Nov 29 2018

FAKE NEWS AND CONSPIRACY MYTHS

We are posting two related articles. The first is from Media Lens and is about their book, Propaganda Blitz, which addresses the issue of corporate control of the mainstream media. The second is written by Thomas Klikauer and looks at the connection between ‘fake news’ and the far right.

There is a connection between the two. The mainstream media’s promotion of the fake news story about Saddam Hussein’s “weapons of mass destruction” contributed to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in the Middle East and the ‘suicide’ of Dr. David Kelly. The AltRight has built on this fake news precedent to develop their own on-line communities, addicted to conspiracy myths, amongst isolated individuals. Their longer tem aim is to mobilise these communities for their own Far Right ends.

 

1. PROPAGANDA BLITZ

 

When we started Media Lens in 2001, our guiding aspiration was that independent, web-based activism would have a profoundly positive impact on public discourse.

Hard to believe now, but we nurtured hopes that the greater honesty and compassion of thousands of non-corporate media activists would force traditional media to improve. ‘Mainstream’ outlets that continued to sell elite bias as objective Truth would be relentlessly exposed, become a laughing stock – they would simply have to raise their game. We even had a notion that decent, or half-decent, people working within corporate media might secretly welcome these pressures and quietly embrace change out of enlightened self-interest. Why? Because corporate executives love their children, too. As was very obvious then, and is even more obvious now, the prioritising of profit over people and planet must be reversed.

But, of course, human beings and human societies are not that reasonable and rational. It was never going to be that easy. What has actually happened is that, as non-corporate media have increasingly exposed the limits and failings of corporate media, the latter have adopted a bunker mentality, shutting out inconvenient truths, shutting out dissent, shutting down communication with critics. When we started sending media alerts, BBC and Guardian journalists regularly responded with quite rational, reasonable responses. Now, we mostly receive stony silence, or abusive sneers.

Make no mistake, there has been change: corporate media have been grievously wounded by web-based activism. Their response has been to retreat into an ever more extreme fantasy world that in many ways exceeds the madness even of the McCarthyite era. They have actually become much worse, not better.

In the 1950s, the West really had recently faced down a genuinely existential Nazi threat; Stalin was an utterly ruthless dictator who did in theory (if not in reality) head a party and state bent on global class war and revolution. East and West did find themselves facing a perceived enemy armed with weapons that could wipe us all off the face of the planet, if only by accident. The hysteria, lying and propaganda were preposterous; but they did have some basis, however tenuous, in the real world.

Now, by comparison, we have the same or worse levels of hysteria and intolerance directed against Iraqi, Libyan, North Korean and Iranian ‘threats’ that exist only in the crazed crania of state-corporate propagandists for whom war is just profit-maximising by other means, just another marketing plan. We have claims that omnipresent Putin is seeking to undermine Western democracies at every turn, influencing everything from Brexit to the election of Trump, and of course Corbyn.

And yes, Corbyn – a life-long anti-racist campaigner, a rare compassionate human being in British politics – has been found suddenly to be posing an ‘existential threat’, no less, to Britain’s Jews on the basis of exact truth reversal and pure invention. The Five Filters website recently collated a list of 107 Guardian and Observer articles – all but three of them published this year – promoting this completely fake scandal. As Noam Chomsky commented to us earlier this month:

‘The charges of anti-Semitism against Corbyn are without merit, an underhanded contribution to the disgraceful efforts to fend off the threat that a political party might emerge that is led by an admirable and decent human being, a party that is actually committed to the interests and just demands of its popular constituency and the great majority of the population generally, while also authentically concerned with the rights of suffering and oppressed people throughout the world. Plainly an intolerable threat to order.’ (Noam Chomsky, email to Media Lens, September 9, 2018)

It takes someone of Chomsky’s integrity and standing to help us all to, in effect, pinch ourselves and recognise that the 107 Guardian articles really are fake and really have been published in a corporate newspaper that endlessly rails against ‘fake news’. We ask you, does it take more than a glance at this separate list of Guardian and Observer attacks on Corbyn published between 2015-2017 to understand that the antisemitism ‘scandal’ is just the establishment throwing the ethical kitchen sink at Corbyn having thrown everything else? Could it be more obvious that Corbyn’s mild socialism is simply not allowed as an option for voters?

More incredible even than all of this is the impossible, the unimaginable, the completely insane response to looming climate catastrophe. Set aside this summer’s staggering extreme weather events in the UK, Europe and right around the world. Set aside the giant hurricanes and typhoons that will soon, scientists warn, exceed the category 5 maximum-level strength, such that there will be ‘superstorms capable of taking out cities like Dubai or Tampa. They are here, right now’. Why would that not happen? CO2 levels are rising inexorably. Temperatures are rising inexorably. And last year, as energy analyst Barry Saxifrage reported:

‘humanity set another fossil fuel energy record of 11.4 billion tonnes of oil equivalent (Gtoe). A decade ago we were at 10 Gtoe of energy. In 2000, we were at 8 Gtoe.’

But these smaller scale disasters and warnings are dwarfed by the fact that the governments of the world have already sat back and watched the loss of Arctic ice guarantee climate mayhem – a loss already dramatically impacting the jet stream, which has become weaker and wavier (key factors enhancing the destructiveness of the recent superstorms) – without any perceptible sense of emergency. As former Nasa climate scientist James Hansen makes clear, the claim that leaders have done much of anything to address this genuinely existential threat is ‘bullshit’, a ‘fraud’.

There is no alarm, no sense of crisis. Our leaders have done nothing. Beyond platitudes, they have said nothing. Why not? Because they don’t exist. It is clear enough now that we, the people, in fact do not have representatives or leaders: we have puppets selected to respond to the needs of corporate interests for war and growth, and yet more growth. But if we are looking to someone in the cockpit to steer us away from the mountain of evidence of looming climate cataclysm, then there is no-one flying the plane. If we are looking to corporate media to recognise and respond to truth, then forget it – they have battened down the hatches, have excluded all but the most tepid dissent and have buried their heads in the sand.

So it’s up to you and us. Can anything be done? We genuinely do not know. But we do know that we cannot give up on everyone and everything we know and love; we cannot accept defeat. To give up on hope is to guarantee there is no hope. As the historian Howard Zinn said so well:

‘There is a tendency to think that what we see in the present moment will continue. We forget how often we have been astonished by the sudden crumbling of institutions, by extraordinary changes in people’s thoughts, by unexpected eruptions of rebellion against tyrannies, by the quick collapse of systems of power that seemed invincible.’ (Howard Zinn, A Power That Governments Can’t Suppress, City Lights, 2007, p.267)

http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2018/880-propaganda-blitz-new-media-lens-book-and-an-urgent-appeal-for-support.html

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2. THEORIES THAT KILL

 

On October 28, it was reported that within 72 hours three hate crimes killed two African-Americans in Kentucky, nail bombs were send to Democrats and to people who criticised Donald Trump. Finally, a man shouting anti-Semitic slurs opened fire inside a Pittsburgh synagogue, killing 11 people attending Jewish services. The men who committed these acts had one thing in common: they believed in conspiracy theories.

It is in this context that Christian Alt and Christian Schiffer have published their German-language book, Angela Merkel is Hitler’s daughter published by Carl Hanser Press. We have entered the age of “half-truths, fake news, paranoia, resentment and irrationality”, they write – and the age of conspiracy theories. The hallucination that Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, is “Hitler’s daughter” is one of the more laughable – albeit obscene and very dangerous – conspiracy theories. As a matter of fact, conspiracy theories are not really ‘theories’ at all.

Neither are they scientific. They are not a confirmed type of explanation about nature and society made in a way consistent with scientific methods. Conspiracy theories do not produce provable knowledge. As a consequence, they would better be labelled ‘conspiracy beliefs’ – or, even better, ‘conspiracy myths’. Their advantage, however, is that they appear to provide broad, internally consistent explanations that allow people to preserve beliefs in the face of uncertainty and contradictions.

With the rise of Facebook, etc, conspiracy myths seem to have developed their very own digital reality, which exists quite apart from analogue reality. Inside this digital space, a “large amount of bullshit” has been invented. In Germany it is no longer uncommon to hear conspiracy myths, such as “Secret forces created the refugee avalanche that is destroying our homeland”. There never was an avalanche. There are no secret forces. And refugees will not destroy our homeland.

Still, these are more than just dangerous misbeliefs. They are early signs of a rising fascism. Historically, the Nazi hallucination of a Jewish world conspiracy paved the way to Auschwitz. Today, conspiracy myths are high currency for nearly all rightwing politicians – and perhaps a few leftwing politicians as well. A clear indication of their ascendancy is the current occupant of the White House. Donald Trump is known to be a ‘birther’: ie, someone who believes that presideent Barack Obama did not have an American birth certificate.

Slightly less nuts but equally dangerous was the ‘Pizzagate’ conspiracy. No, Hillary Clinton did not run a child pornography network in the back room of a pizza shop. Yet conspiracy mythologists claimed that ‘CP stands for Cheese Pizza, but it also means child pornography’. Perhaps – as one of the world’s key demagogues, Steve Bannon, says – “The story is more important than reality”. Existing separate from the mainstream press, conspiratorial stories are distributed widely through the internet without fact-checking, counter-arguments, editing, etc. With quality journalism being increasingly eliminated, ever more people seem to believe what they read on Facebook.

Conceivably, every new authoritarian regime comes with a new form of communication. Hitler had a radio called Volksempfänger (People’s Receiver). His ideological successors – today’s populists – have the internet (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc), via which “truthiness” (Stephen Colbert) is broadcast. One of the most hideous ‘truthinesses’ is the idea that ‘Obama was born in Kenya’. Today, many Americans still believe that.
In many cases, conspiracy myths work particularly well when they target individuals and small groups: Obama, Hillary Clinton, ‘witches who eat children, and Jews who poison wells and create Aids’. Conspiracy myths also mix well with romantic novels and sell millions of books. Today, many are created and broadcast by “bullshit factories”. These result in some Facebook users only seeing ‘truth’ as “echo chambers” or “mirror” of their own world view.

This is largely the case inside Germany’s crypto-Nazi party, the AfD (Alternative for Germany) – referred to by some as ‘A Fucking Disgrace’. The party has “by far more Facebook fans than party members” – 400,000 of them, compared to just under 30,000 members. A relatively high usage of Facebook was also found in the case of so-called Reichsbürger (sovereign citizen) Wolfgang P, who shot dead a policeman in 2016. Wolfgang P believed that “World War III was on the way, civilisation was breaking down and he had to defend his home”. His own particular conspiratorial hallucination had deadly consequences.

Here are a few other examples of conspiracy myths:
• Vaccination causes autism and smoke detectors listen to what we say.
• Che Guevara is the cousin of Ariel Sharon.
• Princess Diana only pretended to be dead.
• Michael Jackson had to die because he ‘rejected those in power’.
• The World Trade Center was blown up on George W Bush’s orders.
• 9/11 was a false flag attack organised by Dick Cheney.
• Israel and George Soros planned the war in Syria.
• Jews control the world.
• The holocaust never happened.
• The Rothschilds have already moved their gold to China.
• Anne Frank’s diaries are fakes.

The authors claim:
… women are more likely to believe in conspiracies compared to men and religious people are more likely than non-religious people to believe in them. Secondly, an increase of income comes with a decrease in believing in conspiracy theories.

While conspiracy myths have existed since feudal times and most likely even before that, one gets the impression that today, “whenever and wherever something exists, there is some sort of conspiracy myth” about it. Almost all conspiracy myths come with a hefty dose of paranoia as well as a circle-the-wagon feeling of “If you are with them, you cannot be with us”. Already those who utter the slightest possibility of disbelief are assessed as being “with them”.

What nearly all conspiracy myths have in common is their attempt to reduce complex social, economic and political issues to simple, black and white explanations. They explain them in a way that is easily understood. On the other hand, there are also some more elaborate conspiracy myths – and ‘Angela Merkel is Hitler’s daughter’ is among the best examples of those. Here it is:

Adolf Hitler died in a plane crash in the 1950s. But before that Hitler donated his sperm to Gretl Braun, the sister of Eva Braun. Eva Braun was the lover of the Führer. The insemination was successful and Gretl Braun gave birth to a girl called Angela. Angela is named after Eva Braun’s niece, Angela Maria ‘Geli’ Raubal.

This might sound laughable (actually it is), but, on the other hand, “more bullshit is always possible”, enriching the world of conspiracy theories on a daily level. Much of this applies to the motto, “Whatever excites and is outrageous will lead to more clicks … this is the e=mc2 of the internet.” Secondly, “‘True’ is whatever is good for us and our group.” A prime example was another particular conspiracy myth, one of the most hideous and dangerous examples: the infamous Protocols of the elders of Zion. Although shown to be a fake by the New York Times in 1921, its afterlife continued when Germany’s “Nazis distributed it massively during the 1920s”.
This conspiracy theory had extremely bitter consequences, ending in Auschwitz. Even today, “the protocols are still read and believed”, as the recent case of an AfD parliamentarian shows.

All this indicates that, as ridiculous as many such myths seem to be, “conspiracy theories have to be taken enormously serious”. Obviously, the people behind them never refer to themselves ‘conspiracy theorists’. They call themselves “truth seekers dedicated to enlightenment”. To be a conspiracy myth inventor, it is important to know that facts do not matter at all. What matters is the believability of a conspiracy.

Perhaps one of the true “masters of conspiracy theories was Adolf Hitler. He also believed in the protocols … similar tendencies can be detected in Donald Trump”.

https://www.weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/1228/theories-that-kill/
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Sep 11 2018

EDINBURGH OCTOBER 6th – A RALLYING CALL FOR THE LEFT

Allan Armstrong puts the case for building a Scottish-wide Left contingent on the ‘All Under One Banner’ march in Edinburgh on October 6th

 

EDINBURGH OCTOBER 6th – A RALLYING CALL FOR THE LEFT

 

35,000 in Glasgow, 10,000 in Inverness, 13,000 in Dumfries and 16,000 in Dundee – ‘All Under One Banner ‘ clearly represents something significant in Scottish politics. However it requires an examination of a wider politics going back to 2014 to appreciate the nature of this phenomenon.

A thwarted democratic revolution

If we look at the Indy Ref1 campaign we can see that it represented a democratic revolution, with 85% actually voting, following a registration drive which drew in 97% of the potential electorate. This was something unprecedented in UK politics. Continue reading “EDINBURGH OCTOBER 6th – A RALLYING CALL FOR THE LEFT”

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Aug 01 2018

EUROPE AND THE TRUMP DOCTRINE

Category: How they are organised,US imperialismRCN @ 10:41 pm

In this article Paul Demarty argued that Donald Trump is following a logical policy which meets the requirements of a declining US capitalism, and its growing economic weakness, highlighted in the  aftermath of the 2008 Crisis.

EUROPE AND THE TRUMP DOCTRINE

If Donald Trump is such a disastrous president, why is America not suffering?

 

 

Readers cannot, of course, have missed the drama. Having spent most of his European tour insulting his hosts and briefing against them in the media, the time came for the president to visit his Russian counterpart. Trump, as is his wont, has blown hot and cold in his relations with the Kremlin, but likes to be seen as having successful meetings with foreign leaders, and so – after hours alone with only an interpreter each – the two presidents came out to announce unspecified breakthroughs in Russo-American relations. Continue reading “EUROPE AND THE TRUMP DOCTRINE”

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Jul 25 2018

LESSONS OF THE RED (REPUBLICAN) STATES TEACHER STRIKES

Eric Chester has sent in this article form Jack Gerson, a teacher activist on California, about the teacher strikes in 

West Virginia, Kentucky and Arizona.

 

LESSONS OF THE RED (REPUBLICAN) STATES TEACHER STRIKE

 

Striking teachers in West Virginia

Last Saturday (June 9), I attended the “Lessons of the Red States Teacher Strikes” forum featuring teacher leaders of the mass education strikes in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Arizona. The forum, held in Oakland, California at a local public high school (Oakland Tech) was organized by the Oakland teachers’ union and co-sponsored by the San Francisco, Berkeley and Richmond (California) teachers’ unions. Here are my impressions and observations about this event. Continue reading “LESSONS OF THE RED (REPUBLICAN) STATES TEACHER STRIKES”

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May 10 2018

LABOUR EXPEL LEADING ANTI-RACIST FROM PARTY TO APPEASE THE RIGHT

We are reposting this article by Tony Greenstein, writing on the sacrifice of an outstanding anti-racist, Marc Wadsworth for having dared to criticise a pro-Israel MP. 

CORBYN GROW A BACKBONE

Marc Wadswoth, leading anti-racist campaigner expelled form the Labour Party by the Right

Watching the uncritical acceptance by Jeremy Corbyn’s office of the expulsion of Marc Wadsworth is like watching someone slowly committing suicide oblivious to all offers of help. The inability of Corbyn to confront the pro-Israel lobby, which is so desperate to find ‘anti-Semitism’ that it creates a wholly artificial furore over a six-year old mural, is as bewildering as it is depressing. It is as if Corbyn’s ‘director of strategy and communications’, Seamus Milne, has a death wish.

The decision by the National Kangaroo Committee to expel longstanding black anti-racist activist, Marc Wadsworth, is shameful. The role of Corbyn’s office, which tried to get Marc to call off Labour Against the Witchhunt’s lobby of the hearing, to which Smeeth was accompanied by a parliamentary lynch mob, was cowardly. It does not seem to occur to Corbyn that those supporting Smeeth – eg, Wes Streeting, John Mann, Jess Phillips, Joan Ryan, Luciana Berger – are the same creatures that have dedicated themselves to overthrowing him. Continue reading “LABOUR EXPEL LEADING ANTI-RACIST FROM PARTY TO APPEASE THE RIGHT”

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Apr 26 2018

SYRIA – DOUBTS, LAW AND GRAND STRATEGY

Yassamine Mather argues that behind the cruise missile strikes in Syria lies the plan to bring about regime change in Iran

 

SYRIA – DOUBTS, LAW AND GRAND STRATEGY

 

 

Irrespective of what the experts from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons say, there is no doubt that the Syrian dictator is capable of using weapons of mass destruction against his own population and it is possible that Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the attack in Douma.

However, the point remains that the tripartite alliance of the US, UK and France has failed to prove that the Syrian government was responsible for this terrible act before launching a military attack. In addition, after all the fake documents produced prior to the Iraq war, can anyone trust the advice of international ‘experts’? There is a level of justified scepticism amongst ordinary people about British government claims of being certain who was behind the ‘chemical attack’ used to justify the military operations of April 14. Continue reading “SYRIA – DOUBTS, LAW AND GRAND STRATEGY”

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Feb 11 2018

TRUMP AND THE LEFT IN THE USA

Eric Chester wrote  the following article on Trump and the Left. It was originally posted on the Utopian e-zine

 

 

TRUMP AND THE LEFT IN THE USA

Resisting the Trump presidency has lead many on the broad Left to focus on electing Democrats. However, is Trump the central problem confronting us, or is he just a crude manifestation of the fundamental problem, a global capitalist system that is spiralling downward and veering out of control? Continue reading “TRUMP AND THE LEFT IN THE USA”

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Dec 10 2017

BOMBARDIER-BOEING DISPUTE THREATENS WORKERS IN THE NORTH

Bombardier is a Canadian owned aircraft company which employs 4000 people in Belfast. At the moment these workers’ jobs, pay and conditions  are threatened as an outcome  of growing American protectionism, reflected through the Northern Irish political set-up, which hamstrings any effective trade union response. This consequences of this are explained in this article from Socialist Democracy (Ireland) 

 

BOMBARDIER-BOEING DISPUTE THREATENS WORKERS IN NORTH

 

Bombardier aerospace factory Belfast

 

The ongoing dispute between aerospace companies Bombardier and Boeing – which has raised fears over future of production at Bombardier’s Belfast facility – has served to highlight the highly integrated nature of modern capitalism and the exposure of the Northern Ireland economy to global upheavals. Continue reading “BOMBARDIER-BOEING DISPUTE THREATENS WORKERS IN THE NORTH”

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Nov 22 2017

‘WHITE CHRISTIAN EUROPE’ – 60,000 FAR RIGHT SUPPORTERS MARCH IN WARSAW

 

On November 11th, 60,000 people mobilised by the Far Right marched through the streets of Warsaw on a Police Independence Day march. Poland and Hungary are two EU member countries where the Far Right has been able to mobilise, greatly encouraged by the Right populist and chauvinist parties that are in government there.

There are some, particularly on the British Left, the Lexiters, who believed that a Brexit vote would open up the way to further progress. In reality, it has been the Right and Far Right in Europe that that has been strengthened. It is a sad indication of the disorientation of the ‘internationalist’ Left over Europe, that it is the ultra-nationalist Far Right that is able to mobile internationally across Europe for its vision of a ‘White Christian Europe’. Because  British Left has no alternative vision for Europe, it is leaving it to the Far Right to put forward its European vision to counter the neoliberal EU bureaucracy. Instead the Lexiters are trying to revive a British road to socialism, this time via a Corbyn-led British Left government.

The following two articles are from Tony Greenstein’s blog (see http://azvsas.blogspot.co.uk). The first article describes the politics of the march. The second shows the close relationship between the Israeli state under Benjamin Netanyahu with the Right populist governments of Poland and Hungary, and explains this link. 

 

‘WHITE CHRISTIAN EUROPE’ 

60,000 FAR RIGHT SUPPORTERS MARCH IN WARSAW

Xenophobic phrases and far-right symbols mark event described by anti-fascists as a magnet for worldwide far-right groups

 

Tens of thousands of nationalist demonstrators marched through Warsaw at the weekend to mark Poland’s independence day, throwing red-smoke bombs and carrying banners with slogans such as “white Europe of brotherly nations”. Continue reading “‘WHITE CHRISTIAN EUROPE’ – 60,000 FAR RIGHT SUPPORTERS MARCH IN WARSAW”

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Sep 22 2017

WHAT’S BEHIND THE ESCALATING CONFLICT BETWEEN THE USA AND NORTH KOREA

Category: Russia and ex-USSR,US imperialismRCN @ 1:48 pm

Below we are posting an analysis of the North Korean state, written by Mike McNair, first posted at:-  http://weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/1170/not-enforcing-juche/ 

 

NOT ENFORCING JUCHE

 

On September 11 the United Nations security council adopted a new set of sanctions against North Korea (formally the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), with the aim of forcing an end to its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile development. These are extended from the very extensive, already-existing sanctions, and now ban North Korean textile exports and the sale of natural gas to the country. But they are substantially less that the United States’ original proposals, which would have banned all exports of petroleum products to North Korea, imposed a full naval blockade, and authorised the use of force to enforce this blockade (1). Donald Trump said on September 11 that the new sanctions are “nothing compared to what ultimately will have to happen” (2).
Continue reading “WHAT’S BEHIND THE ESCALATING CONFLICT BETWEEN THE USA AND NORTH KOREA”

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