A taste of Guardian propaganda

This is how it goes over at the Guardian newspaper. In an article about Crimea and people registering new born sons as future soldiers (itself of course a story taken out of context and meant to assist a narrative about aggressive Russians etc.) the Guardian offers its readers this neat little summary of the situation with Crimea:

Russia seized control of Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014 after supporting a takeover of the local administration, sending in troops in unmarked uniforms and staging a referendum dismissed around the world as illegitimate.

Brief fact check:

The referendum was held by the legitimate and elected regional assembly. It was not set up by Russia. There was no ‘takeover of the local administration’. A clear majority of elected deputies in the existing legislature backed the referendum. Most of the troops were already there under a valid agreement. These are clear facts.

The role of the Russian troops was to ensure that the referendum could be carried out peacefully. They blocked possible interventions by Ukrainian troops stationed in the peninsula. They prevented a group of Tatars (a minority in Crimea) from blocking the workings of the regional assembly. This account, which is the Russian one, is potentially arguable. However; the area was saturated with Western journalists and observers e.g. from European socialist parties. They did not report obvious irregularities in the conduct of the referendum. You can bet that had there been the Western press would have reported on it. The results claimed in the referendum were that 80% of the population voted and that 98% of the votes cast were for separation from Ukraine and joining Russia.

Back to clear facts. Crimea had been part of the Russian Empire since the late 18th century and then the Soviet Union. It was transferred to Ukraine in 1954 by Khrushchev. Since the fall of the Soviet Union there has been a movement in Crimea to re-join Russia. [1] More than 50% of the population are ethnic Russians. Since the referendum polls carried out by major Western polling organisations have confirmed that a large majority of Crimeans continue to be happy with having rejoined Russia. [2] A Gallup poll found that 82.8% were happy. A subsequent poll by a major German pollster also found 82% were happy. The figure of 82% corresponds exactly with the results of 98% on a turn-out of 80% from the ‘staged’ referendum.

In this farcical and make-believe account the historical background is simply airbrushed out. There is no mention of the violent coup in Kiev. No mention that it was carried out by people chiefly from the West and Centre of Ukraine. No mention that the overthrown President had been elected and that he was particularly popular in the East of the country. [3] I.e. specifically the background which explains the reunification decision in democratic terms is missing.

The Guardian loses all claim to be a newspaper when it publishes pure propaganda like this. Propaganda of this kind is an act of war. Farcical on the one hand. But worrying in as much as it may be used to destabilise the situation and create a narrative which excuses war.


1. http://russia-insider.com/en/politics/crimea-work-progress/ri7794http://hitchensblog.mailonsunday.co.uk/2015/02/a-not-so-brief-history-of-crimea.html

2. http://www.forbes.com/sites/kenrapoza/2015/03/20/one-year-after-russia-annexed-crimea-locals-prefer-moscow-to-kiev/

3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viktor_Yanukovych

Article on Foucault and the current refugee crisis

This is an article by academic Stephane J Bale in which she discusses Foucault’s ideas about biopolitics and how his ideas about an excessive pre-occuptation with the health of the population might explain current European responses to the refugee crisis. One small quibble; the author mentions that Germany is an exception to a trend of putting up barriers against refugees. It is a huge exception and it would be interesting to discuss this.

The article can be found here on theconversation.com

Howard League statement on G4S decision to exit UK child jails market

G4S has announced that it is trying to exit the UK child jails market. This follows the recent Panorama expose of child abuse by staff at one of their facilities – which we commented on here.

This is a statement from the Howard League concerning the decision of global prisons firm G4S to exit from the UK child jail market

Read the statement here.

Ideally the whole notion that providing ‘discipline and punishment’ can be something that can be delivered by the market could be ditched at the same time.

See here for our report on the killing of Gareth Myatt in a GSL run child jail in the UK in 2004. GSL was later acquired by G4S.

Why has G4S taken this decision? Here is one possible answer. To run these child jails – and the childrens’ homes which form part of the same portfolio – it is necessary to hire cheap labour. The usual problem for capitalists: to make a venture profitable they need to get high labour productivity – that means in effect more for less. For G4S this means hiring people with limited experience of working with young people, with low levels of qualifications – and then giving them a limited amount of training. For example; the guard who initiated the restraint after which Gareth Myatt lay dead in 2004 had previously worked as a leisure centre assistant. He had just a few weeks training for his new role – dealing with some of the most disturbed and troubled young people in the country. Not surprisingly perhaps these people sometimes appear to ‘lose it’ when faced with the challenges that troubled young people can pose. The guard who in the recent Panorama programme appears to place his thumb on the windpipe of a challenging young man perhaps has little empathy for troubled young people and a limited repertoire of skilled responses. In effect perhaps he was responding like a thug in the street might to a challenge from a roguish teenager. Hiring skilled and experienced staff who would understand and respond in a balanced way to challenging behaviour might perhaps quadruple the staff bill. Perhaps that is the problem. G4S thought they’d give it a try – Â the usual recipe for profit was applied – drive down your labour costs. But the consequences of that – a series of abuse scandals – are unfortunate and bad PR for their wider business. So they’ve decided to cut their losses. In the background is the horrible decision – taken by a New Labour government – to put some of the country’s most troubled young people into a ‘prison’ type environment – and to offer the contracts at a hard-nose price.

All of which should be a lesson in what happens when market economics are applied to matters of social welfare. But probably won’t be.

The Dame Janet Smith whitewash

After the scandal about Savile ‘burst into the open’ the BBC set up an inquiry into itself. The BBC appointed senior High Court Judge Dame Janet Smith to conduct the inquiry.

Dame Janet Smith is a High Court judge. She has already conducted an other important inquiry (into the mass murderer Harold Shipman). She is a Dame – the female equivalent of a Knighthood.

Her inquiry found that Savile committed abuse and that opportunities were missed to stop him. No. Really? She found that senior management did not know and could not have known about this endless abuse taking place on their premises. This, of course, was the key finding of the inquiry and why it was set up. This means that a charge of corporate negligence against the BBC is now unlikely. The BBC paid for a whitewash while pretending to be soul-searching. How unlike a UK public sector body.

This finding of senior management innocence is wholly implausible.

Recall how the BBC scuppered a NewsNight report into Savile after his death. [1] Recall that after his death senior managers exchanged emails talking about Savile’s “dark side” and “the truth about Saville”. [2] And just think about it – ‘rumours’ were swirling around Savile. Such that after his death one BBC investigative reporter after another had to line up and explain why they hadn’t done anything about it. [3] As one former BBC entertainer commented it is simply inherently unlikely that senior management had not heard these rumours. [4]

But the Dame Janet Smith inquiry whitewashes all this.

These British establishment inquiries operate according to a template. The template is: the inquiry can find that wrongs were committed by officials. It can make even quite scathing criticisms of these officials – though typically no one individual is named. But it has to exonerate the top echelons of the establishment. It can then happily conclude that lessons need to be learned and the people to provide management oversight of creating the new policies and procedures are.. the same top management who were in charge when the wrongdoing took place.

The people at the top of the BBC, for example members of the BBC Trust, who will be relieved (but not surprised) by Dame Janet Smith’s finding that the buck stopped at a middle-management level belong to the club of a few thousand people in the UK who are sometimes known as the ‘great and the good’ – people who run things, chair inquiries, are always ready to help out, and who are in line for medals and honours. The same small network of which Dame Janet Smith herself is a member. The ‘great and the good’, not surprisingly, act like a kind of mafia. No doubt there is their own omerta.

And this is why you know that nothing has really changed.

Now. If the BBC had really wanted the truth about Savile to come out they could have set up an inquiry run by, say, an investigative journalist, a good human rights lawyer and two sharp young barristers. Why didn’t they?


1. http://www.theguardian.com/media/2013/feb/22/jeremy-paxman-newsnight-jimmy-savile

2. http://www.theguardian.com/media/2013/feb/23/bbc-knew-jimmy-savile-tributehttp://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/chaos-and-confusion-bbc-forced-to-replace-senior-news-executives-following-damning-report-into-its-complete-inability-to-deal-with-jimmy-savile-crisis-8425581.html

3. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2210987/Jimmy-Savile-fooled-thinking-saint-says-Esther-Rantzen.html; Also see: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/bbc-stars-reveal-what-knew-7438245

4. http://www.theguardian.com/media/2016/feb/26/bbc-bosses-cover-tracks-savile-2012-andy-kershaw