Tag: john pilger

Masters of war: How the corporate media deceive the public

By Daniel Margrain

Mainstream <b>Media</b> <b>Lies</b> About Charleston, Guns & Racism With ...

In September, 2016, UK Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, effectively announced that the British government had channeled £2.3 billion in support of propaganda campaigns in Syria of which charities and NGOs like Hand in Hand, the Syria Campaign and the funding of terrorist mercenary forces, are an integral part.

It has been noted that the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), working with the Ministry of Defence (MoD), the Home Office and the Prime Minister’s Office, formed contracts companies for the express purpose of creating ‘targeted information’.

The means by which this is achieved is through the production of videos, photos, military reports, radio broadcasts, print products and social media posts branded with the logos of fighting groups. One of the most prominent of the groups allegedly overseen by the MoD, are the White Helmets, who Johnson named, and whose members are affiliated to Islamist terrorist groups.

The corporate mainstream media are failing in their duty to reveal what the true foreign policy objectives of Johnson and his government are in Syria and the wider middle east region, nor have elite corporate journalists critically evaluated their own integration within the state apparatus.

By acting as echo chambers for Western imperial power, the role of the said journalists when reporting on foreign affairs is akin to stenography. Examples include the Telegraph’s reaction to the Houla massacre of May 25, 2012 which cast Syria into the ‘civil war’ and the widespread misrepresentation of the UN report into the Ghouta chemical attack of August 21, 2013.

Then there has been the rush to judgement by Guardian and New York Times journalists in relation to the alleged April 4, 2017 sarin attack in the Syrian town of Khan Seikhoun, and the media’s failure to follow-up on allegations made by investigative journalist, Seymour Hersh, that the CIA, with the support of M16, was responsible for ensuring the transportation of arms by Islamist groups from Libya to Syria.

The BBC Panorama documentary, Saving Syria’s Children, Channel 4 News, Up Close With the Rebels and the fake The Caesar Torture Photos story,  illustrate the extent to which the media has attempted to disorientate the public. These examples of ‘news’ functioning as propaganda in the service of power in relation to Syria, however, represent the tip of a huge iceberg.

Independent researcher and investigative journalist, Vanessa Beeley, has meticulously documented numerous occasions where the BBC and Channel 4 News have relied solely on unsubstantiated and biased Syrian opposition ‘rebel’ sources for its reports, and where dissenters of the official narrative have been smeared and abused by Guardian journalists simply for asking ‘difficult’ questions.

Moreover, the heavy reliance on what were clearly fake reports by al-Jazeera and CNN,  intended to sway public opinion in support of foreign intervention in Syria, adds fuel to the fire of those who accuse the elite media of being nothing more than conduits for  state power when it comes to their reporting of foreign affairs that involves the interests of the imperialist nations and their proxies.

Recent reports of protests throughout Iran, which investigative journalist Nafeez Ahmed stated were fomented by the U.S State Department, are the consequence of harsh U.S economic sanctions of the sort used against Iraq and Syria. But this kind of ’cause and effect’ analysis is totally absent from mainstream news reportage. In short, the inability of elite journalists to report critically on foreign affairs which have the potential to cast the empire in a bad light, is indicative of a democratic deficit.

This is reflected in the highly concentrated nature of media ownership. Writer Tom London points out that almost 48% of the combined print and online press is owned by just two billionaires – Rothermere and Murdoch – and 75.1% is owned by just six billionaires. These media barons have shared economic interests with the military and political establishment that perpetual war helps facilitate. The securing of these narrow interests are antithetical to the notion of a fair, free and open media.

Author Ed Jones points to other factors that are symptomatic of the lack of democracy at the heart of the media system. These include its domination by privately-educated white men, the politicisation of sources and the manipulation of the press by the intelligence services.

The billionaire media barons understand the importance, not only of spending huge amounts of money on advertising and public relations, but also of employing ‘liberal-left’ journalists whose apparent principal role is to function as ‘gate-keepers’ for established power. Indeed, what John Pilger referred to as “counterfeit journalism” in which “the surface of events is not disturbed”, is central to the ability of the media barons to engineer the public’s consent.

As Jones points out, it’s the billionaires who own the press that set the news agenda. The BBC, who are among the forefront of news agenda-setting media in the UK, play a particularly pernicious role in the propaganda process by amplifying it due to their reputation for alleged impartiality.

However, the central role of the British state broadcaster is to spread ‘British values’ to a global market in much the same way the U.S government spends hundreds of millions annually on outfits like RFE/RL in order to spread ‘American values’.

In other words, the default position of the British state broadcaster is their false sense of entitlement to report selectively on international affairs in order to protect perceived “British interests”. Thus, embedded journalism that ignores ‘our’ criminality is deemed to be acceptable based on the flawed premise that elected politicians serve the people, and that it is the task of the BBC to support, not undermine, democracy.

The founder of the BBC, Lord Reith, was more honest in his assessment of the structural bias of the media, the BBCs role within it, and its relationship to the elite political-media class: “[The establishment] know they can trust us not to be really impartial”, he said.

The recent willingness by the BBC to offer an uncritical platform to the head of the CIA is an example of the corporations dual function role as purveyor of state propaganda in which both Westminster and Washington benefit. Apparently, propaganda only becomes a “problem” when Russia’s state broadcaster, Russia Today (RT), are themselves accused of actively promoting it.

As historian Mark Curtis pointed out, the simple truth is elites do not believe the public has a right to know what is being done in their name. The questioning of prevailing narratives leads critics open to smears and abuse. In relation to Syria, Louis Allday posited that to express “even a mildly dissenting opinion … has seen many people ridiculed and attacked [by liberal-left journalists] … These attacks are rarely, if ever, reasoned critiques of opposing views”.

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The media’s characterization of Venezuela’s president Maduro as a dictator, follows a familiar pattern

By Daniel Margrain

The corporate mass media are well aware what side of the class war their bread is buttered. Their reporting of the events in Venezuela is a case in point. “Venezuela Leaps Towards Dictatorship” said The Economist. “Venezuela Flirts With Outright Dictatorship”, exclaimed The Independent. The New York Times headlined with “Venezuela’s Descent Into Dictatorship”, while The Guardian’s “Let’s Call Venezuela What it is under Maduro: a Dictatorship”, was even more forthright in it’s message. To top it all, Newsweek went for the double whammy, “Putin Steps In To Bolster Venezuelan Dictator, Maduro.”

The sensationalist headlines that present a totally distorted picture of the events unfolding in the country, illustrate the extent of the anti-Venezuela government propaganda witnessed since president Nicolas Maduro augmented the Venezuelan constitution spearheaded by his predecessor, Hugo Chavez, in 1999.

We have been here before. In May, 2006, The Independent stoked up fear of the rise in grass roots democracy throughout Latin America with their headline: ‘The Big Question: Should we be worried by the rise of the populist left in South America?”

Rather than emphasizing the widespread growth in bottom-up democracy throughout the region as a positive development, the paper instead implied that this popular movement of the left represented a threat to democracy. The unspoken assumption is that Washington has a right to intervene in a country like Venezuela to curtail these “threats.”

Then, as now, the aim, is to divert public attention away from the fact that, historically, the US and its proxies have wrought terrible destruction on the country. Instead, the media continue to characterize democratic forces that are resisting the external meddling in Venezuela’s internal affairs and attempts to undermine its sovereignty, as the enemy within.

Meanwhile, opposition forces who are tearing the country apart, are depicted as true democrats fighting an illegitimate fascist government. Since Maduro’s Constituent Assembly election victory last week, this inverse of reality has been peddled as a stated fact almost daily in the corporate media. Joe Emersberger writes:

“Readers will not also know that the convening of a Constitutional Assembly is provided for under Venezuela’s 1999 constitution which was ratified in a referendum. The debate over its constitutional validity hinges on whether an initiating referendum is required. The relevant articles (347, 348) are far from explicit or clear that either an initiating or final referendum is required. The indirect constitutional arguments for a final referendum, for obvious reasons, are much stronger, but Maduro has committed to one. Also, the opposition did not just boycott the vote: its supporters perpetrated lethal acts of violence to prevent people from voting.”

The Constituent Assembly process initiated by Maduro has mass popular support among Venezuelans, a majority think the process will defend social gains of recent years, and 65 per cent agree that elections should take place in 2018.

Pejorative labels

One of the ways the establishment media set out to deceive the public is through their use of pejorative labels. For instance, the popular support for Maduro among the Venezuelan people, has been termed “Populist”. After the Russian Revolution, “Bolshevik” or “Bolshie” became, for a short while, the buzz word of choice. Then, especially during the Cold War, the favoured propaganda word became “Communist”, which was particularly effective in ensuring Washington’s bloodbath throughout Central America under Reagan continued during the 1980s.

Often used to justify the kind of mass murder outlined, these words are also used when the establishment – who are characterized as being of the centre – perceive themselves losing ground to mainly left-wing forces. Populist has become almost universal and used without explanation and as if it were a politically neutral statement of fact.

The purpose is to depict ordinary people on the left angered by injustice and inequality, as naive and irresponsible. By contrast, the implication is that those on the right are responsible citizens and that the hardships people face are the result of foreseen and preventable socioeconomic circumstances. Any pain and suffering is thus depicted as being the fault of both the individuals concerned and the political forces on the left they vote for, not the fault of a corrupt corporate controlled media and government that systematically undermine both.

Ever since Chavez’s Bolivarian revolution in 1999 became established, attempts have been made by the corporate media to systematically demonize the Venezuelan leadership and its supporters as justification for the US to procure the natural resources of the country and to crush any resistance towards regional self-determination. John Pilger observed that western media attacks “resemble uncannily those of the privately owned Venezuelan television and press, which called for the elected [Chavez] government to be overthrown”.

Myth

The attempt to justify Chavez’s overthrow largely stemmed from the myth that the former Venezuelan president came to power as a result of an illegal coup and therefore had no democratic legitimacy. This myth continues today. However, the truth, as Media Lens observed, is “that Chavez actually came to power in the general election of 1998, taking 56 per cent of the vote.”

Citing the December 7, 1998, Post-Election Statement on Venezuela, the media analysts go on to describe how the Carter Centre – a human rights organisation which monitored the election – described the process as “transparent and peaceful that clearly reflected the will of the Venezuelan people”. Chavez was re-elected in 2000 with an increased share of the vote (60 per cent) and won again by a similar majority in 2006. He won a fourth term in the October 2012 election, five months before his death in Caracas on 5 March 2013.

Craig Murray points out that “Hugo Chavez’ revolutionary politics were founded on two very simple tenets:

1) People ought not to be starving in dreadful slums in the world’s most oil rich state
2) The CIA ought not to control Venezuela.”

What the Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela inspired by Chavez represents to the establishment – as is the case with Jeremy Corbyn in Britain and Podemos in Spain – is the threat of a good example. Of the hundreds of media reports on Chavez, almost none depicted events in Venezuela as a fundamentally positive and urgently needed attempt to improve the condition of impoverished people who had been exploited by a succession of right-wing Washington-friendly governments that asset-stripped the country and reduced vast swaths of the population to paupers.

According to John Pilger, three years before Chavez was elected, the rate of poverty in the country increased from 18 per cent in 1980 to 65 per cent in 1995. The renowned investigative journalist cited 95 year old Mavis Mendez who said that Chavez “planted the seeds of true democracy, and I am full of joy that I have lived to witness it.”

Cultivate

The seeds of Chavez’s legacy are what current president Nicolas Maduro is continuing to cultivate. But this is what the fascist opposition want to destroy so that the fabulously wealthy corrupt elites who own politics and control the corporate media, can enrich themselves even more. Maduro, represents a threat to this form of socialized wealth usurpation.

As Media Lens point out, for many decades “Washington have funneled money, weapons and US-trained death squads battling independent nationalism across Central America” to achieve their nefarious objectives. John Pilger argued that as part of this process, Venezuela was being “softened up” as a precursor to its subsequent destruction. According to the journalist “a US army publication, Doctrine for Asymmetric War against Venezuela, described Chávez and the Bolivarian revolution as the ‘largest threat since the Soviet Union and Communism‘.”

With the death of Chavez and the election of Maduro in 2013, the opposition have seized their opportunity to up the ante. This has been bolstered by what US senator Marco Rubio absurdly described as Maduro’s attempt to “permanently change the democratic order”. In reality, the purpose of the newly constituted assembly is to make the democratic gains made by Chavez irreversible.

As independent investigative journalist, Abby Martin shows, the calls to defend the gains of the revolution refer mainly to the social programmes known as “Missions” which cover everything from infrastructure investment and affordable housing, through to free education, healthcare and cultural and art projects for the poorest.

The gains have been phenomenal. Since the Bolivarian revolution was established, poverty has fallen from 43 per cent in 1999 to 26 per cent in 2017 and extreme poverty from 17 per cent to less than 7 per cent. Moreover, children’s attendance at school  increased from 6m to 13m, while college attendance has more than quadrupled. Because of the expanding free universal healthcare in the country, infant mortality dropped by 50 per cent.

Preserving gains

The constituted assembly under Maduro is about preserving these gains, not advancing the revolution in any significant way. But rather than viewing these gains as a positive, the opposition seem determined to reverse them no matter what. Their method of achieving this is to overthrow the elected government through violent insurrection and thereby assume absolute control of the apparatus of the state.

Since April, organized violent attacks have included the use of explosives directed against the National Guard, and the targeting of constituent assembly members. Last week, a lawyer working for the assembly was killed in the middle of the night in his home in the southeastern city of Ciudad Bolivar and another burned alive.

The tally of the protest related deaths (as of August 8, 2017) are below:

Deaths caused by authorities: 14

Direct victims of opposition political violence: 23

Deaths indirectly linked to opposition barricades*: 8

Accidental deaths: 3 

People killed in lootings**: 14

Deaths attributed to pro-gov’t civilians: 3

Deaths still unaccounted for / disputed: 61

The end game for the fascist opposition and their allies in Washington, is regime change in Venezuela. Rex Tillerson admitted as much after Wikileaks revealed that the US Secretary of State said:

“Either Maduro decides he doesn’t have a future and wants to leave of his own accord, or we can return the government processes back to their constitution.”

In other words, Tillerson is threatening to remove Maduro if he doesn’t “leave on his own accord.”

With millions of US dollars flowing into the country to fund opposition groups, this is the clearest signal yet that Washington is preparing for an illegal coup to oust another democratic leader of a sovereign state. Regardless, the Western corporate media will continue in their Orwellian fashion to depict the opposition fascists as democrats and the democrat Maduro as a dictator.

Thankfully, we have alternative social media to enable us to make better sense of the situation. RT did a particularly good job of presenting both sides of the story, while independent investigative journalist Abby Martin, who was in the midst of opposition demonstrations, exposed the regime change agenda for what it is.

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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.

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Assange’s stitch-up is a lesson for us all

By Daniel Margrain

December 7, 2010, was the day Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange lost his liberty following the accusation of rape against him in Sweden. Throughout the intervening six years, Assange has been willing to give a statement to the Swedish authorities, either by receiving officials in the UK or over telephone or video link, which is the routine method of carrying out questioning.

Ten months ago, the UN adjudged  that the effective imprisonment of Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy in London was unlawful. This legally binding judgement was a vindication of all those activists who have supported the quest of the Wikileaks founder to bring into the public domain the illegalities of Western power.

Upon the release of the UN ruling, one of the leading political gatekeepers of the said powers, then UK foreign secretary, Phillip Hammond, did his utmost to publicly undermine the findings of the UN body – of which the UK government is a signatory – by attempting to deceive the British people. What was shocking was the extent to which Hammond was prepared to sink in order to attempt to justify the unjustifiable at the behest of his masters in Washington.

In what former UK diplomat, Craig Murray, described  as an “utterly astonishing” statement, Hammond said:

“I reject the decision of this working group. It is a group made up of lay people and not lawyers. Julian Assange is a fugitive from justice. He is hiding from justice in the Ecuadorian embassy.”

Hammond’s statement was a blatant lie. Every single one of the UN panel is an extremely distinguished lawyer. According to Edward Snowden, Hammond is writing “a pass for every dictatorship to reject UN rulings.” Craig Murray stated that, “Countries who have ignored rulings by this UN panel are rare. No democracy has ever done so. Recent examples are Egypt and Uzbekistan. The UK is putting itself in pretty company”, he said.

Previous rulings by the panel have gone against countries with some of the world’s worst human rights records, such as Saudi Arabia, Myanmar and Egypt. Recent cases where the UN has ruled in circumstances in which individuals have similarly been detained, include the Washington Post journalist, Jason Rezaian in Iran in December, 2015 and former pro-democracy president Mohamed Nasheed two months previously (both subsequently released).

On 30 November 2016, the United Nations rejected the UK’s attempt to appeal the UN’s February ruling in favour of Julian Assange. The decision made ten months ago therefore stands. The UN instructed that UK is once again required to immediately put an end to Assange’s arbitrary detention and to take immediate steps to ensure his liberty and enjoyment of fundamental human rights are re-established. Having reached the end of the legal road, the UK government is compelled to release Assange from his six years of illegal detention.

justice4assange.com provides some background to the case:

“Julian Assange, editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, has been detained without charge in one form or another since 7 December 2010…In Sweden, Julian Assange is not charged with a crime. But in a highly unusual move, Sweden issued an Interpol Red Notice and a European Arrest Warrant, immediately after WikiLeaks began publishing a cache of 250,000 US Diplomatic Cables on 29 November 2010. Such warrants are usually issued for persons whose whereabouts are unknown. But Julian Assange’s whereabouts were known (he had given a press conference and hundreds of interviews in London). His lawyers were in communication with the prosecutor and had communicated that he was available to answer questions from the Swedish prosecutor through standard means.”

“Questioning people within European borders is a routine and uncomplicated process, which is standardised throughout the European Union. Sweden often uses these means to question people. In the initial ten days after 20 August 2010, the police opened the ’preliminary investigation’, it was assigned to three different prosecutors in quick succession. The penultimate prosecutor found that the case had no basis, and that there were no grounds to place Julian Assange under a criminal investigation.”

The final prosecutor however, Marianne Ny, took over on 1 September 2010 and reopened the investigation. The Swedish investigation has been frozen since 2010. In November 2014, Sweden’s Svea Court of Appeal ruled that the prosecutor had failed her professional duty to progress the investigation against Julian Assange.”

The context of the ruling vindicating the Wikileaks founder stems from the fact that he has never been charged with any offence. The UN findings confirm that his detention has been unlawful since his very first arrest in the UK in 2010 and that there has never been any genuine attempt by the Swedish authorities to investigate the allegations against him. For all those commentators who have been following the case closely, it has been obvious that from the outset the establishment have had it in for Assange. The rape allegations were the Casus Belli.

This was given credible weight early on by Naomi Wolf, a prominent American writer, feminist and social commentator, who argued that the allegations against Assange bore all the hallmarks of a set-up. This was further elaborated on by Craig Murray who thoroughly demolished the case against Assange. As John Pilger outlined, the reality is, there was no genuine judicial process in train against Assange in Sweden, a point that was advanced by Assange’s lawyers before the UK supreme court:

“The Assange case has never been primarily about allegations of sexual misconduct in Sweden – where the Stockholm Chief Prosecutor, Eva Finne, dismissed the case, saying, ‘I don’t believe there is any reason to suspect that he has committed rape’, and one of the women involved accused the police of fabricating evidence and ‘railroading’ her, protesting she ‘did not want to accuse JA of anything’ – and a second prosecutor mysteriously re-opened the case after political intervention, then stalled it.”

Finne’s dismissal of the case against Assange has since been vindicated by the release of SMS records which appear to indicate that the Wikileaks founder was, as Stockholm’s Chief Prosector suggested, framed by the police. Indeed, the police themselves admit that the rape allegations were fabricated in what they concede was an elaborate plot against Assange.

Given the astounding level of misinformation, demonization, smears, deceptions and outright lies in the mainstream corporate media’s reporting of Assange, an observer unfamiliar with the case might reasonably form the impression that the man in question is the devil incarnate, who is using his work as a cover in order to avoid facing justice for the crime of rape.

Some of these commentators, it would appear, have seen fit to pronounce a verdict of guilty on the head of the whistle blower in advance of any hypothetical future trial. The self-appointed Witch finder General, Joan Smith from London Women against Violence, for example, virtually alluded to Assange’s guilt with a series of crass pseudo-psychologically-based observations and insinuations.

Much of the vitriol stems, not from the traditional right-wing of the media terrain, but rather from what many people consider to be the liberal-left of the political spectrum. Owen Jones, for example, who appears to be the latest poster boy for left wing opinion throughout the corporate media, penned, in August 2012, an article for the UK’s Independent newspaper, titled “There should be no immunity for Julian Assange from these allegations.”  But Jones’ inference that diplomatic immunity is a feature of the Assange case is, in reality, a red-herring since neither Assange, his supporters, legal team or anybody else outside the media bubble, have ever suggested that his case is predicated on a claim of immunity.

The lie was repeated by the legal expert, Joshua Rozenberg, presumably in an attempt to add a certain degree of gravitas to the claim. The truth is that all Assange has ever requested from the outset, is a guarantee from the Swedish authorities that if he agrees to travel to Sweden to answer the rape allegations made against him, he won’t be extradited to the United States. Assange’s request for this assurance from Sweden is supported by Amnesty International. However, the Swedish authorities have consistently failed to give Assange such an assurance.

Despite all this, the Sky News journalist and LBC stand-in presenter, Tim Marshall, implied that callers to his programme on February 5, 2016, who suggested that should Assange step foot outside the Ecuadorean embassy, he would ultimately be extradited to the U.S predicated on the trumped up charge of rape and subsequently be imprisoned, were mad conspiracy theorists. The incandescent, Marshall, is apparently unaware of the case of Chelsea Manning who was imprisoned for 35 years in 2013 for leaking information to WikiLeaks.

He is also seemingly unaware that, according to Edward Snowden, Assange is on a US “manhunt target list” or that the Independent revealed that both the Swedish and American governments’ have already discussed Assange’s onward extradition. If Marshall had bothered to avail himself of the views of Mats Andenas, the Norwegian chair of the UN Working Group for much of its investigation, he would have realized that the panel had to resist intense pressure from the US and UK to arrive at a decision contrary to the one they actually reached.

Marshall’s tone throughout was one of incredulity that the “liberal” Sweden would place Assange at risk of extradition to the US or for that matter that the latter under the liberal-progressive Obama, could ever preside over an administration that has imprisoned more whistle blowers than all his predecessors combined. In terms of the former (something else that Marshall is apparently oblivious to), is the subject matter of Amnesty International’s 2013 report which highlights Sweden’s damning record of extraditing people to other countries and its cooperation with the US in extraordinary renditions.

Jonathan Cook sums up just how far down the perilous road towards fascism our governments’ and their accomplices in the media are prepared to go in order to augment the interests of the powerful:

“The degraded discourse about the UN group’s decision does not just threaten Assange, but endangers vulnerable political dissidents around the world. The very fact that…[liberal media commentators]… are so ready to sacrifice these people’s rights in their bid to tar and feather Assange should be warning enough that there is even more at stake here than meets the eye.”

In a humane and fair world, it would be incumbent upon the media horde who have unjustly smeared Assange, to admit they were wrong and publicly apologize to him and his supporters, all of whom have been vindicated by events. But not only have no such apologies been forthcoming, the commentariate at the Guardian have actually continued with the smears.

 

Endless war, Everlasting peace

By Daniel Margrain

The downing by NATO member, Turkey, of a Russian aircraft on the Syrian-Turkish border in November 2015 – the first of its kind since 1952 – brought into sharp focus the complex patchwork of contending geopolitical and strategic allegiances against what is ostensibly a unified military response to ISIS. Turkey’s role in supporting the Al-Qaeda affiliate, the Al Nusra Front, starkly emphasises the risk of a military escalation to the crisis and the undermining of the current ceasefire.

Turkey’s seemingly schizophrenic relationship to the United States and NATO underscores the former’s reluctance in allowing the latter to use it’s military bases in the east of the country to attack ISIS. Instead, the Turkish government under president Erdogan have used these bases to target the Kurdish PKK. According to the United Nations, 30,000 terrorists from one hundred countries that have landed in Syria have arrived through Turkey and the CIA are overseeing the supply of arms to some of them. Meanwhile, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are also supporting Jihadi extremists to the tune of billions of dollars in arms and funds which are being funneled through Turkey.

Since both Russia and Iran are geo-strategically aligned to Syria, it’s in the interests of both countries to ensure that a Russian-friendly regime in Syria remains in power to act as a bullwark against undue US influence in the region. Clearly, given the competing interests of the major powers, and the potential risks of a major resource war between them, it’s an obvious truism that there can be no long-term solution to the conflict that involves a massive escalation of violence. Therefore, the only viable solution to the crisis is a negotiated settlement which the current ceasefire is a potential prelude to.

In addition to the tensions described, is the duplicitous role played by Turkey which has its own narrow anti-Kurdish agenda in the region. The problems are further compounded in that both the Syrian YPG and the Kurdish KPP have mounted effective ground offensives against ISIS while paradoxically both groups remain on the U.S terrorist list. In addition, Hezzbollah and Iran, backed by Russian air power, have also been effective in countering ISIS. But rather than backing these various factions, UK-US policy is predicated – ostensibly at least – on maintaining support for their two partners on the ground – the Iraqi army (which is weak) and the so-called moderate Syrian opposition to Assad and ISIS (which barely exists).

If the allies led by the US government were serious in their intent to obliterate the existential threat they claim ISIS represents, they would be aligning themselves with the first set of fighters mentioned above instead of their powerless and ineffectual “partners”. So given this anomaly, one has to wonder what the key motivating factor guiding US policy in relation to Syria is. The country sits in a region of the world where the US-UK government’s hypocritically covertly support the oppressive actions of some of the most brutal and authoritarian regimes on earth.

The rational answer is that the principle motivation lies not in eradicating ISIS but rather in toppling one of the more relatively tolerant and secular regimes in the region. Indeed, Assad who, just over a decade ago, was wined and dined in the company of British royalty, is currently on the U.S rogue state list primed for regime change. This overriding factor guiding Western policy is the ‘elephant in the room’ to which journalists and commentators within the liberal corporate media, who focus their critique on Assad, tend to overlook.

The widely accepted narrative is that the catalyst for the “civil war” in Syria is one in which Assad is said to have massacred peaceful demonstrators. This is equated with the events that characterized the Arab Spring in countries like Tunisia and Egypt. Both interpretations amount to a serious misreading of the situation. Following the initial outbreak of violence in Daraa, a small border town with Jordan on March 17-18, 2011, professor Michel Chossudovsky recounted the events:

“The protest movement had all the appearances of a staged event involving covert support to Islamic terrorists by Mossad and/or Western intelligence….Government sources pointed to the role of radical Salafist groups (supported by Israel)…In chorus, the Western media described the events in Daraa as a protest movement against Bashar Al Assad.”

Chossudovsky cited Israeli and Lebanese sources in support of his claims. These sources reported on the killing of seven police officers and at least four demonstrators in addition to the torching of the Baath Party Headquarters and courthouse. Chossudovsky commented:

“These news reports of the events in Daraa confirmed that from the very outset this was not a ‘peaceful protest’ as claimed by the Western media….What was clear… is that many of the demonstrators were not demonstrators but terrorists involved in premeditated acts of killing and arson…The title of the Israeli news report summarized what happened: Syria: Seven Police Killed, Buildings Torched in Protest.”

This account was subsequently confirmed five months later by Israeli intelligence sources who claimed that from the outset Islamist “freedom fighters” were supported, trained and equipped by NATO and Turkey’s high command (DEBKAfile, NATO to give rebels anti-tank weapons, August 14, 2011). Media Lens quoted Jeremy Salt, associate professor in Middle Eastern History and Politics at Bilkent University, Ankara, who added some background:

“Since the Soviet-Afghan war, Western intelligence agencies as well as Israel’s Mossad have consistently used various Islamic terrorist organizations as “intelligence assets”. Both Washington and its indefectible British ally have provided covert support to “Islamic terrorists” in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo and Libya, etc. as a means to triggering ethnic strife, sectarian violence and political instability… The ultimate objective of the Syria protest movement, through media lies and fabrications, is to create divisions within Syrian society as well as justify an eventual “humanitarian intervention”.’

In another article, journalist John Pilger quoted the former French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas who last year revealed that “two years before the Arab spring”, he was told in London that a war on Syria was planned. “I am going to tell you something,” he said in an interview with the French TV channel LPC,“I was in England two years before the violence in Syria on other business. I met top British officials, who confessed to me that they were preparing something in Syria… Britain was organising an invasion of rebels into Syria. They even asked me, although I was no longer Minister for Foreign Affairs, if I would like to participate… This operation goes way back. It was prepared, preconceived and planned.”

The cementing of US hegemony in the region (and beyond), with the backing of its principle European ally, is hardly a secret. In fact, it dates back to at least the the Clinton era when the concept of American supremicism and exceptionalism were coined as the prelude to the setting up by the neoconservative pressure group of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC). This document provided the ideological justification for the bolstering of America’s nuclear first strike capability.

Leading neoconservatives have conceded that the perpetuation of American supremacy, as opposed to defending the country, is what this capability is designed to achieve. Lawrence Kaplan, for example, admitted that missile defence is a tool for global US dominance. The purpose of the PNAC is to provide an overview of US defence strategy from a world-historical perspective within the context of a decade of supposed US neglect.

This perspective led the neoconservatives within the Bush, and later Obama regimes, to conclude the opening, and subsequent extension, of windows of opportunity with which to demonstrate America’s military superiority. In the same vein as the PNAC, the accompanying war manifesto, The National Security Strategy begins with the affirmation,“The United States possesses unprecedented- and unequalled – strength and influence in the world.” It concludes with the warning,“Our forces will be strong enough to dissuade potential adversaries from pursuing a military build-up in the hopes of surpassing, or equalling, the power of the United States.”

A key section warns:

“We are attentive to the possible renewal of old patterns of great power competition. Several potential great powers are now in the midst of internal transition – most importantly Russia, India and China.” 

Reaffirming that the war on terror was just the beginning for the United States, George Bush in his State of Union address on 29 January, 2002, named Iran, Iraq and North Korea as “an axis of evil”. Secretary of State, John Bolton, subsequently extended the net to include Libya, Cuba and Syria. The ‘war on terrorism’ also provided the US with an opportunity to establish a string of military bases in Central Asia.

The reality is that regime change in Syria and elsewhere is predicated on the paradoxical concept of eternal warfare as the precursor to the creation of an everlasting peace borne out of a wilderness wrought of chaos and destruction. Specifically, the definitive article, the New American Century, is about shaping the world for the next hundred years according to the interests and values of American capitalism.

In 2001 when George Bush declared the ‘war on terror’, Al-Qaeda was confined to a small tribal area in north west Afghanistan. Now, thanks largely to the attempt at the imposition of American capitalist democracy delivered at the point of gun, so-called Islamist terrorism has spread worldwide.

Is the U.S heading towards military conflict in the South China Sea?

Famously, Albert Einstein defined common sense  as  “the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen.” When viewed from the prism of the perspective of the apologists for capitalism, Einstein’s condescending approach to conventional wisdom belied much of the Western prevailing orthodoxy up to the events in New York on September 11, 2001.

The prevailing view, particularly among a large swath of intellectuals, was one in which capitalism was seen as the bedrock of society underpinned by an economic booster model of globalization that supposedly limited the scope for war and conflict. Intellectual proponents of this worldview understanding of capitalism included Third Way ideologues such as Anthony Giddens and Ulrich Beck. For them, globalization was reshaping liberal democracies into states that transcended the need for “enemies”.

The limitations of this thinking was brought sharply into focus following George W Bush’s proclamation of a global state of war on September 20, 2001: “Americans should not expect one battle”, he said , “but a lengthy campaign, unlike any other we have ever seen.” To accept the notion that the capitalist system is shaped purely by economics that under the guise of globalization ameliorates the pressures among states to go to war with one another, is to grossly misunderstand the nature of the beast and what the main catalyst is that drives the war machine forward.

In truth, the system is underpinned by “competitive processes that involve not merely the economic struggle for markets, but military and diplomatic rivalries among states.” In other words, capitalism embraces geopolitics as well as economics. This was first understood during the early 20th century when the expansion and intensification of capitalism began to make its mark. It was during this period that economic rivalries among firms began to take the form of conflicts which spilled over national borders.

Consequently, combatants called upon the military support of their respective states to protect them. Thus, the close and complex interweaving of economic and security competition became geopolitical in nature which was to develop into the tragic era of inter-imperialist war between 1914 and 1945.

The notion that diplomatic and military conflicts among states reflect the more general process of competition that drives capitalism on, is the basis of the classic theory of imperialism formulated by Nikolai Bukharin during the First World War. It’s a theory that provides the best framework for understanding the contemporary American war drive and, pertinent to this article, its ongoing South China Sea dispute with China which the staging of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in the U.S a few days ago is implicit.

The main purpose of the summit, from a U.S perspective, is to advance what the Obama administration calls its Rebalance to Asia and the Pacific, popularly known as the Asia Pivot which reflects a shift in U.S policy towards China which intimates more of a belligerent approach as opposed to one based on constructive rationality. This is highlighted by the projected deployment of 60 percent of U.S submarines to the region, the purpose of which is to undermine Chinese economic development by limiting its maritime access to markets.

Much has been made about how the U.S wants to “cooperate” with China and to maintain friendly relations. But at the same time, President Obama proposes to undermine bi-lateral relations in the region while China wants to enhance them on an individual basis in much the same way that it would with any other country outside the region.

Another indication that the U.S is not prepared to cooperate, was the summit agenda’s domination by the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). This was in addition to the dispute regarding contested maritime territorial claims and so called “freedom of movement” issues. What the U.S has sought to do is to stifle the development of the South East Asia region in relation to China and therefore seek to undermine the trade agreements China already has in place with various other S.E Asian countries in the bloc – agreements that were formulated at an international level through the auspices of forums like ASEAN.

The crux of the conflict between the U.S and China essentially revolves around the contenting claims and the influence each player is able to exercise in relation to ASEAN. The U.S is attempting to use economic and political leverage to isolate or economically encircle China as a way of counteracting what they perceive to be the expansion of China’s political influence.

The false impression given in much of the Western corporate media is that sovereign nations in the region are under threat from an expansionist and belligerent China and that these nations are necessarily looking to the United States for assistance. How the U.S would likely respond if China were to build military bases throughout the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean or the Pacific coast off California is not a question the Western media seem to want to ask.

By reversing the roles, we can begin to understand the situation from the Chinese perspective, particularly given the painful and tragic history it has had over the last two centuries in relation to Western colonial domination of its territory. The contextual reality that underlies the Chinese position is that having emerged from a very dark period in their history, they are looking to assert their sovereignty by creating a regional sphere of influence.

Contrary to Western media propaganda, this doesn’t necessarily involve the domination of their neighbours. The perspective coming from Beijing is an insistence that the U.S respect China’s growing influence as a major political and economic power. This call, however, appears to be largely falling on deaf ears, particularly among the decision makers in Washington that really matter. What  A. J. P Taylor  called “the struggle for mastery” among the Great Powers is understood by Realists within the sphere of international relations in America. However, their views don’t hold significant enough sway within the corridors of power to influence policy.

The signing of the TPP to the exclusion of China, as well as the arm twisting by the U.S administration, appears to be intended to prohibit its European partners from joining the Asian Investment Infrastructure Bank (AIIB) which arguably has the potential to rival the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The dominant force in Washington is one which remains orientated towards greater competition which entails the possibility of greater conflict, not because the U.S wants war with with China, but because they are pushing the envelope which potentially can lead to unintended consequences.

While on the one hand, America pushes for its control of the regional trade and commerce framework through ASEAN, on the other, China is pushing to expand it’s so-called One Belt, One Road policy. This is predicated on growing Chinese economic penetration throughout the entire Eurasian land mass stretching from the Chinese coast on the South China Sea all the way to the Atlantic coast of Europe.

China is increasingly moving towards land-based commerce through Russia and central Asia and into the European space. This must be alarming to many of the strategic planners and paid-for corporate politicians in Washington. Underpinning the conflicts in the China Sea regarding disputed territory and the fomenting of others by the U.S involving China and its neighbours, is the larger geopolitical chess match, what Zbigniew Brzezinski famously referred to as The Grand Chessboard.

In exposing the real motives behind the Clinton administrations stated multilateralist strategy, Brzezinski who was one of the main architects of Nato expansion, presented The Grand Chessboard as one facet of a much broader approach to maintain American dominance over Eurasia through a continent wide policy of divide and rule. Brzezinski openly used the language of imperial power:

“America’s global supremacy is reminiscent in some ways to earlier empires, notwithstanding their confined regional scope. These empires based their power on a hierarchy of vassals, tributaries, protectorates, and colonies, with those on the outside generally viewed as barbarians. To some degree, this anachronistic terminology is not inappropriate for some of the states currently within the American orbit.”

The hosting by the U.S of the latest ASEAN summit, their TPP agenda and their attempts to contain China through the Asian Pivot, represents a worrying trend akin to the clash of imperial interests which led to the conditions from which the carnage of the First and Second World Wars emerged.

 

Assange’s stitch-up is a lesson for us all

By Daniel Margrain

Yesterday’s UN ruling (February 5) that deemed the deprivation of liberty of Julian Assange to be unlawful is a legally binding vindication of all those activists who have supported the quest of the Wikileaks founder to bring into the public domain the illegalities of Western power under the guise of democracy and freedom. Of course, establishment figures who represent the gatekeepers of the said powers, like Phillip Hammond, invariably attempt to undermine the findings of the UN body – of which the UK government is a signatory – when their conclusions fail to go in their favour and thus deny any wrongdoing on the part of the imperial powers that they represent.

On the other hand, praise will be heaped on the UN during the occasions they rule in their favour. This is, perhaps, to be expected. But what was shocking in terms of Hammond’s sheer Kafka-esque dishonesty was the extent to which he was prepared to sink in order to attempt to justify the unjustifiable at the behest of his masters in Washington. According to former UK diplomat, Craig Murray, Hammond’s lies were “utterly astonishing”. The official statement by the UK Foreign Secretary, states: “I reject the decision of this working group. It is a group made up of lay people and not lawyers. Julian Assange is a fugitive from justice. He is hiding from justice in the Ecuadorian embassy.”

Hammond’s statement belies the fact that every single one of the UN panel is an extremely distinguished lawyer. His statement was clearly made in order to undermine the UN ruling which by so doing, as Edward Snowden acknowledges, “writes a pass for every dictatorship to reject UN rulings...and hence sets a “dangerous precedent for UK/Sweden to set.” Craig Murray states that: “Countries who have ignored rulings by this UN panel are rare. No democracy has ever done so. Recent examples are Egypt and Uzbekistan. The UK is putting itself in pretty company.”

Previous rulings by the panel have gone against countries with some of the world’s worst human rights records, such as Saudi Arabia, Myanmar and Egypt. Recent cases where the UN has ruled in circumstances in which individuals have similarly been detained, include the Washington Post journalist, Jason Rezaian in Iran in December last year and former pro-democracy president Mohamed Nasheed last October (both subsequently released).

The contextual underpinning of the ruling vindicating Assange stems from the fact that he has never been charged with any offence. The UN findings confirm that his detention has been unlawful since his very first arrest in the United Kingdom in 2010 and that there has never been any genuine attempt by the Swedish authorities to investigate the allegations against him. For all those commentators who have been following the case closely, it has been obvious that from the outset the establishment have had it in for Assange. The rape allegations were merely the Casus Belli.

This was given credible weight early on by Naomi Wolf, a prominent American writer, feminist and social commentator, who argued that the allegations against Assange bore all the hallmarks of a set-up. This was further elaborated on by Craig Murray who thoroughly demolished the case against Assange. As John Pilger outlined, the reality is, there was no genuine judicial process in train against Assange in Sweden, a point that was advanced by Assange’s lawyers before the UK supreme court:

“The Assange case has never been primarily about allegations of sexual misconduct in Sweden – where the Stockholm Chief Prosecutor, Eva Finne, dismissed the case, saying, “I don’t believe there is any reason to suspect that he has committed rape”, and one of the women involved accused the police of fabricating evidence and “railroading” her, protesting she “did not want to accuse JA of anything” – and a second prosecutor mysteriously re-opened the case after political intervention, then stalled it.”

justice4assange.com provides some background:

Julian Assange, editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, has been detained without charge in one form or another since 7 December 2010…In Sweden, Julian Assange is not charged with a crime. But in a highly unusual move, Sweden issued an Interpol Red Notice and a European Arrest Warrant, immediately after WikiLeaks began publishing a cache of 250,000 US Diplomatic Cables on 29 November 2010. Such warrants are usually issued for persons whose whereabouts are unknown. But Julian Assange’s whereabouts were known (he had given a press conference and hundreds of interviews in London). His lawyers were in communication with the prosecutor and had communicated that he was available to answer questions from the Swedish prosecutor through standard means.

Questioning people within European borders is a routine and uncomplicated process, which is standardised throughout the European Union. Sweden often uses these means to question people. In the initial ten days after 20 August 2010, the police opened the ’preliminary investigation’, it was assigned to three different prosecutors in quick succession. The penultimate prosecutor found that the case had no basis, and that there were no grounds to place Julian Assange under a criminal investigation.

The final prosecutor however, Marianne Ny, took over on 1 September 2010 and reopened the investigation. The Swedish investigation has been frozen since 2010. In November 2014, Sweden’s Svea Court of Appeal ruled that the prosecutor had failed her professional duty to progress the investigation against Julian Assange.

Given the astounding level of media misinformation, demonization, smears, deceptions and outright lies in the mainstream corporate media’s reporting of Assange, one might be under the impression that the man in question is the devil incarnate, a misogynist, who is using his work as a cover in order to avoid facing justice for the crime of rape that some commentators have seen fit to pronounce a verdict of guilty on the head of the whistle blower in advance of any hypothetical future trial. The self-appointed Witch finder General, Joan Smith of London Women against Violence, for example, was allowed to express her opinion, unchallenged, that he was guilty of the crime he has been accused of.

Much of the vitriol stems, not from the traditional right-wing of the media terrain, but rather from what many people consider to be the liberal-left of the political spectrum. Owen Jones, for example, who appears to be the latest poster boy for left wing opinion throughout the liberal media, penned, in August 2012, an article for the UK’s Independent newspaper, titled “There should be no immunity for Julian Assange from these allegations.”  But Jones’ inference that diplomatic immunity is a feature of the Assange case is, in reality, a red-herring since neither he, his supporters, legal team or anybody else outside the media bubble, have ever suggested that his case is predicated on a claim of immunity.

The lie was repeated by the Guardian’s legal expert, Joshua Rozenberg, presumably in an attempt to add a certain degree of gravitas to the claim. The truth is that all Assange has ever requested from the outset, is a guarantee from the Swedish authorities that if he agrees to travel to Sweden to answer the rape allegations made against him, he won’t be extradited to the United States. Assange’s request for this assurance from Sweden is supported by Amnesty International. However, the Swedish authorities have consistently failed to give Assange such an assurance.

Despite all this, the Sky News journalist and LBC stand-in presenter, Tim Marshall, implied that callers to his programme on February 5 who suggested that should Assange step foot outside the Ecuadorean embassy, he would ultimately be extradited to the U.S predicated on the trumped up charge of rape and subsequently be imprisoned, were mad conspiracy theorists. The incandescent, Marshall, is apparently unaware of the case of Chelsea Manning who was imprisoned for 35 years in 2013 for leaking information to WikiLeaks.

He is also seemingly unaware that, according to Edward Snowden, Assange is on a US “manhunt target list” or that the Independent revealed that both the Swedish and American governments’ have already discussed Assange’s onward extradition. If Marshall had bothered to avail himself of the views of Mats Andenas, the Norwegian chair of the UN Working Group for much of its investigation, he would have realized that the panel had to resist intense pressure from the US and UK to arrive at a decision contrary to the one they actually reached.

Marshall’s tone throughout was one of incredulity that the “liberal” Sweden would place Assange at risk of extradition to the US or for that matter that the latter under the liberal-progressive Obama, could ever preside over an administration that has imprisoned more whistle blowers than all his predecessors combined. In terms of the former (something else that Marshall is apparently oblivious to), is the subject matter of Amnesty International’s 2013 report which highlights Sweden’s damning record of extraditing people to other countries and its cooperation with the US in extraordinary renditions.

Jonathan Cook sums up just how far down the perilous road towards fascism our governments’ and their accomplices in the media are prepared to go in order to augment the interests of the powerful:

“The degraded discourse about the UN group’s decision does not just threaten Assange, but endangers vulnerable political dissidents around the world. The very fact that…[liberal media commentators]… are so ready to sacrifice these people’s rights in their bid to tar and feather Assange should be warning enough that there is even more at stake here than meets the eye.”