Social Media Giants Ban Trump, but the Real Censorship is of Palestinians

Facebook censorship

By Jessica Buxbaum

Source

“Israel is using this for its political aim to silence Palestinians. They’re using hate speech as a political tool.” —  Alison Ramer, 7amleh 

In the wake of the Capitol Hill insurrection, Facebook and Twitter finally took a principled stand against President Donald Trump by suspending his accounts. While Trump lashed out at the tech giants, media analysts condoned the move—noting stronger moderation of his and other inflammatory posts are long overdue.

Facebook, Twitter, and other social media behemoths have faced criticism over the years for allowing misinformation and dangerous incitement to run rampant on their platforms. Yet while these companies seem to fail at controlling right-wing propaganda, they’ve had no problem suppressing content on Palestine.

Palestinian Facebook pages see 50% drop in reach

According to Palestinian non-governmental organization Sada Social Center, Palestinian Facebook pages saw their content’s reach dip by more than 50%, and in some cases, by more than 80%. Sada Social attributes the steep decline to coverage of Arab countries’ normalization agreements with Israel.

“Most of the pages that brought complaints to us are followed by millions of users through Facebook,” Sada Social wrote in their report. “These pages actively participated in covering the issue of Arab normalization with the Israeli occupation recently.”

The Global Campaign to Return to Palestine and Muslim Scholars were just two of the numerous Facebook pages to have their content blocked or restricted in the last month.

When pressed for an explanation about the recent removals, a Facebook company spokesperson told MintPress News:

We do our utmost to ensure that only content in violation of our Community Standards is removed. Where mistakes are made, due to human or technical error, the content is restored. The Global Campaign for Return to Palestine page was unfortunately removed due to an error – it has now been restored. We were not trying to limit anyone’s ability to post or express themselves.”

In response to the increasing censorship, The Palestinian Content Protection Initiative—a group of media outlets, activists, and journalists working to defend Palestinian content online—called for a two-hour boycott of Facebook on Jan. 9.

“The administrations of social media websites have been pursuing, targeting, and restricting the publishing and access of Palestinian pages and accounts, and in full coordination with the Israeli occupation government,” the Initiative said in a statement. “As a result, Palestinian media have been restricted, and were unable to convey their national message.”

Facebook working with Israel to suppress content

Facebook’s targeting of Palestinian content isn’t new. The social media titan has a long history of working with Israeli authorities to remove Palestinian information.

Under the guise of hate speech, Facebook cracks down on content often related to certain keywords such as “Hamas” or “Zionism,” Alison Ramer, International Relations Manager at 7amleh – The Arab Center for the Advancement of Social Media, explained.

“A lot of times this is done through artificial intelligence, which the companies are really being pushed to use under increasing pressure from governments and the public to respond to hate speech,” Ramer said.

But it’s not just automatic processes that are determining what’s permitted on social media. According to a 2020 7amleh report, the Israeli government has orchestrated a systematic campaign through Facebook to ensure content related to the Palestinian cause is removed.

“The Israeli Minister of Justice, Ayelet Shaked stated that ‘Facebook, Google, and YouTube are complying with up to 95% of Israel’s requests to delete content that the Israeli government says incites Palestinian violence.’ This shows a significant focus on Palestinian content and efforts to label Palestinian political speech as incitement to violence,” 7amleh wrote.   

These requests are done through the Ministry of Justice’s Cyber Unit, which was established in 2015. Even Facebook’s own personnel appear to be in bed with Israel. Currently, Emi Palmor, Israel’s former Justice Ministry director-general, sits on Facebook and Instagram’s Oversight Board — a committee responsible for content moderation.

Additionally, governmental and non-governmental organizations are urging citizens to report Palestinian content. “Several of these organizations — dubbed “GONGOs” (government-operated NGOs) — are working to conflate criticism of Israel and anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism and hate speech and have designed strategies to manipulate social media algorithms with the support of online trolls,” 7amleh wrote.

These efforts not only remove Palestinian content but elevate smear campaigns against Palestinians. As Facebook works diligently to remove white supremacist content, Ramer acknowledged that it leaves hate speech directed toward Palestinians on its site.

“7amleh has documented hate speech directed toward Palestinians in Hebrew, which we have seen left online for many years, while legitimate political speech critical of Israel is being flagged as hate speech and censored,” Ramer said. “We know that the Israeli government and government-supporting NGOs are pushing for tech companies to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism, which is leading to increasing censorship of Palestinians and human rights defenders.”

According to Ramer, pressure from the Israeli Lobby is the motivating factor in restricting Palestinian content.  

“There’s pressure on Facebook to expand the definition of anti-Semitism, and we know that the intention of this is to censor those critical of Israel, Palestinians and human rights supporters. And this, obviously, can have a large impact on the development of many other tech companies’ policies,” Ramer said.

Not just Facebook

Facebook is the most popular social media platform for Palestinians, but it’s not the only one restricting their content.

TikTok recently removed the account belonging to Palestinian news organization, Quds News Network (QNN). The account manager, Hamzah al-Shobaki, said it was deleted after sharing 1,200 posts about Arab countries’ normalization with Israel. TikTok has since reinstated the account, claiming a violation error led to the account’s removal.

This isn’t QNN’s first experience with social media censorship, however. In 2019, the news outlet had four of its Twitter accounts deactivated without warning. QNN editors also had their personal Facebook accounts suspended in 2016, reportedly by mistake. Other Palestinian media sources have also had their Twitter and Facebook accounts removed over the years.

YouTube has been accused of violating Palestinian digital rights as well. Research from 7amleh details that the video-sharing platform uses hyper-surveillance tactics referred to as “locative discrimination” to monitor content coming from Palestine.

According to their findings, Palestinian YouTube user Ahmad conducted an online experiment to see if the removal of his content was due to his location:

“I sent the same video which has been deleted from my YouTube account to my friend’s YouTube account in Europe…and YouTube was fine with the video being published from a European country.”

“This simple test showed that content that’s being uploaded in the Palestinian Territories is being treated differently than the content uploaded by Western countries,” 7amleh’s Ramer said. “These policies are discriminatory and overly surveying and censoring Palestinians.”

Ramer emphasized that tech companies should not be the decision-makers regarding freedom of expression. Yet because they control these communication channels, they are ultimately tasked with monitoring what is shared—and Israel is taking full advantage of that.

“Israel is using this for its political aim to silence Palestinians. They’re using hate speech as a political tool,” Ramer said, clarifying that what’s happening not only blacks out Palestinian issues but the global conversation on human rights as a whole.

“This won’t just silence Palestinians, but it’ll silence human rights defenders, and it will show other governments how to use hate speech to silence and censor people.”

Birth of the Digital Oligarchy: The Trump Ban and the Social Media Ruse

Birth of the Digital Oligarchy: The Trump Ban and the Social Media Ruse

By Raul Diego

Source

The events at Capitol Hill provided the perfect excuse for Twitter and other social media companies to advance the agenda of their benefactors in the permanent government of the United States

On January 6, as the events unfolding at the U.S. Capitol were discussed on Twitter, the barrage of opinions predictably accumulated on one side of the political spectrum. Outrage over what mainstream pundits characterized as the desecration of the symbols of democracy and similar bleeding heart liberal rhetoric was far more prevalent than the opposing camp’s tendency to side with the so-called “insurrectionists” or tweets in support of the made-for-social media putsch.

Evidence of straight forward collusion between elements of law enforcement and the Trump loyalists who stormed the Congressional building began to emerge throughout the evening, giving a measure of credence to the emerging narrative of a purported “coup” attempt by the sitting president. Simultaneously, members of Congress with large followings started calling for impeachment and other retaliatory measures against fellow members of Congress, who seemed to be implicated in the tawdry affair.

On January 6, as the events unfolding at the U.S. Capitol were discussed on Twitter, the barrage of opinions predictably accumulated on one side of the political spectrum. Outrage over what mainstream pundits characterized as the desecration of the symbols of democracy and similar bleeding heart liberal rhetoric was far more prevalent than the opposing camp’s tendency to side with the so-called “insurrectionists” or tweets in support of the made-for-social media putsch.

Evidence of straight forward collusion between elements of law enforcement and the Trump loyalists who stormed the Congressional building began to emerge throughout the evening, giving a measure of credence to the emerging narrative of a purported “coup” attempt by the sitting president. Simultaneously, members of Congress with large followings started calling for impeachment and other retaliatory measures against fellow members of Congress, who seemed to be implicated in the tawdry affair.

Predictably, conservative publications like Fox News decried the measures as a power grab by Big Tech and protestations came as far away from Europe, where German Chancellor, Angela Merkel – whose disdain for Donald Trump has never been a secret – called the decision to deplatform a head of state “problematic,” an opinion shared by France’s Finance Minister Bruno Le Marie, who warned of a “digital oligarchy” usurping the powers of the state.

Missing in the salacious back-and-forth conversation between ideological factions and absent from the argument that they are private corporations, which have the legal authority to ban or deplatform anybody they wish, is the fact that Twitter, Facebook, and all the other major social media platforms are organs of the state to begin with, and that nothing they do falls outside of the ultimate designs of the powers they serve. 

Examples abound of how these platforms regularly engage in cyber reconnaissance missions for American and Atlanticist interests in violation of their own terms of service, such as when NATO commanders made use of coordinates provided by Twitter users in order to select missile strike targets in their war against Libya in 2011. 

Facebook’s recently created oversight board includes Emi Palmor, who was directly responsible for the removal of thousands of Palestinian posts from the social media giant during her tenure as Director of Israel’s Ministry of Justice. She, along with other individuals with clear sympathies to American interests, now sit on an official body tasked with emitting the last word on any disputes regarding issues of deplatforming on the global social network. 

Following you since 1972

In Yasha Levine’s seminal work, “Surveillance Valley,” the military origins of the Internet and the close relationship of social media companies to federal and local law enforcement are made patently clear. Since their creation, Twitter, Facebook, and other Silicon Valley behemoths have worked hand in hand with law enforcement agencies to augment their capacity for mass tracking and surveillance.

From facial recognition technologies to aggregated user post history, these platforms have been a crucial component in the development of the pervasive surveillance state we now live in. In the book’s prologue, Levine details the attempted creation of a citywide police surveillance hub in Oakland, California called the “Domain Awareness Center” (DAC), which drew intense opposition from the local citizenry and privacy advocates who were quick to undress city officials who were trying to hide the proposed center’s insidious links to the NSA, CIA and military contractors.

Among other capabilities, the control hub would be able to “plug in” social media feeds to track individuals or groups that posed any kind of threat to the establishment. While the DAC project was successfully defeated by an engaged public, similar initiatives were quickly implemented throughout law enforcement agencies across the country and continue to be perfected in order to not only track, but infiltrate political groups deemed problematic. 

From the early 1970s, when the Internet’s precursor ARPANET was used to spy on anti-war protestors, the vast machinery that constitutes our present-day technological ecosystem has not deviated from the original intentions of its creators and has reached a level of sophistication most of us can barely comprehend.

The seemingly innocuous ad-targeting algorithms that generate bespoke advertisements based on our surveilled lives via social media conceals a far more sinister architecture of control, which includes direct influence over people’s political opinions through micro-targeted messaging and even more insidious methods that are powerful enough to influence people’s actual behavior.

Amateur honeypots and the victory of the surveillance state 

One of the biggest misconceptions we have about social media is that platforms like Twitter and Facebook represent the voice of the people and that they are the new “public square” where anybody can get on and voice their opinion. While this perception holds some water on the surface, a closer examination reveals that – on the contrary – these platforms are simply propaganda tools brilliantly disguised as vox populi.

According to a Pew Research study from 2019, 80% of all tweets are created by just 10% of Twitter users. Most people who have an account on the ostensibly left-leaning social media platform rarely tweet at all. In addition, a majority of the content is created by accounts with very large followings and, in most cases, verified accounts that mainly represent established mainstream media personalities. 

Given that the politics espoused by this minuscule portion of the social network’s user base are amplified by the platform’s own algorithms, which have been shown to contain biases as all algorithms do, the perception that these platforms represent some kind of public opinion is revealed to be a very dangerous assumption.

A case in point is disturbingly reflected in a meme that ostensibly developed in yet another social media platform and rapidly spread on Twitter as a result of the incident on Capitol Hill. A tweet posted the day after on January 7 claimed that a woman in Washington D.C. was changing her profile preference on the Bumble dating app to “conservative” in order to entrap “insurrectionists” looking to hook up while visiting the nation’s capital by forwarding their photos to the FBI.

The tweet received hundreds of thousands of ‘likes’ and was retweeted thousands of times. The comments expressed overwhelming support for what amounts to an ostensibly spontaneous snitching operation by regular American citizens against other American citizens. In such a case, whether the meme itself is true has no bearing on the fact that Twitter, Facebook and any other platform where it was disseminated has the ultimate effect of normalizing and generating consent for the idea of self-monitoring and bringing the designs of the surveillance state full circle.

The Sheep Syndrome

The Sheep Syndrome
Peter Koenig is a geopolitical analyst and a former Senior Economist at the World Bank and the World Health Organization (WHO), where he has worked for over 30 years on water and environment around the world. He lectures at universities in the US, Europe and South America. He writes regularly for online journals and is the author of Implosion – An Economic Thriller about War, Environmental Destruction and Corporate Greed; and  co-author of Cynthia McKinney’s book “When China Sneezes: From the Coronavirus Lockdown to the Global Politico-Economic Crisis” (Clarity Press – November 1, 2020).

Peter Koenig is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization.

January 15, 2021

by Peter Koenig for the Saker Blog

Today and during the last few days new “measures” – restrictions of freedom imposed by governments for reasons of “public health security”, i. e. preventing the spread of covid infections – have been tightened throughout Europe. Literally, these treacherous governments say, “we have to tighten the screws”. Seriously. WTF – who do they think they are? Servant of the people who elected them and who pay them. This is high treason. But people take it without asking too many questions, some complaints but not strong enough… we are living in the midst of the Sheep Syndrome.

They – these supposedly people friendly governments – call them “measures”, a euphemism for lockdown – sounds better in the ears of a public tired of continuous and more and more repressions. This second, in some countries even third lockdown, includes further business closing, more severe control on home-office work, police-enhanced social distancing, mask wearing, no indoor group activities, only 5 people may meet in an apartment… and, and, and.

For example, there are about 75 studies – give or take a couple – about the uselessness and even dangers of mask wearing. They address especially the danger for children and young adults… but nobody, nobody in the bought-compromised and coerced, bribed – western governments pays any attention to them, nor does, of course, the presstitute mainstream media. They keep to the narrative – MUST wear a mask – MUST keep the safe 6ft. distance – police enforced.

They also impose homeoffice, knowing damn well that any serious psychologist and sociologist tells you how devastating this is for the individual – loneliness, lack of physical contact, encounter and interaction with colleagues – as well as for society as a whole. Without physical contact it breaks apart. This is of course all wanton – thus, all restaurant closings, all events where people gather and interchange, is forbidden.

People are unhappy. Yes, but not enough to stop this tyranny! – Well, I better behave otherwise I’m going to be punished. – FEAR! – Fear leads to the sheep syndrome – that deep-deep social disease which besets us today – and has done so for a while. People, we got to get out of it.

But, it seems, people are not yet tired enough to stand up in unison, screaming “enough is enough”, we do not continue this is government tyranny, we stop beying.

And yes, to give the tyranny more weight, more credibility, it is enhanced by a so-called Task Force (TF), a group of coopted “scientists”, especially established by the Powers that Be, to inform them what to do. It is an old method of a decision-making duality, when governments have to, or want to, take decisions that are not popular, they ask the Task Force for advice. However, the TF has been told and knows exactly what they have to advise. That’s a premeditated lie.

In the UK and France new lockdown measures were imposed already for days, Austria and Switzerland announced them a couple of days ago – the EU as an entity – says nothing, does not coordinate, does not want see that these lockdowns are not only destroying the individual nations’ economy, but they bring the entire EU to economic suicide. The EU is hamstrung by Washington and by NATO.

The new lockdowns – and possibly more are planned as more waves of covid are in the making – until everybody is vaxxed – and has his / her electromagnetic gel injected in their bodies with an DNA-altering substance. So now, they are totally controllable over time. And the time horizon set for total digitization of everything is 2030. AI and robot control of humans – making them into transhumans that’s the goal for the UN Agenda 21-30. And the instrument to achieve it is the Bill Gates created Agenda ID2020 (see https://www.globalresearch.ca/coronavirus-causes-effects-real-danger-agenda-id2020/5706153 )

More lockdowns are killing more small businesses, shops, and restaurants. Creating more hardship of small business owner, more bankruptcies, more misery for the people and their families, losing their jobs.

Just imagine – home-teaching, a family of 4, both parents work, the kids have to have each one a reasonably powerful computer to be able to connect to the school teacher – the kids have to have reasonable computer skills to manage home-learning, and the parents, even if they have time, do they all have the reasonable computer skills to help their kids? – Does every family in the already much covid-hardship affected society have the resources to spare for buying the needed electronic gear for the kids?

It is a disaster. Again, a wanton disaster. Because it will result in less or non-educated children in the west – non-educated kids will become easier manipulatable adults – well, they are expected to fall – in lockstep – into their parents Sheep Syndrome. – Or will they? – That’s where dynamics may not meet linear elite thinking and expectations.

Now, this is happening in the Global North. Imagine how it is in the Global South, where increasing poverty, misery and famine is ravaging entire societies, in cases more than two thirds of a country’s population. How will these kids be distance-taught? – They simply won’t. So, we have a situation where the Global South produces uneducated kids, because they simply don’t go to school. Most of them will remain poor, they will be the perfect laborers for the elite – or cannon fodder for the wars the rich nations have to (or want to) fight to satisfy their greed. Never forget, wars are profitable. But foremost because of their sociopathic thirst for more and more power and money.

Listening and talking to people in the street and to small business owners, they are all upset, and many of them say they may not survive, may never reopen, despite the subsidy they receive form governments. In Switzerland, the head of “Gastronomie Suisse” said with another lockdown, up to 50% of restaurants may not survive. A similar figure had been mentioned in Germany and Austria – and surely the situation is likewise devastating elsewhere too.

We are talking predominantly for the west. The situation in the East, Russia and China and their allies in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is different, in as much as they have a people-friendlier approach to covid-eradication.

In the west, in some cases, people’s entire lifesaving, their life achievements, their family businesses, are killed for the sake of a useless and purely oppressive rule. The purpose of this rule is not to stamp out a disease, but covid is a means to instill fear and make us compliant, for worse times to come. Because, let me tell you, whatever you may think that in the summer of 2021, or next year, 2022, we will get back to normal – we will not. Never. If we let them do what they are doing now.

This small Globalist Cabal, via its ultra-rich handlers – billionaires with two and three digits of Silicon Valley – does not only have the power to censoring whoever is against the Matrix, but they are all censuring in unison the President of the United States. What does that say about a country, or about a society we live in, a society that calls itself “democratic”?

No matter how much you like or dislike your President, doesn’t it occur to you that this is the embodiment of freedom of speech that is taken away from you? – But again, we do nothing. We watch and complain, but we do nothing. We let it happen. Wouldn’t this be a golden opportunity to block and boycott all social media platforms? Period. – Live without them, for Christ’s sake, some 20, 30 years ago we didn’t even know that they existed, or to what extent we will be hooked on them.

If we can still think independently, it’s now the time to cut yourself loose from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and what all their names are — don’t use them. Get back to regular human-to-human communications, dialogues, meeting each other, calling on the phone, landline if possible. Yes, I’m serious.

Think about the consequences of following this trend of no free speech, but a steady increase in AI-ization by algorithms that are precisely using the data you give them on the social platform to further enslave you; by ever more robotization and digitization – to the point when we don’t even realize that our brains have been wired and “hacked” by DARPA-developed super-computers, and we will believe and follow orders we are directly implanted by such super-computers, managed, guess by whom – by the Globalist Cabal – at which point we have irreversibly become the embodiment of the Sheep Syndrome. DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) is an advanced research and technology branch of the Pentagon.

Does anyone want that?
I doubt it.

We have to find a way to act now. I don’t have the solution. But maybe collectively connecting with each other spiritually, we will find a solution – or we will make a solution emerge.

That would be the noble way – changing an utterly abusive environment with conscientiousness and with spiritual thinking; emitting high-vibrating vibes that influence our collective destiny. But we have to believe in it and in ourselves as a solid and solidary collectivity.

If we fail as humans to claim back our human and civil rights and preserve them, eventually Mother Earth will clean herself. She will clean out the inhuman swamp. Maybe it needs one or two huge and lasting cataclysms; a massive earthquake with a disastrous tsunami, a gigantic eruption of one or several volcanos, darkening the sky for weeks, or a monster hurricane or ice storm that destroys and paralyzes parts of civilization, or a huge solar explosion, knocking out the world’s electric and electronic grid – ending digitization of everything on the spot.  – All this might be much worse than what covid, or its inventors, ever did.

After such a cataclysm, much of humanity might have to start from scratch – from near-to-zero, and certainly without digitization – but with the now lost freedom, to start afresh and develop freely and sovereignly according to our needs.

For decades the Global Cabal has showered us with self-aggrandizing lies, with promises of comfort, of well-being, but with the notion that competition rather than cooperation will be the salvation. These well-thought-out lies led to a society of egocentric psychopaths – not only, but enough to influence the trend of society, of our dystopian lives. We have gradually acquiesced in LOCKSTEP to a move of societal, even civilizational destruction, from where there is no return.

Let’s work ourselves out of the Sheep Syndrome – NOW.


US post-Capitol: Armed, hysterical, depressed & yet out for blood

US post-Capitol: Armed, hysterical, depressed & yet out for blood

January 14, 2021

by Ramin Mazaheri (@RaminMazaheri2) for the Saker Blog

The FBI says armed protests are being planned in all 50 states from January 16 until Joe Biden’s inauguration day on January 20.

It’s a living nightmare in the US right now – what else can be said?

“Hysteria” is the one word which described the United States in 2020, but in 2021 we are witnessing what happens when a hysterical sprinter just can’t stop sprinting – it is ugly.

I can objectively report that since the Electoral College decided the presidency – following the end of the Capitol Hill protest – seemingly everybody here is depressed and unhappy. The US cannot handle what is going on and everyone feels things are spinning out of control. What’s worse is that they cannot even help themselves from contributing to the spinning: The solution of those who opposed the armed protests is to antagonise the potential armed protesters?

It is ugly.

This is a pretty ambitious column, if “ambitious column” isn’t a journalistic oxymoron: I think all of the upcoming paragraphs can be turned into stand-alone columns because the US is, sadly, in such a hideously twisted shape.

It’s totally absurd to compare 9/11 to “1/6”, but that is what The New York Times did today – it only shows how inoculated modern Americans are from war on their own soil. Do Americans realise that the Capitol Hill protests are exactly what Washington has encouraged in Hong Kong, Venezuela, Syria, Ukraine, Iran, etc.? And that’s just in your recent memory banks – go back to World War II and the’ve done this in half the world. I can report absolutely nobody in the Mainstream Media here is making that connection. Well, America, the sight of a bloody and brewing civil war is pretty terrible, isn’t it? Like I wrote this is a whole column, but the US has hit what is a comparatively tiny bump in the road – when compared to what they have so gleefully fomented for so very long and with such self-righteousness – and Americans are absolutely falling to pieces.

Do Americans realise that the worst thing to do right now is to spend much time consulting their corporate-dominated media? The Capitol Hill protest was spectacular for ratings, and this country – which totally lacks a sizeable, patriotic and neutral government media – wants to make big bucks until at least inauguration day by hyping what should not be hyped. Do not tune into the news during this time of hysteria – you will thank me for it.

I also have encouraged people to not tune into social media. It’s not that the average person doesn’t know what he or she is talking about – I always insist that the “person on the street” interviews I do often provide me with better insights than interviews with degreed experts – it’s that there simply is no filter. Trump is toxic on his social media because that’s what American social media is – toxic. Western, uncensored social media is seemingly designed to provide a direct counterweight to the Asian cultural model of “saving” and “giving” face. I would guess that the overwhelming majority of Americans – after this roughly 15-year experiment with it – would say that social media has been a societal and personal disappointment.

On the macro level of social media: the US has created a monster, as there simply is no way to regulate Big Tech. They are clearly a monopoly power which can shut down political speech, like with the app Parler, and yet it is their “legal right” to do so because they are a business and not a press – i.e., they have no social responsibilities, but do have all the human rights America insanely grants to corporations. This, of course, enrages an American populace which (falsely) believes their country is a global leader in defending the human right to free press. Facebook took down PressTV’s page for a few hours – of course: If they will ban President Trump on Twitter why would they hesitate much longer for Iran? We are only just comprehending what “social media” can really do to a society, but the negative case study is: the US 2020 election.

Joe Biden is being tasked with healing the whole country even though he also spent the last four years demonising half the country. That is perhaps the best way to gauge what the upcoming chances are for “reconciliation” in America. I just don’t find the idea that the United States will rally around a hugely discredited and wilfully, remorselessly divisive Democratic Party even remotely credible.

Biden has just picked his head of the CIA – it was a person who was also a top candidate for the Secretary of State (foreign minister) post. That the nation’s top spy and top diplomat are interchangeable – and that this goes uncommented upon – says a lot about the United States. Washington does not try to persuade anyone – they just apply pressure, spy on them and make sure the national needs of their allies are subverted to the national needs of the US. Angela Merkel denounced Trump’s Twitter ban, just as she denounced Obama spying on her calls. The US has no allies, and while they will blame Trump for losing all their “international standing” the reality is they had none and want none.

Today’s impeachment of Trump is a spectacularly foolish errand: they will never get the Senate supermajority to actually impeach Trump; he’s leaving in seven days; Trump is correct that it will – of course – cause “tremendous anger”; it is clearly designed to sabotage Trump’s 2024 election chances, at whatever cost to national unity; 40% of the country already feels like their presidential vote was disenfranchised – now you want to impeach their leader (which comes after the censorship of him and before the prosecution of him)? It’s just useless theatre – the US election circus continues.

Is it possible that I was wrong to say that a violent right-wing movement – something comparable in determination (though not at all comparable in aims) to what the US saw last summer in response to never-ending police brutality – cannot ever grow strong enough in the US to “Occupy Capitol Hill”, or something similar? I still don’t think I am wrong and that once this final week passes so will these protests. American conservatives are too status-quo loving, too law and order-worshipping and too jingoistic to really try and change America.

I think the Capitol Hill protest was a one-time act of civil disobedience which spontaneously grew beyond the intentions of the mass majority of protesters – I have seen that happen countless times in person as a journalist. It obviously never morphed into an “Occupy Capitol Hill” multi-day protest because it was obviously never intended to (and for the same reason above). The people at the front lines of such protests are always a different breed; always run the range of political views from right to left; always have a range of motivations, from being mere adrenaline-seekers to genuine political integrity. I have also seen the video footage – captured by a left-wing Black Lives Matter member (because there is always this range of values) – of a Capitol cop, whose life was not threatened, shoot and kill female protester Ashlii Babbitt. I’m appalled there’s not more MSM discussion about that, because the footage is so clear that this was police brutality, but any such discussion radically changes how the protest has to be covered by the MSM: it means taking a break from demonising the protesters, and the US corporate media does not want that.

It was totally clear in the week since Capitol Hill: It’s not enough that Biden won – the US anti-Trump elite wants blood. They want Twitter and Facebook to ban Trump, so they can censor and others (as they just did with Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei and Iranian state media PressTV). They want to imprison the Capitol Hill protesters, so they can prevent any anti-Biden political protests in the next four years. They want to impeach and jail Trump, so they can prevent Trumpism from growing beyond their idiotic, “how did I get here” leader into something which could upend the world’s oldest duopoly.

These are all columns because they are all huge issues which cannot be resolved in a few sentences – only summed up. I’m only stopping because I have word limits – feel free to point out which issues weren’t included.

The bottom line on the Democrat side is: Many Americans have spent four years hysterically demonising Trump supporters – they can’t turn it off: Winning the Electoral College obviously wasn’t enough. They want animals put in cages whom they can go poke; they want to fabricate a moral high ground which they believe is so high that it exonerates them from open debate; they want compound interest on the four years they wasted on the perennial US political circus.

The other bottom line on the Republican side is: Trump supporters are in shock that they lost – every one I talked with was so very certain of his victory. Then many of them were certain the Donald would pull it out, but what the Donald did was pass up every opportunity to take a courageous stand and to essentially say, “I’ve been using you supporters all this time.” Trump supporters now see this atrocious past week as if the US elite is presenting them with only two choices: either return to being mainstream Republicans or leave politics altogether. Many will choose the latter. Many Americans will not miss them. They will still be here, I point out to the victors.

I also point out to the victors: Trump losing the election did not solve all this country’s problems, as it was long promised. America in 2021 has way too many problems for such a simple solution.

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Dispatches from the United States after the presidential election

Results are in: Americans lose, duopoly wins, Trumpism not merely a cult (1/2) – November 5, 2020

Results are in: Americans lose, duopoly wins, Trumpism not merely a cult (2/2) – November 6, 2020

4 years of anti-Trumpism shaping MSM vote coverage, but expect long fight – November 7, 2020

US partitioned by 2 presidents: worst-case election scenario realized – November 9, 2020

A 2nd term is his if he really wants it, but how deep is Trump’s ‘Trumpism’? – November 10, 2020

CNN’s Jake Tapper: The overseer keeping all journalists in line (1/2) – November 13, 2020

‘Bidenism’ domestically: no free press, no lawyer, one-party state? (2/2) – November 15, 2020

Where’s Donald? When 40% of voters cry ‘fraud’ you’ve got a big problem – November 17, 2020

The 4-year (neoliberal) radicalisation of US media & Bidenites’ ‘unradical radicalism’ – November 22, 2020

80% of US partisan losers think the last 2 elections were stolen – December 3, 2020

Trump declares civil war for voter integrity in breaking (or broken) USA – December 5, 2020

Mess with Texas via mail-in ballot? States secede from presidential vote – December 8, 2020

Biden won? 2016-2020 showed what the US does to even mild reformers – Dec 18, 2020

Alleged Nashville bomber not Muslim: Western media disappointed – January 2, 2020

This week in the US: The ‘model nation’ for no nation anymore – January 7, 2020

Biggest threat to global leftism returns to power: US fake-leftism (1/2) – January 8, 2021

Ramin Mazaheri is currently covering the US elections. He is the chief correspondent in Paris for Press TV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. He is the author of ‘Socialism’s Ignored Success: Iranian Islamic Socialism’ as well as ‘I’ll Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China’, which is also available in simplified and traditional Chinese.

The Fascist neo-left and the Trump Factor

Source

The Fascist neo-left and the Trump Factor

November 21, 2020

by Ghassan Kadi for the Saker Blog

Nearly three weeks after the American elections, Americans and the world in general, are still none-the-wiser; not knowing who really won and if the votes have all been legitimate or otherwise.

And the man who is supposedly trying to make America respectable again, yes, Joe Biden, started his ‘tenure’ ironically by presenting his own disrespect by breaking the law and declaring himself as ‘president elect’ and establishing an illegal entity in the name of the ‘Office of President-Elect’.

There are serious accusations that allege that dead people have voted, that boxes of late illegal ballots (all voting for Biden) suddenly appeared from no-where, that the Dominion machines have been deliberately rigged in a manner that favoured Biden, that ballot observers from the Trump camp were not allowed to scrutineer, and much more.

Whilst all of the above points are considered allegations from the legal point of view, the Democrat camp should not be concerned at all if it has nothing to hide. If anything, if it is serious about restoring America’s respect in the eyes of the world, it should encourage transparency and investigations that prove without a single speck of doubt that they are all false. But that same camp that refused the legitimate results of a Trump win four years ago and then fabricated stories like Russiagate and others, is now urging the whole world to believe that the alleged Biden win is legitimate and that there was no interference.

Apart from allegations, what each of us knows for fact is that the media, especially social media, especially Facebook and Twitter have been instrumental in restricting and censoring posts and comments that favour Trump. At the same time, they implemented a blackout relating to the serious allegations of corruption about Biden and his family. If this is not interference in the election results, then what is?

Given the reach and power of social media, and given that most people are not interested in fact-finding, Facebook and Twitter have been engaged in a deliberate campaign of choosing what they allowed to be published and preventing others based only and only on their political views vis-à-vis the American elections.

Once the dust settles one way or the other, if there is any justice left in this world, social media personnel who have forged and implemented those policies must face trial.

What is most ironic about this whole new world that is everything but brave, is that the filthy rich and corrupt are cloaking themselves with the attire of the Left. There is really nothing left of the original Left in today’s Left.

Many, if not most of today’s ”Lefties” are inclined towards the current version of the political Left without really discerning that much has changed since the days of Castro and Guevara.

Today’s Left does not represent the working class.

Today’s Left is not concerned with achieving social justice.

Today’s Left is not concerned with ending capitalism and feudalism.

Today’s Neo-Left, is the consortium of globalists who own sweat shops in developing countries. They are the war-mongers, the arms dealers, the foot soldiers of thought police and they insist that your six-year-old children and grandchildren must learn about subjects like gender fluidity instead of learning history.

The devolution of the former political Left has been taking place for at least three decades, since the collapse of the USSR perhaps and the emergence of the so-called ‘New World Order’. But the 2016 Trump election has fast-tracked the process. George Soros who has an axe to grind with Communism became overnight the principle benefactor of most post-USSR Left movements. For better or for worse, it was as if he wanted to make sure that he contained the Left in a manner that deviates it from its original ideology. But he is not alone, and he is probably not doing this only and only because of political conviction. His ‘bigger’ partners, whether he is aware of their presence or not, have got a much bigger fish to fry; the fish of global control.

But is globalism what it appears to mean or is it a new form of hegemony? Let us not get into this herein. This will be the subject of the next article. Enough to say that what seems to surface from the actions and agendas of globalists is that they are adamant about destroying Western values; including democracy.

When my wife and I were in Russia on the 70th Anniversary of Victory over Nazi Germany, we were in total awe watching the Eternal Regiment on Nevski Prospect in St. Petersburg. Men and women proudly, silently and dignifiedly marching carrying photos of family members who perished fighting the Nazi malice. What was most amazing was seeing young boys and girls giving flowers to the elderly as a mark of respect. This is because students in Russia study history. The young generations must never take for granted the privileges they have. If they do not understand and respect the sacrifices of their forebears, they will never be able to realize what their own obligations are for today and the future. Many Americans do not know what the 4th of July stands for any more than they know how many States there are in the Union. Children growing up in the West have no idea, no idea at all, how and why they live in affluent countries with public services and government-financed welfare.

And when the million man/woman march was over many hours after it started, we could not see a single empty drink can dumped on the street, not even cigarette butts. And then we remembered that a few days earlier when we were in Moscow admiring among other things, the subway/metro stations, we did not witness any evidence of vandalism or graffiti either on the carriages or in the stations.

A far cry from what we see in the West, because to be proud of who one is has become taboo in the West; courtesy the neo-Left and their henchmen.

Personally, I used to feel concerned of what the armed Right-wing Evangelicals might do if they have it their way. But despite their heavy public display of weapons, I didn’t see any evidence to show that they have taken to the streets for the purpose destroying shops and looting. In saying this, and I am not saying that the pro-Trump militias are incapable of perpetrating organized violence, but recently thus far they haven’t. If anything, with all the BLM-associated violence and the attacks Trump supporters have recently faced, the armed conservatives have thus far displayed a huge degree of self-control and abidance by the rules of the law. They argue that their presence is to protect private and public property, and evidence seems to stack up in their favour.

On the other hand, and despite the bias of mainstream media, videos have emerged showing BLM supporters not only looting, but also terrorizing those who disagree with them and refuse to put their fist up in show of support.

Today’s Neo-Left activists are the ones using Nazi tactics; not the other way around. They are the controlled opposition and the foot soldiers of the thought-police; and these are undeniable facts. If anything, the Trump factor has enhanced their exposure.

And if you resurrect Guevara and catapult him into today’s political world without giving him a crash refresher course, he would not know which side of the political divide is which. If anything, he may think that it is the other way around.

In the event of a Biden win that Trump’s supporters may see as unfair, they may be driven to become violent, I don’t know. What I do know is that I have seen serious and concerning rowdy violent behaviour from the Left that makes me now feel that I am more fearful of organizations such as Extinction Rebellion than I am from the armed Evangelicals.

When the late and great Martin Luther King Jr. made his historic ‘I have a dream’ speech, he did not dream of a day when angry mobs would use the excuse of human rights in order to loot and pillage, gang attack supporters of their political opponents, and break the law and Constitution.

And when John Lennon sang ‘Give Peace a Chance’ and ‘Imagine’, he was hoping that one day political leaders would take heed and start putting their hearts before what they can achieve militarily.

Among other things, the thing with Trump is that he is/was not a politician. What drove him from being a profiteering tycoon to a man who wants to end American wars in the world is not something I can explain or understand. Clearly though, even if he is merely running America as a corporation, he must realize that it is not in America’s interests to be constantly engaged in expensive wars that do not have any benefit for America itself. If this is pragmatism from a profit-and-loss business perspective, then I don’t have any problems with this. I want to see American troops pulling out of conflict regions in the world. They have no business in Japan, South Korea, Afghanistan, Iraq and my beloved Syria to name a few places.

The thing about Trump is that he is not even a typical die-hard Republican. The archetypal Republicans are not a bunch of ‘nice guys’ either. How can anyone forget the legacy of the GOP? How can we forget George W Bush’s war on Iraq and his lies about the alleged Iraqi WMD’s? And what about his gang of infamous neo-cons; Perle, and Wolfowitz; not to forget Cheney, McCain, and many more from the gung-ho Republican Right that invaded both Afghanistan and Iraq, killed at least a million civilians and only ended up creating more problems than the ones they claimed they needed to resolve?

Whether Trump wins or loses the legal battle against what looks like a huge body of evidence of electoral fraud at different levels, between now and January the 20th 2021, unlike what the social media brainwashers want people to think and believe, he is not a ‘presidential candidate’, he remains to be the President of the United States of America and he remains to be the Commander in Chief.

To this effect, in as much as the POTUS is domestically building up a huge legal case against the alleged win of Biden, he equally seems to be preparing for the worst-case scenario on international matters. He is working on the contingencies of losing by seemingly making serious efforts into ending wars and the presence of American troops overseas. May he be successful doing this if he is true to his word.

But Mr. President, if you really want to clean up the slate as much as possible in case you lose the legal battle against the corrupt who serve the Deep State, you must then remember that partial withdrawals do not end wars. A drawdown is not a withdrawal. Stand by your promise and let history festoon you as the man who ended all of America’s wars overseas. For even if you leave one soldier, yes Mr. President, one single American soldier on the soil of Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, or any other place on earth where his presence is not legitimately requested by the people of that land, then you will be remembered in history as the man who faked withdrawals of American troops; and you despise fake actions Mr. President, don’t you?

Last but not least Mr. President, you must at least stop the oil theft from Syria, repeal the Caesar Act, and pardon Assange.

Assange Mr. President is the victim of your enemies. His ‘crime’ was to expose the dirty works of Hillary. How can you not drop all charges against him?

And Mr. President, should you win the legal battle and prove that your opponents have cheated the public, you MUST then clean up the swamp with an iron fist and a high pressure hose. Zuckerberg, the Clintons, the Bidens, CNN, as well as officials that helped fabricate stories about you. The whole gamut of filthy lying manipulators must face justice and the next four years will be a case of now or never.

The electoral issues are something for the American legal system to decide; provided that the system continues to have the power to reach a decision that is lawful and not dictated by the party machine of the Democrats, their cohorts and henchmen with Facebook, Twitter and Google being on the top of the list.

Martin Luther King Jr. would now be saying I’m having a nightmare, I am having a nightmare because in the name of social justice, in my name, protestors are attacked, shops are looted and elections are getting rigged.

The failings of the Neo-Left do not mean that the neo-Right, Trumpism, is always or even necessarily sometimes right by default. What is pertinent is that the choice between the former and traditional Right and Left has now morphed into a choice of discerning right from wrong, and it is the Neo-Left activists who are behaving like Fascists, courtesy the Trump factor.

Social media’s erasure of Palestinians is a grim warning for our future

Jonathan Cook

26 October 2020 12:39 UTC 

Facebook, Google and Twitter are not neutral platforms. They control the digital public square to aid the powerful – and can cancel any of us overnight

Palestinian critics say Facebook has become ‘another face of occupation’ (AFP/File photo)

There is a growing unease that the decisions taken by social media corporations can have a harmful impact on our lives. These platforms, despite enjoying an effective monopoly over the virtual public square, have long avoided serious scrutiny or accountability. 

In a new Netflix documentary, The Social Dilemma, former Silicon Valley executives warn of a dystopian future. Google, Facebook and Twitter have gathered vast quantities of data on us to better predict and manipulate our desires. Their products are gradually rewiring our brains to addict us to our screens and make us more pliable to advertisers. The result, as we are consigned to discrete ideological echo chambers, is ever greater social and political polarisation and turmoil.

Western publics are waking up very belatedly to the undemocratic power social media wields over them

As if to underline the ever-tightening grip these tech corporations exert on our lives, Facebook and Twitter decided this month to openly interfere in the most contentious US presidential election in living memory. They censored a story that could harm the electoral prospects of Joe Biden, the Democratic challenger to incumbent President Donald Trump. 

Given that nearly half of Americans receive their news chiefly via Facebook, the ramifications of such a decision on our political life were not hard to interpret. In excising any debate about purported corruption and influence-peddling by Biden’s son, Hunter, carried out in his father’s name, these social media platforms stepped firmly into the role of authoritarian arbiter of what we are allowed to say and know. 

‘Monopoly gatekeeper’

Western publics are waking up very belatedly to the undemocratic power social media wields over them. But if we wish to understand where this ultimately leads, there is no better case study than the very different ways Israelis and Palestinians have been treated by the tech giants. 

The treatment of Palestinians online serves as a warning that it would be foolish indeed to regard these globe-spanning corporations as politically neutral platforms, and their decisions as straightforwardly commercial. This is to doubly misunderstand their role.How Facebook threatens vulnerable Muslim communities Read More »

Social media firms are now effectively monopolistic communication grids – similar to the electricity and water grids, or the phone network of a quarter of a century ago. Their decisions are therefore no longer private matters, but instead have huge social, economic and political consequences. That is part of the reason why the US justice department launched a lawsuit last week against Google for acting as a “monopoly gatekeeper for the internet”. 

Google, Facebook and Twitter have no more a right to arbitrarily decide who and what they host on their sites than telecoms companies once had a right to decide whether a customer should be allowed a phone line. But unlike the phone company, social media corporations control not just the means of communication, but the content too. They can decide, as the Hunter Biden story shows, whether their customers get to participate in vital public debates about who leads them.

The Hunter Biden decision is as if the phone company of old not only listened in to conversations, but was able to cut the line if it did not like the politics of any particular customer. 

In fact, it is even worse than that. Social media now deliver the news to large sections of the population. Their censoring of a story is more akin to the electricity company turning off the power to everyone’s homes for the duration of a TV broadcast to ensure no one can see it.

Censorship by stealth

The tech giants are the wealthiest, most powerful corporations in human history, their riches measured in hundreds of billions, and now trillions, of dollars. But the argument that they are apolitical – aiming simply to maximise profits – was never true. 

They have every reason to promote politicians who side with them by committing not to break up their monopolies or regulate their activities, or, better still, by promising to weaken controls that might prevent them from growing even more fabulously rich and powerful. 

Social media algorithms help drive decisions on content removal (AFP/File photo)
Social media algorithms help drive decisions on content removal (AFP/File photo)

Conversely, the tech giants also have every incentive to use the digital space to penalise and marginalise political activists who urge greater regulation either of their activities, or of the marketplace more generally. 

Unlike their explicit deletion of the Hunter Biden story, which incensed the Trump administration, social media corporations more usually censor by stealth. That power is wielded through algorithms, the secret codes that decide whether something or someone appears in a search result or on a social media feed. If they desire, these tech titans can cancel any one of us overnight. 

This is not just political paranoia. The disproportionate impact of algorithm changes on “left-leaning” websites – those most critical of the neoliberal system that has enriched social media corporations – was highlighted this month by the Wall Street Journal. 

Wrong kinds of speech

Politicians increasingly understand the power of social media, which is why they want to harness it as best they can for their own ends. Since the shock of Trump’s election victory in late 2016, Facebook, Google and Twitter executives have regularly found themselves dragged before legislative oversight committees in the US and UK.

There, they are ritually rebuked by politicians for creating a crisis of “fake news” – a crisis that, in fact, long predated social media, as the deceptions of US and UK officials in linking Saddam Hussein to 9/11 and claiming that Iraq had “weapons of mass destruction” testify to only too clearly. 

The online fate of Palestinians points to a future in which the already-powerful will gain ever greater control over what we know and what we are allowed to think

Politicians have also begun holding internet corporations responsible for “foreign interference” in western elections – typically blamed on Russia – despite a dearth of serious evidence for most of their allegations

Political pressure is being exerted not to make the corporations more transparent and accountable, but to steer them towards enforcing even more assiduously restrictions on the wrong kinds of speech – whether it be violent racists on the right or critics of capitalism and western government policy on the left.

For that reason, social media’s original image as a neutral arena of information sharing, or as a tool for widening public debate and increasing civic engagement, or as a discourse leveller between the rich and powerful and weak and marginalised, grows ever more hollow.

Separate digital rights

Nowhere are ties between tech and state officials more evident than in their dealings with Israel. This has led to starkly different treatment of digital rights for Israelis and Palestinians. The online fate of Palestinians points to a future in which the already-powerful will gain ever greater control over what we know and what we are allowed to think, and over who is visible and who is erased from public life.

Israel was well-positioned to exploit social media before most other states had recognised its importance in manipulating popular attitudes and perceptions. For decades, Israel had, in part, outsourced an official programme of hasbara – or state propaganda – to its own citizens and supporters abroad. As new digital platforms emerged, these partisans were only too willing to expand their role.Facebook accused of censoring Palestinians under pretext of fighting hate speech Read More »

Israel had another advantage. After the 1967 occupation of the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza, Israel began crafting a narrative of state victimhood by redefining antisemitism to suggest it was now a particular affliction of the left, not the right. So-called “new antisemitism” did not target Jews, but related instead to criticism of Israel and support for Palestinian rights. 

This highly dubious narrative proved easy to condense into social media-friendly soundbites. 

Israel still routinely describes any Palestinian resistance to its belligerent occupation or its illegal settlements as “terrorism”, and any support from other Palestinians as “incitement”. International solidarity with Palestinians is characterised as “delegitimisation” and equated with antisemitism. 

‘Flood the internet’

As far back as 2008, it emerged that a pro-Israel media lobby group, Camera, had been orchestrating covert efforts by Israel loyalists to infiltrate the online encyclopedia Wikipedia to edit entries and “rewrite history” in ways favourable to Israel. Soon afterwards, politician Naftali Bennett helped organise courses teaching “Zionist editing” of Wikipedia. 

In 2011, the Israeli army declared social media a new “battleground” and assigned “cyber warriors” to wage combat online. In 2015, Israel’s foreign ministry set up an additional command centre to recruit young, tech-savvy former soldiers from 8200, the army’s cyber intelligence unit, to lead the battle online. Many have gone on to establish hi-tech firms whose spying software became integral to the functioning of social media.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a 2019 cyber industry conference in Tel Aviv (AFP)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a 2019 cyber industry conference in Tel Aviv (AFP)

An app launched in 2017, Act.IL, mobilised Israel partisans to “swarm” sites hosting either criticism of Israel or support for Palestinians. The initiative, supported by Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs, was headed by veterans of Israeli intelligence services. 

According to the Forward, a US Jewish weekly, Israel’s intelligence services liaise closely with Act.IL and request help in getting content, including videos, removed by social media platforms. The Forward observed shortly after the app was rolled out: “Its work so far offers a startling glimpse of how it could shape the online conversations about Israel without ever showing its hand.”

Sima Vaknin-Gil, a former Israeli military censor who was then assigned to Israel’s strategic affairs ministry, said the goal was to “create a community of fighters” whose job was to “flood the internet” with Israeli propaganda

Willing allies

With advantages measured in personnel numbers and ideological zeal, in tech and propaganda experience, and in high-level influence in Washington and Silicon Valley, Israel was soon able to turn social media platforms into willing allies in its struggle to marginalise Palestinians online.  

In 2016, Israel’s justice ministry was boasting that Facebook, Google and YouTube were “complying with up to 95 percent of Israeli requests to delete content”, almost all of it Palestinian. The social media companies did not confirm this figure.

The Anti-Defamation League, a pro-Israel lobby group with a history of smearing Palestinian organisations and Jewish groups critical of Israel, established a “command centre” in Silicon Valley in 2017 to monitor what it termed “online hate speech”. That same year, it was appointed a “trusted flagger” organisation for YouTube, meaning its reporting of content for removal was prioritised. 

Tech corporations are now the undeclared, profit-driven arbiters of our speech rights. But their commitment is not to open and vigorous public debate

At a 2018 conference in Ramallah hosted by 7amleh, a Palestinian online advocacy group, local Google and Facebook representatives barely hid their priorities. It was important to their bottom line to avoid upsetting governments with the power to constrain their commercial activities – even if those governments were systematically violating international law and human rights. In this battle, the Palestinian Authority carries no weight at all. Israel presides over Palestinians’ communications and internet infrastructure. It controls the Palestinian economy and its key resources.

Since 2016, Israel’s justice ministry has reportedly suppressed tens of thousands of Palestinian posts. In a completely opaque process, Israel’s own algorithms detect content it deems “extremist” and then requests its removal. Hundreds of Palestinians have been arrested by Israel over social media posts, chilling online activity. 

Human Rights Watch warned late last year that Israel and Facebook were often blurring the distinction between legitimate criticism of Israel and incitement. Conversely, as Israel has shifted ever further rightwards, the Netanyahu government and social media platforms have not stemmed a surge of posts in Hebrew promoting anti-Palestinian incitement and calling for violence. 7amleh has noted that Israelis post racist or inciteful material against Palestinians roughly every minute. 

News agencies shut down

As well as excising tens of thousands of Palestinian posts, Israel has persuaded Facebook to take down the accounts of major Palestinian news agencies and leading journalists. 

By 2018, the Palestinian public had grown so incensed that a campaign of online protests and calls to boycott Facebook were led under the hashtag “FBcensorsPalestine”. In Gaza, demonstrators accused the company of being “another face of occupation”. Leila Khaled shutdown shows how corporate tech is enemy of free speechRead More »

Activism in solidarity with Palestinians in the US and Europe has been similarly targeted. Ads for films, as well as the films themselves, have been taken down and websites removed. 

Last month, Zoom, a video conferencing site that has boomed during the Covid-19 pandemic, joined YouTube and Facebook in censoring a webinar organised by San Francisco State University because it included Leila Khaled, an icon of the Palestinian resistance movement now in her seventies.

On Friday, Zoom blocked a second scheduled appearance by Khaled – this time in a University of Hawaii webinar on censorship – as well as a spate of other events across the US to protest against her cancellation by the site. A statement concerning the day of action said campuses were “joining in the campaign to resist corporate and university silencing of Palestinian narratives and Palestinian voices”.

The decision, a flagrant attack on academic freedom, was reportedly taken after the social media groups were heavily pressured by the Israeli government and anti-Palestinian lobby groups, which labelled the webinar “antisemitic”.

Wiped off the map

The degree to which the tech giants’ discrimination against Palestinians is structural and entrenched has been underscored by the years-long struggle of activists both to include Palestinian villages on online maps and GPS services, and to name the Palestinian territories as “Palestine”, in accordance with Palestine’s recognition by the United Nations. 

That campaign has largely floundered, even though more than a million people have signed a petition in protest. Both Google and Apple have proved highly resistant to these appeals; hundreds of Palestinian villages are missing from their maps of the occupied West Bank, while Israel’s illegal settlements are identified in detail, accorded the same status as the Palestinian communities that are shown. 

New houses are built in the Nokdim settlement in the occupied West Bank on 13 October (AFP)
New houses being built in the Nokdim settlement in the occupied West Bank on 13 October (AFP)

The occupied Palestinian territories are subordinated under the name “Israel”, while Jerusalem is presented as Israel’s unified and undisputed capital, just as Israel claims – making the occupation of the Palestinian section of the city invisible. 

These are far from politically neutral decisions. Israeli governments have long pursued a Greater Israel ideology that requires driving Palestinians off their lands. This year, that dispossession programme was formalised with plans, backed by the Trump administration, to annex swathes of the West Bank. 

Google and Apple are effectively colluding in this policy by helping to erase Palestinians’ visible presence in their homeland. As two Palestinian scholars, George Zeidan and Haya Haddad, recently noted: “When Google and Apple erase Palestinian villages from their navigation, but proudly mark settlements, the effect is complicity in the Israeli nationalist narrative.” 

Out of the shadows

Israel’s ever-tightening relationship with social media corporations has played out largely behind the scenes. But these ties moved decisively out of the shadows in May, when Facebook announced that its new oversight board would include Emi Palmor, one of the architects of Israel’s online repression policy towards Palestinians. 

Palestinians know only too well how easy it is for technology to diminish and disappear the voices of the weak and oppressed, and to amplify the voices of the powerful

The board will issue precedent-setting rulings to help shape Facebook’s and Instagram’s censorship and free speech policies. But as the former director-general of the justice ministry, Palmor has shown no commitment to online free speech. Quite the reverse: she worked hand-in-hand with the tech giants to censor Palestinian posts and shut down Palestinian news websites. She oversaw the transformation of her department into what the human rights organisation Adalah has called the Orwellian “Ministry of Truth”. 

Tech corporations are now the undeclared, profit-driven arbiters of our speech rights. But their commitment is not to open and vigorous public debate, online transparency or greater civic engagement. Their only commitment is to the maintenance of a business environment in which they avoid any regulation by major governments infringing on their right to make money.

The appointment of Palmor perfectly illustrates the corrupting relationship between government and social media. Palestinians know only too well how easy it is for technology to diminish and disappear the voices of the weak and oppressed, and to amplify the voices of the powerful. 

Many more of us could soon find ourselves sharing the online fate of Palestinians.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.Jonathan CookJonathan Cook, a British journalist based in Nazareth since 2001, is the the author of three books on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He is a past winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His website and blog can be found at: http://www.jonathan-cook.net

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with RTVI television, Moscow, September 17, 2020

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with RTVI television, Moscow, September 17, 2020

September 18, 2020

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation

Question: I’ll start with the hottest topic, Belarus. President of the Republic of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko visited Bocharov Ruchei. Both sides have officially recognised that change within the Union State is underway. This begs the question: What is this about? A common currency, common army and common market? What will it be like?

Sergey Lavrov: It will be the way our countries decide. Work is underway. It relies on the 1999 Union Treaty. We understand that over 20 years have passed since then. That is why, a couple of years ago, upon the decision of the two presidents, the governments of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus began to work on identifying the agreed-upon steps that would make our integration fit current circumstances. Recently, at a meeting with Russian journalists, President Lukashenko said that the situation had, of course, changed and we must agree on ways to deepen integration from today’s perspective.

The presidential election has taken place in Belarus. The situation there is tense, because the opposition, backed by some of our Western colleagues, is trying to challenge the election outcome, but I’m convinced that the situation will soon get back to normal, and the work to promote integration processes will resume.

Everything that is written in the Union Treaty is now being analysed. Both sides have to come to a common opinion about whether a particular provision of the Union Treaty is still relevant, or needs to be revised. There are 31 roadmaps, and each one focuses on a specific section of the Union Treaty. So, there’s clearly a commitment to continue the reform, a fact that was confirmed by the presidents during a recent telephone conversation. This is further corroborated by the presidents’ meeting in Sochi.

I would not want that country’s neighbours, and our neighbours for that matter, including Lithuania, for example, to try to impose their will on the Belarusian people and, in fact, to manage the processes in which the opposition is unwittingly doing what’s expected of it. I have talked several times about Svetlana Tikhanovskaya’s situation. Clearly, someone is putting words in her mouth. She is now in the capital of Lithuania, which, like our Polish colleagues, is strongly demanding a change of power in Belarus. You are aware that Lithuania declared Ms Tikhanovskaya the leader of the Republic of Belarus, and Alexander Lukashenko was declared an illegitimate president.

Ms Tikhanovskaya has made statements that give rise to many questions. She said she was concerned that Russia and Belarus have close relations. The other day, she called on the security and law-enforcement forces to side with the law. In her mind, this is a direct invitation to breach the oath of office and, by and large, to commit high treason. This is probably a criminal offense. So, those who provide her with a framework for her activities and tell her what to say and what issues to raise should, of course, realise that they may be held accountable for that.

Question: Commenting on the upcoming meeting of the presidents of Russia and Belarus in Sochi, Tikhanovskaya said: “Whatever they agree on, these agreements will be illegitimate, because the new state and the new leader will revise them.” How can one work under such circumstances?

Sergey Lavrov: She was also saying something like that when Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin went to Belarus to meet with President Lukashenko and Prime Minister Golovchenko. She was saying it then. Back then, the opposition was concerned about any more or less close ties between our countries. This is despite the fact that early on during the crisis they claimed that they in no way engaged in anti-Russia activities and wanted to be friends with the Russian people. However, everyone could have seen the policy paper posted on Tikhanovskaya’s website during the few hours it was there. The opposition leaders removed it after realising they had made a mistake sharing their goals and objectives with the public. These goals and objectives included withdrawal from the CSTO, the EAEU and other integration associations that include Russia, and drifting towards the EU and NATO, as well as the consistent banning of the Russian language and the Belarusianisation of all aspects of life.

We are not against the Belarusian language, but when they take a cue from Ukraine, and when the state language is used to ban a language spoken by the overwhelming majority of the population, this already constitutes a hostile act and, in the case of Ukraine, an act that violates its constitution. If a similar proposal is introduced into the Belarusian legal field, it will violate the Constitution of Belarus, not to mention numerous conventions on the rights of ethnic and language minorities, and much more.

I would like those who are rabidly turning the Belarusian opposition against Russia to realise their share of responsibility, and the opposition themselves, including Svetlana Tikhanovskaya and others – to find the courage to resist such rude and blatant manipulation.

Question: If we are talking about manipulation, we certainly understand that it has many faces and reflects on the international attitude towards Russia. Internationally, what are the risks for us of supporting Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko? Don’t you think 26 years is enough? Maybe he has really served for too long?

Sergey Lavrov: The President of the Republic of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, did say it might have been “too long.” I believe he has proposed a very productive idea – constitutional reform. He talked about this even before the election, and has reiterated the proposal more than once since then. President of Russia Vladimir Putin supports this attitude. As the Belarusian leader said, after constitutional reform, he will be ready to announce early parliamentary and presidential elections. This proposal provides a framework where a national dialogue will be entirely possible. But it is important that representatives of all groups of Belarusian society to be involved in a constitutional reform process. This would ensure that any reform is completely legitimate and understandable for all citizens. Now a few specific proposals are needed concerning when, where and in what form this process can begin. I hope that this will be done, because President Alexander Lukashenko has repeatedly reaffirmed carrying out this initiative.

Question: Since we started talking about the international attitude towards Russia, let’s go over to our other partner – the United States. The elections in the US will take place very soon. We are actively discussing this in Russia. When asked whether Russia was getting ready for the elections in the US at the Paris forum last year, you replied: “Don’t worry, we’ll resolve this problem.” Now that the US elections are around the corner, I would like to ask you whether you’ve resolved it.

Sergey Lavrov: Speaking seriously, of course we, like any other normal country that is concerned about its interests and international security, are closely following the progress of the election campaign in the US. There are many surprising things in it. Naturally, we see how important the Russian issue is in this electoral process. The Democrats are doing all they can to prove that Russia will exploit its hacker potential and play up to Donald Trump. We are already being accused of promoting the idea that the Democrats will abuse the mail-in voting option thereby prejudicing the unbiased nature of voting. I would like to note at this point that mail-in voting has become a target of consistent attacks on behalf of President Trump himself. Russia has nothing to do with this at all.

A week-long mail-in voting is an interesting subject in comparing election systems in different countries. We have introduced three-day voting for governors and legislative assembly deputies in some regions. You can see the strong criticism it is subjected to, inside Russia as well. When the early voting in the US lasts for weeks, if not months, it is considered a model of democracy. I don’t see any criticism in this respect. In principle, we have long proposed analysing election systems in the OSCE with a view to comparing best practices and reviewing obviously obsolete arrangements. There have been instances in the US when, due to its cumbersome and discriminatory election system, a nominee who received the majority of votes could lose because in a national presidential election the voting is done through the Electoral College process rather than directly by the people. There have been quite a few cases like that. I once told former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in reply to her grievances about our electoral system: “But look at your problem. Maybe you should try to correct this discriminatory voting system?” She replied that it is discriminatory but they are used to it and this is their problem, so I shouldn’t bother.

When the United States accuses us of interference in some area of its public, political or government life, we suggest discussing it to establish who is actually doing what. Since they don’t present any facts, we simply recite their Congressional acts. In 2014, they adopted an act on supporting Ukraine, which directly instructed the Department of State to spend $20 million a year on support for Russian NGOs. We asked whether this didn’t amount to interference. We were told by the US National Security Council that in reality they support democracy because we are wreaking chaos and pursuing authoritative and dictatorial trends abroad when we interfere in domestic affairs whereas they bring democracy and prosperity. This idea is deeply rooted in American mentality. The American elite has always considered its country and nation exceptional and has not been shy to admit it.

I won’t comment on the US election. This is US law and the US election system. Any comments I make will be again interpreted as an attempt to interfere in their domestic affairs. I will only say one thing that President Vladimir Putin has expressed many times, notably, that we will respect any outcome of these elections and the will of the American people.

We realise that there will be no major changes in our relations either with the Democrats or with the Republicans, as representatives of both parties loudly declare. However, there is hope that common sense will prevail and no matter who becomes President, the new US Government and administration will realise the need to cooperate with us in resolving very serious global problems on which the international situation depends.

Question: You mentioned an example where voters can choose one president and the Electoral College process, another. I even have that cover of Time magazine with Hillary Clinton and congratulations, released during the election. It is a fairly well-known story, when they ran this edition and then had to cancel it.

Sergey Lavrov: Even the President of France sent a telegramme, but then they immediately recalled it.

And these people are now claiming that Alexander Lukashenko is an illegitimate president.

Question: You mentioned NGOs. These people believe that NGOs in the Russian Federation support democratic institutions, although it is no secret to anyone who has at least a basic understanding of foreign and domestic policy that those NGOs act exclusively as institutions that destabilise the situation in the country.

Sergey Lavrov: Not all of them.

Question: Can you tell us more about this?

Sergey Lavrov: We have adopted a series of laws – on public associations, on non-profit organisations, on measures to protect people from human rights violations. There is a set of laws that regulate the activities of non-government organisations on our territory, both Russian and foreign ones.

Concepts have been introduced like “foreign agent,” a practice we borrowed from “the world’s most successful democracy” – the United States. They argue that we borrowed a practice from 1938 when the United States introduced the foreign agent concept to prevent Nazi ideology from infiltrating from Germany. But whatever the reason they had to create the concept – “foreign agent” – the Americans are still effectively using it, including in relation to our organisations and citizens, to Chinese citizens, to the media.

In our law, foreign agent status, whatever they say about it, does not prevent an organisation from operating on the territory of the Russian Federation. It just needs to disclose its funding sources and be transparent about the resources it receives. And even that, only if it is engaged in political activities. Initially, we introduced a requirement for these organisations that receive funding from abroad and are involved in political projects to initiate the disclosure process. But most of them didn’t want to comply with the law, so it was modified. Now this is done by the Russian Ministry of Justice.

Question: Do you think that NGOs are still soft power?

Sergey Lavrov: Of course. In Russia we have about 220,000 NGOs, out of which 180 have the status of a foreign agent. It’s a drop in the ocean. These are probably the organisations, funded from abroad, that are more active than others in promoting in our public space ideas that far from always correspond to Russian legislation.

There is also the notion of undesirable organisations. They are banned from working in the Russian Federation. But there are only about 30 of them, no more.

Question: Speaking about our soft power, what is our concept? What do we offer the world? What do you think the world should love us for? What is Russia’s soft power policy all about?

Sergey Lavrov: We want everything that has been created by nations and civilisations to be respected. We believe nobody should impose any orders on anyone, so that nothing like what has now happened in Hollywood takes place on a global scale. We think nobody should encroach on the right of each nation to have its historical traditions and moral roots. And we see attempts to encroach upon them.

If soft power is supposed to promote one’s own culture, language and traditions, in exchange for knowledge about the life of other nations and civilisations, then this is the approach that the Russian Federation supports in every way.

The Americans define the term “soft power” as an attempt to influence the hearts and minds of others politically. Their goal is not to promote their culture and language, but to change the mood of the political class with a view to subsequent regime change. They are doing this on a daily basis and don’t even conceal it. They say everywhere that their mission is to bring peace and democracy to all other countries.

Question: Almost any TV series out there shows the US president sitting in the Oval Office saying he’s the leader of the free world.

Sergey Lavrov: Not just TV series. Barack Obama has repeatedly stated that America is an exceptional nation and should be seen as an example by the rest of the world. My colleague Mike Pompeo recently said in the Czech Republic that they shouldn’t let the Russians into the nuclear power industry and should take the Russians off the list of companies that bid for these projects. It was about the same in Hungary. He then went to Africa and was quite vocal when he told the African countries not to do business with the Russians or the Chinese, because they are trading with the African countries for selfish reasons, whereas the US is establishing economic cooperation with them so they can prosper. This is a quote. It is articulated in a very straightforward manner, much the same way they run their propaganda on television in an unsophisticated broken language that the man in the street can relate to. So, brainwashing is what America’s soft power is known for.

Question: Not a single former Soviet republic has so far benefited from American soft power.

Sergey Lavrov: Not only former Soviet republics. Take a look at any other region where the Americans have effected a regime change.

QuestionLibya, Syria. We stood for Syria.

Sergey Lavrov: Iraq, Libya. They tried in Syria, but failed. I hope things will be different there. There’s not a single country where the Americans changed the regime and declared victory for democracy, like George W. Bush did on the deck of an aircraft carrier in Iraq in May 2003, which is prosperous now. He said democracy had won in Iraq. It would be interesting to know what the former US President thinks about the situation in Iraq today. But no one will, probably, go back to this, because the days when presidents honestly admitted their mistakes are gone.

QuestionHere I am listening to you and wondering how many people care about this? Why is it that no one understands this? Is this politics that is too far away from ordinary people who are nevertheless behind it? Take Georgia or Ukraine. People are worse off now than before, and despite this, this policy continues.

Will the Minsk agreements ever be implemented? Will the situation in southeastern Ukraine ever be settled?

Returning to what we talked about. How independent is Ukraine in its foreign policy?

Sergey Lavrov: I don’t think that under the current Ukrainian government, just like under the previous president, we will see any progress in the implementation of the Minsk agreements, if only because President Zelensky himself is saying so publicly, as does Deputy Prime Minister Reznikov who is in charge of the Ukrainian settlement in the Contact Group. Foreign Minister of Ukraine Kuleba is also saying this. They say there’s a need for the Minsk agreements and they cannot be broken, because these agreements (and accusing Russia of non-compliance) are the foundation of the EU and the US policy in seeking to maintain the sanctions on Russia. Nevertheless, such a distorted interpretation of the essence of the Minsk agreements, or rather an attempt to blame everything on Russia, although Russia is never mentioned there, has stuck in the minds of our European colleagues, including France and Germany, who, being co-sponsors of the Minsk agreements along with us, the Ukrainians and Donbass, cannot but realise that the Ukrainians are simply distorting their responsibilities, trying to distance themselves from them and impose a different interpretation of the Minsk agreements. But even in this scenario, the above individuals and former Ukrainian President Kravchuk, who now heads the Ukrainian delegation to the Contact Group as part of the Minsk process, claim that the Minsk agreements in their present form are impracticable and must be revised, turned upside down. Also, Donbass must submit to the Ukrainian government and army before even thinking about conducting reforms in this part of Ukraine.

This fully contradicts the sequence of events outlined in the Minsk agreements whereby restoring Ukrainian armed forces’ control on the border with Russia is possible only after an amnesty, agreeing on the special status of these territories, making this status part of the Ukrainian Constitution and holding elections there. Now they propose giving back the part of Donbass that “rebelled” against the anti-constitutional coup to those who declared these people terrorists and launched an “anti-terrorist operation” against them, which they later renamed a Joint Forces Operation (but this does not change the idea behind it), and whom they still consider terrorists. Although everyone remembers perfectly well that in 2014 no one from Donbass or other parts of Ukraine that rejected the anti-constitutional coup attacked the putschists and the areas that immediately fell under the control of the politicians behind the coup. On the contrary, Alexander Turchinov, Arseniy Yatsenyuk and others like them attacked these areas. The guilt of the people living there was solely in them saying, “You committed a crime against the state, we do not want to follow your rules, let us figure out our own future and see what you will do next.” There’s not a single example that would corroborate the fact that they engaged in terrorism. It was the Ukrainian state that engaged in terrorism on their territory, in particular, when they killed [Head of the Donetsk People’s Republic] Alexander Zakharchenko and a number of field commanders in Donbass. So, I am not optimistic about this.

Question: So, we are looking at a dead end?

Sergey Lavrov: You know, we still have an undeniable argument which is the text of the Minsk Agreements approved by the UN Security Council.

QuestionBut they tried to revise it?

Sergey Lavrov: No, they are just making statements to that effect. When they gather for a Contact Group meeting in Minsk, they do their best to look constructive. The most recent meeting ran into the Ukrainian delegation’s attempts to pretend that nothing had happened. They recently passed a law on local elections which will be held in a couple of months. It says that elections in what are now called the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics will be held only after the Ukrainian army takes control of the entire border and those who “committed criminal offenses” are arrested and brought to justice even though the Minsk agreements provide for amnesty without exemptions.

Question: When I’m asked about Crimea I recall the referendum. I was there at a closed meeting in Davos that was attended by fairly well respected analysts from the US. They claimed with absolute confidence that Crimea was being occupied. I reminded them about the referendum. I was under the impression that these people either didn’t want to see or didn’t know how people lived there, that they have made their choice. Returning to the previous question, I think that nobody is interested in the opinion of the people.

Sergey Lavrov: No, honest politicians still exist. Many politicians, including European ones, were in Crimea during the referendum. They were there not under the umbrella of some international organisation but on their own because the OSCE and other international agencies were controlled by our Western colleagues. Even if we had addressed them, the procedure for coordinating the monitoring would have never ended.

Question: Just as in Belarus. As I see it, they were also invited but nobody came.

Sergey Lavrov: The OSCE refused to send representatives there. Now that the OSCE is offering its services as a mediator, I completely understand Mr Lukashenko who says the OSCE lost its chance. It could have sent observers and gained a first-hand impression of what was happening there, and how the election was held. They arrogantly disregarded the invitation. We know that the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) is practically wholly controlled by NATO. We have repeatedly proposed that our nominees work there but they have not been approved. This contradicts the principles of the OSCE. We will continue to seek a fairer approach to the admission of members to the organisation, but I don’t have much hope for this. Former OSCE Secretary General Thomas Greminger made an effort with this for the past three years but not everything depended on him – there is a large bloc of EU and NATO countries that enjoy a mathematical majority and try to dictate their own rules. But this is a separate issue.

Returning to Crimea, I have read a lot about this; let me give you two examples. One concerns my relations with former US Secretary of State John Kerry. In April 2014, we met in Geneva: me, John Kerry, EU High Representative Catherine Ashton and then Acting Foreign Minister of Ukraine Andrey Deshchitsa. We compiled a one page document that was approved unanimously. It read that we, the representatives of Russia, the US and the EU welcomed the commitments of the Ukrainian authorities to carry out decentralisation of the country with the participation of all the regions of Ukraine. This took place after the Crimean referendum. Later, the Americans, the EU and of course Ukraine “forgot” about this document. John Kerry told me at this meeting that everyone understood that Crimea was Russian, that the people wanted to return, but that we held the referendum so quickly that it didn’t fit into the accepted standards of such events. He asked me to talk to President Vladimir Putin, organise one more referendum, announce it in advance and invite international observers. He said he would support their visit there, that the result would be the same but that we would be keeping up appearances. I asked him why put on such shows if they understand that this was the expression of the will of the people.

The second example concerns the recent statements by the EU and the European Parliament to the effect that “the occupation” of Crimea is a crude violation of the world arrangement established after the victory in World War II. But if this criterion is used to determine where Crimea belongs, when the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic joined the UN after WWII in 1945, Crimea did not belong to it. Crimea was part of the USSR. Later, Nikita Khrushchev took an illegal action, which contradicted Soviet law, and this led to them having it. But we all understood that this was a domestic political game as regards a Soviet republic that was the home to Khrushchev and many of his associates.

Question: You have been Foreign Minister for 16 years now. This century’s major foreign policy challenges fell on your term in office. We faced sanctions, and we adapted to them and coped with them. Germany said it obtained Alexey Navalny’s test results. France and Sweden have confirmed the presence of Novichok in them. Reportedly, we are now in for more sanctions. Do you think the Navalny case can trigger new sanctions against Russia?

Sergey Lavrov: I agree with our political analysts who are convinced that if it were not for Navalny, they would have come up with something else in order to impose more sanctions.

With regard to this situation, I think our Western partners have simply gone beyond decency and reason. In essence, they are now demanding that we “confess.” They are asking us: Don’t you believe what the German specialists from the Bundeswehr are saying? How is that possible? Their findings have been confirmed by the French and the Swedes. You don’t believe them, either?

It’s a puzzling situation given that our Prosecutor General’s Office filed an inquiry about legal assistance on August 27 and hasn’t received an answer yet. Nobody knows where the inquiry has been for more than a week now. We were told it was at the German Foreign Ministry. The German Foreign Ministry did not forward the request to the Ministry of Justice, which was our Prosecutor General Office’s  ultimate addressee. Then, they said that it had been transferred to the Berlin Prosecutor’s Office, but they would not tell us anything without the consent of the family. They are urging us to launch a criminal investigation.

We have our own laws, and we cannot take someone’s word for it to open a criminal case. Certain procedures must be followed. A pre-investigation probe initiated immediately after this incident to consider the circumstances of the case is part of this procedure.

Some of our Western colleagues wrote that, as the German doctors discovered, it was “a sheer miracle” that Mr Navalny survived. Allegedly, it was the notorious Novichok, but he survived thanks to “lucky circumstances.” What kind of lucky circumstances are we talking about? First, the pilot immediately landed the plane; second, an ambulance was already waiting on the airfield; and third, the doctors immediately started to provide help. This absolutely impeccable behaviour of the pilots, doctors and ambulance crew is presented as “lucky circumstances.” That is, they even deny the possibility that we are acting as we should. This sits deep in the minds of those who make up such stories.

Returning to the pre-investigation probe, everyone is fixated on a criminal case. If we had opened a criminal case right away (we do not have legal grounds to do so yet, and that is why the Prosecutor General’s Office requested legal assistance from Germany on August 27), what would have been done when it happened? They would have interviewed the pilot, the passengers and the doctors. They would have found out what the doctors discovered when Navalny was taken to the Omsk hospital, and what medications were used. They would have interviewed the people who communicated with him. All of that was done. They interviewed the five individuals who accompanied him and participated in the events preceding Navalny boarding the plane; they interviewed the passengers who were waiting for a flight to Moscow in Tomsk and sat at the same bar; they found out what they ordered and what he drank. The sixth person, a woman who accompanied him, has fled, as you know. They say she was the one who gave the bottle to the German lab. All this has been done. Even if all of that was referred to as a “criminal case,” we couldn’t have done more.

Our Western partners are looking down on us as if we have no right to question what they are saying or their professionalism. If this is the case, it means that they dare to question the professionalism of our doctors and investigators. Unfortunately, this position is reminiscent of other times. Arrogance and a sense of infallibility have already been observed in Europe, and that led to very regrettable consequences.

Question: How would you describe this policy of confrontation? When did it start (I mean during your term of office)? It’s simply so stable at the moment that there seems no chance that something might change in the future.

Sergey Lavrov: President of Russia Vladimir Putin has repeatedly spoken on this topic. I think that the onset of this policy, this era of constant pressure on Russia began with the end of a period that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union, a time when the West believed it had Russia there in its pocket – it ended, full stop. Unfortunately, the West does not seem to be able to wrap its head around this, to accept that there is no alternative to Russia’s independent actions, both domestically and on the international arena. This is why, unfortunately, this agony continues by inertia.

Having bad ties with any country have never given us any pleasure. We do not like making such statements in which we sharply criticise the position of the West. We always try to find compromises, but there are situations where it is hard not to come face to face with one another directly or to avoid frank assessments of what our Western friends are up to.

I have read what our respected political scientists write who are well known in the West. And I can say this idea is starting to surface ever stronger and more often – it is time we stop measuring our actions with the yardsticks that the West offers us and to stop trying to please the West at all costs. These are very serious people and they are making a serious point. The fact that the West is prodding us to this way of thinking, willingly or unwillingly, is obvious to me. Most likely, this is being done involuntarily. But it is a big mistake to think that Russia will play by Western rules in any case – as big a mistake as like approaching China with the same yardstick.

Question: Then I really have to ask you. We are going through digitalisation. I think when you started your diplomatic career, you could not even have imagined that some post on Twitter could affect the political situation in a country. Yet – I can see your smile – we are living in a completely different world. Film stars can become presidents; Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook can become drivers of political campaigns – that happened more than once – and those campaigns can be successful. We are going through digitalisation, and because of this, many unexpected people appear in international politics – unexpected for you, at least. How do you think Russia’s foreign policy will change in this context? Are we ready for social media to be impacting our internal affairs? Is the Chinese scenario possible in Russia, with most Western social media blocked to avoid their influence on the internal affairs in that country?

Sergey Lavrov: Social media are already exerting great influence on our affairs. This is the reality in the entire post-Soviet space and developing countries. The West, primarily the United States, is vigorously using social media to promote their preferred agenda in just about any state. This necessitates a new approach to ensuring the national security. We have been doing this for a long time already.

As for regulating social media, everyone does it. You know that the digital giants in the United States have been repeatedly caught introducing censorship, primarily against us, China or other countries they dislike, shutting off information that comes from these places.

The internet is regulated by companies based in the United States, everyone knows that. In fact, this situation has long made the overwhelming majority of countries want to do something about it, considering the global nature of the internet and social media, to make sure that the management processes are approved at a global level, become transparent and understandable. The International Telecommunication Union, a specialised UN agency, has been out there for years. Russia and a group of other co-sponsoring countries are promoting the need to regulate the internet in such a way that everyone understands how it works and what principles govern it, in this International Union. Now we can see how Mark Zuckerberg and other heads of large IT companies are invited to the Congress and lectured there and asked to explain what they are going to do. We can see this. But a situation where it will be understandable for everyone else and, most importantly, where everyone is happy with it, still seems far away.

For many years, we have been promoting at the UN General Assembly an initiative to agree on the rules of responsible behaviour of states in the sphere of international information security. This initiative has already led to set up several working groups, which have completed their mandate with reports. The last such report was reviewed last year and another resolution was adopted. This time, it was not a narrow group of government experts, but a group that includes all UN member states. It was planning to meet, but things slowed down due to the coronavirus. The rules for responsible conduct in cyberspace are pending review by this group. These rules were approved by the SCO, meaning they already reflect a fairly large part of the world’s population.

Our other initiative is not about the use of cyberspace for undermining someone’s security; it is about fighting crimes (pedophilia, pornography, theft) in cyberspace. This topic is being considered by another UNGA committee. We are preparing a draft convention that will oblige all states to suppress criminal activities in cyberspace.

QuestionDo you think that the Foreign Ministry is active on this front? Would you like to be more proactive in the digital dialogue? After all, we are still bound by ethics, and have yet to understand whether we can cross the line or not. Elon Musk feels free to make any statements no matter how ironic and makes headlines around the world, even though anything he says has a direct bearing on his market cap. This is a shift in the ethics of behaviour. Do you think that this is normal? Is this how it should be? Or maybe people still need to behave professionally?

Sergey Lavrov: A diplomat can always use irony and a healthy dose of cynicism. In this sense, there is no contradiction here. However, this does not mean that while making ironic remarks on the surrounding developments or comments every once in a while (witty or not so witty), you do not have to work on resolving legal matters related to internet governance. This is what we are doing.

The Foreign Ministry has been at the source of these processes. We have been closely coordinating our efforts on this front with the Security Council Office, and the Ministry of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media and other organisations. Russian delegations taking part in talks include representatives from various agencies. Apart from multilateral platforms such as the International Telecommunication Union, the UN General Assembly and the OSCE, we are working on this subject in bilateral relations with our key partners.

We are most interested in working with our Western partners, since we have an understanding on these issues with countries that share similar views. The Americans and Europeans evade these talks under various pretexts. There seemed to be an opening in 2012 and 2013, but after the government coup in Ukraine, they used it as a pretext to freeze this process. Today, there are some signs that the United States and France are beginning to revive these contacts, but our partners have been insufficiently active. What we want is professional dialogue so that they can raise all their concerns and accusations and back them with specific facts. We stand ready to answer all the concerns our partners may have, and will not fail to voice the concerns we have. We have many of them.

During the recent visit by German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas to Russia, I handed him a list containing dozens of incidents we have identified: attacks against our resources, with 70 percent of them targeting state resources of the Russian Federation, and originating on German territory. He promised to provide an answer, but more than a month after our meeting we have not seen it so far.

Question: Let me ask you about another important initiative by the Foreign Ministry. You decided to amend regulations enabling people to be repatriated from abroad for   free, and you proposed subjecting the repatriation guarantee to the reimbursement of its cost to the budget. Could you tell us, please, is this so expensive for the state to foot this bill?

Sergey Lavrov: Of course, these a substantial expenses. The resolution that provided for offering free assistance was adopted back in 2010, and was intended for citizens who find themselves in situations when their life is at risk. Imagine a Russian ambassador. Most of the people ask for help because they have lost money, their passport and so on. There are very few cases when an ambassador can actually say that a person is in a life-threatening situation and his or her life is in danger. How can an ambassador take a decision of this kind? As long as I remember, these cases can be counted on the fingers of my two hands since 2010, when an ambassador had to take responsibility and there were grounds for offering this assistance. We wanted to ensure that people can get help not only when facing an imminent danger (a dozen cases in ten years do not cost all that much). There were many more cases when our nationals found themselves in a difficult situation after losing money or passports. We decided to follow the practices used abroad. Specifically, this means that we provide fee-based assistance. In most cases, people travelling abroad can afford to reimburse the cost of a return ticket.

This practice is designed to prevent fraud, which remains an issue. We had cases when people bought one-way tickets knowing that they will have to be repatriated.

Question: And with no return ticket, they go to the embassy?

Sergey Lavrov: Yes, after that they come to the embassy. For this reason, I believe that the system we developed is much more convenient and comprehensive for dealing with the situations Russians get into when travelling abroad, and when we have to step in to help them through our foreign missions.

Question: Mr Lavrov, thank you for your time. As a Georgian, I really have to ask this. Isn’t it time to simplify the visa regime with Georgia? A second generation of Georgians has now grown up that has never seen Russia. What do you think?

Sergey Lavrov: Georgians can travel to Russia – they just need to apply for a visa. The list of grounds for obtaining a visa has been expanded. There are practically no restrictions on visiting Russia, after obtaining a visa in the Interests Section for the Russian Federation in Tbilisi or another Russian overseas agency.

As for visa-free travel, as you know, we were ready for this a year ago. We were actually a few steps away from being ready to announce it when that incident happened with the Russian Federal Assembly delegation to the International Interparliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy, where they were invited in the first place, seated in their chairs, and then violence was almost used against them.

I am confident that our relations with Georgia will recover and improve. We can see new Georgian politicians who are interested in this. For now, there are just small parties in the ruling elites. But I believe our traditional historical closeness, and the mutual affinity between our peoples will ultimately triumph. Provocateurs who are trying to prevent Georgia from resuming normal relations with Russia will be put to shame.

They are trying to use Georgia the same way as Ukraine. In Ukraine, the IMF plays a huge role. And the IMF recently decided that each tranche allocated to Ukraine would be short-term.

Question: Microcredits.

Sergey Lavrov: Microcredits and a short leash that can always be pulled a little.

They are trying to use Georgia the same way. We have no interest in seeing this situation continue. We did not start it and have never acted against the Georgian people. Everyone remembers the 2008 events, how American instructors arrived there and trained the Georgian army. The Americans were well aware of Mikheil Saakashvili’s lack of restraint. He trampled on all agreements and issued a criminal order.

We are talking about taking their word for it. There were many cases when we took their word for it, but then it all boiled down to zilch. In 2003, Colin Powell, a test tube – that was an academic version. An attack on Iraq followed. Many years later, Tony Blair admitted that there had been no nuclear weapons in Iraq. There were many such stories. In 1999, the aggression against Yugoslavia was triggered by the OSCE representative in the Balkans, US diplomat William Walker, who visited the village of Racak, where they found thirty corpses, and declared it genocide of the Albanian population. A special investigation by the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia found they were military dressed in civilian clothes. But Mr Walker loudly declared it was genocide. Washington immediately seized on the idea, and so did London and other capitals. NATO launched an aggression against Yugoslavia.

After the end of the five-day military operation to enforce peace, the European Union ordered a special report from a group of invited experts, including Swiss diplomat Heidi Tagliavini. She was later involved in the Minsk process, and then she was asked to lead a group of experts who investigated the outbreak of the military conflict in August 2008. The conclusion was unambiguous. All this happened on the orders of Mikheil Saakashvili, and as for his excuses that someone had provoked him, or someone had been waiting for him on the other side of the tunnel, this was just raving.

Georgians are a wise nation. They love life, perhaps the same way and the same facets that the peoples in the Russian Federation do. We will overcome the current abnormal situation and restore normal relations between our states and people.


In addition, if you follow the Minister, follow up on this interview with Sputnik

Exclusive: Sergei Lavrov Talks About West’s Historical Revisionism, US Election and Navalny Case

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The Open Society and its Giant Enemies

twitter.jpg

By Gilad Atzmon

 A few days ago I received this warning message from Twitter: 

 “Hi Gilad Atzmon, 

Your account, @GiladAtzmon has been locked for violating the Twitter Rules. I was accused by this anti social network of “violating” their  “rules against hateful conduct.”

The message took me by surprise as hatred is foreign to me. In fact, I dedicate a considerable amount of my energy to exposing the racism, racial supremacy and biological determinism that are found in many identitarian discourses. 

Twitter wrote to me “You may not promote violence against, threaten, or harass other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease.”

Here is my 5 year old tweet that prompted action by twitter:

 @GiladAtzmon

_What can Jews do about #Antisemitism? Simple– look in the mirror– introspect. #Palestine #Zionism #Israel #BDS

what can jews do.png

 It seems that Twitter considers it  ‘hateful’ to  ask people to “look in the mirror”, to “introspect,” to consider the ‘remote’ possibility that maybe some of the Jewish State’s policies and practices may reflect badly on the Jews as a whole. I would like Twitter to explain to us how calling on people  to “introspect”  “promotes violence” or “threaten[s] or harass[es] people on the basis of race?” 

Twitter must have known that I didn’t commit any ‘hateful speech’ and offered me the chance to erase my 5 year old tweet that no one except my devoted Zionist stalkers would notice and who managed to pinpoint four other ‘hateful’ statements by me.  

Apparently sarcasm isn’t well received by Twitter’s moderators. They demanded that I also delete this 4 year old tweet:

@GiladAtzmon

I suggest instead of referring to the Swastika we just call it ‘Star of Adolf,’ it sounds friendly and it puts David’s in context…”

I accept that some Jews are upset by my dark cynicism, but considering the disastrous crimes that are committed by the country that decorates its tanks and airplanes with Stars of David, this is another call for Jews to introspect, to look in the mirror, to self-reflect. It by no means “promotes violence”, “threatens”, or “harasses” anyone. If anything it replicates the early Zionist insight which I agree with, that before anything else, Jews must first find their way to become ‘people like all other people.’ 

 Twitter also asked me to remove this exchange with an ardent Zionist: 

“@GiladAtzmon

@Saul_Freeman because the real holocaust is what you People do to Palestinians.”

I understand that I violated a tenet of the holocaust religion that no one is allowed to apply the H-word to any other people’s suffering. Certainly, no one is allowed to point at the slow genocide of the Palestinians. 

I don’t intend to bore you with each statement Twitter finds hateful. It doesn’t take much  to figure out that  Twitter was subjected to a Zionist blitz aimed at silencing me.  To some extent it was reassuring that my detractors couldn’t find a single remotely hateful statement in my entire Twitter oeuvre. And it was amusing to see how upset this caricature Zionist was to find out that my Twitter account was still active.  https://platform.twitter.com/embed/index.html?dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-0&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1291278513534902281&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fgilad.online%2Fwritings%2F2020%2F8%2F8%2Fthe-open-society-and-its-giant-enemies&theme=light&widgetsVersion=223fc1c4%3A1596143124634&width=550px

 What is clear to a growing number of people, perhaps most Westerners, is that Twitter, like FB and  Google are not what they initially promised to be. It took little time for these internet platforms to morph into authoritarian and draconian thought police. If there was an initial promise to emancipate us through the internet, it is gone, the internet giants have become the most rigid oppressive and totalitarian forces leading us into the next dark age. 

The chutzpah, and I indeed deliberately use the Yiddish word in this context,  exceeds former totalitarian oppressive measures. This time it is not our rulers, tyrants or monarchs who make us fearful of our own thoughts. It is not political parties who make us walk on our tiptoes. In 2020 Internet companies even suspend the activity of democratically elected  leaders if they don’t fit with the Zuckerberg agenda or Twitter’s ‘progressive’ goals. In 2020 Zuckerberg and a few of Google’s directors decide what scientists are allowed to say about Covid 19. In August 2020 the internet giants claimed to know what eradicated Beirut before even the Pentagon or the Lebanese produced an explanation.  

Once again I find myself  reiterating that the Tyranny of Correctness is at the very heart of the Jerusalemite ethos. While Athens introduces us to philosophy, science, logos, beauty – Jerusalem, is considered the city of revelation,  is all about obedience. In Jerusalem, we follow mitzvoth and commandments. In Jerusalem, ethics (the making of moral judgments)  is replaced by rules that dictate an image of morality. Jerusalem decrees what we can say, Athens teaches us how to think for ourselves. 

The USA was born as an Athenian realm. It was the Land of the Free, not because it has ever been free, but because it was inspired by the notion of freedom.  Not much is left out of this aspiration.  America, like Britain, France and other Western countries is now a Jerusalemite colony, its regime of correctness is defined by foreign sensitivities. 

For the West to stop its rapid decline, it must –  and right now, before it is too late, to reinstate its fidelity to the Athenian creed. If the West wants to survive, it must ensure that it isn’t a Zuckerberg, in whatever form, who defines the boundaries of the Covid-19 debate. It should not be Youtube that decides which doctors and scientists are kosher enough to deserve airtime.  

For us to have a prospect of hope, Jerusalem must be reduced into its natural magnitude.  The Zionists who are upset by such  thoughts should bear in mind that Zionism succeeded in achieving its early objectives because its Zionist founders rejected Jerusalem. Their aim was to make Zion into an Athenian province. Their mission ultimately failed, but not before it inspired some Jews to believe in the possibility of a metamorphosis.  

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EMPEROR TRUMP NOW STANDS PARTIALLY NAKED

Source

 A

A child exposing the nakedness of the emperor by speaking truth to power?

Not these days.

More than half of the United States — not just liberals and the left but also the mainstream media and some Republicans — has been shouting at Emperor Trump for months on end that he has no clothes. These declarations have fallen on deaf ears, for Donald Trump is constitutionally incapable of acknowledging his own flaws.

Also, there are still plenty of people telling Trump what he wants to hear. The president is surrounded by family members, advisors, and careerists who have refused to acknowledge the simple truth that the White House has been occupied for more than three years by a person that former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson once called King Moron (oops, I misquote: he actually said a “f**king moron”).

In the last week, however, this picture has begun to change. Three important clothiers of the president have said that maybe the commander-in-chief has been experiencing a wardrobe malfunction all along.

Twitter, Justin Trudeau, and James Mattis all took their turns in the spotlight recently to challenge the American president. Representing three important constituencies — social media, the Pentagon, and the international community — all three in their own way have chipped away at Trump’s power.

True, they have all provided important cover for the naked leader in the past. Also, their statements could have been clearer calls to arms. But now, all three can help precipitate the “run for the exit” moment that will spell Trump’s downfall.

We’ll have to wait until November to be sure, but the president might have effectively lost his reelection bid this month, well before Election Day.

Social Media

Donald Trump once wooed the mainstream media. He chatted up gossip columnists. He pretended over the phone that he was his own publicist, singing the praises of his boss. He so desperately wanted to be on the cover of Time that he created dummy versions of the magazine proclaiming that “Trump is hitting on all fronts” and hung them in at least five of his golf clubs. Throughout, he groused that the media was not sufficiently flattering.

Twitter provided Trump with the ideal solution to his chronic need for attention. He no longer had to rely on the media and instead could communicate directly to his followers. He could simultaneously disparage the mainstream media as “fake news” and dispense his own fake news by tweet.

In the first three years of his presidency, Trump fired off more than 11,000 tweets. Many of them were rambling attacks on his opponents (somehow Trump manages to be rambling in under 280 characters). But some of them were actual policy announcements or served some other tactical purpose.

Twitter wasn’t simply a tool of the presidency. It became the presidency.

According to this New York Times analysis of this incessant Twitterstorm:

Early on, top aides wanted to restrain the president’s Twitter habit, even considering asking the company to impose a 15-minute delay on Mr. Trump’s messages. But 11,390 presidential tweets later, many administration officials and lawmakers embrace his Twitter obsession, flocking to his social media chief with suggestions. Policy meetings are hijacked when Mr. Trump gets an idea for a tweet, drawing in cabinet members and others for wordsmithing. And as a president often at war with his own bureaucracy, he deploys Twitter to break through logjams, overrule, or humiliate recalcitrant advisers and pre-empt his staff.

Twitter has helped Trump. And Trump has helped poison Twitter.

Although the social media giant has had no problem deleting praise for the Islamic State, it hasn’t shown comparable due diligence toward white nationalism. According to an account of a discussion at a Twitter staff meeting, a technical employee explained that “on a technical level, content from Republican politicians could get swept up by algorithms aggressively removing white supremacist material. Banning politicians wouldn’t be accepted by society as a trade-off for flagging all of the white supremacist propaganda.”

With the compliance of social media platforms, Trump and his coterie of Republican extremists have helped to mainstream otherwise marginal content.

But that tide might be turning. At the end of May, Twitter took the unprecedented step of labeling two of Trump’s tweets, directing readers to accurate sources of information on mail-in balloting and announcing that Trump had violated its policies on glorifying violence. Then, last week, Twitter took down an account that retweeted all of Trump’s utterances, again for violating its policies.

Trump, predictably, went ballistic. He lashed out on Twitter (the man is impervious to irony). He retaliated with an executive order to lift some of the liability protections on social media companies.

It’s not as if Trump is going to abandon his principle mode of communication. This last weekend, after all, he broke his own Twitter record by sending out 200 Tweets in a 24-hour period, including 74 in one hour. By increasing the outflow of his firehose, Trump seems to be daring Twitter to keep up with its labels.

Twitter hasn’t deplatformed Trump, as it has some other darlings of the alt-right. It let slide Trump’s latest Twitter outrage — promoting a conspiracy theory about a Buffalo protestor injured by the police — because the use of a question mark marked it as “speculative” (Really? Really??).

But with its labels, Twitter is finally saying that no one is above the law — the admittedly loose laws of the internet — not even the president of the United States.

Justin Trudeau

In the United States, we are still talking about the 8 minutes and 46 seconds that a cop knelt on George Floyd’s neck, killing him.

In Canada, they’re talking about 21 seconds.

That’s the pause that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took to answer a question on Trump’s threat to use the military against those protesting Floyd’s death. Trudeau could have used that time to criticize Trump directly. Instead, after his long pause, he chose to speak of the problems facing people of color in his own country. “There is systemic racism in Canada,” he said.

Trump has never hesitated to lambaste other heads of state. He called Trudeau “two-faced” as well as “very dishonest and weak.” He labeled comments by Emanuel Macron “very, very nasty.” He criticized comments of Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen as “nasty and inappropriate.” With comments about friends like these, you can imagine how Trump tongue-lashes his enemies.

For the most part, the international community has quietly tolerated Trump. They’ve delivered tersely worded rebuttals. They’ve made fun of him behind his back. But they haven’t directly or personally criticized him.

Given the power of the United States, it’s unlikely that the leader of an allied country will take the president to task. So, perhaps the best we can hope for is 21 seconds of silence, during which the rest of us can voice the thoughts we think are going through Justin Trudeau’s mind.

Maybe it’s because I worked for a Quaker organization for many years, but I think that sometimes silence can speak volumes.

James Mattis

Former Pentagon chief Jim “Mad Dog” Mattis was one of the more prominent “adults in the room” who were supposed to rein in Trump. He failed. He resigned in December 2018 after disagreeing with Trump’s push to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria. When he resigned and later when he published his memoir the following year, Mattis kept his thoughts on Trump to himself.

Last week, Mattis broke his silence with a remarkable statement in The Atlantic criticizing the president’s threatened use of the military against protesters. He said, in part:

Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people — does not even pretend to try. Instead he tries to divide us. We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership. We can unite without him, drawing on the strengths inherent in our civil society.

In all my years as a protester, I have never witnessed someone of Mattis’s background and standing actually side with folks on the street. “The protests are defined by tens of thousands of people of conscience who are insisting that we live up to our values — our values as people and our values as a nation,” he said.

It wasn’t just Mattis. Former chair of the joint chiefs of staff Mike Mullen wrote a similar condemnation of Trump as did former commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan John Allen. It was the journalistic equivalent of D-Day, with the generals landing their forces on Omaha Beach in the hopes of dethroning their adversary several months hence.

Yes, yes, I know: Mattis, Mullen, and Allen are no leftists. You can’t even call them liberals or moderates. Andy Kroll is right to point out in Rolling Stone that these are “the same military leaders who endorsed and defended a policy of forever war that has led to tens of thousands of American deaths, hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis and Afghans and Syrians and Yemenis and Pakistanis, hundreds of thousands of injuries physical and mental suffered by U.S. service members, and many billions of taxpayer dollars poured into endless conflict.”

Kroll is both right and spectacularly off the mark. After all, Donald Trump similarly dismissed Colin Powell’s endorsement of Joe Biden by linking him to America’s failed wars.

The fact that these old establishment figures have blood on their hands is precisely the point. Noam Chomsky denouncing Donald Trump is not news. Everyone expects the leaders of the #BlackLivesMatter movement to criticize the president. I’ve been slamming Trump from day one of his presidency (and many months before), but I doubt my preaching goes very far beyond the choir.

All the attacks on Trump from left and center are what journalists call “dog bites man.” It’s no surprise. But “Mad Dog bites man”? That’s a different story altogether.

The military has been the most trusted institution in U.S. society for decades. According to Gallup, it enjoyed a 73 percent approval rating in 2019 — compared to 38 percent for both the presidency and the Supreme Court, 36 percent for organized religion, and 11 percent for Congress.

People listen to the military. And by people, here I mean folks who voted for Donald Trump, continue to support the president, and are still thinking about voting for him in November.

As importantly, these generals are willing to take enemy fire — from Fox News, from crazy Internet trolls, from the president himself—so that other former Trump enablers might be more willing to stand up and speak their minds.

Immediately after Mattis waded into the debate, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) confessed her concerns about Trump and said that she hasn’t made up her mind about who to support in November. Francis Rooney, a Republican member of Congress from Florida, is now leaning toward Biden. A number of prominent Republicans won’t vote for Trump, but they also are reluctant to say so in public.

This doesn’t exactly constitute a surge. A solid core of the party remains firmly behind the president. The more telegenic version of Trump, Tom Cotton (R-AR), is enjoying a swell of support after The New York Times criticized its own handling of the senator’s incendiary and inaccurate piece, “Send in the Military.” So far, Mattis has not played the role of the journalist Edward R. Murrow taking down the demagogue Joe McCarthy.

But you have to believe that statements from Mattis and others are at least going to introduce an element of doubt into the minds of some true believers. Active duty soldiers and veterans who voted for Trump — he received 61 percent of the veteran vote compared to Hillary Clinton’s 34 percent — might just heed the generals. And the latest polls suggest that both older Americans and white Americans are starting to abandon Trump.

I don’t expect Mitch McConnell or Tom Cotton to denounce Trump. Much of the Republican Party will loyally follow the president into his White House bunker. But thanks to the truth-telling of Mattis and others, everyone else will be laughing all the way to the polls at the emperor stripped bare by his enablers.


By John Feffer
Source: Foreign Policy In Focus

Google blocks access to YouTube accounts of Iran’s Press TV, Hispan TV

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)

Google renews attacks on accounts of Iranian media outlets. (Illustrative image)

Tuesday, 10 December 2019 3:03 PM

Google has targeted Iranian broadcasters Press TV and Hispan TV once again, blocking access to their official YouTube accounts without any prior notice.

Over the past years, the US tech giant has recurrently been opting for such measures against Iranian media outlets. It has taken on Press TV more than any other Iranian outlet given the expanse of its viewership and readership.

The most recent move came on Tuesday. Users shortly flooded both the networks with messages asking why the international networks’ YouTube channels had been put out of service.

The two networks were last targeted in April, when Google similarly shut their YouTube and Gmail accounts.

The previous attack also denied the networks any advance notification, sufficing to cite a nebulous “violation of policies.”

Previously, Press TV’s YouTube channel was closed in September and November 2013 and April 2014.

The Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting — which runs Press TV and Hispan TV as part of its World Service — has called such attacks clear examples of censorship.

‘Paying price for giving voice to the voiceless’

Reacting to Tuesday’s move, Press TV’s Website and Social Media Director Habib Abdolhossein said, “We have been adhering to Google policies, including those concerning user content and conduct policy. Even if we had violated any rules, they could have let us know.”

“Social media outlets were supposed to be a platform for the alternative views, but unfortunately they are rather politicized than socialized!” he said. “I think we are paying the price for being the voice of the voiceless.”

Following Donald Trump’s inauguration as US president in 2016, Washington ramped up its efforts to target the Islamic Republic.

The campaign even assumed the self-styled title of “maximum pressure” under the current US president. The drive has seen the US leaving a multi-party nuclear agreement with Iran last year, and returning the nuclear-related sanctions that the deal had lifted.

As part of the campaign, the US State Department has called on social media companies Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to block the accounts of Iranian government leaders, and iOS — a mobile operating system created by US company Apple Inc. — disabling Iranian applications.

Western media excited about ‘new Iran revolution’, but polls tell a different story about protests

Sharmine Narwani

Sharmine Narwani is a commentator and analyst of Middle East geopolitics. She is a former senior associate at St. Antony’s College, Oxford University and has a master’s degree in International Relations from Columbia University. Sharmine has written commentary for a wide array of publications, including Al Akhbar English, the New York Times, the Guardian, Asia Times Online, Salon.com, USA Today, the Huffington Post, Al Jazeera English, BRICS Post and others. You can follow her on Twitter at @snarwani

Western media excited about ‘new Iran revolution’, but polls tell a different story about protests

Reuters/WANA/Nazanin Tabatabaee

Data from two foreign polls tell a very different story about protests in Iran. The economy is tough, but a majority of Iranians back their government’s security initiatives and reject domestic upheaval.

On November 15, angry Iranians began pouring onto the streets to protest sudden news of a 50% fuel price hike. A day later, peaceful demonstrations had largely dissipatd, replaced instead by much smaller crowds of rioters who burned banks, gas stations, buses and other public and private property. Within no time, security forces hit the streets to snuff out the violence and arrest rioters, during which an unconfirmed number of people on both sides died.

Western commentators tried in vain to squeeze some juice out of the short-lived protests. “Iranian protesters strike at the heart of the regime’s legitimacy,” declared Suzanne Maloney of the Brookings Institution. France 24 asked the question, is this “a new Iranian revolution?” And the LA Times slammed Iran’s “brutal crackdown” against its people.

They grasped for a geopolitical angle too: protests in neighboring Lebanon and Iraq that were based almost entirely on popular domestic discontent against corrupt and negligent governments, began to be cast as a regional insurrection against Iranian influence.

ALSO ON RT.COMIran has quashed ‘extensive & very dangerous conspiracy’ perpetrated by foreign enemies, Khamenei saysAnd despite the fact that the internet in Iran was disabled for nearly a week, unverified videos and reports curiously made their way outside to Twitter accounts of Iran critics, alleging that protestors were calling for the death of the Supreme Leader, railing against Iran’s interventions in the region and calling for a fall of the “regime.

Clearly, the initial protests were genuine – a fact that even the Iranian government admitted immediately. Reducing petrol subsidies on the cheapest fuel in the region has been an issue on Iran’s political agenda for years, one that became more urgent after the US exited the Iran nuclear deal last year and began to tighten the sanctions screws on Iran again.

To try and understand Iranian reactions in the past twelve days, let’s look at two opinion polls conducted jointly by the University of Maryland’s Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM) and Toronto-based IranPolls in the immediate aftermath of the 2017/2018 protests/riots – and in May, August and October 2019, when the US “maximum pressure” campaign was in full gear.

What leaps out immediately from the earlier 2018 poll is that Iranians were frustrated with a stagnant economy – and 86% of them specifically opposed a hike in the price of gasoline, the main impetus for protests this November.

Ironically, this month’s gasoline price hike was meant to generate upward of $2.25 billion earmarked for distribution to Iran’s 18 million most hard-hit families. In effect, the government was softening the fuel subsidy reduction with payouts to the country’s neediest citizens.

The 2018 poll also lists respondents’ single biggest woes, ranging from unemployment (40%), inflation and high cost of living (13%), low incomes (7%),financial corruption and embezzlement (6%), injustice (1.4%), lack of civil liberties (0.3%), among others.

These numbers suggest the 2018 protests were overwhelmingly in response to domestic economic conditions– and not over Iran’s foreign policy initiatives or “widespread repression” that was heavily promoted by western media and politicians at the time.

The same Suzanne Maloney quoted above on this month’s protests, insisted in a 2018 Washington Post article:“The people aren’t just demonstrating for better working conditions or pay, but insisting on wholesale rejection of the system itself.”

In fact, in the 2018 poll, only 16% of Iranians agreed with the statement “Iran’s political system needs to undergo fundamental change,” with a whopping 77% disagreeing.

ALSO ON RT.COMIranian protesters should be angry at the regime in Washington, not Tehran

 

Like protests this month in Iran, the 2017-18 demonstrations also morphed into small but violent riots, and Iranian security forces hit the streets to stop the chaos. But in the aftermath of those events – and despite endless foreign headlines about the “brutality” of the security reaction – Iranians overwhelmingly sided with their government’s treatment of rioters.

Sixty-three percent of those polled in 2018 said the police used an appropriate amount of force, and another 11% said they used “too little force.” Overall, 85% of Iranians agreed that “the government should be more forceful to stop rioters who use violence or damage property.”

This Iranian reaction must be understood in context of Iran’s very insecure neighborhood, region-wide terrorism often backed by hostile states and a relentless escalation against Iranian interests after Donald Trump became US president. His “maximum pressure” campaign has only worsened matters, and Iranians consider themselves in a state of war with the United States – on constant guard against subversion, sabotage, espionage, eavesdropping, propaganda, border infiltration, etc.

Earlier this decade, the US military declared the internet an “operational domain”of war, and cyber warfare has already been widely acknowledged as the future battle frontier in conflicts. Iran was one of the early victims of this new warfare, when the suspected US/Israeli Stuxnet virus disrupted its nuclear program.

The US military has set up war rooms of servicemen dedicated to manipulating social media and advancing US propaganda interests. The British army has launched a “social media warfare” division, its initial focus, the Middle East. Israel has been at the online propaganda game forever, and the Saudis have recently invested heavily in influencing discourse on social media.

It should therefore come as no surprise that the Iranian government shut down the internet during this crisis. Expect this to become the new normal in US adversary states when chaos looms and foreign information operations are suspected.

The western media themes of corruption, violent repression, popular rejection of the Islamic Republic and its regional alliances have been consistent since the 2009 protests that followed contentious elections in Iran. They flared up briefly in early 2011, when western states were eager for an “Iranian Spring” to join the Arab Spring, and became popular narratives during 2017-18 protests when social media platforms adopted them widely.

This November, those narratives sprung to the surface again. So let’s examine what Iranians thought about these claims in October when CISSM/IranPolls published their latest, extremely timely survey.

Iran’s regional military activities

Sixty-one percent of Iranians support retaining military personnel in Syria to contain extremist militants that could threaten Iran’s security and interests. Polls taken since March 2016 confirm the consistency of this view inside Iran, with a steady two-thirds (66%) of respondents supporting an increase in Iran’s regional role.

Asked what would happen if Iran conceded to US demands and ended the US-sanctioned Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) activities in Syria and Iraq, 60% of Iranians thought it would make Washington demand more concessions – only 11% thought it would make the US more accommodating.

Moreover, the October 2019 report says negative attitudes toward the United States have never been higher in CISSM/IranPoll’s 13 years of conducting these surveys in Iran. A hefty 86% of Iranians do not favor the US, and those who say their view of the US is very unfavorable has skyrocketed from 52% in 2015 to 73% today.

They could care less that Washington has sanctioned the IRGC and its elite Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani, who is the most popular national figure of those polled, with eight in ten Iranians viewing him favorably. If anything, a hefty 81% of Iranians said the IRGC’s Mideast activities has made Iran “more secure.

As for the IRGC’s role in Iran’s domestic economy – a favorite subject of western foes who cast the military group as a malign and corrupt instrument of the state – today 63% of Iranians believe the IRGC should be involved “in construction projects and other economic matters,” as well as continuing their security role. In times of crisis, they’re viewed as a vital institution: the IRGC and Iranian military scored top points with the public (89% and 90% respectively) for assisting the population during crippling floods last Spring, which displaced half a million Iranians.

Economy and corruption

Seventy percent of Iranians view their economy as “bad” today, a figure that has stayed surprisingly consistent over the past 18 months, despite the imposition of US sanctions last year. The majority blame domestic mismanagement and corruption for their economic woes, but a rising number also blame US sanctions, which is possibly why 70% of Iranians prefer aiming for national self-sufficiency over increasing foreign trade.

Asked about the “impact (of sanctions) on the lives of ordinary people,” 83% of Iranians agreed there was a negative impact on their lives. Oddly, since the US exited the JCPOA, economic pessimism has dropped from 64% in 2018 to 54% last month-mainly, the poll argues, because Iranians feel the US can’t realistically pressure Iran much further with sanctions. Accordingly, 55% of Iranians blame domestic economic mismanagement and corruption for Iran’s poor economy versus 38% who blame foreign sanctions and pressure.

The blame for much of this mismanagement and corruption is pinned on the administration of President Hassan Rouhani, whose favorability numbers dropped under 50% for the first time, to reach 42% this August. Fifty-four percent of Iranians think his government isn’t trying much to fight corruption.

In contrast, 73% believe the Iranian judiciary is much more engaged in fighting economic corruption, up 12% since May.

On the economic front, it appears that Iranians have largely been disappointed by the promises and vision of this administration, which could benefit its Principlist opponents in upcoming parliamentary elections. The fuel tax hike two weeks ago was a necessary evil and a brave move by Rouhani, despite the mismanagement of its public rollout. Unfortunately, Iranians, who have railed against subsidy removals for years, are unlikely to be forgiving anytime soon.

On the political front, Iranians appear to be largely in lockstep with their government’s foreign policy and military initiatives, viewing the IRGC’s activities – domestic and regional – very favorably, and supporting Iran’s involvement in neighboring Iraq and Syria, both for security reasons against terrorism and because they believe in an active regional role for Iran. In terms of support for their leaders, a majority of Iranians view favorably the IRGC’s Soleimani (82%), followed by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (67%) and Judiciary Head Ebrahim Raisi (64%), which covers an unexpectedly broad spectrum of political viewpoints in the country.

In light of these numbers, it is fair to say that there is no “second revolution” on Iran’s horizon, nor any kind of significant rupture between government and populace on a whole host of key political, economic and security issues. Foreign commentators can spin events in Iran all they want, but so far Iranians have chosen security and stability over upheaval every time.

*Poll numbers in this article have been rounded up or down to the nearest unit.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

قاطع الطريق وداعمه ومساعده مجرمو حرب

ابراهيم الأمين

الثلاثاء 26 تشرين الثاني 2019

متلازمة السوشال ميديا صارت مرضاً يسيطر على غالبية الجمهور. لكنها أصابت مقتلاً حتى من فئات تعتبر نفسها في موقع متقدم عن الناس ثقافياً ومعرفياً. المشكلة، هنا، ليست في أن تقول كلاماً صحيحاً، وليست في أن تقول الحقيقة، ولا في أن تكذب أو تخفي وقائع قاسية. المشكلة هنا متوقفة فقط عند عنوان واحد اسمه: الانطباع!

يعني، لا يهمّ أي نوع من التدقيق في طبيعة المواجهات التي تحصل بين وقت وآخر في الشارع بين جمهور المتنازعين سياسياً. ولا ينفع التدقيق في إقناع هذا أو ذاك بتعديل موقفه. المهم، هنا، هو الانطباع الذي سيزرع في عقول الناس وقلوبهم. لذلك، يسيطر الانطباع على العقل. وحتى من يريد وضع خطة عمل لفريق أو جهة، أو من يريد القيام بعمل له حساباته الواقعية، لا يقف الا عند الانطباع. الجملة السحرية التي تسيطر على ألسنة الجميع هي: ماذا سيقول الناس عنا؟ والناس، هنا، ليسوا سوى لاعبين افتراضيين على منصّات التواصل الاجتماعي الذين باتوا قادرين على إطلاق الأحكام على الجميع ومنع محاكمتهم في الوقت نفسه.

ولأن الانطباع هو المسيطر، تجد نفسك في موقع غير الراغب في الشرح والتدقيق. بل في موقع اللامبالي إزاء ردود فعل مهما كبرت أو تحولت الى وقائع، لأن النقاش يصبح من دون فعالية إذا كان من يقف على الضفة الاخرى غير مهتم إلا بالانطباع. وهذا مصدر نجاح كبير لمن يقود ما يسمى في عالمنا اليوم «الحرب الناعمة». هذه الحرب التي لا تستهدف خلق وعي معرفي عند الاصدقاء أو الخصوم، بل هدفها الوحيد هو تطويق هؤلاء بفكرة الانطباع: أنت جميل، هو قبيح، أنت واضح، هو متذبذب، أنت طائفي هو علماني، أنت آدمي هو حرامي… وهكذا الى نهاية السلسلة من لعبة زرع الجزئيات التي تنتهي عادة على شكل صورة لشيء وحيد هو: الانطباع!

والانطباع سرعان ما يصبح أسير قوانين اللعبة الافتراضية، أي أسير أدوات العمل على مواقع التواصل. والمهم، هنا، كيفية تحويل الانطباع الى «ترند»، أي رفع قيمته من لحظة انفعال عاطفي الى لحظة نمط تعامل. أي إن الـ«ترند» هو المرحلة التالية في تحويل الانطباع الى حقيقة. وهذا وحده كفيل بجعل الكذاب في حالة زهو غير مسبوقة إذا حصد المرتبة الاولى. كما من شأنه أن يدفع صادقاً الى الانتحار، لأنه فشل في الدفاع عن نفسه أو وجهة نظره. ومن يرد التجاهل والتجاوز ما عليه سوى اختبار نفسه ضمن مسابقة النقاط، التي تحصر في هذا العالم بلعبة «لايكات»، تتحول الى علامات نجاح أو رسوب، وهي ما تجعل من الانطباع قوة رئيسية في التفكير بالقول، كما تجعل من الـ«ترند» قوة رئيسية في الفعل… وهكذا!

في لبنان اليوم، وعلى هامش الأزمة القائمة، ثمة حشد مقبول، من أشخاص وجمعيات وجهات وقوى ومؤسسات، يديرون يومياتهم السياسية على أساس الانطباع القائل بأن جمهور المقاومة في لبنان صار عدواً لكل من يطالب بالإصلاح. وهؤلاء يتصرفون على أساس ان غالبية لبنانية تقف الى جانبهم، وأن أقلية تقف في جانب جمهور المقاومة الذي يتعرض لعملية عزل متواصلة. والبعض من هذه الفئة يتصرف على أساس أنه قادر على تحديد وجهة التفاعل على الارض، ولا يهم بقية الناس، لان الانطباع هو الأقوى. لكن هذه الفئة لا نعرف كيف تتصرف عندما تصدم بحقيقة الوقائع، التي تنسف الانطباع، وتفرض صورة معاكسة تماماً، حتى ولو حصل ما حصل من إشكالات وخسائر!

بناءً على لعبة الانطباع، التي يمكن تحويلها الى حقيقة، لا الى «ترند»، وجب اليوم قول الآتي:
كل مشارك في الحراك لا يخرج الى العلن، ويدين صراحة قاطعي الطرق، هو شريك فعلي في جريمة اغتيال المواطنين حسين شلهوب وسناء الجندي على طريق الجية.
كل ناشط في الحراك لا يخرج الى العلن، ويذيع بياناً يدين بالاسم مرتكبي هذه الجريمة، هو شريك في سفك دماء الأبرياء.

كل إعلامي، مؤيّد للحراك، لا يكتب أو يذيع موقفاً واضحاً، جهاراً نهاراً، يشتم فيه قاطعي الطرق هو شريك مساهم في الجريمة.
كل سياسي مؤيّد للحراك بكل صنوفه، طوعاً أو غصباً، وعن حق أو عن دجل، لا يسارع الى إيجاد وسيلة إعلامية لإذاعة بيان يدين بالأسماء المسؤولين عن قطع الطرقات هو شريك في هذه الجريمة.

كل جمعية مدنية، أو منظمة غير حكومية، تشارك في الحراك، لا تصدر بياناً واضحاً، فيه إشارة واضحة الى المسؤولين عن قطع الطرقات، وتحميلهم مسؤولية الجريمة، شريكة في الجريمة وتتحمل مسؤولية الدماء التي سفكت.

كل قوة سياسية أو حزب أو حركة تشارك في الحراك، وتملك الجرأة على المطالبة بإسقاط النظام، ولا تخرج وتعلن على لسان قيادييها أنها تدين قطع الطرقات وتهاجم المرتكبين بالأسماء، هي قوة وحركة وحزب شريك في الجريمة.

من يتوهّم نقل البلاد الى جبهة الغرب هو أسير انطباع لن يكون حقيقة، ولو تحول الى تراند عالمي!

ولمن لا يعرف، أو يتذرع بعدم المعرفة، فإن زعران سعد الحريري وسمير جعجع وسامي الجميّل ووليد جنبلاط هم من يتولى قطع الطرقات، ومن يتولى مهاجمة المارة وشتمهم، ومعهم كل المجموعات التي تعمل طوعاً أو غصباً مع مخابرات الجيش اللبناني، ومع فرع المعلومات في قوى الأمن الداخلي،

أما من يعتقد بأن هناك طبقات اجتماعية عند ضحايا فوضى الحراك، ويعتقد أن إعلاماً حقيراً ومشوّهاً منذ نشوئه، يمكنه التمييز بين هذا أو ذاك، ويمكنه تجهيل الفاعل وتحييد الناس، وتركهم ضحايا الانطباع إياه، وأسرى الـ«ترند» إياه، فمن المفيد تذكير هؤلاء بأننا سوف نلاحقهم، اسماً اسماً، وناشطاً ناشطاً، وجمعية جمعية، ومنظمة منظمة، وجهة جهة، وحزباً حزباً، وحركة حركة، وإعلامياً إعلامياً، وإعلامية وإعلامية، ولن نترك منهم أحداً من دون مساءلته يومياً عن مصدر أمواله ومرجعيته، وسنلزمه، الآن وكل يوم، بأن يقدم لنا جردة يومية بكل ما قام ويقوم به، وسنروي للناس ما حرصنا على كتمه من أجل الصالحين في الحراك..

أما من يهربون من مسؤوليتهم في تنظيف الحراك من هذا الوسخ، فهم اليوم أمام استحقاق أساسي، لأن من يريد التلطّي خلف شعارات عامة ومطالب مفتوحة، عليه أن يعرف أن نتائج الأفعال تقع على عاتق من بيده الأمر من بين هؤلاء، ومن لا يزال يتوهم أن بإمكانه نقل البلاد الى جبهة الغرب، فقط لأنه قرر ذلك، إنما هو أسير انطباع لن يكون حقيقة، ولو تحول الى «ترند» عالمي!

يجب أن يعرف هؤلاء أن دموع الصبية الناجية من محرقة الجية أمس، وحرقتها على من فقدته أمام عينيها، هي أهم من كل شعار يرفع في أي ساحة من ساحات لبنان.

Related

Social Media Censorship Reaches New Heights as Twitter Permanently Bans Dissent

Mnar Muhawesh speaks with journalist Daniel McAdams about being permanently banned from Twitter, social media censorship and more.

Most recently, it was revealed that Twitter’s senior editorial executive for Europe, the Middle East and Africa is an active officer in the British Army’s 77th Brigade, a unit dedicated to online warfare and psychological operations.

In other words: he specializes in disseminating propaganda.

The news left many wondering how a member of the British Armed Forces secured such an influential job in the media.

The bombshell that one of the world’s most influential social networks is controlled in part by an active psychological warfare officer was not covered at all in the New York TimesCNNCNBCMSNBC or Fox News, who appear to have found the news unremarkable.

But for those paying attention and for those who have been following ’MintPress News’ extensive coverage of social media censorship, this revelation was merely another example of the increasing closeness between the deep state and the fourth estate.

Amazon owner, and world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos was paid $600 million by the CIA to develop software and media for the agency, that’s more than twice as much as Bezos bought the Washington Post for, and a move media critics warn spells the end of journalistic independence for the Post.

Meanwhile, Google has a very close relationship with the State Department, its former CEO Eric Schmidt’s book on technological imperialism was heartily endorsed by deep state warmongers like Henry Kissinger, Hillary Clinton and Tony Blair.

In their book titled, The New Digital Age: Reshaping the Future of People, Nations and Business, Eric Schmidt and fellow Google executive Jared Cohen wrote:

What Lockheed Martin was to the twentieth century…technology and cyber-security companies [like Google] will be to the twenty-first.”

Another social media giant partnering with the military-industrial complex is Facebook. The California-based company announced last year it was working closely with the neoconservative think tank, The Atlantic Council, which is largely funded by Saudi Arabia, Israel and weapons manufacturers to supposedly fight foreign “fake news.”

The Atlantic Council is a NATO offshoot and its board of directors reads like a rogue’s gallery of warmongers, including the notorious Henry Kissinger, Bush-era hawks like Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, James Baker, the former head of the Department of Homeland Security and author of the PATRIOT Act, Michael Chertoff, a number of former Army Generals including David Petraeus and Wesley Clark and former heads of the CIA Michael Hayden, Leon Panetta and Michael Morell.

39 percent of Americans, and similar numbers of people in other countries, get their news from Facebook, so when an organization like the Atlantic Council is controlling what the world sees in their Facebook news feeds, it can only be described as state censorship on a global level.

After working with the council, Facebook immediately began banning and removing accounts linked to media in official enemy states like Iran, Russia and Venezuela, ensuring the world would not be exposed to competing ideas and purging dissident voices under the guise of fighting “fake news” and “Russian bots.”

Meanwhile, the social media platform has been partnering with the U.S. and Israeli governments to silence Palestinian voices that show the reality of life under Israeli apartheid and occupation. The Israeli Justice Minister proudly revealed that Facebook complied with 95 percent of Israeli government requests to delete Palestinian pages. At the same time, Google deleted dozens of YouTube and blog accounts supposedly connected to the government of Iran.

In the last week alone, Twitter has purged several Palestinian news pages, including Quds News Network — without warning or explanation.

Electronic Intifada co-founder Ali Abunimah wrote, 

This alarming act of censorship is another indication of the complicity of major social media firms in Israel’s efforts to suppress news and information about its abuses of Palestinian rights.”

 

Alternative voices not welcome

The vast online purge of alternative voices has also been directed at internal “enemies.”

Publishers like Julian Assange and whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning are still being held in solitary confinement in conditions that international bodies and human rights groups call torture, for their crime of revealing the extent of the global surveillance network and the control over the media that Western governments have built.

As attempts to re-tighten the state and corporate grip over our means of communication increases, high-quality alternative media are being hit the hardest, as algorithm changes from the media monoliths have deranked, demoted, deleted and disincentivized outlets that question official narratives, leading to huge falls in traffic and revenue.

The message from social media giants is clear: independent and alternative voices are not welcome.

One causality in this propaganda war is Daniel McAdams, Executive Director of the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity, a public advocacy group that argues that a non-interventionist foreign policy is crucial to securing a prosperous society at home. McAdams served as Senator Paul’s foreign affairs advisor between 2001 and 2012. Before that, he was a journalist and editor for the Budapest Sun and a human rights monitor across Eastern Europe.

McAdams, who spent much of his time on Twitter calling out the war machine supported by both parties, was recently permanently banned from the platform for so-called “hateful conduct.” His crime? Challenging Fox News anchor Sean Hannity over his hour-long segment claiming to be against the “deep state,” while simultaneously wearing a CIA lapel pin. In the exchange, McAdams called Hannity “retarded,” claiming he was becoming stupider every time he watched him.

Yes, despite that word and its derivatives having been used on Twitter over ten times in the previous minute, and often much more aggressively than McAdams used it – only McAdams fell victim to Twitter’s ban hammer. Something didn’t make sense about this ban. One only needs to read the replies under any of President Trump’s tweets to see far more hateful speech than what McAdams displayed to suspect foul play.

I spoke with McAdams about the ban and began by asking him if he accepts the premise of the ban, or if he believes something else was afoot.

Feature photo | Spirit Boom Cat | Shutterstock

Mnar Muhawesh is founder, CEO and editor in chief of MintPress News, and is also a regular speaker on responsible journalism, sexism, neoconservativism within the media and journalism start-ups.

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Saudi Arabia Recruits Twitter Employees Charged For Spying

Saudi Arabia Recruits Twitter Employees Charged For Spying

By Staff, Agencies

The Saudi government, frustrated by growing criticism of its leaders and policies on social media, recruited two Twitter employees to gather confidential personal information on thousands of accounts that included prominent opponents, prosecutors announced on Wednesday.

Twitter

The complaint unsealed in US District Court in San Francisco detailed a coordinated effort by Saudi government officials to recruit employees at the social media giant to look up the private data of Twitter accounts, including email addresses linked to the accounts and internet protocol addresses that can give up a user’s location.

The accounts included those of a popular critic of the government with more than one million followers and a news personality. Neither was named.

Two Saudi citizens and one US citizen worked together to unmask the ownership details behind dissident Twitter accounts on behalf of the government in Riyadh and the royal family, the US justice department said.

According to a court filing, they were guided by an unnamed Saudi official who worked for someone prosecutors designated “Royal Family Member-1,” which The Washington Post reported was Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman or MBS as he is commonly known.

Those charged were Twitter employees Ali Alzabarah and Ahmad Abouammo, along with Ahmed Almutairi, a marketing official with ties to the royal family.

“The criminal complaint unsealed today alleges that Saudi agents mined Twitter’s internal systems for personal information about known Saudi critics and thousands of other Twitter users,” said US lawyer David Anderson.

“US law protects US companies from such an unlawful foreign intrusion. We will not allow US companies or US technology to become tools of foreign repression in violation of US law,” he said in a statement.

The lawsuit comes as US-Saudi relations continue to suffer strains over the brutal, Riyadh-sanctioned murder one year ago of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who wrote for, among others, The Washington Post newspaper

A critic of MBS, Khashoggi was killed and dismembered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

According to the Post, US intelligence has concluded that the prince himself was closely linked to the murder.

The criminal allegations reveal the extent the Saudi government went to control the flow of information on Twitter, said Adam Coogle, a Middle East researcher with Human Rights Watch.

Two Former Twitter Employees Accused of Spying for Saudi Arabia

Next? After Iraq, Saudi Social Media Bots Deployed to Influence Lebanon Protests

Next? After Iraq, Saudi Social Media Bots Deployed to Influence Lebanon Protests

By Staff

Less than a month after exposing the involvement of Saudi Arabian social media bots in the protests that engulfed Iraq, today’s analyses revealed the same electronic hands behind provoking hatred during Lebanon protests.

A study published by Tansikeyah News on Tuesday revealed that 78% of the accounts using hashtags to incite hatred in the Lebanese society were Saudi.

Additionally, Assistant Professor in Middle East Studies and Digital Humanities Marc Owen Jones studied the suspicious hashtags that were used during the still ongoing protests in Lebanon.

In a thread of tweets he published on his Twitter account, Owen said I looked at suspected influence campaigns criticizing Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah.

“I analyzed around 6,500 tweets from around 4,494 unique accounts. There were a few things I found quite striking. Firstly, the spike in accounts created in September 2019, which was obviously before the escalation of protests in Lebanon. Again this might not be unusual for suspicious accounts, which will become active when required and high suspension rates means usually they are ‘newer’,” Owen noted.

“The 180 accounts created in September 2019 compares to around the 31 per month average – a large difference. Although I assume it goes without saying (perhaps I shouldn’t) it is also common for dramatic events to drive people to creating Twitter events. Although I am not sure why September 2019 outstrips October 2019,” he added.

He went on to explain that “many of the new accounts have tell-tale signs of spam accounts – such as usernames that look like random strings. Much of the content on the hashtags are the type of crude cartoons you’d expect on influence campaigns.”

A brief locational analysis of the tweets also suggested that most of the accounts are based in Saudi Arabia, Owen stated.

“Around 35% of the 2,297 accounts with location data were from Saudi.”

While Saudi has the highest Twitter population in the world, Owen said he usually sees this kind of turnout on hashtags criticizing Iran and Hezbollah. Some of the almost brand-new accounts created in Sept/Oct 2019 are ‘very spammy.’

A couple of them, which RT a lot of Saudi loyalist accounts have as many as 10,000 + tweets, despite only being a month and a half old.

Owen concluded that there is certainly some sort of Twitter campaign afoot to demonize Nasrallah. 

“So yes, as has become the custom on Twitter, different forces are trying to inflame tensions in other countries, polluting organic discussions with inorganic content.”

Earlier in the month, analytics revealed that the trending hashtag that was most used regarding rallies in Iraq was used by only 6% users in the country, while 79% were from Saudi Arabia.

The hashtag was precisely used by 58000 Twitter users based in Saudi Arabia, who definitely caused more escalation in the already tense situation.

Relatively, 200 robots retweeted 13000 related tweets at the time.

Now the question is which country will be the next target of Saudi Arabia’s continued hatred-spreading propaganda? And the repeated question is why Saudi Arabia is deploying its social bots to do this dirty job?

Sayyed Nasrallah’s Other Side (Part 2): This Is How He Followed Social Networking Sites & Prepared His Speeches

Sayyed Nasrallah’s Other Side (Part 2): This Is How He Followed Social Networking Sites & Prepared His Speeches

Sayyed Nasrallah’s Other Side (Part 2): This Is How He Followed Social Networking Sites & Prepared His Speeches

Fatima Salami

Beirut – When we read about the personality of Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, we find ourselves immersed in the finer details. We may read the text a second time and not get bored.

One reader commented on the first segment of this article series noting that the more we read about this extraordinary figure, the more attached we become.

Meanwhile, a politician who stands in stark contrast to Sayyed’s political views expressed in private correspondence his admiration for Sayyed’s charisma and personality, describing him an extraordinary leader. This is the opinion of an opponent.

There is no doubt that many like him think the same way, even if they do not declare it. For you cannot dive into Sayyed’s distinctive personality and not find yourself captivated by those exemplary qualities.

Behind the character of a strong and capable leader, a leader who knew how to twist the arm of the Zionist enemy, a leader who terrified the enemy into keeping up with each and every single appearance he makes, Sayyed Nasrallah hides a great deal of humanity, kindness, compassion and love for his people.

In the last part of the interview with the Al-Ahed news website, Sayyed Jawad, the son of Hezbollah’s secretary general, talks about the love His Eminence has for the people. He has infinite compassion for his supporters in his heart. He asks about their situation and matters that concern them, follows up on their issues and grieves over their pain.

Jawad also points out that Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah who is today Hezbollah’s secretary general is the same person he was before he took up this post. He has great adoration for the Grand Ayatollah Imam Sayyid Ali Khamenei and has a strong relationship with the Mujahideen.

He makes sure to read most of the reports and articles, and he follows with distinction what is published on social media. He underscores the need for civilized communication, calling on everyone to disagree with respect.

His Eminence regards money and legitimate rights as a red line that should never be abused. Jawad talks about an incident that he experienced personally in this regard.

As for Sayyed’s speeches, he has them in his head as they are on paper. Let us assume that he went somewhere to deliver a speech and forgot the papers, nothing changes at all.

Sayyed the human being

Jawad elaborates on Sayyed the man, who has not been changed by the world and has not been taken by the glamor of the podiums. He talks about Sayyed, who was only made more modest by the pride and people’s cheers.

Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary general of Hezbollah today, is the same person he was before he assumed the post. Not only that, but with time he become more modest.

“My father takes pride in the people’s love and trust. He loves them so much. Of course, he does not love them for love’s sake only, but he is also concerned about their interests. He fears for their life in the afterlife [Akhira] more than in this world,” Jawad says.

The first trait that comes to mind when Jawad talks about his father is humanity. He elaborates on this bright side in Sayyed’s personality. In his view, the term “human being” applies to his father in every sense of the word.

This characteristic is further exemplified by the relationship between His Eminence and the most honorable people. We see him carry passion, love and understanding in his heart. He always advises that one should conform with people.

“He calls on us to restore (things). If someone makes a mistake, we have to right it and try to understand it. When two people disagree, we must look for a way to reform it, not to fuel sedition between them.”

“Sayyed Hassan has a high and elegant morality. He has many of the attributes of Amir al-Mu’minin [Commander of the Faithful] (PBUH),” says Jawad. “He has a great ability to control himself. This ability always makes him look into God’s eyes, speak his tongue and act with his hand.”

According to Jawad, “all his dwellings and movements revolve around the pleasure of Allah.

There are red lines in life as there are in politics. His Eminence regards the rights of the people as a red line, without which everything else falls by the waist side. He has endless generosity, and at the same time he does not make anyone feel they owe him gratitude. We, his children, do not know what his exchanges are with the people closest to us. It is forbidden.

The dignity of the people as well as their comfort are a top priority. He is eager to insure the comfort of those around him to an extent that no one expects. For example, he does not stay too late so as not to exhaust the young men [resistance fighters] or embarrass them, even though sitting with him is extremely dear to them. According to his convictions, anything that causes others’ exhaustion is unacceptable.

Sayyed’s concern and fear for the people is not limited to their dunya [temporal world] but rather for their afterlife.” Jawad says. “One time, I asked him, ‘If you were an intercessor, would you intercede for me?’ He replied, ‘I would not only intercede for you, but I would intercede for all the believers.’”

“If we look at these positions and sayings over the years, we see in Sayyed the trait of a human being who has compassion, mercy, self-esteem and the understanding of his people,” Jawad adds.

In Jawad’s opinion, the commandments of Ahl al-Bayt are imbedded in Sayyed’s actions. He treats people in their absence as if they were in front of him. On numerous occasions, his heart aches for the people and he is saddened by their stories. He is very eager to further their piety. He follows up on people’s attendance in mosques. His concern is people’s piety on the grounds that the world has no value if our relationship with God is not sound. This matter will cost the loss of the dunya and the Hereafter. My relationship with God being good means to preserve the rights of people and not fall into sin. This brings good in dunya and in the Hereafter. In Sayyed’s opinion, what is the benefit of doing Jihad while I deprive the people of their rights, or pray while I attack people?

A mountain of patience

“Among other qualities that Sayyed possesses is his mountain of patience. He is insightful and far-sighted, as if he can see things for years to come,” Jawad explains.

“He is a strong administrator, a meticulous person with exceptional memory and a light touch when it comes to management. He is sincere with his feelings and shows them without excuses.

He is a father figure and merciful. At the same time, his love for the people and the Mujahideen does not prevent him from making any remarks to anyone on any subject. He is firm but does insult anyone and lenient but not a pushover.

He convinces you of what he is dictating with love and satisfaction, by clarifying and explaining things to you. He possesses the art of listening. When you sit down with him, he seems to be listening to you par excellence.

In short, his flesh and blood have been affected by the infallible household [Prophet’s family],” Jawad adds.

He also points out that His Eminence seems to be closely following up on the conditions of his family despite the strategic matters he is handling. “He keeps a close eye on the family without violating the privacy and freedoms of its members. We also see this quality during work, even with things we don’t expect. He considers this organization [Hezbollah] a part of his soul and follows it very carefully.”

The humble Sayyed

Jawad discloses some details that highlight Sayyed’s humility, and the fact that he is not embarrassed by serving the people.

“I remember before the 2006 war His Eminence invited his siblings and their families for Iftar at our house. He sat in the middle and prevented anyone from pouring food. He told them, ‘throughout the holy month, people have been serving me [food]. Now it’s my turn to serve you and pour food for you myself.’”

Jawad says that those gathered at the table refused but Sayyed insisted on doing it himself. Here he points out that His Eminence often does things himself in everyday life. He helps in setting the table. Sometimes he heats his food himself. He repeatedly prepares his papers.

He is not demanding or bossy. Because of their great love for him, everyone around him waits for him to ask them to do something.

Sayyed and Imam Khamenei

Jawad points out that His Eminence has a great deal of adoration for Grand Ayatollah Imam Sayyed Ali Khamenei. He follows his recorded lessons, listens to his sermons, and sheds light on anything posted on his behalf. He was so touched when the story of the Leader marrying off one of his sons was circulated. He was affected by the asceticism and humility that accompanied that event. Sayyed always repeats the phrase: look at where we are and where the Leader is!

Sayyed and the Mujahideen

His grave responsibilities did not hinder his ability to closely follow-up on matters concerning the families of the martyrs. With regard to the Mujahideen, Sayyed has a particular sensitivity and passion towards them.

“I remember during the Joroud [battle] and the snow. His Eminence remembered them during ablution and would say, ‘God help them while they perform ablution in this cold.’ Or when he wants to eat, he remembers them and says, ‘I wonder what they are eating now,’” Jawad says.

Jawad pauses and points out that Sayyed is not a show-off. He did not say this to a group of people. Only one person knows these things.

Sayyed puts a great deal of importance on the blood of the martyrs. For him, all the pride that we enjoy comes from those who sacrificed themselves so that the nation can live in dignity.

This is how His Eminence follows social media

His Eminence reads most of the articles and reports. He follows and looks at everything on social media, according to Jawad. Of course, he does not have an account. He, however, receives detailed and lengthy reports on everything every day, including Twitter and Facebook posts. He sees the profiles and pictures of the people on social media. We see them on the screen while he sees them printed on paper. Sayyed even reads most of the letters sent to him. Sometimes, if he does not have time to read everything, his assistants choose funny things of a political nature.

“I ask him what he thinks about some tweets regarding a certain topic. He tells me, ‘I saw the tweets of several people. Aren’t those your friends, Jawad?’”

Sayyed hates foul language and obscenity on social media no matter what party issued it. His Eminence does not permit offending opponents. Of course, the “Israelis” are another topic, says Jawad. There should be manners and decency in political rivalries. He considers that the fraught atmosphere among activists is very bad. People can politely disagree and raise the level of communication, attention and thinking. When Sayyed comes across such types of offensive tweets, he describes them with one word: “wretched”. To him this is the most profound description.

The majalis e-aza are for all Muslims

Sayyed does not only keep a close eye on social media sites while advocating more civilized forms of communication, he also follows a lot of other things. For example, he makes sure that the central majlis e-aza can be attended by all Muslims. Imam al-Husayn is the son of the Prophet (PBUH). In this sense, it is our duty to convey his grievance to everyone. Moreover, when he has time, he looks into the content of the majlis.

Furthermore, His Eminence rejoices greatly with the scientific achievements of the people. He is also delighted with any humanitarian initiative.

Being careful with public rights and money

Jawad stresses that Sayyed is the same person whether he is under the spotlight or alone. To him, the criterion is the satisfaction of Allah.

In this context, he talks about His Eminence’s care for legitimate rights and money in a manner that other people may not notice. “For example, once His Eminence received a present that I liked. He told me, ‘you can take it, but you have to pay for it.’ I wondered and asked him why. He said, ‘I did not receive this present as Hassan the son of Abdul Karim Nasrallah but as the secretary general of Hezbollah. Therefore, you have to pay for it with a certain Hajj. The price of the gifts that are sold are transferred to a [bank] account to help Mujahideen get married.’ He told me confidently, ‘what makes you more special than the other young men?’”

Here, Jawad points out that Sayyed is always concerned with the worries of his people, and he fears for their rights. After 2006, he was ready to take from Hezbollah’s funds to aid people and pay for their health, education, etc.

“Conforming with people” is the permanent commandment at every situation

Sayyed always underscores the need to conform to people in many of the things that we wants to do.

“Following the July 2006 war, I was able to borrow money and buy an ordinary house, and the prices were still acceptable,” says Jawad.

“My father told me at the time, ‘you’re not allowed to. After reconstruction, you return to your home. You have to live the way people are living. You have to rent like them, even if this drives you to move from one house to another. We are not better than people. We have to console them and be equal to them.’ According to His Eminence, it is possible not to share one’s joy. However, consolation during hardship and pain alleviates the heart and spirit. As long as you are my son, you have to accept and live this life with its sweetness and bitterness. If we cannot console them, the least we can do is be equal to them. This is stated in our religion and the morals of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and his family (PBUT). It is not our business what others do within what God allows. We are accountable to the people who give and love expecting no return. Those are the people of loyalty. The relationship with them is beyond leadership. And the least we can do is to conform with people, leave behind what we can and live in asceticism to be closer to Allah Almighty. Then he reminds me of the holy verse {Never will you attain the good [reward] until you spend [in the way of Allah] from that which you love. And whatever you spend – indeed, Allah is Knowing of it.} (Surah Ali-Imran – Verse 92).”

What is the secret behind Sayyed’s confidence in victory?

“About two years after the 2006 war, I said, ‘Father, I know you are someone who cares a lot about the speeches you give. Honesty is a red line for you, so you are careful not to shake the trust between you and the public. In the beginning of the July war, tell me how were you able to say your famous sentence ‘as I always promised you victory, I promise you victory again’? What did you base this certainty on at the beginning of the war and the whole world was against us? He told, ‘aren’t you a reader of the Quran?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ He gave me two verse: {O you who have believed, if you support Allah, He will support you and plant firmly your feet.} (Surah Muhammad – Verse 7) and {Indeed, Allah defends those who have believed. Indeed, Allah does not like everyone treacherous and ungrateful.} (Surah Al-Hajj – Verse 38). ‘This is Allah’s promise,’ he said.”

“This is certainty,” says Jawad. “The whole world is against us and is conspiring against us. A cruel war is launched against us, yet someone comes with all this confidence and certainty to say this famous sentence. In my opinion, this is the foundation of the great popular trust that Sayyed enjoys today. This has turned him into a symbol of truth and everyone began to see him as a person who is certain.”

No favoritism in employment

For Sayyed, there is no place for favoritism when it comes to jobs.

Jawad says, “once, I waited for three months to get a direct job appointment with him. Sayyed had me disapproved. Although I tried more than once to bring the date forward, but I did not succeed. He even put me at the end of the day. Then, I felt something. I contacted his assistant and told him, ‘I will cancel the appointment but on one condition do not schedule any appointment instead of mine. Let my father rest.’ He said, ‘I accept.’ I said, ‘Cancel my appointment.’ When I met my father later, he told me, ‘you know, my son, when X told me that Jawad canceled the appointment on the condition that you rested, I was very happy because I was very tired. Then I said thank God and I was grateful to you from my heart.’”

The speech is in the mind as it is on paper

There is no doubt that His Eminence’s distinguished speeches have always been admired because of the methodology, strength and eloquence. Every speech is unlike the previous one. Every time you listen to him, it feels like it is the first time. Many wonder how His Eminence prepares his speeches.

In this regard, Jawad tells us that when an idea comes to His Eminence’s mind in any particular subject, he thinks about it before putting it down on paper. “You see him put the points he will include in the speech in his mind. He has mental and intellectual abilities and other unnatural gifts. Let us assume, for example, that he went to deliver a speech and forgot the papers somewhere, nothing changes at all. What is written on the papers is imprinted in his mind – the same sequence and order.

He has a strong memory. This is sometimes evident, for example, when we talk to him about something that might not be a needle in the haystack. 15 days later, on the allotted time he replies to us even though the date is not written down.

How does Sayyed approach politics?

Sayyed has a realistic view on how we should approach politics. In his view there must be flexibility. Nobody takes everything in politics. We have to coexist with people. Politics, in the end, is give and take. Nothing can just be because you say so.

Sometimes His eminence regrets when the public opinion does not wait in a particular case to see what is behind Hezbollah’s decision regarding a certain matter. According to his convictions, it is very wrong to make judgments arbitrarily, especially regarding sensitive subjects.

Jawad concludes his heartfelt talk about his father by pointing out that despite all this compassion and affluent passion, Sayyed is a wise manager, a brilliant and intelligent person, resolute, decisive and deadly in war.

Finally, writing about His Eminence’s other side carries us to another world where there is a lot of beauty. There is no doubt

that Sayyed Nasrallah’s personal and human traits constitute some of the many in an exceptional leader that brought pride to the nation. And even so, everything written and said about him remains too little.

Related

 

West’s “Fake News” Begins to Backfire

Source

September 5, 2019 (Joseph Thomas – NEO) – Western special interests have used the term “fake news” as a pretext for widening censorship, particularly across US-based social media networks like Facebook and Twitter as well as across Google’s various platforms.

In a move of political judo, many nations are citing the threat of “fake news” to in turn deal with media platforms, often funded and supported by the US and Europe, operating within their borders and often targeting sitting governments to either coerce or unseat them in pursuit of Western interests.

A recent example of this is in Thailand where the government has announced plans for measures to combat what is being called “fake news.”

A Bangkok Post article titled, “Digital Economy and Society Ministry outlines fake news crackdown,” would report:

The Digital Economy and Society Ministry (DE) is seeking to counter fake information shared online through the Line app because urgent issues could potentially incite mass public misunderstanding.

The article also makes mention of the Thai government’s plans to approach tech-giants like Facebook, Line and Google, urging each to establish offices in Thailand for the specific purpose of confronting “fake-news.”

Facebook and Google already have a well-oiled process of identifying and removing content both platforms deem “fake news” or “coordinated, disingenuous behaviour,” but this is a process that focuses solely on deleting narratives from their networks that challenge US interests. Both platforms, as well as Twitter, are more than happy to otherwise allow false narratives aimed at governments around the world to flourish with impunity.

The offices the Thai government seeks to establish are described as a shortcut for the Thai government to contact these foreign tech companies and spur them into action. However, similar arrangements have already been tried with mixed results and ultimately, with large foreign tech-giants like Facebook, Google and Twitter enjoying net influence over Thailand’s information space at the Thai government’s and the Thai people’s expense.


Genuine Cooperation and Non-Interference Requires Thai Leverage 

Google’s adherence to Chinese conditions for operating within Chinese territory resulted not from Google’s good will, but from China’s sufficient leverage over the tech-giant. China maintains its own tech corporations which dominate China’s information space. China’s Baidu is an equivalent to Google. Weibo is a Chinese equivalent to Twitter. And RenRen is a Chinese version of Facebook. All three dominate their respective target markets within China.

China doesn’t need Google. Google needs China. And because of this leverage, China is able to bend Google to conform to its conditions while operating within China. At any time China can remove what little of Google’s business remains there because of this fact.

For smaller nations like Thailand, tech-giants like Google face little to no competition. They are able to exert influence over Thailand’s information space with virtual impunity. The Thai government may “ask” for cooperation, but lacking any indigenous alternative, requests for cooperation lack the sufficient leverage necessary to receive it in full.

Thailand’s latest plans will likely backfire if not linked to serious efforts to establish Thai versions of Google, Facebook, Twitter and other platforms operated by foreign tech giants currently dominating Thailand’s information space.

Such efforts have been hinted at.  In 2017 there were talks between the Thai and Russian governments regarding Russian assistance to develop local Thai alternatives to US-based social media platforms.

So far, no tangible progress has been made. But should concrete plans be rolled out alongside requests that foreign tech giants concede control of Thai information space to the Thai government, the threat of local alternatives displacing foreign social media platforms just as they did in China or Russia could give Bangkok the leverage it needs to have its requests met.

The West’s Surreal Hypocrisy 

In the wake of Thailand’s announcement  to fight “fake news,” Western media platforms began decrying the proposed plans.

The Diplomat’s article, “‘Fake News’ and Thailand’s Information Wars,” would attempt to claim:  

Identifying what is considered “fake news” has become a political weapon for authoritarian consolidation after the 2014 military coup. The regime has relentlessly accused its critics of spreading false information while claiming that it is the only official source of true facts.

The author, Janjira Sombatpoonsiri, appears entirely unaware the term “fake news” was first coined in the West specifically for this purpose and the tech-giants Thailand proposes to lean on to enforce its own definition of “fake news” have already scoured their networks of tens of thousands of accounts in a politically-motivated censorship campaign propped up by claims of fighting “fake news.”

Janjira also complains that the Thai government’s proposal puts first and foremost US-backed political parties like Future Forward at risk. She never mentions Future Forward is a political proxy of foreign interests and glosses over its links to political parties guilty of mass murder, street violence and terrorism. She also attempts to imply US designs for primacy over Asia is a threat imagined by Thailand’s current government and its supporters despite a half century of US policy papers, US-led wars and standing armies placed in the region proving just how real this threat is.

If a campaign aimed at confronting “fake news” was ever really needed, it is for parties like Future Forward, the foreign special interests it works for and the networks of violence and terrorism it works with.

As Asia Rises, Western Influence in Physical and Information Space will Wane

Thailand is not alone. Other nations across Southeast Asia have already passed laws regarding what they define as “fake news,” much of which targets US-funded media platforms seeking to influence regional public perception, policy and economic decisions.

Reuters in its article, “Thailand asks tech firms to set up centers against ‘fake news’ in Southeast Asia,” would note:

Other Southeast Asian governments have also recently made efforts to exert more control over online content and taken a tough stance against misinformation. 

Singapore passed an anti-fake news bill in May, forcing online media platforms to correct or remove content the government considers to be false. 

Vietnam said its cybersecurity law, which was passed last year and banned posting anti-government information online, would guard against fake news. 

Whether or not Thailand’s current plans succeed, what is certain is that the balance of power in the region is shifting. Nations once powerless to compete against US economic, political, military and information supremacy are now moving individually and in unison to chip away at US hegemony in the region.

Thailand will eventually develop its own alternatives to Facebook, Twitter, Google and others which will not only be a benefit to Thai national security, but also to the Thai economy. Much of Thailand’s nearly 70 million strong population is online (including 46 million on Facebook alone) and keeping the money generated by their online activity inside Thailand’s borders can only be a positive thing.

It’s not a matter of if but of when US-based tech giants lose their grip on information space abroad. The only question that remains is how much damage they’ll be able to do in each respective country, including Thailand, before that grip loosens.

Joseph Thomas is chief editor of Thailand-based geopolitical journal, The New Atlas and contributor to the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

‘Israeli’ Account Reporting on Al-Ahed’s Twitter Account

By Staff

A Zionist Twitter account based in the ‘Israeli’-occupied territories reported on al-Ahed News website’s account after, normally, doing our principal job in covering news and breaking news from all over the world.

Captioned with “REPORT THIS SITE FOR GENOCIDAL INCITMENT,” Rachel Yadin retweeted al-Ahed’s tweets covering stances made by Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps [IRGC] top Chief Major General Hossein Salami.

The tweets didn’t comply with the mentioned caption. They only read Salami’s stances as the following:

“Our enemies are scattered, Muslims countries are being freed from political and military hegemony of enemies.”

Another tweet read:

“Zionists and their allies show no desire for war fearing its spill into their territories.”

It is worth noting that Facebook has been suspending al-Ahed News Arabic, English, French and Spanish pages for innumerable times.

An Award Winning Documentary Removed by Youtube

I have learned this morning that that the documentary film  Gilad And All That Jazz – by Golriz Kolahi  was removed from Youtube. It apparently ‘violates’ the company’s “guidelines.” Youtube writes that “content glorifying or inciting violence against another person or group of people is not allowed on YouTube.” None of the above can be found in the award winning documentary. “We also don’t allow any content that encourages hatred of another person or group of people based on their membership in a protected group.” Again none of that could be found in the film.

Kolahi’s film was broadcasted on TV around the world. It was screened in film festivals and won prices. The film indeed gave air to my views but it also featured the entire list of my detractors from Tony Greenstein to David Aaronovitch. It aimed at impartiality!

Youtube were kind enough to point out that “this removal has not resulted in a Community Guidelines strike or penalty on your account.” I guess that Youtube’s management knows very well that the film didn’t violate a single company’s guideline.

The film is still on the net and will remain on the net forever. Book burning and censorship is yet to suppress a single idea. It reveals instead what the oppressor is desperate to conceal.

Watch Gilad and All That Jazz:

My battle for truth and freedom involves some expensive legal and security services. I hope that you will consider committing to a monthly donation in whatever amount you can give. Regular contributions will enable me to avoid being pushed against a wall and to stay on top of the endless harassment by Zionist operators attempting to silence me and others.

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