Thursday, October 05, 2017

Abandoning Sunny Liberalism: Knowing the Beauty that Hurts

Art in Cuba, and a Call to Debunk Liberalism

by Susan Babbitt - CounterPunch

October 3, 2017
The relationship between culture and politics is one of Cuba’s “grandes riquezas ideológicas”.[i] Victor Hugo agreed with Cuban independence leader, José Martí, about the radical significance of art. Hugo’s agreement conflicts with liberalism: It contradicts its idea of freedom. Liberalism threatens truth. It should be opposed by anyone who cares about global justice in the 21st century.

Liberalism is supposedly about freedom but it is a certain sort of freedom: from the “inside”.

I am free, roughly, if I follow my “inner voice”, which is the voice of my self (sometimes called “practical identity”). I act reasonably when I choose the option most likely to realize that self.

Liberalism holds (1) that I live best when I live “from the inside” and (2) that I act rationally, in an individual (non-moral) sense, when I advance my own ends (within specified limits, of course).

Both Martí and Hugo said art is essential to politics.

They didn’t look to art for entertainment, tranquility or escape. They looked to art for realism. Realism is the view that beliefs are true or false, and we can discover truth to some extent: How the world seems is not necessarily how it is, including how people seem, and what it means to be human. Realism about human and moral truths is not popular in the rich North, culturally or academically.

The value of art is intrinsic, not instrumental.

Art is hard to define but one point is accepted. The value of art is independent of use. Art may have a use but its value as art is usually independent of use. This means it should be experienced without expectations.

Martí and Hugo both included people in art.

In his poem “Thirst for beauty”, Martí mentions “humanidad sangrienta” (bleeding humanity) as a candidate for beauty. Hugo refers to human behaviour as “social beauty”. [ii]

If human beings and human action are experienced as art, that is, without expectations, it can disrupt expectations which, in unjust societies, are often false.

Consider Les Misérables: Inspector Javert relentlessly pursues ex-convict Jean Valjean. Eventually, Valjean has a chance for revenge but, rather than kill Javert, Valjean frees him. Javert wants Valjean to kill him. Why? Hugo writes that Javert “felt emptied, useless, cut off from his past life, demoted, dissolved…” Javert wants Valjean to kill him because that is what every part of his being tells him to expect. And when that doesn’t happen he feels “cut off from his past life”. Javert’s expectations are broken. Hugo writes, Javert saw what was “terrible… He was moved”: by social beauty.

This sort of pain moves us toward truth about human beings and human capacities, and it may be the only way to get such truth in dehumanizing societies.

Martí compares beauty to a sword (370 times) [iii] and Hugo sees happiness and truth as opposed. Martí uses stormy, crushing images of nature as similes for what happens inside when we know beauty: brokenness, not fullness. Beauty is a sword because it breaks us. Hugo agrees: Happiness deflects the sword of beauty:

“There are those who ask for nothing more, living beings who, having bright blue skies above, say: This is enough … people who … are determined to be happy until the stars stop shining and the birds stop singling. These are the darkly radiant. They have no idea they are to be pitied. … Whoever does not weep does not see”.

For Hugo, like Martí, individual freedom is not defined “from the inside”.

Hugo sees those pursuing their own happiness as “darkly radiant”. He agrees with Martí that human freedom is a “Herculean struggle against our own nature”: the self. “Happiness” is incompatible with (moral or human) truth for a simple reason: We are happy when expectations are realized, when we get what we want. But expectations are socially derived. Truth – e.g. about dehumanization – shows desires and dreams as we might not want to know them. [iv] Truth is an “implacable foe” of the sort of happiness expected in liberal societies: fulfillment of dreams. Living “from the inside”, we are the darkly radiant.

Conclusion: Liberalism undermines truths about human capacities because in dehumanizing societies, knowing such capacities as they are breaks the self that, for liberalism, defines freedom.

Martí saw it that way. He was the hemisphere’s first anti-imperialist (before Lenin). And Hugo apparently agreed. Javert is an example. He is not a bad person. But for him, as for his society, Valjean is not human. Javert experiences Valjean’s humanity when Valjean frees Javert rather than killing him. Javert is broken by Valjean’s action, and because Javert saw it for what it was: art.

Liberalism understands freedom as following the “inner voice”, your self, but truth in systemically unjust societies breaks that self, and must.

Why it matters

It is true that 20% of the world’s population uses most of the resources. It is also true that the 20% “lives well” because the 80% doesn’t. We kill and rob them (for their oil, for example) because they don’t count as people like us. Moreover, we think we live well because we don’t think about these truths. Finally, the darkly radiant don’t actually live well. We are mostly depressed and anxious, and increasingly unable to respond to human beings as human beings.

In short, we should abandon sunny liberalism and know beauty that hurts.

Ana Belén Montes is not among the darkly radiant. [v] Please sign petition here.


[i] “greatest ideological riches”: Armando Hart Dávalos

[ii] I am grateful to Dr. Robert Rennebohm for this point.

[iii] Berta Elena Romero Molina “Sobre la sed de belleza martiana” ACEM 36 (2013) 236-250

[iv] This was recognized by student activists in the 70s in the US. They proclaimed “there are no innocents” meaning that a comfortable white life is collusion in the slaughter in Viet Nam.

[v] For more information, write to the or

Susan Babbitt is author of Humanism and Embodiment (Bloomsbury 2014).
More articles by: Susan Babbitt

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Catalan: Independence of Another Colour

Catalan 'Independence' - A Tool of Capital Against Labour

by Gearóid Ó Colmáin - 21 Century Wire

October 4, 2017

Spain’s rich Catalan region has erupted in violence. After a much-disputed referendum on independence where less than 40 percent of the Spanish region’s inhabitants voted, Catalan’s local government has said it will declare independence this week. Many on the left support Catalan independence. In fact, they claim that those who oppose it are Francoists and fascists.

Communists understand fascism to be rule by the dictatorship of financial oligarchy and it is in such a context that one must view events in Spain in terms of the class alliances behind the independence movement. In order to see whether the Catalan independence movement represents the interests of labour or capital, we need to place Catalan nationalism in the context of capitalism’s global power configuration.


In 1992 billionaire and EU activist Freddy Heineken designed a map of a federal Europe. The new map proposed dividing European states up into 75 regions or state-lets under the central control of a European federal government.

The idea came from economist and philosopher Leopold Kohr who taught at the London School of Economics. Kohr advocated a form of anarcho-capitalism. He believed that the smaller the polity, the more democratic its institutions. Kohr proposed a return to Europe’s medieval micro-states as the best way of creating a supranational European federation.

Kohr’s ideas have become extremely influential in European Union policy circles. Trans-national financial elites want to make the European Union into the political representation of their power. A federal Europe of micro-states whose policies are determined by global elites would make it impossible for Europe’s citizens to unite against the trans-national financial ruling class; it is the reason why Heineken’s map is now becoming a grim reality – all over Europe.

Anarcho-capitalism is precisely what global financiers such as George Soros are promoting. It is hardly surprising, therefore, to find Soros funding behind Catalonia’s independence movement.

According to La Vanguardia, Soros has also been financing anti-Euroscepticism and anti-xenophobia marches in Barcelona since 2014. It is ironic to hear Catalan anti-racist ‘independistas’ justifying their separation from Spain with the argument that they constitute a separate ‘ethnicity’ given their paymaster’s support for mass immigration and multiculturalism.

Leopold’s vision of a ‘small-is-beautiful’ form of local democracy is attractive on the surface; but not when one considers that the break-up of the nation-state is part of the European Union’s long term policy of regionalisation: dividing European nations into regions of a highly centralised, technocratic, European super-state under the control of oligarchs like George Soros.

The state and the people

Like all nation-states, Spain is a political and historical construction. During the Franco dictatorship, Spanish regional autonomy movements were repressed. While Franco’s rebellion was supported by British and American imperialism during the Spanish Civil War, the dictator’s corporatist, traditionalist, Catholic authoritarianism soon became an obstacle to the libertarian, petty bourgeois leftist values required to make neoliberal capitalism under EU dictatorship appear attractive to the masses.

By the late 60s the United States was backing petty bourgeois leftist movements all over the world from the 1968 ‘revolution’ in Paris to the Carnation Revolution in Portugal- the world’s first colour revolution. Protesters in Lisbonne used carnation flowers to woo soldiers to their side. The technique would become a text book methodology for agencies of US imperialism seeking to overthrow governments hostile to their geostrategic or economic interests.

Globalist elites understood that capitalism in crisis could only survive the threat of scientific socialism though permanent revolution and the new catechism of human rights and democracy- categories of bourgeois liberal thought. Thus, the world’s first colour revolution was seen in 1975 in Portugal.

Marxist theorist Nicolas Poulantzas correctly pointed out that the conflict in Portugal was between the old comprador, colonialist bourgeoisie and an emerging domestic bourgeoisie who allied with the working class to bring down the Salazar regime. But it was a configuration of class forces which collapsed the Portuguese Empire in favour of US imperialism. Workers in the Portuguese Empire had become mere tools of inter-imperialist rivalry.

By breaking up the protectionist, corporatist Portuguese Empire, US capitalism had access to new markets. Shortly after the Carnation Revolution, the US was funding a full scale civil war in Portugal’s former colony Angola. It took the intervention of 20,000 Cuban troops in 1975 to save Angola from US neo-colonialism.

To come back to Spain, the US was therefore not too concerned about the dangers of the ‘democratic transition’ in post-Franco Spain. Francoist and Salazarist fascism had been useful to US imperialism in the 1930s when the astounding success of the USSR’s proletarian democracy and scientifically-planned economy threatened to end class domination in the world. But the ‘Soviet threat’ was neutralized by the Khrushchevite revisionists of the late 1950s and the process of anti-stalinisation. Irish communist Neil Gould correctly described the Khrushchevite era as a full-scale counter-revolution.

The 1978 Spanish constitution gave many of Spain’s regions the status of nationality. Over the years, regional nationalist movements have grown in Spain – in Catalonia in particular.

With unemployment levels reaching 50 percent among Spain’s youth and the national debt now exceeding 100 percent of GDP, Spain is a nation-state on the brink of collapse. Catalonia accounts for 20 percent of Spain’s economy, and 25 percent of Spanish exports. The Spanish nation-state cannot continue at its current levels of debt and unemployment. If financial oligarchs don’t divide the country, there is still a serious danger of social revolt.

Until now, public anger has been contained by fake social movements such as the Soros-financed Podemos. The function of ‘podemos’ is to harness public anger over the effects of capitalism while diverting attention from their causes, thus ensuring the perpetuation of the bourgeois class rule. Instead of calling for the dictatorship of the proletariat, Podemos hold up vacuous placards that say ‘cambiar las cosas- change things’.

So there you have it, the radical revolutionary programme for socialist political economy in the 21st century is ‘change things!’

There are thousands of people demonstrating on the streets of Barcelona. Trotskyists are in revolutionary paroxysms as workers strike and threaten to bring down the ‘Spanish regime’. The ‘revolution’ is, they enthuse, acquiring more and more of a ‘working-class character’.

During the Spanish Civil War the Soviet Union supported the legitimate Republican government of Spain against Franco’s fascist rebels. The USSR took thousands of Spanish children into its care and supplied the Spanish republicans with weapons and heavy armor. A fascist victory was eventually secured through the ultra-leftist actions of the Trotskyists and anarchists who refused to join the popular front in support of the Republic against fascist reaction.

Instead, the Trotskyists sabotaged and attacked the popular movement, masking their reaction in revolutionary slogans about the ‘rising up of the workers’. George Orwell was among the Trotskyist spies sent to Catalonia by British intelligence to inform on the communists. He would subsequently make a career out of spreading lies and disinformation about Stalin and the USSR, writing for publications financed by the CIA.

The ‘left’ are playing the same role today by supporting imperialism’s Catalan independence agenda. Venezuela’s president Nicolas Maduro has shown once again that he has a poor understanding of class struggle and globalisation by joining the chorus of condemnation for the Spanish state’s legitimate repression of the illegal separatist movement.

We are not, for a moment, suggesting that the Spanish government is anti-imperialist. If fact, they may even be collaborating with the separatists. After all, both sides represent the same class interests, nor do we condone police brutality. But no genuine communist could support a movement piloted by reaction, designed to divide the working class and serve the interests of imperialism. There is a strong possibility that US agencies of regime change such as the Centre for Applied Non-Violent Actions and Strategies (CANVAS) may be on the ground in Catalonia training activists for globalisation’s next ‘revolution’.

Supporters of the separatists say rich Catalonia is being oppressed by Spain. Since when are the rich oppressed by the poor?

Now, Soros and co want to ‘change things’ a little more. It is time to divide the Spanish proletariat by turning Spain’s nationalities into fake ‘nations’ fully under the control of a corporate European super-state. After Catalonia, more will follow. The European Union is quietly watching as Spain is torn apart.Europe will go through a period of crisis and chaos. It is a necessary step towards the messianicordo ab chao to come.

DISCLAIMER: The author writes for this publication in a private capacity which is unrepresentative of anyone or any organization except for his own personal views. Nothing written by the author should ever be conflated with the editorial views or official positions of any other media outlet or institution.


Gorilla Radio with Chris Cook, Pablo Ouziel, Dimitri Lascaris, Janine Bandcroft October 5, 2017

This Week on GR

by C. L. Cook -

October 5, 2017

The NDP elected a leader last week. More than two years in the making, Ontario MPP, Jagmeet Singh is the new number one for the perennially opposition's opposition in Ottawa.

While much is being made in the press of Singh's ethnicity and how that differentiates the New Democrats from the rest of the Parliamentary pack, how does the number three party really differ from the rest when it comes to policy, and more specifically foreign policy?

Yves Engler is a Montréal-based activist, lecturer, and author whose book titles include: ‘The Ugly Canadian — Stephen Harper’s Foreign Policy,’ ‘Lester Pearson’s Peacekeeping — The Truth May Hurt,’ ‘The Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy,’ ‘Canada in Africa — 300 Years of Aid and Exploitation,’ and his latest, ‘A Propaganda System: How Canada’s Government, Corporations, Media and Academia Sell War and Exploitation.’

Listen. Hear.

His recent article, 'NDP Leadership Candidate Jagmeet Singh embraces Imperialist Policies of Helene Laverdiere' begs policy answers of the party that would be seen to differ.

Yves Engler in the first segment.

And; Spain is undergoing a crisis of democracy not seen since the rise of Generalissimo Francisco Franco's fascist regime in the 1930's. Over the weekend a Catalan referendum on separation was conducted, despite being declared illegal by the federal government. Police violence and other attempts to shut down the vote have played very badly abroad, and played right into the hands of regional president, Carles Puigdemont who, rumour has it, will unilaterally declare independence next week.

Dr. Pablo Ouziel is a Post-Doctoral fellow here at UVic,whose project in progress is, 'Towards Democratic Responses to the Crisis of Democracy in Spain: Forms of Participatory and Representative Civic Engagement.' He's a Spanish national, and more poignantly, Catalan.

Dr. Pablo Ouziel in the second segment.

And; if any single thing emblemizes our times it is the dizzying pace of change. Just ten days ago the World trembled at the thought of a nuclear conflagration, triggered through the volatile confluence of overblown egomania one the one hand and extreme narcissism on the other. Which of these elementary character flaws describes the leader of America and which North Korea's is both debatable, (one certainly not precluding the other) and a question wiser minds defer pondering. What's certain though is: we're living in mad days indeed.

Dimitri Lascaris is a lawyer, journalist and activist, reporting for The Real News Network. In his recently filed TRNN report, 'Mad Man vs. Rocket Man: North Korea Crisis Hits Fever Pitch' he asks "Can the generals hold the impulsive American president in check?"

Dimitri Lascaris exploring perhaps the planet's most dangerous territory, that space between the ears of Donald Trump, in the final segment.

And; Victoria-based activist and CFUV Radio broadcaster at-large, Janine Bandcroft will be here at the bottomish of the hour with the Left Coast Events Bulletin update. But first, Yves Engler and Jagmeet Singh; new bottle for old wine, or fresh start for a stale third party?

Chris Cook hosts Gorilla Radio, airing live every Wednesday, 1-2pm Pacific Time. In Victoria at 101.9FM, and on the internet at:  He also serves as a contributing editor to the web news site, Check out the GR blog at:

G-Radio is dedicated to social justice, the environment, community, and providing a forum for people and issues not covered in the corporate media.

Gun Lust Gets Real: Military-Entertainment Complex’s Culture of Violence Turns Deadly

Mass Shootings: The Military-Entertainment Complex’s Culture of Violence Turns Deadly

by John W. Whitehead - Dissident Voice

October 4th, 2017

Mass shootings have become routine in the United States and speak to a society that relies on violence to feed the coffers of the merchants of death. Given profits made by arms manufacturers, the defense industry, gun dealers and the lobbyists who represent them in Congress, it comes as no surprise that the culture of violence cannot be abstracted from either the culture of business or the corruption of politics. Violence runs through US society like an electric current offering instant pleasure from all cultural sources, whether it be the nightly news or a television series that glorifies serial killers.
— Professor Henry A. Giroux

This latest mass shooting in Las Vegas that left more than 50 people dead and more than 500 injured is as obscure as they come: a 64-year-old retiree with no apparent criminal history, no military training, and no obvious axe to grind opens fire on a country music concert crowd from a hotel room 32 floors up using a semi-automatic gun that may have been rigged to fire up to 700 rounds a minute, then kills himself.

We’re left with more questions than answers, none of them a flattering reflection of the nation’s values, political priorities, or the manner in which the military-industrial complex continues to dominate, dictate and shape almost every aspect of our lives.

For starters, why do these mass shootings keep happening? Mass shootings have taken place at churches, in nightclubs, on college campuses, on military bases, in elementary schools, in government offices, and at concerts. This shooting is the deadliest to date.

What is it about America that makes violence our nation’s calling card?

Is it because America is a gun culture (what professor Henry Giroux describes as “a culture soaked in blood – a culture that threatens everyone and extends from accidental deaths, suicides and domestic violence to mass shootings“)?

Is it because guns are so readily available? After all, the U.S. is home to more firearms than adults. As The Atlantic reports, gun fetishism has become mainstream in recent decades due in large part to “gun porn in music, movies, and TV, [and] the combination of weapons marketing and violent videogames.” (Curiously enough, the majority of gun-related deaths in the U.S. are suicides, not homicides.)

Is it because entertainment violence is the hottest selling ticket at the box office? As Giroux points out,

“Popular culture not only trades in violence as entertainment, but also it delivers violence to a society addicted to a pleasure principle steeped in graphic and extreme images of human suffering, mayhem and torture.”

Is it because the government continues to whet the nation’s appetite for violence and war through paid propaganda programs (seeded throughout sports entertainment, Hollywood blockbusters and video games)—what professor Roger Stahl refers to as “militainment“—that glorify the military and serve as recruiting tools for America’s expanding military empire?

Is it because Americans from a very young age are being groomed to enlist as foot soldiers—even virtual ones—in America’s Army (coincidentally, that’s also the name of a first person shooter video game produced by the military)? Explorer scouts are one of the most popular recruiting tools for the military and its civilian counterparts (law enforcement, Border Patrol, and the FBI).

Writing for The Atlantic, a former Explorer scout described the highlight of the program: monthly weekend maneuvers with the National Guard where scouts “got to fire live rounds from M16s, M60 machine guns, and M203 grenade launchers… we would have urban firefights (shooting blanks, of course) in Combat Town, a warren of concrete buildings designed for just that purpose. The exercise always devolved into a free-for-all, with all of us weekend warriors emptying clip after clip of blanks until we couldn’t see past the end of our rifles for all the smoke in the air.”

Is it because the United States is the number one consumer, exporter and perpetrator of violence and violent weapons in the world? Seriously, America spends more money on war than the combined military budgets of China, Russia, the United Kingdom, Japan, France, Saudi Arabia, India, Germany, Italy and Brazil. America polices the globe, with 800 military bases and troops stationed in 160 countries. Moreover, the war hawks have turned the American homeland into a quasi-battlefield with military gear, weapons and tactics. In turn, domestic police forces have become roving extensions of the military—a standing army.

Or is the Second Amendment to blame, as many continue to suggest? Would there be fewer mass shootings if tighter gun control laws were enacted? Or would the violence simply take a different form: homemade bombs, cars driven into crowds, and knives (remember the knife assailant in Japan who stabbed 19 people to death at a care home for the disabled)?

Then again, could it be, as some have speculated, that these shootings are all part of an elaborate plan to incite fear and chaos, heighten national tensions and shift us that much closer to a complete lockdown? After all, the military and our militarized police forces have been predicting and preparing for exactly this kind of scenario for years now.

So who’s to blame for the violence?

This time, in Las Vegas, it was a seemingly nondescript American citizen pulling the trigger.

At other times, it’s organized crime syndicates or petty criminals or so-called terrorists/extremists.

Still other times, it’s the police with their shoot first, ask questions later mindset (more than 900,000 law enforcement officers are armed).

In certain parts of the Middle East, it’s the U.S. government and the military carrying out drone strikes and bombing campaigns that leave innocent civilians dead and their communities torn apart.

Are you starting to get the picture yet?

We’re caught in a vicious cycle with no end in sight.

Perhaps there’s no single one factor to blame for this gun violence. However, there is a common denominator, and that is a war-drenched, violence-imbued, profit-driven military industrial complex that has invaded almost every aspect of our lives.

Ask yourself: Who are these shooters modelling themselves after? Where are they finding the inspiration for their weaponry and tactics? Whose stance and techniques are they mirroring?

In almost every instance, you can connect the dots back to the military.

We are a military culture.

We have been a nation at war for most of our existence.

We are a nation that makes a living from killing through defense contracts, weapons manufacturing and endless wars.

In order to sustain the nation’s appetite for war over the long haul in spite of the costs of war in lives lost and dollars spent—and little else to show for it—the military has had to work overtime to churn out pro-war, pro-military propaganda.

It’s exactly what President Eisenhower warned against (“the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex”) in his 1961 farewell address.

We didn’t listen then and we’re still not listening now.

All the while, the government’s war propaganda machine has grown more sophisticated and entrenched in American culture.

Back when I was a boy growing up in the 1950s, almost every classic sci-fi movie ended with the heroic American military saving the day, whether it was battle tanks in Invaders from Mars (1953) or military roadblocks in Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956).

What I didn’t know then as a schoolboy was the extent to which the Pentagon was paying to be cast as America’s savior.

By the time my own kids were growing up, it was Jerry Bruckheimer’s blockbuster film Top Gun—created with Pentagon assistance and equipment—that boosted civic pride in the military.

Now it’s my grandkids’ turn to be awed and overwhelmed by child-focused military propaganda in the X-Men movies. Same goes for The Avengers and Superman and the Transformers. (Don’t even get me started on the war propaganda churned out by the toymakers.)

All of the military equipment featured in blockbuster movies is provided—at taxpayer expense—in exchange for carefully placed promotional spots aimed at indoctrinating the American populace into believing that patriotism means throwing their support behind the military wholeheartedly and unquestioningly.

Even reality TV shows have gotten in on the gig, with the Pentagon’s entertainment office influencing “American Idol,” “The X-Factor,” “Masterchef,” “Cupcake Wars,” numerous Oprah Winfrey shows, “Ice Road Truckers,” “Battlefield Priests,” “America’s Got Talent,” “Hawaii Five-O,” lots of BBC, History Channel and National Geographic documentaries, “War Dogs,” and “Big Kitchens.” And that’s just a sampling.

It’s estimated that U.S. military intelligence agencies (including the NSA) have influenced over 1,800 movies and TV shows.

And then there are the growing number of video games, a number of which are engineered by or created for the military, which have accustomed players to interactive war play through military simulations and first-person shooter scenarios.

This is how you acclimate a population to war.

This is how you cultivate loyalty to a war machine.

This is how, to borrow from the subtitle to the 1964 film Dr. Strangelove, you teach a nation to “stop worrying and love the bomb.”

As journalist David Sirota writes for Salon,

“[C]ollusion between the military and Hollywood – including allowing Pentagon officials to line edit scripts – is once again on the rise, with new television programs and movies slated to celebrate the Navy SEALs….major Hollywood directors remain more than happy to ideologically slant their films in precisely the pro-war, pro-militarist direction that the Pentagon demands in exchange for taxpayer-subsidized access to military hardware.”

Why is the Pentagon (and the CIA and the government at large) so focused on using Hollywood as a propaganda machine?

To those who profit from war, it is—as Sirota recognizes—”a ‘product’ to be sold via pop culture products that sanitize war and, in the process, boost recruitment numbers….At a time when more and more Americans are questioning the fundamental tenets of militarism (i.e., budget-busting defense expenditures, never-ending wars/occupations, etc.), military officials are desperate to turn the public opinion tide back in a pro-militarist direction — and they know pop culture is the most effective tool to achieve that goal.”

The media, eager to score higher ratings, has been equally complicit in making (real) war more palatable to the public by packaging it as TV friendly.

This is what Dr. Stahl refers to as the representation of a “clean war“: a war “without victims, without bodies, and without suffering”:

Dehumanize destruction’ by extracting all human imagery from target areas … The language used to describe the clean war is as antiseptic as the pictures. Bombings are ‘air strikes.’ A future bombsite is a ‘target of opportunity.’ Unarmed areas are ‘soft targets.’ Civilians are ‘collateral damage.’ Destruction is always ‘surgical.’ By and large, the clean war wiped the humanity of civilians from the screen … Create conditions by which war appears short, abstract, sanitized and even aesthetically beautiful. Minimize any sense of death: of soldiers or civilians.

This is how you sell war to a populace that may have grown weary of endless wars: sanitize the war coverage of anything graphic or discomfiting (present a clean war), gloss over the actual numbers of soldiers and civilians killed (human cost), cast the business of killing humans in a more abstract, palatable fashion (such as a hunt), demonize one’s opponents, and make the weapons of war a source of wonder and delight.

“This obsession with weapons of war has a name: technofetishism,” explains Stahl.

“Weapons appear to take on a magical aura. They become centerpieces in a cult of worship.”
“Apart from gazing at the majesty of these bombs, we were also invited to step inside these high-tech machines and take them for a spin,” said Stahl. “Or if we have the means, we can purchase one of the military vehicles on the consumer market. Not only are we invited to fantasize about being in the driver’s seat, we are routinely invited to peer through the crosshairs too. These repeated modes of imaging war cultivate new modes of perception, new relationships to the tools of state violence. In other words, we become accustomed to ‘seeing’ through the machines of war.”

In order to sell war, you have to feed the public’s appetite for entertainment.

Not satisfied with peddling its war propaganda through Hollywood, reality TV shows and embedded journalists whose reports came across as glorified promotional ads for the military, the Pentagon turned to sports to further advance its agenda, “tying the symbols of sports with the symbols of war.”

The military has been firmly entrenched in the nation’s sports spectacles ever since, having co-opted football, basketball, even NASCAR.

Remember, just before this Vegas shooting gave the media, the politicians and the easily distracted public something new to obsess over, the headlines were dominated by President Trump’s feud with the NFL over players kneeling during the national anthem.

That, too, was yet another example of how much the military entertainment complex—which paid $53 million of taxpayer money between 2012 and 2015 to pro sports teams for military tributes (on-field events recognizing military service members, including ceremonial first pitches, honor guards and Jumbotron tributes)—has infiltrated American culture.

This Trump-NFL feud is also a classic example of how to squash dissent—whether it’s dissent over police brutality or America’s killing fields abroad. As Stahl explains,

“Supporting the troops is made synonymous with supporting the war. Those who disagree with the decision to send soldiers to war are thus identified with the enemy. This is done through a variety of associations… Dissent becomes synonymous with criminal activity.”

When you talk about the Las Vegas mass shooting, you’re not dealing with a single shooter scenario. Rather, you’re dealing with a sophisticated, far-reaching war machine that has woven itself into the very fabric of this nation.

As Stahl concludes,

War has come to look very much like a video game. As viewers of the TV war, we are treated to endless flyovers. We are immersed in a general spirit of play. We are shown countless computer animations that contribute a sense of virtuality. We play alongside news anchors who watch on their monitors. We sit in front of the crosshairs directing missiles with a sense of interactivity. The destruction, if shown at all, seems unreal, distant. These repeated images foster habitual fantasies of crossing over.”

You want to stop the gun violence?

Stop the worship of violence that permeates our culture.

Stop glorifying the military industrial complex with flyovers and salutes during sports spectacles.

Stop acting as if there is anything patriotic about military exercises and occupations that bomb hospitals and schools.

Stop treating guns and war as entertainment fodder in movies, music, video games, toys, amusement parks, reality TV and more.

Stop distribution weapons of war to the local police and turning them into extensions of the military—weapons that have no business being anywhere but on a battlefield.

Most of all, as I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, stop falling for the military industrial complex’s psychological war games.

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His new book Battlefield America: The War on the American People (SelectBooks, 2015) is available online at Whitehead can be contacted at
Read other articles by John W.

Catalan in Crisis: Is There an Equitable Resolution for Spain?

Can the Spain-Catalan Crisis Be Resolved?


October 4, 2017

The only way to diffuse the situation would be for Madrid and Catalonia to sit down and discuss a serious reform of Spain's constitution--but current Spanish leadership is unlikely to take that step, says Oberlin professor Sebastian Faber.

Sebastian Faber, Professor of Hispanic Studies at Oberlin College. Author of the forthcoming book Memory Battles of the Spanish Civil War, and co-author of the Nation article "Have Spain and Catalonia Reached a Point of No Return?" 

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Seeing The Messenger

The Messenger

by WildWings Nature & Arts Festival

October 3, 2017

This October 12th at 7pm we'll be showing the award-winning documentary film "The Messenger", Su Rynard’s visionary film about our deep-seated connection to songbirds and threat that human activity poses to their survival, at the Nature Centre as a part of the month-long WildWings Nature & Arts Festival.

This is an essential film for anyone who cares about the environment and nature. It's not only an opportunity to see an amazing award-winning film (especially if you missed last year's showing at VIU) but also to talk together about postive local action and ongoing local successes in restoring song bird habitat and song bird recovery.

The Nature Centre film screening will be followed by a Q and A discussion with local naturalists.

Since its world premiere in 2015 at Toronto’s Hot Docs Film Festival, The Messenger has wowed audiences the world over at more than 30 international film festivals, receiving numerous awards, including The Best Conservation Program from Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival, Best of Fest and Best Theatrical Feature, International Wildlife Film Festival plus a Canadian Screen Award nomination for Best Cinematography in a Feature Documentary and the Ontario Nature’s Carl Nunn Media Impact Award.

Shot in Canada, Costa Rica, Germany, France, The Netherlands and the USA, The Messenger is an international story with high stakes global consequences. The film looks at the connection between the decline of songbirds and human activity and what that could means for our already fragile ecosystem, leaving us with the questions: Does the uncertain fate of songbirds mirror our own? and.. What can we do to respond?

Your donations to support the education and conservation work of the Estuary Nature Centre at our location in an Internationally recognized "Important Bird Area", one of 12,000 IBAs recognized by BirdLife International world-wide, are much appreciated!

Monday, October 02, 2017

Media Framing of Catalan Referendum

The Gross Dishonesty of the Mainstream Media on Catalonia

by Craig Murray

Oct. 2, 2017

Due to social media, the mainstream media can no longer hide what happens. But they can attempt to frame our perceptions of it.

What happened yesterday in Catalonia is that paramilitary forces attacked voters who were trying to vote.

The mainstream media has universally decided to call the voters “protestors” rather than voters. So next time you go to your polling station, apparently what you are doing is protesting.

This kind of distortion through misuse of language is absolutely deliberate by professional mainstream journalists. In a situation where thousands of peaceful voters were brutalised, can anybody find a single headline in the mainstream media which attributes responsibility for the violence correctly?

This was a headline on the Guardian front page at 10.29am today. The people who wrote it are highly educated media professionals. The misleading impression a natural reading gives is absolutely deliberate.

Maintaining the Establishment line in face of reality has been a particular problem for picture editors. The Daily Telegraph has produced a whole series of photos whose captions test the “big lie” technique to its limits.

Note the caption specifically puts the agency for the “clash” on the people. “People clash with Spanish Guardia Civila…”. But the picture [please see link] shows something very different, a voter being manhandled away from the polling station.

Actually what they are doing is preventing voters from entering a polling station, not preventing a riot from attacking a school, which is the natural reading of the caption.

In fact the firemen are trying to shield people walking to vote from the paramilitaries. The firemen were attacked by the Guardia Civilia shortly after that.

Sky News every half hour is repeating the mantra that the Catalan government claims a mandate for Independence “after a referendum marred by violence”, again without stating what caused the violence. In general however Sky’s coverage has been a great deal better than the BBC; Al Jazeera has been excellent.

I strongly suspect that were it not for social media, UK mainstream media would have told us very little at all. This is an object lesson in how the mainstream media still seek to continue to push fake news on us in the age of citizen journalism. They no longer have a monopoly on the flow of raw information; what they can do is to attempt to distort perceptions of what people are seeing.

I continue urgently to need contributions to my defence in the libel action against me by Jake Wallis Simons, Associate Editor of Daily Mail online. You can see the court documents outlining the case here. I am threatened with bankruptcy and the end of this blog (not to mention a terrible effect on my young family). Support is greatly appreciated. An astonishing 4,000 people have now contributed a total of over £75,000. But that is still only halfway towards the £140,000 target. I realise it is astonishing that so much money can be needed, but that is the pernicious effect of England’s draconian libel laws, as explained here.

Workers Must Drive Climate Crisis Battle

Workers Must be in the Driver's Seat to Combat Climate Crisis


October 1, 2017

Dimitri Lascaris for the Real News in Silver Spring, Maryland at the Labor Convergence on Climate organized by the Labor Network for Sustainability with Sarita Gupta, the executive director of Jobs with Justice.


The labor movement needs to provide a clear analysis of who is responsible for climate change, so that the powerful don't take advantage of crises to blame "the other," explains Sarita Gupta, the executive director of Jobs With Justice

An Gorta Mor Stalks Still the Lands of the World

Great Hunger

by Kathy Kelly - Voices for Creative Non-Violence

October 2, 2017

Earlier this year, the Sisters of St. Brigid invited me to speak at their Feile Bride celebration in Kildare, Ireland. The theme of the gathering was: “Allow the Voice of the Suffering to Speak.”

The Sisters have embraced numerous projects to protect the environment, welcome refugees and nonviolently resist wars. I felt grateful to reconnect with people who so vigorously opposed any Irish support for U.S. military wars in Iraq.

They had also campaigned to end the economic sanctions against Iraq, knowing that hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children suffered and died for lack of food, medicine and clean water.

This year, the Sisters asked me to first meet with local teenagers who would commemorate another time of starvation imposed by an imperial power.

Joe Murray, who heads Action from Ireland (Afri), arranged for a class from Dublin’s Beneavin De La Salle College to join an Irish historian in a field adjacent to the Dunshaughlin work house on the outskirts of Dublin.

Such workhouses dot the landscape of Ireland and England. In the mid-19th century, during the famine years, they were dreaded places. People who went there knew they were near the brink of death due to hunger, disease, and dire poverty. Ominously, behind the workhouse lay the graveyard.

The young men couldn’t help poking a bit of fun, at first; what in the world were they doing out in a field next to an imposing building, their feet already soaked in the wet grass as a light rain fell? They soon became quite attentive.

We learned that the Dunshaughlin workhouse had opened in May of 1841. It could accommodate 400 inmates. During the famine years, many hundreds of people were crowded in the stone building in dreadful conditions. An estimated one million people died during a famine that began because of blighted potato crops but became an “artificial famine” because Ireland’s British occupiers lacked the political will to justly distribute resources and food. Approximately one million Irish people who could no longer feed themselves and subsist on the land emigrated to places like the U.S. But seeking refuge wasn’t an option for those who couldn’t afford the passage. Evicted by landowners, desperate people arrived at workhouses like the one we were visiting. Our guide read us the names of people from the surrounding area who had been buried in a mass grave behind the workhouse, their bodies unidentified. They were victims of what the Irish call “Greta Mor”—"The Great Hunger.”

It was recently, as I tried to better understand the migration of desperate and starving people now crossing from East Africa into Yemen, that I began to realize how great the hunger was. During that same period, in the latter half of the 19th century, there were 30 million people, possibly fifty million, dying of famine in northern China, India, Brazil and the Maghreb. The terrible suffering of these unknown people, whose plight never made it into the history books, was a sharp reminder to me of Western exceptionalism. As researched and described in Mike Davis’s book, “The Late Victorian Holocaust,” El Nino and La Nina climate changes caused massive crop failures. What food could be harvested was often sent abroad. Railroad infrastructure could have been used to send food to people dying of hunger, but wealthier people chose to ignore the plight of the starving. The Great Hunger, fueled by bigotry and greed, had been greater than any of its victims knew. And now, few in the prosperous West are aware of the terror faced by people in South Sudan, Somalia, northeast Nigeria, northern Kenya and Yemen. Millions of people cannot feed themselves or find potable water.

Countries in Africa which the U.S. has helped destabilize, such as Somalia, are convulsed in fighting which exacerbates effects of drought and drives helpless civilians toward points of hoped for refuge. Many have chosen a path of escape through the famine-torn country of Yemen. The U.S. has been helping a Saudi-led coalition to blockade and bomb Yemen since March of 2015. Sudanese fighters aligned with Saudi Arabia have been taking over cities along the Yemeni coast, heading northward. People trying to escape famine find themselves trapped amid vicious air and ground attacks.

In March, 2017, Stephen O’Brien, head of the UN’s Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, traveled to Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan and Northern Kenya. Since that trip, he has repeatedly begged the UN Security Council to help end the fighting and prevent conflict-driven famine conditions. Regarding Yemen, he wrote, in a July 12, 2017 statement to the UN Security Council that: “Seven million people, including 2.3 million malnourished (500,000 severely malnourished) children under the age of five, are on the cusp of famine, vulnerable to disease and ultimately at risk of a slow and painful death. Nearly 16 million people do not have access to adequate water, sanitation and hygiene, and more than 320,000 suspected cholera cases have been reported in all of the country’s governorates bar one." This number has since risen to 850,000.

Ben Ehrenreich describes famine conditions along what the Israeli theorist Eyal Weizman calls the ‘conflict shoreline’, an expanding band of climate change-induced desertification that stretches through the Sahel and across the African continent before leaping the Gulf of Aden to Yemen. He notes that this vast territory, once the site of fierce resistance to colonial incursions, is now paying the heaviest price, in disastrous climate conditions, for the wealth of the industrialized north. As the deserts spread south, ever more dire conflicts can be expected to erupt, causing more people to flee.

Of a drought-stricken area of Somaliland, Ehrenreich writes:

“People were calling this drought sima, ‘the leveller,’ because it affected all of the clans stretching across Somaliland and into Ethiopia to the west and Kenya to the south.” 
“The women’s stories were almost all the same,” writes Ehrenreich, “differing only in the age and number of children sick, the number of animals they had lost and the number that survived. Hodan Ismail had lost everything. She left her husband’s village to bring her children here, where her mother lived, ‘to save them,’ she said. ‘When I got there, I saw that she had nothing either.’ The river and streams, their usual source of drinking water, had gone dry and they had no option but to drink from a shallow well at the edge of town. The water was making all the children sick.”

In 1993, at the Rio de Janeiro "Earth Summit," delegates conveying the views of then-President George Bush Sr., voiced a refrain of the statement, “the American lifestyle is not up for negotiation." U.S. demands of the summit incalculably restricted the changes to which it might have led. Representing President Bill Clinton six years later, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright defended planned bombardment of Iraq, saying “If we have to use force, it is because we are America; we are the indispensable nation. We stand tall and we see further than other countries into the future, and we see the danger here to all of us."

There is danger that must be recognized. The danger is real and the danger is spreading. Violence spreads the famine, and the famine will spread violence.

I find myself repulsed by assertions voicing U.S. exceptionalism, yet my own study and focus often omits histories and present realities which simply must be understood if we are to recognize the traumas our world faces. In relation to conflict-driven famines, it becomes even more imperative to resist the U.S. government’s allocation of 700 billion dollars to the Department of Defense. In the U.S., our violence, and our delusions of being indispensable stem from accepting a belief that our “way of life” is non-negotiable. Growing inequality, protected by menacing arsenals, paves a path to the graveyard: It is not a "way of life."

We still could acquire a great hunger: a transforming hunger to share justice with our planetary neighbors. We could shed familiar privileges and search for communal tools to preserve us from indifferent wealth and voracious imperial power. We could embrace the theme of the Irish sisters at their Feile Bride gathering:

“Allow the Voice of the Suffering to Speak” and then choose action-based initiatives to share our abundance and lay aside, forever, the futility of war.

Kathy Kelly ( co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence (

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Same As the Old Bosses: NDP Leadership Hopefuls Embracing "Imperial" Internationalism

Canada: NDP Leadership Candidate Jagmeet Singh embraces Imperialist Policies of Helene Laverdiere

by Yves Engler - Dissident Voice

October 1st, 2017 

Shouldn’t leaders who claim to support the interests of the poor and working class inside Canada also take left wing positions internationally?

Yet when a leadership candidate for a left wing party embraces a politician who has repeatedly taken pro-imperialist international stances it hardly creates a stir. Reflecting an indifference to the injustices the Canadian government commits abroad, Jagmeet Singh’s alignment with Hélène Laverdière has been all but ignored.

Since the NDP foreign critic endorsed Singh to be leader of the party he has repeatedly cited the former Canadian diplomat’s support. Singh’s campaigned with Laverdière, sent out an email appeal from the Montreal MP last week and she was the individual immediately behind him during his speech to the final NDP leadership event in Hamilton. But, Laverdière is a bellicose imperialist.

Last year she spoke to the notorious anti-Palestinian lobby organization American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and participated in a ceremony put on by the head of the explicitly racist Jewish National Fund during a visit to Israel. It’s not just in Israel where Laverdière has aligned with the US Empire’s machinations. On at least two occasions over the past 16 months the NDP foreign critic has demanded Ottawa do more to undermine Venezuela’s elected President Nicolás Maduro. Laverdière also supports deploying troops to the Russian border and has repeatedly called for more sanctions on that country. Similarly, Laverdière demanded the Stephen Harper government take tougher action against the Assad regime at the start of the Syrian conflict.

Singh and the other NDP leadership campaigns are aware of Laverdière’s positions. I’ve written about it and the NDP’s Socialist Caucus called for Laverdière’s removal as foreign critic last month. But, the other leadership candidates have stayed mum.

For his part, Singh refused to criticize Laverdière’s positions when I challenged him about it at a recent event in Montréal. He also told me he saw no problem with an NDP foreign critic attending an (all expenses paid) AIPAC conference since “dialogue” is important.

It’s illuminating to contrast the reaction to Singh’s embrace of Laverdière with the criticism of his ties to Wab Kinew. Singh’s links to the recently elected leader of the Manitoba NDP has stoked a debate since it came to light that Kinew was charged with assaulting his then partner in 2003 (the charges were later stayed). After details of the incident emerged recently Singh denounced domestic abuse but stood by Kinew, which sparked significant debate. An opponent in the NDP leadership race, Niki Ashton challenged Singh on Twitter over his ties to Kinew in light of the assault allegations and a number of media outlets asked Ashton about the issue.

While it’s reasonable to challenge a leadership candidate for being lax on domestic abuse, Singh’s attitude towards Kinew is purely symbolic. Federal NDP leaders have no formal influence over provincial party leaders. On the other hand, they appoint the party’s international critic and directly shape its foreign policy. As such, Singh’s embrace of Laverdière is both a symbolic endorsement of her imperialism and a sign that if he wins he would continue her policy, possibly even reappointing Laverdière as foreign critic.

The lack of discussion about Singh’s embrace of Laverdière reflects the party’s unwillingness to tackle foreign policy issues. Not one of the “issues” or “priorities” listed on Charlie Angus, Guy Caron or Singh’ leadership campaign websites deals with foreign policy. Niki Ashton does a bit better. Her “issues” section includes “A Just Peace in the Middle East” and a summary list of 14 priorities she says she wants to “Ensure that Canada is a voice for peace in the world.”

Jagmeet Singh should be prodded about Laverdière’s views and whether he plans to re-appoint her as foreign critic.

Yves Engler is the author of A Propaganda System: How Canada’s Government, Corporations, Media and Academia Sell War and Canada in Africa: 300 years of aid and exploitation.
Read other articles by Yves.