Archive for the 'Neo-liberalism' Category

How ‘non-news’ news stories reinforce the status quo

untitledIn a classic episode of the popular television sitcom The Simpsons, the notoriously crooked and amoral attorney Lionel Hutz famously advised the Simpson family that facts were of secondary importance to their case since, according to him, there is a big difference between ‘the truth’ (said with a frown in a somber, serious voice) and “The Truth” (said in in a charismatic, happy way with a smile).

If it was not abundantly clear before, it is certainly the case that now more than ever before, we need to draw a distinction between ‘the news’ (said with a frown in a somber, serious voice) and “The News” (said in in a charismatic, happy way with a smile).

I would like to suggest that ‘the news’ ought to be a normative conception of the newsworthiness of an event (or lack thereof) based upon its objective impact to entire cities, nations and/or the globe.  Conversely, I posit that “The News” ought to be taken as a realist view of the news wherein the newsworthiness of an event (or lack thereof) is based solely on an observation of what is or is not reported in the mainstream press irrespective of normative, logical, moral or ethical considerations.

In other words, under the first conception of ‘the news’, while some events may be personally ‘significant’ (such as the death of a loved one), the newsworthiness of an event would be conditional on sociological or political significance.  Thus, for instance, the death of Jon Bennet Ramsey would not have been news, however charges of Boulder Police incompetence in handling the case or corruption would be considered news.  Conversely, “The News” does not encourage critical thinking about the news or the nature of the stories generated.  The news is the news is the news.  What is newsworthy is simply what makes the news.

While this is hardly a Socratic deduction to make, it is a crucially important one because far too much of the criticism of the mainstream media from both the left wing [1] [2] and the right wing [3] [4] today is based simply on exposing real or apparent lies, distortions and untruths.  This is not to say that exposing lies or distortions in media is not a worthwhile endeavour, but rather that it is limited.  It is limited because it ignores the far more omnipresent fact that a news story may be factual and accurate and correct but that it may nevertheless reinforce the status quo, dominant ideologies and systems of hierarchy and oppression.

An example of a factually correct, accurate and truthful “The News” story which I would like to suggest serves to reinforce the status quo is the story of Brandon Crisp.  Recently a Caucasian Ontario boy named Brandon Crisp was found dead after having run away from his home after his parents forbade him from playing his game console.  Since his body’s discovery, a media sensation has erupted.  The police have conducted autopsy reports and have postulated that he died falling from a tree while the media has spent inordinate resources speculating how long he would have survived after the fall.

A brief search reveals the extend of the media frenzy which has now reached the international press.

brandon-crisp-news

This, of course, is nothing new.  There is, in my opinion, substantial albeit as-of-yet only circumstantial evidence to support the thesis of a “Missing White Girl” phenomenon [5] [6].

With the realist conception of newsworthiness based on “The News“, not only do stories which have no impact on the city, country or globe become news, but since newsworthiness is predicated circularly on what is reported as news, the mere fact of a given “The News” story making news headlines is often itself enough to cause more news headlines in other publications.  Here, the problem arises in that there are only so many column inches available and only so many resources in terms of editorial and reporting staff for any given publication, that in selecting these factually correct non-news stories amidst the torrents of incoming factually correct global events, editors necessarily leave out genuine news stories.

0743284550The death of Brian Crisp, while undeniably a tragedy for his family and friends, does not impact the sociological or political existence of his city, country or the world.  But, in focusing on this one death or on the latest ‘missing white girl’ case or on the latest house fire — since doing so is necessarily done to the exclusion of other events — consumers of mainstream media are left with the false impression that the most pressing problems facing society are particular, parochial and individual rather than systemic, global and societal.  The public is, in short, instilled daily with the right wing neo-conservative thesis postulated by Francis Fukuyama that ‘history has ended’ [7] [8] [9] despite the fact that, strictly speaking, nothing factually incorrect has been reported.

In closing, to illustrate this point, consider for yourself whether people would have the same impression of the greatest problems facing society if any of following stories — all of which it is important to note were omitted by the media in part because of ‘insufficient space’ — were reported in place of the death of Brian Crisp.

18 million die annually due simply to poverty [10] [11] [12].  As a corollary, it could also be noted that the vast majority of these 18 million are non-Caucasians living in Afria despite the fact that Africa is perhaps the richest continent on the planet.  It could also be reported that the poverty of Africans amidst the wealth of Africa is due largely to conscious and deliberate policies instituted by the West during the colonial period and which have been continued into the neo-liberal era.

18-million-dead-due-to-poverty-news

While 18 million people — predominantly Africans — die annually due to poverty, the European Union subsidizes every cow in the EU by $2.50/day which is more money than 75% of all Africans live on [see: Williams, Jessica.  50 Facts that Should Change the World.  Cambridge: Icon Books Ltd., 2004.  p. 46-51].

The largest humanitarian crisis in the world today is not Iraq, nor Afghanistan nor Darfur in the Sudan, but rather Somalia [13].  There are now more refugees and more displaced people in Somalia than in Iraq, yet the West is positively uninterested in fixing the situation.  But, despite this, capitalists and their apologists regularly praise the ‘economic miracle of Somalia’ as a glorious experiment in Anarcho-capitalism [14] [15] [16].

Video: The War on Democracy [by John Pilger]

I recently came across this inspiring and fantastically-directed video is by the progressive Australian filmmaker John Pilger.  This documentary about Chavez and Venezuela features both impressive cinematography and depth of analysis which truly exceeded my expectations.

Enjoy.


Video curtosy of the good comrades at Venezuela Analysis.

Reactions?

Tariq Ali on Chavez, Venezuela and the struggle against neoliberalism (audio)

socialist-podcast.pngEpisode #5 of the Paulitics Podcast has now been released. This episode features a talk by noted radical intellectual, Trotskyist and salient figure with the New Left Review publication, Tariq Ali.

Ali’s talk is loosely on the topic of his 2006 book entitled “Pirates Of The Caribbean: Axis Of Hope” and features a fantastic discussion of Hugo Chavez’s Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela including both the challenges to the revolution  and the successes of the revolution.

venezuelan-flag.pngchavez-and-supporters.pngAlso in the episode, I take some time to despell some more myths regarding the constitutional reform package.  I despell the myth that the reform package was hugely centralizing or authoritarian by pointing out that several of the reforms were actually decentralizing and libertarian in nature.  In fact, some of the proposals, including the proposal to decrease of the central government’s share of taxation revenues so as to increase the share of the revenues for the various states, and the reform of the central bank are all things that the Ron Paul fanatics have been clamoring for in the United States.

To listen to Ali’s talk or to download the episode, click here.

To find out how to subscribe to the podcast and have episodes brought to you automatically, click here.

To view past episodes of the Paulitics Podcast, click here.

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Why capitalism can’t continue forever and why socialism will prevail

From Bolivian President Evo Morales’ recent speech to the United Nations (the text of which has never been seen in the mainstream media).

It is important that we learn lessons from some sectors, from some regions. Let me avail myself of this opportunity: I come from a culture based on peace, from a lifestyle based on equality, of living not only in solidarity with all people, but also living in harmony with Mother Earth. For the indigenous movement, land cannot be a commodity; it is a mother that gives us life, so how could we convert it into a commodity as the western model does?

This is a profound lesson which we must learn in order to resolve the problems of humanity that are being discussed here, climate change and pollution. Where does this pollution come from? It comes from, and is generated by, the unsustainable development of a system which destroys the planet: in other words, capitalism.

I want to use this opportunity to call on sectors, groups and nations to abandon luxury, to abandon over-consumption, to think not only about money but about life, to not only think about accumulating capital but to think in wider terms about humanity. Only then can we begin to solve the root causes of these problems facing humanity. “

Hat tip to our good comrade Ian Angus who runs the fantastic ecosocialist blog “Climate and Capitalism“. He published the full text of Morales’ speech.

~

See also:

All that glitters is not golden

An apology is owed…

Support for capitalist parties in Canada

Is socialism violent or is liberalism hypocritical?: Dispelling the myths of socialism – PART I

Is Capitalism Justified?: Dispelling the myths of socialism – PART II

Proof of Big Brother tactics at SPP protest (pics + vid)

It was easy to miss, but here are three examples of Big Brother tactics at the SPP protests this week in Quebec.  One of which is your standard George W. Bush doublethink, the second of which gives some interesting circumstantial evidence of government conspiracy to crack down on protesters (and has become an internet sensation), and the third of which proves the culpability of the government and police but which hasn’t been reported anywhere that I am aware of.

#1. As many of you know, the leaders of Canada, the U.S. and Mexico (“The Three Amigos”)  met yesterday and the day before to negotiate a backroom, undemocratic deal to harmonize regulations at the behest of North America’s CEOs.

This summit took place, behind closed doors and meetings were carefully arranged to transpire without public scrutinty.  Afterwards, “The Three Amigos” emerged to the only public scrutiny the meetings would receive: namely George W. Bush reassuring the public that nothing offensive to public morals took place while the public was forbidden from listening in.

So, it was a boring, uneventful series of meetings in which nothing which the public would disapprove of took place, but the public was still nevertheless forbidden from seeing these uneventful meetings?

#2. The following video has recently become an internet sensation because of youtube, digg.com and reddit.com.  It shows three very suspicious ‘protestors’ who come to a peaceful protest with stones and rocks in hand seeking to provoke a confrontation.  It shows fairly reasonable circumstantial evidence that they were actually police informants designed to create cause for the police to crack down.  When confronted with the realization that the crowd surrounding them has realized this, they ‘give themselves up’ to the police.

Now, the other part of the story that has been widely reported, is that after these three were handcuffed, a picture was shot which showed that two of the ‘protesters’ had the same boots as a police officer.

spp-protest-boots-1.png

Here’s where it gets interesting.

The Toronto Star linked to the youtube video, but their report still suggested that it could have been a coincidence.  They wrote that:

“Late Tuesday, photographs taken by another protester surfaced, showing the trio lying prone on the ground. The photos show the soles of their boots adorned by yellow triangles. A police officer kneeling beside the men has an identical yellow triangle on the sole of his boot.”

Clearly, it takes no time at all to see that the protestors have the same boots as ONE of the police officers.  That hardly qualifies for investigative journalism.  And in and of itself without further investigation, this can still be dismissed as a coincidence by the government or by skeptics.

#3. But the part of the story that hasn’t been reported is also the part of the story which proves that all this circumstantial evidence above is not merely a series of coincidence.  The picture below shows that it’s not a matter of these protestors coincidentally having the same style of boots as one of the police officers, but rather that they have the exact same boots as all of the police officers.

spp-protest-boots-2.png

 (Original, hi-rez picture source here — look for yourself)

I made this image when I started to notice something as I was looking over the super-hi rez version of the same image.  If it didn’t take me long to figure this out, no journalist worth his or her salt should have missed it.

Take a look at the way the seam of the leather at the back of everyone’s boots falls in a straight line from the ankle towards the heel.  It doesn’t taper outwards away from or in towards the achilles tendon.  Nor does it curve in any way around the heel and converge towards the achilles tendon.  Rather it runs straight and perpendicular to the sole of the boot.  Notice anything similar between everyone’s boots?

If it wasn’t just one of the officers, then all of the evidence above is not merely circumstantial.  If all of the evidence of police interference in this protest is not circumstantial, then from this everything else, including the media’s complicity in this story, follows.

Conspiracy theories, a North American Union, and other B.S.

My mother enjoys torturing me by e-mailing me the incoherent rants of right-wing malcontents from time to time.  I suppose it’s part of a game she plays with me which I claim to hate but actually in reality secretly don’t mind.  But I guess, on the other hand it could also be because maybe she believes that angering up the blood and having your face turn red with frustration periodically is somehow therapeutic.

Either way, she stumbled across this gem of a video and decided that I should have to share in her pain and so she passed it along to me today. (And I’m in an apparently sadistic mood today and thus feel that you, my reader, should also suffer along with me as well… it’s a vicious cycle, it really is.)


(The original link to the video was here on this 9/11 truth blog)

Now, at first, I was beguiled by the “Impeach Bush” banner at the top of the blog she linked to and thought that this would actually be a reputable video on media distortion.  Perhaps, I thought, it might be a joint interview with Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman discussing new data on their Propaganda Model?  Perhaps an interview with Robert McChesney, author of Rich Media: Poor Democracy?  Perhaps an interview with Chomsky, Herman AND McChesney, I foolishly thought as I got comfortable and settled into my chair to enjoy the show.

“Oh, goodie,” I found myself thinking “59 minutes and 49 seconds.  This is going to be a full length feature.”

… And then the conspiracies came a-comin’.

For instance, did you know that everything which is reported in the media is controlled by the Freemasons and other secret, shadowy organizations who are all either associated with communism or who are at least sympathetic to it?  

I know, I was surprised too. 

Peter Jennings was a communist sympathizer.  Dan Rather was a communist sympathizer.  In fact the video even goes so far as to claim that William Buckley Jr. was a communist sympathizer.  Seriously?  William Buckley Jr.! The same conservative pompous right-winger who was fond of arguing that the U.S. engages in benign imperialism?

Or, did you know that everybody in a position of authority in the U.S. Government is actually working secretively to abolish the U.S. Government itself and to destroy U.S. Sovereignty so that it can — depending on who you talk to — establish either a North American Union or a New World Order where the U.S. will be emasculated?

Continue reading ‘Conspiracy theories, a North American Union, and other B.S.’

BREAKING NEWS: Michael Moore gives a GOOD speech

I’m not normally a fan of Michael Moore.  But the segment which Democracy Now! did on his testimony at the California state legislature has a clip of what is truly a fantastic speech delivered with an oratorical style I did not think Michael Moore capable of.

There is no way that I can say this without sounding pretentious as hell, but I have previously felt that Michael Moore’s brand of progressivism — especially when compared to true luminaries such as Noam Chomsky — was a bit like cousin Cletus’s 5-part serenade ‘Ode to a swimmin’ hole’ on his banjo after an afternoon of good moonshine.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that. 

Before this interview, I always thought:  Entertaining?  Yes.  Enlightening?  Not as much.  So, while I may be losing some of my commie street cred by saying this, I do have to say that, regardless of your opinion of Michael Moore, his speech in this Democracy Now! segment is well worth the watch especially considering the neo-liberal forces at work within our own country working to bring us closer to U.S.-style healthcare.

moore1.png

 

Click here to view the Democracy Now! segment (opens in Real Media Player)

 

 

If you don’t have Real Media Player, you can download it for free here

All that glitters is not golden

Manitoba’s “Golden Boy”:  The unintentional symbol for what’s wrong with Canada.

First, before going on from that incendiary statement, I should begin with the obligatory statements to prevent too much hate mail:   I’ve spent several summers in Manitoba and have visited the province many times throughout my childhood and I really do like most of the Manitobans I have encountered.

So, now that that’s out of the way, it is truly remarkable how Manitoba’s “Golden Boy” — their beloved statue and unofficial symbol of the province — can have so much symbolism for Canada which exists at multiple levels without having been intentionally designed.  Regardless, much of this symbolism is, shall we say, not something to be admired or celebrated as many are wont to do and, as such, is worth a critical look at.  The unintentional and profoundly unflattering symbolism of “Golden Boy” exists at three different levels.

Symbolic item #1: “Golden Boy” isn’t gold at all.

Yes, that’s right, “Golden Boy” is only gilded gold made using much the same technique ancient counterfeiters used to pass bronze or lead or non-gold coins off as gold ones.

When you think about it, it’s a fitting symbolic equivalent to the country which considers itself so superior to the United States; which claims itself to be ‘golden’ and as pristine as the untouched snow when, in actuality, we generally actively support the U.S. in their emperial adventures…. so long as we get to preserve our illusions of golden purity.

In Iraq, the Chretien Liberals helped out by sending a fleet into the Persian Gulf to assist the overtaxed American fleets with patrols.  But the list goes on.  Afghanistan.  The U.S.’s illegal war in Kosovo.  Haiti (historically and currently).  Yep, we’re just about as ‘golden’ as “Golden Boy”.

Symbolic item #2: “Golden Boy” represents Mercury — the Roman god of trade, profit and commerce.

Yes, “Golden Boy” is in the end merely a statue designed to glorify and pay tribute to our society’s new gods: trade, profit, commerce and — since the root word of ‘Mercury’ is related to the root word of ‘merchandise’ — consumerism.

But, while we glorify trade, profit and commerce, there were even segments of ancient Roman society who were not so easily fooled.  In the ruins of ancient Pompeii, on the other hand, we see murals such as the one depicted left, which show the god Mercury depicted with an unusually large phallus which, contrary to in our culture, had a profoundly undesirable quality.  Under this particular mural there was profanity written which was directed towards the god of trade and commerce.  I won’t relay what the profanity said, but it doesn’t take much to imagine what the jist of it is.

Also of note is that this particular depiction of Mercury, by employing the large phallus, might have also been a reference to prostitution as paintings of phalluses often pointed (literally) the way towards the prostitution sectors of the city for tourists.  Interestingly, since Poet Langston Hughes famously called America a prostitute in his poem Columbia (“Columbia, my dear girl, / You really haven’t been a virgin for so long / It’s ludicrous to keep up the pretext”), it does not take a huge leap of reason to see that so too can Canada be considered to have prostituted herself towards the ends of capitalism, trade, profit and commerce.

Symbolic item #3: “Golden Boy” is rotting from the inside

For those of you who were in Manitoba around 2002, you’ll remember that “Golden Boy” had to be taken down because he was literally rotting from the inside out.  What is more, if you followed the much-reported (at least in the province of Manitoba) story of his ‘repair’, an interesting fact was revealed after he was returned to his perch atop the legislature building:  the ‘repair’ is only going to last for about 20 years before he’s completely rotted out again.

This is especially prophetic when one considers that, as economic analysts have recently noted, since the American economy — the engine which fuels North American capitalism — is anemic, but the stock markets are on the rise artificially through increased money flow, we are perhaps heading towards a 1929, Great Depression-style collapse sooner rather than later.  Add to that the fact that credit card debts are increasing at alarming rates and we can see that our deficit-financed consumerist lifestyle truly is rotting from the inside out.

But here’s where the ironic symbolism of “Golden Boy’s” rot jumps to another level:  It was discovered in 2002, when “Golden Boy” was taken down, that much of the rotting experienced by the statue was caused by the electrical wiring leading to his torch.  Since the torch represents the torch/flame of knowledge and the quest for learning, this discovery reminded me of Voltaire’s Bastards by John Ralston Saul.   In this work, Saul argues that the kind of knowledge which has come to be rewarded in modern Western capitalist civilization is an exploitative, power-seeking and ultimately corrupting knowledge. 

Saul writes “Knowledge became the currency of power… The most common characteristics of our elites are cynicism, rhetoric and the worship of both ambition and power.”

In short, the only kind of ‘knowledge’ “Golden Boy” — the god of trade, profit and commerce — is capable of giving, is a corruptive knowledge which, ultimately, is mercinary since it is not coupled with other human virtues such as Rousseauian pity or Socratic civic duty.

On the futility of governing pop-culture

Who ever said capitalists were intelligent?

McDonald’s and a cabal of capitalists have been pushing the Oxford English Dictionary for some time now to remove its official listing of the word “McJob” in their publication.  But, AFP wires are now reporting that that’s not enough for McDonalds et al.  They now are seeking to actually ‘flip’ the definition of McJob (an irony in and of itself) from it’s current definition of:

“an unstimulating, low-paid job with few prospects, esp. one created by the expansion of the service sector.”

And they want the new definition in the Oxford English Dictionary to read something along the lines of:

“a job that is stimulating, rewarding and offers genuine opportunities for career progression.”

Now, it is no secret that capital has for years saught to subsume pop-culture and trends under its aegis.  However, what McDonald’s et al are ignoring is the fact that to the extent that capital succeeds in this goal, it does so not by dictating and governing from above what ‘popular’ ought to look like, but by so-called “cool hunting” and the subsuming of what is already pre-existingly popular into a corporate programme.

When capital or any heirarchical structure attempts to artificially manufacture from scratch what ought to be ‘popular’, the results are often ridiculous (and painful) as demonstrated by this ad by the Dairy Farmers of Ontario:  

(WARNING:  For those of you who don’t live in Ontario or who have never seen this ad, I must caution you – watching this may cause seizures, dimensia, decreased IQ and/or temporary insanity.  Proceed at own risk!) 

The capitalists seeking to change the definition of ‘McJob’ therefore are ignorant of two things.  First, obviously, the Oxford English Dictionary does not, like the ‘Newspeak’ dictionary makers in Orwell’s 1984, actually make-up definitions and construct the English language.  It merely reflects the pre-existing usage of the English language.

And second: you may be able to co-opt culture jamming, as the raging success of MTV and “cool hunting” demonstrates, but you cannot govern popular culture from above as these executives are foolishly attempting to do with “McJob”.

As insipid and asinine as many of us may consider the bulk of pop-culture to be, it nevertheless is one of the very few phenomena (along side activism and dissent) in our culture which finds its genesis in genuinely grassroots movements.

And that is a dynamic power which no capitalist and no government can either suppress or govern.


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