Corporate media warmongering, Media Lens interview

Wikipedia says about this 1990 video from the USA:

Nayirah Kuwaiti girl testimony

Nayirah al-Ṣabaḥ (Arabic: نيره الصباح‎), called “Nurse Nayirah” in the media, was a fifteen-year-old Kuwaiti girl, who alleged that she had witnessed the murder of infant children by Iraqi soldiers in Kuwait, in verbal testimony to the U.S. Congress, in the run up to the 1991 Gulf War. Her testimony, which was regarded as credible at the time, has since come to be regarded as wartime propaganda.

She was not a nurse at all. She later turned out to be the daughter of Saud Al-Sabah, the Kuwaiti ambassador to the United States.

The public relations firm Hill & Knowlton, which was in the employ of Citizens for a Free Kuwait, had arranged the testimony. Nayirah’s testimony was widely publicized. Hill & Knowlton, which had filmed the hearing, sent out a video news release to Medialink, a firm which served about 700 television stations in the United States. That night, portions of the testimony aired on ABC’s Nightline and NBC Nightly News reaching an estimated audience between 35 and 53 million Americans.

Seven senators cited Nayirah’s testimony in their speeches backing the use of force. President George [H W] Bush repeated the story at least ten times in the following weeks.

By Ian Sinclair in Britain:

Monday, February 18, 2019

The distortions of the corporate media: An interview with Media Lens

DAVID EDWARDS and DAVID CROMWELL from media watchdog Media Lens speak to Ian Sinclair about their new book Propaganda Blitz: How the Corporate Media Distort Reality

Ian Sinclair: What is a “propaganda blitz” and how does it work?

Media Lens: A “propaganda blitz” is a fast-moving campaign to persuade the public of the need for “action” or “intervention” of some kind furthering elite interests.

Corporate media line up to insist that a watershed moment has arrived – something must be done! Eyewitness testimony proves that Iraqi storm-troopers have killed hundreds of babies by hurling them from incubators in Kuwait. Reports from Libya show that Gadaffi is certainly planning a terrible massacre in Benghazi. Survivor accounts make it impossible to deny that pro-Assad forces [in Syria] have cut the throats of hundreds of women and children in Houla, and so on.

These claims are instantly affirmed with 100 per cent certainty right across the supposed media “spectrum”, long before the facts are clear, long before the credibility and motives of the sources have been established. The resulting declaration: “We must act!”, “We cannot look away!”

Often, as above, the claims turn out to be utterly bogus. The same corporate journalists who never have anything to say about massive US-UK crimes in Iraq, Libya and Yemen pop up in unison to rage about these alleged horrors.

This is important – the more enraged they seem to be, the more the public will assume there must be some truth behind their claims. Understandably, many people find it hard to believe that so many journalists could be professional fakers, or just deceived.

The idea is to generate an atmosphere of such intense moral indignation that dissidents even questioning the sincerity and accuracy of this shrieking can be damned as “Assad apologists”, “Saddam’s willing executioners,” “Corbyn’s useful idiots,” and so on.

If the propaganda blitz has done its job, these smears will resonate with the public who will turn their noses up at dissidents viewed as morally unhygienic.

The “humanitarian action” usually involves destroying an Official Enemy of the West regardless of the cost to the civilians “we” claim to care about.

Once the enemy has been overthrown, the welfare of those civilians is never again a concern for the propaganda blitzers. Who cares about the fairness of elections in Iraq now, or the freedom of its press, or the justice system?

But these were big issues when journalists were supporting efforts to overthrow Saddam Hussein in 2002-2003.

IS: How does the current media coverage of Venezuela fit with this model?

ML: It is an excellent example of a propaganda blitz. When opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself “interim president” on January 23, US-UK journalists depicted it as a classic watershed moment – Venezuelans had had enough of the socialist government of Nicolas Maduro, who had to go, had to be replaced, probably by Guaido.

Maduro is a sworn enemy of the West, which has been working long and hard to regain control of Venezuela’s oil.

Moral outrage focuses on the claim that Maduro is a “tyrant”, “despot” and “dictator” (he is democratically elected), who is full-square to blame for the economic and humanitarian crisis (US sanctions have played a significant role), who rigged the May 2018 elections (they were declared free and fair by many credible observers), who crushed press freedom (numerous Venezuelan media are openly and fiercely anti-government).

This propaganda blitz has been particularly surreal. “Mainstream” media don’t seem to notice that it is Donald Trump – the same groping, bete orange widely denounced by these same media as an out and out fascist – who is guiding efforts to overthrow Maduro. Adam Johnson made the point for Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting:

“The same US media outlets that have expressly fund-raised and run ad campaigns on their image as anti-Trump truth-tellers have mysteriously taken at face value everything the Trump White House and its neoconservative allies have said in their campaign to overthrow the government of Venezuela.”

IS: You argue “corporate media reporting and commentary” furthers “the interests of the state-corporate elites”. What role does the Guardian – a “thoughtful, progressive, fiercely independent and challenging” newspaper, according to Guardian editor Kath Viner – play in this?

ML: The Guardian was Blair’s greatest cheerleader, just as it is now among Corbyn’s greatest critics. In 2018, journalist John Pilger described how he was persona non grata at the Guardian: “My written journalism is no longer welcome in the Guardian which, three years ago, got rid of people like me in pretty much a purge of those who really were saying what the Guardian no longer says any more.”

A couple of decades ago, George Monbiot told us that there were two distinct factions competing within the Guardian: a reasonable, liberal faction working for progressive change, and a group of hard-nosed neocons who made the lives of the progressive faction “hell”.

That sounded credible. Our guess would be that, under editor Kath Viner, the neocons have gained much greater ground and now hold the paper under a kind of occupation (something similar seems to have happened at the BBC).

Many Guardian reporters and regular commentators are now no-holds-barred propagandists relentlessly promoting Perpetual War, attacking Corbyn, and in fact attacking anyone challenging the status quo.

Most embarrassing was the recent front-page Guardian claim that Julian Assange had repeatedly met with Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort in the Ecuadorian embassy. The story turned out to be fake.

Most telling is that editor Kath Viner has completely refused to respond to any queries, even from former Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald. This is a seriously disturbing sign of real dishonesty, of a brutal refusal to be in any way answerable to the public.

IS: It seems journalists are less willing to engage with you than they used to. Do you agree? If so, why do you think this is?

ML: Corporate interests have never been content to just have their wholly owned parties – Tories and Republicans – and their newspapers – The Times and the Telegraph. They have always also wanted to own the supposed “opposition” offering tiny glimmers of dissent: thus, the rise of New Labour and the Clintonian Democrats, thus the neocon-occupied BBC and Guardian. There currently is no functional “mainstream” opposition to corporate dominance.

With the arrival of social media, this power-serving corporate journalism has been forced to retreat behind thick walls of silence. It must have been the same in the past when tyrannical kings and queens were challenged by democratic forces.

Corporate journalists know that their propaganda promoting Perpetual War and corporate control of politics cannot withstand rational challenge; they have learned that they lose less credibility by ignoring us, for example, than by engaging.

Their problem is that we have solid arguments backed up by credible facts and sources. Often, there’s just nothing they can say. And because we’re not angry and abusive, they can’t dismiss us for being rude and emotional.

They also have the problem that they’re not free to comment on their brand – their employer, its product, its advertisers, their colleagues – in front of customers, so they can’t even discuss why they can’t discuss these issues. Better just to ignore us.

We also send fewer emails than we used to – we always get more responses from emails – partly because it’s easier to challenge people via Twitter, but also because we have a sense that too much criticism drives journalists into a corner where they become more resistant to change, rather than less.

IS: After 18 years of analysing the British media [Media Lens was set up in 2001], what advice would you give to young journalists just starting out?

ML: Avoid working for corporate media at all costs. It’s not possible to work as a fully human, compassionate, rational journalist within this system. Carrot and stick pressures are bound to force you to compromise your integrity, your honesty.

Pretty soon, you’ll find yourself writing garbage for money, which is a sure way of living a boring, soulless, destructive life.

In an age of looming climate collapse – which currently looks like killing us all within the next few decades – we can no longer afford for young, vibrant, juicy human beings to sacrifice their energy and delight for dead cash in a lifeless corporate media machine.

As Norman Mailer observed: “There is an odour to any press headquarters that is unmistakeable… The unavoidable smell of flesh burning quietly and slowly in the service of a machine.”

Write what you believe is true, important and helpful for reducing the suffering of yourself and other people and animals. If you get paid, fine. If you don’t, support yourself some other way, part-time.

Relax and enjoy, live simply. What you absolutely must not do is write something because you think it is most likely to make you most money.

Propaganda Blitz: How the Corporate Media Distort Reality is published by Pluto Press, priced £14.99.


Murdoch empire bans anti-nazi film

This 14 February 2019 video from the USA saays about itself:

Oscar-Nominated Film Shows Nazi Rally at Madison Square Garden

It’s an unlikely Oscar contender. Marshall Curry‘s “A Night at the Garden” has been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short. The film, entirely comprised of archival footage, shows a 1939 rally of American Nazis at New York City’s Madison Square Garden. The rally drew 20,000 people on the eve of World War II. “The lesson of the film,” Curry told, is that “we are vulnerable to leaders who will stir us up against each other.”

By Ari Feldman in Jewish daily Forward in the USA, 14 February 2019:

Fox News Rejects Ad For Oscar-Nominated Short About American Nazism

Fox News will not air an ad for an Oscar-nominated documentary about American Nazism, the Hollywood Reporter reported.

The 30-second ad, called “It Can Happen Here”, is for “A Night At The Garden”, a documentary short about a 1939 meeting of the German American Bund, a pro-Nazi organization. That infamous meeting, which gathered 20,000 people in New York’s Madison Square Garden, was a dramatic show of American support for Hitler — and of American anti-Semitism. Banners hung up in the Garden read “Stop Jewish Domination of Christian Americans”, and “Wake Up America. Smash Jewish Communism”. The crowd yelled “Seig Heil!”

Click here to read the New York Times’ account of the rally.

“A Night At The Garden” is pieced together from archival footage of the event, recalls the shocking level of determination and organization achieved by American Nazis and their supporters.

But Fox News rejected the ad for the short, which is meant to warn that Nazism and fascism can happen in American. The ad, which Fox News’ leadership deemed “not appropriate,” was meant to be aired for [extreme right Murdoch-Fox employee] Sean Hannity’s show, historically the most-watched cable news broadcast.

“It’s amazing to me that the CEO of Fox News would personally inject herself into a small ad buy just to make sure that Hannity viewers weren’t exposed to this chapter of American history,” said Marshall Curry, the director of the short.

More BBC wildlife TV shows coming

This 9 february 2019 video from Britain says about itself:

BBC Planet | Trailer | BBC Earth

Did Blue Planet II blow your mind? Or was it Planet Earth that changed your life? We know how special our shows are to so many of you and this is why we’re thrilled to announce that we have five more incredible Planet series in the works: One Planet: Seven Worlds | Perfect Planet | Frozen Planet II | Green Planet | Planet Earth III

Rupert Murdoch empire’s whitewash of nazi dictatorship

This 3 April 2015 video from the USA says about itself:

What’s Left in Schmitt? Critique of an Academic Fashion

Matthew Specter is Associate Professor of History at Central Connecticut State University.

In the past quarter of a century, the academy has witnessed an explosion of interest in the political theory of Carl Schmitt (1900-1985). For some of the [postmodernist] Left, Schmitt offers resources for a critique of U.S. imperialism, the narrow spectrum of liberal democracies, and the idealism of deliberative democracy. This lecture uses Schmitt’s biography and political theory to highlight and criticize recent Schmitt appropriations on the political Left. It argues that Schmitt, or Schmittianism, as a leftist project is historically incoherent. The theorist of fascism and the ideologist of Nazi Lebensraum is simply not worth the tendentious stretching and pulling necessary to turn him into a progressive and emancipatory egalitarian thinker. Schmitt offers no new vision for the contemporary Left.

Presented by the Council on European Studies.

By Richard Hoffman in Australia:

Murdoch newspaper approves chief Nazi lawyer’s legal defence of dictatorship

8 February 2019

In an extraordinary commentary in Rupert Murdoch’s Australian newspaper on 18 January 2019, long-serving political commentator Henry Ergas wrote approvingly of the politico-legal conceptions of Carl Schmitt, the Nazi crown jurist who prepared legal doctrines justifying the destruction of the Weimar Constitution and the establishment of the Hitler dictatorship.

According to his online profile at the Australian, Ergas “is an economist who spent many years at the OECD in Paris” and has “taught at a number of universities, including Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, the University of Auckland and the École Nationale de la Statisque et de l’Administration Économique in Paris.” Mr Ergas is currently an adjunct professor at Monash University.

In an article entitled “Are we headed towards high noon for democracy? Emergency powers may be the only way out of crises”, Ergas referred to the political crisis in the US arising from the shutdown, and the Brexit crisis in the UK. He opined that, notwithstanding the potential dangers to liberal democracy of such a course, the adoption of emergency powers in the circumstances, being a “State of Exception” according to Schmitt’s legal conceptions, offered Donald Trump and possibly Theresa May a way out. Moreover, given the “dire straits” politically, both in the US and the UK, Ergas suggested that “Schmitt’s time may finally have arrived.”

Given the openness of the appeal to Nazi legal doctrine in Murdoch’s journal of record in Australia (Murdoch also owns the Wall Street Journal), it is worth extracting parts of Ergas’ commentary in some detail. He writes:

In 1923, as the Weimar Republic struggled with chaos, the German polymath Carl Schmitt wrote a short but enormously influential book, The Crisis of Parliamentary Democracy. Schmitt later destroyed his reputation through his collaboration with the Hitler regime. But if his work is increasingly cited, it is because its contemporary resonance is undeniable.

To say that, is not to suggest that todayʼs circumstances resemble those that drove Europe into the horrors of totalitarianism. Yet, with the US government plunged into a shutdown that only a presidential declaration of a state of emergency is likely to end, and Britain in a crisis that seems insoluble, Schmittʼs warnings cannot simply be dismissed.

The notion of “liberal democracy”, he argued, was fundamentally ill-conceived. Liberalism and democracy had certainly been allies in the battle to rein in the power of monarchs. But that accomplished, the tensions between them had burst to the surface and would inevitably worsen as societies developed.

Liberal institutions—parliamentarianism, the rule of law, the separation of powers—existed to temper the democratic impulse, channelling it into an “endless conversation” that readily led to dead-ends. However, whenever they gathered explosive force, the pressures of democracy—the brute, often inchoate, expression of the popular will—were not so easily corralled.

As liberalism collided with the popular will, one had to overwhelm the other, hurtling the system towards “the state of exception”—that is, the suspension of business-as-usual. And, as Schmitt put it in another famous work, Political Theology, when the chips are down, “sovereign is he who decides on the exception.”

In other words, the ultimate ruler in any political system is the actor who, once consensus has worn so thin as to make the system unworkable, can impose an outcome by invoking emergency powers.

With the conflict between liberalism and democracy growing ever starker, Schmitt argued, we would enter an age of states of emergency, eroding liberalism’s foundations.

Ergas continues the commentary, with a discussion considering the risks to liberal democracy involved in the invoking of emergency measures in exceptional circumstances. He reflects that reliance on a “constitutional dictatorship” would not necessarily be fatal to the political system, and refers to the historical experience of the Greek city states being ruled in a “temporary absolute rulership” to overcome factional strife when the city was being torn apart. Ultimately, Ergas comes down in favour of the declaration of emergency, that is, the exercise of absolute executive power. He writes:

Yet for all those limitations, it is clear that declaring an emergency offers Trump a way out. There is, however, a fundamental question as to whether Theresa May has any such options.

Despite isolated precedents, the answer is probably not. Rather, recent weeks have seen a permanent erosion in the British Prime Minister’s power, not least through the loss of the control the government so painstakingly acquired, nearly two centuries ago, over parliament’s order of business…

Schmitt thought May’s predicament would become increasingly common. And the only outcome that could follow, he argued, was for the state of emergency to become the norm: one way or the other, the exception had to become the rule, permitting government to continue functioning. With liberal constitutionalismʼs twin ancestral homes both in dire straits, Schmittʼs time may finally have arrived.

Carl Schmitt: Nazi crown jurist and the “State of Exception”

The invocation by the Murdoch press of extraordinary circumstances, created by the crisis of bourgeois rule in the US and UK justifying a “constitutional dictatorship”, follows identically the political and class dynamics of the 1930s and the legal-constitutional justifications that were advanced by Schmitt and other leading Nazi lawyers for the destruction of constitutional rule under the Weimar Republic, and the establishment of dictatorship, following the Reichstag fire of February 28, 1933.

On March 23, the Nazi-controlled Reichstag passed “enabling” legislation declaring that the executive had the power to make laws. The Act, referred to as “The Act to Relieve the Distress of the People and the Reich” cemented dictatorial power in Germany under Hitler. It essentially transformed into legislation legal opinions previously prepared by Schmitt. These authorised executive rule because of the “state of exception” in Germany, namely its economic and political crisis and the alleged threat of revolution. Schmitt set out a “legal defence” of the enabling legislation in the Deutsche Juristen Zeitung on March 25, 1933, in which he opined that the executive prerogative was unlimited at a time of national crisis (cited in F. Neumann, Behemoth; The Structure and Practice of National Socialism, London 1942).

Schmitt was a reactionary with a deep-felt hostility to the participation of the masses in the Weimar democracy after World War I. Like many right-wing intellectuals of his generation, he despaired at the liberalism, and instability, of the modern world, which he felt to be, with his strong Catholic middle class background, devoid of order and meaning. Schmitt loathed the cosmopolitan melding of liberalism, Protestantism and assimilated Jewish culture in Germany in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His witnessing of the communist revolution in Bavaria in 1919 intensified his authoritarian support of the violent use of state power against socialist revolution.

Against the backdrop of the instability of the Weimar years, Schmitt developed increasingly dictatorial conceptions of state rule, based on “exceptions” and “emergencies” that justified deviations from the political “norm”. In his work published in 1922, entitled Political Theology, Schmitt expounded the idea of the “state of exception” (Ausnahmezustand). This theory was developed through a right-wing jurisprudential critique of “normativism” in positivist legal thought, which held that law was the expression of general abstract norms applicable in all circumstances. In particular, Schmitt developed the idea of the “state of exception” in a critique of the positivist legal theories of the Austrian legal scholar Hans Kelsen (who had Social Democratic sympathies and was an intellectual opponent of Schmitt).

Schmitt rejected the idea that abstract norms formed the basis of law. He maintained that “like every other order the legal order rests on a decision and not a norm.” Sovereignty, according to Schmitt, was based on decision and not legality. Most significantly, Schmitt argued, the state confronted situations outside the norm that were exceptional. The Sovereign, he declared, in his most notorious phrase, “is he who decides on the state of exception.” The exception could not be mediated by legal concepts, and therefore all order was based on decision alone. There could be no “normative” regulation of exceptional situations. The authority that brought order to the exceptional state was the sine qua non of the legal order. In sum, Schmitt declared, auctoritas non veritas facit legem—authority not truth makes the laws. He was consciously preparing a radical theoretical framework for the violent Nazi destruction of liberal parliamentarism and the socialist movement.

As the Nazis consolidated power, Schmitt propounded theories in support of the “Führerprinzip”—the leader principle. He claimed the führer was the highest judge in the nation, from whom there lay no appeal. The leader was the embodiment of the people’s will and therefore, Schmitt claimed, “law is the plan and the will of the leader” (“Führer Schutzt das Recht” in Positionen und Begriffe, Berlin 1934).

Twenty years of attacks on constitutionalism

For the past two decades, the constitutional foundations of liberal democracy have been under attack. This political legal process has been driven by a deepening economic crisis and intensifying class conflict. Most significantly, it is the product of social inequality of a historically unprecedented magnitude. Bourgeois democracy and traditional parliamentary rule are totally incompatible with vast concentrations of wealth.

In the epoch of imperialism, the dynamics of class society give rise to similar general political and legal phenomena in all capitalist countries. Under the immense pressures of class conflict, economic crisis and inter-imperial rivalry, the ruling class attacks democratic structures as it seeks to impose its will by means of force. At the same time, partisan lawyers develop “legal theories” to justify the radical transformation of the legal-constitutional system.

In the United States, commencing with the stolen election of 2000, successive administrations have attacked the Constitution’s constraints on executive power and its protection of democratic rights. Utilising the pretext of the “War on Terror”, the executive invoked a “state of exception” to aggrandise executive power and foster arbitrary rule. Legal justifications and theories were developed by lawyers in the White House and Department of Justice, which drew heavily on Germanic legal traditions of StaatsRecht, which had absolutely no place in the history of American political or legal doctrine. An examination of those legal opinions and theories clearly reveals that their authors drew heavily from Schmittian legal conceptions, without expressly disclosing their provenance. Since that time, the ruling elites of the United States, culminating in the Trump administration, have continued the systematic, conscious destruction of the constitutional foundations of American representative government. This has, in fact, been a worldwide process, which can properly be described, historically, as the “Constitutional Reordering of Bourgeois Rule”. Most significantly, this process has been intellectually and politically abetted by the entire liberal elite, which has been corrupted by wealth generated out of a booming stock market.

The decay and degeneration which have beset political and legal culture among the ruling elites and the liberal intelligentsia, throughout the US, UK, Europe and Australia, is extraordinary, and clearly has deep roots in the historic crisis of world capitalism. The capitulation of liberal elites to the authority of the state, and the renunciation of any allegiance to democratic rights and constitutional norms, reflects the very sharp class issues involved in this question.

Following the attack on democratic rights unleashed by the Bush administration in the wake of 9/11 and in the name of the “War on Terror”, many erstwhile liberals proclaimed their support for the exceptional measures taken by the regime. They proclaimed that “the Constitution is not a suicide pact” and that national security took primacy over the Constitutional protection of rights. They said that suspension of those rights was warranted because of the terrorist threat, which was, of course, a completely bogus premise.

One prominent liberal intellectual, Michael Ignatieff, justified the suspension of Constitutional rights on the basis that it represented “the lesser evil” as compared to the terrorist threat and declared that it was necessary in the circumstances to “fight evil with evil.” This really amounted to a descent into a Dark Ages conception of “legal” relations. Just to illustrate the political trajectory of this social layer, Ignatieff later headed off to become the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. This was someone who had previously been a professor in government at Harvard, had written a prize-winning biography of Isaiah Berlin, and extolled the virtues of the liberal system of Constitutional rule.

The spectre of revolution

The capitalist class internationally and its agents in the liberal elites, traditional parties and bureaucracies, are driven by a deep fear of working-class revolt and the spectre of socialist revolution. They know, or sense, that the settled order has completely lost its legitimacy and it faces an historic existential crisis of rule. Fear of socialism and revolution, particularly in the context of the Bolshevik success in Russia in 1917, was a central animating force that led the elites of Europe to embrace fascism in the 1930s. The elites leveraged Hitler into power in 1933 in order to destroy the socialist movement and atomise the working class. Then, as now, they felt that this was necessary to defend property and privilege. Fundamentally, fascistic movements are a product of a deep existential crisis of capitalism in the imperialist epoch—to which the bourgeoisie turns in order to resolve the crisis in its class interests—and the failure of the working class, through the betrayals of its leadership, to take state power into its own hands.

As in the 1930s, the ruling elites of all countries are increasingly building up their respective military and police state apparatuses, while, at the same time, stoking extreme nationalism and xenophobia to divide the masses and divert social tensions to protect their rule.

In the sphere of constitutionalism and democratic rights, the bourgeoisie, through its parliamentary and political agents, is rapidly and urgently dismantling constitutional rule and stripping away fundamental legal protections.

Extreme right-wing groupings are being welcomed into the “liberal-democratic” forms of government and they are exerting a dominant influence in parliamentary life. In Germany, the fascistic AfD is in charge of the Committee for Legal Affairs in the Bundestag, the federal parliament. The AfD is now the respected official Opposition party, although it is despised by the vast majority of the population.

In 2018, the Australian parliament, according to a recent legal report, stripped away fundamental legal rights in 34 new pieces of legislation. In total, the Liberal-National Coalition government has enacted 354 provisions in statutes that abrogate four key legal rights: the presumption of innocence; the right to natural justice; the right to silence; and the right against self-incrimination.

The most extensive attack on these rights has taken place in the areas of national security, taxation, and the foreign influence legislation. These measures, designed to alter the Constitutional framework of rule, are all directed at augmenting central state power, shoring up the fiscal strength of the state and expanding the state security apparatus.

The Australian commentary has now simply expressed in the open, the view of the ruling elites, which they have harboured for two decades: in order to deal with the emerging political crisis produced by the collapse of world capitalism, and especially the coming rebellion of the working class, dictatorship should be instituted to defend the existing order.

This open call to emergency rule and dictatorship must come as a sharp warning to the working class. Only a few days ago, plans to impose martial law in Britain were revealed, to deal with anticipated social unrest arising from a no-deal Brexit. Curfews, bans on travel, confiscation of property, suspension of laws, and the deployment of the army are all contemplated under the Civil Contingencies Act 2004. Capitalising on a crisis of its own making, the British ruling class will have no hesitation in establishing a “parliamentary dictatorship.” The international working class should act accordingly, and urgently build up its own independent mass political organisations in order to defend its class interests; economic, political, and legal.

Fox News rejected a 30-second ad for an anti-Nazi short film.

New York Times regrets its Afghan warmongering

This 6 October 2015 CNN TV video from the USA says about itself:

Doctors Without Borders: Airstrike was a war crime

Doctors Without Borders Executive Director Jason Cone calls the bombing of a hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan by American forces a war crime. He speaks with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

By Bill Van Auken in the USA:

New York Times admission of Afghanistan fiasco provokes “human rights imperialist” backlash

9 February 2019

An editorial published by the New York Times on February 4 titled “End the War in Afghanistan” has provoked a backlash from prominent supporters of the decades-long US “war on terrorism” and the fraud of “humanitarian intervention”.

The Times editorial was a damning self-indictment by the US political establishment’s newspaper of record, which has supported every US act of military aggression, from the invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001, to the invasion of Iraq in March 2003 and the US wars for regime change in Libya and Syria beginning in 2011.

The editorial presents the “war on terror” as an unmitigated fiasco, dating it from September 14, 2001, when “Congress wrote what would prove to be one of the largest blank checks in the country’s history”, i.e., the Authorization for Use of Military Force against Al Qaeda and its affiliates, which is still invoked to legitimize US interventions from Syria to Somalia, Yemen and, of course, Afghanistan.

On the day that this “blank check” was written, the Times published a column titled “No Middle Ground”, which stated “the Bush administration today gave the nations of the world a stark choice: stand with us against terrorism, deny safe havens to terrorists or face the certain prospect of death and destruction. The marble halls of Washington resounded with talk of war.”

It continued, “The nation is rallying around its young, largely untried leader—as his rising approval ratings and the proliferation of flags across the country vividly demonstrate …”

This war propaganda was sustained by the Times, which sold the invasion of Afghanistan as retribution for 9/11 and then promoted the illegal and unprovoked war against Iraq by legitimizing and embellishing the lies about “weapons of mass destruction”.

With the first deployment of US ground troops in Afghanistan, the Times editorialized on October 20, 2001: “Now the nation’s soldiers are going into battle in a distant and treacherous land, facing a determined and resourceful enemy. As they go, they should know that the nation supports their cause and yearns for their success.”

Now the Times acknowledges: “The price tag, which includes the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and increased spending on veterans’ care, will reach $5.9 trillion by the end of fiscal year 2019, according to the Costs of War project at Brown University. Since nearly all of that money has been borrowed, the total cost with interest will be substantially higher… More than 2.7 million Americans have fought in the war since 2001. Nearly 7,000 service members—and nearly 8,000 private contractors—have been killed. More than 53,700 people returned home bearing physical wounds, and numberless more carry psychological injuries. More than one million Americans who served in a theater of the war on terror receive some level of disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs.”

The massive loss of life, destruction of social infrastructure and vast human suffering inflicted by these wars on civilian populations are at best an afterthought for the Times. Conservative estimates place the number killed by the US war in Afghanistan at 175,000. With the number of indirect fatalities caused by the war, the toll likely rises to a million. In Iraq, the death toll was even higher.

What does the Times conclude from this bloody record? “The failure of American leaders—civilians and generals through three administrations, from the Pentagon to the State Department to Congress and the White House—to develop and pursue a strategy to end the war ought to be studied for generations. Likewise, all Americans—the news media included—need to be prepared to examine the national credulity or passivity that’s led to the longest conflict in modern American history.”

What a cowardly and cynical evasion! Three administrations, those of Bush, Obama and Trump, have committed war crimes over the course of more than 17 years, including launching wars of aggression—the principal charge leveled against the Nazis at Nuremberg—the slaughter of civilians and torture. These crimes should not be “studied for generations”, but punished.

As for the attempt to lump the news media together with “all Americans” as being guilty of “credulity” and “passivity”, this is a slander against the American people and a deliberate cover-up of the crimes carried out by the corporate media, with the Times at their head, in disseminating outright lies and war propaganda. The Times editors should be “prepared to examine” the fact that journalistic agents of the Nazi regime who carried out a similar function in Germany were tried and punished at Nuremberg.

The Times editorial supporting a US withdrawal reflects the conclusions being drawn by increasing sections of the ruling establishment, including the Trump administration, which has opened up negotiations with the Taliban. It is bound up with the shift in strategy by US imperialism and the Pentagon toward the preparation for “great power” confrontations with nuclear-armed Russia and China.

The Times’ call for an Afghanistan withdrawal has provoked a heated rebuke by defenders of the “war on terrorism” and “humanitarian intervention”, who have denounced the newspaper for defeatism. Such a withdrawal, a letter published by the Times on February 8 argued, would “accelerate and expand the war”, “allow another extremist-terrorist phenomenon to emerge”, and “result in the deaths and abuse of thousands of women.”

The signatories of the letter include Frederick Kagan, David Sedney and Eleanor Smeal.

Kagan has a great deal invested in the Afghanistan war. He and his wife Kimberly served as civilian advisers to top generals who directed the war and elaborated the failed strategies of counterinsurgency (COIN). He has been a vociferous supporter of every US war and every escalation, arguing most recently for the US military to confront Russian- and Iranian-backed forces in Syria.

Likewise Sedney, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense responsible for Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia, now working at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). Married to a top lobbyist for Chevron who worked extensively in Central Asia, he has his own interests in the continuation of US military operations in the region.

Smeal is the president of the Feminist Majority Foundation (FMD) and a former president of the National Organization for Women (NOW), who is widely described as one of “the major leaders of the modern-day American feminist movement.”

A leading figure in the Democratic Party, Smeal is no Jane-come-lately to the filthy campaign to promote the war in Afghanistan as a “humanitarian” exercise in promoting the rights of women. In 2001, Smeal and her FMD circulated a petition thanking the Bush administration for its commitment to promoting the rights of women in Afghanistan. After the bombing began on October 7, she declared, “We have real momentum now in the drive to restore the rights of women.” …

Urging on the conquest of Afghanistan, she wrote, “I should hope our government doesn’t retreat. We’ll help rip those burqas off, I hope. This is a unique time in history. If you’re going to end terrorism, you’ve got to end the ideology of gender apartheid.”

Aside from costing the lives of hundreds of thousands of Afghan women, the US war has left women, like the entire population, under worse conditions than when it began. Two-thirds of Afghan girls do not attend school, 87 percent of Afghan women are illiterate, and 70-80 percent face forced marriage, many before the age of 16.

Recent reports suggest that the maternal death rate may be higher than it was before the war began, surpassed only by South Sudan. While USAID has poured some $280 million into its Promote program, supposedly to advance the conditions of Afghan women, it has done nothing but line the pockets of corrupt officials of the US-backed puppet regime in Kabul.

The attempt by the likes of Smeal and leading elements within the Democratic Party to cloak the bloodbath in Afghanistan as a crusade to “liberate” women and promote “democracy” is itself a criminal act.

On October 9, two days after Washington launched its now 17-year-long war on Afghanistan and amid a furor of jingoistic and militarist propaganda from the US government and the corporate media, the World Socialist Web Site editorial board posted a column titled “Why we oppose the war in Afghanistan.” It rejected the claim that this was a “war for justice and the security of the American people against terrorism” and insisted that “the present action by the United States is an imperialist war” in which Washington aimed to “establish a new political framework within which it will exert hegemonic control” over not only Afghanistan, but over the broader region of Central Asia, “home to the second largest deposit of proven reserves of petroleum and natural gas in the world.”

The WSWS stated at the time: “Despite a relentless media campaign to whip up chauvinism and militarism, the mood of the American people is not one of gung-ho support for the war. At most, it is a passive acceptance that war is the only means to fight terrorism, a mood that owes a great deal to the efforts of a thoroughly dishonest media which serves as an arm of the state. Beneath the reluctant endorsement of military action is a profound sense of unease and skepticism. Tens of millions sense that nothing good can come of this latest eruption of American militarism.

“The United States stands at a turning point. The government admits it has embarked on a war of indefinite scale and duration. What is taking place is the militarization of American society under conditions of a deepening social crisis.

“The war will profoundly affect the conditions of the American and international working class. Imperialism threatens mankind at the beginning of the twenty-first century with a repetition on a more horrific scale of the tragedies of the twentieth. More than ever, imperialism and its depredations raise the necessity for the international unity of the working class and the struggle for socialism.”

These warnings and this perspective have been borne out entirely by the criminal and tragic events of the last 17 years, even as the likes of the New York Times find themselves compelled to admit the bankruptcy of their entire record on Afghanistan, and their erstwhile “liberal” allies struggle to salvage some shred of the filthy banner of “human rights imperialism”.

Vanity Fair, Thackeray’s novel as TV series

This 2018 video from Britain says about itself:

Gwyneth Hughes’ adaptation of Thackeray’s literary classic is set against the backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars, and follows Becky Sharp as she attempts to claw her way out of poverty and scale the heights of English Society. Her story of “villainy, crime, merriment, lovemaking, jilting, laughing, cheating, fighting and dancing”, takes her all the way to the court of King George IV, via the Battle of Waterloo, breaking hearts and losing fortunes as she goes.

By David Walsh in the USA:

Vanity Fair: A new television adaptation of the great 19th century novel

1 February 2019

“But we are bound to stick closely, above all, by THE TRUTH—the truth, though it be not particularly pleasant to read of or to tell.”— Catherine: A Story (1839–40), William Makepeace Thackeray

A seven-part series based on William Makepeace Thackeray’s novel, Vanity Fair, was broadcast in the UK in September and October, and released in the US on December 21. It was distributed by ITV in Britain and Amazon Video in the US.

Vanity Fair, published in 1848, is one of the great novels of the 19th century. Thackeray (1811–1863) set his work during and after the Napoleonic Wars, with the Battle of Waterloo in June 1815 playing a role in the events.

It follows, over the course of two decades or so, a group of characters—Becky Sharp (“Sharp by name, and sharp, I fear, by nature”, as someone in the series suggests), a young woman from a poor family who survives by her wits and charms; her friend, then rival … and then friend again, the naïve Amelia Sedley; Amelia’s husband George Osborne and her adoring lover from a distance for much of the book, William Dobbin; and Becky’s spouse Rawdon Crawley, and their respective families, lovers and friends.

Vanity Fair, book cover

It is a remarkable social satire and picture of life. Without moralizing or lecturing, Thackeray holds up to the light the opportunism, hypocrisy and greed of the middle classes, the pseudo-greatness and viciousness of society’s “betters,” the high price to be paid for “getting ahead” in society at any cost, etc., all these social features and more.

The title comes from John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress (1678), the extended Christian allegory. In that book, often considered the first English novel, “Vanity Fair” is a location built by the devil, where people are sinfully attached to the things of this world. For Thackeray, who uses the title somewhat ironically, “Vanity Fair” refers to contemporary Britain, whose inhabitants, he writes in Chapter Eight, have “no reverence except for prosperity, and no eye for anything beyond success.”

During its 19-month serialization in Punch, the British humor magazine, in 1847 and 1848, the author gave his novel the subtitle Pen and Pencil Sketches of English Society, giving notice that he had also included many of his own illustrations. When it appeared as a single volume, it carried the unusual subtitle A Novel without a Hero.

Both subtitles are correct—and both are significant.

The new television series, written by Gwyneth Hughes and directed by James Strong and (for one episode) Jonathan Entwistle, opens with Thackeray himself (Michael Palin), who acts as narrator throughout, introducing us to “Vanity Fair”, which he explains, “is a very vain, wicked, foolish place, full of all sorts of humbug, falseness and pretension.”

In London, 1814, Becky Sharp (Olivia Cooke), the daughter of an “opera girl” and an artist, and Amelia Sedley (Claudie Jessie), from a wealthy background, leave Miss Pinkerton’s school for girls, where Becky has been teaching. She quits the place on bad terms, complaining about her poverty wages and insulting its headmistress. Leaning out of the departing carriage, Becky shouts, “Vive la France! Vive Napoleon!” In his novel, Thackeray observes that “in those days, in England, to say, ‘Long live Bonaparte!’ was as much as to say, ‘Long live Lucifer!’”

Before she takes up her position in the countryside as a governess for the Sir Pitt Crawley family, a prospect she dreads, Becky spends a week in London with Amelia and her family. The vain, oafish Jos Sedley (David Fynn), Amelia’s brother, described by his own father as a “lardy loafer”, who has been making his fortune in India, is home for a visit. Captain George Osborne (Charlie Rowe), Amelia’s fiancé, also comes around. George, whose family is rich, takes an instant, snobbish dislike to the ambitious Becky, who openly sets her cap at Jos. George’s friend, Captain William Dobbin (Johnny Flynn), also loves Amelia, hopelessly. A memorable outing to Vauxhall Gardens, one of the leading venues for public entertainment in London at the time, provides Jos, who is known to be “terrified of young ladies,” the opportunity to propose to Becky, but he drinks too much, makes a fool of himself and evades the opportunity. Becky heads off to her governess position.

She sets to work in the household of Sir Pitt Crawley (Martin Clunes), a horrible, miserly, dishonest man, taking care of his two neglected young daughters. Thackeray writes of Sir Pitt, “Vanity Fair—Vanity Fair! Here was a man, who could not spell, and did not care to read—who had the habits and the cunning of a boor: whose aim in life was pettifogging: who never had a taste, or emotion, or enjoyment, but what was sordid and foul; and yet he had rank, and honours, and power, somehow: and was a dignitary of the land, and a pillar of the state. He was high sheriff, and rode in a golden coach. Great ministers and statesmen courted him; and in Vanity Fair he had a higher place than the most brilliant genius or spotless virtue.”

Becky makes herself useful, as a secretary, to Sir Pitt, who, in turn, develops a longing for her. His second wife’s health is fading. However, Pitt’s handsome son, Rawdon Crawley (Tom Bateman), a dissolute, debt-ridden cavalry officer who earns his living by gambling, catches Becky’s eye instead. The entire Crawley clan are in economic thrall to Miss Matilda Crawley (Frances de la Tour), their wealthy and eccentric relative (Thackeray writes that she was considered “a dreadful Radical … She read Voltaire, and had Rousseau by heart; talked very lightly about divorce, and most energetically of the rights of women”). Becky worms her way into Matilda’s good graces, until the older lady learns that her new protégée has gone and secretly married Rawdon! His aunt instantly cuts Rawdon out of her will, largely determining the course of the new couple’s future.

A renewed war with France looms, as Napoleon has escaped from exile on the island of Elba and assembled a new army. George is generally inattentive to Amelia, who naively adores him. Thackeray, throughout his works, writes strongly about the situation of women. He observes that Amelia’s “heart tried to persist in asserting that George Osborne was worthy and faithful to her, though she knew otherwise. … She did not dare to own that the man she loved was her inferior; or to feel that she had given her heart away too soon. Given once, the pure bashful maiden was too modest, too tender, too trustful, too weak, too much woman to recall it. We are Turks with the affections of our women; and have made them subscribe to our doctrine too.”

Amelia’s father goes bankrupt and George’s cold, unforgiving banker-father (Robert Pugh) demands that his son instantly end the relationship with her. George proceeds to marry Amelia against his father’s wishes, and is cut off financially for his efforts. This couple too is now poor. George grows resentful of Amelia, who he blames for his difficulties. To make matters worse, on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo, with the various characters now temporarily quartered in Brussels, George falls for the flirtatious, conniving Becky and begs her to run away with him, which she refuses to do.

George dies at Waterloo, and Amelia, pregnant with his child, dedicates herself to his memory. Dobbin knows the truth about George’s failings and disloyalty, but can’t bear to tell her.

Becky becomes disgracefully involved with Lord Steyne (Anthony Head), a rich, powerful and cynical marquis. “I have arrived”, she says, when the nobleman inveigles her an invitation to court.

In one of the most powerful, disturbing sequences in both the novel and new series (in Episode 6), Rawdon is locked up for non-payment of debts. Although appealed to and fully capable of doing so (thanks to the depraved marquis’ “generosity”), Becky does not extract her husband from debtors’ prison. Another of his relatives eventually does so.

Rawdon returns home unexpectedly to find Becky—alone, at night—singing to Lord Steyne, with whom she has been carrying on an affair. Becky protests her innocence. Steyne, believing that Rawdon is aware of the sums he has given Becky, supposedly to pay her debts, interjects: “Innocent! When every trinket you wear on your body I gave to you. Oh, I see what this is. The pair of you mean to lay a trap for me, to con me out of even more money than the thousands of pounds I have already given to this whore … which, no doubt, Colonel Crawley, you have already spent.” He calls Rawdon a “pimp”, who thereupon attacks and drives him out of the house. The marquis obtains his revenge, having Rawdon appointed to a position on a remote island where he later dies of yellow fever.

Mr. Osborne continues to persecute Amelia, who he blames for the falling out with his son. When Dobbin intervenes on behalf of Amelia and her young son, her deceased husband’s father hisses, “She may have seven children and starve, for all I care. She is dead to me.” Later, he makes his support for Amelia’s son conditional on the boy being taken away from his mother, which she, heart-brokenly, accedes to.

Dobbin, seeming to give up on Amelia, goes off to India. Years pass. In the end, fortune favors Amelia, when her son inherits his grandfather’s house and wealth. She now is provided for. Becky wanders the continent, working in gambling dens and such. She has been cold and unloving to her own son, and when he, for his part, ends up with the Crawley estate, he informs his mother, in a letter, “I do not wish to see you. I do not wish you to write to me. On no account should you ever attempt to make contact again.”

In Pumpernickel (a fictional Weimar), Germany, Becky and Amelia meet and reconcile. Dobbin arrives from India, with Jos, and hopes that time will have opened Amelia’s eyes. When she still persists in her illusions about her dead husband, Dobbin bursts out, “All these years, I have loved and watched you. Now I wonder, did I always know that the prize I’d set my life on was not worth winning? Your heart clings so faithfully to a memory because that is all you are capable of. Your soul is shallow. You cannot feel a love as deep as mine. … Goodbye, Amelia. Let it end. We are both weary of it.”

It takes Becky’s intervention, who informs Amelia that George proposed their flight together when they were in Belgium, to finally make her friend see the light: “George was not as he was painted! A man who was weary of you, who would have jilted you, but Dobbin forced him to keep his word! Why would anybody do that? Heavens above, Amelia, because he [Dobbin] loves you! Because he wants your happiness above his own!” It is a quasi-happy conclusion for Amelia and Dobbin, while Becky goes off with Jos, to a less certain future.

The new series (Vanity Fair has been adapted numerous times for radio, film and television) is a valuable and conscientious one. It starts off slowly enough, but then so perhaps does Thackeray’s novel. The first two episodes are slightly colorless. The scene at Vauxhall Gardens is not as spectacular and disastrous as it ought to be. With Becky’s departure from the dreary Crawley household and the emerging financial distress of the Sedleys, however, events become more colorful and compelling. The last few episodes are quite riveting. …

Cooke is fine as Becky, who exhibits an extraordinary selfishness and ruthlessness (produced by her circumstances), but who is not essentially mean or vindictive, as her ultimate conduct toward Amelia and Dobbin reveals. The younger generation of performers is generally fine, but it is the older generation—a chilling Anthony Head, Frances de la Tour, Robert Pugh, Simon Russell Beale (as Amelia’s father), Felicity Montagu (as Matilda Crawley’s unfortunate servant) and Suranne Jones (as Miss Pinkerton)—who truly stand out.

The series sincerely attempts, all in all, to do justice to Thackeray’s complexities and ambiguities. As one commentator observed, in Vanity Fair, “Conventional categories of human types were disregarded in favor of an individualization so complete that we know the characters better than we know our friends” (A Literary History of England, edited by Albert C. Baugh, 1948). The book is “without a hero,” as its subtitle suggested. Thackeray “possessed a terrible power,” asserted the same literary historian, “to detect and expose men’s self-deceptions, shams, pretenses, and unworthy aspirations.”

The novelist despised cant and mythologizing. For example, in his earlier Barry Lyndon (1844—adapted for the screen by Stanley Kubrick in 1975), the story of an Irishman striving to become a member of the English aristocracy in the late 18th century, the narrator, a soldier at the time, remarks that it is very well “for gentlemen to talk of the age of chivalry; but remember the starving brutes whom they lead—men nursed in poverty, entirely ignorant, made to take a pride in deeds of blood—men who can have no amusement but in drunkenness, debauch, and plunder. … While, for instance, we are at the present moment admiring the ‘Great Frederick [Frederick II, King of Prussia 1740 to 1786],’ as we call him, and his philosophy, and his liberality, and his military genius, I, who have served him, and been, as it were, behind the scenes of which that great spectacle is composed, can only look at it with horror. What a number of items of human crime, misery, slavery, go to form that sum-total of glory!”

In Vanity Fair, Thackeray flogs the “great ones” in society for their selfish, callous treatment of their servants and the small shopkeepers and others whose bills they refuse to pay. How many noblemen, he asks, “rob their petty tradesmen, condescend to swindle their poor retainers out of wretched little sums and cheat for a few shillings? … Who pities a poor barber who can’t get his money for powdering the footmen’s heads; or a poor carpenter who has ruined himself by fixing up ornaments and pavilions for my lady’s dejeuner ? … When the great house tumbles down, these miserable wretches fall under it unnoticed: as they say in the old legends, before a man goes to the devil himself, he sends plenty of other souls thither.”

As for the Becky-Rawdon household, “Nobody in fact was paid. Not the blacksmith who opened the lock; nor the glazier who mended the pane; nor the jobber who let the carriage; nor the groom who drove it; nor the butcher who provided the leg of mutton; nor the coals which roasted it; nor the cook who basted it; nor the servants who ate it: and this I am given to understand is not unfrequently the way in which people live elegantly on nothing a year.”

Thackeray was no political radical himself, and he had terrible blind spots, including the suffering of the Irish people, but he was for the most part a devastating, uncompromising realist about people and society, a figure who belongs alongside Dickens, George Eliot, Scott, Balzac, Stendhal, Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky as a leading practitioner of the novel.

In The Historical Novel, Georg Lukács argued that Thackeray “is an outstanding critical realist. He has deep ties with the best traditions of English literature, with the great social canvases of the eighteenth century [in the work of novelists Henry Fielding and Tobias Smollett in particular].”

Famously, Karl Marx, in his 1854 New York Tribune article, “The English Middle Class,” included Thackeray, along with Dickens, Charlotte Brontë and Elizabeth Gaskell, as belonging to that “splendid” group “of fiction-writers in England, whose graphic and eloquent pages have issued to the world more political and social truths than have been uttered by all the professional politicians, publicists and moralists put together.”

These writers, Marx indicates, have specialized in depicting “every section of the middle class.” And how have they painted this social grouping? “As full of presumption, affectation, petty tyranny and ignorance; and the civilised world have confirmed their verdict with the damning epigram that it has fixed to this class that ‘they are servile to those above, and tyrannical to those beneath them.’”

Thackeray’s major novels, Vanity Fair, Barry Lyndon, Pendennis (1848–1850) and The History of Henry Esmond (1852), along with rambling, uneven but still occasionally fascinating works, like The Newcomes (1855) and The Virginians (1857–1859), can hardly be recommended too highly. The new television series, in so far as it captures much of Thackeray’s intent, also deserves an audience.