Request to Guardian for response & right of reply to Solon White Helmets article

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 14/01/2018 - 7:45am in



Following are two letters sent to the Guardian by the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media in response to an article titled How Syria’s White Helmets became victims of an online propaganda machine which appeared on December 18. The article claims the White Helmets have become victims of ‘Russian propaganda’. The letters express concern over the factual accuracy of the article and deplore the refusal of right of reply to those attacked in the piece. The letters were sent on December 23 and January 5 respectively. As of Jan 13 no reply has been received to either. Originally at Tim Hayward’s blog. From the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media: Seeking Truth About White Helmets In Syria The recent Guardian article by Olivia Solon attacks those investigating and questioning the role of the White Helmets in Syria and attributes all such questioning to Russian propaganda, conspiracy theorizing and deliberate disinformation. The article does little, however, to address the legitimate questions which have been raised about the nature of the White Helmets and their …

SYNDICATED COLUMN: No Way Would Today’s Newspapers Publish the Pentagon Papers

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 09/01/2018 - 8:27am in

Image result for katherine graham

Steven Spielberg’s new movie “The Post” depicts a newspaper’s decision to defy the government, risk its financial health and imprisonment of its editors in order to report a hard truth and defend the press’ First Amendment rights by publishing the Pentagon Papers.

After the Washington Post’s decision to inform the American people that top government officials had known that the Vietnam War was unwinnable yet had repeatedly lied about it for years, editor Ben Bradlee (played by Tom Hanks) dumps a pile of out-of-town newspapers on a desk for publisher Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep) to see. We’ve started a “rebellion,” Bradlee informs Graham. We’re no longer alone speaking truth to power.

No way would that happen today.

I was pleased to see that “The Post” highlights the pressures and biases that weighed against publication: a publisher undermined by sexism and low expectations, a paper trying to raise capital under the eye of nervous bankers, the Nixon Administration’s take-no-prisoners prosecutorial abuse by a vicious attorney general, and — not least — the Post’s cozy establishmentarianism, centered around Graham’s famous hard-drinking salons where reporters hobnobbed with the officials they were supposed to cover objectively.

After a lot of wavering and gnashing of lawyerly teeth, Graham finally makes the call: go to press.

The key point of this story, which isn’t made in the movie and few younger moviegoers are likely to be aware, is that it was her decision to make. The Graham family held controlling interest in the Washington Post Company. Great newspaper families like the Grahams, the Chandlers and the Sulzbergers were quirky and often had bad politics. But they also had something today’s corporate, publicly-traded media outlets do not: editorial freedom.

They didn’t always do the right thing. But they could. So sometimes they did.

Sadly, those days are gone.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, reportedly a right-leaning libertarian, bought the Post in late 2013. What reception would a Daniel Ellsberg (who leaked the Pentagon Papers) or an Edward Snowden get if they contacted a Post reporter today, under Bezos?

Snowden’s case is indicative. The Post and three other papers published Snowden’s NSA leaks in 2013, months before Bezos took over. In 2016, the Bezos-owned Post called upon President Obama to refuse Snowden’s pardon application. In so doing, wrote Glenn Greenwald, the Post “achieved an ignominious feat in U.S. media history: the first-ever paper to explicitly editorialize for the criminal prosecution of its own source — one on whose back the paper won and eagerly accepted a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.” (The other three papers were pro-pardon.)

Even more obnoxiously, the Post’s Snowden editorial didn’t mention its major conflict of interest related to intelligence agencies like the NSA. Amazon — the Post’s sister company under Bezos — had the CIA (where Snowden also worked) as a $600 million client. That’s more than twice what Bezos paid for the Post.

Coincidence? Je pense que non.

The Los Angeles Times sells “Speaking Truth to Power” hoodies. But when the power is the LAPD — and the LAPD owns the paper — the Times publishes lies.
My regular readers are familiar with the sordid details of my 2015 firing by The Los Angeles Times as a favor to LAPD Chief Charlie Beck. You’re not much of a political cartoonist in L.A. if you don’t go after the militarized, racist, violent LAPD — and the Times published many of my anti-LAPD/anti-Beck toons over the years. So did the Pasadena Weekly, which drove the boys in blue so nuts that they asked its publisher to fire me. PW refused.

Then the Times’ corporate parent, the Chicago-based Tribune Publishing, hired an LAPD-connected billionaire and wannabe politician, Austin Beutner, as publisher for the Times. Beutner appears to have midwifed a deal in which the LAPD patrolmen’s $16.4 billion union retirement fund moved to a firm that invested eight figures into a fund containing Tribune stock. (Given that newspaper stocks in general and Tribune specifically had been losing value, it’s a fair assumption that the buy was more about influence than taking care of retired LAPD officers.) Within weeks — and explicitly against Times rules — the same union issued an award to Beutner for his “support [of] the LAPD in all that they do.”

Beck asked his friend Beutner to use ginned-up “evidence” to fire and smear me; Beutner, the cop-award winner, complied, and even stayed the course after the truth came out and I was vindicated. My defamation case against Beutner and the Times is in court.

The Times never disclosed to its readers about Tribune’s business relationship with the LAPD union.

It’s a level of corruption that would make Al Capone blush. Yet it’s perfectly legal in the United States for a police union to buy a newspaper. Indeed, the same union bought part of the San Diego Union-Tribune in 2009 — and leveraged its ownership to ask that the U-T fire critics of the police.

Come to think of it, isn’t it weird that a company with more than half a billion dollars in business with the CIA is allowed to own a major news organization like the Post?

Given the Trump Administration’s attacks against “fake news” and the news media, it may seem paradoxical to suggest government action as a solution to the corruption of the news media as we’re seeing at outlets like the Washington Post and Los Angeles Times. But the evidence is clear. Outrageous deals such as those between the Post’s owner and the CIA and between the Times’ owner and the LAPD amount to government censorship of the news media — a violation of the First Amendment’s fundamental principle.

Congress should prohibit such arrangements.

(Ted Rall’s (Twitter: @tedrall) brand-new book is “Meet the Deplorables: Infiltrating Trump America,” co-written with Harmon Leon. His next book will be “Francis: The People’s Pope,” the latest in his series of graphic novel-format biographies. Publication date is March 13, 2018. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

English Translation of Udo Ulfkotte’s “Bought Journalists” Suppressed?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 08/01/2018 - 12:00pm in

by James Tracy The English translation of German journalist Udo Ulfkotte’s best-selling book, Gekaufte Journalisten (Bought Journalists) appears to have been suppressed throughout North America and Europe. On May 15, 2017 Next Revelation Press, an imprint of US-Canadian-based publisher Tayen Lane, released the English version of Bought Journalists, under the title, Journalists for Hire: How the CIA Buys the News. Tayen Lane has since removed any reference to the title from its website. Correspondingly Amazon.com indicates the title is “currently unavailable,” with opportunities to purchase from independent sellers offering used copies for no less than $1309.09.[note from OffG- we also checked on Amazon UK, as of January 7 2018 the book is unavailable there too] The book’s subject matter and unexplained disappearance from the marketplace suggest how powerful forces are seeking to prevent its circulation. Gekaufte Journalisten was almost completely ignored by mainstream German news media following its release in 2014. “No German mainstream journalist is allowed to report about [my] book,” Ulfkotte observed: Otherwise he or she will be sacked. So we have a …

'Loose Tongues' Public Information (1977)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 05/01/2018 - 2:33am in

When this poster was distributed by Scarfolk Council in 1977, many people were concerned that they did not understand the poster's message correctly and were thus at risk of unintentionally breaking the law by either talking or not talking about it.

Worried citizens gathered in secret to discuss the poster campaign. Knowing that most homes contained surveillance devices, they debated the poster non-verbally, using hand gestures. Unbeknownst to the clandestine groups, however, specially-trained police mime experts had infiltrated the meetings and reported everything they saw to Scarfolk's police commissioner who, keen to outdo his predecessor's record, had created the public information campaign to boost arrest numbers.

Telephone helplines were set up to provide legal aid to the many who were accused of talking (and not talking) and faced punitive tongue removal. Although the legal experts who manned the lines were not permitted to speak, they were authorised to offer advice via the medium of mime.

In 2017, Stories of Resilience, Creativity and Love Were Plentiful

A collage of photos from Global Voices coverage in 2017. Created by L. Finch.

Another year, another deluge of retrospectives declaring that our latest trip around the Sun was a particularly bad one. And how could it be otherwise, when disparity, discord, and destruction abound?

Earth's state of affairs can indeed seem bleak. Nevertheless, the human spirit remains alive, kicking, and as beautiful as ever.

Need proof? Global Voices offered plenty in 2017. Our community of volunteers and partner organizations reported hundreds of stories from around the globe of ordinary people defending their rights and fostering cross-cultural understanding in the face of injustice, indifference, or even hate.

So as the clock tick-tocks toward 2018, take comfort in the following list of 40 of those stories. There's lots of good in this world — and may there be even more in the year to come.

1. Artists use Legos to restore buildings — and hope — in Beirut

An art collective named Dispatch Beirut has left a colorful mark on the Lebanese capital by “rebuilding” broken structures using Legos, calling the toys “little blocks of hope.” The artists aspire to call attention to what they say is the government's prioritizing of profit over preservation of heritage in post-civil war reconstruction efforts.

2. An indigenous singer breaks barriers at Brazil's Amazonas Theatre

Djuena Tikuna became the first indigenous singer to perform at the famous Amazonas Theatre in Manaus in the Brazilian Amazon with the launch of her album Tchautchiüãne, or “my village” in the Tikuna language. The work speaks about the Amazonian rubber boom and its massive exploitation of the region's rubber trees — and the region's people — beginning at the turn of the 20th century.

3. Parents fight for proper education for children with disabilities in Bosnia

A group of parents in Sarajevo campaigned for adequate preschool education for children with cognitive disabilities, who are faced with a public system poorly equipped to teach them skills needed to lead an independent life. If the #GdjeJeMojaSkola? (“Where is my school?”) effort succeeds, it will be the first of its kind in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

4. A dictionary offers hope for a disappearing indigenous Nepali language

Field studies show that the Kusunda language, one of several endangered languages in Nepal, has only two fluent speakers within the Kusunda community of 150 people. A recently launched book-cum-dictionary intends to preserve the language, whose origins bear no obvious relation to any other spoken language in the world.

5. Viral hashtags send love and solidarity across borders

Detail of the illustration drawn by the artist known as ‘Azúcar y Sal’. Image widely shared on social media. Taken from her public Facebook profile.

After US President Donald Trump signed an executive order banning travel from seven Muslim-majority countries, including Iran, hateful rhetoric between the two governments increased. To counter the distressing turn of events, Iranians began showcasing words and images of cross-border solidarity under the hashtag #LoveBeyondFlags.

And in Mexico, an anonymous group of teenagers created a gastronomic-themed hashtag to show their support for Venezuelans fighting for democracy amidst a deepening social, economic and political crisis: #ArepaElTacoEstáContigo (Arepa, The Taco Is With You). The arepa is from Venezuela, and the taco from Mexico.

6. ‘Resistance songs’ provide the soundtrack for an Ethiopian protest movement

Amid ongoing protests fueled by a growing opposition movement, Ethiopia's government has made many efforts to censor “resistance songs” that speak out against oppression in the country. Although several popular musicians have been arrested and jailed, the popularity of the resistance songs has not waned. On YouTube, channels carrying montages of protest images linked to the resistance songs regularly attract hundreds of thousands of views.

7. ‘Open source’ seed producers stand to shake up global food production

From India to the US, a movement is taking root around the world to promote “open source” seeds. Supporters say corporations’ patents on plant material is compromising the food industry because the gene pool is continually shrinking — at a time when genetic diversity is more necessary than ever thanks to climate change.

8. ‘Smellwalkers’ map the scents of Kyiv

A small group of people, led by artist and designer Kate McLean, traversed Kyiv on foot documenting the wintertime smells of the city. Scents recorded included “the islands of summer,” “wood smoke,” “wet animal fur,” and “rusty metal.” McLean has been “mapping smells” throughout the past five years in places all over the world.

9. Donated New Year's clothes pour in for Kurdish families in need

Jili Kurdi is the traditional clothing worn by Kurds to celebrate Newroz, or the New Year, but the colorful textiles have become unaffordable for many Kurdish families in war-torn Iraq. To help the situation, activists launched the #KurdishClothesForAll campaign asking people across the region to donate the special garb. In the end, the effort provided over 450 families with new Kurdish clothes to wear for the holiday.

10. An arts festival helps a tsunami-scarred Japanese city find joy

Physical reconstruction in the city of Ishinomaki in Miyagi Prefecture, where a massive earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011 caused major damage, might be considered complete, but the area has yet to recover its former energy. The Reborn Art Festival aims to help residents appreciate the beautiful, the abstract, and the intangible, instead of focusing on material losses.

11. East African ‘kanga’ textiles send a message of equal love

A Kenyan visual artist captured the struggles for equal love in 35 different countries in a Nairobi exhibition of specially designed “kanga”, an East African textile that traditionally features Swahili proverbs. Instead, Kawira Mwirichia populated the cloths with motivational messages from queer leaders throughout Africa and beyond.

South Africa Kanga, Translation: “Black and White are Not the Colors of Love — They Never Were.” By Kawira Mwirichia, 2017

12. Construction workers in Peru take a stand against street harassment

In Peru, where gender-related violence is a matter of grave concern in Peru, one construction site defied the stereotype of the industry's workers when it posted a sign that read, “At this construction site, we don't whistle at women and we are against sexual street harassment.”

13. Theater for good, from Azerbaijan to El Salvador

In Azerbaijan, ƏSA (“walking stick” in Azerbaijani) is a first-of-its-kind theater, created to fight the characterization of people with disabilities as dependent, incompetent and unhappy. “This is not a social project, it’s not a hobby, we are working professionally,” the founder says.

In Argentina, Teatro x Identitad (Theater for Identity) explores the themes of identity and truth, all in support of efforts to locate children who were disappeared during the dictatorship of the 1970s and return them to their legitimate families.

And in El Salvador, where gang activity and police abuse claim an alarming number of victims, two new theater productions place the disappeared and their families at the center of the story.

14. A Kyrgyz female scientist becomes a symbol of resistance to sexism

Biochemist Asel Sartbaeva and the British University of Bath bagged the Biotechnology Award category at the IChemE Global Awards, just days after a prominent business in her native Kyrgyzstan publicly called female leadership “nonsense” and equated feminism with “terrorism.” Sartbaeva spearheads a project that “uses silica to protect vaccines from spoiling, and reduces the need for cold-storage equipment.”

15. Mozambique's only LGBT organization wins an important court ruling

After more than a decade of struggle to officially register as an association, Lambda, Mozambique’s only organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights, celebrated when the Constitutional Council ruled that its status does not violate the country's constitution. Lambda’s executive director, Danilo da Silva, said the decision opens the door to legal recognition for the organization, calling it “not only a victory for LGBT people, but for all who are different and have different ideas.”

16. A woman-run restaurant blazes a trail in Pakistan's Quetta

A new restaurant in the western Pakistani city of Quetta is run and staffed exclusively by women, representing an important act of resistance to the deeply patriarchal region. The force behind the restaurant is Hamida Ali Hazara, who comes from the Hazara marginalized minority. Despite the challenges faced, the restaurant has proved popular so far.  

A young fan poses at the 2016 Indigenous Comic Con in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Screenshot from YouTube video by City Alive.

17. Indigenous Comic Con in the US does battle with Native stereotypes

The second Indigenous Comic Con, held in the southwestern US state of New Mexico, featured vendors, artists, guests and cosplay celebrating Native pop culture, so often misrepresented or under-represented in mainstream media. “You have so many stereotypes out there because there is not enough to counteract that, and to show what’s positive, productive and acceptable,” organizer Dr. Lee Francis IV says.

18. After 113 days in jail, #Istanbul10 rights defenders are released pending trial

Ten human rights defenders in Istanbul were released pending trial on accusations of membership in a terrorist organization, a rare moment of relief in a case that observers say is meant to intimidate rights advocates. The #Istanbul10 had spent four months in prison after being arrested while at an information management and wellbeing workshop.

19. A Thai pop band satirizes the censor-happy junta in a music video

In a music video for their latest release, famous pop band Tattoo Colour subtly parodied the Thai junta that grabbed power in 2014 and continues to govern the country despite its pledge to restore civilian rule. Fans praised the music group for its courage, given that the junta actively censors its critics.

20. DIY telecommunications bring a rural South Africa village online

In South Africa, where many rural areas lack internet infrastructure, the village of Mankosi now has access to more affordable telephone and internet access thanks to a community-owned, solar-powered mesh network. The project, which is a part of the Association for Progressive Communications network, seeks to create a model for the sustainable implementation of bottom-up telecommunications.

21. Trinidad & Tobago musicians say there's #NoGreaterTime to advocate change

Like many other places in the world, Trinidad and Tobago struggles with violence and societal divisions. One collaborative song featuring 35 artists, called “No Greater Time,” aims to challenge citizens “to collectively create a more peaceful, prosperous and unified Trinbagonian society.” “It isn't so much that we lost our way as much as we need to have more people taking action,” producer Keron “Sheriff” Thompson says. “Not just talking about change, but being change or being a part of that change.

22. Colombians welcome ex-fighters back into society with love letters

Latin America's longest-running armed conflict came to an end when the Colombian government reached a peace agreement with the FARC, but the challenge of reintegrating former members of the militia remains. So one campaign had young people write love letters to the ex-guerrilla fighters to welcome them. Many ex-combatants have replied.

23. A young engineer from Niger invents a device to clean up air pollution

A 22-year-old from Niger has big plans for his invention, which he says rids the air of industrial fumes. He says he hopes it will one day help his country, where air quality and climate change are urgent concerns. Abdou Barmini built his prototype anti-pollution device using local materials that he recycled, adapted and re-assembled.

24. A community in Spain rallies around a goldfish named Pesesín

In the hallway of a block of flats in Spain's Gijón, residents stumbled upon a goldfish bowl, a tin of fish food, a feeding chart, and a note asking for help caring for the creature while its owner was away. The neighbors took up the challenge with gusto, and the details of the situation soon went viral on Twitter. “There's still hope in the world,” one user declared in response to the story.

25. Serbian websites go black to resist media intimidation by tax authorities

More than one hundred media outlets and NGO websites staged a website blackout after an independent weekly magazine was forced to close. Vranje Newspaper said the publication had suffered administrative harassment and other forms of pressure from Serbia's Tax Authority, a tactic authorities have used in the past to punish “disobedient” media.

26. A displaced indigenous community in Paraguay reclaims its land

Years ago, the Ava Guarani people in Paraguay were forced to leave behind their land and the river that runs through it because of the construction of the Itaipú hydroelectric dam. In 2015, the community returned to reclaim the territory. Ever since, members have faced violent evictions by the authorities, but remain steadfast in their resolve to demand justice.

27. ‘The Blind Captain’ aims to kayak solo across the Bosphorus

Ahmet Ustunel, who lost his sight to eye cancer at 3 years old, plans to return to his native Turkey and kayak solo across the Bosphorus Strait. With the help of a grant, he will buy the kayak and the necessary equipment needed to navigate the waterway. “People should be able to see blind people using boats,” he says.

28. A Catholic Church worker documents drug killings in the Philippines

By night, a missionary at Manila's Baclaran Church photographs the lethal anti-drug operations of the Philippine police and profiles the victims to be used in future human rights abuse investigations. “Letting the world know about this legalized barbarism is a humanitarian work, before it being news,” Ciriaco Santiago says.

29. A community journalism project takes shape in Jamaica

A project in Jamaica is empowering ordinary citizens to hold authorities accountable — an important aim, given the lack of investigative journalism in the country. The training was the result of a collaboration between the USAID-funded COMET II community development programme, the anti-corruption lobby group National Integrity Action, and the independent Global Reporters for the Caribbean.

30. Russia's blind footballers defy odds to take European championship

The Russian national blind football team came out on top in the 2017 European Champions after beating Spain in an intense final. The victory is no small feat for a country where Paralympic sports receive little funding and athletes across the board have faced extra scrutiny and blanket bans in the wake of a doping scandal.

31. A Mexican activist maps femicides to keep victims’ memories alive

A woman who goes by pseudonym “Princesa” (“Princess”) maintains the most comprehensive and up-to-date map of femicides in Mexico. So far, she has recorded 2,355 cases. The reason she documents the gender-related killings? To name every single one of the women so that they are not forgotten.

32. A local Macedonian referendum proves citizen participation isn't dead

Residents of the town of Gevgelija overwhelmingly voted to block the opening of gold mines in the area that they fear will harm the environment, in the first successful referendum since Macedonia became independent in 1991. The vote was an important assertion of the will of the people at a time when the country's outgoing ruling party has been implicated in election fraud.

33. Indian women dare to say their husbands’ names for the first time

In the small village of Walhe, nine women broke with tradition and spoke their husbands’ names instead of using the customary pronoun or “father of my child.” They did so as members of a club, one of 56 run the organization Video Volunteers, meant to foster discussion and debate about the nuances of patriarchy.

34. A mobile van offers WiFi to asylum seekers and migrants in France

An initiative called InfoBus is providing asylum seekers and migrants living in deplorable conditions in the French city of Calais with WiFi access out of a van. Many of the beneficiaries fled conflict, repression or economic insecurity in their countries, and now face surveillance, harassment, language barriers, and often lack basic services like electricity. The Internet connectivity provided by InfoBus allow them to communicate with family and friends.

35. Vietnamese continue to demand justice for toxic waste spill

Thousands of Vietnamese risked the government's wrath to protest on beaches and in boats against a Taiwanese-owned steel plant, one year after a toxic spill from its operations caused a massive fish kill and lingering damage. Fishermen argue that the compensation they have received is inadequate and has not helped the people most affected.

36. Dominica's post-hurricane recovery gives reason for hope

A travel and tourism-based Facebook group called Embrace Dominica has been documenting recovery throughout the Caribbean country following the destruction of Hurricane Maria, including how one company pledged to rebuild seven primary schools and hundreds of homes. As media coverage of natural disasters usually falls off after the initial spike around the time of the event, highlighting such efforts are important for drawing attention to the challenges of recovery.

37. Syrians learn to cultivate mushrooms to survive siege

Years of siege by government forces have made traditional staples like meat unavailable to ordinary Syrians, so one group of humanitarians and academics are educating families in the area of Eastern Ghouta to grow their own mushrooms “as a lifesaving source of food.” They are using the crowdfunding platform CanDo, in coordination with the NGO Ghiras Al-Nahda, to raise funds for their initiative.

38. Despite pressure from China, Taiwan finds space on the world stage

China can frustrate Taiwanese participation in many international events. But “where there's a will, there's a way,” and Taiwanese find a way, making contributions to the Olympic Games, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, and the World Trade Organization, among others. Hopes are high that the list will only grow in the future.

39. A train forges friendships between Bangladeshis and Indians

The Maitree (“Friendship”) Express is slowly bringing together more and more travelers on either side of the Bangladesh-India border. Launched nine years ago, the route unites Bengal, a large geopolitical area in the Indian sub-continent that shares a language and culture, but is divided by religion and borders.

40. ‘RESIST’ tattoos support good causes in the US

To encourage people to be more proactive in their hopes for change, a tattoo artist in the United States offered free “RESIST” themed tattoos in exchange for proof of a $100 donation or more to charities or organizations “fighting for a better world.” On Facebook, Nate Kaschak explains:

A great deal of change is heading our way and it's our collective responsibility to make sure they're positive and progressive steps towards a brighter future for E V E R Y O N E.

Tharg’s Tribute to Kevin O’Neill: When the Comics Code Banned His Art

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 30/12/2017 - 10:03pm in

Yesterday in one of the posts I mentioned the dictatorial grip the Comics Code Authority had over American comics from the 1950s to the mid-1980s. The Code was sent up to reassure and protect the American public after the moral panic over Horror comics in the 1950s. This spread to comics as a whole, which were seen as subversive, morally corrupting and un-American. This included bizarre accusations of Fascism and deviant sexuality aimed at those stalwarts of popular American culture, Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. The scare decimated the American comics industry, and nearly caused its total collapse.

The Code was set up to ensure that all comics were suitable for a child of seven to read. Its officials were unelected, and in many cases had right-wing views that showed absolutely no understanding of popular politics or culture. It was supposed to be a voluntary organisation, and there were comics creators who worked outside and often against the code. Like Robert Crumb and the underground scene, or the independents Like Dave Sim and Cerebus the Aardvark. In practice, however, those comics were well outside the mainstream, and were only available in head shops and specialist comics stores like Forbidden Planet and the late, lamented Forever People in Bristol.

I discussed how the Code rejected one issue of the Green Lantern Corps, written by Alan Moore and drawn by Kevin O’Neill, on the grounds that O’Neill’s artwork was too grotesque and disturbing for children. This was ironic, as he had been delighting children and adults with his monstrous aliens, mutants, robots and equally grotesque humans for years in the pages of 2000 AD. He was and remains one of comicdom’s favourite artists, and while the other artists who worked on the Nemesis the Warlock strip added the considerable talents to the tale of the Warlock and his foe, the human ‘Ultimate Fascist’ Grand Master Torquemada, I think much of the strip’s initial popularity came from his superb, bizarre artwork.

2000 AD duly paid tribute to him and his censorship by the Comics Code in their anniversary issue, Prog 500, published on 14 December 1986. In it, Tharg took a walk through the contents of his mind, reviewing the comic’s history and revisiting some of the characters that didn’t work. At the end he comes to Kevin O’Neill, who appears as a stunted, crazed sadist. O’Neill admonishes him for censoring the most extreme piece of violence in the strip. Tharg tries to reassure him by reminding him that he won the ‘ultimate accolade’ for which other comics creators all envy him: the day the Comics Code banned his art as totally unsuitable for children. To which O’Neill replies ‘Hmmph. You won’t get around me by flattery’. Unsatisfied, O’Neill then calls down Torquemade, who promptly beats Tharg up.

The different sections of that strip were written and drawn by the different artists and writers, who worked on the comic, so there were different credit cards for them for each section. That section ends with the credits reading ‘Script Therapy: Pat Mills. Art Therapy: Kev O’Neill. Letters: Steve Potter’. Which suggests that the letterer was the only sane one there.

Here’s a few panels.

The real O’Neill is, however, quite different from his portrayal in the strip. It’s been pointed out several times that the fans, who’ve met him, are often surprised that he doesn’t dress in black and silver like the Terminators. And the other rumours about him are also totally untrue. Like he only works at night using a quill pen in the light of candles, and has an occult temple in his basement. I met him at UKCAC 90 in Reading, where I queued with Mike to have him draw a character on the blank badges we’d been given for our fave artists to draw on. O’Neill at the time was a wearing a ‘Solidarity for Nicaragua’ T-shirt, which a left-wing friend of mine at college also wore. He also was wearing a brown leather jacket, and his facial features at the time reminded me a bit of John Hurt. He was affable, enthusiastic, full of nervous energy and completely unthreatening. If you seem him now at comic conventions or footage of them on YouTube, or the occasional interview for television, he’s obviously older and balder, as effects so many of us eventually. He comes across as genial and entertaining British gent, completely unlike the berserk monstrosities that rampage across his strips down the years. Even when he’s telling the stories about how he and Pat Mills went as far as they could in savaging American superhero comics and right-wing, superpatriotic American politics in the violent and nihilistic Marshal Law. Actors, writers and artists aren’t their creations. Fortunately.

Art Robot O’Neill’s Twisted Take on Christmas

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 29/12/2017 - 9:23pm in

Kevin O’Neill is one of the great British comic artists, who came out of 2000 AD in the 1970s. His grotesque and nightmarish depictions of aliens, mutants and robots have been delighting and traumatising readers for decades. With writer Pat Mills, he created the Nemesis the Warlock strip, and has drawn the art for a number of classic comics, including Marshal Law and the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. The last has been turned into a film with Sean Connery as Alan Quatermaine. This weird vision of the Christmas season is the wrap-around cover for 2000 AD 398, for the 29th December 1984. As you can see, it shows a monstrous Santa Claus, a chimney with jaw pursuing a flying Christmas turkey, snowmen fighting, and two houses trying to burn each other down with their chimneys. Oh yes, and the mechanical reindeer that’s part of Santa’s sleigh looks anything but jolly. Though he is red-nosed.

O’Neill’s artwork was considered so grotesque and revolting that it was banned by the Comics Code. The Comics Code were an unelected body of censors set up following the scare about Horror comics that devastated the industry in the 1950s. They were charged with making sure that American comics were good, wholesome fun, and were suitable for children. I can remember Mike telling me that American comics at the time worked to be suitable for a child of seven to read. It was supposed to be a voluntary code, meaning that its decision were not legally binding, and there were comics published far outside, and often deliberately against their control: the underground comics, like Robert Crumb, and the independents, like Cerebus the Aardvark. In practice, however, the Code had a near total grip dictating what comics could or could not publish. If a comic did not have their seal of approval, then the vast majority of newsagents and mainstream retailers simply wouldn’t sell it.

This whole system collapsed in the 1980s, as a new generation of fans objected to censorship and being told what they could or could not read in their favourite literature. The result was the emergence of adult comics ‘for mature readers’, like Marshal Law. But this was not before there were a few casualties. O’Neill was one of them.

He was the artist for a story in DC’s Green Lantern Corps, written by Alan Moore, who had also been one of the script robots working on 2000 AD. In the story, the Corps visit a planet which has been overrun by demons. The Code rejected it.

Moore rang them up, and asked if they would pass it if he made a few suggested changes. No, they told him. He tried again, suggesting taking out another incident in the strip. No, they still wouldn’t pass it. So Moore asked him what was wrong with the strip, that they didn’t want to pass it.

‘O’Neill’s artwork’, the faceless censors replied. ‘It is totally unsuitable for children’.

In the end, I think DC did go ahead and publish the story, but it appeared without the Comics Code approval badge on its cover.

I really like O’Neill’s art, but there’s no getting away from the fact that it is grotesque and disturbing. I can remember reading an interview with another British comics great, Dave Gibbons, who drew the Rogue Trooper strip in 2000 AD, where he said that a fan had told him at a comics convention that O’Neill’s artwork gave him nightmares. He could only dispel these by looking at Gibbons’ smooth art.

2000 AD later paid homage to the incident in one of their anniversary issues, where Tharg walked around various characters and art and script droids in his head. O’Neill is depicted as a crazed, stunted brat drinking at of a can marked ‘Bile’. During their brief conversation, Tharg describes O’Neill’s ban by the Comics Code as his great accolade.

It says something about American culture at the time that O’Neill’s art was considered too grim and upsetting for children across the Pond, but he had been published in 2000 AD for years and was one of the comic’s cult artists.

As for the nightmarish vision of Christmas, this strangely harks back to the type of humour the Victorians themselves like to put on their Christmas cards. There was a brief piece about Christmas cards on the One Show about a week ago, where they mentioned that the first Christmas cards showed scenes of anthropomorphised Christmas food or other items hunting each other over a wintry background. Art robot O’Neill’s weird, crazed interpretation of the festive season harks back to that, although its direct inspiration was probably the iconoclastic punk ethos that ran through 2000 AD.

Here’s the two pictures. Enjoy, and don’t have nightmares!

The Death of Academic Freedom: Professor James Tracy Denied First Amendment Rights by Federal Court

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 22/12/2017 - 10:30pm in

by Vivian Lee James Tracy, former tenured professor at Florida Atlantic University, rose to some notoriety after his website, The Memory Hole Blog, began exploring claims being made in various quarters that the Sandy Hook school shooting was a fake event in which no children died. Although Tracy himself never specifically endorsed this view his website was effectively shut down in 2015 and, shortly after, he was dismissed from his post at the university. Since then he has been fighting for his reinstatement. This month he lost his legal battle On December 11, 2017, in a serious miscarriage of justice, a jury in West Palm Beach, Florida, ruled unanimously in favor of Florida Atlantic University and against former Media Studies Professor James Tracy, who was suing for reinstatement after his firing in 2016. jury found that Tracy’s “controversial” articles on Memory Hole Blog were not a “motivating factor” in his firing, the only question they were required to consider. Of course, Tracy’s posts at “his conspiracy theory blog” were indeed the reason he was fired, …

Maoist Rebel News Censored by Google for Criticising Israel

Mike and the other peeps in the Labour party, who’ve been grotesquely smeared as anti-Semites because of their opposition to Israel’s brutal, racist maltreatment of the Palestinians, or because they’ve simply defended those who do, aren’t the only victims of the Israel lobby. They’ve also taken down a video that was posted by Maoist Rebel News several years ago.

In this clip from the channel, host Jason Unruhe reports that a video he put up criticising a law being passed in California, that would outlaw criticism of Israel, has been taken down by Google. The reason they give for their decision is that it was ‘offensive’. Unruhe finds the decision peculiar, as the video is years old, and remarks that it’s probably just someone, who’s gone on a massive flagging binge. He remarks that he’s aware of all the conspiracy theories surrounding YouTube – that it’s real name is ‘JewTube’ and that it’s run by the Jews. He finds it quite ironic that the company’s decision, which is aimed at tackling anti-Semitism, instead does the exact opposite, and appears instead to confirm all the anti-Semitic rumours about the company.

This is just another part of the Israel lobby’s campaign to close down any criticism of Israel. As well as smearing decent, non- and anti-racist women and men for criticising Israel’s ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians, including very many Jews and Jewish organisations, a number of American states are trying to criminalise criticism of Israel and the pro-Palestinian movement. There have been a number of moves to ban the BDS movement, which urges consumers and investors to boycott and divest from firms operating in the Occupied Territories, as ‘anti-Semitic’.

There’s nothing unusual in the tactic of smearing their opponents as anti-Semites. They’ve been doing it for a long time. Norman Finkelstein, a Jewish critic of Israel, states that the Israel lobby is a gigantic mechanism for creating anti-Semites – meaning that their standard, default tactic is to accuse anyone criticising Israel of anti-Semitism. Even when it is manifestly untrue. They also grotesquely exaggerate the true extent of anti-Semitism in western society, in order to present themselves falsely as the true defenders of the Jews against anti-Semitism, while spreading fear and distrust of gentiles amongst them. The goal is that by spreading such fear, more Jews will be encouraged to move from the Diaspora to Israel. Thus the other year, the grotesquely misnamed Campaign Against Anti-Semitism claimed that anti-Semitism in Britain was at the same level as Germany in the 1930s, round about the time the Nazis seized power.

There is unfortunately still anti-Semitism in Britain. Several of the Jewish members of the Labour party, who’ve also been smeared as ‘anti-Semites’ for their opposition to Israel’s continued violation of the Palestinians’ rights and dignity, have suffered it, including physical assault. And as their influence has declined, the various sects in the British Far Right have returned to their anti-Semitic roots. The Nazi terror group, National Action, in their private speeches and public demonstrations, have ranted about Jews and the supposed Jewish conspiracy to destroy the White race through racial intermixing, in language that’s almost the same as Hitler’s and the original Nazis. Nevertheless, as Tony Greenstein has pointed out on his site using the appropriate stats, Britain actually has a very low level of anti-Semitism. Only about 5%-7% of Brits consider themselves to be anti-Semites according to polls. The vast majority – over 70% – either have positive views about Jews, or don’t have any strong feelings one way or another. Britain in 2017 very definitely ain’t like Germany in the 1930s.

The fact that the Israel lobby is reduced to such censorship and trying to use legal means to stifle free speech paradoxically shows how weak it actually is. Admittedly, the Israel lobby in America – AIPAC, and the Christian Evangelical Zionist organisations – are very well funded and influential. But as Netanyahu and the other partners with Likud in his right-wing coalition become more extreme and brutal, so more people, Jews and non-Jews, are turning away from Israel. An increasing number of young American Jews are critical, and actively oppose Israel, even those, who have personally suffered from anti-Semitism.

If the Israel lobby genuinely enjoyed popular support, then it wouldn’t need to use the law to clamp down on its detractors. There’d be no need. But the Israel lobby doesn’t enjoy popular support. As Norman Finkelstein has also pointed out, most American Jews had little interest in Israel. They, like other Diaspora Jews, wanted to make their lives in the country they were born in and which they regarded as home. American support for Israel really only dates from the 1970s, when the American patriotic Right turned to Israel after its victories against the Arabs in the Six Day War as psychological compensation for America’s defeat in Vietnam.

The Israel lobby is losing the battle for people’s hearts and minds. More information is coming out daily through the internet and other media about Israel’s true nature as a colonialist, European-American White colonialist settler state, and its massacre, dispossession and ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Arab population. And so Netanyahu’s friends and puppets around the world have to resort to lies, smears and censorship to maintain their power and influence. In doing so, they malign and try to destroy the lives of decent people. But it ultimately they, who are gradually losing the battle. And they know it. Hence the strong whiff of desperation about these measures.

Google hiring 10,000 reviewers to censor YouTube content

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 11/12/2017 - 1:30pm in

by Zaida Green, via WSWS Google is escalating its campaign of internet censorship, announcing that it will expand its workforce of human censors to over 10,000, the internet giant announced on December 4. The censors’ primary focus will be videos and other content on YouTube, its video-sharing platform, but will work across Google to censor content and train its automated systems, which remove videos at a rate four times faster than its human employees. Human censors have already reviewed over 2 million videos since June. YouTube has already removed over 150,000 videos, 50 percent of which were removed within two hours of upload. The company is working to accelerate the rate of takedown through machine-learning from manual censorship, according to YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki in an official blog post. The hiring drive by Google is yet another advance in the campaign against any expression of political opposition. Other social media giants have implemented measures against “fake news”; Facebook has altered its algorithms to reduce the visibility of certain news stories, and Twitter has banned the Russian-funded media …