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The International Campaign to Destabilize Syria

Seven Steps of Highly Effective Manipulators | White Helmets, Avaaz, Nicholas Kristof & Syria No Fly Zone

Dissident Voice

April 9, 2015

You might think that after seeing the consequences of their campaign for “freedom and democracy” in Libya, journalists like Nicholas Kristof and “humanitarian campaigners” like Avaaz would have some qualms.

Unfortunately they have learned nothing. They have generally not been held to account, with a few nice exceptions such as this Greenwald/Hussain article. And now they are at it again. Many well-intentioned but naive members of the U.S. and international public are again being duped into signing an Avaaz petition based on fraud and misinformation. If the campaign succeeds in leading to a No Fly Zone in Syria, it will result in vastly increased war, mayhem and bloodshed.

The following illustration shows the sequence and trail of deceit leading to Avaaz’s call for a No Fly Zone in Syria.

unnamedFollowing is a brief description documenting the flow of misinformation and deceit, beginning at the Source and ending with Avaaz’s campaign for NATO/US attack on Syria.

Source

The “Source” is unknown at this time. It might be some US agency with or without the approval of the Obama administration. Or it might be another foreign government which seeks, in plain violation of international law,  the overthrow the Syrian government.  In addition to the U.S., Turkey, Saudi Arabia, France, Britain and Qatar have each spent hundreds of millions and even billions in heavy weaponry plus 3,000 tons of weapons via Croatia plus arming, training, supplying and paying the salaries of thousands of domestic and international mercenaries sowing mayhem and destruction in Syria.

At this point we do not know but there is a REWARD:  $100 finders fee to the first person who can provide credible evidence identifying the SOURCE.

PURPOSE Inc.

This is an international PR firm. CEO is Jeremy Heimans, a co-founder of Avaaz.

President is Kevin Steinberg, previous CEO of World Economic Forum USA (antithesis of World Social Forum).  Their website describes their goal:

“Purpose builds and accelerates movements to tackle the world’s biggest problems.”

In this case the “problem” is reluctance to take over Syrian skies and land.

For a hefty fee, “Purpose” will dupe the public and break down that reluctance.

Toward that end,  Purpose created “The Syria Campaign”.

The Syria Campaign 

The Syria Campaign began in spring 2014. One of their first efforts was to work to prevent publicity and information about the Syrian Presidential Election of June 2014. Accordingly, “The Syria Campaign” pressured Facebook to remove advertisements or publicity about the Syrian election.  Since then Syria Campaign has engineered huge media exposure and mythology about their baby, the “White Helmets” using all sorts of social and traditional media. The campaigns are largely fact free. For example, the Syrian election was dismissed out of hand by them and John Kerry but taken seriously by many millions of Syrians.

The Syria Campaign is managed by Anna Nolan,  who grew up in northern Ireland and has very likely never been to Syria. In addition to promoting the White Helmets,  Syria Campaign promotes a new social media campaign called “Planet Syria”. It features emotional pleas for the world to take notice of Syria in another thinly veiled effort pushing for foreign intervention and war.

According to their website, The Syria Campaign received start-up funding from the foundation of Ayman Asfari, a billionaire who made his money in the oil and gas services industry.

White Helmets

White Helmets is the newly minted name for “Syrian Civil Defence”. Despite the name, Syria Civil Defence was not created by Syrians nor does it serve Syria.  Rather it was created by the UK and USA in 2013. Civilians from rebel controlled territory were paid to go to Turkey to receive some training in rescue operations. The program was managed by James Le Mesurier, a former British soldier and private contractor whose company is based in Dubai.

The trainees are said to be ‘nonpartisan’ but only work in rebel-controlled areas of Idlib (now controlled by Nusra/Al Queda) and Aleppo. There are widely divergent claims regarding the number of people trained by the White Helmets and the number of people rescued.  The numbers are probably highly exaggerated especially since rebel-controlled territories have few civilians. A doctor who recently served in a rebel-controlled area of Aleppo described it as a ghost town. The White Helmets work primarily with the rebel group Jabat al Nusra (Al Queda in Syria). Video of the recent alleged chlorine gas attacks starts with the White Helmet logo and continues with the logo of Nusra. In reality, White Helmets is a small rescue team for Nusra/Al Queda.

But White Helmets primary function is propaganda. White Helmets demonizes the Assad government and encourages direct foreign intervention.  A White Helmet leader wrote a recent Washington Post editorial.  White Helmets are also very active on social media with presence on Twitter, Facebook etc.  According to their website, to contact White Helmets email The Syria Campaign which underscores the relationship.

Nicholas Kristof/New York Times

The “White Helmets” campaign has been highly successful because of uncritical media promotion.  Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times was an advocate of the NATO/US attack on Libya. According to him, villagers who had been shot, injured and their homes destroyed were not bitter, they were thankful! . “Hugs from Libyans” is how he viewed it.  It was, of course, nonsense, helping to pave the way in the invasion and destruction of the country.

Now Kristof is uncritically promoting the White Helmets, aiding and abetting their political and propaganda message seeking foreign intervention in Syria.

Avaaz

Avaaz is an online lobby organization founded in 2007 by Jeremy Heimans (now CEO of Purpose) and others. Start-up funding was provided by George Soros’ foundation.  While Avaaz has promoted some worthy causes, they have been prominent in promoting neoliberal foreign policies in keeping with the U.S. State Department. Accordingly, they had a major disinformation campaign against Venezuela last year.

Avaaz very actively promoted a No Fly Zone in Libya. They are now very actively promoting the same for Syria.

In-depth research and exposure of Avaaz can be found here. The titles give some indication: “Faking It: Charity Communications in the Firing Line”, “Syria: Avaaz, Purpose & the Art of Selling Hate for Empire”, “Avaaz: Imperialist Pimps for Militarism”.

Avaaz justifies its call for No Fly Zone in part on White Helmets. Given the close interconnections between Avaaz and Purpose, they are surely aware that White Helmets is a media creation. This calls into question their sincerity.

Conclusion

The manipulators rely on emotional images and messages, not facts. They depend on willing partners in the mainstream media who amplify the easy and glib characterizations of who and what is good and bad.  The manipulators depend on their audience not asking questions or investigating on their own. In these times of rapid spread of visual and text information via social media, the potential for deceit is huge.

Snapshots

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Avaaz Petition for Libya No Fly Zone — 2011

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Avaaz Petition for Syria No Fly Zone — 2015 (Syria Campaign Posting)

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Kristoff/New York Times/2011

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Kristoff/New York Times/2015

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The Real White Helmet Purpose:  Propaganda

[Rick Sterling is active with the Syria Solidarity Movement and Mt Diablo Peace and Justice Center. He can be emailed at: rsterling1@gmail.com.]

 

 

Avaaz: Manufacturing Consent for Wars Since 2011

Wall of Controversy

March 20, 2015

By James Boswell

 

 

Four years ago I received an email from the internet campaign group Avaaz which read:

“Together, we’ve sent 450,000 emails to the UN Security Council, “overwhelming” the Council President and helping to win targeted sanctions and a justice process for the Libyan people. Now, to stop the bloodshed, we need a massive outcry for a no-fly zone.” [Bold as in the original.]

Of course, that no-fly zone was Nato’s justification for a war – “no-fly zone” means war. So the bloodshed wasn’t about to be stopped, it was about to begin in earnest:

The foreign media has largely ceased to cover Libya because it rightly believes it is too dangerous for journalists to go there. Yet I remember a moment in the early summer of 2011 in the frontline south of Benghazi when there were more reporters and camera crews present than there were rebel militiamen. Cameramen used to ask fellow foreign journalists to move aside when they were filming so that this did not become too apparent. In reality, Gaddafi’s overthrow was very much Nato’s doing, with Libyan militiamen mopping up.

Executing regime change in Libya cost the lives of an estimated 20,000 people: but this was only the immediate death toll, and as a civil war rages on, the final figure keeps rising, indefinitely and seemingly inexorably. And the number of victims will go on rising for so long as there is lawlessness and chaos in a country now completely overrun with terrorists and warlords. So what was started with a “no-fly zone” is ending with a hell on earth: abandon hope all ye who enter here.

Given their unpardonable role in instigating this entirely avoidable human catastrophe, does it come as any surprise when, with “mission accomplished”, the media chose to turn its back on the carnage in Libya? Patrick Cockburn, who wrote the article from which the above quote is taken, has been a rare exception to the rule. A journalist who was not so quick to swallow the official line, he has since been committed to telling the bigger story, which includes the falsity of Nato’s original justifications for air strikes:

Human rights organisations have had a much better record in Libya than the media since the start of the uprising in 2011. They discovered that there was no evidence for several highly publicised atrocities supposedly carried out by Gaddafi’s forces that were used to fuel popular support for the air war in the US, Britain, France and elsewhere. These included the story of the mass rape of women by Gaddafi’s troops that Amnesty International exposed as being without foundation. The uniformed bodies of government soldiers were described by rebel spokesmen as being men shot because they were about to defect to the opposition. Video film showed the soldiers still alive as rebel prisoners so it must have been the rebels who had executed them and put the blame on the government.

So here is a pattern that repeats with uncanny consistency, and with the mainstream media’s failure to discover and report on the truth also recurring with near parallel regularity. We had the ‘Babies out of incubators’ story in Kuwait, and then those WMDs in Iraq that, as Bush Jnr joked, “have got to be here somewhere”, to offer just two very well-established prior instances of the kinds of lies that have taken us to war.

Patrick Cockburn continues:

Foreign governments and media alike have good reason to forget what they said and did in Libya in 2011, because the aftermath of the overthrow of Gaddafi has been so appalling. The extent of the calamity is made clear by two reports on the present state of the country, one by Amnesty International called “Libya: Rule of the gun – abductions, torture and other militia abuses in western Libya” and a second by Human Rights Watch, focusing on the east of the country, called “Libya: Assassinations May Be Crimes Against Humanity”.1

Click here to read Patrick Cockburn’s full article published last November.

But accusations do not stop even at the deplorable roles played by “foreign governments and media alike”, but apply to all of the various warmongering parties at that time, and one of the groups we must also point the finger to is Avaaz. For it was Avaaz, more than any other campaign group, who pushed alongside Nato in their call for the “no-fly zone” which got the whole war going. To reiterate, since it is vitally important that this is understood, a “no-fly zone” always and without exception means war:

Clearly a no-fly zone makes foreign intervention sound rather humanitarian – putting the emphasis on stopping bombing, even though it could well lead to an escalation of violence.

No wonder, too, that it is rapidly becoming a key call of hawks on both sides of the Atlantic. The military hierarchy, with their budgets threatened by government cuts, surely cannot believe their luck – those who usually oppose wars are openly campaigning for more military involvement.2

So wrote John Hilary in an excellent article entitled “Internet activists should be careful what they wish for in Libya” published on the cusp of “intervention”.

In response, Ben Wikler, a campaign director at Avaaz, posted a comment that included the following remarks:

Would imposing a no-fly zone lead to a full-blown international war? No-fly zones can mean a range of different things.

Wikler is wrong and Hilary correct: “no-fly zones” always mean war. And as a consequence, those at Avaaz like Ben Wikler now have blood on their hands – and yet are unrepentant.

Yes, as with most others who were directly or indirectly culpable, “foreign governments and media alike”, it seems Avaaz too are suffering from collective amnesia. Not only have they forgotten the terrible consequences of imposing a “no-fly zone” on Libya, but they also seem to have forgotten their own deliberate efforts when it came to bolstering public support for that “bloody and calamitous” (to use Cockburn’s words) “foreign intervention” (to use the weasel euphemisms of Nato and the West). Because instead of reflecting upon the failings of Nato’s air campaign four years ago, and without offering the slightest murmur of apology for backing it (not that apologies help at all), Avaaz are now calling upon their supporters to forget our murderous blundering of the recent past, with calls for the same action all over again… this time in Syria.

It was yesterday when I received the latest email from Avaaz. Don’t worry, I’m not a supporter (although the simple fact I receive their emails means by their own definition, I am presumably counted one), but after Libya I chose to remain on their mailing list simply to keep an eye on what they were doing. And (not for the first or the second time) they are selling us on more war:

The Syrian air force just dropped chlorine gas bombs on children. Their little bodies gasped for air on hospital stretchers as medics held back tears, and watched as they suffocated to death.

But today there is a chance to stop these barrel bomb murders with a targeted No Fly Zone.

The US, Turkey, UK, France and others are right now seriously considering a safe zone in Northern Syria. Advisers close to President Obama support it, but he is worried he won’t have public support. That’s where we come in.

Let’s tell him we don’t want a world that just watches as a dictator drops chemical weapons on families in the night. We want action.

One humanitarian worker said ‘I wish the world could see what I have seen with my eyes. It breaks your heart forever.’ Let’s show that the world cares — sign to support a life-saving No Fly Zone

Obviously, I am not supplying the link for this latest call to arms: “a[nother] life-saving No Fly Zone”.

After Avaaz called for war against Libya back in 2011, I wrote a restrained article. But I was too polite. When they called for war again following the sarin gas attack on Ghouta, I hesitated again and looked into the facts. They didn’t stack up (as I explained at length in another post). But nor did I damn Avaaz on that occasion, as I ought to have done, when with Libya already ablaze they set up a campaign like this (sorry that it’s hard to read):

Since that time it has become evident to the world (at least the one outside the Avaaz office) that it has been Syrian forces who have most successfully fought back against Islamist extremists (al-Qaeda, but now more often called ISIS) who not only use poison gas to murder their enemies and spread fear, but methods so barbaric and depraved – public mass beheadings, crucifixions and even cannibalism – that you wonder which century we are living in. But Avaaz push the blame for all of this killing back on to the Assad regime, just as the West (whose close allies continue to back the so-called “rebels”) have also tried to do. And Avaaz are now saying (once again) that escalating the conflict is the way to save the people of Syria – so don’t worry if it spreads the infection now called ISIS – more love bombs are the preferred Avaaz solution for every complex political situation:

“Today, Gadhafi is dead, and the Libyan people have their first chance for democratic, accountable governance in decades…. American casualties were zero. Insurgent fighters and the vast majority of the population have cheered the victory as liberation, and courageous Syrians who face daily threats of death for standing up to their own repressive regime have taken comfort in Gadhafi’s fall. These accomplishments are no small feats for those who care about human dignity, democracy, and stability….

Progressives often demand action in the face of abject human suffering, but we know from recent history that in some situations moral condemnation, economic sanctions, or ex-post tribunals don’t save lives. Only force does.”

These are the self-congratulatory words of Tom Perriello, the co-founder of Avaaz, writing in late 2012. And he finishes the same piece:

We must realize that force is only one element of a coherent national security strategy and foreign policy. We must accept the reality—whether or not one accepts its merits—that other nations are more likely to perceive our motives to be self-interested than values-based. But in a world where egregious atrocities and grave threats exist, and where Kosovo and Libya have changed our sense of what’s now possible, the development of this next generation of power can be seen as a historically unique opportunity to reduce human suffering. 3

Independent investigative journalist, Cory Morningstar, who has probed very deeply into the organization says, “Make no mistake – this is the ideology at the helm of Avaaz.org.”

As she explains:

Tom Perriello is a long-time collaborator with Ricken Patel. Together, they co-founded Avaaz.org, Res Publica and FaithfulAmerica.org.

Perriello is a former U.S. Representative (represented the 5th District of Virginia from 2008 to 2010) and a founding member of the House Majority Leader’s National Security Working Group.

Perriello was also co-founder of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good. He worked for Reverend Dr. James Forbes on “prophetic justice” principles. Many of these organizations were created with the intent of creating a broad-based “religious left” movement. […]

Despite the carefully crafted language and images that tug at your emotions, such NGOs were created for and exist for one primary purpose – to protect and further American policy and interests, under the guise of philanthropy and humanitarianism.

As Cory Morningstar also points out:

In December 2011, Perriello disclosed that he served as special adviser to the international war crimes prosecutor and has spent extensive time in 2011 in Egypt and the Middle East researching the Arab Spring. Therefore, based on this disclosure alone, there can be no doubt that the deliberate strategy being advanced by Avaaz cannot be based upon any type of ignorance or naïveté. 4

“It breaks your heart forever.” That was the heading under which yesterday’s email arrived and the way it signed off went as follows: “With hope, John, Mais, Nick, Alice, Rewan, Wissam, Ricken and the rest of the Avaaz team”. And this is how they come again with further ploys to prick your conscience. So do please remember before you click on their pastel-coloured links or forward those ‘messages’ to your own friends, how they beat the drums to war on two earlier occasions. In 2013, when they last called for the bombing of Syria (but the war party were halted in their mission), and in 2011 when they first aided Nato’s grand deception and helped to bring unremitting horrors to the innocent people of Libya. Keep in mind too, how lacking in guilt they have been in light of their own imploring role during the run up to the full “shock and awe” display over Tripoli.

Because John, Mais, Nick, Alice, Rewan, Wissam, Ricken and the rest… are really not our friends. They are humanitarian hawks, who are in the business of manufacturing consent for every Nato “intervention”. Indeed, I would like to ask John, Mais, Nick, Alice, Rewan, Wissam, Ricken and the rest, in good faith, just how do you sleep at night?

Click here to read a thorough examination of Avaaz put together by independent investigative journalist Cory Morningstar.

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Additional:

Here is an open letter I constructed in Summer 2012, but then decided not to post:

Dear Ricken, Eli and the whole Avaaz team,

By your own rather loose definition, I have been a member of Avaaz now for several years. In other words I responded to one of your campaigns many moons ago, and have never subsequently withdrawn my name from your mailing list. I believe that under your own terms, I am thus one of the many millions of your ‘members’. You presume that all those like me who are ‘in the Avaaz community’ support your various campaigns simply because we are on your contact list, although in my own case, this is absolutely not the case. I have ceased to support any of the Avaaz campaigns since you pushed for a ‘no-fly zone’ over Libya, and from this time on, have kept up with your campaign messages simply to keep an eye on you. I vowed never again to sign any of your petitions on the grounds that I do not wish to be a supporter of any organisation that backs an aggressive and expansionist war.

The most common criticism of Avaaz, and other internet campaign groups, is that it encourages ‘slacktivism’, which is indeed a very valid concern:

Sites such as Avaaz, suggested Micah White in the Guardian last year, often only deal with middle-of-the-road causes, to the exclusion of niche interests: “They are the Walmart of activism . . . and silence underfunded radical voices.” More infamously, internet theorist Evgeny Morozov has called the likes of Avaaz “Slacktivists”, claiming that they encourage previously tenacious activists to become lazy and complacent.

There’s also the issue of breadth. Clicktivist websites often cover a range of issues that have little thematic or geographical relation to each other, which leaves them open to accusations of dilettantism.

Click here to read Patrick Kingsey’s full article in the Guardian.

Ricken Patel’s response to Kingsley is to point to their campaign against Murdoch’s takeover of BSkyB:

“Our activism played a critical role in delaying the BskyB deal until the recent scandal was able to kill it,” Avaaz‘s founder, New York-based Ricken Patel, tells me via Skype. 5

So is this really the best example Avaaz has to offer? Since the BSkyB deal would undoubtedly have been stymied for all sorts of other reasons, not least of which were the various phone hacking scandals, and most shockingly, in the hacking of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler’s phone. This more than anything killed off the Murdoch bid for BSkyB.

We might also give a little grudging credit to Business Secretary Vince Cable, who in late 2010 revealed privately to undercover reporters that he was ‘declaring war’ on Rupert Murdoch. This caused such a storm that Tory leader David Cameron came out against Cable, describing his comments as “totally unacceptable and inappropriate”, whilst Labour leader Ed Miliband immediately followed suite saying that he would have gone further and sacked Cable 6. In any case, Murdoch was coming under attack from many fronts (including, as shown by Cable’s example, a maverick offensive from inside the government), and so there were already growing calls for a review of the BskyB deal. As it turns out, the deal itself was seriously compromised by a conflict of interests involving Ofcom Chairman Colette Bowe, not that this widely reported – I wrote a post on it just before the deal suddenly collapsed. In fact, I had tried in vain to get a number of politicians to look into this aspect of the case, but none at all even bothered to reply. The story the media were telling quickly moved on, and so the role of Ofcom remains more or less unscrutinised.

But I have a far bigger problem with Avaaz than simply the matter of its lack of effectiveness. Since even if Avaaz has achieved nothing concrete whatsoever, which might well be the case, its growing prominence as a campaign group is undoubtedly helping to frame the protest agenda. Picking and choosing what are and aren’t important issues is dilettantism, yes, and also, potentially at least, “the manufacturing of dissent”. Avaaz‘s defence is that it is an independent body – oh, really?

Co-founder and Director of Avaaz, Ricken Patel said in 2011 “We have no ideology per se. Our mission is to close the gap between the world we have and the world most people everywhere want. Idealists of the world unite!”

“No ideology per se”? So what then are we to make of your association with another organisation called Res Publica, of which Patel is a fellow, and Eli Pariser has also been a member of the Advisor Board.

Res Publica (US) is described by wikipedia as “a US organization promoting ‘good governance, civic virtue and deliberative democracy.’”, though there is no article on the group itself, and nor, for that matter, any entry on Ricken Patel himself. If I visit the Res Publica website, however, the link I immediately find takes me straight to George Soros’ Open Democracy group and also the International Crisis Group of which Soros is again a member of the Executive Committee. The International Crisis Group that gets such glowing endorsements from peace-loving individuals as (and here I quote directly from the website):

President Bill Clinton (‘in the most troubled corners of the world, the eyes, the ears and the conscience of the global community’); successive U.S. Secretaries of State (Condoleezza Rice: ‘a widely respected and influential organisation’, Colin Powell: ‘a mirror for the conscience of the world’ and Madeleine Albright: ‘a full-service conflict prevention organisation’); and former U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, the late Richard Holbrooke (‘a brilliant idea… beautifully implemented’ with reports like CrisisWatch ‘better than anything I saw in government’).

Whilst according to Res Publica‘s own website Ricken Patel has himself “consulted for the International Crisis Group, the United Nations, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Gates Foundation…”

To cut to the quick then, Avaaz claims to independence are simply a sham. Whether foundation funded or not, you are undeniably foundation affiliated. Which brings me to your recent campaigns.

In a letter which I received on Wednesday 11th January, you wrote, typically vaingloriously, about the significance of Avaaz in bringing about and supporting the uprisings of Arab Spring:

Across the Arab world, people power has toppled dictator after dictator, and our amazing Avaaz community has been at the heart of these struggles for democracy, breaking the media blackouts imposed by corrupt leaders, empowering citizen journalists, providing vital emergency relief to communities under siege, and helping protect hundreds of activists and their families from regime thugs.

When all that I can actually recall is some jumping on the bandwagon and your support for the ‘shock and awe’ assault that we saw lighting up the skies over Tripoli. Gaddafi was ousted, of course, much as Saddam Hussein had been by the Bush administration, and likewise, the country remains in chaos. But does the removal of any dictator justify the killing of an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 people in the first months of the Libyan war – these figures according to Cherif Bassiouni, who led a U.N. Human Rights Council mission to Tripoli and rebel-held areas in late April. 7 Figures that officially rose to 25,000 people killed and 60,000 injured, after the attacks on Gaddafi’s besieged hometown of Sirte. 8 The true overall casualties of the Libyan war remain unknown, as they do in Iraq, although a conservative estimate is that around 30,000 people lost their lives. Avaaz, since you called for this, you must wash some of that blood from your own hands.

Now you are calling for ‘action’ against Syria, on the basis this time of your own report which finds that “crimes against humanity were committed by high-level members of the Assad regime”. Now, let me say that I do not in the least doubt that the Assad regime is involved in the secret detainment and torture of its opponents. The terrible truth is that such human rights abuses are routinely carried out all across the Middle East, and in many places on behalf or in collusion with Western security services such as the CIA. Back in September 2010, PolitiFact.com wrote about the Obama administration’s record on so-called “extraordinary renditions” [from wikipedia with footnote preserved]:

The administration has announced new procedural safeguards concerning individuals who are sent to foreign countries. President Obama also promised to shut down the CIA-run “black sites,” and there seems to be anecdotal evidence that extreme renditions are not happening, at least not as much as they did during the Bush administration. Still, human rights groups say that these safeguards are inadequate and that the DOJ Task Force recommendations still allow the U.S. to send individuals to foreign countries.[158]

Whilst back in April 2009, on the basis of what he had witnessed in Uzbekistan, former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan from August 2002 to October 2004, Craig Murray, gave evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights “UN Convention against torture: allegations of complicity in torture”. In answers to questions, he explained to the committee how the UK government disguises its complicity and that he believed it has, in effect, helped to create “a market for torture”:

If I may refer to the documents on waterboarding and other torture techniques released recently in the United States on the orders of President Obama, if we are continuing to receive, as we are, all the intelligence reports put out by the CIA we are complicit in a huge amount of torture. I was seeing just a little corner in Uzbekistan. [p. 73]

I think the essence of the government’s position is that if you receive intelligence material from people who torture, be it CIA waterboarding, or torture by the Uzbek authorities or anywhere else, you can do so ad infinitum knowing that it may come from torture and you are still not complicit. [bottom p. 74]

Their position remains the one outlined by Sir Michael Wood, and it was put to me that if we receive intelligence from torture we were not complicit as long as we did not do the torture ourselves or encouraged it. I argue that we are creating a market for torture and that there were pay-offs to the Uzbeks for their intelligence co-operation and pay-offs to other countries for that torture. I think that a market for torture is a worthwhile concept in discussing the government’s attitude. [p. 75]

The government do not volunteer the fact that they very happily accept this information. I make it absolutely plain that I am talking of hundreds of pieces of intelligence every year that have come from hundreds of people who suffer the most vicious torture. We are talking about people screaming in agony in cells and our government’s willingness to accept the fruits of that in the form of hundreds of such reports every year. I want the Joint committee to be absolutely plain about that. [bot p.75] 9

Click here to watch all of parts of Craig Murray’s testimony.

Here is the introduction to Amnesty International‘s Report from last year:

Over 100 suspects in security-related offences were detained in 2010. The legal status and conditions of imprisonment of thousands of security detainees arrested in previous years, including prisoners of conscience, remained shrouded in secrecy. At least two detainees died in custody, possibly as a result of torture, and new information came to light about methods of torture and other ill-treatment used against security detainees. Cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments, particularly flogging, continued to be imposed and carried out. Women and girls remained subject to discrimination and violence, with some cases receiving wide media attention. Both Christians and Muslims were arrested for expressing their religious beliefs.

But not for Syria – for Saudi Arabia report-2011.

And it continues:

Saudi Arabian forces involved in a conflict in northern Yemen carried out attacks that appeared to be indiscriminate or disproportionate and to have caused civilian deaths and injuries in violation of international humanitarian law. Foreign migrant workers were exploited and abused by their employers. The authorities violated the rights of refugees and asylum-seekers. At least 27 prisoners were executed, markedly fewer than in the two preceding years.

Further down we read that:

At least 140 prisoners were under sentence of death, including some sentenced for offences not involving violence, such as apostasy and sorcery.

Not that Amnesty‘s report on Syria report-2011 is any less deplorable:

The authorities remained intolerant of dissent. Those who criticized the government, including human rights defenders, faced arrest and imprisonment after unfair trials, and bans from travelling abroad. Some were prisoners of conscience. Human rights NGOs and opposition political parties were denied legal authorization. State forces and the police continued to commit torture and other ill-treatment with impunity, and there were at least eight suspicious deaths in custody. The government failed to clarify the fate of 49 prisoners missing since a violent incident in 2008 at Saydnaya Military Prison, and took no steps to account for thousands of victims of enforced disappearances in earlier years. Women were subject to discrimination and gender-based violence; at least 22 people, mostly women, were victims of so-called honour killings. Members of the Kurdish minority continued to be denied equal access to economic, social and cultural rights. At least 17 people were executed, including a woman alleged to be a victim of physical and sexual abuse.

Please correct me, but so far as I’m aware, Avaaz have been entirely silent in their condemnation of the human rights violations of either Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia (two countries that maintain very close ties with the US). Silent too when Saudi forces brutally cracked down on the Arab Spring protests in neighbouring Bahrain. So one could be forgiven for thinking that when Avaaz picks and chooses its fights, those it takes up are, if not always in the geo-strategic interests of the United States, then certainly never against those interests.

Back to your call for action against Syria and the letter continues:

We all had hoped that the Arab League’s monitoring mission could stop the violence, but they have been compromised and discredited. Despite witnessing Assad’s snipers first-hand, the monitors have just extended their observation period without a call for urgent action. This is allowing countries like Russia, China and India to stall the United Nations from taking action, while the regime’s pathetic defense for its despicable acts has been that it is fighting a terrorist insurgency, not a peaceful democracy movement.

Well, I’m not sure that anyone was expecting much from the Arab League, but can you really justify what you are saying here? That the violence now taking place in Syria is against an entirely “peaceful democracy movement” and that Syria is in no way facing a terrorist insurgency. Not that such an insurgency is entirely unjustified; after all one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. But that both sides are involved in atrocities, since both sides are evidently armed and the rebels are undeniably backed by militant Islamist groups.

Making statements such as “allowing countries like Russia, China and India to stall the United Nations from taking action”, directly implies that these foreign powers are simply protecting their own selfish interests (which is, of course, true), whereas the US is intent only on defending freedom and human rights. Such a gross oversimplification and plain nonsense.

So far, I note, Avaaz have not called for direct ‘military intervention’ in Syria, unlike in the shameful case of Libya. But given the timing of this latest announcement and on the basis of past form, I’m expecting petitions for what amounts to war (such as the ‘no-fly zone’ over Libya) will follow soon enough.

And so to your latest campaign, which I received by email on Tuesday 10th April. It begins:

Dear Friends,

Today is a big day for Avaaz. If you join in, Avaaz might just move from having a small team of 40 campaigners to having 40,000!!

Then goes on to explain how the reach of Avaaz will be broadened by encouraging everyone to write their own campaign petitions:

So, to unlock all the incredible potential of our community to change the world, we’ve developed our website tools and website to allow any Avaazer to instantly start their *own* online petitions, tell friends, and win campaigns.

The site just went live – will you give it a try? Think of a petition you’d like to start on any issue – something impacting your local community, some bad behaviour by a distant corporation, or a global cause that you think other Avaaz members would care about. If your petition takes off, it may become an Avaaz campaign – either to members in your area, or even to the whole world!

On the face of it, you are offering a way for everyone to be involved. But 40,000 petitions…? Is this really going to change the world? I have an idea that maybe just five or six might serve the purpose better – here are my suggestions for four:

  • a call for those responsible within the Bush administration and beyond to be charged with war crimes for deliberately leading us into an illegal war with Iraq
  • the criminal prosecution for crimes against humanity of George W Bush and others who have publicly admitted to their approval of the use of torture
  • the repeal of NDAA 2012 and the rolling back of the unconstitutional US Patriot and Homeland Security Acts
  • a criminal investigation into the rampant financial fraud that created the current global debt crisis

So consider me a member of the team once more. I’m putting those four campaigns out there. Or at least I would have before I’d read your ‘Terms of Use’. For it concerns me that “In order to further the mission of this site or the mission of Avaaz, we may use, copy, distribute or disclose this material to other parties” but you do not then go on to outline who those ‘other parties’ might be. And you say you will “Remove or refuse to post any User Contributions for any or no reason. This is a decision Avaaz will strive to make fairly, but ultimately it is a decision that is solely up to Avaaz to make.”

Since you reserve the right to “remove or refuse to post” without making a clear statement of your rules and without any commitment to providing justification for such censorship, I see little reason in bothering to try. Doubtless others will attempt to build campaigns on your platform for actions regarding the very serious issues I have outlined above, and should they achieve this, then I will try to lend support to those campaigns. Alternatively, should I fail to come across campaigns formed around these and related issues, I will presume, rightly or wrongly (this is “a decision that is solely up to me to make”), that Avaaz prefers not to support such initiatives. Either way, I will not holding my breath.

*

1 From an article entitled “The West is silent as Libya falls into the abyss” written by Patrick Cockburn, published by The Independent on November 2, 2014. http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/the-west-is-silent-as-libya-falls-into-the-abyss-9833489.html

2 From an article entitled “Internet activists should be careful what they wish for in Libya” written by John Hillary, published in the Guardian on March 10, 2011. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2011/mar/10/internet-activists-libya-no-fly-zone

3 From an article entitled “Humanitarian Intervention: Recognizing When, and Why, It Can Succeed” written by Tom Perriello, published in Issue #23 Democracy Journal in Winter 2012. http://www.democracyjournal.org/23/humanitarian-intervention-recognizing-when-and-why-it-can-succeed.php?page=all

4 From an article entitled “Imperialist Pimps of Militarism, Protectors of the Oligarchy, Trusted Facilitators of War”, Part II, Section I, written by Cory Morningstar, published September 24, 2012. Another extract reads:

The 12 January 2012 RSVP event “Reframing U.S. Strategy in a Turbulent World: American Spring?” featured speakers from Charles Kupchan of the Council on Foreign Relations, Rosa Brooks of the New America Foundation, and none other than Tom Perriello, CEO of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Perriello advanced his “ideology” during this lecture.

http://theartofannihilation.com/imperialist-pimps-of-militarism-protectors-of-the-oligarchy-trusted-facilitators-of-war-part-ii-section-i/

5 From an article entitled “Avaaz: activism or ‘slacktivism’?” written by Patrick Kingsley, published in the Guardian on July 20, 2011. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jul/20/avaaz-activism-slactivism-clicktivism

6 From an article entitled “Vince Cable to stay on as Business Secretary” published by BBC news on December 21, 2010. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-12053656

7 From an article entitled “Up to 15,000 killed in Libya war: U.N. Right expert” reported by Reuters on June 9. 2011. http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/06/09/us-libya-un-deaths-idUSTRE7584UY20110609

8 From an article entitled “Residents flee Gaddafi hometown”, written by Rory Mulholland and Jay Deshmukh, published in the Sydney Morning Herald on October 3, 2011. http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-world/residents-flee-gaddafi-hometown-20111003-1l49x.html

9 From the uncorrected transcript of oral evidence given to the Joint Committee on Human Rights “UN Convention against torture: allegations of complicity in torture” on April 28, 2009. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/jt200809/jtselect/jtrights/152/152.pdf

Please note that when I originally posted the article the link was to a different version of the document, but it turns out that the old link (below) has now expired. For this reason I have altered the page references in accordance with the new document.

https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:nogix7L1-kIJ:www.craigmurray.org.uk/Uncorrected%2520Transcript%252028%2520April%252009.doc+craig+murray+evidence+parliamentary+slect+commitee&hl=en&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESjfCqyleDnk_maooZDF7iGJ5MC68Lb9zNDi5PCH8_9PwlwCybyXYiCD-A1E-O_j9Z5XgnOsKsvguvirw4jqJW9zjuor_secSn7aw_X1JIxHxjLw0CZON7vwOcfitFM1bB8MOsaO&sig=AHIEtbScxyI2eTh3HF2MA_yGyeAcyTsoiQ

[James Boswell was born in Shrewsbury in 1967. In 1986 he moved to London to study Physics at Imperial College, and then moved again in 1989, this time to Sheffield, where his research on comets culminated in a PhD awarded in 1994. Having been settled in Sheffield ever since, he is currently a Physics lecturer at the Sheffield International College.]

 

 

Da’esh : Washington’s Proxy Army Trained to “Occupy” Syria [Brookings Institute]

Libya 360

November 27, 2014

By Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya
Smoke rises from the the Syrian town of Ain al-Arab, known as Kobane by the Kurds, after a strike from the US-led coalition as it seen from the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern village of Mursitpinar, Sanliurfa province, on October 14, 2014. (AFP Photo/Aris Messinis)

Is the US planning the occupation of Syria by training an unconventional insurgent invasion force?

Think regime change in Syria is off the drawing board? Think again. The bombing of the ISIL or ISIS in Syria is part of a brinkmanship campaign leading up to a potential non-conventional invasion, parallel to the re-introduction of the US military to Iraq.

The ISIL and the other anti-government forces in Iraq and Syria are not the only ones to disregard the Iraqi-Syrian border drawn by the British and French by Sykes-Picot in 1916. The US also disregarded the border and international law when it began to illegally bomb Syria.

The bombing campaign was not enough for some in the US Congress. In a joint statement on September 23, the arch-hawks US Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham called for US troops to be sent into Syria too. Both of them praised the Pentagon’s illegal airstrikes in Syria and then argued for US ground troops as well.

Although McCain and Graham went out of their way to say that this would not be an occupation of either Syria or Iraq, this is almost exactly what they were calling for when they said that the military campaign had to also be directed against the Syrian government.

Since, and even before the calls for an invasion of Syria by McCain and Graham different suggestions have circulated about an invasion of Syria.

The dilemma is that Washington does not want the Pentagon to directly invade Syria itself. It wants to pull the strings while another force does the work on the ground. Candidates for an outsourced invasion of Syria include the Turkish military or other US regional allies. There, however is also an impasse here as Washington’s allies are also afraid of the consequences of an invasion of Syria.

This is where a third opinion comes into the picture: the construction of a multinational insurgent army by the US.

Using non-state actors to invade and occupy Syria

While there seems to be no consensus on a Syrian strategy within the US political, intelligence, and military establishments, the objective of regime change is universally adhered to across the board. Regardless of the existence of a consensus, the US is moving ahead with the creation of an anti-government invasion force.

The third option is slowly emerging.

A few days after the US began the bombing of Syria, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey made it clear that the Pentagon also planned on creating a viable anti-government army in Syria consisting of 12,000 to 15,000 insurgents.

There also seems to be a growing consensus among the realist and neocons for US President Obama’s preference of using a rebel army to invade Syria. The Brookings Institute has been a major cheerleader for this.

During this same timeframe, the Brookings Institute released an opinion piece clearly calling for US intervention. The text, authored, by former CIA analyst for monitoring the Persian Gulf and US National Security Council official Kenneth Pollack, stipulated that Washington’s “strategy cannot require sending U.S. troops into combat. Funds, advisers, and even air power are all fair game — but only insofar as they do not lead to American boots on the ground.”

Pollack played an influential role in getting support for the illegal 2003 invasion of Iraq. He worked at the Council of Foreign Relations as its director of national security studies. He made the above statement as the director of research for the Saban Center for Middle East Policy and goes well beyond it by publishing a drawn-out October 2014 proposal for creating a US-made rebel invasion force as a means of taking over Syria and eventually conducting regime change in Damascus.

The Brookings Institute proposal suggests that a rebel Syrian army “is best not done in Syria itself. At least not at first” (p.9). The report points to the US and NATO success in “covertly” creating armed forces around the world, including the assembly of a Croat military, and deduces that these experiences would make it “entirely realistic for the United States to build a new Syrian opposition army” (p.8). It also says that the ideology of the fighters does not matter by stating the following: “A great many of those recruited may well be religious, even highly religious, including Salafist. That is not the issue” (p.9).

Welcome to the Brookings Institute and its Saban Center

What is the Brookings Institute exactly and why do suggestions from this think tank and others like it, matter?

The Brookings Institute is an influential think tank that has a revolving door of personnel with the US government and major corporations. All that one needs to do is look at its trustees and executives, which include interlocked directorships with the Carlyle Group, Goldman Sachs, and JP Morgan Chase.

Brookings also has ties to Israel and a full branch dedicated to Washington’s Middle East strategies and policies called the Saban Centre for Middle East Policy. Martin Indyk – the former US ambassador to Israel, a former high-level lobbyist for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), and the founder of AIPAC’s research arm (the Washington Institute for Near East Policy) – is the Director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings. Like Indyk, Kenneth Pollack was involved in shaping the Middle East policies of the Clinton Administration.

It is also worth noting that the Brookings Institute’s Saban Center is named after US-Israeli businessman and media mogul Haim Saban. Saban himself is on the board of trustees for Brookings.

There is a Qatari connection too. One may remember that Washington was hostile towards Al Jazeera when it first emerged as a news broadcaster, because of its coverage of US actions in the Middle East.

Saban tried to buy half of the Al Jazeera network from Qatar in 2004 and 2009, but failed. In the same timeframe as the 2003 Anglo-American invasion of Iraq, the first set of negotiations happened when he went to Qatar with Bill Clinton in 2003.

It is possible that Brookings may have played a role in pacifying Al Jazeera. In 2009, the Institute setup an overseas branch in Qatar called the Brookings Doha Center. The new chapter in Doha included Qatar’s ruling Al-Thani family alongside people like Madeleine Albright, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and Fareed Zakaria as chairs and advisors.

It was in the same year that the Brookings Institute published a report, which included Pollack and Indyk as authors, called Which Path to Persia? The report outlined a map for confronting Iran and alluded to the neutralization of Syria, in one way or another (including the procurement of a peace agreement with Damascus by Israel), to “mitigate blowback” from Lebanon’s Hezbollah and the Palestinians, specifically Hamas, as a prerequisite for an enabling an attack on Iran.

All in all, the ideas that come out of the Brookings Institute are discussed at the highest levels within policymaking and corporate circles.

Is the Syrian Invasion Force Slowly Emerging?

Is a rebel invasion force emerging to attack Syria? In no uncertain terms, Brookings argues that it is.

Pollack’s report stipulates the following: “Adopting such a strategy would mean first and foremost that Washington would have to commit itself to building a new Syrian army that will rule Syria when the war is over. Although [Obama’s] description of his new Syria policy was more modest and tepid than his explanation of the Iraq piece of the strategy, he does appear to have committed the United States to just that course. More than that, it will mean putting the resources, prestige and credibility of the United States behind this effort. The $500 million now appropriated is a good start, but it is only a down payment on a much larger project” (p.8).

The US goal of training rebels in Saudi Arabia and Turkey is an indication of this too. On September 10, about two weeks before it started bombing Syria, Washington declared that Saudi Arabia had given it the green light to train a rebel army in the Arabian Peninsula. “We now have the commitment from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to be a full partner in this effort — the train-and-equip program — to host that program,” one official was quoted as saying by the New York Times.

The Brookings Institute in its proposal for an invasion of Syria: “The Saudi offer to provide facilities to train 10,000 Syrian opposition fighters is one of reasonable possibility, although one of Syria’s neighbors would probably be preferable. Jordan already serves as a training ground for America’s current training program and it would be an ideal locale to build a real Syrian army. However, Turkey could also conceivably serve that purpose if the Turks were willing” (p.10).

About two months later, in November, after US Vice President Joe Biden met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul, it was announced that Kirsehir would be used by Turkey to train Syrian anti-government forces that the US would equip against Damascus.

The report also makes it clear that building the new opposition army “should not mean bolstering the existing ‘Free Syrian Army’” (p.10). Instead, the existing US-backed insurgent groups will slowly be swallowed or destroyed by the new opposition force that the US and its allies are constructing.

In mid-November, the Pentagon also presented a proposal to the US Congress, saying that it wants to arm Iraqi tribesmen with Kalashnikov rifles, rocked propelled grenades, and mortars. What is omitted is the cross-border dispersion of these tribes in both Iraq and Syria and the possibility that these weapons could be used in an attack on the Syrian government.

What moderates?

The talk about supporting “moderates” is very misleading. It is already clear that the ideology of the proposed insurgent army is not a key issue in practice for many US officials. There is also enough evidence to show that the Free Syrian Army, Al-Nusra, the ISIL, and the other insurgent forces are also collaborating and trading fighters.

The Telegraph, for example, had this to say on November 10 about Saddam Jamal, a US-backed Free Syrian Army commander that became an ISIL commander: “Before joining ISIL, Jamal had been a drug dealer, then a commander in the western-backed Free Syrian Army, claiming contacts in the CIA.

It is also clear that religion is a mask for the ISIL too. The same British article writes the following testimony from Saddam Jamal’s body guard about his massacre of a Syrian family: “The ISIL commander felt no remorse for killing this Syrian family, his bodyguard said, nor did he believe he was fulfilling a God-given creed: for him being a member of the extremist group was a matter of business, not religion.

In the end the ISIL may be used to incubate fighters or collapse, like the Free Syrian Army, into the proposed invasion force to occupy Syria.

Invasion army or armies?

General Dempsey said that “the anti-ISIL campaign could take several years to accomplish.” Leon Panetta, the former head of the CIA and Pentagon, has also claimed that this war will turn into a thirty-year US military project that will extend to North Africa, West Africa, and the Horn of Africa.

According to Brookings: “At some point, such a new Syrian army would have to move into Syria, but only when it was ready. Only when a force large enough to conquer and hold territory – something on the order of two to three brigades -were ready should it be sent in” (p.11).

A war of attrition that that will take years of fighting is underway. This matches up with the ideas about training an insurgent invasion force over the years.

In their joint statement Senators McCain and Graham said that President Bashar Assad will not stop fighting the so-called “moderate” US-backed insurgents “that remain committed to his ousting- especially when the United States and [its] partners still, correctly, share the same goal and will now be arming and training Assad’s moderate opponents.” In other words, the US-trained Syrian forces will ultimately target the Syrian government.

 

[Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya is a sociologist, award-winning author and geopolitical analyst.]

Obama’s Legacy: Permanent War and Liberal/Radical Accommodation?

Black Agenda Report

February 18, 2015

by BAR editor and columnist Ajamu Baraka

“African American radicals – unlike many white radicals – cannot afford the luxury of being unclear about the nature and interests of the white supremacist, patriarchal, colonial/capitalist order.”

The announcement by the Obama administration that it will seek congressional authorization to expand the war on ISIS in Syria and possibly send more heavy weapons to its client government in Ukraine did not generate the kind of muscular opposition and sense of urgency that one would expect from the anti-interventionist liberals and significant sectors of what use to be the anti-imperialist and anti-war left.

Outside of a few articles written by some of us confined to the marginalized and shrinking left, the reports that the administration was considering both of these courses of action were met with passing indifference. It is as if the capitalist oligarchy’s strategy of permanent war has been accepted as a fait-accompi by the general public and even significant numbers of the left.

The fact that the U.S. President could launch military attacks in Syria, supposedly a sovereign state and member of the United Nations, for six months without any legal justification and not face fierce criticism in the U.S. and internationally demonstrates the embrace of lawlessness that characterizes the current epoch of Western imperialist domination.

And the acquiescence of much of the left in the U.S. and Europe on the issue of Syria and the U.S.-supported coup in Ukraine reveals the moderating and accommodating forces within the faux left that attempts to bully and intimidate anti-imperialist critics.

To oppose the dismemberment of Syria or criticize the dangerous collaboration between the U.S. and racist neo-Nazi elements in Ukraine was reduced to the silly and intellectually lazy arguments that one was “pro-Assad” or a dupe for Putin!

“It is as if the capitalist oligarchy’s strategy of permanent war has been accepted as a fait-accompi by the general public and even significant numbers of the left.”

The current ideological environment did not evolve by accident or by the particular confluence of historical events. The disappearance of anti-imperialism among the cosmopolitan left in the U.S. and Western Europe is reflective of a monumental ideological accomplishment by the propagandists of empire. The professional propagandists of empire and Western dominance were able to adroitly “introject” into the center of the radical world-view and consciousness a liberal ideological framework that privileged “anti-authoritarianism over anti-imperialism.

The political consequence of this shift in consciousness has been disastrous for oppositional left politics throughout the West but particularly in the U.S. As the U.S. increasingly turned to lawless violence to advance its interests over the last seven years of the presidency of Barack Obama, “leftists” in the U.S. objectively aligned themselves with the U.S./EU/NATO axis of domination through their silence or outright support in the name of opposing authoritarian regimes.

The human consequence of this collaboration with U.S. and Western militarization by progressive forces in the U.S. and Europe has translated into unrestrained violent interventions from Libya to Syria and back to Iraq. Along with the escalations of direct military interventions, economic warfare and subversion directed at the state and people of Iran, Russia, Venezuela, and other progressive states in Latin America has resulted in the unnecessary suffering of millions.

And while the left and millions of Europeans will mobilize to condemn the 17 lives lost in the incident in Paris and defend “Western values,” there is no massive moral outrage from the Western public for the millions that have died at the hands of Western imperialism and the death and destruction that is promised with policies being considered for Syria and the Ukraine by the ruling elite in the U.S.

Fortunately, despite the political confusion of many leftists and the moral duplicity of liberals, signs of growing opposition to U.S. war-mongering are emanating from a historically familiar place – African American young people.

“While the left and millions of Europeans will mobilize to condemn the 17 lives lost in the incident in Paris and defend “Western values,” there is no massive moral outrage from the Western public for the millions that have died at the hands of Western imperialism.”

Similar to what occurred in the 1960s when opposition to the Vietnam war was catalyzed by the student organizers of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) working on the frontlines of struggle in the deep South, “Black Lives Matter” activists and the many other formations and tendencies crystalizing out of the Ferguson and anti-police violence movements are making the connection between violence and militarization in the internal colonized areas of the U.S. and the state violence being waged by the U.S. state beyond its’ borders.

Resistance to the logic of white supremacist colonialist/capitalist domination on the part of these young activists is leading them to a resolute anti-imperialist and anti-war stance, just like the young black activists of SNCC some fifty years ago.

Alicia Garza one of the founders of the Black Lives Matter movement offers a welcomed lesson to the faux left:

“There is absolutely a link between the militarization and the use of force to police black communities in the US and the role of the military to police people of color and Black people in the global South. In both scenarios, the police and the military are used to protect private property and the interests of the elite, but are also used to dampen and or eliminate any resistance to the status quo.”

The experiences of these activists in the U.S. and their increasing connections with struggling peoples’ throughout the world is making it clear to them that the slogan “to protect and serve – capital, ” not only applies to the occupation forces that police the racialized colonies inside the U.S. but also the role of the U.S. military abroad.

Black against empire,” is not only a title to a book; it also captures the radical stance that conscious black radicals in the U.S. must assume.

The systemic degradation that characterizes the social experiences of African American workers, the marginalized poor, and working class of all of the oppressed and colonized nations and peoples’ by the U.S. empire, strips away the pretense of a benevolent hegemon. The lived experience of oppression means that African American radicals – unlike many white radicals – cannot afford the luxury of being unclear about the nature and interests of the white supremacist, patriarchal, colonial/capitalist order. It is and will be the primary enemy.

“The slogan “to protect and serve – capital, ” not only applies to the occupation forces that police the racialized colonies inside the U.S. but also the role of the U.S. military abroad.”

On Sept. 12, 2001, the day after the attack in New York city and before it was clear what forces were behind the attack, neoconservative pundits revealing the pre-determined strategy that was to guide U.S. policy in the 21st century, were forcefully arguing that the U.S. must be prepared to use force in the world and in the immediate period to declare war on “militant Islam.” The countries identified for immediate attack included Syria, Libya, Iraq, and Iran, with China thrown in as well.

Permanent war and lawless gangsterism to protect and advance U.S. global economic and political interests was codified in the National Security Strategy (NSS) issued by President Bush on Sept. 21, 2002.

And while the pursuit of that strategy made President Bush the symbol of U.S. arrogance and generated vociferous liberal and progressive opposition, Barack Obama has faithfully carried out that very same neocon strategy becoming the smiling brown face of U.S. polices as morally repugnant as his predecessor – but without progressive, popular opposition.

However, the lack of moral outrage and opposition to the reactionary policies of Barack Obama is changing and will change even more rapidly as the new generation of black activists shift the center of oppositional politics back to the radical black tradition.

When/if that happens, there will be a much needed rebirth of the anti-war and anti-imperialist movement and radical activism in the U.S. will take a qualitative leap forward.

[Ajamu Baraka is a human rights activist, organizer and geo-political analyst. Baraka is an Associate Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) in Washington, D.C. and editor and columnist for the Black Agenda Report. He is a contributor to “Killing Trayvons: An Anthology of American Violence” (Counterpunch Books, 2014). He can be reached at www.AjamuBaraka.com.]

 

Pimping for Destabilizations: Shepard Fairey for Venezuela (USAID) | Banksy for Syria (Purpose Inc.)

Art as a Weapon for Destabilizations | MTV Glorifies Venezuela’s Barricade Protests in New Reality TV Show

“Exploited youth are the sacrificial lambs of the ruling classes in the 21st century…. Those born into today’s ‘young world’ are indiscriminately lusted after and seduced by predatory marketing agencies bankrolled by the world’s most powerful corporations and oligarchs, via their foundations. Thus, in stealth synchronicity, the brilliant (albeit pathological) sycophants have created a world where corporate pedophilia runs rampant and indoctrination of youth is perfected and normalized. One cannot deny such a virtuoso performance. Nor can one deny the profound repercussions of such vulturesque exploitation.” – Cory Morningstar, Excerpt from the Divestment Series

WKOG admin: On September 17, 2015 WKOG published the article SYRIA: Avaaz, Purpose & the Art of Selling Hate for Empire. From the article:

“Utilizing the consumer culture’s celebrity fetish to sell war (and the illusory “green economy“) is a vital marketing strategy of Purpose. In the case of #withSyria, famed street artist Banksy has reworked his “Young Girl” famed graffiti stencil in support of the campaign.”

Let the pattern be duly noted. Of critical significance is that Rebel Music appears to brilliantly utilize/co-opt Indigenous voices to legitimize it’s brand.

Informacional Desnudo

December 19, 2014

By Z.C. Dutka

 

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Santa Elena de Uairen, December 18th, 2014. (Venezuelanalysis.com) – US entertainment channel MTV has signed a contract with a Venezuelan media group to purchase extensive footage of the violent anti-government protests that wracked the South American nation earlier this year, to be featured in the new reality series Rebel Music.

The footage, captured by citizen reporters with GoPro cameras, show masked and shirtless men throwing handmade grenades and wreaking general havoc in a coordinated effort to force president Nicolas Maduro’s resignation that lasted from February to May this year.

43 people were killed during that time, the majority while trying to clear rubbish from or cross the barricades set up by demonstrators. Numerous public institutions including hospitals, universities, and transportation agencies were also burnt down in protest.

Reporte Confidencial became known for editing the GroPro material nightly, adding in a pumping dubstep track befitting a London club scene, and posting the finished videos to YouTube, where they received thousands of views from around the world.

It is this material MTV now seeks to own.

The reality show Rebel Music claims to be inspired by young people who “are raising their voices to demand change for a better future…. often putting their lives on the line,” according to the show’s website.

With this premise, many Venezuelans fear the show’s narrative will grant hero status to those hardcore protestors- whose tactics were so violent they effectively drove away a majority of opposition supporters, according to polls.

OtporMarch32013

Image: Otpor in Venezuela, March, 2013

Video below: MTV presents OTPOR! with Free Your Mind Award at the 2000 MTV Europe Music Awards:


 

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Above: Veran Mati? wears Otpor! t-shirt during MTV Europe Awards, 2000

Furthermore, as the White House approves sanctions against Venezuelan government officials, others accuse the MTV program of dovetailing too neatly with US foreign policy.

 

Obama-Gadaffi-300x200

“The series seems to mix legitimate struggles of people who fight to keep their identities alive, or women who feel threatened by religious laws, in contrast with the protests of Venezuela and Iran, countries whose oil wealth the United States seeks to control,” Venezuelan political analyst Luigino Bracci wrote in an op-ed for Caracas newspaper Alba Ciudad last week.

rebel music facebook header

Above image: Facebook banner

The series, which first aired last month, will also feature voices of dissent in Myanmar, Iran, Senegal, Turkey and US Native American communities.

Bracci also opined that the segments seem carefully selected to avoid featuring any challenge to the United States government or the global capitalist system.

“To distract us from the protests of Ferguson, Mexico, Greece and Madrid, there is nothing better than directing our sights elsewhere,” he said.

police-2-300x189

The US media has made no effort to hide its contempt of Venezuela’s socialist government since the Hugo Chavez’s election in 1999, while Chavez, in turn, repeatedly accused Washington of funding subversive movements to remove him from office.

Shepard Fairey and USAID

Bracci also pointed out the paradoxical use of red stars and other archetypal communist symbols, which he attributes to the show’s executive producer, Shepard Fairey.

Fairey is the pop art empresario behind the OBEY campaign and the red and blue stencil portrait of Barack Obama, which featured the word HOPE and was used universally throughout the US president’s initial campaign.

obama-hope-1

MTV program show’s executive producer, Shepard Fairey

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Above: Shepard Fairey (right) with MTV World General Manager and Senior Vice President Nusrat Durrani (left). Image via Rebel Music

Though he calls himself apolitical, Fairey has been criticized for reproducing communist Cuban and Korean poster art with slight twists and selling them as his own. In a 2008 interview with the magazine Mother Jones, reporter Liam O’Donoghue also called the artist out on appropriating images from social movements, usually created by artists of color, and stripping them of their political messages.

In a promotional video, Rebel Music features Venezuelan reggae artist OneChot whose 2010 video for the English-language single “Rotten Town” generated controversy for its depiction of Caracas as an Inferno of crime and murder, replete with images of dead and dying children.

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Though the reggae singer also claims to abstain from politics, his music is more popular with Venezuela’s privileged class, the same sector that widely supports the opposition.

“You are not free of violence anywhere. That is why I fight for change in Venezuela,” OneChot says to the MTV cameras.

While many Caracas artists would be eager for such international exposure, some mistrust the pre-determined script many reality shows are known to possess, believing it may spell out further US defamation of Venezuela’s socialist leaders.

After being approached by MTV correspondents to represent the pro-Chavez version of events, underground hip hop artist Arena La Rosa announced her refusal on her Facebook page.

“My dignity and my ideas are worth more than a million [page] views, so I have wisely decided not to participate,” the chavista rapper said.

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Underground hip hop artist Arena La Rosa

On the same day La Rosa posted her response, the Associated Press released documents detailing the US government’s failed attempt at infiltrating the Cuban hip hop scene, by way of the developmental organization USAID.

According to the AP, Washington had sought to build a network of young people seeking “social change” to spark a resistance movement against the government of Cuban president Raul Castro.

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Incidentally, Maduro has accused numerous opposition leaders of attempting the same kind of subterfuge during February’s unrest. A committee of victims and their families has even assembled to seek justice from those public figures who they believe encouraged such extreme tactics.

Meanwhile, Venezuela will have to wait for the MTV segment to be released to understand how their high-stakes reality will be adapted to meet the lofty demands of broadcast entertainment.

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In similar fashion, Banksy has reworked his “Young Girl” famed graffiti stencil in support of the #withSyria campaign. [SYRIA: Avaaz, Purpose & the Art of Selling Hate for Empire]

bansky-0313-web

 

 

 

 

Western Intervention and The Colonial Mindset

conformity-is-unity-3
Poster courtesy of Mark Gould
January 20, 2015
By Prof. Tim Anderson
+++

In these times of ‘colour revolutions’ language has been turned on its head. Banks have become the guardians of the natural environment, sectarian fanatics are now ‘activists’ and the Empire protects the world from great crimes, rather than delivering them.

Colonisation of language is at work everywhere, amongst highly educated populations, but is peculiarly virulent in colonial culture. ‘The West’, that self-styled epitome of advanced civilisation, energetically reinvents its own history, to perpetuate the colonial mindset.

Writers such as Fanon and Freire pointed out that colonised peoples experience psychological damage and need to ‘decolonise’ their minds, so as to become less deferential to imperial culture and to affirm more the values of their own cultures. The other side to that is the colonial legacy on imperial cultures. Western peoples maintain their own culture as central, if not universal, and have difficulty listening to or learning from other cultures. Changing this requires some effort.

Powerful elites are well aware of this process and seek to co-opt critical forces within their own societies, colonising progressive language and trivialising the role of other peoples. For example, after the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, the idea that NATO forces were protecting Afghan women was promoted and gained popularity. Despite broad opposition to the invasion and occupation, this ‘humanitarian’ goal appealed to the missionary side of western culture. In 2012 Amnesty International put up posters saying ‘NATO: keep the progress going’, on women’s rights in Afghanistan, while the George W. Bush Institute collected money to promote Afghan women’s rights.

The unfortunate balance sheet of NATO’s 13-year occupation is not so encouraging. The UNDP’s 2013 report shows that only 5.8% of Afghan women have had some secondary schooling (7th lowest in the world), the average Afghan woman has 6 babies (equal 3rd highest rate in the world, and linked to low education), maternal mortality is at 470 (equal 19th highest in the world) and average life expectancy is 49.1 years (equal 6th lowest in the world). Not impressive ‘progress’.

In many ways the long ‘feminist war’ in Afghanistan drew on the British legacy in colonial India. As part of its great ‘civilising mission’ that empire claimed to be protecting Indian women from ‘sati’, the practise of widows throwing themselves (or being thrown) on their husband’s funeral pyre. In fact, colonial rule brought little change to this isolated practice. On the other hand, the wider empowerment of girls and women under the British Raj was a sorry joke. At independence adult literacy was only 12%, and that of women much less. While India still lags in many respects, educational progress was much faster after 1947.

Such facts have not stopped historians like Niall Ferguson and Lawrence James attempting to sanitise British colonial history, not least to defend the more recent interventions. It might appear difficult to justify colonialism, but the argument seems to have a better chance amongst peoples with a colonial past seeking some vindication from within their own history and culture.

North American language is a bit different, as the United States of America claims never to have been a colonial power. The fact that US declarations of freedom and equality were written by slave-owners and ethnic-cleansers (the US Declaration of Independence famously attacks the British for imposing limits on the seizure of Native American land) has not dimmed enthusiasm for those fine ideals. That skilful tradition certainly influences the presentation of Washington’s recent interventions.

After the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq we saw a change in approach, with the big powers enlisting sectarian fanatics against the independent states of the region. Even the new Iraqi state, emerging from the post-2003 rubble, was attacked by these fanatics. An ‘Arab Spring’ saw Libya trampled by a pseudo-revolution backed by NATO bombing, then delivered to a bunch of squabbling al Qaeda groups and western collaborators. The little country that once had the highest living standards in Africa went backwards decades.

Next came brave Syria, which has resisted at terrible cost; but the propaganda war runs thick. Few in the west seem to be able to penetrate it. The western left shares illusions with the western right. What was at first said to be a nationalist and secular ‘revolution’ – an uprising against a ‘dictator’ who was killing his own people – is now led by ‘moderate rebels’ or ‘moderate Islamists’. The extremist Islamists, who repeatedly publicise their own atrocities, are said to be a different species, against whom Washington finally decided to fight. Much of this might sound ridiculous to the average educated Arab or Latin American, but it retains some appeal in the west.

One reason for the difference is that nation and state mean something different in the west. The western left has always seen the state as monolithic and nationalism as something akin to fascism; yet in the former colonies some hope remains with the nation-state. Western populations have never had their own Ho Chi Minh, Nelson Mandela, Salvador Allende, Hugo Chavez or Fidel Castro. One consequence of this is, as much as western thinkers might criticise their own states, they are reluctant to defend others. Many who criticise Washington or Israel will not defend Cuba or Syria .

All this makes proxy wars more marketable in the west. We could even say they have been a relatively successful tactic of imperial intervention, from the contra war on Nicaragua to the proxy armies of Islamists in Libya and Syria. So long as the big power is not seen to be directly involved, western audiences can find quite attractive the idea that they are helping another people rise up and gain their ‘freedom’.

Even Noam Chomsky, author of many books on US imperialism and western propaganda, adopts many of the western apologetics for the intervention in Syria. In a 2013 interview with a Syrian opposition paper he claimed the foreign-backed, Islamist insurrection was a repressed ‘protest movement’ that had been forced to militarise and that America and Israel had no interest in bringing down the Syrian Government. He admitted he was ‘excited’ by Syria’s uprising, but rejected the idea of a ‘responsibility to protect’ and opposed direct US intervention without a UN mandate. Nevertheless, he joined cause with those who want to ‘force’ the Syrian Government to resign, saying ‘nothing can justify Hezbollah’s involvement’ in Syria, after the Lebanese resistance group worked with the Syrian Army to turn the tide against the NATO-backed jihadists.

How do western anti-imperialists come to similar conclusions to those of the White House? First there is the anarchist or ultra-left idea of opposing all state power. This leads to attacks on imperial power yet, at the same time, indifference or opposition to independent states. Many western leftists even express enthusiasm at the idea of toppling an independent state, despite knowing the alternatives, as in Libya, will be sectarianism, bitter division and the destruction of important national institutions.

Second, reliance on western media sources has led many to believe that the civilian massacres in Syria were the work of the Syrian Government. Nothing could be further from the truth. A careful reading of the evidence will show that almost all the civilian massacres in Syria (Houla, Daraya, Aqrab, Aleppo University, East Ghouta) were carried out by sectarian Islamist groups, and sometimes falsely blamed on the government, in attempts to attract greater ‘humanitarian intervention’.

The third element which distorts western anti-imperial ideas is the constrained and self-referential nature of discussions. The parameters are policed by corporate gatekeepers, but also reinforced by broader western illusions of their own civilising influence.

A few western journalists have reported in sufficient detail to help illustrate the Syrian conflict, but their perspectives are almost always conditioned by the western ‘liberal’ and humanitarian narratives. Indeed, the most aggressive advocacy of ‘humanitarian intervention’ in recent years has come from liberal media outlets like the UK Guardian and corporate-NGOs such as Avaaz, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Those few journalists who maintain an independent perspective, like Arab-American Sharmine Narwani, publish mostly outside the better-known corporate media channels.

Imperial culture also conditions the humanitarian aid industry. Ideological pressure comes not just from the development banks but also the NGO sector, which maintains a powerful sense of mission, even a ‘saviour complex’ about its relations with the rest of the world. While ‘development cooperation’ may have once included ideas of compensation for colonial rule, or assistance during a transition to independence, today it has become a $100 billion a year industry, with decision making firmly in the hands of western financial agencies.

Quite apart from the dysfunction of many aid programs, this industry is deeply undemocratic, with powerful colonial overtones. Yet many western aid workers really believe they can ‘save’ the poor peoples of the world. That cultural impact is deep. Aid agencies not only seek to determine economic policy, they often intervene in political and even constitutional processes. This is done in the name of ‘good governance’, anti-corruption or ‘democracy strengthening’. Regardless of the problems of local bodies, it is rarely admitted that foreign aid agencies are the least democratic players of all.

For example, at the turn of this century, as Timor Leste gained its independence, aid bodies used their financial muscle to prevent the development of public institutions in agriculture and food security, and pushed that new country into creating competitive political parties, away from a national unity government. Seeking an upper hand amongst the ‘donor community’, Australia then aggravated the subsequent political division and crisis of 2006. With ongoing disputes over maritime boundaries and petroleum resources, Australian academics and advisers were quick to seize on that moment of weakness to urge that Timor Leste’s main party be ‘reformed’, that its national army be sidelined or abolished and that the country adopt English as a national language. Although all these pressures were resisted, it seemed in that moment that many Australian ‘friends’ of Timor Leste imagined they had ‘inherited’ the little country from the previous colonial rulers. This can be the peculiar western sense of ‘solidarity’.

Imperial cultures have created a great variety of nice-sounding pretexts for intervention in the former colonies and newly independent countries. These pretexts include protecting the rights of women, ensuring good governance and helping promote ‘revolutions’. The level of double-speak is substantial.

Those interventions create problems for all sides. Independent peoples have to learn new forms of resistance. Those of good will in the imperial cultures might like to reflect on the need to decolonise the western mind.

Such a process, I suggest would require consideration of (a) the historically different views of the nation-state, (b) the important, particular functions of post-colonial states, (c) the continued relevance and importance of the principle of self-determination, (d) the need to bypass a systematically deceitful corporate media and (e) the challenge of confronting fond illusions over the supposed western civilising influence. All these seem to form part of a neo-colonial mindset, and may help explain the extraordinary western blindness to the damage done by intervention.

 

 

References

Tim Anderson (2006) ‘Timor Leste: the Second Australian Intervention’, Journal of Australian Political Economy, No 58, December, pp.62-93

Tony Cartalucci (2012) ‘Amnesty International is US State Department propaganda’, Global research, 22 August, online: http://www.globalresearch.ca/amnesty-international-is-us-state-department-propaganda/32444

Ann Wright and Coleen Rowley (2012) ‘Ann Wright and Coleen Rowley’, Consortium News, June 18, online: https://consortiumnews.com/2012/06/18/amnestys-shilling-for-us-wars/

Noam Chomsky (2013) ‘Noam Chomsky: The Arab World And The Supernatural Power of the United States’, Information Clearing House, 16 June, online: http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article35527.htm

Bush Centre (2015) ‘Afghan Women’s Project’, George W, Bush Centre, online: http://www.bushcenter.org/womens-initiative/afghan-womens-project

Some detail of Syria’s ‘false flag’ massacres can be seen in the following articles:

Dale Gavlak and Yahya Ababneh (2013) ‘Syrians In Ghouta Claim Saudi-Supplied Rebels Behind Chemical Attack’, MINT PRESS, August 29, online:http://www.mintpressnews.com/witnesses-of-gas-attack-say-saudis-supplied-rebels-with-chemical-weapons/168135/

Rainer Hermann (2012) ‘Abermals Massaker in Syrien’, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 7 June, online: http://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/neue-erkenntnisse-zu-getoeteten-von-hula-abermals-massaker-in-syrien-11776496.html

Stephen Lendman (2012) Insurgents Named Responsible for Syrian Massacres’, ICH, 11 June: http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article31544.htm

Richard Lloyd and Theodore A. Postol (2014) ‘Possible Implications of Faulty US Technical Intelligence in the Damascus Nerve Agent Attack of August 21, 2013’, MIT, January 14, Washington DC, online:https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/1006045-possible-implications-of-bad-intelligence.html#storylink=relast

Marinella Correggia, Alfredo Embid, Ronda Hauben, Adam Larson (2013) ‘Official Truth, Real Truth, and Impunity for the Syrian Houla Massacre of May 2012’, CIWCL,May 15, online: http://ciwclibya.org/reports/realtruthhoula.html

ISTEAMS (2013) ‘Independent Investigation of Syria Chemical Attack Videos and Child Abductions’, 15 September, online: http://www.globalresearch.ca/STUDY_THE_VIDEOS_THAT_SPEAKS_ABOUT_CHEMICALS_BETA_VERSION.pdf

Seymour Hersh (2013) ‘Whose Sarin?’, LRB, 19 December, online: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v35/n24/seymour-m-hersh/whose-sarin

Souad Mekhennet (2014) ‘The terrorists fighting us now? We just finished training them’, Washington Post, August 18, online: http://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2014/08/18/the-terrorists-fighting-us-now-we-just-finished-training-them/

Marat Musin (2012b) ‘THE HOULA MASSACRE: Opposition Terrorists “Killed Families Loyal to the Government’, Global research, 1 June, online: http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-houla-massacre-opposition-terrorists-killed-families-loyal-to-the-government/31184?print=1

Sharmine Narwani (2014) ‘Syria: the hidden massacre’, RT, 7 May, online: http://rt.com/op-edge/157412-syria-hidden-massacre-2011/

Sharmine Narwani (2014) ‘Joe Biden’s latest foot in mouth’, Veterans News Now, October 3, online: http://www.veteransnewsnow.com/2014/10/03/510328joe-bidens-latest-foot-in-mouth/

Truth Syria (2012) ‘Syria – Daraa revolution was armed to the teeth from the very beginning’, BBC interview with Anwar Al-Eshki,YouTube, 7 November, online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FoGmrWWJ77w

What the Fake Syria Sniper Boy Video Tell Us About Media “Experts” (& HRW)

NEO – New Eastern Outlook

November 27, 2014

by Maram Susli

“Instead of humbly accepting blame for spreading disinformation, many western journalists and their experts reacted by blaming the producer of the film. The collective rage of the entire mainstream media forced the film’s producer to delete any trace of this 30,000 dollar experiment.”

 

Media Caught in a lie Syria

Many mainstream media websites helped a fake video go viral this month. The video showing a young Syrian boy running through sniper fire to save a little girl, was exposed as a fake when the Norwegian producer Lars Klevberg made the fact public. One of the stated aims of the Norwegian film makers was to “see how the media would respond to a fake video.” This article examines how that experiment went.

The western press very quickly accepted the video as real and used it to support the US administration’s narrative on Syria. Many top US news sources began to spread the story. Even though the producer said he explicitly added big hints that the video was fake, like the children surviving multiple gun shots.

Propagating false stories on Syria, is nothing new for the western press. In the lead up to the conflict many stories were exposed as frauds, such as the Anti-government activist “Gay Girl in Damascus” which turned out to be a middle-aged American man in Scotland. Syrian Danny Abdul Dayem which was frequently interviewed by CNN was using fake gun fire and flames in his interviews.

The fake sniper video wasn’t enough to support US government narratives by itself, as the now deleted original upload didn’t suggest the identity of the snipers. So the west’s media suggested that it was Syrian military snipers that were targeting the children without any evidence. Journalists failed to mention how they reached the conclusion that an actor in Malta was shot by the Syrian military. It may be that the western press is quick to trust pro-rebel sources, as the video was uploaded by the pro-rebel Sham Times along with their own twist.

The Guardian’s headline for the video was “Syrian boy ‘saves girl from army sniper’” and the Telegraph delicately suggested the Syrian military was responsible for the fake bullets. The International Business (IB) times stated, “the snipers, who reportedly are said to be the government forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.” IB Times never explicitly mentioned who reported this information. They then took it a step further and concluded the article with “the incident certainly is not the first time that Pro-Assad gunmen have targeted children”. Well it is at least not the first time the mainstream media has presented false reports as fact. In 2012, CNN claimed a bullet that killed a four year old girl in Aleppo was shot by government snipers even whilst admitting the bullet came from rebel held buildings.

Other journalists took to Twitter to make unfounded claims about army snipers targeting the boy. Vinnie O’Dowd who has done work for Channel 4 and Al Jazeera tweeted “Syrian Regime Targets kids. Liz Sly of the Washington Post tweeted incredulously that “Soldiers kept shooting” at children.

These tweets were inline with an official State Department Twitter account @ThinkAgain_DOS which blamed Assad for the fictitious bullets in the film. This casts doubt on how deeply the US administration scrutinizes information it bases it’s policy on. In 2013 they relied heavily on video footage provided by rebels to support its planned attack on Syria in the wake the Ghouta chemical attack.

Scrutinising the Scrutinisers (Experts)

1But it isn’t just the mainstream media that was easily duped by the convenient propaganda film. The video experts that were asked to scrutinise the video, failed to recognise that the video was a fraud. The Telegraph stated that upon enquiry ‘experts told them they had no reason to doubt that the video is real”. International Business Times went a step further spinning the statement to “experts told The Telegraph that they have no doubts on the authenticity of the footage.”

This is very strange since both children in the film walk away after being directly and repeatedly hit by bullets. The creators of the film said he purposely scripted this as a big hint that the video is fake. The lack of scrutiny the media experts employed suggests incompetence or the same level of bias as the media that employs them .

Heather Saul of the Independent wrote that one of the ‘Middle East experts” she showed the video to was from Human Rights Watch. Indeed, Human Rights Watch European Media Director Andrew Stroehlein, showed no doubt on the authenticity of the film when he tweeted it out to his followers. The New York based human rights organisation is not new at tweeting false information, last month they used an image of the Odessa fire, where US-backed militia’s burned thirty two people to death, as an example of ‘Putin’s repressive policies’. In 2008 Venezuela expelled two HRW staff members accused of “anti-state activities” after producing a report against the Chavez government. Guardian journalist Hugh O’Shaughnessy accused HRW of using false and misleading information in the report, as well as pro-Washington bias. In 2009 HRW received financial donations from the Saudi government which may, in part, explain the anti-Syrian slant.

11HRW employed so called video expert Eliot Higgins and his colleague Daniel Kaszeta to investigate the August 21 chemical attack in Ghouta, and quickly reached the conclusion the Syrian government was behind the attack. Daniel Kaszeta was referred to as a fraud by prominent physicist and MIT Professor Theodore Postol. HRW’s CEO Kenneth Roth recently used a report by Eliot Higgins to make unfounded claims about Ukrainian rebels shooting down Malaysian flight MH17. Heather Saul did not respond to questions on whether Eliot Higgins was one of the expert she asked for advice. However the mainstream media’s most often quoted video expert, did not recognise that the video was a fraud, tweeting cautiously that he wasn’t sure if it was authentic but gave the video a reaction non the less.

However many viewers who aren’t referred to as video or Middle East experts, immediately recognised the video was a fraud and flooded social media sites Twitter and Youtube with doubts on its authenticity. If Heather Saul had used these individuals as experts rather than HRW, she would have reached the correct conclusion about the video. But perhaps it is this unbias eye that the mainstream media avoids. The vast majority of Higgin’s conclusions support US government narratives and agendas, and that’s the kind of bias the mainstream media prefers.

Blaming the Producer

Instead of humbly accepting blame for spreading disinformation, many western journalists and their experts reacted by blaming the producer of the film. The collective rage of the entire mainstream media forced the film’s producer to delete any trace of this 30,000 dollar experiment. Some journalists took to Twitter to express their rage at being exposed as easily duped by convenient propaganda.

The experts that were fooled by the video also strongly protested. HRW posted a complaint that the fake video “eroded the public trust in war reporting’, in other words blind trust in HRW analysis and war propaganda. Eliot Higgins posted an open letter to the producer of the film on his website Bellingcat, condemning the film.

GlobalPost referred to the film as ‘irresponsible and dangerous’ but not because it could be used to promote wars and make false accusations. What the real danger to the mainstream media and their experts seems to be, is that as a result of the films exposure as a fraud, future video claims may now have to be properly scrutinized and the public may not be so unquestioning in future. However it is the journalists’ lack of scrutiny that is truly what is irresponsible and dangerous. Had the director not admitted the film was fake, these journalists more than likely would have kept promoting the story as an example of Syrian Army war crimes.

 

[Maram Susli also known as “Syrian Girl,” is an activist-journalist and social commentator covering Syria and the wider topic of geopolitics. especially for the online magazineNew Eastern Outlook”.]

Faking It: Charity Communications in the Firing Line [Purpose (Avaaz) | SYRIA]

Further Reading: SYRIA: Avaaz, Purpose & the Art of Selling Hate for Empire

Duckrabbit

November 21, 2014

by Benjamin Chesterton

Purpose Avaaz Syria-Campaign-HIRE

‘Truth is the first casualty of war’.

So the saying goes.

It’s always been that way.

Leading up to and then during the first world war citizens were fed a series of lies, usually centred around atrocities committed by the ‘enemy’ as governments prepared to unleash hell on the world:

As one British general pointed out after the war: “to make armies go on killing one another it is necessary to invent lies about the enemy”. These atrocity stories were then fed to newspapers who were quite willing to publish them. British newspapers accused German soldiers of a series of crimes including: gouging out the eyes of civilians, cutting off the hands of teenage boys, raping and sexually mutilating women, giving children hand grenades to play with, bayoneting babies and the crucifixion of captured soldiers. Wythe Williams, who worked for the New York Times, investigated some of these stories and reported “that none of the rumours of wanton killings and torture could be verified.”

The outcome of all this lying was that after the war citizens became more savvy, less trusting of overt propaganda. Newspapers were weary of the most extreme propaganda that didn’t come with evidence and  when TV came into popular existence broadcasters signed up to the principle that their reporting should be impartial.  The public developed a false sense of comfort that it was harder for people to lie to us and get away with it.

Along came the internet and with a it a massive proliferation in both the amount of material published and also who could do the publishing. The internet is a propagandists paradise:

  • Social media means that well constructed propaganda can spread faster than Road Runner on steroids.
  • Newspapers looking to profit are less interested in verifying whether massively popular videos are fake then they are in the page views they bring.
  • But propagandists don’t have it all their own way. When a video/picture/article  is published on-line that is in some way fake before too long someone will be shouting about it in the comments section.

Here’s what I mean:

A week ago a friend shared a video by The Syria Campaign on his Facebook page. The video starts with the words:

‘What you are about to see is shocking. This happened this week in Syria’

The film shows a boy being shot, then heroically  getting up and rescuing a girl, whilst still being shot at. You can see it here.  

The Syria Campaign’s version of this film has been shared several hundred times and has over 10000 views. The original version of the film, which was not made by The Syria Campaign, was first posted to  Youtube and  had over 4.1 million views. The film  has been shared widely by newspaper websites (Daily Mail, Telegraph, Independent) who in the first instance showed no interest in verifying whether the video was real. The Telegraph embedded the film and included this commentary

The Telegraph cannot independently verify the footage but it is thought the incident took place in Yabroud – a town near the Lebanese border which was the last stronghold of the moderate Free Syrian Army. Experts tell the paper they have no reason to doubt its authenticity.

At the end of the film The Syria Campaign asked us to share the story and sign a petition. This was my response to them on November 11th

Fake Syrian Video Purpose Avaaz

Apart from the too clear sound, the obvious special effects and the movie staging, you don’t fall forwards like you’re in a Hollywood movie when shot, then get up unbloodied and keep walking. Despite this three days later the BBC was reporting that the film might well be legitimate.

In an interview Amira Galal from BBC monitoring Middle East  said “we can definitely say it is Syria and we can definitely say that it’s probably on the regime frontlines, was almost certainly shot on the front lines in Syria…I think it would be very difficult to give a definitive opinion about whether it’s fake or not.”

Ten hours later the BBC put out another story stating that the film was indeed a fake, made by Lars Klevberg, a 34 year-old film director based in Oslo. He says he deliberately presented the film as reality in order to generate a discussion about children in conflict zones:

“We shot it in Malta in May this year on a set that was used for other famous movies like Troy and Gladiator,” Klevberg said. “The little boy and girl are professional actors from Malta. The voices in the background are Syrian refugees living in Malta … By publishing a clip that could appear to be authentic we hoped to take advantage of a tool that’s often used in war; make a video that claims to be real. We wanted to see if the film would get attention and spur debate, first and foremost about children and war. We also wanted to see how the media would respond to such a video.”

Pretty soon afterwards the story that the film is fake became the most shared article on the BBC website. In a further twist the Youtube channel (Shaam News Network) on which the video went viral has been suspended.

What interests me most is when and how some NGO campaigns reached the point where they are willing to trick people  in order to get them to sign a petition/get behind a cause?

syria

What is the validity of a petition signed by people under false pretences?

Surely The Syria Campaign not only loses any moral authority it might have gained through its important work but also torpedoes their own objectives by seeking signatures this way?

The Syria Campaign gave me this response before the video was outed as fake:

‘As far as we’re concerned, the video depicts experiences that are real. Though the video hasn’t yet been verified, we know incidents like this occur every day.’

In other words kids are getting shot in Syria so what difference does it make if this is fake but it makes you think about all the awful things that are going on over there?

The Syria Campaign continues to share the video, despite protests such as this.

This strategy of bending the truth to fit your cause is well trod. Afterall it’s what we often do when we debate a subject.  I would go as far as to say not only is it acceptable, to a greater or lesser extent, but it’s expected.

Here are a few extreme examples:

Several years ago a well respected advocacy organisation put out a video of a woman (shot in shadow) calling for the Syrian soldiers to put down their weapons. The video appeared embedded on a UK newspapers website, with the accompanying text that the film was the direct plea of a Syrian mother and was shot inside Syria.

Infact the video was shot in London; a second woman’s voice with a more authentic accent was dubbed over the original woman’s voice and the script was not written by a Syrian mother but an American living in Beirut.  Pure propaganda. At roughly the same time this video was released the founder of the advocacy group gave a high profile interview in which he stated  they were playing a ‘verification’ role for citizen media coming out of Syria.

Recently Oxfam ran an online ebola campaign on Facebook using a picture of an MSF medical worker, taken in one of their clinics,  helping a child:

oxfam

 

The backlash in the comments was swift and severe.

Oxfam realised their mistake, put out a sincere statement apologising and eventually took down the offending post.

I appreciated Oxfam’s response and it made me have more respect for them. It wasn’t the first time something similar has happened though. A few years back Save The Children ran a print advert calling for donations that featured a picture of a half dead child being cared for in a an MSF hospital in Dadaab, Kenya. Had they published the picture in the same way on their Facebook page I suspect they would have faced a similar backlash.

(Please note duckrabbit have worked for and trained the staff of both Oxfam and MSF. I’ve witnessed  the terrific work they both do on the ground. A donation to either of them is well spent)

Another large charity recently ran a fundraising campaign which showed a successful generic African woman whose family they claimed they had helped climb out of poverty. It was a conceptually interesting TV advert but it wasn’t a winner as a fundraiser. So when the same woman appeared in online advertising we were asked to give money to help bring her and her family out of poverty. The same ethnic woman was presented to audiences in diametrically opposite ways to try and have the same impact, raise more money.

Maybe we should be forgiving of charities, PR and advertising agencies, advocacy organisations and journalists who fake (or twist) stories to get our attention. Do audiences really care? Doesn’t the end justify the means? This is certainly how some people responded to the suggestion that it was wrong to fake the Syrian boy hero. Maybe they are right. If the Oxfam post raised much needed cash for the fight against ebola isn’t that a good thing?

But I think it’s also true you are less likely to change your point of view if you feel the person trying to persuade you is in some way deceiving you.  There’s a failure in communication if we are talking about whether a video is fake as opposed to the suffering of the people in Syria or the 1800 kids that are not actors who have been shot dead during the war.

And one question leads to another. If you are really helping people; if your cause is just; if you want an honest relationship with me, why do you feel the need to make stuff up?

One possible reason that NGO’s pump out so much overt marketing propaganda is because there is more of a budget for spin then authentic storytelling.

In NGOS often the marketing and fundraising departments have more money and power than the communications teams.  They are judged on short term goals that largely revolve around growth of revenue and brand reach. The pressure is immense. People’s jobs are dependent on them bringing the cash in. Very few of these people will have ever lived or worked in the places the charities are set up to benefit.  This is even more true in the agencies that they contract who belong to the Band Aid school of advertising:

Make shit up (There is no peace and joy in west Africa this Christmas). Put a famous face (or 30) to it , and screw the unintended consequences (we maintain a colonial relationship with black people who live in poverty).

The better communications departments  in charities are themselves masters in spin because newspapers and broadcasters are so susceptible to it. If you want to get the media’s attention just make up a figure about how many kids might be catching ebola a week by Christmas. The higher the number the better, even if it’s based on tenuous research.

I don’t blame them.  It’s a game and if you pay me I too will play it to win. But not by faking it.  And not because it can’t be justified, but because I’m not cynical. The charities we work with have a very positive impact on the lives of the people they serve. The sector as a whole just needs to invest in better ways to tell those stories of change.

 

West’s Propaganda War on Syria Exposed Again

Land Destroyer

November 15, 2014

 By Tony Cartalucci

 

Video claiming to show a Syrian boy rescuing a girl amid heavy gunfire lauded as heroic chronicle of resistance now revealed as 100% fraud – filmed in Malta. Just one of many lies perpetuated by Western media.

 

http://syria360.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/014dc-1415708602361_wps_3_amateur_video_which_was_p.jpg?w=594
Image by the Western media as authentic or “believed to be” authentic, when in
reality being a complete, 100% fraudulent production.

Fox, the London Telegraph, and the Daily Mail all published articles promoting a video claiming to show a Syrian boy rescuing a young girl amid heavy gunfire during Syria’s ongoing conflict. The Daily Mail article claimed under its titled, “Heroic young boy runs through sniper fire in Syria, pretends to get shot, then rescues terrrified girl as bullets hit the floor around them,” that:

Yabroud was the last rebel stronghold held by the FSA on the Lebanese border before it fell to Assad’s forces in March 2014.

The video, which was uploaded yesterday, has already had nearly 500,000 views.

It was later re-published on YouTube by Sham News Network, which is run by activists based in Damascus.

Several YouTube comments claim the video is fake, but experts told The Telegraph they have no reason to doubt its authenticity.

The Telegraph, referenced by the Daily Mail, in an article titled, “Watch: Syrian ‘hero boy’ appears to brave sniper fire to rescue terrified girl in dramatic video,” would claim:

The Telegraph cannot independently verify the footage but it is thought the incident took place in Yabroud – a town near the Lebanese border which was the last stronghold of the moderate Free Syrian Army. Experts tell the paper they have no reason to doubt its authenticity. 

It would not be the first time gunmen had targeted children in the nearly four years of bloody civil war. 

More than 11,000 children have died in war-torn Syria since 2011, including hundreds targeted by snipers, a report by the London-based Oxford Research group revealed earlier this month. 

The group found that sniper fire killed 389 Syrian children under the age of 17 between March 2011 and August 2013. 

The UN has previously accused the Syrian regime of “crimes against humanity” – including the use of snipers against small children.

Nowhere does the Telegraph claim “experts” of any kind believed the video was authentic. Instead, what the Telegraph did was engage in the same intentionally misleading, manipulative propaganda much of the Western media has resorted to in its coverage of the Syrian conflict, and many others, for years – cite a baseless, unverified claim – then roll it in together with other baseless claims so that they appear to support one another as factual.

While the Daily Mail claims “experts” claimed “they have no reason to doubt its authenticity,” those who have witnessed the West’s intentional, systematic deceit throughout the duration of the Syrian conflict could cite many reasons. With it now confirmed that the above mentioned video is a hoax, yet another reason still can be cited.

Indeed, the video was a complete hoax – a literal production filmed in Malta, not Syria, and consisting of actors, actresses, and special effects. The UK Mirror in its article, “Footage of Syrian ‘hero boy’ dodging sniper’s bullets to save girl revealed as FAKE,” would finally admit:

Lars Klevberg, 34, from Oslo, devised the hoax after watching news coverage of the troubles in Syria. 

He told BBC Trending: “If I could make a film and pretend it was real, people would share it and react with hope. 

“We shot it in Malta in May this year on a set that was used for other famous movies like Troy and Gladiator. 

“The little boy and girl are professional actors from Malta. The voices in the background are Syrian refugees living in Malta.”

Not the First Time

Klevberg admits that “Syrian refugees living in Malta” participated in his propaganda stunt. This is far from the first time the West and its proxies have been caught blatantly producing false reports, footage, and claims regarding the Syrian conflict. In fact, the Western media’s coverage of the Syrian conflict is nothing more than a series of deceptions crutching their way along on their audience’s perceived ignorance, from one exposed sham to another.


Image: Meet “Gay Girl in Damascus.” Not a “gay girl,” not from or in
“Damascus.” Instead, she was a he, and he was an American man living in
the UK.

During the beginning of the Syrian conflict in 2011, there was “Gay Girl in Damascus” who turned out to be a 40 year-old American man based in the UK. It is exactly “activist-based” footage, claims, and alleged personalities that the West has based its case against the Syrian government on.

There was also “Syria Danny,” a regular guest on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 until he was caught blatantly staging chaos off-camera ahead of a scheduled call-in.

Now, yet more staged videos, fabricated claims, and accusations are making their rounds – and being exposed – at yet another critical juncture during the Syrian conflict – with terrorist strongholds falling to the Syrian government and the West’s “Islamic State” rouse falling apart.

It is important that each of these fabrications, hoaxes, and staged productions are mentioned, again and again, when next the West parades out unverified claims it attempts to resell its narrative and agenda with. It is also critical to understand why exactly many in the general public continue to place their trust in media enterprises that continuously and now quite overtly, deceive the public.

The Blankest Canvas: On Art, Opportunism, Erasure & Whiteness

Anti Social Media

October 7, 2014

rauschwhitepainting51h15

“An empty canvas is full.” – Robert Rauschenberg

 

1951 was a big fucking year for whiteness. The United States, the last scion of both Western Imperialism and the white supremacy at its core, would finally fight to a stalemate on the Korean Peninsula – beating back both the Red Menace and the new “yellow peril” to the 38th parallel. But threats to the fragile reign of white supremacy’s new champion abounded.

At home, The Man From Planet X  opened in US theaters, dramatizing the collective fear of an alien invasion that would grip white Amerikkka and menace its lily-white, Enid Elliot-like daughters for the remainder of 1951 and beyond. That white panic on the big screen, however, found two real world targets – rabble-rousing commies and the black people they had allegedly duped to serve their alien agenda.

The “Second Red Scare,” already raging in 1951, was weaponized by the House UnAmerican Activities Committee, which launched its second investigation into Hollywood. Back then, “blacklists” weren’t just empty threats on Twitter made by intentional nobodies, but a reality imposed by power that threatened the livelihoods of some of our best artists. The year also saw Julius and Ethel Rosenberg tried, convicted and eventually executed for espionage. The “traitorous and disloyal” outside agitators the US was fighting in Korea, it seemed, would have to be fought at home, too.

White Supremacy, as always, reserved its most brazen terror for black people. 1951 was no different. Despite a valiant campaign led by Communist William L. Patterson, the grandson of a slave who had himself famously been arrested protesting the execution of Sacco & Vanzetti, seven black men were executed for raping a white woman in Martinsville, Virginia. Willie McGee, another black man railroaded on charges of raping a white woman, was also executed that year in Mississippi.

In Florida, Lake County Sheriff Willis McCall exercised his right to white vigilantism and summarily executed one black man and critically wounded another who were being transferred for reprosecution after their “Groveland” rape convictions were overturned by the US Supreme Court. Harry and Harriette Moore, who had organized for the NAACP in Florida and had boldly demanded charges be brought against Sheriff McCall for his crimes, were killed weeks later in a bombing at their own home that was never solved. This is, of course, why racist rumors started by a white woman that reduce a political opponent to a menacing black man isn’t a game, but that’s another story…

Ironically, the number one Billboard song of 1951 was “Too Young,” sung by Nat King Cole. Seriously. A black crooner singing about young love that others wouldn’t understand, while black men were being killed for looking at white women – that was the song on top of the charts. To end a year like that, then, could it have surprised anyone when Paul Robeson and William Patterson submitted a document called “We Charge Genocide” to the United Nations?

At last, in lesser-but-still-big-all-encompassing-whiteness news from 1951, Bette Nesmith Graham invented correction fluid in her own kitchen, making it easier for typists everywhere to “white out” their mistakes.  After all, whiteness adores erasure. Remember that. And while a dying Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote his Remarks on Colour, the coup de grâce to 1951 and its triumphant whiteness emerged when a pretentious asshole named Robert Rauschenberg began his White Paintings. Because, why the fuck not?

 

—–

 

Robert Rauschenberg was an insufferable, Neo Dadaist asshole. Neo Dadaists, it should be noted, are the folks who made us question not “what is art,” but rather, “are these fucking assholes joking?” In but one of many examples of his legendary assholery, when commissioned to do a portrait of Iris Clert, Raueschenberg instead sent a telegram that read “This is a portrait of Iris Clert if I say so.” He was that kind of precious asshole – the kind of precious asshole who inspired generations of other assholes to struggle to use a can opener to open a can of spaghetti-o’s in a room full of other precious assholes and then piss oneself, and then boldly call it “high art.” The kind of precious asshole who would inspire Yoko Ono to whitewash a chess set and uncritically title her racist work “Play It By Trust.”

As an asshole, Raueschenberg was surrounded by other, similarly-inclined assholes. Assholes tend to attract other assholes, it seems. His asshole friend, John Cage, “composed” the famous “4’33” – which is just four minutes and 33 seconds of utter fucking silence. The blank canvas, creating nothing but a void where anything could be projected (even a politics), was now itself considered substantive and important “art.”

Rauschenberg and his coterie, in short, clearly presaged today’s trolls. And I’m glad he’s dead. I wish he’d died sooner, before his brand of utter and irredeemable, detached cynicism became as popular as it is today – because this airy, unaffected distance is, of course, a pure manifestation of privilege, be it racial, class or otherwise.

In Creative Tyranny, Rob Horning explains how many artists often reveal their real class allegiance:

“Because artists, unlike wage laborers, have a direct stake in what they produce and face no workplace discipline other than what they impose on themselves, their political attitudes are structurally different from those of the working class, who know they are interchangeable parts in the machine of capitalism and must organize collectively to resist it. ;“The predominant character’” of the contemporary art scene, on the other hand, ‘“is middle class,’” Davis contends, referring not to a particular income or earning potential but rather to artists’ relation to their labor. Artists work for themselves, own what they make, and must concern themselves with how to sell it. Though art has often made a mission of shocking middlebrow taste and artists have often congregated in urban Bohemian enclaves in working-class neighborhoods, they are less vanguard proletarians than petit bourgeois.”

 

So it was that in 1951, a few years before taking a nod from Bette Nesmith Graham, erasing a drawing by Willem de Kooning and calling that erasure itself “art” – Rauschenberg set off on perhaps his most famous act of trolling, his White Paintings. What had started as a joke between above-it-all, petit bourgeois art school buddies – when actually taken seriously outside of their insular bubble – soon became serious art. It then had to be retroactively justified when it had really just been a joke.

Of course, it’s important to say that Rauschenberg’s White Paintings can’t rightly be called mere “blank canvasses.” They’re actually paint on canvas. But they’re painted monochromatically white in such a way as to reveal nothing. They are the nothing. They aren’t a state of blankness, of emptiness – they are the essence of whiteness – the void-of-anything space that must consume everything around it in order to give itself any meaning at all. Nothingness has to appropriate to have anything, which is what whiteness itself tends to do, isn’t it? Indeed, as Raueschenberg himself observed, “an empty canvas is full.”

—–

weev_small


“If you’re going to do something as passionate and idealistic as be a full time artist, you need to be the toughest, most cynical, most opportunistic street fighter around.”Molly Crabapple

 

“Artists are eager to identify themselves with—and even lay claim to—efforts like the Occupy movement, but their involvement, Davis argues, muddles protest and derails organizational efforts more often than not… But because artists are celebrated by capital for their seeming independence from it, they are liable to become confused about the social role they play. They think being above wage labor gives them automatic solidarity with those who want to abolish it. They think they are fellow travelers when really they are running dogs.” – Rob Horning, Creative Tyranny

In July, Emma Quangel explored The Weaponized Naked Girl, where she observed that Molly Crabapple is a self-described mercenary entrepreneur and former naked girl who seemed to earn her credentials on reporting the topic of Syrian “revolution” by way of her being an unofficial spokeswoman and artist for Occupy Wall Street.” To be sure, the fact that Molly Crabapple was once a burlesque dancer is the least interesting thing about her, to me. I’m far more concerned with the role she continues to play as a mercenary for White Supremacy. Again, in her own words, I’m more interested in her success as both an opportunist and a cynic.

In his recent offering at The New Inquiry, The White Women of Empire, which echoes many of the concerns raised in July by Quangel, Willie Osterweil poses a stark but important question: “what happens when the white woman is the protagonist of the imperialist story?” Osterweil elaborates:

“It is clear that the helpless and/or metonymic white woman of imperial fantasy will no longer do. The historical victories of feminism have forced empire to interpolate (mostly white) women as its agents as well as its objects.”

It’s apparently easy for some folks to continue to ignore Crabapple’s expressed, imperial politics – her repeated role as Osterweil’s “agent” of empire. However, from Syria to Venezuela, Crabapple – promoted as a reliable, political commentator after Occupy Wall Street – has consistently articulated a politics that serve the white supremacist power structure and its inheritor, US neocolonialism. Erasing an actual fucking Nazi’s misogynistic past is actually a part of her art. She has made the supremacist, eugenics argument herself, Beauty is survival, not distraction. Beauty is a way of fighting. Beauty is a reason to fight.”

Even before writing her paean to an avowed, white supremacist, the cynical, opportunistic and – by her own admission – “mercenary” Molly Crabapple had regularly oriented her politics to the unequivocated service of white power. Crabapple, then, has proven her art is anything but a blank canvas; instead, she has repeatedly espoused a politics that – like Rauschenberg’s White Paintings – are actually canvases slathered in whiteness. Her work isn’t emptiness, it is whiteness.

It’s actually my job as a white revolutionary race traitor, in constant struggle, precisely to criticize that. Always. To struggle with it. To destroy it. And I won’t apologize for it. As Maya Angelou said, “When someone shows you who they are believe them; the first time.” I believe Molly Crabapple is the petit bourgeois, “cynical,” “opportunistic” and “mercenary” white supremacist she herself says she is. No artistic flourish, no flair and certainly no vacuous, repeatedly-self-repudiated revolutionary gesturing can change that. After all, we have previously discussed – at some length – that liberals are fully capable of performing in revolutionary hats and that anyone can and will serve Nazis, for the right price.

Yet people continue to misapprehend whiteness and their own complicity in it. As Tamara K. Nopper observed in The White Anti-Racist Is an Oxymoron: An Open Letter to “White Anti-Racists”:

 

“people such as Malcolm X, W.E.B. DuBois, Marcus Garvey, James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Ida B. Wells, Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, and many, many others who are perhaps less famous, have articulated the relationship between whiteness and domination…

 

Further, people such as Douglass and DuBois began to outline how whiteness is a social and political construct that emphasizes the domination, authority, and perceived humanity of those who are racialized as white. They, along with many other non-white writers and orators, have pointed to the fact that it was the bodies who were able to be racialized as “white” that were able to be viewed as rational, authoritative, and deserving.”

 

Nopper, perhaps presaging Molly Crabapple’s racialized whiteness and service to white supremacy itself, continues:

 

Don’t assume that when I see you get the attention and accolades and the book deals and the speaking engagements that this does not hurt me (because you profit off of pain).

 

Also, vis-a-vis Crabapple’s claim of proximity to whiteness – and to the authority whiteness itself conveys – I think it’s important to consider an amazing contribution by my comrade, Chris Taylor, who – in Whiteness Supreme: Towson University and Liberal Ironists – reminded us:

 

“Whiteness is a property, a possession, one unevenly distributed across the social terrain. White supremacists tend to have diminished access to the supreme property of whiteness. White supremacy is thus an aspirational politics, one that attempts sticking close to what it imperfectly is in order to become what it should be.”

 

How does Crabapple use her art to stake a claim to the authority vested in whiteness? In her most recent work, Scenes from Daily Life in the de Facto Capital of ISIS published yesterday in Vanity Fair, Crabapple inserts herself as the authority and interlocutor between her audience and a Syrian’s own experience and art. This is gatekeeping, plain and simple. After all, although Crabapple’s claim that “art evades censorship” may be true, it doesn’t seem to evade her editorializing. After all, Crabapple’s is “extremely editorial art” that “no one could look at…” and “not know what side [she is] on.” Whiteness. Empire. If the “who do you protect/who do you serve” chant so often levied at the police were levied at Molly Crabapple, we should know the answer.

If there is still doubt, then we should examine her famous work whitewashing Weev, a vile misogynist and avowed white supremacist, who Crabapple herself “cared for” so much so she wrote a lengthy hagiography about. And as any propagandist might, from Leni Riefenstahl to Shepherd Fairey, she went further and  “created an icon” of her “weevil one.”

What would Molly Crabapple say of Robert Rauschenberg, who joked with his Neo Dadaist buddies and trolled the art world, for his antediluvian “lulz?” Would she misjudge “sincere belief as trolling?” Would she think his White Paintings meant more than mere emptiness? Could she see the whiteness in them? Would she acknowledge that whiteness itself is domination, and that unexamined proximity to whiteness itself is what makes being friends with an actual fucking Nazi possible? I have a lot of questions, but Molly Crabapple isn’t interested in talking about anything that makes her uncomfortable. And I guess that’s her right. But it sure isn’t very revolutionary.

“Quinn Norton once advised me to write about what I loved,” Crabapple wrote. And she, who so loved empire and its foundational white supremacy (or the money and fame it afforded her), wrote words that flattered it, and urged us – as eugenicists often do – to “fight for beauty.” As many mercenaries before her, Crabapple has identified that she lives in a time when artists are brand bots, obediently self-plagiarizing from their last success“ and that journalism often feels like vampirism.” But it doesn’t have to be this way. It is this way because of whiteness itself.

We have an opportunity to have art that doesn’t reinscribe white supremacy and other ruling class values. We have an opportunity to communicate directly with each other, without intermediaries like Molly Crabapple – who refashion photos from Syria and reimagine them for us. Who editorialize them for us. We could see photos from Syria ourselves. We could hear stories from Syrians ourselves. We don’t need better intermediaries who may prove themselves so tempted by lucre and committed to brand management that, in their endless pursuit of being “New Yorker respectable. Museum of Modern Art respectable,” they paternalistically make an actual Nazi respectable for us.

However, if we insist on replicating power structures here – among them, in this space, white supremacy – we will lose. We have lost. And that’s why criticism of our faves matters, I guess. Because earnest criticism isn’t “trolling,” no matter what the white women of empire say.

—–

“When asked by an anthropologist what the Indians called America before the white man came, an Indian said simply, ‘Ours.’”‘ – Vine Deloria, Jr

The power of terministic control is a monopoly on the naming of things maintained by power. For example, as Paulo Freire wrote in Pedagogy of the Oppressed, “there would be no oppressed had there been no prior situation of violence to establish their subjugation.” However, power, particularly in the discourse on public demonstrations against it, often makes a point to discern when “protests became violent.” The fact is, protests “become violent” whenever the armed enforcers of the state’s monopoly on violence – the police – arrive. Their presence itself is the violence that created and maintains an oppressed class. Terministic control, then, is what allows power to say otherwise.

Take the word, “trolling.” Crabapple has asserted that she mistook Weev’s retrograde, supremacist politics for mere “trolling,” or insincerity. As if insincere fascism is acceptable. Crabapple has also derided her critics as “trolls.” Does she think I am likewise insincere? Maybe, but consider that instead I have sincere complaints about her service to white supremacy. The naming of things, and controlling how those words take meaning, is terministic control. Crabapple, as an artist working under a pseudonym, knows more about this than she lets on.

One aspect of liberation has historically been seen as wresting back control over the power to name things, particularly oneself; to identify oneself instead of being identified. According to Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad in Message to the Black Man in America, if a black man doesn’t assert that power, he has “never gotten out of the shackles of slavery. [He is] still in them.” From the US Organization, the BPP and BLA’s eschewing of “slave names” to our trans comrades’’ struggle against being misidentified by “dead names”: asserting one’s own identity instead of being named by power is an important terrain of struggle.

So, then, what might it mean if an artist or celebrity changed their name to one that more closely identifies with power itself? What might it mean if one were to orient oneself, through their own naming, in closer proximity to whiteness – to assume a name that may very well be the ne plus ultra of whiteness itself? What would it mean if Assata Shakur decided she wanted to be called “Becky?” What does it mean if Jennifer Caban draped herself in gothic whiteness, stole other people’s art and stories and rebranded herself with a name unmistakable in its own white blandness?

Now, close your eyes and repeat after me: “Molly Crabapple.”

I’m done being trolled by insincere, whiteness-made Rauschenbergs and Crabapples. I want something real, directly from people who don’t need whiteness as authority, whitewashers, sanitizers and those who will labor to make their own friends respectable, even if they are actual fucking Nazis, as intermediaries. We can’t go back to 1951, and frankly, I question anyone who would want to.

Fuck fighting for beauty, or New York’s conception of it – those white women of empire. I want to be in solidarity with what whiteness says is ugly. I’m not trolling Molly Crabapple, and I don’t hate her. I disagree with her politics, her mercenary vision for the world and her near-constant insincerity. Please. She can keep her white paintings.

Update 2

Trolls of a cynical, fascist feather… In her AMA, Crabapple noted:

My art is extremely editorial. No one could look at my bulging insect cops, or my pictures of Weev’s prosecutors, and not know what side I’m on. I try to convey my truth, rather than a party line, but they are deeply subjective.

Well… US Government propaganda tool and otherwise state-sponsored troll@ThinkAgain_DOS, knows exactly what side Crabapple’s art speaks to:

Screen Shot 2014-10-09 at 10.55.34 AM

Crabapple, of course, feigned surprise:

Screen Shot 2014-10-09 at 10.55.04 AM

It’s probably a good time for your people (whoever they are) to collect you.

Update 1

As if on cue, Molly Crabapple’s “most cynical,” “most opportunistic” auteur persona reemerged today. Crabapple –who, like Robert Rauschenberg – occupies the rarified, insincere space where blank white canvasses are just “trolling,” published a middling, wanna-be “ACAB” article at Vice today (which I have dutifully archived to limit her clicks, here). After plodding through the inextricable viciousness of the police institution, name-dropping her pals and actually interviewing a prison abolitionist, Crabapple concludes her otherwise superfluous piece with a bit of fascist whimsy:

Or here’s another, if somewhat facetious, idea: America is vengeful and loves punishment, so why not create a police force whose sole job is to arrest the police?
These meta-cops could be given quotas of officers to arrest each month. They’d no doubt lean heavily on quality of life violations, arresting cops who made communities unpleasant by groping black teens or hassling street vendors. As cops do now, these meta-cops could be promoted based on their arrest numbers. They might sometimes detain cops for rudeness, or failing to present ID, but that’s to be expected. Their jobs would be stressful. They’d have to lay down the law.

I don’t know any revolutionaries who think the creation of an über-cop is worth even “facetious” consideration. Also: the Feds already exist. Again: Keep your white paintings, Molly.