Archive for the 'Propaganda' Category

Israel solidifies its control over web 2.0

A while back here at Paulitics, I discussed the campaign by the Israel lobby to pay university students to agree with Israel in classroom discussions, university clubs and in rallies.

This programme and the overwhelmingly pro-Israel North American (and, to a lesser extent, European) media coverage were however not enough for the powerful and extremely well organized lobby.  The Israeli lobby then created a desktop application called “Megaphone” about which many political commentators still remain blissfully unaware.  Megaphone serves as a syphoning tool which has the power to instantly send pro-Israel activists flooding into any online discussion, web poll or other forum where Israel is being discussed in order to grossly unbalance the discussion thus creating the impression among Internet users that Israel’s support is both much wider and deeper than it actually is.  However, as frightening and undemocratic as these two operations were, they pale in comparison to what the government of Israel is doing now in terms of making “crimestop” a reality.

The Israeli press is now reporting that, in addition to the considerable influence of the Israeli lobby, the government of Israel has decided to marshal its state treasury to the cause further unbalancing the already obscenely unbalanced debate over Israel’s illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories.  The government of Israel will now directly pay pro-Israeli agents and bloggers to infiltrate online discussions, message boards, online newspaper comments et cetera with a ubiquitously pro-Israel, anti-Palestinian message.

UntitledIn the original Paulitics post on StandWithUs.org, I commented on their Orwellian use of doves and other peace imagery despite the fact that Israel has steadfastly rejected international law which calls for the right of all refugees to return to their homes and the Geneva conventions which proscribe against the acquisition of land through military conquest.  I can now without reservation say that I was dead wrong in my initial estimation of the situation.  Calling the initial programmes “Orwellian” does a disservice to the now genuinely Orwellian levels of deception and subterfuge being engaged in directly by the state.

On the bright side, however, if all of the favourable and unballanced meainstream media coverage; an impressive array of applications and an intimidating lobby group are together not enough to secure Israel’s outright hegemony, then there surely is hope that the illegal Israeli occupation is unsustainable.

Canada’s sinful role in attempting to subvert South American democracy

Joel Bakan once noted that Canadians export two things of reasonable quality and in reasonable quantity:

  1. Hockey Players; and
  2. Criticism of the United States

We Canadians tend to do a good job of pointing out the U.S.’s awful role in subverting democratically-elected governments and democratic movements around the world (Indonesia, Italy, Iran, Iraq, Chile, Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador, Brazil, Argentina, Vietnam, Panama, Haiti and Grenada to name just a few, come to mind).  However, we don’t like to look at ourselves in the same kind of critical light.

The following article by Anthony Fenton is one of the best articles I’ve ever read on Canada’s sinful complicity in attempting to overthrow the democratically-elected government of Venezuela.

The Revolution Will Not Be Destabilized

Ottawa’s democracy promoters target Venezuela

As the country closer geographically, economically and militarily to the US than any other, Canada has often seen her foreign policy aspirations circumscribed by the whims of the world’s lone Superpower.

Part of the ‘hidden wiring’ of the US-Canada relationship is premised on the belief that there is a role for Canada in places where the US carries a lot of counter-productive baggage. New records obtained by The Dominion show just how actively intertwined Canada’s foreign policy is with the US-led ‘democracy’ promotion project in Venezuela.

Successive Canadian governments, beginning with Paul Martin’s Liberals and gaining momentum under Harper’s Tory minorities, have pushed full steam ahead with efforts to expand Canada’s democracy promotion efforts globally. Canadian leadership in the regime change and military occupation of Haiti (2004-present) gave rise to a renewed emphasis on Canada as an emerging power, an idea fomented by the Harper government.

Democracy promotion is seldom discussed in the Canadian public sphere, even though it has been the subject of a multitude of federal-level conferences, reports and parliamentary hearings over the last five years. Over that same period, Canada has increasingly been integrating its instruments of democracy promotion with those of the US.

During his presidential campaign, Barack Obama quietly pledged to increase funding for the controversial National Endowment for Democracy (NED), despite scaling back the rhetoric used to describe continuing US aims to promote global, Western-style democracy. Obama has already fulfilled this pledge.

His Omnibus Appropriations Act allocates $115 million for NED’s operations, increasing by $35 million the amount requested by Bush for 2009. All told, the requested 2009 budget for US democracy programs is the highest ever, at $1.72 billion. By contrast, Canada spent upwards of $650 million on democracy promotion in 2008.

The NED was formed in 1983 as a new tool to advance US foreign policy and business interests around the world. Nominally independent, NED receives the majority of its budget from Congress and each of its grants must be approved by the US State Department.

“One of the NED’s first major successes…was helping to overthrow the Sandinista government in Nicaragua,” wrote journalist Bart Jones in his authoritative biography of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. According to Jones, a couple of decades later, “the NED was rapidly infiltrating [Venezuelan] society in a way reminiscent of the Nicaragua experience.” Channelling money and resources to opposition NGOs has been a prime strategy of the NED in Venezuela.

Following a short-lived coup d’etat against Chavez in April 2002, Venezuelan-American attorney Eva Golinger and investigative journalist Jeremy Bigwood obtained a treasure trove of documents through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. These documents, released in conjunction with Golinger’s 2004 book, The Chavez Code: Cracking US Intervention in Venezuela, exposed the NED’s active role in the attempted subversion of Venezuela’s democracy.

One of several Canadian NGOs whose activities are complementary to those of the NED is the Canadian Foundation for the Americas (FOCAL). Established by the Mulroney government in the 1990s, FOCAL is almost entirely dependent on government funding and is accountable to parliament.

A 2004 evaluation of FOCAL conducted by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada (DFAIT) and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) stated:

Stakeholders from every sector, and from the academic community in particular, indicated that FOCAL is already perceived as ‘the right arm of the government,’ echoing the perspective and beliefs of its funding bodies, rather than a truly independent, non-governmental organization.

“The US has been using Canadian and European foundations more frequently in recent years to filter funding to Venezuelan and other NGOs, and political parties that promote their mutual interests,” said Golinger, whose most recent book is The Imperial Web: Encyclopedia of Interference and Subversion. “It’s a way of covering up US meddling and making the sources of foreign funding for political objectives more difficult to detect. Canada has been a major ally of the US in this respect, particularly in the case of Venezuela.”

Negative perceptions of the US indicate the necessity of “shifting responsibility for the [democracy] campaign to more local actors or other Western allies,” wrote Raymond Gastil, one of the theoreticians behind the US shift to democracy promotion, in 1988.

Although far from the first such instance, Canada began to adopt this notion of “responsibility” towards Venezuela in January 2005. DFAIT invited the head of a key opposition group in Venezuela, Sumate’s Maria Corina Machado, to meet Ottawa lawmakers and officials, as well as to give a briefing on political rights in Venezuela.

Machado openly supported the 2002 coup against Chavez. In 2004, she was charged with conspiracy to commit treason for allegedly using NED funds to campaign against Chavez in a recall referendum organized by the opposition.

According to records obtained by The Dominion via an Access to Information request, in 2005 FOCAL’s chairman, John Graham, joined Machado for a high-level meeting Washington, D.C. In attendance were former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and Roger Noriega. “An exchange of ideas as regards the relationships between the civil society and the governments for the strengthening of democracy in the region,” was the stated purpose of the meeting.

Shortly after Graham’s meeting with Rice and Machado, the NED approved a $94,516 grant for FOCAL to carry out democracy promotion work in and around Venezuela.

Using the NED funds, FOCAL was to commission a series of papers and organize a number of meetings in Ottawa, Venezuela and Ecuador “to discuss how to better collaborate in promoting an informed civil society that can strengthen democracy in the region.”

But after Harper’s Conservatives took power in early 2006, FOCAL abruptly cancelled the activities that were supposed to take place in Venezuela.

“After discussing this project with various people…[we] came to the conclusion that it was not in anybody’s interest to organize such an activity while being financially associated with the NED,” reads a heavily censored memo sent by DFAIT official Flavie Major in July 2006.

“Since the project was originally drafted, the internal context in Venezuela has shifted, as has the domestic context in Canada, which could potentially alter the priority and focus of Canada’s engagement in Venezuela,” states a separate document obtained through a US FOIA request.

An example of the changing political context in Venezuela is the 2006 draft of the Law on International Co-operation, which limits the ability of local NGOs to receive funding from foreign governments. Although the law has yet to be enacted, Western-backed NGOs and their donors have launched a campaign to “push back” against what they describe as a “backlash” against democracy promoters in the region.

By late 2006, the Conservatives proclaimed that democracy promotion was a “fundamental part” of Canadian foreign policy objectives and “an eminently worthy and intrinsically Canadian endeavour.” One indication of the Conservative’s commitment was seen in the appointment of a former NED board member as a top advisor to Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay.

In late 2007, the Canadian government gave the NED $198,168 to produce a major report, which was entitled “Defending Civil Society: A Report of the World Movement for Democracy.” The report attacks Venezuela for its efforts to limit Western-funded manipulation of its internal politics:

Venezuela’s would-be caudillo Hugo Chavez has a peculiar notion of democracy. His ‘Bolivarian revolution’ appears to be based on Chavista [sic] monopolizing the country’s political institutions, from an absence of parliamentary opposition to a hand-picked judiciary. In these circumstances…civil society provides the only countervailing power to the Chavista state and to Chavez’s Castroite aspirations.

DFAIT seems to have based their own talking points on Venezuela around the NED’s line. In an e-mail statement to The Dominion, a spokesperson for Canadian Minister of State for Latin America Peter Kent wrote: “Hugo Chavez has a history of weakening democratic institutions. Minister Kent is committed to furthering the government’s Americas strategy, which is dedicated to promoting and enhancing democracy, freedom and the rule of law.”

When asked to substantiate a claim about Chavez’s anti-democratic tendencies, Kent’s spokesperson stated: “Hugo Chavez has a history of concentrating power in the Executive which has undermined democratic institutions in Venezuela. Since taking office a decade ago, we’ve seen the politicization of the judiciary and harassment by government officials of the state-controlled media and NGOs.”

One of the ways that Canada has tried to avoid drawing attention to its support for the Venezuelan opposition and collaboration with the NED is by carrying out activities outside of Venezuela and co-ordinating them through embassies. Indeed, such methods have a theoretical basis that Canada helped design.

In conjunction with the NED-linked Council for a Community of Democracies and the US State Department, in April 2008 DFAIT contributed $70,000 in financing to the publication of A Diplomat’s Handbook for Democracy Development Support.

Canada has one of the few foreign services that trains diplomats in democracy promotion. The US Foreign Service Institute has already ordered at least 400 copies of the handbook, which aims to provide diplomats with “encouragement, counsel and a greater capacity to support democrats everywhere.”

“We have over many, many years and will continue to work with the United States in this regard in advancing our common goals, certainly to the benefit of both countries and to the benefit of the world in general,” said Canada’s Consul-General in New York, Dan Sullivan, during a launch event for the handbook in early 2008.

One example of the handbook in action is Canada’s funding of the Venezuelan NGO Justice and Development Consortium (Asociación Civil Consorcio Desarrollo y Justicia). This group, which also receives funding from the NED, has made a name for itself by working to unite reactionary opposition movements throughout Latin America.

In November 2007, DFAIT gave the Justice and Development Consortium $94,580 “to consolidate and expand the democracy network in Latin America and the Caribbean” at an assembly held in Panama City in the spring of 2008. This meeting, co-hosted by the Canadian Embassy in Panama and the NED, attracted prominent members of (often NED-funded) opposition movements in Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, and Ecuador. It was convened in response to “the usher[ing] in [of] a new era of populism and authoritarianism in Latin America.”

Flying in the face of the North American interpretation of Venezuelan democracy is the latest report by the non-partisan Chilean Latinobarometro, which shows that 79 per cent of Venezuelans polled are satisfied with their democracy.

“Venezuela has a poor image in the rest of the world…but the perception of Venezuelans is positive,” states the report. “They say they like their democracy as it is now, or, at least, much more than the citizens of other countries like their democracies which, by contrast, are not criticized by the outside world for lack of freedom and harassment of institutions.”

Colombia, Peru, Mexico and Chile are considered Canada’s strongest allies in the region and are also countries where people’s support for their government tends to be lower than it is in Venezuela. The subversion of Venezuelan democracy and the laissez-faire attitude towards the regimes of Felipe Caldéron in Mexico, Alan Garcia in Peru and Álvaro Uribe in Colombia demonstrates that building popular democracies is not the sought-after end result of democracy promotion activities.

The governments of Colombia, Peru, Mexico and Chile have already entered into Free-Trade deals with Canada and each receives high levels of Canadian outward foreign direct investment, particularly in the extractive sector.

Canadian trade with Venezuela is second only to trade with Brazil in South and Central America. Venezuela is the tenth-largest provider of Canada’s considerable foreign oil needs. In 2008, Canada imported $1.36 billion worth of Venezuelan crude. The North Atlantic Refinery in Newfoundland, home of Premier Danny “Chavez” Williams, refines the oil.

Anthony Fenton is an independent researcher and journalist based in British Columbia. He has travelled to Venezuela several times. Some material in this article is drawn from a forthcoming book on Canadian foreign policy. He can be contacted at fentona[at]shaw.ca.

How many people actually read Ahmadinejad’s speech?

durbanIt has long been understood that Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s assassination in Sarajevo was not the cause of the First World War.  Rather, it was merely the excuse that already bellicose powers needed to spark the powder keg of Europe and let slip the dogs of war.

Fast forward almost 100 years and we have a very similar parallel today at the UN’s conference on anti-racism.  The white, western world was already frothing at the mouth over the entire existence of the anti-racism conference, all it needed was a excuse and Ahmadinejad unsurprisingly was tapped to provide exactly that.

Why the white, wealthy, European world would be unwilling to talk openly about issues with which they’ve long had a checkered past is obvious.  The U.S. has long bristled at even the suggestion that the victims of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade are owed reparations.  The far-right Italian government is currently in the process of rounding up and “tagging” Gypsies once again and thus obviously does not want to participate in the Durban discussions on Gypsies.  The Canadian, Australian, American and New Zealand governments were the only governments in the entire world to reject the UN declaration on the rights of Aboriginal and Indigenous peoples and thus did not want to be a part of Durban’s discussions on Aboriginal peoples.  And the Israel government doesn’t want to talk about a whole host of issues on which it has long been in violation of UN declarations and Geneva Convention rights (notably the injunctions against acquiring land through military conquest, the right of refugees to return to their homes, nuclear weapons, the slaughter of refugees and engaging in illegal warfare).

So, in this context, the West was poised to find any excuse to discredit the UN’s attempts to eradicate racism and they believe they found it with Ahmadinejad’s speech.  Indeed, if the public didn’t read or listen to Ahmadinejad’s speech, there wouldn’t be a problem — the anti-UN propaganda would probably have worked.  But, as Shakespeare’s Hamlet famously noted, “ay, there’s the rub”.  The rub is that the UN and several academic and news agencies have published the text of the speech in its entirety.

Oops.

There were certainly problems with the speech.  For instance, the Iranian President seems to think that religion has been (and will be) a major source of anti-racism rather than the single greatest cause of racism.  The Arab Slave Trade, the Pope’s crucial role in the extermination of North American Indians, and the current religiously-supported illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza all work to disprove Ahmadinejad’s argument.  But, that said, aside from some glaring non sequiturs here and there, there was relatively little wrong with the speech — something the lemmings who didn’t read it wouldn’t be able to know.

Read it and think for yourself.

Just to put things into perspective, the following is a wordmap of Ahmadinejad’s speech constructed by a redditor.

39700385

Propaganda in Action: CBC News anchors uncritically parrot Tory talking points on Senate appointments

stephen-fletcher-cbc-senate-appointmentsToday two news anchors uncritically parroted Conservative Party talking points on Harper’s senate appointments, gave on air rebuttals to opposition parties’ talking points without doing the same for the Tories’ talking points, and only gave air time to the Conservative Party spokesperson without affording the same courtesy to opposition parties.

No, it wasn’t a broadcast of Mike Duffy Live where political opinions are expected and encouraged.

On the contrary, this was the putatively neutral news anchors of CBC News who are failing to uphold even the most basic rules of journalistic practice.  Moreover, factually incorrect statements — some may go so far as to call them lies (see bolded text below) were allowed to pass without correction or indication that they were lies.

Partial Transcript:

“Canada has 18 new senators and a whole new partisan squabble.  The prime minister made the appointments to the upper chamber despite his own reluctance to do that…”

This opening sentence says a lot in relatively few words.  By setting it up as a partisan squabble and then only giving the Conservative Party a chance to explain why these appointments were necessary what this really implies is that — in the absence of contravening soundbites from the opposition — the government is doing something necessary and the opposition parties are the ones engaging in ‘partisan squabbles’.

“… So Margot, I guess that tells a little bit about the government’s position.   Presumably you would expect to see the opposition saying something about this.  Have they come out yet?

“Well they have come out yet and they’ve been very critical about what the government has done.  Obviously they’re saying that the government is being hypocritical because the prime minister has always said he didn’t want to have an elected senate, that he wanted to have it appointed.  But it never happened.  He couldn’t get the legislation through parliament and only two provinces agreed to actually have their senators elected, so the opposition is already saying that this is pretty hypocritical.  But we did speak to the Minister for Democratic Reform, Stephen Fletcher, a little earlier in the hour and he explained why they needed to do this.

Stephen Fletcher: “There were so many vacancies in the senate that it wasn’t able to function. There was 18 vacancies, we had an unelected body blocking legislation from an elected body, the House of Commons, and it wasn’t a sustainable situation.  The Prime Minister is committed to Senate reform, we are going to bring forward the legislation, these Senators are committed to Senate reform, they have a limit of 8 years and they have also committed to stepping down once an election is held in the province in which they represent, whichever comes first.”

For the purposes of this story, we will ignore the fact that Stephen Fletcher is a known racist and that it boggles the mind that any reputable news agency would let an avowed racist on their airwaves who unapologetically called Japanese people “Jap bastards”.  [Note: apologizing with “I am sorry if anyone was offended” is not an apology]. See also: Non-apology apology.

Turning to what Fletcher actually said: we see that no hard questions were asked of Fletcher.  Most importantly, if Stephen Harper’s plan to not appoint any Senators was causing Parliamentary gridlock as the Conservatives were claiming (it wasn’t, but let’s assume that it was) then one would presumably expect a question directed to Fletcher around the lines of “So then the Prime Minister admits that his strategy of not appointing Senators was fundamentally flawed?”  No such question is shown.

Fletcher also states that the Senate was not able to function due to it’s lack of membership.  This is a blatant lie that any journalist should have picked up on.  Parliament hasn’t yet sent any legislation to the Senate since the election because Parliament was prorogued by the Governor General.  The first item to be sent to the Senate was to be the economic update and that wasn’t allowed to be voted on by the prime minister because he knew he would lose the vote.

Fletcher also states that these Senators would have a term limit of 8 years which is not only a lie, but it is actually unconstitutional, against constitutional convention and unenforceable to ‘require’ these Senators to step down after 8 years.  No document — not even a contractual document — can force a Senator to step down before his or her constitutionally-protected term is expired.

The broadcast then concludes:

Margot McDiarmid: “Now Danielle, there is another political reality to the appointments today.  The prime minister did say shortly after he prorogued Parliament that he was actually going to make these appointments.  And the reality is that he is also concerned that if Parliament comes back at the end of January and his government loses a nonconfidence vote for its budget, the Liberals may come back in and form the government and then appoint yet more Liberals to the Senate and it will remain top-heavy for years to come.  So he needed to make these appointments now before Parliament resumes at the end of January.

Danielle: “Fascinating strategy, thank you very much Margot.”

So it’s just factually obvious that Harper needed to make these appointments now, according to the CBC hosts.

How much more propaganda will progressives take before they grow a pair and begin challenging the ridiculous Blogging Tory claim that CBC stands for “Communist Broadcasting Corporation” and counter with the far more tenable counter-claim that it is more aptly characterized as the “Conservative Broadcasting Corporation”?

A friendly note to America from a Canadian: Quit saying you’re the “envy of the world”!

untitled2Dear America,

You are bombarded every day with your media telling you that you are “the envy on the world”.

I’ve travelled to almost every Canadian province and spent considerable time in four of them.  I hate to burst your bubble but, contrary to your belief that you are “the envy of the world”, no Canadian that I’ve ever met — even in the most conservative parts of Alberta — has ever struck up a conversation with me saying:  “You know who I’m really envious of?  The USA.”  In no conversation I’ve ever had, even in conversations about America, has any Canadian, European, Aussie, Kiwi, Mexican or Asian that I’ve ever met said to me “Jeez, it really sucks that we’re not Americans.  I’m so jealous of them.”

I sometimes wonder if it’s just that you don’t realize how ridiculous this claim is.  The rest of the world can’t help but notice that no two people can even agree on why America is the envy of the world but that there is a compulsion to recite the refrain every day nevertheless.

The Jacksonville Progress publication yesterday seemed to suggest that America is the envy of the world because of its “people and for the God-given principles of freedom”.  (Apparently God only gave freedom to America, therefore the rest of the world is envious).

In a state of the union address, your outgoing President claimed instead that it was America’s economy that was the envy of the world.  (Apparently China’s nearly double or triple the US’s GDP growth rate isn’t as economically impressive or envious).

While, on a more ridiculous mindset, this news site seems to suggest that America’s peaceful exchange of power is what makes it the “envy of the world”.  (Apparently no other country has yet mastered that whole ‘democracy’ thing the Greeks were talking about 2000 years ago).

So you don’t even know why the world is supposed to be envious, but you just know that they are.  Am I the only one who sees how insane that is?

So please, America, take this in the nicest way possible, but if you ever plan on not being seen as a nation of fools (which you are not) and if you ever intend on repairing your image after 8 years of Bush, you absolutely have to stop saying that you are the envy of the world.

Signed,

A Canadian

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].

Yet another wignut pundit claims Bush is a “socialist”

Yet another right-wing pundit last week claimed that Bush’ fascistic move to preserve the power and wealth of capitalists was actually “socialist.”

I can see that some people are having a difficult time understanding this, so let’s spell this out as clearly as I can:

Since we socialists can’t seem to agree on even the colour of shit, there are about as many different interpretations of socialism as there are socialists.  But the one thing that we have in common (along with some anarchists such as Noam Chomsky) is that we believe that the state can (and should) be used for a time to curtail the power of capitalists, to remove them from their position of ridiculous power and to redress the gross imbalance in wealth that they have accumulated for themselves while 18 million people (3 times 9/11) die globally every year due to poverty.

Fascists on the other hand believe in using the power of the state to preserve and enhance the power of capitalists (see, for instance, the collusion between Nazi Germany and the infamous Krupp family or Mussolini’s Corporatist régime) at the expense of workers.

I know, I know, it’s hard.  They both deal with the state AND capitalists!  It’s so confusing.  But here’s an easy mnemonic device to help remember the difference between the two for next time.

Saying that Bush’s fascist move this week is actually the same thing as “socialism” just because it involves the state and capitalists is a bit like saying that cancer-causing cigarettes are the same thing as chemotherapy because they both involve cancer and its spread.

~

See Also:

More proof that liberal economics is a radical right-wing ideology

Propaganda in Action: Toronto Star uses weasel words to distort NDP story

Anybody see any difference between these three screencaps?

When Stephen Harper makes a policy announcement, the Toronto Star uses the political neutral verb “touts” (in accordance with proper journalistic practise). [source]

~~~

When Stéphane Dion makes a policy announcement, the Toronto Star uses the political neutral verb “touts” (in accordance with proper journalistic practise). [source]

~~~

But when Jack Layton makes a policy announcement, what happens to the good journalistic practise and integrity of the Toronto Star? [source]

~~~

The word “hype” is a normative word and is generally considered a weasel word since it carries with it additional meanings of ‘contrivance’ and ‘unnecessary extravagance’.  This isn’t to say that there may not be just cause do consider Layton’s ‘green strategy’ as being ‘contrived’.  I leave that for the reader to decide one way or another as it is not important here.  But, if one could make the argument that it is worth considering whether Layton’s green strategy is contrived, then one could argue at least as easily that it is ridiculous to claim that Harper has any reason to “tout” his dismal record or that there even exists such a thing as ‘clean’ coal.

Two more now confirmed war crimes to add to Bush’s tally

Despite a complete media blackout on the story in Canada, the U.K. and the United States, the dean of the U.S. White House Press Corps, Hellen Thomas, recently received a great deal of online attention for daring to state the obvious.  By most accounts, the attention began on the popular social networking site reddit.com, which managed to raise several thousand dollars to send Ms. Thomas flowers for what was seen as her daring question for White House Press Secretary Dana Perino.

The ‘obvious’ thing that Thomas pointed out is, of course, that revelations of evidence (both photographic and otherwise) of the use of WWII-era torture techniques as well as evidence that U.S. President George W. Bush personally signed off on approving torture, necessarily means that President Bush lied when he said the U.S. does not torture.

However, even this somewhat subdued (yet obviously true) fact, has been met with a virtually complete media blackout.  One could even push the envelope even further in this matter though, and if North America had a critical press, Ms. Thomas’s question would not have been seen as either particularly extreme or controversial.  Rather, on the contrary, if Ms. Thomas wanted to be even more accurate, she could have also pointed out — with equal confidence — that these recent revelations on torture means that George W. Bush is, by definition, a war criminal and that this is but merely one of two items which came to light in the past two weeks which constitute war crimes on the part of the U.S. President.

The other revelation, which was covered somewhat in the mainstream press, was the revelation that U.S. President Bush blessed (and assisted through military aid) the expansion of the illegal Jewish settlements in Palestinian occupied territory.  Of course, acquiring lands through conquest constitutes not only a war crime but constitutes what Robert H. Jackson, chief prosecutor for the United States at the Nuremberg Trials, claimed was the “supreme” war crime.  This latter fact, yet again, was not mentioned in the mainstream media in North America or the U.K..

So, if you’re keeping track:  that’s two war crimes revealed in as many weeks.  The press has not only glossed over both revelations, but to the extent that Helen Thomas’s rather subdued and tame question about lying (rather than war crimes) has been addressed online or elsewhere, it has been treated as somehow radical.  Don’t get me wrong: Thomas deserves the utmost credit for posing her question in a forceful manner, but let’s not kid ourselves here — the lying is nowhere near as bad as the war crimes.


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