Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Now That Media Coverage Is Turning In Assange’s Favor, We Have A Chance To Free Him

The MSNBC website’s caption for the recent pro-Assange Rachel Maddow segment was hilariously begrudging: “as detestable a character as Assange may be, the charges are an assault on American press liberties.” Now that many of the media propagandists who helped create the current crisis for journalism are being forced to backtrack in their war against Julian Assange, it seems insulting him is their only way to even partially save face.
Indeed, they’ve gotten themselves into an alarming situation-one that all other Americans in the journalism and reporting world are unfortunately also subject to. It’s been revealed that the Trump administration wants to prosecute Assange under the Espionage Act, a charge that specifically applies to his journalistic activities. Establishment pundits like Maddow are siding with Assange because this threat to press freedom has become too big to seriously deny, which makes the incident a bittersweet affair.
Still, the U.S.’ move to prosecute Assange for espionage is backfiring in many ways. The Intercept’s Robert Mackey has written about the consequence of the Espionage Act charge: “The uproar could make it easier for Assange’s lawyers in the U.K. — where he is currently serving a 50-week jail term for violating bail — to argue that he is wanted in the United States primarily for embarrassing the Pentagon and State Department, by publishing true information obtained from a whistleblower, making the charges against him political in nature, rather than criminal.” Such an action would be unlawful under Article 4 of the U.S.-U.K. extradition treaty, which states that “extradition shall not be granted if the offense for which extradition is requested is a political offense.” This makes Assange’s extradition to the U.S. less likely.
Just as importantly, media coverage and public opinion are now finally shifting in Assange’s favor. The Trump administration has gone too far in its project to set a precedent for prosecuting journalists, and it’s seeing the blowback. For the activists and online commentators who’ve been working to free Assange, the priority should be to make this blowback as big as possible.
We should use our personal online platforms to spread the now undeniable fact that the government is trying to jail and potentially execute a man for engaging in the routine journalistic practice of leaking government information. This can get us to mobilize our friends, family, and social media followers in Assange’s defense. The ways to do this have been summarized in one graphic from DefendWikiLeaks.org, which lists the following actions:
-Inform yourself and those around you about the facts surrounding the Assange case
-Monitor media and correct misinformation with facts
-Contact politicians, unions, press freedom groups, human rights groups, and business groups about the need to defend Assange
-Sign petitions (like this one and this one)
-Organize events for Assange
-Promote and share WikiLeaks publications
-Donate to the WikiLeaks official defense fund
-Write to Julian about how much we appreciate what he’s done and what we’re doing to help him
These are exactly the kinds of actions that the deep state has been trying to prevent people from taking in recent years. In 2016, an era began where the centers of power found it necessary to wage an all-out war against dissent. WikiLeaks’ release of the DNC emails caused the corporate media to lose control over the narrative at a time when establishment politics was facing widespread popular opposition, and when massive inequality was causing a rise in social movements. This provoked a crackdown against free speech that’s going to continue indefinitely. As Chris Hedges wrote in 2017:
The elites face an unpleasant choice. They could impose harsh controls to protect the status quo or veer leftward toward socialism to ameliorate the mounting economic and political injustices endured by most of the population. But a move leftward, essentially reinstating and expanding the New Deal programs they have destroyed, would impede corporate power and corporate profits. So instead the elites, including the Democratic Party leadership, have decided to quash public debate. The tactic they are using is as old as the nation-state — smearing critics as traitors who are in the service of a hostile foreign power.
Throughout the last three years, the big tech companies have institutedalgorithms that drive down the viewership of socialist, left-wing and anti-war websites. The recent anti-Russian hysteria has been used to create a paradigm where those who speak out against corporate power and imperialism are smeared as Russian propagandists. And the recent jailing of Assange and Manning has come at around the same when the Secret Service violently arrested Veterans for Peace activist Gerry Condon when he tried to get food into the Venezuelan embassy. Ray McGovern has judged the assault of Condon to represent a moment of “turnkey tyranny.”
In a 2013 interview, Edward Snowden popularized the phrase “turnkey tyranny” to describe a point where America’s system of government changes in a way that allows for the state to hold unprecedented control over the population. Snowden predicted that at some point, “a new leader will be elected” and that “they’ll find the switch” to use America’s police and surveillance systems for more authoritarian purposes. Trump is that leader, and the campaign against dissent that the political and media class has embraced is enabling his push towards dictatorship.
Assange’s prosecution would be a major step in the process of turnkey tyranny, one where the illegality of basic facets of journalism becomes essentially codified. But if we free him, it will be a massive victory for the civil liberties movement, as well as for the socialist and anti-imperialist movements whose causes are tied in to the fate of Assange. We must win this battle, both for ourselves and for the man who’s done so much to hold power accountable.
Last week, while in the notorious Belmarsh prison, Julian managed to get into contact with the journalist Gordon Dimmack and write these words to his supporters:
I am defenceless and am counting on you and others of good character to 
save my life. The days when I could read and speak and organise to defend myself, my ideals and my people are over until I am free. Everyone else must take my place.
Let’s fulfill his request.
— — — — — — — — — — — - — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

If you appreciate my work, I hope you become a one-time or regular donor to my Patreon account. Like most of us, I’m feeling the economic pinch during late-stage capitalism, and I need money to keep fighting for a new system that works for all of us. Go to my Patreon here:

Sunday, May 26, 2019

The Colonial Privilege Of Opposing Existing Socialist States

Becoming educated about socialism is a crucial part of becoming educated about colonialism and imperialism. This is because a capitalist education instills biases into us which reinforce a pro-colonialist worldview. And by seeking out an alternative education, one can unlearn these harmful biases.
One of the ways capitalism makes people internalize the colonialist mentality is by teaching them that the existing socialist states Cuba, north Korea, China, and their ideological predecessor the USSR are all undeserving of respect or legitimacy. These countries are labeled authoritarian or “totalitarian,” their leaders are reduced to caricatures of nefarious “dictators” who get equated to fascists like Hitler and Mussolini, and their achievements are demeaned. This view of these countries is an integral part of the worldview of those with reactionary ideologies. But unfortunately, there are also many socialists who join in the denunciations of countries that they should see as allies.
It seems strange for these leftists to hold this view towards nations which have done so much to advance their own ideals. But when one has lived in a part of the world that’s benefited from colonialism, it’s easy to gain a dismissive view of history’s anti-colonial struggles. As the political analyst Jay Tharappel wrote last year: “Inheriting the memory of an arrogant colonising culture, the first — world Left in general has the weakest historic memory of having fought off a foreign colonial power compared to the socialist and postcolonial worlds against whom extreme genocidal levels of violence have been inflicted over the last several centuries.”
The Western and first-world left’s impulse to deride the existing socialist states stems from a culturally instilled hostility towards the vital tools that anti-colonial liberation struggles rely upon to work. These tools are armed struggle on the part of the oppressed populations, and the creation of governmental systems designed to preserve the gains of the victorious revolutions.
Part of this ingrained hostility comes from the fallacious belief that violence is never justified in revolutionary struggle. When one studies the history of how the socialist world has freed itself from capitalism and imperialism, the logic of this anti-violence dogma breaks down. When Russia’s communists were attacked by domestic and foreign bourgeois forces after the 1917 revolution, should moralism have persuaded them to not fight back and accept their slaughter at the hands of aggressively violent capitalists? When the DPRK was invaded in a genocidal war where the U.S. killed 20% of north Korea’s population, should the communists have surrendered because “violence begets hate?” Should modern north Korea lay down its arms because “guns don’t solve problems,” then become invaded by an imperialist superpower that’s been preparing to carry out another slaughter of the country’s people for seventy years?
Such an action on the part of north Korea would be the logical conclusion of what the “pacifists” expect from revolutionaries. “Pacifism” is effectively a demand for oppressed people to always accept the violence from the oppressors. Its arguments come not from in-depth historical analysis, but from vague platitudes which attempt to create a false equivalence between the violence of the oppressed and the violence of the oppressors.
These arguments are not just wrong; they’re based in a very elitist and racist worldview that presents much of history’s oppressed groups as moral failures for defending themselves from violence. As Michael Parenti has written, this smug moralizing is used as a weapon for keeping the oppressors in power:
Most social revolutions begin peaceably. Why would it be other-wise? Who would not prefer to assemble and demonstrate rather than engage in mortal combat against pitiless forces that enjoy every advantage in mobility and firepower? Revolutions in Russia, China, Vietnam, and El Salvador all began peacefully, with crowds of peasants and workers launching nonviolent protests only to be met with violent oppression from the authorities. Peaceful protest and reform are exactly what the people are denied by the ruling oligarchs. The dissidents who continue to fight back, who try to defend themselves from the oligarchs’ repressive fury, are then called “violent revolutionaries” and “terrorists.”
While judging the victorious socialist and anti-colonialist revolutionaries as morally inferior to the “nonviolent,” “anti-authoritarian” first-world leftists, the opponents of existing socialist states also claim that these states are “not real socialism” because they’re held together through state control. This is the essence of why many leftists denounce these societies as “authoritarian;” the mere fact that they exist in the form of nation-states has invited endless condemnations, along with claims that their socialism is fraudulent.
It seems that any socialist movement which decides to safeguard itself through organized military defense and law enforcement will necessarily be attacked as a “dictatorship” that goes against “real socialism.” And it doesn’t matter how democratic and equitable these socialist states make themselves, because facts can be replaced by imperialist propaganda. We’ve seen this in the case of the DPRK, where the government has provided free healthcare, housing, and university education while creating a governmental structure that’s both increasingly decentralized and controlled through representative democracy.
These facts are corroborated by north Korean defectors, and the sources which paint the DPRK as a cartoonishly sinister dictatorship come from CIA propaganda farms and neoliberal pro-regime change think tanks. But even the most absurd lies that the media promotes about north Korea are repeated by first-world leftists in order to argue for why socialists shouldn’t try to build their own state. The demonizations and slander that Kim Jong Un has experienced is the same as the character assassinations of Joseph StalinMao ZedongFidel Castro, and Xi Jinping. In all these cases, much of the world has been swept into a hate-frenzy against history’s socialist leaders through propaganda so crude that it often consists only of hyperbolically placing their names next to that of Adolf Hitler.
By opposing existing socialist states with the intention of upholding “nonviolence” and “anti-authoritarianism,” colonial leftists reinforce the continued violence and oppression from the capitalist class. Socialist states are the only examples of large and sustainable post-capitalist societies, and attacking them only does harm to the socialist cause; when socialists say that these states “aren’t real socialism,” they grant a big arguing point to the reactionaries who like to claim that socialism always fails.
As the Palestinian militant Leila Khaled has written about the self-detrimental beliefs that characterize many leftists in colonial countries:
Some seemed to have read the historic political literature of the left, but most regarded the Marxist-Leninist leaders disdainfully…Though we were impressed by their moral integrity and personal dedication, we felt their ideology and strategy had little to do with the making of revolution. What astonished us most about this group was that they were opposed to nationalism, a doctrine we hold dearly as a colonised and dissipated people.
The American left must do away with these kinds of sentiments. The fight for socialism in America must be infused with solidarity with all existing socialist states, and with awareness of the fact that military action and nationhood is what’s made the movements behind these states successful. This specifically will require American leftists to become willing to build a socialist worker’s state, to become armed to defend this state from the inevitable capitalist attacks, and to support national cooperation with China, Cuba, and the DPRK.
I realize the cause for socialist revolution in the United States is an especially difficult task, since it’s a colonialist country that’s mired in reactionary sentiments like the ones I’ve mentioned. But if socialism wins in this country, it will be the greatest gain yet in the project to transition the world to communism. Because with the productive forces that the country has, a socialist America would be an immensely powerful tool for fomenting socialist revolutions throughout the rest of the world.
— — — — — — — — — — — - — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —
If you appreciate my work, I hope you become a one-time or regular donor to my Patreon account. Like most of us, I’m feeling the economic pinch during late-state capitalism, and I need money to keep fighting for a new system that works for all of us. Go to my Patreon here:

Saturday, May 25, 2019

The Syria War Propagandists Are Afraid Of Losing Their Control Over The Narrative

The fiction that the “humanitarian” regime change complex has constructed around Syria is now so thoroughly debunked that the war machine is being forced to shift into a frantic mode of damage control. When they first made their absurd claims, they should have anticipated that they’d eventually have to face the scrutiny of journalists, forensic researchers, and the public at large.
The war narrative that’s currently being disputed has been undergoing heavy scrutiny since it was started over a year ago. When the government and the media claimed without evidence that an April 2018 incident in Douma, Syria was a chemical attack from Assad, journalists and academics quickly started pointing out the story’s obvious flaws. Those in the independent media immediately pointed out how it wouldn’t have made any sense for Assad to have killed civilians during a war that he’d been winning. The journalist Robert Fisk reported that the people who were hospitalized in the Douma incident had in fact suffered from dust inhalation. Such facts about the issue were widely recognized by reputable figures, both in the alternative media and throughout the academic world.
The Western media, especially the British media, reacted by engaging in an intensive McCarthyist smear campaign against anyone who spoke up against the pro-war narrative. Headlines like “Apologists for Assad working in universities” blared across the UK media, and CNN attacked Jimmy Dore’s show as an “extremist” channel because Dore opposed the official story on Syria. For a time during April, these media attacks were so obsessive and frequent that it was clear they weren’t being done from a confident position of dominance over a marginalized strain of war narrative skeptics. They were a desperate attempt to regain control over the culturally accepted story about Syria.
Since then, many additional holes have appeared in this and other pro-war Syria narratives. Damning information has continued to leak out about the crimes and hoaxes which have been perpetrated by Syria’s White Helmets; one example is when a group of investigators reported at a UN panel last December that the White Helmets had engaged in organ theft, staged attacks that were blamed on the Syrian government, and carried out staged fake rescues. Further evidence that the Douma “attack” was staged has also come out, such as when BBC producer Riam Dalati offered evidence this February which showed that after a “six-month investigation,” he could “prove without a doubt that the Douma Hospital scene was staged.”
But not until this month has the U.S./NATO empire been forced to seriously respond to a breach in their narrative. Two weeks ago, the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media published a report which claimed that the official narrative about the Douma incident was based in faulty physics and misleading reports. (The full details of this have been synthesized by a Twitter thread from the statistical analyst Stephen McIntyre.)
In summary, the report states that “The dimensions, characteristics and appearance of the cylinders, and the surrounding scene of the incidents, were inconsistent with what would have been expected in the case of either cylinder being delivered from an aircraft,” and that manual placement of the cylinders in the locations investigators found them in is “the only plausible explanation for observations at the scene.” In other words, this research confirms that a false flag took place. And the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has confirmed the authenticity of the report since it came out.
The response from the U.S./NATO war propaganda machine has been a combination of completely uncompelling counter-arguments, attempts to ignore the report, and efforts to distract the public with new war narratives. The usual group of Syria war narrative enforcers have been largely silent about the report, and the pundits who have commented on it have only been able to come up with assertions to the contrary which don’t provide any supporting evidence. As the anti-war blogger Caitlin Johnstone has assessedupon observing the recent behavior of establishment narrative managers like Eliot Higgins and Idrees Ahmad: “there’s a total media blackout on this story from the usual plutocratic news outlets, which is a huge story in and of itself. Just as significantly, the less well-known propagandists who are typically the first to attack any argument which casts doubt on the ‘Assad is a child-gassing monster who must be stopped at all cost’ imperial narrative have been incredibly feeble in their attempts to dispute this new revelation.”
Sadly, this rhetorical triumph for anti-war voices can’t stop Washington’s war on Syria. On May 21st, the U.S. issued a statement which accused Assad of having committed more chemical attacks on Sunday, and which threatened military action. The State Department’s announcement also included claims that Russia has lied about the White Helmets, as well as an appropriately timed denunciation of the claims about gas attacks being faked.
This comes as the U.S. is already maintaining its project to weaken the Syrian state by imposing destructive sanctions onto Syria’s population. And if another Syria strike happens, we can expect yet another campaign from the media to create consent for war.
But even if such a strike does happen, the war machine will be taking the risk of exposing its own claims to further scrutiny. This OPCW report, along with the litany of other revelations which have shown the Syria war narratives to be fraudulent, poses a serious threat to the narrative power of the pro-war propaganda apparatus. We know that this apparatus can have its dominance over popular opinion threatened. It’s shown this vulnerability by going on the defensive during April 2018, and by doing the same now.
With more attacks on Syria looming, this should motivate us to redouble our efforts to expose the lies of the Syria war propagandists. To help stop the march towards war, please share this article, as well as any other resources you can find which shed light on the truth about Syria.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

How Russiagate Has Turned Progressive Truth-Tellers Into War Narrative Enforcers

Russiagate is an example of the Marxist concept of false consciousness, where the ruling class throws the people diversions so that they’ll see themselves as properly informed while they’re actually fundamentally unaware of the forces which shape society. It’s gotten many left-leaning Americans to commit to a narrative that they believe can bring about the downfall of a corrupt president and restore integrity in our political system, but that’s only worked as a way to enforce the agenda of American imperialism.
What’s fascinating is the transformation that these left-leaning figures have undergone as the Russia narrative has influenced their lines of thinking. One example is the case of the cartoonist Dan Perkins-pen name Tom Tomorrow-whose skepticism of the corporate media and the intelligence community has greatly softened since Russiagate got going three years ago.
Like anyone with integrity, Perkins opposed the Bush administration’s Iraq WMD narrative from the start. In a comic from 2015, Perkins portrayed the intelligence agencies’ WMD claims as a floating supernatural brain that convinced spellbound American leaders into invading Iraq. “Clearly we must support the administration as it reluctantly embarks on this carefully considered path,” a cartoon Hillary Clinton and John Kerry said in one panel as the brain floated above their heads. “Given what The Intelligence has revealed-what choice do we have?”
Since then, Perkins has become similar to his caricatures. Even after forensic data has come out which shows WikiLeaks couldn’t have gotten the DNC emails from Russia, evidence has been found that shows reports relating to the Guccifer 2.0 persona were deliberately manipulated to include Russian metadata, and numerous other holes in the claims of Russian interference have appeared, Perkins has stuck with the line about how Russia “hacked the election.” Perkins’ cartoons may sometimes ridicule the more conspiratorial strains of Russiagaters, but it’s been disingenuous for him to continue with the standard model of Trump-Putin jokes without so much as questioning that U.S. intelligence agencies have told the truth about Russia.
It’s also been harmful to world peace, despite Perkins’ relatively minor presence in mainstream discourse. The narrative that Trump is Putin’s subservient stooge-which Perkins has enforced by often engaging in the popular political cartoon setup of Trump secretly asking Putin for instructions-is dangerous to entertain. This is because when people act like everything Trump does is in service of Russia, it completely pushes out opportunities to criticize Trump for his administration’s unprecedentedly hawkish Russia policies.
To stay consistent with the Russiagate narrative, commentators like Perkins have ignored policies like Trump’s reckless arming of Russia’s anti-Russian forces in Ukraine, the Trump DOJ’s forcing RT to register as a foreign agent, Trump’s exacerbating cold war tensions by expelling Russian diplomats, and the fact that the Trump administration has killed Russians in Syria as part of its illegal war against the Assad government.
The rhetoric about how Trump is “Putin’s puppet” even encourages Trump to further advance America’s perilous cold war escalations with a nuclear superpower. Two of the most dangerous acts of warmongering by Trump-his arming of Ukraine and his Syria strikes-are most definitely the result of the McCarthyist accusations and innuendos that Russiagaters have directed against Trump. Trump’s sabotage of the INF treaty, war campaign against Iran, and threats to respond to Russia’s military protection of Venezuela are also no doubt motivated by a desire to look “tough on Russia.” When a public figure repeats the Russiagate narratives, they’re increasing the risk for nuclear war.
Many other progressive figures have embraced these toxic and dishonest narratives about Russia in recent years. Michael Moore, for instance, was a brave truth-teller about intelligence agency deceptions during the Iraq War. His 2003 book Dude, Where’s My Country had a section titled “Home of the Whopper,” which deconstructed the Bush White House’s lies about Iraq. But then in 2016, Moore tweeted: “The CIA has determined Russia hacked into our election to help elect Donald J. Trump.” Even then, the evidence for the CIA’s claims was publicly known to be inconclusive, so Moore’s statement was untrue. And Moore has kept repeating such narratives about Russia with the (ultimately mistaken) hope that it will harm Trump.
To his credit, last year Moore signed an open letter calling for the U.S. to try to improve its relations with Russia. But opposing war in principle doesn’t make up for the harm that’s inevitably done by affirming the lies which are used to manufacture consent for war. In March of last year, The Young Turks’ Cenk Uygur demonstrated this by making a panel segment titled “Trump Silent After Putin Demonstrates Missile Attack On US.” Even as Uyghur complained that Trump wasn’t being sufficiently aggressive towards Russia, Uygur was trying to convince his viewers and himself that he wasn’t pushing for war.
“It’s not because I want him to go to war with Russia,” said Uygur. “It’s not because I want him to even create more hostilities or do any of the stupid tweets he does with north Korea. It’s that I want to have some degree of certainty that he is not in the pocket of another country. Now people might think that that’s overblown. I don’t think it’s overblown at all.”
This is the fundamental madness of the anti-Russia campaign of recent years. There are people who otherwise think sensibly, and put on a rational common-sense veneer, while at the same time promoting an insane CIA-manufactured effort to drive the world’s greatest powers into an ever-escalating nuclear standoff. If Trump’s numerous war provocations against Russia haven’t given these people “some degree of certainty” that Trump isn’t working for Putin, they haven’t been approaching this issue rationally, and they likely won’t start to as the U.S.-Russia cold war continues.
My hope is that the sheer absurdity of the narrative that Russiagaters are pushing will cause the public to reject their assertions. This shift in consciousness has gotten closer to happening since Mueller’s report confirmed that the Trump-Russia collusion charge has been bogus all along. This month, Uygur got many people to question the validity of his continued belief in Russiagate with a bizarre tweet which read: “Trump just changed policy on Venezuela and is reportedly frustrated with Bolton that he is being too militaristic (that’s news to Trump?). While I agree with the new policy, it comes right after a call with Putin. Direct evidence that he is literally taking orders from Putin.”
Indeed, laughing at takes like this is a good way to spread awareness of how ludicrous the anti-Russia narrative is. Last year, the BBC even reacted to the widespread mocking of Russia conspiracy theories with the hilariously ironicheadline: “How Putin’s Russia turned humour into a weapon.” Let’s continue to give credence to such concerns, and work to fight the anti-Russian propaganda through ridicule and satire. It may be our best hope for turning around this march towards war.