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The New Observer is in the process of moving from a hosted WordPress site to a site on WordPress.com.

Please bear with us during this transition period – some links may not work. We are working to fix everything, but it may take some time, as the editor only has a limited amount of time available for this work. Thank you for your patience.

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Breaking people on the wheel 21st century style

Foucault’s Discipline & Punish starts with a harrowing description of someone being broken on the wheel in early modern or medieval France. If I’ve understood correctly the point Foucault is making is this: we consider our modern criminal justice system with its near exclusive use of imprisonment as enlightened – a progressive and humanistic development from the cruel Middle Ages. But, this is not the case. There is a kind of inner cruelty in this disciplinary system which mirrors the vivid cruelty of the Middle Ages.

Sometimes UK judges give sentences which appear devoid of all of the following: mercy, compassion, psychology, love. Maybe judges in the 18th century actually had more compassion when then sentenced young people to transportation.

A case in point as reported by the Guardian. A young man of 19 (mental age 10?) has been sentenced to 3 years for making hoax calls. Look at the picture of the boy. He looks like a child. The judge accepted (apparently) that the young man is autistic.

I wouldn’t want this to be misunderstood but sending an autistic boy to jail for making hoax phone calls is on a par with the Medieval practice of trying and convicting animals.

Ironically we live in an age when we are enjoined (by law in fact) to be continually hyper-sensitive to the feelings of everyone around us. But this should not be confused with understanding and love which appears, if anything, to be even further away.

Update 8/12/18

This is a tragic case in the same vein: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/dec/07/death-in-prison-of-man-with-aspergers-raises-serious-concerns

The case concerns a young man who was jailed in 2009 for 18 years for trying to blow up a restaurant. He was a British man who had become “radicalised” online and converted to Islam. Except that he had an Aspergers diagnosis. He was 22 when he attacked the restaurant. He had been in mental hospital and had a history of self-harm. The “bombs” he used were amateurish homemade devices that could have caused a “huge fireball”. (I.e. no explosion). In the event he failed to even manage this. Again; look at his picture. This is a photograph of a confused and immature young man – not a terrorist.

In October 2016 Nicky Reilly killed himself in jail. But, don’t worry, the coroner has raised concerns and a report has been sent to someone.

 

What kind of country sends young people with autism to jail?

Police violence in France

Disgusting scenes of police violence in Paris.

The police do not appear to be making an attempt to make an arrest. At least one of the people is repeatedly struck even though he is clearly doing nothing other than defending himself.

The end of the film has the person filming it being threatened as he tries to say that he is a journalist and offers to show a media card.

The text on the YouTube page explains that the protestors have broken into the Burger bar (allegedly to take refuge). But – that does not/should not justify a police beating. In the EU where we follow “the rule of law” (ha ha ha) in theory police beatings are not permitted.

I think we can safely assume that there will be no cries of outrage from the Western capitals e.g. London and Bonn. But imagine that this was Kiev before the coup – or Moscow. The Guardian at least would have a field-day.

MI6 and morality

A zero sum equation.

This is a report on a recruitment binge by the current head of MI6.

A word to the students he is trying to recruit:

When Mr Younger waves the flag of a moral crusade don’t believe it. When he talks in comic book terms about defending the country from ‘evil’ don’t believe it.

In 2003 the UK took part in an illegal war in Iraq killing thousands of women and children – tens of thousands more died in the aftermath. MI6 played many parts in that no doubt – one of which was manipulating votes at the UN by changing perceptions in non-aligned countries by planting data leaked by spies in the UN Weapons Inspectors teams. [1] This is in reality what MI6 gets up to.

MI6 played a key role in the destruction of Libya as a functioning country in 2011. This one was, rarely, permitted by the UN – if you allow a large measure of sophistry.

MI6 is involved, illegally, in the attempt to destabilise Syria. Here they have succeeded simply in prolonging a terrible civil war.

The chargesheet is much much longer than this. If you want to take part in bloody murder for profit and imperial grandeur join MI6. But if you want to defend “morality” and fight “evil” – consider perhaps these words of warning from noted environmentalist David Attenborough.

 

Notes

  1. Scott Ritter. War On Iraq.

Making the subjective objective

Having reified everything (Russia reified as the devil; schooling as a natural process; psychiatry as science; and so on) the liberal capitalists of the West are now engaged in a curious re-inversion. In this new gambit of mystification and alienation subjective feelings are given the same status as objective facts. In policing this finds expression in new laws which define the crime in terms not of what was done measured by an objective standard, but in terms of how the “victim” felt. It is enough that someone felt harassed for a crime to have been committed. This then develops further; in this world once allegations have been made the accused is automatically guilty. – If someone was upset enough to make allegations then, by definition, they have in fact been abused.

This new standard comes out in a recent poll (much trumpeted by the Guardian) which makes, at least in its treatment in the Guardian, dramatic claims about the extent of racism in the UK today. This is some of the twisted logic:

The survey found that 43% of those from a minority ethnic background had been overlooked for a work promotion in a way that felt unfair in the last five years – more than twice the proportion of white people (18%) who reported the same experience.

Of course this finding in a poll does nothing to show that racial discrimination exists in the workplace. It could equally show that those from a “minority ethnic background” are more likely to interpret not getting a promotion as being unfair. People reporting an “experience” of how they felt is not an objective or meaningful measure of anything other than itself; more people felt it to be unfair. One can extrapolate anything one wants from that but there is no logical connection to the claim – that this reflects actual racial bias.

Ironically; it would be perfectly possible to conduct a study, valid in social science terms, in the UK. Data on ethnicity is often gathered in employment situations and could be gathered in internal promotion applications. Some kind of a study which compared promotion outcomes with qualifications and experience could produce something at least approximating to a meaningful result. (Since much of this data probably already exists we are talking here of a meta study).

But this poll shows nothing – at least relating to promotion at work. That the claim is made based on subjective feelings simply reflects a cult of the subject which is very much promoted by liberals in the West at the moment.

Radical socialism

Apart from the mysterious “shoogly peg” this is an excellent call from former Ambassador Murray and one we fully support.

Large privatised industries are always run in the interests of their shareholders. Often the shareholders live in other countries. Or – in “another country” in the sense of a different social world. In any event this model can never deliver social justice and a reasonable amount of equality. The only factor that determines decisions in large publicly traded firms is ROI.

It is also true that a socialist economy – with nationalisation as the norm – will not generate as big a cake as capitalism. Socialists do need to own that fairness and wealth are not necessarily mutually 100% compatible. A more equal society is likely to be overall somewhat less wealthy than a purely capitalist one. But; there are intangible (at least not fiscally measurable) benefits to a fairer society – which compensate for the reduction in material standards that would accompany socialism.

Anyway; it is now a truism that the world needs to reduce its overall consumption for environmental reasons.

 

 

 

More Guardian anti-Russia prop.

Sadly I don’t have much time to update this site at the moment. However I cannot let the Guardian continue its shameless and dishonest anti-Russia propaganda pass without registering some kind of protest. Not because I am a Russophile (though it is quite possible I am) but because I care about truth and I think the media should tell the truth.

This is an article by someone called Andrew Roth – one of the many people who appear to be employed by the Guardian solely for the purpose of writing propaganda about Russia.

Russia holds de facto control over the waters of the Kerch strait. It is bound by a 2003 treaty to allow Ukrainian ships access to the Sea of Azov. But since completing construction of the Crimean bridge, which took three years and cost $3.9bn (£3.05bn), Russia has implemented draconian checks on ships bound for Ukrainian ports, sometimes holding them for days.

The treaty referred to makes the Azov sea a common sea shared between Ukraine and Russia. Both countries can access the sea and both can run regimes of checking navigation in the sea. The “draconian checks” carried out by Russia are lawful under this treaty. Ukraine can also carry out such checks.

After Russia’s coastguard engaged three Ukrainian ships, Russia swarmed the strait with military jets and helicopters, and even parked a container ship in front of the bridge under which ships pass, effectively shutting down the strait in a show of force.

The Russian version is that the cargo ship was used to block passage under the Kerch bridge after two separate groups of Ukrainian military craft approached it – one from the Black Sea side and one from the Azov sea side in what must have clearly looked like a provocation of some kind.

Russia may or may not be actively trying to interfere with Ukrainian trade to ports in the sea of Azov as the article claims. – The article is strong on claims from the Ukrainian side and weak on any objective data. In any event Ukraine and Russia are engaged in a sanctions war – which has seen Russian ships impounded in Ukrainian ports. This is necessary context.

Journalism requires evenhandedness. Journalists should get “both sides of the story”. They should also be diligent in separating out claims (especially by one side in an argument/conflict) from facts. In reality of course all facts are contested. But all sources are not equal. For example a UN office may be more reliable than a government spokesperson when it comes to providing information about a war. On Ukraine though the Western media (in this particular case the Guardian) has an established pattern of treating information provided by the regime in Kiev as unquestionable objective truth. The Russian version is – as is the case in this article – often simply omitted altogether, or, if present, is treated with the utmost scepticism – with liberal use of quote marks and so on. This isn’t journalism. It is war propaganda.

It is dismaying to see the 90% of the “free press” re-casting itself as a war propaganda machine totally voluntarily. Of course the fact that the Western press in largely owned by Western finance capital – an interested party in the contest with Russia – is a major part of the reason. However, the Guardian is owned by an independent trust – so it is strange that the Guardian cannot tell the truth. In this case it seems to be some kind of ideological group-think problem. Sad though for anyone who expects the media to tell the truth.

Update 2/12/18

This is another example. This one is interesting because it shows the desperation that these “journalists” have to produce anti-Russian stories at any cost. It is almost as if their careers depended on it. “Journalist” Julian Borger writes:

In his more detailed account, Putin also seems to concede that the Ukrainian boats were fleeing when they were fired on

This is his evidence:

“The border guard told them: If you go through the Kerch strait you should hire our pilot. They said no, and they went straight for the strait. And that’s when the ships collided after that, because our border guard started squeezing them out,” Putin said.

He added: “Prior to that they said they were going to blow up our bridge so what do you expect our border guards to do?” – an apparent reference to Moscow’s earlier claims that Ukrainian radicals planned to blow up a new bridge between Russia and Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014.

Putin said the Russian coast guard “told them to stop and they did not respond”.

“They started running away, so that’s it,” the Russian president said.

But a second’s analysis of this text shows that Putin is saying that the collision (which preceded the firing) happened when the Ukrainian boats “went straight for the strait”. His “running away” doesn’t mean away from the bridge/strait. It means from the Russian vessels.

In this attempt to cheat and misrepresent Putin’s words journalist” Julian Borger betrays his anxiety to produce an anti-Russian story out of nothing. He then goes on to cite Bellingcat – a notorious blogger who produces scientifically flawed pseudo-forensic material which the Western press then uses to indict Russia – describing Bellingcat as an “investigative journalism agency”. (This coordinated use of Bellingcat by the anti-Russia Western press is something of an organised conspiracy). Shoddy journalism and supported by a “investigative journalist” who demonstrably does not understand the standards required of a proper forensic analysis. But – anti-Russia – and that’s the main point.

 

Guardian propaganda watch – praise for Bellingcat

This is an article by one of the people who work for the Guardian newspaper posing as journalists but who are in fact propagandists. These people have essentially the same attitude to the press as people who produce copy for the State Department funded propaganda channel Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty. The press exists in order to wage war by other means. After all propaganda is cheap. If you have to tell a trough of lies to undermine your “enemy” then that is better than losing lives on the battlefield. And if it helps the American Empire expand then it must be good. After all “freedom” is an absolute good…. This is Shaun Walker:

Remarkable work by The Insider, a Russian news outlet, and the online sleuths of Bellingcat has pulled back the veil of secrecy from a number of GRU operations, which have included a failed coup attempt in Montenegro, involvement in the shooting down of a Malaysian Airlines jet over eastern Ukraine in 2014, and the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury earlier this year.

“online sleuths” – is a euphemism for describing the activities of an online blogger notorious for peddling low-grade stories which are lapped up by the Western press solely because they always find the right culprit. The absolute ignorance about basic forensic standards which characterised “Bellingcat’s” fake news story about MH17 (see here) – doesn’t bother these people in the slightest. They either don’t understand basic science themselves or just know that 90% of people just read the news headlines – or both. “Pulling back the veil of secrecy” is one way of describing fifth-rate fake forensics but it ain’t journalism – Shaun Walker should be writing for Radio Free Europe. Needless to say the “failed coup attempt in Montenegro” is contested. But all this is how this propaganda proceeds. If you repeat your claims as truth often enough eventually you end up believing them to be part of the fabric of reality yourself.