Popular Posts

Pageviews last month

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Tariq Ali: In Ankara,Turkey

A tear gas canister, made in Brazil, used in Turkey.

How it changes. When I was in Istanbul last April the mood was sombre. Even the most ebullient of friends were downcast. The latent hostility to the regime was always present, but the AKP’s hegemony, I was told many times, went deep. Erdoğan was a reptile, cynical but clever and not averse to quoting the odd verse from Nâzım Hikmet, the much-loved communist poet imprisoned by Atatürk. The poet had escaped in a boat and been rescued by a Soviet tanker. ‘Can you prove you’re Hikmet,’ the captain asked him. He laughed and pointed to a poster in the captain’s cabin which had his photograph on it.

He died in Moscow in 1963. His remains are still in exile. Talk now was of food (the exquisite wafer-thin pizzas from the Syrian border) or the delights of children produced in middle age. Complaints were varied. An old cinema on İstiklal was about to be dynamited. It would be replaced by yet more characterless shops that have already disfigured this historic street with its arcades and Belle Epoque apartments (where, once upon a time, many wealthy Armenian merchant families lived). There had been a few mild demonstrations against the execution of the movie house, but symbolic in character. The newspapers were talking of the regime’s latest PR triumph: sixty ‘wise men’ who would be consulted from time to time. There were photographs of their first assembly in the Dolmabahçe Palace, a suitably kitsch setting for a kitsch gathering. An old acquaintance, Murat Belge, was among their number. Encouraged by the indifference, Erdoğan proceeded with other plans: A shopping mall in Gezi Park, a new bridge over the Bosphorus and a new grand mosque to steal the landscape from Sinân’s delicate creations.

The citizens of Istanbul were never asked for their views. It was this lack of any consultation that angered the citizens and triggered the occupation of the tiny green space in the heart of the city. As we all now know, the spirit of conciliation is not the Turkish prime minister’s strong point. Nor is generosity of heart or mind. He loathes secular intellectuals, refers to the founders of the republic as drunkards or alcoholics (as if those were their defining characteristics rather than outwitting Lord Curzon and the British Empire to create a republic) and talks constantly of the danger from left-wing ‘terrorists’. When angry, which is often, Erdoğan takes on the character of a village bully, sometimes embarrassing his colleagues. Socially conservative, politically unscrupulous, economically beholden to the building industry and militarily/politically Nato’s favourite Islamists, the party in power ignored the voices on the street. They were meant to be the model for other Muslim countries.

Erdoğan’s arrogance in using violence – baton charges, water cannon and tear gas, against mainly young people – has wrecked the model. Hence the note of exasperation from the White House, and the familiar request that ‘both sides should show restraint.’The police assault on unarmed and peaceful occupiers backfired badly. Within 48 hours every city, bar four, had experienced solidarity demonstrations and occupations of public places. The tiny protest had grown into a national uprising against the sultan of the building trades, large and small.

When I arrived in Ankara on the evening of 15 June, the tell-tale signs were visible. Water-tanks and scorpions (police command cars) were stationed on the main streets, ready to go into action. It’s the first time I’ve experienced protests that begin at night. People come home from work, change, eat, discard their ties and get ready. Water bottles and handkerchief, soaked to protect against tear gas. At 10 or 11 p.m. they come out, usually in small groups, crossing streets like shadows till they reach Kuğulu Park and smile as thousands are already there, chanting slogans, singing songs, taunting Erdoğan. The police attack. Barricades hurriedly go up using advertising boards, the odd car and anything to hand. Water cannon try to disperse them. They fail. Then the tear gas (imported from Brazil). It keeps coming. The demonstrators disperse, assemble again and so it goes on till 3 a.m. or later. Action will be resumed the following night.

While this is happening on the streets, in apartment windows the mothers and grandmothers of the demonstrators bang pots and pans in solidarity – and as a warning to Erdoğan, for this is a very old Turkish protest pioneered by Janissary corps to warn the Ottoman sultan that enough was enough. In Istanbul, when Erdoğan asked parents to take their kids home, thousands of mothers joined the occupation, bringing pots, spoons and pans with them. Erdoğan denounced the protestors as çapulcu: ‘looters’. As in Paris in May 1968, the young Turks chanted: ‘We are all çapulcu.’ When I visited Kuğulu Park there was a slogan on the wall: ‘Welcome to the çapulcu fest.’ Passionate arguments were taking place, free libraries in every corner, free food brought by parents, and hope written on young faces. Steve Bell’s cartoon of Erdoğan as a water tank dousing the people is on all their phones.

I asked a young woman about the word. She laughed: ‘Yes. Our response was immediate. The semiotics of this uprising are certainly very interesting. But more importantly, what next? Our demobilisation would be a big tragedy.’ A young man interrupted: ‘We can’t hold on to the squares for ever. We need something more.’How the new opposition regroups is difficult to say, but if a new democratically structured political movement is formed (like, for instance, Syriza in Greece) it could give a permanent voice to the people from below. A monthly public assembly in Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, Bodrum, Antakya and other cities to discuss the situation at home and abroad and report on the building of a new movement would create something permanent and make the clearing and reclearing of the squares a bit meaningless. This is my hope. Some agreed, but a young student piped up: ‘I’m a neoliberal capitalist and I’m here.’ Others laughed. I asked him why he was there.‘Because of the police violence.’ ‘But the police violence is being used to defend neoliberal values.’ ‘No.

Neoliberalism promotes liberal values.’ ‘Where?’ ‘In the United States.’I said what had to be said. A woman doctor told me she had to leave for a doctor’s assembly. The government is demanding that doctors who have been treating thousands of wounded demonstrators must hand over their names. The assembly is unanimous. No. Turkey has suddenly changed. The new generation is on the parapets. To demonstrate that he still has mass support, Erdogan had to ship and bus his supporters from all over the country. Few were impressed. The battle lines for the next elections have been laid. The builder’s friend can’t be the prime minister again. He was hoping to amend the constitution and make it presidential or failing that, to become president à la Putin. It will be more difficult now. He should read Aziz Nesin’s popular short story, ‘The New Prime Minister’, in which the sultan, tiring of a politician who is getting all his ideas from a mule, appoints the animal in his stead. -

See more at: London Review of Books

Saturday, June 22, 2013

John Pilger: Understanding the latest leaks is understanding the rise of a new fascism

In his book, 'Propaganda', published in 1928, Edward Bernays wrote: "The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organised habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country."

The American nephew of Sigmund Freud, Bernays invented the term "public relations" as a euphemism for state propaganda. He warned that an enduring threat to the invisible government was the truth-teller and an enlightened public.

In 1971, whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg leaked US government files known as The Pentagon Papers, revealing that the invasion of Vietnam was based on systematic lying. Four years later, Frank Church conducted sensational hearings in the US Senate: one of the last flickers of American democracy. These laid bare the full extent of the invisible government: the domestic spying and subversion and warmongering by intelligence and "security" agencies and the backing they received from big business and the media, both conservative and liberal.

Speaking about the National Security Agency (NSA), Senator Church said: "I know that the capacity that there is to make tyranny in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law... so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return."

On 11 June 2013, following the revelations in the Guardian by NSA contractor Edward Snowden, Daniel Ellsberg wrote that the US had now fallen into "that abyss".

Snowden's revelation that Washington has used Google, Facebook, Apple and other giants of consumer technology to spy on almost everyone, is further evidence of modern form of fascism - that is the "abyss". Having nurtured old-fashioned fascists around the world - from Latin America to Africa and Indonesia - the genie has risen at home. Understanding this is as important as understanding the criminal abuse of technology.

Fred Branfman, who exposed the "secret" destruction of tiny Laos by the US Air Force in the 1960s and 70s, provides an answer to those who still wonder how a liberal African-American president, a professor of constitutional law, can command such lawlessness. "Under Mr. Obama," he wrote, "no president has done more to create the infrastructure for a possible future police state." Why? Because Obama, like George W Bush, understands that his role is not to indulge those who voted for him but to expand "the most powerful institution in the history of the world, one that has killed, wounded or made homeless well over 20 million human beings, mostly civilians, since 1962."

In the new American cyber-power, only the revolving doors have changed. The director of Google Ideas, Jared Cohen, was adviser to Condaleeza Rice, the former secretary of state in the Bush administration who lied that Saddam Hussein could attack the US with nuclear weapons. Cohen and Google's executive chairman, Eric Schmidt - they met in the ruins of Iraq - have co-authored a book, The New Digital Age, endorsed as visionary by the former CIA director Michael Hayden and the war criminals Henry Kissinger and Tony Blair. The authors make no mention of the Prism spying programme, revealed by Edward Snowden, that provides the NSA access to all of us who use Google.

Control and dominance are the two words that make sense of this. These are exercised by political, economic and military designs, of which mass surveillance is an essential part, but also by insinuating propaganda in the public consciousness. This was Edward Bernays's point. His two most successful PR campaigns were convincing Americans they should go to war in 1917 and persuading women to smoke in public; cigarettes were "torches of freedom" that would hasten women's liberation.

It is in popular culture that the fraudulent "ideal" of America as morally superior, a "leader of the free world", has been most effective. Yet, even during Hollywood's most jingoistic periods there were exceptional films, like those of the exile Stanley Kubrick, and adventurous European films would have US distributors. These days, there is no Kubrick, no Strangelove, and the US market is almost closed to foreign films.

When I showed my own film, 'The War on Democracy', to a major, liberally-minded US distributor, I was handed a laundry list of changes required, to "ensure the movie is acceptable". His memorable sop to me was: "OK, maybe we could drop in Sean Penn as narrator. Would that satisfy you?" Lately, Katherine Bigelow's torture-apologising 'Zero Dark Thirty' and Alex Gibney's 'We Steal Secrets', a cinematic hatchet job on Julian Assange, were made with generous backing by Universal Studios, whose parent company until recently was General Electric. GE manufactures weapons, components for fighter aircraft and advance surveillance technology. The company also has lucrative interests in "liberated" Iraq.

The power of truth-tellers like Bradley Manning, Julian Assange, and Edward Snowden is that they dispel a whole mythology carefully constructed by the corporate cinema, the corporate academy and the corporate media. WikiLeaks is especially dangerous because it provides truth-tellers with a means to get the truth out. This was achieved by 'Collatoral Murder', the cockpit video of an US Apache helicopter allegedly leaked by Bradley Manning. The impact of this one video marked Manning and Assange for state vengeance. Here were US airmen murdering journalists and maiming children in a Baghdad street, clearly enjoying it, and describing their atrocity as "nice". Yet, in one vital sense, they did not get away with it; we are witnesses now, and the rest is up to us.

20 June 2013

This article first appeared in the New Statesman

John Pilger Website   Follow John Pilger on Twitter

Saturday, June 15, 2013

John Pilger:There is a war on ordinary people and feminists are needed at the front

As editor of the Daily Mail in 1970s and 80s, David English invented a newspaper for those urgently seeking membership of the English middle classes. Whether his readers ever achieved their ambitions was beside the point; their prejudices and illusions were reflected, often brilliantly. Women were central to his project. The Mail became "their" paper, boasting a new "media feminism" that subtly divided men and women into opposing camps and added a dash of moral panic.

This is now standard media practice. "Most weeks some lovely, caring berks tell me I am a man-hating witch," wrote Suzanne Moore recently in the Guardian, "so let's get it out there. Sometimes I am. The acceptable kind of suck-it-up feminism (I love men really!) is hard to sustain after yet more abuse stories... Do I think all men are rapists? No. Do I think all women can be raped. Yes?"

How quickly the broad brush of blame is applied to a rash of dreadful murder and kidnap cases. Throw in an abduction in Cleveland, Ohio, and the arrest of "yet another TV personality"; and, according to Cynthia Cockburn and Ann Oakley, this represents "the profound, extensive and costly problem of male sexual violence."

Part of the problem, another commentator insinuates, is that men don't care as much as women because they don't use Twitter enough to express their abhorrence of rape and kidnap. This all adds up to a "crisis in masculinity" requiring men to join in a "conversation" about their social and moral deficiencies on terms already decided.

I am reminded of the elevation of Australian prime minister Julia Gillard to feminist hero following a speech she gave last October attacking Tony Abbott, the opposition leader, for his misogyny. Almost no one mentioned Gillard's hypocrisy - her stripping of benefit from the poorest single parents, mostly women, her inhuman treatment of refugees, including the detention of children, and her campaign against stricken indigenous Australians, forcing them off their land in defiance of international law. Under her watch, more Australian soldiers have died in colonial wars than under any recent prime minister.

That Gillard might be an old-fashioned class warrior and militarist was not news. The same could be said of many of the "progressive" female Labour MPs who entered Westminster with the first Blair administration in 1997 and supported their leader's almost immediate legislated attack on single mothers on benefit, and his numerous violent adventures abroad, notably the bloodbath in Iraq. Harriet Harman, a self-declared feminist and currently Labour's deputy leader, comes to mind.

The problem with media-run "conversations" on gender is not merely the almost total absence of male participants, but the suppression of class. It is tempting to say real politics are missing, too, but bourgeois boundaries and prescriptions are real enough. Thus, gender, like race, can be presented in isolation. Class is a forbidden word; and gender subordinate to class is heresy. The Daily Mail model is built on this.

There is indeed a crisis among men - actually ordinary men and women - and it is not their masculinity that is to blame, but the neutering of any credible resistance to a sociopathic system now given the Orwellian title of "austerity".

With honourable exceptions, the bourgeois media club relegates and distracts from the fact that a full-blooded class war is under way. Ask the women and men in Greece, Spain and Portugal who face Robocop police in defence of their right to basic decencies: jobs, education, medicine, even food. Ask the young people in state schools in Britain who have no hope of attending university; a recent survey found 11 to 16 year olds had "given up" because they knew their families could not afford higher education. Ask the family of Stephanie Bottrill, a disabled grandmother in the West Midlands, who took her own life in despair at the assault on housing benefit known as the "bedroom tax".

The killers and kidnappers whose trials apparently require wall-to-wall voyeuristic coverage are no less violent and no less abusive of children than a government that drives people to suicide, that sends young soldiers to kill or have their legs blown off in Afghanistan and that arms and supports fanatics in Syria and Saudi Arabia.

In incisive articles published mostly on opendemocracy.net, Heather McRobie describes how simultaneous war and "austerity" policies have exacerbated all kinds of abuse, including domestic violence. She lists "the most pitiless decimations of the country's social goods" - from cuts in public sector jobs to the closure of emergency hospital departments and domestic violence shelters and courts. "In media discussion of economic issues circa 2008," she wrote, "women were largely Sex and the City caricatures of white prosperity, frivolity, recession-triggering over-spenders." Behind these gender stereotypes lay the fake "empowering" of poor women in the United States. Persuaded to buy their own homes with rotten sub-prime mortgages, African-American women and their families fell into a chasm of debt. A report by United and Fair Economy, a non-profit group, estimates the total loss to Americans of colour who took out sub-prime loans as between $164bn and $213bn. Seven of Obama's top Wall Street campaign donors profiteered from these juicy deals, as did the major British banks - until the "bubble" burst and their "toxic" debts were picked up taxpayers, and the poor.

The imposition of this criminal debt on ordinary people is a breathtaking scandal. Why has it not been challenged with any seriousness? Where is the political opposition? Class is your answer. The style may be different from that of the Tory toffs in power, but most Labour MPs are from the new bourgeoisie. This unrepresentative managerial and professional class exercises also power right across the trade union bureaucracy; and it dominates the media. Once again, it's time to ask: whose side are you on?  

6 June 2013

This article first appeared in the New Statesman

Follow John Pilger on Twitter
 



Friday, June 14, 2013

Sydney Book Launch: Singing Johnny Cash In The Cardiac Ward: A personal story about heart disease and music by John Tognolini

 
“The trouble with heart disease is that the first symptom is often hard to deal with − sudden death.
”Dr Michael Phelps.
 
Launched By Veteran Socialist Writer and Quadruple Bypass Survivor Jim McIlroy.
 
Health advocate, heart disease survivor and high school teacher John/Togs Tognolini's book Singing Johnny Cash In The Cardiac Ward: A personal story about heart disease and music. Is not only an educational memoir on heart disease but it's also a reflective history on music tied in with his 25 year involvement in radio.

He also touches on some of the political struggles he's been involved such as the Outlawing of the Builders Labourers Federation in the 1980's. As well telling of events such as Kev Carmody singing the song he wrote with Paul Kelly From Little Things, Big Things Grow to a dying Fred Hollows in 1993.

This isn’t just a descriptive account of his experience with heart disease, it’s also a serious attempt to help reduce the large death toll caused by it.

The books also shows his appreaciation for the work nurses do, whose working conditions and wages are under attack from O'Farrell's government and the three and half billion dollar cutback to the NSW's overworked and under funded public health system.


"Check out this fine piece of autobiographical writing by John-Togs Tognolini. Hey, even the mighty Roaring Jack figure prominently in John's story. John, we're glad you made it through to the other side!"

Andy Carr, historian of the late 1980s-early 90's Sydney Left punk/folk band Roaring Jack.

About the front cover photo.

 
Russell Crowe, Amanda Dole and myself outside Radio Redfern on May Day 1989. Russell had just performed a few songs on my show, Radio Solidarity. In 1988, Radio Skid Row was evicted from our studios in the basement floor of Sydney University’s Wenthworth Building. We were taken in for eighteen months by the Aborigines/Kooris at Radio Redfern, who now broadcast across Sydney through Koori Radio, until we built and opened the Radio Skid Row studios in Marrickville in 1990. Photo by Frances Kelly.
 
I should be brown bread. Translating that good Cockney rhyming slang, which has become part of the Australian vernacular, I should be dead. I say this because of my jam tart, my heart. Thanks to modern medical science I’m still here, and it’s been proved beyond all reasonable doubt that I have one, a heart that is. To use the football term, I’m in extra time. But instead of a few minutes, I’m talking about maybe three decades. I’m 54 years old.

On October 28, 2011, I had a six-and-a-half hour heart operation. It was actually two operations, one to replace my aortic valve with a mechanical valve and one to graph my aortic artery (the main trunk from the heart that connects all the arteries). If I did not have these jobs done I would have been a dead man walking, the victim of a coronary aneurysm and certain heart failure ten months later.

In writing this account I want to encourage people, especially men, to get their hearts checked out. There are many men who are not aware that they have a heart condition, let alone one that can kill them. There is a general reluctance among men to take our health issues seriously, not only in relation to the heart, but also other health issues that have a high fatality count, such as prostate cancer. As prostate cancer survivor and Hawthorn football legend Don Scott pointed out, men don’t take the same serious attitude to our health problems that women generally do.

There’s an additional part of my story, explaining the fantastic healing power of music. This isn’t just a recounting of my journey of the heart, but also the story of my relationship with music. That relationship goes back more than twenty five years, alongside my involvement in radio. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet some great musicians over the years and a few have played a big role in my life.

 
No. of pages: 72
Size: 144x206mm
eBook: AUD$4.99
Paperback: AUD$9.95 plus delivery
 
 
 


 

 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Peter Boyle:Take back the wealth: Put the mines, banks and energy companies in the hands

Peter Boyle, Socialist Alliance candidate for the seat of Sydney looks at the greed of the big banks, mining industry and the energy sector and argues the case for the nationalisation of all these sectors under the public/community ownership and control so that they can be run in a way that respects Aboriginal rights, the environment and social justice rather than controlled by a small handful of private owners. Socialist Alliance Website

Saturday, June 01, 2013

John Pilger:From Iraq, a tragic reminder to prosecute the war criminals

The dust in Iraq rolls down the long roads that are the desert's fingers. It gets in your eyes and nose and throat; it swirls in markets and school playgrounds, consuming children kicking a ball; and it carries, according to Dr. Jawad Al-Ali, "the seeds of our death". An internationally respected cancer specialist at the Sadr Teaching Hospital in Basra, Dr. Ali told me that in 1999, and today his warning is irrefutable. "Before the Gulf war," he said, "we had two or three cancer patients a month. Now we have 30 to 35 dying every month. Our studies indicate that 40 to 48 per cent of the population in this area will get cancer: in five years' time to begin with, then long after. That's almost half the population. Most of my own family have it, and we have no history of the disease. It is like Chernobyl here; the genetic effects are new to us; the mushrooms grow huge; even the grapes in my garden have mutated and can't be eaten."


Along the corridor, Dr. Ginan Ghalib Hassen, a paediatrician, kept a photo album of the children she was trying to save. Many had neuroplastoma. "Before the war, we saw only one case of this unusual tumour in two years," she said. "Now we have many cases, mostly with no family history. I have studied what happened in Hiroshima. The sudden increase of such congenital malformations is the same."


Among the doctors I interviewed, there was little doubt that depleted uranium shells used by the Americans and British in the Gulf War were the cause. A US military physicist assigned to clean up the Gulf War battlefield across the border in Kuwait said, "Each round fired by an A-10 Warhog attack aircraft carried over 4,500 grams of solid uranium. Well over 300 tons of DU was used. It was a form of nuclear warfare."


Although the link with cancer is always difficult to prove absolutely, the Iraqi doctors argue that "the epidemic speaks for itself". The British oncologist Karol Sikora, chief of the cancer programme of the World Health organisation (WHO) in the 1990s, wrote in the British Medical Journal: "Requested radiotherapy equipment, chemotherapy drugs and analgesics are consistently blocked by United States and British advisers [to the Iraq Sanctions Committee]." He told me, "We were specifically told [by the WHO] not to talk about the whole Iraq business. The WHO is not an organisation that likes to get involved in politics."


Recently, Hans von Sponeck, the former assistant secretary general of the United Nations and senior UN humanitarian official in Iraq, wrote to me: "The US government sought to prevent WHO from surveying areas in southern Iraq where depleted uranium had been used and caused serious health and environmental dangers."


Today, a WHO report, the result on a landmark study conducted jointly with the Iraqi Ministry of Health has been "delayed". Covering 10,800 households, it contains "damning evidence", says a ministry official and, according to one of its researchers, remains "top secret". The report says that birth defects have risen to a "crisis" right across Iraqi society where DU and other toxic heavy metals were by the US and Britain. Fourteen years after he sounded the alarm, Dr. Jawad Al-Ali reports "phenomenal" multiple cancers in entire families.


Iraq is no longer news. Last week, the killing of 57 Iraqis in one day was a non-event compared with the murder of a British soldier in London. Yet the two atrocities are connected. Their emblem might be a lavish new movie of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. Two of the main characters, as Fitzgerald wrote, "smashed up things and creatures and retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness... and let other people clean up the mess".


The "mess" left by George Bush and Tony Blair in Iraq is a sectarian war, the bombs of 7/7 and now a man waving a bloody meat cleaver in Woolwich. Bush has retreated back into his Mickey Mouse "presidential library and museum" and Tony Blair into his jackdaw travels and his money.


Their "mess" is a crime of epic proportions, wrote Von Sponeck, referring to the Iraqi Ministry of Social Affairs' estimate of 4.5 million children who have lost both parents. "This means a horrific 14 per cent of Iraq's population are orphans," he wrote. "An estimated one million families are headed by women, most of them widows". Domestic violence and child abuse are rightly urgent issues in Britain; in Iraq the catastrophe ignited by Britain has brought violence and abuse into millions of homes.


In her book 'Dispatches from the Dark Side', Gareth Peirce, Britain's greatest human rights lawyer, applies the rule of law to Blair, his propagandist Alastair Campbell and his colluding cabinet. For Blair, she wrote, "human beings presumed to hold [Islamist] views, were to be disabled by any means possible, and permanently... in Blair's language a 'virus' to be 'eliminated' and requiring 'a myriad of interventions [sic] deep into the affairs of other nations.'" The very concept of war was mutated to "our values versus theirs". And yet, says Peirce, "the threads of emails, internal government communiques reveal no dissent".


For Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, sending innocent British citizens to Guantanamo was "the best way to meet our counter terrorism objective". These crimes, their iniquity on a par with Woolwich, await prosecution. But who will demand it? In the kabuki theatre of Westminster politics, the faraway violence of "our values" is of no interest. Do the rest of us also turn our backs?

27 May 2013

 Follow John Pilger @pilgerwebsite