Monday, 23 June 2014

There Will be No Wi-Fi at The End of The World

The effect of social networks on the rapid spread of civilians across the Arab world undoing political dynasties was succinctly summarised by Guardian journalist Peter Beaumont, who was in the centre of the inferno as it raged in Tunisia. ‘The barricades today do not bristle with bayonets and rifles, but with phones.’ This increased interconnectedness is also preventing Wars. A video emerged on YouTube in Turkey of an alleged phone conversation between the deputy head of the armed forces and the intelligence chief, planning to launch a false flag operation inside of Syria, to invoke a casus belli that would justify Turkish intervention in the Syrian Civil War.

The attempts being made to curtail this democratic surveillance on powerful figures is already being curtailed at the time of writing. In the United States, the home and base of operations of the world’s largest social networking sites and other internet apparel which we have all become accustomed to, a bill has been given the nod of approval which would allow American Internet providers to make more lanes on the Internet highway available for companies willing to pay the extra price. Netflix videos for instance would load faster, as it buys up more lanes for all its extra traffic.

Under the old rules, a Turkish American immigrant dissatisfied with the state of news media could set up the world’s most watched online news outlet, The Young Turks, without having to worry if his stories aren’t liked by the Internet providers and their owners. A student at Harvard could set up a social networking site for his friends called The Facebook, without worrying to pay to get equal treatment with then giant MySpace. With the new proposed rules the age of free markets on the Internet could effectively be over. It would leave future generations, who will hopefully be more interested in these issues than the inner dynamics of the Beyoncé household, with fewer and less relevant means of interaction and cultural enrichment without knowing the reason for the lack of new innovations and stunted political environment that surrounds them to begin with.

A recently published study conducted by professors at Princeton and Northwestern Universities looked at the influence the American public have on policy outcomes. After studying 1,779 policy issues from 1981-2002 and the opinions of the majority of people on those issues compared with the opinion of business elites, they concluded ‘the preferences of the average American appear to have only a miniscule, near zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy'. If elites want to kill the even playing field on the internet, then all they have to do is ask.

The institutional failures of a tired and corrupt system are beginning to show in the media also. Take for instance the recently determined fact the Western Antarctic Ice Sheet is melting at an unstoppable rate, which will cause a 10-foot rise in global sea levels. The projected number of people that will need to be relocated in New York City alone is almost 1 million. Less developed regions of the world will be less fortunate. The President of CNN came out to explain his network’s lack of coverage of such climate change stories, citing the ‘lack of interest’, or ratings, amongst the audience. This coming from a network which brought on guests to discuss whether supernatural events caused the disappearance of flight MH370, to capitalise on the 100% ratings surge it pulled in out of the tragedy turned reality TV show. To assume a global reckoning doesn’t quite cut the mustard amongst the audience is absurd. Another more likely reason why establishment news outlets won’t give real stories the weight they deserve, in the words of Daniel Simpson, a former foreign correspondent at the New York Times, is because ‘the “news fit to print” was pretty much the news that's fit to serve the powerful… in fact, it's their job to become their friends’, friends of other giant corporations who need to side-line the issue.

This complete lack of attention and care displayed towards the planet as we alter its equilibrium is taking an ironic twist. We dump so much of our waste into the oceans – that sustains our existence - without a second thought, that for a while scientists were unsure where all that waste was going. A recently published scientific study has found the waste could circumnavigate in the oceans, before ending frozen up in the ice sheets of the Arctic, which unbeknownst to us was acting as a global sink. Because we're melting the ice through greenhouse emissions, the melting Arctic ice is about to take a dump to the tune of trillions of pieces of plastic back into the oceans, effectively flushing the toilet back on us. We needed to wash our moral compasses and retrieve our binocular vision, but the way nature is poetically flushing the toilet on us whilst we are instead diverted to consumerism and news about Solange, is quite revealing to where we are and where we’re heading as a species; nicely summarised by a Cambridge theologian:
‘Modernity: making love in the middle of an earthquake’ – Sheikh Abdul Hakim Murad

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

The Rise of Corporate Dystopia

A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defence than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death, Martin Luther King proclaimed before martyrdom. If I may take the liberty to, I need alter this proclamation into one of such banality it need not itself be further explained but illustrated: a nation that continues year after year to allow giant multi-national corporations to spend more and more on its politics on the alter of Corporatocracy is approaching dystopia.
Let’s take one recent example, NSA spying. The Congressional vote to defund mass warrantless NSA spying on civilians lost at a vote of 215-207. Behind these abysmal numbers lies a more telling one. A detailed study of voting patterns of individual congressmen and the donations they received from giant defence contractors (such as Booz Allen Hamilton who are paid billions to be involved with the programme), found congressmen who voted to not stop mass warrantless spying received more than double (122% to be precise) the financial contribution (bribe) than congressmen in favour of repealing it. What an amazing chance occurrence.[1] The NSA amongst other activities, has spied on politically active academics, on the orders ‘to get them’ as one former CIA employee expressed[2] and monitors the online pornographic habits of citizens deemed a ‘potential political’ threat, so they can be defamed later.
Now allow me to fiddle with the rubik’s cube in your mind, trained never to come to inappropriate conclusions in the indoctrination centres we call public school. Swap the word NSA in the above paragraph with the word Stasi, the name of the East German secret police, and read it again.
Closer to home, yes, home, I do have affection for Britain contrary to the thoughts of some who believe I want to see it gut and filleted, David Cameron ordered an inquiry into whether the British branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, the political party elected in Egypt last year, should be designated a terrorist organization and banned, following Saudi Arabia who did so last month. The head of the inquiry is Sir John Jenkins, the current ambassador to Saudi Arabia. The month before, Saudi Arabia finalized an arms deal with British manufacturer BAE to the tune of billions of pounds (the exact figures aren’t given) with the help of the British state, following a few visits from Charles and the Prime Minister paying visit to the Kingdom[3].
Proving Saudi Arabia undeniable grip over Downing Street through its financial influence is of course impossible without, ironically, spying on the innards of Whitehall. But it is not beyond ones imagination. Tony Blair, that great lion heart, prevented an inquiry into the bribery occurring between British arms manufacturers and Saudi princes after one warned of ‘another 7/7’ in London had it not been stopped.[4] Not only are we strengthening an autocracy (which also designated atheists to be terrorists) whilst simultaneously sanctioning one across the Gulf (Iran at the very least has elections), we’re also hollowing the very essence of the democratic system by allowing money to dictate policy both here and across the Atlantic. Or maybe not.

Modern technology has turned the world into a giant village. Pictures I take on my smartphone in London are uploaded onto computer servers in California before being seen by my friend in Egypt, in the matter of seconds. This compression of space and time has hyperventilated and megaphoned voices to the point small utterances can huge ripples and reach great distances. Take Obama’s ‘red line’ comment on Syria in 2012. It was completely off the cuff[5]. His team of advisors didn’t know anything about a red line walking in to the conference hall. But having made the statement every new event in Syria was framed in an expectation of an American response that was never on the cards to begin with. Obama was pushed and pushed on the statement by a 24 hour news media[6] to the point he tried to deny he ever made such a statement, before reinterpreting what he said, before he gave in and it almost led to the actual bombing of another country, that was until John Kerry said a solution to the standoff would be to remove all chemical weapons from the country. Another off the cuff remark that reversed the opposite effect of Obama’s. But look at what just happened. A giant Middle Eastern war was almost started and then avoided in less than two sentences. Smaller sentences are of course the popular medium of the day.
The CIA tried to overthrow the Cuban government recently, around the same time the media wasn’t covering the story. How? Through twitter; or, well, to be precise, a social network appearing to be privately run and functioned like twitter, but in reality was going to be used as a data gathering scheme to ferment dissent in the country. Small sentences, 140 characters have now megaphoned to the point they can topple nations. But to my original point, modern technology has compressed the world around us in on itself so much its molten any sense of otherness and turned the world into a giant mirror where we can see and analyze ourselves by comparing ourselves to the plight of others. People in Britain can now see the tweets of the Occupy movement in Zucotti Park New York and set up their own parallel movement, which happened. This sharing of ideas is something the powerful are finding very dangerous.
John Kerry had to dedicate an entire section of his speech on Ukraine on the Russian news network RT (an online phenomenon with more than 70 times the YouTube views of BBC News and three times as much as CNN) because of the very real impact it was having countering Western portrayals of the crisis. The media war is almost as intense as the crisis itself. Pepe Escobar a correspondent for the Asia times summarizes: ‘America's absolutely terrified. Because now it's not only CNN all over the world like during the war in Bosnia or during the first Iraq war. Now there is RT, Al-Jazeera, France 24, Deutche Welle, TVE, СС V, and one day we are going to have Brazilian TV going global, not only in Portuguese. They are terrified of Press TV in Iran, which also broadcasts in English, so they ban Press TV all over the place[7].’ Zbigniew Kazimierz Brzezinski, who advised the previous 6 presidents on something or another, and a global intellectual elite, complained this ‘global political awakening’ caused by the access to ‘radio, television and the internet’ is making it much more difficult to govern[8]. People can now find out what their government is getting up to. Because of this, it’s pulled the wool off people’s eyes. Our elected officials never represented us to begin with. Since I began by quoting and re-fashioning the words of one civil rights icon, I may as well re-mould another to end:

What do I think of democracy? I think it would be a very good idea. - Ghandi



Monday, 4 November 2013

A response to Laura Brindley’s article on Islamophobia


There has been much said in the wake of Laura Brindley’s article on countering Islamophobia, which in great irony elicited responses of being ‘racist’ and ‘bigoted’. I don’t propose to level labels onto Laura, this article is intended to correct some of the baseless claims that were made.

She begins with the widely held view ‘9/11 woke the world to the tangible danger from terrorists’. Which is entirely correct, if you don’t consider the rest of the Earth’s population as human. The label ‘terrorist’ has become utterly meaningless. The FBI’s definition of terrorism is ‘a violent act or an act dangerous to human life…to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives[1]. In 1996, when U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright was asked if the sanctions on Iraq that killed half a million Iraqi children were worth the price, she replied ‘we (the United States government) think the price is worth it’. By the FBI’s definition George H.W Bush who imposed the sanctions and Bill Clinton who continued them are terrorists, on a scale Bin Laden could not dream of. Denis Halliday resigned from his post of administrating the sanctions stating ‘I don't want to administer a program that satisfies the definition of genocide[2]. Only the ‘other’ commits horrendous crimes that we remember, we at worst commit ‘mistakes’ and courageously march on, heads held high. My argument is not to highlight Western crimes and diminish those of Al Qaeda in comparison, crimes are crimes, terror is terror, it’s to correct the widespread and groundless assertion terrorism began in 2001 with the United States conveniently as its helpless victim, or that the world ‘woke to the tangible danger from terrorists’ on 9/11; the rest of the world has been subject to terror in incomparable numbers for centuries, namely ours.

She labeled Al Qaeda prior to 9/11 a previously little known extremist organization’. Bruce Lawrence a specialist in these matters at Duke University writes Al Qaeda in 1980 was originally called ‘Sijill Al Qaeda or “Register of the Base”…at this time he (Osama Bin Laden) cooperated closely with…the CIA…with American and Saudi funds…he built mountain bases…and training camps in the border regions (of Pakistan)’.[3] Al Qaeda was well known prior to 9/11 - as an American ally. Who we (‘we’ which I use broadly to refer to the United States and its lackeys in Europe) liaise with then came full circle into our collective conscious on 9/11.

She later remarks in relief ‘thankfully, no attack has ever reached the scale of 9/11’ which is entirely correct, if again we accept the suppressed premise only people in the West are human. Are the 2,500 civilians killed in drone strikes in North Western Pakistan, 100 of them children, not subject to terror[4]? When Barack Obama carries out a ‘signature drone strike’, when we don’t know whom we’re killing, but hope we’re killing the ‘right person’, is he not a terrorist? Suicide bombers use the same logic, and we most certainly label them terrorists. Again, my argument isn’t to diminish the crimes of Al Qaeda in relation to Western crimes, it is to ask by what definition a suicide bomber is a terrorist and Barack Obama not? Why has the ‘bushy bearded Asian man’ sent chills down the spine of people Laura is reporting on but not the clean-shaven American? If we subconsciously restrict the word terrorist to Muslims, then inevitably Muslims will be associated with it, creating fear and prejudice. The problem with the article is she has done just that. The entire article is myopic and restricts the term to Muslims and appearing in Redbrick it will only spread through the university reinforcing stereotypes. Muslims have already been under constant media attack in the wake of 9/11; Cardiff University in a recent study found ‘of 974 newspaper articles published about British Muslims between 2000 and 2008 more than a quarter of them portrayed Islam as “dangerous, backward or irrational”’ and ‘references to radical Muslims outnumbered references to moderate Muslims by 17 to one’[5]; even though according to Europol, from 2005-2008 there were 1,596 acts of terror committed in the EU, and 5 were carried out by Muslims[6].

Another reason the article elicited heated response was because it’s a typical example of the white savior complex. She writes in Redbrick telling fellow white students to have their heads held high, suck it up and fulfill their responsibility to hold arms with Oriental citizens to prevent them from putting on a suicide vest and going on a murderous rampage. Imagine the article condescendingly read like this: ‘Don’t let the Mark Duggan shooting make black people become violent, we must treat them nicer!’ If you subconsciously assume black people are violent to begin with or Muslims fall short of joining terror networks due to the care taken by their white keepers to restrain them, then you’re going to elicit claims of bigotry and racism.

She writes ‘media outlets have a responsibility to give a voice to peaceful Muslims who oppose extreme Islam’. Why can’t Muslims be called Muslim, why must they have the adjective thrown onto them to ensure society of their safety? Why must the entire community apologize for the actions of a few? George Bush invaded Iraq thinking he was fulfilling Biblical prophecy[7], Joe Barton a Republican member of the House of Representatives denied climate change science on Biblical grounds[8] (as one may guess does much of the Republican Party). These individuals have killed hundreds of thousands of people and are potentially putting at risk the fate of the human race, but why do we not expect Christian organizations to come out and condemn them? Why are they not called ‘Christian extremists’ instead of something like ‘fringe politicians’, but more revealingly why aren’t the majority of Christians labeled ‘moderate Christians’ by society? Not of course that I would ever want such a scenario. It’s unthinkable to have an article on Redbrick titled ‘Don’t let evolution put Christians off science, lets teach them!’ as we don’t make the assumption all Christians are scientifically illiterate. Furthermore Islamophobia does not condescendingly make Muslims feel ‘compelled to rebel. To give society back what they have received’, it makes them feel isolated and scrutinized. What makes a handful of Muslims ‘compelled to rebel’ (a euphemism to commit terror) is well known by the experts. The Pentagon concluded in 2004 ‘Muslims do not "hate our freedoms", but rather, they hate our policies...ever increasing support for what Muslims collectively see as tyrannies, most notably Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan and the Gulf States’. [9] the article espouses many of the assumptions that we need to remove; that there needs to be a dialect of ‘peaceful’ Muslim, that all Muslims should be consulted to respond to the actions of a few, that Muslims are like rabid dogs waiting to ‘rebel’ unless they get a pat on the head more often, and that the history of terror in the world began on 9/11. The fact similar assumptions do not exist with other groups that I’ve mentioned goes some way to highlight the distrust that has built over the previous decade due to articles such as these, which will only worsen relations between Muslims and non-Muslims at university unless thoroughly rebutted as I hope to have done here.

There are 14 million Muslims in Western Europe, Turks in Germany, Arabs in France, South Asians in Britain who have migrated here to warmly embrace western freedoms, and a (largely) tolerant and diverse society. If you want to stop the problem of terrorism, stop engaging in it. And stop watching the mainstream media if you want to write an article on it.



[2] BBC News, 'UN official blasts sanctions', September 30, 1998, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/183499.stm
[3]  Bruce Lawrence, Messages to the world the statements of Osama Bin Laden, (2005) Verso ppXiii
[9] http://www.acq.osd.mil/dsb/reports/2004-09-Strategic_Communication.pdf (the subsequent report has been taken down, however the quoted sections can be seen here http://www.salon.com/2009/10/20/terrorism_6/ )

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Syria: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb



It’s interesting to watch the mainstream media air reruns of the same show. The justifications for war against Syria reached fever pitch this week on the same grounds they had a month ago. Then, ABC News, as did much of the press, opened with the headline ‘The White House now confirming Syria's president has in fact used chemical weapons to kill.[1]’ That’s an interesting use of the word ‘confirming’, the statement is about as ‘confirmed’ as Colin Powel’s speech to the United Nations in 2003 was. That’s the level of ‘confirmation’ it has. Chemical weapons were indisputably used - then and now - but the question is who used them. No one knows. Carla del Ponte, a member of the U.N. Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, told Swiss TV regarding last month’s chemical attack there were ‘strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof’ the chemical weapons were used by the rebels.[2] With the current attacks David Cameron admitted to the Houses of Parliament ‘there is no 100% certainty about who is responsible’[3]. So what is required is evidence to be presented before decisions are made. That’s how a rational mind works. But that’s too much of a requirement. Hans Blix, the weapons inspector George Bush kicked out of Iraq before he could finish inspecting, frustrated with the gung-ho approach of David Cameron and Barack Obama wrote, ‘the Russians and Chinese have said they want "fair and professional inspections" in Syria. The Iranians have also agreed…the Iranians have suffered most in the world from the use of chemical weapons in their war with Iraq during Saddam's time’[4]. David Cameron retorted he would still bomb Syria on ‘humanitarian’ grounds with or without UNSC approval, but was forced by MP’s to wait for the UN to publish a report.[5][6]

What’s more interesting is what were relegated from the press to specialist journals and op-eds buried deep within news websites at the same time the press is ratcheting up for a war with Syria. CIA documents describing the extent Ronald Reagan helped Saddam Hussein gas Iranians during the Iran-Iraq War were released, with Foreign Policy describing them as ‘tantamount to an official American admission of complicity in some of the most gruesome chemical weapons attacks ever launched…even if they were discovered, the CIA wagered that international outrage and condemnation would be muted. [7]’ It always is for the powerless. What was also hidden deep inside news-websites was a July 2013 report from the House of Parliament Committee on Arms and Export Controls which found Britain had sold £12billion worth of chemicals (used to manufacture chemical weapons) to Syria, Saudi Arabia, China and even has licenses to sell them to Iran.[8] Another story garnered slightly more fringe coverage; the United Sates sold Saudi Arabia, which is cracking down on pro democracy reformers in Bahrain, $634 million worth of cluster bombs, which are banned by 83 nations.[9] Those were non-stories for the press; we’re the good guys and indoctrination needs to be total.
Morality, evidence and hypocrisy aside, should we attack Syria? First of all the military architect of the plan to attack doesn’t think it would work. Chris Harmer, a senior Navy analyst at the institute for the Study of War, wrote the proposal for airstrikes on Syria to begin with, and doubts their effectiveness. ‘I never took my analysis of a cruise missile strike to be advocacy even though some people took it as that…if we start picking off chemical weapons targets in Syria… he’s (Assad’s) going to start dispersing them… you’re too late to the fight.’[10]  But the repercussions would only then begin. The former Syrian foreign minister stated if attacked ‘we will defend ourselves[11]’, as would any state; probably using Russian anti-ship missiles (nicknamed ‘ship killers’) with a distance capable of reaching Western Naval ships positioned in the eastern Mediterranean. Ayatollah Khamenei of Iran, Syria’s strategic ally, warned ‘the region is like a gunpowder store and the future cannot be predicted’.[12] A member of the Syrian Ba'ath national council, Halef al-Muftah, said Damascus would view Israel as behind any aggression and it will ‘come under fire should Syria be attacked by the United States.’[13] Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov even had to make clear an attack wouldn’t trigger a war between Russia and NATO, effectively a third world war.[14] So an attack is folly according to the architect of the plan, would drag in Israel and Iran, with Russia (sick of seeing itself encircled) explicitly stating it wouldn’t immediately trigger a third world war, probably.  
So what are the remaining arguments for attacking Syria? For the world’s agenda setter, the New York Times, ‘Presidents should not make a habit of drawing red lines in public, but if they do, they had best follow through.’[15] So Obama might be embarrassed if he doesn’t attack Syria over a statement he accidently made, or risk the consequences of attacking. Hmm. Tough one.
The United States is a democracy (so I’m told), so what do the people think? Do the American people favor war? First we need to get some context. In March of 2003, 62% of Americans favored a war with Iraq[16]. By December 2006 that figure had fallen to 26%.[17] In 1965 on the eve of rapid escalation, 61% of Americans approved going to war with Vietnam, by 1971 only 28% of Americans still agreed with the decision to go to war[18]. How many Americans favor attacking Syria right now? Nine percent[19]. It would be the war with the least popular sanction in modern American history without comparison. Obama would outdo George Bush and Richard Nixon three fold. Not bad for a Nobel peace-prize winner.
So why are we really encouraging the gulf dictatorships to send in arms and watch Syria rip apart? With the Bush debacle in 2003, Iran became the most powerful nation in the region. By implementing democracy (against it’s initial plans) in Iraq, Bush and his gang of neo-cons created a Shiite arch stretching across Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, which gives Iran leverage (if attacked) over Israel through Assad in Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon, and control of Iraq. Independence will not be tolerated. The plans to destroy this arch date back at least to 2005, with the New Yorker then reporting ‘The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.[20] Helping bolster Al Qaeda sympathizers? America? Who would have thought? (But remember to point to verses of the Quran after each development). Now those extremists are fighting alongside people who were genuinely oppressed and gunned down by the Syrian dictatorship during the initial protests, both now trying to topple the regime; the only way out is a negotiated settlement with Syria, Iran and Russia, and forcing the gulf-states to stop sending in arms. But that won’t happen. All the muscle flexing is Obama not losing face for a statement he made by accident. The Hezbollah-Syrian quagmire is just too beneficial for the West, in the greater scheme of things it paves the way for the Super Bowl: The Iran War. Iran is four times the geographic size of Iraq with a population three times larger, which is religiously homogenous and loyal to the state. When the Iran war happens it’s going to be the biggest pile of human corpses since WW2. I said ‘when’ because it is coming, but that’s another article. Syria has to be dealt with first.