Synthetic outrage over Trump’s temporary ban on entry to the US

Trump has instituted 3 bans:

i. The US Syrian refugee resettlement programme is permanently suspended

ii. The overall US refugee resettlement programme is suspended for 120 days

iii. There is a 90 day entry ban on people from countries known to have a problem with terrorism (Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen) while the new administration works on tighter security procedures

The UK is (at least according to the Guardian) awash with protests. Apparently more than one million people have signed a petition calling for the state visit of the US President to the UK to be cancelled.

There is something odd about all this. The policies which Trump has instituted (which are widely mis-reported in the UK press as e.g. a “Muslim ban” and which mis-reports tend to fail to report the temporary nature of the controls) are matters of domestic US policy. They don’t affect UK citizens. Why are people demonstrating? Do they really think we live in one big country and domestic US policy impinges on us as it does on Americans? It seems so. Probably these people watch too much TV. Though at the same time this concern for US domestic policy perhaps does reflect a reality. We are a vassal state in the US Empire and as such people perhaps do legitimately feel “part of America”, as non-citizen provincials in, say, North Africa, might have felt part of Rome during the Roman Empire.

Meanwhile, in the House of Commons Yvette Cooper was, according to the Guardian “shaking with emotion” as she made a speech against Trump’s new orders which “target Muslims”. (No they don’t. She hasn’t read the orders; they bar entry based on nationality not religion). But Ms Cooper was quite cool when she “flipped” houses 3 times in order to have the public pay for her mortgages. Either you stand for morality and uprightness or you don’t. Claims to be morally outraged on a point of principle are undermined if you haven’t got any.

 

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Total fiction the norm in UK media

This is a little example in today’s Daily Telegraph:

Mrs Merkel has been a strong supporter of the EU and US sanctions regime imposed on Russia following the annexation of Crimea and invasion of eastern Ukraine in 2014.

It appears in an article discussing a the phone calls between new US President Donald Trump and European and Russian leaders as well as a witty response in verse to Mrs May’s cold war era warnings about the need to beware of Russia.

This kind of outright lie is fed daily to the public by lazy and irresponsible journalists in the West. It is an example of the propaganda technique of narrative amplification. In this technique a ‘factoid’ is created. Once created (but never established as true by a detailed analysis) the factoid floats about and is re-inserted into a wide variety of articles which touch on the matter at all as if it were “the whole truth and nothing but the truth”. Readers of this sort of material are being “brainwashed”.

Crimea was annexed, if you like. But to mention this without also mentioning that there was a popular vote overwhelmingly in favour (a vote whose results have been confirmed by subsequent polling by Western polling organisations) [1] is to portray what was in fact a popular move approved of by the people as an act of aggression by Russia. As for “invasion of Eastern Ukraine” in 2014. No such event has taken place. Pure make believe. Something to do with Peter Pan. Yes; Russia is very likely running some kind of military intelligence operation in support of the residents of Donbass. But “invasion”. No. And; again; the lack of context is important here. As this web site has discussed frequently the Western media studiously avoids mentioning the historical and political context of the events in Eastern Ukraine. For example; it is a fact that people in Donbass are far far less interested in joining the EU and NATO than those in the West of Ukraine. At the same time the elected President who was deposed in the coup of February 2014 was most heavily supported by people in the East. That there should be resistance by these people, even without Russian support, to becoming part of a Western-leaning Ukraine is as rational as it was predictable.

This article in the Daily Telegraph is provable dishonest. If ‘dishonest’ means to create a false impression.  (That is, and this is entirely characteristic of this kind of propaganda material; it might be possible to defend statements about ‘annexation’ and ‘invasion’ against, say, defamation charges, by citing small items of evidence; e.g. evidence of a burnt-out Russian tank in Donbass, but the statements made loudly amplify only one side of reality, miss out the political and historical contexts and indeed any ‘evidence for the defence’ at all, and thus create a distorted and indeed false narrative). Yet people (in this case someone called Roland Oliphant) churn this material out day in day out. And call it journalism. Apart from any political considerations it is simply incredibly lazy to present only one side of a complex situation. It may be that one motivation is that this is what your sub-editor (on your newspaper owned by Western finance capital) wants to see. But that would be no excuse for someone who cared about journalism.

Update – more factual errors in the Daily Telegraph

This is another article by the same Roland Oliphant who claimed that Russia had “invaded” Eastern Ukraine. In this article he actually corrects the “invasion” line to a more defendable line about “military intervention”:

Those grievances [between Russia and the US] include Russia’s annexation of Crimea and military intervention in eastern Ukraine and Syria, the sanctions the US imposed in response, and the exchange of accusations of hacking following apparent Russian attempts to swing the US election in Mr Trump’s favour.

There is very very little tangible proof even for Russian “military intervention” in Eastern Ukraine. This line is simply repeated in the Western press as a truism. But there are very few serious articles which attempt to back it up with reporting or investigative journalism.  (This story by Reuters from October 2014 is a very rare exception to the rule. In this story there is tangible evidence of Russian military involvement. The case is somewhat circumstantial and could be contested. But at least it represents a serious attempt to back up the claims about Russian “military involvement” with real journalism; going there, taking pictures, getting the pictures reviewed by people who can be cited as experts etc. The story stands out as an exception. Usually the claim is just repeated, essentially, because that is what the US State Department said.) Anyway.

The factual error worth highlighting here is that US sanctions on Russia relate solely to Crimea and/or Eastern Ukraine. The US discussed sanctions on Russia in relation to Syria [2] back in October 2016 when the Syrian government and Russia were in the process of re-taking the Syrian city of Aleppo from Western backed “moderates” and Al-Qaeda. But they were not imposed. (Syria re-took Aleppo and the story moved on). The author says that the US sanctions on Russia are connected to Syria. They aren’t. That’s just wrong.  In terms of correctly understanding international affairs this is a significant error.  This kind of basic factual error is not all that uncommon in the Western press. It probably occurs because the basis on which they write is not reportage. (Facts and analysis based on facts). But phantasy. Narratives – issued by the liberal elites in power in Washington, Paris and London. Designed to make them look good and to rationalise whatever murderous project they are currently engaged on. And, when your job is repeating narratives, it is easy sometimes to get a bit adrift. After all, 90% of it is make-believe anyway so what does it matter if you get basic facts wrong?

(There were additional sanctions by Obama’s administration in relation to  claimed Russian hacking of the US Democratic Party and other figures in the US Democrats. [3]. Possibly this is the mistake. The author meant to refer to these and not to Syria. But if you are going to write about international affairs you might as well get it right).

Essentially the problem is that 95% of the time the Western media is not doing journalism. They are acting as the PR department for the Western liberal political/financial elites – spinning whatever stories suit them.

Update – more fake news in the Guardian

This is from a blog post about demonstrations in the UK against the US ban (temporary ban) on people from 7 listed countries (Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen) entering the US.

Other speakers linked Trump’s ban on refugees and Muslims from seven countries entering the US to the prime minister’s official visit to meet Trump in the US last week. Rhea Wolfson, a member of Labour’s national executive committee, said: “we say it loud and clear to Theresa May: you shame yourself and you shame your country.

“Muslims from 7 countries”. This isn’t true. It isn’t a mistake or partly not true or a spin which could be defended by a piece of sophistry. It is simply not true. As in “there is a cat on the mat” when the mat is utterly empty. The ban applies to anyone from those 7 countries – regardless of their religion. This blog is attributed to “Andrew Sparrow and Kevin Rawlinson”. Whoever wrote it they are just making it up. They seem to be more interested in stirring up unrest than in reporting facts.

That’s the main point; a straightforward piece of fake news. To critique the piece a little deeper we can also notice that, like much of reporting in the liberal press about Trump’s moves on immigration, they neglect to report a) the suspension of the US refugee programme is for 120 days not permanent – only the Syrian refugee programme has been permanently suspended, and b) the ban on entry to the US to people from 7 listed countries is limited to 90 days and is to (stated purpose) give the administration time to review security vetting procedures. Perhaps you can call yourself a journalist and distort the news by skipping the context and full facts. But to “report” that Trump has “banned Muslims from seven countries” is to move from journalism purely into the realms of writing incendiary propaganda.

That is; disagree with it on principle or at the level of tactics. But don’t just fake it. If you fake it it looks like you don’t care at all about the subject matter you apparently claim to care so much about.

Notes

1. New Obs

2. Independent. October 2016

3. CNN

A Russian ship of shame or a UK ship of fools?

Michael Fallon, Britain’s ludicrous Defence Secretary, has referred to the Russian aircraft carrier (or cruiser) which is currently returning to Russia from a mission in Syria as a “ship of shame” which “skulked” up the English channel. [1]

He claimed that Russia’s mission in Syria has “extended the suffering of the Syrian people”.

This is the usual narrative we are well familiar with.

The UK along with other Western powers leapt on the civil unrest in Syria in 2011. They got involved opportunistically to topple the Assad government/regime. They did this because it meshed with their broader geopolitical ambitions. (Anti-Iran. A change of heart vis á vis old style Middle Eastern dictators and support for ‘democracy’ in the Middle East). Initially they hoped that a military campaign by ‘moderate rebels’ would quickly topple Assad. Who would put into place a Western-leaning secular democracy. This was the same policy which they tried in Libya. It is astonishing that with the evidence of the failure of this policy in Libya staring them in the face they thought it worth trying it in Syria. (The Foreign Affairs Committee has produced a report on Libya which is heavily critical of policy failures by the UK on Libya). [2] In Syria something similar has happened as happened in Libya. Once the strong centre is removed there is a rise of rival militias contending for supremacy from some groups who are just about palatable by professed Western standards to many who are not. In Libya tribal affiliations seem to play a stronger role and in Syria religious affiliations a stronger role. In Syria it is Sunni Islamist groups which are leading the fight against Assad.

That this is essentially what has happened in Syria cannot really be questioned. The evidence is all available in the mainstream press. Only today the UK’s Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, has suddenly announced that, after 4 years of chanting “Assad must go”, it must now be admitted that democracy requires that the West graciously allows Assad to stand in an election in Syria. This is Mr Johnson tripping over his tongue as he explains how after 4 years of chanting “Assad must go” in the name, apparently, of democracy, Britain is now contemplating a democratic solution for Syria:

We have been wedded for a long time to the mantra that Assad must go, and we have not been able at any stage to make that happen, and that has produced the difficulty we now face…

We are getting to the stage where some sort of democratic resolution has got to be introduced … We believe in democracy, we support democracy, and if there is a political solution then I don’t think we can really avoid such a democratic event. I think that is the way forward [3]

When the West chants that “Russia is extending the suffering of the Syrian people” this should be understood not as analysis but as narrative. They have to say this to cover-up their own wretched policy failures. It is true at the theoretical level that if two sides are in a fight then if a third-party gives support to one side they are “prolonging the fight”. But the subtext of the Western narrative that it is Russia that is prolonging the war in Syria is that the West is justified in supporting the “rebels” against Assad. (This support ranges from political and diplomatic to military and intelligence [4]). But why should this be the case? The UK’s actions in Syria are similar to the UK’s actions in Libya, criticised by the House of Commons Committee. Opportunistic. Characterised by incoherent policy. And, we would add, fundamentally unethical. The groups supported by the West either directly or by virtue of their support for other groups would, if they came to power in Syria, usher in a regime no less brutal that that of Syria’s President Assad. One such group is Anhar al-Sham. This group is seen by Russia as terrorist but not by the US. They are clearly opposed to Shia Islam. They are also linked to Al-Qaeda. [5] They may represent in a way a legitimate strand in Syrian opinion – though it is hard to portray groups which are funded by external countries as representatives of the Syrian people. But they certainly don’t represent the kind of “moderate” and “democratic” forces the West claims to be supporting in Syria. Even if the West was backing forces of democratic change in Syria it remains the case that there is no mandate in international law for this kind of interference in the development of other countries. But, in reality, they aren’t even doing that.

The legitimacy of Russia’s case in backing one side in the Syrian conflict has much more merit than the West’s. Both in terms of existing international law and in terms of an analysis based on looking at recent history. It was the West itself which used to tirelessly explain that “terrorism loves a political vacuum”. This was when they were trying to justify their involvement in Somalia. Iraq, Libya and now Syria itself all provide evidence of what happens in these tumultuous countries when the strong centre is attacked or toppled. In backing Assad Russia can very reasonably claim to be preventing a political vacuum from developing.

When Michael Fallon uses language like “ship of shame” and “skulking” he is attempting the usual Western feat. He is trying to cover reality with a false narrative. A narrative in which the West is always high-minded and virtuous, and, in recent times, Russia is always evil. A narrative wholly at odds with reality.

Apart from anything else this kind of language is profoundly stupid. At some point either the West will have to make up with Russia or we will have to go to war with them. These kinds of statements will be remembered – by the Russian military – and pave the way for future conflict. The most likely reason for Mr Fallon making these comments is that as the Russian warship sails up the channel after a campaign against Mr Fallon’s terrorists in Syria Mr Fallon himself feels ashamed.

Notes

1. Sky News

2. Guardian

3. Guardian. February 2017

4. Stop the War Coalition. UK

5. WikiPedia article on Ahrar al-Sham

 

 

The BBC arrogates court powers to itself

The BBC (a sort of huge local authority whose main purpose is to promote its own existence) has been responding to a change in the sentencing guidelines for people who don’t buy a TV license. The change allows courts to consider using a conditional discharge rather than a fine in a few cases.

The BBC, as quoted in the Daily Telegraph, said:

We do not believe that this will have material impact, as we already offer a conditional discharge where first-time offenders who buy a licence before their case comes to court are not prosecuted.

Given that, we think a further conditional discharge from magistrates will only be used in a very limited number of circumstances.

What is so horrible about this is that the BBC is arrogating to itself the powers of the court. The BBC does (it is true) allow people who are caught without a license to buy one rather than be prosecuted. (Of course they do; in these cases they get whatever the current cost of the license is whereas if it goes to court that costs them money and the government gets the fine). But this is not a ‘conditional discharge’. It is a commercial decision and nothing to do with the law or the courts at all. The BBC claiming that it has the right to issue court disposals is sinister. It is a good example of how local authorities often invent extra-judicial schemes and mistake themselves for the law. Anyone who reads this kind of arrogation of power and usurpation of the principle of the protection of law should be seriously concerned.

The BBC’s whole scheme for enforcing payment of the license fee is itself extrajudicial. It is based on sending harassing letters and making harassing calls to all households who have not bought a license. There is no mandate for such a scheme in law.

 

Age is significant factor in getting an ADHD ‘diagnosis’

The Guardian reports on another study showing that the youngest children in a group are more likely to get an ADHD diagnosis.

This makes at least 4 studies which have come to the same result. The others are:

William N. Evans, Melinda S. Morrill, Stephen T. Parente. Measuring inappropriate medical diagnosis and treatment in survey data: The case of ADHD among school-age children. Journal of Health Economics. September 2010. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0167629610000962 Abstract. Fee for full paper.

Todd E. Elder. The importance of relative standards in ADHD diagnoses: Evidence based on exact birth dates. Journal of Health Economics. September 2010.
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0167629610000755 Abstract. Fee for full paper.

Richard L. Morrow et al.. Influence of relative age on diagnosis and treatment of attentiondeficit/hyperactivity disorder in children. Canadian Medical Association Journal. March 2012.
http://www.cmaj.ca/content/184/7/755.abstract?sid=66f4974a-3319-4b24-9d9e-fb275b59cac5 Complete paper available.

 

The significance of these studies is that they provide ‘clinical’ proof for what is theoretically obvious. Given that ‘ADHD’ is a category of psychiatry, whose diagnosis is determined by a whole range of subjective factors (whims of parents, management needs of teachers etc.) it is inevitable that diagnoses will be skewed. It is an indication of the power or money (and the compliance with corporate money of the media) that these studies get relatively little coverage whereas studies promoting small causal genetic links get vast amounts of coverage. That’s because the latter support the profitable ADHD drugging scam whereas these ones do not.

What happened to social solidarity (1)?

This is an article in the Guardian about how hard it is for people claiming Housing Benefit to get a private rental property.

The premise is correct. It is hard. The Guardian writer equates this to racial discrimination. This, however, is a false analogy. Racial discrimination is of a completely different order of seriousness. Assuming you believe that black people are no more unreliable than white people then to discriminate against a black person is pure racism. To discriminate against someone receiving social security to pay the rent may well be a rational decision. Apart from a greater likelihood of having a disruptive tenant (a perception for sure; but quite possibly true) there are other purely practical matters e.g. the rent will depend on the local authority who may pay late or change their rules at any time. It is characteristic of the shallow level of contemporary journalism to see such analogies made.

It is illuminating to read the reader comments section on this article. Neither in the article itself, nor in the comments section, (as far as this author has read), does anyone consider the actual relationship of landlord and tenant. The Guardian has picked a ‘top comment’. This comes from someone who may be supposed to be understood as a ‘socially responsible’ private landlord. In fact the notion of the ‘ethical buy to let landlord’ is often promoted by the Guardian. Ah. Liberals.

Charging people market rates to have a shelter over their head. Throwing them out if and when the labour market has temporarily dispensed with their services. This is the market over social solidarity. Taking advantage of your ownership of or access to private capital to make a profit out of a basic human need from someone who does not own capital is as exploitative as it gets. Private rental is not compatible with a society founded on solidarity. This is why the private rental market was made illegal in the Socialist USSR.

It seems that liberal ideology is so entrenched that even ‘left-wing’ criticisms of problems in the private rental market can go no further than wishing that more private landlords were socially responsible. This is sugar coating greed and exploitation.

Where is the left? (Ah. Dreaming of borrowing more money to spend on hugely inefficient public services supplied at huge profit margins by parasitic private companies. But that, of course, is another story).

Update

The above should be corrected. Most of the Guardian comments are of the order of suggesting tweaks to the existing system. This one stands out as an exception, from commentator ‘pearlygrey’:

The private rental sector does not exist to meet housing need for the many.

It exists to enrich landlords and promote accumulation of wealth (including vast transfers of public money) for the few. We need to build public housing and stop encouraging this mass, legalised theft.

A voice crying in the wilderness of course. There is no organised political movement in the UK which is founded on socialist ideas. The liberal ‘left’ limits itself to moaning about the effects of the individualistic, capitalist system it so fervently believes in. A system which embodies selfishness as its core principle can’t be made ‘nice’ with a few regulatory tweaks.