Category Archives: Doublespeak and the media

Mainstream German media is not only biased but tightly controlled

A German undercover journalist enrolled as an intern at the RT Deutsch studio to spy on “Putin’s propaganda broadcaster,” but things didn’t exactly go as planned. After just two days, the man began to question the mainstream media bias – and his own worldview. Read full article here.

This follows the disclosure in February 2016 by retired head of the popular German broadcaster ZDF, Dr Wolfgang Herles, that the network and other German media outlets take orders from the government on what, and what not, to report.

Harald Schumann, formerly a journalist for Der Spiegel also admitted in an interview that he had been de facto censored when he worked for the publication, criticizing the lack of freedom of the press in Germany.

Earlier in 2014, Udo Ulfkotte,  a former editor of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, had explained in an interview how he and fellow journalists across different newspapers were bribed and controlled by intelligence agencies. Ulfkotte’s sensational German book on the subject, ‘Gekaufte Journalisten’ has recently been translated and published in English as ‘Journalists for Sale’.

Charlie Hebdo bullies

Glenn Greenwald writes

It’s been almost one year since millions of people — led by the world’s most repressive tyrants  — marched in Paris ostensibly in favor of free speech. Since then, the French government — which led the way trumpeting the vital importance of free speech in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo killings — has repeatedly prosecuted people for the political views they expressed, and otherwise exploited terrorism fears to crush civil liberties generally. It has done so with barely a peep of protest from most of those throughout the West who waved free speech flags in support of Charlie Hebdo cartoonists.

That’s because, as I argued at the time, many of these newfound free speech crusaders exploiting the Hebdo killings were not authentic, consistent believers in free speech. Instead, they invoke that principle only in the easiest and most self-serving instances: namely, defense of the ideas they support. But when people are punished for expressing ideas they hate, they are silent or supportive of that suppression: the very opposite of genuine free speech advocacy.

Days after the Paris march, the French government arrested the comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala “for being an ‘apologist for terrorism’ after suggesting on Facebook that he sympathized with one of the Paris gunmen.” Two months later, he was convicted, receiving a suspended two-month jail sentence. In November, on separate charges, he was convicted by a Belgian court “for racist and anti-Semitic comments he made during a show in Belgium” and was given a two month prison term. There were no #JeSuisDieudonné hashtags trending, and it’s almost impossible to find the loudest post-Hebdo Free Speech crusaders denouncing the French and Belgian governments for this attack on free expression.

In the weeks after the Free Speech march, dozens of people in France “were arrested for hate speech or other acts insulting religious faiths, or for cheering the men who carried out the attacks.” The government “ordered prosecutors around the country to crack down on hate speech, anti-Semitism and glorifying terrorism.” There were no marches in defense of their free speech rights.

In October, France’s highest court upheld the criminal conviction of activists who advocate boycotts and sanctions against Israel as a means of ending the occupation. What did these criminals do? They “arrived at the supermarket wearing shirts emblazoned with the words: ‘Long live Palestine, boycott Israel’” and “also handed out fliers that said that ‘buying Israeli products means legitimizing crimes in Gaza.’” Because boycotts against Israel were deemed “anti-semitic” by the French court, it was a crime to advocate it. Where were all the post-Hebdo crusaders when these 12 individuals were criminally convicted for expressing their political views critical of Israel? Nowhere to be found.

More generally, the French government seized “emergency powers” in the wake of the Paris attack that they originally said would last twelve days. It was then extended to three months, and there is now talk, as the deadline approaches, of extending those powers indefinitely or permanently. Those powers have been used exactly as one would suspect: to barge into places without warrants where French Muslims gather, shut mosques and coffee shops, detain people with no charges, and otherwise abolish basic liberties. They’ve also now been used beyond the Muslim community, against climate activists. If that sort of classic, creeping repression does not anger and upset you, then you may be many things, but a genuine advocate of free expression in France is not one of them.

Even before the Hebdo murders, prosecutions in Europe against Muslims for the expression of their political opinions were common, especially when those opinions were critical of Western policy. Indeed, a week before Hebdo, I wrote an article detailing that growing threat to free speech in the U.K, France and throughout the West. Those types of actions — carried out by the world’s most powerful governments — were, and remain, the greatest threat to free speech in the West. Yet they receive a tiny fraction of the attention that the Hebdo killings did.

Where were, and where are, all the self-proclaimed free speech advocates about all of that? It was only when anti-Islam cartoons were at issue, and a few Muslims engaged in violence, did they suddenly become animated and passionate about free speech. That’s because legitimizing anti-Islam rhetoric and demonizing Muslims was their actual cause; free speech was just the pretext.

In all the many years I’ve worked in defense of free speech, I’ve never seen the principle so blatantly exploited for other ends by people who plainly don’t believe in it as was true of the Hebdo killings. It was as transparent as it was dishonest. Their actual agenda was illustrated by how they invented a brand new free speech standard specially for that occasion: in order to defend free speech, one must not merely defend the right to express an idea, they decreed, but must embrace the idea itself.

This newly-minted “principle” is, in fact, the exact antithesis of genuine free speech protections. Central to an actual belief in free speech rights is the view that all ideas — those with which one most fervently agrees and those one finds most loathsome and everything in between — are entitled to be expressed and advocated without punishment. The most important and courageous free speech defenses have typically come from those who simultaneously expressed contempt for an idea while defending the rights of other people to freely express that idea. This is the principle that has long defined authentic free speech activism: those ideas being expressed are vile, but I will work to defend the right of others to express them.

Those who exploited the Hebdo murders sought to abolish this vital distinction. They insisted that it was not enough to denounce or condemn those who murdered the Hebdo cartoonists. Instead, they tried to impose a new obligation: one must celebrate and embrace the ideas of the Hebdo cartoonists, support the granting of awards to them, cheer for the substance of their views. Failure to embrace the ideas of Charlie Hebdo (rather than just their free speech rights) subjected one to accusations — by the world’s slimiest smear artists — that one was failing to uphold their rights of free expression or, worse, that one sympathized with their killers.

This cheap bullying tactic — trying to force people not merely to defend Hebdo’s free speech rights to but to embrace the ideas being expressed — has endured to this day (but only when it comes to speech critical of Muslims). A full year later, it’s still common to hear supporters of Western militarism falsely accuse portions of “the left” of having sanctioned or justified the attack on Charlie Hebdo solely on the ground that they refused to cheer for the content of Hebdo’s ideas.

This accusation is an absolute, demonstrable lie, an obvious slander. I’ve never heard a single person on the left express anything other than revulsion at the mass murder of the Hebdo cartoonists, nor have I ever heard anyone on the left suggest that the murders were “deserved” or that the cartoonists “had it coming.” I certainly did hear, and myself expressed, opposition to the relentless targeting of a marginalized minority in France by Hebdo cartoonists (that critique, just by the way, was most eloquently expressed by a former Hebdo staffer, Olivier Cyran: “The obsessive pounding on Muslims to which [Hebdo] has devoted itself for more than a decade has had very real effects. It has powerfully contributed to popularising, among ‘left-wing’ opinion, the idea that Islam is a major ‘problem’ in French society”). But objections to the substance of an idea quite obviously does not denote or even suggest a failure to uphold the rights of free speech for those who express that idea: unless you’re endorsing the noxious, deceitful, entirely novel concept that one can only defend the free speech rights of those with whom one agrees.

But this all highlights that free speech was not the principle being upheld here; free speech was just a weapon used by some tribalistic Westerners to try to force people into cheering for anti-Islam and anti-Muslim cartoons (not merely the right to publish the cartoons without punishment or violence, but the cartoons themselves).

And what even more powerfully demonstrates the sham at the heart of this post-Hebdo spectacle is that before the Paris march, and especially since, there has been a systematic assault on the free speech rights of huge numbers of people in France and throughout the West who are either Muslim and/or critics of the West or Israel, and the newfound Hebdo free speech crusaders have exhibited almost no opposition, and at times tacit or explicit support. That’s because free speech was their cynical weapon, not their actual belief.

https://theintercept.com/2016/01/08/where-were-the-post-hebdo-free-speech-crusaders-as-france-spent-the-last-year-crushing-free-speech/

 

When Google met Wikileaks

In June 2011, Julian Assange met the chairman of Google, Eric Schmidt, at Ellingham Hall, the country house in Norfolk, England where Assange was living under house arrest. The two men debated the political problems faced by society, and the technological solutions engendered by the global network—from the Arab Spring to Bitcoin. They seem to have outlined radically opposing perspectives: for Assange, the liberating power of the Internet is based on its freedom and statelessness. For Schmidt, emancipation is at one with U.S. foreign policy objectives and is driven by connecting non-Western countries to Western companies and markets. These differences embodied a tug-of-war over the Internet’s future that has only gathered force subsequently.

download Assange’s book on the subject here:

Julian Assange – When Google Met WikiLeaks

Initial information from Wikileaks’ Saudi cables

Cables leaked from its Interior Ministry appear to reveal the extent of Saudi Arabia’s funding of various media outlets. This emerges from WikiLeaks’ leak of over 61,000 documents published on Friday, which are the first of around half a million to be released over the coming weeks, and are expected to be embarrassing to the kingdom and its allies

One of the documents (see: https://www.wikileaks.org/saudi-cables/doc124708.html) apparently sent from the Interior Ministry to the Ministry of Culture and Media in 2010 approves payments to media outlets across the region. Newspapers and sites in Syria, Jordan, Kuwait, the UAE, Lebanon and Mauritania reportedly received sums of up to $32,000 each per year, in massive subscriptions which are intended, in the words of Wikileaks, “to control Arab media” (see: https://wikileaks.org/saudi-cables/buying-silence).

However, this is not limited to the Arab world. In Australia, massive subscriptions are made to the Telegraph, the Middle East East Times and other publications (see: https://www.wikileaks.org/saudi-cables/doc116429.html). In Canada this also applies to various publications (see: https://www.wikileaks.org/saudi-cables/doc117189.html). Many other publications across the world are also involved (see: https://www.wikileaks.org/saudi-cables/doc118126.html, and: https://www.wikileaks.org/saudi-cables/doc123389.html).

Furthermore, payments are made to Burundian politicians with control over local radio stations. (see: https://www.wikileaks.org/saudi-cables/doc116887.html), and most extraordinarily payments have been made to out-of-favour reformist Iranian politician Ata’ollah Mohajerani for his son Ali to be able to complete his PhD at Warwick University, Coventry UK, at a cost of £12,115 p.a. for four years plus £4,256 p.a. housing expenses, payments totalling some $65,000 altogether (see: https://wikileaks.org/saudi-cables/doc1322.html, and, more generally: https://wikileaks.org/saudi-cables/search?q=%D9%85%D9%87%D8%A7%D8%AC%D8%B1%D8%A7%D9%86%D9%8A&exclude_words=&types[]=1&types[]=2&types[]=3#results).

During the Arab Spring in 2011, the cables show concern that Egyptian newspapers were being driven by public opinion rather than turning around and driving it themselves (see: https://www.wikileaks.org/saudi-cables/doc124314.html). The idea, also displayed in the cables, of paying Egyptian authorities $10 billion in the period just before Mohamed Morsi came to power, in order to release Hosni Mubarak from prison (see: http://different-traditions.com/?p=2633) obviously came to nothing. However, clearly the very thought suggests the importance of the old dictator for the Saudi rulers.

Clearly, much more information is on its way.

The British election results are going to be a mess: how to get out of it

Adam Morrow writes:

As the election looms into sight, five things which have long seemed probable now appear to be likely.

First, the odds are that Labour, the SNP, Plaid Cymru, the SDLP, the Greens and Sylvia Hermon will between them have a small parliamentary majority. The polls have moved a little towards the Tories, and they may yet go even further. But they’d have to quicken their pace significantly, or be systemically wrong, for MPs from the remaining parties to have the 323 seats they’ll likely need. Of course either of those things is very possible. But the parties of the left go into polling week with an advantage.

Second, it seems probable that the Conservatives remain the biggest single party, both by vote share and by MP numbers. Even if they don’t overall, they are very likely to be the biggest party in England.

Third, the SNP will romp home, turning a huge chunk of the Scottish map yellow.

Fourth, Miliband won’t attempt any formal pact. Instead, he will try to form a minority government, proposing his programme bit by bit to the Commons, and winning where Labour’s ideas command the support of a majority of MPs.

Finally, the right wing press and the Conservatives will find any excuse they can to declare that Miliband isn’t a legitimate Prime Minister (see entries on the prospective Coup by the Tory Press)

read on at

https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/adam-ramsay/what-is-to-be-done-or-ensuring-british-people-get-what-they-vote-for-and-that

The ‘coup’ by the Tory Press gathers pace

Oliver Huitson writes:

For the last month we have been working with Avaaz to track the election coverage of the right wing press: the Times, Telegraph, Sun and Mail. The picture that emerges, particularly with the Sun and the Mail, is essentially a media machine entirely in lock step with Conservative HQ. Their attacks are the same, their language is the same, their soundbites, their heroes, their villains, the lot. When one changes tactics, so does the other. It gives an entirely warped view of the real choices on offer to voters.

I should say, firstly, how surprisingly good the Times has been. A Murdoch paper, and yet seemingly the most balanced and fair of the four – it has published some great pieces from unexpected angles. Even the Mail, in the shape of Peter Hitchens – much maligned on the left – has delivered some honest, sharp and refreshing perspectives…

read on at

https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/oliver-huitson/press-campaign-so-far-coup-gathers-pace

 

Writers Withdraw From PEN Gala to Protest Award to Charlie Hebdo

Glenn Greenwald writes

As I was close to finishing my own story, The New York Times published a long article last night  about the rather intense and fascinating controversy that has erupted inside PEN America, the group long devoted to defending writers’ freedom of expression from attacks by governments. In essence, numerous prominent writers who were to serve as “table heads,” or who are longtime PEN members, have withdrawn from the group’s annual awards gala and otherwise expressed anger over PEN’s decision to bestow its annual Freedom of Expression Courage Award to Charlie Hebdo.

read on at

https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2015/04/27/writers-withdraw-pen-gala-protest-award-charlie-hebdo/