20February2018

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Champions Of Democracy - From Fake News To Imposed Insanity

Open a corporate media website on any given day and you will find someone, somewhere blaming social media for something. No claim is too absurd.

Last week, journalist Sean Williams, who writes for the New Yorker, New Republic and Wired, tweeted us in a state of high anxiety:

'I just want you to know you're ruining the national dialogue and pushing more people towards right wing populism. Really.'

Quite a claim for a project that began in Southampton's Giddy Bridge public house over a pint and a packet of cheese & onion. We replied:

'Two guys with no resources, relying solely on donations, critiquing global, multi-billion-dollar media corporations? That's crazy. All our support is on the left - people like John Pilger, Noam Chomsky and Jonathan Cook, who reject that idea completely.'

Beyond even ruining 'the national dialogue', social media are of course blamed for a tsunami of 'fake news' undermining democracy at every level. The irony of the fake news claim is that the corporate media's refusal to analyse, or even mention, its own record of spreading fake news is a prime example of how it functions as a system, not merely of deception, but of imposed insanity.

Consider the work of Andrew Rawnsley of the Observer, garlanded with British Press Awards Young Journalist of the Year (1987); What The Papers Say Columnist of the Year (2000); Channel 4 Political Awards Book of the Year (2001); Channel 4 Political Awards Journalist of the Year (2003); House Magazine Awards Commentator of the Year (2008); Chair's Choice Award at the Editorial Intelligence Comment Awards (2015).

Lamenting Trump, Rawnsley wrote in the Observer last month:

'The United States has shrunk from its traditional role as exemplar of democracy and global champion of it.'

Rawnsley, of course, has been a high-profile political commentator throughout the period when Iraq, Libya and Syria have been 'championed' by the West. Regime change was ordered in Syria after the 'exemplar of democracy' had brought ungovernable chaos to Libya, which was ordered after regime change had brought ungovernable chaos to Iraq.

The fact that regime change has been attempted again in Syria, even after these twin calamities, says much about the brutality of Western power. Indeed it suggests that social collapse removing organised opposition to US machinations in the region is a deeper aim beyond even regime change.

Rawnsley is notable among political commentators for being laughably wrong when laughing at others for being laughably wrong. He wrote in April 2003:

'The war in Iraq would undo Tony Blair, they cried. It would be his Suez on the Tigris, they said. Wrong. It would be Vietnam crossed with Stalingrad. Wrong. To win the war, the Anglo-American forces could only prevail by inflicting casualties numbered in their hundreds of thousands. The more extravagantly doom-laden predictions had the deaths in millions. Wrong.' (Rawnsley, 'The voices of doom were so wrong,' The Observer, April 13, 2003)

By August 2011, even Rawnsley had to acknowledge the 'searing experiences of Afghanistan and Iraq,' above all the 'horrors of Iraq' with its 'slide into bloody anarchy'. Remarkably, this revised opinion appeared in an article that lauded the 'liberation' of Libya and mocked everyone who had been, once again, wrong:

'We were told that it would be impossible to get a UN resolution – and one was secured. We were told that Arab support would not stay solid – and, by and large, it did. We were told, as recently as 10 days ago, that the campaign was stuck in a stalemate which exposed the folly of David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy in pursuing the enterprise. So much for the wisdom of the conventional.'

This was a 'relief' for all 'who hold that democracies sometimes have both the right and the obligation to take up arms against dictators'. And after all - as in Iraq in 2003, at least in Rawnsley's mind – the price had been impressively low:

'The number of civilian casualties inflicted by the airstrikes seems to have been mercifully light... You might call it intervention-lite.'

And thank god, because 'the ideal of liberal interventionism could probably not have survived another humiliation'.

As the above suggests, one of the more dramatically dissonant cognitive collisions in the 'mainstream' involves the way elite journalists simultaneously affect world-weary, seen-it-all cynicism and post-Pollyanna naivety. Imagine the impact on Rawnsley's romantic worldview, if he read last week's report from Bloomberg business news:

'In another sign the sector is stabilizing, Royal Dutch Shell Plc and BP Plc have agreed to annual deals to buy Libyan crude.'

Newly reopened fields 'will increase the North African country's crude output by 57,000 barrels a day', although production remains well below the mouth-watering level of 1.6 million barrels a day reached before NATO's war to oust Gaddafi in 2011, described in the West as a 'no-fly zone'.

This follows equally heartening news from BP Middle East in Iraq: 'Rumaila oilfield achieves 3 billion barrel production landmark'. Achievements include:

'Production increased by more than 40% since BP joined partnership to redevelop Rumaila oilfield in 2010

'Oil production rate highest in 27 years

'Around $200 billion generated for the Iraqi economy.'

The results are impressive. As Boris Johnson would say, 'all they have to do is clear the dead bodies away'.

In 2015, the press reported that Sir John Sawers had joined BP's company board as a non-executive member. In 2003, Sawers was the British Government's Special Representative in Baghdad assisting the establishment of the Coalition Provisional Authority as the transitional government during the occupation of Iraq. A year earlier, Sawers, then ambassador to Egypt, had sent a memo that urged the government to 'clearly and consistently' state that its goal was regime change in Iraq, and asked 'how would we provide for stability after Saddam and his cronies were killed'. He added: 'All these are much more important questions than legality.'

This 'gaffe' did no harm to Sawers' career. In 2009 he was made head of MI6.

In lamenting Trump, Rawnsley offered a gesture in the direction of truth, noting that 'America' – he meant USAmerica – 'was always extremely imperfect in this role' of championing democracy around the world. The same could be said, with equal merit, of Genghis Khan.

An example of the 'imperfect' record was supplied by Julian Borger of the Guardian. Also lamenting 'the chaos of the Trump White House, Borger wrote of Obama:

'Meanwhile, the administration was criticised by both left and right for keeping US forces out of the Syrian civil war, leaving the field to Bashar al-Assad and his Russian and Iranian backers, who flattened entire cities.'

British and US forces also destroyed entire cities in Iraq and Libya without the word 'flattened' being used by Borger. It is true that the corporate 'left' criticised Obama for not launching an all-out attack on Syria – former Guardian columnist Paul Mason deemed the decision a 'Disaster!' - but authentic left voices rejected as nonsense both the criticism and the claim that the US was thereby guilty of 'leaving the field' to Assad and the Russians. The US was always very much involved. In June 2015, the Washington Post reported:

'At $1 billion, Syria-related operations account for about $1 of every $15 in the CIA's overall budget... US officials said the CIA has trained and equipped nearly 10,000 fighters sent into Syria over the past several years — meaning that the agency is spending roughly $100,000 per year for every anti-Assad rebel who has gone through the program.'

There was much more besides, of course. The US supplied 15,000 anti-tank missiles to Saudi Arabia, which the US knew were intended for the Syrian 'rebels'. The Washington Post observed:

'The U.S.-made BGM-71 TOW missiles were delivered under a two-year-old covert program coordinated between the United States and its allies to help vetted Free Syrian Army groups in their fight against President Bashar al-Assad...

'So successful have they been in driving rebel gains in northwestern Syria that rebels call the missile the "Assad Tamer," a play on the word Assad, which means lion.'

In March 2017, it was reported that Raytheon, which makes the TOW missile, had seen its stocks triple since 2012.

Western liberal commentators have ceaselessly raged at claims that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons and indiscriminate 'barrel bombs'. We are unaware of any who have dared imagine how the US government would respond to thousands of foreign troops fighting on the US mainland using 15,000 anti-tank missiles supplied by a foreign superpower to kill thousands of US troops, seriously threatening to overthrow the government. In 1945, Hiroshima and Nagasaki were vaporised without US national survival ever being at stake.

Borger cynically used 'criticism' to suggest that a mere claim was indeed the case: 'Meanwhile, the administration was criticised by both left and right...'

Similarly:

'Obama came under great criticism over Syria; for declaring that the Assad regime's use of chemical weapons would be a "red line" for US military action, and then failing that test by not striking after a mass-casualty chemical attack in August 2013.'

In fact, Obama 'came under great criticism' for imagining that he had the right to declare a 'red line' at all, and then for falsely claiming he had conclusive evidence that Assad had ordered a mass-casualty chemical attack.

Borger's use of 'criticism' gave the impression that he had covered the full range of views, for and against, when in fact he had filtered out the criticism that mattered.

These endless reassurances of benevolent Western intent – 'we' sometimes get it wrong, but 'we' do support freedom where 'we' can, and cannot stand idly by while people suffer – are absurd, embarrassing, but lethally effective.

People like to believe well of their governments and the claims are largely uncontested, repeated all over the media, and thereby seem to be based on some kind of reality. The terrible consequence of this, however, is that it allows politicians and journalists to appear credible when they claim 'humanitarian concern' about events taking place in countries on the West's list of Official Enemies. Anyone challenging this alleged benevolent concern is instantly shouted down as a brutal cynic, as an 'apologist' for the target of Western 'intervention'.

The deeper point here is that the refusal of corporate media to discuss this corporate media contribution to fake news means its discussion is itself fake. And not just fake - to ignore the crucial contribution of corporate fake news to the destruction of whole countries is insane. Blanking obvious, key aspects of reality truly is a form of social insanity.

Rawnsley's amiable face has been smiling out at readers, without challenge, for decades – until now. Thanks to social media, readers are at last able to see some rational dissent – the imperial corporate commentariat is now naked. One of the up-sides to social media that the 'mainstream' cannot even discuss.

Read more: Champions Of Democracy - From Fake News To Imposed Insanity

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