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Corporate Media Bash Teachers Unions for Resisting School Reopenings Amid Rising Death Toll

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 28/01/2021 - 5:43am in

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Media, schools

The seven-day average COVID death toll hit an all time high yesterday, with over 3,400 Americans expected to die on any given day. Educator cases are on the rise. Studies have shown that children are as likely to contract and pass the coronavirus on as adults, making schools potential super spreading hotspots. As a result, European nations like the United Kingdom, Germany, Ireland, Austria, Denmark, and the Netherlands are shuttering schools, despite, in many cases, having lower infection rates than the U.S.

President Biden, however, is pushing forward with a new plan to achieve a near full reopening within his first 100 days in office. And the media are attacking teachers for raising doubts about the program.

Leading the charge was the New York Times. “Schools Were Set to Reopen. Then the Teachers Union Stepped In,” ran its (since altered) headline, presenting the “powerful” New Jersey teachers association as spoilsports “disappointing” parents and officials alike, despite noting that cases are spiking across the state and that teachers have not been offered preferential access to a vaccine. “We are so sad,” one mother of two told the newspaper.

“The simple truth,” wrote Rory Cooper in the Washington Post, is that the “school system wants the benefits of heroism without taking a heroic action.” “Real harm is being caused to [the children], and it’s by the people meant to look out for them. And they want that harm to continue for another year,” he fumed. Cooper went on to accuse the pampered teachers of using “insulting and bad faith arguments,” that are, “not supported by science.”

While the Post notes that Cooper worked for former Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, it did not remind readers that he is a notorious climate change denier who voted against every single piece of climate legislation while in office, nor that Cantor made “standing tall against teachers’ unions” a priority during his time in office. Thus, Cooper’s claims of being a good faith actor purely motivated by science are questionable.

“Your kid might not return to a classroom this year. Are teachers unions to blame?” asked a USA Today headline on Monday, before making clear that the answer was most likely “yes” in the body of the article.

The conservative press was even more hostile. Libertarian outlet Reason denounced unions as demanding a “big bribe” from the government, and “fighting to draw pay while kids languish with substandard remote offerings.” The National Review went further, describing the teachers’ union as handing the country a “ransom demand” — a phrase almost entirely reserved for bank robbers or those engaged in the highest criminal activity. While presenting itself as truly caring for the educational needs of inner-city children, it also insisted they go back to schools, on the grounds that they are “not particularly dangerous environments.” Unsurprisingly, Fox News also ridiculed the teachers.

Considering the coverage, one might assume that there is a great deal of nationwide resentment towards teachers and a thirst for a return to in-person learning. However, a December survey showed that Americans favor online-only teaching over classrooms at a 2:1 ratio, with fewer than a quarter of parents wanting their child to return to the classroom full time any time in 2021. Furthermore, public appreciation of teachers has grown substantially during the pandemic.

Yet, partially because of the attempts to turn them from heroes to villains, 60% of the profession enjoy their job less than last year, with more than three-quarters of teachers working longer hours than they did in 2019. 27% say they are considering leaving because of the pandemic.

Despite berating Trump for proposing the same thing, the National Education Association, representing its 2.3 million members, hailed Biden’s decision last week to press ahead with the reopening. Biden has made clear that his decision was made on the same “save the economy” logic as Trump’s. When schools are open again, “Think of all the people who can get back to work,” he said, as he signed the order, “all the mothers and single fathers that are staying home taking care of their children.”

And therein lies the reason for the attack on teachers; without a reopening of schools, other big businesses cannot function and corporate America cannot return to making profits. Teachers are being asked to risk their lives in the service of capital and are branded as uncaring when they drag their feet. Rather than attack the government for its poor handling of the COVID crisis, corporate media have opted for a return to a favorite pastime of theirs: union bashing.

Feature photo | Teachers prepare an outdoor learning demonstration for students to display methods schools can use to continue on-site education during the coronavirus pandemic, Sept. 2, 2020, at P.S. 15 in the Red Hook neighborhood of the Brooklyn borough of New York. John Minchillo | AP

Alan MacLeod is Senior Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent, as well as a number of academic articles. He has also contributed to FAIR.orgThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin Magazine, and Common Dreams.

The post Corporate Media Bash Teachers Unions for Resisting School Reopenings Amid Rising Death Toll appeared first on MintPress News.

The ‘Insurrection’ and Its Discontents: ‘American Exceptionalism’ Revisited

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 26/01/2021 - 2:07am in

History is being written in the United States today. Even the most pessimistic about the prospects of American democracy have rarely ventured out this far while offering a bleak analysis of America’s future, whether in terms of political polarization at home or global standing abroad.

As shocking and, certainly, telling as the images of thousands of American protesters taking over the symbols of America’s federal, representative democracy in Washington DC on January 6, it was only a facet in a far more complex and devastating political trajectory that has been in the making for years.

While mainstream US media has conveniently attributed all of America’s ills to the unruly character of outgoing President Donald Trump, the truth is not quite so convenient. The US has been experiencing an unprecedented political influx at every level of society for years, leading us to believe that the rowdy years of Trump’s Presidency were a mere symptom, not the cause, of America’s political instability.

Even the storming of the congressional halls by angry pro-Trump crowds did not fundamentally alter the make-up of America’s political affiliations. Not only did Democrats remain firmly Democrats, but Republicans also remained entrenched in their republicanism and their allegiance to President Trump.

The House of Representatives’ vote on impeaching Trump, which was held on January 13, hardly registered a significant shift even among establishment Republicans. Only ten Republican members of Congress voted to impeach Trump. But how about ordinary people – have they changed their views on Trump following the congressional insurrection? Hardly.

According to an Economist/YouGov poll published on January 13, 69% of all Republicans surveyed said that activists from the anti-fascist, leftist group, Antifa, are to be blamed for the takeover of the Capitol. While 22% said they are ‘unsure’, a meager 9% agreed that Trump’s supporters instigated the violent events which, even then, should not automatically be understood to be an admission of guilt.

These results should not come as a surprise. The mistrust in the government and media in the US is so widespread to the extent that the country is experiencing two parallel political realities, each committed to a fundamentally different set of aspirations. Each side perceives the other as the enemy, and while still believing in its own version of ‘democracy’, it no longer agrees to any functional definition of the term.

This has not always been the case.

In their seminal book, “Manufacturing Consent”, Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman provided a most comprehensive analysis of how the ‘system’ – the government/ruling classes, big business and mainstream media – has invented the most effective mechanism which allowed the US to ensure two naturally contradicting realities: persistent popular consent within a seemingly democratic governance.

 
“The beauty of the system … is that … dissent and inconvenient information are kept within bounds and at the margins so that, while their presence shows that the system is not monolithic, they are not large enough to interfere unduly with the domination of the official agenda,” Chomsky and Herman argued.

Years later, Chomsky contested that, underneath this facade of democracy, the US is, in actuality, a plutocracy, a country that is dedicated to serving the interests of the powerful few. He also argued that, while the US does operate based on formal democratic structures, these are largely dysfunctional. In an interview with Global Policy Journal in 2019, the famed linguist and historian further asserted that the “US Constitution was framed to thwart the democratic aspirations of most of the public.”

While these realizations have served as the core of the US Left’s ideology, it was most interesting to see American Right constituencies leading what they call the ‘revolution’, referred to by mainstream media as ‘insurrection’. Equally interesting, many of Trump’s supporters actually come from working-class and lower-middle-class America, itself a fascinating subject in its own right.

Regardless of what may transpire in the official investigation of the Capitol’s upheaval, US political polarization, the breakdown of trust between the public and the ruling elites, along with their media allies, will continue unabated. Undoubtedly, the consequences will be dire.

But there is another consequential crisis that is also brewing, ‘American exceptionalism’, a rare meeting point between Democrats and Republicans, is facing its greatest challenge since its coinage sometime in the mid-17th century.

Historically, the US has defined and redefined its mission in the world based on lofty spiritual, moral and political maxims, starting with ‘Manifest Destiny’, to fighting communism, to eventually serving as the defender of human rights and democracy around the world, using violence whenever necessary. In truth, ‘protecting human rights’ or ‘restoring democracy’ were mere pretenses often used to provide a moral cover that allows the US to reorder the world for the sake of expanding its market and ensuring its economic dominance.

The late American historian, Howard Zinn, explained in his essay entitled ‘The Power and the Glory’, the functional meaning of American exceptionalism as such: “… that the United States alone has the right, whether by divine sanction or moral obligation, to bring civilization, or democracy, or liberty to the rest of the world, by violence if necessary …”

Many examples and numerous violent images can be immediately summoned when Zinn’s definition is translated into historical precedents. From the genocide of the Native Americans to the enslaving of millions of Africans, to the never-ending interventions in South America – starting with the Monroe doctrine of 1823 – all the way to the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, American exceptionalism has always served the purpose of reinforcing the notion that America possesses a moral, divine right to do as it pleases for the betterment of mankind.

When former US President George W. Bush took it upon himself to ‘restore democracy’ in Iraq as part of the US-championed ‘war on terror’, his ultimatum to the United Nations reflected both American entitlement and its rooted sense of exceptionalism. “You are either with us or with the terrorists,” he said on September 21, 2001. According to that maxim, the world was divided into categories, of ‘moderates’ and ‘extremists’,  ‘with us’ or ‘against us’, ‘Old Europe’ and ‘New Europe’’, and so on. Despite the palpable irrationality – let alone arrogance – of that logic, US ‘democratic’ institutions and mainstream media cheered Bush on. The ‘war president’s’ ratings seemed to increase as his rhetoric and actions grew more violent.

But the orchestrated ‘popular consent’ is finally breaking down, raising an unprecedented challenge to the notion of American exceptionalism, a banner under which America’s ruling elites have long united. The more political chaos and societal division widen, the more the notion of exceptionalism will be exposed as bizarre, selfish, and unsustainable.

Surely, the storming of the US Congress will have global repercussions, not least among them the collective rejection of the outdated notion of American exceptionalism. But with that, there is also an opportunity: first for Americans to swap their ‘manufactured consent’ with real dialogue; to salvage and, eventually, renew trust in their democratic institutions and second, for the world to challenge America’s hegemonic discourse of fraudulent democracy and other self-serving fables.

Feature photo | MintPress News | Shakh Aivazov | AP

This article was originally published in Politics Today and was republished with permission from the author.

Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of five books. His latest is “These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons” (Clarity Press). Dr. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA) and also at the Afro-Middle East Center (AMEC). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net

The post The ‘Insurrection’ and Its Discontents: ‘American Exceptionalism’ Revisited appeared first on MintPress News.

Fake news abounds in the misguided war on the digital media platforms

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 25/01/2021 - 5:58am in

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Media

Opposition is growing both locally and globally to media laws introduced by the Coalition Government requiring tech giants Google and Facebook to pay for displaying original news content. Why should our domestic monopolists get preference?

Not only is there no good business case for the changes, but US trade officials have slammed the bargaining code as potentially contrary to the US Australian Free Trade Agreement, and the man who started it all, claims the regulation is contrary to the very idea of the Internet.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the computer scientist who in 1989 invented the world wide web is undoubtedly a dispassionate voice in the debate, given he could have made a squillion from his work but instead gave it away. As Sir Tim stated:

“Had the technology been proprietary, and in my total control, it would probably not have taken off. You can’t propose that something be a universal space and at the same time keep control of it.”

In a submission to the Senate inquiry on the News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code bill, Berners-Lee said the ability of web users to link to other sites was “fundamental to the web” and that the the proposed media code could break it because they risked setting a precedent that “could make the web unworkable around the world”.

News Corp Australia and Nine Media have been pushing hard for the proposed laws, and much of the the mainstream media are right behind it.

Divide and conquer – Google and Facebook show who’s the boss!

Google, which dominates search, and Facebook (not including Instagram and Whatsapp) represent 20% of all internet traffic.

But contrary to the arguments of the legacy media, Google argues that the mainstream media benefit at least as much from Google as the other way around.

For example, last month (December 2020*), 18.5% of visits to news.com.au came from Google. In other words, Google search drives one in five visitors to news.com.au by people clicking on links in Google search results. Yet News is claiming that Google should pay for using News’ content. As was pointed out by respondents to the ACCC recommendations, News and others can easily remove its content from Google (a single line of code takes care of it) but of course, they won’t.

Google estimates that advertising revenue directly attributable to news content in Australia is $10 million. Without any documentation, it is hard to verify that figure. Regardless, the true figure is likely to be well below the $600 million claimed by Nine chairman Peter Costello and others. Especially given that Google’s total revenue in Australia is $4.8 billion (in 2019) and Google News represents just 0.5% of Google’s total monthly visitors (December 2020*) – or $24 million in revenue terms.

Granted, that is a simplistic calculation, but although Google does make a lot of money from advertising – money that was once directed to the mainstream media – it is not because Google uses news content to generate it.

Facebook (and social media in general) is a different story, but not necessarily a more compelling one for the agitators in the mainstream media. Of news.com.au’s traffic in December 2020, 7.5% came via social media* – two-thirds of that from Facebook.

The only content, including news content, that appears on Facebook’s platform is that shared by a user. The media platforms themselves also share articles, but to a limited degree.

There is virtually no directly attributable link between news-style content and Facebook’s advertising revenue. Moreover, Facebook reported $674 million of revenue in Australia in 2019, a figure that may well be higher thanks to – ahem – international tax accounting measures. Nevertheless, the old, failing mainstream media companies are clutching at revenue straws.

The power and reach of Google and Facebook is undoubtedly of great concern, and the tech giants have been heavily criticised for overreach recently when Twitter and Facebook banned President Trump from their platforms.

In Australia, Google has played its own power games by experimenting with excluding mainstream media content from its search results, drawing widespread opprobrium.

However, trying to force the tech giants to share their revenue with the old and declining media companies is both a furphy and irrelevant.

The ACCC inquiry that led to the proposed law was designed to provide support for the contention that the online platforms have an unfair advantage over old media. But what the inquiry (and its instigators News Limited and Nine Media) failed to mention was that the advantages were achieved because other companies grabbed the online opportunities of the Internet, while the erstwhile media giants sat on their hands.

The Internet has not only changed how we consume news, but also how (and how much) we pay for it, how it is distributed and the cost to produce and publish. The old model of advertising and subscription is no longer working. And as Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman explained in their book “Manufactured Consent” in 1988, it was always a flawed model where advertisers and other vested interest directly and indirectly influence what gets published and how.

News Limited and Nine Media claim they are fighting for quality independent journalism. But News Limited, in particular has descended into unabashed partisanship – effectively a propaganda arm of the LNP Government; while the old Fairfax mastheads are increasingly focused on infotainment content.

The flag bearers of independent journalism in Australia are now the ABC, although some critics would argue it is increasingly muzzled as a result of a reliance on Government for funding, The Guardian and a growing plethora of nimble, diverse and competent independents – all focused on online distribution.

Citizenship journalism and commentary is also growing world-wide on platforms like Medium, Substack and many more, with podcasting the fastest growing media channel of all, even faster than YouTube. All cater to a younger audience that never reads traditional newspapers or watches the 6pm news.

The power and reach of Google and Facebook is of great concern, and the Government in general, and the ACCC in particular, should be looking at how to regulate and curb that power. Instead they are running not just a fool’s errand, but doing nothing to protect the consumers of media, nor strengthening competition, which should be their areas of focus.

* – according to SimilarWeb, a global web reporting service

Perhaps I'm biased but I really do think the BBC is impartial | David Mitchell

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 24/01/2021 - 9:00pm in

The broadcaster is giving in to its critics by trying to prove what it already is – one of the few reputable media sources we have

The BBC started its compulsory impartiality training last week and I’m concerned not to have been asked along. Is that a bad sign about my career or do I not qualify for a more benign reason? As someone who quite often features on the BBC’s TV or radio stations, I still find it hard to work out whether I’m officially part of it. Or, indeed, who is.

Everyone seems to talk about “the BBC” – usually complaining, about anything from how it’s biased against Brexit, to how it hates Jeremy Corbyn, to how it ruined The Archers, to how it won’t let you have a kettle in your office any more, to, since Monday, how it makes you go on impartiality courses – but nobody seems to own up to actually being it. Even Tim Davie, the director general, mainly talks about what “the BBC” got wrong under his predecessors. So even he’s moaning about it not being it.

Interest groups see bias everywhere. The perception of balance has never been harder to acquire

Continue reading...

“Here Are the Superheroes To Come and Save Us”: Media Waste No Time Fawning Over Biden

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 23/01/2021 - 4:03am in

We rely on the media to hold the powerful to account. But in its first hours in office, the corporate press has celebrated, rather than challenged, the new Biden administration.

It began immediately during the 78-year-old Delawarean’s inauguration, with senior figures in the media barely able to contain their emotions watching what they saw. “As Lady Gaga sang the national anthem, the sky opened up and sunlight reflected off of the Capitol, illuminating the flag,” wrote Olivia Nuzzi, the New Yorker’s Washington correspondent. The New York Times was in a similarly poetic mood. “Whether or not related to the former president’s absence, a bipartisan lightness seemed to prevail across the stage at President Joe Biden’s inauguration. Snow flurries gave way to sun,” ran its subheadline.

If it were not clear enough that corporate media intends to spend the next four years propping up, rather than scrutinizing President Biden, then senior CNN figures spelled it out.

“Trump—>Biden. Lies—>truth. Ignorance—>knowledge. Amorality—>decency. Cruelty—> empathy. Corruption—>public service” wrote CNN’s White House correspondent John J. Harwood on Twitter, attributing several extremely positive (and questionable) qualities to the incoming president. Meanwhile, the company’s head of strategic communications, Matt Dornic, was in an even more bombastic mood. Sharing a picture of fireworks exploding over the Washington Monument, he remarked that, “This team truly understands optics. These images will inspire our friends and shake our foes.”

Leaving aside why some colorful pyrotechnics would terrify Russia, China or any nation, Dornic’s rhetoric worried many who felt the nation’s top journalists should see themselves as the government’s adversaries, rather than their allies. “Note how this CNN imperial stenographer fearmongers about foreign bogeymen with his “foe” rhetoric. The real foe of average working-class Americans isn’t any foreign nation; it’s the parasitic capitalist oligarchs who control everything and their lackeys in politics and the media,” replied Ben Norton of The Grayzone.

Channeling similar energy to a born again Christian preacher praising Trump, former Fox News and NBC News host Megyn Kelly announced that, “Today, I feel deep love for our country, and am praying for President Biden, Vice President Harris and for all of us as we navigate what comes next.”

Perhaps the most adulatory coverage of the inauguration came from MSNBC, however, with analyst John Heilemann depicting the senior politicians present as almost mythical ubermensch. “What was to me so striking about today was that comforting sense,” he said. “The sight of the Clintons and the Bushes and the Obamas — The Avengers, the Marvel superheroes back up there together all in one place with their friend Joe Biden.” He later went on to compare Biden’s speech to Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address of 1865 after the union victory in the American Civil War and claimed there was a deep sense of relief washing over the nation’s capital..

This sentiment was apparently not shared by ordinary people on the street. Even as it was praising Biden, the New York Times reported that “The few who ventured near the Capitol were mostly somber, as if they were attending a vigil.” “It feels a little postapocalyptic, to be honest,” one told them.

Comparing politicians they are, in theory, supposed to be challenging to superheroes has unfortunately become a common occurrence on corporate media. In November, PBS NewsHour White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor said Biden and co. were like The Avengers. “It felt like we are being rescued from the craziness and now here are the superheroes to come and save us all.”

Today on MSNBC, Alcindor insisted that she and her White House press colleagues would “ask tough questions” of Biden even as she was heaping praise on his administration. Yet this has already proven not to be the case. On her first day as White House press secretary, Jen Psaki was thrown a number of softball questions by reporters, including whether Biden was planning to stick with Trump’s color scheme change on Air Force One.

 

The president’s stenographers

Trust in media has been falling since the 1970s, and particularly in the last few years. Part of that is due to ultra partisan reporting, a practice pioneered by Fox News in the 1990s. What Rupert Murdoch realized was that capturing a loyal following from a small segment of the population could actually be more profitable than trying to appeal to as broad an audience as possible. Since then, Fox’s model has been copied by other outlets, notably MSNBC, the New York Times, and the Washington Post, who have positioned themselves as anti-Trump and pro-Democrat news sources. The result has been to create an extremely polarized media ecosystem, with each side championing their leaders and not willing to listen to the other. Unsurprisingly, Fox has been highly critical of the new president, with top host Sean Hannity attacking Biden, claiming he is physically and mentally unfit for office. “The country should be asking tonight, Mr. Unity, Mr. Frail, Weak, Cognitively Struggling Joe, I know this is past your bedtime,” he opined.

This has seriously deleterious effects on the political system. An adversarial media is the cornerstone of any functioning democracy. Thomas Jefferson once remarked that “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government … I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” Unfortunately, if Biden’s first few days are any indicator, the press will choose to prop up rather than scrutinize the new president. Media that behaved as attack dogs against Trump for four years (unless he was carrying out aggressive actions abroad) are likely to turn into lap dogs now that there is a Democrat in the White House — something that is unlikely to be a positive thing for the country.

Feature photo | President Joe Biden speaks to the media at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, Jan. 20, 2021, after his inauguration. Joshua Roberts | Pool photo via AP

Alan MacLeod is Senior Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent, as well as a number of academic articles. He has also contributed to FAIR.orgThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin Magazine, and Common Dreams.

The post “Here Are the Superheroes To Come and Save Us”: Media Waste No Time Fawning Over Biden appeared first on MintPress News.

Kafka Sunday Morning, Coming Down: Why Julian Assange is still caged

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 22/01/2021 - 3:00am in

Friends and supporters of Julian Assange are tired, so very tired.  We are tired of working on this campaign and also of bearing witness to the great suffering inflicted on one man. While it is often an intensely personal attack on the character and life of Julian, more and more people understand that his case is also about the future of journalism and the public’s right to know.  While we are tired from winning that argument over and over again, if you look into the eyes of Julian’s close friends and supporters, some of whom agreed to be part of an exhibition of portraits by photographer Richard Lahuis, you will see a determination that is only growing. 

The campaign for Donald Trump to pardon Julian before Trump’s fingers were taken from the button was obligatory, such are the urgent health and justice grounds for Julian’s immediate release. But of course Trump didn’t deliver. As Kevin Goszolda observes, ‘Trump constantly bashed the “deep state” during his campaigns and presidency, but when it came time to follow through and stand up to national security agencies by pardoning Assange and Snowden, he balked’. The Trump administration’s indictments against Julian may have been issued by the Department of Justice, but they were drafted by a host of vengeful institutions that endure and outlive mere presidents and administrations that come and go. For them this sadistic litigation is therapeutic. All we can thank Trump for is the growing groundswell of public disgust at what is happening to Julian Assange at his hand, the penny finally dropping for many that this man has suffered enough. 

Julian’s name does not belong with this obscene list of people anyway, although if there were any prizes for political acumen, Trump sure rewarded the wrong guy with his last-minute decision to fully pardon the CEO of his 2016 presidential campaign and chief strategist.  It’s actually because of his political acumen that Julian is still caged and silenced. He has the ability to combine journalism and technology to reveal the truth not only about incidents and newsworthy scandals but, crucially, about whole institutions and significant events such as wars. That is his most dangerous success and achievement. 

Before he was placed in a COVID-infested dungeon, Julian explained WikiLeaks’ strength as an archive, emphasising that it is the archive that has the scale to deal with the problem:

One of the fundamental missed lessons of the WikiLeaks experience is about how to deal with scale. One way of dealing with scale is to stitch together a big international collaboration, get more bodies more eyeballs on the material. The other way to deal with scale is to understand that scale is inherent in the material. When you have millions of documents, you need to make millions of documents available and citable, so that not just a few hundred journalists but all the lawyers in the world, all the police in the world, are looking at them.

This is the idea that scares the shit out of powerful people and institutions and why Julian is still in a cage. It’s also thanks to District Judge Vanessa Baraitser.

By the time Baraitser arrived at the Old Bailey on Monday 4 January, she’d had a shit Christmas and a shitter New Year writing a shit judgment after almost a year considering the fate of Julian Assange. She had been presented with bundles of arguments, and evidence testimony from forty-two prominent and credible witnesses, and she can’t have been unaffected by extensive media coverage and public commentary from peers, such as that from the International Bar Association

Baraitser was guilty of descending throughout the trial and in her judgment. This is a technical term in legal process that Lord Denning warned against at length. A judge ‘descends into the arena’ when they are too talkative and interventionist, and also through process that persistently disadvantages one party, or demonstrates contemptuous attitudes for some arguments and people while receiving others favourably and cheerfully. The extradition hearing was an atrocity exhibition demonstrating Denning’s point that judges don’t just look at how the scales tilt but can actively tilt the table on which the scales sit—for example, by allowing the prosecution to repeatedly submit documents and entire new indictments mid-trial, shutting down witnesses, and ruling that Julian had to sit in a glass box where he could not instruct his lawyers, just to name a few (see Part I and Part II of this series).

While she delivered her hideous judgment with an excellent last line ordering the discharge of Julian, I had my head in my hands, saying to Scott Ludlam, ‘It’s as bad as it could possibly be’, because her judgment echoed, restated and often refined the arguments of the prosecution supporting extradition and the criminalisation of journalism, giving short shrift or generous misinterpretation to those of the defence. Of course there has to be an appeal, I thought as the judgment came down, principally because of dangerous precedents such as this proffered by the judge on journalism in the digital age: ‘The conduct in this case occurred in the US because the publication of the materials caused harm to the interests of the US’.

But at the very end came the twist, with a great one-liner: extradition was denied under section 91 of the UK Extradition Act of 2003, due to Julian’s mental health and the oppressive nature of the US prison system, which would induce his suicide. It is important to recognise that the judge indicated that the mere order of extradition would be enough to cause his suicide, because of his already fragile mental state, which is a direct result of this decade-long manhunt. 

While it’s deeply alarming that the judge had accepted the majority of the prosecution’s case, extradition was rejected on the narrowest of grounds. Extradition would be denied because Julian was weak, not because he was right. We should have been happier, given we have worked and waited for Julian’s freedom for ten years, but having worked on this campaign for ten years, we couldn’t quite believe it was over. And it’s not. 

Two days later Baraister ruled that Julian is to remain caged in Belmarsh Prison during the appeal phase. Given that her ruling has made the United Kingdom the only safe jurisdiction from which Julian cannot be extradited, it is absurd that this Australian publisher and journalist in such poor health must remain in a supermax prison through which COVID-19 is raging. In 2012 it was the spectre of extradition that drove him to seek asylum, the principal reason he is accused of evading bail. With that threat removed, he has no motivation to ‘evade justice’, as the judge so curtly spat.

Justice itself has evaded this process. Even if he wins the appeal the charges are still there and he will not be safe anywhere, including his home country. But it isn’t about justice; it’s about delay. Scott Ludlam put it like this in A Secret Australia:

In this mockery of due process, endless delay is the point: our friend is already serving jail time for charges under US espionage law that may never even be heard in an open court. The people who put him here couldn’t care less if the extradition hearings are delayed by a year and then take another five years to work through appeals courts, because every day this sadistic process drags out is another day Julian spends without sunlight, friends, family and freedom. And that’s the whole point.

The prevailing logic of the Obama administration was that prosecuting WikiLeaks would lead to the ‘New York Times problem’. That logic should hold true for the Biden administration. The Trump administration appeal against Julian lodged last Friday should be among the host of excessive and dangerous Trump policies that are dumped and reversed as a matter of urgency by the Biden administration. President Obama and Vice-President Biden decided not to prosecute, and it follows that President Biden and Vice-President Harris should right the wrongs of the Trump administration. That’s where our focus must be until Julian is free to come home with his family.


Kafka on Acid: The Trial of Julian Assange

Felicity Ruby, 17 Sep 2020

PART I: After waiting handcuffed in the holding cells, he is placed in a glass box at the back of the courtroom. Then he is forced back into the Serco van to be strip-searched back at Belmarsh to face another night alone in his cell.


Kafka on Steroids: Summarising the Extradition Hearing of Julian Assange

Felicity Ruby, 8 Oct 2020

PART II: Embarrassing the powerful is the harm for which the publisher is on trial, while those who have committed the crimes revealed are free to strike again, to profit again and to continue killing in cold blood.


Eyewitness to the Agony of Julian Assange

John Pilger, 2 Oct 2020

I have sat in many courts and seldom known such a perversion of due process. This is due revenge.

The Deep State’s Stealthy, Subversive, Silent Coup to Ensure Nothing Changes

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 21/01/2021 - 2:27am in

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censorship, Media

You have such a fervent, passionate, evangelical faith in this country…why in the name of God don’t you have any faith in the system of government you’re so hell-bent to protect? You want to defend the United States of America, then defend it with the tools it supplies you with—its Constitution. You ask for a mandate, General, from a ballot box. You don’t steal it after midnight, when the country has its back turned.”— Seven Days in May (1964)

No doubt about it: the coup d’etat was successful. That January 6 attempt by so-called insurrectionists to overturn the election results was not the real coup, however. Those who answered President Trump’s call to march on the Capitol were merely the fall guys, manipulated into creating the perfect crisis for the Deep State—a.k.a. the Police State a.k.a. the Military Industrial Complex a.k.a. the Techno-Corporate State a.k.a. the Surveillance State—to swoop in and take control.

It took no time at all for the switch to be thrown and the nation’s capital to be placed under a military lockdown, online speech forums restricted, and individuals with subversive or controversial viewpoints ferreted out, investigated, shamed and/or shunned.

This new order didn’t emerge into being this week, or this month, or even this year, however.

Indeed, the real coup happened when our government “of the people, by the people, for the people” was overthrown by a profit-driven, militaristic, techno-corporate state that is in cahoots with a government “of the rich, by the elite, for the corporations.”

 

We’ve been mired in this swamp for decades now.

Every successive president starting with Franklin D. Roosevelt has been bought lock, stock and barrel and made to dance to the Deep State’s tune.

Enter Donald Trump, the candidate who swore to drain the swamp in Washington DC. Instead of putting an end to the corruption, however, Trump paved the way for lobbyists, corporations, the military industrial complex, and the Deep State to feast on the carcass of the dying American republic.

Joe Biden will be no different: his job is to keep the Deep State in power.

Step away from the cult of personality politics and you’ll find that beneath the power suits, they’re all alike.

Follow the money.  It always points the way.

As Bertram Gross noted in Friendly Fascism: The New Face of Power in America, “evil now wears a friendlier face than ever before in American history.”

Writing in 1980, Gross predicted a future in which he saw:

…a new despotism creeping slowly across America. Faceless oligarchs sit at command posts of a corporate-government complex that has been slowly evolving over many decades. In efforts to enlarge their own powers and privileges, they are willing to have others suffer the intended or unintended consequences of their institutional or personal greed. For Americans, these consequences include chronic inflation, recurring recession, open and hidden unemployment, the poisoning of air, water, soil and bodies, and, more important, the subversion of our constitution. More broadly, consequences include widespread intervention in international politics through economic manipulation, covert action, or military invasion…”

This stealthy, creeping, silent coup that Gross prophesied is the same danger that writer Rod Serling envisioned in the 1964 political thriller Seven Days in May, a clear warning to beware of martial law packaged as a well-meaning and overriding concern for the nation’s security.

Incredibly enough, almost 60 years later, we find ourselves hostages to a government run more by military doctrine and corporate greed than by the rule of law established in the Constitution. Indeed, proving once again that fact and fiction are not dissimilar, today’s current events could well have been lifted straight out of Seven Days in May, which takes viewers into eerily familiar terrain.

The premise is straightforward.

With the Cold War at its height, an unpopular U.S. President signs a momentous nuclear disarmament treaty with the Soviet Union. Believing that the treaty constitutes an unacceptable threat to the security of the United States and certain that he knows what is best for the nation, General James Mattoon Scott (played by Burt Lancaster), the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and presidential hopeful, plans a military takeover of the national government.  When Gen. Scott’s aide, Col. Casey (Kirk Douglas), discovers the planned military coup, he goes to the President with the information. The race for command of the U.S. government begins, with the clock ticking off the hours until the military plotters plan to overthrow the President.

Needless to say, while on the big screen, the military coup is foiled and the republic is saved in a matter of hours, in the real world, the plot thickens and spreads out over the past half century.

We’ve been losing our freedoms so incrementally for so long—sold to us in the name of national security and global peace, maintained by way of martial law disguised as law and order, and enforced by a standing army of militarized police and a political elite determined to maintain their powers at all costs—that it’s hard to pinpoint exactly when it all started going downhill, but we’ve been on that fast-moving, downward trajectory for some time now.

 

The question is no longer whether the U.S. government will be preyed upon and taken over by the military industrial complex. That’s a done deal, but martial law disguised as national security is only one small part of the greater deception we’ve been fooled into believing is for our own good.

How do you get a nation to docilely accept a police state? How do you persuade a populace to accept metal detectors and pat downs in their schools, bag searches in their train stations, tanks and military weaponry used by their small town police forces, surveillance cameras in their traffic lights, police strip searches on their public roads, unwarranted blood draws at drunk driving checkpoints, whole body scanners in their airports, and government agents monitoring their communications?

Try to ram such a state of affairs down the throats of the populace, and you might find yourself with a rebellion on your hands. Instead, you bombard them with constant color-coded alerts, terrorize them with shootings and bomb threats in malls, schools, and sports arenas, desensitize them with a steady diet of police violence, and sell the whole package to them as being for their best interests.

This present military occupation of the nation’s capital by 25,000 troops as part of the so-called “peaceful” transfer of power from one administration to the next is telling.

This is not the language of a free people. This is the language of force.

Still, you can’t say we weren’t warned.

Back in 2008, an Army War College report revealed that “widespread civil violence inside the United States would force the defense establishment to reorient priorities in extremis to defend basic domestic order and human security.” The 44-page report went on to warn that potential causes for such civil unrest could include another terrorist attack, “unforeseen economic collapse, loss of functioning political and legal order, purposeful domestic resistance or insurgency, pervasive public health emergencies, and catastrophic natural and human disasters.”

In 2009, reports by the Department of Homeland Security surfaced that labeled right-wing and left-wing activists and military veterans as extremists (a.k.a. terrorists) and called on the government to subject such targeted individuals to full-fledged pre-crime surveillance. Almost a decade later, after spending billions to fight terrorism, the DHS concluded that the greater threat is not ISIS but domestic right-wing extremism.

Meanwhile, the police have been transformed into extensions of the military while the nation itself has been transformed into a battlefield. This is what a state of undeclared martial law looks like, when you can be arrested, tasered, shot, brutalized and in some cases killed merely for not complying with a government agent’s order or not complying fast enough. This hasn’t just been happening in crime-ridden inner cities. It’s been happening all across the country.

And then you’ve got the government, which has been steadily amassing an arsenal of military weapons for use domestically and equipping and training their “troops” for war. Even government agencies with largely administrative functions such as the Food and Drug Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Smithsonian have been acquiring body armor, riot helmets and shields, cannon launchers and police firearms and ammunition. In fact, there are now at least 120,000 armed federal agents carrying such weapons who possess the power to arrest.

Rounding out this profit-driven campaign to turn American citizens into enemy combatants (and America into a battlefield) is a technology sector that has been colluding with the government to create a Big Brother that is all-knowing, all-seeing and inescapable. It’s not just the drones, fusion centers, license plate readers, stingray devices and the NSA that you have to worry about. You’re also being tracked by the black boxes in your cars, your cell phone, smart devices in your home, grocery loyalty cards, social media accounts, credit cards, streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon, and e-book reader accounts.

 

So you see, January 6 and its aftermath provided the government and its corporate technocrats the perfect excuse to show off all of the powers they’ve been amassing so assiduously over the years.

Mind you, by “government,” I’m not referring to the highly partisan, two-party bureaucracy of the Republicans and Democrats.

I’m referring to “government” with a capital “G,” the entrenched Deep State that is unaffected by elections, unaltered by populist movements, and has set itself beyond the reach of the law.

I’m referring to the corporatized, militarized, entrenched bureaucracy that is fully operational and staffed by unelected officials who are, in essence, running the country and calling the shots in Washington DC, no matter who sits in the White House.

This is the hidden face of a government that has no respect for the freedom of its citizenry.

Brace yourself.

There is something being concocted in the dens of power, far beyond the public eye, and it doesn’t bode well for the future of this country.

Anytime you have an entire nation so mesmerized by the antics of the political ruling class that they are oblivious to all else, you’d better beware.

Anytime you have a government that operates in the shadows, speaks in a language of force, and rules by fiat, you’d better beware.

And anytime you have a government so far removed from its people as to ensure that they are never seen, heard or heeded by those elected to represent them, you’d better beware.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, we are at our most vulnerable right now.

All of those dastardly seeds we have allowed the government to sow under the guise of national security are bearing demon fruit.

The gravest threat facing us as a nation is not extremism but despotism, exercised by a ruling class whose only allegiance is to power and money.

Feature photo | Two White House Marine stand at the front doors at the US Capitol ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony, Jan. 20, 2021, in Washington. The door was damaged from last week’s violent protest. Jim Lo Scalzo | Pool via AP

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His books Battlefield America: The War on the American People and A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State are available online at www.amazon.com. He can be contacted at johnw@rutherford.orgClick here to read more of John Whitehead’s commentaries.

The post The Deep State’s Stealthy, Subversive, Silent Coup to Ensure Nothing Changes appeared first on MintPress News.

Murdoch son raps media for ‘toxic politics’ (Financial Times, Jan 18, 2020)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 19/01/2021 - 4:57am in

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Media

James Murdoch has castigated the US media for the ‘‘toxic politics’’ threatening American democracy, saying proprietors are as culpable as politicians who ‘‘know the truth but choose instead to propagate lies’’.

The remarks by Rupert Murdoch’s youngest son, in an interview with the Financial Times and a further joint statement with his wife Kathryn, are his strongest public rebuke of America’s news industry since he parted ways with the family business built by his father.

Asked whether America’s dominant conservative news network Fox News had played a role in the riot that rocked Washington on January 6, James Murdoch said media groups had amplified election disinformation, leaving ‘‘a substantial portion’’ of the public believing ‘‘a falsehood’’.

‘‘The damage is profound,’’ Mr Murdoch said. ‘‘The sacking of the Capitol is proof positive that what we thought was dangerous is indeed very, very much so. Those outlets that propagate lies to their audience have unleashed insidious and uncontrollable forces that will be with us for years.

‘‘I hope that those people who didn’t think it was that dangerous now understand, and that they stop,’’ he added, while noting he had not ‘‘seen any evidence of that yet’’.

During the interview, set up to discuss his latest digital venture in India, Mr Murdoch did not directly mention Fox News, his father, who founded it, or his brother Lachlan, the chief executive of the Fox Corporation.

Fox News did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The network has long stressed the divide between its opinion programming and news coverage. While many Fox News hosts have championed the policy agenda of Donald Trump, the network’s journalists have often broken stories critical of the President.

Mr Murdoch, who was chief executive of 21st Century Fox from 2015 to 2019, said he was also speaking on behalf of his wife Kathryn, with whom he has charted an independent path from the conservative politics of the Murdoch empire. The couple were big donors to US President-elect Joe Biden’s presidential campaign and have backed organisations fighting climate change and fake news.

Rupert Murdoch’s six children each received up to $US2 billion ($2.6 billion) from the break-up of his media empire and the sale of his entertainment businesses to Walt Disney in 2019. Overlooked in the family succession battle, James went on to use the funds to establish Lupa Systems, an investment vehicle to build a media portfolio.

In August, he withdrew completely from the family’s news operations, resigning from the board of News Corp – which owns a stable of titles ranging from the Wall Street Journal to The Sun – because of ‘‘disagreements over certain editorial content’’.

While his objections are well known, until now he has been relatively guarded with public criticism. James, along with his siblings, still owns a significant share of the family trust, which people close to the Murdochs have speculated might be used to influence the direction of the empire after Rupert relinquishes control.

‘‘Spreading disinformation – whether about the election, public health or climate change – has realworld consequences,’’ James and Kathryn Murdoch said in a joint statement following the FT interview.

‘‘Many media property owners have as much responsibility for this as the elected officials who know the truth but choose instead to propagate lies. We hope the awful scenes we have all been seeing will finally convince those enablers to repudiate the toxic politics they have promoted once and forever.’’

When asked whether he saw signs of change, Mr Murdoch replied that he prayed people would ‘‘come to their senses’’ and said there was bound to be ‘‘a reckoning’’ for media.

Owners of news organisations, he said, were ‘‘being co-opted by forces that only want to stay in power, or are manipulating our discourse from abroad and are only too happy to make a mess and burn things down’’.

Alex Barker is the Financial Times’ Global Media Editor. Original post here.

By ‘Force and Fraud’: Is This the End of the US Democracy Doctrine?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 19/01/2021 - 4:30am in

In an interview with the British newspaper, The Times, in 2015, former US Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, vehemently denied that exporting democracy to Iraq was the main motive behind the US invasion of that Arab country 12 years earlier.

Rumsfeld further alleged that “the idea that we could fashion a democracy in Iraq seemed to me unrealistic.” But the US’ top military chief was being dishonest. Writing in Mother Jones, Miles E. Johnson responded to Rumsfeld’s claim by quoting some of his previous statements where he, repeatedly, cited democracy as the main reason behind the US invasion, a war that was one of the most destructive since Vietnam.

Certainly, it was not Rumsfeld alone who brazenly promoted the democracy pretense. Indeed, ‘democracy’ was the buzzword, parroted by thousands of Americans: in government, the military, mainstream media, and the numerous think-tanks that dotted the intellectual and political landscape of Washington.

One could not help but reflect on the subject when, on January 6, thousands of Americans stormed the Washington Plaza, climbing the walls of Capitol Hill and taking over the US Congress. A country that has assigned itself the role of the defender of democracy worldwide, now stands unable to defend its own democracy at home.

 

In the case of Iraq, as soon as US soldiers stormed into Baghdad, they hurriedly occupied all government buildings and every symbol of Iraqi sovereignty. Triumphant soldiers were filmed rampaging through the offices of former Iraqi ministers, smoking their cigars, while placing their dirty boots on top of their desks. Bizarrely, similar scenes were repeated in Washington 1

7 years later, this time in the offices of top US legislators, including the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi.

In Iraq, from March 2003, ministers were hunted down, as their photos and names were circulated through what the US military referred to as Iraq’s ‘most wanted deck of cards’. In the American scenario, US Congressmen and women were forced to cower under their desks or to run for their lives.

The violent events in Washington have been depicted by US mainstream media as if a temporary crisis, instigated by a president who refuses to concede power peacefully and democratically. The truth, however, is far more complex. There is nothing transitory about any of this and, while Donald Trump is largely to blame for the bloody events of this day, the man is a symptom of America’s rooted democracy crisis, which is likely to worsen in the future.

Famed American linguist and historian, Noam Chomsky, has long argued that the US is not a democracy but a plutocracy, a country that is governed by the interests of the powerful few. He also argued that, while the US does operate based on formal democratic structures, these are largely dysfunctional. In an interview with Global Policy Journal in 2019, Chomsky further asserted that the “US Constitution was framed to thwart the democratic aspirations of most of the public.”

This has been evident for many years. Long before Trump became President, the dichotomy of American democracy has expressed itself in the way that the American people interact with their supposedly democratic institutions. For example, merely 20% of US adults trust their government, according to a Pew Research Center poll published last September. This number has remained relatively unchanged under previous administrations.

With the US economy rapidly sinking due to various factors, including the government’s mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic, the people’s distrust in government is now manifesting itself in new ways, including mass violence. The fact that 77% of those who voted for Trump in the November elections believe that Joe Biden’s win was due to fraud, suggests that a sizable percentage of Americans have little faith in their country’s democracy. The consequences of this realization will surely be dire.

America’s constitutional crisis, which is unlikely to be resolved in the current atmosphere of polarization, is compounded by an external political crisis. Historically, the US has defined and redefined its mission in the world based on lofty spiritual, moral and political maxims, starting with ‘Manifest Destiny’, to fighting communism, to eventually serving as the defender of human rights and democracy around the world. The latter was merely a pretense used to provide a moral cover that would allow the US to reorder the world for the sake of expanding its market and ensuring its economic dominance.

Thomas Paine, whose influence on US ideals of liberty and democracy is arguably unmatched, warned, in ‘Common Sense’ in 1776, against the potential tyranny of those who “attempt to govern mankind by force and fraud, as if they were all knaves and fools.”

Alas, Paine’s warning went unheeded. Indeed, the democracy ‘fraud’ that Rumsfeld, George W. Bush, et al carried out in Iraq in 2003, was a mere repetition of numerous other fraudulent military campaigns carried out around the world. The ‘protectors of democracy’ became the very men responsible for its undoing.

Unquestionably, the storming of US Congress will have global repercussions, not least among them the weakening of US hegemonic and self-serving definition of what constitutes a democracy. Is it possible that the US democracy doctrine could soon cease to be relevant in the lexicon of US foreign policy conduct, one that is predicated, per Paine’s logic, on “force and fraud”?

Feature photo | An Afghan boy watches Cpt. Chris Esrey of Havelock, North Carolina, with India, 3rd Battalion 5th Marines, First Marine Division, company, scan the area during a patrol in Sangin, south of Kabul, Afghanistan. Dusan Vranic | AP

Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of five books. His latest is “These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons” (Clarity Press). Dr. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA) and also at the Afro-Middle East Center (AMEC). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net

The post By ‘Force and Fraud’: Is This the End of the US Democracy Doctrine? appeared first on MintPress News.

A Reality-Show Coup with Real Fascists Inside

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 19/01/2021 - 3:53am in

Photo Credit: Johnny Silvercloud/Shutterstock.com On January 6, Donald Trump’s spectacular MAGA insurrection radiated far beyond Capitol Hill. It was screened...

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