Let’s Not Obsess Over Julian Assange’s Job Title, but Consider What Is the Real Story About His Extradition

June 23, 2022

By Martin Jay

Source

Assange will battle on now with an appeal against the UK decision to extradite him to the U.S. It’s time now for his own team to play the same dirty game which they have fallen victim to and forget about the foibles of journalists and the media

Is Julian Assange a journalist or a publisher? It’s a divisive question which usually draws the wrath of an entire legion of on-line haters, mainly in Australia, who assume the author is attacking the founder of Wikileaks and so rationale is lost to nationalistic vitriol and score settling. The so-called supporters usually fail to see how if that energy was put into campaigning rather than just letting off steam on Twitter against total strangers, then Assange might have a chance of attaining something akin to justice.

A gripping interview recently between George Galloway and the former UK ambassador Craig Murray, who I seem to recall on Twitter once used to call himself a journalist based simply on writing blog posts, is worth a watch. Murray points out like an erudite hack he yearns to be, a number of pertinent issues which might have escaped the attention of media who are apparently incapable in the UK of reporting on the Assange affair diligently – namely that the U.S. spied on Assange while he was in the Ecuadorian embassy and then, amazingly, stole all of his evidence which he was keeping with him, the moment the UK police went in and arrested him. This alone he argues, would be enough for any court in the free world to throw the case out. He also argues that in the past decade or so the relationship between the British press and the establishment – read intelligence community – has never been so partisan which is another reason why Assange’s case is not being treated correctly. Yet Murray refers to Assange as a “publisher and a journalist” which is interesting as the case against Assange, if he is to be deemed a journalist, will have wide ranging implications to regular journalists if won by the U.S. – i. e that the Americans win their legal battle in the UK to extradite him on what they believe are essentially spying charges. If Assange is to be called a journalist by his supporters, then does it follow that the legal basis against him will be one of a journalist who has brought the profession into disrepute? Shouldn’t the journalists on the Guardian who published the polemic material that Assange and Wikileaks gave them, also be facing U.S. extradition for being partisan to publishing material, which in a third world country, would no doubt be deemed “likely to threaten the stability of the state”.

But the U.S., although a young country, is not a poor one and we are led to believe a great democracy. The case against Assange, no matter how vile it is, we should not forget is about his role in obtaining and disseminating state secrets. Journalists will no doubt follow the case with eagerness as many will wonder if they will face the same treatment if they handle a document which is protected by the UK’s official secrets act, which is why so many are part of the hue and cry about it being a dark day for journalism. They will reflect on how they will be arrested and extradited if they handle such ‘documents’ even if they are British subjects living in the UK.

Yet the case against Assange is surely about more than merely publishing the incendiary cables which exposed America’s dirty wars but in the role that he played in assisting Chelsea Manning in obtaining them. It is also about point scoring with Russia as the U.S. believes that Assange also leaked the Clinton emails, which played a decisive role in Trump winning the U.S. presidential race in 2016 against the odious former First Lady and Secretary of State.

The problem that Assange – or his supporters have – with the ‘journalist’ argument which points out the harm the case will do towards the fourth estate is flawed twofold. Firstly, the fear has already been installed by the UK and U.S. governments towards journalists who handle contentious documents which reveal state secrets about conflict, for example. And secondly, the respect and reverence that people placed on the profession of journalism is so little that it is hardly surprising the shameful role that the UK press has played recently in failing to rally behind Assange.

Assange’s people almost put the final boot in, when it comes to destroying the credibility of the press by calling him a journalist (out of respect) when even his own wife calls him a publisher. The distinct ubiquitous lack of respect towards bona fide journalists and their work, which is more often than not tedious, repetitive and pretty mundane, perhaps is linked to a more modern idea that anyone with a laptop who writes a blog can call themselves a journalist – and underlines the lack of credibility that media has in general, which we can see when its workers come under fire.

Of course the arrest of Assange in the first place is wrong on so many levels. As one of his many journalism awards he won by media institutions points out though he is not a journalist but more an enfant terrible of the media bubble who delivers the explosive brown envelope with the grainy photographed photocopies of documents which can easily bring down a government or even the neo-liberal new world order. It is more about the thief who breaks into the house and cracks the safe, rather than the actual items he has taken, in the U.S. mindset.

Institutions which dish out press awards often give them to non-journalists. It’s the fashion. But when you glance at the awards themselves, it’s not hard to see the political ardour behind them. Many of his awards are for “contribution towards journalism”, “activism”, “human rights” or even “defenders of the right to information” etc and only confirm his important role is supplying journalists with the material that they couldn’t lay their hands on themselves. Perhaps this makes him a subject of jealously and vitriol, which might explain how the Guardian stabbed him in the back when he wanted to share his work with the New York Times or when their editors clashed with him when he (Assange) wanted to scan documents to blank out names to protect those whose lives could be threatened once going to press, if we are to believe Murray’s claims (there are equally a great many who claim that Wikileaks compromised lives by not protecting identities with the rush to publish).

We should never forget though that the U.S. and UK government both have an impressive loathing of journalists and so if this narrative of being one and exercising free speech etc is sustained, many will argue that it is a dead end and will only end badly – perhaps this is why his wife referred to him in a BBC interview as a “publisher”. Assange may well be a genius, but he never sat down and wrote a regular article for publication with his own explosive material in front of him. Perhaps he never had the patience for journalism or the time. We should follow his wife Stella Moris’ lead and call him a “publisher” and leave the whole journalism and free speech debate alone as, in reality, hardly anybody these days gives a shit about such notions – except politicians who harp on about them but then turn their back on such lofty ideas the moment a journalist digs up some shit on them. One tends to think of labour leaders like Neil Kinnock in the past. These days however few politicians even jump on this bandwagon as they know that hardly anybody really cares about this subject, although it is interesting that the current Labour leader Keir Starmer has an odd obsession with Assange whose revelations tarnish Tony Blair and his labour party’s time in power.

Perhaps Assange’s team and his supporters should spend more time absorbing themselves with the notion of the politics of his case as surely therein lies the heart of his extradition being annulled. Every time I see an article in the UK press about the implications of the Assange against journalists, I want to cry as this is the conscious reckoning which journalists and politicians effect to kid themselves that they have done something to help Assange, when in reality they are merely helping the Americans with their dirty game to get Assange to a jail in the U.S. where almost certainly he will be assassinated just as Epstein was in his cell. The only way Assange can hope to get a really fair trial with his appeal is if politicians like Boris Johnson and others feel that they will lose their support and the history books will be unkind to them. Politics is a dirty game and no one knows that more than Assange. Such a shame that there aren’t enough supporters who are prepared to play the same dirty game. Or not even one journalist in Fleet Street who is prepared to lose his job and be singled out for putting his weight behind an online campaign from the media itself which would spook the political establishment.

AMLO yet again blows the whistle on Julian Assange, educating his journalists

June 23, 2022

Source

By Amarynth

The President of Mexico has now again offered full asylum to Julian Assange.

“Mexico opens the doors to Assange,” the president declared.

It is good to remember that AMLO spoke to Trump and offered asylum and he is now promising to speak to Biden, to again offer asylum.

AMLO’s briefing to journalists included playing the ‘collateral murder’ clip.

Ben Norton of Multipolarista.com has the detail of AMLO’s briefing, full of fire, as well as the history of shame of those that bleat democracy, protection of human rights, or freedom of expression, without applying these values to themselves, but using them as a stick to beat others.

Will Canadian media report on Ukraine’s kill list (which I’m on)? Will government Canada–so concerned about journalists’ safety–condemn it?

 

Eva Bartlett

Of course those are rhetorical questions. I know Canada’s corporate-funded & owned media will never show integrity, much less report honestly, much less *not* whitewash the crimes of Ukraine against the people of the Donbass and also Ukrainian people themselves. Journalists of Maverick media, however, were kind enough to reach out to me for an honest interview, expressing shock and concern that Ukraine has such a kill list and that I’m on it.

I was on RT yesterday to discuss the list. I also raised the points that CBC has seemingly no intention to highlight the kill list, instead reaching out to me for what, in my experience with similar corporate owned propagandizing media, would only be an interview to smear me & take my words out of context, as they did to another Canadian journalist not long ago.

As I’ve noted, a CBC stenographer reached out to me after belatedly learning of my involvement with the International Public Tribunal on Ukraine in Moscow in April. The thing is, it wasn’t highly publicized in English, and I didn’t share on my blog or on Telegram or social media in general, for want of a link at the time. So, how did he come across the event? It’s highly unlikely this CBC hack peruses Russian Telegram channels. It’s almost certainly likely he learned of it via Ukraine’s kill list entry on me.

So, instead of reaching out to me to discuss the fact that I, a Canadian journalist, have been listed for assassination by Ukraine, CBC/the hack instead want to highlight my participation in a tribunal to discuss Ukraine’s war crimes–but you can be sure they will distort reality (as CBC can only do) & obfuscate Ukraine’s amply-documented war crimes.

In short, CBC wants to smear me on behalf of Ukraine & its Nazis.

Let’s recall that Canada has funded Ukraine with at least $1 billion; Canada’s Deputy PM Chrystia Freeland is proud of her grandfather who collaborated with Nazis, CBC is very partial government-funded media with a legacy of propagandizing for Canada and selling war.

In fact, CBC is despised by Canadians. There were too many excellent replies on my threads to choose from, but from the many comments it’s clear that more and more people don’t trust the CBC and see it as the propaganda arm of Canada that it is.

Amnesty urges UAE to free 10 inmates kept beyond sentences

 May 30, 2022

Source: Agencies

By Al Mayadeen English 

The ten UAE citizens were among 69 nationals arrested in 2012 and sentenced to up to 15 years in prison in 2013.

The ten UAE citizens were among 94 defendants, including 13 women.

Amnesty International called on the UAE, on Monday, to “immediately” release ten men who it said were being arbitrarily detained after serving their sentences.

They were detained “under the guise of counter-extremism counseling,” according to Amnesty.

The ten UAE citizens were among 69 nationals arrested in 2012 and sentenced to up to 15 years in prison in 2013.

They were also among 94 defendants, including 13 women.

In a statement, Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director Lynn Maalouf said, “These men have already spent a decade behind bars for daring to speak out against the Emirati authorities or being perceived as political opposition, and now this injustice is being prolonged past their long-awaited release dates.” 

“UAE authorities must immediately release anyone detained beyond the completion of their prison sentence, and cease the unlawful practice of arbitrarily extending prison terms,” Maalouf stressed.

The sentence was based on charges of plotting to overthrow the government, which Amnesty International criticized as “grossly unfair”, slamming the charges as “bogus”.

According to the official WAM news agency at the time, the Federal Supreme Court sentenced 56 of the 94 defendants to ten years in prison each.

Five defendants were sentenced to seven years in prison each, while eight others who were tried in absentia were sentenced to 15 years, according to the report.

A total of 25 people, including all 13 women arrested during the crackdown, were acquitted.

Their trial was considered the largest in the UAE’s history.

This is clear proof that the UAE continues to violate serious human rights, including arbitrary detention, cruel and inhuman treatment of detainees, repression of free expression, and violation of the right to privacy. 

Go deeper: The Pegasus Project: UAE as a Model

Furthermore, UAE has continued to deny stateless people the right to nationality, limiting their access to a variety of basic services. Death sentences were handed down by courts, and executions were reported.

CENSORING PALESTINE: SWARMS OF ISRAELI BOTS ARE CRIPPLING PRO-PALESTINIAN TWITTER ACCOUNTS

MAY 17TH, 2022

Source

By Jessica Buxbaum

OCCUPIED EAST JERUSALEM — On April 29, Inès Abdel Razek woke up to 80 new Twitter followers.

“These accounts were following the exact same people that were tweeting about Palestine, but from France or Francophone accounts that work on Palestine,” Razek said of her new followers.

The advocacy director of Rābet, the Palestine Institute for Public Diplomacy’s digital platform, became wary of the issue after Abier Khateb, a grants manager at Open Society Foundations, reported mass followings as well.

Razek told MintPress News that she began individually reporting each account as fake but kept her own account open — lest she let the alleged bots win. But after a few days, Razek made her profile private. At the peak of the mass following, Razek had accumulated 400 fake followers.

From the end of April through the first few weeks of May, more than 40 pro-Palestine Twitter accounts reported mass followings. Digital-rights experts say acquiring huge amounts of fake followers triggers Twitter’s algorithm and can lead to the tech giant suspending an account, effectively censoring users by forcing them to make their accounts private.

These accounts included those belonging to human rights and activist organizations Adalah, Combatants for Peace, Breaking the Silence, and Al Mezan Center for Human Rights. They also included news publications and journalists, like The Palestine Chronicle, Ali Abunimah and Hind Al-Eryani; and politicians, such as Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian ambassador to the United Kingdom. Twitter did not respond to MintPress inquiries on the source of the suspicious accounts.

Dr. Marc Owen Jones, an assistant professor at Hamad bin Khalifa University, conducted an analysis that found more than 1,150 fake accounts. Twitter deleted approximately 1,090 of these accounts, according to Jones. His analysis determined that the average account-creation time was one to three per minute, suggesting these accounts were created using an automated process.

The profiles were in various languages, including French, Spanish, English and German, but usually had Arabic bios. They often had strange names — like Noble Betty Thomas — and zero followers.

“They had clearly made-up names,” Sarah Leah Whitson, who also experienced a large influx of new followers, told MintPress. “The vast majority of them had Israeli names and Israeli addresses. Some of them had made-up Arab names, which were mangled. It’s clear that they’re [using] stolen images of people.”

In response to the bulk followings, software developer Daniel Easterman created a free script to automatically report and block hundreds of these bots for users.

Easterman said the spamming problem has a censorship effect by forcing users to make their accounts private. “This means they won’t be able to distribute their messages widely as they would normally,” Easterman told MintPress News.

Another area of particular concern is how a flood of fake followers may cause Twitter to shut down an account. “When you see such a dramatic increase in followers, it’s usually somebody manipulating the system for commercial gain,” Easterman said. “So that could trigger Twitter to automatically flag that as suspicious activity and suspend the activist’s account.”

Using Twitter to target human rights defenders and journalists isn’t unusual. In 2017, journalist Iona Craig and others who report on Yemen were spammed with thousands of fake followers. Many speculated the culprits were state entities belonging to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The reason behind this particular mass following campaign remains unknown. Jones hypothesized it’s acting as a form of social media suppression, writing on Twitter:

Some suggest it’s a means to degrade the algorithmic quality of a Twitter account so that it possibly gets suspended; some suggest it’s others trying to boost popularity of an account. When it’s unsolicited, as in this case, I tend to think it’s more of a targeting operation. I am naturally cynical, but most people who get a sudden influx of fake followers feel unnerved and uncomfortable. If that fact is widely known, it functions as a tool of surveillance and potentially intimidation (e.g., you are being watched). It also makes many people mute their accounts for a bit which has a censorship effect.”

Razek, Whitson, and others told MintPress that the flood of fake followers appears to be diminishing for them. However, a new operation has emerged.

In the past week, Jones found around 2,800 fake accounts following pro-Palestinian and anti-Zionist accounts who have recently been tweeting on the killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu-Akleh.

“This network is likely the same as the one found at [the] end of April, although now it is active,” Jones wrote on Twitter.

The accounts have between 0 to 20 followers, with the majority of bios written in English and simply stating the account location, which is Israel. Most accounts don’t have a banner picture and the profile pictures have purportedly been swiped from real people.

According to Jones, the accounts have begun liking and retweeting posts, without any real partisan regularity: they like both pro- and anti-Palestinian subject matter and follow both pro-Zionist and pro-Palestinian accounts but appear to target the pro-Palestinian side more. Accounts targeted include The Jerusalem Post; the government of Israel’s official state account; activist organization Jewish Voice for Peace; the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement; Israeli journalist Ilan Pappe; and former Palestinian Liberation Organization executive committee member Dr. Hanan Ashrawi.

Again, the reason for the bulk followers remains unclear. “Those who get followed understandably find it intimidating, as if a form of surveillance or a technique to try and degrade [the] quality of an account with low-quality follows,” Jones wrote on Twitter. “The fact remains, these are clearly fake accounts and ruin the experience of Twitter.”

CENSORSHIP OF PALESTINE, AN ONGOING PROBLEM

Palestinian digital-rights experts have long decried the increasing censorship of Palestinian content online. During Israel’s assault on Gaza and the upticks in Israeli attacks at Al-Aqsa Compound and in Sheikh Jarrah in May 2021, Palestinian activists reported social media companies were removing their content on Israeli violence and ethnic cleansing for violating community guidelines.

The social media censorship didn’t stop when tensions died down over the summer, though. Last month, social media users in Jordan said their posts related to Israeli violence at Al-Aqsa were taken down and their accounts blocked. Additionally, accounts belonging to Palestinian news publications covering the violence in occupied East Jerusalem and at Al-Aqsa were deactivated by Facebook.

In their recent monthly report on social media violations, Palestinian NGO Sada Social stated the deletion of Palestinian content “is in line with and in response to Israeli requests to tighten the screws on Palestinians and their media.”

Palestinian-American model Bella Hadid also accused Instagram of shadow-banning (having content viewership limited) her pro-Palestinian content during Ramadan.

Razek suggested the swarm of fake followers on Twitter may be an extension of Instagram’s alleged shadow-banning. “The purpose is to pollute our algorithms and make our accounts less visible. So in the way that Instagram is shadow-banning some content, this could be a way that Twitter shadow-bans our content,” she said.

While the identities behind the fake followers haven’t been revealed, many have pointed to Israel. The Israeli government’s targeting of Palestinian digital content is well-documented. According to 7amleh – The Arab Center for the Advancement of Social Media, the Israeli Ministry of Justice Cyber Unit sends content-removal requests aimed at Palestinian content to social media companies such as Facebook, Google, and YouTube. The Justice Ministry has boasted these corporations comply with 95% of their requests. And Israeli governmental organizations and NGOs also encourage their citizens to flag Palestinian content for removal.

ATTACKING FREE SPEECH

Tech billionaire Elon Musk’s pending purchase of Twitter came with a promise of securing free speech on the digital platform. “Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated,” the self-declared free-speech advocate said in a statement about his Twitter deal.

While digital-rights experts like Jones are wary of Musk’s potential Twitter takeover, Whitson, who’s experienced targeted attacks, harassment, and censorship threats for decades for speaking out against Israeli abuses, views the buyout positively.  For the executive director of nonprofit Democracy for the Arab World (DAWN), the risk of corporate censorship is a bigger issue than online hate speech. Whitson said:

I’m hopeful that Elon Musk will be true to his word to protect and promote free speech and to end concerted efforts to target and cancel speech that we don’t like. Seeing how Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram have launched systematic efforts to silence pro-Palestine activist voices, I’m very wary of corporate moderators deciding what speech is and isn’t acceptable.”

Whitson doesn’t agree the bots are a form of censorship, but she does see them as an assault on free speech. “It’s a form of targeted harassment and bullying,” she said. “It’s a targeted attack on people who are speaking freely, including journalists and human rights activists.”

Kingdom of Blood: Saudi Regime Beheads Two Activists from Qatif Province

May 15, 2022

By Staff, Agencies

The Saudi kingdom of blood has yet another time committed a heinous crime against the peaceful activists of the Shia-populated Qatif province.

As part of a heavy-handed crackdown led by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman [MBS] against political dissidents and pro-democracy campaigners, the Riyadh regime executed two young men from the Qatif over trumped-up allegations of involvement in terrorist activities.

The Saudi Ministry of Interior alleged in a statement on Saturday that the death sentences were carried out against Hussein Ali Al Abu Abdullah and Mohammad Khodr al-Awami.

The ministry further claimed that the Saudi nationals “collaborated with terrorist groups, fomented unrest and insecurity in the country, possessed weapons, ammunition as well as rocket-propelled grenades and attempted to disrupt national security.”

Last month, two human rights organizations filed a complaint at the United Nations against arbitrary executions in Saudi Arabia, especially after the execution of dozens of prisoners in a single day in the ultra-conservative kingdom.

The European Saudi Organization for Human Rights [ESOHR] and Reprieve, a UK-based non-profit organization of international lawyers and investigators, said the Riyadh regime openly declared its disregard for international principles as well as its commitments and obligations through the executions of 81 men, 41 of whom were Shia Muslims, in March.

Social media users have reported heavy deployment of Saudi security forces in the city of Qatif to crush any protest against the recent execution of scores of dissidents.

State news agency Saudi Press Agency said on March 12 that the authorities had executed 81 people in one day on a variety of offences.

The 2022 executions exceeded the total number of Saudi Arabia’s punishments by death throughout last year.

Back in early January 2016, Saudi authorities also executed 47 people, including prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, who had vociferously called for democracy in the kingdom and advocated anti-regime protests. Nimr had been arrested in Qatif, Eastern Province, in 2012.

Since 2015, Saudi Arabia has reportedly executed more than 900 prisoners in an increasing rate. In 2019 alone, Saudi Arabia set a record number of executions after authorities executed 184 people, despite a general decrease in the number of executions around the world.

Ever since MBS became Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader in 2017, the kingdom has arrested dozens of activists, bloggers, intellectuals and others perceived as political opponents, showing almost zero tolerance for dissent even in the face of international condemnations of the crackdown.

Human rights activists warn that Saudi officials are planning to execute over 40 teenagers over their participation in anti-regime protests in the Shia-majority Qatif region.

Muslim scholars have been executed and women’s rights campaigners have been put behind bars and tortured as freedom of expression, association, and belief continue to be denied.

Over the past years, Riyadh has also redefined its anti-terrorism laws to target activism.

Say No To Censorship: Here’s How We’re Rebuilding Alternative Media 

A CALL TO ACTION

May 09th, 2022

Source

With the war in Ukraine raging on and corporate media outlets pushing a pro-NATO agenda – we’ve entered war time and having access to alternative information is crucial to preventing escalation.

By Mnar Adley

I’m Mnar Adley, founder, and editor-in-chief of MintPress News and director of our new video project “Behind the Headlines.”

I have an urgent appeal to make to everyone who cares not only for our first amendment but for the future of our planet. Independent, watchdog journalism that holds the military class accountable is under threat.

With the war in Ukraine raging on and corporate media outlets pushing a pro-NATO agenda – we’ve entered war time and having access to alternative information to the war machine is crucial to preventing escalation. We are now facing the very real threat of nuclear war.

We’re experiencing censorship unlike anything we’ve faced before, and MintPress and other antiwar media have been facing 5 years of algorithmic shadowbanning by Big Tech.

In the last month alone, independent antiwar journalists have been targeted in organized smear campaigns, de-platformed, given “state affiliated” labels on their accounts, and even outright purged off of social media platforms. Youtube has deleted hundreds of thousands of historical videos from prominent antiwar journalists and activists including Abby Martin, Chris Hedges, and Lee Camp, and is demonetizing political content everywhere in an effort to defund antiwar efforts. Our very own Gofundme fundraisers were taken down without reason or an opportunity to appeal.

What this amounts to is little more than a modern-day book burning. The work of the most important dissenting voices of our time is being discredited. Division is being sowed and any information that challenges the corporate and military establishment’s agenda is censored. Meanwhile, the bank accounts of executives at Raytheon and Lockheed Martin are being filled at a record pace.

For the last several years, MintPress has been at the forefront of sounding the alarm about the deep state working with silicon valley tech giants like Google, Facebook, and Twitter to control your news feed and ensure that any alternative narrative is algorithmically disappeared. But we’re not backing down because the future of our planet and the prosperity of peace and justice depends on our reporting.

This is why I consulted with anti-censorship, pro-free press, and human rights experts on our nonprofit board– including Mickey Huff, president of the Media Freedom Foundation and the director of Project Censored; FBI whistleblower, Coleen Rowley; and international human rights attorney, Todd Pierce– to create a new video reporting project called Behind The Headlines. To help us build this project we will need your support.

We need to raise $400,000 in the next year, so we’re creating our first phase fundraiser to be stated for $200,000.

Join us here: We’re LIVE on Indiegogo! 

Behind The Headlines Ad

Our goal is to create a video platform that is a 100% people-funded non-profit with the most important dissenting names in independent media that have felt the brunt of this censorship campaign.

We’re working with Political Comedian Lee Camp and filmmaker and investigative journalist Dan Cohen.

In addition to the Behind the Headlines board, we also have an esteemed board of advisors, including John Pilger, Abby Martin, Miko Peled, Ollie Vargas, and Dr. Ramzy Baroud.

Lee Camp follows a long line of political comedians from George Carlin to Bill Hicks ……. We’re giving him a platform with full editorial freedom to write and produce his own political comedy show.

Lee Camp’s shows are like a form of investigative comedy. They give the audience something to think about regarding key issues of the day that are often either distorted in the establishment press or ignored altogether. Given the many challenges we face from the climate crisis to war and the global pandemic, it’s important to laugh when and how we can, otherwise, we’d just have to wail and cry. Lee blends wit and dark humor with quality reporting that is truly a call to action.

Dan Cohen is a jack of all trades. He’s an investigative journalist based in Washington DC reporting from the belly of the beast. He’s currently working on several guerilla-style documentaries where he traveled to the heart of conflicts targeted by U.S. imperialism and corporate pillaging– the first is a three-part series about a revolution in formation in Haiti. Another is about the failures of the peace accord in Colombia.

Another covers the resistance movement in Gaza and Israel’s temple movement and plans to destroy al-Aqsa Mosque as part of an end of times prophecy. All of these issues can be traced in some manner back to U.S. empire and efforts to create and maintain instability around the world. In addition to documentaries and written investigations, Dan is also leading our video investigative series called Behind The Headlines. He has already exposed the murky connections between corporate media, the Pentagon, the Biden administration, and much more.

For far too long, some of America’s most talented journalists have been forced to turn to foreign state media to produce watchdog journalism after being ousted and ostracized from U.S. mainstream media outlets. Those outlets have utterly failed the public and specialize in producing fast food news that is sensationalized, divisive, and wor as a mouthpiece for the two-party duopoly, weapons manufacturers like Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, and hawkish think NATO-funded think tanks.

We don’t have watchdog media anymore, we have extremist corporate media lapdogs beating the drums of war and acting as stenographers for the government.

We can’t rely on the legacy media in our own countries to tell us what’s really happening at home and around the world, and we shouldn’t have to rely on foreign state media outlets to fill in those holes. Instead, we must create our own.

The truth is we can’t continue to wait for the oligarchy to give us a media that represents “we the people.” It’s time that we unite on a broader front of non-partisanship that holds the elite accountable – in the spirit that journalism was intended by our First Amendment – to revive the fourth estate and create our very own media that goes Behind The Headlines.

It’s time that we put our money where our mouth is because our First Amendment and its free press, and free speech principles are on life support.

But to help us build this project we will need your support. We need to raise $400,000 in the next year, so we’re creating our first phase fundraiser to be stated for $200,000. This two-month campaign will support:

  • Lee Camp’s new weekly political comedy show ‘The Most Censored News with Lee Camp’
  • Production of four documentaries by Dan Cohen:
    • Endgame Apocalypse: Inside Israel’s Temple Mount movement and its plans to destroy al-Aqsa Mosque [Trailer coming soon]
    • Israel’s May 2021 assault on Gaza and the armed resistance that won the war [Trailer coming soon]
    • Inside Colombia’s narco-state and plot between the DEA and the Colombian government to plunge the country into a state of civil war
    • A three-part series on Haiti’s rising resistance movement against neoliberalism and occupation and how the U.S. is trying to quash it
  • A monthly Behind The Headlines Report, an investigative video project with Dan Cohen covering the military-industrial complex, how propaganda works and much more.
  • Weekly Video Podcast interview series with Mnar Adley

The funds for this campaign will help us cover all the production and editing costs, social media, and travel costs associated with creating high-quality video content and documentaries. In addition to this, the funds will help us cover the costs of launching our website. I hope you’ll join us today on Indiegogo! 

Mnar Adley

Director of Behind The Headlines and MintPress News 

Saudi Authorities Hide Abuses in Migrant Centers amid Wave of Arrests

 May 7, 2022

By Bileh Jelan, Zecharias Zelalem-MEE

Saudi authorities are concealing rampant abuses and pitiful conditions at migrant detention centers while continuing to arrest thousands of African and Yemeni migrants, Middle East Eye can reveal.

Ethiopians tell MEE they are being beaten, extorted, and left in putrid, overcrowded rooms as thousands of people are rounded up and deported from across the kingdom

People are seen crammed in a migrant detention centre in Saudi Arabia (supplied)

Cramped conditions in a migrant detention centre in Saudi Arabia (supplied)

Ethiopian migrants awaiting deportation said Saudi authorities have conducted mass searches of the centers, confiscating phones and any devices that could be used to relay images of their suffering to the outside world.

The sources said the crackdown was an attempt to prevent their conditions from being broadcast to the world during Ramadan, which would risk criticism and uproar in the Muslim world during the holy month.

Police have also ordered people set for deportation to sign non-disclosure agreements forbidding them from talking to journalists about their experiences.

“They came in here looking for phones because they don’t want the world to see images of our suffering here,” says Semir, an Ethiopian migrant currently held at a deportation center in Riyadh. “When they would find a phone, they would beat up the owner with batons.”

The number of Ethiopian detainees held at various migrant detention centers has swelled in recent months. In an attempt to ease the burden, Saudi authorities reached an agreement with Ethiopia in March to fly out at least 100,000 Ethiopians, many of whom were detained in waves of anti-migrant crackdowns last year.

Ethiopians held in the centers have told MEE that they are given little to eat and are held for months in putrid, overcrowded rooms.

“People are going mad here. There is little food and many of us haven’t been outdoors in almost nine months,” says Nebil, a detainee in Riyadh. “We used to get a piece of bread three times a day. Since Ramadan, we get it only once, at night.”

The Saudi foreign ministry has not responded to a request for comment.

In 2020, smartphones smuggled into two migrant detention centers captured graphic images depicting hundreds of emaciated African men, some appearing to be on the brink of death, in cramped quarters where sewage flowed and disease was rampant.

Rights groups confirmed that abuse and deaths were commonplace at these centers and in October 2020, the European Union parliament passed a resolution condemning Saudi Arabia for its mistreatment of migrants.

The uproar eventually led to tens of thousands of migrants being repatriated throughout 2021, many of whom are struggling to cope with enduring trauma.

But many remained behind in the facilities, with Ethiopia’s government preoccupied last year by the county’s civil war and rebel fighters threatening to attack the capital city.

Eventually, the outcry of social media users and relatives in Ethiopia is believed to have pushed Ethiopian officials to send a high-level delegation to Riyadh earlier this year, to begin negotiating the return of their citizens.

Since an agreement was signed in March, thousands of Ethiopians have returned to their homeland, with another 1,031 landing in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on Wednesday.

However, mass arrests by Saudi authorities continue to target thousands more, with 15,000 migrants, almost all of them Ethiopians and Yemenis, detained in a single week in March alone.

As a result, detention centers aren’t emptying, and the abuse persists, according to detainees. 

“This place is disease-ridden. Everyone grows sick because they leave us to live and eat on a filthy floor with the stench of urine everywhere,” one told MEE.

The statements by the migrants about the conditions at the detention centers appear to correspond with the assessment of staffers from the International Organization for Migration [IOM] and other UN agencies supporting relief efforts at returnee reception centers in Ethiopia.

“In addition to injuries and illnesses suffered due to the hazardous journey, the IOM has observed that communicable diseases, such as tuberculosis and skin conditions are prevalent among returnees,” says Yvonne Ndege, spokesperson for the agency’s East and Horn of Africa office.

“Prolonged periods in overcrowded and unsanitary facilities may well be a contributing factor to this issue.”

MEE spoke to nine inmates at the Riyadh deportation center and the infamous al-Shumaisi prison near Mecca. Detainees used mobile phones with no internet connection that survived the pre-Ramadan purge.

“We have been left here to rot,” said Ali, a migrant at al-Shumaisi center. “Since they put me here, I’ve seen diplomats from Chad, Ghana, and Somalia come to inquire about their citizens. Nobody from the Ethiopian embassy has visited even though Ethiopians are the majority here.”

Ali added that while beatings of migrants and poor sanitation have long been the norm, he revealed that in recent months, prison officials have begun extorting the families of detainees.

“Every week, the guards come here with what they call a ‘souq’ [market]. They bring clean water, biscuits, and other items from outside. We can only purchase these items by having our families transfer money to the personal accounts of guards and prison staff. But they charge us more than the price on the Saudi market, and they pocket a lot of the money transferred to them.”

Ethiopia’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Lencho Bati, appeared unwilling to address accusations of neglect by his office, nor claims that extortion and abuse by Saudi prison officials are ongoing in the centers.

“I am returning to Riyadh from Mecca. Let’s talk after Eid,” he told MEE. Bati is yet to respond to a request for comment sent after the Eid holiday.

Many of the detainees are among the tens of thousands who are estimated each year to trek along the extremely dangerous migrant corridor from East Africa, across the Red Sea, into Yemen, and up to Saudi Arabia. But others had spent up years living and working legally in the kingdom prior to being arrested.

“I spent seven years working for a company in Jeddah. I never needed assistance and provided for my loved ones,” said Omer, another migrant at al-Shumaisi.

“But my company laid me off as it went bankrupt because of the pandemic. Without an employer, I couldn’t renew my residency papers. I was arrested shortly after my papers expired.”

Semir added that this was the case with many of the new arrivals that had flooded the Riyadh facility he is currently held at. Nearly 10,000 of those detained in the March crackdown were singled out for residency permit issues.

“Imagine being a driver for a company one day, and then suddenly being forced to squat in a tiny, crowded room with no food and contagious skin rashes the next day. It’s tragic,” Semir said.

Three Ethiopians deported home described being told to sign non-disclosure agreements instructing them to avoid speaking about their experiences in detention. One said the officer warned that “legal action would be taken against violators even in Ethiopia”.

Others, meanwhile, weren’t actually migrants, but Saudi-born children of Ethiopian migrants who under Saudi law aren’t eligible for citizenship.

Aisha, 18, spent four months at al-Shumaisi before being put aboard a flight to her parents’ country. She recalled the night when the immigration police, known as “jawazat”, raided her family’s home in Mecca and arrested her alongside her brother and father.

Both Aisha and her brother were born in Saudi Arabia and have lived there all their lives.

“They came unannounced at night and broke down the door. They used foul language while addressing us and escorted us to a minibus they brought along with the raiding party,” she said while fighting back tears. “It was very humiliating.”

Many returnees to Ethiopia are suffering from mental illness, alongside recovering from the physical abuse they endured. Mental health workers at returnee centers are already under strain.

The IOM’s Yvonne Ndege said that in addition to the counselling and psychosocial support the IOM is providing, “many returnees also often require intensive and clinical psychiatric care when they arrive home”.

Is Western Media Capable of Killing a U.S. Blogger Who Didn’t Sign Up to Washington’s Manufactured Consent in Ukraine?

April 27, 2022

Source

By Martin Jay

Gonzalo Lira’s merciless attack by the Daily Beast will be remembered for years and make many hacks think before taking a swipe at America’s finest institutions.

The disappearance of U.S. citizen journalist Gonzalo Lira looked like a new low point for the war in Ukraine. Sure, at least six western journalists so far have been killed in the conflict but the Chilean-born Lira’s case was quite special on so many levels – chiefly that in mid-April he seemed to have been taken by Ukrainian forces (or neo-Nazi brigades which they support) after being tipped off by a western media outlet. Or at least that’s what Lira claims in his last video clip he posted just hours before disappearing. Remarkably, he claims if he were to be killed, it would be down to a petulant reaction from journalists working for the Daily Beast, who he seems to have clashed with – and who took it upon themselves to tell the Ukrainian government his exact location.

Another point which made Lira’s disappearance so unique and sets him above the others who have died is the man himself. It is practically unheard of for journalists in Ukraine to “cross the line” and to report from the side of the conflict where their own sympathies do not jar. In other words, Lira, although among Ukrainian citizens in regions which were held by Ukrainian forces was, unlike the vast majority of western journalists, not at all sympathetic in any way to Zelensky and his government and was considered to be pro-Russian. This makes Lira incredibly special and perhaps a one off. He took a very critical if not cynical view of the Ukrainian elite and tried to report from a colder, more neutral position – questioning everything that he was shown by the Ukrainians – than his colleagues, and in doing so was branded a “Russian spy” which was all it took for the hysteria to be whipped up and for the dogs to be set upon him.

But his claims that it was the Daily Beast which could have been responsible for his kidnapping is worrying as it is unprecedented. At first glance, it seems far-fetched until you read the character assassination article which The Beast wrote about him, red it tooth and claw dripping with vitriol, as a childish response to Lira posting a video on social media running down the outlet. Lira claims in his last tearful video clip to his followers that if he is not heard of within 12 hours, then his certainly captured by Ukrainian security services and that it is the Daily Beast which is responsible for his capture, as, he claims, it tipped off the Ukrainians to his exact whereabouts.

If this were to be true, then the war in Ukraine has hit a new low with western media apparently playing a more intensified partisan role than ever before and taking that position to new depths never seen before in Syria, Iraq or the former Yugoslavia. It spells the end of bona fide journalism in conflict zones, where journalists themselves accept to be used as nothing more than stenographers of fictitious material produced to be a tool of war, along with soldiers themselves. Is this what is going on in Ukraine? Is the Ukrainian elite taking 100s of millions of dollars in U.S. blood money to keep the war going, while PR executives manufacture entirely faked news reports which the western journalists are dutifully replicating without even offering up the odd annoying question? Is this the real reason why Lira feared that he would be killed, because he rejected the format and the narrative and went against the grain of the popular beguiling narrative? Was his blogging, which was gaining huge amounts of traffic, becoming a problem for Washington and Zelensky and had to be stopped as it threatened to derail the bigger plan?

The hit job from the Daily Beast is beneath their journalists. It beggars belief that a respected international news publication would stoop so low to smear the reputation of a blogger. Was it merely an act of repugnant petulance between journalists, a spat which got out of hand, which resulted in the appalling slur article which painted a picture of him as being someone of low moral fibre? Or is there something darker lurching in the shadows? Is the Daily Beast really what it claims to be or are the somewhat sensational claims on social media about it being a CIA asset of some sort, true?

We are being tricked in the Ukraine and Lira is an amateur who threatened to burn the whole circus down to the ground. His merciless attack by the Daily Beast though will be remembered for years and make many hacks think before taking a swipe at America’s finest institutions. Just read what the Beast summarised.

“He also created a 22-minute-long video preemptively warning his followers not to trust anything The Daily Beast writes, concocting a fantastical narrative in which every journalist secretly knows he and his ilk are right about the things they say but chooses to print lies because “everybody who works at the mainstream media is by definition a piece of shit.” He added that he is better than the mainstream media because he can “say the truth,” and suggested this article was developed at least in part because The Daily Beast writers envy and resent his freedom”.

Ain’t that the truth?

Since writing this article, Gonzalo Lira has emerged safe and well.

Big Tech’s ‘Cancel Culture’ Love Affair

April 21, 2022

Source

Cancel culture is inbuilt in the techno-feudalist project: conform to the hegemonic narrative, or else.  Journalism that does not conform must be taken down.

By Pepe Escobar
Special to Consortium News

This month, several of us – Scott Ritter, myself, ASB Military News, among others – were canceled from Twitter. The – unstated – reason: we were debunking the officially approved narrative of the Russia/NATO/Ukraine war.

As with all things Big Tech, that was predictable. I lasted only seven months on Twitter. And that was long enough. Contacts in California had told me I was on their radar because the account grew too fast, and had enormous reach, especially after the start of Operation Z.

I celebrated the cancelation by experiencing an aesthetic illumination in front of the Aegean Sea, at the home of Herodotus, the Father of History. Additionally, it was heart-warming to be recognized by the great George Galloway in his moving tribute to targets of the new McCarthyism.

In parallel, comic relief of the “Mars Attacks” variety was provided by expectations of free speech on Twitter being saved by the benign intervention of Elon Musk.

Techno-feudalism is one of the overarching themes of my latest book, Raging Twenties – published in early 2021 and reviewed here in a very thoughtful and meticulous manner.

Cancel culture is inbuilt in the techno-feudalist project: conform to the hegemonic narrative, or else. In my own case regarding Twitter and Facebook – two of the guardians of the internet, alongside Google — I knew a day of reckoning was inevitable, because like other countless users I had previously been dispatched to those notorious “jails”.

On one Facebook occasion, I sent a sharp message highlighting that I was a columnist/analyst for an established Hong Kong-based media company. Some human, not an algorithm, must have read it, because the account was restored in less than 24 hours.

But then the account was simply disabled – with no warning. I requested the proverbial “review”. The response was a demand for proof of ID. Less than 24 hours later, came the verdict: “Your account has been disabled” because it had not followed those notoriously hazy “community standards.” The decision was “reviewed” and “it can’t be reversed”.

I celebrated with a Buddhist mini-requiem on Instagram.

My hit-by-a-Hellfire missile Facebook page clearly identified for the general public who I was, at the time: “Geopolitical analyst at Asia Times”. The fact of the matter is Facebook algorithms canceled a top columnist from Asia Times – with a proven record and a global profile. The algos would never have had the – digital – guts to do the same with a top columnist from The New York Times or the Financial Times.

Asia Times lawyers in Hong Kong sent a letter to Facebook management. Predictably, there was no response.

Of course becoming a target of cancel culture – twice – does not even remotely compare to the fate of Julian Assange, imprisoned for over three years in Belmarsh under the most appalling circumstances, and about to be dispatched for “judgment” in the American gulag for the crime of committing journalism. Yet the same “logic” applies: journalism that does not conform to the hegemonic narrative must be taken down.

Conform, or Else

At the time, I discussed the matter with several Western analysts. As one of them succinctly put it, “You were ridiculing the U.S. president while pointing out the positives of Russia, China and Iran. That’s a deadly combination”.

Others were simply stunned: “I wonder why you were restricted as you work for a reputable publication.” Or made the obvious connections: “Facebook is a censorship machine. I did not know that they do not give reasons for what they do but then they are part of the Deep State.”

A banking source that usually places my columns on the desks of selected Masters of the Universe put it New York-style: “You severely p****d the Atlantic Council”. No question: the specimen who oversaw the canceling of my account was a former Atlantic Council hack.

Ron Unz in California had the account of his extremely popular website Unz Review purged by Facebook on April 2020. Subsequently, readers who tried to post their articles met with an “error” message describing the content as “abusive”.

When Unz mentioned my case to renowned economist James Galbraith, “he really was quite shocked, and thought it might signal a very negative censorship trend on the Internet.”

The “censorship trend” is a fact – for quite a while now. Take this U.S. State Department 2020 report identifying “pillars of Russia’s disinformation and propaganda ecosystem.”

State Dept. Directive

The late Pompeo-era report demonizes “fringe or conspiracy-minded” websites who happen to be extremely critical of U.S. foreign policy. They include Moscow-based Strategic Culture Foundation – where I’m a columnist – and Canada-based Global Research, which republishes most of my columns (but so does Consortium NewsZeroHedge and many other U.S. websites). I’m cited in the report by name, along with quite a few top columnists.

The report’s “research” states that Strategic Culture – which is blocked by Facebook and Twitter – is directed by the SVR, Russian foreign intel. This is ridiculous. I met the previous editors in Moscow – young, energetic, with enquiring minds. They had to quit their jobs because after the report they started to be severely threatened online.

So the directive comes straight from the State Department – and that has not changed under Biden-Harris: any analysis of U.S. foreign policy that deviates from the norm is a “conspiracy theory” – a terminology that was invented and perfected by the C.I.A.

Couple it with the partnership between Facebook and the Atlantic Council – which is a de facto NATO think tank – and now we have a real powerful ecosystem.

It’s a Wonderful Life

Every silicon fragment in the valley connects Facebook as a direct extension of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)’s LifeLog project, a Pentagon attempt to “build a database tracking a person’s entire existence.” Facebook launched its website exactly on the same day – Feb. 4, 2004 – that DARLA and the Pentagon shuttered LifeLog.

No explanation by DARPA was ever provided. The MIT’s David Karger, at the time, remarked, “I am sure that such research will continue to be funded under some other title. I can’t imagine DARPA ‘dropping out’ of such a key research area.”

Of course a smokin’ gun directly connecting Facebook to DARPA will never be allowed to surface. But occasionally some key players speak out, such as Douglas Gage, none other than LifeLog’s conceptualizer: “Facebook is the real face of pseudo-LifeLog at this point (…) We have ended up providing the same kind of detailed personal information to advertisers and data brokers and without arousing the kind of opposition that LifeLog provoked.”

So Facebook has absolutely nothing to do with journalism. Not to mention pontificating over a journalist’s work, or assuming it’s entitled to cancel him or her. Facebook is an “ecosystem” built to sell private data at a huge profit, offering a public service as a private enterprise, but most of all sharing the accumulated data of its billions of users with the U.S. national security state.

The resulting algorithmic stupidity, also shared by Twitter – incapable of recognizing nuance, metaphor, irony, critical thinking – is perfectly integrated into what former C.I.A. analyst Ray McGovern brilliantly coined as the MICIMATT (military-industrial-congressional-intelligence-media-academia-think tank complex).

In the U.S., at least the odd expert on monopoly power identified this neo-Orwellian push as accelerating “the collapse of journalism and democracy.”

Facebook “fact-checking professional journalists” does not even qualify as pathetic. Otherwise Facebook – and not analysts like McGovern – would have debunked Russiagate. It would not routinely cancel Palestinian journalists and analysts. It would not disable the account of University of Tehran professor Mohammad Marandi – who was actually born in the U.S.

I received quite a few messages stating that being canceled by Facebook – and now by Twitter – is a badge of honor. Well, everything is impermanent (Buddhism) and everything flows (Daoism). So being deleted – twice – by an algorithm qualifies at best as a cosmic joke.

Pepe Escobar’s latest book is Raging Twenties. He remains un-cancelled on VKTelegram and Instagram.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

Lebanese Media: An Arab Pioneer on Media Silk Road

3 Apr 2022

Source: Al Mayadeen Net

Mohamad Zreik 

“The land of liberties” is a fitting label for Lebanon, a remarkable country that deserves it.

Lebanese Media: An Arab Pioneer on Media Silk Road

The right to free press is revered and guarded in Lebanon. Constitutional freedom of expression in Lebanon is guaranteed under Article 13, which states that all forms of expression are protected “within the bounds imposed by law.” For many people, the most arduous way to freedom is not the path of armed struggle, but rather the path of free and brave speech. “The land of liberties” is a fitting label for Lebanon, a remarkable country that deserves it.

Without the sacrifices of the martyrs, this attribute would not have been part of the Lebanese identity. It’s everything on the altar of the press and the sacredness of the free word. The message of peace and freedom of expression may be carried by Lebanon. Because there is no peace without freedom, the two concepts are intertwined in their connection. Several Lebanese journalists were exonerated from the gallows by the Ottoman Empire during the month of May of the year 1958. Since the killed journalists’ mandate was: “We die free and do not live as slaves or captives of others,” May 6 has been declared a feast day for the martyrs in Lebanon.

The Lebanese press has a rich history of events and phases that have been etched into the minds of the Lebanese. The comments of An-Nahar newspaper, held by Chairman of the Board, Gibran Tueni, who took up his pen and walked out into the streets to remind the world that in Lebanon, freedom of speech and expression are taken by pen and not by gun, are well-remembered by all of us. “We promise by Almighty God, Muslims and Christians, that we will remain together in defense of glorious Lebanon forever and ever,” Gibran Tueni swore to the Lebanese people.

As a result of the vast range of freedoms it enjoys, Lebanon stands out regionally and globally. For example, there are television stations in Lebanon for each and every political party. In addition to the many free internet sites, private newspapers are all examples. Freedom of expression is not constrained by any red lines; as long as it does not infringe on the sacred and national sovereignty, you are free to voice your thoughts. Since Arab countries have rigorous monitoring agencies and stringent laws, Lebanon will remain a milestone in the free Arab media.

An unauthorized political journal, “The News Garden,” was published by Khalil El-Khoury in Beirut on January 1, 1858, and is regarded as “the mother of Arab newspapers.” Count Rashid Al-Dahdah, who published the “Barjis” newspaper in Paris in 1858 and Ahmed Faris al-Shidyaq, who published the “Al-Jawa’ib” newspaper in Istanbul in 1861 are just two examples of Lebanese involvement in the publication of Arab newspapers published abroad. According to writer Laila Hamdoun, we find that most of the Arab newspapers were issued by Lebanese intellectuals, for example, the great “Butros al-Bustani” has launched “Nafeer Syria“, Lebanon’s second newspaper, in 1860 in Beirut, appealing for national unity in the wake of the sectarian murders of 1860. The cinema and theatre have also grown popular in Lebanon.

These remarks have been written during my stay in China, the land of civilization, culture, science, and commerce. As a specialist in the “Belt and Road Initiative” that was first introduced in 2013 by Chinese President Xi Jinping, and in order to highlight the Lebanese role in this effort, I decided to link the free Lebanese press in the Arab world to the Belt and Road Initiative, which aims in part at people-to-people exchange and cultural understanding.

Newspapers in Lebanon, media professionals, and authors claim that “our time today is different from prior periods.” People in Lebanon have long had an eye on the West, and they’ve done it through airing Hollywood films, importing anything dubbed, and keeping tabs on political developments in the West. To that end, I urge Lebanese political and media officials, as the stewards of Lebanon’s culture and language, not to cut ties with the West. At the same time, keep in mind that this is China’s golden period and that this great Asian is no less than the Western nations.

Speaking at the 2016 Media Cooperation Forum’s opening ceremony, Chinese President Xi Jinping discussed his country’s Belt and Road Initiative. Chinese President Xi Jinping mentioned that the media is a platform for constructive discourse, the sharing of ideas, and collaboration. Without an active and unbiased role for the media, there is no contact between peoples. Without media, the Belt and Road Initiative’s goal of bridging cultures won’t be able to fulfill its full potential.

As a technologically advanced country, China employs the most up-to-date broadcasting techniques in its media partnership with Lebanon. Co-operation between China and the Arab countries in media has become essential. According to Wang Chen of China’s State Council Information Office, media interactions between Beijing and Beirut are a priority for the country.

China has established a tight relationship with Lebanon through television shows that introduce the Lebanese people to the Chinese culture. As part of its Belt and Road Initiative, China has recently displayed a keen interest in the Arab world. CGTN Arabic and China Arab TV, two Chinese TV stations, have been introduced to the Arab satellites Nilesat and Arabsat, which transmit documentaries and news about China and the Arab world. To keep up with all of CGTN Arabic and China International Radio‘s social media accounts (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Wechat), separate department staffed by Chinese and Arabs has been established.

A deal was reached in 2016 between Lebanon TV and China’s state television, whereby Lebanon was provided with certain equipment. National News Agency was given a large number of computers and training workshops by the Chinese government in order to facilitate mutual collaboration.

More seminars and training sessions for journalists and more equipment donations are expected from the Chinese government in Lebanon. Media in Lebanon will focus on Chinese matters, invite Chinese specialists and introduce the Lebanese people and Arabs to Chinese news. As China’s influence in Lebanon grows, it’s feasible that Lebanese media outlets may start publishing content in Chinese. Videos, interviews, and information on Lebanon can be used by the Chinese media to educate the Chinese population about the country. China may invite Chinese journalists and press students to visit Lebanon to learn more about the nation and collaborate with Lebanese journalists in order to speed up the reporting of the news.

Ex-Chinese Ambassador to Lebanon Jiang said the media collaboration between China and Lebanon is growing quickly, and he underlined that China is a long-term supporter of both the government and Lebanese media outlets. During the Chinese Spring Festival and Chinese National Day each year, the Chinese Embassy in Lebanon and Lebanon TV work together to broadcast programs in China.

The works of the Chinese Cultural Centre in Beirut (Confucius Institute) should be extended so that it can do other functions, such as translating Chinese films into Arabic. Due to Lebanon’s high cultural value, many Chinese dubbing businesses have shown a desire to cooperate with Chinese media outlets. In order to make Lebanese culture more accessible to the Chinese audience, films from the country will be dubbed. ‘Capernaum’, a film directed by Nadine Labaki, was the first Lebanese film to be dubbed into Chinese. In addition to books and poetry which could enhance cultural exchange.

A plan for successful Chinese-Arab media cooperation is being devised by China, which includes enhancing communication between Chinese and Arab media, establishing a media administrative system that serves the common Chinese-Arab interest, and raising electronic media cooperation.

“Media Silk Road” has emerged in recent years as a term for the media cooperation between Belt and Road Initiative countries. There are four committees that focus on news cooperation, integrated communication, cooperation in program production, and industrial cooperation. The main mission is to promote international peace by fostering cultural exchange between nations. More positive steps are expected to be taken by the international television cooperation community of the Silk Road in order to benefit both Chinese and Arab interests.

As part of the Belt and Road Initiative, the people of participating countries play a significant role in its implementation. As a result, in accordance with the principles of cultural communication and freedom of speech, the media should be a tool to enrich the Arab people’s knowledge about China and the Belt and Road initiative.

Considering Lebanon’s status as a participant of the Belt and Road Initiative, it is expected that Lebanon will play an important role in promoting the initiative in Lebanon and the Arab world. As part of an Arab media strategy for the Belt and Road Initiative, Lebanon might be designated as an authorized media hub in conjunction with the Chinese authorities. There are numerous examples of Sino-Lebanese media and cultural collaboration that have been successful, and this proposed cooperation could be another success.

The opinions mentioned in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Al mayadeen, but rather express the opinion of its writer exclusively.

🇨🇦👏💯 TRUDEAU DESTROYED HIMSELF IN 2 MINUTES. OH CANADA. 🇨🇦🔥

 February 23rd, 2022.

Urging Boycott of Israel, British Activists March in London (PHOTOS)

February 12, 2022

British activists march in London. (Photo: FOA, Supplied)

By Palestine Chronicle Staff

Pro-Palestinian activists marched across the city of London on Saturday urging people to boycott Israeli apartheid, UK-based NGO Friends of Al-Aqsa (FOA) said in a press release. 

“Starting at PUMA on Carnaby Street and stopping at Coca-Cola’s Head Office and other locations before reaching Parliament, FOA supporters engaged Londoners with street action emphasizing the power of boycotting, divesting from and sanctioning the individuals, companies and culture complicit in Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine,” the press release read.

The protest follows Amnesty International’s recent report labeling Israel as an apartheid state and coincides with the Global Day of Action on PUMA.

“Today’s march demonstrated the strength of opposition to the (British) government’s proposed anti-BDS Bill as well as support for sanctions on Israel until it complies with international law,” FOA declared.

Last December, British Conservative politician Robert Jenrick announced that the UK government was “working to outlaw BDS in the UK”. Moreover, UK Education Minister Nadhim Zahawi recently came under fire when he said that pro-Palestine activists who use the slogan “From the river to the sea” should be referred to police, saying that the chant is an example of antisemitism.

These political moves have been perceived as an attack on democracy and a limitation to the right of free speech.

(All Photos: FOA, Supplied)

Kordahi: Publications Court the Only One Authorized to Deal with Media Affairs

 November 28, 2021

Lebanese Information Minister George Kordahi

Lebanese Information Minister George Kordahi stressed that the Publications Court is the only one authorized to deal with media affairs.

In a statement, the Lebanese minister commented on the ruling issued by the military court against Al-Akhbar’s journalist Radwan Mortada.

“The Publications Court is the only one authorized to deal with media affairs, including what is related to the work of journalists under the constitution and the laws regulating freedom of opinion and expression,” read the statement, carried by National News Agency (NNA).

He expressed his hope that this issue would be settled under the Publications Law, while ensuring freedom of expression and the rights of institutions in accordance with regulations and laws.

Source: NNA

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John Pilger: Justice for Assange is Justice for All

November 01st, 2021

Julian Assange Feature photo
Julian Assange is a truth-teller who has committed no crime but revealed government crimes and lies on a vast scale and so performed one of the great public services of my lifetime.

By John Pilger

Source

When I first saw Julian Assange in Belmarsh prison, in 2019, shortly after he had been dragged from his refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy, he said, “I think I am losing my mind.”

He was gaunt and emaciated, his eyes hollow and the thinness of his arms was emphasised by a yellow identifying cloth tied around his left arm, an evocative symbol of institutional control.

For all but the two hours of my visit, he was confined to a solitary cell in a wing known as “healthcare”, an Orwellian name. In the cell next to him a deeply disturbed man screamed through the night. Another occupant suffered from terminal cancer. Another was seriously disabled.

“One day we were allowed to play Monopoly,” he said, “as therapy. That was our healthcare!”

“This is One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” I said.

“Yes, only more insane.”

Julian’s black sense of humour has often rescued him, but no more. The insidious torture he has suffered in Belmarsh has had devastating effects. Read the reports of Nils Melzer, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, and the clinical opinions of Michael Kopelman, emeritus professor of neuropsychiatry at King’s College London and Dr. Quentin Deeley, and reserve a contempt for America’s hired gun in court, James Lewis QC, who dismissed this as “malingering”.

I was especially moved by the expert words of Dr. Kate Humphrey, a clinical neuropsychologist at Imperial College, London. She told the Old Bailey last year that Julian’s intellect had gone from “in the superior, or more likely very superior, range” to “significantly below” this optimal level, to the point where he was struggling to absorb information and “perform in the low to average range”.

At yet another court hearing in this shameful Kafkaesque drama, I watched him struggle to remember his name when asked by the judge to state it.

For most of his first year in Belmarsh, he was locked up. Denied proper exercise, he strode the length of his small cell, back and forth, back and forth, for “my own half-marathon”, he told me. This reeked of despair. A razorblade was found in his cell. He wrote “farewell letters”. He phoned the Samaritans repeatedly.

At first he was denied his reading glasses, left behind in the brutality of his kidnapping from the embassy. When the glasses finally arrived at the prison, they were not delivered to him for days. His solicitor, Gareth Peirce, wrote letter after letter to the prison governor protesting the withholding of legal documents, access to the prison library, the use of a basic laptop with which to prepare his case. The prison would take weeks, even months, to answer. (The governor, Rob Davis, has been awarded an Order of the British Empire).

Books sent to him by a friend, the journalist Charles Glass, himself a survivor of hostage-taking in Beirut, were returned. Julian could not call his American lawyers. From the start, he has been constantly medicated. Once, when I asked him what they were giving him, he couldn’t say.

At last week’s High Court hearing to decide finally whether or not Julian would be extradited to America, he appeared only briefly by video link on the first day. He looked unwell and unsettled. The court was told he had been “excused” because of his “medication”. But Julian had asked to attend the hearing and was refused, said his partner Stella Morris. Attendance in a court sitting in judgement on you is surely a right.

This intensely proud man also demands the right to appear strong and coherent in public, as he did at the Old Bailey last year. Then, he consulted constantly with his lawyers through the slit in his glass cage. He took copious notes. He stood and protested with eloquent anger at lies and abuses of process.

The damage done to him in his decade of incarceration and uncertainty, including more than two years in Belmarsh (whose brutal regime is celebrated in the latest Bond film) is beyond doubt.

But so, too, is his courage beyond doubt, and a quality of resistance and resilience that is heroism. It is this that may see him through the present Kafkaesque nightmare – if he is spared an American hellhole.

I have known Julian since he first came to Britain in 2009. In our first interview, he described the moral imperative behind WikiLeaks: that our right to the transparency of governments and the powerful was a basic democratic right. I have watched him cling to this principle when at times it has made his life even more precarious.

Almost none of this remarkable side to the man’s character has been reported in the so-called “free press” whose own future, it is said, is in jeopardy if Julian is extradited.

Of course, but there has never been a ”free press”. There have been extraordinary journalists who have occupied positions in the “mainstream” – spaces that have now closed, forcing independent journalism on to the internet.

There, it has become a “fifth estate”, a samizdat of dedicated, often unpaid work by those who were honourable exceptions in a media now reduced to an assembly line of platitudes. Words like “democracy”, “reform”, “human rights” are stripped of their dictionary meaning and censorship is by omission or exclusion.

Last week’s fateful hearing at the High Court was “disappeared” in the “free press”. Most people would not know that a court in the heart of London had sat in judgement on their right to know: their right to question and dissent.

Many Americans, if they know anything about the Assange case, believe a fantasy that Julian is a Russian agent who caused Hillary Clinton to lose the presidential election in 2016 to Donald Trump. This is strikingly similar to the lie that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, which justified the invasion of Iraq and the deaths of a million or more people.

They are unlikely to know that the main prosecution witness underpinning one of the concocted charges against Julian has recently admitted he lied and fabricated his “evidence”.

Neither will they have heard or read about the revelation that the CIA, under its former director, the Hermann Goering lookalike Mike Pompeo, had planned to assassinate Julian.  And that was hardly new. Since I have known Julian, he has been under threat of harm and worse.

On his first night in the Ecuadorean embassy in 2012, dark figures swarmed over the front of the embassy and banged on the windows, trying to get in. In the US, public figures – including Hillary Clinton, fresh from her destruction of Libya – have long called for Julian’s assassination. The current President Biden damned him as a “hi-tech terrorist”.

The former prime minister of Australia, Julia Gillard, was so eager to please what she called “our best mates” in Washington that she demanded Julian’s passport be taken from him – until it was pointed out to her that this would be against the law. The current prime minister, Scott Morrison, a PR man, when asked about Assange, said, “He should face the music.”

It has been open season on the WikiLeaks’ founder for more than a decade. In 2011, The Guardian exploited Julian’s work as if it was its own, collected journalism prizes and Hollywood deals, then turned on its source.

Years of vituperative assaults on the man who refused to join their club followed. He was accused of failing to redact documents of the names of those considered at risk. In a Guardian book by David Leigh and Luke Harding, Assange is quoted as saying during a dinner in a London restaurant that he didn’t care if informants named in the leaks were harmed.

Neither Harding nor Leigh was at the dinner. John Goetz, an investigations reporter with Der Spiegel, actually was at the dinner and testified that Assange said nothing of the kind.

The great whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg told the Old Bailey last year that Assange had personally redacted 15,000 files. The New Zealand investigative journalist Nicky Hager, who worked with Assange on the Afghanistan and Iraq war leaks, described how Assange took “extraordinary precautions in redacting names of informants”.

In 2013,  I asked the film-maker Mark Davis about this. A respected broadcaster for SBS Australia, Davis was an eyewitness, accompanying Assange during the preparation of the leaked files for publication in The Guardian and The New York Times. He told me, “Assange was the only one who worked day and night extracting 10,000 names of people who could be targeted by the revelations in the logs.”

Lecturing a group of City University students, David Leigh mocked the very idea that “Julian Assange will end up in an orange jumpsuit”. His fears were an exaggeration, he sneered. Edward Snowden later revealed that Assange was on a “manhunt timeline”.

Luke Harding, who co-authored with Leigh the Guardian book that disclosed the password to a trove of diplomatic cables that Julian had entrusted to the paper, was outside the Ecuadorean embassy on the evening Julian sought asylum. Standing with a line of police, he gloated on his blog, “Scotland Yard may well have the last laugh.”

The campaign was relentless. Guardian columnists scraped the depths. “He really is the most massive turd,” wrote Suzanne Moore of a man she had never met.

The editor who presided over this, Alan Rusbridger, has lately joined the chorus that “defending Assange protects the free press”. Having published the initial WikiLeaks revelations, Rusbridger must wonder if the Guardian’s subsequent excommunication of Assange will be enough to protect his own skin from the wrath of Washington.

The High Court judges are likely to announce their decision on the US appeal in the new year. What they decide will determine whether or not the British judiciary has trashed the last vestiges of its vaunted reputation; in the land of Magna Carta this disgraceful case ought to have been hurled out of court long ago.

The missing imperative is not the impact on a collusive “free press”. It is justice for a man persecuted and willfully denied it.

Julian Assange is a truth-teller who has committed no crime but revealed government crimes and lies on a vast scale and so performed one of the great public services of my lifetime. Do we need to be reminded that justice for one is justice for all?

Why Not Question “the Holocaust” in Schools?

 OCTOBER 26, 2021

By Philip Giraldi

Source

There has been major pushback against a Texas state education official who said that if schools are adhering to a new state law that mandates teaching alternative points of view on controversial issues having a course and a book on the holocaust, for example, would suggest providing material that reflects other interpretations of that historical event. The comment came from a Texas school district administrator named Gina Peddy in the Carrollton Independent School District in Southlake, which is in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, who was in a training session explaining to teachers her directive regarding which books can be available in classroom libraries. She told teachers that if they have books about the Holocaust in their classrooms, they should also have books that offer “opposing” or “other” viewpoints on the subject.

Reportedly a staff member who was present secretly made an audio recording of the training session which was then shared with NBC News, which broke the story.

The Texas law was and is intended to lessen the impact of the current “woke” campaign by progressive educators to rewrite American and international history to reflect the dark side, notably by emphasizing issues like slavery and oppression of minorities. Texas legislators insist, not unreasonably, that presenting an essentially negative view of American history as envisioned by Critical Race Theory (CRT) must be balanced by having a curriculum that also includes discussion of the many positive achievements of the United States of America. In the recording, Peddy, the school district’s executive director of curriculum and instruction, told the teachers that the new law applies to any “widely debated and currently controversial” issues. She was quoted as saying “And make sure that if you have a book on the Holocaust, that you have one that has an opposing, that has other perspectives.”

Predictably, on such a hot wire issue Peddy has had little or no support from her peers either locally or in the education establishment. The school district Superintendent Lane Ledbetter posted on Facebook an “apology regarding the online article and news story.” He said Peddy’s comments were “in no way to convey that the Holocaust was anything less than a terrible event in history. Additionally, we recognize there are not two sides of the Holocaust. We also understand this bill does not require an opposing viewpoint on historical facts.”

Clay Robison, a spokesman for the Texas State Teachers Association, responded “We find it reprehensible for an educator to require a Holocaust denier to get equal treatment with the facts of history. That’s absurd. It’s worse than absurd. And this law does not require it.” Republican state Senator Bryan Hughes, who wrote the bill that became the law, denied that anyone should come up with alternative views on what he called matters of “good and evil” or to remove books that offer only one perspective on the Holocaust.

Jews in Peddy’s school district and elsewhere in both Texas and nationally have inevitably also risen to the bait, denouncing any attempt made to challenge what they view as an issue fundamental to their understanding of their place in the world and in history. One Jewish former student Jake Berman asserted that “The facts are that there are not two sides of the Holocaust. The Nazis systematically killed millions of people.”

Ledbetter, Robison and Hughes should perhaps consider that they are suggesting that their new law should only apply on “controversial” racial issues, not on other historical developments and it is curious that educated people should consider a multi-faceted transnational historical event that has inter alia a highly politicized context a “fact.” The holocaust narrative in and of itself is the creation of men and women after the fact with an agenda to justify the creation and support for the State of Israel and should be subject to the same inquiry as any other facet of the Second World War and what came after.

The tale of “the holocaust” is essentially a contrived bit of history that serves a political objective wrapped up in what purports to be a powerful statement regarding man’s inhumanity to man. Jewish groups generally speaking consider the standard narrative with its highly questionable six million dead, gas chambers, extermination camps, and soap made from body fat to be something like sacred ground, with its memorialization of the uniqueness of Jewish suffering. Serious scholars who have actually looked at the narrative and the numbers and sequences of events are not surprisingly skeptical of many of the details.

As a first step, it is helpful to look at controversial Professor Norman Finkelstein’s carefully documented book The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering. Finkelstein, to be sure, believes there was something like a genocide of European Jews and even lost some family members due to it. He does not, however, necessarily believe many of the details provided by the standard narrative and official promoters of that story to include the numerous holocaust museums. In his view, powerful interests have hijacked “the Holocaust,” and use it to further their own objectives. He wrote “Organized Jewry has exploited the Nazi holocaust to deflect criticism of Israel’s and its own indefensible policies. Nazi genocide has been used to justify criminal policies of the Israeli state and US support for these policies.”

And there is also a money angle, as there often is. Per Finkelstein, Jewish organizations in the US have also exploited the situation of the dwindling number of aging holocaust survivors to extort “staggering sums of money from the rest of the world. This is not done not for the benefit of needy survivors but for the financial advantage of these organizations.”

As taking courses in the holocaust are mandated in the public school systems of twenty states (and soon to be more due to pressure from local Jewish groups) and is used to validate the billions of US taxpayer dollars given annually to the state of Israel it would seem that supporters of the narrative should have the confidence as well as sufficient integrity to defend their product. But that is, of course, not the case. They would prefer to have their chosen narrative unchallenged, raising the usual claims of anti-Semitism and “holocaust denial” to silence critics. One of the “textbooks” frequently used in public schools that mandate holocaust education is Night by Elie Wiesel, whom Finkelstein has dubbed “the high huckster of the holocaust.” “Night” claims to be autobiographical but is full of errors in time and place. It is at least in part a work of fiction. Similarly, the “Diary of Anne Frank” was published after editing by her survivor father and parts of it have been challenged.

As a general rule, contentious issues where advocates attempt to silence opponents by claiming that what they are promoting is based on fact and cannot be challenged should be challenged. In Europe, powerful Jewish constituencies have even made it illegal to criticize or deny the holocaust narrative. In America, that day may soon be coming as Jewish groups increasingly seek to criminalize questioning of the factual basis of the holocaust as well as any criticism of Israel.

The Two-faced Nature of Our Communities

August 26, 2021  

About me
Lawrence Davidson is a retired professor of history from West Chester University in West Chester PA. His academic research focused on the history of American foreign relations with the Middle East. He taught courses in Middle East history, the history of science and modern European intellectual history.

Posted by Lawrence Davidson 

Part I—What Motivates True Believers?

One of the alleged big mysteries of our day is why so many folks—and not just those in the United States—readily believe in demonstrable falsehoods. No reasoning creature ought to believe in the nonsense put out by QAnon, or for that matter, by someone as transparently psychopathic as Donald Trump—but many, numbering in the millions, really do. Why?

Here are some of the explanations offered by those supposedly in the know:

Stupidity and Laziness: The traditional narrative says that the cause is stupidity combined with laziness. As one researcher describes it, “if you believe false things, then you must be stupid. It must be because you haven’t really made an effort to actually figure out what is going on.” This is a superficial assessment. Most people indeed are not critical thinkers who consciously seek to “actually figure out what is going on” in an independent fashion. Essentially, they do not possess enough free will to do so. On the social level, they figure things out according to cultural, community, or group dictates. This is not “stupid” of them, nor is it a function of laziness. It stems from being born and raised as part of a society. And, some societies, particularly smaller ones, families, villages, tribes, and can exert considerable social pressure.

“Motivated reasoning” aka confirmation bias: This argument drops the “stupid” appellation and doesn’t speak to the particular history or situation of the true believers, but rather tells us that there is a natural “tendency to find arguments in favor of conclusions we want to believe to be stronger than arguments for conclusions we do not want to believe.” And indeed, there is plenty of evidence for this. It is why con artists make a good living. They rob us by telling us, convincingly, what we want to hear. Too many politicians are con artists who have figured out what their constituencies want to hear and feed it back to them without much regard for objective truth. Some of them, such as Donald Trump and his minions, do this in a way that breeds anger and even hatred for the unbelievers.

The Functional Evolution theory: There is a recent study out that adds a third line of explanation. It concentrates on falsehood as a vehicle for (1) establishing and maintaining group solidarity and (2) getting the upper hand in any struggle by destroying the reputation of the adversary. In this way, blatant lying and total suspension of reasoned thought become “functional.” Here are the study’s points:

By telling lies you “are in a better situation to mobilize and coordinate the attention of your own group.” For instance, the authors of this study assert that one of the ways fanatics signal group membership and loyalty is by believing
blatantly false notions. “The basic logic at work here is that anyone can believe the truth, but only loyal members of the group can believe something that is blatantly false.” This might seem a bit of a stretch, but the authors believe this tactic is used both by groups like QAnon and some successful religious movements.

Of course, it will not do to just believe crazy things about your group. You have to come to believe your adversary is evil. You must swallow the kind of beliefs—they are remarkably similar in every case—that have led to ethnic massacres and horrific episodes like the holocausts in Germany, Cambodia, Bosnia, and Rwanda.

Here the authors make a distinction between two types of belief: (a) “beliefs that we have as representations of reality,” that is, those that reflect the truth so we can successfully “navigate the world;” and (b) beliefs that allow us to rally the necessary emotions to fight an alleged enemy till they are essentially destroyed. These latter beliefs do not have to be tied to “representations of reality.” In fact, it is better if they do not: better if the Japanese become just “Japs,” the Germans, “Huns,” the Vietnamese, “gooks,” the Jews, “kykes,” the Arabs and Palestinians, “anti-Semites.”

In other words, there might be “functional reasons for spreading falsehoods”—lying as a selected evolutionary trait. The propensity for both self-deception and the false characterization of others can serve the end of your group’s survival.

Part II—The Social Power of Our Local Groups

A problem with the above explanations is they only address the consciousness of cult members or “true believers.” That is, they address the imbecility of someone running around the nation’s capital in a hat with buffalo horns claiming “QAnon sent me.” Such a person may well believe his group’s nonsense for the sake of signaling membership and loyalty. But such hypotheses, regardless of any vague evolutionary impulse, can’t explain why a broader out-group population, numbering in the millions, goes along with the falsehoods of Donald Trump and other con artist authoritarians—and have done so throughout history. Nor can we simply dismiss this vulnerability of millions with notions of stupidity and laziness.

Here are some additional considerations that may help fill in the gaps of our understanding:

—The social/geographical context can encourage a form of tribalism. Most of us are strongly shaped by our locality. This is the case despite world-ranging journalism and international travel. Most of us are, in fact, locally regimented to fit into the mindset of our families, our neighborhoods, our places of work, our schools, our religious centers, our class-based networks, and so forth. These are the environments in which we learn the power of group culture. And most of us learn to do what our group does, think what our community thinks.

—The United States (just like many other countries) are a collection of smaller regions cobbled together over the history of the nation. Regional differences which are set as insular subcultures can prevail despite shifting population trends. Thus, Republican cultism finds its warmest reception in those parts of the country where a stagnant form of traditional white culture prevails. The affected population may be relatively isolated and rural. It has inherited a frontier outlook of radical individualism. For such folks, the government is anathema on principle and is usually seen as the real source of false information. Communities unlike theirs, usually urban and allegedly associated with “liberals,” are also seen as threats to their local values.

On the other hand, one can find the Republican cultist mindset in the boardrooms of power where government is seen as a tool to shape society to one’s class benefit. Donald Trump himself is of this sub-culture.

—Collective thinking is what holds certain communities together, and if a strong and charismatic (secular or religious) leader comes along and shapes a message to echo aspects of a local social outlook (for instance gun “rights,” anti-abortion sentiments, racist or gender bias, etc.) while disparaging other orientations seen by the group as threateningly alien, he or she can win the support of whole regions.

Part III—Breaking Free

It is community and group pressures that can set up millions to accept lies. Such pressure essentially binds the individual’s will to what may be a suborned collective. When this happens, reasoned discussion with the believer will be of no avail. The only thing that might break the bind is a catastrophe that undermines the collective message. And even then, breaking loose can be traumatic.

A good example of this—how scary it can be to break free of the power of one’s local environment even in dire circumstances—was given in a 31 July 2021 report in the Kansas City Star.  According to Dr. Priscilla Frase, “a hospitalist and chief medical information officer” for Ozarks Healthcare, “People come in to get vaccinated who have tried to sort of disguise their appearance and even went so far as to say, ‘Please, please, please don’t let anybody know that I got this vaccine. I don’t want my friends to know but I don’t want to get COVID.’. . . But they’re very concerned about how the people that they love, within their family and within their friendship circles and work circles are going to react if they found out they got the vaccine.”

Part IV—Conclusion

One might say that those who believe in crazy ideas and claims are but a tiny minority. That only oddballs fall for improbable claims. However, this is historically inaccurate. A significant portion of the world’s population has always believed in the fantastical and improbable. Today’s examples of such beliefs range from faith in astrology, to the belief in aliens roaming our cities, to the existence of a real Sherlock Holmes. And, of course, most of the claims of religion, established or otherwise, are of a fantastic, untestable nature. Then there is the embarrassing case of Senator Susan Collins of Maine who, caught in the January 6 mass assault on the Capitol, said that her first thought was that the Iranians were attacking.

These random examples suggest that most folks do fine when all that is called for is getting through their usual daily routine. However, put anything new and unexpected in front of them and many become vulnerable to rumor mongering, propaganda, and the claims of con artists and charlatans.  

Today’s style of mass media (where every group with a grievance and access to the airways can create their own propaganda machine) combined with the present open-ended use of the First Amendment (free speech) makes this vulnerability worse. Keep in mind that free speech does not equate with truth and can be abused in the form of libel, inciting to riot—as occurred in Washington on January 6—or forms of propaganda that periodically turn democratic societies into barbaric dictatorships. 

Humans are social animals. Most of us are adrift apart from our various communities. It is a mixed blessing, for while group membership can make us feel secure and wanted, it can also lead us astray into racism, misogyny, and all manner of religious bias. The stagnant form of traditional white culture in the United States has edged closer to such a degenerated state of mind due to the pressures exerted upon it by several radical rightwing groups and the mendacious scheming of Donald Trump. So, if you are white, if you are American, and particularly if you live in one of those “red states”—or for that matter, if you are tied into any group with a hard-and-fast bias, regardless of color—beware of the two-faced nature of community.

The Philosophy that drives the Chaos: Julianne Romanello & Gilad Atzmon interviewed by Jason Bosch

 BY GILAD ATZMON

In this extended discussion Julianne Romanello and myself together with Jason Bosch delve into the ideological and spiritual thoughts that have turned our world into an open air prison. We looked into the work of Leo Strauss, Athens & Jerusalem, Noahide fundamentals, the origin of Zionism and many other crucial topics most intellectuals insist to avoid…

The “right freedom of speech” is killing the West

The “right freedom of speech” is killing the West

July 09, 2021

by Batko Milacic for The Saker Blog

Free speech has long been a cornerstone of Western society. However, within the past few years the situation has completely changed. Recently, one of the Western`s oldest public figures – the legendary leader of the Western Civil Liberties Union Ira Glasser, who for many years fought against racism, violation of the rights of workers and employees, and government corruption, spoke about a discussion that took place at one of the leading Western universities following a lecture he had delivered there. Young people, from student to professor, argued that freedom of speech is incompatible with social justice because it cannot fully guarantee the rights of LGBT people, migrants and non-white minorities. Glasser, who had fought for the equal rights in Western society for many years, was frightened to see Western democracy dying right before his eyes.

In a modern society freedom of speech cannot be absolute. Defamation, personal, racial, gender and other insults are inadmissible. There are courts that are supposed to protect the rights of those offended, but no one can deprive a person of the right to express his or her opinion on such issues as illegal migration, the destruction of the education system, the tax system or when heterosexuals serve in the army alongside representatives of sexual minorities. Or maybe already can? In the midst of the pandemic, freedom of speech has become lopsided – the “cancellation culture” has led to calls for violence against members of the successful middle class, who in turn are no longer able to raise their voice in defense of their rights. What is even more outrageous is that this was done to please the old political elites … mostly white and very wealthy.

However, while previously high-profile cases such as Watergate, the Bill Clinton sex scandal and others got in the media spotlight leading to the conviction and often impeachment of politicians, in the course of the past five years the situation has changed. Facts are no longer needed. Investigative journalism has been replaced by fakes and unfounded statements. Certain political forces clearly benefit from this new reality. Democrats support BLM, LGBT people and migrants. Therefore, any accusation against them is a lie, a manifestation of racism and intolerance. Any evidence presented was fabricated in Moscow and Beijing and handed over to Trump. All media outlets that do not support Democrats are lying.

As a result, Joe Biden’s supporters got a powerful trump card – almost complete impunity. Supporting corporations such as Amazon can exploit their employees any way they like, but any complaints about their inhuman work schedule is a provocation by the Trumpists, because Amazon is a company where gender equality is respected and they have diversity directors. The situation at the largest startups in Silicon Valley, the main sponsors of the Democratic Party, is the same.

Accordingly, any accusations against the party of the current President cannot be considered objectively – after all, these are all lies told by the enemies of minorities. Consider, for example, the 2016 scandal with $84 million, which, thanks to Hillary Clinton, replenished the Democrats’ election coffers, in violation of the law on maximum party funding. Trump has long tried to initiate an official investigation of all this, but without success. The same with the scandal surrounding Biden Jr., for whom his father secured a cushy job on the board of Ukraine’s Burisma Company with a monthly salary of a hefty $50,000. When the Ukrainian opposition tried to initiate an investigation into this, Joe Biden simply replaced the country’s disloyal Prosecutor General. Moreover, he brags about it in his public speeches. And brag he certainly can, because changing the prosecutor in a semi-colony is a truly democratic way to go. Attempts by Trump supporters to prove that the Bidens’ activities were illegal have failed despite all the evidence corroborating the charge. The “Democrats” simply said it was a fake.

The same about the Clintons, whose lobbying structures worked hard defending the Bangladeshi banker Muhammad Yunus accused of corruption. Hillary Clinton personally threatened the Prime Minister of Bangladesh. The news about this appeared in the media, but there were no investigations either. Biden, just like the Clintons and other leading Democrats are all hereditary politicians representing the top tier of American society. Most of the Democratic party leaders came to power from Ivy League universities, not from street protests or black neighborhoods. However, it was they who initiated and spearheaded the LGBT and BLM protests, launched the “cancellation culture” and are now enjoying the fruits of their labors. Getting into their closed club is no easy matter. It is easier to leave it, as did Bernie Sanders, a popular politician but a bit too independent for the taste of the Democratic Party bosses. As a result, he was forced to pull out of the presidential race.

At first glance it may seem that Western’s Big Business has nothing to gain from protests and new cultural codes, which theoretically make it possible to declare a boycott of any company. However, while stores in many cities were being burglarized and calls were being made to abolish the “white privileges,” Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, Instacart, Postmates and other corporations spent more than $200 million to push new and tighter labor legislation through the courts, thus dealing another blow to the middle class, which now pays for everything. By the way, this whole process was set in motion by Tony West, the son-in-law of the new Vice-President Kamala Harris, the first woman of color in this post, who comes out as a champion of minority rights.

So, let the protests and all the noise being made about the “oppressed minorities” not fool you. This only makes the “Democratic Party” inviolable, so welcome to the beautiful new West – a one-party system with “right” freedom of speech. If you want more evidence and examples to arrive to the same conclusions as did the author of this article, spend a few minutes watching a good video that is going viral every day:

Batko Milacic is an independent analyst who lives in Podgorica (capital of Montenegro), he is 30 years old. He graduated history at University of Montenegro and his graduate thesis was: “Foreign Policy of Russia from 1905 to 1917”. He has been doing analytics for years, writing in English and Serbian about the situation in the Balkans and Europe.  He participated in several seminars for young journalists, organized in the Balkans.

Palestinian women journalists speak out against ‘deliberate’ attacks by PA forces

Palestinian Authority forces have violently assaulted women reporting on protests in Ramallah

A recent protest in Ramallah, where Palestinian Authority forces have been targeting women journalists including Najlaa Zaitoun, photographed here (Supplied)

By Aziza Nofal in RamallahPublished date: 2 July 2021 14:49 UTC | Last update: 2 days 1 hour ago

For several days now, Palestinian journalist Najlaa Zaitoun has been trying to convince her children, 11-year-old Haytham and 8-year-old Zein, to leave the house. 

‘A person wearing plain clothes threatened me, to my face, that he would rape me, and then defame my reputation’

– Najlaa Zaitoun, journalist

“I’m afraid the person who beat you will come and beat me,” Zein said to her, as she urged them to keep up their training at the sports club they usually go to every day. 

On 26 June, the 35-year-old was assaulted by plainclothes security forces while she was covering protests called following the death of popular Palestinian activist Nizar Banat while in Palestinian Security Forces custody two days earlier. 

The security forces chased Zaitoun, seized her phone, which she was using to film the protest, and violently attacked her with a truncheon. She was also threatened with rape.

“A person wearing plain clothes threatened me, to my face, that he would rape me, and then defame my reputation,” she tells Middle East Eye.

Palestinian female journalists attacked by PA forces
Bruises Najlaa Zaitoun sustained while covering the protests can be seen on her arm (Supplied)

Zaitoun has been living in a state of fear ever since and the violent beating she received has left visible marks on her body.

“I don’t feel safe, not even in my own home,” she says. Since the attack, Zaitoun has been staying at her parents’ house. 

Meanwhile, the assault on the journalist has moved online, with a smear campaign targeting her on social media accounts affiliated with the Palestinian Authority (PA) and accusing her of being the “one who attacked the security forces.” 

Targeted attacks

The attack on Zaitoun is one of several instances of violence against women journalists in the course of their work covering the protests. The incidents indicate that Palestinian security forces are specifically targeting women journalists, as reflected in the escalating levels of hostility and violence towars them compared to their male counterparts.

Attacks on women journalists have included physical violence, as was the case with Zaitoun and four others; confiscation of electronic devices used to cover the events; intimidation and harassment; chasing journalists in the street; arrest attempts and a ban on reporting. 

The assaults have continued even after the protests were over, with many female journalists receiving veiled threats that they will be discredited and defamed.

Saja al-Alamy is one of those attacked while reporting on the protests. On 24 June, Alamy was subjected to several attempts by security forces to prevent her from doing her job, and had to show her Palestinian Journalists Syndicate membership card each time. 

Palestinian female journalists attacked by PA forces
‘My press armour helped the perpetrators to identify me as a journalist, and attack me’, Saja Alamy says (Supplied)

Two days later, expecting journalist to go on being obstructed, Alamy wore her bulletproof press body armour and affixed her press card on the back of her phone, which she was using to film the events. 

None of this stopped her from being attacked. Instead, she believes the measures did her more harm than good.

“My press armour helped the perpetrators to identify me as a journalist, and attack me,” she says, adding that she was only able to escape the scene after she had taken off her press vest and concealed her identity as a journalist.

“There was a direct attack on us. One of the security officers in plainclothes was pointing at my female journalist colleague and me, asking his partner to take a photo of us so that he can identify us later,” she says.

Security forces had first attacked a group of journalists, including Alamy, with tear gas, but upon noticing her filming an attack on protesters, she was directly targeted. Alamy resisted the officers’ violent attempt to confiscate her phone, and refused to hand it over. She then managed to flee the scene to a nearby building and hide in a women’s toilet.

Alamy tried for more than an hour to reach her colleagues for help, but all entrances were being watched by security officers, including those who had chased her. She was eventually able to escape, after shedding her press armour, and pretended to be out shopping.

Life threatening

MEE reporter Shatha Hammad was also among the women journalists who were targeted in the attacks of 26 June.

She sustained a shrapnel wound to her face from a tear gas canister that a security officer shot directly at her after failing to confiscate her phone. 

Hammad says that security officers in plainclothes had focused their attention on women reporters, singling them out by pointing at them, even before the clashes erupted, which, she believes, suggests that the assault was planned and deliberate.

According to Hammad, the unprecedented violence against women journalists made her feel insecure and trapped.

“What happened is life threatening,” she says, demanding immediate action from local and international organisations to provide the necessary protection for them.

Palestinian female journalists attacked by PA forces
Shatha Hammad sustained wounds to face after being directly targeted with a tear gas cannister 

The detailed testimonies of women journalists were shocking to many, especially the Palestinian Authority’s use of cultural norms to shame and intimidate women, exercising social pressure against them as an attempt to silence and prevent them from performing their work. 

According to Ghazi Bani Odeh, head of the monitoring and documentation unit at the Palestinian Centre for Development and Media Freedoms (Mada), these exponential attacks against women journalists are unprecedented and planned. 

“The assaults on female journalists have two levels. The first is the direct physical violence in the streets; then comes the online attacks designed to incite people to exert social pressure on them,” Bani Odeh tells MEE, in reference to the smear campaigns that use hate speech that could fuel violence against them. 

Smear campaigns

One of the journalists targeted by a defamation campaign was Fayhaa Khanfar, who was beaten up in the street on 26 June, with her phone stolen from her as she covered the protest.

‘When I regained consciousness, I went to security officers crying and asking for help. But no one moved a muscle’

– Fayhaa Khanfar, journalist

Security officers in plain clothes had chased Khanfar to confiscate her device and knocked her to the ground, causing her to briefly lose consciousness. 

No one had intervened to help her. The attack resulted in a hairline fracture to her shoulder and bruises all over her body.

“I was attacked by security officers wearing plain clothes. They pushed me to the ground and stole my phone,” Khanfar tells MEE.

“When I regained consciousness, I went to security officers crying and asking for help. But no one moved a muscle.”

Orchestrated online attacks targeted Khanfar, who wears the hijab, aimed to discredit her in a conservative society by circulating images of a girl in beachwear, who looks very similar to Khanfar, and falsely identifying her as the journalist.

Khanfar was later summoned for interrogation at the intelligence headquarters in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank, and told that she had to appear if she wanted to collect her phone, a move she considered an attempt to lure her in and arrest her.

Wafa Abdulrahman, the director of Filistiniat, a civil society organisation, sees the attacks on journalists as a chilling attempt to silence the women who have been spearheading the protests. 

Palestinian female journalists attacked by PA forces
Fayhaa Khanfar suffered a hairline fracture to her shoulder and bruises all over her body (Supplied)

Abdulrahman says that the systematic targeting of women journalists is intended to first send them a threatening message, and second, to warn the society that women reporters will not be spared and that the power of the security forces is unbreakable. 

As attacks on women journalists continue through online defamation campaigns and veiled threats, they find themselves living in constant danger and feeling personally insecure. 

According to Majid Arori, a media freedom activist and a human rights specialist, there has to be individual and collective legal actions to deter such attacks in the future. 

“The attacked women journalists must file legal complaints, providing the necessary documentation via local and international legal organisations to exert pressure on those who perpetrated the assaults,” he says, adding that these attacks are attempts to suppress critical voices and any protests against corruption. 

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