the pandemic & the ‘state of exception’: either you’re with us, or you’re with the terrorists…

I would have been called “a conspiracy theorist” at the beginning of the pandemic if had had predicted that countries in the heart of Europe like Austria would apply a lockdown purely for those who have not taken the vaccine… If I’d said that any of that would have taken place I would have been called “a conspiracy theorist” but now that I express criticism of it, I’m called “a conspiracy theorist”.

— Max Blumenthal

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The quote above is taken from a very recent interview [premiered on Sat 20th] with independent journalist Max Blumenthal when he joined host RJ Eskow on his show The Zero Hour – the full show is embedded below along with annotated segments of the conversation that I have transcribed beneath including relevant links, video uploads (with descriptions in Italics) and occasional disagreements:

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“Since we’ve been having these conversations for a few years, you can see that I’ve been branded “an antisemite” for my work on Israel-Palestine, and trying to understand and interrogate how the Israel lobby influences US politics. I’ve been called “an Assadist” for my critical reporting on the dirty war on Syria, which was largely kept from the US public by legacy and corporate media. I’ve been called “a Kremlin shill” or “Russian spy” or “asset” for challenging the narrative of Russiagate, which has just been exploded in broad daylight in recent weeks with the indictment of several key players in the construction and dissemination of the Steele Dossier.

“And so now, for using the same kind of techniques and applying the kind of critical thinking that I do to every major issue – and having you know been inspied to get into journalism because of the way 9/11 was exploited to consolidate this massive security state and carry out regime change across the Middle East – for just applying that same kind of thinking to the pandemic, yes, I’m branded “an anti-vaxxer” and large segments of the organised left, or the establishment left, are angry with my analysis, and according to them, you’re not really supposed to have an analysis: we just are supposed to  go along with the proclamations of public health officials which are constantly shifting.

“Just through my conversations with colleagues and people on the left; they all know something’s wrong, but many of them self-censor because they’re afraid of having this label applied to them which does have implications; disturbing implications when you consider that in September, around the anniversary of 9/11, the DHS issued a terror threat warning that there was no specific terror plot, but that people who are critical of vaccine policy in the US were “a terror threat”. In other words, the concept of being “an anti-vaxxer” – which according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary means anyone who even opposes mandates – is now being criminalised.” [from 3:05 mins]

Drawing upon Cold War comparisons, RJ Eskow broadens the conversation raising the point that the West has once again entered a period of Manichean ‘bi-polar’ thinking, to which Blumenthal responds:

“These terms are never fully explained. It’s just a way of, first of all, appealing to establishment prejudice against the dissenter, and applying a pejorative or label in order to shut down debate.

“And you’ll find that on this, even more than Russiagate, it is impossible to have a rational or reasoned kind of calm and measured debate on the issues, with particularly people who are to the left of Tucker Carlson. I mean it goes through the Democratic Party, all the way to the radical left. You have the almost, near blanket support, or silence in the face of so many violations of human rights, and obliteration of legal strictures, and concepts that we took for granted in an already weak liberal democratic system; that’s probably an understatement.

“The purpose of 9/11 – not the attack but the response to it – was to create a state of exception where international law and conventions around torture could be wiped away, because the public provided consent to the Bush administration and the Blair administration to do so because it was gripped with fear.

“You remember the days after 9/11: I remember people were concerned that Bin Laden was going to wage a dirty bomb attack; there was the anthrax – the very mysterious anthrax attacks – to keep the fear going. And the public gave full consent for the Bush administration to create what Carl Schmitt called the ‘state of exception’ where the laws of the past no longer apply, and you had to, in the words of Dick Cheney, ‘take the gloves off’; begin torturing people; establish the unitary executive, where congressional approval of wars was no longer of interest; the AUMF [2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force] “Emergency Authorisation” – we hear that word so much around the Vaccines, well it reminds me of the AUMF, which has never been sunsetted since 9/11.

“So now we have another ‘emergency situation’: the threat of the virus, which is real, has absolutely been exaggerated, and we’ve moved from ‘responsibility to protect’ – the R2P Doctrine where the US has to come in and save some civilian population after we’ve witnessed so much death – to witnessing death all around us, and the government has to simply do something, and the public has give their consent for the government to do something. It’s gone from R2P to R2V: Responsibility to vaccinate – and that means mandating vaccines – something that Anthony Fauci said the government would never do. Something Joe Biden and Jen Psaki said [here  and here] they would never do, because it seemed usually draconian to voters back in 2002. Now they’re doing it, Democrats have overwhelmingly supported it – even a slice of Republicans have – and we’re seeing restrictions and human rights violations take place that we never could have imagined.

“I would have been called “a conspiracy theorist” at the beginning of the pandemic if had had predicted that countries in the heart of Europe like Austria would apply a lockdown purely for those who have not taken the vaccine. I would have been called “a conspiracy theorist” if I’d said another country Slovenia is now refusing to allow the unvaccinated to buy gasoline – you have to present your health card there in order to buy gasoline.

BBC news finally reported on the full extent of protests across Europe including Austria, Belgium and the Netherlands last Sunday evening [Nov 21st]:

On Thursday [Nov 18th] British comedian Russell Brand uploaded his own report on developments in Australia where thousands of protestors are also gathering to demonstrate against legislation granting new government powers:

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“Germany will soon apply a lockdown of the unvaccinated, and lockdowns themselves, and the way we’ve seen them applied, particularly in Australia and New Zealand, where if there’s one or two cases an entire region or country locks down; and all the health effects that that has on the public are completely ignored in order to eradicate an airborne respiratory virus that’s simply impossible to eradicate and is endemic.

“If I’d said that any of that would have taken place I would have been called “a conspiracy theorist” but now that I express criticism of it, I’m called “a conspiracy theorist”. So there’s almost no way to win, but I think a large part of the public is starting to come to its senses and realising that the response to the pandemic is not necessarily about public health.

“It’s about private wealth, monetising the response, and militarising the response. The military-intelligence apparatus has been involved in this from the beginning… in a different way than it was involved in 9/11, and in some ways a more intimate way: in the way that censorship and surveillance are creeping into our lives on the grounds of a public health response.” [from 7:50 mins]

Responding to this last point, RJ Eskow says that he also recognises how governments can and do usefully regulate for public safety and worker protection and that as someone who suffers with health problems that have left his own immune system suppressed, he too desires freedom of movement. He feels that it is therefore understandable that a responsible government would encourage citizens to get a vaccine, adding however, that “a little alarm goes off” once he sees the state exercising its powers to impose enforced inoculation.

Eskow then references an article co-authored by Max Blumenthal and published by The Grayzone [Oct 19th] about the vaccine passport and who’s behind it, continuing:

“This to me is vitally interesting and you know I did a project for a think tank in Palo Alto fifteen years ago where I modelled future possible pandemics – and I found out, and very few people have written about it – back then that the federal government had already put plans in place to impose internal passports and internal restrictions on travel, military takeover of transportation hubs and things like that, and you know I thought ‘wow, that sounds dystopian’.

That’s a lot of what you’re describing and it and it seems to me we should be able to hold more than one thought in our head, which is that we want to reduce loss of life from this pandemic, but we also want to be concerned about not strengthening the mix of state and private forces that already have too much control over our lives. Do you get where I’m coming from?” [from 15:10 mins]

Blumenthal answers:

“Yes I do. I think that if there had never been mandates in the US where hundreds and hundreds of thousands of workers had a pink slip dangled in front of their face, if they did not want to take a vaccine – and we should talk about what they’re being asked to take – then there wouldn’t be this hysteria about “anti-vaxxers”.

“I mean you have people around the world – not just masses of people in Italy, in France, protesting vaccine passports: what’s called ‘the Green Pass’ in Italy where millions of workers are being told that they have to present this in order to get into their very jobs.

On Saturday [Nov 20th] thousands of protesters attended a demonstration to oppose the Green Pass in Rome. The certificate is mandatory in order to work and attend all public places and events, including public transport between cities. The protesters gathered in Rome’s Circus Maximus, after Italian authorities banned demonstrations against the Green Pass in historic or tourist sites. One protester says, “Between vaccinated and unvaccinated people. Are we all equal? We are equal human beings. We are equal.” Another tells the reporter, “Everyone makes their choice. I am not against the vaccine, I am here for freedom of choice”:

On the same day thousands also took to the streets in the Croatian capital Zagreb in the biggest demonstration the country has seen against Covid-19 measures since the beginning of the pandemic:

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“You have protests in the West Bank in Palestine. You have protests in Tehran. You have protests in Martinique. You have protests in Morocco – massive protests against their vaccine passport system. Now you have protests in Costa Rica and Colombia; all across the Global South protests are cropping up, as well as in New York City: there’s a massive protest this Saturday in Central Park, and all across the West.

“You wouldn’t have this if there hadn’t been mandates. If people hadn’t been forced and coerced: if they had simply been encouraged. And many people who were immuno-suppressed or who were in risk groups have mostly gone out and gotten the vaccine.

“And then we have another problem and it’s the intersection of these two problems that caused me to start raising issues about the pandemic response. First, the coercion and the attacks on workers, obliterating worker rights as [economist] Richard Wolff said: one of the core foundations of the labour struggle is that the boss should never have the power to decide what life decisions the workers make. It’s up to the workers. That’s why workers organise, and so that’s why they’re opposing these mandates.

“But the other issue is the vaccine itself. They were rolled out under emergency usage. The trials were shoddy at best.* They were approved then by the FDA under very suspect conditions – in one case, the Pfizer vaccine had the control group eliminated. I mean these aren’t real trials, so people are naturally suspicious of it. It is using a novel technology called mRNA, which is essentially a gene therapy…

[Warning: Before continuing I need to insert a few words of caution: a lot here hangs on the Max Blumenthal’s use of the word ‘essentially’. More assertive claims that the vaccines are gene therapy are widely discredited. Of course, this point is highly technical and well beyond my own scientific training, but here is an article that attempts to clear up the matter.

Regarding the claim that “the trials were shoddy at best”, this is a strong statement and I have found little evidence to directly support it. However, it is important to keep in mind that the Pfizer vaccine alone has yet to receive full FDA approval (restricted to people aged 16 and above and granted as recently as August) while the alternative vaccines remain under Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) which means that clinical trials are ongoing. Moreover, The Lancet has acknowledged that “long-term safety issues might arise” due to the accelerated development under the Operation Warp Speed – see the footnote for further details.]

 “… and while it has been shown to reduce severe illness or death when people have antibodies, it does not prevent infection. And that’s something that everyone from Anthony Fauci to CDC Director, Rochelle Walensky, admitted; there’s a new study in The Lancet out this week: it’s called “Community transmission and viral-load kinetics of the SARS-Cov-2 delta variant in vaccinated and unvaccinated Individuals in the UK” [click here] and it clearly shows that the vaccines do not prevent viral transmission.

“So what does this mean? It means that the mandates are essentially unscientific. Because if the vaccines had prevented infection and transmission, then it would mean you are protecting others around you by taking it. And it would mean that there was a logic behind requiring people to take it to go into a workplace, or a logic behind vaccine passports requiring people to take it in order to mingle with others at a bar. But there is no logic there. So what is the point of the mandates and the passports? It feels like simply control. And people feel abused by this.

One of the inventors of mRNA vaccine technologies, Robert Malone, warned of the risks of the accelerated vaccine rollout and has subsequently been accused of misinforming the public on a few specific technical points. As a non-specialist it is difficult to gauge whether or not his expertise is fully reliable or we should just trust in government agencies and the powerful pharmaceutical lobby. In this interview he talks at length about many related topics, but I have cued the video to begin where he discusses the covid vaccine response:

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“Now the people who are ratioing Richard Wolff; that’s you know the laptop-left. They don’t have a whole lot of connection with workers. But if you go out and talk to workers, including those who have willingly taken the jab under threat of losing their job, they feel like there’s been no informed consent – that’s been violated. Their bodily autonomy has been violated. And their right as a worker has been violated.

“And all to take a vaccine that doesn’t prevent them from giving the virus to others. That’s why in Ireland right now, which has over 90% vaccination uptake, you’re seeing cases rise massively …

“The same thing is happening in Singapore which ended its long lockdown and is now being swamped with cases. They have about 85% of people over [the age of] twelve vaccinated. The most vaccinated place on earth, Gibraltar – close to 100% – is going to cancel Christmas; has announced plans to cancel public celebrations of Christmas because of the massive rise in cases.  [from 16:10 mins]

John Campbell [Nov 24th] confirms the recent surge in cases in Gibraltar but also finds dramatically lowered rates of death that supports the case that vaccines do provide protection against serious disease:

RJ Eskow then picks up on the points Max Blumenthal raised and summarises, pointing out that there are actually ‘two logics’ operating: one aims to reduce transmission, while the other and sounder reason aims to reduce cases of severe illness, hospitalisation and death. Following on, he says, this means there are correspondingly two moral arguments to consider: first, that it is your duty to your fellow citizens to be vaccinated so that you don’t infect them; and, separately, that you take the jab for your own personal good:

“We don’t want you to be hospitalised or die or get long covid, which is terrible. So we will mandate you take this vaccine so that doesn’t happen. Now, I would argue that the left has not sufficiently analysed the fact that there are two principles here… So when it becomes an issue of ‘for your own good I want to mandate that you take this’, if that is the only principle, then we need to have a debate about whether that is a valid reason for mandating.” […]

“Now, if the goal is to help other people, it’s interesting to ponder whether the mandate has in fact backfired because more people are resisting because of the mandate than would have taken the shot if it had been presented to them in a clear way why they should take it. So that’s my map of the moral landscape. Do you agree with it, disagree with it?” [from 22:40 mins]

Max Blumenthal replies:

“Well, the federal court has ruled that Biden’s mandate as applied to companies of one hundred workers or more that would be enforced by OSHA [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] is extraordinarily overbroad – in their words – and a point that the judges makes, which I think is salient, is that not all workers are the same.

“If you have a long-haul trucker who’s in the truck all day by his or herself, it’s very different from someone who’s working in a crowded office or a workplace where people are indoors together for long periods.

“Beyond that they raised the issue of natural immunity, which I think is another blow to the Achilles’ heel of the mandates and this biomedical security regime that’s being erected before our eyes.

“As we know from an August 2021 study by Tel Aviv University – the largest of its kind – comparing those who are vaccinated but have not been previously infected versus those who had been previously infected and not vaccinated, they found that immunity is something like twenty times stronger in those who had been previously infected, and much more durable.

As this report explains, the true figure is closer to thirteen times, but still significantly higher:

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“We’re seeing that bear our right before our eyes. I mean just look at the number of cases. Now who is most likely to have been previously infected? It’s the frontline workers. It’s the people who were out there while the laptop class was at home during the lockdowns that they seemed to enjoy. Those are the people who now face the mandates.

“I mean the mandates are coming down on the backs of frontline workers who were celebrated with pots and pans being banged out windows, and they’ve gone from heroes to zeroes. That’s who you’re seeing at the protests in New York City is EMS [emergency medical services] workers, firefighters, restaurant workers, healthcare workers; people who sacrificed throughout 2020 and are now facing the pink slip.

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“So natural immunity has to be recognised here and it’s a hard thing to demonstrate. So that’s another major issue.

“And then we have the issue of boosters. In lockstep, leaders across the West began making the case for boosters including Anthony Fauci, who said in an interview that the mRNA vaccines wane in efficacy over the course of six months. […]

“If you were vaccinated more than six months ago then you are considered unvaccinated in Israel. And not only that, you are not able to go to restaurants or the gym or a spa with your Green Pass anymore, even if you did your part and got vaccinated, because they’re already on their third jab and they’re making space for the fourth one.

Bloomberg has a piece out – you know citing various public health officials and supposed experts – on how no-one knows how many booster shots you will have to take. And so when you combine this fact with the mandates, and the vaccine passports, which are coming in in more and more draconian fashion around the world, you have to consider that for the rest of your life, every six months you will have to take a vaccine – [one] that in my view is still experimental because it usually takes around four to seven years to adequately test a vaccine and run it through trials and this one has just been rushed out. You will have to do that for the rest of your life in order to continue participating in society, or working.

“So that to me is unacceptable, and I think to many more people it’s unacceptable. And I wonder if boosters haven’t been rolled out so aggressively here and mandated is just to avoid the social catastrophe that’s inevitable if they are.” [from 24:25 mins]

Lastly, RJ Eskow brought the conversation around to concerns surrounding the organisations behind the vaccine passports. Max Blumenthal has already ready written extensively on this subject in the article already linked above and entitled “Public health or private wealth? How digital vaccine passports pave the way for unprecedented surveillance capitalism” that was published on October 19th by The Grayzone.

Back in October, Max Blumenthal carefully detailed a variety of initiatives spearheaded by such groups as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation [BMGF], Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization [GAVI] which is 25% funded by Gates, Microsoft, Accenture, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Omidyar Network, along with Australian Aid and UK Aid, concluding his piece with a statement made by Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben, who is best known for his work investigating Carl Schmitt’s concept of the state of exception:

Two days before anti-Green Pass protests exploded across Italy, the renowned philosopher Giorgio Agamben appeared before the Italian Senate’s Constitutional Affairs Commission to issue a dramatic statement of opposition to the Green Pass.

Agamben is most famous for his concept of Homo Sacer, or bare life, in which an individual is stripped of rights and reduced to their biological essence in an extra-legal regime justified by war or other emergencies. When Italian authorities declared the first lockdown in March 2020, the philosopher applied the theory to his own country’s heavy-handed restrictions.

“The defining feature…of this great transformation that they are attempting to impose is that the mechanism which renders it formally possible is not a new body of laws, but a state of exception – in other words, not an affirmation of, but the suspension of constitutional guarantees,” the philosopher explained in the foreword to his collection of 2020 writings on Covid-19, “Where Are We Now: The Epidemic As Politics,”

In his remarks before the Italian Senate, Agamben pointed to a sinister agenda behind the official rationale for vaccine passports: “It has been said by scientists and doctors that the Green Pass has no medical significance in itself but serves to force people to get vaccinated. Instead, I think we must say the opposite: that the vaccine is a means of forcing people to have the Green Pass. That is, a device that allows individuals to be monitored and tracked, an unprecedented measure.”

The philosopher concluded his address by taking aim at the supra-national forces – Bill Gates, the World Economic Forum, and Rockefeller Foundation, among others – determined to impose a system of digital identification and high-tech social credit as much of the human population as possible.

“I believe that in this perspective,” Agamben warned, “it is more urgent than ever for parliamentarians to consider the political transformation underway, which in the long run is destined to empty parliament of its powers, reducing it to simply approving – in the name of bio-security – decrees emanating from organizations and people who have very little to do with parliament.”

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To close their discussion, Max Blumenthal once again summarised his findings including the underreported consequences of the rollout of a biometric digital ID system called Aadhaar that led to a spate of deaths in rural India in 2017 as a direct result of starvation due to denial of access to basic food rations – systems of a kind that tech billionaires including Bill Gates are keen to install across the globe (and I direct readers again to read his article in full). In brief he reminded us that:

“Vaccine passports are now in the US essentially handwritten CDC cards, and I assume that they will eventually be digitised. And in fact, there is a long-standing agenda to produce a digital ID and link it to a central bank digital currency, which will be administered through your digital wallet, and it will also be connected to now, as we see, your biomedical history.

“So your ID is connected to your finance, your medical history, and it’s all required to participate in society under the current biomedical security regime, which has come into play through a state of legal exception.” [from 29:40 mins]

Finally, they talk about how society is being fractured over these issues. Max Blumenthal delineates as follows:

“The group that is not just resisting the vaccine, but resisting what I call ‘the new normal’, which is this entire biomedical security regime and propaganda apparatus that’s grown up against the backdrop of 9/11 and Russiagate in this ‘state of exception’ through the pandemic is more heterogeneous than the group that angrily and aggressively supports ‘the new normal’. That group is mostly uniform.

“And then you have another group that has decided ‘to go along to get along’, because generally they’re in an economically precarious situation and they can’t afford conflict. Or they just simply aren’t heavily politicised and don’t want to get involved in the ugliness and toxicity – especially in the US where everything has been framed through the lens of fears of populism and nationalism and you know in the course of a culture war.

“So that group that’s more heterogeneous is impossible to stereotype and you do have right-wingers in there who are there because they just see anything the government does is evil. You have a number of left-wingers who are concerned about monopoly capital gaining unprecedented control over everything including people’s biology. They don’t trust the government. Strangely, I thought there would be more. I’m kind of baffled by the reflexive obedience of large sectors of the left here.

“But it isn’t anymore just about unvaccinated versus vaccinated. I know many people who are fully vaccinated who now see the booster regimen coming in and see these bizarre and exotic restrictions like lockdowns exclusively for the unvaccinated, and they’re just disgusted on civil liberties grounds.

“Of course, the entire resistance to this programme is legitimate, but the idea that every single person in the entire world needs to take one of these vaccines – that has failed on so many of their promises – is to me unacceptable. And to many other people.

“It’s going to require so much coercion and we haven’t even talked about adverse effects. They do have adverse effects. And if you believe the CDC’s VAER’s system – the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting system – it’s harming people and injuring people every week. And that’s a concern people have. It’s a legitimate concern.

“I went to a press conference of American’s from all walks of life, many of them had testified in the Senate earlier that day – this was two weeks ago – and hearing their stories about being injured by the vaccines was shocking. Most people are not going to be injured by them – this appears to be uncommon – but it’s a concern that we have to recognise.

“But on a population level, the idea that we can vaccinate our way out of the pandemic has, in my view, been totally discredited. And that’s why we’re going to see in 2022, a focus on therapeutics, on pills people can take. The public health officials will finally accept early treatment after demonising Ivermectin – like your Youtube video could be taken down because I just said the word Ivermectin – it’s been called “horse paste”.

“And now we’re seeing what amounts to Pfizer-mectin and all these other pills – 2022 will be the year of therapeutics. So it’s a tacit admission that the vaccines failed to end the pandemic.

“So why keep pushing people into a corner and creating this kind of new, very heterogeneous resistance? When the vaccine uptake, in my view, has been pretty high across the board, and will continue to go up if people are simply encouraged through positive means, and if public health officials now finally accept the reality that it’s an individual’s choice to protect yourself against illness or death in some cases.

“And I want to make another point that I think is controversial, but I’ve made it before and it’s true [read my note below], which is that the death toll is being inflated – and that doesn’t mean covid is not a threat – but it’s being inflated and accounted in unusual ways to make us think that we’re living through some kind of genocide and to cut off our critical faculties. [from 39:00 mins]

Unfortunately, this is where my own views radically depart from Max Blumenthal’s. In the UK, where I have studied the excess death figures very carefully I have found zero evidence supporting this contention and have in fact presented contrary evidence that shows the British government did everything within its power to reduce the apparent death toll during the early months – for reasons that are blindingly obvious.

Although the system of accounting in many countries, including Britain, undoubtedly is misleading, since it does falsely include some number who have died from other causes, it also inevitably misses other cases that were not diagnosed and thus where cause of death was wrongly attributed for a counterbalancing reason. The only figures that I believe are wholly reliable are these two: the number of hospitalisations and of excess deaths. Considering the case for Britain again, excess deaths counted over the full period beginning from March 2020 approximately correlates with official covid deaths (within a margin of around 10%). Given the difference in methods a small discrepancy is to be expected.

For these and other reasons, I remain entirely suspicious of claims of this sort. Indeed, I view this whole argument about false accounting as a canard and an unnecessary distraction, although as a firm advocate of free speech I do accept that others like Max Blumenthal have the right to make contrary assertions even while I believe it weakens their otherwise sound case. I include this digression at the risk of interrupting the flow merely to stress that I do not agree with Max Blumenthal on all points.

However, Max Blumenthal does finish on a point that I’m in full agreement with:

“We’ve gone from the left advocating for ‘Medicare for All’, and calling for public healthcare, to at least quietly acquiescing as public health officials and pundits call for denying healthcare to the unvaccinated. We’ve even seen a Colorado hospital deny an organ transplant to a woman simply because she and her donor were unvaccinated. She had to go to Texas to save her own life. And that’s something that we are now accepting as triage.

“There’s so many lives that could be saved here by not cutting ICU beds – Andrew Cuomo, how many ICU beds did that guy cut throughout his tenure as governor? Thousands and thousands and thousands…

“And now we’re looking at the symptoms instead of the cause. The symptoms: there’s not enough beds and the unvaccinated are filling everything up. No, this is about neoliberalism; there should just be more beds.

“And then finally, so many people, because of the lockdowns and the fear, delayed routine treatments and many of them died because of that – I mean including chemotherapy. And now they’re coming in and they’re flooding hospitals – look at the reporting right now – the hospitals are full of people who have now decided that they can’t wait any longer to have their routine procedures done, but they waited because of the pandemic.

“So all the hospitals are flooding with people and they’re going to be even more full because of the flu this winter. So covid isn’t the only issue here. It’s the response to it that has been absolutely inhuman, and there needs to be some debate about it – and the critics who have criticised and critiqued every other response by the powerful; every other undemocratic overreaction to a crisis – many of them are absent.” [from 46:35 mins]

Please note: Although the transcript is mine, the views expressed above are not necessarily shared by Wall of Controversy. (My own views are expressed across a range of posts on the subject.)

Importantly, I have not been trained as a medical professional and do not claim to have expert knowledge of this subject. This article is in no way intended to provide medical advice of any kind.

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* From a report by The Lancet Commission on COVID-19 Vaccines and Therapeutics Task Force published in The Lancet (Vol 9, Issue 7, E1017–E1021), released March 26, 2021 entitled “Operation Warp Speed: implications for global vaccine security”:

OWS has accelerated the development of COVID-19 vaccine without compromising efficacy, safety, or quality.1 There are, however, long-term safety issues that might arise. For example, three Ad5-vectored vaccine trials for HIV showed excess HIV infections in vaccine recipients; could Ad5-based vaccines for COVID-19 enhance HIV infections? Similarly, the use of the AS03 adjuvant was thought by some to be associated with the development of narcolepsy.20 Rare events, such as intussusception after the use of oral rotavirus vaccines, might not be apparent, even in trials of 30 000–60 000 people.21 Vaccine-associated enhanced respiratory disease and antibody-dependent enhancement were reported in animals given vaccines against SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV;22 fortunately, these effects have not been reported in small animal, non-human primate, or human studies of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines.23 However, a long-term effect, similar to the enhancement that was observed for the Sanofi dengue virus vaccine, cannot be ruled out.24 Disregarding safety can undermine public confidence in COVID-19 vaccines and decrease vaccination uptake.25 Strengthening of systems in LMICs to monitor, record, and report adverse events after immunisation will be important given the multiple vaccines in use.26

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/langlo/article/PIIS2214-109X(21)00140-6/fulltext

Interpretation of the study (quoted directly from the paper):

Vaccination reduces the risk of delta variant infection and accelerates viral clearance. Nonetheless, fully vaccinated individuals with breakthrough infections have peak viral load similar to unvaccinated cases and can efficiently transmit infection in household settings, including to fully vaccinated contacts. Host–virus interactions early in infection may shape the entire viral trajectory.

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Filed under analysis & opinion, Austria, India, Ireland, Italy, police state, September 11th, USA

open letter on the famine in Afghanistan – Stop the War Coalition

After decades of indifference and silence, BBC news yesterday reported on the plight of the people of Afghanistan under the title “100 days of Taliban rule in Afghanistan”.

Perhaps a better title would be “after 20 years of war and 100 days of US sanctions on Afghanistan”:

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LIFT THE SANCTIONS. STOP THE FAMINE. LET AFGHANISTAN LIVE.

A drought caused by climate change and war has reduced the Afghan harvest by almost half. War damage to agriculture and infrastructure has played a major part in leading to famine. Following the humiliating defeat of the occupation, Western governments have cut aid, effectively imposing economic sanctions on the Afghan people who have already suffered over forty years of war. Afghan assets abroad have been frozen.

Unless the sanctions are immediate lifted millions of innocent people, many of them children will die in famine.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization says that unless aid is urgently delivered to Afghanistan, winter will cut off a large part of the country, with millions, including farmers, women, infants and the old, facing famine during a freezing winter.

David Beasley, Executive Director of the UN World Food Programme has said:

‘It is as bad as you possibly can imagine. In fact, we’re now looking at the worst humanitarian crisis on Earth. Ninety-five percent of the people don’t have enough food, and now we’re looking at 23 million people marching towards starvation. The next six months are going to be catastrophic. It is going to be hell on Earth.’

He added, ‘world leaders’ and the ‘billionaires’ must imagine it was their little girl, or boy, or grandchild, about to starve to death.

‘You would do everything you possibly could. And when there is 400 trillion dollars’ worth of wealth on the earth today, shame on us if we let any child die from hunger.’

We demand that the British government and its allies, who conducted the war for 20 years, now do everything in their power to end this famine. We ask the anti-war, trade union and climate change movements, and citizens everywhere to mobilise across the world to stop the famine in Afghanistan and demand Western governments immediately lift sanctions and restore aid.

Share the letter via social media here: https://www.stopwar.org.uk/article/lift-the-sanctions-stop-the-famine-let-afghanistan-live/

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how Wall Street is about to monetise nature, or why Glasgow COP26 was a roaring success for the one percent – Whitney Webb pulls back the curtain on GFANZ

[T]he United Nations has been transformed since we last met here in Davos. The Organization has undergone a complete overhaul that I have described as a ‘quiet revolution.” . . . A fundamental shift has occurred. The United Nations once dealt only with governments. By now we know that peace and prosperity cannot be achieved without partnerships involving governments, international organizations, the business community and civil society. . . . The business of the United Nations involves the businesses of the world.”

— UN Secretary General Kofi Annan speaking to the World Economic Forum in 1998

*

Anyone who has read John Perkins bestselling mea culpa “Confessions of an Economic Hitman” is already familiar with the modus operandi of global vulture capitalism. Employed by an engineering consultancy firm, Perkins tells us that his actual job was to persuade the leaders of poor countries to take on enormous loans for prestigious development projects from global financial institutions including the World Bank and other multilateral development banks (MBAs).

Once saddled with debts – and the word ‘saddled’ aptly characterises what it means to be heavily indebted – the countries would then be compelled to acquiesce to US pressure on a whole host of issues including, centrally, the adoption of neoliberal policies which require the privatisation of state assets and a vast transfer of wealth to enrich a handful of Western financial elites.

As Perkins tells us right at the top of the preface to his book:

Economic hit men (EHMs) are highly paid professionals who cheat countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars. They funnel money from the World Bank, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and other foreign “aid” organizations into the coffers of huge corporations and the pockets of a few wealthy families who control the planet’s natural resources. Their tools included fraudulent financial reports, rigged elections, payoffs, extortion, sex, and murder. They play a game as old as empire, but one that has taken on new and terrifying dimensions during this time of globalization.

I should know; I was an EHM.

Of course, what Perkins describes is old school neo-imperialism. This was how late-twentieth century imperialists captured foreign nations and controlled them without too much need of direct military intervention or “boots on the ground” because mechanisms of financialisation are sufficient means for the usurpation of governments and exploitation of resources. However, as the world moves forward and new opportunities for exploitation recede, methods of plunder and ways of disguising it are swiftly being upgraded. These days when everything is going ‘green’, neo-imperialism is no exception:

Today, MDBs are used as “instruments of power” that utilize debt to force developing nations to implement policies that benefit foreign interests rather than their own national interests. If GFANZ gets its way [see below], the MDBs of tomorrow will be used to essentially eliminate national sovereignty, privatize the “natural assets” (e.g., ecosystems, ecological processes) of the developing world, and force increasingly technocratic policies designed by global governance institutions and think tanks on ever more disenfranchised populations.

The warning above is taken from a recent article by independent journalist Whitney Webb entitled “UN-Backed Banker Alliance Announces ‘Green’ Plan to Transform the Global Financial System”.

GFANZ, short for the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero, as Webb explains, is an “industry-led and UN-convened” initiative. It was launched last April by John Kerry, US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate; Janet Yellen, US Secretary of the Treasury; Mark Carney, former chair of the Bank of England and now UN Special Envoy for Climate Action; who co-chairs the GFANZ alliance with US billionaire and former mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg.

According to their blurb (follow the link above):

GFANZ will work to mobilise the trillions of dollars necessary to build a global zero emissions economy and deliver the goals of the Paris Agreement. GFANZ will provide a forum for strategic coordination among the leadership of finance institutions from across the finance sector to accelerate the transition to a net zero economy.

Whitney Webb then follows the money:

GFANZ is composed of several “subsector alliances,” including the Net Zero Asset Managers Initiative (NZAM), the Net Zero Asset Owner Alliance (NZAOA), and the Net Zero Banking Alliance (NZBA). Together, they command a formidable part of global private banking and finance interests, with the NZBA alone currently representing 43 percent of all global banking assets. However, the “largest financial players” who dominate GFANZ include the CEOs of BlackRock, Citi, Bank of America, Banco Santander, and HSBC, as well as David Schwimmer, CEO of the London Stock Exchange Group and Nili Gilbert, chair of the Investment Committee of the David Rockefeller Fund.

Notably, another Rockefeller-connected entity, the Rockefeller Foundation, recently played a pivotal role in the creation of Natural Asset Corporations (NACs) in September. These NACs seek to create a new asset class that would put the natural world, as well as the ecological processes that underpin all life, up for sale under the guise of “protecting” them.

Continuing:

Details of GFANZ’s plan to deploy trillions of member investments into emerging markets and developing countries was published in the alliance’s inaugural “Progress Report,” the release of which was timed to coincide with the COP26 conference. The report details the alliance’s “near-term work plan and ambitions,” which the alliance succinctly summarizes as a “program of work to transform the financial system.” […]

In addition to the creation of “corporatist” “country platforms” that focus on specific areas and/or issues in the developing world, GFANZ aims to also further “corporatize” multilateral development banks (MDBs) and development finance institutions (DFIs) in order to better fulfill the investment goals of alliance members. Per the alliance, this is described as increasing “MDB-private sector collaboration.” The GFANZ report notes that “MDBs play a critical role in helping to grow investment flows” in the developing world. MDBs, like the World Bank, have long been criticized for accomplishing this task by trapping developing nations in debt and then using that debt to force those nations to deregulate markets (specifically financial markets), privatize state assets and implement unpopular austerity policies. The GFANZ report makes it clear that the alliance now seeks to use these same, controversial tactics of MDBs by forcing even greater deregulation on developing countries to facilitate “green” investments from alliance members.

The quote by Kofi Annan is also taken from Whitney Webb’s excellent article (which I firmly encourage you to read in full). It represents the final piece that completes the picture of the new neo-imperialist jigsaw. As she writes:

With the UN now essentially a vehicle for the promotion of stakeholder capitalism, it is only fitting that it would “convene” and support the efforts of a group like GFANZ to extend that stakeholder capitalist model to other institutions involved in global governance, specifically global financial governance. Allowing GFANZ members, that is, many of the largest private banks and financial institutions in the world, to fuse with MDBs, remake the “global financial governance system,” and gain increased control over political decisions in the emerging world is a banker’s dream come true. To get this far, all they have needed to do was to convince enough of the world’s population that such shifts are necessary due to the perceived urgency of climate change and the need to rapidly decarbonize the economy. Yet, if put into practice, what will result is hardly a “greener” world but a world dominated by a small financial and technocratic elite who are free to profit and pillage from both “natural capital” and “human capital.”

Click here to read Whitney Webb’s full article published on her official Unlimited Hangout website on November 5th.

On November 19th, Whitney Webb was interviewed by RJ Eskow on his show The Zero Hour where they discussed the issues raised in the article:

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Extracts from the text of Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s address, entitled “Markets for a Better World”, delivered on January 31, 1998 at the World Economic Forum, Davos, Switzerland. https://www.un.org/press/en/1998/19980130.SGSM6448.html

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corona marginalia: my body, my choice

“My body, my choice” is a feminist phrase that applies to many issues beyond reproductive rights, as well. The message that nobody should do anything or force us to do anything we don’t want to do with our bodies is necessary for creating a culture of consent.

Suzannah Weiss

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Although feminists were not the first to argue for the sanctity of personal autonomy over their bodies, it was surely the feminist fight to secure this basic and fundamental freedom that set the course for modern rights. Looking back further, autonomy over own bodies was actually the underlying tenet of liberal democracy since the end of feudalism and the advent of the European enlightenment, when concepts of human rights arose and the violation of the bodies of all humans became of legal concern.

After nearly four centuries of liberal progress, that fundamental right has just been overturned. Already Indonesia, Micronesia and Turkmenistan have mandated covid-19 vaccines for adults, but closer to home, Austria today became the first European country to follow suit with new plans for general compulsory vaccination of its population:

The government said it was preparing the legal groundwork for a general vaccine mandate to come into effect from 1 February, with exemptions for those unable to receive a jab on medical grounds.

The age from which people will be required to be vaccinated has not yet been determined, the government said.

Those refusing to be vaccinated are likely to face administrative fines, which can be converted into a prison sentence if the fine cannot be recovered.

The Guardian article above then reaches for its conclusion with this curious dog whistle:

[T]he planned general vaccine mandate drew heavy criticism from the opposition benches in parliament. “From this day Austria is a dictatorship,” said Herbert Kickl of the far-right Freedom party, which has advocated scientifically unproven alternative treatments against coronavirus infections, such as the anti-parasite drug ivermectin. *

The implication, at least according to the progressives at the Guardian, is that since only the far-right is concerned about such a gross infringement of personal freedoms, perhaps those who disagree might be sympathisers of some kind. (Sadly, this is how discourse proceeds today.)

Likewise, the BBC has been doing its own part to downplay the grotesque threat to our civil liberties and human rights, as Big Brother Watch Director, Silkie Carlo, found out when on Wednesday she was interviewed by Radio 5; the day that Austria announced its original lockdown for the unvaccinated (how rapidly the Overton Window can be slid open):

Here the rhetorical trap is set at around 6:05 mins when the BBC host challenges Silkie Carlo over her (perfectly legitimate) choice of expression: “you say it’s a power grab”, she says, “I’m curious, what do you think the motivation of governments is in a situation like this?”

So here again, we are dealing with a sort of dog whistle for progressives. To translate, implicit in the question is the latent rhetorical one: “what kind of a conspiracy theorist are you?”

Dealing with baited questions of this sort can be exasperating, and especially when the presenter is quite evidently feigning ignorance; in this instance, deliberately ignoring the plethora of historical precedents for authoritarian takeovers. Moreover, she is talking to a representative of the aptly named Big Brother Watch – clearly, Orwell’s novel remains a cautionary tale about how societies can slip into tyranny when a population does not remain vigilant. Frankly, Orwell, who of course worked at the BBC, must be turning in his grave.

Maintaining her composure (and not even rolling her eyes), Silkie Carlo patiently explained:

“Well, once you enter a phase of authoritarianism, it doesn’t necessarily make the government less popular… But the question you just asked is the million dollar question. I don’t know and that’s why I think it’s terrifying and that’s why I think there are millions of people around Europe who are terrified.”

Continuing after a prompt about ‘public health concerns’:

“It’s not an overriding concern for public health. I think at best – if we’re being charitable – it’s that the government has completely failed to get a grip on the situation (and bear in mind we’re two years into this now). If you can’t control the situation at this point, and you have to be entering into a checkpoint society, where people have to show their papers to police officers just to live their lives, then clearly something’s gone really wrong.”

I confess that this post has been somewhat hastily drafted and had the issue not been of such grave significance I might have withheld these words in order to edit my thoughts a little. However, the simple fact that we are now having this debate at all is extremely disturbing – in fact, shockingly reminiscent of another debate that we had around the time of 9/11, when journalists and ‘experts’ sometimes opined in the mainstream about the pros and cons of torture.

Let me stress (as I have already in earlier posts) that I am not anti-vaccine. Moreover, I do not doubt that the covid vaccines have already saved many lives during this pandemic and indeed the hospital figures do confirm this fact. However, the vaccines currently available are all extremely ‘leaky’. While they do protect the vaccinated against serious disease, hospitalisation and death, they do not prevent transmission of the virus. It follows from a purely scientific standpoint, therefore, that these vaccines are best administered to those who are most vulnerable to the disease.

No less importantly, all vaccines carry risks. I have reported on the risks too, because it is crucial to investigate the truth surrounding all of these issues – information matters. And given the risks alone, it is entirely right that patients are obliged to give informed consent – just as informed consent is required before we undergo any medical procedure.

The imposition of mandatory vaccination violates well-established human rights that grant us autonomy over our own bodies. Irrespective of the science, this decision by the Austrian government is deeply unethical and sets a very dangerous precedent.

Finally, to reiterate: I am not anti-vaccine. I am not pro-vaccine. I am pro-choice.

*

From an article entitled “5 Things That Are #MyBodyMyChoice” written by Suzannah Weiss, published in Bustle magazine on September 25, 2015. https://www.bustle.com/articles/113094-5-things-that-are-mybodymychoice-because-respecting-them-is-essential-for-creating-a-culture-of-consent

* From an article entitled “Austria plans compulsory Covid vaccination for all” written by Philip Oltermann, published in the Guardian  on November 19, 2021. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/nov/19/austria-plans-compulsory-covid-vaccination-for-all

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corona marginalia: Kyle’s story

Kyle Warner is a 29-year-old professional mountain biker from Idaho. His unfortunate story was first brought to my attention by John Campbell who has since recorded a follow-up interview with Kyle uploaded on Wednesday [Nov 10th] and embedded directly below:

Before continuing with Kyle’s story, it is vitally important to stress that John Campbell, who has a doctorate in nursing and is a retired teacher of nurses, has always been and remains pro-vaccine. He has stated repeatedly that covid vaccine injuries may have arisen from not administering the vaccines correctly and has used his online platform to advocate for better practise – here is John Campbell discussing being ‘fact-checked’ a few weeks ago.

Moreover, and in spite of his recent misfortune, Kyle Warner also encourages the take up of vaccines, although like many millions, he is opposed to mandatory vaccination. However, it seems that the language itself is now being modified and so I draw attention to the current definition of “anti-vaxxer” according to Merriam-Webster (screenshot below):

Merriam-Webster definition of anti-vaxxer

To quote directly from horribly contorted and dangerous definition, an anti-vaxxer is “a person who opposes the use of vaccines or regulations mandating vaccination”. (The emphasis is mine.)

This Orwellian redefinition that deliberately lumps together anyone who opposes mandatory vaccination with those who are fundamentally opposed to vaccination under all circumstances thereby vilifies millions who are justifiably concerned about civil liberties, government overreach and basic human rights. It is important to keep this in mind as we return to the story of Kyle (and others who present their own cases below).

*

It was mid-May when Kyle received his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine. Besides a sore arm he did not experience any apparent complications. A month later on June 10th, Kyle received the second dose. Again, he experienced no immediate complications. A fortnight later, however, Kyle (a professional athlete) began to notice that his normal resting heart rate had risen from around fifty beats per min up to sixty. Of more concern, he felt abrupt leaps when his heart rate would suddenly shoot up to ninety and hundred even while resting. Alarmed by this, he immediately decided to cut out all stimulants from his diet and then took two weeks off in order just to rest and recuperate.

When Kyle returned to cycling, however, he found that his condition had actually become more serious. During a climb on his first ride, he noticed that his heart rate had risen to 160 and was shocked to see that it didn’t return to normal again. He struggled home and visited his local hospital.

On admission Kyle explained how he thought he may have been having a reaction to the vaccine but the doctor in charge of his case told him he was more likely having an anxiety attack. In response, Kyle said that he knew his body and repeated that the side-effects he was experiencing corresponded to ones he had read about. Finally, the same doctor told him he may be in the midst of a psychotic episode and promptly sent him home.

In reality Kyle was suffering from pericarditis (inflammation of the lining surrounding the heart) along with POTS and reactive arthritis. These conditions left Kyle bedridden and unable to exercise during the months that have followed. Understandably, he fears that his career as a mountain biker may be finished.

*

On November 2nd, Kyle Walker joined other covid vaccine injury claimants. Supported by doctors and medical experts they went to Washington DC to testify at the US Senate calling for transparency and accountability.

Senator Ron Johnson who convened the roundtable panel personally invited NIAID Director, Dr. Anthony Fauci; CDC Director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky; FDA Acting Commissioner, Janet Woodcock; NIH Director, Dr. Francis Collins; HHS Secretary, Xavier Becerra; the CEOs of Pfizer, Moderna, BioNTech and Johnson & Johnson, Albert Bourla, Stéphane Bancel, Uğur Şahin and Alex Gorsky respectively; as well as state representatives for each of the vaccine injured who were speaking out, but none of the above accepted his invitation and no journalists from any mainstream media outlets attended the proceedings.

Kyle Warner opened his statement as follows (from 53 mins):

Before I start my speech I just want to say thanks to Dr Fauci, the FDA, heads of the CDC and NIH, for not showing up to this meeting and not listening to us. I really appreciate it and I’m glad that you have our interests at heart. This message is kind of for you. It’s a message on how this has broke my heart literally and figuratively.

He continued:

Listening to these stories today and looking at the [Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System] VAERS database, it is easy to see that we have a serious problem arising, but you guys already know this. The real question is whether or not you’ll stand up to your favourite pharmaceutical lobbyist in defence of the American people you are supposed to serve. We were told we were fighting a war against the pandemic and the question in the air is: will you leave your troops behind yet again?

I’m not asking you to end the vaccine programme by any means. All I’m asking is for some transparency and acknowledgement of what is happening, so that we as a country can have an honest discussion of the risks.

I believe that where there is risk there must be choice, and without acknowledging that people are being seriously injured and dying, we are doing a great disservice to the American people.

It is estimated that Moderna and Pfizer will make around 60 billion dollars in revenue this year from covid-19 vaccines. And with the rollout of boosters and mandates, it seems like much of that is destined to be recurring revenue.

We need to set up a fund with a portion of vaccine proceeds to help heal and study injured Americans and compensate the families who have lost loved ones due to complications of the vaccine.

This is the first ever mass administration of mRNA vaccines and the drug companies need to compensate us if they’re going to be testing on us.

Do you know why we stopped saying the Pledge of Allegiance in school? It’s because the new one: ‘One nation under siege, completely divisible, with liberty and justice for all corporations’ doesn’t sound quite as good. I’m asking you human to human, please do the right thing and help us.

Although the video is cued to the start of Kyle Warner’s statement, I encourage readers to listen to other contributions too – in particular the powerful testimony of injured healthcare professionals, Joel Wallskog, an orthopaedic surgeon from Wisconsin, and Shaun Barcavage, a research nurse/practitioner from Pennsylvania (starting from 2:20:45).

This is an abridged version of Shaun’s testimony (a fuller version is provided below):

“Politics has zero impact on me being here today. I’m pro-patient, pro-science and I’ve been fiercely pro-vaccine my entire life – often having fights with family members to get vaccinated.

However, like many, I was a bit hesitant about the vaccine. We all had our concerns. I was scared about the new platform. The new spike protein vector. The fact that we relied on more long-term in vitro studies without long-term safety data in humans. But as a researcher and a scientist I also understood the need to control a pandemic. So I got vaccinated.

As a researcher I fully understand reactions occur and they are real. No medication or vaccine is reaction free. I get this, but so should everyone else. But in this rollout there were many things that came to light quickly, once I fell into that adverse reaction world.

Prior to December 29th 2020, the day my life fundamentally changed, I was a vibrant, funny, compassionate, healthy person. No medical conditions. No medicines. Never a vaccine reaction. Let me briefly share my [vaccine] reaction story.

I went to the hospital where I work. I stood in line. Immediately after dose one I developed paraesthesias in my right arm – got injected in my right deltoid. Within hours to days, the numbness and tingling travelled to the right side of my face, my eye and my ear.

I saw a neurologist – one of the top neurologists in New York City – he said ‘Oh, if it subsides get the second shot – we just don’t know it’s all new.’ So it subsided. Against my better judgement, I went back and I got in line.

Dose two literally sent me into a tailspin. […]

I’m a science-driven nurse/practitioner and I remain pro-vaccine. I dedicated my life to helping people and medicine. Heartbreakingly I ended up in the realm of the injured. But the real tragedy is not only the lack of adequate medical support, but the active and coordinated denial of our situations. Even by my own colleagues.

Finally, I want you to know that I was never the activist type. I never pictured myself being here. But fear and despair have changed me. This experience has shattered my life.”

All participants on the panel were speaking on their own behalf and no-one appeared as a representation of any organisation or institution. None on the panellists has ever been an anti-vaccine campaigner, but all are opposed to mandatory vaccination (as am I):

As you can see, the original upload has already been taken down by Youtube (and Senator Ron Johnson’s channel was suspended for a week over alleged misinformation) but an edited version is now available and again I have cued it beginning with Kyle Warner’s statement. The bowdlerised testimony of Joel Wallskog and Shaun Barcavage now begins at 24:55 mins:

*

Please note: The views expressed by Sen. Ron Johnson and other participants are not necessarily shared by Wall of Controversy. (My own views are expressed across a range of posts on the subject.)

Importantly, I have not been trained as a medical professional and do not claim to have expert knowledge of this subject. This article is in no way intended to provide medical advice of any kind.

*

Additional: A longer version of Shaun Barcavage’s testimony

“Politics has zero impact on me being here today. I’m pro-patient, pro-science and I’ve been fiercely pro-vaccine my entire life – often having fights with family members to get vaccinated.

However, like many, I was a bit hesitant about the vaccine. We all had our concerns. I was scared about the new platform. The new spike protein vector. The fact that we relied on more long-term in vitro studies without long-term safety data in humans. But as a researcher and a scientist I also understood the need to control a pandemic. So I got vaccinated.

As a researcher I fully understand reactions occur and they are real. No medication or vaccine is reaction free. I get this, but so should everyone else. But in this rollout there were many things that came to light quickly, once I fell into that adverse reaction world.

Prior to December 29th 2020, the day my life fundamentally changed, I was a vibrant, funny, compassionate, healthy person. No medical conditions. No medicines. Never a vaccine reaction. Let me briefly share my [vaccine] reaction story.

I went to the hospital where I work. I stood in line. Immediately after dose one I developed paraesthesias in my right arm – got injected in my right deltoid. Within hours to days, the numbness and tingling travelled to the right side of my face, my eye and my ear.

I saw a neurologist – one of the top neurologists in New York City – he said ‘Oh, if it subsides get the second shot – we just don’t know it’s all new.’ So it subsided. Against my better judgement, I went back and I got in line.

Dose two literally sent me into a tailspin. Within four days I developed debilitating tinnitus. What I recall from that is the month of February, curled up in a foetal position on the bathroom floor, wondering how would I ever live with this. It was so severe. Couldn’t hear TV. Couldn’t listen to music, or read a book, or hear what other people were saying. Thought my life was over.

It continued. I got right facial tingling, back numbness, throat tightness, tachycardia, wildly fluctuating blood pressures, severe right-sided headaches and brain fog. I went back to the neurologist. I told all that was going on. He said, ‘Oh, wait it out, it might likely subside again.’ I said, ‘I don’t think so, this is pretty bad.’ I ended up in the emergency department on January 30th.

Despite all my years of nursing experience, [and] having been familiar with the vaccine trials, I offered up quickly, ‘I think I’m having a reaction to the vaccine.’ I was quickly dismissed by a physician who had no knowledge about these vaccine reactions and he sent me away with ibuprofen – so many missed opportunities to treat me.

Things continued to progress. I developed POTS syndrome – never even heard of it before as a nurse – where you can’t stand for more than five minutes without your heart rate zooming, getting faint and nauseous. Severe intractable insomnia. I never had a problem sleeping before, suddenly I’m taking five meds to try to get to sleep. Muscle twinges, tremors, adrenal dumps – adrenal dumps that would burn my muscles and my stomach. […]

I pursued everywhere across the country from New York to California, looking for answers, pestering top researchers, scientists, doctors. Getting nowhere. Getting no recognition. Getting dismissed.

By August I’d literally exploded in generalised body neuropathies – imagine, waking up in the middle of the night stinging in my hands and feet, burning in the soles of my feet, prickling all over like I fell in a bush of nettles. […]

I pushed for objective data. I insisted: let’s do a tilt-table test. [It] showed my dysautonomia. Pushed for a skin biopsy. Showed I developed small fibre neuropathy. Still, I couldn’t get anybody to take an interest in me. I’m a researcher, I found that curious. Here I am, presenting, unusual case, study me, I’m a perfect candidate. I give you objective data. If I tell you my pain’s a seven out of ten, it’s a seven out of ten – I don’t minimise or maximise.

Feeling so alone and so scared I turned to social media because I couldn’t find anybody like me for support. In mere months I had thousands of people. I set up a tinnitus group: 3,500 members joining in months. Later I found six other groups focussed on neurological symptoms. I started to help them – as a nurse it was the best way I could help: use my resources. I started researching. Reading journals. Hearing what they were hearing. Reading as much as I can. Sharing with them. Helping the people who had no insurance understand what their labs were. People who had no money. Guiding them. What tests they should get. How best they should use their money.

Crazy thing is social media – you’re there, you’re looking for support, you find support – they suddenly tag you: ‘misinformation’. You’re not real. You’re an ‘anti-vaxxer’. You devolve into more despair. […]

My goal here today is to speak as a researcher. A lot’s been said already. I’ll just emphasise: if we mandate vaccines, it’s clear we need to mandate manufacturers and government institutions to step up and investigate us. It’s not right. It’s immoral.

Reactions are real; they’re a part of science. I got unlucky. But it’s unethical to hide them even if it’s for some greater motive. […]

We know NIH did a study. I’d love to know what was in it. It’s unethical to hide research if there’s information in there to help people. I know this, I’m a researcher.

We also must return science into the hands of scientists and get it out of money; donor money and politics. We deserve safe and effective vaccines, but we also deserve effective and safe government. I don’t think we have that right now.

I’m a science-driven nurse/practitioner and I remain pro-vaccine. I dedicated my life to helping people and medicine. Heartbreakingly I ended up in the realm of the injured. But the real tragedy is not only the lack of adequate medical support, but the active and coordinated denial of our situations. Even by my own colleagues.

Finally, I want you to know that I was never the activist type. I never pictured myself being here. But fear and despair have changed me. This experience has shattered my life. Like all of you: I know where you are. […]

I will continue to fight. I will continue to research. I will find an answer, people, or I will die trying.”

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RIP Mike Howard — tarred as an antisemite by Labour, he was a Jewish activist who fought fascism and racism his whole life

Mike Howard was the Jewish son of a family that escaped the Nazi pogroms in what is today Lithuania and Poland to settle in the East End of London. At school he suffered constant racist abuse being teased as “a fat little Jew boy”. Irrespective of his background and his longstanding commitment to international socialism, in June 2020 he received an email from the Labour Party accusing him of antisemitism on the basis of a few pro-Palestinian posts on Facebook, and in spite of the fact that many of these posts had actually included his own back story.

Mike Howard was outraged but more so for knowing that the letter had very probably come from people inside Labour HQ who were not even Jewish, but anonymously making false accusations when his own family had actively fought the fascists before, during and after the war, and had fought racism the whole of their lives. A very active member of the party, coincidentally, he had just been reselected to run for councillor in the May elections – previously he was elected and served as councillor on two occasions. He immediately appealed against his suspension but heard nothing.

Mike Howard became one of seven members known as Labour Activists For Justice (LA4J) who took the Labour Party to court over its disciplinary process for investigating complaints of antisemitism:

The members of the group, four of whom are Jewish, have all had disciplinary action taken against them and are currently under investigation over alleged rule breaches relating to antisemitism, which they strongly reject. They know that many other members are in similar situations. They are making this High Court claim because the suggestion in many cases, including their own, that there is anti-Semitic content in the evidence provided by the Labour Party is unfounded and offensive. They want a fair disciplinary process to be implemented for ALL Labour Party members where the criteria by which they will be judged are clear and public and the procedures are fair.

When they lost their case at the High Court in July, Jewish Voice for Labour issued a statement that begins:

It’s difficult not to get the impression that the recent judgment, on the claim against the Party by several members accused of antisemitism, is one of those cases where the judge decided what he wanted to do and then thought of some reasons to justify it. In fact, his comment at the end of his judgment, where he declared that it’s effectively the policy of the courts not to intervene in disciplinary proceedings, meant that he was never going to agree with the claimants.

And concludes:

The difficulty for anyone challenging the Labour Party on anything to do with antisemitism allegations is that they are fighting what has become an entrenched conventional wisdom i.e. that there is rampant antisemitism in the UK in general and in the Labour Party in particular. Indeed, the way the judge listed the draft charges against one of the claimants (unnamed) seemed intended to indicate what a dreadful bunch they must be.

After a short illness, yesterday [Nov 11th 2021] Mike passed away with his family around him. He was still suspended from the Labour Party.

Click here and here to read each of the reports published by Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL).

You can see the full judgment on the case here.

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open letter to the Labour Party: what is its stance on Israel, Tzipi Hotovely, and anti-racism?

Israel ambassador to the UK, Tzipi Hotovely, has claimed that there is “no Palestinian people” and last year described the Nakba – the well-documented 1948 expulsion of 800,000 Palestinians in order to establish Israel – as “a popular Arab lie.”

In May, Hotovely was keynote speaker at a demonstration outside the embassy in support of Israel’s latest war against the civilian population of the Gaza Strip. Also in attendance was far-right activist Tommy Robinson.

On Tuesday night, students protested peacefully outside the LSE at the apparent invitation of Tzipi Hotovely by the LSE Debate Society. Eighteen student groups had also signed an open letter expressing their outrage at the event. The students said Hotovely’s racism was in clear contravention of LSE policies on external speakers.

[Shadow Foreign Secretary] Lisa Nandy afterwards tweeted:

The appalling treatment of Tzipi Hotovely is completely unacceptable. There is no excuse for this kind of behaviour. Freedom of speech is a fundamental right and any attempt to silence or intimidate those we disagree with should never be tolerated.

Why do Lisa Nandy and the Labour Party stand by Tzipi Hotovely and not with the anti-racist protesters and in condemnation Israel’s far-right ambassador who has also openly called for an end to mixed marriages?

And irrespective of Labour’s position on Israel’s illegal occupation and apartheid system (according to reports by HRW and B’Tselem), does the party no longer respect the right to peaceful protest?

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Today I sent a copy of the letter above to my constituency MP Paul Blomfield and will post any reply below.

Sections are drawn from an article published by Electronic Intifada on November 10th entitled “UK government attacks Palestine student protesters” which goes on to highlight the response of government ministers including Home Secretary Priti Patel who tweeted that she had been in touch with Tzipi Hotovely to support her, saying “the police have my full backing in investigating this appalling incident”.

Click here to read Asa Winstanley’s full article.

The same evening, Novara Media featured the response of Labour MPs, Lisa Nandy and Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds, who tweeted about “shocking scenes”, before he tacitly smeared the demonstrators saying “antisemitism has no place in our society”, adding, “I wish Tzipi Hotovely well and support the police in any investigation.”

The ten-minute segment, which is embedded below, was originally broadcast in Novara Media’s Tyskie Sour on Nov 10th:

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Update: Keir Starmer doubles down on Labour’s defence of Israel

On November 10th, Labour leader Keir Starmer voiced his own outrage at what he falsely claimed was “intimidation and threats of violence” during the LSE protests against Tzipi Hotovely:

He afterwards attended the annual lunch of Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) on November 16th, where as guest of honour he shared the stage with Tzipi Hotovely and delivered a speech that directly equated anti-Zionism with antisemitism and claimed opposition to Israel is “the antithesis of the Labour tradition”

Starmer said:

“Under my leadership, Labour will stand shoulder to shoulder with peacemakers and progressives. We’ll stand up against those who demonise and delegitimise Israel and its people.”

In the clip embedded above from the November 17th Tyskie Sour broadcast, Novara Media’s Michael Walker deconstructs Starmer’s paean to Israeli apartheid.

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On November 22nd, Palestinian academic Ghada Karmi and Jenny Manson from Jewish Voice for Labour appeared on Not The Andrew Marr Show to respond to Keir Starmer’s speech to Labour Friends of Israel, in which he rejected sanctions against Israel and repeated the ahistorical myth that “Israel made the desert bloom”:

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Conspiracy and Class Power | Michael Parenti

No ruling class could survive if it wasn’t attentive to its own interest, consciously trying to anticipate, control, or initiate events at home and abroad, both overtly and secretly.

— Michael Parenti

Michael Parenti is a historian and political scientist and the author of many books, including Democracy for the Few; Power and the Powerless; Inventing Reality: The Politics of the Mass Media; Blackshirts & Reds: Rational Fascism and the Overthrow of Communism; The Face of Imperialism, God and His Demons, The Assassination of Julius Caesar: A People’s History of Ancient Rome; and Superpatriotism.

In 1993 he delivered an outstanding speech entitled “Conspiracy and Class power” in Berkeley, California, that was recorded and preserved on audio cassette from a radio broadcast, and then, more recently, rediscovered in a collection kept by a listener:

A full and annotated transcript is provided below.

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Related thoughts for the day

Remember, remember the fifth of November, 
Gunpowder treason and plot…

Across the United Kingdom this evening, people will congregate around bonfires and go to watch firework displays. Bonfire Night, or Fireworks Night, or Guy Fawkes’ Night is a uniquely British festival and one that commemorates what has come to be known as The Gunpowder Plot, which in earlier centuries was often called the Jesuit Treason. Nowadays this is widely treated as just a fun night out although there remains a darker sectarian side to the celebrations in some Protestant parts of Northern Ireland.

But ask most people attending a bonfire party tonight and few will be unable to tell you much more than The Gunpowder Plot was a failed attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament. They are unlikely to know more precisely that the target of the attack was the House of Lords during the State Opening of Parliament. Or even that this was an attempt to assassinate King James I with the hope of restoring a Catholic monarchy. And in spite of the annual festivities, scarcely anyone in Britain would be able to recall the year of 1605.

Of the plotters the best remembered by far is Guido or Guy Fawkes; a Catholic convert who had fought for Spain against the Dutch reformers. But again, few people in Britain pay much attention to the historical background. They remember the name of Fawkes mainly because it is a gloriously evocative one and because it is his effigy that traditionally was burned on the top of the bonfires: thankfully an increasingly forgotten tradition. In the past, there was another tradition called “penny for the Guy” where Fawkes’ effigy was propped up beside a begging bowl; the children who made him begging donations for sweets – this was Britain’s precursor to “trick or treat”.

In short, the image of Guy Fawkes is confusing. Originally the villain, he has since been almost redeemed and partially transformed into a defiant antihero: during the Occupy protests Fawkes masks were worn at protests all over the world.

Update:  Twelve people were arrested and eight police officers were injured in London’s Parliament Square at a Bonfire Night rally last night after hundreds of demonstrators turned out many wearing Fawkes masks and also burning an effigy of Boris Johnson:

And while Fawkes has become a sort of anarchist superstar, few again could recall any of the names of his fellow conspirators, nor do we give much thought to the motivations of this small band of provincial English Catholics led by (lesser known) Robert Catesby. But the official story – and today’s historical account – is certainly an illuminating one.

Had The Gunpowder Plot taken place recently, then more than likely we would all know it simply as 5/11. Indeed, it shares some features with the atrocity of September 11th that took place across the Atlantic four centuries later: a group of religious fanatics with plans to execute an audacious terrorist attack – failing only because of – if we accept the official story of 5/11 – an anonymous letter was sent to William Parker, 4th Baron Monteagle on October 26th.

With foreknowledge of an attack, the arrest of Guy Fawkes then sealed the fate of the conspirators. As luck would have it, he was discovered guarding a large pile of firewood in the cellar beneath the House of Lords that was concealing 36 barrels of gunpowder – enough to have razed the building to rubble – during a search conducted on the evening of November 4th. Shortly afterwards, Fawkes was convicted and sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered.

As with the aftermath of 9/11, the political repercussions were swift and drastic, and Parliament soon introduced a raft of anti-Catholic legislation. Many were suspicious and doubted the official story. Specifically, they wondered who had advance knowledge of the plot. According to the current Wikipedia entry:

Many at the time felt that Salisbury [i.e., Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury] had been involved in the plot to gain favour with the King and enact more stridently anti-Catholic legislation. Such conspiracy theories alleged that Salisbury had either actually invented the plot or allowed it to continue when his agents had already infiltrated it, for the purposes of propaganda.

I have highlighted the phrase “conspiracy theories” because it is surely remarkable how more than 400 years on, Wikipedia finds it necessary to downplay contemporary concerns about the veracity of the official story and to draw our attention away from revised historical accounts with this exceedingly modern and weaponised term. And this brings me right back to Michael Parenti’s outstanding talk embedded above – with an annotated transcript below.

Parenti’s central point (and mine) is that conspiracies happen all the time. The Gunpowder Plot obviously involved a conspiracy. 9/11 involves a conspiracy. Whether you subscribe to the fully authorised narrative or not, both of these remain conspiracies. The question then is who was behind the conspiracies: was it carried out by the accused alone, or were others complicit, whether actively involved, or who had foreknowledge but stood down? To those (like Wikipedia) who feel compelled to use this weaponised term “conspiracy theory” whenever a version of the truth differs from the official narrative, I would advise great caution.

Manufacturing consent necessarily involves conspiracies and yet it happens all the time – Babies out of incubators in Kuwait lied us into the Gulf War; false allegations of WMDs in Iraq and Syria have led to more bloodshed; lies about Viagra purportedly supplied to Gaddafi’s troops enabled another war of empire – you name it, war after imperialist war was instigated on pretexts founded on carefully and deliberately crafted lies.

QAnon(sense) was very likely a psyop concocted to distract a gullible audience, exacerbate divisions between political factions and to justify clampdowns on free speech. But it wouldn’t have gained very much traction had it not contained just a germ of truth: Q plainly doesn’t exist, but child sex trafficking is horribly real. Moreover, Jeffrey Epstein ran an elite child prostitution ring that most likely operated as a honey trap for intelligence agencies. And who among us believes that Epstein committed suicide?

As I have documented extensively, Russiagate was essentially a hoax, whereas US meddling in foreign elections and its involvement in coups failed or otherwise inside Bolivia, Venezuela, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Ukraine and elsewhere is well-established to have happened.

Covid is a real and present danger but where did it actually originate? Truth is we still don’t know. It is not a “conspiracy theory” therefore to raise the question of origins or even to point toward probable answers.

Finally, if the left doesn’t hold its ground and seek judiciously and consistently to challenge official narratives in attempts to transcend the increasingly narrow positions that are deemed respectable, ‘reputable’ and permissible (the ever-tightening Overton Window), but instead instantly dismisses alternative inquiry, whether valid or not, as “conspiracy theory”, then it serves the interests of the establishment and ruling elites by enabling them to shutdown debate and tighten controls on us.

Matt Taibbi and Katie Halper recently took the Washington Post conspiracy theory quiz only to discover that the Washington Post had failed its own test!

See the full quiz at http://usefulidiots.substack.com

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Additional:

Some years later and post-9/11 (delivered prior to 2012 and possibly 2008), Michael Parenti delivered a speech entitled “Understanding Deep Politics” which follows almost directly from his talk at Berkeley. Embedded below, Parenti’s analysis and choice of illustrative examples gets more interesting and insightful as it goes on:

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Full transcript

The transcript below is my own with links also included where relevant:

The title of the talk is conspiracy and class power and the key word in that title is the ‘and’. That is, what you’re getting on the Left lately is a debate in which people are saying: “we mustn’t look at conspiracy, we’ve got to look at the broader institutional systems”. That’s an argument being made by Alexander Cockburn, Noam Chomsky, Chip Berlet, and any number of people.

And I think it’s an incorrect argument, that it’s not conspiracy or class power; it’s conspiracy and class power. And I’m not going to talk about any specific conspiracies in any detail, I want to talk about the relationship of conspiracy to the larger political economic context of the system – I want to start off by talking about that political economic system and I think it can be approached in three basic ways:

First, you can look at the system as a conservation celebration. We’ve had twelve years of that as you know. How wonderful our free market society is and how much more wonderful it would be if it were not for meddlesome government regulations and the demands of undeserving low-income groups that feed out of the public trough. That’s the conservative celebration.

The second approach is a liberal complaint about how some of our priorities are all wrong. How there are serious problems that represent aberrant departures from what is otherwise a basically good system. That would be the Bill Clinton approach, perhaps.

And then the third approach you might call a radical analysis, and that sees ecological crises and military interventions and the national security state and homelessness and poverty and an inequitable tax system and undemocratic social institutions such as the corporate-owned media – it sees these things not as aberrant outcomes of a basically rational system, but as rational outcomes of a system whose central goal is the accumulation of wealth and power for a privileged class.

That is, they must be looked at as part of a context of power and interest that is systemic; and you could look at race, you could look at gender; and you could look at class itself undialectically – just look at it as an income bracket or whatever else – but what I’m talking about today is not class but class-power, the class-power system which is something more and something else.

If you take that third perspective of a radical analysis: if you move from a conservative celebration or a liberal complaint to a radical analysis then you cross an invisible line and you’ll be labelled in mainstream circles as a ‘conspiracy theorist’ or a Marxist or even a paranoiac: terms that some people treat as coterminous.

One theorist I will quote, J.G. Merquior, who wrote a book called The Veil and the Mask, a book which I recommend to you if you like bloated, turgid self-inflated theorising that never pauses to substantiate its pronouncements – and Merquior, he says: “Conspiratorial accounts of social dynamics are produced by vulgar Marxists.” He further asserts that “Class interest is seldom a conscious matter.”

That’s the cool position. Less cool than him was 1837, a Congress person by the name of Abraham Lincoln. And this is what Abraham Lincoln said in 1837 (quote):

These capitalists generally act harmoniously [that’s in concert/together] to fleece the people. 1

Now today Abe Lincoln would be dismissed as a ‘conspiracy theorist’! He is ascribing conscious intent to a class interest. We know that isn’t the way it works, they say.

Now for some conspiracy is by definition ridiculous and non-existent, but in fact, brothers and sisters, conspiracy is a very real thing, in fact it’s a concept in law; people go to jail for it: it means planning or acting together in secret, especially for an unlawful or harmful purpose, often with the use of illegal means. It’s come to mean, in fact, any machination, plot or concerted deception.

The State’s major mode of operation, I have maintained in my books Democracy for the Few, Power and the Powerless, The Sword and the Dollar, Inventing Reality – the major mode of operation is systemic and legalised, rather than conspiratorial – never argue that the State maintains itself conspiratorially: no ruling interest could last long if it tried to control an entire society through the manipulations of secret cabals. At the same time, no ruling class could survive if it wasn’t attentive to its own interest, consciously trying to anticipate, control, or initiate events at home and abroad, both overtly and secretly.

It’s hard to imagine a modern state in which there’d be no conspiracies, no plans, no machinations, deceptions or secrecies within the circles of power. In the United States there have been conspiracies aplenty and I’ll list a bunch of them – these are all now a matter of public record:

In recent decades, the deliberately fabricated Tonkin Gulf Incident, which served as an excuse for escalating the Vietnam War – you mean the president deliberately lied to the people to mislead the American people and are you saying he had this cold conspiracy to get them all worked up for something that never happened? Yes! We now know yes… the Pentagon Papers are out… yes, it was a total fabrication and a lie.

Operation Phoenix [aka Phoenix Program] which no-one heard about in which US forces set up assassination squads that murdered thousands, tens of thousands of dissidents in Vietnam: secretly organised, illegal, immoral, unpublicised.

The Watergate break-in was a conspiracy: an illegal, secret, unlawful act followed by another conspiracy – the second one, which was the one that brought Nixon down – the Watergate cover-up.

The FBI COINTELPRO involving dirty tricks, infiltration and harassment of left dissident groups – I remember reading in The New York Times when the story finally broke and the Church Committee and all that – The august New York Times said: for years left groups have been saying that the FBI has been harassing them and we thought it was paranoia; now it seems to turn out that there might be some truth in it. Well, welcome to reality New York Times; every so often The Times hits right on reality like that and it’s worth mentioning because it’s so rare.

Iran-Contra in which executive leaders conspired to circumvent the law, secretly, illegally selling arms to Iran in exchange for funds that were then used in covert actions against Nicaragua – a conspiracy which the Joint Congressional Committee investigating Iran-Contra said: we will probably never get at the bottom of this immense conspiracy 2 – that’s what they said; it wasn’t some ‘conspiracy theorists’, it was these people there: we will never get to the bottom of this… certainly not the way you guys were investigating it, you would never get at the bottom of it!

The function of the investigation is to uncover some stuff to let you know that the system is self-rectifying and self-cleansing, but not uncover too much as to destabilise the State itself. And you heard guys on the committee saying: we need a successful presidency; we must be careful what we’re doing and all that.

The assassinations of John Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, a matter of public record: the House Select Committee on Assassinations uncovered the fact that there were all sorts of things; it was sparse uncovering, but there have been any number of independent investigators who have uncovered the fact that these conspiracies were done not by some lone crazed assassin, who just suddenly on an impulse devoted six months of his life, somehow financed himself to go kill this or that leader. 3

[Aside: A fortnight ago on October 22nd, President Joe Biden took the decision to ‘postpone’ the release of sixty-year-old assassination-related records that the CIA has steadfastly been keeping secret from the American people. As Jacob Hornberger, a former attorney and adjunct Professor of Law and Economics at the University of Dallas, wrote a few days later:

There has got to be a good reason why the CIA does not want people to see those 60-year-old secret records. That’s why they didn’t disclose them during the era of the Assassination Records Review Board in the 1990s. That’s why they demanded that President Trump continue keeping them secret in 2017. That’s why they demanded that Biden extend the secrecy. […]

At the risk of belaboring the obvious, those 60-year-old secret records obviously contain incriminating evidence — evidence that consists of more pieces to the puzzle pointing to a regime-change operation in Dallas.

After all, as I have repeatedly pointed out, the notion that the release of 60-year old records could constitute a grave threat to “national security” is nonsensical on its face. Is there anyone who really believes such nonsense?

Click here to read the full article entitled “Surprise! Biden Continues the CIA’s JFK Assaassination Cover-Up, published on October 25th by The Future of Freedom Foundation.

And here to read a follow-up piece entitled “What the CIA is Hiding in the JFK Assassination Records” published by Counterpunch on November 4th. ]

The CIA drugs-for-guns trade in Central America; covert CIA-sponsored terrorist wars in a dozen countries [most recently in Syria]; the BCCI scandal involving what some call the most crooked bank in the world, in 1990, the motherlode of all conspiracies: the Savings and Loan [crisis] which the Bush Justice Department itself called: a thousand conspiracies of bribe, theft and fraud – a thousand conspiracies – they said we don’t have enough agents to investigate it. Sure, because all the agents are checking out events like this one!

Too busy keeping tabs on people who want to keep raising medical funds for El Salvador to go look at the Savings and Loan conspiracy, which is ripping off literally billions of dollars from the American taxpayer. The greatest financial crime in the history of humanity: Savings and Loan – you’ve been living it and you’re going to pay for it, or we are going to pay for it, so you might as well know about it.

Conspiracies, I maintain, are carried out regularly by the national security state. What’s the ‘national security state’? It’s the White House executive office. It’s elements within the State Department and the Pentagon. It’s the Joint Chief of Staff. It’s the National Security Council, the National Security Agency and the CIA and other intelligence agencies. That conglomeration or operational link groups in that conglomeration are what is known as the ‘national security state’. Well, it can list the Treasury at times, it could list commerce, I feel there are people in Congress who are link to it – I think Sam Nunn’s got one foot [in it].

The national security state is involved in secretly planning operations around the globe. It resorts to low-intensity warfare, special forces, undercover agents, surveillance, infiltration and destruction of dissident groups, the bribing of state leaders, unlawful break-ins, the training of death squads and torturers, political assassination, counterinsurgency suppression, and terrorist military forces against revolutionary governments as in Angola, Mozambique and Nicaragua.

Our rulers themselves explicitly call for conspiratorial activities. They call publicly admit it, except they don’t call them conspiracies; they call them ‘covert action’, ‘clandestine operations’, ‘special operations’ and ‘national security’. Now, if for some reason you don’t want to call these undertakings ‘conspiracies’, don’t call them ‘conspiracies’, give them another name: call them ‘peekaboo operations’, ‘surprise surprise initiatives’; call them whatever you want, but recognise them for what they are – as wilfully planned actions whose real intentions are almost always denied.

If they’re not conspiring, why all the secrecy? I’m reminded of my friend Phil Agee, he was just here a few months ago, and I was sitting having coffee with him when he gave a talk here in Berkeley. When Phil left the CIA, disillusioned because he thought America was helping the world, and he found out that America was doing something quite the opposite, and he left, he wrote a book called Inside the Company.

In 1980, American filmmaker Allan Francovitch produced a documentary featuring Philip Agee and exposing the secret dirty history of the CIA entitled On Company Business which is embedded below. A discussion about the making of the film can be found at the Internet Archive. Francovitch suffered a fatal heart attack in a Customs area at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas, on April 17, 1997 whilst entering the United States from England. He was 56-years-old:

The book was banned from the US and I remember that and the government said ‘national security’: it’s banned. I said, wait a minute, the book has been published in Europe in French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese – I said, doesn’t the KGB have anyone who reads French or German…? The book was even available in English in Canada. I said, oh but foreign agents aren’t allowed to buy books in Canada, I said to myself!

No, the reason [for] the ban was not intended to keep Agee’s exposé from foreign enemies, but from the American public. It was not national security but the political interests of the national security state in continuing to deliberately lie and mislead the American public. That’s a ‘conspiracy theory’, then you tell me what was the reason for banning a book in the USA that was available everywhere else in the world. Give me the alternative reason. That’s only one small instance of the many cases in which the government uses manipulative measures.

The existence of the national security state also demonstrates that along with issue politics, we have class rule. In academic political science and in our news media, issue politics are either ignored or they’re looked at in a kind of vacuum. I mean you can get issue politics [but] it’s in a vacuum: like this issue comes up, that issue comes up, that issue comes up… and nothing’s linked to anything else.

Some political scientists I know, and I can name two very prominent ones right here in Berkeley, have studied the American presidency for thirty years and written books on the subject and never mentioned capitalism and corporate interests. I remember turning to one – we were on a panel together – Aaron Wildavsky and I said: how could you write about the American presidency for thirty years and never once mention capitalism? And he looked at me blankly. It turned out to be a rhetorical question!

Now to be sure, class interests permeate issue politics: tax policies, subsidies to corporate investments, corporate plunder of public lands – any number of kinds of issues – but issue politics do not encompass the totality of a class system. Class rule is not achieved solely by pressure group politics – by interest group politics. Class rule is not achieved solely by big campaign donations, lobbyists, and other manifestations of interest group politics.

Interest group politics operates within a systemic totality of power and class interest. It operates within the dynamics of a capitalist state system which over and above the desires of any individual elites imposes its own necessities. These systemic imperatives are things that must be taken care of if the system is to be maintained. If value is to be extracted from the labour of the many to go into the pockets of the few, this system has to be maintained.

Conditions of hegemony must constantly be refortified. And that’s something that no one IBM or ITT or General Motors could do for itself. So there has to be central financing and subsidising. There has to be regulating and cushioning competition. There has to be a lot of new research and development that has to be carried out at public cost with the benefits of it then privatised and handed over to corporations. There has to be transferring public domain resources into private corporate hands for their exploitation and profit. There’s absorbing from the public realm riches [that] go to the private realm, and then from the private realm, you absorb the diseconomies, the poverties from the private sector into the public realm. The diseconomies are picked up by the public: you know, the pollution, the toxic waste dumps; all these things we then have to pay for them – we have to pay [for] the homeless, the helpless; whatever else, those are things we have to pay for.

That system [also] has to do something else. It has to act as the agent of class control. It has to mobilise repressive forces at home and abroad. It has to limit and repress dissent. It has to control information and manipulate opinion. This is the essence of the State. That’s what the State is about. It’s to act as an overarching conscious agent – a conscious agent – for maintaining the entire system; doing what no private interest group can do to buttress class hegemony.

To put it simply, the function of the capitalist state is to sustain the capitalist order and it must consciously be doing that. So for those who would deny conscious intent, we would ask: what is the function of the State?

It pushes for privatisation – one of the things it’s very actively doing is pushing for privatisation here at home and everywhere else – in Russia too. You see it in the papers: what are called ‘reforms’; the reformers, the media keeps talking about the ‘reformers’. Boris ‘buy me a drink’ Yeltsin has ‘reforms’. What are the ‘reforms’ about? The ‘reforms’ are to privatise, to open up the vast riches and resources of Russia and hand them over to private foreign corporations for exploitation and big, quick profits. That’s what the ‘reforms’ are. It is to push forth the system of capitalism.

If the choice is between democracy without capitalism, we don’t want it – our leaders don’t want it, that is. If it’s capitalism without democracy that’s much more preferred. Ideally, what they want is capitalism with a window-dressing of democracy. But democracy is a very dispensable component of that whole thing. Now what the media, of course, is doing is associating market economy with democracy; they keep putting the two together.

In fact, I though the presidential debates last Fall – The Three Stooges act that went on – was a very interesting thing, because at one point Ross Perot got up and said: and we’ve got to keep getting our country right, getting it straight, so that we work for building democracy and capitalism. And Bill Clinton started because the guy was saying it – you see you’re not supposed to say you serve capitalism. He’s supposed to say ‘build for democracy’. But Perot was uninitiated in these things [and] came out and said what it really was about – and not necessarily in the order of importance: he said democracy and capitalism. And I saw the moment. I saw Clinton really start that he would say ‘capitalism’ you see. They usually don’t say that.

In sustaining capitalism the State has a monopoly of the legitimate use (legal use) of force and violence. In mobilising that force and violence the State has another extraordinary resource which is control of the public treasury: that is, through a process of coercive non-voluntary taxation they extract from the public monies which are then used to carry out these services. They tell me some things are also done, you know, building roads and schools and those kinds of things, but generally [with] the federal government, that’s what it’s doing.

Well, who is this corporate class, this super-rich plutocracy, this oligarchy that you keep talking about, Parenti? Who are these guys? Well, there’s no mystery. I’m talking about the top 400 families; they’re listed in Forbes, the Social Register. Almost a third of the descendants of whom are linked by blood or marriage to the Rockefeller, du Pont, Mellon and Morgan dynasties. I’m talking about the super-rich 1%; less than 1% of the population of this country that owns 70% of the nation’s wealth. I’m talking about the top 800,000 individuals over the age of sixteen who have more wealth and income than the other 184 million individuals combined over the age of sixteen.

The economist Paul Samuelson, thirty years ago, gave a very vivid image – it still holds. He says if you want to look at the income distribution in this country; if you want to build an income pyramid, imagine taking children’s blocks and each block is a thousand dollars, and you pile them up. The highest income in this country would be vastly higher than the Eiffel Tower, while almost all of us would be not more than a yard or a yard and a half off the ground. This gives you an idea of the spread and the distribution.

Instead of ‘conspiracy theory’ what the apologists for power give us is what I call ‘innocence theory’. Now ‘innocence theory’ has several varieties:

There’s ‘somnambulist theory’ that those in power do things walking in their sleep without a thought for their vast holdings and interests. David Rockefeller wakes up in the morning and he says: what am I going to do today? Am I going to look after my immense fortunes and investments…? No, no, if I did that I would only be playing into the hands of the conspiracy theorists; I won’t do that! And I don’t like unions, David Rockefeller says, and oh, Morgans, Mellons, you don’t like unions either, well isn’t that a coincidence?  I don’t like unions I guess because they sound like ‘onions’; I don’t like onions, yeah, that’s it!

Along with ‘somnambulist theory’ we might explain away their hegemony as ‘coincidence theory’; that by sheer chance things just happen repeatedly and coincidentally to benefit their interest without any conscious connivance by them – and it is most uncanny.

A frequent mode of explanation is ‘stupidity theory’. You hear it among people all the time: they just don’t know what they’re doing! There’s a radio talk show host in this area who every time she has a guest says: aren’t they just a bunch of stupid, goofy guys who just don’t know what they’re doing? Isn’t that it?

In fact, Ronald Reagan for years we heard he was the moronic, ineffectual president; his administration was called ‘a reign of errors’. There was even a book by that title. Even as he successfully put through his conservative agenda, even as he destroyed the progressive income tax, even as he did all the other things that he did, again and again and again – the judiciary, the budget, the welfare spending, military, everything, did all these things – we kept saying: what a stupid dodo. And I felt like I was the only person in America going ‘he’s not stupid, he knows what he’s doing’.

I mean he would flub – you know he went to Uruguay and said it’s wonderful to be here in Bolivia! And at his press conferences and whatever else… But the guy had his class agenda. He was one of the few presidents who got into the White House and knew what the hell he really wanted to do and set out to do it. By the way, Reagan himself used the ‘stupidity theory’ as a defence during the Iran-Contra; he purportedly was guilty only of a lackadaisical, overly casual management style and was not sufficiently in control of his subordinates. That’s what his hand-picked Tower Commission came out and said: he should have had better control and knew what was happening; he didn’t know what was happening.

In fact, some of his subordinates including Secretary of State [George] Shultz who just published a book [Turmoil and Triumph] saying Reagan was in charge all the while and made all those decisions. In court, some of them said the same thing: that the president not only was informed, but he himself initiated most of the Iran-Contra policy decisions that led to a circumvention of the law and the Constitution. He should be in jail. 4

Those who hold to ‘innocence theory’ would have us believe that unjust social arrangements, wrongful policies, are momentary aberrations – so there’s ‘momentary aberration theory’. There’s ‘incompetence theory’. There’s ‘unintended consequences theory’. There’s ‘innocent cultural proclivities theory’. And by the way, to be sure such things exist. I mean there are unintended consequences. There are cultural influences and all that. But do they explain the reasons why the major policy decisions of political and economic leaders – the reasons for the major policy decisions of our leaders?

Evidence and common sense suggest that the rich and powerful are not oblivious to their interests and do not leave things to chance. The ‘innocence theorists’ dismiss those who see evil and evil-doers as paranoid.

A few years ago I was participating in a conference at University of Colorado in Boulder [with] some interesting people like David Dellinger was there; David Barsamian. I think Holly Sklar. I think Ward Churchill was there. And I was to give the keynote address in the evening, and there were these panels during the day, so I slipped away to do what I really like to do, and I went over to find a used bookstore to look for odd titles of books –

And I was standing in the aisle and on the other side of the bookshelf – I couldn’t see them, they couldn’t see me – were these two guys and one said to the other: hey, you see this conference was on the CIA, imperialism (he didn’t use the word ‘imperialism’, that’s what I talked about), drugs, Central America, stuff like that. And so the guy says to the other person: hey, you see who they have talking up on the campus at this conference? And he says, guess who. Well, it looks like a who’s who in paranoia. And I sort of stifled the guffaw and I said wait a minute, they’re talking about me! And I said, who are those guys and why did they follow me here! No, no, I didn’t say that… But paranoia! These things don’t really happen; we’ve imagined all this stuff about death squads in Central America.

For years the United States financed, equipped and trained a counterrevolutionary murderous army of thugs and killers that conducted a two-front invasion against Nicaragua, murdering tens of thousands of Nicaraguans, destroying farm cooperatives, power stations, clinics, schools, homes, villages, to bring ruin upon that nation’s economy – for years that happened, for years the president threatened them in every way, imposed boycotts and every other kind of aggression – Reagan even said he wanted the Sandinistas to “cry uncle”.

Secretary of State Shultz promised to cast out the Sandinistas from our hemisphere. Yet when the beleaguered Sandinista government charged that the US wanted to overthrow them, ABC News dismissed the charge as (quote): “the Sandinista paranoia”. Washington Post called it: “Nicaraguan paranoia”. In a speech at the United Nations, Jeane Kirkpatrick, noted psychiatrist [!], diagnosed the Sandinistas as paranoiac schizophrenics. Very good, Jeane Kirkpatrick – why, you’re so smart! Kirkpatrick’s comment came two weeks after Reagan and Shultz both announced at the United Nations that the United States might have to invade Nicaragua soon. So much for paranoia. I thought of what James Baldwin once said years ago: that even paranoiacs have real enemies.

Well look Parenti, really, aren’t we asking people to believe too much by suggesting there are all these conspiracies? No, not as much as when asking them to believe there are not conspiracies. Historian Frank Kofsky puts it well in his book called Harry S. Truman and the War Scare of 1948 [sic], which will be published in the Fall. I read it in manuscript and let me read a little statement he said:

What would those who are so ready to derisively exclaim conspiracy theory have us believe? That people with enormous fortunes and/or high political positions do not have greater opportunity than the ordinary citizen to get what they want? That men and women who spend most of their adult lives seeking to obtain or retain money and influence, do so only in order to abstain from employing the advantages these confer? That those with wealth and power are inhibited by some mysterious force from making use of their wealth and power to accomplish their purposes? That the rich and well-placed refuse to cooperate with each other in the pursuit of common political-economic goals? If, in fact, there is one thing that characterizes those at the top, it is their readiness to organize amongst themselves to secure their desires. No other group in society ever comes close in this regard.

And I would add, it’s ironic that the group most organised to concert and control is to be least considered as doing so by the ‘innocence theorists’.

As the capitalist state develops it also increasingly develops its class consciousness and it brings forth coteries of policymakers, who move in law, business, military and government circles; sometimes rotating from one to the other. Those who are sometimes referred to as the ‘power elite’, ‘the ruling elite’, ‘the plutocracy’ – more broadly I consider them the active agents of the ruling class.

Their existence is a matter of public record. It’s been documented excellently by such fine scholars as Lawrence Shoup, who’s here today in the audience – that’s not why I’m mentioning him, I was going to do that anyway before I knew he was here – William Domhoff, Holly Sklar; they’ve talked about the Trilateral Commission, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Bilderberg Conference and the other coteries of consciously organised power and policymaking.

These individuals all have a loyalty to a particular class ideology. You could not get into their ranks with a different ideology – if you can give me an example. You don’t have to be rich to be brought into the ranks, although it helps; you just have to be useful.

Kissinger, Nixon, Reagan, Lyndon Johnson, Bill Clinton – Bill Clinton, who by the way is a member of the Trilateral Commission, attended the Bilderberg conference and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations – they all come from relatively modest backgrounds, but they gained entry, they proved valuable and reliable. They all become rich after a while: Kissinger, Nixon, Reagan, Johnson are rich now. [Note: we could add Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson to the list.]

William Appleman Williams, another historian: a description of the power wielded in the Woodrow Wilson administration of 1918: I think it’s very interesting, I want to quote it at length because it’s still apt, he says:

First, none of these men was naive or innocent. They very seldom blundered into success or failure. Many more times than not they won because they shrewdly picked their spots and deployed their power effectively. All of them, furthermore, had extended experience in business and politics. They were also men who had to come to terms with and practise the kind of routine deceptions and rationales; casuistry that often seemed to be inherent in the conduct of big business, big law, domestic politics and diplomacy. They were not dishonest in the usual meaning of that term, and they were not hypocrites; they were simply powerful an influential men of this world, who had concluded from hard experience and close observation that all of the truth, all of the time, was almost always dangerous, hence, they did not use all of the truth, all of the time.

Secondly, these American decision-makers viewed economics as of extremely great, if not of literally, primary importance in the dynamic operation of the American system. This does not mean that they were motivated by personal pocketbook considerations; it means that they though about…

By the way, I think they are also motivated by personal pocketbook considerations – it is not mutually exclusive of the larger issues.

It means that they thought about economics in a national sense as an absolutely crucial variable in the functioning of the system per se, and as the foundation for constitutional government and a moral society. And all of them viewed overseas economic expansion as essential to the continued successful operation of the American free enterprise system.

Finally, these men shared a central conviction that the good society and the good world were defined by the forms and substance of Western civilisation as they had manifested themselves in the United States. Some were conservatives concerned to preserve aspects of the status quo that they considered particularly valuable; others were reformers, more interested in improving the existing order; but all of them shared a fundamental belief in, and a commitment to the established system.

(End of quote.)

Now it’s understood that coalminers might consciously direct efforts to advancing their interests, and steel-workers, and small farmers, and schoolteachers, but not these elites – at least according to the ‘innocence theorists’. Now, of course, coalminers and steel-workers publicly push for their goals because they’re trying to enlist the support of other publics; broader publics.

Corporate heads, plutocrats, network owners, policy elites tend to move more quietly, less visibly through the corridors of power, preferring not to stir too much public attention. At other times, by the way, they will actually seek to mobilise public sentiment in a particular direction. For instance, in the mid-1970s we had a very interesting development: business leaders showed an increasingly class-conscious concern for the drift of things in the mid-70s. One corporate leader spoke to his concurring colleagues at a meeting of The Conference Board in 1974; I quote him:

The have-nots are gaining steadily more political power to distribute the wealth downwards. The masses have turned to a larger government.

This isn’t Lenin talking, this is a corporate elite (unquote).

Another top executive concurred; he said (quote):

If we don’t take action now, we will see our own demise. We will evolve into another social democracy…

(Like Sweden or Denmark or something like that.)

This is the research done by Leonard Silk and David Vogel. Silk, a former economics, business writer for The New York Times – quite conscious and explicit awareness of their class interests, speaking in explicit class terms here. Not to the public – they don’t say that when they come on the air – but when they talk to each other, it’s remarkable what they say.

What they wanted was outlined, by the way, very explicitly. There’s no conspiracy. They concerted, they plan, but it was right out there; out in the public. Very explicitly in major business publications from the mid-1970s onwards: a cutback in government spending, massive cutbacks to government spending and human services; they wanted an increase in military spending; they wanted generous tax write-offs and credits for upper income individuals and corporations; and they wanted a rollback of government regulations on business. That’s what they wanted.

Giant corporations like Citibank, IBM, Morgan Guranty Trust, Exxon, Ford and Genereal Motors played an increasingly active and conscious role in financing conservative think tanks like the Hoover Institute, American Enterprise Institute; and seeing that a conservative business agenda penetrated the academic circles and mass media. You saw in the 70s, a mass array of conservative pundits and columnists moving in to the media, and they still clutter up that media today.

Corporate money financed the campaigns of ideologically conservative candidates through political action committees [PAC] and the corporations devoted much more systematic effort to breaking labour unions. By 1978, some of the changes that corporate America wanted were already being instituted by the President himself: a Democrat named Jimmy Carter. He started cuts in human services. He started increasing military spending.

The Clawsons were right. The Clawsons wrote an article in which they called it “Reaganism before Reagan”. I was calling it that then too. I said Carter gave us Reaganism before Reagan. But there were problems with Carter because he was partially beholden to labour unions, the African-American vote, you know. And what corporate America wanted was an unencumbered ideological conservative, and their support went overwhelmingly to Ronald Reagan.

Now they were lobbying for issue politics, but not just issue politics, they were trying to shift the centre of political gravity of the entire policy arena in order to maintain class rule and avoid a social democracy that might cut too deeply into their privileges, wealth, and class power. And they succeeded quite well.

The ‘innocence theorists’ will sometimes acknowledge that there is fault: that some people do some bad things. But when they do they place responsibility on everyone; on an undifferentiated ‘we’. Richard Nixon saying, ‘what a strange creature man is that he fouls his own nest’. And saying, ‘we, we are all the Buddhists’. Erich Fromm once said, ‘we produce cars…’ what? ‘We produce cars with built-in obsolescence and dangers’. ‘We continue to pollute the environment’. An alternative radio commentator on a show I was on announced in 1991: ‘we are all guilty of John Kennedy’s death. We’re all guilty of the Gulf War’. I said, ‘no, we aren’t’.

The ‘innocence  theorists’ can get quite specific about conscious intent and conspiracy if it comes from the left; if it involves militant dissenters; labour unions; leftists guerrillas; peace demonstrators; or leaders of communist forces; then intent is readily subscribed. Then it’s recognised that people will actually be fighting for particular agendas to push certain things – in fact, very sinister intent.

The FBI, you remember, looking at the Nuclear Free movement that was sweeping America and charging that it was KGB directed. Now there was a bunch of ‘conspiracy theorists’ right there, but the ‘innocence theorists’ didn’t turn to them and say ‘are you kooky conspiracy theorists?’ They said, ‘could there be KGB agents or not?’ You know they treated that as a serious proposition.

It’s recognised that revolutionaries are capable of conspiracy – there are even laws against them – that revolutionaries are capable of concerted action directed toward consciously desired goals, but not counter-revolutionaries. Peace advocates, but not militarists and interventionists. Proponents of change, but not champions of the status quo. The poor but not the rich.

Nothing said here, by the way, is meant to imply that ruling class leaders are infallible or omnipotent. That’s the straw man that’s always put up in the literature and the debates we have – these people would say that there’s this cabal of people that make no mistakes, they’re infallible, they consciously know everything, or they do everything… nobody’s saying they are infallible. Nobody’s says they’re limitless in their power.

Despite the immense resources at their command they’re sometimes limited in their options by circumstances beyond their control, by pressures from within the economic system. They have divisions among themselves about tactics, about what’s going to be more effective, or what isn’t. They have pressures for the need to maintain legitimating democratic appearances. By their fear of angry and mass popular resistance, sometimes, sometimes.

But whatever the limits of their power, these ruling elites are as fervently involved in class struggle as any communist. And if they don’t always succeed, they succeed often enough. They may not be omnipotent, but they are enormously powerful. They’re far from infallible, but they have such a plenitude of resources as to do sufficient damage control and minimise their losses when mistakes are made – unlike us sometimes.

One of the characteristics of ‘innocence theory’ is that you never ask why: why are certain things done? And that even happens on the left. See the essence of political analysis is two things: when you analyse the impact of policies and situations, what happens long-range, immediate effects and outputs; the other thing is you try to determine intent.

Well, a few years ago when I was teaching a graduate seminar at Brookyn College in New York, I had Walter Karp come and talk to my class. Walter Karp wrote a very wonderful book Liberty Under Siege, and he’s written other books too, Politics of War.

I asked him, ‘have you ever been accused of being a conspiracy theorist?’ Because you’re placing intent, you’re saying that Reagan is doing these things in limiting democracy, because this, that and the other thing. And he said, ‘all the time I’m fighting against the charge that I’m a propagator of The Elders of the Protocol, you know…’ He said, ‘but the essence of political analysis is to try to define and divine intent. That’s what you have to be looking at.’

And yet there’s so many exposés written that never deal with it. We read about environmental devastation. We read about the terrible effects of US intervention in Panama or Nicaragua or Cuba or here or there. But why? Why is US policy doing this? Why are they doing these things?

We read about costly military bases. There’s a very interesting book on that, The Sun Never Sets, how the US has these global bases all over the world. Why do they have these? Not mentioned. They talk about the costliness of it, the violation of the sovereignty of the countries involved, this, that and the other thing… but why?

So we have even on the left where people don’t ask why. We learned not to ask why because once you ask why then you cross the line from a liberal complaint into a radical analysis. Then you are talking, or have to talk about something, or you have to start doing all those other ephemeral explanations: Oh Bush is doing this because he’s got a macho problem; that’s why he invaded Panama. Or, oh we’re doing this because we’d like to feel big, or we’re just kooky that way, or… these become the explanations.

It’s the same with US foreign policy. We hear again and again: US foreign policy is so foolish. So stupid! Why did we go in there? So stupid! Why are we doing that? Just because you don’t understand what they’re doing, doesn’t mean they don’t understand what they’re doing. And never is it asked, ‘what is the intent?’ Without understanding intent, indeed, US policy remains an unsettling mystery, a puzzling thing to liberal critics.

But such policy is really rational and quite successful. It consistently moves against any nation or social movement that tries to change the client state relations of US dominance and imperialism; that tries to use a greater portion of its natural resources, markets and labour for self-development; moves that would infringe upon the interests of rich investors.

Now, if taken in the larger context, US policy appears consistent and sensible and predictable and mostly successful. But most media analysts and academic analysts lack this larger context; even most alternative media analysts. Once we realise these things about US policy, we move as I say from a liberal complaint about how rational the policy is, to a radical analysis about the rational interests involved, and how a particular policy coincides with similar US policies all over the world for decades, supporting privileged interests against popular movements.

This isn’t a ‘conspiracy fantasy’; it’s a conspiracy actuality to conclude that US leaders were not interested in reaching a peaceful accord; that they were lying about their real intentions to the American public, and even to their own staffs.

Well, isn’t this just a demonisation of ruling elites? I mean you have a demon theory about them, the way they have about you. No, it’s not demon theory: they see me and people like me as a real mortal enemy to their class interest; they’re absolutely correct. It’s not a kooky theory. They’re right about me; I’m right about them!

Are they really capable of supporting death squads, assassinations, tortures, violent deeds like this, I mean, you know, you’re talking about Yale, Princeton, Harvard graduates here? I remember speaking to a former CIA – actually he’d been in the OSS and he’d gone to the CIA in the early years under Wild Bill Donovan – he was in the administration at Yale University when I was back there for postdoctoral, and I remember him saying, ‘well Michael, well you know it’s not a pretty world out there, we have to sometimes do things that aren’t very pretty, because we’re facing some very nasty individuals, so we’re compelled to do this – if the politics in the world were like politics in the US we wouldn’t have to do it.’

It’s pretty dirty in the US too. So they have it all rationalised, but the evidence does come out. Yes, they are capable of such things, even Congress, the last to know – I always think of Congress as the deceived spouse. You know, they’re always ‘the last to know’!

Do you remember during the Iran-Contra hearings, the Republican senators who got up – Senator Cohen of Maine, Senator Rudman of Vermont [sic] – they got up and said, ‘I thought we were intervening in Nicaragua because we were interdicting the arms that they were sending to El Salvador.’ I mean those guys really believe that reason when Jeane Kirkpatrick and Shultz and Reagan gave that reason. I said, ‘Boy, we have boy scouts!’ You read history – that stuff I was doing on the Spanish-American War, same thing… these senators were getting up… They really believe the reasons that are given by the White House; at least, they give every appearance of believing.

But Congress eventually – some elements in Congress – catch on. A very unusual member of Congress, Robert Torricelli, head of the Torricelli Bill against Cuba. Yes, you can hiss, but on this issue somehow – you see Torricelli sponsored that bill because somehow he actually thinks that Cuba’s a bad place, and a danger, and we’ve got to democratise it. He really thinks that’s what it is. So then he finds out what the US was doing in El Salvador, and he says (Washington Post, March 17th ’93):

The Chairman of a House subcommittee, Robert Torricelli, Democrat of New Jersey charged yesterday that the Reagan administration lied to Congress for years about the Salvadoran armed forces complicity in murder, and he said [quote]

“Every word uttered by every Reagan administration official about the observances of human rights in El Salvador should be reviewed for perjury.”

Torricelli went on: “It is now abundantly clear that Ronald Reagan made these certifications about human rights in defiance of the truth.” 5

Welcome to reality, congressman!

I just finished doing an investigation of the death of an American president. He died in 1850, Zachary Taylor. I wrote an article called “History as Mystery: The Strange Death of President Zachary Taylor”. In 1991, his tomb was opened and they investigated because some historians were saying – one historian was suspicious that he had actually been poisoned. And they came out with the report that he wasn’t poisoned, he died of natural causes.

Well, I got their reports and started looking at them more closely and found all sorts of funny things: that the arsenic level in him was fifteen times higher than the normal level in a person walking around; that the antimony level in him was vastly higher, was fifty, sixty times higher (antimony is used as a poison with even a higher toxicity than arsenic); and a bunch of other things.

And so I wrote this whole article. And one of the quotes I came across was by a historian, Eugene Genovese. He was asked by the press, ‘would any political protagonist in the United States of 1950 be capable of such a deed? Taylor, you see, was opposing the slave power. He refused to have any extension of slavery. He was holding a hard line against any extension of slavery into the Western territories, and there was a lot of hard feeling against him about this. And when he died Millard Fillmore came in and the policy immediately shifted: total change in policy; the Compromise of 1850 came in and the slave powers got all they wanted. Fugitive Slave laws were strengthened. I won’t go into any more particulars.

That’s what it was all about: there was a real political interest involved. And Genovese says: ‘I can’t imagine any Southern personalities who would have been involved in such a conspiracy.’ Now, it’s an interesting thing when you make these kind of statements because it’s a reflection of you. It’s a reflection of how moderate and decent you are, when you say, ‘I can’t imagine this kind of crazy thing happening.’

If you can imagine this kind of crazy thing happening; this sort of begins to raise some question about your credibility you see. Because I can’t imagine if there could’ve been anybody involved in such a conspiracy. He goes on, he says, ‘but there’s always the possibility that there were some nuts who had access to him and did it.’

Well, I want to say that history shows us that nuts are not the only ones capable of evil deeds. That gentlemen of principle and power, of genteel manner, can arrive at very grim decisions. If they commit crimes, it’s not because they harbour murky and perverse impulses, but because they feel compelled to deal with the dangers that are opposed to their way of life.

This doesn’t mean that they’re motivated by purely financial reasons, although that’s a very real consideration I think, but they equate their vital interests with the well-being of their society and the nation. In this case, with the well-being of the cause of Southern rights. And far from being immoral, or unscrupulous, they are individuals of principles that are so lofty as to elevate them above the restraints of ordinary morality.

They don’t act on sudden impulse. The feeling grows among them that something must be done; something that’s best for all. That the situation is becoming intolerable. They move gradually toward the position – the change is gradual and yet it’s so compelling that when they arrive at their decision, they’re no longer shocked by the extreme measures they’re willing to employ.

The execution of the unsavoury deed is made all the easier by delegating its commission to lower level operatives. Most of the evil in history is perpetrated not by lunatics or monsters or lone psychotics, but by persons of responsibility and commitment whose most unsettling aspect is the apparent normality of their deportment.

It’s like child molesters. We’re finally saying there’s danger in the stranger. It’s not the stranger we find out are the child molesters and the abusers – it’s not some guy who goes around like this with drool coming down like this – it’s the, in many case, upright, estimable gentlemen of the community, who no-one would believe could do such a thing.

I want to point out that the social order itself is not without intent. That you can think of a social order operating with immense impersonality and yet it too has intent.

I had a friend years ago who was a nurse and when she was trained as a nurse she had three patients. And she did very well with these patients, she had a real knack for it; she talked to them, and that’s a good part of the healing process you know, their feelings and all that, and she really liked her work.

And then, she went to work in a hospital, and she was the only nurse on the whole ward: she had twenty-five to thirty patients. Now nobody can take care of twenty-five to thirty patients. And what begins to happen after a while she gets irritated and angry, and she starts to get annoyed, and feeling that they are wanting to be pampered and all that and [she’s] getting very curt with the patients: acting like a nurse.

So what you see here is the patients are ascribing this behaviour to her personality, when in fact its behaviour that’s the result of a structured situation that’s beyond her control – which is too many patients to take care of. But there’s something more to that story.

The hospital is run by a bunch of rich directors and profiteers. They make the decision to maximise their profits, they cut down on staff. The more you cut down on staff, the more you increase your rate of exploitation per person you’ve employed. If I can get one person to do the work of three that increases my profits. So that board of directors which drew huge salaries and extracted large profits for the corporate shareholders at the hospital were very much involved in that paradigm between nurse and patient.

You know Marx and Freud have very little in common, but one thing they do have in common is this idea that human behaviour is often prefigured by forces that are removed from the immediate situation. For Freud, it was all-out hidden agendas and our family and our parents and all that; for Marx, it’s the social situation, the class structure, the institutions and the culture and those kinds of thing, which are operating in ways we don’t see.

It’s the nature of our culture that we don’t see it. And we immediately ascribe it to some psychological or personality component of the other person. It’s not that the directors of that hospital, by the way, took pleasure in overworking the nursing staff and seeing them hassled and irritable. I mean quite the contrary; they’d want a staff that’s pleasant to the patients. But different institutional arrangements evoke different forms of behaviour.

The fact that a dispirited workforce is unintentional does not mean there is no interested power involved. The fact that it’s unintentional, that effect, doesn’t mean there are not intentions working to get some kind of effect there. In other words, institutional arrangements may have unintended effects, but if the arrangements are serving explicit interests, how really unintended are the effects?

And you want to see, by the way, when those interests are threatened. It’s impressive how conscious intention can suddenly be mobilised in situations where conscious intention supposedly plays no role.

This applies to the debate that’s going on right now about the JFK assassination conspiracy. That there are people saying that we shouldn’t get hung up on conspiracies, we should be looking at the larger institutional forces. And what I am arguing is that those larger institutional forces are directed by conscious human agency. And those agencies use conspiracy or non-conspiracies – use conspiratorial forces or non-conspiratorial forces – and that the conspiratorial forces are important; they’re not rare exceptions – and that they are systemic in the nature; and in their output.

There are those who said that, ‘yeah, so three-fourths of the American people believe that John Kennedy was killed by a conspiracy; so what, three-fourths of the American people – Cockburn’s made this argument, Chomsky’s made this argument to me – three-fourths of the American people believe in miracles too. Well, that’s a very facile argument. It’s a confusion. They’re confusing the gullibility about miracles with the public’s refusal to be gullible about the story that the officials are handing down to them about how Kennedy was killed. It’s quite different.

So what I would say is, what I would say to our friends is that we ought not to patronise the public; we ought to educate ourselves about the actualities of that murder, and about every other conspiracy that goes on. We should not dismiss these conspiracies as distractions from the bigger picture, but see how they are an essential part of the bigger picture.

The concern with conspiracy and assassination is not a manifestation of Camelot yearnings, it’s not a search for lost messiahs, or father figures; it’s an immature, kooky idea. It is the angry realisation that state power is used in gangster ways by gentlemen gangsters who defend imperialism and the national security state. Concern about these issues is not gullibility, it’s not irrational yearnings for lost leaders, but it’s an expression of public concern about the nature of our government.

The expression of public concern about the nature of our government; the angry criticism: there’s a name for that, and that is called democracy, and let’s have more of it.

Thank you very much.

*

Hat tip to Max Blumenthal for drawing my attention to Michael Parenti’s talk and also to independent journalist and environmental activist Cory Morningstar for featuring it on her blog Wrong Kind of Green, where you can also find the quote at the top of this article.

*

1 Speech to Illinois legislature (January 1837); This is Lincoln’s First Reported Speech, found in the Sangamo Journal (28 January 1837) according to McClure’s Magazine (March 1896); also in Lincoln’s Complete Works (1905) ed. by Nicolay and Hay, Vol. 1, p. 24.

2 The Report of the Congressional Committees Investigating the Iran-Contra Affair was released on November 18, 1987.

Below are excerpts of the Executive Summary’s “findings and conclusions”

[T]he question whether the President knew of the diversion is not conclusive on the issue of his responsibility. The President created or at least tolerated an environment where those who did know of the diversion believed with certainty that they were carrying out the President’s policies.

This same environment enabled a secretary who shredded, smuggled, and altered documents to tell the Committees that ‘sometimes you have to go above the written law;’ and it enabled Admiral Poindexter to testify that ‘frankly, we were willing to take some risks with the law.’ It was in such an environment that former officials of the NSC staff and their private agents could lecture the Committees that a ‘rightful cause’ justifies any means, that lying to Congress and other officials in the executive branch itself is acceptable when the ends are just, and that Congress is to blame for passing laws that run counter to Administration policy. What may aptly be called the ‘cabal of the zealots’ was in charge.”

https://www.brown.edu/Research/Understanding_the_Iran_Contra_Affair/h-themajorityreport.php

3

The House Assassinations Committee concluded in its final report July 17 that conspiracies probably played a role in the deaths of President John F. Kennedy and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The committee, which spent two years and $5.4 million investigating the deaths, was unable to pinpoint any specific conspiracy, and its report criticized agencies involved in earlier probes for not pursuing information that could have uncovered such plots. […]

The committee agreed with the Warren Commission’s conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald killed Kennedy Nov. 23, 1963, by firing three shots at the president from the Texas School Book Depository Building in Dallas.

However, the panel said scientific acoustical evidence indicated a fourth shot was fired and “establishes a high probability that two gunmen fired at [Kennedy].”

Kennedy “probably was assassinated as a result of a conspiracy,” the report stated, but committee members were “unable to identify the other gunman or the extent of the conspiracy.” They ruled out involvement by the Soviet or Cuban governments, the Secret Service, CIA or FBI. […]

The committee concluded that James Earl Ray killed King on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tenn. But the committee said there was “substantial evidence to establish the existence of a St. Louis conspiracy to finance the assassination of Dr. King.”

https://library.cqpress.com/cqalmanac/document.php?id=cqal79-1185454

4

Was President Reagan aware that his agents were offering Iran a ransom of arms to buy back hostages? Was George Bush a full participant in that demeaning decision, despite his frequent protestations of being “out of the loop”?

The answer to both questions, according to the first part of former Secretary of State Shultz’s memoirs, excerpted this week in Time magazine, is a dismaying “yes.” His eyewitness evidence shows that Reagan lied to himself, sticking to a script denying reality; Bush lied only to investigators and the public.

From an article entitled “George Shultz’s Book Stirs up a Hornet’s Nest of Iran-Contra Lies”, written by William Safire, published by Chicago Tribune on February 5, 1993. https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-1993-02-05-9303175679-story.html

5 Based on the original article entitled “Reagan Administration Accused of Lies on El Salvador” written by John M. Goshko, published in the Washington Post on March 17, 1993. https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1993/03/17/reagan-administration-accused-of-lies-on-el-salvador/857e23c3-c709-4fc7-868b-08ff210ccad0/ 

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first they came for Julian Assange, then they came for Steven Donziger…

Update:

Chris Hedges and Joe Lauria, Editor-in-Chief of Consortium News both followed this week’s extradition hearing for Julian Assange via video link. On Saturday 30th, with the ruling from the proceedings still pending, they discussed the case on Chris Hedge’s RT show On Contact:

On the same day, Afshin Rattansi spoke with UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, about the trial and the treatment of Julian Assange. They discuss Melzer’s assessment that Julian Assange has been psychologically tortured by UK authorities; why it has become harder for the UK courts to refuse the US extradition request; the parallels between the video of the murder of George Floyd and Julian Assange’s revelations; and what Julian Assange’s persecution means for the average citizen’s rights:

The original article begins below.

*

“If they can do it to anyone, they can do it to us,” Marianne Williamson recalls her father warning. As Julian Assange faced his extradition hearing and Steven Donziger lost his appeal and had to report to prison, Marianne Williamson spoke with independent journalist Katie Halper about the “viciousness of the system”.  She reminds us that this anyone who takes on corporate and state power will be gone after by corporations and state institutions or a combination, which is why we need to stand up and speak out.

*

The last week was a terrible week for justice.

After two and a half years of detention inside HMP Belmarsh maximum security prison, Julian Assange, who appears to be seriously ill, is facing extradition to America where he is expected to receive a 175 year sentence; guilty of the grave crime of practising journalism. As Chris Hedges writes:

Assange’s “crime” is that he exposed the more than 15,000 unreported deaths of Iraqi civilians.

He exposed the torture and abuse of some 800 men and boys, aged between 14 and 89, at Guantánamo.

He exposed that Hillary Clinton in 2009 ordered US diplomats to spy on U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and other U.N. representatives from China, France, Russia, and the UK, spying that included obtaining DNA, iris scans, fingerprints, and personal passwords, part of the long pattern of illegal surveillance that included the eavesdropping on UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in the weeks before the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

He exposed that Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and the CIA orchestrated the June 2009 military coup in Honduras that overthrew the democratically-elected president Manuel Zelaya, replacing it with a murderous and corrupt military regime.

He exposed that George W. Bush, Barack Obama and General David Petraeus prosecuted a war in Iraq that under post-Nuremberg laws is defined as a criminal war of aggression, a war crime, which authorized hundreds of targeted assassinations, including those of US citizens in Yemen.

He exposed that the United States secretly launched missile, bomb, and drone attacks on Yemen, killing scores of civilians.

He exposed that Goldman Sachs paid Hillary Clinton $657,000 to give talks, a sum so large it can only be considered a bribe, and that she privately assured corporate leaders she would do their bidding while promising the public financial regulation and reform.

He exposed the internal campaign to discredit and destroy British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn by members of his own party.

He exposed how the hacking tools used by the CIA and the National Security Agency permits the wholesale government surveillance of our televisions, computers, smartphones and anti-virus software, allowing the government to record and store our conversations, images and private text messages, even from encrypted apps.

He exposed the truth. He exposed it over and over and over until there was no question of the endemic illegality, corruption and mendacity that defines the global ruling elite. And for these truths alone he is guilty.

Click here to read Chris Hedges full article entitled “The Most Important Battle for Press Freedom in Our Time” published by Sheerpost on Thursday 28th Oct.

This week Julian Assange was back in court for the final decision on his extradition hearing. In response the stenographers of power with feet tucked comfortably under their desks, politely sat back and said absolutely nothing.

This was the home page on the BBC website late on October 27th (following the first day of Assange’s hearing):

BBC news home page oct 27 2021

And this is the BBC politics page:

BBC news politics page Oct 27 2021

There was also no mention at all on the BBC world events page, although Assange does finally manage to grab a column inch on their UK page:

BBC news UK page Oct 27

On the second and last day of the hearing, BBC News did at least manage to produce a brief résumé of the case (embedded below) which is truly a masterpiece in how to mislead an audience by means of clever changes in tone and a disconnected series of half-truths:

Lies of omission abound. So although it reminds us that Assange had originally skipped bail telling the world his extradition to Sweden to face rape allegations (charges were later dropped) would inevitably result in his deportation to America, the report entirely fails to then put two and two together. Clearly Assange had been telling the truth all along and wasn’t making excuses.

Still more negligent is the BBC’s abject failure to mention how a de facto regime change in Ecuador first enabled the British to arrest him inside the embassy; or that private meetings with his lawyers were illegally bugged; or how the central allegations against him that led to charges of hacking and espionage are discredited by the dodgy witness who made them; or even the truly staggering revelations that the CIA actually formed plans to kidnap and assassinate Assange in London.

Nonetheless Channel 4 News still managed to outdo the BBC and on Wednesday failed to provide any mention whatsoever of Assange’s trial on any of its pages – here’s a glimpse of their main UK page:

Channel 4 news UK page Oct 27 2021

And here is a screenshot of Channel 4 NewsYoutube channel showing uploads for the entire week – stories that cover Ethiopia, Welsh ambulances, COP26, Frances Haugen and Facebook, Rishi Sunak’s budget, UK police abuse, Nigerian bronzes “looted” by British Museum, Sudan, the Met Police… but once again, no mention at all of Julian Assange:

Channel 4 news Youtube channel Oct 28 2021

Meanwhile, the Guardian, which once worked extremely closely with Assange, supplied their readership with a small offering on what is undoubtedly the trial of the century:

Guardian home page Oct 27 2021

Coincidentally, on the very same day that Julian Assange was fighting for justice and hoping to avoid extradition and the hell of an American jail, the environmental lawyer Steven Donziger whose case I have detailed here had his own appeal rejected by a court in New York and faced imprisonment too. Once again, none of the mainstream outlets either in the UK and America has devoted any attention to this story.

Instead, the Guardian environmental page looked like this:

Guardian environment page Oct 27 2021

And if you had typed Steven Donziger into Google this is all you would see – reports from The Nation and Democracy Now! but no coverage whatsoever by any newspapers or major TV channels in America or Europe:

Google main page for Steven Donziger Oct 27 2021

Here is one of the few post-judgement reports on Donziger’s imprisonment that I can find uploaded on Youtube:

To loosely paraphrase Martin Niemöller’s famous entreaty once more: first they came for the journalists, next they came for the lawyers…

So the last week has been a terrible week for Julian Assange and Steven Donziger, and more generally a terrible week for freedom and democracy.

So far, it has been a terrible week for all of us full stop.

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Additional:

Outside the High Court on day two, Julian Assange’s partner Stella Moris, Wikileaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson, and Jeremy Corbyn arrive to speak to the crowd of protesters and with RT journalists:

Awaiting the decision on Julian Assange’s extradition at the end of the two-day hearing, on Thursday evening [Oct 28th] Roger Waters, shared his thoughts in an interview with RT:

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when is a whistleblower not a whistleblower? Facebook, Frances Haugen, Avaaz (again) and the billion dollar question

Facebook is not averse to censorship. Indeed, it has already been in the business of censoring political content for many years. Here is journalist Chris Hedges speaking out against its social media censorship twelve months ago:

Twitter and Facebook blocked access to a New York Post story about a cache of emails reportedly belonging to Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s son Hunter, with Twitter locking the New York Post out of its own account for over a week. This overt censorship is emblematic of the widening and dangerous partisan divide within the US media. News and facts are no longer true or false; they are divided into information that either hurts or promotes one political faction over another.

While outlets such as Fox News have always existed as an arm of the Republican Party, this partisanship has now infected nearly all news organisations, including publications such as the New York Times and the Washington Post along with the major tech platforms that disseminate news. The division of the press into warring factions shreds journalistic credibility, creating a world where facts do not matter, and where a public is encouraged to believe whatever it wants to believe.

The statement above provided the introduction to Chris Hedge’s interview with fellow journalist Matt Taibbi on his RT show On Contact broadcast on the eve of the US Presidential election [Oct 31st, 2020]. The show is also embedded above and you can click here to read an annotated transcript I posted a few days later under the title “Chris Hedges and Matt Taibbi on true ‘fake news’ and the monopolised censorship of the tech giants”.

However, Facebook’s censorship of political content enjoys a far longer history, as I already highlighted in an extended article published in March 2019 under the title “Gilet Jaunes, Avaaz, Macron & Facebook (or when grassroots ‘populism’ meets controlled opposition)”. In that piece I drew on revelations make public by Forbes magazine in April 2018 of secret rules for censoring posts:

The company has come in for a fair amount of criticism over the years for taking down perfectly innocuous content – everything from photos of classical statues to the famous picture of a napalmed child in Vietnam.

Now, users whose content has been taken down will be notified and given the chance to ask for a review; reviews will normally be carried out within 24 hours.

The policy will initially apply only to nudity or sexual activity, hate speech and graphic violence, says [VP of global product management Monika] Bickert.

But, she adds, “We are working to extend this process further, by supporting more violation types, giving people the opportunity to provide more context that could help us make the right decision, and making appeals available not just for content that was taken down, but also for content that was reported and left up.” 1

At that time and in response to Facebook’s announcement of its policy, the ACLU cautioned against this corporate censorship drive and clampdown on free speech:

If Facebook gives itself broader censorship powers, it will inevitably take down important speech and silence already marginalized voices. We’ve seen this before. Last year, when activists of color and white people posted the exact same content, Facebook moderators censored only the activists of color. When Black women posted screenshots and descriptions of racist abuse, Facebook moderators suspended their accounts or deleted their posts. And when people used Facebook as a tool to document their experiences of police violence, Facebook chose to shut down their livestreams. The ACLU’s own Facebook post about censorship of a public statue was also inappropriately censored by Facebook.

Facebook has shown us that it does a bad job of moderating “hateful” or “offensive” posts, even when its intentions are good. Facebook will do no better at serving as the arbiter of truth versus misinformation, and we should remain wary of its power to deprioritize certain posts or to moderate content in other ways that fall short of censorship. 2

Click here to read the ACLU statement in full.

In the same article, I also highlighted a fresh censorship drive that had been launched by Facebook back in October 2018:

People need to be able to trust the connections they make on Facebook. It’s why we have a policy banning coordinated inauthentic behavior — networks of accounts or Pages working to mislead others about who they are, and what they are doing. This year, we’ve enforced this policy against many Pages, Groups and accounts created to stir up political debate, including in the US, the Middle East, Russia and the UK. But the bulk of the inauthentic activity we see on Facebook is spam that’s typically motivated by money, not politics. And the people behind it are adapting their behavior as our enforcement improves.

The statement continues:

Topics like natural disasters or celebrity gossip have been popular ways to generate clickbait. But today, these networks increasingly use sensational political content – regardless of its political slant – to build an audience and drive traffic to their websites, earning money for every visitor to the site. And like the politically motivated activity we’ve seen, the “news” stories or opinions these accounts and Pages share are often indistinguishable from legitimate political debate. This is why it’s so important we look at these actors’ behavior – such as whether they’re using fake accounts or repeatedly posting spam – rather than their content when deciding which of these accounts, Pages or Groups to remove.

Today, we’re removing 559 Pages and 251 accounts that have consistently broken our rules against spam and coordinated inauthentic behavior. Given the activity we’ve seen — and its timing ahead of the US midterm elections — we wanted to give some details about the types of behavior that led to this action. 3

Click here to read the Facebook statement in full.

This clampdown was reported on by the Guardian in an article entitled “Facebook accused of censorship after hundreds of US political pages purged”, which included an interview with two disabled veterans, one of whom stated that:

“I don’t think Facebook wants to fix this… I think they just want politics out, unless it’s coming from the mainstream media.”

*

Avaaz campaign Facebook knew

It is noteworthy, I think, that yesterday [Oct 27th] – a day that happens to coincide with the reopening of Julian Assange’s extradition trial – I received a new message from pressure group Avaaz. It reads [with all highlights retained from original]:

A brave whistleblower just leaked secret Facebook documents… and they’re shocking!

They show that Facebook knew. It knew that human traffickers used their platform to lure women into sexual slavery. It knew that it was being used to incite violence against minorities, which had already fueled death and displacement in the past. It knew that divisive lies and extremism were being promoted to millions all over the world. And it knew its systems were removing less than 1% of violent content.

Facebook knew all this. And yet, the whistleblower said, it has put “profits before people”.

As I say, it is interesting how the timing of this latest Avaaz campaign on the back of “whistleblower” Frances Haugen has coincided with the trial of the single most prominent whistleblower in the world today, Julian Assange.

I contend, however, for a variety of reasons I shall come to, that Frances Haugen is not a real whistleblower at all. After all, genuine whisteblowers lose their jobs, or still worse, they finish up in prison. And they always, more or less by definition, have something new to disclose.

Chelsea Manning is a real whistleblower. Likewise John Kiriakou, who exposed the use of waterboarding and served time in jail, and former UK ambassador Craig Murray, who testified to the UK’s complicity in the horrific torture of Uzbek dissidents (presenting evidence of victims boiled alive) and consequently lost his job and his health (today he languishes in prison after falling foul of unrelated charges).

There are countless examples of real whistleblowers, and arguably the most exceptional is Julian Assange himself, held in conditions described by the UN as “torture” inside max security HMP Belmarsh and facing extradition to the US for espionage.

As Jonathan Cook wrote in an article entitled straightforwardly “Haugen Isn’t Really a ‘Facebook Whistleblower’” at the beginning of this latest saga:

There are clues that Haugen’s “whistleblowing” may not be quite what we assume it is, and that two different kinds of activities are being confused because we use the same word for both.

That might not matter, except that using the term in this all-encompassing manner degrades the status and meaning of whistleblowing in ways that are likely to be harmful both to those doing real whistleblowing and to us, the potential recipients of the secrets they wish to expose.

The first clue is that there seems to be little Haugen is telling us that we do not already know – either based on our own personal experiences of using social media (does anyone really not understand yet that Facebook manipulates our feeds through algorithms?) or from documentaries like The Social Dilemma, where various refugees from Silicon Valley offer dire warnings of where social media is leading society.

We did not call that movie’s many talking heads “whistleblowers”, so why has Haugen suddenly earnt a status none of them deserved? (You can read my critique of The Social Dilemma here.)

Cook then correctly acknowledges that the immediate and prominent attention Haugen has received from both liberal media outlets and within political circles (especially on “the left” – i.e., Democrat rather than Republican) “does not mean that she is not drawing attention to important matters” (emphasis is mine), before adding:

But it does mean that it is doubtful that “whistleblowing” is a helpful term to describe what she is doing.

This is not just a semantic issue. A lot hangs on how we use the term.

A proper whistleblower is trying to reveal the hidden secrets of the most powerful to bring about accountability and make our societies more transparent, safer, fairer places. Whistleblowing seeks to level the playing field between those who rule and those who are ruled.

At the national and international level, whistleblowers expose crimes and misdemeanours by the state, by corporations and by major organisations so that we can hold them to account, so that we, the people, can be empowered, and so that our increasingly hollow democracies gain a little more democratic substance.

But Haugen has done something different. Or at least she has been coopted, willingly or not, by those same establishment elements that are averse to accountability, opposed to the empowerment of ordinary people, and stand in the way of shoring up of democratic institutions.

Jonathan Cook continues:

Our “Facebook whistleblower” is not helping to blow the whistle on the character of the power structure itself, or its concealed crimes, or its democratic deficit, as Manning and Snowden did.

She has not turned her back on the establishment and revealed its darkest secrets. She has simply shifted allegiances within the establishment, making new alliances in the constantly shifting battles between elites for dominance.

Which is precisely why she has been treated with such reverence by the 60 Minutes programme and other “liberal” corporate media and feted by Democratic party politicians. She has aided their elite faction over a rival elite faction.

Click here to read Jonathan Cook’s article published by Counterpunch on October 12th in full.

*

Digging a little deeper, journalist Alexander Rubinstein reveals more about Haugen’s sudden emergence as the purported source of the leak quickly christened “The Facebook Files”. He writes:

Haugen first appeared in September 2021 as the supposed source of a leak called “The Facebook Files.” She was immediately hailed as a “modern US hero” in the media for secretly copying tens of thousands of internal Facebook documents and releasing them to the Wall Street Journal, which published a series of nine articles based on the documents.

The WSJ initially kept its source anonymous, rolling out the series two weeks before Haugen came forward in an October 3 interview with 60 Minutes. On camera, she complained that Facebook was “tearing our societies apart and causing ethnic violence around the world.”

“Ethnic violence including Myanmar in 2018 when the military used Facebook,” narrated 60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley, to “launch a genocide.”

When pressed by 60 Minutes about what motivated her to leak the documents, Haugen answered vaguely: “at some point in 2021, I realized I’m going to have to do this in a systematic way and I have to get enough [so] that no one can question that this is real.”

Yet Haugen first divulged company information before 2021. In the final installment of the Journal’s series, the outlet revealed that Haugen first sent an encrypted text to one of their reporters on December 3, 2020.

That same article, published the day the 60 Minutes interview aired, reported that Haugen “continued gathering material from inside Facebook through her last hour with access to the system. She reached out to lawyers at Whistleblower Aid [more on this organisation below], a Washington, D.C., nonprofit that represents people reporting corporate and government misbehavior.”

Doors have been promptly flung open on both sides of the Atlantic, with Frances Haugen ushered to give testimony before lawmakers across Europe and in America. Having spoken with MPs in France and Britain as well as two members of the European Parliament on October 3rd, Haugen was also called on October 5th to testify before a Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection.

But who is Frances Haugen anyway? Well, this is you will learn from her current Wikipedia entry (all links retained):

After graduating from college, Haugen was hired by Google, and worked on Google Ads, Google Book Search, a class action litigation settlement related to Google publishing book content, as well as Google+.[7] At Google, Haugen co-authored a patent for a method of adjusting the ranking of search results.[11] During her career at Google, she completed her MBA, which was paid for by Google.[7] While at Google, she was a technical co-founder of the desktop dating app Secret Agent Cupid, precursor to the mobile app Hinge.[12][10][13]

She then moved to Google’s tech rival Facebook and became product manager on the newly-formed “threat intelligence unit” which comprised some 200 fellow employees. Rubinstein picks up the story again:

At Facebook, Haugen claimed she worked as product manager on a “threat intelligence unit” at the company. “So I was a product manager supporting the counter-espionage team,” she claimed to Sen. Sullivan. Part of her job included “directly work[ing] on tracking Chinese participation on the platform,” she claimed. Further, she alleged that Iran used the platform to conduct “espionage” on the platform.

“I’m speaking to other members of Congress about that,” Haugen acknowledged. “I have strong national security concerns about how Facebook operates today.”

As journalist Kit Klarenberg reported, the little-known Facebook “threat intelligence unit” where Haugen claimed to have worked is staffed by former CIA, NSA, and Pentagon operatives. Those who work at the unit must have “5+ years of experience working in intelligence (either government or private sector), international geopolitical, cybersecurity, or human rights functions,” according to a job posting.

Yet Haugen’s now-deleted blog and Twitter account feature no political content, nor does her resume.

In short, Frances Haugen’s profile has the telltale signs of an intelligence operative, while this latest tranche of document leaks has all the hallmarks of a limited hangout. Equally, and set alongside Haugen’s somewhat exceptional employment history, there are related questions that arise once we delve into the legal body that represents her, an organisation called Whistleblower Aid:

[T]he outfit was founded by a national security lawyer, Mark Zaid, who has been accused of ratting out his client, CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling, to his employers in Langley. Zaid is joined by a former State Department official and government-approved whistleblower, John Tye [more below], ex-CIA and Pentagon official Andrew Bakaj, and veteran US government information warrior, Libby Liu, who has specialized in supporting color revolution-style operations against China.

John Kiriakou, the CIA whistleblower jailed for exposing the agency’s role in the serial torture of terror suspects, commented to The Grayzone, “Mark Zaid presents himself to the public as a whistleblower attorney, however, he is anything but. Instead, he has betrayed his clients and come down on the side of prosecutors in the intelligence community. He is not to be trusted.”

Kiriakou continued, “My own personal belief is that he is the intelligence community’s preferred ‘whistleblower’ attorney because he’s willing to place their interests over his clients.”

Alexander Rubinstein continues:

Tech billionaire and media mogul Pierre Omidyar has provided funding to Whistleblower Aid, as well as to a public relations firm assisting Haugen. Omidyar has played his own role in US foreign interventionism, sponsoring anti-government media outlets and activists alongside US government agencies in states where Washington seeks regime change. […]

Whistleblower Aid bills itself as “a pioneering, non-profit legal organization that helps patriotic government employees and brave, private-sector workers report and publicize their concerns — safely, lawfully, and responsibly.”

But is this group truly the whistleblower protection outfit it claims to be?

In fact, Whistleblower Aid appears to have been modeled as a sort of anti-Wikileaks organization.  “Whistleblower Aid is not Wikileaks,” the “vision” page of the former organization insists. On another section of its website, it states, “No one should ever send classified information to Whistleblower Aid. Whistleblower Aid will never assist clients or prospective clients with leaking classified information.”

*

Avaaz campaign Facebook knew - continued

Coming back to Avaaz’s email (see extract above): after vaingloriously promoting itself with claims such as “Avaaz has helped force Facebook’s shame onto the agenda of legislators across the world”, their latest message goes on remind us of the other threats we may face by not censoring online content:

We’ve seen, time and again, what devastating real-world consequences social media can have. In Myanmar, the military turned Facebook into a tool for ethnic cleansing, spreading hatred that fueled a bloodbath. In Palestine and Israel, viral lies are further inflaming the conflict. And all over the world, it’s become a Covid-conspiracy hotbed, with doctors warning against an ‘infodemic’ of fake news.

Nobody does overwrought rhetoric quite like Avaaz! (emphasis in keeping)

But seriously, does anyone actually believe social media is to blame in any way whatsoever for inflamed tensions between Palestine and Israel? If so, how? Surely it has a great deal more to do with the illegal occupation, the bombing of Gaza, the indiscriminate shooting of peaceful protesters and the daily oppression of Israel’s apartheid regime; none of which, judging by the campaigns it most actively promotes, Avaaz has any serious concern about.

And precisely what constitutes “a Covid-conspiracy hotbed”? Or put differently, how can social media firms be regulated to police every question relating to the risks, treatments (including vaccines), and importantly, the unknown origins of the pandemic? For that matter, and besides Avaaz and some in the media, who is issuing such dire warnings about a supposed ‘infodemic’ – doctors, which doctors? The fact is that a great many doctors and other medical experts are actively engaged in this vitally important debate and are very thankful to have access to public platforms across the internet.

Here is comedian and political commentator Jimmy Dore pointing out how Facebook’s so-called “independent fact checkers” – i.e., anonymous corporate gatekeepers – have just flagged up research in a published and peer-reviewed scientific study by Harvard scientists [warning: strong language]:

Intriguingly, Alexander Rubinstein’s own fact check into the background of ‘whistleblower’ Frances Haugen uncovers another link to Avaaz, since it transpires that “government-approved whistleblower”, John Tye – who, as mentioned above, was co-founder and chief disclosure officer of Whistleblower Aid, the legal nonprofit organisation assisting Haugen – had previously worked there too:

Shortly before leaving Avaaz, Tye responded to criticism of the billionaire-backed group’s advocacy for a [Syria] no-fly zone, writing “thousands and thousands of people will die, for years to come, if we turn away and wring our hands.”

As I explained at greater length in an extended article from March 2015, the term “no-fly zone” is both a misnomer and a euphemism. In fact it is a straightforward demand for sustained military intervention necessitating air strikes. By calling for “no-fly zones” Avaaz was deliberately helping to manufacture consent for US military intervention that sought regime change both in Libya and Syria.

But then, as Rubinstein points out, when it comes to these nonprofit wheels within wheels, they are all turning in much the same direction – ‘the nonprofit-industrial complex’:

Like his former client-turned-legal partner, Mark Zaid has clamored for ramped up US intervention in Syria, tweeting to then-President Trump “what are you going to do about Syria? It’s your problem now, We can’t stand by and let innocent people continue to be slaughtered.”

Click here to read Alexander Rubinstein’s full article entitled “Facebook ‘whistleblower’ Frances Haugen represented by US intelligence insiders” published by The Grayzone on October 21st.

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Which brings us to the billion dollar question: who really benefits from Haugen’s “disclosures”? Another independent journalist, Glenn Greenwald, sets out the case carefully in his own recent article published on Substack:

There is no doubt, at least to me, that Facebook and Google are both grave menaces. Through consolidation, mergers and purchases of any potential competitors, their power far exceeds what is compatible with a healthy democracy. A bipartisan consensus has emerged on the House Antitrust Committee that these two corporate giants — along with Amazon and Apple — are all classic monopolies in violation of long-standing but rarely enforced antitrust laws. […]

Facebook and Twitter both suppressed reporting on the authentic documents about Joe Biden’s business activities reported by The New York Post just weeks before the 2020 election. These social media giants also united to effectively remove the sitting elected President of the United States from the internet, prompting grave warnings from leaders across the democratic world about how anti-democratic their consolidated censorship power has become.

But none of the swooning over this new Facebook heroine nor any of the other media assaults on Facebook have anything remotely to do with a concern over those genuine dangers.

He continues:

Agitating for more online censorship has been a leading priority for the Democratic Party ever since they blamed social media platforms (along with WikiLeaks, Russia, Jill Stein, James Comey, The New York Times, and Bernie Bros) for the 2016 defeat of the rightful heir to the White House throne, Hillary Clinton. And this craving for censorship has been elevated into an even more urgent priority for their corporate media allies, due to the same belief that Facebook helped elect Trump but also because free speech on social media prevents them from maintaining a stranglehold on the flow of information by allowing ordinary, uncredentialed serfs to challenge, question and dispute their decrees or build a large audience that they cannot control. Destroying alternatives to their failing platforms is thus a means of self-preservation: realizing that they cannot convince audiences to trust their work or pay attention to it, they seek instead to create captive audiences by destroying or at least controlling any competitors to their pieties. […]

The canonized Facebook whistleblower and her journalist supporters are claiming that what Facebook fears most is repeal or reform of Section 230, the legislative provision that provides immunity to social media companies for defamatory or other harmful material published by their users. That section means that if a Facebook user or YouTube host publishes legally actionable content, the social media companies themselves cannot be held liable. There may be ways to reform Section 230 that can reduce the incentive to impose censorship, such as denying that valuable protection to any platform that censors, instead making it available only to those who truly allow an unmoderated platform to thrive. But such a proposal has little support in Washington. What is far more likely is that Section 230 will be “modified” to impose greater content moderation obligations on all social media companies.

Far from threatening Facebook and Google, such a legal change could be the greatest gift one can give them, which is why their executives are often seen calling on Congress to regulate the social media industry. Any legal scheme that requires every post and comment to be moderated would demand enormous resources — gigantic teams of paid experts and consultants to assess “misinformation” and “hate speech” and veritable armies of employees to carry out their decrees. Only the established giants such as Facebook and Google would be able to comply with such a regimen, while other competitors — including large but still-smaller ones such as Twitter — would drown in those requirements. And still-smaller challengers to the hegemony of Facebook and Google, such as Substack and Rumble, could never survive. In other words, any attempt by Congress to impose greater content moderation obligations — which is exactly what they are threatening — would destroy whatever possibility remains for competitors to arise and would, in particular, destroy any platforms seeking to protect free discourse. That would be the consequence by design, which is why one should be very wary of any attempt to pretend that Facebook and Google fear such legislative adjustments.

Taking the helicopter view, we might properly regard the tech giants and their billionaire owners as rivals only in the way the five mafia families of The Godfather are rivals. When they are not fighting turf wars, they are working hand in glove and functioning as vital components of the national security state which protects all of their interests as it maintains the status quo.

As Greenwald concludes:

There are real dangers posed by allowing companies such as Facebook and Google to amass the power they have now consolidated. But very little of the activism and anger from the media and Washington toward these companies is designed to fracture or limit that power. It is designed, instead, to transfer that power to other authorities who can then wield it for their own interests. The only thing more alarming than Facebook and Google controlling and policing our political discourse is allowing elites from one of the political parties in Washington and their corporate media outlets to assume the role of overseer, as they are absolutely committed to doing. Far from being some noble whistleblower, Frances Haugen is just their latest tool to exploit for their scheme to use the power of social media giants to control political discourse in accordance with their own views and interests.

Click here to read Glenn Greenwald’s full article entitled “Democrats and Media Do Not Want to Weaken Facebook, Just Commandeer its Power to Censor” published on October 5th.

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1 From an article entitled “Facebook Reveals Its Secret Rules For Censoring Posts” written by Emma Woollacott, published in Forbes magazine on April 24, 2018. https://www.forbes.com/sites/emmawoollacott/2018/04/24/facebook-reveals-its-secret-rules-for-censoring-posts/#40a453b56da4

2 From an article entitled “Facebook Shouldn’t Censor Offensive Speech” written by Vera Eidelman, Staff Attorney, ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, published by ACLU on July 20, 2018. https://www.aclu.org/blog/free-speech/internet-speech/facebook-shouldnt-censor-offensive-speech

3 From a Facebook announcement entitled “Removing Additional Inauthentic Activity from Facebook” written by Nathaniel Gleicher, Head of Cybersecurity Policy and Oscar Rodriguez, Product Manager, posted by Facebook on October 11, 2018. https://newsroom.fb.com/news/2018/10/removing-inauthentic-activity/

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