The Administrative Court of Montreuil in France rejected on Tuesday, 28 June an appeal by the Seine-Saint-Denis prefecture (representing the central French state), demanding the removal of a banner supporting Palestinian prisoner and leader Marwan Barghouthi from the front of the city hall of Stains, in a victory for supporters of Palestinian political prisoners and Stains’ mayor Azzedine Taibi.
The court found that the prefecture’s arguments were inadmissible and invalid, despite an earlier temporary order that the banner must be removed. Azzedine Taibi, the mayor of Stains and a representative of the French Communist Party, said that “This is not a personal victory but a collective victory! … Marwan Barghouthi will remain an honorary citizen of our city and I know that one day, he will be on our side, here in Stains, the city of popular resistance! The struggle and the mobilization will only grow for the liberation of Marwan Barghouti and all Palestinian political prisoners…”
The prefect – representing the government of Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who has urged prosecution of BDS activists and the suppression of the movement to boycott Israel – argued that the banner was “not of local interest” and likely to lead to a “disturbance of public order.” Manuel Valls, as Minister of the Interior, previously intervened in the case of Georges Ibrahim Abdallah – after intervention from US Secretary of State and now presidential candidate Hillary Clinton – to block the release to Lebanon on parole of the Lebanese Communist prisoner and struggler for Palestine who has been imprisoned in French jails for 32 years.
The prefect’s case was dismissed, as was a complaint filed against the mayor by the BNCVA, a pro-Zionist organization that nominally combats anti-Semitism but in practice focuses on attempts to suppress Palestine solidarity and the boycott of Israel, which accused Taibi of “public apology for terrorism” for his support of Barghouti.
Stains is one of a group of 23 French municipalities who have named the imprisoned Fateh leader and Palestinian Legislative Council member an honorary citizen. A delegation of 16 French mayors was prohibited from visiting Barghouthi in Gilboa prison in Palestine by the Israeli occupation on 14 June; the mayors participated later in a press conference in support of the campaign to nominate Marwan Barghouthi for a Nobel Peace Prize, a campaign supported by Belgian parliamentarians, Desmond Tutu, Adolfo Perez Esquivel, and the Tunisian winners of the 2015 Peace Prize.
Taibi hosted a ceremony outside the Stains City Hall on Wednesday night, 29 June, celebrating the victory and the official unveiling and replacement of the “Free Marwan Barghouthi” banner to the front entrance of the Stains city hall.
The Stains victory is one of several in France against attempts to criminalize or suppress the Palestine solidarity movement or the boycott of Israel. A court in Créteil dismissed a prosecution for “incitement to discrimintion” against Jean-Claude Lefort pursued by the Association France-Israel and “Lawyers Without Borders” on 24 June, because he had called for a boycott of Israeli products; the court noted that this was a matter of expression on a “debate of general international interest.” In addition, the municipality of Bondy voted on Thursday, 23 June to refuse to purchase goods made in Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
Today, 30 June, 4 BDS activists will face a trial in Toulouse; they are accused of “obstructing the normal exercise of economic activity of three stores” for distributing leaflets in public squares in support of the boycott of Israeli goods. The prosecution was initiated by LICRA, a French pro-Israel advocacy organization; activists are mobilizing outside the courthouse at 1 pm in support of the 4 accused organizers.
In the wake of the BREXIT vote which has the world reeling after Great Britain decided to abandon the European Union, much has been said about the historical scope, power, and influence of the British Empire throughout history. At its apex the British Empire was the most powerful geopolitical force on earth. What many neglect to realize is that one of the occurrences that helped the United Kingdom rise to such a position was The Haitian Revolution, which thoroughly defeated Britain’s only serious hegemonic competitor, Napoleonic France.
Much is discussed and written about Haiti’s defeat of Napoleon and how it opened the door for the Louisiana Purchase that fostered the expansion of the United States into the nation it has since become. However, few realize how the defeat of Napoleon by the brave former African Slaves in Haiti opened the door for the dominance of the British Empire. Furthermore, as Americans always pride themselves on their Revolutionary accomplishment of defeating the great British Empire and gaining their freedom, few give full acknowledgment to the superior military feat of The Haitian Revolution in its not only vanquishing the French Napoleonic Empire, The Spanish Empire of the time, but also thoroughly defeating the mighty British Empire to the point of leading the United Kingdom to agree to cease the Trans-Atlantic slave trade and any further importation of Africans into the Western Hemisphere officially. So while Americans celebrate their independence victory in defeating the greatest of European Empires, The British, recognize that former African slaves in Haiti did the seemingly impossible and defeated all three of the major European empires of that day to obtain their freedom, including the one beaten by the Americans:
“Yet it cannot be denied that both the government and British public had
learned a lesson from [Britain’s] disastrous attempt to conquer Saint
Domingue/Haiti, restore slavery, and subdue Toussaint L’Ouverture. In 1796
nearly three years after the first British forces landed in Saint
Domingue/Haiti, the [British] administration sent off one of the greatest
expeditionary forces in British history. Before the end of the year Edmond
Burke received news that 10,000 British soldiers had died in less than two
months! It was reported in the House of Commons that almost every Briton
had a personal acquaintance that had perished in the [Haitian]
Campaigns.” – “The Impact of The Haitian Revolution in the Atlantic World,”
David P. Geggus.
In the end the British lost over 50,000 soldiers in their attempt to bring slavery back to Haiti. This had a direct influence on the British decision to end the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
Sanctions against Russia should be lifted as soon as possible, France’s Minister of Foreign Affairs said on Wednesday following a meeting with his Russian counterpart, while insisting that implementation of the Minsk agreements still remain key to the process.
“Sanctions is not a goal in and of itself,” Jean-Marc Ayrault said in Paris, adding that his country looks forward to scrapping the restrictive measures against Moscow.
The process of lifting the Western sanctions on Russia is still related to Minsk agreements that aim to put an end to the crisis in southeastern Ukraine, Ayrault added, saying that “Russia should play a positive role” in their implementation.
Moscow and Paris have been closely working together “in the Normandy format,” Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said after the meeting. The countries’ foreign ministries have been “closely cooperating” and their aides have been involved too, Russia’s top diplomat said. The Normandy format includes Russia, France, Ukraine, and Germany.
“The most important condition for the progress, as stated in the Minsk deal and in UN Security Council resolution, is establishment of direct dialogue between Kiev and Donbass,” Lavrov stressed.
Russia has repeatedly said that it’s doing everything in its power to facilitate the implementation of the Ukrainian peace deal, while Kiev has been hindering the process. The West should work with its “allies” in Kiev, President Putin has said, adding that direct dialogue between the parties to the conflict should be promoted.
Russia’s European partners should not hold Moscow solely responsible for fulfilling the Minsk agreements, Putin said at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) earlier this month, adding that there are “issues that are beyond our abilities.”
A number of the 28 countries in the European Union have expressed strong disapproval of the bloc’s restrictive measures on Russia. Italy has repeatedly called for a debate on the issue, rather than the automatic prolongation of sanctions.
In France, both the Senate and the lower house of Parliament, the French Assembly, have previously voted in favor of a resolution designed to lift the sanctions imposed by the EU in 2014 because of the crisis in eastern Ukraine and the reunification of Crimea with Russia.
A brief resumé of the hearing held last week in Paris, by Alison Chabloz.
In contrast to the Court of Appeal hearing given last March, this latest bout of Ziocon persecution of revisionist, Robert Faurisson, was held in the 17° Chambre Correctionelle of the High Court at the Palais de Justice in Paris, ensuring that numerous members of the public who’d gathered there to support the professor were able to witness the proceedings from the court room’s spacious gallery.
Starting an hour late owing to the morning session having overrun the allocated time-slot, magistrates initially dealt with several other cases, lasting for almost another hour, before it was the turn of the world’s foremost ‘Holocaust’ revisionist to defend himself against three separate charges. There was no apology forthcoming from the court for this delay which of course had the negative effect of reducing valuable debating time as well as causing magistrates to rush the proceedings.
Two charges for contesting a crime against humanity (one of which brought by former Justice Minister, Pascal Clément) and a third for racial defamation brought by the LICRA – Ligue contre le racisme et l’antisémitisme.
All three complaints targeted a speech made by the professor in 2006 at a conference on the ‘Holocaust’ in Tehran, Iran. A star witness in the person of Lady Michele Renouf who had travelled from London for the hearing would testify after the initial debates. For once, the number of lawyers on the accused benches seemed to outnumber those of the prosecution by five to two (five to three, if we include the state prosecutor). In reality, however, Robert Faurisson’s defence was assured by Maître Damien Viguer alone. Three immense dossiers were produced and placed on the judge’s desk almost completely hiding the magistrate himself. Cue: hushed, slightly amused tittering from the public benches.
The defence’s principle argument rested on the fact that Faurisson’s speech in Tehran had been delivered in English and had lasted only ten minutes. As his speech had been given outside French territory, French law would not apply. In this case, however, it was the professor’s written essay The Victories of Revisionism, published in Tehran then distributed on the Internet, that had led to the three charges. The article details the major successes of Robert Faurisson’s revisionist career and, in particular, confessions of his adversaries which substantiate the professor’s outright technical and moral victory over his detractors. It is this same article which Maître Viguer uses consistently in defence of his client during the many trials brought by a judicial system which is plainly rotten to the core.
The judge, a man in his forties with curly, dark ginger hair and a beard, began by reading Faurisson’s article (see Part 1 and Part 2). The longer the reading went on, the more the judge seemed to be taking in Faurisson’s words. Towards the end, the judge’s face had completely disappeared behind the hand-held, stapled bundle of A4 sheets.
Faurisson’s counsel, Maître Viguer, asked that the two complaints for contesting crimes against humanity be nullified because of legal non-compliance. After a short break for deliberation, the court reserved its ruling in relation to this matter until September 27. Thus, only the third charge of ‘racial defamation’ would be deliberated on this humid afternoon in the centre of the French capital.
The charge of defamation brought by LICRA concerned the following passages of Faurisson’s article:
“President Ahmadinejad (then head of the Islamic Republic of Iran) used the right word when he said that the alleged Holocaust of the Jews is a myth: that is to say, a belief maintained by credulity or ignorance.
“The alleged Hitlerite gas chambers and the alleged genocide of Jews form one and the same historical lie, which allowed a gigantic political and financial swindle whose main beneficiaries are the state of Israel and international Zionism and whose main victims are the German people – but not their leaders – and the Palestinian people in their entirety.”
The accusation’s charge of defamation lay solely on the ‘argument’ that, by these statements, Faurisson was clearly targeting the Jewish community. The judge asked Faurisson to explain.
Faurisson’s retorts were confident and unrelenting: citing Israel and international Zionism is not the same as citing “the Jews”. The public as well as the officers of the court present were then treated to an hour and a half’s exposé by the man himself. Unlike orthodox historians who merely repeat the given narrative, he would actually go out on the job, tape measure in hand. The 60-word phrase, he explained, is the summary of his lifetime’s work in the field of revisionism. As he advised his students, the key to success when researching any subject is the ability to resume this work in a phrase of approximately 60 words. The enormous body of work he carried out began in the 1950s when he first asked:
“Show me a photo, an architect’s plan or even a drawing of a gas chamber.”
Faurisson continued his testimony with an explanation of Rudolf Höss’ witness statement at the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal, gained via torture, in particular sleep deprivation. Then, a brief lesson on the explosive quality of Zyklon-B with analysis of actual execution chambers which employ this same gas (no longer used) in the USA. In the 187 pages of court transcripts from Nuremberg concerning Auschwitz, practically nothing is dedicated to the subject of gassing.
The professor went on to expose the lies of Elie Wiesel in his book Night as well as other fabrications concerning execution by boiling water at Treblinka which also feature in the Nuremberg transcript. So many false witnesses: only last week we learned of yet another in the news.
The judge, at this point, interjects with “You’ve therefore not modified your proposals after all this time..?” The female magistrate present appears to have fallen asleep! Such is the contempt for Faurisson’s indisputable strength of character, as apparent and all the more humbling here and now, at the grand old age of 87, as when he started his research more than six decades ago. Faurisson’s conclusions are based on fact, documented evidence, repeatable scientific experiment and, above all, are the fruit of a lifetime’s study and research. What reason other than insanity would make him change his proposals “after all this time”?
Faurisson elaborates on the magical six million number. In August, 1944, Wilhelm Hötll, friend of Eichman, gave a witness statement purporting that the sensational sum could be reached by adding the four million in Auschwitz ‘extermination camp’ to another two million slain Soviets. This was the first time the phrase extermination camp was used in place of concentration camp. However, Hötll was never called to testify at Nuremberg.
The prosecution declines the opportunity to grill Faurisson; Maître Viguer invites the professor to talk about the conference in Iran.
Contrary to media reports, the 2006 conference was inclusive of all opinions concerning the ‘Holocaust’. The professor remembers one adversary challenging him to go to the National Archives in Washington where he would see the evidence that his findings were erroneous. The poor fellow hadn’t bargained on the professor already having been to these very same archives where, amongst other clues, he uncovered documents relating to the 32 RAF sorties over Auschwitz, none of which had succeeded in showing smoke billowing out from the crematoria chimneys.
Maître Viguier questions the professor further on the origin of all these lies surrounding the “Holocaust”. Faurisson replies that it’s impossible to say; the rumour runs and runs. The CICR had also heard rumours of gas chambers at Auschwitz, yet their investigation team was unable to find anyone confirming these rumours. Even Eric Conan in French weekly, L’Express, said of the gas chamber exhibit at Auschwitz “Tout y est faux” – everything is false. 1.7 million people visit Auschwitz annually.
At this point, the judge decides to call Lady Renouf to hear her witness statement. As this will be in English, the court has arranged for an accredited translator to be present. After giving her name and details, Lady Renouf first congratulates Maître Viguier for his bravery in accepting to defend the professor. Her witness statement follows in short phrases which are immediately translated for the benefit of the court. We hear confirmation that Faurisson’s speech was an impromptu affair which lasted only ten minutes and Lady Renouf makes reference to the professor’s English-spoken heritage, owed to his mother being a Scot. She repeats Faurisson’s anecdote, often used to introduce himself to an English-speaking audience, that his French ear should not listen to his Scottish ear because, whereas Scottish law permits inquiry and research into the “Holocaust”, French law does not.
Linguistic confusion arises when Lady Renouf speaks of guidelines (in French, “les consignes”) on how the “Holocaust” should be taught in schools, published in Stockholm in 2000. The translator is unable to translate the word for guidelines, using “guides” instead. Whether or not the greffière recorded a corrected version is uncertain; perhaps the court thought that Lady Renouf was talking about “tour guides”, at Auschwitz or elsewhere?
The Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust where the ‘Holocaust’ education guidelines were first announced was also the site of two physical attacks on Faurisson by Jewish terrorist organisation LDJ (Ligue de Défence Juive or Jewish Defence League). These guidelines instruct all public and private schools worldwide not to give a platform to revisionists. Lady Renouf summarises, stating that historical debate and rational argument do not seem to be part of educational guidelines on this subject. There are no questions from the court.
Maître Viguier promptly urges the professor to talk about a case dating back to 1983 when he was accused of “falsifying history”. Faurisson explains that this was the catalyst which led to creation of the 1990 Fabius-Gayssot Act. He also recalls the work of British historian and semi-revisionist David Irving, along with the fact that neither Churchill nor de Gaulle ever mention any gas chambers. In fact, during WW1 already, UK national newspaper the Daily Express had written about enemy gas chambers as early as 1914. An investigation after the war ended in 1918 proved that the story was a propaganda lie. Again, in 1943, the same story about gas chambers appears in the Daily Express. This time, however, there was no similar post-war investigation. Another piece of vital evidence is the documented case of Marinka in Russia where the local mayor was shot dead by the German army for killing a Jewish woman. Many such examples exist yet are suppressed from public knowledge.
The professor then relates his victories over Raul Hilberg and Jean-Claude Pressac; cites Valerie Igounet’s book of smears Histoire du négationnisme en France and tells us that Ariane Chemin didn’t know who Hilberg was when she interviewed the professor in Vichy for Le Monde newspaper. Faurisson also names the director of Yad Vashem 1953-1959, Ben-Zion Dinur, who resigned after coming to the realisation there were far too many false witnesses.
Change of tone as Mâitre Christian Charrière-Bournazel representing LICRA comes to the bar. He’s clearly unhappy about having been forced to listen to Faurisson for two hours (in reality Faurisson had only spoken for an hour and a half), although it’s doubtful Charrière-Bournazel will be complaining quite so much when he receives his fat fee. The only accusation is restricted to the same, tired refrain: when Faurisson mentions the state of Israel and international Zionism, Faurisson means Jews. Faurisson is a racist. Faurisson has already been prosecuted and convicted, etc., etc.
The state prosecutor raises even more eyebrows as she tries to stabilise her microphone (no working mic and a dodgy translator suggest the French judiciary can’t afford to run their courts properly?). Diabolical smears regards Faurisson’s personality as well as the obligatory jibe about using the court room as a platform from which, according to Madame la Procureure, Faurisson would take immense gratification. Perhaps the most telling phrase amongst all the outright lies and smears (paid for by the French tax payer, of course) is when the prosecutor states Faurisson should no longer be given the possibility of further court appearances.
Maître Viguier once again stands to contest the accusation’s claims. That the professor’s words in Tehran constitute ‘defamation’ is a fraudulent lie. The professor’s work is that of an historian. Viguier protests his colleague’s conflation of Israel and Jews, defiantly and correctly stating that conflict in the Middle East could be seen as one direct result of the lies of the Shoah. Faurisson’s work, he insists, will last as long as does this mensonge (“lie”). Viguier deplores the moral order inflicted upon revisionists in the name of war and war crimes, and which effectively prevents revisionists from doing their job.
The judge invites Faurisson to have the last word. Faurisson is finally able to respond to Charrière-Bournazel’s earlier attacks by comparing the lawyer’s attitude and manner to that of an enflure (in the sense of over-exaggerated, self-important, turgid). This warrants an admonishment of Faurisson by the judge, who then fails to chastise Charrière-Bournazel for leaving the court in a show of brazen pomposity whilst Faurisson is still speaking.
Faurisson finishes with another couple of examples of dubious witness statements and mistranslations which have been used by propagandists to bolster the case for a presumed genocide of countless Jews. We’re told of the wildly varying death toll estimates and asked why those who revised the official Auschwitz death toll – down from four to one-and-a-half million – were not punished in the same atrocious manner which Faurisson has been subjected to throughout his career.
The prosecution is demanding a month’s prison sentence and a 3,000 euro fine in the event of a guilty verdict. We shall now have to wait to September 27 to hear the court’s ruling.
A significant crack has been unexpectedly opened in the wall of Europe’s disciplined obedience to the United States. I’m not only referring to the possible long-term consequences for U.S.-European relations in the wake of Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, but the unlikely blow against Washington’s information war on Moscow delivered by Germany’s foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who a week ago shockingly accused the North Atlantic Treaty Organization of “war-mongering” against Russia.
Since the Bush administration’s twisting of events in the 2008 Russia-Georgia war, which the E.U. blamed on Georgia, Western populations have been subjected to the steady message that Russia is a “threat” to the West and is guilty of “aggression.” This reached a peak with the false narrative of events in Ukraine, in which blatant evidence of the West’s complicity in a violent coups d’état was omitted from corporate media accounts, while Russia’s assistance to eastern Ukrainians resisting the coup has been framed as a Russian “invasion.”
The disinformation campaign has reached the depths of popular culture, including the EuroVision song contest and sports doping scandals, to ensure widespread popular support for U.S. hostile intentions against Russia.
The Russian “aggression” narrative, based largely on lies of omission, has prepared the way for the U.S. to install a missile-shield in Romania with offensive capabilities and to stage significant NATO war games with 31,000 troops on Russia’s borders. For the first time in 75 years, German troops retraced the steps of the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union.
U.S. Designs on Russia
The U.S. is eyeing a post-Putin Russia in which a Wall Street-friendly leader like Boris Yeltsin can be restored to reopen the country to Western exploitation. But Vladimir Putin is no Yeltsin and has proven a tough nut for the U.S. to crack. Washington’s modus operandi is to continually provoke and blame an opponent until it stands up for itself, as Putin’s Russia has done, then accuse it of “aggression” and attack in “self-defense.”
In this way, Washington builds popular support for its own version of events and resistance to the other side of the story. Unfortunately it is not a new trick in the U.S. playbook.
“The statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting the blame upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study them, and refuse to examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by convince himself the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception,” wrote Mark Twain.
So suddenly, after many years of an air-tight, anti-Russia campaign believed unquestioningly by hundreds of millions of Westerners, comes Steinmeier last week blurting out the most significant truth about Russia uttered by a Western official perhaps in decades.
“What we shouldn’t do now is inflame the situation further through saber-rattling and warmongering,” Steinmeier stunningly told Bild am Sontag newspaper. “Whoever believes that a symbolic tank parade on the alliance’s eastern border will bring security is mistaken.”
Instead Steinmeier called for dialogue with Moscow. “We are well-advised to not create pretexts to renew an old confrontation,” he said, saying it would be “fatal to search only for military solutions and a policy of deterrence.”
In keeping with the U.S. propaganda strategy, the U.S. corporate media virtually ignored the remarks, which should have been front-page news. The New York Times did not report Steinmeier’s statement, but two days later ran a Reuter’s story only online leading with the U.S. military’s rejection of his remarks.
NATO General: Russia is No Threat
Just a day after Steinmeier was quoted in Bild, General Petr Pavel, chairman of NATO’s military committee, dropped another bombshell. Pavel told a Brussels press conference flat out that Russia was not at a threat to the West.
“It is not the aim of NATO to create a military barrier against broad-scale Russian aggression, because such aggression is not on the agenda and no intelligence assessment suggests such a thing,” he said.
What? What happened to Russian “aggression” and the Russian “threat?” What is the meaning then of the fear of Russia pounded every day into the heads of Western citizens? Is it all a lie? Two extraordinary on-the-record admissions by two men, Steinmeier, the foreign minister of Europe’s most powerful nation, and an active NATO general in charge of the military committee, both revealing that what Western officials repeat every day is indeed a lie, a lie that may be acknowledged in private but would never before be mentioned in public.
Two years ago I was in a background briefing with a senior European ambassador at his country’s U.N. mission in New York and could hardly believe my ears when he said talk about Russia’s threat to Eastern Europe was “all hype” designed to give NATO “a reason to exist.” Yet this same ambassador in public Security Council meetings would viciously attack Russia.
But the hype is about more than just saving NATO. The fear campaign feeds the American and European military industries and most importantly puts pressure on the Russian government, which the U.S. wants overthrown.
Were these remarks made out of the exasperation of knowing all along that the Russian threat is hype? Were they made out of genuine concern that things could get out of hand under reckless and delusional leaders in Washington leading to a hot war with Russia?
Neither man has been disciplined for speaking out. Does this signal a change in official German thinking? Will German businessmen who deal with Russia and have opposed sanctions against Moscow over Ukraine, which were forced on Germany by the U.S., be listened to?
Were Steinmeier’s remarks a one-off act of rebellion, or is Germany indeed considering defying Washington on sanctions and regime change in Moscow? Is the German government finally going to act in Germany’s own interests? Such a move would spark a European defiance of the United States not seen since the days when Charles de Gaulle pulled France out of NATO in 1966 to preserve French independence.
The last time European governments broke with Washington on a major issue was the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Then France and Germany joined Russia on the U.N. Security Council in blocking the war’s authorization (although Britain supported it). But France and Germany then voted for a resolution several months later that essentially condoned the invasion.
It’s Up to the European Public
One has to ask whether a conditioned German public is ready to see through the lies about Russia. Last November, I flew from St. Petersburg to Berlin and discussed this very question with a number of well-educated Germans.
I had visited Russia for the first time since 1995, 20 years before to the month. Those were the days of the Yeltsin-Jeffery Sachs Russia, of the unbridled neoliberal capitalism of the Wall Street-oligarch alliance that plundered the country leaving millions of Russians destitute. Outside train stations I saw homeless encampments replete with campfires. Policemen were stopping motorists for bribes. I ran from two men intent on robbing me until I lost them in a Metro station. That’s the Russia the neocons in Washington and the knaves and buccaneers on Wall Street want to see again.
The Russia I saw in St. Petersburg and Moscow, 20 years later, was orderly and prosperous, as modern as any European city. It is a testament to Russia’s resistance to American attempts to restore its political and financial control. Russia is a capitalist country. But on its own terms. It is fully aware of American machinations to undermine it.
In Berlin I met several Germans, educated, liberal and completely aware, unlike most Americans, of how the United Sates has abused its post-World War II power. And yet when I asked them all why there are still U.S. military bases in Germany 70 years after the war and 25 years after the Cold War ended, and who the Americans were protecting them from, the universal answer was: Russia.
History shows European fears of Russia to be completely overblown. Germany and other Western powers have invaded Russia three times in the last two centuries: France in 1812, U.S., Britain and France in the 1918 Russian Civil War, and Germany again in 1941. Except for Imperial Russia’s incursion into East Prussia after war was declared on it in 1914, the reverse has never been true.
In his memoirs Harry Truman admitted that false fear of Russia was the “tragedy and shame of our time” during the Cold War that he had much to do with in part to revive the U.S. post-war economy with military spending. George Kennan, the State Department official who advised a non-military containment of the Soviet Union, conceded as early as 1947 that Soviet moves in Eastern Europe were defensive and constituted no threat. In the 1990s, Kennan also decried NATO’s expansion towards Russia’s borders.
With its vast natural resources, Russia has been the big prize for the West for centuries, and is still today in neocon-driven Washington. But Germany, especially, has benefited from trade with Russia and has no need to join the U.S. imperial project.
The British voters’ decision, days after Steinmeier’s extraordinary remark, could herald significant change in Europe, which may be approaching an historical junction in its relationship with the United States. Growing anti-E.U. sentiment has spread across the continent, including calls for similar referenda in several countries.
British voters evidently saw through the hype about the Russian “threat,” as a majority did not buy British Prime Minister David Cameron’s scare tactic ahead of the vote that Brexit would make it harder to “combat Russian aggression.”
Britain has been called Washington’s Trojan horse in the E.U. The thinking is that without Britain, the E.U. would be freer to chart its own course. But as Alexander Mercouris explained here, Obama bypasses London to call Merkel directly with his demands. Still, removing Britain’s voice from the E.U., though more crucially not from NATO, opens space for more independent voices in Europe to emerge.
“I worry that we will have less clout on our own,” former British Ambassador to the United States Peter Westmacott told The New York Times. “In the future, we won’t have as much influence on Europe’s response to Putin’s transgressions, Iran’s nuclear ambitions, or the E.U.’s foreign and security policy. … And we will be less able to ensure it is U.S.-friendly.”
But that could be a good thing. If German leaders conclude the United States is pushing Europe into a disastrous war with Russia, could we see a Charles de Gaulle moment in Berlin? Merkel doesn’t seem to have it in her. Three days after Steinmeier’s remarks, she told a news conference she favored increased German spending for NATO to counter Russian “threats.”
Instead it will require a revolt by an awakened citizenry against the E.U. and elected European governments that refuse to stand up to Washington, mostly because it benefits their own class interests, to the detriment of the majority.
The Future of the EU
European social democracy had been probably the best social and political system ever devised on earth, maybe the best that is humanly possible. Europe could have been a model for the world as a neutral power committed to social justice. As late as 1988, Jacques Delors, then president of the European Commission, promised the British Trades Union Congress that the E.U. would be a “social market.”
Instead the E.U. allowed itself to be sold out to unelected and unaccountable neoliberal technocrats now in charge in Brussels. European voters, perhaps not fully understanding the consequences, elected neoliberal national governments slavishly taking Washington’s foreign policy orders. But Brexit shows those voters are getting educated. Unity is a great ideal but E.U. leaders have refused to accept that it has to benefit all Europeans.
The E.U.’s Lisbon Treaty is the only constitution in the world that has neoliberal policies written into it. If it won’t reform — and the arrogance of the E.U.’s leaders tells us it won’t — it will be up to the people of Europe to diminish or dismantle the E.U. through additional referenda. That would give liberated European nations the chance to elect anti-neoliberal national governments, accountable to the voters, which can also chart foreign policies independent of Washington.
The danger is that the right-wing sentiment that has driven a large part of the anti-Establishment movements in Europe (and the U.S.) may elect governments that grow even closer to Washington and impose even harsher neoliberal policies.
That is a risk that may need to be taken in the hope that the anti-Establishment left and right can coalesce around shared interests to put an end to the elitist European project.
Joe Lauria is a veteran foreign-affairs journalist based at the U.N. since 1990. He has written for the Boston Globe, the London Daily Telegraph, the Johannesburg Star, the Montreal Gazette, the Wall Street Journal and other newspapers. He can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter at @unjoe.
The ten worst acts of the Nuclear Age described below have set the tone for our time. They have caused immense death and suffering; been tremendously expensive; have encouraged nuclear proliferation; have opened the door to nuclear terrorism, nuclear accidents and nuclear war; and are leading the world back into a second Cold War. These “ten worst acts” are important information for anyone attempting to understand the time in which we live, and how the nuclear dangers that confront us have been intensified by the leadership and policy choices made by the United States and the other eight nuclear-armed countries.
1. Bombing Hiroshima (August 6, 1945). The first atomic bomb was dropped by the United States on the largely civilian population of Hiroshima, killing some 70,000 people instantly and 140,000 people by the end of 1945. The bombing demonstrated the willingness of the US to use its new weapon of mass destruction on cities.
2. Bombing Nagasaki (August 9, 1945). The second atomic bomb was dropped on the largely civilian population of Nagasaki before Japanese leaders had time to assess the death and injury caused by the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima three days earlier. The atomic bombing of Nagasaki took another 70,000 lives by the end of 1945.
3. Pursuing a unilateral nuclear arms race (1945 – 1949). The first nuclear weapon test was conducted by the US on July 16, 1945, just three weeks before the first use of an atomic weapon on Hiroshima. As the only nuclear-armed country in the world in the immediate aftermath of World War II, the US continued to expand its nuclear arsenal and began testing nuclear weapons in 1946 in the Marshall Islands, a trust territory the US was asked to administer on behalf of the United Nations. Altogether the US tested 67 nuclear weapons in the Marshall Islands between 1946 and 1958, with the equivalent explosive power of 1.6 Hiroshima bombs daily for that 12 year period.
4. Initiating Atoms for Peace (1953). President Dwight Eisenhower put forward an Atoms for Peace proposal in a speech delivered on December 8, 1953. This proposal opened the door to the spread of nuclear reactors and nuclear materials for purposes of research and power generation. This resulted in the later proliferation of nuclear weapons to additional countries, including Israel, South Africa, India, Pakistan and North Korea.
5. Engaging in a Cold War bilateral nuclear arms race (1949 – 1991). The nuclear arms race became bilateral when the Soviet Union tested its first atomic weapon on August 29, 1949. This bilateral nuclear arms race between the US and USSR reached its apogee in 1986 with some 70,000 nuclear weapons in the world, enough to destroy civilization many times over and possibly result in the extinction of the human species.
6. Atmospheric Nuclear Testing (1945 – 1980). Altogether there have been 528 atmospheric nuclear tests. The US, UK and USSR ceased atmospheric nuclear testing in 1963, when they signed the Partial Test Ban Treaty. France continued atmospheric nuclear testing until 1974 and China continued until 1980. Atmospheric nuclear testing has placed large amounts of radioactive material into the atmosphere, causing cancers and leukemia in human populations.
7. Breaching the disarmament provisions of the NPT (1968 – present). Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) states, “Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament….” The five nuclear weapons-states parties to the NPT (US, Russia, UK, France and China) remain in breach of these obligations. The other four nuclear-armed states (Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea) are in breach of these same obligations under customary international law.
8. Treating nuclear power as an “inalienable right” in the NPT (1968 – present). This language of “inalienable right” contained in Article IV of the NPT encourages the development and spread of nuclear power plants and thereby makes the proliferation of nuclear weapons more likely. Nuclear power plants are also attractive targets for terrorists. As yet, there are no good plans for long-term storage of radioactive wastes created by these plants. Government subsidies for nuclear power plants also take needed funding away from the development of renewable energy sources.
9. Failing to cut a deal with North Korea (1992 to present). During the Clinton administration, the US was close to a deal with North Korea to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons. This deal was never fully implemented and negotiations for it were abandoned under the George W. Bush administration. Consequently, North Korea withdrew from the NPT in 2003 and conducted its first nuclear weapon test in 2006.
10. Abrogating the ABM Treaty (2002). Under the George W. Bush administration, the US unilaterally abrogated the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. This allowed the US, in combination with expanding NATO to the east, to place missile defense installations near the Russian border. It has also led to emplacement of US missile defenses in East Asia. Missile defenses in Europe and East Asia have spurred new nuclear arms races in these regions.
David Krieger is a founder and president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.
The decision of the United Kingdom to leave the European Union raises the necessity to hold a referendum on EU membership in France, Jean-Luc Schaffhauser, a French member of the European Parliament from the Europe of Nations and Freedom group, told Sputnik on Friday.
“It raises the necessity to make also a referendum in France,” Schaffhauser said in the wake of the Brexit vote.
On Thursday, the United Kingdom held a referendum on its EU membership, with Prime Minister David Cameron calling on the UK nationals to vote to remain. Earlier on Friday, it was announced that 51.9 percent of voters supported Brexit.
“It is a big opportunity to rebuild Europe on new basis and this basis would be Europe of nations, Europe of freedom and Europe of cooperation. For me it is not the end of Europe, it is an end of institutions [that] always want to have more power on top,” the lawmaker added.
Earlier, Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s National Front party, known for its eurosceptic rhetoric, reiterated her demands to hold a referendum on the country’s EU membership after UK nationals voted to leave the bloc.
The British decision came at a time when anti-EU sentiment is on the rise. According to a survey issued by the Pew Research Center earlier in June, 47 percent of respondents in 10 European states have an “unfavorable view” of the European Union.
The United States-led coalition that is bombing Iraq and Syria may be under-reporting the civilian toll of that war by as much as 95 percent, according to a new report released Friday by the monitoring group Airwars.
The U.S.-led coalition, which includes nations such as Britain, France and the Netherlands, has been bombing Islamic State group targets in Iraq and Syria since 2014, carrying out more than 13,121 airstrikes, or just over 19 a day. The vast majority of the strikes are carried out by the U.S., according to Airwars—68 percent in Iraq and and 82.5 percent in Syria—with an estimated civilian death toll of at least 1,312 people.
Over the past six months it’s gotten worse, according to Airwars. “Between December and May, in both Iraq and Syria, there was a marked increase in the number of alleged casualty incidents and civilian death attributed to coalition actions,” it says. In Iraq, the group reports that between 297 and 518 civilians were killed by coalition airstrikes in this time. In Syria, between 197 and 274 civilians were killed, “a 38 percent increase in likely civilian deaths above the previous six months.
The U.S. has admitted to killing just 20 civilians. Its allies have admitted to none. “If correct, Airwars data suggests the coalition may be under-reporting civilian deaths by more than 95 percent,” the report says.
The worst incident for civilians occurred on March 19 in the Islamic State-occupied city of Mosul, when at least 25 innocents were killed when coalition airstrikes hit Mosul University in the middle of the day. As teleSUR reported at the time, such a strike on a civilian institution—confirmed by the U.S. Department of Defense—may constitute a breach of international law.
The U.S. and its coalition allies are not the only foreign governments reportedly killing civilians in the region. Of 630 alleged incidents where civilians died in Syria as a result of international airpower, 91 percent have been attributed to Russia, according to Airwars, killing between 2,792 and 3,451 civilians between December 2015 and May 2016, largely as the result of airstrikes targeting non-Islamic State forces and civilian areas, “particularly in and around Aleppo.”
The Russian government says its airstrikes have not killed any civilians since they began in Sept. 2015.
The terrorist attack in Magnanville by alleged Da’esh (Islamic State) operative, Larossi Aballa, on two police officers in Paris, serves one purpose: to remind the public that the war on terror is real and that the police and army are here to protect the population, not oppress it. As protests and strikes continue against the ruling class assault on worker’s security (rights won through a century of indefatigable struggle), phantom enemies are the oligarchic state’s best friends. Phantom enemies allow the oligarchic state to force hostile citizens to seek their protection from the ‘greater evil’.
In the Middle East where they were created by the United States and Israel, the so-called ‘Islamic State’ (Da’esh) have attempted to do what former Western trained terrorists could not: to destroy Syria and Iraq through a large-scale military occupation of those countries. The French media portray the Islamic State as being a symptom of the nihilism and despair of our era; that is only partly the truth.
What is overlooked is the deep complicity of the French state in terrorism – the obscenely Machiavellian determination to use the most brutal barbarians seen in the modern era to implement Western imperial policy in the Middle East and throughout the world. The Islamic State is a mercenary force of the Deep State, the imperial financial order, the hidden hand of military and financial corporations and lobbyists who steer the policies of Western governments behind the scenes. They do not oppose ‘Western civilisation’, they serve it, massacring people such as those of Syria who, imbued with patriotism, heroism and piety, refuse to kneel and worship at the alter of Mammon.
We are told by Le Monde that the terrorist/patsy in the police attack, Larossi Aballa, used the Facebook Live application during the attack to propagandise his crimes. He is also reported to have threatened journalists.
Two points here –
1. Anyone with enough curiosity and intelligence to visit a good bookshop knows that the role of journalists in the capitalist world order is to be stenographers to power. A daily perusal of the corporate press proves the proposition unfailingly. It helps restore public confidence in the credibility of corporate journalists if they are ‘threatened’ every now and then; especially by the terrorists whose crimes they ignore when they are committed on behalf of Western geopolitical interests in foreign lands such as Syria.
2. The dissemination of truth through social media and the emergence of citizen journalists all over the world exposing the lies of the corporate press are undermining the public’s confidence in authority. Hence, the use of pseudonyms and the freedom to diffuse information must be curtailed. Fear not! The government will protect you by limiting your ability to research and share information.
The murder of the two police officers comes just days after police were caught on camera vandalising shops in an effort to discredit legitimate and peaceful protests against undemocratic labour reforms. It sends a powerful message: police are there to protect us from terrorists not oppress us on behalf of the ruling class!
Protests are turning violent on the streets of Paris with several cars being set alight by ‘Black Box’ anarchist protesters. These Black Box hooligans sabotage worker’s struggles every time they threaten the established order. Their actions are criminalising legitimate protests. The recent attacks on the Necker Hospital in Paris are acts of sabotage which are providing the pretext for the government to interdict further protests. It is clear the protest movement is hurting the ruling class.
The murder of the two police officers in Paris is an outrage which should be condemned by all. But it must be borne in mind that thousands of working-class policemen and soldiers unwittingly defend an execrable class of people who would not hesitate in murdering if political expediency required it.
As the class struggle intensifies on our streets, the police will be increasingly mobilised against the public. The ‘terrorist threat’ is more important than ever to sustain the illusion of government legitimacy and bludgeon the masses into submission to the police state. But history shows that the weakness of tyranny is that it always relies on servile classes whose loyalty is based more on cynicism and personal advancement than moral conviction. Thus, the possibility always exists for police revolt against the oligarchs. Understanding the precariousness of policing in tyranny is vital in activism. We must not hurl rocks and stones at the police but seek to win them over to the cause of popular democracy and freedom.
The world is waiting with baited breath for 23 June. This is the day when a referendum in Great Britain will decide the question of its membership in the European Union. If the country remains a member of the EU, then the process of financial and economic entropy will continue and a global crisis will be postponed to a much later date. If Britain votes to leave the EU, however, then this could disturb the delicate international equilibrium and the referendum could become the trigger that immediately sparks a global crisis. If it happens, Brexit could prompt the collapse of the world’s post-war political, economic and financial architecture.
Experts believe that the main threat posed by Britain’s withdrawal from the EU is the collapse of the European Union itself. But not even the most intrepid daredevils are prepared to calculate the global political, economic and financial consequences of the European Union’s collapse. For several years now, the European Union has been at death’s door and it all started with the 2007-2009 financial crisis. While the US and many other countries managed to drag themselves out of the crisis (for a while at least), it became a chronic disease for the countries of the EU and is now being called a ‘debt crisis’.
The depth of this crisis varies widely from country to country. According to the IMF, the relative level of public debt in 2015 (% of GDP) was: Greece – 178; Italy – 124; Portugal – 124; France – 95; and Spain – 94. The external debt picture for EU countries is even more impressive (% of GDP, 2014): Great Britain – 322; France – 236; Greece – 234; Germany – 159; Italy – 144; and Spain – 136. As can be seen, even Greece, which everyone has gotten used to considering the most inveterate debtor in the European Union, comes second to Britain and France in terms of the relative size of its external debt.
It is still Greece that is considered the weakest link in the European alliance, however. Calls have begun to be heard both within Greece and beyond its borders for the country’s withdrawal first from the eurozone and then from the European Union. Events like the crisis in Ukraine, the economic sanctions against Russia, talks with Washington on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, and the mass migration of refugees have started to split ‘United Europe’ apart and it has divided into Euro-optimists and Eurosceptics.
The former advocate for the preservation of the European Union and even for the further deepening of integration, the dismantling of the remnants of state sovereignty, and the accession of new members. The latter stand for the restoration of individual governments’ lost sovereignty either through radical reform of the EU or its dismantling (or the country’s withdrawal from the EU). Britain’s Eurosceptics are now being looked at with hope by like-minded people in other countries of old Europe. In 2017, general parliamentary elections will be held in Germany, France and also the Netherlands, where Eurosceptics are gaining momentum. A vote by Britain in favour of leaving the European Union will cause a chain reaction of similar initiatives in a number of other countries.
At present, the media are regularly publishing opinion poll findings that reveal what the Brits think of the European Union. It is interesting that at the beginning of the year, the number of those in support of Britain staying in the EU was noticeably higher than those in favour of leaving, in April and May the gap began to narrow and now, at the beginning of June, those in support of leaving have started to outnumber those who wish to stay. Despite a split in the British government on the Brexit issue, it is still strongly influenced by Prime Minister David Cameron who, as is well known, is an ardent supporter of the country retaining its EU membership. The effect of the ‘Cameron factor’ on British public sentiment began to weaken in June, however.
Brexit was one of the key issues at the annual Bilderberg Group meeting held on 9-12 June in Dresden. According to unofficial data, the meeting’s participants (130 people from 20 countries) were extremely concerned about the outcome of the forthcoming referendum, and the heads of major corporations and banks taking part in the discussion have committed themselves to doing everything possible to stop those in favour of Britain leaving the EU from winning the referendum.
In the meantime, scepticism about the EU has also increased noticeably in a number of other European countries. On 8 June, the results of a poll conducted in ten EU countries by the Pew Research Center, a US think tank, were made public. They show that even in Germany, only 50 percent of those surveyed have a favourable view of the EU. Last year, the EU had the trust of 58 percent of Germans. And if a referendum on EU membership were to be held in other countries right now, they would probably choose to leave the Union. The results of the survey also show that the level of trust in the EU has fallen over the last year in France from 55 to 38 percent. And there is no point even talking about Greece, where scepticism about the EU had already begun to dominate last year. Today, just 27 percent of Greeks are in favour of EU membership. The European Union only enjoys a higher reputation in the countries that are more recent EU members, for example in Poland (72 percent) and Hungary (61 percent).
Significantly, even many of those in Europe who are currently in favour of remaining a member of the EU are dissatisfied with Brussels’ policies. This concerns the EU’s economic, monetary and financial policies and, over the last year, its migration policy as well. The fewest people unhappy with the policies being carried out by Brussels were in Germany (38 percent), but the percentages in other EU countries are as follows: France – 66, Italy – 68, and Greece – 92. In addition, 67 percent of Germans, 77 percent of Italians, 88 percent of Swedes and 94 percent of Greeks expressed their dissatisfaction at Brussels’ migration policy. And many of those who disapprove or are dissatisfied could soon join those in favour of their country leaving the European Union. This will be inevitable if those voting for Brexit secure a victory in the referendum on 23 June.
It seems that European Parliament President Martin Schultz can be regarded as a Eurosceptic now as well. In an interview last month, Schultz admitted that, «the European Union is in a dismal state».
Whatever the outcome of the vote in the British Isles, the Eurosceptics in Germany, France and the Netherlands, who are expecting to improve their position in the 2017 elections, are determined to achieve similar referendums in their own countries.
The US strategy in Europe is aimed at strengthening its control over EU and NATO states, selling more military equipment to its European allies to make super-profits for its military-industrial complex and to isolate Russia, political author Diana Johnstone told RT.
NATO is holding major sea drills in the Baltic Sea. The BALTOPS exercises, which kicked off on Friday in Estonia and will continue until June 19, involve 15 member states of the military alliance as well as Finland and Sweden.
RT: NATO is conducting major drills across the Baltic. Is there a bigger political message here or is it just an exercise?
Diana Johnstone: Yes, they have been doing exercises like this for quite a while and the pretext changed. At least this time they are not pretending like with the missile shield that it is to protect Europe from Iran. The line has changed now, because the US is coming right out with their aggressive actions toward Russia. You have to see the political, economic and military motives for this. The economic motive is obviously to sell more US military equipment to European allies, who don’t need it and can’t afford it. But that is important for the US military-industrial complex. Politically this is the strengthening of US control of EU countries and NATO countries, and to isolate Russia – to carry out this famous [Zbigniew] Brzezinski strategy of separating Russia from Europe to promote US hegemony over the Europe and the world.
RT: A lot of people in Eastern Europe oppose this kind of strategy. The general public is not particularly happy about this, are they?
DJ: Of course those Baltic States, whose governments by the way are satellite governments of the US. The top officials studied in the West, in the US and Canada. These have gone from being Russian satellites to be American satellites. They pretty much follow the US direction. But that is not the case of the rest of Europe, which is simply ignoring this, like it is not happening. The Czechs are aware of it, so they are protesting. But for instance, here in France nobody mentions this, because frankly people wouldn’t be in favor of it at all. This is destroying defense of Europe. It is just turning into an instrument of US policy.
RT: Last week, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced plans to strengthen defenses, particularly against Russian foreign policy calling it “a defensive and proportionate response to Russia’s actions in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine.” At the same time recently he said that they strived “for a more constructive relationship with Russia.” Shouldn’t it be more talking going on, rather than deploying troops and hardware?
JS: We are used to now seeing the US – in the Middle East they say one thing and do the opposite. It’s just amazing to me that people can say things like that. It is totally absurd. Obviously there is nothing offensive about the people of Crimea going back to Russia, to which they belonged before… There is not tiny bit of an aggressive move of Russia towards the West. That is a total fiction… So these people are just lying. They cannot know that.
“Under the cover of darkness, there is no limit to the expansion of Big Brother.”
Ilan Gilon, Meretz Party (Israel), Times of Israel, Feb 4, 2016
While Israel’s central justification for its often reactionary policies is couched in hyper-exceptionalist rhetoric, nourished by the ashes of Holocaust remembrance, current interest in censoring the Internet is far from exceptional.
Like a machine of justification against its critics and its enemies, Israel enlists various projects under the banner of the remarkable and precious, when it is simply accomplishing what other states have done before or since: the banal and ordinary. All states want to limit expression, control criticism and marginalise the sceptics. Some do it more savagely, and roughly, than others.
Israel’s military censor, Col. Ariella Ben Avraham, who is part of the IDF’s Directorate of Military Intelligence, gave a good example of this in February by insisting that social media activists and bloggers submit material relevant to security matters for approval prior to posting. The move also revealed an increasing interest to police the digital realm, previously considered an anarchic jungle incapable of effective policing.
Up to 32 Israeli bloggers and social media activists were informed about the directive, one of the first being Yossi Gurvitz, a left-wing activist running the “Friends of George” Facebook page. In rather unceremonious fashion, he was informed via Ben Avraham’s private Facebook account that he was obligated to run future submissions by her office. To his credit, he promises to defy the order.
Internal censorship is but one aspect of this policy. Israel Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan has dipped into the discourse of censorship to convince others that limiting various social media platforms on a global scale is the way to go. In January, he revealed the inner ambition of Israel’s security establishment to internationalise the censorship effort.
To achieve that goal, Erdan speaks of an “international coalition” that would make limiting criticism of Israel its primary objective. The central aim is hardly imaginative: making such providers as YouTube, Twitter and Facebook face up to responsibility as to what they host on their sites.
The Erdan plan suggests that various countries would form a “loose coalition that would keep an eye on content and where it is being posted, and members of the coalition would work to demand that the platforms remove the content that was posted in any of their countries at the request of members.” The simple idea behind this collusion is extra-territorial cooperation, effectively circumventing the global nature of such platforms.
As for the scurrilous subject matter itself, the issues are universal fare for states keen to control matters that supposedly stimulate the darker side of human nature. (Read: contrary to state interests.) Erdan’s office gives the example of material from a Palestinian (of course) disclosing the best locations on the body to inflict fatal stab wounds.
This begs that grand question about how far such an effort goes: control the more sordidly violent sides of the Old Testament because it encourages various unsavoury practices? Limit suggestive literature being discussed in the whirl of social media, buzzing away with malicious promise? The mind is an untidy place filled with remarkable things, and not all of them necessarily make it to actual perpetration. This is a point that continues to elude the mighty warriors of the security state.
Another justification is being thrown in: they, the social media giants, rake in the proceeds, and should therefore man the barricades. “We are planning to put a stop to this irresponsibility,” claimed Erdan’s office, “and we are going to do it as part of an international coalition that has had enough of this behaviour as well.”
Other governments have also done their bit to limit the internet and content available to their citizens. Most famously, Beijing runs its own “Great Firewall of China”, overseen by the Ministry of Information Industry (MII), while the State Council Information Office and the Chinese Communist Party’s Propaganda Department examine content.
In recent times, countries of a supposedly democratic character have taken to the blinds and endeavoured to do what Erdan dreams about. Dangerous thoughts are seen as the reason for dangerous actions. To that end, the country that gave Europe the Enlightenment has been busy forging its own vision of global internet censorship, using a mixture of security and privacy concerns.
The latter has proven to have potentially pernicious consequences, framed largely as an effort to protect the privacy of the French citizen. From that vantage point, a vision of global control has been built on a premise forged in European law: the right to be forgotten. The Court of Justice of the European ruling of May 13, 2014 (Google Spain v Agencia Española de Protección de Datos, Mario Costeja González) has supplied the subject matter for the latest enlargement of censorship powers.
The French response has been intrusively enthusiastic, with the privacy regulator, CNIL, fining Google 100,000 Euros in March for not applying the right to be forgotten across the global network. In the chilling words of the regulator, “For people residing in France to effectively exercise their right to be delisted, it must be applied to the entire processing operation.” Erdan may well be irritated he did not come up with that one.
Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: email@example.com