How the Australian, British, and US Governments Shamelessly Helped Kill Countless People in Indonesia in 1965
The Hague-based International People’s Tribunal has ruled that the Indonesian regime that replaced Indonesian President Sukarno committed crimes against humanity in 1965. The governments of Australia, Britain, and the United States have also been pronounced guilty as complicit partners in the massacre of 500,000 to 1000,000 people or more in Indonesia. People were murdered in Indonesia due to their principles, political ideology, ethnic backgrounds, and opposition to foreign influence. Albeit the ruling is an important historical acknowledgment, the assistance that the Australian, British, and US governments provided to the coup and played in the massacres is not a secret.
Asia-Pacific Research presents these excerpts from the Australian journalist John Pilger’s book The New Rulers of the World, which was published by Verso in 2002, in the interest of providing the historical background about the massacres that took place in Indonesia. Reading them will educate one on the despicable and criminal roles that Australia, Britain, and the US played. ”There were bodies being washed up on the lawns of the British consulate in Surabaya, and British warships escorted a ship full of Indonesian troops down the Malacca Straits so that they could take part in this terrible holocaust,” for example Pilger writes. In his work John Pilger also notes that the US was directly involved in the operations of the death squads and helped compile the lists of people to be murdered while the Australian, British, and US media were used as propaganda tools to whitewash the coup and bloodbaths in Indonesia. A key point, however, that is emphasizes is that the underlying economic motivations and plunder hidden behind the ideological discourse of the Cold War that really motivated the massacres in Indonesia. – Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, Asia-Pacific Research Editor, 22 July 2016.
Indonesians preparing to die in a mass grave
Excerpts from The New Rulers of the World (Verso)
John Pilger, 2002
… according to a CIA memorandum, Prime Minister Harold Macmillan and President John Kennedy had agreed to ‘liquidate President Sukarno, depending on the situation and available opportunities’. The CIA author added, ‘It is not clear to me whether murder or overthrow is intended by the word liquidate.’
Sukarno was a populist, the founder of modern Indonesia and of the non-aligned movement of developing countries, which he hoped would forge a genuine ‘third way’ between the spheres of the two superpowers. In 1955, he convened the ‘Asia-Africa Conference’ in the Javanese hill city of Bandung. It was the first time the leaders of the developing world, the majority of humanity, had met to forge common interests: a prospect that alarmed the western powers, especially as the vision and idealism of nonalignment represented a potentially popular force that might seriously challenge neo-colonialism. The hopes invested in such an unprecedented meeting are glimpsed in the faded tableaux and black-and-white photographs in the museum at Bandung and in the forecourt of the splendid art deco Savoy Hotel, where the following Bandung Principles are displayed:
I – Respect for fundamental human rights and the principles of the United Nations Charter.
2 – Respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all nations.
3 – The recognition of the equality of all peoples.
4 – The settlement of disputes by peaceful means.
Sukarno could be a democrat and a demagogue. For a time, Indonesia was a parliamentary democracy, then became what he called a ‘guided democracy’. He encouraged mass trade unions and peasant, women’s and cultural movements. Between 1959 and 1965, more than 15 million people joined political parties or affiliated mass organisations that were encouraged to challenge British and American influence in the region. With 3 million members, the PKI was the largest communist party in the world outside the Soviet Union and China. According to the Australian historian Harold Crouch, ‘the PKI had won widespread support not as a revolutionary party but as an organisation defending the interests of ‘the poor within the existing system’. It was this popularity, rather than any armed insurgency, that alarmed the Americans. Like Vietnam to the north, Indonesia might ‘go communist’ .
In 1990, the American investigative journalist Kathy Kadane revealed the extent of secret American collaboration in the massacres of 1965-66 which allowed Suharto to seize the presidency. Following a series of interviews with former US officials, she wrote, ‘They systematically compiled comprehensive lists of communist operatives. As many as 5,000 names were furnished to the Indonesian army, and the Americans later checked off the names of those who had been killed or captured.’ One of those interviewed was Robert J Martens, a political officer in the US embassy in Jakarta. ‘It was a big help to the army,’ he said. ‘They probably killed a lot of people and I probably have a lot of blood on my hands, but that’s not all bad. There’s a time when you have to strike hard at a decisive moment.’ Joseph Lazarsky, the deputy CIA station chief in Jakarta, said that confirmation of the killings came straight from Suharto’s headquarters. ‘We were getting a good account in Jakarta of who was being picked up,’ he said. ‘The army had a “shooting list” of about 4,000 or 5,000 people. They didn’t have enough goon squads to zap them all, and some individuals were valuable for interrogation. The infrastructure [of the PKI] was zapped almost immediately. We knew what they were doing . . . Suharto and his advisers said, if you keep them alive you have to feed them.’
Having already armed and equipped much of the army, Washington secretly supplied Suharto’s troops with a field communications network as the killings got under way. Flown in at night by US air force planes based in the Philippines, this was state-of-the-art equipment, whose high frequencies were known to the CIA and the National Security Agency advising President Johnson. Not only did this allow Suharto’s generals to co-ordinate the killings, it meant that the highest echelons of the US administration were listening in and that Suharto could seal off large areas of the country. Although there is archive film of people being herded into trucks and driven away, a single fuzzy photograph of a massacre is, to my knowledge, the only pictorial record of what was Asia’s holocaust.
The American Ambassador in Jakarta was Marshall Green, known in the State Department as ‘the coupmaster’. Green had arrived in Jakarta only months earlier, bringing with him a reputation for having masterminded the overthrow of the Korean leader Syngman Rhee, who had fallen out with the Americans. When the killings got under way in Indonesia, manuals on student organising, written in Korean and English, were distributed by the US embassy to the Indonesian Student Action Command (KAMI), whose leaders were sponsored by the CIA.
On October 5, 1965, Green cabled Washington on how the United States could ‘shape developments to our advantage’. The plan was to blacken the name of the PKI and its ‘protector’, Sukarno. The propaganda should be based on ‘[spreading] the story of the PKI’s guilt, treachery and brutality’. At the height of the bloodbath, Green assured General Suharto: ‘The US is generally sympathetic with and admiring of what the army is doing.” As for the numbers killed, Howard Federspiel, the Indonesia expert at the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research in 1965, said, ‘No one cared, as long as they were communists, that they were being butchered. No one was getting very worked up about it.’
The Americans worked closely with the British, the reputed masters and inventors of the ‘black’ propaganda admired and adapted by Joseph Goebbels in the 1930s. Sir Andrew Gilchrist, the Ambassador in Jakarta, made his position clear in a cable to the Foreign Office: ‘I have never concealed from you my belief that a little shooting in Indonesia would be an essential preliminary to effective change.’ With more than ‘a little shooting’ under way, and with no evidence of the PKI’s guilt, the embassy advised British intelligence headquarters in Singapore on the line to be taken, with the aim of ‘weakening the PKI permanently’ .
Suitable propaganda themes might be: PKI brutality in murdering Generals and [Foreign Minister] Nasution’s daughter . . . PKI subverting Indonesia as agents of foreign Communists . . . But treatment will need to be subtle, e.g. (a) all activities should be strictly unattributable, (b) British participation or co-operation should be carefully concealed.
Within two weeks, an office of the Foreign Office’s Information Research Department (IRD) had opened in Singapore. The IRD was a top-secret, cold war propaganda unit headed by Norman Reddaway, one of Her Majesty’s most experienced liars. It would be salutary for journalists these days to study the critical role western propaganda played then, as it does now, in shaping the news. Indeed, Reddaway and his colleagues manipulated the press so expertly that he boasted to Gilchrist in a letter marked ‘secret and personal’ that the story he had promoted – that Sukarno’s continued rule would lead to a communist takeover – ‘went all over the world and back again’ . He described how an experienced Fleet Street journalist agreed ‘to give exactly your angle on events in his article … . i.e. that this was a kid glove coup without butchery.’
Roland Challis, the BBC’s South-East Asia correspondent, was a particular target of Reddaway, who claimed that the official version of events could be ‘put almost instantly back to Indonesia via the BBC’. Prevented from entering Indonesia along with other foreign journalists, Challis was unaware of the extent of the slaughter. ‘It was a triumph for western propaganda,’ he told me. ‘My British sources purported not to know what was going on, but they knew what the American plan was. There were bodies being washed up on the lawns of the British consulate in Surabaya, and British warships escorted a ship full of Indonesian troops down the Malacca Straits so that they could take part in this terrible holocaust. It was only much later that we learned the American embassy was supplying names and ticking them off as they were killed. There was a deal, you see. In establishing the Suharto regime, the involvement of the IMF and the World Bank was part of it. Sukarno had kicked them out; now Suharto would bring them back. That was the deal.’
With Sukarno now virtually powerless and ill, and Suharto about to appoint himself acting president, the American press reported the Washington-backed coup not as a great human catastrophe, but in terms of the new economic advantages. The massacres were described by Time as ‘The West’s Best News in Asia’. A headline in US News and World Report read: ‘Indonesia: Hope . . . where there was once none’. The renowned New York Times columnist James Reston celebrated ‘A gleam of light in Asia’ and wrote a kid-glove version that he had clearly been given. The Australian Prime Minister Harold Holt, who was visiting the US, offered a striking example of his sense of humour: ‘With 500,000 to a million communist sympathisers knocked off,’ he said approvingly, ‘I think it’s safe to assume a reorientation has taken place.’
Holt’s remark was an accurate reflection of the complicity of the Australian foreign affairs and political establishment in the agony of its closest neighbour. The Australian embassy in Jakarta described the massacres as a ‘cleansing operation’. The Australian Ambassador, KCO Shann, enthused to Canberra that the Indonesian army was ‘refreshingly determined to do over the PKI’, adding that the generals had spoken approvingly of the reporting on Radio Australia, which he described as ‘a bit dishonest’.’ In the Prime Minister’s Department, officials considered supporting ‘any measures to assist the Indonesian army … cope with the internal situation’.
In February 1966, [British] Ambassador Gilchrist wrote a report on the scale of the massacres based on the findings of the Swedish Ambassador, who had toured central and eastern Java with his Indonesian wife and had been able to speak to people out of earshot of government officials. Gilchrist wrote to the Foreign Office: ‘The Ambassador and I had discussed the killings before he left [on the tour] and he had found my suggested figure of 400,000 quite incredible. His enquiries have led him to reconsider it a very serious under-estimate. A bank manager in Surabaya with twenty employees said that four had been removed one night and beheaded . . . A third of a spinning factory’s technicians, being members of a Communist union, had been killed … The killings in Bali had been particularly monstrous. In certain areas, it was felt that not enough people [emphasis in the original] had been killed.’
On the island of Bali, the ‘reorientation’ described by Prime Minister Holt meant the violent deaths of at least 80,000 people, although this is generally regarded as a conservative figure. The many western, mostly Australian, tourists who have since taken advantage of cheap package holidays to the island might reflect that beneath the car parks of several of the major tourist hotels are buried countless bodies.
The distinguished campaigner and author Carmel Budiardjo, an Englishwoman married to a tapol and herself a former political prisoner, returned to Indonesia in 2000 and found ‘the trauma left by the killings thirty-five years ago still gripping many communities on the island’. She described meeting, in Denpasar, fifty people who had never spoken about their experiences before in public. ‘One witness,’ she wrote, ‘who was 20 years old at the time calmly told us how he had been arrested and held in a large cell by the military, 52 people in all, mostly members of mass organisations from nearby villages. Every few days, a batch of men was taken out, their hands tied behind their backs and driven off to be shot. Only two of the prisoners survived . . . Another witness, an ethnic Chinese Indonesian, gave testimony about the killing of 103 people, some as young as 15. In this case, the people were not arrested but simply taken from their homes and killed, as their names were ticked off a list.’
‘In the early sixties,’ he said, ‘the pressure on Indonesia to do what the Americans wanted was intense. Sukarno wanted good relations with them, but he didn’t want their economic system. With America, that is never possible. So he became an enemy. All of us who wanted an independent country, free to make our own mistakes, were made the enemy. They didn’t call it globalisation then; but it was the same thing. If you accepted it, you were America’s friend. If you chose another way, you were given warnings, and if you didn’t comply, hell was visited on you. But I am back; I am well; I have my family. They didn’t win.’
Ralph McGehee, a senior CIA operations officer in the 1960s, described the terror in Indonesia from 1965 – 66 as a ‘model operation’ for the American-run coup that got rid of Salvador Allende in Chile seven years later. ‘The CIA forged a document purporting to reveal a leftist plot to murder Chilean military leaders,’ he wrote, ‘[just like] what happened in Indonesia in 1965.’ He says Indonesia was also the model for Operation Phoenix in Vietnam, where American-directed death squads assassinated up to 50,000 people. ‘You can trace back all the major, bloody events run from Washington to the way Suharto came to power,’ he told me. ‘The success of that meant that it would be repeated, again and again.’
Indonesia, once owing nothing but having been plundered of its gold, precious stones, wood, spices and other natural riches by its colonial masters, the Dutch, today has a total indebtedness estimated at $262 billion, which is 170 per cent of its gross domestic product. There is no debt like it on earth. It can never be repaid. It is a bottomless hole.
Copyright © Asia-Pacific Research, Asia-Pacific Research, 2016
In a fresh embarrassment for The New York Times, a photographic forensic expert has debunked a new amateurish, anti-Russian analysis of satellite photos related to the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014, labeling the work “a fraud.”
Last Saturday, on the eve of the second anniversary of the tragedy that claimed 298 lives, the Times touted the amateur analysis asserting that the Russian government had manipulated two satellite photos that revealed Ukrainian anti-aircraft missiles in eastern Ukraine at the time of the shoot-down.
The clear implication of the article by Andrew E. Kramer was that the Russians were covering up their complicity in shooting down the civilian airliner by allegedly doctoring photos to shift the blame to the Ukrainian military. Beyond citing this analysis by armscontrolwonk.com, Kramer noted that the “citizen journalists” at Bellingcat had reached the same conclusion earlier.
But Kramer and the Times left out that the earlier Bellingcat analysis was thoroughly torn apart by photo-forensic experts including Dr. Neal Krawetz, founder of the FotoForensics digital image analytical tool that Bellingcat had used. Over the past week, Bellingcat has been aggressively pushing the new analysis by armscontrolwonk.com, with which Bellingcat has close relationships.
This past week, Krawetz and other forensic specialists began weighing in on the new analysis and concluding that it suffered the same fundamental errors as the previous analysis, albeit using a different analytical tool. Given Bellingcat’s promotion of this second analysis by a group with links to Bellingcat and its founder Eliot Higgins, Krawetz viewed the two analyses as essentially coming from the same place, Bellingcat.
“Jumping to the wrong conclusion one time can be due to ignorance,” Krawetz explained in a blog post. “However, using a different tool on the same data that yields similar results, and still jumping to the same wrong conclusion is intentional misrepresentation and deception. It is fraud.”
A Pattern of Error
Krawetz and other experts found that innocuous changes to the photos, such as adding a word box and saving the images into different formats, would explain the anomalies that Bellingcat and its pals at armscontrolwonk.com detected. That was the key mistake that Krawetz spotted last year in dissecting Bellingcat’s faulty analysis.
Krawetz wrote: “Last year, a group called ‘Bellingcat’ came out with a report about flight MH17, which was shot down near the Ukraine/Russia border. In their report, they used FotoForensics to justify their claims. However, as I pointed out in my blog entry, they used it wrong. The big problems in their report:
“–Ignoring quality. They evaluated pictures from questionable sources. These were low quality pictures that had undergone scaling, cropping, and annotations.
“–Seeing things. Even with the output from the analysis tools, they jumped to conclusions that were not supported by the data.
“–Bait and switch. Their report claimed one thing, then tried to justify it with analysis that showed something different.
“Bellingcat recently came out with a second report. The image analysis portion of their report heavily relied on a program called ‘Tungstène’. … With the scientific approach, it does not matter who’s tool you use. A conclusion should be repeatable though multiple tools and multiple algorithms.
“One of the pictures that they ran though Tungstène was the same cloud picture that they used with ELA [error level analysis]. And unsurprisingly, it generated similar results — results that should be interpreted as low quality and multiple resaves. … These results denote a low quality picture and multiple resaves, and not an intentional alteration as Bellingcat concluded.
“Just like last year, Bellingcat claimed that Tungstène highlighted indications of alterations in the same places that they claimed to see alterations in the ELA result. Bellingcat used the same low quality data on different tools and jumped to the same incorrect conclusion.”
Although Krawetz posted his dissection of the new analysis on Thursday, he began expressing his concerns shortly after the Times article appeared. That prompted Higgins and the Bellingcat crew to begin a Twitter campaign to discredit Krawetz and me (for also citing problems with the Times article and the analysis).
When one of Higgins’s allies mentioned my initial story on the problematic photo analysis, Krawetz noted that my observations supported his position that Bellingcat had mishandled the analysis (although at the time I was unaware of Krawetz’s criticism).
Higgins responded to Krawetz, “he [Parry] doesn’t recognize you’re a hack. Probably because he’s a hack too.”
Further insulting Krawetz, Higgins mocked his review of the photo analyses by writing: “all he has is ‘because I say so’, all mouth no trousers.”
Spoiled by Praise
Apparently, Higgins, who operates out of Leicester, England, has grown spoiled by all the praise lavished on him by The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian and other mainstream publications despite the fact that Bellingcat’s record for accuracy is a poor one.
For instance, in his first big splash, Higgins echoed U.S. propaganda in Syria about the Aug. 21, 2013 sarin gas attack — blaming it on President Bashar al-Assad — but was forced to back down from his assessment when aeronautical experts revealed that the sarin-carrying missile had a range of only about two kilometers, much shorter than Higgins had surmised in blaming the attack on Syrian government forces. (Despite that key error, Higgins continued claiming the Syrian government was guilty.)
Higgins also gave the Australian “60 Minutes” program a location in eastern Ukraine where a “getaway” Buk missile battery was supposedly videoed en route back to Russia, except that when the news crew got there the landmarks didn’t match up, causing the program to have to rely on sleight-of-hand editing to deceive its viewers.
When I noted the discrepancies and posted screenshots from the “60 Minutes” program to demonstrate the falsehoods, “60 Minutes” launched a campaign of insults against me and resorted to more video tricks and outright journalistic fraud in defense of Higgins’s faulty information.
This pattern of false claims and even fraud to promote these stories has not stopped the mainstream Western press from showering Higgins and Bellingcat with acclaim. It probably doesn’t hurt that Bellingcat’s “disclosures” always dovetail with the propaganda themes emanating from Western governments.
It also turns out that both Higgins and “armscontrolwonk.com” have crossover in personnel, such as Melissa Hanham, a co-author of the MH-17 report who also writes for Bellingcat, as does Aaron Stein, who joined in promoting Higgins’s work at “armscontrolwonk.com.”
The two groups also have links to the pro-NATO think tank, Atlantic Council, which has been at the forefront of pushing NATO’s new Cold War with Russia. Higgins is now listed as a “nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Future Europe Initiative” and armscontrolwonk.com describes Stein as a nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East.
Armscontrolwonk.com is run by nuclear proliferation specialists from the Middlebury Institute for International Studies at Monterey, but they appear to have no special expertise in photographic forensics.
A Deeper Problem
But the problem goes much deeper than a couple of Web sites and bloggers who find it professionally uplifting to reinforce propaganda themes from NATO and other Western interests. The bigger danger is the role played by the mainstream media in creating an echo chamber to amplify the disinformation coming from these amateurs.
Just as The New York Times, The Washington Post and other major outlets swallowed the bogus stories about Iraq’s WMD in 2002-2003, they have happily dined on similarly dubious fare about Syria, Ukraine and Russia.
And just as with the Iraq disaster, when those of us who challenged the WMD “group think” were dismissed as “Saddam apologists,” now we’re called “Assad apologists” or “Putin apologists” or simply “hacks” who are “all mouth, no trousers” – whatever that means.
For instance, in 2013 regarding Syria, the Times ran a front-page story using a “vector analysis” to trace the sarin attack back to a Syrian military base about nine kilometers away, but the discovery of the sarin missile’s much shorter range forced the Times to recant its story, which had paralleled what Higgins was writing.
Then, in its eagerness to convey anti-Russian propaganda regarding Ukraine in 2014, the Times even returned to a reporter from its Iraq-falsehood days. Michael R. Gordon, who co-authored the infamous “aluminum tubes” article in 2002 that pushed the bogus claim that Iraq was reconstituting a nuclear weapons program, accepted some new disinformation from the State Department that cited photos supposedly showing Russian soldiers in Russia and then reappearing in Ukraine.
Any serious journalist would have recognized the holes in the story since it wasn’t clear where the photos were taken or whether the blurry images were even the same people, but that didn’t give the Times pause. The article led the front page.
However, only two days later, the scoop blew up when it turned out that a key photo supposedly showing a group of soldiers in Russia, who then reappeared in eastern Ukraine, was actually taken in Ukraine, destroying the premise of the entire story.
But these embarrassments have not dampened the Times’ enthusiasm for dishing out anti-Russian propaganda whenever possible. Yet, one new twist is that the Times doesn’t just take false claims directly from the U.S. government; it also draws from hip “citizen journalism” Web sites like Bellingcat.
In a world where no one believes what governments say the smart new way to disseminate propaganda is through such “outsiders.”
So, the Times’ Kramer was surely thrilled to get fed a new story off the Web that claimed the Russians had doctored satellite photographs of Ukrainian Buk anti-aircraft missile batteries in eastern Ukraine just before the MH-17 shoot-down.
Instead of questioning the photo-forensic expertise of these nuclear proliferation specialists at armscontrolwonk.com, Kramer simply laid out their findings as further corroboration of Bellingcat’s earlier claims. Kramer also mocked the Russians for trying to cover their tracks with “conspiracy theories.”
Ignoring Official Evidence
But there was another key piece of evidence that the Times was hiding from its readers: documentary evidence from Western intelligence that the Ukrainian military did have powerful anti-aircraft missile batteries in eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, and that the ethnic Russian rebels didn’t.
In a report released last October, the Netherlands’ Military Intelligence and Security Service (MIVD) said that based on “state secret” information, it was known that Ukraine possessed some older but “powerful anti-aircraft systems” and “a number of these systems were located in the eastern part of the country.” MIVD added that the rebels lacked that capacity:
“Prior to the crash, the MIVD knew that, in addition to light aircraft artillery, the Separatists also possessed short-range portable air defence systems (man-portable air-defence systems; MANPADS) and that they possibly possessed short-range vehicle-borne air-defence systems. Both types of systems are considered surface-to-air missiles (SAMs). Due to their limited range they do not constitute a danger to civil aviation at cruising altitude.”
Since Dutch intelligence is part of the NATO intelligence apparatus, this report means that NATO and presumably U.S. intelligence share the same viewpoint. Thus, the Russians would have little reason to fake their satellite photos showing Ukrainian anti-aircraft missile batteries in eastern Ukraine if the West’s satellite photos were showing the same thing.
But there is a reason why the Times and other major mainstream publications have ignored this official Dutch government document – because if it’s correct, then it means that the only people who could have shot down MH-17 belong to the Ukrainian military. That would turn upside-down the desired propaganda narrative blaming the Russians.
Yet, that blackout of the Dutch report means that the Times and other Western outlets have abandoned their journalistic responsibilities to present all relevant evidence on an issue of grave importance – bringing to justice the killers of 298 innocent people. Rather than “all the news that’s fit to print,” the Times is stacking the case by leaving out evidence that goes in the “wrong direction.”
Of course, there may be some explanation for how both NATO and Russian intelligence could come to the same “mistaken” conclusion that only the Ukrainian military could have shot down MH-17, but the Times and the rest of the Western mainstream media can’t ethically just pretend the evidence doesn’t exist.
Unless, of course, your real purpose is to disseminate propaganda, not produce journalism. Then, I suppose the behavior of the Times, other MSM publications and, yes, Bellingcat makes a lot of sense.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).
Forensic experts are challenging an amateur report – touted in The New York Times – that claimed Russia faked satellite imagery of Ukrainian anti-aircraft missile batteries in eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, the day that Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot out of the sky killing 298 people.
In a Twitter exchange, Dr. Neal Krawetz, founder of the FotoForensics digital image analytical tool, wrote: “‘Bad analysis’ is an understatement. This ‘report’ is outright fraud.”
Another computer imaging expert, Masami Kuramoto, wrote, “This is either amateur hour or supposed to deceive audiences without tech background,” to which Krawetz responded: “Why ‘or’? Amateur hour AND deceptive.”
On Saturday, The New York Times, which usually disdains Internet reports even from qualified experts, chose to highlight the report by arms control researchers at armscontrolwonk.com who appear to have little expertise in the field of forensic photographic analysis.
The Times article suggested that the Russians were falsely claiming that the Ukrainian military had Buk missile systems in eastern Ukraine on the day that MH-17 was shot down. But the presence of Ukrainian anti-aircraft missile batteries in the area has been confirmed by Western intelligence, including a report issued last October on the findings of the Dutch intelligence agency which had access to NATO’s satellite and other data collection.
Indeed, the Netherlands’ Military Intelligence and Security Service (MIVD) concluded that the only anti-aircraft weapons in eastern Ukraine capable of bringing down MH-17 at 33,000 feet belonged to the Ukrainian government, not the ethnic Russian rebels. MIVD made that assessment in the context of explaining why commercial aircraft continued to fly over the eastern Ukrainian battle zone in summer 2014. (The MH-17 flight had originated in Amsterdam and carried many Dutch citizens, explaining why the Netherlands took the lead in the investigation.)
MIVD said that based on “state secret” information, it was known that Ukraine possessed some older but “powerful anti-aircraft systems” and “a number of these systems were located in the eastern part of the country.” MIVD added that the rebels lacked that capacity:
“Prior to the crash, the MIVD knew that, in addition to light aircraft artillery, the Separatists also possessed short-range portable air defence systems (man-portable air-defence systems; MANPADS) and that they possibly possessed short-range vehicle-borne air-defence systems. Both types of systems are considered surface-to-air missiles (SAMs). Due to their limited range they do not constitute a danger to civil aviation at cruising altitude.”
I know that I have cited this section of the Dutch report before but I repeat it because The New York Times, The Washington Post and other leading U.S. news organizations have ignored these findings, presumably because they don’t advance the desired propaganda theme blaming the Russians for the tragedy.
In other words, the Times, the Post and the rest of the mainstream U.S. media want the Russians to be guilty, so they exclude from their articles evidence that suggests that some element of the Ukrainian military might have fired the fateful missile. Such “group think” is, of course, the same journalistic malfeasance that led to the false reporting about Iraq’s WMD. Doubts, even expressed by experts, were systematically filtered out then and the same now.
Further, it is dishonest journalism to ignore a credible government report that bears directly on an important issue, especially while running dubious Internet analyses and accepting propaganda claims from self-interested U.S. officials seeking to make the case against Russia.
For instance, the Dutch report contradicted The Washington Post’s early reporting on MH-17. On July 20, 2014, just three days after the crash. the Post published an article with the title “Russia Supplied Missile Launchers to Separatists, U.S. Official Says.”
In the article, the Post’s Michael Birnbaum and Karen DeYoung reported from Kiev that an anonymous U.S. official said the U.S. government had “confirmed that Russia supplied sophisticated missile launchers to separatists in eastern Ukraine and that attempts were made to move them back across the Russian border.”
This official told the Post that Russia didn’t just supply one Buk battery, but three. Though this account has never been retracted, there were problems with it from the start, including the fact that a U.S. “government assessment” – released by the Director of National Intelligence on July 22, 2014, (two days later) – listed a variety of weapons allegedly provided by the Russians to the ethnic Russian rebels but not a Buk anti-aircraft missile system.
In other words, two days after the Post cited a U.S. official claiming that the Russians had given the rebels three Buk batteries, the DNI’s “government assessment” made no reference to a delivery of one, let alone three Buk systems. And that absence of evidence came in the context of the DNI larding the “government assessment” with every possible innuendo to implicate the Russians, including “social media” entries. But there was no mention of a Buk delivery.
The significance of this missing link is hard to overstate. At the time eastern Ukraine was the focus of extraordinary U.S. intelligence collection because of the potential for the crisis to spin out of control and start World War III. Plus, a Buk missile battery is large and difficult to conceal. The missiles themselves are 16-feet-long and are usually pulled around by truck.
U.S. spy satellites, which supposedly can let you read a license plate in Moscow, would have picked up these images. And, if for some inexplicable reason a Buk battery was missed before July 17, 2014, it would surely have been spotted during an after-action review of the satellite imagery. But the U.S. government has released nothing of the kind.
In the days after the MH-17 crash, I was told by a source that U.S. intelligence had spotted Buk systems in the area but they appeared to be under Ukrainian government control. The source who had been briefed by U.S. intelligence analysts said the likely missile battery that launched the fateful missile was manned by troops dressed in what looked like Ukrainian uniforms.
At that point, the source said CIA analysts were still not ruling out the possibility that the troops might have been eastern Ukrainian rebels in similar uniforms but the initial assessment was that the troops were Ukrainian soldiers. There also was the suggestion that the soldiers were undisciplined and possibly drunk, since the imagery showed what looked like beer bottles scattered around the site, the source said. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “What Did US Spy Satellites See in Ukraine?”]
Subsequently, the source said, these analysts reviewed other intelligence data, including recorded phone intercepts, and concluded that the shoot-down was carried out by a rogue element of the Ukrainian government, working with a rabidly anti-Russian oligarch, but that senior Ukrainian leaders, such as President Petro Poroshenko and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, were not implicated. However, I have not been able to determine if this assessment was a dissident opinion or a consensus within U.S. intelligence circles.
Another intelligence source told me that CIA analysts did brief Dutch authorities during the preparation of the Dutch Safety Board’s report but that the U.S. information remained classified and unavailable for public release. In the Dutch reports, there is no reference to U.S.-supplied information although they do reflect sensitive details about Russian-made weapons systems, secrets declassified by Moscow for the investigation.
An NYT Pattern?
So, what to make of the Times hyping an amateur analysis of two Russian satellite photos and reporting that they showed manipulation. Though the claim seems to be designed to raise doubts about the presence of Ukrainian Buk missile batteries in eastern Ukraine, the presence of those missiles is really not in doubt.
And it makes sense the Ukrainians would move their anti-aircraft missiles toward the front because of fears that the powerful Ukrainian offensive then underway against ethnic Russian rebels might provoke Russia to launch a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Shifting anti-aircraft missile batteries toward the border would be a normal military preparation in such a situation.
That’s particularly true because a Ukrainian fighter plane was shot down along the border on July 16, 2014, presumably from an air-to-air missile fired by a Russian plane. Tensions were high at the time and the possibility that an out-of-control Ukrainian crew misidentified MH-17 as a Russian military jet or Putin’s plane cannot be dismissed.
But all this context is missing from the Times article by reporter Andrew E. Kramer, who has been a regular contributor to the Times’ anti-Russian propaganda. He treats the findings by some nuclear arms control researchers at the Middlebury Institute for International Studies as definitive though there’s no reason to believe that these folks have any special expertise in applying this software whose creator says requires careful analysis.
The new report was based on the filtering software Tungstene designed by Roger Cozien, who has warned against rushing to judge “anomalies” in photographs as intentional falsifications when they may result from the normal process of saving an image or making innocent adjustments.
In an interview in Time magazine, Cozien said, “These filters aim at detecting anomalies. They give you any and all specific and particular information which can be found in the photograph file. And these particularities, called ‘singularities’, are sometimes only accidental: this is because the image was not well re-saved or that the camera had specific features, for example.
“The software in itself is neutral: it does not know what is an alteration or a manipulation. So, when it notices an error, the operator needs to consider whether it is an image manipulation, or just an accident.”
In other words, anomalies can be introduced by innocent actions related to saving or modifying an image, such as transferring it to a different format, adjusting the contrast or adding a word box. But it is difficult for a layman to assess the intricacies involved.
To buttress the new report, Kramer cited the work of Bellingcat, a group of “citizen journalists” who have made a solid business out of reaffirming whatever Western propaganda is claiming, whether about Syria, Ukraine or Russia.
Bellingcat’s founder Eliot Higgins also had raised doubts about the Russian photos – using Dr. Krawetz’s FotoForensics software – but those findings were subsequently debunked by Dr. Krawetz himself and other experts. While Kramer cited Higgins’s earlier analysis, the Times reporter left out the fact that those findings were disputed by professional experts.
Dr. Krawetz also found the new photographic analysis both amateurish and deceptive. When I contacted him by email, he declined an interview and noted that Bellingcat fans were already on the offensive, trying to shut down dissent to the new report.
In an email to me, he wrote: “I have already seen the Bellingcat trolls verbally attack me, their ‘reporters’ use intimidation tactics, and their CEO insults me. (Hmmm … First he uses my software, then his team seeks me out as an expert, then he insults me when my opinion differs from his.)”
If it’s true that the first casualty of war is truth, the old saying also seems to apply to a new Cold War.
[For more on Bellingcat and its erroneous work, see Consortiumnews.com’s “MH-17 Case: ‘Old’ Journalism vs. ‘New.’”]
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).
“Indian Point” is a film about the long problem-plagued Indian Point nuclear power plants that are “so, so risky—so close to New York City,” notes its director and producer Ivy Meeropol. “Times Square is 35 miles away.”
The plants constitute a disaster waiting to happen threatening especially the lives of the 22 million people who live within 50 miles from them. “There is no way to evacuate—what I’ve learned about an evacuation plan is that there is none,” says Meeropol. The plants are “on two earthquake fault lines,” she notes. “And there is a natural gas pipeline right there that an earthquake could rupture.”
Meanwhile, both plants, located in Buchanan, New York along the Hudson River, are now essentially running without licenses. The federal government’s 40-year operating license for Indian Point 2 expired in 2013 and Indian Point 3’s license expired last year. Their owner, Entergy, is seeking to have them run for another 20 years—although nuclear plants were never seen as running for more than 40 years because of radioactivity embrittling metal parts and otherwise causing safety problems. (Indian Point 1 was opened in 1962 and closed in 1974, its emergency core cooling system deemed impossible to fix.)
At Indian Point 2 and 3 there have been frequent accidents and issues involving releases of radioactivity through the years. The discharges of tritium or irradiated water, H30, which cannot be filtered out of good water, into the aquifer below the Westinghouse nuclear plants and also the Hudson River have been a major concern.
But it’s not just Indian Point that “Indian Point” is about. The film emphasizes: “With so much attention focused on Indian Point, the future of nuclear plants in the United States might depend on what happens here.”
“I would give the film an ‘A.’ I wholeheartedly recommend it for wide release throughout the United States,” says Priscilla Star, founder of the Coalition Against Nukes: “It is a stellar learning tool. It depicts the David-versus-Goliath struggle involving those trying to close these decrepit nuclear plants and the profit-hungry nuclear industry. It shows grassroots activists fighting the time bombs in their community.”
The film premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival last year. For the past two weeks it has been showing five-times-a-day at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, also in Manhattan. That run will go until Thursday, July 21. On Friday, July 22, it is to open in Los Angeles. After its theatrical release, it will air on the Epix cable TV channel.
Among those in the film are anti-Indian Point activist Marilyn Elie and long-time environmental journalist Roger Witherspoon who has written extensively about Indian Point. And also Entergy employees appear. Meeropol and her crew were given full access to the nuclear plants.
The documentary provides a special focus on Dr. Gregory Jaczko. He was chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) when the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster in Japan began in March 2011. As notes Meeropol, Jaczko sought to have “lessons learned” from the Fukushima catastrophe—which involved General Electric nuclear plants—applied to nuclear power plants in the U.S. And he was given “a really tough time.” Pressure by the nuclear industry caused Jaczko, with a doctorate in physics from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, to be “pushed out” as NRC chairman and member. Meeropol tells of how “this guy, a decent person trying to do his job, was completely abused.”
Meeropol, in an interview, said the NRC “is too closely linked to the nuclear industry. It’s not going to do anything that the nuclear industry regards as too costly or onerous. I want that to be one of the biggest takeaways from the film—how a regulatory body cares more about the industry it is supposed to regulate than the public. And of all industries that should be regulated, it’s the nuclear power industry.” She said she found the nuclear industry and nuclear energy officials in the U.S. government “one and the same.”
Meeropol began the “Indian Point” film project in January 2011. She had moved from Brooklyn up to the Hudson Valley “a decade ago when our son was born. Commuting in and out of the city on the Metro-North train, I went right past the plants. They looked so foreboding and odd there in that beautiful landscape.”
Also, until she, her husband and son moved upstate, “having lived in New York City, I had no idea how close they were to the city.”
Further, in the community where they went to live, Cold Spring, 15 miles from the plants. “we could hear the [emergency] sirens” from the plants and she was unsettled receiving in the mail an “emergency preparedness booklet titled: ‘Are You Ready?’”
So the experienced filmmaker started doing research on the “dangerous endeavor of making nuclear energy.” With the Fukushima disaster beginning just a few months after she started on the film, that “broadened” its perspective.
She said the films she has made have always been “character-driven” and she was attracted to feature in “Indian Point” Marilyn Elie—“she knows her stuff”—and Roger Witherspoon. “I liked his dynamic. He is a journalist. She is an activist.” She stressed to Entergy officials that she would be even-handed “and quite amazingly was given access” to the plants. Her connecting with Jaczko was crucial. It “became my crusade to redeem Greg Jaczko before the world.”
She started making the film on a shoe string. “I ran out of money numerous times.” But she was able to get financial support from the Sundance Institute, the New York Foundation for the Arts and the Catapult Fund, and individual contributions. And “partnering” with Julie Goldman, founder of Motto Films, was extremely important. Goldman is also producer of “Indian Point.” A “very generous grant” was received from the MacArthur Foundation which also “opened up other doors.”
The avidly pro-nuclear New York Times (its pro-Indian Point editorials never cease and its last reporter who long covered the plants and the nuclear industry has now gone on to a job with the PR arm of the industry) said in its review: “’Indian Point’ is a good overview of the issues, with insights into the problems of regulating the industry.” It complained about Meeropol’s being “steadfast in providing both sides.”
Meanwhile, Indian Point sits there on the Hudson, continuing with accidents and in emitting what the NRC says are “permissible” levels of radioactivity. They are highly likely candidates for a Chernobyl or Fukushima-level catastrophe in the most highly populated area of the United States. And the NRC, steadfastly ignoring Jaczko’s warnings, in league with Entergy, seeks to let the decrepit time bombs run for another 20 years—just asking for disaster.
The good news is that New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo has been endeavoring to have the Indian Point nuclear plants closed and safe-energy activists and an array of environmental and safe-energy organizations are working hard to shut them down—and the film “Indian Point” is out.
It’s unnerving to realize that the NATO alliance – bristling with an unprecedented array of weapons including a vast nuclear arsenal – has lost its collective mind. Perhaps it’s more reassuring to think that NATO simply feels compelled to publicly embrace its deceptive “strategic communications” so gullible Western citizens will be kept believing its lies are truth.
But here were the leaders of major Western “democracies” lining up to endorse a Warsaw Summit Communiqué condemning “Russia’s aggressive actions” while knowing that these claims were unsupported by their own intelligence agencies.
The leaders – at least the key ones – know that there is no credible intelligence that Russian President Vladimir Putin provoked the Ukraine crisis in 2014 or that he has any plans to invade the Baltic states, despite the fact that nearly every “important person” in Official Washington and other Western capitals declares the opposite of this to be reality.
But there have been a few moments when the truth has surfaced. For instance, in the days leading up to the just-completed NATO summit in Warsaw, General Petr Pavel, chairman of the NATO Military Committee, divulged that the deployment of NATO military battalions in the Baltic states was a political, rather than military, act.
“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,” Pavel told a news conference.
What Pavel blurted out was what I have been told by intelligence sources over the past two-plus years – that the endless drumbeat of Western media reports about “Russian aggression” results from a clever demonization campaign against Putin and a classic Washington “group think” rather than from a careful intelligence analysis.
Ironically, however, just days after the release of the British Chilcot report documenting how a similar propaganda campaign led the world into the disastrous Iraq War – with its deadly consequences still reverberating through a destabilized Mideast and into an unnerved Europe – NATO reenacts the basic failure of that earlier catastrophe, except now upping the ante into a confrontation with nuclear-armed Russia.
The Warsaw communiqué – signed by leaders including President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and British Prime Minister David Cameron – ignores the reality of what happened in Ukraine in late 2013 and early 2014 and thus generates an inside-out narrative.
Instead of reprising the West’s vacuous propaganda themes, Obama and the other leaders could have done something novel and told the truth, but that apparently is outside their operating capabilities. So they all signed on to the dangerous lie.
What Really Happened
The real narrative based on actual facts would have acknowledged that it was the West, not Russia, that instigated the Ukraine crisis by engineering the violent overthrow of elected President Viktor Yanukovych and the imposition of a new Western-oriented regime hostile to Moscow and Ukraine’s ethnic Russians.
In late 2013, it was the European Union that was pushing an economic association agreement with Ukraine, which included the International Monetary Fund’s demands for imposing harsh austerity on Ukraine’s already suffering population. Political and propaganda support for the E.U. plan was financed, in part, by the U.S. government through such agencies as the National Endowment for Democracy and the U.S. Agency for International Development.
When Yanukovych recoiled at the IMF’s terms and opted for a more generous $15 billion aid package from Putin, the U.S. government threw its public support behind mass demonstrations aimed at overthrowing Yanukovych and replacing him with a new regime that would sign the E.U. agreement and accept the IMF’s demands.
As the crisis deepened in early 2014, Putin was focused on the Sochi Winter Olympics, particularly the threat of terrorist attacks on the games. No evidence has been presented that Putin was secretly trying to foment the Ukraine crisis. Indeed, all the evidence is that Putin was trying to protect the status quo, support the elected president and avert a worse crisis.
It would be insane to suggest that Putin somehow orchestrated the E.U.’s destabilizing attempt to pull Ukraine into the association agreement, that he then stage-managed the anti-Yanukovych violence of the Maidan protests, that he collaborated with neo-Nazi and other ultra-nationalist militias to kill Ukrainian police and chase Yanukovych from Kiev, and that he then arranged for Yanukovych to be replaced by a wildly anti-Russian regime – all while pretending to do the opposite of all these things.
In the real world, the narrative was quite different: Moscow supported Yanukovych’s efforts to reach a political compromise, including a European-brokered agreement for early elections and reduced presidential powers. Yet, despite those concessions, neo-Nazi militias surged to the front of the U.S.-backed protests on Feb. 22, 2014, forcing Yanukovych and many of his officials to run for their lives. The U.S. State Department quickly recognized the coup regime as “legitimate” as did other NATO allies.
On a personal note, I am sometimes criticized by conspiracy theorists for not accepting their fact-free claims about nefarious schemes supposedly dreamed up by U.S. officials, but frankly as baseless as some of those wacky stories can be, they sound sensible when compared with the West’s loony conspiracy theory about Putin choreographing the Ukraine coup.
Yet, that baseless conspiracy theory roped in supposedly serious thinkers, such as New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, who conjured up the notion that Putin stirred up this trouble so he could pull off a land grab and/or distract Russians from their economic problems.
“Delusions of easy winnings still happen,” Krugman wrote in a 2014 column. “It’s only a guess, but it seems likely that Vladimir Putin thought that he could overthrow Ukraine’s government, or at least seize a large chunk of its territory, on the cheap, a bit of deniable aid to the rebels, and it would fall into his lap. …
“Recently Justin Fox of the Harvard Business Review suggested that the roots of the Ukraine crisis may lie in the faltering performance of the Russian economy. As he noted, Mr. Putin’s hold on power partly reflects a long run of rapid economic growth. But Russian growth has been sputtering, and you could argue that the Putin regime needed a distraction.”
Midwifing This Thing
Or, rather than “a guess,” Krugman could have looked at the actual facts, such as the work of neocon Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland conspiring to organize a coup that would put her hand-picked Ukrainians in charge of Russia’s neighbor. Several weeks before the putsch, Nuland was caught plotting the “regime change” in an intercepted phone call with U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt.
Regarding who should replace Yanukovych, Nuland’s choice was Arseniy “Yats is the guy” Yatsenyuk. The phone call went on to muse about how they could “glue this thing” and “midwife this thing.” After the coup was glued or midwifed on Feb. 22, 2014, Yatsenyuk emerged as the new prime minister and then shepherded through the IMF austerity plan.
Since the coup regime in Kiev also took provocative steps against the ethnic Russians, such as the parliament voting to ban Russian as an official language and allowing neo-Nazi extremists to slaughter anti-coup protesters, ethnic Russian resistance arose in the east and south. That shouldn’t have been much of a surprise since eastern Ukraine had been Yanukovych’s political base and stood to lose the most from Ukraine’s economic orientation toward Europe and reduced economic ties to Russia.
Yet, instead of recognizing the understandable concerns of the eastern Ukrainians, the Western media portrayed the ethnic Russians as simply Putin’s pawns with no minds of their own. The U.S.-backed regime in Kiev launched what was called an “Anti-Terrorist Operation” against them, spearheaded by the neo-Nazi militias.
In Crimea – another area heavily populated with ethnic Russians and with a long history of association with Russia – voters opted by 96 percent in a referendum to secede from Ukraine and rejoin Russia, a process supported by Russian troops stationed in Crimea under a prior agreement with Ukraine’s government.
There was no Russian “invasion,” as The New York Times and other mainstream U.S. news outlets claimed. The Russian troops were already in Crimea assigned to Russia’s historic Black Sea naval base at Sevastopol. Putin agreed to Crimea’s annexation partly out of fear that the naval base would otherwise fall into NATO’s hands and pose a strategic threat to Russia.
But the key point regarding the crazy Western conspiracy theory about Putin provoking the crisis so he could seize territory or distract Russians from economic troubles is that Putin only annexed Crimea because of the ouster of Yanukovych and the installation of a Russia-hating regime in Kiev. If Yanukovych had not been overthrown, there is no reason to think that Putin would have done anything regarding Crimea or Ukraine.
Yet, once the false narrative got rolling, there was no stopping it. The New York Times, The Washington Post and other leading Western publications played the same role that they did during the run-up to the Iraq invasion, accepting the U.S. government’s propaganda as fact and marginalizing the few independent journalists who dared go against the grain.
Though Obama, Merkel and other key leaders know how deceptive the Western propaganda has been, they have become captives to their governments’ own lies. For them to deviate substantially from the Official Story would open them to harsh criticism from the powerful neoconservatives and their allied media outlets.
Even a slight contradiction to NATO’s “strategic communications” brought down harsh criticism on German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier after he said: “What we shouldn’t do now is inflame the situation further through saber-rattling and warmongering. … Whoever believes that a symbolic tank parade on the alliance’s eastern border will bring security is mistaken.”
So, at the Warsaw conference, the false NATO narrative had to be reaffirmed — and it was. The communiqué declared, “Russia’s aggressive actions, including provocative military activities in the periphery of NATO territory and its demonstrated willingness to attain political goals by the threat and use of force, are a source of regional instability, fundamentally challenge the Alliance, have damaged Euro-Atlantic security, and threaten our long-standing goal of a Europe whole, free, and at peace. …
“Russia’s destabilising actions and policies include: the ongoing illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea, which we do not and will not recognise and which we call on Russia to reverse; the violation of sovereign borders by force; the deliberate destabilisation of eastern Ukraine; large-scale snap exercises contrary to the spirit of the Vienna Document, and provocative military activities near NATO borders, including in the Baltic and Black Sea regions and the Eastern Mediterranean; its irresponsible and aggressive nuclear rhetoric, military concept and underlying posture; and its repeated violations of NATO Allied airspace.
“In addition, Russia’s military intervention, significant military presence and support for the regime in Syria, and its use of its military presence in the Black Sea to project power into the Eastern Mediterranean have posed further risks and challenges for the security of Allies and others.”
In the up-is-down world that NATO and other Western agencies now inhabit, Russia’s military maneuvers within it own borders in reaction to NATO maneuvers along Russia’s borders are “provocative.” So, too, is Russia’s support for the internationally recognized government of Syria, which is under attack from Islamic terrorists and other armed rebels supported by the West’s Mideast allies, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar and NATO member Turkey.
In other words, it is entirely all right for NATO and its members to invade countries at will, including Iraq, Libya and Syria, and subvert others as happened in Ukraine and is still happening in Syria. But it is impermissible for any government outside of NATO to respond or even defend itself. To do so amounts to a provocation against NATO – and such hypocrisy is accepted by the West’s mainstream news media as the way that the world was meant to be.
And those of us who dare point out the lies and double standards must be “Moscow stooges,” just as those of us who dared question the Iraq WMD tales were dismissed as “Saddam apologists” in 2003.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).
An obvious and oft-sighted criticism of the Nobel Peace Prize is just how many of its recipients have virtually no connection to the cause of peace or its advancement. If anything often it seems a reward for its negation. Henry Kissinger, recipient in 1973, would have to be the gold standard here. That very year saw Kissinger orchestrate the destruction of democracy in Chile and that was only after the secret bombing of Cambodia was concluded. Of Course stretch it forward and backward a couple of years and Kissinger’s trail of destruction extends from Bangladesh to East Timor.
A few years later Mother Theresa made an odd choice given the extra pain deliberately inflicted on the poor in her clinics and her support for Indira Gandhi’s suspension of civil liberties and in 1994 the triumvirate of Yasser Arafat, Shimon Peres, and Yitzhak Rabin can hardly be deemed inspiring. Barack Obama got the nod less than a year into his presidency. It’s a good bet there are many in Pakistan, Yemen, and Honduras that would question the wisdom of that selection.
The year 1986 saw the Nobel go to recently deceased Elie Wiesel. Wiesel was famous for his novel/memoir Night and for being, according to the Nobel Prize’s webpage, ‘the leading spokesman on the Holocaust’, therefore seemingly by definition an alleged spokesman on human rights. A quick scan through many of the obituaries written for Wiesel the past couple of days show this quote from his Nobel acceptance speech given prominent status:
I swore never to be silent whenever human beings
Endure suffering and humiliation. We must always
Take side. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.
Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.
A noble sentiment indeed but not one that seemed to inspire Wiesel to live up to his peace prize, in fact evidence suggests Wiesel had a soft spot for war, at least war in the Middle East. Four years before giving his acceptance speech of Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon, where even an Israel commission found the Israeli military indirectly responsible for the Sabra and Shatila massacre, “I support Israel-period. I identify with Israel-period.” When asked to comment of the massacre: ‘I don’t think we should even comment’, then commenting he felt ‘sadness with Israel, not against Israel’ with nary a peep about the actual victims. Some years later Wiesel would be wheeled into the spotlight by the Bush administration to endorse the forthcoming invasion of Iraq. His statement at the time read: ‘Isn’t war forever cruel, the ultimate form of violence…. And yet, this time I support President Bush’s policy of intervention when, as is this case because of Hussein’s equivocations and procrastinations, no other option remains’.
In the midst of another Israeli operation in Lebanon, this one in 2006, Wiesel stood in front of a crowd in Manhattan (along with then Senator Hillary Clinton) and declared “Israel defends herself, and we must say to Israel ‘Go on defending yourself.’” His final years didn’t slow him down. Wiesel took out a full page ad in newspapers across the country during the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict fully supporting Israel’s effort (Human Rights Watch went on to document several instances of war crimes by the Israeli military) without a syllable about diplomacy except that ‘before diplomats can begin in earnest the crucial business of rebuilding dialogue… the Hamas death cult must be confronted for what it is’. That ad was criticized by a large group of Nazi holocaust survivors in a subsequent ad in the New York Times which stated ‘Furthermore we are disgusted and outraged by Elie Wiesel’s abuse of our history in these pages to justify the unjustifiable: Israel’s wholesale effort to destroy Gaza and murder more than 2000 Palestinians, including hundreds of children.’
If being consistently hawkish on matters in the Middle East wasn’t enough for the press and governing elites to question Wiesel’s peace credentials, after all there aren’t too many wars the estates don’t get behind, it is hard to believe Wiesel wasn’t pushing his luck with some of his pieces in the Times over the years. Consider his 2001 piece Jerusalem in My Heart. Wiesel began with the following:
As a Jew living in the United States, I have long denied myself the right to intervene in Israel’s internal debates. I consider Israel’s destiny as mine as well, since my memory is bound up with its history. But the politics of Israel concern me only indirectly.
Strange as it was to be claiming neutrality not only in the face of his constant support for wars involving Israel and in light of his famous stand of neutrality as evil, Wiesel goes on in the same essay to renounce any such neutrality on the question of Jerusalem.
Now, though the topic is Jerusalem. Its fate affects not only Israelis, but also Diaspora Jews like myself. The fact that I do not live in Jerusalem is secondary; Jerusalem lives in me… That Muslims might wish to maintain close ties with this city unlike any other is understandable.
But for Jews it remains the first. Not just the first; the only.
This ode to fundamentalist thought, enhanced further by Wiesel pointing out that Jerusalem is mentioned more than 600 times in the Bible (a statement that ignores the fact that up to a fifth of Palestinians are Christians, and it’s worth asking how many times Jerusalem is mentioned in the Torah if this line of thought is to be pursued), is followed by the blatant lie, long universally known to be false, that “incited by their leaders 600,000 Palestinians left the country (in 1948) convinced that, once Israel was vanquished, they would be able to return home”.
Wiesel then ended with a call to defer the question of Jerusalem until all other pending questions are resolved, perhaps for 20 years to allow “human bridges” to be built between the two communities- which would figure to leave the city completely in Israeli hands until these bridges are built or at least until the rest of the world accepts that it belonged there all along.
About five years later (August 21, 2005) Wiesel was at it again with a bizarre piece titled The Dispossessed. It was another putrid effort that spoke of peace while covertly praising the worst of Zionist mythology. The title referred to the last holdouts of Israeli settlements in Gaza and reading between the lines Wiesel hints that the evacuation, where the settlers received generous compensation packages from the government, had the aura of a pogrom.
The images of the evacuation itself are heart-rending. Some of them unbearable. Angry men, crying women. Children led away on foot or in the arms of soldiers who are sobbing themselves.
Those “dispossessed” by Israeli soldiers were the hardcore remnant of a Greater Israel ideology more committed to fleeting territorial dreams than individual homes- most of the Gaza settlers saw the writing on the wall and left prior to the events Wiesel describes with such anguish. Of course Israel has long subsidized its settlements that have been declared illegal by the international community (including the U.S.). But of this remnant Wiesel reminds his readers: “Let’s not forget: these men and woman lived in Gaza for 38 years in the eyes of their families they were pioneers, whose idealism was to be celebrated”. Given the complete lack of interest Wiesel displays to Palestinian feelings on the same issue can it be reasonably assumed that Wiesel shares that same sentiment?
And here they are, obliged to uproot themselves, to take their holy and precious belongings, their memories and their prayers, their dreams and their dead, to go off in search of a bed to sleep in, a table to eat on, a new home, a future among strangers.
When Wiesel does turn to the Palestinians it is to criticize a lack of gratefulness in the face of noble Israeli concessions:
And here I am obliged to step back. In the tradition I claim, the Jew is ordered by King Solomon “not to rejoice when the enemy falls”. I don’t know whether the Koran suggests the same… I will perhaps be told that when the Palestinians cried at the loss of their homes, few Israelis were moved. That’s possible. But how many Israelis rejoiced?
After this demonization, ‘perhaps be told’ of ‘possible’ Palestinian suffering (and King Solomon may have been correct about not rejoicing when enemies fall but that isn’t quite how one recalls the conquering of the Canaanites as recorded by scripture), Wiesel again ends his essay with a call for a “lull” to allow “wounds to heal”- during which time Israel can presumably redraw the borders of the West Bank making a functional Palestinian state impossible. Again, like in the previous, essay he mentions the sadness he feels over Palestinian hatred of Jews; so much for neutrality.
All this reactionary thought, the worst of which would find few defenders outside the extreme Zionist right, didn’t make its way into Obama’s statement on Wiesel’s death (‘He raised his voice, not just against anti-Semitism, but against hatred, bigotry, and intolerance in all its forms’), nor did the fact that Wiesel opposed Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran (again with a full page ad in the Times). The Times itself conveniently overlooked the words Wiesel wrote for the paper in its very long obituary. If it is a timeless truism that the greatest gift modern marketing can bestow on anyone in its graces is the luxury of being judged by reputation and not by actual words and deeds, is it ever truer than for another Nobel ‘Peace’ prize winner?
Britain’s most reviled and discredited leader when leaving office in June 2007 allied with Bill Clinton’s rape of Yugoslavia, George Bush’s naked aggression on Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as Israel’s war on Palestine.
Greed now drives him. So does selling influence, becoming super-rich over the last decade, using secretive offshore companies and trusts, remaining unaccountable for involvement in genocidal high crimes – from Belgrade to Kabul to Baghdad to Palestine.
Responsible editors wouldn’t touch his rubbish. The New York Times featured it, Blair taking full advantage, mocking a democratic process, calling Brexit a “stunning coup.”
His deplorable record as prime minister featured loyal service to bankers and war profiteers, public welfare be damned. On leaving office, he failed trying to reinvent himself.
Impossible to ignore his sordid record. He’s a warmaker, not a peacemaker, a criminal like the Clintons, Bush and Obama.
He supported Gaza’s siege and Israeli wars of aggression. His appointment as Middle East peace envoy showed occupation harshness would continue, Palestinian statehood prevented.
He called Brexit supporters insurgents, “standard-bearers of a popular revolt… encourage(d) (and) magnified by… social media…”
EU membership comes with a huge price – loss of sovereignty to Brussels, most of all to Washington, doing its bidding, backing its war agenda, enriching its privileged class at the expense of most others, and tolerating no resistance.
Blair is part of the problem. Supporting wrong over right enriched him.
The London Independent once said years of investigation showed he “prostituted himself in pursuing Mammon.” Political friends and foes alike revile him.
Stephen Lendman can be reached at email@example.com.
His new book as editor and contributor is titled Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks World War III.
The tenure of Margaret Sullivan as Public Editor of the New York Times (NYT) ended on April 16, 2016, with her column “Public Editor No. 5 Is Yesterday’s News.” This followed four years of challenging work and the 691 columns and blogs she produced in carrying out her role, which she describes as “spokesperson for readers.” Sullivan was the fifth and best of the paper’s public editors, but there were serious limits to what she did or could do in that position, and she must have known and accepted them in advance. The Times officials who hired her would have vetted her carefully–she had edited the Buffalo News for over a decade– and known that she would operate within acceptable limits. She is moving on to the position of media columnist at the Washington Post (WP), And her NYT replacement, Elizabeth Spayd, worked for some years at the WP and comes directly from the editorship of the Columbia Journalism Review. Both the NYT and WP are top level establishment institutions: both supported the invasion of Iraq in 2003; both have been durable supporters of the U.S.-Israel alliance and Israeli policy; and neither has paid significant attention to the war on, and slow decline of, labor unions in the United States over the last 35 years.
Sullivan claims that the NYT has and should maintain “abiding attention to society’s havenots.” To the war on labor and decline of labor unions, which they have scanted for years? She doesn’t speak about treatment of this society’s external victims and those of our client states, which are so commonly treated in the NYT and elsewhere as “unworthy” victims, but Sullivan does mention the importance of “values,” “journalistic integrity,” “balance,” and the “core mission… to find and tell the truth ‘without fear or favor’.” These are fuzzy and leave lots of room for ideological and other forms of bias. She also stresses the danger of pushing news defined by the algorithms and priorities of the increasingly important news operations of social media. This is a good point, but more important is the threat of accepting as news and specific interpretations of the news alleged facts and interpretations that are pushed by governments and powerful interest groups in their own perceived interest. Recall once again “the lie that wasn’t shot down” by the NYT in 1983 on the shooting down of KAL-007, in service to a Cold War propaganda program. There is a very good case that this same kind of lie has been pushed by the NYT as regards the July 17, 2014 shooting down of Malaysian airliner MH-17 over southeastern Ukraine.1
Where powerful political interests are involved and a party line has been established, ”balance” and “truth telling …without fear or favor” go out the window. The war party, which includes the members of the military-industrial complex and pro-Israel interests, led to the party-line acceptance by the NYT and WP of the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction threat in 2002-2003 and the major aggression that followed. For many years Israel has been able to engage in a steady and theoretically illegal process of ethnic cleansing in Palestine, punctuated by major acts of war and war crimes, with the steady support of the United States and its allies, and hence the NYT and WP.
There was no “balance” in the news or editorial coverage of this process. Language was adapted to support this political bias—most notably, the Israelis “retaliating” to the “terrorism” of the victimized and terrorized unchosen people who regularly upset a mythical “peace process.” The evidence of imbalance in the NYT coverage is massive. Take this small pair of illustrations: First, in the course of a Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony in Israel on May 5, Major-General Yair Golan, deputy chief of staff of the Israel Defence Forces, gave a speech in which he denounced “revolting trends” that occurred in Nazi Germany and were now taking place “among us, in 2016.” These remarks caused an uproar in Israel, with Golan both denounced and defended. His statement was made shortly after a judicial exoneration of an Israeli soldier who had shot dead a wounded Palestinian prisoner. The shooting and decision were widely condemned, but also widely praised. In this context, Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, who had denounced this assassination and decision, and said of their supporters that they “don’t back our laws and values,” resigned, with his defense portfolio given to the extremist rightwinger Avigdor Lieberman.
Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak entered this controversy, stating on a TV interview that “extremists have taken over Israel” and that the country has been “infected by the seeds of fascism.” This was reported by Haaretz on May 20, which, among other things, published a satirical piece by one of their regular contributors, B. Michael, entitled “Why would that general compare Israel to 1930s Germany? Hmm…” (May 16). Michael goes on to list 25 possible reasons that might have passed through “that anti-Semitic general’s head” when he made his comparison: To take just two as illustrative—“(13) The brilliant legal sophistry that prohibits the ‘unchosen’ from purchasing state lands. Only the chosen people may do so.…. (24) A state that insists it is the ‘only democracy’ in the Middle East, whereas it is actually the only ‘military theocracy’ in the entire world.”
The NYT failed to mention the much debated Golan statement, or the followup remarks of Ehud Barak. They also failed to reprint Michael’s piece!
The second illustration is the small Israeli controversy over the Independence Day festival’s soldiers’ performance where the soldiers formations depicted a peace dove, a Star of David, and then suddenly formed the phrase: “One Nation, One People.” Some observers found this disquieting, too close to the old Nazi formula of “One Nation, One People, One Fuhrer.” There is a large minority non-Jewish population in Israel, and a majority in the occupied territories that Israel has gradually and de facto absorbed into a greater Israel. In this connection it is notable that Culture Minister Miri Regev, who organized the ceremony, said that ”The phrase ‘one people, one nation’ is an expression of the just aspiration of the Zionist movement since its inception to establish a Jewish state.” This would seem to make the link to Nazi usage more salient. Commentators in Israel, while mainly stressing the great distance of Israel from the Nazi model, are more frequently calling attention to the threat of trends in the same direction, as did Yair Golan and Ehud Barak.2 The NYT chose to play dumb on this story.
It is not just an angry Israeli critic like B. Michael you are not likely to see in the NYT, you will very very rarely see those outstanding Haaretz reporters Gideon Levy and Amira Hass, or U.S. analysts like Noam Chomsky, Richard Falk and Norman Finkelstein. Of these five, there was a single byline by Amira Hass in 2001 and one each for Chomsky and Falk in the years from January 1, 2000 to May 30, 2016 (grand total, 3). On the other hand, strong supporters of the Israeli establishment and Israeli policy Martin Indyk, Dennis Ross and Bernard-Henri Levy had 19, 16 and 9 bylines in the paper during the same period, for a grand total of 44. Balance anyone?
This imbalance and bias is not confined to the opinion pages. Another important Times-related source on Israel and Palestine is the web site TimesWarp, run since late 2012 by retired journalist Barbara Erickson. She has produced a steady stream of critiques of NYT news coverage of Israel/Palestine, her rather short pieces appearing roughly once a week. Her latest at time of writing is “The NY Times Plays the Israeli Army’s Game: Hyping Threats, Shielding Criminals” (May 30, 2016). The first three paragraphs proceed as follows:
The New York Times reports today that Israel faces ‘monumental security challenges’ and is now caught in a debate over just how tough the military should be with those who threaten to harm its soldiers and civilians.
The story, by Isabel Kershner, is framed around ‘months of Palestinian attacks’ that have left some 30 Israelis dead. She makes no mention anywhere of the more than 200 Palestinians killed by security forces over the same time period, nor does she say anything about the brutal conditions of the occupation that provide the impetus for Palestinian assaults.
Kershner briefly notes that Palestinian and human rights groups have accused the Israeli military of ‘excessive force,’ but she fails to say that the charges go beyond this vague reference: In fact, numerous groups have accused Israel of carrying out ‘street executions’ of Palestinians who posed no real threat to soldiers or civilians.
Erickson’s critiques of the NYT news reporting have been detailed and crushing, yet they have not had any observable impact on the paper’s coverage of this area, and Erickson’s name has never been mentioned in print by the public editor. Israel’s ethnic cleansing is protected by the United States and thus by the editors of the Newspaper of Record. This is how a unified and effective power system does its job.
- See Robert Parry, “More Game-Playing on MH-17 ?” Consortiumnews.com, May 24, 2016
- See Asher Schechter, “’One People, One Nation’: A Visual Representation of the Ignorance That Threatens to Consume Israel,” Haaretz.com, May 13, 2915
“No one really knows what happens now: the collective imagination leads to dark places.”
The International New York Times, June 25-26 2016
Dublin – By voting for Brexit the English and Welsh have switched on the light. And, as usual, when the light suddenly conquers the dark the cracks become obvious and the cockroaches scatter. It’s a beautiful sight.
The speculators and the hoarders are running for cover. And their liberal apologists are blinded. At the same time their global gunmen feel naked. And what once felt like a palace now looks like a filthy dungeon. However it is a dungeon with a well marked exit.
It is an English and Welsh enlightenment rather than a British one because the British elite in London and their Celtic counterparts in Edinburgh and Belfast voted to remain in the dark.
The critics of Brexit think that switching on the light is an act of madness. It is far better in their eyes to see nothing and to continuously walk into the wars.
Martin Wolf, the main man in the Financial Times, calls Brexit “irrational” and immune to “cold calculations”. And a Die Ziet editor, Jochen Bittner, writing in the New York Times thinks that Brexit is something an “Arab” would do rather than a “rational” European. Ireland’s leading liberal, Fintan O’Toole, in the Irish Times likens the voters for Brexit to a “drunk”. And the King of the liberals, Tony Blair, again in the New York Times, opines that those who voted for exit are controlled by “dangerous impulses”.
This is class war in words – a stab in the dark at the working class who actually decided the outcome of the referendum.
Despite this liberal attempt to assassinate the working class character; despite the accusation of irrationalism, and indeed the racism, directed at the English and Welsh workers: the vote for Brexit was an act of pure reason.
No matter the perspective (political, economic, military or moral) Brexit makes perfect sense for the working class. Has there ever been in the history of England or Wales a better example of rationalism? Probably not.
According to the mainstream media the determining issue in the referendum was immigration. The mainstream however is Murdoch: a man who has built an empire on lies and insults directed at the working class. And contrary to what the “quality” liberal press think: Murdoch doesn’t speak for the working class. And neither do the right-wingers, Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage, who were and are presented as being the leaders of Brexit.
The vote for Brexit was based on solid ground rather than on a fog of emotion. There was nothing alcoholic about it, nothing fearful nor fantastical nor dangerous. In fact the vote was raw rationalism. And the fact that it was based on “uneducated” workers is brilliantly hopeful.
The empirical reasons for voting for Brexit were as clear as day. The obvious one is that there is no “European Union” to belong to. Germany rules the roost. The “Union” doesn’t exist. But the “Apartheid” does.
The facts have being piling up for all to see in recent years. Only an educated fool could miss them. The financial crisis of 2008 crystallised everything. The subsequent rape of Greece and the generalised attack on workers throughout the EU (Austerity) made the EU feel more like a Banana Republic than a Super State.
And the 2014 coup in Ukraine made this banana feeling unbearable. The USA was doing to Europe what it did to Honduras in 2009. To paraphrase the US Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasian Affairs, Victoria Nuland, the US was “fucking” Europe. And the response of the EU? Silence. Not a word of complaint. So why would anyone want to belong to an organisation that is being “fucked”?
The fact that damns the EU the most however, in the eyes of “cold calculation”, is the EU’s death wish. The EU’s push for World War III in the East is truly mad. And makes a mockery of the “peaceful” portrayal of the EU.
By allowing NATO to goose-step the EU into the Middle East and up to the borders of Russia completely discredits the EU. Even more so if you’re an English or Welsh worker. Because it is they who are expected to kill and die on the frontline. The fact is that the English and Welsh working class are the EU’s best canon fodder. And in a time of permanent war: why should they continue to be so?
The vote for Brexit was not a vote against immigration but was a vote against the wars of the ruling class – those stemming from neoliberalism and imperialism (class and world war). That is why the ruling class are now panicking.
This is the hard factual ground upon which Brexit stands. But you will not see or feel this in the gutter liberal press and the gutter liberal education that dominates the European mind.
Therefore to grasp EU reality despite EU propaganda is a triumph of human reason. To understand the class hatred that is dressed up as the “educated” liberal norm and to rebel against it is rationalism at work. And to see the real race hatred that is presented as sophisticated EU foreign policy and to reject it is rational logic at it’s best.
In short: to identify the disunity beneath the rhetoric of European unity is today straightforward common sense. And this is what the common people have in abundance. The English and the Welsh have just tapped into it. And by doing so they may have just kick started another enlightenment.
And what about the darkness? The New York Times, the leading liberal daily, is trapped inside it. Read it’s June 27 International editorial:
“Compounding the problem [of Brexit] is Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin. Ruthlessly playing a weak hand, he has worked hard to undermine NATO and challenge the post-cold War order by invading Ukraine, funding right-wing groups in France and elsewhere and recklessly brandishing his military power from the Baltics to Syria. European countries have struggled to remain united on issues ranging from NATO’s budget to how best to respond to Mr. Putin.”
Have you ever read anything more sinister and stupid? This no doubt is what the US and EU “elite” see in their dark “places”. Thanks for switching on the light England and Wales.
Aidan O’Brien is a hospital worker in Dublin, Ireland.
A Night at the Theater
One evening a gentleman decides to go to the theater. There is a play showing that is reputed to be a very funny comedy. It’s hilarious, people are raving about it.
At various points in the middle of the performance, hecklers disrupt the play, shouting disparaging insults at the actors on stage. At first, the actors on stage ignore this and carry on in their roles, but then, at some point, some of them lose patience with this, and respond to the hecklers. Let’s say it begins when an actress on the stage, who is portraying a very prim, proper lady in the play, goes completely out of character and responds to the hecklers with salty language worthy of a sailor. The audience bursts out laughing. Then other actors go out of character as well and there is hilarious repartee between actors on stage and the hecklers in the audience insulting one another.
Truth told, the whole thing is actually very entertaining, but our upstanding gentleman is kind of annoyed. He would very much like to the see the play as it is intended to be seen. But also, the whole thing is rather strange. He wonders: what is going on here? Why are these hecklers allowed to do this? Why aren’t they kicked out of the theater?
Well, this is known to be a very fine theatrical production with some superb actors and he would very much like to see it properly without any interruptions from hecklers. So, at a later date, he goes back to the theater. He buys his ticket, finds his seat…. Amazingly, at the same key moments in the play, the very same hecklers disrupt the performance, just like the first time. And there is the very same repartee between the actors and the hecklers in the audience.
Now, this man is completely perplexed. He cannot understand why the theater continually allows these hecklers to disrupt the performance. He is utterly confused. At this point, the lady sitting in the seat next to him leans over to him, smiles, and whispers: “I love this. It’s my favorite part of the show.”
The man smiles back sheepishly. He is feeling a little bit embarrassed that he was so slow to figure it out. But, of course it now dawns on him what is really going on. By jove, he’s got it!
This “Night at the Theater” story that I have outlined provides some framework for thinking about the pervasive propaganda matrix and we shall return to it. However, first, we need to go over some basics.
Shit happens. Organic versus synthetic events.
When you turn on the television and watch the news, there are, very broadly speaking, two types of news being reported: organic and synthetic events.
The concept of an organic event was perhaps best characterized by Forrest Gump, when he said: “Shit happens.” Indeed it does, a neverending flow of it. Just offhand, on the national and international levels, there is usually some sort of ongoing natural disaster somewhere: an earthquake, a hurricane, floods, forest fires… In these cases we get all the typical news reporting on the devastation and the ongoing humanitarian relief efforts… In the more local news, there are random accidents. In particular, traffic accidents happen continually. A truck collides with a bus and there are a number of fatalities. They dispatch a reporter to the scene who interviews various witnesses…
Such things make up your basic “shit happens” news. We could make the following two observations about organic events:
- It is not unreasonable to assume that the reporting of an organic event is broadly honest.
- The level of attention that an organic event receives is about commensurate with its scale.
I actually worded these points a bit carefully. For example, regarding point 1, I am quite aware that mainstream news reporting is pretty unreliable. They certainly get all kinds of things wrong continually. Still, one’s reasonable baseline assumption is that what they are telling you happened is pretty similar to what really happened. Or, in other words, the things they get wrong tend to be within the range of honest error — that is, in the case of an organic event.
As for point 2 above, just consider the fact that, on a typical day in the United States alone, about a hundred people die in traffic accidents, more or less. As such, unless it is something pretty spectacular or somebody famous is involved, a traffic accident will only be news locally. Moreover, it will only receive media attention for a short period of time. Soon, some other shit happens and then the focus shifts over to that.
Now, obviously, when it comes to understanding the propaganda matrix, it is not the organic events that we are interested in. It’s the other kind, the synthetic event. However, on occasion, it is easier to define things negatively, not by what they are, but rather, by what they are not. With a non-organic, or synthetic event, the above two observations do not apply. It is quite the opposite. Thus:
When it comes to synthetic events, the baseline assumption is that everything they are telling you and showing you is fake, at least in the absence of strong evidence. Moreover, it is utterly naive to assume that the reporting on a synthetic event is honest.
In other words, point 1 above definitely does not apply! Nor does point 2. Very typically, the first strong clue that something is a synthetic event will be that it receives a level of attention that is not at all in proportion to what one would expect. I suspect that this is an analytical tool that has been valid for a good while. For example, consider the break-in at the Watergate Hotel on 6/17/1972. This crime (though more the subsequent cover-up admittedly) is the event that led to the Watergate scandal that caused Richard Nixon to resign the presidency in disgrace. Look at the scale of the crime. Did it not receive an outrageous level of attention when compared to so many other cases of high-level criminality? Hmm…. Now, this actually works both ways. Sometimes an event receives far more attention than one would expect, but other times far less. For example, the perfectly symmetrical implosion of WTC Building 7 never being mentioned in the mainstream media is a perfect example of a key event that receives suspiciously little attention.
Let us now examine a more recent narrative that should elicit warning bells precisely due to how much attention it has received.
Is this shit for real? The case of Pastor Terry Jones
Consider the following video, a news segment from the year 2010.
I suppose most readers will remember this, at least vaguely. It is part of a saga that received an immense amount of attention over a number of years. The central character, one Terry Jones, was purportedly the spiritual leader of some 50 people in Gainesville, Florida — a dozen families more or less. (I suspect that this was a high-ball estimate of his following, since they have every reason to exaggerate this man’s importance. But certainly, he did not have more than 50 followers, most likely fewer. Like, zero maybe?) In any case, Mr. Jones would not figure in a Who’s Who of the Christian religion. He is not the Pope and he ain’t the Archbishop of Canterbury neither. As far as I can tell, the “evangelical” church that he was leading at the time is not a part of, nor is it recognized by, any major Christian denomination.
Nonetheless, as we see in the video, this man gained national and international attention via his threats to burn a Koran. Or Korans in the plural. Yes, the President of the United States was imploring this man not to burn any Korans. Hillary Clinton as well. Apparently, the Pope in Rome also pleaded with him not to do this. (I assume His Holiness did not call collect…)
The whole thing is really quite extraordinary. General David Petraeus later appears in this news segment claiming that this man’s burning of a Koran in Florida will “make his job very difficult” and will “endanger the lives of American servicemen”. It is hard to know even where to begin deconstructing the lunacy of this whole narrative. Just for starters, why does nobody ask the most obvious question about this?
How would the people in Afghanistan even know that this old geezer in Florida is burning any Korans?
Now, I have never been to Aghanistan and have no plans to visit. However, I think it is a very safe bet that the people in Afghanistan do not know about Pastor Terry Jones and his Burn-A-Koran day. I would venture the guess that you could travel the entire length and breadth of that country and ask people if they knew about this and none would. Of course not. This whole synthetic event is entirely constructed for a Western audience! The people in far off Afghanistan would know nothing about it.
Actually, I was intrigued to learn, a few years back, that the majority of people in Afghanistan do not even know about the attacks of 9/11. Consider this report or this one. Apparently, around 92% of the Afghan people have no idea about 9/11! You show them a photograph of the twin towers burning and they have no idea where or when this occurred. And they certainly make no connection between that and the U.S. invasion of their country. I found the whole thing really quite intriguing. What this really goes to show is that the whole purpose of the 9/11 synthetic event was to establish a narrative for a Western audience. The population of Afghanistan does not, by and large, even know the official pretext for the invasion of their country. No, nobody ever bothered to tell them! I have absolutely no idea how many Iraqis know what the official reason for the invasion of their country was. (Remember that? Saddam’s non-existent WMD?) I would not be surprised if it was similar to the Afghan case, where the majority of the people in Iraq do not know what the reasons for the invasion were. Or, more precisely, they may have no idea what reasons were given to the American people to justify the war.
In any case, if fewer than 10% of the Afghans even know about the towers going down on 9/11, then what percentage would know about Terry Jones burning a Koran in Gainesville, Florida? So what on earth is David Petraeus talking about? It’s as if he lives in a mental universe in which the people in Afghanistan all have cable and watch CNN and FOX News. Maybe some underling should inform him. Like so:
“Sir, these are very culturally deprived people we’re talking about, General Petraeus, Sir.”
“How bad is it? Tell me the worst.”
“Sir, this here is the veritable Heart of Darkness, Sir. Sir, most of them have never even seen Kim Kardashian’s ass, Sir.”
“My God! The Horror! The Horror…”
“Sir, yes, Sir.”
Now, to be clear, I do not believe that Petraeus really is such a fool. He knows this whole story is bullshit but is playing along. He pretends to be so concerned that the Florida pastor burning a Koran will put American troops in Afghanistan in extra danger. He understands that he is supposed to go along with this narrative. It is what is expected of him.
The way the story then developed was that Mr. Jones first relented and did not burn any Korans as planned, on 9/11/2010, but then he did burn a Koran (or maybe more than one Koran) on 3/20/2011. As we see, General Petraeus had warned of dire consequences if Pastor Jones went ahead and burned a Koran and it turns out he was right! We are then told in the various mainstream news sources that this led to riots in Afghanistan, in particular in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif. There, on 4/1/2011 (is the April 1 date a coincidence?) the New York Times, America’s “newspaper of record” reports:
MAZAR-I-SHARIF, Afghanistan — Stirred up by three angry mullahs who urged them to avenge the burning of a Koran at a Florida church, thousands of protesters on Friday overran the compound of the United Nations in this northern Afghan city, killing at least 12 people, Afghan and United Nations officials said.
The version of events in Wikipedia is:
A riot erupted in Mazar-i-Sharif on 1 April 2011 during the protest over the burning of the Qur’an in the US. Estimates of the number of protesters ranged from “hundreds” to as many as 2,000. The protest began near the city’s Blue Mosque shortly after Friday prayer,with protesters chanting “Death to the USA, death to Israel.” During the sermon, which is part of the Friday prayer, worshipers were told by three mullahs to begin protesting in favor of the arrest of Pastor Terry Jones, who led the Qur’an burning.
So we are told that this riot in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan took place because Terry Jones finally burned a Koran. The Afghans are not rioting because their country has been invaded and occupied by foreign troops but rather, because some utterly insignificant individual on the other side of the world burned a Koran.
The saga does not end here. Over a year later, on 9/12/2012, the Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, called Pastor Terry Jones on the phone and asked him to withdraw his support for a film “whose portrayal of the Prophet Muhammad has sparked violent protests.” Now the focus of the narrative had shifted over to Libya. The Libyans are not angry, apparently, that their country has been “bombed back into the Stone Age” and tens of thousands of their people are dead and their country in a state of anarchy. No, they are angry about a film that “portrays Muhammad unfavorably”. And now, of course, the Koran-burning pastor who caused a deadly riot on the other side of the world the previous year is brought back into the story….
If a tree falls in the forest…
We could have a field day analyzing and ridiculing all of this synthetic narrative. Surely you understand the overall point. This whole Koran-burning saga already stands out as a synthetic news story simply by virtue of how much attention is devoted to this insignificant personage, Terry Jones. Unless you happen to be a very famous person reading these lines, I think it is safe to say that if you or I threatened to burn a Koran, it would not be an international news story, we would not receive phone calls from the President or the Pope. No, we would be ignored. In fact, in that video it is mentioned that various people sent Korans to Jones for him to burn. Think about that. The people who send him Korans to burn know perfectly well that if they themselves burn a Koran, it has no transcendence because nobody is paying any attention. So they send the Korans to him to burn. At least that’s what is claimed, that various people sent him Korans to burn, 200 of them…
The other funny thing about the whole story is that the entire media circus that they create around this individual pretty much obliges him to finally burn a Koran or two. After all, a sword swallower must eventually swallow a sword. He cannot just continually announce that he is going to do it, though he may wait until a sufficient crowd has gathered.
So, just as Evel Knievel must eventually do his announced motorcycle stunt, so the Koran-burning pastor must eventually burn a Koran. This man’s entire protracted “fifteen minutes of fame” is based on him burning the Koran, so he eventually does so. When you think about this whole story a bit, something occurs to you: if they really, really did not want this man to burn a Koran, wouldn’t they just stop devoting all this attention to him? If you did not want Evel Knievel to do his motorcycle stunt, you would just turn off the cameras and not film him and, presumably, he wouldn’t bother. The whole point of the stunt is to attract publicity so if you don’t give him the publicity…
Roger Rabbit Redux
In an earlier essay, I coined the term Roger Rabbit Narrative to refer to these kinds of synthetic news stories that have cartoonish elements. This is an allusion to the movie “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” in which human (i.e. real, organic) actors share the screen with cartoons, i.e. synthetic elements. So, an RRN is not a total fiction or a cartoon. Some of the elements in the story are perfectly real.
So, in this particular RRN, Mr. Jones finally burns a Koran, and 12 days later, there is a riot in northern Afghanistan in which a number of people are killed. Now, I have to assume that the riot in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan really took place. It was, I suppose, an organic event that happened for whatever local reasons and had no more to do with Pastor Jones burning a Koran than with the price of tea in China. However, news sources that so many people treat as reliable, such as the New York Times or Wikipedia, attribute this event to the Koran burning in Florida. In other words, they incorporate a real, organic event into an overall synthetic narrative. So, you see, not all the events in a synthetic story are fake. Not necessarily. However, the explanation for the event is frequently absurd, laughable. Cartoonish really. This happens because the organic event gets subsumed into the framework of the synthetic narrative. This is bound to have various glitches, which I have called RRA‘s, Roger Rabbit Artifacts.
The whole Terry Jones Koran-burning saga dates back six years and I was significantly less aware at that time. I looked at the whole thing again recently, and one of the first things I wondered was whether this Pastor Terry Jones is even a real person. It occurred to me that he might just be an actor playing the role, especially after it dawned on me that “Terry Jones” was also the name of one of the founding members of the Monty Python comedy troupe. That the Koran-burning pastor would have the same name as the director of The Life of Brian struck me as so exquisitely ironic that, initially, I thought this could not be a coincidence. Surely, I thought, this must be some kind of a little knowing wink from the people who created this narrative. Now, I am not so sure. I tend to think that it is a coincidence but, to be honest, I am hardly certain. (If another Koran-burning pastor shows up and his name “just happens to be” John Cleese or Eric Idle, then….)
Finally, what it comes down to is that, even if Pastor Terry Jones is not a completely fictitious personage played by an actor, he might as well be! I have no doubt that he was, somehow or other, recruited to play a role in a sort of Deep State Roger Rabbit production. The Koran-burning pastor doubtless has some cartoonish aspects, but the people most ludicrously caricatured in the story are surely the Muslims who run amok and kill people because they have heard that some insignificant person on the other side of the world is burning a Koran. It is as if one were to claim that Germans in 1945 were upset, not because their country had been bombed into rubble or that foreign armies were occupying their country, but rather, because somebody in Florida had burnt a copy of Mein Kampf! I don’t think that would fly. This led me to conclude that Muslims have, by now, been caricatured far more than even the Nazis have been. And that really is saying something!
So, of course the dominant narrative motif running through the story is just how batshit crazy Muslims supposedly are. Here it is their murderous reaction to the burning of a Koran. In another set of RRNs, mostly taking place in Europe, it is their reaction to offensive cartoons, culminating in the Charlie Hebdo false flag of 7/1/2015. The basic idea of the Muslims as being so irrational provides a general cover for all sorts of RRAs (Roger Rabbit Artifacts) that are visible. If the behavior of a character in the story is utterly implausible, the explanation is basically: “Waddya expect? We know dem Ay-Rabs are freakin’ crazy, so…” So, for example, in the event in San Bernardino of 12/2/2015, one of the alleged suicide attackers is a young wife with a newborn baby. This narrative is so extremely psychologically implausible that I have speculated that it must have been improvisational in nature. Probably they had planned a different story, but couldn’t use it and this was the best they could come up with under time pressure. In any case, all of these absurd plot lines are rendered plausible in the public’s mind if they can be convinced that Arabs, and Muslims generally, are just completely irrational lunatics. So, one could say that the whole “Dem Ay-Rabs are crazy” meme is sort of a general purpose prefiguration for a whole set of narratives.
All the world is a stage…
My suspicions about Pastor Jones being an actor may seem paranoid to some readers, but then again, once you study more of these synthetic events, you will come to see that such suspicions are actually well founded. You will see that, in many cases, indisputably actors really have been involved. Let us consider the case of Ms. Ginnie Watson, who was, it is claimed, present in the Bataclan Theater in Paris on 11/13/2015 when “Islamist terrorists” came in and murdered 89 people. This young lady is definitely an aspiring actress. Here is her IMDB page. Her acting career has not been terribly distinguished. For example, she had the role of “Bretonne #2″ in a French children’s film based on the popular Astérix comic book character. Consider this pastiche of some of Ms. Watson’s acting career:
Now, I would encourage everybody to watch this video and draw their own conclusions. In my view, it is an extreme understatement to say that Ms. Watson is a poor actress. It goes beyond that. When she was interviewed in the above video, she had supposedly witnessed very many people being brutally murdered only a short time before. I mean to say, it is not that she plays her part poorly; it is more like she does not even understand the role she is supposed to be playing, that of a poor girl who has just witnessed a horrific mass murder and just narrowly escaped herself. She should be completely traumatized, a total nervous wreck. No wonder her acting career never went anywhere.
If this is the first such case you have examined, you might think that Ms. Watson’s performance here is uniquely terrible. That, however, is not the case. These sorts of synthetic events are full of notorious cases of unconvincing crisis acting. In that same event in Paris, there was a girl from Australia, one Emma Parkinson, who supposedly received a bullet or two in the ass, who also gave an amazingly bizarre interview detailing her alleged experience. Just as in the case of Ginnie Watson, being trapped in a concert hall where 89 people were murdered, and herself being shot, did not seem to have much effect on her sunny disposition.
Terrible, unconvincing acting is par for the course. Consider these young people, whose mother was — so they say — gunned down by the racist white boy Dylann Roof about a year ago:
It’s part of the show!
I began this essay by telling a story about a man’s visit to the theater. For the life of him, he cannot figure out what is going on. Why are these “hecklers” allowed to disrupt the show?
In that story, the protagonist is definitely a bit on the slow side. He has to go back to the theater and see the show again to figure out what is going on. Surely most people catch on the first time round. Even so, we can be sure that people will vary quite a bit. Some will figure out that the “hecklers” are part of the show almost instantly, and the rest will take varying amounts of time.
You see, the show I described does break the normal model of how things work. Normally, there is a very clear-cut separation between two groups of people in the theater: the actors who are up there on the stage performing and the spectators who are in the audience watching the performance. Actually, there is a technical term for this in drama critique, the Fourth Wall. In this theater show, when an actor on stage directly responds to a heckler, the “fourth wall” has been breached. To realize fully what is really going on, however, the spectator must realize that this is deliberate, scripted; it’s part of the show! Until one makes that conceptual shift, one cannot really understand what is going on!
And, yes, some people will make that conceptual shift faster than others. Still, it is hard to imagine somebody going back to the theater again and again and simply never figuring it out. Yet, strangely, this is precisely what happens with Deep State theatrical productions. Most people simply never see through the various hoaxes and false narratives they are presented. In the terminology I introduced in an earlier essay, they never have their LPM, their Ludek Pachman moment.
Once you begin to perceive the propaganda matrix and perceive synthetic events and narratives, certain things that were incomprehensible become painfully obvious. For example, are you still wondering why Pastor Terry Jones receives such an inordinate level of attention over his pathetic Koran-burning stunt? Well, broadly speaking, it’s for the same reason that the “hecklers” are never thrown out of the theater in the above story. They are part of the show. If you or I go to that show and start heckling loudly, we likely will be thrown out of the theater, because we’re not part of the show!
Likewise, you or I can burn a stack of Korans and throw in some Talmuds and Bhagavad Gita’s to boot, and, most likely nobody will pay us any attention! We are not part of the show. That’s also why we can march down the street screaming “God hates fags!” at the top of our lungs and we will never receive any of the media attention that the Westboro Baptist Church does.
There are some notorious mosques in Britain that are reputed to be hotbeds of radical Islamism. One such place is the Finsbury Park Mosque in North London. Another is the Al Manaar Mosque in West London. There are in-depth journalistic exposés about this and they always ponder the question of why the imam who is preaching violent Jihad against the West is not shipped back to Saudi Arabia or wherever he came from. Well, surely it’s for the same reason that the “hecklers” aren’t thrown out of the theater. It’s all part of the show!
Exeunt Stage Right
Speaking of being part of the show, it looks like Pastor Terry Jones is no longer part of it. I did a bit of last-minute googling because I was wondering what that guy was up to, whether he was still at the church in Gainesville, whether he was still burning Korans. It turns out that, as of early 2015, Mr. Jones was running a fast-food concession in the food court of a shopping center in Bradenton, which is about 170 miles from the church in Gainesville. Yep, he leveraged his experience burning Korans to become one of the “Fry Guys” making “Gourmet Fries”.
The story was picked up by the Washington Post, which also reported that some Jihadist group had earlier put a 2.2 million dollar reward on Mr. Jones’s head. However, there was no mention of the shopping mall food court having any special security dispositions. (Maybe the reward was in Zimbabwe dollars.) The WP article actually has some fascinating tidbits. For example:
Notoriety has its benefits, he has learned, especially compared with obscurity, which he experienced in late summer when he set fire to hundreds of Korans at a protest rally and was largely ignored.
So, apparently, Jones, as recently as the summer of 2014, did set fire to a bunch of Korans. Hundreds of them. But he was ignored. (Poor fella, reminds me of when I invited everybody over for an orgy but nobody came…. Dontcha just hate that!?) Surprisingly (NOT) the article does not pose the obvious question: how come this person could merely threaten to burn a Koran in 2010 and receive national and international attention, yet four years later, in 2014, he actually does set fire to hundreds of Korans, and nobody bats an eyelid? He is kind of like a one-trick magician whose magic spell ceases to work. He sets fire to the books and thinks that he is going to get more phone calls from the President and the Pope. And then…. nothing happens… Did he just lose his mojo?
They don’t ask this question but I think there is a fairly simple answer: he is no longer part of the show! The Koran-burning schtick was getting old and the man had outlived his usefulness. (The “Muslims are nut-jobs” rhetoric is still going strong, but the “they really hate it when you burn a Koran” sub-plot seems to have given way to the “Muslims really, really hate homos” meme.) Anyway, the WP does not tell us that Pastor Jones is no longer in the show, because that would mean admitting that there is a show! The entire pretense of the mainstream media is that the show does not exist. The show is just a figment of the imagination of silly “conspiracy theorists” like myself.
Another fascinating thing was that the article casually mentions that Terry Jones does not himself eat any of the food items that he sells at “Fry Guys”. No, he himself apparently only eats organic food, does not drink soft drinks, but water and fresh fruit juice, though he does enjoy a glass of nice red wine now and then. This made me immediately wonder: if he does not himself eat the food he is selling at Fry Guys, maybe he also had no particular taste for the Islamophobic nonsense he was “selling” from his church back when he was part of the show. (Hey, I’m selling this shit to make a living, but I don’t eat the shit myself!)
“Show? What show?” The first rule of Fight Club is: You do not talk about Fight Club.
I mentioned above the concept of the Fourth Wall in drama theory, this notion of an invisible wall that separates the actors on stage from the audience. In a conventional, straight-laced dramatic production, the fourth wall always remains intact. Thus, in a John Wayne western, John Wayne never turns to the audience and says sarcastically: “Now, moviegoers, to your great surprise (knowing wink) I’m gonna git on that horse and go chase the bad guys.” Of course not. No matter how cliché-ridden the script is, it is well understood that the actors must not betray any consciousness that the whole thing is pretend. However corny your lines are, you must take your role seriously (or pretend to…) and stay in character — whether you’re the star of the show or have a very small bit part.
The mainstream media coverage of synthetic events follows the same approximate principle. In a live performance, all the performers must stay “in character”. That means that, even if somebody else in the show is screwing up, you still stay in character. For example, I linked above the video of Ms. Ginnie Watson. Ms. Watson is an actress pretending that she just survived a mass shooting. What I declined to mention was that the person interviewing her is also an actor basically; he is an actor pretending to be a journalist. Ginnie is flubbing her lines and giving a very poor performance. The interviewer does not call her out. He simply continues in his allotted role.
You see, anybody who is part of this mainstream media world, or aspires to be part of it, absolutely must maintain the pretense that these synthetic events are real. To admit that the people in the above-linked videos are just actors is essentially tantamount to admitting that these events are synthetic. A real, organic event does not have crisis actors on the scene.
Guarding the Gates
In a previous essay, I coined the term Taboo Induced Tortuous Thinking, or TITT for short. Taboo Induced Tortuous Thinking leads to Taboo Induced Tortuous Theories, i.e. TITTs, which are far-fetched explanations of events that are necessary because the correct explanation is taboo. The biggest overarching taboo in the mainstream media propaganda matrix is that the propaganda matrix even exists. This is basically equivalent, in the terminology of this essay, to claiming that all events reported in the media are organic. Synthetic events do not exist. And that is largely what the whole weaponized “conspiracy theory” construct is about.
I referred to the “blowback theory of terrorism” as a TITT. The overall purpose of this TITT is to maintain the pretense that a series of synthetic events, such as 9/11 or 7/7 in London or the more recent things in Paris and Brussels, are real, organic events. Hey, they must be, since synthetic events, except in the minds of crazed “conspiracy theorists”, do not exist, right? Now, if you want to claim that something does not exist when it does, what you have to do is ignore, suppress, or somehow explain away all the evidence that this phenomenon really does exist. I wrote extensively about this, in the section which goes over a lot of the tactics they use — TMT‘s, TITT Monger Tactics.
The people whom I have called TITT mongers are more typically referred to, in the Truth community, as “controlled opposition” or “intellectual gatekeepers”. The term “gatekeeper” actually contains an interesting metaphor. Now, starting with first principles, somebody who guards a gate is there to keep you from going somewhere, right? In this case, they are very intent on preventing you from, as I put it earlier, escaping the Roger Rabbit Mental World.
Now, any metaphor or analogy is always imperfect. Still, even a very flawed analogy can be useful, because analyzing its flaws can be illuminating in itself. So let’s see…
If you really are in a prison and there is a front gate with one or more armed guards, you know you are in the prison and you know that you cannot leave — like, on account of the pesky little problem that the guards have guns and you don’t…. that kind of thing… In short, unlike the intellectual gatekeeper, these guys will prevent you from leaving the prison by physical force.
But also, the goals of the regular prison gatekeeper and the intellectual gatekeeper differ. Yes, both kinds of “gatekeeper” want to prevent you from leaving the prison. However, the intellectual gatekeeper has an additional goal: he wants you to believe that you are not imprisoned!
Or, in other words, he must, unlike an actual prison guard, maintain the pretense that the prison is not a prison. You know, I think this is more than a slight detail. It’s a very important difference here, where the analogy breaks down.
Finally, I was thinking about a different metaphor. Suppose you book a trip to an all-inclusive resort in some exotic foreign country, a Club Med sort of deal.
It’s a beautiful place with its own private beach, restaurants, bars, and all sorts of sports and recreational activities. Nonetheless, after a few days there, you are getting pretty bored. It’s starting to feel like a gilded cage. You think you will go out and experience the real country a bit. So you think you are going to go outside the resort complex and explore a bit. When you are about to go out the front gate, somebody engages you in conversation. They ask you what you want, what you need… It turns out that the whole point of the conversation is to tell you that you have everything you could conceivably want within the resort complex and have no reason to wander outside the gate. The person is also likely to tell you that there is nothing of any interest to see outside the resort anyway. Also, the world outside the resort is dangerous and crime-ridden. You suspect that he is exaggerating quite a bit, though you don’t know absolutely for sure.
It strikes me that this is much more like the intellectual gatekeeper than the prison guard. For starters, though they want you to stay in the complex, you actually are free to leave the place whenever you want. They have no legal means to stop you. There are really basically two ways they can get you to stay:
- They convince you that you have everything you need within the complex and there is no conceivable reason to leave.
- They convince you that something terrible will happen to you if you do leave. Only a silly, foolhardy person would ever want to walk outside the gate. In that vein, they work on you psychologically, insinuating that your interest in exploring the world outside the resort means there is something wrong with you.
As regards point 1, the intellectual gatekeepers must try to convince you that all the intellectual inquiry, debate, and critique that you need, or that is needed, is within the gates that they are “guarding”. Outside of that is just “crazy conspiracy theories”. And, yes, there is what seems to be an anti-Establishment discourse. Some of these gatekeepers mount a fierce critique of U.S. foreign policy, for example. However, what you should notice, eventually, is that the critique has very well defined limits. For example, you can question the entire “War on Terror” narrative, but you cannot question the synthetic events that make up the narrative! In fact, it is presumed that synthetic events do not exist. Things like 9/11 and 7/7 are organic events, and thus, the reporting on the events themselves is assumed to be broadly honest. This is ultimately quite self-defeating: how can you really oppose these synthetic narratives while assuming that their version of all these synthetic events is truthful?!
As for point 2 above, there is an acronym (not of my invention!) for this. FUD. Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt… You know, it’s a kind of emotional manipulation, where they try to create a sort of mental fog. For example, if you conclude that Ms. Ginnie Watson (speaking of TITTs…) is a false witness, it must be because you are a terrible, unfeeling person. This kind of thing. Well, the hell with that. Are you really going to let a bunch of neocon warmongers tell you that you are an unfeeling person?
Anyway, as I said, all metaphors are imperfect. I prefer this one, the Club Med gilded cage, because, unlike an actual prison, it is perfectly clear that you can walk out whenever you want to. So I say to you: just do it. Walk out the gate. There is a world out there to explore.
Oh, and I might add, though it is entirely optional… if you run into any “gatekeepers” on your way out, tell them to go f*** themselves!
Fan mail (as well as hate mail) can be directed to revusky at gmail.
Within hours of the mass shooting in Orlando, the corporate media backing neoconservative favorite Hillary Clinton began, almost unanimously, to exploit the opportunity to passively promote holocaust and genocide denial.
Outlets including the NY Times, CBS News, NBC News, CNN, Newsweek, USA Today, and so on, all referred to the Orlando massacre unequivocally as the worst shooting and/or worst act of gun violence in US history. (CBS News, at the time it was accessed for this piece, was running a large “I’m With Her” ad for Hillary Clinton at the top of its page.) A useful comparison to the corporate assessment might be to imagine if a German civilian gassed a group of people to death and the German press reported it as the worst gassing in German history. After the Paris shooting, the Western press likewise reported that as the worst shooting in recent Parisian history, despite that the Parisian police not long ago massacred some 300 peaceful marchers protesting the French dictatorship in Algeria and dumped their bodies in the river that runs through the city (more info in previous piece).
Native News Online quickly pointed out that the corporate media was almost completely whitewashing “mass killings of American Indians in its reporting” on Orlando. It gave two well-known (as far as these go) examples of worse gun-violence and mass-shootings: some 300 Native men, women, and children, were massacred at Wounded Knee, and 70 to 180 were massacred at Sand Creek.
One commenter on the Native News piece shared that she “wrote to every single news outlet yesterday from the New York Times, the Guardian, the Huffington Post, and Salon to CNN, NBC, and the BBC. I have yet to receive a reply from any of them with the exception of the Oregonian, who changed its language immediately. They also informed me that the Associated Press has just begun to change its language. I’m hoping the Guardian and BBC begin to do the same too.”
Another commenter on the Native News piece gave a short list of some acts of gun-violence, mass-shootings, or mass killings perpetrated in US history, by US forces:
1864 – 300 Yana in California
1863 – 280 Shoshone in Idaho
1861 – 240 Wilakis in California
1860 – 250 Wiyot in California
1859 – 150 Yuki in California
1853 – 450 Tolowa in California
1852 – 150 Wintu in California
1851 – 300 Wintu in California
1850 – 100 Pomo in California
1840 – 140 Comanches in Colorado
1833 – 150 Kiowa in Oklahoma
1813 – 200 Creek in Alabama
1813 – 200 Creek in Alabama
1782 – 100 Lanape in Pennsylvania
1730 – 500 Fox in Illinois
1713 – 1000 Tuscarora in North Carolina
1712 – 1000 Fox in Michigan
1712 – 300 Tuscarora in North Carolina
1704 – 1000 Apalachee killed & 2000 sold into slavery in North Carolina
1676 – 100 Algonquian and Nipmuc in Massachusetts.
1676 – 100 Occaneechi in Virginia
1675 – 340 Narragansett in Rhode Island
1644 – 500 Lanape in New York
1640 – 129 Massapeag in New York
1637 – 700 Pequot in Connecticut
1623 – 200 Powhatan & Pamunkey in Virginia with “poison wine”
Professor David E. Stannard describes one such massacre, wherein US forces weakened a Delaware group of Native men, women, children, and elders through starvation, convinced them it would be in their best interest to disarm, then tied them up and exterminated them and mutilated their dead bodies. Stannard notes that such massacres by US forces “were so numerous and routine that recording them eventually becomes numbing”. (American Holocaust, pp. 125/6)
A couple of corporate news outlets used somewhat more precise language to describe the Orlando massacre, editorializing (while again presenting it as fact) that it was the ‘worst shooting in modern US history’.
However, this still leaves unstated the writer’s opinion of what constitutes ‘modern’. The wounded knee massacre took place in 1898, and the Black Wall Street massacre, for example, in which 55-400 people were murdered and a wealthy black community in Oklahoma ethnically cleansed, took place in 1921. (More examples.)
And, of course, the US has massacred millions of people, many of them with rifles and other types of guns, but also in far worse ways, outside the territory it officially claims, and continues to do so. Obama recently massacred almost a hundred people at one time with what could be viewed as an AR-15 on steroids. Is any of this part of ‘modern US history’? Why or why not? The qualifications are unstated and thus subjective. The vague language from the neoliberal, government-linked corporate outlets may lead readers to believe that all of US history is included in their ‘factual’ statements, and that the US has never massacred more than fifty people anywhere.
In some cases, this impression will have been intentional on the part of the oligarch mouthpiece outlets, which have an interest in fostering a benevolent image of the US to help elites further capture global markets . In others, it will have been a result of conveniently self-aggrandizing ignorance on behalf of the writers and editors – an ignorance that makes an important contribution to their job security.
As some of them partially or belatedly demonstrated, all of the corporate outlets could have easily avoided any holocaust/genocide-denial by calling the shooting the worst by a single civilian on US territory in at least the last thirty years, or any number of other obvious, simple, direct phrasings, which are supposed to be integral to journalism, anyway.
But as John Ralston Saul points out, the neoliberal/neoconservative ideology relies on the ‘whitewashing of memory’. That doesn’t always work, though, especially on survivors of US and Western genocides, which is why, as Ralston Saul further notes, the West and its proxies are behind most of the global murders of writers, who may try to expose facts and evidence that interfere with the West’s historical whitewashing.
Since the Orlando massacre, both Clinton and Trump have called for further escalation of Western aggression in the Middle East.
Robert Barsocchini is an internationally published author who focuses on force dynamics, national and global, and also writes professionally for the film industry. Updates on Twitter.
The double standard in the media’s treatment of U.S. plans and actions (“us”) and those of our allies, on the one hand, and enemy/target plans and actions (“them”), on the other hand, applies at many levels. The United States has been intervening and fighting wars abroad almost continuously since World War II. This has involved frequent aggressions, using standard definitions of the word, with many of them extremely destructive, and with effects often not consistent with claimed objectives and very costly to U.S. taxpayers. But these cannot be designated “aggression” in our well-honed propaganda system. That word is reserved for dastardly actions such as the Russian takeover of Crimea.
A useful introduction to the lexicon of aggression apologetics can be read from a piece on “Our New Isolationism” by Bill Keller, published in the New York Times on September 9, 2013, and aimed at justifying an enlarged U.S. participation in the war on Syria. Keller, the Executive Editor at the Times for some eight years (2003-2011), was the sponsor of reporter Judith Miller’s notorious war propaganda, and he himself led the Times to support the invasion-occupation-destruction of Iraq from 2003. It is amusing to read Keller in 2013 saying that ”To be sure, nothing has done more to discredit an activist foreign policy than the blind missionary arrogance of the Bush administration [in Iraq and Afghanistan].” But if Keller could swallow the fairly obvious lies of Bush war propaganda ten years earlier, and ignore throughout the Iraq war and occupation the gross violations of international law, why should anybody trust his judgment as he tries to rationalize the next war? What does it tell us about the paper that he could survive there as a leader for eight years (and many more as a reporter, Managing Editor and columnist) and still be able to use it for more war propaganda a decade later?
We may note that in 2013 Keller didn’t use the word “aggression” to describe the invasion-occupation of Iraq, nor is Bush described in negative terms beyond “arrogant” even after having destroyed a country and bearing prime responsibility for the killing of possibly a million people. Bush pursued an “activist” foreign policy, and in this article Keller calls for more “activism,” though not with “missionary arrogance,” but only with imperialist-apologetic arrogance. The new target, Assad, is a “merciless dictator,” whereas Bush is not merciless but only arrogant. Keller has other euphemisms for pre-approved military interventions abroad: there is “foreign engagement,” “a more assertive foreign policy,” and “calibrated interventions to shift the balance.” And no question is raised as to the motives behind any new distant military intervention by us.
Keller clears the decks of any possible non-benign or less-than-benevolent aims: he dismisses the idea that the Israelis might be “duping us into fighting their wars,” but he doesn’t mention AIPAC or any neocon influence on policy, and, of course, he never mentions the military-industrial complex and its possible influence on policy. He is just sure that our “vital interests” are at stake in Syria and he hopes that Congress can elicit from the President a recognition of those interests and a “strategy that looks beyond the moment.” Only rival states and those competing with us or our allies have expansionary internal dynamics and dubious aims.
Leaving this comic book-worthy analysis and getting back to the omnipresent double standard, a conspicuous manifestation is in the media’s use of “purr” and “snarl” words and comparable phrases. The United States and its allies and their leaders are never “merciless dictators” and “butchers” that commit “horrors,” but Assad can be so described (“Syria’s Horrors,” ed., NYT, February 25, 2012; ”Assad the Butcher,” ed., NYT, June 9, 2012; Keller, above). Only leaders of enemy/target states have “tantrums.” (“North Korea’s Latest Tantrum,” ed., NYT, July 14, 2010), resort to “cash and charm” to create divisions among target states (“With Cash and Charm, Putin Sows E.U. Divide,” NYT, April 7, 2016 [the NYT almost never mentions Putin without denigrating adjectives, in a kind of lengthy childish tantrum of its own]); make “brazen nuclear moves (“North Korea’s Brazen Nuclear Moves,” ed, NYT, May 2. 2016); or need to be “reined in.” (“The Best Chance to Rein in Iran,” ed., NYT, July 15, 2015). Surely Israel and the United States don’t have to be reined in; Israel’s steady dispossessions and periodic major assaults are only retaliating and protecting its national security in the face of inexplicable Palestinian terror. The United States was busy “containing” the Soviet Union as the US built its world-wide system of military bases from 1945 to 1990, and it has recently been compelled to contain Russia as the Soviet successor regime threatens all of its neighbors, who cower in fear while the United States seeks to reassure them with denunciations of Russia, arms, bases, training exercises and efforts to get the major EU countries to increase military spending.
Poor NATO has been driven by this resurgent Russian imperialism into defensive responses (Eric Schmitt and Steven Lee Myers, “NATO Refocuses On the Kremlin, Its Original Foe,” NYT, June 24, 2015). We only respond as Russia provokes and tests us (Steven Castle, “Russia Tests Distant Water, Resurfacing Cold War Fears,” NYT, May 11, 2015). It is not permissible in the mainstream to suggest that the Kremlin is the one engaging in defensive moves against an expanding NATO; that the U.S.-NATO sponsorship of an anti-Russian coup in Kiev in February 2014, which threatened the major Russian naval base in Crimea, virtually forced a Russian military response. This is avoided in the Times and its confreres by ignoring the coup and its U.S.-NATO link and blacking out the fact that NATO has been steadily expanding and encircling Russia since 1996, perhaps regarding this process as anticipatory self-defense.
The ability to get indignant over the casualty-free Russian takeover of Crimea, by the government that invaded Iraq in a not-casualty-free war of choice only a little more than a decade back, is startling. It is testimony to the power of the double standard and the ability of politicians at home and in the EU, media and public to block out inconvenient facts. On the same topic it must be considered an Orwellian classic of forgetfulness that Kerry could have stated in 2015 that “You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on a completely trumped-up pretext” (Face the Nation, CBS News, March 2, 2015). This was not only a perfect case of purposeful forgetfulness, it was a double lie, as the Russians had a real national security case for their action, whereas the true “trumped up case” was the one concocted for the Iraq invasion. But no U.S. mainstream publication chortled at Kerry’s Orwellian performance.
An equally interesting case of rewriting history was the claim by Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk during an interview on the German TV channel ARD in January 2015, that “Russian aggression in Ukraine is an attack on world order and order in Europe. All of us still clearly remember the Soviet invasion of Ukraine and Germany. [Emphasis added.] That has to be avoided. And nobody has the right to rewrite the results of the Second World War. And that is exactly what Russia’s President Putin is trying to do.” Interestingly, the interviewer on this program made no comment and asked no questions about this claim of a Soviet invasion of Ukraine and Germany in World War II. (See Lena Sokoll, “Ukraine Premier’s Pro-Nazi version of World War II: USSR invade Ukraine, Germany,” WSWS.org, January 19, 2015.) And you may be sure that neither the New York Times nor any other mainstream English language publication reported this nugget. It should be recalled that Yatsenyuk is the “Yats” who U.S. official Victoria Nuland suggested before the February 22, 2014 coup in Kiev would be an appropriate choice to head the new regime, and who did, in fact, soon become Prime Minister.
Just as the “lie that wasn’t shot down” about Korean airliner 007 served the Cold War militarization plans of the Reagan administration, so the media’s handling of the shooting down of the Malaysian airliner MH-17 flying over Ukraine on July 17, 2014, has served the Obama administration in its anti-Russian campaign. U.S. officials, led by John Kerry, immediately claimed that they had tracked the killer missile, knew exactly where it came from and that it was the Russian-backed rebels who did it. But the U.S. intelligence report that soon followed indicated that there was uncertainty as to the perpetrators, and there was no evidence that the rebels possessed Buk missiles that could have reached the necessary 33,000 feet. The Kiev government forces did have such missiles and capability.
However, in another telling manifestation of the ability of the powerful to use disinformation to convert a tragedy into a propaganda coup, Kerry’s evidence-free and dubious accusations immediately became a Western truth that was used to smear the Russians and underpin a new sanctions regime against them. A very sluggish investigation into the shootdown was organized by the West, with the NATO-member Dutch in charge, the Russians excluded and the Kiev government a participant with a veto power over the findings. The report which followed, after over a year lag, concluded that the plane had been shot down by a Russian-made Buk missile, but it came to no firm conclusion on the directly responsible parties. The United States has still not produced its evidence showing rebel-Russian guilt, but the DSB failed to mention, let alone criticize, this U.S. silence, and its focus on the Russian-made Buk as the instrument of destruction made it possible for the Western media to continue the initially established guilt claims against Western targets (Russia and the “Russian-backed rebels”).
The New York Times, as in the previous case of the “lie that was not shot down,” could continue to play dumb, refuse to investigate, and fail to call for the United States to disclose publicly its evidence of “Russian-supported rebel” guilt. It also added its touch of continuing bias in supposed news reports. For example, the “news” reports repeatedly mention that the missile that struck MH-17 was “Russian made,” but they never feature or even mention that the Kiev government had such missiles whereas the rebels did not—which allows them to tie the killing to Russia, without a hint that it was not Russia that used it in the present case. (“Nicola Clark and Andrew E. Kramer, “Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 Most Likely Hit by Russian-Made Missile, Inquiry Says,” NYT, October 13, 2014.
Neither in their news reports nor in their editorial on the case does the Times ever ask the question of who benefits from the shootdown? The Russians and rebels had neither military nor political reasons for the act. On the other hand, the Kiev government and the United States would gain if the shootdown could be blamed on the Russians and rebels, a benefit that was, in fact realized. I don’t claim that this proves who did it. But it does raise questions that are worth thinking about. The Times and Western media in general ignore the issue. In its editorial on the subject, the Times makes the Russians guilty because, while the DSB didn’t find them guilty, their detailed findings are “consistent with theories advanced by the United States and Ukraine,” so we can take Russian guilt as proven! (“Russia’s Fictions on Malaysia Flight 17,” NYT, ed., October 15, 2015) This idiotic non-sequitur is also supported by Russia’s “doing its best to thwart investigations,” a lie in light of thwarted Russian efforts to participate in the investigation. It is notable here that the Times doesn’t raise a question about the U.S. failure to supply the DSB with any data that would support Kerry’s initial claim of possession of crucial evidence. That is really thwarting a meaningful investigation. (Robert Parry, “MH-17: The Dog Still Not Barking,” Consortiumnews, October 15, 2015. “The Dog Not Barking in the Dutch report… is the silence regarding U.S. intelligence information that supposedly had pinned down key details just after the crash but has been kept secret.”)
In short, there are no holds barred in this government-media propaganda barrage. Lie after lie can be brought forward and refuted only in a marginalized media, with dire implications for democratic rule. We may recall James Madison’s 1822 statement that “a popular government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce, or a tragedy, or perhaps both.”
Edward S. Herman is an economist and media analyst with a specialty in corporate and regulatory issues as well as political economy and the media.