Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Holyrood passes Section 30, a mandate based on real political authority

While today's Scottish parliamentary vote approving a Section 30 order (to the Scotland Act, 1998) won't hush debate over the justification of a second independence referendum, it does now entrench Scotland's political right to hold one. Even though Westminster retains the final constitutional say on whether that request is granted, the case for preparing and pursuing a referendum is now a legislative reality.

The SNP entered office in 2016 with a manifesto pledge to initiate a referendum should there be a "significant and material" change in constitutional circumstances. Brexit provided that. Even beyond notional polling indications of public support or otherwise for independence, or a referendum on it, the SNP government are clearly entitled to request a new poll on that basis. 

Underwriting the SNP's manifesto claim, the Scottish government, backed by the Greens, have now secured majority Holyrood approval for a second poll. That, remember, is not just any rhetorical 'will of the Scottish people', but the officially-stated will of the Scottish parliament. If Westminster has the sole power to approve the triggering of Article 50, Holyrood has now discharged the same implicit authority to present Section 30.

As Aileen McHarg, Professor of Public Law, concludes, while the legal and constitutional process of Section 30, and Scotland's ultimate right to secede the Union, remains a contested terrain: 
Politically, the Scottish Government appears to have the stronger hand, with the precedent of the 2014 referendum and a clear change of circumstances in the form of Brexit to justify a second vote.
Moreover, she asserts:
Underlying all this is the sense that the constitutional mess in which the UK government finds itself is one entirely of its own making. It is difficult to see how placing obstacles in the way of a second independence referendum can do anything other than make things worse.
Stephen Tierney, Professor of Constitutional Theory, also observes that this is primarily a political issue to be worked out between Westminster and Holyrood rather than taken through the courts, a scenario, he warns, that, unlike the Edinburgh Agreement underwriting the 2014 referendum, would drag judges into a deeply contentious area, with even more volatile political consequences.

In effect, any reasonable resolution of this political issue should recognise the kind of political rights underpinning it. And here we see the clear political authority of Holyrood in seeking a second poll.

Theresa May's singular refusal to countenance a Section 30 request tells us all we need to know about the enduring problem of the Westminster-Holyrood relationship. Despite holding a solid mandate for a referendum, an obdurate Tory leader can simply say no, "now is not the time." Whatever one's views on Brexit, however people in Scotland voted, that's a fundamentally undemocratic basis for determining such issues. Not only is Scotland being forced out of the EU against the majority wishes of its electorate, its government and parliament is simply being ignored.

Short of inventive guerrilla politics, Scotland's government and parliament remain subject to this blatant dismissal. Which only intensifies the case for a referendum and support for leaving our 'Union of equals'. Only independence can resolve that glaring democratic deficit.

Those who voted No in 2014 in understandable fear of leaving the 'security' of the Union must now see that the Union itself is a perpetual lock-in to Westminster government, policies and dictates. As with the UK's intention to leave the EU, all major decisions and outcomes continue to be determined by external forces and institutions.

On timing, whether or not we take May at her literal 'Brexit means Brexit', the minutiae and concluding terms are of little importance here. The UK is leaving the EU. That's the material change: the actual exit, not the detail of the exit. Holyrood's presenting of Section 30 is a direct response to the clear, binary option laid out on June 23, and Westminster's vote to enshrine Brexit.

In that vein, the Scottish government can reasonably insist on holding a vote before the signing of a final agreement between Britain and the other 27 EU states in order to widen Scotland's options for any possible transitional dealings with the EU. Professor Michael Keating (Centre of Constitutional Change) cites this as one of the main advantages of a referendum before the UK formally leaves the EU. The EU's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, also insists that any deal with the UK must be concluded by October 2018. Thus, the Autumn 2018 - Spring 2019 schedule proposed by Nicola Sturgeon offers Scotland an obvious starting point for preparing its own arrangements, rather than being detained by the fallout and hubris of an already-determined Brexit.

May's insistence on Scotland waiting till negotiations have concluded look like classic stalling tactics, and the likely contriving of further obstacles beyond that point. Meanwhile, as the No mandarins mobilise, we hear the same appeal to our 'Great Union of Nations', and intimations of beneficent sweeteners, establishment code for 'know your place', and elusive promises of a few more 'devo-treats' if you behave well. How much longer will people indulge such patronising dismissal?  

While the constitutional chess game plays out, the main consideration for now is how best to pitch the new indy case. Some Yes supporters worry that 18 to 24 months may not be enough time to build a winning campaign. Yet, the much greater risk lies in any more protracted one, with Yes activists and backers becoming jaded and disheartened.

Significantly, positions on currency, budgets, borders, trade and other key macro issues are likely to be more coherently presented this time around, with more vigilant scrutiny of media distortion and confident policy work from groups like Common Weal helping to build new awareness.

Obviously, Brexit, the actual material reason for a new poll, is at the political fore here. But it would be a serious error to make this referendum an effective re-run of the Brexit issue. Rather, it should be set as a key contextual example of external control, with independence as the only way to resist all such imposed decisions.

There's also the more immediate risk here of assuming that Scotland's 62 per cent EU remain vote will translate straightforwardly into a majority for independence. The SNP and wider Yes movement already recognise the complex variation of feeling here, not least within the SNP itself. While the party are clear in their desire for Scotland to stay, or rejoin, as a full EU member state (also the Scottish Green Party position) a more prudent pitch may be to leave this as a decision to be resolved post-indy referendum. Unshackled from Westminster, Scotland would then be in a much clearer position to determine its specific relationship with Europe, whether fully in, fully out, partly in as an EEA/EFTA state, or any other variant arrangement.

This should be presented as another model opportunity for democratic participation. Voters who fear leaving the UK must be reminded that they will be ditching not only the last chance for rejoining the EU, if that's their wish, but the abandonment of much wider possibilities. Having secured political independence, we would have the rare and enviable chance to discuss and formulate the kind of dealings we wish to see in the making of a more progressive society.

Even more than 2014, this coming independence argument has to stress to No voters and waverers the calculus of vital opportunities: not just what they would gain, but the crucial realities of what they will certainly lose. They will be throwing away the immediate right to determine their chosen status with Europe, whatever they wish that to be. But they will also lose the chance of securing a much more effective parliament with full powers to enact meaningful change. By remaining within the sclerotic confines of the UK, we forfeit all those political and civil gifts, returning us to the same constitutional dependencies, economic redundancies and social conformities.

The consequences for Scotland of a close-run, yet lost, 2014 indy vote was the imposition in 2015 of another Tory Westminster government, and a 2016 EU referendum driven by internal Tory party and establishment divisions. These are the effects and outcomes of a self-serving Unionist politics. Whatever challenges lie ahead in shaping Scotland as a more radical democracy, moving beyond the still tame policies of a soft-neoliberal SNP, nothing of real change can occur within that all-constraining arrangement.  

Much is being made in Yes circles just now about the need for patient and non-acrimonious persuasion. Quite right. Nor does there seem much point in over-projecting one's own particular political views, hopes or visions.

Rather, in respectful appeal, on the day this Section 30 is ratified, more basic questions may be posed to prospective voters. Why would you opt to be governed by an archaic, undemocratic and, most likely, continually Tory-dominated parliament, rather than a modern-founded, fairly-elected and more-accountable one? Why, given the proven record of that Scottish parliament, and succession of Scottish governments, would you doubt the abilities of Scotland to run all of its own affairs? Whatever your political beliefs and affiliations, is it not better to have your policies and decisions made in a place where you can much better influence and challenge them? Why pass-up on this rare opportunity for greater participatory democracy? As ultimate sovereignty rests with the Scottish people, through its parliament, why not exercise that sovereignty to its fullest extent? Confronted by global forces intent on emasculating real democracy, why not secure as much political control as you possibly can?

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Guardian's day of shame, and the dark depths of liberal McCarthyism

The liberal 'resistance' to Donald Trump has revealed a service media now plumbing its own dark, reactionary depths.

A Guardian editorial has welcomed back to public prominence none other than George W Bush. Even for the Blair-protecting, war-apologising Guardian, it's a landmark day of shame.

The deaths of 1 million Iraqis, and the staggering madness unleashed by Bush, is brushed aside by the Guardian editors as some historical aberration, another 'past and awkward' chapter in 'overseas adventurism'. Like Blair over Brexit, Bush is now being hailed by the Guardian as a 'welcome voice of reason' against Trump's irrationality.

Yet what kind of 'rational' mind, we must wonder, could write and approve an editorial proclaiming the 'virtues' of a man with so much blood on his hands? From Blair to Obama and now to Bush, note Media Lens, the Guardian are "faithfully providing a service for 'our' war criminals. Sympathetic coverage, endorsement, rehabilitation, gushing praise..." 

The brave Iraqi journalist who hurled his shoes at Bush, as a statement of deepest Arab disrespect, has just had them, in effect, thrown back at the Iraqi people by the Guardian.

Guardian editor-in-chief Katherine Viner and whoever else oversaw this disgraceful piece are basically saying: you're suffering is not worthy of real recognition, it's excusable, its perpetrators are still 'ours', their actions must be treated differently. Was there ever a clearer example of craven liberal mitigation, of crawling apologetics for mass Western violence? One can only despair at such selectivity, crass insensitivity, and, yes, deep liberal racism.

And the reaction to this ugly editorial from the paper's keynote journalists? Heads down, squirming silence.

Viner should resign. She won't. The paper's crusading columnists, notably Owen Jones and George Monbiot, should denounce their employer. They won't. They will all say nothing, let it pass, ignore criticisms, dismiss challengers as vexatious trolls. Instead, they will continue peddling their righteous denunciations of Trump, urging on the 'resistance', polishing their 'radical' status, protecting their careers. There's nothing quite like watching the contracted left liberal go to ground when such awkwardness arises.    

As is now increasingly evident over the reaction to Trump, this is not only default liberal conformity, but the alarming face of liberal extremism. From approving Deep State subversion to the championing of war criminals as 'rescuers of liberty', we have a 'vanguard' media utterly in thrall to corporate and warmongering authority.

Central to this is a mindset of denial, the rush to blame and scapegoat the 'devilish other', notably Russia and its 'apologists', rather than indict the system itself. For Glenn Greenwald, citing the past warnings of IF Stone, this is the very playbook of liberal McCarthyism.

Adam Johnson has also taken apart a New York Times editorial spluttering with liberal indignation over Trump's apparent 'moral equivalence' between the US and Russia. In recalling some of the genocidal crimes committed by the US, Johnson notes that:
the most important function of major editorial boards is to be gatekeepers of national security orthodoxy. And there is no more axiomatic orthodoxy than American. One can handwring over “mistakes,” even occasionally do harsh reporting on American war crimes—so long as one arrives back at the position of American moral superiority. “Yes, America has made mistakes,” the good liberal insists, “but at least we don’t do this other bad thing that is, unaccountably, uniquely disqualifying.”
Even where liberals might 'acknowledge' some of the West's high crimes, they're still utterly beholden to fundamental notions of the 'good Western state'. Trump is deemed a unique threat and open racist. Yet, where was the great liberal crusade against Obama and Clinton when they were relentlessly bombing, droning and murdering so many foreign 'others'? While Yemen is being annihilated, the UK's vital part in those war crimes, notes Mark Curtis, goes unreported, "an amazing propaganda achievement in a 24/7 media society."

In objecting to Trump's UK visit, Guardian liberals uphold the narrative of 'our state's decency.' In disapproving Trump's right to a formal visit, they give undue legitimacy to a UK state itself dripping in blood, in multiple violation of international laws, "rendering it a rogue state." Again, the vital context of connected Western criminality is airbrushed and ignored.

In more progressive vein, people might actually 'welcome' such visits between mutually-supporting villains, allowing them to get on the street and shout down both criminal states simultaneously. It would also provide an opportunity for exposing our militarist monarchy's part in the great sham.

The Guardian could push to prosecute, rather than embrace, Bush, Blair et al. Both the US and UK could be urged to establish earnest truth commissions to confess their vast, historical crimes against humanity. Instead, guided by the liberal media, the public are in a state of angst over 'honourable state diplomacy', and the 'need to observe' royal protocols. That's pretty smart hegemony.

It corresponds with the dismal truth that a substantial section of the British public still view the British Empire in a positive light. According to a recent YouGov poll, no less than 44% expressed pride in the history of British colonialism. As historian Mark Curtis observes, that's a:
stupendous propaganda success for the UK elite; an indication of extent of both media disinformation and, I would say, mainstream academia
This helps explain why Trump is seen as a 'particular assault' on 'democratic decency'. Trump is presented as the crisis, rather than explained in the fuller context of systematic power and its deepening crisis. It's remarkable, in this regard, how the Guardian's own lauding of Bush will be ignored, or just seen as unremarkable, by most other liberal media.

Some liberal-minded observers give dutiful nods to this bigger picture. In a recent piece, noting a past exchange, Bella Caledonia wrote:
Whilst the game of Trump-bashing must be forged into an actual resistance – and in Scotland a resistance to contagion – there is another problem, as critics of Bella like John Hilley point out.  If we focus solely on Trump’s exceptionalism we miss the continuity of raw US military imperial power and give a free pass to the Obama regime clouded over by a mist of Black Liberal Schmaltz. I’ll buy some of that, US foreign policy didn’t arrive out of the ether, but equally the danger of stressing continuity can be disabling if it just tricks us into thinking “nothing new here”, it’s just the same old USA just with a Lunatic Goofball in charge.
But, as previously argued, continuity doesn't just mean "nothing new here", or that Trump is 'just the same' as Obama. The point is that Trump is the latest manifestation of pernicious US corporate, imperialist power. It's to understand Trump as a product of that system; its inevitable progeny.

In denial of this continuity, patriotic liberals avert their eyes from 'home-grown Trump'. As Adam Johnson points out, rather than the incessant media demonology comparing Trump to the usual panoply of foreign foe dictators, he's actually "a distinctly American phenomenon":
Trump’s agenda is largely the same as the broader Republican Party; his rise, moreover, was the logical manifestation of the xenophobic, “insurgent” tea party movement — funded and supported not by foreign governments, but by entirely domestic billionaires. There’s a reason why Republican senators from John McCain to Marco Rubio have voted to confirm Trump’s nominees: They basically agree with him. How strange, then, that we have zero hot takes drawing parallels between Trump and McCain or Trump and Rubio, and dozens of hot takes drawing parallels between Trump and Latin American leftists. The foreign leader comparison prioritizes style over policy, personality over material effect.
Meanwhile, Obama luxuriates in hallowed liberal light. For the fawning Guardian, he's now even more the world's undisputed Mr Cool. Again, this is the liberal media's rearguard role in maintaining the cultural and political narrative of 'our always decent and benign' leaders. As the same Guardian cabal, like John Harris and Jonathan Freedland, intensify their assault on Jeremy Corbyn, we see how they act as vital protectors of neoliberal 'reality'.

Brexit provides a similar example of how we've been led by elite narratives framed by a righteous liberal commentariat. As Ken Loach argues, this has been a distracting storyline for many leftists, deliberating over how to oppose a neoliberal EU, while showing solidarity with workers, migrants and refugees. Again, it's about seeing through the liberal packaging, as a way of bolstering real movement politics.

Encouragingly, affiliation with socialist groups in the US is growing on the back of the Trump protests. As elected city councillor in Seattle, Kshama Sawant of the Socialist Alternative insists: "Our movement cannot be limited to what's acceptable to the Democratic Party establishment."

Yet, as the smearing of Keith Ellison and securing of Tom Perez as new DNC chairman shows, the liberal establishment will always fight against any form of radical overhaul. Typically, there's been no Guardian editorial lamenting this dire continuation of power.

Whatever the fallout from Trump, the moment has, at least, helped shine a damning new light on our quisling liberal media. As independent journalist Matt Kennard observes, we've come to quite a point when a 'leading left liberal' outlet can castigate Jeremy Corbyn, while championing George W Bush: 

Guardian: hates democratically elected socialist leader of Labour Party. Loves Republican war criminal tyrant 
It's high time real journalists and radical others stood up and exposed this paper's shameful duplicity.  

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Trump protests must see and oppose US crimes in their totality

As global protests continue against Donald Trump, what could be the nucleus of a promising new progressive movement, akin to Occupy, is being compromised by a faux liberal 'resistance'.

It's been encouraging to see people act in a spirit of intuitive solidarity with Muslims in rejection of Trump's discriminatory edicts. But, thanks to the liberal media's veneration of Obama and Hillary, and dismal silence on that administration's own authoritarian policy crimes, the real issue of ongoing US power, and Trump as its latest manifestation, is being neutered. And the convenient effect of this is to paint Obama and previous presidents as, somehow, rational and benign.

How many of those worthy protesters are likely to know that Trump's executive order banning Muslims is actually the continuation of a policy initiated by Obama? How many realise that the seven Muslim countries 'picked out' by Trump are the same seven countries targeted by his predecessor?

Most crucially, how many of those engaged in moral protest against Trump's barring of Muslims are more exercised by Obama's and Clinton's bombing, as well as banning, of people from those countries?

American comedian and commentator Jimmy Dore makes the point with sharp, sardonic effect:
Everybody was cool with bombing them, but banning them? Oh no! That's where I put my foot down. You can bomb the shit out of them, but as soon as you try to bar them from coming into the country...you're a monster, you're a monster.
Citing an article by Seth Frantzman, Dore shows that, in fact, "Obama's administration selected these seven Muslim-majority countries." For all his ugly motivations, Trump actually acted upon an existing list underwritten by Congress, the Department of Homeland Security, and Obama's Terrorist Prevention Act (2015):
The public should be suspicious of Trump’s policies and the media should speak truth to power and demand answers from the administration. But the media should also be truthful with the public and instead of claiming Trump singled out seven countries, it should note that the US Congress and Obama’s Department of Homeland Security had singled out these countries. It should have told us about the Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015 rather than pretend this list was invented in 2017. Trump’s executive order said “countries of concern,” it didn’t make a list. That list was already made, last year and years before. (Bold text, original.)
Dore's background piece was commended by Glenn Greenwald, who, in response to liberal objections that this is only 'deflecting from Trump', tweeted:
Pointing out that Trump is exploiting the framework that Obama and Bush built isn't an excuse for Trump. It's just fact.
No, I'm not willing to allow Democrats [to] lie about history and what the foundation for policies are.
In an incisive piece, highlighting Obama's own banning policy, Greenwald insists that we must see Trump in full context, as the product of an already repressive and aggressive system:
Beyond U.S. support for the world’s worst regimes, what primarily shapes Trump’s list is U.S. aggression: Five of the seven predominantly Muslim countries on Trump’s list were ones bombed by Obama, while the other two (Iran and Sudan) were punished with heavy sanctions. Thus, Trump is banning immigrants from the very countries that the U.S. government — under both Republicans and Democrats — has played a key role in destabilizing and destroying...
In a further article, Greenwald cites the murders of two members of the same family in Yemen as evidence of the seamless US bombing of that country, from Obama and now to Trump. Again, for Greenwald, you can't see Trump's actions outwith the past and continuing US war machine. He also reminds us that Obama's 'counter-terrorism' agenda on drone killing and Guantanamo, adopted from Bush/Cheney, has enjoyed considerable support among liberals and left Democrats.

Yet, liberal fear and loathing abounds. Anticipating the death-knell of 'liberal democracy', post-Obama, Sunny Hundall, in the Independent, has implored Angela Merkel to step up to the mark as 'true leader of the free world', rather than granting that 'right' to the 'undeserving' Trump.

Other left-liberals are berating 'errant lefties' for 'not seeing' the coming Trump threat. Citing Trump's National Security Advisor Michael Flynn's first statement that "As of today, we are officially putting Iran on notice", Mehdi Hasan tweeted: "Remember when some lefties thought Hillary would be the hawk, not Trump."

It's highly likely, of course, that Clinton's first action would have been to 'put Russia on notice', intensifying the crisis in Syria, and ramping-up Nato's already dangerous militarism across Eastern Europe. Nor can Hasan, apparently, entertain the more prosaic possibility that both Clinton and Trump could be hawks; a continuity of warmongers.

Hasan also tweeted:

Given past 7 days, everyone who said 'there's no difference between Trump & Clinton' should hang heads in shame & owe rest of us an apology
My reply:
There is. Libya, Syria, Iraq... Trump's a demagogue, Clinton's a crazy war criminal. And it's largely BECAUSE of her, we got him.
Hasan's baitings are the default line of a coy commentariat that refuses to see Trump as the consequence of systemic neoliberal failure, and the liberal class's own complicit part in that crisis.

As Ian Sinclair observes, a service liberal media continue to lambast Trump as beyond the pale, simply "unpresidential", an historical joke when set against Sinclair's own damning list of previous presidential villainy.

Alas, media fear and fury over Trump also seems to be having an insidious effect on much other 'alternative journalism', in its all-too-easy adoption of the same liberal memes. Consider, as illumination, this twitter exchange with pro-Scottish independence site Bella Caledonia over its representations of Trump:

Bella Caledonia:More
Trump is a Dalek, Bannon's his Davros

MoreLook inside your 'Tardis' for the more expansive story on how Trump's Muslim ban is an Obama policyhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4FTFB9GDfls

Moreyes very good, all agreed. Obama's not in office now.

John Hilley:
MoEvasion. Nothing useful learned about Trump and what to do about him without crucial context: https://theintercept.com/2017/01/28/trumps-muslim-ban-is-culmination-of-war-on-terror-mentality-but-still-uniquely-shameful/

I don't disagree. I'm not sure why I'm the focus of your hostility.

MoreNot "hostility", reasoned comment, drawing attention to what looks like usual liberal omission.

Well I agree with your analysis but articles have to have some focus.

Bella Caledonia:
Some of the 'but what about Hillary'? stuff just sounds like flailing about - posturing 'radicalism'

MoreIsn't it more posturing 'leftism' to dismiss criticism of Clinton's system-serving as 'whataboutery'?

I agree on the need for context, but 'm not sure that Clinton is the issue today?

What Clinton, Obama and the liberal establishment uphold is precisely the key issue for radicals today.

We have written critique of Obama presidency recently

Your narrative often much too Guardian-like. Where's radical context like Pilger, Greenwald, @medialens?

Feel free to submit an article for consideration John.

John Hilley:
No, thanks. Go well.

Bella produces much good work, and, yes, we've had the occasional critique of Obama. As an advocate for Scottish radical independence, I also feel a desire to show common cause. Yet, there's also cause for concern over how this nascent site is already sounding so lamentably 'mainstream' - fearfully, a 'new Guardianista' in the making?      

Bella's lame lines here claiming to have 'looked previously at Obama's presidency', and 'Clinton not being the issue now', are not only token, but highly revealing of the defensive liberal mindset. It's a dismissive reprimand, basically saying: 'that's all past politics, with no bearing on today's key issue, Trump.' And it's highly typical of the ways in which the liberal media selectively pitch Trump as some 'sudden' and 'abnormal' threat, rather than a continuation of vast US policy crimes. 

As argued by Greenwald, Trump is the creation of an already deeply-authoritarian system of corporate power, long propagated by Obama, Clinton and their predecessors. How can any serious, progressive assessment of Trump view his actions outwith that vital frame?

Bella also joined in the liberal media's facile attack on Putin during the great 'Russia hacked the election' uproar. Again, thankfully, we had real, probing journalists like Greenwald and Adam Johnson on hand to confirm Clinton's and the Democratic Party's dark deeds, and the liberal media's system-serving role in that affair. As with other liberal media, Bella resort to lofty denunciations of Putin and Assad, without any serious attempt to represent Syria and other Middle East conflicts in their deeper context. And that involves paying particular attention to 'our' mendacious part in the great imperialist game.

In 'virtue-signalling' their relentless loathing of Russia, and playing to the Guardian gallery, such outlets are as 'radically useful' as Jonathan Freedland on 'Trump the unpresidential', or Timothy Garton-Ash in pitching him as some unprecedented agent of global disorder. Any progressive media worth its salt should be meeting that propaganda head on. As Patrick Cockburn shows, there's been almost total, one-sided establishment 'reporting' of Syria and Iraq. Isn't it the imperative task of real left journalism to correct, rather than amplify, such liberal distortion?

One landmark guide, in these regards, is the recent piece by John Pilger on Obama's "Ascension", the depth of US crimes, and the poverty of liberal journalism in addressing it all. For Pilger:
The obsession with Trump is a cover for many of those calling themselves "left/liberal", as if to claim political decency. They are not "left", neither are they especially "liberal". Much of America's aggression towards the rest of humanity has come from so-called liberal Democratic administrations - such as Obama's.
The same lack of serious critical dissent can be seen in the widely-signed petition stating that Trump:
should not be invited to make an official State Visit because it would cause embarrassment to Her Majesty the Queen. Donald Trump's well documented misogyny and vulgarity disqualifies him from being received by Her Majesty the Queen or the Prince of Wales. 
Again, while commending the honest rejection of Trump, how many stopped to question the framing of this loaded missive? How very troubling that Trump's misogyny and vulgarity might discomfort our unelected, feudal elite. Did anyone consider the criminal vulgarity of Britain's 'visits' around the globe, past and present? Did indignant liberals stop to wonder about the moral right of this warmongering state to feel queasy about a visit from that warmongering state? What, alone, of the million souls they both took in Iraq? 

Again, how easily our liberal-left jumped to attention. Perversely, just as the anti-Trump protests and petition provide cover for Obama and major US crimes, so does it allow a veil of respectability for Britain's high vulgarians - including Prince Charles, the sword-swinging arms ambassador to a Saudi regime currently slaughtering civilians in Yemen, without much media interest.     

All-too-eager to play-up the UK as some bastion of 'higher values', the BBC gave ready voice to the 'anguished' establishment:

Theresa May's decision to invite Donald Trump to a state visit has put the Queen in a "very difficult position", a former head of the Foreign Office says. In a letter to The Times, Lord Ricketts said the offer had been "premature".
The Guardian, meanwhile, offered a ready platform on the issue to none other than Jack Straw, a man now most likely heading to court over his part in illegal rendition

How easily the liberal class rail against Farage and his cohorts for protecting Trump. How passive they are when the Guardian and other system-serving media indulge and protect people like Obama and Clinton, Blair and Straw.   

As Neil Clark notes:

Liberals, for instance, fawned over the former Secretary of State Madeline Albright when she said she "stands ready" to "register as Muslim" in "solidarity" against Trump. The very same Madeline Albright once declared that the death of half a million (predominantly Muslim) children in Iraq due to sanctions was a price that was "worth it." Will Albright be met with large-scale protests next time she comes to the UK for defending infanticide in Iraq? Don’t hold your breath. She's against 'The Donald' so must be a good ‘un.
Indeed. So often it's 'our good 'uns' that are allowed the benefit of history. Thus, while Hillary tries to appropriate the anti-Trump moment, the media remain oblivious to the human catastrophe she visited on Libya. Ed Miliband, an eager supporter of that wicked intervention, also joined in the great denunciation of Trump. Again, liberal silence. 

Any serious awakening and challenge to power requires us to see the larger canvas. Yet, our liberal media play a crucial part in keeping public concern narrowly framed, the structural causes shielded, the system itself intact.
Take the emergency issue of climate change. As another penetrating analysis from Media Lens shows, the climate calamity cannot be detached from the broader problem of corporate power, rampant neoliberalism and war economics. Yet, as Media Lens note, it's key liberal media like the Guardian, BBC and Channel 4 News that, while reporting the essential science, remain dutifully averse to highlighting these crucial, causal connections. In stark contrast, while Trump is identified by Media Lens as an alarming climate change denier, we also get the much fuller contextual story of US failure on the climate issue, including Obama's lamentable record in office, and the corporate forces controlling it all.       

One of the most pernicious effects of the liberal media is the way in which it obscures any such comprehension of connected power, thus neutralising meaningful action. In the case of Trump, it has led to an outpouring of virtue politics, rather than outrage over systematic US villainy. 

Yet, this is still a protest movement with enormous potential, one that requires a re-kindling of purpose. Beyond so much liberal angst and distraction, I commend the sober and instructive analysis from Stop the War's Andrew Murray, laying out the emerging Trump dynamics, including his possible engagements over Russia, Nato and Syria, his more threatening pivots to China and Iran, the intensification of support for Israel, the implications of his 'America First' economic nationalism, and how all this impacts on the long-standing US/UK aggressive pact, otherwise known as the 'special relationship'. 

As Murray notes, we should be under no illusions about Trump as a new war president, but one already primed by a war-driving system. And it's on that more radical understanding of Trump as the latest product of a pernicious authoritarian order that any broad and effective opposition to it can be built, exposing and resisting US power in its totality.      

Monday, 16 January 2017

La la liberals showcase Obama and play supporting role to the Deep State

Noble speech, or the liberal limits of human respect?
As Barack Obama approaches his last day in office, emotional liberals have been recording their tributes to the president and dark fears over what's to come.

There's been hagiographic coverage of Obama's farewell speech, and 'heartwarming' pictures of his tenure. A succession of Hollywood names, from Tom Hanks to Samuel L Jackson, have been re-stating Obama's 'Yes We Can' motif.

In similar deference, Obama and Hillary supporter Meryl Streep used a Golden Globe stage to castigate Donald Trump's "disrespect" for a physically impaired reporter, and to urge "the principled press to hold power to account." There were lumps in the throats of the bow-tied and silk-gowned as they stood in dew-eyed applause. Robert De Niro and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association sent Streep letters of approval.

Yet, amid all the lofty celeb denunciations of Trump the Terrible, there's been dutiful silence over Obama's and Clinton's much higher crimes, notably the murder and chaos their administration has initiated and perpetuated across the Middle East.

There's been no such artiste speeches denouncing a president who bombed no less than seven Muslim countries during his time in office. No "disrespect" for the Obama-Hillary team who pushed regime change in Syria and Libya, resulting in mass murder, humanitarian catastrophe and the growth of Islamic State. No big podium moments recalling that Obama sold more weapons to Middle East dictators than any other president. No mention of his continuing military aid and support for Saudi Arabia's annihilation of Yemen. No mention of how, in his love for Israel, he turned a blind-eye to the obliteration and suffering of Gaza. No mention that his parting gift to Israel's apartheid state is $38 billion of aid over the next decade. And no calls for Streep's "principled press" to hold him to account for these and other criminal acts.

The Guardian's Suzanne Moore hailed Streep's speech as "pretty much perfect", a "spark" for the liberal fightback to come:
Streep said that this “sank hooks into my heart ... it wasn’t a movie it was real life. Disrespect incites disrespect. Violence incites violence. When powerful people use their position to bully we all lose.” She also asked for the press to be protected in order to hold Trump to account and said that Hollywood was composed of outsiders and foreigners without whom it would not exist. 
Moore amplifies Streep's concerns about Tinseltown's inability to function without "outsiders and foreigners" - what a liberal calamity if that were to collapse - yet all those killed under the Obama-Clinton watch in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Libya and other 'outside foreign' places merit no apparent comment. Streep once also praised Thatcher as a "figure of awe."

Moore goes on, in 'balancing' tones, to ask whether the righteous words of Hollywood liberals are now just being disregarded as mere 'virtue-signalling' by a now more cynical electorate. This is the tortured extent of liberal 'awakening' to the new political terrain.

As with the great celebrity romance, the Guardian's coverage of Obama has been nothing short of an eight-year love-in. Now, its headline names are lamenting his departure and the 'lost opportunity' of Hillary.

For the paper's World Affairs editor, Julian Borger, Obama "has become the world’s normaliser-in-chief," a "therapist for those suffering from Trump anxiety." A collection of Guardian guest writers have used similar hyperbolic language to praise Obama's record.

There was further Obama-swooning over at Channel 4 in Jon Snow's fawning interview with outgoing US Ambassador to the UK, Matthew Barzun. After an intimate chat with Barzun over his vinyl record collection and palatial London embassy, Snow got down to the 'real critical' questions, as in did the ambassador regret Obama's "failure" over Syria? Not, of course, Obama's "crimes" over Syria, Libya or elsewhere. Not a word from Snow on the CIA's $1 billion a year funding of jihadi insurgents, and Washington's disastrous dealings in Syria. And how 'indecent' it would have been, at this late juncture, for Snow to mention all the drone killings Obama has ordered, or question his administration's efforts to minimise the death count. Snow was also moved to confide in Barzun 'our deep worries' over Trump, as though speaking 'on behalf of the free world', and Obama as some retiring champion of western civilization.

Nor, as Obama expelled 35 Russian diplomats to help divert attention from real public-interest leaks exposing a corrupt Democratic Party, did we hear such liberal notables question the 'Putin interference' and 'election hacking' fabrications, a farrago of false news eagerly spread by the Washington Post and other 'great bastions of press freedom'.

Analyst Stephen Gowans shows how, in the case of the New York Times, "an evidence-free finding alleging Russian interference in the US election was turned into an indisputable 'truth'."

Former CIA officer, Philip Giraldi, even derided the intelligence community's key report as lacking the remotest smoking-gun evidence, concluding that "the latest attempt to nail perfidious Moscow is, to my mind, yet another mish-mash of soft facts combined with plenty of opinion and maybe even a bit of good old Cold War-style politics."

And Buzzfeed's rush to publish a smear-laden 'dossier' on Trump now sees more highly-questionable US 'intel' dutifully placed in the public domain.

Predictably, the Guardian's Luke Harding and Nick Hopkins led the way in promoting the 'bona fides' of the dossier's author, ex-MI6 agent, and now corporate spook, Christopher Steele. Jonathan Cook warns that "despite Harding's best efforts to spin this Steele's way, he gives away several clues that, until some solid evidence is produced, we should trust this dossier about as much as a 12-dollar bill."

Typically, while talking-up the seemingly bogus Steele, the Guardian ran a major smear piece against the provenly reliable Wikileaks. Following sharp analysis from Julian Assange on the shape of Trump's incoming elite, his comments were portrayed by the Guardian as Assange's 'approval of Trump' and 'support for Putin'. It took an independent-minded journalist, Glenn Greenwald, to point out the disgraceful extent of the Guardian's "fraud".

In a revealing interview (conveniently not archived by Channel 4), Greenwald also helped highlight Jon Snow's shallow 'assessment' of the issues around Wikileaks, Putin, Trump and US 'intel'.

As Greenwald asserts, there's no need to approve of Trump to ask why the Deep State are going after him. Still seething from Hillary's defeat, a squalid alignment has been growing between an establishment liberal media and US intelligence agencies. Both had campaigned, editorialised and lobbied for a Clinton victory. Now a brooding liberal class is giving vital airtime to a smear agenda, and urging on the most mendacious elements of US intelligence.

Again, Greenwald has been a voice of rationality in pointing all this out:
For months, the CIA, with unprecedented clarity, overtly threw its weight behind Hillary Clinton’s candidacy and sought to defeat Donald Trump. In August, former acting CIA Director Michael Morell announced his endorsement of Clinton in the New York Times and claimed that “Mr. Putin had recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.” The CIA and NSA director under George W. Bush, Gen. Michael Hayden, also endorsed Clinton, and went to the Washington Post to warn, in the week before the election, that “Donald Trump really does sound a lot like Vladimir Putin,” adding that Trump is “the useful fool, some naif, manipulated by Moscow, secretly held in contempt, but whose blind support is happily accepted and exploited.”It is not hard to understand why the CIA preferred Clinton over Trump. Clinton was critical of Obama for restraining the CIA’s proxy war in Syria and was eager to expand that war, while Trump denounced it. Clinton clearly wanted a harder line than Obama took against the CIA’s long-standing foes in Moscow, while Trump wanted improved relations and greater cooperation. In general, Clinton defended and intended to extend the decades long international military order on which the CIA and Pentagon’s preeminence depends, while Trump — through a still-uncertain mix of instability and extremist conviction — posed a threat to it.
For Greenwald, the election fallout signals a liberal lurch to Deep State rule:
Whatever one’s views are on those debates, it is the democratic framework — the presidential election, the confirmation process, congressional leaders, judicial proceedings, citizen activism and protest, civil disobedience — that should determine how they are resolved. All of those policy disputes were debated out in the open; the public heard them; and Trump won. Nobody should crave the rule of Deep State overlords. Yet craving Deep State rule is exactly what prominent Democratic operatives and media figures are doing.
But rather than ring alarm bells over this dangerous slide, the liberal media has only intensified its focus on 'rising Russian authority', and what a 'lagging US' now means for the world. 

The Guardian's Simon Tisdall worries that "fictional or not", the dossier and hacking allegations "has the effect of advancing Moscow’s long-held aim of weakening the US, paralysing its political decision-making process, and avenging Russia’s humiliation at the close of the cold war."

And it's Obama's 'weakness' here that's so often cited by his liberal 'critics'. Thus, while evading the US/Nato madness inflicted on Libya, the Guardian's Julian Borger can only lament how "Obama fudged the response to the Libyan civil war, agreeing to intervene but “leading from behind.”"

The BBC's Barbara Plett Usher expresses the same deep liberal concern over America's 'failing influence' under Obama. In a piece riddled with blatant evasions and distortions, she asks: 

How did a man who took office espousing a new era of engagement with the world end up a spectator to this century's greatest humanitarian catastrophe? Barack Obama was not against using force to protect civilians. Yet he resisted, to the end, a military intervention to stem Syria's six-year civil war, even as it killed or displaced half the country's population, brutally documented in real time on social media.
Again, there's nothing here about the actual extent of Obama's regime change agenda for Syria - an enduring US policy objective, further confirmed by leaked State Department cables. There's nothing about the role of his Gulf proxies in that destabilisation, its terror group linkages, or how Obama even provoked pushback from the Joint Chiefs of Staff over his regime change policies in Syria and Libya.

Plett Usher's key worry, instead, is Obama's part in 'waning' US and Western power. And even here, any such 'criticism' of Obama's 'non-intervention' is tempered by her implicit faith in his 'always benign intent'.  

Such concerns, anxieties and mitigations are all consistent with the establishment-serving politics of boundaried liberalism, the same respectful subservience to the dominant political order at home and abroad.

Thus, alongside its adulation of Obama, promotion of Clinton and denigration of Trump, we've seen the BBC's and Guardian's relentless smearing of Jeremy Corbyn. For the Guardian's leading writers, no upstart usurper like Corbyn should be allowed to encroach on their 'authoritative guidance'.

In an excellent study, Alex Nunns charts how the Guardian moved from mild indulgence of Corbyn's candidacy to outright panic, as realisation of his likely victory dawned. In its ongoing hostility to Corbyn, the Guardian even censored part of a letter director Ken Loach had written criticising the paper's particular part in that smearing.

As with the pleas and pandering on behalf of Obama and Hillary, and its Deep State copy-speak on Trump, the reactionary inclinations of the liberal class in upholding dark authority and the neoliberal order should not be underestimated.

Much of this is shrouded by a seemingly 'plain liberal decency', which prides itself in opposing political abuses and social injustice. Thus, Guardian stalwarts like Jonathan Freedland and Polly Toynbee assume the mantle of 'eminent social reformers', while hiding and excusing the blatant villainy of people like Obama and Hillary.

Pitching itself as the 'higher moral end' of the 'media spectrum', the Guardian, typically, talk-up their personal virtues, political qualities and even human foibles, thus providing cover for the neoliberal and warmongering policies they actually practice.

Consistently, the most vocal and persuasive calls for western military interventions have come from 'caring' liberal hawks.

We even see the 'stretching' of that 'liberal dissent' through satirical expression. Here, too, it observes safe, default boundaries, as in the much darker cartoonish mockery of official villains like Assad and Putin, and now, of course, in the 'devilish relationship' between Putin and Trump.

Considered the daring doyen of media satire, Charlie Brooker's annual Wipe review show also joined in the anti-Corbyn smearfest with sneering asides about his 'blind eye' to 'anti-semitism'. Brexit is, likewise, scorned by Brooker as a dark plague on liberal sensibilities. And while Trump's victory is mawked-up as an unbelievable bad dream, the dark, criminal records of Obama and Hillary receive no such savaging.

BBC's Newsnight took it all to another level of shameless 'comic' insinuation with a background studio image of Corbyn wearing a red Trump-style hat with the fatuous, altered words "Make Britain Great Again." Such are the crude attempts to cast clearly distinguishable problem figures for the dominant liberal order in the same disparaging light.

As liberal journalists line up to pour scorn on Trump's inauguration, one can only imagine the same kind of raining on Obama's outgoing parade. This is the deep, sanitising effect of liberal-speak in projecting safe, deferential narratives.

It's still remarkable to think that, as Trump comes to office, there's no serious discourse around the staggering failure of Obama, Clinton and their corrupt party network. Instead, we're consumed by 'Putin-play', the 'great Russian threat' and the CIA as the 'white helmets' of 'US democracy'. That's the framing power of a liberal media establishment.

System-safe liberals and celebrities are unlikely to see the paradoxical reality, but this class are largely to blame for Trump, Brexit and other such upheavals. They form a privileged network, the political and cultural protectorate of a dominant order, an all-providing status quo that brings them comfort, security and patronage, a space to indulge their pet charities, liberal grievances and 'edgy comic' pretensions, a place to announce their selective cares for the world, their coy humanity, their 'reformist' missions, without ever having to put their heads above the parapet, without ever having to speak serious words to power, without ever having to advocate for real, radical change. And, as we've seen, they've been called-out by forces no longer willing to accept their cosy order.

Perhaps this is part of a necessary, unfolding process. We can but hope for a new progressive dynamic, an awakened electorate, the opportunities that open up when a complicit liberal class gets so nakedly exposed. The humiliation of Clinton, arrival of Trump and appearance of defiant right-wing populism owes much to the lame politics and patronising vacuity of system-friendly liberalism. Trump too will be duly exposed as just another variant of grasping capitalism, offering nothing to those already alienated and subjected to brutal corporate rule. Perversely, it may be deep state forces that come to 'assist' in his 'quieting down' or early removal. But it's the glaring liberal support for dark authority, its indulgence of an overall rotten system, and screaming reactions over ruptured liberal privileges, that's bringing all these tensions, contradictions and possibilities into fascinating focus.