideological purpose predicated on the illusion that the granting of political rights matters.

Unlike formal authoritarian regimes, their formal democratic counterparts understand the important role the use of language plays in terms of the ability of the ruling class to sustain an illusion of freedom. They succeed in this totalitarian image-making by metaphorically legislating for the right of the masses to demonstrate, politically, outside the Ritz while simultaneously convincing them of the parallel illusion that economically they will be able to join with the ranks of the elite class on the inside if only they work hard enough.

It’s precisely the perpetuation of this myth that continues, for example, to sustain a post-Mandela South Africa reconfigured from a system based on politics and race to one based on economics. The South Africa example illustrates, vividly, the fact that granting the political right of the masses to vote and demonstrate does nothing to fundamentally change the underlying uneven economic class structure of society.

Although racist apartheid officially ended decades ago, black people in South Africa continue to suffer the worst social and economic outcomes. The ideology of aspiration perpetuates a myth that assumes an acceptance by the masses of what Peter Stefanovic aptly referred to as the ruling classes prevailing ‘Downton Abbey’ vision of the world where everybody’s role in society is fixed and follows a set pattern.

This is a regressive colonial faded notion of society in which the ruling class is able to project its power onto the rest of the world. It’s an archaic and retarded vision favoured by the likes of pro-nuclear weapons and fox hunting enthusiast, Theresa May and medievalist racist, Nigel Farage.

The Conservative party are the embodiment of the notion that the existing class structure is in stasis. The attempt by the political-media establishment to white-wash class as an objective category from public discourse at the expense of the promotion of the cult of aspiration, lifestyle enhancement and identity politics, is key to their ability to control the masses.

However, what Jeremy Corbyn’s relative electoral success indicates, is a class re-awakening. The days in which the political establishment are able to use the corporate media as their propaganda echo chamber, is coming to an end. But, as Theresa May’s recent meeting with Emmanuel Macron highlights, the ruling class will do their utmost to resist the threat social media poses to their control of the flow of information.

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This is the main reason why you should vote Labour today

 

By Daniel Margrain

Image result for pics of boris johnson with saudis

Jeremy Corbyn’s landmark stated intention to tackle not just terrorism in isolation, but its causes, is the potential catalyst for a far wider transformation of society that is desperately needed in Britain and, indeed, the world. This is the reality a Labour victory under Corbyn could realistically usher in, in the years ahead.

In the event of a Labour win, the days in which successive UK governments – both Tory and Labour – have perpetuated endless war and counter-terrorism in order to sustain the profits of the arms and weapons companies and to ensure the privileges and concentration of power of the few at the expense of the many are maintained, will almost certainly begin to come to an end.

This is why the deep state, that includes the corporate media, under the said governments, have consistently, in the words of Media Lens, thwarted the attempt by the public “to shape a genuinely democratic choice out of the sham choices of corporate-owned politics.”

The corporate media’s framing of Syria is a case in point. Back in December 2015, the BBC reported on claims made by the Ministry of Defense that RAF Tornado and Typhoon warplanes had destroyed wellheads in the country….“thus cutting off the terrorists’ oil revenue at the very source”. The impression given to the public was that the UK government had actively engaged in degrading the infrastructural and financial capability of ISIS.

However, this was based on a deception. In reality, the target was the precise location that had been hit by Russian and US coalition forces six weeks earlier. This was confirmed by a report in the Express on October 23, 2015, that highlighted the obliteration by both Russian and US coalition forces of an ISIS oilfield and supply routes in the heart of Islamic State territory in Syria. The Express report, therefore, inadvertently contradicted the UK governments own propaganda.

The deception also underlined the subsequent revelation that ISIS had gained access to weapons exported by the UK to the Middle East in the wake of 2003 invasion of Iraq. The ability of ISIS to access weapons is only possible if they have money to purchase them. Tackling the flow and source of criminal money, is the most effective way to drain them of their ability to function. This is precisely the strategy Corbyn has proposed to undertake in order to tackle the causes of jihadist terrorism.

The reason why the establishment are opposed to the Labour leader is because they realize he cannot be bought off on their terms and hence if elected he is likely to potentially undermine their ability to be able to continue pulling the financial strings that determine the control, flow and maintaining of oil revenues.

Briefing

In September, 2014, in a briefing to the European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee, EU Ambassador to Iraq Jana Hybaskova, conceded that some European countries have purchased crude from ISIS from the areas in northern Iraq and Syria they have captured. Accepting that the most effective way of countering ISIS is to attack the source of their funding rather than using bombs to kill civilians, appeared to be the rationale behind the then Shadow Foreign Secretary, Hilary Benn’s initial decision to oppose military intervention in Syria.

However, inexplicably, two weeks later, he voted in favour of bombing. Something happened in the two week period up to December 2, 2015, which influenced Benn’s decision to change his mind. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that war is good for boosting the profits of those connected to the military-industrial complex and that he had allegedly been lobbied by BAE Systems who stood to gain financially from any change of heart.

Sure enough, the depression in their share price in late October, 2015 on the back of Benn’s opposition to war, subsequently jumped after the announcement to bomb was made. Being in the pocket of the arms industry is concomitant to the notion of favouring war, which not only explains the BBCs pro-war stance (BBC Trust vice-chair, Roger Carr is chairman of UK arms manufacturer, BAE Systems), but clearly also explained Benn’s careful positioning in his attempt to usurp the anti-war Jeremy Corbyn for the Labour leadership.

The attempt failed. Corbyn went on to secure a second mandate and Benn was sacked from his post as Shadow Foreign Secretary. Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, major defense contractors Raytheon, Oshkosh, and Lockheed Martin assured investors that they stood to gain from the escalating conflicts in the Middle East. Lockheed Martin Executive Vice President Bruce Tanner said his company will see “indirect benefits” from the war in Syria, citing the Turkish military’s decision to shoot down a Russian warplane.

Tanner was far from being the only beneficiary of the war in Syria. A deal that authorized $607 billion in defense spending brokered by the U.S Congress, for example, was described as a “treat” for the industry. What better way to benefit from this “treat” than for the major powers to secure the “hydrocarbon potential” of Syria’s offshore resources with the aim of reducing European dependence on Russian gas and boosting the potential for an energy independence.

Broader strategy

The broader strategy to dismember Syria involves the annexation of the Golan Heights, captured by Israel during the 1967 war. This is being aided by one of the most concerted media propaganda offensives since the Iraq debacle. The main reason the Murdoch media, in particular, is pushing for regime change in Syria, is because Israel has granted oil exploration rights to the multinational corporation, Genie Energy. Murdoch is a major shareholder in the company. In a 2010 press release, Claude Pupkin, CEO of Genie Oil and Gas stated:

“Genie’s success will ultimately depend, in part, on access to the expertise of the oil and gas industry and to the financial markets. Jacob Rothschild and Rupert Murdoch are extremely well regarded by and connected to leaders in these sectors. Their guidance and participation will prove invaluable.”

Pupkin continued:

“I am grateful to Howard Jonas and IDT for the opportunity to invest in this important initiative….Rupert Murdoch’s extraordinary achievements speak for themselves and we are very pleased he has agreed to be our partner. Genie Energy is making good technological progress to tap the world’s substantial oil shale deposits which could transform the future prospects of Israel, the Middle East and our allies around the world.”

Other players involved in the plan to extract resources from the Golan, include the Israeli subsidiary, Afek Oil and Gas, American Shale, French Total and BP.  Thus there exists a broad and powerful nexus of US, British, French and Israeli interests, encompassing defense, security, energy and media sectors, at the forefront of pushing for the break-up of Syria and the control of what is believed to be potentially vast untapped oil and gas resources in the country. The plans, if successful, will also rein-in Russian and Iranian influence in the region.

The foreign and domestic policies of successive British governments have been integral to the perpetuation of this system of cronyism, war and corruption. A class system built on inequality, injustice and deference, depends on these factors for its continued existence. The election of Corbyn as Prime Minister would potentially scupper this unethical and corrupt system which is why the deep state (that includes the BBC and the rest corporate media), have done their utmost to ensure it doesn’t happen. Let’s prove them wrong today by turning out in large numbers and putting our crosses next to our respective Labour candidates..

The extent to which the corruption at the heart of the British establishment, emblematic of endless war, has been allowed to continue, is reflected by the unwillingness of successive governments’ to tackle the issue. This is probably best exemplified by the decision of the former business secretary, Sajid Javid, in July, 2015, to invite companies’ to comment on whether the “tough anti-corruption measures” contained within the governments 2010 Bribery Act are “a problem.”

Letters sent by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills invited industry leaders to comment on whether the act has had an impact on their attempts to export. Needless to say, letters inviting small businesses and employees to comment about regulations that prevent them from making more money at any cost to the environment and working conditions, were not forthcoming.

Corruption

On the August 3, 2015, edition of the BBC HARDtalk programme, host Stephen Sackur interviewed Nigeria’s Minister for Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola. During the interview Sackur repeatedly alluded that the Nigerian government was systematically corrupt. At one point Sackur related an ‘off mic’ incident in which former prime minister, David Cameron, was said to have berated Nigeria, after he described it as one of the two most corrupt countries in the world.

Apparently, it hadn’t occurred to either Sackur or Cameron that big business in the UK lobbied against the Bribery Act which was intended to undermine corruption – the implication being that corporations would rather be scraping around in the sewer if there was some money to be made among the filth. As far as the British establishment are concerned, corrupt practices are something restricted to what dark skinned people in far away countries engage in. By contrast, the former thinks of itself as occupying the moral high ground, despite the fact that the UK was one of the major players heavily implicated in the Panama Papers scandal.

In 2012, Cameron visited one of the most corrupt and authoritarian countries on the planet, Kazakhstan. The leader of that country showered him with gratitude and praise. Kazakhstan’s former police chief is linked to the ownership of £147m-worth of London properties which forms part of the UKs status as a safe haven for corrupt capital. Other corruption scandals to have hit the headlines around that time include the Straw and Rifkind affair, the MPs expenses scandal (ongoing) and the long-running PFI saga that’s crippling the NHS.

Simon Jenkins summarized the malaise and hypocrisy at the heart of the British establishment:

“The truth is that hypocrisy is the occupational disease of British leaders. They lecture Africans and Asians on the venality of their politics, while blatantly selling seats in their own parliament for cash. I hope some insulted autocrat one day asks a British leader how much his party has garnered from auctioning honours. The government suppresses any inquiry into corrupt arms contracts to the Middle East. And when does lobbying stop and corruption start? The Cameron government is the most susceptible to lobbying of any in history.”

In the nearly two years since Jenkins wrote his piece, nothing fundamentally has changed. If anything, corruption is arguably even more endemic under Theresa May than it was under Cameron. Indeed, unethical practices within the British establishment continue to be integral to the workings of the deep state. Take the ongoing seamless links between the Tory establishment, BBC, the intelligence services and HSBC as an example.

The connection between the former and latter go back a long way. David Cameron’s great, great grandfather was the head of HSBC in the UK when they were established in Hong Kong. In November, 2010, a critical report from the Office for Fair Trading (OFT) insisted that the bank refrain from making illegal charges that amounted to some £200m on its customers.

Vindicated

After a successful 13 year-long battle to prove HSBCs guilt, anti-corruption campaigner and whistle blower, Nicholas Wilson, has finally been vindicated. The bank was found guilty and fined a relatively paltry sum of £4m. The background to the case outlined by Wilson in a video on his blog, is a revelation.

During the time of the critical OFT report, the former Prime Minister, David Cameron, decided to make the then head of the bank, Stephen Green, a Lord and to bring him into government as a trade minister. The government state broadcaster, the BBC, buried the story.

But more significantly, HSBC director, Jonathan Evans (formerly head of MI5), supplied – through his company – customer data to every major government department – MI5, MI6, GCHQ, MOD, MOJ. Cameron proceeded to appoint Evans to head the BBC Trust in 2014. He was subsequently made a Lord and, like Green, brought into the government. Another Lord, Lord Janvrin, former chair of HSBC private bank, sits on the committee that oversees the security services.

Another government connection to HSBC concerns the appointment of the head of their Audit Committee, Rhona Fairhead, to the chair of the BBC Trust. According to Wilson, since Fairhead’s appointment at the BBC, there has been no reporting of HSBC criminality which continues to be numerous and has been documented by other journalists around the world as major incidents. This includes a HSBC and Russian- related drug money laundering story.

Wilson points out that journalist Peter Oborne resigned from the Telegraph over its lack of negative coverage of HSBC. In a public letter, Oborne described how the paper had spiked about six negative stories including one by its investigative team over a period of three months because HSBC are “the advertiser you literally cannot afford to offend.”

Wilson has had his attempts to publish his expose of HSBC in the corporate media – Private Eye, the Times, BBC Panorama, Newsnight, Channel 4 News – scuppered by editors who have spiked his version of events. Prior to Cameron’s re-election in 2015, Sunday Times correspondent, Tom Harper, wrote a damning story on HSBC that implicated Cameron in his attempt to cover-up the Stephen Green scandal. But while Harper was investigating, Sunday Times editor, Camilla Cavendish, met with Cameron.

The story was subsequently spiked one day prior to its intended publication. Two months later, it was announced that Cavendish was working at Downing Street in the policy office of Cameron. When he resigned, he gave her a peerage. She is now Baroness Cavendish. That’s the extent of the corruption at the heart of the British establishment. In other words, one of the biggest corporate financial institutions in the UK that illegally stole money from its customers with minimal redress, is embedded within the high echelons of the corporate media and government establishment.

Given the connections HSBC has to many of the High Street chains, the nature of government-corporate corruption is likely to be far more extensive than many people realize. Then there is the extent to which these kinds of manifestations of the deep state are played out in terms of its relationship to the initiation of wars, terrorism and the perpetuation of the arms industry. I discuss these issues (in relation to Syria) here and here.

Jeremy Corbyn’s honest approach to tackling terrorism has brought the topic of corruption sharply into focus and in so doing has exposed the failed war on terror foreign policy strategy of his neoliberal opponents. The fact that Corbyn has wrong-footed the political establishment and the media that back them, is rattling both.

Sophisticated

An increasingly sophisticated electorate are aware that foreign military interventions and the selling of arms to tyrannical regimes like Saudi Arabia, increase the terrorist threat. Craig Murray has cited polls indicating that voters understand the correlation between wars fought abroad and domestic terrorism. Given the establishment themselves admit the connections, the media can no longer smear the left with the terrorist apologist epithet.

That partly explains why the Tories have not gained ground in the polls since Corbyn made his speech. So desperate have the establishment become, that the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, who was former director of two offshore tax avoidance asset management firms in the Bahamas, resorted to censoring Nicholas Wilson at a Hastings and Rye hustings. Rudd instructed the chair to disrupt his speech. Wilson, who is standing as an independent, had his microphone removed from him, after he commented on Rudd’s alleged political and financial links and actions in Saudi Arabia. The whole thing was captured on video here.

Given the inherent corrupt nature of the British state, the fact that the UK is widely perceived to be the world’s 14th least corrupt country in the world is perhaps a testament to the propaganda power of the corporate media. According to journalist Roberto Saviano, who spent more than a decade exposing the criminal dealings of the Italian Mafia, Britain is the most corrupt country in the world. He told an audience at Hay-on-Wye: “If I asked you what is the most corrupt place on Earth you might tell me well it’s Afghanistan, maybe Greece, Nigeria, the South of Italy and I will tell you it’s the UK.”

The disconnect between perception and reality is clearly indicative of the distorted way in which an organisation like the national state broadcaster under-report the subtle forms of ‘hidden’ systemic corruption that is embedded in the very fabric of the British state, camouflaged by legislation and cushioned by ‘gentlemen’s agreements’.

In bringing together a wide range of leading commentators and campaigners, David Whyte shows that it is no longer tenable to assume that corruption is something that happens elsewhere; corrupt practices are revealed across a wide range of venerated institutions, from local government to big business.

As Penny Green of Queen Mary University of London, contends, “the network of egregious state and corporate corruption in Britain rivals any in the developing world”. This is one reason why the electorate throughout the country in today’s contest, should consider very carefully who they give their vote to.

I rely on the generosity of my readers. I don’t make any money from my work and I’m not funded. If you’ve enjoyed reading this or another posting, please consider making a donation, no matter how small. You can help continue my research and write independently..… Thanks!


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Fraudulent democracy

By Daniel Margrain

Image result for pics of corbyn and may together

In a genuine democracy, contrasting and conflicting ideas would be presented in the media in a fair and balanced way to allow the public to make informed choices at General Elections. But in reality, the media corporations who provide the electorate with ‘news’ are antithetical to the kind of democratic accountability they purport to espouse.

That the growth of democracy in the twentieth century has occurred alongside the growth of corporate propaganda, is concomitant to the lack of genuine democracy which prevents the public from being able to make the kinds of informed political choices described. In short, corporate media propaganda is used to protect corporate media power against genuine democratic forces.

Nowhere is this better illustrated than the media’s negative reaction to Jeremy Corbyn’s rise to the position of Labour party leader which was secured through genuine grass-roots democratic forces. The well documented attacks against Corbyn which are largely ideological, will almost certainly increase in intensity as the General Election gets closer.

The leaking of Labour’s election manifesto pledges by the Tories accompanied by an obliging mass media were intended to form part of the strategy of attack. However, what they didn’t take into account was the extent to which the public were supportive of the proposals. Rather than proving to be unpopular, Corbyn’s plans that include “a series of [viable] proposals on investing in public services, taxing the wealthiest and scrapping tuition fees…are popular with millions of people” [1]. Indeed, the public overwhelmingly support Labour’s nationalization pledges across the board.

Concentration of power

If the election was to be hypothetically decided on the basis of Corbyn’s policies alone, the Labour leader would win it hands down. But the media conglomerates are guided by another agenda which is to ensure their privileges and concentration of power are maintained. As Corbyn potentially prevents them from sustaining this state of affairs, the public’s attention has to be diverted from the core issues, towards the emphasis on the Labour leader’s alleged personal traits.

All things being equal, it’s not the case that Corbyn hasn’t a realistic chance of winning the next General Election, rather, it’s more a case that the corporate political-media establishment will do everything in their power to ensure that he doesn’t. If that means it’s necessary for them to depict him unfairly as a bumbling idiot, then so be it.

The disconnect between the popularity of Corbyn’s policies, and his inaccurate portrayal by the media, is deliberate. The intention is to dis-associate him, as an individual, from his popular policies in the public’s collective mindset.

The strategy appears to have traction. Labour’s gap with the Tories in the polls is huge, albeit steadily closing. Yet, as previously highlighted, Corbyn’s policies on key issues are widely popular with voters. How else to explain this apparent dichotomy other than putting it down to the notion that the media’s demonization of Corbyn is working?

Isabella Stone provides some useful observations:

“It’s hardly difficult to discern how people might be being influenced to a negative view of Jeremy Corbyn and Labour. I’ve just come back from my local Co-op where I had to stand in the checkout queue next to the newspaper stand. Virtually all the papers (except the Mirror) had negative headlines about Corbyn; the Mail, Sun and Express featuring unflattering photos of him and shrieking headlines about how much his policies are going to cost us all.

The Daily Telegraph even stooped to showing a photograph of Len McCluskey sprawled on some steps, having accidentally tripped. The implication of this last was that the man is a clumsy prat, rather than an unfortunate person who may have hurt himself in an accident. Even the Radio 4 Today programme presenters had a little giggle this morning over a joke about Mr McCluskey’s “clumsiness”. You don’t have to be remotely interested in politics to get the message.”

But it’s not just the typical right-wing press who are engaged in the smearing of Corbyn. The corporate media’s hostility towards the Labour leader crosses the traditional left-right divide (in truth, a close-knit ideological consensus of opinion). The “liberal-left” Guardian is no exception. This is despite the fact they are eager to portray themselves as being above the fray in terms of the promotion of the laughable idea their mission is to bring power to account:

“Here at the Guardian, ideas and opinions have the power to change the world for the better. Our independent journalism holds power to account across the globe and brings information that is suppressed into the public domain.”

Presumably, what the Guardian refer to as “holding power to account” includes their demonization of the leader of the opposition in terms professor James Curran described as “an enormously simplifying first draft of history.”

To my knowledge, not once has the Guardian challenged any of the Corbyn propaganda myths reproduced by their market competitors. They include the notion the Labour leader supports Hamas, is a cheerleader for anti-semites, has funded Holocaust deniers, has tolerated anti-semitism in the Labour party, has been on the payroll of state-funded Iranian media and is an apologist for the IRA.

While the media regularly bring up Corbyn’s connections with the latter, they have never mentioned Michael Fallon’s support for apartheid South Africa, his opposition to all international sanctions against the apartheid regime, in addition to British government interventions in individual cases of human rights abuse (see Craig Murray).

This kind of bias and media hypocrisy is consistent with academic research:

  • The London School of Economics and Political Science found strong media bias against Corbyn, claiming the press had turned into an “attack dog” against the opposition leader.
  • The UK’s public service broadcaster gave double the airtime to Corbyn’s critics than to his allies at the start of the 2016 Labour coup, according to content analysis from the Media Reform Coalition.
  • An LSE survey found that 74 per cent of newspaper articles ‘offered either no or a highly distorted account of Corbyn’s views and ideas’ and that only 9 per cent were ‘positive’ in tone.
  •  Research carried out at Birkbeck similarly found a strong bias in ‘mainstream media coverage’.

Battle lines

Given the evidence outlined above, it is clear that battle lines have been drawn, not between left and right competing political factions and policies, but rather what are regarded as the acceptable boundaries by which these contrasting narrative are allowed to be expressed and the lies and misinformation challenged.

What is rarely acknowledged is that the true nature of corporate power would be revealed if these forbidden lines were to be exceeded. But since they are not, the media’s:

“changing contours are seldom explored, its goals and targets seldom identified. This is counterfeit journalism because the surface of events is not disturbed. It is ironic that, while corruption among the system’s managers and subalterns is at times brilliantly exposed by a group of exceptional journalists, the wider corruption is unseen and unreported” [2].

The extent to which counterfeit journalism is able to continue functioning depends largely on its ability to manipulate the public through media propaganda by manufacturing their consent. This is largely achieved through coordinated political and corporate media mass campaigns that combine sophisticated public relations techniques. As Noam Chomsky explains:

“The primary function of the mass media…is to mobilize public support for the special interests that dominate the government and the private sector. The need for the dominant forces in society (a relatively concentrated network of corporations including media), to satisfy their interests, imposes some very sharp constraints on the political and ideological systems”.

The greater Jeremy Corbyn’s perceived threat to the corporate media’s attempts to manufacture the public’s consent, it correspondingly stands to reason the greater will be the media’s personal attacks against him. Under these circumstances, a fair and honest evaluation of Corbyn’s popular policies would, from their perspective, be counter-productive. Far better to undermine his credibility by drowning out his policies.

I rely on the generosity of my readers. I don’t make any money from my work and I’m not funded. If you’ve enjoyed reading this or another posting, please consider making a donation, no matter how small. You can help continue my research and write independently..… Thanks!


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