Category Archives: The current system
John Pilger’s recent analysis of government, media, and cultural propaganda – and, more importantly, what it’s trying to hide – inspired my last post, and “Monarchs Belong in the Dustbin of History,” the latest article, posted today, by Chris Hedges on scheerpost.com, is a similar reminder. (We need these reminders to counteract the constant coverup of the truth.)
“The fawning adulation of Queen Elizabeth in the United States, which fought a revolution to get rid of the monarchy, and in Great Britain, is in direct proportion to the fear gripping a discredited, incompetent and corrupt global ruling elite,” Hedges says. “The global oligarchs aren’t sure the next generation of royal sock puppets are up to the job. Let’s hope they’re right.
Monarchy obscures the crimes of empire and wraps them in nostalgia. It exalts white supremacy, racial hierarchy, and class rule. It buttresses an economic and social system that callously discards and often consigns to death those considered as ‘lesser,’ most of whom are people of color.
The cries of the millions of victims of empire” – millions of Irish since the first English invasion in 1169; Indians, whose economy was destroyed by British mercantilism, and where the hasty British withdrawal in 1947 led to the deaths of over a million in Hindu-Muslim violence, a result of British ‘divide and conquer’ policies; “thousands killed, tortured, raped and imprisoned during the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya; the more than 4,100 First Nations children who died or went missing in Canada’s residential schools, government-sponsored institutions established to ‘assimilate’ indigenous children; and the hundreds of thousands killed during the invasion and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan – are drowned out by cheers for royal processions and the sacral aura an obsequious press weaves around the aristocracy. The coverage of the queen’s death is so mind-numbingly vapid — the BBC sent out a news alert on Saturday when Prince Harry and Prince William, accompanied by their wives, surveyed the floral tributes to their grandmother displayed outside Windsor Castle — that the press might as well turn over the coverage to the mythmakers and publicists employed by the royal family.
The royals are oligarchs, guardians of their class. The world’s largest landowners include King Mohammed VI of Morocco with 176 million acres, the Roman Catholic Church with 177 million acres, the heirs of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia with 531 million acres, and now King Charles III with 6.6 billion acres of land. [I can’t verify this figure online. What I did find is that much of the land belonging to the British Crown is held in trust, though the royals derive rents from much of it.] British monarchs are worth almost $28 billion. The British public will provide a $33 million subsidy to the royal family over the next two years, even though the average household in the U.K. is seeing its income fall and 227,000 households experience homelessness in Britain.
Royals, to the ruling class, are worth the expense as effective tools of subjugation. British postal and rail workers canceled planned strikes over pay and working conditions after the queen’s death. The Trade Union Congress (TUC) postponed its congress. Labour Party members poured out heartfelt tributes. Even Extinction Rebellion, which should know better, indefinitely canceled its planned “Festival of Resistance.” The BBC’s Clive Myrie dismissed Britain’s energy crisis — caused by the war in Ukraine — that has thrown millions of people into severe financial distress as ‘insignificant’ compared with concerns over the queen’s health. The climate emergency, the pandemic, the deadly folly of the U.S. and NATO’s proxy war in Ukraine, soaring inflation, the rise of neo-fascist movements, and deepening social inequality will be ignored as the press spews florid encomiums to class rule. There will be 10 days of official mourning.
In 1953, Her Majesty’s Government sent three warships, along with 700 troops, to its colony British Guiana, suspended the constitution and overthrew the democratically elected government of Cheddi Jagan. Her Majesty’s Government helped to build and long supported the apartheid government in South Africa. Her Majesty’s Government savagely crushed the Mau Mau independence movement in Kenya from 1952 to 1960, herding 1.5 million Kenyans into concentration camps where many died and were tortured. Her Majesty’s Government carried out a dirty war to break the Greek Cypriot War of Independence from 1955 to 1959. Torture, extrajudicial assassinations, public hangings, and mass executions by the British were routine. Following a protracted lawsuit, the British government agreed to pay nearly £20 million in damages to over 5,000 victims of British abuse during war in Kenya, and in 2019 another payout was made to survivors of torture from the conflict in Cyprus. [For a complete history of British colonial crimes, which included a similar regime of violence in Palestine and Malaya, see Caroline Elkins’ recently published book, Legacy of Violence: A History of the British Empire.] During her 70-year reign, the queen never offered an apology or called for reparations. [Her excuse would be that she was an ‘apolical’ figurehead, but it was all done in her name and in the name of previous monarchs, including the long-reigning Queen Victoria (1819 to 1901).]
The monarchy is the bedrock of hereditary rule and inherited wealth. This caste system filters down from the Nazi-loving House of Windsor [primarily the Duke of Windsor, King Edward VIII, who abdicated in favor of Queen Elizabeth II’s father, George VI; and her husband, Prince Philip, whose four sisters married pro-Nazi German aristocrats] to the organs of state security and the military. It regiments society and keeps people, especially the poor and the working class, in their place.
The British ruling class clings to the mystique of royalty and fading cultural icons to project a global presence, and there is a pathetic yearning among many in the U.S. and Britain to be linked in some way to royalty. This desire to be part of the club, or validated by the club, is a potent force the ruling class has no intention of giving up, even if hapless King Charles III makes a mess of it.”
Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for fifteen years for The New York Times, where he served as the Middle East Bureau Chief and Balkan Bureau Chief for the paper. He previously worked overseas for The Dallas Morning News, The Christian Science Monitor, and NPR. He is the host of show The Chris Hedges Report.
I haven’t posted in a while now, but this article, “Silencing the Lambs: How Propaganda Works” published 9-10-22 by veteran progressive journalist John Pilger (online at MintPress News), is too important to let slide by. Go and read it yourself in its entirety, or continue reading for my version (slightly edited for brevity and clarity).
Pilger says, “In the 1970s, I met one of Hitler’s leading propagandists, Leni Riefenstahl, whose epic films glorified the Nazis. We happened to be staying at the same lodge in Kenya, where she was on a photography assignment, having escaped the fate of other friends of the Fuhrer. She told me that the ‘patriotic messages’ of her films were successful because of what she called the ‘submissive void’ of the German public. Did that include the liberal, educated bourgeoisie? I asked. ‘Yes, especially them,’ she said. I think of this as I look around at the propaganda now consuming Western societies.
Of course, we are very different from Germany in the 1930s. We live in information societies. We are globalists. We have never been more aware, more in touch, better connected. Really?
Or do we live in a society where brainwashing is insidious and relentless, and perception is filtered according to the needs and lies of state and corporate power?
The United States dominates the Western world’s media. All but one of the top ten media companies are based in North America. The internet and social media – Google, Twitter, and Facebook – are mostly American owned and controlled.
In my lifetime, the United States has overthrown or attempted to overthrow more than 50 governments, mostly democracies. It has interfered in democratic elections in 30 countries. It has dropped bombs on the people of 30 countries, most of them poor and defenseless. It has attempted to murder, often successfully, the leaders of 50 countries. It has fought to suppress liberation movements in 20 countries. The extent and scale of this carnage is largely unreported and unrecognized; and those responsible continue to dominate Anglo-American political life.
As my playwright friend Harold Pinter said, ‘US foreign policy is best defined as kiss my ass or I’ll kick your head in. It is as simple and as crude as that. What’s interesting about it is that it’s so successful. The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, and remorseless, but few people have actually talked about them. The U.S. has exercised its power worldwide [for the benefit of elite corporate power] while masquerading as a force for good. It’s a brilliant act of hypnosis.’ I asked Pinter if the ‘hypnosis’ he referred to was the ‘submissive void’ described by Leni Riefenstahl, and he said, ‘It’s the same. We don’t recognize the propaganda, and for the most part accept and believe it. That’s the submissive void.’
In our systems of corporate democracy, war is an economic necessity, the perfect marriage of public subsidy and private profit: socialism for the rich, capitalism for the poor. The day after 9/11 the stock prices of the war industry soared. More bloodshed was coming – great for business. Today, the most profitable wars are called ‘forever wars’: Afghanistan, Palestine, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, and now Ukraine – all are based on a pack of lies. Iraq is the most infamous, with its weapons of mass destruction that didn’t exist. Nato’s destruction of Libya in 2011 was justified by a massacre in Benghazi that didn’t happen. Afghanistan was a convenient revenge war for 9/11, which had nothing to do with the people of Afghanistan.
Today, the news from Afghanistan is how evil the Taliban are – not that Joe Biden’s theft of $7 billion of the country’s bank reserves is causing widespread suffering. Recently, National Public Radio in Washington devoted two hours to Afghanistan – and 30 seconds to its starving people.
At its summit in Madrid in June, NATO, which is controlled by the United States, adopted a strategy document that militarizes the European continent and escalates the prospect of war with Russia and China. News of the resulting war in Ukraine is mostly not news, but a one-sided litany of jingoism, distortion, and omission. I’ve reported a number of wars and have never known such blanket propaganda [and suppression of dissenting journalists].
In February, Russia invaded Ukraine as a response to almost eight years of killing and criminal destruction in the Russian-speaking region of Donbass on their border. In 2014, the United States had sponsored a coup in Kyiv that got rid of Ukraine’s democratically elected, Russian-friendly president and installed a successor whom the Americans made clear was their man. Before this, American ‘defender’ missiles aimed at Russia were installed in eastern Europe, Poland, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic, accompanied by false assurances all the way back to James Baker’s ‘promise’ to Gorbachev in February 1990 that NATO would never expand beyond Germany. Ukraine is the frontline. NATO has effectively reached the very borderland through which Hitler’s army stormed in 1941, leaving more than 23 million dead in the Soviet Union.
Last December, Russia proposed a far-reaching security plan for Europe that was dismissed, derided, or suppressed in the Western media. On February 24th of this year, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy threatened to develop nuclear weapons unless America armed and protected Ukraine. This was the final straw. On the same day, Russia invaded – according to the Western media, an infamous, unprovoked act. The history, the lies, the peace proposals, the solemn agreements on Donbass at Minsk counted for nothing. On April 25th, the U.S. defense secretary, General Lloyd Austin, flew into Kyiv and confirmed that America’s aim was to destroy the Russian Federation – the word he used was ‘weaken.’ America had got the war it wanted, waged by an American bankrolled and armed proxy and expendable pawn. Almost none of this was explained to Western audiences.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is wanton and inexcusable. It’s a crime to invade a sovereign country. There are no ‘buts,’ except one. When did the present war in Ukraine begin and who started it? According to the United Nations, between 2014 and this year, some 14,000 people have been killed in the Kyiv regime’s civil war on the Donbass. Many of the attacks were carried out by neo-Nazis, labeled as ‘nationalists’ by the New York Times. Watch an ITV news report from May 2014, by the veteran reporter James Mates, who is shelled, along with civilians in the city of Mariupol, by Ukraine’s Azov (neo-Nazi) battalion. ‘The historic mission of our nation in this critical moment,’ said Andreiy Biletsky, founder of the Azov Battaltion, ‘is to lead the White Races of the world in a final crusade for their survival, a crusade against the Semite-led Untermenschen.’ Since February, a campaign of self-appointed ‘news monitors’ (mostly funded by the Americans and British with links to governments) have sought to maintain the absurdity that Ukraine’s neo-Nazis don’t exist.
Airbrushing, a term once associated with Stalin’s purges, has become a tool of mainstream journalism. In less than a decade, a ‘good’ China has been airbrushed and a ‘bad’ China has replaced it: from the world’s workshop to a budding new Satan. Much of this propaganda originates in the U.S., and is transmitted through proxies and ‘think-tanks,’ such as the notorious Australian Strategic Policy Institute, the voice of the arms industry, and by zealous journalists such as Peter Hartcher of the Sydney Morning Herald, who called those spreading Chinese influence ‘rats, flies, mosquitoes, and sparrows’ and called for these ‘pests’ to be ‘eradicated.’
News about China in the West is almost entirely about the threat from Beijing. Airbrushed are the 400 American military bases that surround most of China, an armed necklace that reaches from Australia to the Pacific and southeast Asia, Japan, and Korea. The Japanese island of Okinawa and the Korean island of Jeju are loaded guns aimed point blank at the industrial heart of China. A Pentagon official described this as a ‘noose.’
Palestine has been misreported for as long as I can remember. To the BBC, there is the ‘conflict’ of ‘two narratives.’ The longest, most brutal, lawless military occupation in modern times goes unmentioned.
The stricken people of Yemen are media unpeople. While the Saudis rain down their American cluster bombs with British advisors working alongside the Saudi targeting officers, more than half a million children face starvation.
This brainwashing by omission has a long history. The slaughter of the First World War was suppressed by reporters who were knighted for their compliance and confessed in their memoirs. In 1917, the editor of the Manchester Guardian, C.P. Scott, confided to prime minister Lloyd George: ‘If people really knew [the truth], the war would be stopped tomorrow, but they don’t and can’t know.’
Vladimir Putin is Adolf Hitler, Xi Jinping Fu Man Chu. Epic achievements, such as the eradication of abject poverty in China, are barely known.
In recent years, some of the best journalists have been eased out of the mainstream. The spaces once open to mavericks, truth-tellers and journalists who went against the grain, have closed.The case of Julian Assange is the most shocking. When Julian and WikiLeaks could win readers and prizes for the Guardian, the New York Times, and other self-important ‘papers of record,’ he was celebrated. When the dark state objected and demanded the destruction of hard drives and the assassination of Julian’s character, he was made a public enemy. Vice President Biden called him a ‘hi-tech terrorist.’ Hillary Clinton asked, ‘Can’t we just drone this guy?’”
Pilger then mentions good news sources like “Consortium News, founded by the great reporter Robert Parry, Max Blumenthal’s Grayzone, MintPress News, Media Lens, Declassified UK, Alborada, Electronic Intifada, WSWS, ZNet, ICH, Counter Punch, Independent Australia, and the work of Chris Hedges, Patrick Lawrence, Jonathan Cook, Diana Johnstone, Caitlin Johnstone, and others who will forgive me for not mentioning them here. But when will writers stand up, as they did against the rise of fascism in the 1930s? When will film-makers stand up, as they did against the Cold War in the 1940s? Having soaked for 82 years in a deep bath of righteousness that’s the official version of the last world war, isn’t it time those who are meant to keep the record straight declared their independence and decoded the propaganda? The urgency is greater than ever.
John Pilger has twice won Britain’s highest award for journalism and has been International Reporter of the Year, News Reporter of the Year and Descriptive Writer of the Year. He has made 61 documentary films and has won an Emmy, a BAFTA the Royal Television Society prize and the Sydney Peace Prize. His “Cambodia Year Zero” has been named as one of the ten most important films of the 20th century. This article is an edited version of an address to the Trondheim World Festival, Norway. He can be contacted at http://www.johnpilger.com.
The best article I’ve read so far on Ukraine is “The Ukraine Invasion Is Nothing Compared to Iraq” by Andrew Bacevich, posted on spectator world.com on 3-2-22. Here it is:
Of the war in Ukraine, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman writes, “Our world is not going to be the same again, because this war has no historical parallel.” In the very next sentence, he describes the Russian invasion of Ukraine as “a raw, 18th-century-style land grab by a superpower,” thereby acknowledging that the episode actually has innumerable historical parallels – just not ones that Friedman cares to acknowledge as legitimate.
Friedman figures prominently among those claiming to have divined the essential character of the present age. His key finding: tech-driven globalization has rendered old-fashioned power politics obsolete. The rules of the game have changed irrevocably. Practically speaking, nations have no choice but to submit.
In best-selling books, he describes our collective future. The subtitle of one such tome claims to offer “A Brief History of the 21st Century,” then still in its first decade. In Friedman’s “hot, flat and crowded” world governed by tech-driven globalization, superpower land-grabs should have no place. The United States would enjoy unchallenged preeminence. That Vladimir Putin has somehow not received the memo or has chosen to ignore its dictates is beyond flabbergasting. When it comes to audacity, Putin has demonstrated the sort of chutzpah that has long been a Friedman signature. But the sense of dismay akin to betrayal expressed by Friedman and other commentators is entirely manufactured.
In fact, Putin has acted in accordance with geopolitical imperatives that predate the modern era. Nation-states compete against one another to advance their own interests. Pursuant to that competition, they employ various means, with suasion typically the preferred option. Given the uncertainty inherent in war, along with the likelihood of unintended consequences and higher than expected costs, violence tends to be a last resort. But last resort does not mean never. In international politics, these are the enduring facts of life.
The frequently heard charge that Putin’s invasion of Ukraine violates ostensibly sacred international “norms” holds no water. No such norms exist – at least none that a great power will recognize as inhibiting its own freedom of action. For proof, we need look no further than the recent behavior of the United States, which has routinely demonstrated a willingness to write its own norms while employing violence on a scale far exceeding anything that Russia has done or is likely to do.
Nothing that Putin has done in Ukraine pursuant to securing what he defines as vital Russian interests should be cause for surprise. Implicit in the shock expressed by observers like Friedman is a belief that Europe has become an eternal “zone of peace” in which the triumph of liberal democracy had made the “end of history” a reality. Preserving this illusion requires imagination. It means classifying the bloody disintegration of Yugoslavia in the 1990s as an anomaly, forgotten as soon as the shooting stopped. But it also requires sustaining the pretense that Europe matters more than the rest of the world, that developments there possess greater significance than developments in, say, the Middle East or Africa.
This intellectual framing according to which events occurring in proximity to the Rhine and the Danube possess greater inherent importance than events near the Tigris or the Nile dates from the age of Western imperialism. It underwrites the inclination of observers like Friedman to treat Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as utterly beyond the pale while events such as the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-1988 and America’s various post-9/11 military interventions are either forgotten or written off as unfortunate lapses in judgment.
Russian actions in Ukraine deserve universal condemnation. But as crimes go, Putin’s aggression pales in comparison with the human toll exacted by Saddam Hussein’s US-supported war against Iran. As for the calamitous results of the US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the impact of Russia’s incursion into Ukraine rates as trivial by comparison. The point is not to measure relative iniquity in a balance, but simply to note that while the ongoing events in Ukraine may be tragic, they’re not all that unusual. The professed surprise of pundits and politicians stems either from wishful thinking or willful ignorance.
History hasn’t ended. The global triumph of democratic liberalism is a mirage. As the old radio serial had it, “Evil lurks in the hearts of men,” even in an era of Google, Apple, 5G, Uber and Grubhub. What may be most difficult for the beneficiaries of global US hegemony is this: the American Century has ended. The world conjured up by Thomas Friedman has not taken its place.
What Friedman ought have written is this: “By invading Ukraine, Russia has demolished what little remained of the lucrative line of bullshit that I have been peddling for the past twenty or so years.” But don’t count on any such admission to be forthcoming.
I heartily recommend an article in today’s New York Times entitled “Beyond Low Vaccination Rates Lurks a More Profound Social Weakness” (the original title, in the print edition, was “What Causes Vaccine Hesitancy?”). Authored by Anita Sreedhar and Anand Gopal, it makes non-vaxxers, who I still think are illogical and not looking out for themselves and others, a lot more understandable. It also makes a very important point about what’s lacking in our public health system (the same as what’s lacking in our system as a whole). There’s still some connection to Trump’s disastrous politicization of the pandemic, but that’s not the whole story. He was/is capitalizing on some big holes and weaknesses in our society as a whole, a result, I think, of the two-party political system dominated by the corporate elite (the 1%). A system like this that doesn’t work for so many can’t and won’t meaningfully address big things like disease, climate change, resource depletion, etc. And it’s a worldwide system, dominated by a few “successful” countries, as the global migrant crisis, criticized by Pope Francis this weekend, shows. What the 1% and those hanging onto their coattails don’t realize is that they and their families will eventually suffer from the big problems, too. We’re all ultimately one, standing or falling together.
Please go to http://www.democracynow.com today, 11-16-21, to view or read its headline story of a massive famine beginning in Afghanistan because of US economic sanctions. This important topic wasn’t anywhere in the New York Times today, whose coverage, even on the World link, is all US-oriented.
US economic sanctions of various kinds harm and kill even more people than our wars and drone strikes, and achieve nothing.
Afghans are fleeing into Iran, which also suffers from US sanctions, and then, along with Iranians, Iraqis, Syrians, and others, all suffering from “First World” policies, are trying to get into Europe. They’re being forcibly turned away, most notably at the Belarus/Polish border, just like Mexicans and Central Americans are turned away at our southern border.
These are human beings, trying to live, and protect their children. We Americans and Europeans, more privileged by the luck of where we were born, need to welcome and help them, and stop our government from harming them in the first place. This is what Jesus taught. Are we really going to celebrate his birth in another month with food and material gifts while children are freezing and starving to death because our governments think we’re better than they are?