Sunday, September 30, 2007

Debate with the MediaLens Editors.

Just how important is the figleaf effect? Do writers like Monbiot and Klein give legitimacy to the corporate liberal press? They appear to think that just because link to her work published in the Guardian appears on her website, that she is an enthusiastic supporter of the Guardian. An important issue of debate:

Kebz: I don't understand this obsession with attacking figures on the left because they don't quite match up to the infinite purity demanded by Gabriele and the Editors. You need less of a holier than thou attitude and should stick to tackling the liberal press rather than singling out people like this.

Gary Younge, Seumas Milne, Monbiot, Bunting and others have written some excellent stuff over the years. Do you want them to stop writing and leave the way clear for the likes of Tisdall and Cohen? Do you only want them to only publish on obscure websites where a tiny fraction of the readership of the guardian will read them?

Do you buy stuff from the shops? Do you have no corporate goods in your house? I guess you live in mud huts and don't use Microsoft or other corporate software or connect using corporate ISPs?

Can I suggest that Monbiot et al, have spread the message to a lot more people than we have. I would respectfully suggest that Klein has also done more than we have. These writers may use the corporate press but ask yourself is it a price worth paying to spread the message? Are there not better targets for your derision?

ML editors:Why is it "attacking" to ask Klein what she thinks of the Guardian's performance, for example on Iraq? Would it be "attacking" to ask Chomsky what he thinks of the NY Times' performance on Iraq? Is it seen as "attacking" because the question's deemed awkward because Klein's working closely with the Guardian, being well paid by them, with agreements to have their logo on her website, links to her work on theirs? If so, isn't that all the more reason to ask the question?


Kebz: It is perfectly reasonable to ask as you say. But I get the feeling based upon what I have seen before that that it is a prelude to attacks on the integrity of the person in question. How about answering the questions I asked?

Eds: Of course Monbiot's done some great work. Very rare exceptions aside, he's written very little about the structural corruption of the corporate media and its impact on the world. We've discussed Younge's work on Haiti in detail in our alerts. We've also discussed Milne's performance as gatekeeper of the Guardian's comment page - packed full of the likes of Garton Ash waging a propaganda war on Iraq while some of the great dissident writers were excluded year after year. Surprised Bunting's even on your list. Shortly after street protests by hundreds of thousands of protestors in Seattle (November 1999) and Washington (April 2000), Bunting wrote:

"Let's be honest, who cares much about politics beyond a small elite of professional politicians, commentators, policy wonks and a rump of party activists? When did you last have a raging row - or even brief conversation - with anyone about politics?" (Madeleine Bunting, 'No politics, we're British', The Guardian, 15.5.00) Do you really think we have the power to wreck this kind of havoc on UK liberal dissent? Do you think asking awkward questions of journalists is liable to end in this result? If so, US liberal and dissident journalism would have been wrecked beyond repair long ago by Herman, Chomsky, Zinn, Albert and others. What they have done is really obscene by comparison, by this logic.

If you have to be pure before you work for progressive change, then we should all give up now and accept that challenging anyone on anything is wrong. The point is we should all be challenging each other in this way. Even more importantly, we should also be challenging ourselves about the positive or harmful impacts we might be having on the world. It's extremely difficult to know if we're doing more harm than good, if only because it's very easy to convince ourselves that we're doing good when our actions make our own lives easier, more comfortable. I can tell you that we ask ourselves these questions all the time.

Well the world's most-read writer on international affairs is Noam Chomsky. If the suggestion is that Guardian journalists have to hold their tongues to do good, then Chomsky's impact is the ultimate refutation of that claim. And again, what we would he make of a comparable question on the performance of the New York Times on Iraq? Would he cringe with embarrassment because the New York Times Syndicate distributed the op-eds he published as his book Interventions? It's laughable, isn't it?

The question for us is a simple one: what is the impact when one of the world's leading progressive voices openly and enthusiastically endorses a newspaper like the Guardian? The Guardian has been a key component in a propaganda system that has resulted in the destruction of Iraq and the deaths of more than 2 million people over the last couple of decades. It helped bring Blair to power and protected him through his worst crimes. The list goes on and on: Haiti, Serbia, Afghanistan, Iran, climate change, globalisation... These are extremely serious issues.


Kebz: Thanks Eds. You say 'what is the impact when one of the world's leading progressive voices openly and enthusiastically endorses a newspaper like the Guardian?'

How do you know she is enthusiastic about it? Does having a link on your website mean you are enthusiastic about it? She has published articles in the Guardian. Ask yourself, is it not natural that she should have links to websites where her articles have been published? (I can't find any trace of the logo on her website.)

So what if the likes of Monbiot and Bunting have not written about the structural failures of the media. Just because it is our hobby horse does not mean everybody else has to focus on the same issue and disregard the rest. Monbiot focuses on the environment as that is his self declared brief, although you know that he has considered the questions you put to him in his articles.

Bunting is more of a social commentator. The remarks you attribute to her are taking her out of context. You are considering the wider world picture, whilst she is focusing on the UK political scene in that piece. In any case, there is hardly likely to be 100% agreement on all issues between these commentators who fall into the 'left' category. That is the heterogeneous nature of political discourse.

You say 'Do you really think we have the power to wreck this kind of havoc on UK liberal dissent? Do you think asking awkward questions of journalists is liable to end in this result?'

This is not a matter of asking awkward questions but why you are asking those questions. What do you hope to achieve? Sure, I understand that you are challenging the writers perception of the guardian but I ask again, would you rather that these writers did not appear on the Guardians pages?

Would you rather that your challenge resulted in them withdrawing saying that they will never publish in the guardian again because it is tainted because of its disgusting record?

Sure the Gruaniad is everything you say, but it is also a platform for the excellent work that you mentioned. It is a very important question that needs to be asked here: Is it not important to challenge the establishment line on the very pages that the establishment line is being promoted? Is that not the most effective way can you hope to directly tackle the promotion of war to the wider public?

You don't have to tell me these are serious issues. That is why the argument boils down to is, should these writers stop using corporate platforms like the Guardian? Why do you automatically assume they are enthusiastic supporters of everything that appears in the Guardian because they also choose it as a vehicle to spread a very important message to the public, in it? What other vehicles do they have available with the same reach?

By all means ask questions, but it appears to me (and I am not alone) that the awkward questions appear to be posed such that they appear to attack the integrity of the person in question.

Eds: we think it's wrong to appear in the corporate media without drawing attention to the problem of the corporate media. The reason being that the "fig leaf" effect otherwise has a major impact in reinforcing the illusion that the media system is free and open.

We're asking: What does Naomi Klein think about the performance of the Guardian, for example on Iraq? That question is legitimate, important and reasonable. From the response so far, it seems likely we're not going to get an answer. That then potentially raises a whole lot of other issues.

As you probably recall, we asked Chomsky what he thought about dissident writers completely boycotting corporate media like the Guardian. He said he wasn't sure whether it would be better or not. Nor are we. In the age of the internet, the feasibility of such a boycott changes. It's certainly something to think about and discuss.

"By all means ask questions, but it appears to me (and I am not alone) that the awkward questions appear to be posed such that they appear to attack the integrity of the person in question."

This is what we sent:

Dear Naomi

Hope you're well. I'm co-editor of a UK-based media watchdog, Media Lens. In your latest posting on the Guardian Unlimited website, you praise a number of regular Guardian journalists, including Madeleine Bunting, Seumas Milne and Gary Younge. I notice you also have a Guardian advert and link on your website. What is your view of the Guardian's performance in relation to the issues you discuss? Specifically, for example, what is your opinion of the Guardian's coverage of the Iraq war?

Best wishes
David Edwards

Can you explain how this appears "to attack the integrity of the person in question"? How could we have taken out the attack on Klein's integrity, in your view?


Kebz: So you think that every one of these writers should have a disclaimer in each piece saying how bad and terrible the Guardian is? Or should they spend most of their time regurgitating the propaganda model instead?

Is it really counterproductive to present the reality to a million people on a corporate platform rather than to storm off and avoid being labelled a rhetorical figleaf?

Even Chomsky cannot make up his mind about what a boycott of the corporate media would achieve. I would suggest that says something about the power of the alternatives. Although you wax lyrical about the age of the internet and so on, the reach of weblogs and sites like ZNET is a drop in the ocean compared to the reach of corporate media. In the end, a small part of the public has only ever heard of Chomsky because he has his books published by publishers and his name mentioned in the Guardian.

Lets say we go along with the idea of a boycott. How many people will that involve? Lets be realistic. I would suggest that no more than a few thousand at most would be involved. Why don't you try it and see what happens? What would it achieve? Absolutely nothing in my opinion except to remove the few strands of the alternative media already crowded with pro-war pro-corporate lackeys. That brings us full circle. Would you really like to leave the field clear for the pro-war people and have no dissenting voices at all in the mainstream? You may not have the power to do it but would you like to see it happen?

Do you honestly think the alternative media will be able to make up the for that loss? Do you really think these intelligent people are unaware of the problems involved in publishing in the Guardian? Why do you read so much into somebody putting a link on their website?

I think, what you really want is somebody to be talking full time in the corporate media about the failings of the corporate media. That would not be a bad thing but is hardly likely to happen is it? That is why the Guardian ignore MediaLens as much as possible. They see it the same as allowing somebody into their house to put up posters about how evil the residents are. It is wrong but in reality they see their readership as their 'followers' so to speak. They will not allow people to tell their followers that they are evil.

I accept that so far you have only posed a question for Klein. That doesn't yet constitute an attack but the question is leading to something is it not? Experience suggests that calling people a figleaf and going on to suggest that they are guilty of propping up the system and subsequently complicit in the wars etc, follows in these exchanges. That is not a positive way of debate. If that is not what you intend, then I apologise but I base my question on past observations.

In the final analysis, to anybody reading this debate, I would say think about how much legitimacy Monbiot et al give to the Guardian by writing their articles. Balance that against how much good they do by spreading the anti-war anti-corporate message to millions in a more subtle and eloquent way. Do you think the figleaf effect really outweighs the direct message?

David Wearing: Eds - I have sympathy for both yours and Kebz's postions. You're right to raise these issues, and Kebz is right to challenge you on just how far you want to take this.

Firstly, lets clear something up re. your email to Klein. Correct me if I'm wrong but you're not merely asking a question, are you? Anyone familiar with your work knows that there's a criticism implicit in your question and your question is set up as a prelude to a criticism. Of course there's nothing wrong with that. But lets not say that all you're doing is asking a question and nothing else. Lets not wonder (as you do in an earlier post on this thread) why people get all sensitive when all you're doing is asking innocent questions of their favorite writers. People aren't being sensitive. They're recognising the criticism you're making and disagreeing with it.

When discussing this issue with Gabriele and Miriam in the past the response I've had has been, "are these people immune from criticsm?" and that seems to be your response as well. This is dodging the issue. No one's said these people are immune from all criticsm. The question is whether your criticism (which is plainly implicit in your email to Klein) is justified. Kebz is not saying you shouldn't ask the questions - he's giving you his answer to them.

Secondly, while I think the use of the Guardian logo on the No Logo website does raise a legitimate question (albeit one which I think has now been dealt with satisfactorily by Bern), the preceding sentence in your email is a bit concerning.

"you praise a number of regular Guardian journalists, including Madeleine Bunting, Seumas Milne and Gary Younge".

And? Plainly there's a criticism implicit here, so why not just make it? You're saying such praise might not be justified given that these people work for the Guardian and given some of their own performances, no? Better to say so instead of "just asking a question".

So lets look at this. Take Seumas Milne. Its plain that Milne identifies the same problems that we identify in the political economy, but has taken a different approach to yours in dealing with them. You choose to work outside the system in order to offer your criticisms of it. Milne has chosen to work within the system, to play the game cleverly and to open up avenues for dissent to people who might not otherwise enjoy such opportunities.

Your method leaves you free to work entirely on your own terms. Milne's doesn't. He sometimes has to make compromises. Could he have held down that job for five minutes if he'd barred the likes of TG Ash etc and filled the Guardian comment pages with Pilger and Chomsky? Plainly not. But in his time he gave space to countless excellent dissenting voices. A significant proportion of the stuff he got published advanced a thoughtful and humane view of the world. Think of Priya Gopal, Karma Nabulsi, Jonathan Steele, George Monbiot. Do TGA etc simply nullify all of these? Plainly not.

Milne's chosen method can't be dismissed. As Kebz has said, you have to balance:
(a)the effect of a dissenting voice getting the chance to speak to the mainstream, with
(b) the fig leaf effect that you identify.

Does the figleaf effect cancel out any good that can be done? That's the argument put forward by Miriam Cotton to me in a previous discussion on this board. She argued that for all Robert Fisk's good reporting, the fact that this reporting appeared in the Independent made him little better than a collaborator. I'm afraid its this sort of hardline, black-and-white view that can give (and in some places has given) the good work of the Medialens community bit of a bad name.

Surely it is more sensible to recognise your approach and Milne's as complimentary. You can achieve things that he cannot achieve in his position, and vice versa. By all means pressure msm journalists to introduce cricism of the cm within the cm, but don't decry them as "gatekeepers" for failing to behave within the corporate media as though it wasn't corporate, thus nullifying all the important things that they do achieve.

You asked Kebz whether he seriously thought you had the power to expel journalists from the corporate media. Clearly that wasn't his point. He was asking what you advocate. Do you want these people to leave the msm and write for ZNet only? (Ludicrously there are some in the ML community who apparently would think even this too much). Would the world be better off if the likes of Fisk, Klein etc slashed millions from their readership? If millions less people knew of the opinions they espouse or the facts they draw our attention to? The fig leaf effect is important to consider, but is it really so overriding? Obviously not, in my view. You've asked the question. I think that's your answer.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

At last

The US army and CIA are finally designated as terrorists. About time too.

The hard-line dominated [Iranian] parliament cited U.S. involvement in dropping nuclear bombs in Japan in World War II, using depleted uranium munitions in the Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq, supporting the killings of Palestinians by Israel, bombing and killing Iraqi civilians, and torturing terror suspects in prisons.

"The aggressor U.S. Army and the Central Intelligence Agency are terrorists and also nurture terror," said a statement by the 215 lawmakers who signed the resolution at an open session of the Iranian parliament. The session was broadcast live on state-run radio.

What about the victims of US sponsored death squads in Central America? Surely, they count too?

Friday, September 28, 2007

Surfing the nightmare

I am saddened by this story from Tokyo. It reveals the fact that a large underclass of effectively homeless people, are sheltering in 24hr Internet cafes because this is the cheapest way to live other than living on the pavement.

Tanaka has been dividing his time between internet cafes, capsule hotels and all-night saunas for the past three years since fleeing his home in Saitama prefecture, north of Tokyo, after falling behind on his rent. "I know it's cramped here, but there is no way I could afford the deposit and rent on an apartment, even a one-room place," he says as he devours a Slush Puppie with a plastic spoon. "All the drinks are free, I can use the PC for as long as I like, and there's even a shower upstairs."

For all this he pays about 1,000 yen (£4.30) a night. On days when there is no room at the cafe, or when he craves a little more comfort, he pays a little more and stays at a capsule hotel - a bed and a TV in a room only slightly bigger than a coffin, with communal showers
If this is what you can look forward to after a long day slaving on a building site, how is this much different to slavery? We cannot expect to help those in Africa or living under the jackboot of western approved dictators, when we tolerate this kind of stuff under our very nose. If our country is about 'British values of justice' etc, we should not have thousands of people sleeping on our streets and totally reliant on charities for survival. How can we afford billions for missiles to kill foreigners and yet not be able to feed and house our own population?

Monday, September 24, 2007

Don't stand up Gordon

"This is my pledge to the British people: I will not let you down. I will stand up for our schools and our hospitals. I will stand up for British values. I will stand up for a strong Britain. And I will always stand up for you."

That would be why my local 6-year old hospital is losing its maternity unit and its accident and emergency unit. Thanks to Brown and colleagues, everybody in my town will have to travel at least six miles on roads renowned for appalling traffic.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Bloody Sunday

There is a horrific story in the Independent about the recent bloody Sunday massacre of 28 Iraqi civilians by Blackwater mercenaries. Despite the call for Blackwater to leave by Iraqi government officials, military and diplomatic sources are clear that simply will not happen. Blackwater have too many connections (Bush, CIA, Pentagon etc) and too many contracts to protect top US officials based in Iraq. Blackwater said after the killing of of four employees (that led to the destruction of Fallujah by US forces),
"we also feel pride and satisfaction that we are making a difference for the people of Iraq."
That difference can be measured in terms of hundreds of innocent Iraqis gunned down by trigger happy mercenaries earning several thousand dollars a day.

Blackwater is run by a personal friend of George Bush. Erik Prince is an ex-navy seal, a right-wing fundamentalist Christian and a former intern in the administration of George Bush Sr.

Jeremy Scahill, author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army, said this:

You tell me what nation in the world has operatives deployed in nine other countries around the world, can boast of a force of 20,000 men to call on at a moment's notice, has a fleet of senior-ranking US military official, Brigadier General Karl Horst, the deputy commander of the Third Infantry Division, he became so outraged with contractor misconduct, that he began just tracking cases of contractor violence over a two-month period. He documented twelve instances of contractors firing at Iraqi civilians, resulting in six Iraqi civilian deaths and three injuries. That’s just two months and one general with his eyes open. So you multiply that across the scene, and what we have in Iraq is a Wild West-type scenario.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Another miscarriage of justice or another terrorist locked away?

A Scottish Muslim student has been convicted on charges of terrorism. If the circumstances described by his lawyer are correct, this is a major miscarriage of justice as well as being against the principles of individual freedom and liberty. The laughable level of evidence included him 'growing a beard' and discussing suicide bombing with fellow students at college when he was 18.

Apparently this guy had in his possession some CDs and DVDs. How you can use CDs and DVDs for terrorism, I don't know. Perhaps they were made with TNT. Apparently viewing a beheading or desecration of a dead US soldier's body is enough to make you worse than a paedophile. It surely is no worse than the dozens of US based Internet users that come to this blog looking for pictures of dead bodies, dead Iraqis and dead kids.

He also set up up a website with links to an ISRAELI website complete with links. The Israeli website is apparently a Mossad site and makes available links to bomb making material for anybody to download. The site has not been removed and apparently has the blessing of the Israeli establishment. Apparently even the BBC have featured the site, so I reckon that should make them terrorists too. The Israeli government are terrorists and are making material available for the BBC to distribute. Not far from the truth really.

In fact in this case no actual evidence was found of terrorism:

'in media briefings before the trial, senior officers admitted that they had not found any evidence that Siddique himself was planning to carry out an attack.

Instead, prosecutors tried to convince the jury that the material found on Siddique's computer and websites he owned was intended to encourage others to carry out attacks.

But the biggest problem facing them was that most of the videos stored on Siddique's computer could easily be found by using internet search engines like Google.

Indeed, footage of Osama Bin Laden urging Jihad against the West was little different from the one issued by the al-Qaeda figurehead which was broadcast by the mainstream media, including the BBC, on the anniversary of 9/11.'

There you have it. An admission from the BBC of its guilt, M'lud. They go on:

'The court heard, for example, that Siddique told a college classmate he had actually met Bin Laden.

Siddique had visited several hardline Islamist websites, some of which preached anti-Semitism and encouraged young Muslims to martyr themselves as suicide bombers.

However, officers discovered that Siddique had also surfed pornography sites. He had played online poker and registered a team in an internet football manager game.'

That's right folks. This fundamentalist was also a porn surfer and gambler too. These things were not at all against his religious beliefs. Remember Forest Gate and the allegations of paedophile porn?

So the upshot is that if you are a Muslim fantasist with a few DVDs featuring say Hamas or the Muslim Brotherhood, or if you have downloaded the odd beheading video from youtube, then you are likely to be locked up for dozens of years. However, if you are white supremacist fantasist from Nelson with chemicals, explosives and weapons, then you can get away with it.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

News roundup

The ORB polling survey supports previous results from the Lancet over excess deaths in Iraq. Some 1.2 million people have died in the war started by the neocons based upon lies.

Another set of lies leaked by the military to turn up the pressure on Iran - allegedly NATO have 'seized Iranian weapons' in Afghanistan. Don't hold your breath waiting for proof.

Speculation continues on the Israeli terrorist air attack on Syria carried out in secrecy last week. Journalists quote US and Israeli sources describing the attack as being on a cement shipment that was allegedly hiding nuclear technology from North Korea. Others say it was an agricultural research centre that was extracting uranium from fertiliser. Don't ask me which is the more ridiculous claim. The BBC, in comedy mode quotes the Syrians:
Damascus said last week the Israeli warplanes had violated Syrian airspace in the north of the country, describing the incident as a "hostile act".

Trust the BBC to put 'hostile act' in quote marks. Do they think it is not a hostile act to invade other countries for no reason and bomb them? Sorry, I forgot about Iraq. It must be liberation time again.

The Zionist terrorists have attacked the Moath bin Jabal Mosque in Rafah, causing substantial damage. Israeli bulldozers are destroying Palestinian farmland and Israeli special forces continue to kidnap people from their homes. So much for the peace process.

Meanwhile Benazir Bhutto announces her return to Pakistan for the umpteenth time, but this time actually specifies a date in October. She has been busy courting US politicians for support so that she can share power with or take over from Musharaff. Her weakness is that she will never have control over the Pakistani military, which is the major consideration in Washington.

Talking of cows, the movement ban on livestock has been lifted outside of the three mile zone in Surrey. Seems a bit soon to me, but time will tell.

Thursday, September 13, 2007


Reply from Jon Snow

Alas Kebz, I didn't see it from where I was but will check..I
agree..we shouldn't..thanks for drawing it to my wishes,
jon snow

Snow Mail

Dear Jon,

Hope you are well. Interesting interview with Mr Ahmadinejad. What on earth was the montage of Iranian military hardware for? Why did you feel you needed to set a context to paint Mr Ahmadinejad as a warmonger? Funnily enough we don't see the same thing for western politicians when they appear on Channel 4 news to justify the mayhem and deaths of up to a million people in Iraq.

best wishes,

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The divide

Rather than leading with Bush and General Petraeus yet again, the Gruniad should feature this story on the front page. The figures from the World Federation of United Nations Associations are stark and and reveal the state of inequality between the rich and the poor of this world today.

  • 211m: Globally, the number of people affected by natural disasters every year
  • 225: Number of rich people with the same combined income as 2.7 billion poor
  • 18%: Proportion of people unable to read, compared with 37% illiteracy in 1970
  • 1 in 5: Proportion of women who will be a victim of rape or attempted rape
  • $1000bn: The cost of world corruption in 2006
  • 13-15 million: children orphaned through AIDS

The vast majority of bribes go to officials in rich countries not in developing countries.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

BBC blatant bias

Yet another disgraceful article from the BBC. Today they report on a story about a rocket fired from the Gaza stripe which hit an Israeli military camp and injured 69 soldiers. The BBC headline is "Rocket injures dozens in Israel". Why not put dozens of soldiers in the headline so that the browsing public do not get a biased impression from the headline?

The story comes complete with a picture of a man with an injured leg on a stretcher. This is the same injured man also featured in the Guardian. When was the last time, that mere injuries on the Palestinian side merited this kind of coverage? In fact, whenever the Israeli army hit people by shelling or shooting, we hardly ever see a picture of the injured Palestinians unless there has also been a large death toll too.

The BBC explains the injured soldiers were 'recruits'. Awww, let's have a wave of sympathy for the 'recruits' who kill little Arab kids for wandering too near the fence on their own side. What about the Hamas recruits? The teenagers who are regularly murdered by Israel?

The BBC yet again move on to reporting propaganda from Israeli officials. Have a gander at this:
"We pulled out of the Gaza Strip two years ago, we took down all of the settlements, we pulled out all our military personnel, we ended the military occupation and these extremists who are shooting rockets really have no positive agenda. It's just nihilism."
This disgracefully obvious and blatant lie goes completely unchallenged and is reported verbatim by the BBC. How about pointing out that the occupation army controls the borders of Gaza and that they control who and what goes into Gaza. They also control the airspace and the coastline bordering Gaza. They maintain an economic and military stranglehold that holds 1.5 million people under permanent siege, unable to maintain a functional economy and reliant on foreign aid. This foreign aid is also used as political leverage against the ordinary residents in Gaza
. Dozen of elected Hamas officials are also held without charge in Israeli prisons. Who gives a shit about a fucking positive agenda when these zionazis are killing your kids and starving your people? Why is it only Israel who is allowed the excuse of retaliatory violence?

The crap from the BBC does not end there. It goes on:
Few of the attacks cause casualties but their psychological impact on life in the area has been significant.
What about the psychological damage being suffered by 1.5 million prisoners, you twats? What about the psychological damage of kids being hammered by sonic booms deliberately created night after night by Israeli jets flying low over Gaza? What about the psychological damage of thousands who spent weeks trapped unable to get into Gaza and suffered many personal tragedies during that period? What about the psychological damage of being tortured in Israeli prisons?

The only questions the BBC is worrying about are all from the Israeli perspective. Why were the soldiers only under canvas? How can Israel prevent further rocket strikes? It would be a refreshing change if the BBC were ever to consider similar question from a Palestinian viewpoint. They do however manage to note for once that the Israelis have killed hundreds of Palestinians in a previous incursion but yet again accept at face value the Israeli excuse that the reason for the orgy of destruction was to prevent rocket strikes rather than just another act of general terrorism against Gaza that Israel routinely indulges in.

The BBC pic

The Guardian pic

Monday, September 10, 2007

The amazing shrub

That bandwagon looks and sounds familiar.........

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Titan rain or earthly smog?

The dastardly Chinese have allegedly been hacking their way into the computers of the British establishment including Whitehall. They have also had the temerity to hack into the US defence computer system and various German ministries. The BBC, sticking as firmly as ever to the principle of evidence-based reporting, duly reported the rumour/allegation that the hackers were linked to the People's Liberation Army (PLA) of China. Despite the dearth of evidence (other than the words of unnamed US officials that the BBC takes as solid proof), several newspapers and media channels are pointing the finger of blame firmly at the Chinese government. Coincidentally, today there are also reports of the Chinese arming the Taliban.

According to some UK government officials, this is a 'very disturbing' trend and of tremendous 'concern'. Some go as far as to liken it to a nuclear attack. The next war could well be a cyberwar and the hackers could bring down critical control systems and bring the country to its knees, they suggest.

However, something does seem to be conspicuous by its absence from these analyses. The idea that western hackers sitting in GCHQ and the Pentagon are doing the same thing against official enemy targets, does not seem to feature at all, never mind prominently. The possibility that the Western powers, who control much of the infrastructure of the Internet and have their own armies of computer experts involved in espionage, could indulge in such unsporting behaviour, obviously did not cross the mind of any of the media editors.

Hacking is just like 'terrorism'. They terrorise; we defend. They attack; we protect. They invade; we liberate.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Diego Garcia Chagossians get British sympathy

Bill Rammel makes excuses for the British government's actions, in slinging the Chagossian Islanders off Diego Garcia, so that the US could turn it into a military base.

Jeremy Corbyn (Lab),
The people who lived for hundreds of years on the Chagos Islands were descendents of its first inhabitants who had been dropped off there as slaves and traders or had settled there. They lived a settled existence, fishing and producing copra....The Chagossians did not depart from the islands in the 1960s and 1970s; they were rounded up, taken away and thrown off the islands.

Alex Salmond (SNP),
Every Foreign Office Minister, up to and including current Ministers, and every Foreign Office staffer who has been involved in the story over the past 40 years should hang their heads in shame at what has been done to these defenceless people.

John Grogan (Lab)
I would be interested to hear the Minister comment on whether any payment by the US Government has ever been made. Officially, the Foreign Office denies it, but time and again the suggestion in the literature is that the British Government at the time got a $14 million reduction in the cost of the Polaris nuclear missile system.

Bill Rammel, Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs,
..the decisions taken by successive Governments in the 1960s and 1970s to depopulate the islands do not, to say the least, constitute the finest hour of UK foreign policy. In no sense am I seeking to justify the decisions that were made in the 1960s and 1970s....During French rule, and for a short period thereafter, the copra plantation was run with slave labour. However, when slavery was abolished in all British possessions in the 1830s, the work force became contract labourers. That continued to be the basis of employment for as long as the copra plantations remained in operation......Some time after the islands had been set aside for defence needs in 1965, it was decided that the islanders should be relocated to Mauritius and the Seychelles, and arrangements for that to be done were made in the late 1960s and early 1970s....

In 1982, Britain made an ex gratia payment of £4 million in return for withdrawal of legal proceedings brought by a member of the Chagossian community in Mauritius, in addition to the previous £650,000 for the Chagossian community in Mauritius. Everyone who was registered as a Chagossian—approximately 1,350 people—benefited from the fund. At today's prices, that sum is the equivalent of £9 million. At that stage, it was agreed by all concerned, including the Chagossians and their representatives, that that payment by the British Government was a full and final settlement against all the claims....

the Government had also commissioned a study in 2000 into the feasibility of resettling the Chagossians on the islands....I am directly quoting from that study, which was drawn up independently. It concluded that, "whilst it may be feasible to resettle the islands in the short term, the costs of maintaining long-term inhabitation are likely to be prohibitive."

That was not dreamed up by a Foreign Office official or a Minister; it was the conclusion of the independent experts.....Even in the short term, natural events such as periodic flooding from storms and seismic activity are likely to make life difficult for a resettled population....we have no legal obligation to pay any further compensation beyond what has already been provided

Basically the government is saying:

Tough shit. The French are to blame. They created this motley crew of islanders when they didn't exist. Then we gave them lots of money to resettle somewhere else (even though they didnt exist). That was after we decided they should be turfed out and their dogs gassed. We asked these independent commission guys (who we also paid lots of money), and they said we can't let this rabble back on the islands because they might suffer hardship. After all, the whole bloody place is surrounded by water and they might get flooding, storms, earthquakes and stuff. It's not nice out there. The US forces on the base are used to the hardship. They hardly have anything to eat apart from MacDonald's whoppers and KFC.

Anyway, we legally don't have to pay the Chaggosians a penny more, because they got all that money, back in the eighties.