Tag Archives: Occupy movement

Gilets Jaunes, Avaaz, Macron & Facebook (or when grassroots ‘populism’ meets controlled opposition)

Gilet Jaunes

In late November last year a new grassroots movement took to the streets of Paris. Taking its name from the adopted emblematic apparel of hi-vis yellow vests which every French motorist is obliged to carry in their vehicles, early reports repeated the claim that the thousands of demonstrators had gathered for the rather limited mission of stopping the implementation a new fuel tax. As the weeks passed, however, and as the protests continued even after President Macron’s concessionary intervention to freeze the tax hike 1, it became evident that although elected to office just eighteen months previously, Macron was suddenly facing a very serious political crisis. One of the few political commentators to recognise the nature and the importance of the Gilets Jaunes was American author Diana Johnstone, who is based in Paris and wrote in early December:

Initial government responses showed that they weren’t listening. They dipped into their pool of clichés to denigrate something they didn’t want to bother to understand.

President Macron’s first reaction was to guilt-trip the protesters by invoking the globalists’ most powerful argument for imposing unpopular measures: global warming. Whatever small complaints people may have, he indicated, that is nothing compared to the future of the planet.

This did not impress people who, yes, have heard all about climate change and care as much as anyone for the environment, but who are obliged to retort: “I’m more worried about the end of the month than about the end of the world.”

After the second Yellow Vest Saturday, November 25, which saw more demonstrators and more tear gas, the Minister in charge of the budget, Gérard Darmanin, declared that what had demonstrated on the Champs-Elysée was “la peste brune”, the brown plague, meaning fascists. (For those who enjoy excoriating the French as racist, it should be noted that Darmanin is of Algerian working class origins). This remark caused an uproar of indignation that revealed just how great is public sympathy for the movement – over 70% approval by latest polls, even after uncontrolled vandalism. Macron’s Minister of the Interior, Christophe Castaner, was obliged to declare that government communication had been badly managed. Of course, that is the familiar technocratic excuse: we are always right, but it is all a matter of our “communication”, not of the facts on the ground.

Maybe I have missed something, but of the many interviews I have listened to, I have not heard one word that would fall into the categories of “far right”, much less “fascism” – or even that indicated any particular preference in regard to political parties. These people are wholly concerned with concrete practical issues. Not a whiff of ideology – remarkable in Paris! 2

Click here to read Johnstone’s full article entitled “Yellow Vests Rise Against Neo-Liberal ‘King’ Macron”.

Although there is a great deal of misrepresentation of the Gilets Jaunes, it isn’t very hard to trace their origins. We could go back fifty years to the same Paris streets and the anti-establishment uprising instigated by student protests that signalled the beginning of the end for Charles de Gaulle. However, there was a stronger ideological current in ’68 than now; the movement then stirred into being and driven by the purposefully obscure quasi-Marxist slogans of the Situationists, most famous for enigmatically declaring “Sous les pavés, la plage!” (“Under the pavement, the beach”).

Within a few decades following the dissolution of the Situationists, a more distinctly anti-capitalist movement began to emerge. Widely referred to at the time as anti-globalisation, for many years it was belittled and trivialised, characterised as directionless and quixotic. In fact it was simply ahead of its time, and with the millennium rapidly approaching, the mobilisation of many tens of thousands who steadily gathered outside the WTO convention in Seattle was about to seriously unsettle the western establishment.

On November 30th 1999, with the conference underway, the authorities reacted. Their response has since become a familiar one: blockades, pepper spray, tear gas and stun grenades rained down on what had been more or less peaceful demonstrations. Having provoked a response, the Mayor of Seattle, Paul Schell, subsequently declared a state of emergency, and then, the following day, State Governor, Gary Locke called in National Guardsmen to enforce a no-protest zone. At the height of what would later be known as the “Battle in Seattle” the streets were strewn with shattered glass just as the air was thick with teargas. The estimated costs to the city exceeded $20 million.

As it transpired, the protests Seattle represented the apogee of this first anti-globalisation movement, its growing strength abruptly snuffed out by the attacks on the World Trade Center. No movement so openly hostile to global trade could sustain itself in the immediate post-9/11 environment, and so it withered away as the peace movement would too; all anti-establishment causes becoming collateral damage. In fact it took nearly a decade for any comparable movement to re-emerge, and this time it was born in the shadow of the banking crisis and on the back of the “Arab Spring”.

It was not until 2011 before thousands in Spain and Greece finally took to the streets protesting against neo-liberalism and the “austerity measures” that were starting to cripple their economies and to undermine welfare and other state provision. This happened during the earliest days of this blog, and so I cut my teeth writing a sequence of articles which began with the first of the ‘los indignados’ protests on May 15th (also known as 15M). Shortly afterwards on July 25th, a small contingent of the burgeoning movement had embarked on a thousand mile march from Madrid to the European Parliament in Brussels in forlorn hopes of petitioning “the Troika” to end their measures.

Across the Atlantic, and inspired by popular uprisings now taking place around the Mediterranean (including the so-called Arab Spring revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt), Occupy Wall Street then commenced with its call for people to gather on September 17th. Just a month later, on Saturday October 15th (15-O), there was a coordinated day of international dissent called for by los indignados with rallies taking place not only in Spain (half a million in both Barcelona and Madrid), but also in Greece and the other “PIGS” (to use the vile and frankly racist acronym quite freely attached by the press), as well as in other major European cities and across the United States. The 15-O event actually sparked protests as far afield as Hong Kong, Tokyo, Mumbai, Canada, South America and Africa.

Click here to read a list of the 15-O Occupy protests around the world and here to read my own post about this first day of global outrage.

By the symbolic (if coincidental) date of November 5th, Occupy Sheffield sprang up too, when a small band of disillusioned strangers put together a makeshift protest camp outside the cathedral. Thus the Occupy movement that had been inspired by los indignados in Spring, and spread to Wall Street by mid-September, was within months recruiting fellow travellers in my home city as in other towns and cities of the UK including the capital.

For a brief moment, the Occupy movement became a global protest movement, and one that in superficial respects, resembles today’s Yellow Vest movement. It was horizontally structured, eschewed leadership and listed no formal demands. Finally, and in spite of its foundational and unswerving commitment to non-violence action, when the time came – in America especially – the police response was unrestrained and brutal. The largest encampment in Zuccotti Park would be swept aside within just a few hours on November 15th, scarcely two months after the protests had commenced.

It is true to say that los indignados slowly transformed into the new political party Podemos, and that the parallel protests in Greece likewise helped to trigger the rise of Syriza, however, once the last pockets of resistance were vanquished in other parts of the world, little more remained than a lasting slogan: “we are the 99%”. And so in spite of the tremendous enthusiasm and initial optimism, the revolution was cancelled. Doubtless in part it was doomed to fail if only because camping in the park – especially at the onset of Winter – was a desperately poor strategy to begin with, but more importantly, the movement had never managed to reach out to the wider populous, whether through trades unions, civil rights groups or by tuning in to the real concerns of disaffected groups beyond the large metropolitan centres.

I visited the camp at the Cathedral on a few occasions and at first was eagerly welcomed in, but as the weeks passed, the mood changed. The mix included students, the homeless, drop-outs and well-intentioned others, but rather than actively protesting, this in-crowd mostly spent their days cooking food, constructing shelters and sitting in meetings with comrades where decisions were made on a strict consensus basis, and nights hunkered down in tents or under tarpaulin. They had built makeshift libraries and hung up posters – I recall that one was for Avaaz – and they did workshops for anyone interested. In short, Occupy was always directed towards building a ‘community’ and as such was inward-looking. Outside the tents, the passersby passed by, and most were unimpressed by the genuine commitment shown by those who nightly sacrificed the warmth and comfort of a bed to sleep out on the streets.

Although the Gilets Jaunes are successors to the fin de siècle anti-globalisation movement that culminated in Seattle, and to the Occupy camps which disbanded a decade after, their anger is more palpable and their strength has been greatly reinforced due to support throughout the rural provinces. Unlike the earlier movements, the Gilets Jaunes are in fact marginalised in a different way: largely abandoned by the left-leaning intelligentsia, for better or worse, neither do they enjoy celebrity endorsements. Finally, at the extremes of the criticism they endure, they are disparaged as ‘populist’. This is actually their greatest strength, of course, and the biggest reason they are met with such hardline suppression by the authorities. It is also why both their political cause and the gatherings of thousands each weekend (especially when peace is maintained) have been dutifully downplayed by the corporate media.

In truth, this spontaneous and mostly leaderless movement is more straightforwardly working class, and it is this factor above others that singles it out and makes it significantly different from the earlier movements. Such an awakening of class consciousness also potentially makes it a genuine existential threat to the establishment.

Activist, writer and theoretical physicist, Jean Bricmont, a Belgian perhaps best known for his role in the ‘Sokal Affair’, is a leftist commentator who has actually participated in the Yellow Vest protests. In a recent interview with independent Algerian journalist, Mohsen Abdelmoumen, he outlined other ways in which the Gilets Jaunes radically differs from previous social uprisings:

[T]he movement is intensely patriotic – they sing the “Marseillaise”, wave the French flag, etc. It is an attitude that deeply disturbs the left.  The people show that they are attached to their country – as the Algerians are attached to Algeria, the French are attached to France –, which does not imply any hostility towards foreigners, but it implies a certain idea of national community and this is something that the left has hated for decades. It is the great problem of the left that it is cut off from the majority of people because it rejects this idea of a national community and puts forward its membership in Europe, globalization, etc. From this point of view, the left is completely cut off from the people.

According to Bricmont, the Gilets Jaunes confront the powers-that-be with what is for them an irresolvable crisis:

Yellow Vests ask such fundamental questions that no European government could answer them. Moreover, Macron is a prisoner of the European Union logic. He throws oil on the fire with his provocations, but the crisis is the result of decades of neoliberal politics, deindustrialization, destruction of public services, and so on.

Asked whether the emergence of the GJ movement is historical, Bricmont replies:

Yes, I think so, but it is very complicated to imagine the form by which the people would take power. They talk about the RIC (Citizens’ Initiative Referendum) and the European Union, but they are not at all clear on the latter issue. The problem is that it is a spontaneous and unorganized movement, so there are no leaders, no method for collective thought. There is collective thought developed by people discussing in the traffic circles and who think of alternatives, but the movement is not yet structured enough so that we could know where it will lead. I tend to think that we have to wait to know what will come of all this. For now, they are resisting, which is already remarkable, but where it will go, I do not know. 3

Click here to read the full interview in the American Herald Tribune.

Interestingly, although leaderless, as far back as December 5th a set of demands purporting to be an ‘official’ Yellow Vest manifesto appeared:

Soon after a translated version appeared too:

For alternative leftist analysis of the movement we may also turn to Serge Halimi, editorial director of Le Monde diplomatique, whose thoughts were published by Counterpunch on January 8th. Halimi writes:

The sudden emergence of the yellow vests, just as miraculous and much more powerful, demonstrates the gradual impoverishment of an ever-larger section of society. It also demonstrates the feeling of absolute defiance towards — almost disgust at — the usual channels of representation: the movement has no leaders or spokespeople, rejects political parties, keeps its distance from unions, ignores intellectuals and hates the media. This probably explains its popularity, which it managed to retain even after violence any other government would have capitalised on. 4

Click here to read the full article entitled “Forgotten France Rises Up”.

Another article that shines some clearer light on the rise of the Gilets Jaunes was written by Max Parry and published in Counterpunch on January 4th. He writes:

In less than two months, the yellow vests (“gilets jaunes”) movement in France has reshaped the political landscape in Europe. For a seventh straight week, demonstrations continued across the country even after concessions from a cowing President Emmanuel Macron while inspiring a wave of similar gatherings in neighboring states like Belgium and the Netherlands. Just as el-Sisi’s dictatorship banned the sale of high-visibility vests to prevent copycat rallies in Egypt, corporate media has predictably worked overtime trying to demonize the spontaneous and mostly leaderless working class movement in the hopes it will not spread elsewhere.

The media oligopoly initially attempted to ignore the insurrection altogether, but when forced to reckon with the yellow vests they maligned the incendiary marchers using horseshoe theory to suggest a confluence between far left and far right supporters of Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Marine Le Pen. To the surprise of no one, mainstream pundits have also stoked fears of ‘Russian interference’ behind the unrest. We can assume that if the safety vests were ready-made off the assembly line of NGOs like the raised fist flags of Serbia’s OTPOR! movement, the presstitutes would be telling a different story.

And he addresses the reason behind the mostly silent response coming from progressives within America:

While the media’s conspicuous blackout of coverage is partly to blame, the deafening silence from across the Atlantic in the United States is really because of the lack of class consciousness on its political left. With the exception of Occupy Wall Street, the American left has been so preoccupied with an endless race to the bottom in the two party ‘culture wars’ it is unable to comprehend an upheaval undivided by the contaminants of identity politics. A political opposition that isn’t fractured on social issues is simply unimaginable. Not to say the masses in France are exempt from the internal contradictions of the working class, but the fetishization of lifestyle politics in the U.S. has truly become its weakness. […]

In today’s political climate, it is easy to forget that there have been periods where the American left was actually engaged with the crisis of global capitalism. In what seems like aeons ago, the anti-globalization movement in the wake of NAFTA culminated in huge protests in Seattle in 1999 which saw nearly 50,000 march against the World Trade Organization. Following the 2008 financial collapse, it briefly reemerged in the Occupy movement which was also swiftly put down by corporate-state repression. Currently, the political space once inhabited by the anti-globalization left has been supplanted by the ‘anti-globalist’ rhetoric mostly associated with right-wing populism.

Globalism and globalization may have qualitatively different meanings, but they nevertheless are interrelated. Although it is shortsighted, there are core accuracies in the former’s narrative that should be acknowledged. The idea of a shadowy world government isn’t exclusively adhered to by anti-establishment conservatives and it is right to suspect there is a worldwide cabal of secretive billionaire power brokers controlling events behind the scenes. There is indeed a ‘new world order’ with zero regard for the sovereignty of nation states, just as there is a ‘deep state.’ However, it is a ruling class not of paranoiac imagination but real life, and a right-wing billionaire like Robert Mercer is as much a globalist as George Soros.

Ever since capitalism emerged it has always been global. The current economic crisis is its latest cyclical downturn, impoverishing and alienating working people whose increasing hardship is what has led to the trending rejection of the EU. Imperialism has exported capital leading to the destruction of jobs in the home sectors of Western nations while outsourcing them to the third world. Over time, deep disgruntlement among the working class has grown toward an economic system that is clearly rigged against them, where the skewed distribution of capital gains and widespread tax evasion on the part of big business is camouflaged as buoyant economic growth. When it came crashing down in the last recession, the financial institutions responsible were bailed out using tax payer money instead of facing any consequences. Such grotesque unfairness has only been amplified by the austerity further transferring the burden from the 1% to the poor. 5

Click here to read the full article entitled “Why France’s Yellow Vest Protests Are Ignored by ‘The Resistance’ in the U.S.”

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“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win” said Gandhi (or possibly somebody else 6), but that was old school in any case. In today’s ‘post-truth’ era, ‘they’ have been enabled both to ignore and to fight you simultaneously. And just as the Occupy movement was forcibly dismantled with the cameras turned away, so on the streets of France another unreported crackdown is being carried out right now.

On January 28th, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, who has “been keeping close track of the events linked to the ‘yellow vest’ movement in France since mid-November 2018” made an official visit to Paris, prompted by what she describes as an “increasing number of violent incidents, reported by a very large number of media outlets, confirmed by information passed on to her by national human rights bodies and borne out by evidence received directly by her Office”. A month later on February 26th, she released her damning report on “the circumstances of the use of force by law enforcement officers and some demonstrators, and assess[ing] the human rights situation in the context of the various forms of action linked to the yellow vest movement.” The following summary is directly quoted from that report (further extracts are reprinted in the footnote):

[A]ccording to figures from the Ministry of the Interior 12 122 LBD rounds [i.e., rubber bullets], 1428 instant tear gas grenades and 4942 hand-held sting grenades were fired or thrown between the beginning of the yellow vest movement and 4 February 2019. She is concerned at the high level of use of these so-called intermediate weapons despite the fact that their deployment is restricted and they can cause serious injury. The Commissioner notes that according to a count carried out by an independent journalist, at the time of writing, the three types of intermediate weapon referred to above had been involved in 253 of 428 reports made to him by persons claiming to be victims of police violence, which he himself had documented and cross-checked, confirming a high prevalence of LBDs, accounting for 193 of these cases. The count highlighted 38 wounds to upper limbs including 5 lost hands, 52 wounds to lower limbs, 3 wounds to the genitals and 189 head wounds including 20 people who have lost an eye.

In conclusion she says:

The Commissioner is extremely concerned about the number of serious, concurring and credible allegations of police violence causing mutilation and serious injury, particularly to the head. She considers that head wounds caused by LBD [rubber bullets] fire show a disproportionate use of force and the unsuitability of this type of weapon in the context of operations aimed at maintaining public order. 7

Investigative journalist Vanessa Beeley has witnessed the police violence first-hand and has been running regular columns throughout the already five months since the GJ first took to the streets. Back on January 31st, she reported:

Since the 24th November 2018 the violence witnessed on the streets of cities across France has escalated dramatically. One French independent journalist, David Dufresnes, has been recording all infractions committed by police and security forces and tweeting them to the Interior Ministry while giving interviews to a huge number of French media channels to raise awareness of the police brutality during peaceful protests. In the tweet below, infraction number 362 dated 26/1/2019, an off duty soldier is reported to be hit in the head by a police LBD40 rubber bullet as he is leaving a restaurant in Montpelier on his way to the nightclub with two of his colleagues:

Link to Tweet and video here.

Dufresnes has recorded 157 injuries to the head including 18 who have lost an eye, fractures of the jaw and comas in the most severe cases. 11 hand injuries, in 4 cases resulting in the loss of a hand. 8 back injuries, 28 injuries to the upper body, 40 lower limb injuries, 3 injuries to the genital area, 48 unspecified injuries and 55 cases of intimidation, insults, repression of press freedom infractions. One eighty-year-old was murdered on the 1st December 2018 in Marseilles – Zineb Redouane was killed when a tear gas grenade was thrown in her face by the security forces. According to Dufresnes this is the list of the more serious injuries, an estimated 2000 – 3000 more GJs have been “lightly” injured during the protests since November 2018.

Record of some of the appalling injuries inflicted upon unarmed civilians by police forces across France. (Photo: Desarmons.net)

Dufresnes argues that the police have already lost control of the situation and can no longer be legitimately claiming to “maintain law and order”. In one interview Dufresnes points out that the use of 10,000 tear gas grenades on one day of protests points to a “panic” situation among the security forces. During “Acte XI” of the protests on the 26th January the elderly man, Eric, in the photo below was hit on the head by a police truncheon in Marseilles. He has three fractures and is forced to eat only liquid food from the left side of his mouth for three weeks, according to his brother.

On February 11th, Venessa Beeley delivered a presentation at the Mot Dag Conference in Oslo and provided a powerful testimony of the state sanctioned violence against unarmed civilians in French cities:

Having cited other instances of entirely innocent protesters who have been maimed or otherwise seriously injured, Beeley writes:

Effectively the Gilets Jaunes have exposed Macron and his government for what it is. Macron is the President who was elected by the globalists, the capitalists and the ruling elite to protect their interests. A book recently published, authored by Francois-Xavier Bourmand, entitled “Emmanuel Macron the Banker who would be King” has investigated the corporatocracy who ensured Macron’s election win in order to expand their interests globally and to convert France from Republic into Plutocracy at the expense of the “dispensables”, the “little people”.

During one confrontation with a citizen at one of the Grand Debates, Macron is asked why he has failed to fulfill his pre-election promise of “no more SDF (homeless) on the streets of France – 580 SDF died on the streets of France in 2018. Rather than show compassion for the poverty-stricken and homeless, Macron defends his policies with accountant-speak, informing the audience that the elite must be protected in order to provide jobs for the “poor”.

If indeed Macron’s coterie in government are pushing for confrontation between the people and the security forces and introducing increasingly repressive measures to up the pressure on the protestors rather than trying to defuse matters, it is really ten minutes before midnight in France. The insanity of Macron supporting the “uprising” in Venezuela while sanctioning vicious reprisals against his own people at home is glaringly obvious to all but Macron and his backers. That is because Macron is doing his job and his job is to manufacture the conditions in which the privileged, wealthy ruling elite can thrive and further their globalist ambitions which includes military adventurism and resource theft from target nations that include Venezuela and Syria.

Violence will escalate in France because it is state-sanctioned. Unless the police wake up to their manipulation by the state and join forces with the GJs there is a risk of a serious confrontation in the very near future.

Click here to read Vanessa Beeley’s full article published on Patreon.

On January 28th, Vanessa Beeley, was interviewed on The Last American Vagabond about the “Yellow Vests” movement. She discussed the media suppression, police brutality and its subsequent cover up, and also spoke about the orchestration of an alternative so-called ‘Red Scarf’ resistance movement:

Then on March 10th, Vanessa Beeley appeared as a guest on George Galloway’s RT show ‘Sputnik’, were she again talked about the ‘Yellow Vest’ protests and the media silence:

Protests on consecutive weekends have now passed more than a hundred days, and with no sign at all that the movement is ready to fade away, the Macron government has been stepping up its strong-arm measures, including the deployment of the army on the streets of Paris. This latest move is justified on the basis of an abrupt escalation in violence and vandalism during the 18th act of the protests. However, as wsws.org reported on Thursday 21st, the crackdown comes in spite of widescale evidence of police collusion with black bloc and other agitators:

The escalation of repression by the Macron government after Saturday’s clashes with protesters on the Champs-Élysées in Paris, during the 18th weekly “yellow vest” protests, raises the most serious questions as to the government’s role. No evidence has been provided that the violence was caused by “yellow Vest” protesters. But the Élysée is seeking to tear up the right to protest on the basis of these murky events, which sections of the state apparatus itself have attributed to far-right forces.

On Monday, the government announced that protests could be banned in areas where violence had previously occurred, if police declare that “extreme elements” could be present among the protesters. But it is precisely the question of the police’s own role that is raised by Saturday’s events, which saw numerous buildings set on fire, notably Fouquet’s restaurant.

The police, which were filmed ransacking the merchandise store of the Paris Saint-Germain football club, are now threatening the “yellow vests” with a major escalation of violence. Frédéric Lagache, the general secretary of the Alliance police union which is tied to neo-fascists, called for the injuring of demonstrators: “We should be willing to clash with them and maybe cause some injuries. We’re not going up against choir-boys.”

The incriminating footage of alleged police looting can be found here:

[A] segment of a video originally live-streamed by Rémy Buisine, a journalist for the French news site Brut, has gone viral, garnering more than three million views. The footage shows an officer a few metres from the PSG shop entrance carefully folding what looks like club jerseys or white sweatshirts and putting them into a black bag.

Buisine is heard commenting that “some items were…” before being brusquely interrupted. As the camera shakes, Buisine says that he was clubbed by a police officer with a baton, although that isn’t clearly shown in the video. 8

The same wsws.org article continues:

On Saturday, the Socialist Party mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, reacted to the violence by declaring: “What I saw tonight were extreme right groups who want to destabilize democracy, and groups of looters.”

She also pointed to the responsibility of police for the violence that erupted on the Champs-Élysées: “It ought to be possible to take control of a situation like the one we just passed through.”

Naturally, Hidalgo chose her words and took care not to express herself in a way that would raise questions as to the role of the state machine, of which she is herself an important cog. But it is necessary to ask the questions which are directly posed by such statements.

If far-right groups are indeed responsible, then which far-right groups are they? Who are their leaders, and who gave orders to set different shops and buildings on fire? Are there ties between the far-right groups that ransacked the Champs-Élysées, according to Hidalgo, and those, for example, who are now appealing the conviction of their ex-members for the fascist murder of Clement Méric?

Given the vast powers that the state has to monitor electronic communications and mobile phones, how is it possible that they do not know the identities of those responsible?

And if, as Hidalgo claims, the responsibility for the violence lies with far-right forces that threaten democracy, what conclusions should one draw about the role of the government? Why are Macron and his ministers silent about the role of the far right, besides the fact that this discredits their claim that the “yellow vests” and those who support them—some 70 percent of the French population—are responsible for the violence? 9

Click here to read the full report entitled “Unanswered questions on French police role in Saturday ‘yellow vest’ clashes”.

On Saturday 23rd, ‘We Are Change’ released an extended interview with an anonymous Gilets Jaunes spokesman “Bob” who spoke to Luke Rudkowski about the violence of the previous weekend’s “18th Act”; the psychological problems suffered by police officers; the use of a new type of unknown ‘teargas’ agent; the deployment of troops; and the callous manipulation of the narrative by Macron. Both parts of the interview are embedded below [warning: the introductory music is unnecessarily loud]:

In short, fighting against what have been, for the most part, peaceful protests is in the long run a losing strategy, so it has been essential to denigrate the entire ‘Yellow Vest’ movement by tarnishing its reputation, whether by means agents provocateurs (Vanessa Beeley reported on this in early February) or else by branding its supporters as racists, or more specifically, accusing them of antisemitism – an increasingly prevalent trend which usefully serves also to reverse an otherwise defensive posture needed to protect Israel. As independent journalist Jonathan Cook wrote in an excellent piece entitled “France’s Macron leads the way as western leaders malevolently confuse anti-Zionism with antisemitism”:

Macron’s sleight of hand [“his repeated conflation of anti-Zionism and antisemitism”] has a related and more specifically self-serving agenda, however, as has become clear in the wider misuse – or weaponisation – of antisemitism slurs in Europe and the US.

Macron is faced with a popular revolt known as the Yellow Vests, or Gilets Jaunes, that has taken over high streets for many months. The protests are rocking his government.

Like other recent grassroots insurrections, such as the Occupy movement, the Yellow Vests is leaderless and its demands difficult to decipher. It represents more a mood, a spreading dissatisfaction with an out-of-touch political system that, since the financial meltdown a decade ago, has looked chronically broken and unreformable.

The Yellow Vests embody a grievance desperately searching to hitch its wagon to a new political star, a different and fairer vision of how our societies could be organised.

The movement’s very inarticulateness has been its power and its threat. Those frustrated with austerity policies, those angry at an arrogant, unresponsive political and financial elite, those craving a return to a clearer sense of Frenchness can all seek shelter under its banner.

But equally it has also allowed Macron and the French elite to project on to the Yellow Vests any kind of malevolent motive that best serves their efforts to demonize the movement. A charge spokespeople for the movement deny.

And given the rising tide of nativist, far-right movements across Europe, casting the Yellow Vests as antisemitic has proved difficult to resist for the embattled French president.

Just as Macron has presented leftwing and anti-racism activists supporting BDS as in cahoots with neo-Nazis, he has lumped together the Yellow Vests with far-right white nationalists. Much of the French media have happily recycled this mischief. 10

Click here to read Jonathan Cook’s full article.

There are few satirists who puncture the convoluted pomposity of today’s febrile political climate quite so astutely as playwright and novelist CJ Hopkins. Lately he has gone to town on the virulence of what he calls the “Anti-Semitic Pandemic” and in his most recent piece, wryly retraces its spread from latent seeds within British Labour Party out to the streets of Paris:

Emergency measures are now in effect. A full-scale Labour Party lockdown is imminent. Anyone not already infected is being advised to flee the party, denounce anyone who hasn’t done so as “a Hitler-loving Corbyn-sympathizer,” and prophylactically apologize for any critical statements they might have made about Israel, or “elites,” or “global capitalism,” or “bankers,” or anything else that anyone can construe as anti-Semitism (preferably in the pages of The Guardian).

Nor has the Continent been spared! What at first appeared to be a series of spontaneous protests against Emmanuel Macron, economic austerity, and global capitalism by the so-called “Yellow Vests” in France has now been officially diagnosed as a nationwide anti-Semitism outbreak. In a heroic attempt to contain the outbreak, Macron has dispatched his security forces to shoot the eyes out of unarmed women, pepper spray paraplegics in wheelchairs, and just generally beat bloody hell out of everyone.

Strangely, none of these tactics have worked, so France has decided to join the USA, the UK, Germany, and the rest of the empire in defining anti-Zionism as form of anti-Semitism, such that anyone implying that Israel is in any way inherently racist, or a quasi-fascist Apartheid state, or making jokes about “elites” or “bankers,” can be detained and prosecuted for committing a “hate-crime.” 11

Click here to read CJ Hopkin’s complete essay.

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Avaaz

On March 12th, Avaaz released a lengthy report entitled “Yellow Vests Flooded By Fake News: Over 100M Views of Disinformation on Facebook”. The cover page features the image below:

What this image is depicting is not entirely clear, however I suggest that we try to dissect it to see if we can uncover an underlying message. To begin then, who are the two screaming victims meant to represent and why are they in the throes of such extreme agony? Moreover, what is the unseen agency pulling at their strings? To my eyes the torment and the envisaged tormenter are conflated, deliberately so given how there is no other visible cause for their trauma. Presumably then the subliminal message is that the pain that is felt and expressed by the Yellows Vests is both the outcome and an expression of one source: ‘fake news’. Of course the main purveyor of this dread ‘fake news’ is then made clear in the accompanying caption:

“Avaaz calls on Facebook to Correct the Record ahead of EU Elections – with an in-depth study showing how fake news surrounding the Yellow Vests reached over 100 million views, and how Russia fueled the divide.”

[bold highlight added]

In short, Russia is to blame, and not just for somehow orchestrating mass demonstrations across France that have been ongoing since November, but for bringing such grief to the French people by generating and stoking their rage. You see the people who go out on the streets in their tens of thousands are actually dupes of the Kremlin – empty-headed pawns in a game that goes on entirely above their heads:

Yes, the image above is another one lifted from the pages of Avaaz’s report, and as if their message isn’t plain enough, there is a further accompanying statement that clarifies:

This new in-depth study by the global citizens’ movement Avaaz shows for the first time the unprecedented scale at which the Yellow Vest movement has been impacted by disinformation. According to its findings, fake news surrounding the French Yellow Vest movement has reached an estimated 105 million views on Facebook alone, in a country with just over 35 million Facebook monthly active users. 12

The report then highlights three prime examples of the kinds of disinformation inflaming the French protests:

• a post with images including bleeding ‘Yellow Vest protesters,’ which media and government allegedly hid from the public – when some of the photos were actually taken at different protests near Madrid or in Catalonia (136,818 shares, 3,511,456 est. views)

• a video of French President Macron dancing in the Middle East “while France suffers,” when the video was actually taken over a month before, during the Summit for the Francophonie in Armenia (183,390 shares, 5,700,000 views)

• an image of a Yellow Vest protest in Paris, with a caption alleging that the image had been censored on Facebook or elsewhere; Le Monde fact-checkers debunked the claim that the photo or the caption were deleted (349,403 shares, 8,967,432 est. Views 13

I wish to consider each of these items in turn, starting with the photo of an injured protester who is mistakenly identified as a victim of the recent violence in France when in fact she was a previous victim of police brutality in Madrid. It was late February when Avaaz launched their initial campaign on the back of this deception. The email they sent reads (and bold highlights are preserved from the original):

“This shocking photo of a young woman, left beaten and bleeding by police at a protest, went viral on social media in France.

It’s the sort of thing Avaaz might launch an urgent campaign on.

So let’s pause there, if only to bookmark this first claim before continuing…

“But there’s just one problem – the image has nothing to do with France. It was taken in Madrid, years ago. It’s fake. Untrue. A lie.

And it’s dangerous.

Where to begin? Well surely the first point is that the image is not in any literal sense fake at all. Indeed, no-one is actually claiming that the image has been photoshopped. All that is ‘fake’ is that it happened in a different place and another time when evidently – and in spite of all their frantic virtue signalling – Avaaz did not bother to launch a campaign in response to it. No, they waited. And it was not until they could reuse the image to push a new agenda when they finally decided to direct the world’s attention to it.

Now it might be the case that they simply hadn’t seen this image before, although if so, then one wonders how they so promptly identified it as “fake” upon its re-emergence. Although none of this really matters. The fact is, as Avaaz know full well, the Gilet’s Jaunes protesters have also been repeatedly “beaten, bloody and terrified” in staggering numbers by French police; many left permanently blinded or as amputees. I have covered this above, however, the following extract is taken from a mainstream article that published by the New Statesman as early as January 30th, and thus a whole month prior to the Avaaz email:

In the video that has stunned France, Paris’s Place de la Bastille is relatively calm, with gilets jaunes (yellow vests) protesters scattered around the square. Jérôme Rodrigues, a pacifist yellow vest figure, is filming 26 January’s “Act XI” on Facebook Live, greeting fellow yellow vests as his “family”, reminding them that they are “authorised” to be there (unlike previous ones, this march had been declared to the authorities) and regretting reports of violence elsewhere. At the nine-minute mark, police start closing in. An explosion goes off. Seconds later, Rodrigues falls to the ground, badly hurt in the eye as his friends call for help. The video has been watched more than 2.2 million times in less than a week.

Rodrigues, who may remain blind in one eye, is among dozens of protesters who have been severely injured by the French police since the start of the yellow vests movement last autumn. Unlike violence against the police, which has been sharply condemned by the government in several speeches — including president Emmanuel Macron’s new year’s address, in which he described protesters as a “hateful crowd” — police brutality against protesters went largely ignored by the authorities for months. Rodrigues’s footage, and his prominent standing within the movement, has shone a light on police violence and the horrific injuries their weapons have caused since the first protests in November. 14

Click here to read the full article entitled “The French police’s brutality against the gilets jaunes can no longer be denied”.

A similar report entitled “Police violence against gilets jaunes sparks broad backlash” was published by the New Internationalist literally one day before the Avaaz email arrived. It begins:

Since that now infamous Act 2 protest in Paris on the 24th of November in which the first riots erupted on the Champs Elysee, the gilets jaunes, or ‘yellow vests’, have been met by an increasingly heavy handed police response. The 15th of December in Paris saw this reach an absurd peak when there were 2,200 protestors on the streets and over 8,000 police. They were ubiquitous. On the 15th they were so numerous that they could consistently split groups of gilets jaunes from merging to form a bigger mass. Ironically, this was one of the calmer weekends in terms of crowd numbers, police violence and casseur presence. Other times though the police response was devastating.

Jacques Pezet, fact-checking Journalist for the CheckNews division of Liberation had, as of the 30th of January counted 144 verifiable cases of gilets jaunes and journalists severely injured by the riot police. At least 14 victims have lost an eye and 92 of the 144 have been shot by flashballs. Flashballs are rubber bullets fired from a tube like weapon with the stopping power of a .38 calibre handgun. At close range, as the French CRS (riot police) have used them, they can be particularly damaging. This violent misconduct by the CRS has sparked a wave of activism and created a new movement against police brutality within the gilets jaunes. 15

Click here to read the full New Internationalist article.

So when Christoph Schott at Avaaz warns us that “Disinformation like this has the power to turn protest violent…” I know that he is being duplicitous. That what he is saying is fake, untrue, a lie… and that it’s dangerous. Because that genuinely “shocking photo of a young woman” in Madrid was really nothing more than a decoy to draw attention from the horrific violence of the French police and the hundreds of victims like these:

Record of injuries from police use of disproportionate force against unarmed civilians during GJ protests. (Photo: Desarmons.net)

Now let us turn to Avaaz’s second example of “dangerous” disinformation: a video which purportedly shows Macron dancing “while France suffers”, but as Avaaz rightly contends, was in fact filmed during an event which took place on October 11th, and so roughly one month prior to the GJ protests. Here’s an upload for anyone who’s remotely interested in watching Macron strut his stuff:

The implication Avaaz makes here is that news of Macron’s detachment from the plight of the ordinary French citizen has been at best exaggerated and at worst fabricated. Yet once again this seriously and knowingly misses the essential point. So try this instead. Type into Google the words, “Macron let them eat cake” and then count the hits yourself. I will merely present a sample of the various tweets and articles you will instantly be linked to:

Instead of the confident leader, lecturing and preening on the global stage, he is barricaded in his palace, a sort of latter-day Marie Antoinette. French people can’t afford diesel? Let them buy Teslas. Others might compare him to Nero, fiddling with emission targets while Paris burns. 16

From an article published by The Spectator in December appropriately entitled “Let them buy Teslas! How Macron provoked an uprising”.

Also back in December, The Economist weighed in with this tweet:

And meanwhile the Guardian published:

It is feasible – indeed, desirable – to use the tax system to tackle climate change, but only if the hit to living standards is fully offset by cuts in other taxes. Otherwise it is simply more of the austerity that voters everywhere are rejecting. And it is politically suicidal to be known as the president of the wealthy and then tell voters angry about rising fuel prices to car share or take public transport. That’s not De Gaulle, that’s Marie Antoinette and “let them eat cake”.17

Click here to read the full Guardian article entitled “Macron’s politics look to Blair and Clinton. The backlash was inevitable.”

The backlash was indeed inevitable, and is nothing to do with the sorts of shadowy puppetry that are alluded to by Avaaz. Furthermore, Macron may or may not have been dancing during the protest, however, as Paris burned last weekend, he was most definitely in the Alps skiing:

Mr Macron was forced to cut short a skiing holiday and return to the capital as an 18th consecutive Saturday of demonstrations by the gilets jaunes or yellow vests turned into a riot on the Champs-Elysées. 18

Let them eat, drink and après-ski!

*

Macron

Nominally anti-fascist, in reality, Avaaz is more straightforwardly pro-establishment globalist. While on the one hand it actively manufactures consent for pro-western regime change operations, on the other, it quietly supports neoliberal “centrism”. As its co-founding President and Executive Director, Ricken Patel, told the euobserver in an interview given last July:

“I think the people of Europe stand with Merkel. That doesn’t mean that every right-wing voter in Bavaria stands with Merkel’s positions, but the majority of people in Germany, and the majority people in Europe, stand behind her and she needs to lead with confidence, and with boldness, and with creativity to execute the solutions she is offering, because the other side is not offering any solutions.”

“They are offering fantasies and unworkable solutions and things that would destroy the laws and the values of the European project and liberal democracy. And I think she should continue to lead boldly.” 19

As with Merkel, so with Emmanuel Macron. Indeed, here is a campaign Avaaz ran in the lead up to the French presidential elections in 2017:

In less than 4 weeks, France will have a new President, and he or she will have an immense impact on how we work together to build the world most of us want to see.

We’re figuring out our next steps for engaging the 4 million-strong Avaaz community across France, and we need your help. If the election was held tomorrow, would you vote for Emmanuel Macron? If yes, sign the form!

Avaaz then released this video on its facebook page:

But the meddling in foreign elections doesn’t end here, because there is also Avaaz’s army of ‘elves’, who, as I discussed in a previous post, are in reality simply Cass Sunstein’s unwitting little helpers:

*

Facebook

This brings me to Avaaz’s third and final highlighted instance of “disinformation” that is purportedly fuelling the current outrage in France. It takes the form of “an image of a Yellow Vest protest in Paris, with a caption alleging that the image had been censored on Facebook or elsewhere”. According to Avaaz, “Le Monde fact-checkers debunked the claim that the photo or the caption were deleted”. Now, rather than delving into this specific allegation which I see little reason to doubt, it is more worthwhile to consider this allegation in fuller context.

Firstly it is vital to understand how this entire Avaaz campaign is absolutely intent on lessening the impact of political content distributed on Facebook, and thus rather blatantly guilty of the kind of censorship it here alleges didn’t happen. It is important to stress therefore that Facebook is already charged with helping to silence political dissent, and that there is an abundance of available evidence to find the company fully guilty on that count.

In fact, it is nearly a year since Facebook first revealed its previously secret rules for censoring posts. As Forbes reported:

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.” 20

In response to Facebook’s announcement of its censorship policy, the ACLU cautioned against what it saw as a 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. 21

Click here to read the ACLU statement in full.

More recently, and as it transpires immediately prior to the Gilets Jaunes protests, Facebook then announced a fresh censorship drive:

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 was made last October and 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. 22

Click here to read the Facebook statement in full.

As the Guardian reported at the time:

As a private entity, Facebook can enforce its terms however it sees fit, says the ACLU attorney Vera Eidelman. But this can have serious free speech consequences, especially if the social network is selectively enforcing its terms based on the content of the pages.

“Drawing the line between ‘real’ and ‘inauthentic’ views is a difficult enterprise that could put everything from important political parody to genuine but outlandish views on the chopping block,” says Eidelman. “It could also chill individuals who only feel safe speaking out anonymously or pseudonymously.” 23

The same article, which entitled “Facebook accused of censorship after hundreds of US political pages purged” , interviewed Matt Mountain, the pseudonym of a disabled veteran who operated six leftwing pages subsequently purged, and Brian Kolfage, another disabled veteran who administered the Right Wing News page as well as three other conservative pages that were also removed. Kolfage said:

“I’ve talked with Facebook maybe 50 times in the last few months… Not once did they ever say we broke any rules or did something wrong. If they had an issue, they could have brought it up. We had a really close working relationship. That’s why this whole thing is a complete shock.”

‘Mountain’ told the Guardian:

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

Predictably, the piece ends:

Facebook did not respond to requests for comment.

Click here to read the full Guardian article

*

Real ‘fake news’

Every major U.S. war of the last several decades has begun the same way: the U.S. government fabricates an inflammatory, emotionally provocative lie which large U.S. media outlets uncritically treat as truth while refusing at air questioning or dissent, thus inflaming primal anger against the country the U.S. wants to attack. That’s how we got the Vietnam War (North Vietnam attacks U.S. ships in the Gulf of Tonkin); the Gulf War (Saddam ripped babies from incubators); and, of course, the war in Iraq (Saddam had WMDs and formed an alliance with Al Qaeda).

This was exactly the tactic used on February 23, when the narrative shifted radically in favor of those U.S. officials who want regime change operations in Venezuela. That’s because images were broadcast all over the world of trucks carrying humanitarian aid burning in Colombia on the Venezuela border. U.S. officials who have been agitating for a regime change war in Venezuela – Marco Rubio, John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, the head of USAid Mark Green – used Twitter to spread classic Fake News: they vehemently stated that the trucks were set on fire, on purpose, by President Nicolas Maduro’s forces.

Writes Glenn Greenwald at the top of a very detailed exposé of the latest US government lies to bring about a regime change. The truth was finally admitted by The New York Times a fortnight later – by which time the official story was deeply lodged in people’s minds – and you will find a video and accompanying article about it behind their paywall. Here is their belated headline:

The NYT piece gives proof that the convoys were in fact torched by anti-Maduro protesters, exactly as many independent reporters including Max Blumenthal were reporting on the day, however, as with the disclosure of other fake news stories perpetuated in the mainstream media, and unlike the original lies, the NYT retraction did not grab the wider headlines.  Although CNN, The Telegraph and the BBC all ran the original fake news story, they left NYT alone to publicly retract it.

As Greenwald points out in reference to the evidence for what really happened:

Those last two tweets [embedded below] – using video footage to debunk the lies spread by Marco Rubio, CNN and the U.S. Government – happen to be from a correspondent with RT America. Please tell me: who was acting here as lying propagandists and agents of State TV, and who was acting like a journalist trying to understand and report the truth?

So everything the New York Times so proudly reported last night has been known for weeks, and was already reported in great detail, using extensive evidence, by a large number of people. But because those people are generally skeptical of the U.S. Government’s claims and critical of its foreign policy, they were ignored and mocked and are generally barred from appearing on television, while the liars from the U.S. Government and their allies in the corporate media were, as usual, given a platform to spread their lies without any challenge or dissent, just like the manual for how to maintain State TV instructs. 24

Click here to read Glenn Greenwald’s excellent article entitled “NYT’s Exposé on the Lies About Burning Aid Trucks in Venezuela Shows How U.S. Government and Media Spread Pro-War Propaganda”.

*

Final thoughts

Barring the singular exception of the West’s most unconscionable war, the Saudi-led genocide of Yemen, Avaaz has never seen an imperialist intervention, ‘colour revolution’, or other regime change operation it didn’t approve of. It campaigned vigorously for the ‘no-fly zone’ in Libya – this, the weasel word euphemism for airstrikes – and soon after Libya was bombed backed into the dark ages, demanded a ‘no-fly zone’ over Syria (read more here and here).

Less well-advertised, Avaaz was also deeply involved in Iran’s failed ‘Green Revolution’:

During the 2009 Green Movement uprising in Iran, for example, Avaaz set up a network of proxy servers to allow protesters to post videos from the streets. 25

Then in 2017, Avaaz went a step further when it financially backed its own candidate in the race for Democratic nomination for governor of Virginia. The candidate in question happened to be none other than former congressman Tom Perriello, one of Avaaz’s original founders, who, it was divulged, received a donation from Avaaz of $230,000. As the Washington Post reported:

As a 501(c)(4) charity, Avaaz is not required to disclose its individual donors, which it says come from among nearly 45 million members in 194 countries. The organization says it accepts no money from governments or corporations and itemizes any donations greater than $5,000 on its tax filing; in 2016, 26 such donations were reported, representing 0.7 percent of Avaaz’s total revenue.

Perriello co-founded Avaaz with two colleagues who had helped him start an earlier nonprofit called Res Publica, which was aimed at promoting international justice on behalf of the religious left, as Perriello told the National Catholic Reporter in 2004. One of those colleagues, Ricken Patel, a Canadian, is now Avaaz’s executive director. The organization was formed in collaboration with MoveOn.org, the Democratic online activist group that has received funding from billionaire George Soros — who also is a major Perriello campaign contributor. 26

Click here to read the full article published by the Washington Post.

Today Avaaz is fully in league with Bush-era hawk John Bolton, the unapologetic cheerleader for the Iraq War, and Elliot Abrahams, who aided death squads throughout Latin America and was afterwards convicted following his involvement in the Iran-Contra Scandal. In unison with “like-minded leaders” (in the words of John Bolton 27), President Ivan Duque of Colombia, and Jair Bolsonaro, President of Brazil, Avaaz is assisting in the attempted overthrow of the elected government of Venezuela. The empire has seldom been more brazen when it comes to singling out its latest “axis of evil” (i.e., Bolton’s “troika of tyranny”: Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua), yet this self-proclaimed non-partisan people’s movement is eager to lend support in the guise of faux-humanitarianism that distracts from US imperialism and bolsters the neo-con cause:

The image is captured from a translation of its Spanish campaign but you can also find the same campaign in English here:

It is also backing baseless claims that last year’s presidential elections were invalid.

Meanwhile, Avaaz is once again meddling closer to home. In the name of stemming the tide of ‘fake news’ it is preparing the way for greater internet censorship. As they concede in the report:

RT France has massively invested in coverage of the Yellow Vest protests, including hour-long live coverage videos, and as a result, dominated the debate about Yellow Vests on YouTube in France more than any other YouTube channel, let alone mainstream media.

If you imagined that “a global citizens movement” (as Avaaz markets itself) would be in favour of more rather than less coverage of the mass demonstrations across France and so would applaud RT or any other media outlet for providing it, you would be wrong. The fact is that they wish to bury any news of a popular uprising, smothering the truth with overblown allegations of ‘fake news’. So if you still haven’t figured it out, then allow me to spell it out instead: in contrast to the Gilets Jaunes themselves, Avaaz is not and never has been a grassroots movement. It was astroturfed from the get-go to provide controlled opposition, whilst its newest departure into ‘fake news’ surveillance represents a more sinister turn. Once again, I encourage every person of goodwill to unsubscribe from the Avaaz mailing list. I shall remain nominally affiliated just to keep an eye on future machinations – just so that you won’t have to.

*

1

France’s gilets jaunes (yellow vests) have vowed to continue their high-profile protest campaign after forcing the French government into a U-turn on a controversial rise in fuel tax.

The movement behind three weeks of increasingly violent protests across the country declared it wanted more concessions from France’s leaders and would not accept “crumbs”.

From an article entitled “Gilets Jaunes protests in France to continue despite fuel tax U-turn” written by Kim Willsher, published in the Guardian on December 4, 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/dec/04/french-government-to-suspend-fuel-tax-increase-say-reports 

2 From an article entitled “Yellow Vests Rise Against Neo-Liberal ‘King’ Macron” written by Diana Johnstone, published in Consortium News on December 5, 2018. https://consortiumnews.com/2018/12/05/yellow-vests-rise-against-neo-liberal-king-macron/ 

3 From an article entitled “Dr. Jean Bricmont: ‘Yellow Vests Ask Such Fundamental Questions that No European Government Could Answer Them” written by Mohsen Abdelmoumen, published in American Herald Tribune on February 22, 2019. https://ahtribune.com/interview/2903-jean-bricmont.html

4 From an article entitled “Forgotten France Rises Up” written by Serge Halimi, translated by George Miller, published in Counterpunch on January 8, 2019.. https://www.counterpunch.org/2019/01/08/forgotten-france-rises-up/  

5 From an article entitled “Why France’s Yellow Vest Protests Are Ignored by ‘The Resistance’ in the U.S.” written by Max Parry, published in Counterpunch on January 4, 2019.  https://www.counterpunch.org/2019/01/04/why-frances-yellow-vest-protests-are-ignored-by-the-resistance-in-the-u-s/

6 Although in fact like so many of the best known quotes it is probably misattributed.

7

During her visit the Commissioner noted in particular that the validity of the use of rubber bullet launchers (LBDs) during demonstrations was contested by most of the people she met, who highlighted their unsuitability for the purposes of maintaining public order and the danger they posed in such contexts. In his report of December 2017 on maintaining public order with due regard for professional rules of conduct, the Defender of Rights recommended that a multidisciplinary study be carried out on the use of intermediate weapons and that LBDs should be removed from the range of equipment available to law enforcement agencies. The Commissioner notes that the Defender of Rights reiterated his recommendation for LBDs to be withdrawn in January 2019 and that many health professionals support him because of the sometimes irreversible injuries that can be caused by these weapons. Laurent Thines, Head of Neurosurgery at the University Hospital of Besançon, has even talked of the “extreme danger” of these launchers which he considers to have “all the features of weapons of war”. […]

The Commissioner notes that according to figures from the Ministry of the Interior 12 122 LBD rounds, 1428 instant tear gas grenades and 4942 hand-held sting grenades were fired or thrown between the beginning of the yellow vest movement and 4 February 2019. She is concerned at the high level of use of these so-called intermediate weapons despite the fact that their deployment is restricted and they can cause serious injury. The Commissioner notes that according to a count carried out by an independent journalist, at the time of writing, the three types of intermediate weapon referred to above had been involved in 253 of 428 reports made to him by persons claiming to be victims of police violence, which he himself had documented and cross-checked, confirming a high prevalence of LBDs, accounting for 193 of these cases. The count highlighted 38 wounds to upper limbs including 5 lost hands, 52 wounds to lower limbs, 3 wounds to the genitals and 189 head wounds including 20 people who have lost an eye. The Commissioner notes that many head wound victims attribute their injuries to intermediate weapons, particularly LBDs, whereas according to instructions reiterated by the Director General of the national police force on 16 January 2019, the use of LBDs must be “targeted”, with users aiming “only at the torso or the lower or upper limbs”. […]

[T]he Commissioner is concerned about the allegations of police violence targeting journalists which have been brought to her attention by professional journalists’ organisations and human rights groups and which are echoed by those of three photographers who claim that they were “deliberately” targeted by the police in Toulouse at a demonstration on 9 February 2019.

From a report by the Commissioner for Human Rights at the Council of Europe published on February 26, 2019. https://rm.coe.int/commdh-2019-8-memorandum-france-en/1680932f57

8 From an article entitled “French police accused of stealing PSG jerseys during Yellow Vest lootings”, written by Pierre Hamdi, published in France 24: The Observers on March 19. 2019. https://observers.france24.com/en/20190319-france-social-media-accuse-police-stealing-psg-jerseys-yellow-vests

9 From an article entitled “Unanswered questions on French police role in Saturday’s ‘yellow vest’ clashes” written by Anthony Torres and Alex Lantier, published in wsws.org on March 21, 2019. https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2019/03/21/fran-m21.html

10 From an article entitled “France’s Macron leads the way as western leaders malevolently confuse anti-Zionism with antisemitism” written by Jonathan Cook, published in Mondoweiss on February 27, 2019. https://www.jonathan-cook.net/2019-02-27/france-macron-zionism-antisemitism/

11 From an article entitled “Anti-Semitism Pandemic!” written by CJ Hopkins, reprinted in OffGuardian on March 12, 2019. https://off-guardian.org/2019/03/12/anti-semitism-pandemic/

12 From an Avaaz report entitled “Yellow Vest Flooded By Fake News” published on March 12, 2019. https://g8fip1kplyr33r3krz5b97d1-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/AVAAZ_YellowVests_100miofake.pdf.pdf.pdf

13 Ibid.

14 From an article entitled “The French police’s brutality against the gilets jaunes can no longer be denied” written by Pauline Bock, published in the New Statesman on January 30, 2019. https://www.newstatesman.com/world/europe/2019/01/french-police-s-brutality-against-gilets-jaunes-can-no-longer-be-denied

15 From an article entitled “Police violence against gilets jaunes sparks broad backlash” written by Oliver Haynes, published in the New Internationalist on February 27, 2019. https://newint.org/features/2019/02/27/police-violence-against-gilets-jaunes-sparks-broad-backlash

16 From an article published entitled “Let them buy Teslas! How Macron provoked an uprising” written by Jonathan Miller, published in The Spectator on December 8, 2018. https://www.spectator.co.uk/2018/12/let-them-buy-teslas-how-macron-became-the-enemy-of-the-french/ 

17 From an article entitled “Macron’s politics look to Blair and Clinton. The backlash was inevitable” written by Larry Elliott, published in the Guardian on Decmeber 6, 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/dec/06/macron-clinton-blair-backlash

18 From an article entitled “Macron under renewed pressure after another weekend of violence” written by Harriet Agnew, published in the Financial Times on March 17, 2019. https://www.ft.com/content/b774a756-48a7-11e9-8b7f-d49067e0f50d

19 From an article entitled “EU populists not actually that ‘popular’, says global activist” written by Lisbeth Kirk, published in the euobserver on July 3, 2018. https://euobserver.com/political/142242

20 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

21 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

22 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/

23 From an article entitled “Facebook accused of censorship after hundreds of US political pages purged” written by Dan Tynan, published in the Guardian on October 17, 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/oct/16/facebook-political-activism-pages-inauthentic-behavior-censorship

24 From an article entitled “NYT’s Exposé on the Lies About Burning Aid Trucks in Venezuela Shows How U.S. Government and Media Spread Pro-War Propaganda” written by Glenn Greenwald, published in The Intercept on March 10, 2019. https://theintercept.com/2019/03/10/nyts-expose-on-the-lies-about-burning-humanitarian-trucks-in-venezuela-shows-how-us-govt-and-media-spread-fake-news/

25 From an article entitled “How a New York City-Based Activist Group Became a Player in Syria”, written by Vivienne Walt, published in Time magazine on March 15, 2012. http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2109212,00.html

26 From an article entitled “‘Dark money’ vs. Corporate cash: Virginia Democratic rivals clash over funding” written by Gregory S. Schneider, published in the Washington Post on April 22, 2017. https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/virginia-politics/dark-money-vs-corporate-cash-democratic-rivals-clash-over-funding/2017/04/21/cc91253c-25d7-11e7-a1b3-faff0034e2de_story.html?utm_term=.6d47c0cae4ab

27

“The recent elections of like-minded leaders in key countries, including Ivan Duque in Colombia, and last weekend Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, are positive signs for the future of the region, and demonstrate a growing regional commitment to free-market principles, and open, transparent, and accountable governance,” Bolton said in his speech at Miami-Dade College.

From an article entitled “Bolton praises Bolsonaro while declaring ‘troika of tyranny’ in Latin America” written by Julian Borger, published in the Guardian on November 1, 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/nov/01/trump-admin-bolsonaro-praise-john-bolton-troika-tyranny-latin-america

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Dennis Kucinich says “America needs a period of truth and reconciliation”

Democratic Representative from Ohio, Dennis Kucinich, has been one of the most consistent and outspoken critics of both the Bush and Obama administrations. Now serving what will be his last week as member of Congress, he explained on today’s Democracy Now! why he regards the current debate about a fiscal cliff as political distraction and to a large extent “chimerical”:

We’ve made all the wrong choices. We should be talking about jobs, having more people involved in paying taxes. We should be talking about rebuilding America’s infrastructure. China has gone ahead with high-speed trains and massive investment in their infrastructure. Instead, we’re back to the same old arguments about taxes and spending without really looking at what we’re spending. We just passed the National Defense Authorization Act the other day, another $560 billion just for one year for the war machine. And so, we’re focused on whether or not we’re going to cut domestic programs now? Are you kidding me?

Kucinich sees the perpetuation of the US war machine as intricately linked with these latest battles at home over domestic spending. He says:

We really have to decide who we are as a nation. We’re spending more and more money for wars. We’re spending more and more money for interventions abroad. We’re spending more and more money for military buildups. And we seem to be prepared to spend less and less on domestic programs and on job creation. This whole idea of a debt-based economic system is linked to a war machine. And it’s linked to Wall Street’s concerns rather than Main Street’s concerns. We need to shift that.

You know, this whole idea of drone wars being proliferated across the world, without Congress having anything to say about it, without any accountability whatsoever, is against the Constitution of the United States, and it’s against international law. If any other nation sent a drone over the United States, they would have hell to pay, because we’d see it as an act of war. Yet we’re increasingly committing acts of war against other nations—Yemen most recently—and we are—we’re not seeing any accountability at all. And Congress does have a role to play here, both on the budget side and constitutionally. So we’re just trying to get the administration involved in giving information to Congress so we can see the extent of the exposure that the American people have to this proliferation of war.

And as news articles have been written, and Glenn Greenwald wrote about this yesterday, we’re actually strengthening al-Qaeda’s hand with these attacks. We’re making it more difficult to meet the challenge of terrorism by creating more terrorists. I mean, what is this about? We’re increasingly dysfunctional as a nation because of our unwillingness to challenge the military-industrial complex, which Dwight Eisenhower warned about generations ago.

Click here to watch the interview or read a full transcript on the Democracy Now! website.

In the second part of the interview, Kucinich was asked his views on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and the growth of a surveillance society more generally:

Well, what it reflects is a breakdown in trust in this country. The attempt is to give the government even more powers to spy, and that is really being translated into domestic, quote-unquote, “intelligence,” even though it’s called the foreign intelligence bill.

We have to ask questions. You know, why, for example, was—did you have the Occupy Wall Street movement being spied upon? What is this? What’s going on in our country, where we don’t have oversight of the activities of the government when it comes to domestic spying? And what are we doing in America, where the privacy concerns of Americans are swept aside?

We’re entering into a brave new world, which involves not only the government apparatus being able to look in massive databases and extract information to try to profile people who might be considered threats to the prevailing—to the status quo. But we also are looking at drones, which are increasingly miniaturized, that will give the governments, at every level, more of an ability to look into people’s private conduct. This is a nightmare.

A nightmare that Kucinich argues is outside of traditional party politics:

Well, actually, you know, we’ve seen a bridge here created between Democrats and Republicans on the issue of liberty and being free from the all-seeing eye of Big Brother. Congressman [Ron] Paul and I worked together on many of these issues relating to the government seeking increased powers to surveil the American people. You know, it’s really no longer a Democrat or Republican issue. It goes much deeper than that.

When we find in a post-9/11 America that we are mired in a condition of fear; when we see the massive amounts of spending that’s gone for war and increased military buildups and for expansion of spy agencies like the Domestic Intelligence Agency, which is just adding another 1,600 spies so that the Pentagon can have their own spy agency to compete with, what, the CIA abroad; when you see the interventions that have fallen flat and have been disastrous, such as Libya and Benghazi; when you see al-Qaeda growing in strength because of our own misapplication of force, you have to ask, if this is about Democrat and Republican, this system is failing. And we’re seeing an evidence of it on fiscally, but we’re seeing another evidence of it in foreign policy, and we’re seeing an evidence of it domestically, when you can see a surveillance state arising under the noses of both political parties.

Asked to reflect upon “any misgivings about things that you were not able to accomplish, or, in the same way, pride in things that you were able to accomplish” during his own 16 years in the House, here is Kucinich’s reply:

Well, I will say that it’s really unfortunate that the—that the Democratic leadership in the House did not support an impeachment effort to challenge the Bush administration, and Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney, on the lies that took us into war in Iraq. That was a pivotal moment for this country. And instead of choosing the Constitution, our leaders chose politics. Bad choice. The fact is that today, after a decade of war, we are looking at an eventual bill for that Iraq war of $5 trillion. We’re looking at perhaps as many as a million innocent civilians perishing—for war that was based on lies. People have to remember this. This isn’t just because it’s, you know, forget about the past. No, you cannot forget about the past. We went to war based on lies.

And so, you know, I did my part, which was to alert the Congress back in October 2002: Look, we’re headed into a war, and there’s no proof that Iraq has anything to do with 9/11 or had weapons of mass destruction; what are we doing here? But we were pulled into that by the Bush administration, driven by neocons and the Project for the New American Century. All of us who were following it know exactly what happened. And, you know, that set the stage for where we are today. We’re at the—you know, if there is such a thing as a fiscal cliff, we’re at the edge of it because of trillions of dollars that will be spent for wars based on lies. And there was never any accountability.

If there’s one thing we have to do, we have—America needs a period of truth and reconciliation, if we’re ever going to get—put the country back together again and achieve a level of national unity that we’re capable of. But right now we’re living on a lie. And the lie is that—that this whole national security infrastructure is necessary and that it’s necessary for us to keep expanding war around the world, it’s necessary for us to have these big spy agencies, which also interact domestically. All of this stuff shouldn’t have happened. And we made the wrong choices. And this is a problem for both political parties to resolve. You can always try to fix things, but you have to look at the severe impact that our inability to act, to challenge the lies that took us into war—you have to look at where it’s left us.

Click here to watch the interview or read a full transcript on the Democracy Now! website.

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25S: the salvaging of democracy

Spanish state. 25S: the salvaging of democracy
Esther Vivas

Tens of thousands of people demonstrated in Madrid on Tuesday September 25, 2012 to protest against the sequestration of popular sovereignty by the banks and “markets”. Repression was once again brutal, leaving dozens of people wounded, and there were numerous arrests.

In this article, Esther Vivas reviews the motivations for this mobilisation and the causes of an ever more brutal police repression.

“They call it democracy but this isn’t one” was the cry repeated in the squares and on the demonstrations. And as time went by, this slogan took on still more meaning. The stigmatisation and repression against those who struggle in the street for their rights has only intensified in recent times. The worse the crisis gets, the more popular support broadens for those who protest and the more the brutal repression increase. The thirst for liberty is being smothered along with the current “democracy”.

Recent days provide a good illustration of this. On Saturday, September 15, 2012, when activists were detained during the demonstration against austerity in Madrid, what was their crime? Carrying a placard with the slogan: “25S: Encircle Parliament”. The next day, two wagon loads of police carried out identity checks on dozens of people in the park at Retiro. The motive? Participating in a preparatory meeting for the said action. Five days later, several of these activists were charged with offences to the highest institutions of the nation and they could be jailed for up to one year.

What were the objectives of the “25S: Encircle Parliament” action? Its appeal expresses them clearly: “Next September 25, we will encircle Parliament to save it from a kidnapping which has transformed this institution into a superfluous body. A kidnapping of popular sovereignty carried out by the Troika and the financial markets and executed with the consent and collaboration of the majority of the political parties”. What will be the form of this action? Its organisers have said and said again: “non-violent”. What kind of fear is it that dictates all these police measures? Fear of violence, or of freedom of expression?

As I said a few months ago at a social centre: “When those at the bottom move, those at the top tremble”. That is the truth. Fear has begun to change sides, even if only partially. The repressive measures, like those we have mentioned, show the fear of those who exert power. The fear that the people rise up, organise, express themselves freely against injustice. The fear of a handful faced with the multitude.

Coup d’état?

The criminalisation of “25S: Encircle Parliament” practically began a month ago when the government representative in Madrid, Cristina Cifuentes, characterised this initiative as a “disguised coup d’état”. The former minister and PSOE deputy José Martínez de Olmos compared the action to the attempted neo-Francoist coup by Tejero in 1981: “Occupying Parliament from the inside as Tejero did or from the outside as some wish on September 25 has the same goal: the sequestration of sovereignty”. Words repeated yesterday by the PP secretary general, Dolores de Cospedal.

Coup d’état? The only putschists here are the financial powers who overthrow governments as they wish and replace them by their trusted henchmen. In Italy they have sidelined Silvio Berlusconi in favour of Mario Monti, a former consultant for the Goldman Sachs bank. In Greece, they have replaced Giorgios Papandreou with Lucas Papadémos, ex-vice president of the European Central Bank. Spanish Economy Minister Luis de Guindos is a former employee of Lehman Brothers. As the journalist Robert Fisk puts it: “The banks and the ratings agencies have become the dictators of the West”. And when the “markets” come in by the door, democracy goes out the window.

It is difficult to believe today that Parliament “represents the popular will”. A good number of ministers and deputies come from private enterprises, others return there as soon as their political careers end. The companies reward them generously for services rendered. Do you remember Eduardo Zaplana? First Minister of Employment, then consultant to Telefonica. Elena Salgado? Vice minister of the Economy, she became a consultant for Abertis. Not to mention Rodrigo Rato, former Economy minister, then director of the International Monetary Fund and finally president of Bankia. His adventures as head of the bank have cost us dear. Without forgetting former prime ministers Felipe Gonzalez and José Maria Aznar, the first becoming a consultant for Gas Natural and the second working for Endesa, News Corporation, Barrick Gold, Doheny Global Group and so on. So it goes.

More democracy

But democracy is, precisely, what the movement of the indignant is demanding, a real democracy in the service of the people and incompatible with the sequestration of politics by the business world or with the Spanish centralism which denies the right of people to self-determination. Paradoxically, it is the protestors who have been deemed to be “anti-democrats”. Anti-democrats for symbolically “besieging” the Catalan parliament on June 15, 2011, during the budget debates which involved austerity measures which had not appeared in any electoral manifesto. Anti-democrats for organising meetings in the squares and stimulating public debate. Anti-democrats for occupying empty housing and putting it to social use. Anti-democrats, definitively, for combating unjust laws and practices.

And when there is more democracy in the street, there is more repression. Fines of 133,000 Euros are demanded by the Ministry of the Interior against 446 activists of 15M in Madrid; 6,000 Euros against 250 students involved in the “Valencia Spring”; hundreds of Euros against activists in Galicia, to mention only a few examples. Along with that, more than a hundred arrests in Catalonia since the general strike on May 29 and a modification of the Criminal Code to criminalise the new forms of protest.

The other face of austerity is the politics of fear and repression. Not so much a social state, as a penal state. Democracy is not on the side of those who claim to exercise it, but rather on the side of those who fight for it. History is full of examples of this, and “25S” will be one of them.

+info: http://esthervivas.com/english/

I would like to thank Esther Vivas for allowing me to reproduce this article.

*

On Wednesday [Sept 26th], Democracy Now! also reported on the 25S “Occupy Congress” protests which they say led to at least 60 people being injured after police in riot gear had charged against demonstrators with batons and fired rubber bullets.

They spoke with independent journalist Maria Carrion who told them:

Well, as you, as your viewers and listeners have been able to see, it’s a very serious situation here in Spain. This is just the latest of many, many protests that we have been having here in Spain, in the last year, especially, and there will be many more coming. People have lost faith in government. People have lost faith in the main institutions. And we are facing 27 billion euros in social spending cuts.

Every week, the government unveils a series of new measures that affect primarily education and health and salaries and the welfare of Spanish people. And as we saw at the top of the hour, Greece is really an example of what’s coming our way, and that’s why I think people are so enraged and so worried, because they see that none of the measures imposed on Greece on in Portugal or in Ireland are having any sort of effect on the economy, on people’s welfare, on employment. And so, I think people are saying we do not want to head in that same direction.

Well, the PP, the conservative government in power, even before the protests took place, they were already equating them to the 1981 coup d’état here, the military coup d’état that tried to return Spain to a dictatorship. And they, you know, posted 1,400 police in riot gear and even sharpshooters around Congress. So, the disposition—disposition was already there to criminalize protesters. And now what has happened is that those who have been arrested are being charged with crimes against the nation for trying to, what they say, occupy Parliament while in session, which is a crime. They—the, you know, protesters always said, “We’re not occupying. We’re just surrounding Parliament.” But in any case, they are being charged with crimes against the nation, and they will go before a judge, a justice, at Spain’s National Court, which is the court that’s reserved for trying high crimes such as terrorism.

Click here to watch the report or read a full transcript at the Democracy Now! website.

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Chantilly, Virginia, 31 May–3 June: move along please – nothing to see here…

At this very moment, Kenneth Clarke is meeting in secret with Peter Mandelson. The de facto head honchos of our two main political parties are rubbing shoulders right alongside Richard Perle, Robert Rubin, Henry Kissinger, and Garry Kasparov… yes, that’s right, the Russian chess grandmaster. They are also putting their heads together with chiefs from many of the world’s corporate giants including BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Fiat, Airbus, Dow Chemicals, Unilever, AXA, Barclays, Siemens, Citigroup, Microsoft, Google, Vodaphone, to name but a few, and not forgetting, Peter Sutherland, the Chairman of Goldman Sachs — no meeting being complete these days without the man from Goldman Sachs!

Also at this meeting, a meeting that has now entered its fourth and final day, are Pascal Lamy, the Director-General of the WTO; Robert Zoellick, President of the World Bank; Neelie Kroes, Vice President of the European Commission; and Josette Sheeran, Vice Chairman of the World Economic Forum – not ‘Davos Man’ but, as the Guardian‘s Charlie Skelton put it, perhaps their “ice-queen”:

In terms of power structures, Josette is number 2 at Davos, and Davos is about number 10 behind Bilderberg.1

Bilderberg…? What’s that, I hear some mumbles. Well, it’s this meeting I’ve been talking about. The meeting between Ken Clarke and Pete Mandelson and the hundred or so other hangers-on such as H.R.H Prince Philippe of Belgium and H.M. the Queen of the Netherlands.

Look, if this strikes you as odd then please be assured that it isn’t. A Bilderberg meeting takes place in a different five-star hotel every year around this time. It’s like clockwork, and has been happening now for more than half a century. Although if you’d never before heard about these Bilderberg meetings, then it’s in part because the heads of the global media outlets have also been in regular attendance – this year’s crop including representatives from Le Monde, El País, Die Zeit, The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, The Financial Times, The Economist, as well as talkshow host Charlie Rose. Rest assured none will be spilling the beans later – they didn’t go in order to report on the meeting!

Of course, it might interest the people of Ireland that their own Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan is one of those on the guest list. Likewise, those worried about their futures in Spain might be interested to hear that their Deputy Prime Minister, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría Antón, is another of the elite gaggle. The Dutch may also be surprised to learn that their Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, has a booking in this year’s hotel. And what would the Chinese make of the reappearance of their Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ying Fu, who also attended last year when the meeting was held in St Moritz. And finally, what are any of us to make of the attendance of Bassma Kodmani, Head of Foreign Affairs for the Syrian National Council? Just what is it that they don’t want the rest of us to hear them all talking about? Unfortunately, the mainstream media (with honourable exception given to our own Guardian newspaper) show no interest in any actual journalism, but remain intent only on maintaining the bluff that “there’s nothing to see here…”

Precisely what’s being discussed right now, out of sight beyond the fences and high security cordons, is therefore hard to know for sure. Issues involving power and money evidently. And, in a word, a push towards ever-greater globalisation – Bilderberg being a meeting organised by self-confessed globalists. But just what precisely is globalisation – what is its overarching agenda?

To bring the world together under a unified corporate governance. Ultimately, although step by step, a world government of technocratic cronies running things for the sole benefit of a small oligarchical elite. This is certainly how it appears, not only to me, but also to the increasing number who have turned out to protest each successive meeting. This year’s protest even managing to ally forces from the Tea Party with others in the Occupy movement to form into Occupy Bilderberg.

Which is perhaps the silver lining to what’s happening right now in Chantilly. That the anti-globalisation movement which fizzled out about a decade ago through lack of focus, and then briefly reignited last year in encampments on Wall Street and elsewhere, has momentarily found alliance with unlikely compadres. Bilderberg being apolitical, at least in the sense that it operates outside of the acknowledged left-right paradigm, having brought together protesters who are likewise catholic in terms of their usual party political persuasions. Occupy Bilderberg therefore points to a way ahead and for the possible emergence of a more cohesive popular movement of dissent. Anti-globalisation 2.0 — if you like.  Here is Ryan Devereaux, also reporting for the Guardian:

The gathering outside the Westfield Marriott hotel in Chantilly included Ron Paul supporters, Occupy veterans, members of the 9/11 truth movement and Oath Keepers, a Tea Party-affiliated group comprised of military and law enforcement officers.

Carrying signs with messages such as “Humanity is winning” and “Warning to secret societies: you are pissing off American patriots. We have machine guns also,” the 200 or so protesters could only be there for one event: Bilderberg.2

Click here to read more of Charlie Skelton and Ryan Devereaux’s excellent reports on the Guardian Bilderblog.

The chasm that exists between those in power and those in the streets could hardly be more in your face than in Chantilly during the last few days. Such a stench of power and money that it really should be getting up all our noses.

Yes, there’s plenty to see in Chantilly today – so don’t move along! Protest and spread the word of what you are seeing and hearing. Like a great many others around the world, in spirit I too stand with all of you protesting outside the gates of Bilderberg.

*

Here’s an interesting example of the kind of debate taking place in Chantilly – Adam Kokesh interviewing Webster Tarpley:

Click here to read the official 2012 Bilderberg attendance list.

Click here to watch a live stream of the protests produced by Luke Rudkowski of We Are Change.

1 From an article entitled “Bilderberg 2012: bring on the Bilderbabes: Protestors at Bilderberg up their game: ‘What do they want? Hegelian dialectics! When do they want it? Now!’” written by Charlie Skelton, published in the Guardian on June 1, 2012. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/us-news-blog/2012/jun/01/bilderberg-2012-chantilly-occupy1

2 From an article entitled “Protest groups converge to denounce secretive Bilderberg conference: Annual off-the-record finance gathering attracts protesters from disparate groups, but they often have a similar goal in mind”, written by Ryan Devereaux, published by the Guardian on June 1, 2012. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jun/01/protesters-gather-secretive-bilderberg-conference?intcmp=239

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how to change the world?

How to change the world?
Esther Vivas

How do we change the world? This is the question asked by thousands of people intent on changing things, the question that is often repeated in alternative social gatherings — a question that the French philosopher Daniel Bensaïd said has no answer: “Make no mistake, no one knows how to change the world.” We do not have an instruction manual but we do have some hints on how to do it and some working hypotheses.

Fighting in the streets and in social movements is the first premise, as there will not be spontaneous changes from above. Those in power today will not give up their privileges without this. Any process of change will depend on the consciousness of those below and the fight to take back our rights in the street, defying the powers that be. This is what history shows.

But it is also necessary to build political alternatives that go beyond social mobilization, since we can not just be a lobby of those who rule. It is necessary to formulate alternative policy options which have their centre of gravity in social struggles, antagonistic to today’s ruling class. We are well aware that the system cannot be changed from within the institutions but rather from the street, but we can not give up spaces that also belong to us.

Today institutions are hijacked by private interests and capital. A social minority, which is the one with economic power, is totally over-represented in these institutions and has the full support of the majority of those who hold elected office. The dynamics of “revolving doors”: those who are currently in the institutions and tomorrow on the advisory boards of major companies in the country, is a constant and a reality. We present here the socially dominant neoliberal ideology — and the fact that it is untrue. We think that anti-capitalist and anti-systemic voices would be useful in breaking the hegemonic political discourse of the institutions, proving that “other worlds” are viable and that “another political practice” is both possible and necessary.

We must move in both directions, subjecting the latter to the former, creating mechanisms for control from the bottom up and learning from past mistakes of both the political and social left. On the basis that no one knows the absolute truth, that the process of change will be collective or it will not happen, that we must learn from each other, that is necessary to work without sectarianism or tailendism and that labels more often separate than bind . Without however falling into relativism or ideological resignation. Surely these are the most difficult lessons: to break the moral and ideological domination of the capitalist and patriarchal system.

And how to change the world is not something that will happen in two days — it’s a long-haul task, which requires consistency, perseverance and “slow impatience” as Daniel Bensaïd used to say. We have to go forward in our utopias starting from daily life in parallel with social mobilization against the current policies and in defense of alternative measures. We have to change the world in our own lives, demonstrating in practice that “another way of life” is both possible and desirable. Alternatives learning from the cooperative economy, self-management, critical consumption and agro-ecology, ethical finance, the alternative media — all these initiatives are essential to move towards a different model of society.

We have to be aware that these prefigurative models are not an end in themselves but a means to move forward without losing sight of the goal of more just and equitable society for everyone. Fighting for an economy based on solidarity in daily life and demanding a progressive tax policy, in which those who have more pay more, which will eliminate unit trusts, where tax evasion is prosecuted, which builds agroecological projects and works to ban GMOs, in favor of a public land bank, to have our savings in a credit union but to claim a public banking service from below. The way forward is shown by walking it and this cannot wait until tomorrow.

We should not forget that our model of social change requires the conscious mobilization of the majority of the population and a process of breaking the current institutional and economic framework. The emergence of the “revolution” in the political landscape again, following the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, despite their weaknesses and limits, was the great and unexpected news that 2011 has brought us.

We also need to understand our role in the world and the impact of our practices on the ecosystem. We live on a finite planet, but the capitalist system ensures that we often forget this. Our consumption has a direct impact where we live and if everyone consumed as we do here a single planet would not suffice. But we are also encouraged in unbridled, compulsive consumerism, with the promise that more consumption means happiness, though in the end the promise is never fulfilled. We must begin to ask whether we can “live better with less”.

Anyway, we want to hold responsible those who impose such practices. We are told we live in a consumer society because people like consumption, which is why we have industrial agriculture and genetically modified foods — lies. Our model of consumption is based on the logic of a capitalist system that produces goods on a large scale and needs someone to buy them to keep the model running.They want to make everyone accomplices of policies that benefit only themselves. Fortunately, this great myth has begun to crumble. The ecological crisis we live in has turned on the warning lights. And we know that the climate crisis is rooted in a system that is productivist and short-sighted.

Today, a wave of anger is sweeping across Europe and the world — breaking the scepticism and resignation that for years have prevailed in our society, and restoring confidence in collective action which is useful and necessary for changing the existing order of things. We have seen the Arab Spring, the movement against the debt in Europe, the Icelandic people, the popular uprising, general strike after strike in Greece and now Occupy Wall Street in the “belly of the beast” which says we are the 99% opposed to the 1%. The time is short and moving quickly. We know we can.

*Esther Vivas is a member of the Centre for Studies on Social Movements (CEMS) at Universitat Pompeu Fabra. She is also a member of the editorial board of Viento Sur.

I would like to thank Esther Vivas for allowing me to reproduce this article.

+info: http://esthervivas.wordpress.com/english

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news of the Occupy movement’s demise is exaggerated, or is it?

In early November of last year, as Occupy protestors were just beginning to hunker down to endure the worst of the coming Winter, some in the media were already beginning to question the health of the movement that had started (in America, at least) only a few months earlier. Take, for example, Jon Friedman’s comments on the decline of the Occupy movement, writing for MarketWatch in the Wall Street Journal on Nov 2nd:

The media, serving as a proxy for the general population, are impatient and bored by what outwardly seems like a marked lack of progress.

No less an authority on American social movements than folk singer Joan Baez, a notable dissident during the eras of the Vietnam and nuclear protests, said: “I’ll be convinced when it develops a real direction. … So far it’s hard to tell.”

The only time someone gets excited about the protests these days is when some external force intervenes, such as when New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg attempted (unsuccessfully) to clear the park, purportedly to clean it.

Jon Friedman concludes his article saying that “For the media, the excitement has gone out of the story.” And let’s face it, it doesn’t take much for the media to lose interest in any story, unless perhaps it involves the untimely death of a reclusive and morally questionable member of the glitterati – just imagine, for instance, the media frenzy that will eventually pick through the unseemly bones of Gary Glitter’s rise and fall, whenever he finally pops his shiny, shin-high clogs.

But coming back to Occupy Wall Street and the Occupy movement more generally, and it is noticeable that beyond the assemblies of core activists who so bravely withstood the American and European Winter months, not to mention the sporadic brutality of police assaults and evictions, less actively engaged supporters (and I count myself one) have slowly lost enthusiasm and gradually drifted away altogether. The reason being, not that we significantly disagree with the overarching reasons for dissent (putting aside the fact that any dynamic mass movement is bound to suffer from certain internal factional differences, since to some extent this is actually a measure of its well-being), but that having avoided seeking any broad agreement with regards to clear objectives and agenda, the overall message has been lost in the utopian clamour for consensus. This is not merely my own contention, but one shared by many who remain broadly sympathetic to the cause of the Occupy movement.

Eric Draitser has spent a great deal of time speaking to and also working with the Occupy Wall Street protesters. Back in November he too worried about the health of the movement, and so he decided it was time to ask some tough questions. Here’s one:

“What kind of a revolution are you trying to make? Are you making a revolution that’s going to create a better society, or are you creating a revolution of good feelings?”

Draitser believes that the next wave of protests needs a realignment of the anti-Wall Street forces of the Occupy protests in combination with a resurgence of long beleaguered anti-war opposition. This is increasing urgent, he says, as the continuing neo-imperialist policies of the Obama administration push forward once more, seemingly intent on sparking an eventual war against Iran.

Friedman’s November article was entitled “Occupy Wall Street is 99% dead”, and obviously I hope that such news is greatly exaggerated. It may be that Occupy is merely hibernating and about to burst forth with renewed vigour when Spring finally comes again (and as economies in Europe and America sink further into debt-driven decline). In the meantime, the question that the Occupy movement should be asking itself, is just how did lose so much of its earlier momentum and get quite so stuck? Critical friends like Draitser may be able to offer some useful answers and immediate advice.

You can find out more about Eric Draitser and his aims for establishing a renewed coalition of dissent, as well as listening to his personal analysis of current US foreign policies, on his own website www.stopimperialism.com.

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Cindy Sheehan stands her ground as a conscientious tax objector

In January, Cindy Sheehan, the woman who camped out in front of George W. Bush’s ranch after her son was killed serving in the Iraq War, gave support to “Occupy the Rose Parade”. She spoke out against the crony capitalist system and ‘the robbing classes’, whilst also declaring her solidarity with the Occupy Movement, saying that her anti-war encampment at the Texas ranch was the original “Occupy,” and adding, “We should never forget the victims of the 1%.”:

Here is an extract from a recent post on her blog [from Feb 21st]:

It’s been stated by the perpetrators and proven repeatedly that the Bush regime manufactured and manipulated the “intelligence” to rush this nation and the people of Iraq headlong into disaster. My son and hundreds of thousands of other people still should be among the living. At this moment, I am only talking about the Bush years and Iraq but, this Empire has been out-of-control for generations—ask our indigenous people about that, if you can find any.

Let’s cut through all the bullshit.

There is no monetary value large enough that can be placed on a human life or the love of a mother for her child.

In the same post, which is entitled “Surprise, the US Attorney Has Filed a Law Suit Against You!”, Sheehan describes her response to a recent lawsuit filed on behalf of the IRS after eight years as a conscientious tax objector:

I consider that my debt to this country was paid in full when my son, Casey, was recklessly with no regard for his safety (remember the rush to war with the “Army you have” which was not properly trained or equipped?) murdered for the lies of a regime, whose members (Bush, Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld, Yoo, Wolfowitz, Perle, etc.) roam around the world free and unfettered by threatening prosecutions or persecutions after committing war crimes, crimes against humanity, crimes against the peace, and high crimes and misdemeanors against our own Constitution. […]

It’s not a secret, and hasn’t been one for about 8 years now, that I am a conscientious tax objector. It’s also no secret that the IRS has been on my case about it recently.

So, tonight I was having coffee at a local restaurant with an activist/friend and we were chatting about some very sensitive issues when a man wearing a blue long-sleeved shirt and tie approached our table. I thought that it might be the manager of the restaurant but he said, “Hi Cindy, I am Cornell from Channel 10 News in Sacramento.” […]

Cornell informed me that he was there to talk to me about the “lawsuit that the US attorney filed against you in Federal Court.” Turns out that the lawsuit is on behalf of the IRS and that was not the first time that I found out something important about my life from the media. […]

After the interview with Cornell was over, he said to me, “you appear so calm, most people would be freaking out if the US Attorney filed a lawsuit against them.” I replied, “Cornell, what are they going to do to me? Kill another one of my children (god forbid)? I had the worst thing happen to me that could happen to any mother and I am still standing.”

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so you say you want an evolution…? Vlad Teichberg talks about Occupy Wall Street on BBC news

HARDtalk: Vlad Teichberg, Occupy Wall Street

First broadcast on BBC News at 12:30 am–1:00 am on Friday 9th December.

Available until 4:59 am on Saturday 8th December 2012.

Click here for link to BBC iplayer.

Stephen Sackur recently spoke with Vlad Teichberg, a prominent member of the Occupy movement and a co-founder of Global Revolution TV, on the BBC news HARDtalk show.

Sackur immediately put it to Teichberg that the Occupy movement was “running out of steam”, and in response, Teichberg told Sackur that although the movement has been forced to change, it is also virally spreading.

Here are a few of the opening salvos in what turned out to be a lively discussion:

Sackur: It seems to me that you do need a symbolic focus, I mean you know, ‘Occupy Wall Street’ is the phrase known around the world but you’re no longer occupying Wall Street, or that part very close to Wall Street where you were. And it seems to me, numbers generally in most of the camps that remain are tiny now. So this claim that, you know, ‘we are the 99%’ is beginning to look a bit ridiculous.

Teichberg: Well, I mean let’s look at how that happened. It’s not like people packed up, and said, you know, problems are solved, I’m going home. You had, you know, jackboots on the ground. You had violent evictions of these camps. And then you have the government go in and build fences around all of those squares to stop people from having the conversation. Does it mean that the conversation is over? Probably not. As we’ve seen time and time again, violence does not solve these problems…

There seems to be a dual standard in the western press. When these kinds of protesters are repressed in Russia, or in China or in Iran, you know, it’s a crime against democracy. When you have this in your backyard, it’s a threat to public order.

Sackur: You began this movement in the late summer and it appeared to be gathering some sort of momentum. And people were expressing support for the Occupy Movement. But you never actually got mass numbers out on the streets, did you? And when you claim that you are representing the vast majority of the people, in a campaign of protest against capitalist greed and corporate greed, it’s a bit of a problem when you don’t build up mass numbers.

Teichberg: First of all, the movement did not start in September in New York. This movement has been going on for quite a while. We think in some ways it started in Tahrir in January of this year, with the Arab Spring. It was jumped upon, it moved to Spain, and you had the 15-M revolution in Spain, which was very similar to what happened in the United States in September…

There are a few unifying themes between what these movements are fighting for. And these are actually positive – it’s not actually a rebellion against capitalism, or against institutions of some sort, just like for the sake of rebellion. It’s actually an idea that society should be based on some fundamental humanistic principles, like equality. I mean it sounds like a radical concept but it’s actually very, very basic and human.

Sackur: Well never mind that it sounds like a radical concept; it sounds like a very vague concept. And a lot of people have said… that the problem here is the message you’re delivering isn’t very clear. It’s clear what you’re against. You don’t like the modern form of US-based and western-based capitalism. But it isn’t actually clear what you want. What are your actual specific demands and proposals?

Teichberg: Well, the main thing that we wanted – and I think that we achieved that to a large degree – was, when we first went into Zucotti [Park] was that we wanted to start like an international conversation about the future of our planet. And when all these other camps sprang up, and started doing similar general assembly processes and so on, we basically set up a structure for this public debate about our future. Unfortunately, ‘the powers that be’ decided that this debate should not continue, and they deployed riot police to stop the demonstration from happening… But you can’t stop this idea from happening. It’s something that’s spreading like a tsunami…

Sackur: You can’t have a long-lasting and significant political movement, can you, just based on the idea that ‘people need to have a conversation’?

Teichberg: But there’s much more than that – I mean I’m sorry but you sound a little ignorant. The reality is that the things that are happening at these camps in terms of processes – the idea of the general assembly – that every citizen should have an equal voice. Designing structures around that actually allow us to have a consensus-based decision-making process that pushes forward. The idea of a non-hierarchical organisation – a society that would not have any implicit hierarchy in it. It’s maybe an idea whose time has come.

Sackur: You’ve made a very important point, I just want to know if that’s a model that you see being applied to the governance of cities, states, nations?

Teichberg: Not necessarily. No-one said that. But it’s a model for having a discussion about our future. You see this is the thing. All we wanted to do was have a debate. We didn’t come into these camps and start setting up armies to overthrow the government. It’s a peaceful revolution of citizens. But we do want to have a conversation about the fact that the privileged class is skewing the system, skewing the rules in such a way that they always have the advantage. And the gap between the richest and the poorest is widening. And as we are having this conversation, certain things are coming to light – as the population is becoming more and more educated, of course the people who are in power are becoming more and more threatened and so now they are dispatching their armed forces to stop the debate.

Sackur: Would you call yourself a revolutionary?

Teichberg: No, I’m a citizen.

Sackur: No, I understand that, but I say revolutionary because is what you want to see a revolutionary transformation of the society in which you live?

Teichberg: I want an evolution. Revolution is a very big term: it can mean many things. What I want is evolution. I want a society that is much more fair, yes.

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“Occupy Everywhere”: a public debate about what happens next

It is more than two months since a few hundred people first gathered to camp-out in the streets of Manhattan, and so the question becomes how does the Occupy movement progress from “the outrage phase” to the presentation of a new political and economic programme. Last Friday [Nov 25th], Democracy Now! broadcast excerpts from a recent event that examined this question.

The discussion, under the title “Occupy Everywhere: On the New Politics and Possibilities of the Movement Against Corporate Power”, which was hosted by The Nation magazine and The New School in New York City, featured a panel of speakers including Occupy Wall Street organizer, Patrick Bruner; filmmaker and author, Michael Moore; veteran journalist, William Greider, author of “Come Home, America: The Rise and Fall (and Redeeming Promise) of Our Country”; Rinku Sen of the Applied Research Center and publisher of ColorLines; and Naomi Klein, author of the “Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism”.

Here’s an overview of what the panel had to say:

MICHAEL MOORE: This is one of the most remarkable movements that I’ve seen in my lifetime, precisely because it really isn’t a movement in the traditional sense. And I think that it has succeeded because it hasn’t followed the old motifs that we’re used to, in terms of organizing. But it has its roots in all the good works that so many people have done for so many years, especially in the last 30 years since Reagan took office and the decline and destruction of the country, and essentially the world, began its modern-day disaster.

And when somebody asked me the other day, “Well, who organized this? Who organized this movement?” I said, “Well, actually, Goldman Sachs organized it. Citibank organized it. BP organized it. They did—they did the organization.”

It’s taken so many forms that—and it can’t be stopped. And it’s so great to watch Fox News and the others try to wrap their heads around it, because they can’t get their brain quite—like it can’t grab onto it, which is great. That’s what’s great. So, I’m a big supporter of it staying leaderless, with a lack of a certain amount of organization, that it remain in its free and open state. And thank God for all the young people who are willing to not take it anymore. And I’ve just been inspired by it, and I’m glad that I got to live to see what I believe, or hope, will be the beginning of the end of a very evil system that is unfair, and it’s unjust, and it’s not democratic.

PATRICK BRUNER: Well, I think there are many reasons why this has worked. You know, obviously, we have a great history behind us. Tahrir Square, the indignados in Spain—these are movements that are very, very similar to our movement, you know, the way that we are organized: direct democracy, egalitarian values. These are things that we think deserve to be central in every movement, and we think that’s a big reason why we have been successful, is that our tactics and our values and our goals, they’re all the same.

The Tea Party comes from the same mindset as we do, although we have many differences. You know, those are people who had legitimate grievances against this system that they had tried to work for their entire lives, and then it ended up screwing them. And, you know, that’s what’s going on with my generation. We have kids who have massive amounts of student debt, and they’re going to carry that for the rest of their lives, possibly— not if we have anything to do with it, but…

We have taken Liberty Square. We have renamed it, and we have rebuilt it into something that we believe is a better model. Maybe it’s not perfect. Maybe it’s not what we’ll come out of this with. But it’s a way to at least start a discussion, a real discussion, about all of the things that ail us on a daily basis, the things that are never really discussed. Like you said, before this, you know, the biggest discussion in American politics was whether or not to raise the debt ceiling for the 103rd time. Now we don’t talk about things like that. Now we’re starting to talk about wealth inequality. We’re starting to talk about greed. You know, we’ve had fun looking at Google trends and seeing that words like that have gone up in usage a thousand times. So, there’s a real shift in terms of the mentality of people. There’s a psychic break that’s going on that we’re riding, because of—you know, because of what they did to us.

WILLIAM GREIDER: The American pulse for democracy, the thirst for equality, for freedom, is a little like an underground river that has run underneath the surfaces of American history from the beginning. And it rarely is visible, at least to the established powers. It gets misled, deflected, stymied in different ways. But it continues these ideals, the original promise of what this country could be. And I told myself, “OK, I don’t know if anything changes now. It doesn’t seem to be happening. But I’m going to—I’m going to be in that stream with the others, the historic stream, and do what I can and at least keep the candle lit and aloft.” And that’s a good thing to do with your life. Then, sometime, often unpredictably, this underground river gathers force, and it breaks through to the surface, and everything is changed. And you can read American history and find those moments, which changed everything and opened a vista of a different country. I think that’s what we’re experiencing right now. I literally mean that. And I think it’s—we know it’s a high-risk enterprise to try to build an authentic social movement. Many arise and fail, or get crushed. And the ideas are literally pushed back out of the public square. But they go back—they continue somehow and maybe come back a generation or two generations later. So we have to—I think we have to take that sort of long view of what we’re doing.

The paper I worked for many years ago has got a competitor now in Washington called The Occupied Washington Post, and it pleases me greatly to see that. But now—and they had a — The Occupied Washington Post has a poster-type headline: “We Stand with the Majority, For Human Needs, Not Corporate Greed.” That’s a pretty good start on a program, I think. And—but I think the—I think what we’re seeing now, in our construction, is beginning, believe it or not, to convince even the Washington Post.

In previous articles, I have already expressed the view that some kind of programme for economic and political reform is required so that the movement can progress, so I do not entirely share the panels’ enthusiasm for maintaining such wholly free-floating and organic structure, although this certainly has its advantages – one positive consequence being that the movement has so far avoided being co-opted – however, if no demands are agreed and no alternatives offered, then sooner or later there will undoubtedly be atrophy.

In addition to this, the Occupy movement would do well not to turn away potential support from unusual allies. Patrick Bruner, rightly in my view, nods acknowledgment to original The Tea Party (libertarian right) protestors, since there is much that is shared between these disaffected groups.

Both sides have finally recognised the same centralised corruption (Occupy shining their spotlight on Wall Street, whilst libertarians are more intent on exposing the Federal Reserve), and both wish for a restoration of the rule of law as underwritten by the unalienable rights of the Constitution. Unfortunately, however, there is also a major disagreement along economic lines, with The Tea Party having sold its soul to free market neo-liberalism; swallowing the lie that “austerity” measures will save the economy, when in reality, of course, it was the freeing of the markets, in the form of financial deregulation, that caused the underlying banking crisis, and so it is only through re-regulation that long-term economic stability can be ever be restored.

Increasing the debate between these two sides would help to clarify and hopefully resolve these issues. The Occupy movement reminding those of the disaffected right, how the IMF and World Bank have used “austerity measures” on many past occasions to asset-strip nations in the developing world, and that any slashing of government spending in a depression is tantamount to economic suicide. The libertarians in turn questioning some of the dafter and supposedly ‘green’ solutions proposed by the new movement. Here, for instance, is part of what Naomi Klein had to say to the audience:

Now—I just learned this today—the—originally, it was traditional generators that was powering Occupy Wall Street. And then, some people had the idea that they don’t actually want fossil fuels to power—to power the laptops and the other energy needs of Liberty Square, so there was a move to bring in bicycle generators. This was starting, and then it got kind of expedited, because the police came in and seized the generators. So when I arrived at the park just on Monday, I went over to the sustainability table and checked in, and they had one functioning bicycle generator. And I just left today. They have 14 functioning bicycle generators.

Now I am a very strong believer in developing new technologies in order to make our lives safer and easier, since this is really the only good reason for developing technologies at all, but bicycle generators are neither new nor alternative. They are in fact just the kind of a gimmick that is deeply unhelpful.

Firstly, a bicycle generator produces about 100 watts of power, and that’s assuming you’re fit and healthy. So fourteen bicycle generators will provide a maximum of about 1.4 kW, which happens to be almost precisely the power supplied by our sun over each square metre of the Earth’s atmosphere1. In other words all of the pedal-power from these machines supplies the equivalent produced by just a few solar panels. But it’s worse than that, as becomes abundantly clear once you think about where the energy going into the bicycles came from in the first place. Pedal-power isn’t free; it comes from food. Originally then, from plants, which had absorbed and stored the energy of the sun, which were almost certainly cultivated with the help of petrol-driven tractors and artificial fertilisers, and then shipped and processed using additional fossil fuels. So bicycle generators are actually just about the most inefficient method for deriving energy from sunlight that we could possibly devise.

Alternative methods of both generating and supplying energy are urgently required, but finding solutions to our energy needs means being realistic, and thus, thinking bigger and smarter. Covering our hillsides in windmills won’t save us either, and until we discover genuinely viable alternatives, we must necessarily accept the fact that a ‘modern’ world is reliant on oil and coal. That without access to these vital resources our own lives, and the lives of those in poorer regions, will become unbearable or (to use the term preferred by the left) ‘unsustainable’. For instance, the push for bio-fuel production is already stealing food from the mouths of the hungry. In short, if we are ever to wean ourselves off these essentially Victorian power sources (of burning stuff and turning water into steam), then we have to develop twenty-first century, and that means hi-tech, solutions (these may involve solar, geothermal, fusion, or methods as yet undiscovered). But I believe that if we are serious then something like a peacetime “Manhattan Project” should be funded to provide such real alternatives.

In the meantime, some of the loopier ideas of the ‘green movement’ are worse than unscientific, and only present us with a kind of new puritanism, which ironically looks a lot like the kind of “austerity” programme already being foisted from on-high. Perhaps some in the younger generation don’t remember Norman Tebbit’s notorious “get on your bike and look for work” speech, or if they did, they might not be so keen to promote such pointless and retrogressive ‘alternatives’ as pedal-power.

Unlike Klein, I also think that it would be a big mistake for the Occupy movement to nail its colours to the mast regarding ‘climate change’. And if the question of ‘climate change’ (which is a poor shorthand for ‘catastrophic anthropogenic global warming’) is regarded, as it should be, as a scientific issue, then there is absolutely no justification for using such inflammatory terms as ‘denier’, since there is nothing inherently unscientific about remaining skeptical of any theory that isn’t one hundred per cent certain. Science is founded on skepticism, which is the reason it’s so damned effective.

The problem is that the whole ‘climate change’ debate (on both sides) has become highly politicised, which means that using it to spearhead the movement will only further the schism between ‘left’ and ‘right’. In any case, and given the situation we increasingly find ourselves in, it is surely sensible to be distrustful of all prevailing government (or worse, global) intervention. So in this case, the left ought to be saying quite clearly that carbon trading is a scam. Whilst carbon taxing is another scam waiting to happen.

It will be much more effective, I believe, to leave the whole ‘global warming’ debate on hold, whilst we address the more immediately solvable problems that can be agreed upon. Let’s first win the battle to take back our nations, then sort out the problems of securing our energy future when the political climate is more amenable. And so the part of Naomi Klein’s contribution that most needs repeating is really this:

NAOMI KLEIN: Because I think that, you know, this has been one of the great failures of the left, is not understanding that state power can be just as alienating and just as corrupt as corporate power. And we have to have learned those lessons of the past.

The debate ended with Michael Moore rallying the troops. “Occupy used to be a dirty word”, he told the audience, but now that word has been reclaimed:

MICHAEL MOORE: Bill [William Greider] is so right. You know, Bill has been such a warrior for trying to keep the bare threads of our democracy that are still there intact, and there aren’t many left. We are really just hanging on by a few of these threads. And if—one of those threads is one person, one vote, and so they can’t really do anything about that. […]

So, if you’re at home and you’re watching this and you’re in some out-of-the-way place, you already own it. This is already your country. You—you have been occupied by Wall Street. Your homes have been occupied by Wall Street. Your government has been occupied by Wall Street. Your media has been occupied by Wall Street. And it’s OK for you to say, “Not anymore. Those days are over. End of story.”

Click here to read the full transcript.

1 The actual direct solar irradiance at the top of the atmosphere fluctuates by about 6.9% during a year (from 1.412 kW/m² in early January to 1.321 kW/m² in early July) due to the Earth’s varying distance from the Sun, and typically by much less than one part per thousand from day to day.

Taken from wikipedia.

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police raid on Occupy Wall Street is latest blow against freedom and democracy

In the middle of the night [Nov 15th], the Democracy Now! Team, which included Amy Goodman and Aaron Maté, rushed down to Zuccotti Park (formerly called Liberty Plaza) to report on the police eviction of the Occupy Wall Street protest. They were told about unprovoked police brutality, including the beating of protesters with sticks, and also witnessed multiple arrests in the streets of Lower Manhattan, as well as the deliberate trashing of the encampment itself; the protesters’ belongings being hauled into garbage trucks, presumably to be taken to the dump:

AMY GOODMAN: We’re walking along the encampment. There are hundreds of riot police inside. There was a report of pepper spray. People came out, said that some of the people were being beaten. And we’re standing in the midst of the encampment rubble.

AARON MATÉ: And we’re seeing no other journalists here. We’re right in front of where police have surrounded the remaining protesters. We’re told there’s about 200 to 300 inside. They’ve locked arms, refusing to leave. We can see them now.

At one point Amy Goodman accidentally stumbles upon a copy of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World Revisited. She later reflects:

The one thing I was able to pick up from the grounds of Zuccotti Park was a book that had not yet been thrown into the dump truck, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World Revisited. On the back, it says, “When the novel Brave New World” — now an established classic — “first appeared, in 1932, its shocking analysis of a scientific dictatorship seemed a projection into the remote future.” It goes on to say, “However, today the science of thought control has raced far beyond the totalitarian dreams of Hitler and Stalin. Numerous methods for curtailing individual freedoms have been developed, and the pressures to adopt them are increasingly powerful. Here, in one of the most important, fascinating and frightening books of his career, Aldous Huxley scrutinizes these and other threats to humanity and explains why we may find it virtually impossible to resist them. This book is a plea that humanity should educate itself for freedom before it is too late.”

Click here to read the full transcript.

Russia Today‘s correspondent Marina Portnaya also reported on the events in New York, as well as similar clampdowns in the cities of Oakland and Portland, saying that it seems to be part of “a nationwide sweep of the Occupy movement.” Although the raid in New York also came about, she says, in response to a vow made by the activists to step-up their action on Thursday — to mark two months since the protests began:

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